Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Dead man! A real dead man!”
“It’s the curse of ‘Macbeth’!”
The audience screamed in horror, and scrambled to leave the scene of the crime. The aisles were suddenly packed, as people pushed and shoved, eager to step over others.
Miss Maud Gonne, her face pale, sat paralyzed on the stage. Members of the company and the theater staff rushed to the stage. The men scrambled to lift the chandelier. The women dragged Miss Maud Gonne backstage to prevent her from witnessing the gruesome and bloody scene.
Yeats sprang to his feet, apparently wanting to rescue his goddess, but the second floor corridor was also in chaos, full of panicked people, scurrying past, and Yeats couldn’t even squeeze in.
Lord Perlilla also wanted to escape, but his mother grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Calm down! What’s the sense of panicking?!” Mrs. Edith scolded. “It’s just an accident, it’s not like you’ve never seen anything scarier!”
“But Mother…” Lord Perlilla’s lips quivered.
Miss Maud Gonne had been escorted away by the rest of the cast. The chandelier was moved aside to reveal the bloody body beneath. Duan FeiZhou squinted at the chandelier. He noticed a distinctive glow on the chandelier’s ropes – the glow of occult magic.
“I’m afraid that was no ordinary accident,” he said. “The chandelier was destroyed by an occult spell.”
“Occult magic again?” Lord Perlilla shuddered. He was on the verge of developing PTSD.
Duan FeiZhou mused, “There must be some connection between the charm attack in the hallway, and the stage chandelier accident.”
“Maybe,” Yeats said solemnly. “There might be an occult practitioner who wants to fight in this place, so he wants to get rid of those unrelated people to make enough space.”
“And they killed an innocent actor for that?!” Duan FeiZhou was appalled.
Yeats smiled sadly. “Mr. Chester. You must know that in the eyes of some occult practitioners, the lives of ordinary people are similar to those of ants.”
A man stumbled into the box.
“Mr. Yeats! It’s not good!” It was John Clearwater. He was panting. “Madeleine…My sister. She’s gone!”
Yeats was shocked. “You got separated from her?”
John shook his head. “We didn’t get separated. It was during the sudden power outage, that’s when Madeleine disappeared! Before the power went out, she was sitting next to me, but after the power came on…She was gone! I thought she might have come here to look for you…”
The blood in John’s face faded instantly. “Could something have happened to her?” John was on the verge of tears.
“Don’t panic, maybe she just went to the lavatory. We’ll go find her later,” Duan FeiZhou said. “You should go and wait at the entrance of the theater, in case Madeleine has already escaped on her own and we just missed her.”
John was so confused that he could only nod his head. “Okay…”
Duan FeiZhou turned to Lord Perlilla and his mother. “You two also please leave first.”
HIs Lordship couldn’t wait to escape immediately, but Lady Edith looked calm and proud. “Is there anything we can do to help?”
Duan FeiZhou shook his head. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, madam, but I’m afraid there’s nothing ordinary people can do to help. There is a hostile occult practitioner lurking here, so leave it to us.”
Lady Edith bit her lip. “All right.” She said to John, “Sir, we will go with you and look for your sister in front of the theater. Maybe she escaped long ago.”
John wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Thank you, good lady.”
Duan FeiZhou said, “By the way, there are other Nightmen guarding outside the theater. It’s Detective Xenophon Throfet. You know him too. Can you please tell them to hurry in for backup?”
Lady Edith narrowed her eyes. “Go to the Nightmen?”
“The situation is critical now. Letting the Nightmen deal with dangerous occult practitioners is not a bad thing.”
Lady Edith hesitated for a few seconds, but finally agreed. “…All right.”
She still had a good impression of Xenophon, who had found mother and son that night during the incident at Perlilla Manor, and who had dug up the little boy’s, Barney’s, bones from the oak forest and returned his remains to his parents.
There were now less people on the second floor. Lord Perlilla, his mother and John quickly left. By this time the theater was largely empty, with only a small group of theatergoers gathered on the stage, as they guarded the body of the poor actor and waited for the police.
