Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Z tilted his head. His gaze shifted from the rows of display cases to the giant gold clock, then to the sourwood counter, the rusty sword that sat on it and finally to the face of the young man who had pulled him in here. Never in his life had he regretted that he could see as much as he did now. He asked coldly, however his voice was subconsciously laced with a shiver, “The Secret Trading House?”
Duan FeiZhou felt his throat dry up. He had concealed it for so long, but he was still exposed, and he did it of his own accord. But if he hadn’t, he and Z would both have died in the theater. After doing so…Maybe he would still die. Only to die at Z’s hands.
“You lied to me.” Z said as he stepped back, as if he were trying to avoid something that would contaminate him. “You knew I was tracking down the Secret Trading House, but you’ve lied to me from the beginning.”
“Listen to my explanation!” Duan FeiZhou shouted.
The common “you listen to my explanation,” “I don’t listen to me, I don’t listen to you” bridge from a dog blood novel didn’t appear.
Z raised his sword. The blade was aimed at Duan FeiZhou’s throat. “You have one minute.”
“I didn’t lie to you from the beginning. The first time I met you in Aberdeen, I wasn’t an occult practitioner. I didn’t want to run the trading house, but then–”
Z sneered and interrupted him, “So you’ve been the Master of the Secret Trading House since then? It’s really funny that I asked you to investigate the identity of the Master of the Trading House. You went to Perlilla Manor with your poet friend in order to deal with the inheritance for His Lordship?”
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t say anything, just nodded.
“When I went to Aberdeen with you, you disappeared one night. In fact, you didn’t disappear, you entered the trading house?”
Duan FeiZhou could only nod again.
Z looked at him with a deadly stare. The raging hatred almost rivaled that of when he faced Madame Boyle. However, the pain in his eyes was deeper than the hate.
“The Möllen siblings suddenly got the Phantom Phosphorus butterfly wing powder. Was that also your handiwork?”
Duan FeiZhou inclined his head. He didn’t dare meet Z’s eyes. “Yes.”
“What exactly was the purpose of your infiltration into Scotland Yard? How many secrets did you steal? How much information did you give to your fellow occult practitioners?”
“I didn’t ‘infiltrate’ Scotland Yard,” Duan FeiZhou tried to defend himself, “and I didn’t steal any secrets! It was you who forced me to join! I refused several times!”
Z laughed in anger, “So you blame me?”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t dare to answer. In fact, if Z had given up recruiting him when he first went to Scotland Yard, maybe nothing would have happened today. No, what should have happened, would still have happened. Even if he hadn’t become a Nightman, he would still have met Yeats and gone to Perlilla Manor. Lut would still have been murdered. He would still have gone to Aberdeen to investigate the truth, and then met Z, who also went to investigate the Northern Ripper incident. He would still have met Duncan McKellen, and saved him on the tracks…
Duncan would have died that night, crushed by the speeding train, as his blood soaked into the gravel under the tracks. If he had died, the Nightmen wouldn’t have had to release Jack the Ripper, and Duan FeiZhou wouldn’t have gotten Jack’s powers. The subsequent trip to Greece wouldn’t happen naturally. They wouldn’t have met Princess Sissi, they wouldn’t have gone to Switzerland to look for the Möllen siblings, Madame Boyle wouldn’t have gotten the doll, Miss Madeleine wouldn’t have died and Z’s eyes wouldn’t have regained their sight…
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t tell if it had been the right choice or not.
However, if God gave him another chance, he would still have chosen to save Duncan.
“Xenophon warned me that you weren’t as innocent as you seemed. I thought he was jealous that you had been promoted so quickly. Now I realize it was my eyes that were blind. I, the leader of the Nightmen, have been played by you from beginning to end. Do you find it particularly comical? Are you satisfied?”
“I didn’t toy with you,” Duan FeiZhou whispered.
Z grabbed him by the collar, and pushed him hard. Duan FeiZhou’s back slammed into the glass display cases. A whole wall of exhibits shook for a moment.
