Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 3: In the Name of God, Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: College Life Part 2—What Happened to the Promised Films Studies Society?—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby)
In the end, Jiang Ziya didn’t give Jian Zhi a call beforehand. Who knows if making a call would be an invitation?
Even though he felt he was being too paranoid, the situation at home was complicated. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It wouldn’t be too late to enter Jian Zhi’s number under his contacts after Lu Yang had taken a look at him and made sure there was nothing iffy about him. Besides, he didn’t care whether or not he had a good seat to watch the movie.
He followed the directions on the flyer and arrived at the student union building. He hadn’t thought it would be so populated here. Several students had formed a crowd in their approach, and they greeted each other as they got on the elevator and even waved for Jiang Ziya to quickly get in.
Jiang Ziya shook his head and looked down at the flyer. On it was written: “Basement, level one. Please take a right turn at the elevators, walk to the end of the corridor, and use the stairs to go down.” Earlier, when he had read this, he hadn’t thought much of it, but now that he had seen all the students take the elevator up, he started to feel something was off.
But if the audio-visual room for watching the movie needs to be soundproof, it’s not odd for it to be in the basement? Jiang Ziya thought it over and felt he was worrying too much. The student union building was even livelier than the location of his classes. People came and went. Even standing in front of the elevator made him feel he was very much in the way. It would be too stupid to plan an ambush here.
After laughing at himself for jumping at nothing, Jiang Ziya walked directly to the end of the corridor indicated on the flyer. Looking at the deep staircase, he abruptly recalled when he had first discovered the strangeness of the twins and had wanted to get Xiao Xue out of there to throw her away. He had faced such a staircase then too…
But the situation was still rather different. At the time, the staircase had been so dark that he hadn’t been able to see the stairs past a few steps. On top of that, the darkness had absolutely no increments to it, as if it were a steep cliff. Any closer, and he would have fallen into a bottomless pit.
However, the stairs in front of him grew darker the farther down it went, and he could faintly make out the flat intermediate floor where the stairs turned.
Suddenly, the staircase brightened, and a person stuck his head out to look up, crying out in surprise and elation once he spotted someone there. “Jiang Ziya!”
When that person had stuck his head out, Jiang Ziya had immediately noticed him for no other reason than the presence of the eye-catching angel, who was even glowing. Even if he didn’t want to notice, he couldn’t. He raised his hand and said, “Hey!”
Jian Zhi rushed up and excitedly said, “I didn’t get your call. I thought you weren’t coming!”
“Oh, I felt that it’s fine even if a seat isn’t saved for me.” Jiang Ziya tried his best to ignore the angel that was flying behind him joyfully.
“I get you!” Jian Zhi nodded and said, “Have you had dinner yet?”
“Awesome, we have snacks before the screening. Come on!”
Jian Zhi hurriedly pulled Jiang Ziya down the stairs.
This club must really be unpopular? Jiang Ziya wasn’t concerned about it. After all, he had come in the first place with the intention of appeasing Jiang Yu. The less the club required, the better.
After arriving at the basement, he saw that the layout wasn’t all that different from the floor above it. First was a great hall and then a long hallway to each side. Both sides led to several rooms.
The lighting was very dim, the surroundings fairly decorated. A few rows of chairs had been neatly lined in the middle. A white projector screen was directly ahead, the frame currently paused on the movie’s title screen. There were even spider webs hung about the walls around them, as well as tattered cloth, ghost masks, and the like. He could tell that they were for the sake of creating a scary atmosphere, which had heart but wasn’t all that polished.
“No club wanted to use the basement, so the school let us use it!” Jian Zhi happily said, “Isn’t it awesome? We’re allowed to use such a large space however we like. You can even borrow a room to watch films!”
“That is pretty cool.” Jiang Ziya felt they could borrow a room for Lu Yang to show off his swordplay or something, but why would no one want to use such a large space? Even though it’s the basement, students shouldn’t be so particular about it, right?
