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 3—The Seven Wonders—translated by lucathia (proofread by Trespasserby & Minthe)
The moment he took a step into the basement of the student union, Jiang Ziya attracted everyone’s attention. Actually, he hadn’t originally planned on coming today. After all, he had injured his hand, so doing anything would be inconvenient. Lu Yang had also told him to go home right after class. If it weren’t because the injury wasn’t serious and was fine after getting bandaged, that guy would even be overbearing and pick him up!
Jiang Ziya looked around once. There weren’t a lot of club members present, approximately seven or eight, but there were a few that he recognized. Lin Zhixiang, Jian Zhi, and the club president Xu Xikai were all present.
Jiang Zhi was the first to rush over. He asked frantically, “I-Is everything okay? Did the police come?”
“Don’t worry.” Jiang Ziya reassured him, “The police did come, but it was just to take our statements. It’s fine.”
Jiang Zhi let out a deep sigh of relief when he heard that.
“What happened to your hand?” Lin Zhixiang suddenly asked next to them.
Jiang Ziya scratched his face but still chose to lie. “Just me being too nervous going down the stairs, so I fell. My hand gave the cement stairs a good wipe. It’s just a scratch. The floor was really dirty, so I went to the infirmary to get it disinfected and bandaged to be safe.”
Although that wasn’t the truth, it was indeed just a small injury. The wound was quite shallow. The injury that Slay had inflicted was really pretty weird. After he wiped away the blood, what was left was actually not a sharp cut from a sword. Rather, it looked more like a bruise caused by a rough object.
Even Lu Yang didn’t know why it was like that. Still, as a result, the infirmary nurse didn’t ask all that many questions, treating it as if he had stopped his fall with his hand. If it had been an injury caused by a sharp object, he wouldn’t have passed inspection so easily.
Lin Zhixiang forced a smile and asked, “Don’t tell me you fell because you were so scared that your legs wobbled? Jian Zhi stuttered for a long time before he managed to tell us what happened. I never thought there’d be a murder case.”
Xu Xikai said guiltily, “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have stood Jian Zhi up.”
What do you mean by that? Jiang Ziya looked at him in confusion.
Jian Zhi explained, “Our president was originally going to go with me, but something came up in the morning for him, so I went by myself.”
“The gate was locked, so how did you get in?” Jiang Ziya felt that he had to get this clarified and tell Policeman Hu so that he could keep an eye on it. Otherwise, the eighth floor might also gain a body, and a practitioner who willingly harmed others would pass their test.
“Well, why did you go there?” Xu Xikai asked in confusion.
“This dean that we know sent us to check it out, something about wanting to see the condition of the building so that he could decide if we needed to get a cleaning company or if sending students to clean it up was enough.”
Jiang Ziya and Lu Yang had already gotten their stories straight. Even though this excuse was terrible, they couldn’t come up with anything better. Besides, even if they got suspicious, they wouldn’t seek the dean out to verify their story. Even if they did ask about which dean it was, Lu Yang said he would be able to find a dean to corroborate their story.
Sometimes, he really wondered whether Lu Yang’s family didn’t just own a temple. Maybe they also own the school and the police station and are pretty much a chain industry.
“I see.” Jian Zhi came to a sudden realization.
Xu Xikai asked suspiciously, “That’s an unused campus. Why does it need to be cleaned up?”
“Who knows, something about an inspector and wanting to be prepared in case he suddenly wanted to inspect the abandoned campus.”
Jiang Ziya shrugged as he made up a story. In any case, the school had done plenty of dumb things without even including this one. Last school term, the school hadn’t finished using their subsidized funds and thus bought a bunch of fish to put in the pond. In the end, there were so many fish that the pond was overcrowded, and the fish all died belly up.
“Should we cancel Thursday’s school wonders exploration altogether? With something like this happening, it feels kind of wrong to still go out and explore.”
The main reason Jiang Ziya had come to the club today was to make sure the club wouldn’t choose to explore the abandoned campus anymore. Even though Jian Zhi had been scared witless and would definitely not want to go, it wasn’t a sure thing that the other members would know better.
Xu Xikai shook his head as he said, “Of course we can’t cancel it. In any case, that location had been up for debate in the first place. The gates are locked, so we would need to crawl through a dog hole to go inside, and it’s the only place the school hasn’t given us permission to explore. There are many who don’t want to go there, so we can just take that off the list. The other places are all located in the regular campus, so there won’t be any problems.”
So it was a dog hole? Jiang Ziya nodded. It was fine as long as they didn’t go to the abandoned campus. Nothing should be coincidentally wrong with any of the other places, right?
