Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 2: Human Doll Contract Part Two
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: Hidden in the Dark… Part 1—The Master—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby & elisa)
A tall, slender, middle-aged man with an otherworldly air sat on a chair of cypress. He wore a modified traditional Chinese jacket, rather old-fashioned, but not so strange to the point of looking like a person that had walked into the wrong time period. It could be said that this person’s temperament commanded respect, and was suggestive that he was a reclusive man of great talent.
However, before him were several businessmen wearing suits and ties. Standing in front of all the others was a particularly fat man, who appeared to be the leader. He had quite a haughty demeanor, but at that moment, he was actually reverent and showed respect toward the middle-aged man, not at all daring to be lacking in manners.
“Master Wu, I am planning on purchasing a piece of land for a new construction plan. I would like to ask if you could go over and take a look. Is this land a favorable one?”
Master Wu was silent for a long while. Then, he said, “Before one can take a look at the land, one must first take a look at the person. This one does not believe to have seen you before.”
Fatty hurriedly said, “I’m Cai Zunbao. Owner Li recommended me here. You can call me Xiao Cai if you’d like.”
Master Wu looked at his assistant, who was standing to the side. It was actually Jiang Qibing. The latter immediately handed over several sheets of data and quietly said, “Mr. Li has indeed given his greetings already.”
Master Wu nodded and said in satisfaction, “Since Old Li recommended you, then it seems that you and I do have some connection. Agree on a time with my assistant. Then, I will go and see if that piece of land has any affinity with you.”
“Thank you, Master Wu!”
Cai Zunbao was overjoyed and lowered his head, bowing nonstop.
It was said that this master before him wasn’t easy to get to look at feng shui for people. It was difficult to acquire his services. Luckily, he had researched in advance. He had heard that if someone who had acquired the master’s services before introduced you, then it would be easier to succeed in acquiring his services. Therefore, he had begged all the way to Owner Li’s side.
Master Wu politely said, “This one still has spiritual practice yet to be completed and will take his leave first. If you have anything else to discuss, do so with my disciple.”
“Great Master, by all means! Please go ahead!” Cai Zunbao didn’t dare to disrupt the great master’s spiritual training. The more practiced he was, the better. His piece of land still awaited the master!
After he saw to the master’s departure from the reception hall with a great bow, Cai Zunbao’s bent back immediately straightened. He haughtily glanced at that “disciple.” In his eyes, that guy wasn’t some disciple. He was just a lackey who took care of the little things. Putting it nicely, he’d be called an assistant. He himself had several assistants and secretaries behind him.
When it came to someone like him, Cai Zunbao had no intent to lower his head for his favor. He waved behind him at his several “assistants.” Naturally, someone walked forward to take care of the matter. All he had to do was sit down, drink tea, and wait for the business to be settled.
Jiang Qibing began to discuss various things with Cai Zunbao’s assistant. Even though these people had come to seek the “master,” other than wishing to hear the master’s words when he was giving his assessment, at all other times, they preferred to discuss things with regular people.
In particular, all the small details such as the price, time, and location… Those were matters that a “master” should definitely not worry about. It was easier for people to accept bargaining over the price with an “assistant” like him.
Jiang Qibing was patiently explaining, “Master Wu has been busy with his spiritual practice lately. He will not have time to look at the land until next month.”
“Next month won’t do!” Cai Zunbao immediately cut in and said with dissatisfaction, “Buying land is something that has to be done the earlier the better. What if someone comes and steals it from me? I can’t wait until next month!”
Jiang Qibing frowned and said, “The master will not have time to deal with secular matters such as these until next month. If you’re in a hurry, you can ask someone else.”
When he heard that, Cai Zunbao grew frantic. He had thought that it was just the other person’s way of bargaining, but he hadn’t considered that the immediate response would be for him to ask someone else. That didn’t seem like bargaining anymore.
“No, no! I don’t intend to ask anyone else. But is it really impossible to make it earlier?”
