Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Al kept asking questions like a curious baby. Whenever Duan FeiZhou couldn’t answer a question, he would smile mysteriously and say, “You need to think more independently.”
This was surprisingly effective. Duan FeiZhou was a little embarrassed to act that way.
In the afternoon, Al had to go back to the tailor’s shop to help his mother, and Duan FeiZhou happily granted him leave. As soon as the teenager left, he locked the door and let out a long sigh of relief. Duan FeiZhou wiped the beads of sweat on his forehead. “Finally, he left…”
Sword in the Stone gave an oily grin. “Aren’t you doing well, Mentor?“
“I don’t know how many days I can teach him,” Duan FeiZhou said sadly. “What if I finish all the books I have? Then there will be nothing left to teach!”
“We can buy new ones!“
“You are really lying down and talking. Where can I buy them?” Duan FeiZhou glanced at Sword in the Stone. “Is there any other shop in the world that deals with secret arts items other than the Secret Trading House?”
“Of course there are. There are many similar shops! Only the Secret Trading House is the largest, the most famous and the best hidden among them.“
“Speaking of which, where did uncle learn occult philosophy? His family…Ah no, isn’t my family already gone? No one should have taught him. It’s not possible that he’s a genius without a teacher, is it?”
Sword in the Stone grunted twice. “I remember him saying that he was self-taught. He bought books related to occult philosophy at a used bookshop. He mentioned the location of the place, but I don’t know the name of the specific shop.“
“Where is that shop?” Duan FeiZhou asked urgently.
“On the most famous street of bookshops in London, of course,” Sword in the Stone said with contempt in its voice, as if it were inconceivable that Duan FeiZhou didn’t even know that. “Charing Cross.“
If there was one place that defined the Victorian British book industry, it was Charing Cross. Duan FeiZhou, carrying the cloth bag with Sword in the Stone, looked at the bustling street in front of him with amazement.
It was like a picture scroll of an era had unfolded in front of him. So many bookshops, so many books! Some stores occupied several storefronts, with clear windows and beautiful signs that glowed in the sunlight. Others cowered in the shadows of the buildings, with doors that couldn’t be found unless one looked closely, and small spaces that couldn’t accommodate a second customer. Trendy bookshops put up notices on the front door that read, “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in bold letters.
Newspaper boys were carrying bags full of papers, as they shouted, “The latest Times! The Times!”
Duan FeiZhou suddenly remembered something. He grabbed a man who was passing by and asked, “Do you know how to get to the Leaky Cauldron?”
The man gave him a strange look. “I’ve never heard of this place.”
Duan FeiZhou thanked him in disappointment. The man scurried away, thinking he had met a madman.
“What’s the Leaky Cauldron?” Sword in the Stone asked.
“The place where dreams begin,” Duan FeiZhou replied sadly. “It seems my dream of going to Hogwarts has been shattered once again.”
Sword in the Stone was confused.
Duan FeiZhou looked in despair at the bookshops all lined up. Finding a bookshop that sold books related to occult philosophy among them was like looking for a needle in a haystack. He asked, “You say you don’t know the name of that bookshop?”
“There’s always something to be found.” Sword in the Stone was full of enigmatic confidence.
“Not necessarily. Maybe I’ll die of old age first.” Duan FeiZhou was pessimistic.
“Don’t you know how to use the method of elimination? First of all, it must be a used bookshop, so those who specialize in new books need no examination. Secondly, if it’s a store owned by occult practitioners. Surely they will remember your uncle’s name. You just have to ask if Joseph Chester ever came to buy books.”
“What if the people in that bookshop, those occult practitioners, attack me?”
“Since your uncle could buy books there, it means they are still relatively friendly.”
Duan FeiZhou sighed and had to go with that. He walked toward the nearest used bookshop. A musty smell of paper permeated the shop. He asked the clerk if a Mr. Joseph Chester had come in to buy a book, and the clerk told him coldly that their customers were always anonymous.
It’s not like I’m some kind of secret agent spying on you, Duan FeiZhou thought glumly as he left the bookshop.
He went from shop to shop and spent the afternoon getting the same “anonymous customer” as the first bookshop or, “We don’t have such a customer.”
As he passed by a large bookshop, he bought a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
“…You still love to read this?” Sword in the Stone was shocked.
“A Christmas present for Ruth.”
“My friend from Aberdeen.”
Sword in the Stone made an unhappy grunt, as if it was a big no-no for Duan FeiZhou to have a friend.
Duan FeiZhou searched until dusk, but found nothing. He decided to go home and continue tomorrow. The bookshop was located somewhere in Charing Cross anyway, so if he was patient enough, he could find it, right? He walked along the sunset-lit road towards home, as he carried the two books he intended to give to Ruth.
Sword in the Stone whispered, “Boy, watch out.”
Duan FeiZhou gave a jolt, “What?”
“Someone is following you.”
Duan FeiZhou pretended to accidentally drop a book on the ground. He bent down to pick up the book, patted the dust off the cover, and took the opportunity to glance hastily behind him out of the corner of his eye. Sure enough, there was a suspicious-looking guy following him at about ten paces behind.
It was a young man, less than thirty years old, elegant and handsome, with a poet’s temperament. He was decently dressed, with a pair of gold-rimmed glasses in his breast pocket, while he held a leather-covered book in one hand and a civilized cane in the other. In the eyes of ordinary people, he was only a simple young gentleman who had just bought the book of his choice from Charing Cross.
However Duan FeiZhou clearly saw that the civilized cane in his hand was emitting the unique shimmering light of a mystical item. He was undoubtedly an occult practitioner. There were quite a few pedestrians on the road, and a fight here would not only reveal his identity, but also hurt innocent people by mistake. It was better to find a secluded place like when he was dealing with Smith.
Duan FeiZhou changed course, and turned into an alley. As he expected, the young gentleman followed him in. Duan FeiZhou stopped, pulled out Sword in the Stone and turned around sharply as he confronted the young man face to face.
“Who are you?” he asked coldly.
The young gentleman, unperturbed, smiled slightly and said in a courteous tone, “I am only a troubadour. A pedant who studies the knowledge of the woodlands.”
Duan FeiZhou was stunned. The words sounded familiar, as if he had seen them somewhere. Was this some kind of code? But he only knew “the odd change even unchanging symbols look at the quadrant,” and “the palace jade liquor one hundred and eight cups.” This code he really couldn’t match, ah!
“You, what do you want?” Duan FeiZhou asked again.
“This question, should I not be asking you?” The young gentleman’s smile became a little cold. “What is your purpose in asking around about Joseph Chester?”
“Joseph Chester was my uncle. What’s wrong with me asking about him?”
The young gentleman raised his eyebrows, and looked Duan FeiZhou up and down. “You’re his nephew? Then you and the Secret Trading House…”
Duan FeiZhou observed the young gentleman’s expression. This guy was not hostile like Smith, more wary and cautious. But then again, the more he looked, the more that youth seemed familiar. Where exactly have I seen him before?
“Can you put on your glasses?” Duan FeiZhou asked cautiously.
The young gentleman was baffled. “Why?”
“Just put them on!”
The young gentleman took a step back, fished his glasses out of his pocket, and put them on the bridge of his nose. The glasses held a gold chain, which swayed in the wind. Duan FeiZhou drew a sharp breath. He finally understood why this guy looked familiar! He had seen this man’s picture in a textbook!
“Could you be Mr. William Butler Yeats?” Duan FeiZhou asked incredulously. “Mr. Yeats, the poet who wrote ‘When You’re Old’?”1
- When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)