Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Oh my God! Master! What happened to you!” As soon as he entered the house, Al let out a screaming, chicken-like cry of misery.
“Alas, it’s a long story…” Duan FeiZhou threw Sword in the Stone on the table, and fell on the sofa. “I want to take a bath and change my clothes, you go prepare the hot water.”
“Yes, yes, Master.” Al wrung his hands uneasily, “Are you sure you’re okay? There were a lot of police outside today, and I saw a big bloodstain on the street. The owner of the restaurant downstairs said there was a fight in the street in the early hours of the morning and someone was killed! You wouldn’t have gotten involved, would you?”
“Yes…” Duan FeiZhou let out a groan that seemed to come from the depths of hell. “Ugh, you don’t ask so much. It’s not your place to ask.”
Al flattened his mouth, very aggrieved, but he obeyed his master’s order. He didn’t ask more questions, and just went to the kitchen to boil water.
“By the way Al, I’m going away in three days – this time abroad. Why don’t you help me prepare my luggage?”
A small, frightened head poked out of the kitchen.
“Master, where are you going this time?” Al shouted. “Have you noticed that every time you go away, something bad happens?”
“Well…Actually, bad things fall from the sky even when I stay at home.” Duan FeiZhou spat. He was really born with bad luck, right?
“Where are you going this time?”
“Greece. With the Nightmen.”
“Again with them?” Al showed an extremely serious look. When that look appeared on the face of a teenager, it looked very funny. “You want to take advantage of the time they are abroad, to give them-“
The teenager made a gesture of slicing his neck.
“What are you thinking about?!” Duan FeiZhou snapped. “I’m going to Greece to study occult philosophy. That’s a rare opportunity!”
“Oh!” The young man suddenly realized. “That must be the Nightmen’s secret occult philosophy, right? The kind that ordinary occult practitioners can’t learn? I can’t believe that the master has penetrated so deeply into them, and has learned all of their best tricks! You are the master!”
As Al began to endlessly praise him, Duan FeiZhou was simply caught between crying and laughing.
“During my absence, you should follow Mr. Yeats and study hard, just like you did when I went to Aberdeen. When you have time, go to the sanatorium and visit Miss Lynn for me.”
“Understood!” Al saluted like a little soldier.
The bath water was soon ready, and Duan FeiZhou took off his torn clothes and examined himself from head to toe.
The wounds on his body had completely healed, and there was not even a scar. The skin was as clean and new, and it was impossible to tell that he had ever been injured. Was this Duncan McKellen and Jack the Ripper’s powers? He remembered that Duncan had the ability to heal himself quickly, and the Ripper’s sense of smell was far superior to that of ordinary people, but he couldn’t smell anything special now…
Maybe those powers could only be exercised through training.
After he bathed, he changed into the new clothes Al had prepared for him. His clothes seemed to be consumed quickly.
The next day he went to Scotland Yard as requested by Z. The Duncan McKellen incident required a detailed report for submission to the Secretary, Colin Carter. The report was written by Miss Acheson, who asked questions of Duan FeiZhou while typing lines on the typewriter at a rapid pace. Her typing speed was really enviable.
Of course, Duan FeiZhou deliberately blurred some points when he answered some questions. He didn’t say that he ran to the Beautiful Gaia sanatorium in the middle of the night, only that Duncan McKellen came uninvited and injured at night, so he agreed to help him out of humanitarianism.
“So, not long after Duncan McKellen arrived at your house, Jack the Ripper came?” Miss Acheson asked.
“Yes. Duncan told me not to interfere at first. He wanted to fight Jack the Ripper alone, but he was obviously no match for him, so I had to step in.”
Duan FeiZhou portrayed the details of the fight. He wasn’t very eloquent. His description was dry and only as good as a running account. He hoped Miss Acheson could embellish it a little when she wrote her report.
Miss Acheson asked, “Why did Duncan McKellen ask you to drink his blood?”
“He said it was to repay me for saving his life,” Duan FeiZhou said.
In fact, Duncan had another purpose, which was to hope that he could inherit the power of the Fourth Forerunner. It was also the purpose of the Scarlet Feast’s cannibalism but Duan FeiZhou concealed that point. As he was already a practitioner before he ate Duncan’s flesh and blood. (If not, Duncan would have been hesitant, and he wouldn’t have given birth to the idea of letting him inherit the power.) He certainly couldn’t let the Nightmen know that his original powers were from Joseph Chester.