Jiang Qibing frowned. The person before him was a somewhat well-known owner of a construction company. Jiang Qibing had already asked around about the land in question as well, and it shouldn’t be too troublesome a matter. It was just that yesterday night…
When he thought of last night, he immediately thought of Jiang Ziya, as well as how Jiang Yu had said that she was going to buy nutritional supplements for Ziya to strengthen his body. On top of that, it was almost their birthday…
He needed money. Jiang Qibing’s attitude softened.
“All right. I will discuss it with Master Wu to see if we can move a case that is less urgent to a later date. Master Wu will go over next week.”
When Cai Zunbao heard that, he was still not very satisfied, but since the other party already said that it was in exchange with another case’s time slot, he was being prioritized. He thought it over. His fellow businessmen wouldn’t disrespect him so much that they’d forcefully snatch that piece of land from him. Thus, he nodded in agreement.
“Then, when can I come next week to hear the master’s thoughts on that piece of land?”
“I will give you a call.”
Only then did Cai Zunbao nod in satisfaction and lead his assistants out.
After seeing the customers off, Jiang Qibing frowned as he collected the tea cups on the table.
Hearing himself being called, he raised his head. Before him was the otherworldly Master Wu.
“Jiang-gē, it doesn’t seem like you want the case? Is there a problem with it? You know, Jiang-gē, if there’s a problem with it, then why not just decline it? Otherwise, if we have to ‘handle’ it later, then that’ll cost money.”
Master Wu shook his head and kept spouting “Jiang-gē.” There was no trace of his otherworldly air. He was pretty much an old ruffian to the letter. Paired with the traditional Chinese jacket he wore, his entire person was seriously out of place.
Jiang Qibing didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he said, “I told you not to call me Jiang-gē. You’re much older than I am, yet you’re calling me Gē. That just won’t do.”
Wu Mingliang smiled as he said, “This has nothing to do with age. It’s all about experience! I’m just putting on a pretense. Jiang-gē, you’re much more powerful than I am.”
When Jiang Qibing heard that, he sighed. He knew that he wasn’t at all “powerful.”
Although the job of assessing feng shui appeared to be very profitable, the reality was much less than imagined… Though, putting it that way was not accurate. Truthfully, there were many feng shui masters who had fat wallets.
It was more accurate to say that if Jiang Qibing had been a heartless person, one who would directly cancel a job or ignore someone’s request if the place was truly problematic, merely telling the other person that the house was unfit for inhabitation, doing and caring about nothing else, then he really would have been able to earn a lot of money.
However, he couldn’t do that at all. If he took on a job, he had to do it properly. So if he really encountered a strange house or piece of land, he could only spend money to buy some “tools” to deal with it. That still wasn’t too bad, but if he encountered a case he wasn’t capable of resolving himself, he had to ask true “professionals” for help. Often, the fee for hiring them a single time was enough to cost him several cases’ worth of payment.
Therefore, Wu Mingliang had suggested for him to decline if there was a problem. Even he was scared from having paid so much for the settling of the land.
Jiang Qibing was aware of his own bad habit, so he always researched in advance. Like this time, when Mr. Li came over in advance to give his greetings, he had then done a preliminary check into the land to see if there were any strange rumors about it. Only then would he accept the case. Otherwise, he would rather drag things out with the other party for a period of time, finish his research, and open the discussion again only if the other party still wished for his services.
If he had to pay several more times, he wouldn’t even have enough money to take care of his wife, brother, and child anymore.
“It’s not that this case is problematic.” Jiang Qibing shook his head and said, “I haven’t had time to tell you yet. Yesterday, I ran into something strange. So, I’m debating if I should take a break for a bit.”
Hearing that, Wu Mingliang was shocked and hurriedly said, “Jiang-gē, don’t tell me that you saw some strange place again, and you ran off to deal with it by yourself? It’s not that I want to say this, but you should stop being so soft-hearted. Don’t forget that you have a family to take care of, and this kind of business is dangerous. If you can avoid doing it, avoid doing it.”