“I still feel it’s better to cancel,” Lin Zhixiang said with a frown. “Something like this happening before our club event is unlucky.”
Xu Xikai was slightly unhappy as he said, “We planned for so long and finally got the school’s permission. Who knows when we’ll be able to get permission again? We are the Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society. If we’re scared to investigate just because of something odd happening, then why should we even investigate at all?”
Hearing that, the other members expressed their agreement one after another, and Lin Zhixiang didn’t say anything else.
Jiang Ziya glanced at her, still confused about why she had joined such a society. Does she want to find some answers after experiencing a supernatural event?
After that, the other members arrived in twos and threes. Jiang Ziya had wanted to leave and go straight to Qing Wei Gong to get in Lu Yang’s way so that Lu Yang wouldn’t sneak off to investigate alone. However, hearing Lin Zhixiang mention that today’s club meeting would go over the contents of the school wonders, he decided to stay. He should give it a listen. If he found any of the locations suspicious, he could ask Lu Yang to head over and take a look first. The campus didn’t seem to be as safe as he had thought.
After most of the club members arrived, the meeting officially began. Mostly, it was Xu Xikai using the projector on the stage to introduce the legend of each location:
In the bathroom on the third floor of the school administration building, if you make a greeting toward the large mirror, you will see that you’re not actually the only one present. Then, you will be dragged inside and become another one of them.
Don’t tell the anatomical model in the medical department, “You’re so fake.” If you do that, you’ll take its place and turn into a real human body model.
Right at midnight, in the literature department building’s east-facing classroom, you will see a student, who had previously committed suicide by jumping off the building, fall past the window, and that student will even smile at you. Whoever sees the smile will jump off from the roof at the same time the next day.
At three A.M. in the middle of the night, a bunch of people will often be playing basketball on the basketball courts. If you head over and indicate that you wish to join them, they will smile and say, “Okay, we’re just about to change balls.” You will see that the ball they were using is actually a human head dripping with blood…
The depth of the school’s Pond of Meditation is only a meter and a half, but a student in the past had been bullied and gotten his head forcefully shoved into the water. Ever since he drowned, he can be seen floating in the pond in the middle of the night. If you make a wish after you hit him with a coin, your wish will come true, but after it happens, you will be dragged into the pond and become the next make-a-wish corpse.
There are usually only twelve stacks of bookshelves in the library, but if you go at night and count them, you will count thirteen of them, with forbidden texts that shouldn’t exist in this world filling the last.
After listening to six of the legends, Jiang Ziya felt that they were okay. He had been to some of these places before, like the Pond of Meditation. He hadn’t seen a wishing corpse there. There’s only a mermaid there, okay? And quite a pretty one too!
“Then, what’s the legend behind the abandoned campus?” Jiang Ziya asked in curiosity. Even though he already knew it was the handiwork of a practitioner, asking wouldn’t hurt. There might even be a connection.
Xu Xikai smiled and said, “With each floor you climb, shout ‘I’m heading up to the second floor now;’ ‘I’m heading up to the third floor now.’ When you reach the eighth floor and shout, ‘I’m heading up to the ninth floor now,’ you’ll find the ninth floor.”
Jiang Ziya stilled. There’s a ninth floor? Don’t tell me that after all eight floors are filled, something even worse will happen?
“Is there something on the ninth floor?”
Xu Xikai shrugged and said, “We could have figured it out, but we can probably only give up on that now.”
Everyone chuckled at that one by one.
“These are the seven wonders of our school.” Xu Xikai smiled. For the sake of the projection, the lights had been turned off, leaving only the projected light illuminating his face and making him appear ghostly. “Even though we are now short one location to visit, we can still look into six of them. No matter whether they’re real or fake, we’ll find out Thursday night. Don’t be late, everyone. Being on time is of utmost importance for all club members. We won’t wait around.”
After he finished introducing the wonders, the meeting came to a close. Jiang Ziya sat in his seat, thinking about the locations of those legends. Other than the abandoned campus, there wasn’t anything wrong with the rest. They were all populated places, so he shouldn’t have to ask Lu Yang to take a look beforehand.
“Jiang Ziya, you’re also interested in the seven deadly sins?”
Jiang Ziya asked in confusion, “What?”
“This fell out of your pocket.” Jian Zhi picked up a piece of paper and handed it to Jiang Ziya. He gestured at the picture on it and said, “This is the sigil of Belphegor.”
“What’s Belphegor?” And why is your angel suddenly going crazy?
