Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“But…” Duan FeiZhou bit his lip. He really didn’t want to get involved with all that trouble at all. Still, he had to admit that Sword in the Stone had a point. He had seen firsthand the fighting between the occult practitioners (twice!) And he knew what kind of power the Nightmen had. He couldn’t fight against them now. To gain a foothold in a world of crisis and mystery, he had to arm himself first.
His eyes fell on Joseph Chester’s urn.
By eating those ashes, he could gain the ability inherited from generations of Joseph Chester’s family. Duan FeiZhou carefully held up the urn and opened the lid.
The human ashes were not the soot-like ashes he had imagined. Some of the harder human bones could not be burned away by fire alone, leaving behind large and small bone fragments.
Joseph Chester’s bone fragments were deliberately ground up, but still not ashes, but a pile of particles of various shapes. Just imagining swallowing this stuff made Duan FeiZhou sick.
The ashes really needed to be mixed with rice!
Human physiological instincts made him resist the stuff. However, reason told him that he needed this power. He wouldn’t survive in this world unarmed. Otherwise, when the crisis came, he wouldn’t even have the means to defend himself.
Z was right. Only magic could defeat magic. To defeat the devil you have to become a devil first. What’s more, he also longed to have a different kind of power inside.
He thought of Palmer, who could easily send people flying even when he was badly wounded! Then he considered Xenophon, who could heal a fatal wound with a touch. Who wouldn’t want that kind of power?
There was no contradiction between his desire to acquire powers, and his unwillingness to run the trading house!
Since Joseph Chester had made it clear that he wanted to give him this power, then he would accept it without ceremony. This was a special ‘compensation,’ right?
Duan FeiZhou picked up a small handful of ashes and put it into his mouth with a strong sense of physical resistance.
“Blegh–” He hurriedly covered his mouth to prevent himself from spitting it out.
The Sword in the Stone looked on, “You’re really eating it!“
Duan FeiZhou moved his hand with tears in his eyes, rolled his throat, swallowed the ashes into his stomach, and then picked up a second handful… He did not remember how long it took him to eat all the ashes. All he knew was that by the end, his throat was so dry, thirsty and painful that it was almost unbearable. He trudged toward the kitchen to get himself some water, but within two steps his heart lurched as if a lightning bolt had struck him square in the chest, which made it impossible for him to breathe.
Something was spreading through him.
He fell to his knees, as he coughed uncontrollably and dryly. A hot breath rose up from his stomach and went straight to his head. He felt his eyes burn. The fluid inside his eyeballs felt like it was boiling up. He covered his eyes and screamed, but soon, he couldn’t hear his screams.
He fell into boundless darkness.
Duan FeiZhou opened his eyes when he heard a ‘thud.’ He was lying on the cold kitchen floor, stiff and sore. At first he thought the thud was his ears ringing, but it took him a while to realize that it was something tapping on his window.
Everything yesterday felt like a dream. Occult practitioners, Nightmen, the Secret Trading House, battles over goods, talking swords…
When he saw the rusty sword next to his bed, he realized it was all real. His last memory was of himself swallowing the ashes and collapsing in the kitchen. Had he acquired Joseph’s gift of wondrous abilities?
He stared blankly at the Sword in the Stone, which yesterday had looked like a mere rusty sword to him, but now he realized that it was glowing with a brilliant golden light. His intuition told him that the light was not real light, but was mapped directly into his brain.
“Knock, knock, knock.”
The sound of knocking on the window became more and more urgent.
Duan FeiZhou rubbed his eyes, looked around for the source of the sound, and then found a raven resting on the living room windowsill, as it pecked at the window glass with its sharp beak.
A raven. Was it Xenophon?
He had inherited the trading house only yesterday, and today the Nightmen came to his door…Could it be that they found out his identity? If he explained that he only learned about the Secret Trading House for the first time yesterday, would Xenophon spare him? Unfortunately, he had already eaten the ashes with rice and had Joseph’s powers, so he couldn’t even jump into the Thames!
Duan FeiZhou wanted to run, but then thought, even if he escaped, where could he escape to? Even Palmer, a highly skilled occult practitioner, couldn’t escape the Nightmen’s pursuit. He was a newcomer who knew nothing about occult philosophy. Wouldn’t the Nightmen be able to catch him easily?
No, Duan FeiZhou thought to himself. They couldn’t possibly know that he was the new owner of the trading house. Otherwise, Z would have led a wave of Nightmen into his house to get him, and wouldn’t have sent Xenophon over to spook him.
The raven outside the window saw his figure and cawed excitedly, as it urged him to open the window quickly. Duan FeiZhou took a deep breath, told himself to be calm and not act too weird, then went to the window and pulled the pin.
The raven flew inside and transformed into a man with black hair and yellow pupils wearing a black coat.
“Good morning, Mr. Chester,” he said in a dreamy tone. “No, it’s good afternoon. You’re not just getting up, are you? Good heavens, you’ve just arrived in London and you’ve picked up the reversing habits of the upper classes? That’s not good!”
Duan FeiZhou blushed. “I’m so tired after the long day yesterday.”
Xenophon noticed the Sword in the Stone on the living room floor. “Why is there a rusty sword there?” He whispered into Duan FeiZhou’s ear as if he had asked a very rude question.
