Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Duan FeiZhou took the letter in his hands, and ran back to Mr. Thales’ house as fast as he could.
Mr. Thales was sitting in the living room with Xenophon and Z. Having received a large reward, the old man was in a good mood, and hummed a song while he made herbal tea, so the house was full of a lovely fragrance.
“What took you so long?” Z asked unhappily.
Xenophon leaned back on the sofa and smiled, “What’s that in your hand? A letter? Did the lady leave you a letter?”
“What letter?” Z was alerted.
“Which one of you can read German?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
Xenophon raised his hand high. “I went to an advanced grammar school!”
Duan FeiZhou handed him the letter. He read it with great interest. Mr. Thales ran over curiously with his tea tray, his eyes full of gossip.
Xenophon made a “eh, heh, heh” laugh as he read. “Oh, I must say, although that lady is old, the charm is still there. I heard that women of that age like young guys, so I’m jealous…”
Z looked like he wanted to kill someone.
Duan FeiZhou could almost hear his teeth grinding.
After he read the whole letter, Xenophon raised his eyes and asked Z, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?”
Z said coldly, “The bad news.”
“The bad news is, that lady is really the world’s best person. She is beautiful, has a good heart and money. You will never be able to compare with her in your life.”
“You…!” Z clenched his fist.
“The good news is…” Xenophon trailed off. “That lady has given you an introduction to a mechanic who makes prosthetic eyes, and is said to be able to restore people’s sight.”
Z was ready to curse, but Xenophon’s words made him cave in. He repeated in a daze, “A prosthetic eye mechanic…?”
“And she was kind enough to write a letter of introduction.” Xenophon waved the letter. The paper clattered. “So I said, you’re a hard-hearted guy, you’ll never be able to compete with others. I don’t know who would have fallen for you. Probably only those who are as blind as you are.”
Z turned around, crossed his arms and stopped talking.
Duan FeiZhou felt his cheeks get hotter.
He wouldn’t be blind…
“Isn’t this a great joy!” Mr. Thales was very excited. “I didn’t expect that the mechanical technology would be so advanced now! I’ve been retired too long to keep up with the times!”
“I think we’ll have to pass through Geneva on our way back, so we can…” Duan FeiZhou glanced at Z, who still wouldn’t say a word.
“You can go back early.” Mr. Thales said. “In fact, even if you leave tomorrow, that’s fine.”
Xenophon, “Z and I will go to Geneva, and the boy will stay? I’m afraid not, dear mentor. One of us has to stay with the boy to keep an eye on him, and prevent him from defecting. It would have to be me. Unfortunately, it’s not convenient for the Boss to travel alone…”
“I won’t defect.” Duan FeiZhou wasn’t happy.
“That’s what people who defect say,” Xenophon said lightly.
Mr. Thales, “I meant that you fellows should take him back with you.”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t understand. “I still have to study occult philosophy with you!”
“I have nothing more to teach you.” Mr. Thales shrugged. “I should have taught you how to control your powers, but you can already control them very well. If you stay here, you’ll just be learning the usual occult knowledge from me. The same knowledge Xenophon and Mrs. Q can also teach. If you aren’t in a hurry, I can certainly teach you step by step, but aren’t you going to that master mechanic?”
Xenophon gave Z a push. “What do you say? You’re the boss, so we’ll listen to you.”
Z tilted his head, and refused to face him or Duan FeiZhou. “I can’t let my personal business get in the way of business.”
Xenophon raised his hand. “The boss says we’re going to Geneva!”
They argued into the night, and eventually won three to one over Z. They would leave tomorrow for Geneva, and then return to London. Z was very much against changing the trip for his own benefit, but Duan FeiZhou could see that Z was actually looking forward to it. He rarely put his emotions on display, so the occasional one was simply too obvious.
Before the trip, Mr. Thales gave Duan FeiZhou a brass ring as a gift. The ring not only stored energy, but also had runes engraved inside, which could protect him from an occult attack if necessary.
The group thus embarked on the journey to Geneva.
