Illusions, Lies, Truth Volume 3: In the Name of God, Part One
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: Practitioner, Part 1—The First Mission—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby)
“Gēge, good morning!”
Jiang Ziya lazily walked to the living room and got attacked by two girls’ morning greetings.
“Morning, Jiang Jiang, Xiao Xue.”
Jiang Yu blinked and glanced in puzzlement at the clock on the wall. It was currently only seven. She hadn’t thought she would see her brother up so early. She asked in curiosity, “Why are you up so early? Don’t you have afternoon classes today? Even your brother-in-law is still sleeping.”
“I’m heading out with Lu Yang.” Jiang Ziya yawned widely. Yesterday, just as he was about to sleep, he received a call from Lu Yang to check up on him. He had hesitantly told him that he had a morning mission and asked if Jiang Ziya wanted to go.
Of course, Jiang Ziya immediately answered in the affirmative. In fact, he was afraid he’d get ditched!
Jiang Yu nodded and didn’t ask anything more. After all, the boys were probably going to play some kind of sport.
“I’ll get some breakfast together for you.”
“Help prepare breakfast for Lu Yang too and put it in a paper bag. I’ll bring it and eat with him.”
“Okay, help me look after the girls for a bit.” Jiang Yu was immediately so excited that she almost rubbed her hands together. Two grown boys could eat quite a lot for breakfast. As a professional housewife, she was going to show off her skill!
Jiang Ziya wasn’t surprised over how happy his sister was. She had always liked to cook. Although her skills weren’t on the level of their neighbor, House Keeper’s, normal people shouldn’t entertain the thought of competing with someone who wasn’t human.
“Yaya-gēge.” Xiao Xue happily pulled on Jiang Ziya.
Right away, Jiang Ziya deliberately sat down on the sofa and lifted Xiao Xue onto his lap. He began to feed her breakfast. On the other end, Jiang Jiang was not jealous and was doing her best to use her little spoon to eat breakfast. If anyone tried to feed her, she would actually be unhappy about it!
Xiao Xue whispered, “Yaya-gēge, are you and Lu Yang-gēge going out to do that?”
Jiang Ziya felt that her phrasing was a little strange, but he wasn’t going to argue over a three-year-old child’s language. After all, they had already talked about not bringing up anything related to illusions, lies, and truths at home. Xiao Xue using “this” and “that” in substitution—was he supposed to blame a three-year-old child for having too small of a vocabulary?
Xiao Xue scrunched her small eyebrows together. Worried, she said, “Then, be careful, Gēge.”
“No worries, Lu Yang will take care of everything. I’m just there to ‘look around.’” He specifically emphasized those two words.
Xiao Xue nodded and seriously instructed, “Then, you have to hold Lu Yang-gēge’s hand tightly and follow him closely.”
“…That’s a little hard.”
Xiao Xue began pouting.
Jiang Ziya could only toss out the first part and promise, “I’ll follow him closely.”
Jiang Jiang, who had been quietly eating, lifted her small spoon and said, “That’s how to be an obedient gēge.”
Jiang Ziya felt helpless. One of them wanted to be spoiled, while the other was like a small grownup. Even though they currently looked identical, they were truly super easy to tell apart. Just by their expressions, he could determine who was who.
A delicious aroma filled the air. Jiang Yu walked out of the kitchen, holding a large paper bag in her hands. She said, “Here, Ziya, take this.”
Jiang Ziya took it. He had known that even lunch would be taken care of today. His sister always felt that grown men should eat a lot, so would stuff him like a pig. This time, there were even two pigs, so this bag of breakfast was three times the normal weight.
“Then, I’m off!”
The moment he opened the door, he was taken aback. The door across from them was also open, and in the doorway stood a person… to be more accurate, a familiar named House Keeper.
He wasn’t wearing that laughingly proper outfit, rather a light-colored dress shirt and navy green jeans. He looked just like a normal person, a very handsome one. He was even holding a bag in his hand, and the delicious aroma from that bag did not lose to the bag in Jiang Ziya’s hand.