The moment the angel saw the paper, a disgusted look came over the angel’s face, all traces of amicability vanishing. An angry glare honed in on Jiang Ziya, the angel coming just short of rushing over to strangle him.
Jiang Ziya didn’t bat an eye as he said, “I just saw this drawing on the wall. I thought it was interesting, so I copied it down on paper. I have no idea what it is.”
After he said that, the angel’s expression gentled, and following that, the angel began drifting around, mouth moving nonstop, as if muttering absentmindedly… Ah no, the angel was giving a lecture.
Jiang Ziya genuinely wondered why this guardian angel hadn’t simply taken the form of a mother. Such nagging! You’re not like an angel at all!
“Belphegor is a devil,” Xu Xikai walked over and said uncertainly, “but isn’t very famous in Taiwan. Why would someone draw Belphegor’s sigil?”
To the side, Lin Zhixiang was also listening in quietly. Who knew if she was simply curious, or if she just wanted to talk with one of them.
Jiang Ziya quickly said, “Who knows? Maybe it was just randomly drawn.”
Xu Xikai smiled. “You’re right, but it’s best that you don’t tattoo this on your body. Among the seven deadly sins, this devil represents sloth. Tattooing laziness onto your body is pretty laughable.”
You’ve got it all wrong. I’m not getting a tattoo! Jiang Ziya swore to himself. He’d rather get a tattoo of Mickey Mouse on his body than ever get a tattoo of a sigil that he suspected had been left by a practitioner.
“What’s the seven deadly sins?” Jiang Ziya changed the subject and casually asked his question. He had actually forgotten to give this drawing to Lu Yang, who was probably still angry and had completely forgotten about it, too. He’d gone straight home.
“The Bible says that life consists of seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, pride, and sloth. Each sin has a corresponding devil. The devil of sloth is Belphegor, which is the devil represented by the sigil in your possession.”
Xu Xikai tapped on the paper Jiang Ziya held.
Jiang Ziya frowned. Now he understood why the angel had gone crazy over there. So, the angel saw the sigil of an enemy.
Seven school wonders and seven deadly sins? Jiang Ziya felt himself begin to hate the number seven. It can’t be so coincidental that the school wonders have anything to do with the Bible, right?
Lu Yang had already said that it was the handiwork of a practitioner. Isn’t that too big of a jump, a practitioner to a devil?
Jian Zhi explained in a small voice, “Actually, the Bible extols the seven virtues. The seven deadly sins and devils and such mostly come from other books. They have nothing to do with the Bible!”
Jiang Ziya looked toward Jian Zhi.
The other smiled timidly and said, “My family is Catholic. I-I’m not that religious.”
As if. You have an angel standing behind you, and you say you’re not religious. Do you need God to be standing behind you or what?
“You’re Catholic, yet you joined the Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society. Isn’t that a little strange?” Jiang Ziya asked doubtfully. From my impression, Catholics don’t believe in stuff like this, right?
Jian Zhi immediately responded firmly, “Because I believe in God, I’m here to disprove all rumors that can’t be trusted…” He shouted fervently until then but soon discovered that he was being too passionate, so he ducked his head and said softly, “I mean, um, it’s not good to trust supernatural stuff too much.”
Jiang Ziya felt that Jian Zhi probably always tried really hard to control his various “preachings.” To youngsters who were full of themselves, always spouting “God this” and “God that” was probably one of the easiest ways to lose friends. The effect was no worse than that of his left eye.
Jiang Ziya looked at the furtive President Xu. Someone who would think of creating a Supernatural Phenomena Studies Society should believe in supernatural phenomena, right?
The pale President Xu said with a smile, “Our goal has always been to investigate the truth behind these supernatural phenomena. Whether it’s to confirm them or to disprove them, it doesn’t matter. In any case, be there Thursday night or be square.”
He didn’t know if he was just imagining it, but Jiang Ziya felt that when he said the words “confirm,” he seemed to have glanced at Lin Zhixiang to the side.
Jiang Ziya looked toward Lin Zhixiang. The latter hadn’t said a word. She seemed like she didn’t have much interest in the topic of devils.
Lin Zhixiang had also noticed his gaze and said, “Jiang Ziya, I’m a little hungry. Want to get a late night snack together?”
Jian Zhi’s expression changed.
Jiang Ziya felt himself sweating. Just as he was about to turn her down, he heard Lin Zhixiang say apologetically, “I want to apologize to you for what happened last time.”
What happened last time? Jiang Ziya looked at Lin Zhixiang, feeling like she meant something else. She probably hadn’t invited him for the sake of an apology.
