Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Is there any way to uncover their foxtails?”
Z frowned slightly. “At the moment, we don’t intend to make any rash moves. The Council for the Advancement of Science and Technology is now in great favor with Her Majesty. To fight them would be like hitting a stone with an egg. And don’t tell anyone about it. I’m telling you everything because I trust you, but don’t go around shouting and scare the snake.”
“I won’t say anything.” Duan FeiZhou grunted.
Z sat down at his desk, and took a cigarette out of his coat pocket.
“You did a great job on the Perlilla Estate incident.” He lit the cigarette. “Brave, calm, and fully in line with the standards of the Nightmen. I’m considering whether you should be inducted early.”
“No! I’m still young!” Duan FeiZhou shouted.
Z was amused by him. For him, such a heartfelt smile was rare.
“I’m just saying that casually. As the head of the Nightmen, I can’t break the rules I’ve set for myself.” He took a puff of his cigarette and exhaled the smoke. “By the way, did you get any results on the matter I asked you to inquire about last time?”
Duan FeiZhou froze for a moment before he remembered what he was talking about. Asking the residents of Mire Street if they had heard of The Secret Trading House.
“I asked Ruth – Miss Ruth Roberts. Her father was a patient of mine,” Duan FeiZhou said. “I got a letter back from her the day I returned to London. She said she hadn’t heard of it. The letter is at my home, should I show it to you?”
Z raised his eyebrows, his subtle expression seemed to say, take the letter to a blind man to see?
Duan FeiZhou covered his face. “I didn’t mean that…I meant, if you want the original of the letter–”
“No need. I trust you.” Z lowered his eyes. “It’s just that this lead on the trading house is broken again.” He picked up his cigarette and went to take another puff. However, he suddenly stopped, as if he remembered something important. “I almost forgot. You don’t like people smoking.”
Z pulled an ashtray from the other side of the desk and crushed the cigarette in it.
Miss Acheson looked up, and gave Z a startled glance, as if she had witnessed some once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.
The office door was thrown open abruptly, and Xenophon drifted in with the expression of a sleepwalker. He was carrying a rolled newspaper under his arm and Sword in the Stone in his hand. He raised Sword in the Stone towards Duan FeiZhou, and said, “Gee, you’re just in time!”
Duan FeiZhou thought he was going to slash him with his sword, so he jumped backwards – and hit Z’s desk.
“What are you hiding for?” Xenophon asked in surprise. “Isn’t this your own sword?”
“Uh…Yeah…” A drop of cold sweat slid down Duan FeiZhou’s cheek.
“Here you go again.” Xenophon tossed Sword in the Stone to him.
Duan FeiZhou caught it in a clumsy manner. He asked, stunned, “You guys…Are you done testing?”
“Didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.” Xenophon’s tone was a bit disappointed. “When you used this sword to slice through the door of Perlilla Manor, I thought it had some strange ability attached to it. It seems that I was overthinking.”
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but close his eyes, and let out a long breath. The nerves that had been tense all the way suddenly relaxed. His legs went limp and he almost collapsed on the spot. He hurriedly found a chair and sat down to hide his discomfort.
Sword in the Stone screamed coldly, “There you are! You ungrateful bastard, how dare you leave me to this group of Nightmen! You have no idea what they’ve done to me! Ah! I’m unclean! I’ve been defiled! If I hadn’t been born immune to detection spells, I would have been a pile of scrap metal!“
Duan FeiZhou endured Sword in the Stone’s racket, and laughed dryly twice. “Ha, ha, ha. How could this sword have a singular ability? I was able to split the door with a sword because people in an emergency can often exhibit power beyond imagination. Have you heard the story of a mother who lifted a car with her bare hands in order to save her child from being run over the car?”
“You know how to put gold on your face!” Sword in the Stone roared.
In front of the Nightmen Duan FeiZhou couldn’t refute it, so he just let it swear.
Xenophon pulled out another note, “Telegram from R and Q. They have arrested an occult practitioner and are bringing him to London.”
Z nodded, and Xenophon handed the telegram to Miss Acheson. She filed the note and the other papers, then buried herself in typing again. Xenophon sat down with a flourish at his desk, unfolded the copy of the newspaper he had brought, and read it with great interest.
Duan FeiZhou stared at him in shock. He was blatantly groping the fish in front of his boss, was he just bullying Z who couldn’t see, or was the Nightmen’s system just so lax and leisurely?