The corners of House Keeper’s mouth lifted slightly. “Good morning.”
I didn’t think we would meet like this. Jiang Ziya forced himself to say, “Morning.”
“I was just about to bring over some freshly baked bread and cookies to your place,” House Keeper said as he took out some bread. He asked, “You have breakfast in that bag you are holding, yes? How about adding some bread to that?”
Faced with a temptation he could not turn down, Jiang Ziya could only obediently open the bag, letting House Keeper put something that looked like pie and several bread buns inside. He had a feeling that even dinner was now taken care of.
After he was done, House Keeper said with a faint smile, “There, I hope this time’s quiche and cheeseburger are to your liking. Then… see you later?”
“Yeah, see you later.”
Jiang Ziya felt that he couldn’t dally any longer either. He was already hard pressed to make it on time to meet Lu Yang. After he gave his goodbye, he rushed down the stairs, but he only took a few steps before he was seized by a strange feeling.
Thank you for accepting the invitation. We will definitely see each other again later.
He abruptly turned his head. House Keeper was still smiling faintly. Seeing that Jiang Ziya was looking back at him, House Keeper even waved his hand in farewell, as if nothing was wrong at all. Rather, he even gave the intimate feeling of a friendly next door older brother. Even though his appearance was just as handsome as always, he no longer had the standoffish feeling like that of a magazine model.
“…” Jiang Ziya had a premonition. This time, Yu Shu really will kill me, won’t she?
Guilty and perturbed, Jiang Ziya arrived at the promised time… half an hour late.
Even though Lu Yang was currently looking at his cell phone with his head lowered and didn’t appear like he was fed up from waiting, Jiang Ziya still felt full of guilt. He was late on the very first day of the job. This was too outrageous. He should be fired right away!
“Sorry, sorry! Something came up in the morning, and traffic was bad.”
Lu Yang lifted his head. He wasn’t very bothered. He had used the time to look over the information. “What came up? Is your family okay?”
“They’re fine…” Jiang Ziya hesitated for a moment, but he still told him in detail about his encounter with House Keeper this morning. He was just too worried, yet he didn’t dare ask Yu Su about it. She really would hack him to death with her sword!
Lu Yang rolled his eyes at him several times and snapped, “Haven’t I told you many times not to accept invitations?”
“How would I know that even ‘see you later’ would be an invitation?!” Jiang Ziya was about to go crazy. He had been so wary, yet saying a mere “see you later” had rendered all his hard work useless. How am I supposed to guard against this? Should I just never speak again?
Hearing that, Lu Yang frowned and said, “Even though he took advantage of the fact that you don’t know much, that familiar was actually able to use a single phrase to secure an invitation with you? That’s simply too powerful. Isn’t he an illusory familiar? Even though he has accidentally become a lie, logically speaking, he still shouldn’t be that strong.”
Lu Yang didn’t understand it, and he was also super worried, so he just called home to ask his dad. Since he was home for once, of course Lu Yang was going to take advantage of that!
“It’s because Jiang Ziya helped him become a lie, so he can be considered half of a master. That’s why it was so easy to secure an invitation. There’s no need to worry too much about him. He’s just an illusory familiar. If any problems actually come up, just use Slay to dispatch him. Ha…”
After saying that, Liu Yishi gave a large yawn and said, “I’m still jetlagged. I’m going to sleep.”
Lu Yang raised an eyebrow and looked at Jiang Ziya. The conversation just now had been on loudspeaker, so there was no need to repeat it.
“Can I slay him?”
“Yu Shu will kill you.” Jiang Ziya felt it was best not to anger the neighbor across from him, or something even scarier than demons appearing would happen.
Lu Yang gave two hmphs and declared, “I’m not afraid of her.”
“You don’t live across from her!” Jiang Ziya huffed, “Besides, House Keeper has saved us before!”