The return trip was similar to the one they came out on. The airship wasn’t as luxurious as The Sappho, but the facilities were first class. The airship landed at the Geneva International Airport at dawn. It was early summer in Switzerland, and the mountains were green with only the tops of the mountains covered with a thin layer of snow. The city was surrounded by mountains and water, and the sun shone down like a song to wake up the city.
The atmosphere in Geneva was very different from London. There, everything was so noisy and crowded, with the sound of people and sirens. The atmosphere of the industrial age was everywhere. Geneva, on the other hand, was as quiet as a mountain village, where people live a slow-paced life, with some lazy moods and a kind of step-by-step stability.
If this was a vacation, Duan FeiZhou would definitely not only want to take a good stroll around the city, but also to swim in Lake Geneva. However, today they weren’t there for leisure, they were there to do some serious business.
French and German were spoken in Switzerland. Xenophon spoke German, so he was the main source of communication with the locals. This made it difficult for them to get around for a while, because Xenophon couldn’t speak human, let alone in a foreign language.
Fortunately, they eventually found a hotel using plastic German and body language. After they settled their luggage, they went straight to the master mechanic’s studio.
The studio was located on a street of shops. Half of the shops on both sides of the street were watchmakers and the other half were various machine shops. After all, the country was known worldwide for its watches and mechanical engineering.
Xenophon looked down at the address on the Countess’s letter of introduction, searched for half a day among the vast number of signs, and finally pointed to one of the shops. “That’s it.”
The store was called Möllen’s Studio. Based on the items displayed in the window, it was a shop that specialized in small mechanical toys. Various clockwork figures sat in the window, some of them were cute and some of them had a scary effect.
Xenophon pushed in the door. The bell on the door jingled.
Inside the shop was a wide range of toys. The most elaborate were a music box, moving mechanical figures of small soldiers, brass parrots in cages, model steam train that ran around a table…On the ceiling hung a small model of an airship, driven by clockwork, with a rope tied to it as it whistled around in a circle. Behind the counter sat a teenager, sixteen or seventeen years old. He was dressed in blue work clothes, wore a single-rimmed glasses-type magnifying glass, and was concentrating on repairing a clockwork bear doll.
He heard the sound of customers entering the door, but didn’t look up. “The store specializes in clockwork dolls, first-class craftsmen hand-made, with lifelong maintenance. Please feel free to look.”
The customers’ greeting and advertising spiel was said dryly with no emotion. As if the clockwork bears were more important than the customers.
Xenophon stared at the rows of dolls with an enthralled expression, as if he had forgotten the purpose of their visit. He was a very perceptive person, but always easily distracted by strange things, like a child who had never grown up.
The burden of communication had to be handed over to Z.
“Is Mr. Möllen here?” Z asked in English.
“There are two Mr. Möllen’s here, one old and one young. Which one are you looking for?” The teenager answered in fluent English, while they still looked down and fixed the doll.
What a technical geek.
Z said, “The one who can make mechanical prosthetic eyes, Mr. Möllen.”
The teenager stopped his work and looked up. He lifted his glasses to reveal a pair of light blue eyes. His features were delicate, and a little too showy for a boy his age.
“That Mr. Möllen was my grandfather. He passed away,” the teenager said. “The other Mr. Möllen doesn’t make mechanical prosthetic eyes.”
Z froze. Xenophon withdrew his gaze from the toy. Duan FeiZhou’s heart tightened. They’d come a long way to Switzerland, had they come all this way for nothing? Duan FeiZhou was fine with it. It was a trip to a foreign country, just a trip. But Z…He peeked out of the corner of his eye at Z. The latter was expressionless, but the disappointment in his eyes couldn’t be hidden, even though he was blind.
However big the hope is, is how big the disappointment becomes.
Xenophon grumpily stuck the letterhead under the teenager’s nose.
“A lady referred us here.”
The teenager took the letterhead and scanned it quickly. His eyes lingered on the seal at the end for a few seconds.
“So it’s that lady. Those three are honored guests.” A smile rippled across the young face.
Xenophon raised his chin towards Z. “My friend is blind, and we came all the way here because we heard that Master Möllen could restore one’s sight. I didn’t realize he had passed away. Are there any other mechanics here who can make prosthetic eyes?”