“Okay, let me call home first.”
Lin Zhixiang nodded. “Perfect. I’ll clean up.”
Both of them chose to ignore Jian Zhi to the side, whose gaze looked like that of an abandoned puppy. Since they were going to talk about what had happened last time, then no one could join them, or else they wouldn’t need to discuss anything at all.
Jiang Ziya walked outside and made his call. Right off the bat, he asked, “Lu Yang, where are you?”
“You didn’t sneak out to investigate?”
“I promise I haven’t cheated on you!”
Jiang Ziya was momentarily speechless. The tables had sure turned. Yesterday, it was Lu Yang checking up on him, and now it was his turn to check on Lu Yang’s whereabouts. Just when will these days of checking back and forth end? What a headache!
“Good, because it’s my turn to cheat on you.”
“What?” Lu Yang said furiously, “You’re not allowed to go anywhere dangerous, especially not to that abandoned campus!”
“I really do mean ‘cheating.’ I’m going to have a late night snack with Lin Zhixiang.”
“Huh?” Lu Yang asked hesitantly, “There hasn’t been anything strange happening around her lately, has there?”
“No. She might just want to ask me about what happened last time.”
“You have my permission then. But remember not to reveal too much. If she knows too much, she won’t be able to forget, and that might not be a good thing. For ordinary people, if they can forget these kinds of matters, that’s for the best.”
“Okay, by your command, I’m going to head off and have an affair.” Out of the corner of his eye, Jiang Ziya saw that Lin Zhixiang had already slung her bag on and was walking out.
Lu Yang said with a chuckle. “Scram already! Stop bragging just because you’ve encountered a catch for once.”
What kind of catch is this? Jiang Ziya was speechless. Even though Lin Zhixiang was pretty, when he thought of what they were about to discuss, even if the person sitting across from him was the celebrity Zhiling-jiějie, he would pray for this encounter not to happen.
“Ready to go?” Lin Zhixiang walked out and asked politely when she saw that he was still holding his cell phone.
Jiang Ziya hung up and nodded. He casually took the big bag Lin Zhixiang was holding.
“What do you like to eat?”
“Anything is fine.” Jiang Ziya felt that eating wasn’t the focus. It was fine as long as they could find somewhere to chat.
“No, really, what do you like? I really want to apologize to you.” Lin Zhixiang said awkwardly, “You helped me so many times. I haven’t even thanked you, and I even avoided you. I’m really sorry.”
So you really were avoiding me on purpose? But Jiang Ziya couldn’t blame her. If Lin Zhixiang could forget completely, it was better for her. But seeing how it was, it didn’t seem like she would be able to forget. Now that he was thinking about it, there had been something odd about this girl since the beginning.
They should have a good chat after all.
“How about hot pot? I know a hot pot restaurant with private booths…”
After ending the call, Lu Yang received a text. He was puzzled as he opened the text. It was a photograph of a hand-drawn sigil.
Oh, I completely forgot about it.
Lu Yang rubbed his nose. He felt he had really gone stupid. He’d investigated for so long yet completely forgot this huge lead. However, this kind of drawing usually just had an auxiliary effect. It was possible that nothing would come out of it… Wait, this drawing looks more like a Western sigil? There aren’t a lot of practitioners in this country who would use such a drawing!
Lu Yang immediately looked at the computer. On the screen, he had several windows open. The main window had a long list of names, with several photos to the side. Most of them were portraits, while some were mug shots, but even more were photos taken from far away and were unclear.
“Darling~~ Your gramps is back! Weren’t you looking for him?”
“If you call me Darling one more time, we’re through!” Lu Yang shouted, vexed.
Lu Yang pretty much gave up on his dad. He glanced at the screen and simply printed the sigil out. He steeled himself as he set off to look for his grandpa.
After he walked out of the room, he approached the front of the temple. A few elders sat at the log table next to the temple hall, drinking tea. One of them was outfitted particularly strangely in a long robe. His stature was tall and robust, making him appear unlike an old man, but he didn’t have fewer wrinkles than the stooped old man next to him. His stature and his face didn’t go together at all. Lu Yang’s grandma, Xiao Chun-sǎo, was currently steeping tea for him.
“Good evening Grandma, Gramps, everyone,” Lu Yang greeted all of the elders.
Each of the elders greeted him back with a smile one by one.
Master Ah Lu looked at his grandson and asked, “Wha’ is it? My fo’igna son-in-law said you’re looking for me?”