If House Keeper hadn’t reached out in time to grab him and Lu Yang, who had been about to fall off the building, the two of them would have become meat paste, so how would he even be able to use Slay to kill him then?
Lu Yang also felt he wasn’t being honorable, but how could honor come into play with something like familiars? If one day, House Keeper actually caused casualties, whose fault would that be? He said, vexed, “Just pay more attention to him. If something goes wrong, he has to be dealt with. Otherwise, if he causes someone to die, you’ll definitely regret it your entire life!”
Jiang Ziya nodded. He wasn’t actually worried that anyone would end up dying. If House Keeper really were to kill anyone, he would start with Yu Shu, and Jiang Ziya didn’t believe that she would die so easily.
Lu Yang didn’t dwell on it any longer either. After all, the problem in Jiang Ziya’s home was much more serious than a familiar who had become a lie. In comparison, House Keeper couldn’t even be considered a problem and could even be helpful. According to his father, Jiang Ziya was half of a master to House Keeper. Even if the familiar wanted to rebel against his master, Yu Shu would be ahead of him.
“Breakfast?” Lu Yang only felt hungry after smelling the food.
Jiang Ziya handed the breakfast bag over. Lu Yang took it. After opening it, he laughed.
“Are you the reincarnation of a starved ghost?”
“My sister is stuffing us like pigs, and House Keeper is at the side, giving her a helping hand.”
“Let’s eat it over the course of the day.”
“That was my plan too…”
The two of them leaned against Jiang Ziya’s motorbike to eat breakfast. As Lu Yang ate, he asked, “Have you looked at the information I sent you?”
Just thinking about the information gave Jiang Ziya goose bumps. He had thought that nothing would happen at school with Lu Yang there, yet their mission this time actually had something to do with the school. It was just two streets over at the abandoned school campus.
In fact, he had passed by the place several times before, but he had never given it much thought. He had thought it to be a construction site, yet it was actually an abandoned school campus.
“Rumor has it that it was originally going to be a dormitory, but accidents kept happening during construction. In the end, someone even died, so the construction was stopped. This is one of our school legends.”
Thankfully, Lu Yang was already on it. Otherwise, if the Supernatural Phenomena Society came to investigate it later and something happened, that would be bad.
Lu Yang shook his head and said, “I had police investigate it. Nothing like that happened. No one died during the original construction. It was purely a case of shady transactions causing the construction to stall for investigation. Later, because of fewer kids getting born, enrollment began to decline. The university already had plenty of buildings, so the plans for that campus ended up going nowhere. The rumor of something happening during construction most likely came about from the students’ gossip later on.”
Jiang Ziya was speechless. So it’s actually fake?
“If that’s the case, why are we here?”
“Six homeless people have died there one after another, from illness, hunger, and the cold. One of them even died from nothing. That person’s heart simply stopped.”
Lu Yang lifted his head to look at the abandoned school campus. It appeared just like a construction site, but further observation would show the overgrown weeds within, as well as several buildings at different levels of completion.
“Because none of them were murders, and the deaths didn’t occur closely, the police didn’t have much of a reason to investigate. If not for the number of deaths accumulating, they wouldn’t have started to investigate. I know a policeman on the case. He thought that something was off, so he asked me to come take a look.”
“What did he feel was odd?” Jiang Ziya followed the rules of a newbie—ask when he didn’t know.
“A lot of stuff. For example, the person who died from the cold died in October.”
People were more likely to die of heat than of the cold in Taiwan during October. Jiang Ziya immediately began to feel nervous. Something was wrong.
Seeing that, Lu Yang scratched his head and said, “Don’t be too nervous. It might not be anything. Often, I investigate for a long time only for it to be nothing. Let’s just head in and take a look first.”
Jiang Ziya nodded right away.
Lu Yang took out a large ring of keys from his pocket and said, “I’m full. Let’s go.”