However, Z himself wasn’t any better. He went straight to the office window, opened it a crack, and just stood there dazed, as if he were a fine sculpture. In contrast, Miss Acheson should have received a certificate for exemplary work!
“Well, since I have nothing more to do,” Duan FeiZhou said timidly. “Can I go–“
“How are you getting on with your occult philosophy?” Xenophon asked as he read the newspaper.
He knows I’m an occult practitioner!
Duan FeiZhou almost died before he could catch his breath. It took him a few seconds to realize that Xenophon was asking about what he had learned from his theoretical knowledge notebook.
“Well, I…I’ve read a little bit.”
“Then I’ll quiz you,” Xenophon said absentmindedly. “How many areas of Occult Philosophy are there in total?”
Duan FeiZhou studied this area very carefully so as not to show any weaknesses in front of Al. He answered calmly, “Seven fields. They are alchemy, séance, divination, possession, illusion, runic grammar, and secret geometry.”
Xenophon nodded approvingly, “You remember it well. So how many levels of occult practitioners were there?”
Duan FeiZhou answered, “Different occult practitioners have different grading methods. For example, the Golden Dawn association is divided into eleven grades. There are only four grades within the Nightmen, namely: the ‘ignorant’ those who don’t understand the philosophy of the mysteries at all; the ‘beginners’ who have an initial mastery of the philosophy of the mysteries; the ‘seekers’ who are fully versed in a certain field, and are experts in the mysteries; then there are the ‘forerunners’ who are at the peak of the occult arts. A forerunner goes on to become the mysteries themselves.”
Xenophon asked, “So how many forerunners have there been from ancient times to the present?”
“There are eight, of whom four are known to be dead, two continue to climb, and only two are still alive.”
“And those two are?”
Duan FeiZhou searched his mind hard. Was this recorded in that theory notebook? Or had he missed it?
After thinking for half a day, he only vaguely remembered that he had swept through the records about the forerunners, “Those two were the first forerunner Hermes, the originator of alchemy and the writer of the Jade Book; and the third forerunner, Hecate, the goddess of death, the protector of the crossroads and the doorway…”
Xenophon shot up and flung the newspaper hard on the table. The cynical smile on his face disappeared, and was replaced by a grave and solemn look.
Duan FeiZhou thought he was wrong, and looked at him anxiously. This wasn’t a professional exam, if he got one wrong wasn’t it still okay?
“Speaking of which,” Xenophon raised his yellow eyes. “What was the name of the girl in Aberdeen’s Mire Street who interceded for you?”
Duan FeiZhou tilted his head. “You mean Miss Ruth Roberts?”
Xenophon asked, “Is she working as a nurse in the clinic?”
“Yes. I got a letter from her the other day, and she did say she got a job as a nurse…What’s wrong?” An inexplicably ominous premonition struck Duan FeiZhou’s heart.
Z, who was listening to the rain at the window, turned around. “Xenophon, can’t you just say it?”
Xenophon picked up the newspaper and read aloud, “Aberdeen has a serial killer, and the public is in a panic. Recently, there have been five cases of murder and mutilation in Aberdeen, and the victims were all killed at night and their bodies were horribly mutilated. According to the police, the five cases are similar in their modus operandi and are the work of one person. Police in Aberdeen are reminding the public to stay out of the city at night…With the consent of the families, the names of the five victims in the case are released.” He raised his eyes to Duan FeiZhou and continued reading, “The list of victims is as follows – I won’t read the first ones. The last person, Miss Ruth Roberts, 191A Mire Street, clinic nurse, aged 16.”
He finished reading the last line and handed the paper to Duan FeiZhou.
Duan FeiZhou took the newspaper mechanically. He wanted to read the report with his own eyes to confirm Xenophon’s words, but for some reason, he couldn’t read any of the words in the newspaper, not one of them. It was as if a barrier had appeared around him, separating him from the real world. Even Xenophon’s voice seemed to come from a very distant place, with an indistinct echo…
Ruth was dead.
After coming to this strange world, he had received a lot of care from Ruth’s family. When Z and Xenophon thought he was an accomplice of the occult practitioners and wanted to arrest him, he was saved thanks to Ruth and the way she interceded on his behalf.
But she died.
The day he returned to London, he received a letter from her. She was so happy in the letter. She had to save up money to buy a mechanical prosthesis for her father. He bought a book for Ruth for Christmas. But the book could never be sent to her.
Duan FeiZhou squeezed the newspaper, and paced back and forth in the office, like a trapped beast in a cage. He didn’t understand why he was doing this, but if he didn’t do something stereotypical and repetitive, it felt like he was burning inside.
