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Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: GaeaTiamat

 

Duan FeiZhou knew he had guessed correctly.

The shrieks of the servants filled the entire cellar. “Mr. Hart? How can that be?! You can’t make such accusations lightly!”

“Mr. Hart has been working in the estate for thirty years. He would never do such a thing!”

Z stopped their shouting with an icy glare.

“Do you have any proof, Sir?” The servants questioned.

“I just met Mr. Hart.” Duan FeiZhou recalled the scene. “When he met Barney, he said that Barney was ‘the boy who died a year and a half ago.’ Everyone believed Barney had been abducted by traffickers, didn’t they? Hart was adamant that he was dead. I think there’s only one possibility, and that’s that he saw Barney’s body with his own eyes.”

Duan FeiZhou knew he was right.

The maid, Martha, shivered, “But why would Mr. Hart kill Barney? They had no quarrel with each other!”

Z spoke up, “I think I can answer that question.”

He fished a picture out of his inside coat pocket and handed it to Duan FeiZhou.

Duan FeiZhou took the photo and looked at it carefully in the light. In the photo was a dilapidated building with a peeling sign that read, ‘Mint Leaves.’ A slim young man was walking out with a hunched-over old man.

The young man looked familiar. Duan FeiZhou couldn’t remember where he had seen him before at that moment, but the old man he recognized at once. It was the butler, Hart.

“The Mint Leaf is an opium house in London.” Z smiled coldly. “Mr. Hart, the butler, became addicted to opium at some point. You know, The Mint Leaf is very expensive. It’s no surprise that a poor addict would do anything.”

The servants drew a cold breath in unison.

“I told you that Mr. Hart hadn’t been quite right lately. He seems to have been in low spirits.”

“He’s lost so much weight. He used to be much sturdier than he is now. I’ve heard that people who smoke opium suddenly lose weight.”

“I heard him ask the Lord to give him an advance on his salary last time! I thought he was short of money, but it was because he was addicted to opium!”

Duan FeiZhou examined the picture for a moment, and asked Z, “How did you get this picture?”

A hand crossed his shoulder, and drew back the photo.

“That’s what we really came here for. We found Hart was in secret contact with the young man in the photo, and they seemed to be planning something. At the same time, we had another task on our shoulders. It was a case commissioned by a certain nobleman. It’s not convenient to tell you yet.”

Duan FeiZhou grunted with dissatisfaction. He had revealed everything (well, most of it) yet Z still treated him like an outsider, and hid everything. He turned to Barney’s undead body. “So you want revenge on Hart? You’ve got us here in the hope that we won’t get in your way?”

“I was only obeying the ladies’ orders,” the boy said slyly. “They are going to do something in the mansion tonight.”

“What do they want?” Duan FeiZhou asked urgently. “Is it to kill Lord Perlilla? But he’s not in the mansion tonight.”

“He’s already here.”

With that, the boy’s ghostly shadow dissolved into the darkness.

“Wait! –Damn!” Duan FeiZhou was so angry that he kicked a wine barrel. “We have to go after them! We can’t let those ghosts do what they want!”

“Mr. Chester!” Yeats called out to him. “Don’t be impulsive. I have found another way out. Look at this book. It shows the design of the Perlilla estate thirty years ago. As you can see, the mansion wasn’t completely rebuilt on the original site, but partially moved to the southeast.”

He pointed to a corner of the wine cellar. “Digging from that position, we should be able to break into the cellar of the old mansion.”

“Is this of any use?” Duan FeiZhou asked.

“If the undead can only control the new mansion, then when one enters the cellar of the old mansion, they are out of the new mansion, and out of the control of the undead.”

Duan FeiZhou was overjoyed, and rushed to the corner that Yeats pointed out. He knocked on the corner with Sword in the Stone, and, to his surprise, heard a hollow echo. He turned around and said, “It’s empty down there.”  

The servants were beaming with joy.

“But how do we dig it up? We don’t have any tools…”

Duan FeiZhou looked at Sword in the Stone. It screamed in a voice that only Duan FeiZhou could hear, “No digging with me! I’m the King’s Sword, not a shovel!