“Why do you have the keys?” Jiang Ziya was curious. Could this be the rumored master key?
“The university president gave it to me. Six people have died in a row at this abandoned campus. He’s very nervous about it too. Even though the cases were all closed and deemed as accidents, if people keep dying, it would hit the news. The moment the police headed over, he handed over the keys.”
Lu Yang opened the old, rusty gates to the construction site and urged, “Come on in. Don’t dally and draw any attention.”
Jiang Ziya immediately flitted inside after him. As Lu Yang locked the gate, he took measure of their surroundings. The weeds were overgrown, so much that the road was nearly obscured. Several of the buildings were only half constructed. Only one building looked more complete, but the outside was just cement.
Lu Yang looked down at the information on his cell phone to ascertain which building it was.
“Which building do you think it is?” He turned his head to ask Jiang Ziya in curiosity. Just how powerful is the truth-seeing eye?
Jiang Ziya pointed at the building that was the most complete.
“… What did you see?” Lu Yang was taken aback. He had just asked out of curiosity. He hadn’t thought that Jiang Ziya really would see something. Isn’t that too powerful? What need is there to investigate anymore? All he has to do is arrive at the place and take a glance!
Jiang Ziya rolled his eyes at him and said, “Only that building can have anything hidden inside. All the others are just steel frames. What other building could it be?”
“You’re right.” Lu Yang rubbed his nose. He was being too stupid.
The two of them headed toward that building.
“I feel like there’s not much of a tense atmosphere. There are fewer odd things around here too!” Jiang Ziya scratched his head. Even though he knew that demons and familiars didn’t just show up at night, the ones in the daytime still made him feel a lot less nervous.
“What odd things are there? Describe them to me.”
“There are some fairies flying around in the air. There are huge flowers that look like Rafflesia flowers growing out of the vines climbing along that building’s walls. A bunch of humanoid shapes are squatting in the thickest expanse of grass to our left.”
Lu Yang felt that hoping Jiang Ziya could discover what was wrong was a pipe dream. None of the things that this guy saw with his eye were normal. How could he tell what was wrong? Lu Yang could only see the humanoid shapes squatting in the grass. He couldn’t see the fairies or Rafflesia flowers or the like at all. But after Ziya mentioned them, he felt that there really was something off about those areas.
“A white, humanoid shape flitted across the window.” Jiang Ziya suddenly gestured at the building and said, “Fifth floor.’
“Do you think something’s wrong?” Lu Yang didn’t feel that a humanoid shape was anything to be alarmed about. There were even several squatting among the grass.
“His posture just now looked like he was looking at us.” Jiang Ziya honestly said, “The kind of fellow that would pay attention to us is usually more troublesome.”
Hearing that, Lu Yang frowned and said, “Let’s go. We’ll head in and take a look.”
The two of them entered the building directly. It was rather empty inside, with only some random items placed by the wall. Among them, there were even blankets, hinting that the place was not short on homeless people who used it as their shelter. There was even a faint odor about the place.
“This odor smells like something rotten. Don’t tell me there’s a corpse?” Jiang Ziya’s face was pinched. Even though he had seen plenty of ridiculous things, seeing an actual body would still be different, right? Even this odor made him want to retreat.
“This odor might have been left behind from earlier. Few people come here, and the bodies of those six homeless people all took a long time for anyone to discover. Besides, you think the university would spend a lot of money to thoroughly clean this place up?”
“Which floor was the body found on? Don’t let me step on that floor, thanks.”
Lu Yang shrugged and said, “One on every floor. The police found that strange too. It’s like those people planned it that way, one floor per person. There are only eight floors to this building, yet none of the six have repeated a floor, each laying on one floor from the first to the sixth.”
“There are still two floors left?” Jiang Ziya asked warily.
“Yup, so the police hurried to have me come and take a look, afraid that the last two floors will get taken too. Ziya, help me see if there are any problems with the first floor.”