He also didn’t say a word about the strange dream he had while he was unconscious.
In fact, he still didn’t quite understand whether it was an absurd and bizarre dream of his, or whether he actually went to another dimension in his sleep and met the Forerunner who existed there. He was vaguely uneasy about it, and felt that he should tell the truth about the dream. However, he was afraid that the details of the dream might reveal his identity. After all, not every occult practitioner dreamed of Hecate the Forerunner, did they?
Miss Acheson let him go back after writing the report. Based on her expression, Duan FeiZhou judged that she didn’t have any doubts about his statement. However, it was impossible to be sure. Miss Acheson was always so serious, that there was no expression on her face.
For the next few days, Duan FeiZhou was busy preparing for his trip. Al had bought him new clothes and the personal items he would need for the trip, and Duan FeiZhou had put Sword in the Stone in the trading house, just in case.
He had wanted to visit Miss Lynn at the nursing home and also drop in on Councilor Evangeline. He had a lot of questions about the Forerunner, and he wanted to ask her for advice. Since her ancestor was an apostle of the Second Forerunner, perhaps she also knew about the Third Forerunner, Hecate.
However, after Duan FeiZhou thought about it, he finally decided not to go to the sanatorium. He was afraid of shifting the attention of the Nightmen to the sanatorium, and revealing the fact that Evangeline was also an occult practitioner. Beautiful Gaia’s usual actions were already flashy enough, it was better not to attract more trouble for them.
On the day of the departure, Z and Xenophon came to pick up Duan FeiZhou from his home. Al stood in the street, as he waved a tearful farewell to Duan FeiZhou with an expression that suggested Duan FeiZhou had taken a hearse instead of a hired cab.
The carriage arrived at Heathrow Airport. The place was called “Heathrow Airport” in Duan FeiZhou’s world as well, but in this world the airplane hadn’t yet been invented. The steam airship has become popular, so the place wasn’t established as an airplane landing airport, but for a steam airship to come and go to the airport.
Duan FeiZhou had been in this world for a long time, but this was the first time he was close enough to observe a steam airship.
Previously, he had only seen the appearance of the steam airship in the distance in the sky. The shape of the airship was like the cosmic warships in science fiction movies, but the shell was brass-colored, and full of steampunk style. There were dozens of airships parked in the airport, with very different shapes and sizes, the largest being about as long as a Boeing 747 and the smallest was like a helicopter that could only take probably four people.
Z bought tickets…Yes, it should be called a ticket, for the steam airship named Sappho. Duan FeiZhou had previously read in the newspaper that its type was called Percival class.
The Sappho was a special ship that ran the route from England to Greece, and terminated in Athens while it stopped at Lesbos on the way.
As soon as one heard the name of the ship, they would know that it was named after the famous ancient Greek poetess Sappho. That poetess was not only the first female poet in ancient Greece, the first poet who described personal love and lost love, but also a lesbian. Because she was born on Lesbos, the island has become a mecca for homosexuals in modern times.1
It was a bit suggestive to go to that place…Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but glance at Z beside him.
The Sappho, which was about to set sail, emitted white smoke. Unlike the black smoke produced by burning coal, the smoke from the steam airship was pure white. With the large size of the airship, it was impossible to rely on coal to fly the sky; they were fueled by Ether crystals.
In the current world, Britain controlled most of the Ether crystal mines, and also had a monopoly on the development of Etheric steam-powered engine technology, so it had become a world power, and the top of the powers.
In Duan FeiZhou’s original world, Britain also rose rapidly in the first industrial revolution. Although there were differences between the two worlds, the world lines subtly overlapped.
As he looked at the white smoke emitted from The Sappho, Duan FeiZhou remembered Evangeline’s statement that the Ether crystals were the energy crystals left behind by the Second Forerunner, the Lord of Light, and that burning the Ether crystals would cause many people to suffer from disease. This unknown secret gave him mixed feelings.
“Passengers of The Sappho! Passengers of The Sappho can now board!” A crew member shouted.
The Sappho extended the gangway to the ground, and two crew members stood on either side of the gangway, respectfully inviting passengers to board.
“Let’s go.” Z said.
Their large pieces of luggage had already been checked onto the airship, so now each man had only his carry-on suitcase. Picking up the suitcases, they boarded the gangway and entered the ship’s cabin.
