Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Z’s expression twisted.
“What famous Oriental detective? I’ve never even heard of them!” He yelled hoarsely, as he dropped his thin sword.
Duan FeiZhou smiled triumphantly. He knew he had succeeded in convincing Z. Duan FeiZhou climbed to his feet, grabbed Z’s coat and trotted to catch up with him.
Whenever he got close to Z, Z would pick up his pace and put some distance between them. Duan FeiZhou understood that now Z was angry and didn’t want to talk to him, so he simply slowed down his pace and walked unhurriedly. However, when the distance between them widened to a certain point, Z slowed down again.
After he walked for a while, Z suddenly stopped.
Duan FeiZhou thought he was finally willing to communicate with him, and hurriedly ran up to him with great enthusiasm.
“So, you…” He opened his mouth.
Z twisted his face away. “I don’t know where downtown is.”
“… Huh?” Duan FeiZhou was confused.
“I can’t find my way around,” Z said in a cold, hard tone.
In the end it was Duan FeiZhou who led Z back to downtown Aberdeen.
In fact, in the middle of the countryside, one only needed to glance into the distance to find the direction of the city by the light. However, Z couldn’t see, and the journey underground had completely disturbed his sense of direction. Z looked furious that he had to rely on Duan FeiZhou to find his way around.
When they managed to walk back on their two legs to the entrance of the Stone Clinic, there was a large group of police officers gathered there. A dock worker who was passing by saw Dr. Stone on the ground, covered in blood, and called the police in a panic.
Z briefly explained the circumstances to the local police. He told them that the real killer of the serial murders was Dr. Stone’s son, who used the sewers to move around. The doctor harbored the murderer, but ended up injured by his crazed son, and the murderer, Alexander Stone, eventually died at the hands of Duncan McKellen, a restorer of remains.
Of course, he didn’t mention any idols, or evil dog possession. Ordinary people shouldn’t know those things.
The police listened to it all and found it unbelievable, but the facts were in front of them so they couldn’t help but believe it. Especially when they found Alexander Stone’s body. Although the body had been disemboweled and horribly disfigured, a forensic autopsy showed that his spine wasn’t damaged. Alexander Stone claimed to be paralyzed. The autopsy report clearly showed that he was lying.
Dr. Stone had been rushed to the nearest hospital. When he could speak, he was sure he would tell the police about his crime. The police also searched Duncan’s coffin store. Duncan was unlikely to come back and throw himself into the net.
As for the ghouls in the sewers…Duan FeiZhou expected that when they lost their owner, they would start attacking people who entered the sewers, but the police who explored the sewers didn’t encounter even one ghoul. They may have gone into the deep darkness, or they may have followed their owner out of Aberdeen.
The next day, the front page of Aberdeen’s local newspaper ran the bombshell story in oversized type, “Jack the Ripper of the North is caught!” The scavenging vulture-like journalists had already found the material and written the article overnight. Even Duan FeiZhou was impressed by how fast they could write.
The news was full of details about how heartless Alexander Stone was, and how Dr. Stone was able to hide his son from the world. Duan FeiZhou thought the journalist was really talented enough to write novels since the details were so ‘rich’.
Of course the article, from the beginning to the end, didn’t mention Z and Duan FeiZhou’s names, only mentioned a vague sentence, “Scotland Yard sent a commissioner for a little assistance in the process of solving the case.” He didn’t know if the police had issued a gag order or if the reporters wanted to take the credit away from the London police, but they deliberately passed over those facts.
Duan FeiZhou could even think of the headlines for the next few days – “Why a graduate of a prestigious school went on a criminal rampage – a loss of humanity or morality?”, “How a psychopathic killer was raised, Alexander Stone’s unknown Childhood.”, “The Bloody and Heartbreaking History of Alexander Stone, a Young Man Poisoned by His Family”…
Throughout time, many things would change in the future, but some things would never change.
Duan FeiZhou had thought that if Z didn’t remember them, he might be able to sneak the idols into the Secret Trading House. He wasn’t greedy for wealth, they were too dangerous. It was safer to keep them in the trading house, but it was probably even safer to keep them in the evidence room of the Nightmen.