Jiang Ziya walked all around the place, telling Lu Yang about everything he saw. The more Lu Yang heard, the harder he frowned. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything suspicious. There were too many things that were suspicious. The building that appeared empty was filled with all sorts of spirits, and the walls were even coated with various graffiti. Jiang Ziya almost couldn’t tell whether the graffiti on the walls was real or fake.
No wonder this guy doesn’t have many friends despite having such an easy-going personality. With the way things are right now, as long as he hangs out with anyone, not letting things slip is practically impossible! Lu Yang could not help but lament.
“It doesn’t sound like anything is particularly off. Let’s head up,” Lu Yang said helplessly.
I’ll have to wait until Ziya knows more about these kinds of things before I can make use of his eye. He’ll have to be able to tell what’s off by himself. With the second hand account, Lu Yang couldn’t tell what was “particularly off.”
After walking up to the stairs, Jiang Ziya looked at the crude staircase that didn’t even have handrails. On the steps, several faces were currently moaning, their features super blurry. Only three holes were truly visible—their eye sockets and their mouth. It was a pretty disgusting sight, but it wasn’t a strange one in the least bit. He pretty much saw moaning faces on all sorts of surfaces day in and day out. The most common surfaces were the ground, walls, and mirrors.
In order not to attract any attention, he often had to force himself to walk over them. As he did it again and again, he had grown used to it.
He tried taking a step. As he had expected, nothing happened. Jiang Ziya relaxed and followed behind Lu Yang as they headed up.
The two of them had only reached the third floor when they suddenly heard a shriek from upstairs. While Jiang Ziya was still frozen, Lu Yang, who was ahead of him, had already begun rushing up. As he climbed, he summoned Slay into existence.
“Ziya, stay there!” After shouting that, he immediately climbed so far ahead that he vanished.
Jiang Ziya was rooted to the spot, anger coursing through him. He had come to help, not to be a bystander! He immediately followed suit and rushed ahead.
Fourth floor, fifth floor, sixth floor…
Jiang Ziya could only run after Lu Yang. This was a school building, its size enormous. He could tell that the shriek had come from above, but he couldn’t tell the exact location, so he could only check every room out. Thankfully, the building only had dividing walls up between the rooms, not even windows, so running over easily revealed whether or not anyone was inside.
On the way, Lu Yang also saw that Jiang Ziya had followed him. He hesitated for a moment before helplessly saying, “After we reach the sixth floor, I’ll take the left and you take the right. Be careful. If anything happens, scream right away.”
Not to be outdone, Jiang Ziya said, “If you get caught by a barrier dimension again, don’t forget to scream too.”
Lu Yang laughed. “Yes, yes, yes, I promise I’ll scream like a girl shouting ‘molester.’”
The two of them returned to the stairs in the middle. Just as they wanted to continue upward, they saw a figure running and rolling down the stairs, falling right in the middle of the staircase, huddling and shivering on the ground.
Lu Yang stood in front of Jiang Ziya. Slay was already ready by his side.
Jiang Ziya hadn’t made out his face, but he had clearly made out the angel who had flown down, body and wings protecting Jian Zhi. He abruptly realized the identity of the white figure he had seen by the window.
The person on the ground stilled. He immediately lifted his head, staring at Jiang Ziya in a stupor. His entire person was dazed, as if he had been scared out of his wits.
Jiang Ziya clapped Lu Yang on the shoulder, asking him to move out of the way. Lu Yang shifted a bit, but only to the side. They walked up the stairs together.
“What happened?” Jiang Ziya knelt down to look at Jian Zhi.
Jian Zhi stuttered so much that he couldn’t get a full sentence out. “T-There’s… up the stairs…”
Not the least bit indecisive, Lu Yang said, “I’ll head up and take a look.”
Jiang Ziya made no move to stop him. If Jian Zhi could run down, Lu Yang wouldn’t have any problems. I better stand here and keep Jian Zhi company. He looks like he’s about to pee his pants. Even the angel to the side was flying around in a panic, those wings hitting Jiang Ziya in the face more than once.