There really weren’t that many people present, just about twenty or so, and several of them were looking around, curiously observing their surroundings. They didn’t seem to be old club members. Most were probably like him who had come to participate in the club activity.
Jian Zhi played host and said, “Come over and eat. The female club member responsible for preparing the snacks is super good at it. They’re delicious!”
Jiang Ziya didn’t hold back, following Jian Zhi over to the dining area. After all, he intended to join the club, so he wasn’t freeloading. That gave him peace of mind.
“Jiang Ziya?” a girl exclaimed.
Jiang Ziya stilled and looked toward the person who had called out to him. Isn’t that girl standing near the soup and serving it no one else but Lin Zhixiang?
Lin Zhixiang asked a bit nervously, “W-Why are you here?”
Seeing her expression, Jiang Ziya didn’t quite know how to respond. Ever since the supermarket incident, he had thought that this girl would seek him out, but she hadn’t done so at all. It was like they had never escaped from the supermarket together, though she had been out of sorts at the time.
Lu Yang said this wasn’t odd. After many people experienced this kind of thing, they itched to forget about it completely. First, they would avoid everyone involved, and then they would begin to suspect whether it had just been a dream. Following that, they would completely forget it was something that had happened in real life, writing it off as something from a dream, movie, or even a novel or comic.
However, with the kind of reaction Lin Zhixiang had, she probably hadn’t forgotten?
“He’s a new club member I roped in!” Jian Zhi said excitedly.
Hey hey, I haven’t agreed yet! Jiang Ziya rolled his eyes, but seeing Jian Zhi doing his utmost to hint with his glances, and the angel behind him similarly following suit with a worried gaze, Jiang Ziya could only rub his nose and nod.
“You’re joining?” Lin Zhixiang was taken aback for a moment. “Oh, it’s fitting for you to join this club though.”
Why is she saying something so strange? Jiang Ziya frowned, but then he thought of the scary atmosphere around them. All right, recent events have been a bit scary.
“You know each other?” Jian Zhi asked curiously.
“Um, not really. She fainted one time at the school cafeteria, so my friend and I took her to the infirmary.”
Jian Zhi took in their awkward expressions. No matter what, that doesn’t look like an expression someone would have when meeting one’s savior? He rubbed his nose and said, “I thought you were exes.”
“Nothing like that!” Jiang Ziya protested.
Lin Zhixiang’s face reddened. She understood that her attitude was inappropriate. She quickly explained, “That time, I woke up halfway and didn’t have a grasp on the situation. I thought he was a bad guy, so I slapped him.” As she spoke, she caught Jiang Ziya’s eyes to clue him in.
“Oh…” Jian Zhi looked at Jiang Ziya with sympathy and said, “That sucks.”
“It wasn’t a big deal.” Jiang Ziya could only follow along. Both of them were hinting at him one after another. He really didn’t know what they were doing.
Seeing that she had successfully bluffed her way out, Lin Zhixiang let out a sigh of relief. She quickly asked, “Want something to eat? You haven’t had dinner yet, right?”
Jiang Ziya nodded.
Lin Zhixiang immediately got two plates of food and a bowl of soup together in a hurried manner. Jiang Ziya couldn’t carry it all, so even Jian Zhi had to help him. “Come back for more if it’s not enough.”
Jiang Ziya lifted an eyebrow. Are you stuffing me like a pig, or is this your way of thanking me?
“Thanks.” I’ll treat it as the latter. After all, we survived through a life-and-death situation together.
Carrying a large amount of food, Jiang Ziya could only sit down first and eat dinner. If nothing else, this food was really quite delicious, even though it wasn’t as good as the all mighty butler’s handiwork across his place, but this quality was definitely on par with the common housewife’s. It could give his sis a run for her money. Normally, if food that students prepared for club activities was fit for consumption, that was already good enough, not to mention being delicious.
Jian Zhi said while smiling, “Pretty good, right? Lin Zhixiang is a great cook. She always prepares the food for club activities.”
