Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Duan FeiZhou stood in a cold stone cellar.
The place reminded him of the crypt of Aberdeen church, which had been turned into the mortuary. There was also a stone platform in the cellar with a man lying on it. It wasn’t clear whether he was dead or alive, but Duan FeiZhou thought he was probably dead because people usually didn’t cover the living with a white cloth.
A middle-aged man in military uniform came into the basement, accompanied by a woman dressed as a nurse beside him. The middle-aged officer looked serious, and he stood at a customary standstill, his back straight as a steel javelin.
“You succeeded?” The middle-aged officer asked.
The nurse smiled dotingly, “Of course. Your son is free to move around without any obstacle, no different from a normal person.”
The middle-aged officer gazed at the ‘corpse’ on the stone platform, and was slightly moved.
“You know, nurse, he is my only child. The only descendant of our family. For generations we have been a military nobility, proud of our military honors on the battlefield. That’s what my father asked of me, so that’s what I ask of him. In fact, I could see that he didn’t like the battlefield, but I had to do it. It was an honor for our family…and duty.” The officer whispered.
“I understand your good intentions very well.” The nurse smiled.
The officer lifted the white cloth from the ‘body.’ He examined the figure beneath the cloth, his eyes critical and cold, like a demanding customer examining a product. However, he soon broke into a smile.
“I was skeptical when you said you could bring my son back from the dead by combining occult philosophy with mechanical prosthetic technology, but now I’m convinced.”
The nurse bowed her head, and said, “You flatter me.”
“How wonderful it would be if this technology could be spread? From now on, our soldiers will no longer be afraid of being disabled!”
“But the cost of doing so is too high. I’m not sure…”
“I will go and persuade Her Majesty! Imagine, nurse, no matter how badly wounded you are, you won’t die, just repair your mechanical prosthetic limbs and you’ll be able to fight again. Our empire will have an invincible and undying army!”
The fervor bursting from the officer’s eyes sent shivers down Duan FeiZhou’s spine. He took a few steps forward and looked at the motionless corpse on the stone platform.
He suddenly forgot to breathe.
The hair of the corpse was not as long as it would be, but the beautiful inhuman face was exactly the same as in real life; as if time never left a trace on him. The corpse was Z, the transformed Z. The officer was his father, and the one who ordered his transformation. Then the nurse – Duan FeiZhou suddenly thought, she shouldn’t be a regular nurse, but a nurse with the army – the uniform of this era was very similar to a nurse – was responsible for implementing the transformation through occult arts.
This was Z’s memory.
But how did he get a glimpse of Z’s memories? Obviously just now, he was still pulling the strings with Xenophon, so how did he suddenly get into Z’s brain?
The Z on the stone platform trembled slightly, and his eyelashes fluttered.
The officer was overjoyed. “Child, are you awake?”
Z opened his eyes.
A pair of deep red eyes like blood, reflected the face of his father. He turned his head slightly and gazed blankly at the officer. “I…What’s wrong?”
“Are you feeling well?” the officer asked. “Is your memory clear?”
Z still looked confused. Unlike the him from later, at this point he was much more expressive, and more like a human being. He sat up with difficulty. “I remember I was hit by a shell…”
The white cloth slipped off his chest, to reveal his modified body. A torso covered with dense scars, brass-colored limbs and a metal spine that opened and closed with each breath…
Z’s pupils dilated in an instant. “How did I become like this?”
The officer pulled the nurse in front of him and said, “It’s thanks to this lady. She is your savior! If it weren’t for her amazing skills, you would be dead! This lady transformed you, she combined mechanical prosthetic technology with secret arts. Oh, you can understand that as technology combined with magic! Isn’t it very magical? I have arranged for your ticket back to London, and I’m going to introduce you to our great majesty!”
He said as he proudly paced up and down the basement, his eyes full of imagination and anticipation, as if he could already smell the gunpowder of the salute at his own promotion ceremony.
“I’m going to create a new type of army, hire disabled veterans and give them the same transformation. They’ll be an army that won’t die. And you will be their commander…”
He was so engrossed in the rosy blueprint of the future that he failed to notice his son’s twisted expression as he stared blankly at his brand new body. It wasn’t the joy of a reborn man, but a look of fear and loathing, as if he had seen a zombie crawling out of hell.