Ruth had been brutally murdered
She had never hurt anyone, she deserved to be happy, and yet she had ended up like this! If there was a God in this world, why would He allow such unjust and unconscionable things to happen?! Why not punish evil and reward good, instead of letting good people suffer and evil people go unpunished?
What would Ruth’s family do, with her father’s one leg and her younger brother still young, then the burden of the family fell on her mother. Who could get justice for them?
“I’m going to Aberdeen!” Duan FeiZhou gritted his teeth. “I want to find the murderer!”
He rushed to the door.
Z strode toward him, yanked him by the lapels and pressed his whole body against the wall.
The violent impact brought Duan FeiZhou abruptly back to his senses. He found the entire office was staring at him with unblinking eyes. Even Miss Acheson had stopped typing and was casting a worried look at him.
“Calm down.” The cold mechanical prosthetic rested against Duan FeiZhou’s collarbone, holding him so firmly against the wall that he couldn’t break free. Z lowered his head. The light shone from behind him, and his shadow enveloped Duan FeiZhou’s entire being.
“Let go of me.” Duan FeiZhou stared at him without flinching.
“At times like this, you cannot be impulsive.”
“Why do you call that being impulsive? I want to go to Aberdeen. I want to catch Ruth’s murderer. What’s wrong with that? You are very calm because it is not your friend who died!”
Z showed a hurt expression for a moment, but quickly recovered. He said coldly, “I’ve lost friends too. More than you.”
Duan FeiZhou choked. He realized that he had said the wrong thing on impulse. He wanted to apologize, but he couldn’t get the words out. He had to bite his lip and stare indignantly at his toes.
Z turned to his subordinate. “Xenophon, go to the dungeon and see if that guy is still there.”
“Boss, you think that guy broke out of jail?” Xenophon frowned. “Impossible. If he broke out of jail, I will show you a handstand while eating a typewriter on the spot.”
“Go when you’re told!” Z snapped.
Xenophon replied, “Yes.” He left the office, and his footsteps disappeared down the hallway.
Z turned to Miss Acheson. “Please book two tickets for the 8:30 a.m. train to Aberdeen tomorrow.”
Ms. Acheson bowed slightly, “Understood.”
Duan FeiZhou looked up blankly at Z. Two tickets? If one was for him, who was the other one for?
As if hearing his inner question, Z said, “I’ll go to Aberdeen with you tomorrow.”
“You and me?” Duan FeiZhou’s eyes widened. “Why?”
Before Z could answer, Xenophon came back.
“That guy is just fine in the jail.” He leaned on the doorway, arms akimbo. “The one in Aberdeen must be a copycat.”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t understand what they were talking about. “What do you mean by ‘copycat?’”
Z’s crimson eyes lit with a biting light, “Have you ever heard of Jack the Ripper?”
Duan FeiZhou’s body shook as if a pot of cold water was poured over him from head to toe. “The serial killer?”
Even if he came from another world, the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ was still familiar. 1888 – London’s Whitechapel district. There was a succession of murderers, the bodies of a number of women were gutted, in horrific deaths. A news agency received a letter signed by ‘Jack’, who confessed to being the killer. The name “Jack the Ripper” had since spread.
Jack the Ripper remained at large. Even in Duan FeiZhou’s time, the case was still confused and the identity of the murderer was also a matter of opinion.
So why did Z mention Jack the Ripper? The similarities between the serial murders in Aberdeen and the Whitechapel case in London had earned the killer the nickname, “Jack the Ripper of the North”. But why did Xenophon claim that the man was a copycat? Couldn’t it be true that the real Jack the Ripper had fled to the North to continue his crimes?
Duan FeiZhou stared at Z, as he expected him to answer his question.
Although he was blind, Z seemed to be aware of the burning gaze that fell on him.
“The killer in Aberdeen is a copycat.” Z’s tone was certain. “Because the real Jack the Ripper has been secretly arrested by the Nightmen.”
Duan FeiZhou’s jaw dropped.
Xenophon said, “That guy is actually an unorthodox occult practitioner who killed many people for purposes related to occult philosophy. We caught him five years ago. He has been locked up in the dungeon. However, our Nightmen’s affairs are not convenient for public knowledge, so people still think that Jack the Ripper hasn’t been caught.”
“So the Aberdeen killer…”
Z said, “It’s possible that he’s also an occupult practitioner, which is why he imitated Jack the Ripper. Xenophon, you stay in London and wait for R and Q to return.”