In Duan FeiZhou’s imagination, the cabin should be similar to an airplane cabin. A corridor with seats on both sides was the standard. However, the interior of the steamship was so spacious that he was amazed. It wasn’t like an airplane cabin at all, but instead resembled a luxury hotel!
After they boarded the gangway, there was a lobby, and after they checked their tickets, the stewardesses smiled and took the passengers to their respective rooms. The entire ship was divided into three levels, the upper level was the passenger staterooms and living areas, the middle level was the crew cabins, and the lower level was the cargo hold.
Z booked the ship’s tickets too late, and could only book second class cabins. The second class cabin was half the size of a first class room, and wasn’t equipped with luxurious huge portholes like the first class, but only had a small round window. It was snug but complete. For Duan FeiZhou, it seemed to be no different than a four star hotel.
The whole ship suddenly shook after the luggage was settled. Duan FeiZhou stumbled, and flung himself against the porthole with his whole face pressed against the glass.
Outside the window, Heathrow Airport was slowly getting smaller. The airship had set sail. and was rising. Unlike airplanes that needed to taxi, the airship was able to go straight up and down. It made Duan FeiZhou curious about the Ether steam-powered engines.
The ships in port, which hadn’t yet set sail, soon turned into tiny dots on the ground, and London became a sandbox of a city, with buildings that looked as miniscule as matchboxes. The airship continued to climb, then headed east and diagonally through the clouds.
Someone knocked on the door of the room.
“May I come in?” It was Z’s voice.
Duan FeiZhou hurriedly opened the door. Z stood outside. He had taken off his black Nightmen coat and was wearing only a vest and shirt, his silver hair tied in a queue and hanging down on his chest. He didn’t look like a Scotland Yard detective, but rather like a nobleman in a club.
“Where’s Xenophon?” Duan FeiZhou probed.
“He heard about the unlimited beer in the bar and happily ran over there,” Z said helplessly. “What are you doing?”
Duan FeiZhou turned his head to look out the porthole, “I’m looking at the view. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a plane…I mean, I’ve never been on an airship before.”
“Is it nice?” Z asked, “It’s not my first time, but I’ve never seen the view from outside.”
Duan FeiZhou often forgot that he couldn’t actually see. The airship had by now climbed above the clouds. The window was an endless sea of clouds, and with the morning sunlight sprinkled on them, the golden cloud waves were undulating and churning. It was beautiful.
“Nice to see.” Duan FeiZhou gazed at the masses of clouds. “I can describe it to you. Do you want to hear it?”
“Uh, I’m not very eloquent, so you’ll just have to listen. The sky is blue, the clouds are white…” Duan FeiZhou scratched his head. “Sorry, I described it like an elementary school essay…”
“No, you continue.” Z pursed his lips, and said, “I’m happy to listen.” He closed the door and sat on the bed without saying a word, as if he was expecting something.
Duan FeiZhou turned to the window ,and gazed out at the billowing clouds.
“Then I’ll continue.” He cleared his throat. “The sun is shining outside, and the clouds look like they’ve been edged with gold…”
The entire trip from London to Lesbos was about two and a half days.
Duan FeiZhou thought it would be boring to spend two and a half days on board the airship, and brought two books with him. However, he soon found out that he had worried over nothing. The entertainment facilities on board the airship were very complete with bars, dance halls, restaurants, clubs and everything. After all, those who had money to travel on the airship were upper class people, and these were essential to their lives, so the airship naturally treated them well.
A four-piece band played in the dining room. The club was open 24 hours a day, where passengers could play billiards or poker. In the evening, a dance party was held in the ballroom. For those who were not socially inclined, there was a small library on board where passengers could borrow books.
Thanks to these entertainment facilities, Duan FeiZhou was never idle on board the airship. Just playing cards with Xenophon was a lot of fun. Although the guy was very good at the occult arts, his card skills were very bad, and he was a big vegetable addict, so he soon became the target of bullying from his poker friends.
Xenophon could have cheated using occult techniques, but he insisted on playing fair and so he lost one game after another with his own strength..That was a competitive spirit!
Z couldn’t play poker because he couldn’t see, so he played billiards with the other passengers. He soon became a popular figure on the ship, and was nicknamed “the big man of billiards”. He was able to score a hole-in-one with his hearing alone, a skill that had people terror-stricken at the news.
The day after departure, the airship docked in Geneva, Switzerland, to replenish supplies. Some passengers disembarked, and they were joined by a new group of passengers.