However, Z took them away under the name of ‘testing’, along with some other items that didn’t have secret functions. He packed them all in a box and shipped them back to London.
Since the day Dr. Stone was caught, Z hadn’t said a word to Duan FeiZhou. He treated Duan FeiZhou almost as if he didn’t exist. The two were often in the same room, each doing their own thing, Z did not speak, and Duan FeiZhou didn’t dare to make a squeak.
On Friday, Z checked out of the house they were renting and left for London.
They booked 10 a.m. tickets. Duan FeiZhou got up early that morning, changed into the same clothes he wore to the funeral, and said to Z, “I’m going to the cemetery. I’ll see you at the station.”
Z looked away and pretended not to hear him.
Duan FeiZhou picked up his luggage and left first. On the way to the cemetery, he bought a bouquet of flowers. There were many flower sellers around the cemetery, ready to give bouquets of flowers to the people who visited the graves.
He didn’t know what kind of flowers Ruth liked, so he bought a few of each, that way there would always be one that matched Ruth’s heart.
The sky was cloudy, and it looked like it was going to rain again. When Duan FeiZhou found Ruth’s headstone, he was surprised to find it piled high with bouquets of flowers. He thought his bouquet was luxurious enough, but it was dwarfed by them.
Duan FeiZhou turned around to see Ruth’s father, Mr. Roberts, was approaching on crutches and also carrying flowers.
“Doctor Chester?” Mr. Roberts was surprised to meet an acquaintance here so early in the morning.
“I’m going back to London, and came to see Ruth,” Duan FeiZhou said. He put the bouquet onto the pile of flowers. “Who sent so many flowers?”
“All kinds of people. The citizens of Aberdeen.” Mr. Roberts looked down at the writing on the tombstone. “Many people came to lay flowers, and the place where the deceased was killed has filled with bouquets. I don’t even know the people who laid the flowers.” He paused, looked up and asked, “They didn’t forget her, did they?”
Duan FeiZhou nodded. Duan FeiZhou tried to give him a hand, but he was firmly pushed away. He knelt down and put the flowers in his hand into the pile.
“I remember you wanted to have a mechanical prosthesis,” Duan FeiZhou said. “Let me buy one for you. The detective I know also has a mechanical prosthesis. I can ask him where it was fitted.”
“You have already helped our family a lot, Doctor. I can’t accept your kindness anymore. I may not have a leg, but I still have my hands and my family, and I can earn my own money.” Mr. Roberts choked up a little. “Although it wasn’t even mentioned in the newspaper, I know you caught the killer and avenged my Ruth’s death. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”
Not far away, the church bell rang the full hour. It was time to go to the station before it was too late.
“If you want to repay me,” Duan FeiZhou said, and Mr. Roberts listened. “Just live your life. That’s the best way to repay me.”
Duan FeiZhou arrived at Aberdeen station with only five minutes to spare before the train was due to depart. He grabbed his luggage and ran towards the platform in a panic. All around him, passengers had already poured onto the train, and the platform was filled with farewellers. In every window, someone was waving.
Duan FeiZhou found his compartment, and was just about to board when a soft cough came from behind him. He looked back, and was surprised to see Z as he walked towards him through the crowd. Could it be that Z didn’t get on the train earlier, but had been waiting for him on the platform?
Z walked past Duan FeiZhou without a glance, and boarded the train. He stopped at the door of the car, and turned towards Duan FeiZhou with a wink as if to tell him to hurry up and follow. Duan FeiZhou subconsciously smiled, and jumped on the train with a brisk gait.
They found an unoccupied compartment and sat down. As soon as they were seated, the train rumbled on. The overcrowded platform quickly receded towards the back. The train left downtown Aberdeen, and headed into the lush green countryside.
As he looked out the window at the overcast sky, Duan FeiZhou remembered their journey to Aberdeen. It had only been a few days, but he felt it was a long, long time ago.
At that time, the atmosphere between them was much more cordial than now, and Z had taken great pains to tell him the story of the destruction of the Scarlet Feast, but now…
Even if you took two ice sculptures and put them in a box, the temperature would probably be much warmer than that moment.