Z was fighting the Red Death Demon, Madeleine was nowhere to be found, an unidentified occult practitioner was lurking in the theater, while they don’t know how long it will take for the police and the Nightmen outside the theater to come to their aid…
This was the first time that Duan FeiZhou has encountered such a confusing and tricky situation.
“Let’s go find Miss Madeleine,” Yeats urged.
“Just a moment.” Duan FeiZhou closed his eyes and activated his other senses, just as he had done in Mr. Thales’ basement. His senses turned into countless thin filaments and reached out into the space around him. He heard noisy footsteps in the hallway; people crying and running; actors whispering and discussing in horror whether this was the curse of the theater; and farther away, he heard the rattle of blades breaking through the air as Z continued to fight the Red Death.
At the same time, his sense of smell stretched out, and searched for the scent of Miss Madeleine’s perfume.
“…She upstairs,” Duan FeiZhou whispered.
“How do you know?” Yeats was surprised.
Duan FeiZhou opened his eyes. “I smell her perfume.”
Yeats’ expression was a little complicated, but he didn’t say anything, just picked up his cane and followed Duan FeiZhou.
The third floor was already empty, the audience had long since fled. The perfume smell was stronger than downstairs, but Madeleine wasn’t there. They went up to the fourth floor.
This was the highest floor of the theater. What did Madeleine come here for? Even if she had fled in advance, she should be downstairs escaping…
“Miss Madeleine Clearwater!” Yeats shouted. “Miss Clearwater!”
Suddenly, a feminine scream rang out from a locked room on the fourth floor.
It was Madeleine’s voice.
Duan FeiZhou rushed over, and tried to pull the door open. Duan FeiZhou gritted his teeth, and drew on his energy again to break the lock.
With a bang, the lock exploded.
Simultaneously, the door opened outward, while Madeleine cried and fell out into Duan FeiZhou’s arms. She had messy hair, a tear-stained face, and her clothes were covered in blood.
Duan FeiZhou looked into the room. It was a small storage room, and was stacked with brooms, buckets and other cleaning tools. A man sat on the floor with his back against the storage shelf, his head tilted to the side. His head was bleeding. He didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. Beside him was a bucket of water, which was also stained with blood.
It was Count Lut.
“What happened?” Yeats asked, stretching his neck so he could see inside.
Madeleine choked out, “Just now wasn’t there a sudden power outage in the theater? I was sitting in my seat when suddenly someone pulled me up. I thought it was my brother or Mr. Yeats, so I followed the man in a daze. When the lights came on, I realized…The man was actually Count Lut!” She covered her face and cried. “He said something about wanting to watch the show with me, and invited me to his box. I didn’t want to, but he dragged me here. I was so scared that I just grabbed a bucket and smashed it over his head…Then he didn’t move. I was terrified, and didn’t know what to do. That’s when you came…”
As she said that she snuggled into Duan FeiZhou’s shoulder. “You are my saviors, gentlemen.”
It sounds like a story of a young man who tries to take advantage of a good woman and was knocked out with a bucket by that good woman. However Duan FeiZhou was keenly aware that the story was somewhat off. Did Count Lut really have the guts to make a move on Madeleine? He was so afraid of his aunt, would he really dare take a risk with them when he knew she was familiar and approving with them?
Also the blackout was very brief, less than a minute. How could he pull Madeleine away so quickly without alerting the surrounding audience members? Besides, Madeleine wasn’t a weak girl with defenses. She was an occult practitioner, and had the ability to protect herself, so why would she be afraid of Count Lut, who was an ordinary person?
There were too many things that didn’t make sense.
Madeleine snuggled up to him, but he impatiently pushed the girl away.
Yeats pulled the girl to the door, “Your brother is waiting for you outside the theater. Mr. Chester was a doctor. Let him check how badly Count Lut is hurt.”