A quiet sigh rang out from the back of the crowd. Z stepped away from the servants, and removed his gloves to reveal his brass-colored prosthetics. “Move out of the way.”

Duan FeiZhou subconsciously jumped back.

Z threw a punch, and hit the corner of the wall.

It was hard to imagine how amazing his strength was as his fist sunk into the mud brick. Spider web-shaped cracks spread in all directions from his fist. The wall fell like it was dandruff on skin as it crumbled. He withdrew his fist, and there was a hollow opening.

The servants looked at him in awe. The maid, Martha, had already begun to make the sign of the cross, but Z simply waved the brass prosthetic, and cocked his head at them. “You guys go look.”

The servants came forward with fear and trepidation, and with their hands and feet, they pulled away the loose bricks around the hole. Yeats picked up the thin candle and saw that it wavered. That meant that a breeze was coming in through the hole.

“Let’s go.” Yeats took the lead, and entered the hollow opening.

Al cheered and jumped in after him like a little child thirsty for adventure. The three servants followed cautiously. Duan FeiZhou looked at Z. The latter looked bashful, and put on his gloves as if he was not the one who just smashed a hole in the wall with one punch.

“That…thanks,” Duan FeiZhou said. “You’re not hurt, are you? I mean, your prosthetic won’t be damaged, right?”

The corner of Z’s lips lifted. “Even if it’s damaged, Scotland Yard will reimburse the repair cost.”

Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but laugh along with him.

Z raised his chin to him, and gestured for him to enter the hole first.

Duan FeiZhou inserted Sword in the Stone in his belt, and carried the wind lamp into the hole. The space behind the wall was extremely spacious, while the four, square walls were polished smooth and flat. It really seemed to be the cellar of the old mansion.

The distinctive metallic scraping sound of Z’s footsteps came from behind. As he walked through the lightless tunnel, his heart drummed with anxiety, but he was somehow relieved to think that Z was following behind him.

From ahead came the shouts of the servants, “There’s a crack here!”

Duan FeiZhou quickened his pace and hurried over. The further they went, the fewer traces there were of manual excavation until finally the cellar was entirely a cave tunnel. It seemed that there was a natural cave system under Perlilla Manor, and the former architects used it to build the cellar.

The end of the tunnel was blocked by rocks, but there was clearly air flowing through the crevice. Not only was the candle in Yeats’ hand blown east and west, but also a whistling sound could be heard.

Z again pushed aside the crowd and came to the forefront. This time he didn’t need to speak, the crowd just moved backward. He took off his gloves again, moved his right shoulder, clenched his fist, and built his strength for a strike. This time the power was far superior to the last one, as evidenced by the fact that not only the rock he hit, but also the rocks above their heads and under their feet gave way with a cracking sound.

“Yikes!” Martha screamed, as lifted her skirt and ducked aside, as if she were doing a strange type of tap dance.

The place where she had been standing cracked open. There was a fissure in the ground, and steam curled up.

Underground cracks plus steam, those were the first thing people tended to associate with hot springs. However, when Duan FeiZhou took a few steps closer and looked inside the crevice, it was only to discover that the ground was full of transparent crystals. Each shone with a splash of color. Even those diamonds known for their fiery color would have to lower their heads humbly in front of them.

“These are…Ether crystals!” Duan FeiZhou’s eyes widened. “There are actual Ether crystals buried under Perlilla Manor?”

The servants had covered their mouths. Ordinary people might never see a real Ether crystal in their lifetime, but there was such a rich deposit buried under the Manor! A lightning bolt suddenly ran through his brain. It was as if lightning struck him, and charged his sluggish mind.

Barney said he had run into Hart, the butler, who was digging. Digging for what? Could it be the Ether crystals? Lord Perlilla intended to sell the estate. If the Ether crystals were unearthed, the price of the land would go up as well. That was a good thing, so why would Hart want to kill Barney?

Unless…He didn’t want it to become public. He wanted to sell the secret for a low price.

“Come here!” Z’s call interrupted Duan FeiZhou’s thoughts. Z climbed up the pile of rock, turned back to him, and extended his hand.