“You’re not eating?” Jiang Ziya felt a bit embarrassed to be the only one gorging himself.
“Us club members have all already eaten.”
“Oh.” Jiang Ziya nodded.
“Take your time. I’m going to show the others around. If you have any questions, feel free to come find me.”
“Speaking of that, how do club fees work here?” Jiang Ziya asked a fairly practical question. He was someone in debt. He had to haggle over every cent!
Jian Zhi’s eyes brightened, and he lowered his voice to say, “If you join, I can help waive your fees!”
…Just how badly do you need people?
Suddenly, Jiang Ziya didn’t dare to agree to join. Is it so hard for clubs to get people to join nowadays? Faced with double the hopeful expressions from both Jian Zhi and the angel, Jiang Ziya forged on and said, “Let me see if the club activities interest me first.”
“Ah… I get you.” Jian Zhi and the angel both appeared pitiful, as if they had withered.
Jiang Ziya felt like he was the guiltiest person in the world, but this club was so in need of members that even the club fees were waived. No matter how he looked at it, something had to be wrong. It was best for him to test the waters first. If no one was joining because it was too boring, then he could join and make up the numbers. But if it was because of some other reason, then he had to reconsider it.
Jiang Ziya ate so much that he was stuffed. Just as he finished eating the food on hand, the event this time was about to start. Not only had the number of people not increased, there were even fewer people than earlier. Don’t tell me they ran off after eating their fill? How ungrateful.
Unfortunately, this guess seemed to be right. A few people who looked to be club members all had on depressed expressions. Jiang Ziya took a count. Those sitting on the chairs probably weren’t club members. There weren’t even ten of them, and that was the result after he had counted himself too.
Following that, the club activity officially began. A few club members took turns on stage to introduce ghost houses and some ghost stories from many different places. They showed several spooky photos, and then they also had several people verify them, proving that some of them were fake, but some of the rumors actually seemed to have truth behind them and could not be disproved.
Jiang Ziya nodded. They were doing a decent job. Telling some ghost stories before watching a horror film would definitely make it even scarier. It was just that using this technique on him was useless. Ever since he was small, just what hadn’t he seen before? Besides, the glowing angel was floating by the podium. I really can’t feel scared at all…
“Now, let us enjoy the film. It is said to be adapted from true events, based on real people. Of course, whether that’s true or not is for you to decide.”
Jiang Ziya greatly enjoyed the screening of the horror movie that followed. He didn’t remember how long it had been since he had last watched a movie. There doesn’t seem to be anything bad about this club. Maybe everyone just likes clubs that require you to be more active?
After the movie ended, he returned to himself and suddenly felt uneasy. He immediately turned to look. All of the club members were standing behind him, watching him with expectant eyes.
All of the other seats were empty.
Jiang Ziya felt very pressured…
Jian Zhi carried all of the club members’ anticipation, walking over and asking, “Um, Ziya, what did you think of the club activity?”
“Uh, not bad.” This was the truth. Jiang Ziya didn’t feel pressured to say that. Occasionally coming to the club to watch a movie was indeed not bad, but could they stop collectively staring at him? I feel like I’m getting forced into prostitution… No, I mean, getting forced into a club.
“Then, how about joining our club?” Jian Zhi gazed at him full of anticipation.
Jiang Ziya hesitated for a moment. It was just a club. Even if it was really very bad, he could just quit. The school didn’t have a rule against quitting any clubs. Besides, everyone here was a student, and Lin Zhixiang was here, too. It shouldn’t be an “invitation.”
He nodded in agreement. “Okay.”
“Hurray!” Jian Zhi was so moved that he had almost jumped up.
The other club members likewise were full of joy and cried out, “We have finally reached the minimum number of club members required and won’t have to disband… Ah!”
The club members abruptly realized that they had let slip the truth. They all looked nervously toward Jiang Ziya.
So that’s how it is. No wonder even the club fees were waived. Jiang Ziya gave them an innocent smile, pretending that he didn’t know what they were so frantic about.