“Yes.” The teenager was a little distracted. “Me.”
Xenophon raised his eyebrows. “But you said Mr. Möllen Jr. doesn’t make mechanical prosthetic eyes.”
The teenager gave him a strange look. “I’m not Mr. Möllen Jr.”
“But you said Mr. Möllen Sr. is your grandfather.”
“Right.” The teenager nodded his head.
Xenophon “…What’s your last name?”
The teenager, “Möllen.”
The four people in the shop fell silent at the same time.
At that moment, the doorbell jingled. There was another visitor.
Duan FeiZhou turned around, and saw a young man almost identical to the teenager walk in. He was carrying a basket full of vegetables in one hand, and in the other hand he was juggling a long loaf of bread wrapped in newspaper.
“Margaret, why don’t you greet the guests?” The teenager, who had just returned from buying vegetables, asked.
“Aren’t I greeting?” The teenager behind the counter replied.
…Margaret? Duan FeiZhou reacted first.
He looked at the teenager behind the counter and said with trepidation. “Are you Miss Möllen?”
The boy…No, the girl guffawed, “Yes.”
“My name is Fabian Möllen.” Little Mr. Möllen, who couldn’t make prosthetic eyes, invited them to the second floor, and served coffee and snacks to the customers. “That’s my sister Margaret. We run the store together. I usually take care of the customers. My sister is better at making machinery. Today I happened to go out to buy something, and only she was left in the shop. I apologize if she offended you.”
The guests hastened to say that Miss Margaret was smart and intelligent, beautiful and intelligent, and had never offended them. Fabian looked at his sister, who was walking around in men’s clothing, and smiled bitterly.
Z could not see better, while Xenophon looked at her as if he had seen an alien.
It was no wonder. The gender bias was still deeply rooted in this era, and it was even considered indecent for women to wear men’s clothing. However, Duan FeiZhou thought that Xenophon’s deeply shocked expression wasn’t because of gender bias, but rather curiosity.
“Which one is the one who wants to heal his eyes?” Fabian looked at the three guests.
Z got up, “It’s me.”
Fabian motioned to his sister. “Check him out.”
Margaret walked straight to Z, dragged him to the window, and pressed him into a chair so that he faced the sun.
Z was shocked. Duan FeiZhou and Xenophon were stunned. Half of them would die under his sword within a minute, and the other half, who were tougher, would die under his sword within three minutes. Margaret put on her spectacle-style magnifying glass and propped Z’s eyelids open with her index fingers and thumbs.
“The pupils aren’t responding,” she said. “But the eye structure is still intact. Are you completely blind?”
“No.” Z said.
“How did you lose your sight? It doesn’t look like trauma to me. Is it a disease?”
Margaret made a confused sound, “Born with it?”
Duan FeiZhou knew that it was caused by an occult technique. However, only Z and Mr. Thales knew exactly what the occult magic was. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell Miss Margaret either, because she was not an occultist…
“Is it a spell?” Margaret asked.
The three people in the room froze in tandem again.
“Ah, that would make sense,” Fabian said cooperatively. “The injuries caused by occult magic can’t be cured by occult magic, and can only rely on the body to heal itself, but injuries sustained by the eye are difficult to heal in general, so a prosthetic eye must be transplanted.”
“You are occult practitioners?” said Z, greatly surprised.
Fabian raised his head proudly, “The mechanical prosthetic eye made by Margaret has vision because of the special secret runes attached inside the eye. Our grandfather invented it.”
He looked at the three men expectantly, hoping they would follow suit and praise him and his grandfather. However, the three men just looked at each other and exchanged inexplicably awkward looks.
Now Duan FeiZhou could understand why the master mechanic only received familiar customers. He originally wondered, if the advanced prosthetic eye technology was really invented, why it wasn’t promoted and spread to benefit the world. It was because the person who invented the prosthetic eye was an occult practitioner, and there were people hunting occult practitioners all over the world, all the time.
So if Z, who was the arch rival of the occult practitioners, wanted to regain his sight, he had to be fitted with an occultly-powered prosthetic eye by an occult practitioner.
It sounded like black humor.