Duan FeiZhou took his hand without a second thought, and Z sent him out with a push.

The two men walked up the narrow ramp, and after a few hand-to-hand crawls, they finally emerged from the ground. The fresh air hit them, and Duan FeiZhou was so moved that he almost let out a sob.

They were located under a cliff where the lights of the village could be seen in the distance. The night sky was still dark, but Duan FeiZhou felt as if the night had been centuries long. However, it was far from over.

“Let’s go to the village for help,” Z said.

Duan FeiZhou nodded.

At that moment there was the sound of sharp hoofbeats and wheels running over the road from above the cliff, recognizable as a four-person carriage pulled by two horses. The maid, Martha, looked up. From her angle she couldn’t see the cliff at all, but she said with certainty, “Oh, it’s the Lord’s carriage.”

“How do you know?” Duan FeiZhou asked.

“I can recognize it with my eyes closed. It’s strange. Didn’t the Lord go to the lake house with the Dowager Lady and Miss Melissa?”

Duan FeiZhou and Z looked at each other. Shouldn’t they be going back to Oak Manor? However, that haunted manor…They might be devoured by the undead in one bite as soon as they enter!

“You guys go to the village. I’ll go back to the manor!” Z said sternly.

“I’m going too!” Duan FeiZhou said hastily.

“Master, I’m with you!” Al said positively.

Yeats grabbed the eager Duan FeiZhou, and shook his head seriously, as he tried to stop him with his eyes.

Duan FeiZhou, however, shook off his hand. “You take Al to the village. I must return to the manor.”

“We’d better stay out of their business,” Yeats warned.

“No,” Duan FeiZhou said coldly. “I’ve been involved for a long time, and it’s too late to quit now.”

 

“At last!” Xenophon jumped out of the carriage, and tilted the brim of his hat back so that he could see the full extent of Lord Perlilla’s mansion.

The large, dark outline of the mansion was hidden in the darkness. Not a single window let in light. In the surrounding silence, even birds’ chirps and dogs’ barks faded. Only the wind whispered, like the pathos of an opera’s prelude.

Lord Perlilla struggled to climb out of the carriage, then turned back to grasp up his lover’s delicate hands and help Miss Melissa out of the vehicle. When he wanted to help his mother the same way, the old lady Edith pushed his hand away and jumped off herself.

Since he was somewhat embarrassed, the son poured out his anger on Xenophon. “Mr. Detective, you say that something happened in my home, but I do not see anything strange!”

“Shut up!” The old Lady gave her son a look. “Hart didn’t leave the light on. That’s enough to explain the situation. I always told Hart to leave a light on at night, so that the residents of the territory could find their way here in case of an emergency in the middle of the night. As you can see, there is no light in the house at all.”

“Maybe Hart just forgot…” the Lord mumbled.

“Thirty years without a mistake, and he just forgot on this night?”

With a wave of her traveling cloak, Lady Edith lifted the hem of her skirt and headed for the front door. Miss Melissa cowered beside the Lord, and gazed at her mother-in-law-to-be with a complicated look. As soon as Lady Edith reached the door, it opened automatically, as if the whole mansion was welcoming her.

She walked in with her head held high. Xenophon followed her with great interest, as he pretended to be her ladyship’s manservant, while the Lord and Miss Melissa held each other’s hands, and followed them carefully.

The night wind passed through the foyer with a sharp whine, as if the people in the portraits were sobbing. As soon as they entered the hall, they were greeted by a cloaked man who pounced on them.

“Hart?” Lady Edith said, as she raised her eyebrows and stared at her old butler.

“Madam!” Hart let out a sob. His eyes were red and every wrinkle on his face was squeezed together with fear. “Save me, save your faithful servant! There are…in this mansion. There are…”

He suddenly stopped, as if he sensed something strange, and slowly turned around in a state of panic. A boy was standing in the middle of the hall, in his hand was the wire used for rolling an iron hoop.

“Ahhhhh! That’s him!” Hart sat on his buttocks at the feet of the old Lady, pointed at the boy and screamed.