Duan FeiZhou felt he should say something, but was afraid he would make Z angry if he did. He had already given Z enough trouble.
He thought about it, and tried, “I met Ruth’s father at the cemetery. You know he has a damaged leg? If he wants a mechanical prosthetic, uh, do you have a recommendation?”
Z propped his elbow on the window sill, rested his cheek in his hand and stared out the window without moving. “No,” he said coldly.
“Then where did you get your prosthesis?”
“This is not an ordinary prosthetic limb. It’s engraved with secret runes, and its performance is several times higher than ordinary prosthetic limbs.” Z paused and lowered his voice, “The person who made this prosthetic limb is…No longer.”
Duan FeiZhou nodded knowingly. “He must have been an amazing craftsman.”
Z turned to him abruptly, his crimson eyes stormy with anger.
“She was a hateful occult practitioner!” Z yelled. His arm on the windowsill trembled slightly with rage.
Duan FeiZhou was startled. He thought that when he saved Duncan’s life earlier, Z’s rage was the limit of his anger. However, compared to Z’s anger now, his anger then was like a gentle breeze. This was Z’s real anger. It was as if a volcano erupted inside him, and the hot lava would swallow up everything around him without mercy.
Duan FeiZhou shrank back. If the compartment door wasn’t closed, he would have run away on the spot.
After a few moments, Z closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. The anger that burst out of him was gradually suppressed. He squeezed a few words out from between his teeth, “I shouldn’t have lashed out at you. This has nothing to do with you.”
Duan FeiZhou hugged his shoulders tightly, and tried to shrink himself. “Uh, I’m at fault too. I shouldn’t have just poked around…”
“Abnormal Case Investigation Unit Section people know this matter by heart. It’s not really a secret. In fact, I should have told you a long time ago.” Z turned towards the window. The glass reflected his face, and his ruby eyes showed a hint of sadness.
“How old do you think I am?” Z asked the question without moving.
A huge question mark appeared over Duan FeiZhou’s head. Did Z’s age have anything to do with his mechanical prosthesis? Still, Z never talked nonsense. Since he asked this question, he must have his reasons.
Duan FeiZhou scrutinized Z. His youth was indeed like a mystery.. He could look older than his actual age because of his white hair. Duan FeiZhou speculated that he was between twenty-five and thirty years old.
However that can be surmised by anyone with eyes, so there would be no specific need for Z to ask. Therefore, his actual age was probably much older than he appeared.
Duan FeiZhou asked tentatively, “Thirty?”
Z didn’t move. “Guess again.”
Duan FeiZhou asked again, “Forty?”
Z shook his head. “Guess again.”
Duan FeiZhou went out of his way. “Ten thousand and eighty-six years old?”
The corners of Z’s mouth involuntarily lifted for a moment. He was obviously amused, but he quickly controlled his expression again and pretended he hadn’t found it funny. Z asked, “You’ve heard of the Crimean War, right?”
Duan FeiZhou naturally knew about it. It was the war that broke out in the Crimea from 1853 to 1856 between Tsarist Russia and the allied forces of Britain, France and Turkey. “The war in which Ms. Nightingale became famous, right?”
It was during that war that Ms. Nightingale volunteered to serve as a field nurse. She was regarded as a goddess of light and a national hero for her scientific care that saved the lives of countless soldiers. She founded the nursing profession, and nursing had become a respected profession.
As a medical student, Duan FeiZhou wasn’t interested in the war, but was familiar with the development of the medical profession. When he heard the name “Nightingale”, Z’s pain increased a bit.
“I fought in that war,” he whispered.
Duan FeiZhou’s eyes widened.
It was now 1893. Even if Z had been only 20 when he joined the war, he would be 60 now. However, he looked at most half the age of 60, so how? Did he eat the flesh of a monk or drink from the Fountain of Youth?
As if sensing Duan FeiZhou’s consternation, Z smiled mockingly. “I was 28 years old and a major in the army. I was badly wounded in battle, and I was cared for by Ms. Nightingale and her corps of nurses.”