One of the new passengers was a real eye-catcher. Victorian women cultivated thinness for their beauty and often wore whalebone corsets to create their slender waists, some of which were so tiny that they even deformed their internal organs.2 It had gone out of the realm of love of beauty, and turned into a form of torture for women.
The woman should be an aristocrat of a European country. She was accompanied by two maids and four male bodyguards. They weren’t speaking in English, and Duan FeiZhou couldn’t understand them, but presumed it was German.
He thought the woman looked familiar, but could not remember where he had seen her. Duan FeiZhou was tempted to get an autograph, but he didn’t have the guts. The woman’s bodyguards all looked fierce, which discouraged him.
Besides, if he thought about it, if a strange man suddenly came to you on an airship and asked for your autograph, wouldn’t you also feel puzzled?
In the afternoon of the third day, the airship arrived at Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos. The city had no airport, so the ship landed directly on the sea, and then a barge took the disembarking passengers to the harbor. In addition to Duan FeiZhou’s group of three, the beautiful woman and her entourage also disembarked at that stop.
The two groups of people sitting on the ferry formed a clear line, with Duan FeiZhou and the others sitting on the left and the woman and her entourage on the right. The small barge was a little unbalanced side to side, and the captain looked at them helplessly.
“Madam, can you let a few of your entourage sit over there?” He said in Greek.
However the passengers couldn’t understand Greek. The captain had to gesture and ask the woman’s entourage to sit on the other side so that the ferrying boat wouldn’t capsize.
The woman’s entourage understood what he meant, but they were not happy about it and glared at the captain with fierce looks. The captain shrank back and didn’t dare to speak. However, the woman just covered her mouth and smiled. She said a few words to her bodyguards. Two of them, big and waistless, and obediently sat on Duan FeiZhou’s side.
Now there were five people on each side, and the ferry was balanced.
“Thank you, ma’am.” Z said in English to the beautiful woman.
Duan FeiZhou thought the woman didn’t understand English and wouldn’t reply, but she said in fluent English, “It is only right, sir. Otherwise wouldn’t it cause a shipwreck?”
She spoke with brightness and energy, not like a woman in her fifties, but like a naive and lively young girl.
“By the accent of you gentlemen, you are from London, right?” The woman could even hear this. She really couldn’t be underestimated. “Are you here to travel? Or are you visiting family and friends?” the woman asked.
“Visiting friends and family.” Z was very polite. “And you?”
The woman smiled. “Traveling.”
With that she turned her head to look at the island in the distance. Mytilene was a port city, with blue skies and blue seas, and whitewashed Greek houses built along the coast, in layers of subtlety and chic.
Duan FeiZhou could see why the Mr. Thales they were going to visit had chosen such a picturesque place to retire and live in seclusion, and thought that it was really quite insightful. When the ferry boat arrived at the pier, the woman and her entourage disembarked first. To Duan FeiZhou’s surprise, there was a group of attendants waiting for the woman on the pier.
The only real aristocrats Duan FeiZhou had ever seen were Lord Perlilla’s family. He thought Lord’s family was wealthy enough, (look at their magnificent mansion!) but compared to this noblewoman, that family was just country folk. He didn’t know who the woman was, but her title was much higher than Lord Perlilla’s.
The noblewoman boarded an open carriage and soon disappeared into the streets of Mytilene. The city was not big so there weren’t many carriages, and only a few rickshaws waited for guests. However they didn’t even need a rickshaw. Mr. Thales’ home was a twenty-minute walk away, so they were able to take in the sights of the small Greek town along the way.
Unfortunately, Z couldn’t see the view, so Duan FeiZhou tried to play tour guide all the way.
“We’re passing through a street with a lot of cats…”
“The yard along the road has a garden with plants I don’t recognize but they have many flowers…”
“This house is so grand, the glass is actually stained! Oh sorry, it’s a church…”
Z didn’t say anything, just smiled and nodded as Duan FeiZhou introduced things, while Xenophon looked away and “pfted” at every word. Duan FeiZhou suspected that if he kept on “pftfing”, he would sooner or later become a motorcycle that wouldn’t start.
They soon arrived in front of a chic little house. The sign in front of the door had the name of the owner’s family written in Greek, but Duan FeiZhou couldn’t read Greek. He could only surmise that it was the Greek version of ‘Mr. Thales’.
Z knocked the door ring.
The three men stood outside for half a day without anyone opening the door.