The Lord’s mouth dropped open. “Ah! He’s the child who disappeared a year and a half ago, named…What was his name again?”

“Barney.” Lady Edith said coldly. “You really should care more about your own people, Albert.”

Hart continued to scream, “He’s dead! He’s a ghost! He’s going to kill me, kill us all!”

“Is that it, Barney? You’re dead?” The old Lady asked.

Faced with the undead, she had no fear. As if the undead were her dear neighbors, whom she greeted every day.

The boy nodded his head.

Miss Melissa squeezed fearfully into his Lordship’s arms. The Lord held her closer, not out of chivalry to protect a lady, but out of fear. When one was afraid, they instinctively clung to objects that were within reach.

Lady Edith asked, “But how did you get into the mansion? You’ve never been here before, have you? Don’t the spirits only wander around where they walked before they died? Unless…”

Barney hung his head. “He dragged me into the oak woods. I was buried in the earth, and then I opened my eyes again. I took root there, grew towards the sky, and bathed in sun and rain. My branches were lush and leafy. My roots roamed the hills, and the birds sang on my shoulders. Then one day I was felled, stripped, cut into shape, and built into this magnificent mansion. I met the spirits sleeping in the woods. They whispered to me as if they were my mothers, as if they were the breeze rustling through the forest. Our backbone supports the house, our arms around the people. Now we are here, and this is my body.”

The boy’s tone was like the singing of an old hymn. They were not the words of a child. Something was speaking through his mouth. No, it should be said that he had already become part of that thing.

“You were buried in the oak grove…” Mrs. Edith repeated in awe. “Then the oak tree was felled and turned into wood…But that’s not right. The mansion was rebuilt thirty years ago, and has not been repaired since. There can’t have been lumber brought in!”

“No, Mother.” The Lord said timidly. He rarely spoke out directly against his thundering mother, but this time he had to be brave enough to speak up.

“What, Albert?”

“Have you forgotten about the roof collapse? We had the roof and beams reinforced!”

“Of course I remember that! But I instructed Hart not to take the materials from the oak forest, but to go out of town to buy them. Isn’t that right, Hart? Answer me!”

Lady Edith glared sternly at the butler at her feet.

Hart crawled to his knees, as he sniffled, cried and exclaimed incoherently, “I didn’t mean to do it, Madam! I just…Because it costs a lot of money to go out of town to get the goods, and it’s much cheaper to get them locally, so I secretly ordered someone to–”

“Did you hide the truth from us and steal the logs from the oak forest?” Lady Edith was furious. “Where is the money for the goods? Did you swallow it up?”

Hart fell to the ground and trembled. “It was just a moment of confusion! I was so short of money, Madam! Forgive me! For the sake of all the years I have served you! I didn’t know that there were ghosts in the wood!”

Lord Perlilla had never seen his mother so angry. The mother he remembered was stern, cold, noble, and almost detached, but at this moment she was furious. Her eyes were red, and almost spit fire. If she tore Hart to pieces on the spot, Lord Perlilla wouldn’t have been surprised.

“Dog slave! Everything my husband painstakingly arranged has been ruined by you! I told you how the undead return. I thought I missed something from the fire thirty years ago, but it was you! You brought the women back! Do you know how many people you will kill?!”

Lady Edith kicked Hart away. If not for her noblewoman’s manners, she would have kicked Hart twice more. To make up for her regret, Xenophon thoughtfully made up those kicks for her.

“What are they talking about? Albert, why can’t I understand?” Miss Melissa asked in a jarring voice, she didn’t even dare look up.

“Knowing nothing is happier for you, Dear,” the Lord said gloomily.

Hart was kicked all over the floor by Xenophon, while he screamed, his clothes and hair covered with a layer of dust, and wretched like a beggar. The old lady looked at Hart, and her anger subsided a little. “Forget it, I’ll give you a chance to make up for it. Just remove all those building materials from the oak forest, and the ghosts should leave.”

Hart beamed with joy, and kissed the lady’s shoes repeatedly.

“I’m afraid Hart does not deserve your kindness, Madam.” A cold voice came from behind them.