In order to snap Jian Zhi out of it, Jiang Ziya didn’t ask anything more about what was upstairs. Instead, he asked in curiosity, “Why are you here? This is an abandoned campus. You shouldn’t be able to enter, right?”
“That’s my question?” Jian Zhi shrieked, “I’m here to scout the place for our Thursday club activity!”
Like I thought, the club almost came here to investigate? Jiang Ziya wiped his sweat. Fortunately, Lu Yang came here first.
Jian Zhi asked in suspicion, “Jiang Ziya, why in the world are you here? And who was that?”
“Oh, that’s my friend, the one I helped sign up with the club. We’re here to…”
Jiang Ziya couldn’t think of a reason. What logical reason is there for coming to an abandoned campus? If it was nighttime, I could say that it’s a test of courage, but it’s morning right now. Who would hang out at an abandoned campus first thing in the morning?
Lu Yang’s shout came from upstairs. “Ziya, come take pics with your phone. I’m calling the police.”
“Okay.” Lu Yang was definitely better at snapping photos with his cell phone than Ziya. This was more likely an excuse to get him upstairs.
Jiang Ziya lowered his head and asked, “You okay?”
Jian Zhi nodded right away. Following that, he said with lingering fear, “It’s super scary. You best not look.”
Jiang Ziya smiled but didn’t answer. He headed up.
Lu Yang was standing in the great hall. He waved him over and said, “Just stand next to me. Don’t come any closer.”
This warning was extraneous. Jiang Ziya didn’t need to walk over to smell the frightening stink. He walked up to Lu Yang, the odor becoming even more prominent. He couldn’t help but cover his nose with his hand, but even that didn’t help. It was like that odor was burying into him through his pores, completely unstoppable.
Lu Yang helpfully said, “You don’t have to look at the body, just look and see if there’s anything odd with this room. Then you can head downstairs.”
How can you even speak? Jiang Ziya only dared to nod, not daring to open his mouth at all. He felt that if he opened his mouth, he would probably puke.
He hurriedly swept his gaze across the room, afraid to look at the body against the wall for too long. Then, he hurried downstairs.
After that, Lu Yang slowly followed him down.
“The police will arrive soon. We’ll probably need to go and give our statements. Don’t worry. This policeman is an older guy that I know.”
Jian Zhi was floored as he said, “Thank god. I was afraid the police would think that I’m the murderer!”
Lu Yang smiled as he said, “He won’t, but you can leave first. If I’m the one to discover it, the old man won’t give me any trouble over it. It will make things easier.”
“Really?” Jian Zhi was a bit suspicious and asked, “But won’t I be treated as if I’m evading the law?”
Lu Yang laughed. “Don’t worry. I think that was a homeless person who probably died from hunger or sickness. There won’t be punishment.”
Seeing him so relaxed, Jian Zhi unconsciously began to relax, too.
“You can leave first!” Jiang Ziya patted Jian Zhi on the shoulder and said, “This classmate of mine knows several policemen. Just leave it to him.”
Besides, your angel has been flying around nervously, wings hitting me in the face nonstop. I almost can’t pretend that I haven’t noticed.
Jian Zhi had never encountered something like this before. He was so confused he didn’t know what to do. Even though he felt it was strange that these two people had appeared here, when he heard that he could leave and didn’t have to speak with the police, he only felt relieved. He hurriedly nodded his head in agreement, his feet so wobbly that it took several tries before he could get up. Then, he hurried down the stairs.
In regards to having someone flee the scene, Lu Yang was very used to it. After he counted to ten to himself, he turned and asked, “Was there anything odd with the place?”
Jiang Ziya nodded and said, “There was a large sigil on the wall. Did you see it?”