Duan FeiZhou tried to imagine how Z had felt at that moment. He suddenly woke up, and found that most of his body had become mechanical. He couldn’t feel hot or cold, and there was no pain. It was as if he had packed his human soul into a tin can. He loathed the battlefield, didn’t want to be an officer in his father’s line of work, yet his father dreamed of building an undying army in which every soldier was a monster like him, then told him to become the monster leader…
“What have you done to me?!” Z jumped off the stone platform and grabbed his father by the collar. He was hobbling, obviously not yet able to control his limbs perfectly. “Why did you save me? Why didn’t you let me die? Why did you make me look like this?”
The officer frowned. “You survived, you can walk and you can move. What are your complaints?”
The nurse looked nervous, but did not try to persuade the father and son, instead she quietly retreated to the basement exit. “Your Excellency, you remember that I warned you, right? This is the first time I have experimented with this technique on living people, so I am not sure what will become of the experiencing bodies when they wake up. If their bodies are not sound, their spirits are likely to be crippled as well. They would…go crazy.”
The nurse’s warning came too late. A silver blade stabbed out of the officer’s back, its tip dripping with blood.
“Why…My child…” The officer looked at Z incredulously, “I was…saving you…”
Z didn’t say a word, just twisted the blade. The metal flipped through flesh and blood, and made a sticky sound.
The nurse turned and fled. Z drew the blade and, without a glance at his father, who had fallen at his feet, he chased after the nurse. His stumbling pace was no match for the athletic nurse.
Outside the basement was an old manor house, requisitioned by the army as a temporary field hospital. A number of soldiers lingered in the courtyard. When the nurse saw them, she shouted at the top of her lungs, “Help! Murder! Help me! There’s a madman who’s going to kill someone!”
The soldiers had always been taken care of by the nurses, and they had nothing but respect and gratitude for the nurses. When they heard the nurse cry for help, naturally none of them doubted the authenticity.
They pulled out their guns and cautiously surrounded the entrance to the basement. As for the nurse, she walked through the crowd, then quickly took off her nurse’s clothes to reveal her ordinary long skirt. She loosened her hair and fiddled with it casually. In a flash, she’d changed from a nurse to an ordinary girl. She went over the fence of the manor, and escaped into the wilderness.
Duan FeiZhou looked at her back in mute amazement. He didn’t know where the nurse fled to, for the scene soon changed.
It was still the manor, but the sky had changed from day to night. A man and a woman walked through the gates of the manor and towards the courtyard. Both were clad in black coats and black hats. This was a typical Nightman uniform.
Duan FeiZhou examined their faces and realized that these two people were actually Mr. Thales and Mrs. Q in their prime. The young Mr. Thales was handsome, but always with a frivolous look, while Mrs. Q was much more serious, like a stern governess.
The two of them went around to the back of the garden. Z was sitting and leaning against the wall. He was wearing a jacket he had found somewhere, with a cigarette in his mouth. He smoked one cigarette after another, and the butts were already piled up at his feet. However, he still wasn’t satisfied. After smoking one he would then quickly light another one.
Even the most addicted people wouldn’t be like him. He was not smoking, but was thirsty for something that could only be found in cigarettes.
–The tingle that made him feel alive.
Farther away, the ground was filled with bodies.
The soldiers who had surrounded the entrance to the basement had been brutally and mercilessly slaughtered.
Mrs. Q pulled out her handkerchief and covered her nose.
“We received reports that the area is infested with a killer monster.” She said in an odd tone of voice, “Have you seen one, young man?”
Z raised his head and grinned. “I’m afraid the monster you’re talking about is me, madam.”
“You?” Mrs. Q looked at him with surprise. Her eyes fell on his brass-colored prosthetic leg. “What happened to your body, young man?”
“I’d like to know too.” Z said. Z stood up. His prosthetic leg popped out its blade, and slashed at Mrs. Q without a second thought.
The policewoman Nightman dodged sideways while she chanted a spell. Z’s combat power at that time wasn’t as much as in later years, so ordinary people could still dodge his attacks with a bit of effort.