Accepting cases that are problem free and ignoring all places that are problematic, isn’t that the sign of a true fraud? Jiang Qibing couldn’t convince himself to do that.
He was originally a teacher, yet now, he had become a feng shui master. Even though he was supposedly just an assistant, the truth was, the so-called “Master Wu” was just there for appearances. It was because Jiang Qibing really couldn’t pretend to be a great master, but if there was no pretense at all, the customers wanting their feng shui looked at wouldn’t be willing to believe him.
Even if he really did know how to deal with “those kinds of things” as opposed to those famous feng shui masters, it was no use. The customers didn’t believe in a feng shui master like him who wore a suit and tie and who was only thirty years of age.
The strange thing was, they liked coming to tall buildings to discuss matters, instead of old dwellings.
After thinking about all of that, Jiang Qibing couldn’t help glancing at Wu Mingliang. If it wasn’t for meeting this fellow by chance, who had single-handedly whipped up this “pretense,” he would probably have long gone to a construction site to carry bricks to take care of his wife.
“I didn’t run across the strange occurrence outside. It was right at our own office.”
Last night, Wu Mingliang, with nothing to do, had gone home like usual at around four. Jiang Qibing, on the other hand, had stayed behind in the office to research Cai Zunbao’s matter from today. When he had just about finished his research, he had felt abnormally tired. Yet when he’d raised his head to look at the clock, it was clearly only six. He’d still have enough time to make it home for dinner.
At that time, he felt that something was off and got up to go home. Unexpectedly, the moment he left the office doors, he saw Jiang Yu with their daughter Jiang Jiang’s hand in hers. The two of them stood at the door, looking like they were waiting for him.
Jiang Qibing was a little surprised. He hurriedly headed over. “Why did you come over?”
“For dinner!” Jiang Yu smiled and said, “I placed a reservation at a restaurant today. I’m looking forward to a good meal with you.”
Hearing that, Jiang Qibing’s footsteps faltered. The strange feeling he felt grew even stronger.
Jiang Ziya was still in the hospital. In the past few days, Jiang Yu had been so worried that even the meals she cooked were foul tasting. If it wasn’t forgetting to add salt, it would be salty to the point that a single bite of vegetables would need half a bowl of rice to go with it. How could she be in any mood to make a reservation for a restaurant?
“Hubby, come on. Let’s go and have dinner.”
Jiang Yu’s eyes were as bright as stars, her small, pink lips were perked up in a smile, her youthful face was as pretty as a luminous moon that had just risen, so much that no man could refuse her—
Jiang Qibing gazed at her for a few seconds and coldly said, “My wife isn’t that pretty!”
After he said that, it suddenly grew dark before him. Jiang Qibing found that he had returned to the inside of the office. He took a deep breath, recalling how he had felt that something was off when he had looked at the clock earlier. Therefore, he immediately turned his head to look at the clock. Unexpectedly, it was already almost ten.
Although he didn’t know what had happened, it was already very late, and he hadn’t even called home. Jiang Yu must be worried.
He hurried to call home to assure her of his safety, but neither his cell phone nor the landline worked. Only then did Jiang Qibing realize that he was still in a barrier dimension.
And the corridor to the office’s exit was so endless that he couldn’t reach the end no matter how much he walked.
Until Jiang Ziya rang the doorbell.
“What?” Wu Mingliang jumped in shock. “Jiang-gē, are you sure? How could there be any problems with our office?”
After returning from his recollection of the prior night’s strange occurrence, Jiang Qibing nodded in agreement. “We’ve been renting this place for so many years already. A problem wouldn’t suddenly occur. I wonder if it might be a practitioner causing trouble…”
If it really were that, then it would be problematic.
Jiang Qibing knew that he was only half-baked and couldn’t be considered a true practitioner. It was just that his grandfather had once been a true practitioner. Through his influence, he had somewhat learned how to deal with things like these. Therefore, when he had lost his teaching job, and was under financial pressure, he had become a feng shui master with difficulty. He helped people with feng shui while also selling small tools on online auction sites.
However, that did not make him a true practitioner.