He had observed it in detail, feeling like it wasn’t something that normal people could see. The bloody, circular design didn’t look like graffiti, more like a cursed image that appeared in horror movies. He just didn’t know if Lu Yang could see it. After several floors of investigations, Jiang Ziya had begun to be able to tell what Lu Yang couldn’t see.
Lu Yang frowned, muttered, “Wait for me,” and rushed up the stairs. Then, he immediately rushed down, his complexion terrible, giving Jiang Ziya a large fright.
“Hm, if you didn’t mention it, I wouldn’t have seen it. There are signs that the wall was been painted over. It wasn’t a bad job at obfuscation.”
Jiang Ziya was confused as he asked, “What does this mean? Have we come across a murder case?”
My first mission, and it’s a serial murder case. Isn’t this too much of a thrill?
“It’s a murder case for sure.” Lu Yang gave a cold laugh and said, “Murder cases committed by practitioners are mostly for ’performance assessments,’ so they specifically pick homeless people and deliberately leave the bodies to see if they’d get discovered. Going by this situation, I’m guessing that if all eight floors get a body and no one discovers him, he would pass his test.”
Jiang Ziya felt that his complexion must be terrible. Eight lives just for the sake of a performance assessment? Just what kind of sick and lawless situation is this?
“I shouldn’t have chosen this mission or gotten you involved.” Lu Yang said, vexed, “I originally thought that this building just had an illusion wreaking havoc with it. It looks like my judgment was too poor.”
Jiang Ziya hurriedly said, “We’ve already started investigating. You can’t tell me to scram now. If I weren’t here, you wouldn’t have discovered anything strange about the wall!”
Lu Yang shook his head and said, “Even I shouldn’t have gotten involved with this case. Gramps doesn’t want me to interfere with conflicts between practitioners before I have enough experience. Don’t tell me that after that thing with the Zhang family, you still want to take on other practitioners?”
At that, Jiang Ziya fell silent. He didn’t even want to fight with illusions, let alone people. But if Lu Yang had to face these kinds of enemies, he wouldn’t choose to turn and leave.
Seeing Jiang Ziya’s expression, Lu Yang sighed. “I’ll tell Gramps about this later. We’ll keep an eye out on the situation. Whenever I meet a practitioner, I always head home to report it first. Gramps will assess their skill and see if I should be given the responsibility. But you should be prepared. Eight to nine cases out of ten that involve practitioners all end up in Gramps’s hands. Even if he doesn’t take over, he might not allow me to take you with me. Your situation is too unique.”
“I understand,” Jiang Ziya said with a nod.
Lu Yang was rather surprised. He had thought that Jiang Ziya would insist on carrying out the mission with him.
“I’m here to help, not to make things hard for you.” Jiang Ziya felt that he was truly a great burden. Even though his eye seemed useful, he was more trouble than he was worth.
Lu Yang raised an eyebrow. Just as he was about to say that this was a special case, he heard noises from downstairs. He shut his mouth in time.
“Xiao Yang, where are you?”
When Lu Yang heard that voice, he hurriedly shouted, “Hu-gē, I’m on the seventh floor.”
A tall man merely took a few large steps to traverse an entire section of stairs as he rushed up. Behind him, tall, slim man could be seen nervously rushing up as well.
“You sure were fast, Hu-gē.” Lu Yang greeted the tall man familiarly.
Hu Lican hadn’t expected to see anyone else aside from Lu Yang. Stumped, he looked at Jiang Ziya and asked in curiosity, “Who’s this?”
“I guess my assistant. And who’s that behind you?”
At first, Lu Yang had wanted to say his teammate, but it would be terrible if Jiang Ziya was misjudged as being able to take on missions by himself. At times because of being unable to solve cases with demons and familiars, these people would be persistent to the point of interceding him in front of Qing Wei Gong’s exit, preventing him from going to class. Even though Hu-gē wouldn’t do that, there was no guarantee that news of Jiang Ziya wouldn’t get leaked.