Madeleine pouted some more. “He’s just a wannabe. Why should I care about him? Will you both escort me away? I’m afraid of any further danger on the way…”
“You’re perfectly capable of protecting yourself, aren’t you?” Duan FeiZhou interrupted her.
The scowling look disappeared from Madeleine’s face. She replaced it with a playful smile as she looked at Duan FeiZhou with interest.
“Your calmness really surprised me,” Madeleine said, but her attitude was unsurprised. “The general men who might see this scene, would certainly be transformed into a flower protector, and be obedient to me. However, you were able to sit back and even noticed that something was wrong. Oh…You don’t have any feelings for women, do you?”
…She was really right.
“What do you want?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
Madeleine inhaled deeply and closed her eyes in ecstasy, as if the air was filled with some intoxicating fragrance. “The first time I saw you, I smelled it.” She smiled sweetly. “You have a smell I am familiar with.”
Duan FeiZhou also sniffed hard. Did he have any strange smell?
“I recognize your scent. I’ve smelled it before. You’re the Master of the Secret Trading House, right?”
Yeats and Duan FeiZhou looked aghast at the same time.
“I also recognized you as a guest of the trading house. I was very impressed by that fox shawl,” Duan FeiZhou said.
However the fox shawl was not on Madeleine at the moment. Had it been ripped off by Count Lut? Madeleine smiled again, with a kind of tolerance in her smile, as if an older elder saw a younger junior make a mistake, but could not bear to censure them.
“Not only did I recognize you as the Master of the Trading House, I also smelled two acquaintances on you.” She took a step forward, with a longing look in her eyes. “How did you come to possess the power of both of them?”
When she said “two acquaintances”, did she mean Jack the Ripper and Duncan McKellen? But how did Madeleine know…How did she know those two men? The only person who could have crossed paths with both of them would be…The Scarlet Feast.
The Scarlet Feast had twelve members, ten of whom were killed by Duncan McKellen. Of the remaining two, one became Jack the Ripper and the other was nowhere to be found.
Duan FeiZhou stared at Madeleine. His pupils suddenly narrowed.
–Madeleine was the last member of the Scarlet Feast??
But, that couldn’t be! The Scarlet Feast was destroyed five years ago, how old was Madeleine now? Five years ago she was a child, how could she be a member of the Scarlet Feast? Also Duncan McKellen said that the last person who escaped was an old man…
Madeleine did have an old woman with her, didn’t she? That was Madame Boyle, her godmother and mentor, the original owner of the fox shawl! Hadn’t John said that the old woman had passed away not long ago? He’d come to London precisely for the funeral.
A horrible suspicion came to Duan FeiZhou’s mind. He pointed at Madeleine. His voice trembled. “Did you kill Madame Boyle, and eat her body?”
Yeats’ jaw dropped for a moment, then his eyes quickly darkened. He stood next to Duan FeiZhou with his cane, and took a side by side stance.
Madeleine tilted her head and laughed uncontrollably. Her laughter was so sharp and wild, it was as if a siren was laughing uncontrollably in a storm, to mock the passing ships and sailors, “Although not correct, it is not far off, honored Master of the Trading House!”
Her eyes glowed in the shadows. “Thank the forerunners for sending you to me! I have searched and waited for so many years, I thought I would never find those two people in my life, but now I can easily take their power. It’s as easy as picking ripe fruit from a tree!”
She stretched out her hand towards Duan FeiZhou and whistled.
Duan FeiZhou tilted his head, only to see the fox shawl pressed against the ceiling, with two blue phosphorus fires ignited in the empty eye sockets.
In the next second, the fox shawl turned into a silver fox, and pounced on the two men!
Duan FeiZhou had seen the power of the fox shawl, and was already prepared for it. He jumped backwards the moment he saw the shawl, knocked Madeleine out of the way and fled into the corridor.
“Where do you want to escape to?” Madeleine laughed slyly. “You think you can escape? Who do you think stopped that Nightmen so you could come upstairs to look for me?”
Duan FeiZhou was startled. That Red Death Demon was also sent out by Madeleine?