Following that, the other people immediately brought a club application form over and had even prepared a pen for him. Then, they all surrounded him to watch, making Jiang Ziya feel like he was currently signing a contract to sell his body. Fortunately, what was written on the form was indeed “club application.”
“All you have to do is sign. You’re majoring in Foreign Languages, right? The rest has been filled for you.”
Jiang Ziya nodded and signed it, officially becoming a club member. He returned the application and asked off-handedly, “Is the club activity always a movie screening?”
Jian Zhi smiled until his eyes closed. He lowered his head to look at the application form. He casually answered, “Of course not. It’s not like we’re the Films Studies Society.”
“… Then what society are you?” Jiang Ziya felt that he might have made a grave error.
Jian Zhi stilled. He looked at him guiltily and nervously said, “W-We’re the Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society.”
…No wonder you’re going defunct!
“You thought we were the Films Studies Society?” Lin Zhixiang asked in shock. “Didn’t Jian Zhi tell you?”
Expressionless, Jiang Ziya shook his head.
Jian Zhi quickly said, “I didn’t mention it, but it’s on the flyer!”
Where? Jiang Ziya looked at him doubtfully. The latter hurriedly grabbed a flyer, but the room was too dim for the words to be read, so he immediately went to turn on the lights after that.
Before Jiang Ziya could even scrutinize the flyer, he discovered that there was something wrong with his surroundings. The floorboards were stained black and gray all over, the original color completely obscured. The four walls were mottled and stained with water residue, and water was even dripping from several places, and in more than one location, a bucket had been placed below to catch the water.
The rooms along the two corridors had no glass on the windows, and they didn’t even have doors. The condition of those rooms was even worse than the great hall! Why was there even a need to decorate? This place looks even more like a scene out of a horror movie without the lights off!
Flustered, Jian Zhi said, “Before this, the basement was filled with junk and was leaking water, while the school didn’t have anyone to deal with it, so they originally only asked us to clean it up, and they would give us the entire basement to use.”
As expected, there is no free meal in the world. Seeing how the place currently was, he could imagine how horrifying the original condition was. No wonder no club wanted to take this place. Jiang Ziya looked at these ten or so people who made up this society, suddenly impressed by them. Cleaning up the entire basement with so few people must have taken them a lot of effort.
“We worked hard painting the walls! But the ceiling and walls are all leaking, so the paint job wasn’t up to snuff for very long. The technician for fixing leakages said that this one is a difficult case and would require a lot of money, so we’re still in the middle of requesting money from the school.”
As Jian Zhi explained, he snuck a glance at Jiang Ziya’s expression. They were really at their wit’s end. Even though the school was grateful that they had cleaned up the basement, club rules were still club rules. They had to reach the minimum membership in order for the society to remain functioning. There was no exception. If Jiang Ziya was unwilling to join, then their society was really going to go defunct!
Jiang Ziya stopped scrutinizing his surroundings, lowering his head to look at the flyer. On it, in fancy lettering, was:
Do you like the supernatural? Have you seen any paranormal activity without knowing what was happening, and you had no one to share it with? Come and join the society to study it with us.
The font for “Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society” was different from the rest of the words, but if he hadn’t known that this was the name of the club, he would never have put these words together in his head.
Jiang Ziya almost felt the need to vomit blood on the flyer. Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society? You might as well call yourselves the Fraudulent Society!
Jiang Ziya lifted his head and saw a pasty-faced male classmate walk over. He was tall, skinny, and pale, with such dark eye bags that it was like he had been punched. His footsteps were rather airy, his entire person akin to the existence of a specter.
Jiang Ziya was a bit speechless. If he had met him on the streets, Jiang Ziya would definitely have treated him as one of those inexplicable existences and directly ignored him.
“Hello, I am the club president, Xu Xikai.”
“I’m Jiang Ziya.” Jiang Ziya gave his name, and the other person wasn’t all that surprised. Jian Zhi must have already mentioned it before.