Mr. Thales also joined in the fight. A stream of energy cut through Z’s body. It should have left him with bloody wounds, but his metal prosthetic leg bounced off the energy and he was unharmed.
“A monster indeed.” Mrs. Q’s eyes chilled.
“Attack his eyes!” Mr. Thales shouted while he tussled with Z.
Z’s body could be considered invulnerable to swords and spears, but like the majority of creatures in the world, his eyes were defenseless, and could be said to be his only weakness. Without further thought, Mrs. Q recited an incantation, and a strong light burst from her fingertips. Mr. Thales turned his back at the same time.
The light was so bright and dazzling that it was like a bomb exploded in front of his eyes. The night sky was lit up like daylight in that instant.
Then, everything fell into darkness.
The scene seems to have changed again. Duan FeiZhou could hear whispers and footsteps that filled the surroundings, but could see nothing.
“Is this the monster that slaughtered the entire battlefield hospital?” A man asked.
“Yeah. It’s a good thing we blinded him, otherwise it would be both of our bodies being shipped back to London right now.” Mr. Thales was distraught.
“I checked his prosthetic leg.” Mrs. Q said. “Those aren’t ordinary mechanical prostheses. They are fused with secret spells, and much stronger than ordinary prostheses. On the way back, the young man gave some information. He said that these prosthetic limbs were made by a nurse.”
“I’m afraid that nurse is an occult practitioner who hid her identity,” Mr. Thales said.
“He also said that his officer father intended to dedicate the technology to Her Majesty to create an army of immortals.”
“Ridiculous!” the first man said. “How can we transform humans into such monsters? It’s a good thing his father is dead, otherwise…Hmph! But that nurse is still on the run. What heartless woman would do this kind of experiment with humans? Since she was able to succeed, it means that it has been tried quite a few times before. We should focus our energy on hunting her down.”
“What you say is very true,” Mrs. Q said respectfully. “Then what should we do about this young man?”
“He is so dangerous that locking him up in a dungeon is the best end for him.”
“I have an idea, Boss,” said Mrs. Q. “How about letting him join the Nightmen?”
“Are you kidding me? He’s extremely mentally unstable…”
“We’ll calm him down with occult magic,” Mrs. Q said. “It’s a pity that he was badly wounded in the war and transformed into this shape. If he doesn’t join the Nightmen, there’s no other way out for him, right?”
“We are the police, not a charity.”
Mr. Thales jumped in, “But Boss, we are always short of manpower, obviously there are to be twenty-six people in the establishment, but now there are still several seats missing. If this young man can join, won’t the Nightmen be like a tiger with wings?”
“Yes, you haven’t seen his combat power. There were so many soldiers in that field hospital. Although there were many wounded soldiers, there were also many able-bodied, and he dealt with them all by himself…”
The man who was called the boss said, “But he’s already blind. How much combat power can he have? Can you cure him?”
Mrs. Q hesitated “Uh, his eyes were injured by occult magic, so he can’t be cured by occult magic…”
Mr. Thales continued to help, “But even though he’s blind, he’s still incredibly strong! It took us a lot of effort to take him down! If there was not just one monster like him, but a whole squad…I can’t even imagine what the world would look like.”
“So, it might be a good thing instead to keep him in the Nightmen team, and keep an eye on him every now and then.”
Mr. Thales and Mrs. Q sang in unison, and the man called the boss could only sigh helplessly. “Then you guys try to pacify him. If it works, Code Z will be his…”
Duan FeiZhou stood in the infinite darkness, as he listened to the fading sounds. This was the beginning and end of Z joining the Nightmen. He had only said that he had been badly wounded in battle and had been transformed into his current form by occult practitioners, not that he had gone insane after waking up and killed a whole hospital full of people. Even his own father had died under his knife…
Duan FeiZhou suddenly felt that he actually didn’t know Z that well. They both thought they knew each other like the back of their hand, but it was all just wishful thinking. He was about to head to the next memory when the air around him was suddenly disturbed.
Energy gathered around him, forming a vortex that wrapped him in it.