Only then did Duan FeiZhou remember that he had forgotten to hide the Sword in the Stone! He prayed with all his heart that the Sword in the Stone would not blindly, forcefully expose his identity. “Uh, that’s from my uncle’s collection.” He hastily made up an excuse. “It’s an antique.”
He picked up the Sword in the Stone and placed it on a cabinet in the corner of the living room.
Xenophon stared at Sword in the Stone without saying a word.
Duan FeiZhou’s heart was beating wildly.
Just as his heart was about to scream out of his throat and leave the house, Xenophon averted his eyes, having seemed to confirm that it was just an ordinary object.
Duan FeiZhou’s legs gave out, and he hurriedly held onto the wall as he changed the subject, “How do you know I live here?”
Xenophon broke into a wide smile, “I asked Lynn’s law firm about it.”
Duan FeiZhou asked again, “What do you want to see me about?”
Xenophon looked at him strangely, as if he had never heard such an outrageous question before. “Didn’t you say you wanted to join Scotland Yard? That’s why I came to see you!”
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t cry. When he agreed to join, he didn’t know that he would inherit the Secret Trading House!
“I…I think I have to consider it again…” He waved his hand periodically.
Xenophon hooked an arm around Duan FeiZhou’s neck. “What? You’ve inherited a rich legacy and you’re backtracking? But it’s too late, young man. You already know the secret of the occult society. How can we let you back into the society of ordinary people?”
Duan FeiZhou cried out, “But I don’t know anything! I don’t know how to do this or that, and I’ll only hold you back if I enter Scotland Yard!”
“It’s okay, you can be a meat shield! Just kidding.” Xenophon forcefully dragged Duan FeiZhou out of the door. “Don’t you want to learn the healing arts? I am very good at the secret art of flesh transformation. One day when the boss is not around I will teach you secretly…just kidding.” He winked mischievously at Duan FeiZhou. “I won;t teach you. The boss will rip my head off.”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t even have a chance to resist, and was dragged down the stairs by him.
Xenophon stopped a hired carriage, shoved Duan FeiZhou into it without a word, knocked on the roof, and said to the driver, “New Scotland Yard.”
The driver raised his whip, the horse neighed, and headed straight for the Victoria Embankment.
Duan FeiZhou looked melancholically at the passing scenery outside the window. This might be the last time he saw London.
Three years ago, a new London Police Headquarters building was built. It was known as the New Scotland Yard, and it was built on the Victoria Embankment. Since then, the dedicated people working in this building had been tasked with keeping the people of London safe.
If he hadn’t been following a detective, Duan FeiZhou would have liked to take a tour of the place as if it were a sacred site. However, right now he had no leisure to visit, and his mood was as heavy as a prisoner being escorted to prison.
In the New Scotland Yard’s northwest corner, in a dark office, the door sign read “Abnormal Case Investigation Unit.’ But what this office was actually investigating, even the senior detectives of Scotland Yard, was not necessarily clear about.
They only knew that this office had a great deal of power. Although it was a section of New Scotland Yard, it wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the Yard, but was a higher department.
Whenever something unbelievable happened in London, someone from this section mysteriously appeared, stole the case, and forbade the detective who originally investigated the case to participate or ask questions about the case. Everything was a mystery.
As they stood at the door of the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit, Xenophon raised his hand to knock on the door when someone inside the office said, “Come in.”
It was Z’s voice.
Xenophon pushed the door open with a big smile.
The office was very different from what Duan FeiZhou had imagined. He thought that the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit, which sounded so impressive, must be full of mystery, but this office…It looked like an ordinary office.
A few desks were stacked with papers, and a blackboard was hung on the wall with the names of places and people written on it. A few names were crossed out. Palmer’s name was among them.
The top desk was occupied by Z. He was still dressed in black, his silver hair falling over his shoulders, and his slanted eyebrows full of coldness. Duan FeiZhou’s gaze went down his right shoulder where his right arm had been blown off by Palmer’s secret magic that day, but today it was attached, intact, to Z’s body.
In addition to Z, there was a woman in the office. She was twenty-five or six years old, wore glasses, and was sitting at her desk operating a typewriter. The clickety-clack sound of keyboard tapping was incessant.
“How do you know I’m coming every time?” Xenophon asked.
Z grunted cynically, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. [Knocking].”
It was a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Xenophon pushed Duan FeiZhou forward. He stumbled and almost fell on Z’s desk.
“I brought this young man who is eager to join the Nightmen.” Xenophon said. Then in an inviting tone, he turned to Duan FeiZhou, “I haven’t told you yet, Z is the Commander of the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit, the head of the Nightmen. We all have to listen to him.”
Duan FeiZhou said, “I was just talking about it. I haven’t decided yet. On second thought, I might be better at another job…”
Z lifted those blood red, blind eyes. Even knowing that he couldn’t see him, Duan FeiZhou stiffened at the sight of his eyes, like a rabbit being watched by a hawk.
“How old are you?” Z asked.
“Twenty years old…” Duan FeiZhou mumbled.
“That’s one year short. We only hire people here who are twenty-one years old.”
Duan FeiZhou was relieved, not expecting this advantage of youth. This time he could finally be relieved!
Z went on to say, “You must train well during this year.”
Duan FeiZhou was shocked. “I haven’t agreed to join yet!”
Z raised an eyebrow. “That’s not the same as what you said the other day.”