The fo’igna son-in-law Liu Yishi sat obediently to the side, not daring to utter any sort of response. Although he spoke Mandarin and Taiwanese even better than his mother tongue, and his son was already in university, to his father-in-law, he would always be the fo’igna son-in-law. It saddened Liu Yishi, but then again, his father-in-law didn’t mean anything derogatory by those words.
“Ah, it’s just that I ran into another case perpetrated by a practitioner.” Lu Yang had also turned just as obedient as his father as he said, “I came to report it to you.”
He placed the drawing he had printed on the log table.
Master Ah Lu furrowed his brows. “He left behind such obvious evidence?”
“No, Ziya was the one who saw this.”
Hearing that, Master Ah Lu’s brows, which had already been scrunched tightly enough to kill a fly, squeezed even more tightly together, resembling dry bark.
“Does anyone use this?”
“Very few in the country. Even then, they’re all small fries. Even if you’ve encountered them, you wouldn’t come and ask me about them.” Master Ah Lu looked at Liu Yishi. “I believe that asking your dad will make things clearer.”
Liu Yishi looked at that drawing and said a single word. “Belphegor.”
Lu Yang looked at his father. “Is that the name of a devil?”
”Yes, the devil of sloth.”
“Speak Chinese!” Master Ah Lu hit his son-in-law on the head.
Under his son’s mocking gaze, the pitiful father Liu Yishi, who had been hit by his father-in-law and ridiculed by his son, dejectedly changed the topic and explained, “This is the sigil of Belphegor. In unorthodox theology, he is the devil of sloth among the seven deadly sins.”
“Unorthodox theology, is it?” Lu Yang muttered, “Since this is something uncommon, it should be easier to deal with, right?”
“Hard to say. The internet is too widespread these days. Some unorthodox teachings are even more well known than traditional teachings, and may have even surpassed the traditional, especially the malevolent type.” Liu Yishi drew a cross in front of him in worry. He sighed. “God, why would people rather believe in the existence of devils and ghosts than Your presence?”
Lu Yang was too lazy to pay attention to his father. As the successor of a Taoist temple, he made it a habit never to comment on his father’s religious beliefs.
“Gramps, seven people have already died. Are you taking over this case, or should I deal with it?”
Master Ah Lu was taken aback. He asked in suspicion, “As many as seven? It wasn’t on the news.”
Lu Yang explained the situation a bit.
“Homeless people, huh?” Master Ah Lu was silent for a good long while.
During this time, Xiao Chun-sǎo smilingly steeped a cup of tea for her son-in-law and her grandson and said, “Have some tea!”
“Okay.” Liu Yishi obediently lifted the cup and drank.
Lu Yang sat down to drink tea. While Gramps was thinking, it was never a good idea to interrupt him. It was best to just let him think. They could just drink tea.
Xiao Chun-sǎo handed over two more small plates, with donuts and muffins crammed on them. This was a specialty of the Lu family. When they had tea, they would have Western desserts. Back then, Liu Yishi had depended on the various desserts he’d gathered from all over to win over his father-in-law. That was how he had been able to marry his wife—although it was more like he had married himself into the family.
Even his son’s surname was Lu, though Lu Yang’s English name was Luke Hunter, while Liu Yishi was Lewis Hunter. He had to clarify that he really hadn’t married into the Lu family. Sob, sob, sob.
“Xiao Yang! What cases have you been on lately? Let’s hear it.” The other elders looked at Lu Yang expectantly, like children anticipating a story.
Lu Yang randomly talked about a few cases that weren’t as scary. The elders hung on to his every word.
“What hogwash!” Master Ah Lu finally spoke, “This devil thing, I really don’t understand it. I can’t remember any strong people who use this kind of drawing in the country. But since there have already been seven deaths, he likely won’t stop there. Fo’igna son-in-law, you happen to be knowledgeable about things like this. Go with Xiao Yang to see what’s going on.”
Liu Yishi quickly swallowed the donut in his mouth and replied, “Okay.”
Afterwards, he looked expectantly at his son, hoping to receive a smile from him, or even the words, “I can finally partner up with my father. I’ve waited for this day for so long…”
Lu Yang had been looking down at his cell phone. When he lifted his head, he was immediately greeted by his father’s sad face, almost scaring him to death.
Liu Yishi turned his head, about to go squat in a corner, when he heard his son say abruptly, “Dad, let’s go.”
He immediately nodded excitedly.
Lu Yang turned his cell phone around so his dad could see.
Grand Duke Jiang is Fishing: Ah Yang, I feel you should definitely come over and listen to Lin Zhixiang’s story.