It felt a bit similar to the first time he entered the Secret Trading House, or falling into a drum washing machine. He was just sucked in by the whirlpool. But he wasn’t falling, he was rising, rising…
A light pierced the darkness above his head. He looked up and a circular patch of light appeared above him, as if the moonlight had pierced the dark clouds in the night dome. A voice called out to him from the spot of light.
There had been a power outage in Geneva that night. Half the city was plunged into darkness, centered on the hotel where the Nightmen were staying.
The power supply was quickly restored. Meanwhile, Duan FeiZhou woke up. He had a splitting headache, and felt like someone had stabbed a burning knife into his head. He was sure he almost didn’t make it back, but luckily…
His eyes turned to the side of the bed, then widened in horror.
–Z?? Why was he here?!
Z’s fingers moved and he slowly sat up.
At the same time, Xenophon’s scream came from next door.
Duan FeiZhou didn’t know for a moment whether to take care of Z first, or to care about Xenophon’s death first. However he soon didn’t need to hesitate, since Z left his room without a word.
He hurried out after him.
Xenophon sat cross-legged on the bed. He was holding his head, his eyes vacant and blank.
Duan FeiZhou, worried that his spirit was destroyed by the overpowering force, hastily shook his hand in front of his eyes.
“Don’t shake. I’m dizzy.” Xenophon said sullenly.
“What’s happened?” Z asked.
Xenophon rubbed his eyes. “I knew I was bad at illusions, but I didn’t think I’d be this bad. Once again, I’ve learned the fact that I’m a loser.”
Duan FeiZhou looked as pale as Xenophon, but the difference was that Xenophon averted his eyes at the sight of him, while he stared at Xenophon with a glare.
“Did someone mentally attack you guys?”
“No.” Xenophon laughed dryly twice. “I was the one spying on the boy’s dreams.” He gave Duan FeiZhou a sidelong glance. “But I didn’t think I was so incompetent that he would turn the tables on me.”
Z was surprised, “He spied on your dreams instead?”
Xenophon did not deny it, just grunted. But Z understood that the word he did not say was “yes.”
“Why did you pry into his dreams?”
“I wanted to see if the boy was hiding something.” Xenophon plucked out Duan FeiZhou’s eyes.
“What is he hiding?” Z asked coldly.
Duan FeiZhou was so nervous that he was about to vomit.
Xenophon saw his brokenness, and knew that he had learned the occult arts long ago. If he told the secret, then…Xenophon’s expression became extremely conflicted. He turned his face away to the balcony, looked out into the night sky, and said sullenly, “There’s nothing.”
“He’s not hiding anything. I’m the one who’s been overly concerned.”
Now it was Duan FeiZhou who was at a loss. Why did Xenophon want to help him? Was it because he had glimpsed Xenophon’s past and the guy felt that he now had leverage over him? Or was it because their two spirits collided so violently that Xenophon lost his memory?
Z grabbed Duan FeiZhou’s collar and pushed him to the door. “Wait…!”
The door to the room slammed shut in his face, and nearly smashed his nose flat. He pressed the door panel and tried to listen in on Z and Xenophon’s conversation, but all he heard was Z’s yell, “No eavesdropping!”
Tsk, the guy’s hearing was as sharp as ever. He even knew he wasn’t back in his bedroom. Duan FeiZhou could only go back next door with a grumble.
On Z and Xenophon’s side.
“What were you up to?” Z asked in a lowered voice.
“Nothing, Boss,” Xenophon smiled weakly. “I told you, I tried to pry into his secrets, but I didn’t find anything. I’m sorry to have worried you.”
“Why did you suspect him?” Z had an unsure expression, “You said before that he wasn’t as innocent as I thought…”
“It seems I was the one who was suspicious.”
Z still had some doubts, but Xenophon seemed like he didn’t want to talk more, as he fell back to the bed, with his back to him, so he couldn’t ask again. What’s more, he didn’t want to ask.
He, like Xenophon, had had his memory pried into. One of his most unpleasant memories was peeked at by that person. Of all the people in the world, he was the one Z didn’t want to know about his past.
Although he did not say anything after he woke up, Z understood that they would have to open up one day, otherwise the matter would become a thorn in their hearts forever.