The door of the mansion slowly opened and a young man with a lamp and sword came in, his golden-green eyes reflecting the glow of the fire. Behind the young man was a man with white hair and red pupils. His right arm was a brass-colored mechanical prosthetic arm with a shiny blade popped out of the end of the joint.

“Hello, fellows! Wow!” Xenophon greeted them cheerfully, as he waved his civilized cane. “What an exciting evening!”

Lady Edith gathered her hair at her temples, and assumed a noble demeanor. “What do you mean?”

Duan FeiZhou carried the lamp and walked up to her. He looked down at Hart, who was prostrated at the old lady’s feet like a dog. “He is Barney’s murderer.”

Hart screamed incoherently, crawled towards Duan FeiZhou and made pleading motions for mercy.

Duan FeiZhou avoided him in disgust. “A year and a half ago, he excavated some Ether crystals near Perlilla Manor, a scene that was viewed by Barney. Hart killed the boy to silence him, and his body was buried in the oak forest. After that, Hart stole from the oak forest and used the wood to repair the mansion. What he didn’t expect was that the undead also returned here with the wood. He obviously had two opportunities to choose, but both times he was overwhelmed by greed. If he just had been a little less greedy, things would not have come to this.”

“Really, Hart?!” said Lord Perlilla, surprised. “There are Ether crystals underground?”

Lady Edith gave her son an annoyed look. “Is that all you care about?”

“But Mother, if the Ether crystals are found underground, we’ll be rich! It’s a good thing I haven’t signed a contract with Melissa’s uncle yet, or we’d be in deep shit! We don’t even have to sell the estate! We can just open a mine, and I’m sure many of my friends in London would be happy to invest…”

Lord Perlilla’s rambling narrative was interrupted by Barney’s cold smile. The boy struck the ground heavily with the wire in his hand.

At first, nothing happened. A few seconds later, a loud rumbling sound came from deep beneath their feet, as if a giant beast imprisoned in the ground roared with all its might. The ground rocked and every piece of furniture trembled. Ceramic vases fell and shattered on the floor, antique clocks fell forward, chandeliers tinkled overhead and the foyer cracked. The portraits on the wall fell one after another. Preserved for centuries, now the canvases were shattered by the impact of the fall.

The ground in front of Barney suddenly opened. Countless pairs of white hands rushed out. It was as if millions of bright teeth from poisonous snakes leaped at Hart and Lord Perlilla. Hart’s limbs were instantly strangled by the white hands. His harsh scream was not like anything a human being could make.

Lord Perlilla subconsciously turned around, as he shielded Miss Melissa in front of his chest, and used his body as a shield. White hands wrapped mercilessly around him, and dragged him forcibly away from his lover.

“You come at me! Come at me instead! Don’t touch Melissa!” The Lord flailed his limbs wildly, as he tried to repel the white hands.

Lady Edith threw back her head and opened her arms, as she cried out in pain. “Stop it! What is wrong with you all?! You are the Ladies of Perlilla! You are the mistresses of this land! Shouldn’t you protect the people here?! Why do you do such things?! Have you forgotten who you are?”

The overwhelming white hands wove into a giant curtain, on which emerged the faces of women, some sobbing with grief, some angry, some quiet and bashful, some with willow eyebrows were upside down.

“We remember,” The women said in unison. “We are the mistresses of this land. We are to protect the people of this land from evil. We always remember. We remember when we were alive, and remember when we are dead. Not only to protect our families, but also for all who live in this land. As long as there are people living in this land who love it and respect it, our mission is not yet over.”

 

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WangXian31
December 9, 2022 3:32 am

Exciting stuff! The 5 make quite a team.
Lord Perlilla seems like someone who might change with immense wealth. His words with regard to the contract with his fiancée’s father, are less than gentlemanly and is it that he was only with her for connections, not love? Lady Edith must be both angry and disappointed in his reaction to the crystals.
Maybe the spirits are protecting the mansion more than the family.
Thanks for translating and editing.

BlueFish
February 2, 2023 5:10 am

Barney’s monologue was written beautifully. Props to Addis and Gaea for making the translation and editing so moving.

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