Duan FeiZhou suddenly remembered that when he first came to London, he visited Mr. Lynn’s house with Z. Mr. Lynn’s daughter Louisa had mentioned that Ms. Nightingale had come to speak at her school. At that time, Z had an extremely odd look.
It turned out that Z had befriended Ms. Nightingale long ago on the battlefield.
“I was so badly wounded, I lost all four limbs, was blind, and near death. Everyone thought I wouldn’t live for more than a few days. There were even private discussions among my comrades about whether to take me out.”
As he talked about his painful past, Z’s face didn’t show much.
“My father was also an officer. He wanted me to build a successful career on the battlefield and honor my ancestors. Of course he was extremely disappointed to see me become a cripple who would soon die. That’s when a nurse quietly approached him and said she had a solution that might allow me to stand up again.”
Duan FeiZhou stared into Z’s red eyes, and asked in a low voice, “Could that nurse…have been an occult practitioner?”
“Did she use a secret healing technique? Like the one Xenophon used?”
“A healing spell can’t mend serious injuries like mine. The principle of the occult healing technique is to accelerate cell regeneration. It can only heal wounds that ‘have the potential to heal’. Lost limbs can never grow back.” Z lowered his eyes. “That nurse used a different kind of secret art. She transformed my body completely.”
“…What do you mean ‘completely transformed’?” Duan FeiZhou asked. He vaguely felt that it was not a good phrase, but he was too curious.
“It was to replace all the organs that could be replaced by machinery with machinery.” Z said coldly. “Hands, legs, spine, and even some internal organs. The human heart had no way to bear that burden, so she simply replaced my heart with a mechanical one powered by a piece of Ether crystal. Ether crystals are extremely rich in energy, and it’s perhaps because of this that I age much more slowly than ordinary people.”
Duan FeiZhou’s jaw dropped, while chills ran through his body. Although he had long been accustomed to the various things in this world, Z’s experience still counted among the most unbelievable.
It was like something that would only appear in a science fiction novel.
“This transformation…Can make people live…?” Duan FeiZhou was surprised.
The corners of Z’s lips lifted as if in sarcasm. “Do you think I’m still ‘alive’ like this?”
In terms of results, the transformation did get Z back on his feet, and not only that, he was more agile and stronger than before. A living person was transformed into this…Could he still be considered human?
It was like a paradox of the Ship of Theseus. If you keep replacing the parts of a ship, when all the parts have been replaced once, the ship was still the original ship? If the replaced parts were reassembled into a ship, who was the original ship, it or the fully refurbished ship? 1
Duan FeiZhou didn’t dare to speculate any further. If he thought about it any more, he would touch on a forbidden area that humans must never touch.
“This is the reason why you hate occult practitioners?” Duan FeiZhou’s voice was hoarse.
“Exactly,” he said. “I wouldn’t blame her if she was trying to save me, but she wasn’t. She just wanted to test the new secret art she had invented, and happened to meet a perfect test subject like me.”
“What happened to the nurse?”
“I don’t know. She escaped. I joined the Nightmen and have been hunting her, but she disappeared. Like a drop of water into the sea. To this day I don’t know where she went.” After he said that, Z once again turned to the window, mutely.
The compartment fell into silence, with only the rumbling sound of the train as it rolled over the tracks. Duan FeiZhou wanted to say a few words to comfort Z, but he couldn’t. No matter what he might say, the language would be too pale. Could a few words from him heal the pain that Z had felt for so many years? It was simply like a person was standing, talking and giving pity from on high.
After a while, Z spoke, “Did it scare you?”
“What?” Duan FeiZhou looked up abruptly.
“You seem to hate seeing my body. Every time I take a bath you run away. Do you think I look horrible?”
Duan FeiZhou was speechless. He realized that Z seemed to have some kind of heavenly misunderstanding about him. He screamed, “No, it’s not!”
“You don’t have to give me face. I know what my body is like.” Z sounded a little self-absorbed.
“I…It’s not about that!” Duan FeiZhou said in embarrassment. Not only that, his ears suddenly became very hot. “You have a lot of scars on your body, which is indeed a bit scary, but I…I didn’t dare to watch you bathe because…That…It’s not polite…”
Z seemed to think his answer was comical. “You don’t have to say it.”