“My partner. He’s called Fang Da. I brought him here to meet you. In the future, if I’m too busy to pick up the phone, you can call him, too.”
Hu Lican took measure of Jiang Ziya with a curious eye. The latter followed the principle of not speaking, snapping his mouth shut after he said “hello.”
“Call him?” Lu Yang gave a snort. “I bet he’ll be the one calling me. Weren’t you the one who asked me to come here? Or else why would I be calling you? I said it before. I won’t come in contact with anyone else. Are you going back on your word?”
Hu Lican quickly explained, “Fang Da has partnered with me for two years already. There won’t be any problems.”
Lu Yang snorted but didn’t persist on that point. He was just reminding him not to bring any more people.
At this time, Fang Da nervously asked, “Hu-gē, is this smell…”
Hu Lican nodded and told Lu Yang, “I’ll take Fang Da up to take a look. Then, I’ll come back and speak with you.”
Lu Yang nodded.
Watching them head up, Jiang Ziya only then asked in curiosity, “Are they police?”
He could believe Fang Da was, but that guy called Hu-gē had a face full of stubble, and his attire was even more unkempt than Ziya’s. Instead of a policeman, it would be more appropriate to call him a street hooligan.
“Plainclothes police.” Lu Yang answered, “But I only know Hu-gē. He’s called Hu Lican. He leads a small team. You can call him Hu-gē too, but never come in contact with them on your own. As long as I’m not present, don’t respond to them, and never ever get roped into a case.”
Jiang Ziya quickly nodded to promise him.
Soon after, Hu Lican and Fang Da came down.
Hu Lican said in worry, “It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong again. There are no signs of a beating. This is likely to be the same as before, the cause being hunger or the heart stopping. What’s strange is that the condition of the body indicates that the death should have occurred at least three days ago, but police came to patrol three days ago, and they didn’t find anything.”
“It should be the work of a practitioner,” Lu Yang said with a dark face.
Hu Lican roared, “A human did it?”
As they spoke, Jiang Ziya listened quietly. At the same time, he paid attention to Fang Da, who looked nervous and afraid of butting in. Fang Da was just like himself, probably because they were both newbies. Besides, Fang Da looked young, so he probably wasn’t even that much older than him.
Jiang Ziya smiled at him. Fang Da stilled before he returned the smile, looking rather approachable, not at all like a cop, more like a businessman. It wouldn’t be strange even if he were a teacher or had some other sort of profession along those lines.
“Huh?” Jiang Ziya snapped out of it and looked toward Lu Yang.
“Can you draw what the sigil looks like? After you finish drawing it, you can go. Leave the rest to Hu-gē.”
“Okay, then I’ll go look at it to draw it. The design is a bit complicated.”
Lu Yang shot him a worried look. Jiang Ziya took out a pen and paper, sucked in a deep breath, and rushed up the stairs, bearing with the smell. He focused on looking at the sigil on the wall. At this time, Lu Yang also walked over to stand quietly behind him.
Perhaps it was because there was something to keep him occupied, but Jiang Ziya began feeling that it didn’t smell as much. As he focused on drawing for a while, he caught something moving out of the corner of his eye. He glanced over in suspicion.
The corpse was currently wiggling, using hands speckled with green spots to brush along the ground. The legs also began twitching, and then the knees actually popped up, looking like someone trying to stand up. However, the corpse was severely rotten, so the actions were extremely sluggish and jerky, green and black liquid oozing down the sides as it moved.
Jiang Ziya was stunned. He tried to call out to the person behind him. “Lu Yang?”
No sound came from behind. He abruptly jerked his head to look. There was no one there. It was like he was the only one on the entire floor.
“Lu Yang!” Jiang Ziya shouted, but he didn’t receive any response.
Is this a barrier dimension? When did I enter it? Where are Lu Yang and the others?
He hurriedly stuck the notebook under his arms and turned around to run. But when he reached the stairs, he discovered that it had already turned into a dark, bottomless cliff…