Xu Xikai had an inviting smile as he said, “Classmate Jiang, even if you don’t participate in club activities, could you help us make up our numbers and not leave the society?”
Hearing that, Jiang Ziya thought it to be a pretty good deal. Of course, it wasn’t that he would never show up, as he wouldn’t be able to appease his sis like that. He had to at least be able to tell her what kinds of things the society did, but a society that studied supernatural phenomena—I really wonder what kind of reaction Jiang Yu would have?
With how his sis was like, he bet that she would only say that it seemed very amusing.
Thinking of that, Jiang Ziya nodded in agreement. “I will come and participate in club activities, but I might not be able to attend often, especially on the weekends. I have work.”
Jiu Ge Bookstore was busier on the weekends. He couldn’t say the two words “Vacation please.”
“No problem.” Xu Xikai immediately nodded and agreed.
At this time, a ringtone sounded among them. The sound was very close. Jiang Ziya looked at Xu Xikai.
The other person reminded helpfully, “Isn’t it your cell phone that’s ringing?”
Jiang Ziya was taken aback until he remembered that this was the ringtone of his new cell phone. It was even a trendy song that Lu Yang had set for him. He quickly picked up the call. It was indeed Lu Yang on the line.
“How’s the club?”
“Fine, I already joined.”
“While you’re at it, help me fill out an application, too? Or do I have to go in person?”
Jiang Ziya lowered his voice and said, “But this is the Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society. Are you sure you want to come?”
“…You sure know how to pick them.”
He couldn’t refute that.
“Of course I’m going. Why wouldn’t I go? Remember to help me fill out the form. Ah, the food’s here. I’m off to eat.”
Jiang Ziya echoed “enjoy your food” and then hung up. He said, “My classmate wants to join too. Give me another application form…”
Before he even finished saying that, President Xu and Jian Zhi both rushed over and hugged him without letting go. The way they looked at him was even more fervent than the way one would look at one’s lover in the throes of love.
“Our savior!” Xu Xikai was near tears.
Jiang Ziya felt that Lin Zhixiang, who was standing to the side, had more of a right to call him that.
“You really are a good person!” Jian Zhi grabbed Jiang Ziya’s hand tightly. “My judgment wasn’t wrong!”
Receiving the good person award, Jiang Ziya felt defeated. These two grown men just had to look like they were on the verge of tears. He really didn’t know how to react. He could only look around to see if anyone could help him.
Lin Zhixiang laughed and walked over, pulling the two of them away to free him.
“So, what does the club do?” Jiang Ziya felt that he should learn more about it first. Then, he could discuss how to deal with it with Lu Yang later.
Xu Xikai seriously said, “We study all sorts of paranormal phenomena that cannot be explained.”
“Can you be a bit more specific?” Jiang Ziya felt that this president definitely wasn’t in charge of the everyday running of the club.
“Exploring ghost houses,” Lin Zhixiang simply said.
“…That’s clear and succinct.”
Jiang Ziya glanced at Lin Zhixiang. He hadn’t thought that she would enjoy exploring ghost houses. What, you didn’t feel that incident from last time to be scary enough? If he didn’t have an eye that he couldn’t escape from, he wouldn’t want to get involved with these matters.
Jian Zhi looked at him with expectant eyes and said, “We have an event coming up this Thursday even. Do you and your classmate want to come?”
“To a ghost house? Is it far?”
“It’ll be right at the school. We’re researching school legends.” Jian Zhi said a bit nervously, “But it starts at midnight. We’ve gotten permission from the school, so you don’t have to worry about breaking school rules.”
“All right, I’ll participate. Later, I’ll ask if my classmate wants to come, too.”
Hearing about the location, Jiang Ziya nodded. The location isn’t bad. The school is such a familiar place. If there really were any scary ghosts or demons, Lu Yang must have already gotten rid of them by now, right?
It’s just an outing at midnight. I’ll go!