The Red Death Demon was just an empty suit and a mask, while the fox shawl was just a shawl…so both were using the same occult technique!
“So everything was planned by you.” Duan FeiZhou frowned.
“Not bad. From the first moment I saw you, I planned to do this.” The fox cape fell onto Madeleine’s shoulders. As she stroked the fox’s tail, she swept a glance downstairs where the poor Macbeth actor still lay dead on the stage.
“This theater couldn’t be more appropriate as our stage, could it? I was going to chase away the rest of the audience and have a good fight with you. I didn’t expect to be discovered by that retard Count Lut as I was going upstairs. I had to take him out as well.”
Madeleine grunted disdainfully, “But that’s good. There were so many tragic cases here tonight. The actor was killed by a chandelier, the Nightman killed by a monster, and the Count killed in the storage room…even if there is one more you, people won’t be surprised. I even found a good scapegoat. Let everyone think it was the Irish radicals who did it…”
Duan FeiZhou glared at her in disgust. “Aren’t you Irish too? Why do you want to victimize your own countrymen?”
Madeleine blinked, “When did I say I was Irish?”
“Aren’t you siblings from Dublin?”
Madeleine smiled faintly, and whistled again.
The fox cape pounced at Duan FeiZhou again.
Duan FeiZhou backed up and drew energy from the ring, and turned it into a shockwave to try to repel the fox cape. Unfortunately, the fox was so agile that every time he released a shockwave, it easily dodged it. He regretted not bringing Sword in the Stone along to the theater. Even if he was laughed at for carrying a sword, even if he had to put up with Sword in the Stone’s nagging all the way, he should have brought that guy with him!
The fox cape turned into a bolt of lightning, and lunged straight at Duan FeiZhou’s face.
At that moment, a strong wind whisked past Duan FeiZhou’s ear and hit the fox cape squarely. It flew backwards, and tumbled in the air for a long time before it could manage to stabilize itself.
Yeats held his cane across his chest, like a wizard holding a wand – and for him, it was indeed a wand.
Duan FeiZhou took a big breath of fresh air. “Thank you for the help.”
“You need not show mercy to that woman,” the poet said coldly. “She has long since ceased to be Madeleine Clearwater.”
Duan FeiZhou looked at Yeats, and then at Madeleine. His eyes shifted back and forth between them. “She’s not John’s sister?”
Yeats snorted through his nose, “After listening to what she said, I finally understand. She is not Miss Madeleine, but her godmother, Madame Boyle.”
Duan FeiZhou looked at the young girl with a sinister smile, “Do you mean that she used an illusion to disguise herself as Miss Madeleine?”
“No.” Yeats narrowed his eyes, and showed such a look of disgust that Duan FeiZhou had never seen before. “She is a Ligeia. A borrower of the body.”
The name Ligeia sounded so familiar that Duan FeiZhou thought hard for half a day before he remembered where he had seen it.
It was in a novel – Edgar Allan Poe’s short thriller novel Ligeia.
The novel told the story of the hero’s wife, Ligeia, who was a perfect woman of great beauty and intelligence, but unfortunately died of illness. Obsessed with her, the hero brought her body to a monastery, and created a strange magic array. Later, the hero took a second wife. Although the wife was naive and lively, he only treated her as a stand-in for Ligeia, and didn’t care about her at all. Later, the second wife also died of illness, and the hero guarded her remains, while still missing the beautiful Ligeia. Just then, the body of the second wife stood up and became the likeness of Ligeia.
Throughout the ages, the story had been analyzed and deconstructed by countless literary critics. Some said it was Edgar Allan Poe’s way of expressing his fascination with death. Others said he wanted to use the image of Ligeia to express his views on women.
However, no one ever thought that the story was, perhaps, maybe, possibly – a piece of documentary literature.
There really was such a thing as coming back from the dead.
In Duan FeiZhou’s world, there was another name for this phenomenon, the stealing of a body. Skinwalker.