“It’s really not because I hate you!” Duan FeiZhou raised his voice. “I don’t hate you, not at all. I…”
His vocal cords seemed to have frozen, and he couldn’t get them to work. Finally he could only look at Z. “I wish you could know that I…”
Z moved slightly, and a strand of white hair fell over his shoulder. “I know.”
Outside the window, the spring fields were lush. A golden ray of sunlight pierced through the dark clouds, and showered the two men’s faces. The train arrived at King’s Cross station. As he looked at the glass dome of the station, Duan FeiZhou felt a sincere joy of coming home.
When he got off the train, he met an unexpected person on the platform. It was Xenophon. The dark-haired, yellow-eyed man leaned on a pillar, and whistled with a sleepwalking look on his face; as if he had accidentally walked there.
“Boss!” When he saw Z and Duan FeiZhou, he waved his hand lazily. “I can’t believe you guys came back alive!”
The corners of Z’s mouth twitched. “What? You don’t want me to come back alive?”
“Not at all, I am sincerely happy!” Xenophon said so, but as soon as Z turned his head, Duan FeiZhou heard him mutter, “Damn, he’s not hurt. I lost money again.”
…Why does this guy bet on people every day?
Z turned around, and faced Duan FeiZhou, “Xenophon and I are going to pick up the consignment later, so I won’t see you off.”
By cargo, he meant the stuff confiscated from Dr. Stone. Duan FeiZhou wanted to say goodbye to him, but before he could say anything, Z suddenly said something amazing.
“Starting next Monday, you will come to work in the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit.”
“Gah?!” Duan FeiZhou made a sound that was somewhere between a human’s and a rubber duck’s.
Z didn’t seem to hear his strange voice and continued calmly, “You’re not a full member yet. Is it okay for you to come to work three days a week?”
It’s a big problem!
Xenophon added fuel to the fire with a smile, “Surprised? Surprised? We’re going to hire you early because you’re doing so well!”
“Didn’t you say you only hire people over the age of 21?” Duan FeiZhou was frantic.
“Oh, it’s a matter of urgency. We are so short of staff now, we hire child laborers.” Xenophon spreads his hands.
Duan FeiZhou’s cold sweat instantly soaked through his clothes. “But…I…I’m not ready yet…”
“What preparation do you need to be an ordinary clerk? Do you not know how to write or what? It’s not like we’re asking you to work for free. You’re being paid!”
Duan FeiZhou screamed inwardly. He wasn’t going to Scotland Yard! He doesn’t care about the police Nightmen’s salary! He’s going home, and he’s not going to walk out the door for the rest of his life! Help!
Unfortunately, Z didn’t care about his inner turmoil. His handsome face looked as if he had written, ‘It’s settled, then’.
“See you at Scotland Yard tomorrow morning at nine o’clock.” His lips curved and he extended his hand to Duan FeiZhou.
As he looked at that hand, Duan FeiZhou wanted to cry. He wanted to refuse, but refusal required an open and honest reason, and where could he get one? He couldn’t just tell Z, “Sorry, can’t do it, because I’m your nemesis – the Master of the Secret Trading House”, right?
For the average person, the opportunity to work as a clerk in Scotland Yard was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You couldn’t just find such a good job. It would be too suspicious to refuse.
He could only show a smile that was worse than tears and shake Z’s hand. Duan FeiZhou stumbled and crashed into Z’s arms. The white-haired police officer Nightman gave him a brief hug, then pushed him away and walked to the freight car with Xenophon as if nothing had happened.
Duan FeiZhou stared blankly at his back. What the hell…Z was…was he playing a trick on him?
He touched his cheek. It burned like hell.
When they left, Sword in the Stone dared to speak, “It’s over, kid, it’s over. Do you have any last words? I suggest you make your will early, then pick out a coffin, a grave and an epitaph. I’ve heard that some people carve epitaphs on other people’s headstones, so it’s better to decide sooner rather than later.“
“You shut up!” Duan FeiZhou looked up at the sky with hot tears in his eyes.