“Why would a practitioner want to cause us trouble?”
Wu Mingliang was immediately worried!
Several times, he had seen the “practitioners” that Jiang Qibing would hire. That really wouldn’t be a joke. If they clashed with them, they wouldn’t even know how they died!
Jiang Qibing also felt doubtful. Even if they felt he was a fake feng shui master and wanted to teach him a lesson, among those in the same business, he was considered to be actually doing his job.
Most feng shui masters completely relied on feng shui books and would say things about how the bed should not face the mirror, or how to arrange the furniture by the door. Not even a handful would be like him and actually deal with things. Even if the other party wanted to teach fake feng shui masters a lesson, his turn shouldn’t have come so quickly even if they were going about this in order, right?
“Jiang-gē, say, do you think this person causing us trouble might want money from us?”
Wu Mingliang had seen many cases where those who had earned money would be extorted for protection fees. But they hadn’t even earned much money, and they were already being targeted?
Jiang Qibing shook his head and said, “If the other party is someone who can freely use this kind of power, then they don’t need money from us. He would be able to do a lot of other things. Threatening a business as small as ours, how much money would they even make?”
Wu Mingliang nodded in agreement. Leaving everything else aside, with the power to make people die without even knowing how they died, being an assassin would make money much more easily than extorting protection fees.
“We’ll have to wait and see.” Jiang Qibing frowned. “Let’s accept fewer jobs for now and observe things first.”
“Then, why did you accept the job just now?” Wu Mingliang didn’t understand it. Jiang Qibing said he wouldn’t take on any cases, yet he had just accepted a new one. He had never seen Jiang Qibing do anything this contradictory before!
“I need money,” Jiang Qibing said simply.
“Didn’t we just take on two jobs that earned a good sum of money?”
Jiang Qibing said helplessly, “Recently, my wife’s brother accidentally got involved in a criminal shooting. He was hit by a stray bullet and is in the hospital right now. And, I don’t know why we have been spending a lot more than usual lately. Even though it’s still manageable right now, if we don’t come up with a new source of income, things will become very hard in the future.”
Wu Mingliang nodded, even though he still didn’t understand why Jiang Qibing was always so poor, as their income wasn’t too bad, and there weren’t that many people in Jiang Qibing’s family. His daughter wasn’t even in school yet, so how much money could they need?
But he always seemed like he was very much in need of money. If it weren’t because Wu Mingliang knew that Jiang Qibing was a thrifty person, he would have believed that the other person was spending money recklessly.
“Your wife’s brother is sure unlucky. How did he get involved in a shooting? Public safety nowadays is far too lacking!”
Jiang Qibing was also very suspicious about that. Jiang Ziya didn’t frequent all that many places. They should all be public places with many people coming and going. If a shooting had happened, it should have become sensational news, so why hadn’t he seen any related news about it on TV or online?
At first, he had only wondered about it for a bit and tossed it to the back of his mind. There were too many situations to consider. It could be that the police were still investigating so were unwilling to make it public. It could be that the shooting hadn’t resulted in any casualties, so the reporters were too lazy to report it, and so forth…
However, after what had happened yesterday, Jiang Qibing began to feel that something was off.
Even though Jiang Ziya hadn’t reacted too much last night, not reacting much was the strangest reaction… No matter what, if his brother-in-law suddenly didn’t recognize him, and even thought that he was an imposter, his reaction really shouldn’t have been an unperturbed one, and why hadn’t he asked him a single question?
Jiang Qibing felt that Jiang Ziya seemed to know something and was waiting for him to take the initiative to explain.
He was very troubled over it.
Truthfully, he didn’t want to involve Jiang Ziya in these matters at all. Even he himself walked on the outskirts. He had not truly entered the so-called “inner ” world.
He didn’t want to, and he didn’t have the ability to involve himself in that world. He was even more unwilling to let his family have any possibility of getting dragged into that world!
But Jiang Ziya’s reaction from the previous night…
Jiang Qibing decided to go home earlier today and have a proper talk with his wife’s brother.