Xenophon said, “But boss, we can’t be sure that the killer is an occult practitioner yet, right? Shouldn’t we wait for information first? If it’s a case of a wasted trip, it would be a big loss.”
“It won’t be a wasted trip.” Z let go of Duan FeiZhou. “Even if the murderer isn’t an occult practitioner, we will still find out the truth and give the girl justice.”
Duan FeiZhou suddenly felt the heat in his eyes, as if he had got something in them. He turned his back, not wanting Z to see him so vulnerable. He said softly, “Thank you.”
“Shall I walk you back?” Z asked.
Duan FeiZhou shook his head. “I want to be alone for a while.”
Z didn’t argue with him, just said, “The train is at 8:30 tomorrow morning. Don’t forget.”
Duan FeiZhou left the office with Sword in the Stone in his hand. His steps were so heavy that he doubted he could walk home without any problems. He could barely remember how he had got into a carriage in front of Scotland Yard and how he had gotten back to 49 Frances Place. It was completely dark when Duan FeiZhou climbed the stairs and pushed open the door, then was almost unable to open his eyes at the bright light that greeted him.
Al greeted him with excitement, “I was so worried about you! You were taken away by that Nightman. Is everything okay? I was so scared that I had to ask Mr. Yeats to come over. We were just discussing that if you didn’t come back, we will go to Scotland Yard to ask for someone…”
He noticed the gloomy, dark look on Duan FeiZhou’s face, and his voice trailed off.
“Master, what’s wrong?” Al asked cautiously, afraid of angering his master.
Duan FeiZhou dragged his heavy feet into the interior. On the sofa in the living room sat Yeats, dressed as always in his suit and well-mannered. He stood up and looked at Duan FeiZhou in amazement, “What did the Nightmen do to you?”
“Not the Nightmen,” Duan FeiZhou’s voice was hoarse. “I just learned that…A friend of mine in Aberdeen has passed away.”
Yeats and Al looked at each other.
“I’m so sorry,” Yeats said in a somber tone. “Sorry for your loss.”
“She was murdered.” Duan FeiZhou clenched his fists. “I’m going back to Aberdeen tomorrow. I want to catch the murderer.”
Yeats hurriedly guided Duan FeiZhou to sit on the sofa, and winked at Al to pour some tea.
“I understand your grief, but isn’t it better to leave the pursuit of the murderer to the police?” Yeats said.
“It’s possible that the murderer is an occult practitioner,” Duan FeiZhou said.
Yeats raised his eyebrows. “Do you intend to deal with him alone? Even if you are the Master of the Trading House, it is very dangerous to fight with other occult practitioners. I have nothing to do these days, so I’ll go with you.”
Duan FeiZhou shook his head, “I won’t be alone. The Nightmen are coming with me.”
“The Nightmen?!” Yeats was shocked, “It’s because the murderer could be an occult practitioner, so the Nightmen are going, is that right? You’re going undercover at Scotland Yard to this degree?”
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t think about undercover or spy, exposed or caught. All he wanted to do was to get to Aberdeen and catch Ruth’s murderer. For a moment, he even came up with the absurd thought that as long as the killer could be apprehended, even if his identity was exposed, it would not matter. He smiled at Yeats, “I’ll be careful.”
From the look on Yeats’ face, it was clear that he wasn’t reassured by that statement.
“Al, go help me pack my luggage.” Duan FeiZhou said tiredly.
Al’s eyes rounded, “Master, I’m coming with you!”
“You stay. This is not a trip to the countryside.”
Al puffed up his cheeks. “I know you are going to catch the killer. I can’t help you much, but I can at least look after you!”
Duan FeiZhou shook his head. “If anything happens to you, I could never explain it to your mother.”
Al still wanted to protest, but Duan FeiZhou raised a hand to stop him.
“I’m leaving tomorrow.” Duan FeiZhou said. “Mr. Yeats, could you please supervise Al’s homework while I’m away from London?”
Yeats immediately understood what he meant. On the surface, he was to supervise Al’s study, but in reality it was to keep an eye on him to prevent him from running around. With that kid’s impulsiveness, he would probably sneak onto a train and head straight for Aberdeen.
“I’ll take care of it.” Yeats chuckled and patted Al on the back.
“By the way, I don’t have any clothes suitable for a funeral.” Duan FeiZhou suddenly realized.
“There are a few pieces in my store.” Al said. He wanted to try to do something for his master. “As long as I talk to Mom, she is certainly willing to change it to your size overnight.”
“Then I’m counting on you.”