The cold blade of the sword was pressed against his throat. Z only needed to move it, and he would have been splattered with blood. Z gritted his teeth. “I want to gouge out my own eyes, give them back to you, then kill you with one slash.”
Duan FeiZhou took a deep breath. There was not a trace of energy left in the finger ring. There was also no energy source in the trading house for him to draw on.
He had expended too much power in the battle with Madame Boyle. As the two fought for control of the flames, they constantly wounded the other and constantly healed themselves. His self-healing ability would drain energy, and the more severe the wound, the more energy it took to heal. His stamina had almost been drained. The shirt was soaked with blood, and now that the blood had dried up, the white shirt had turned an odd brown color.
It was a miracle that he was still standing now.
“You’re stronger than me. I can’t resist if you want to kill me,” he said. “But don’t gouge out your eyes.”
Z’s fingers tightened. “I don’t want your things!”
“Save your eyes for Madame Boyle.”
“I’m such a fool,” Z grinned to himself, his smile cold and bitter. “To pour so much emotion into a lie. Like a desert traveler who runs wildly toward a mirage.”
He once had absurd dreams. He dreamed that after walking alone in this world for a long time, that he finally met someone who could touch his heart. That person had the tenderness of a doctor, and the fortitude of a warrior. The outside was like a finely carved jewel, but the inside was burning with fire. When he walked through the darkness with a lamp, he couldn’t help but want to kiss the shadow behind him.
Yet everything was a trick.
It was all an illusion.
Z pushed Duan FeiZhou away, then turned his back. Duan FeiZhou could only see his slightly shoulders trembling. “You promised that in the future, no matter what I became, you could accept me.”
Z took a deep breath. Perhaps it was an illusion, but Duan FeiZhou thought he heard a choked sob. Z said, “I’m not a man of my word.”
So this was the end of them.
Just yesterday, Z had confessed his love to him, and the wreath Z had made for him was still hanging above his bed. Just less than an hour ago, Z had kissed him. Kissed so many times. He had found Z so annoying at the time, but now he realized that maybe all the kisses in their lifetime had been used up all at once in that moment.
For some reason, it was more painful for him to feel like Z no longer liked him, than to be killed by Z with a knife.
The two of them were at a standstill for a long time. Z finally said, “How do I get out of this place?”
There was only one exit from the Secret Trading House, and that was the runes. If they left now, they would go straight back to the theater, where Madame Boyle was waiting for them.
Duan FeiZhou was worried that it would be destroyed by flames and debris, and even more so by Madame Boyle’s attacks or destruction. He couldn’t care less about that in order to escape. Only then did he start to be afraid.
Without the talisman, would they be trapped in this space for life?
Worse still, if Madame Boyle threw the runes into the Thames, wouldn’t they have to stare wide-eyed at a school of fish as soon as they left the trading house?
“We can’t go back now.” Duan FeiZhou said with difficulty. “The trading house can only be accessed through the runes. If they go back now, we’ll be back in front of Madame Boyle. I had a hard time escaping with you…”
“I’d rather die in front of that woman!” Z interrupted him.
Duan FeiZhou looked at him. For a moment, he seemed to hear something shatter in his chest. He tilted his head, his gaze locked to the display cases. He didn’t look at Z again, “…But I don’t want you to die.”
Z suddenly sneered, “So, you want Xenophon and your poet friend to die?”
“What did you say?”
“Your poet friend went to get help, and Xenophon will soon enter the theater and meet that woman. If I don’t go and fight alongside them…”
“You can’t help them if you go.” Duan FeiZhou was telling the truth. Madame Boyle can restrain Z’s power. Z had no power to fight back in front of her. He might even become a burden to the others.
Z turned around and glared at him, “I can’t let someone else charge into battle while I hide in a safe place.”
“Wait a little longer.” Duan FeiZhou said. He couldn’t pinpoint when Xenophon and the others would be able to come for support. If Madame Boyle’s attention was drawn away by the Nightmen, they would be much safer returning to the theater.
At least they wouldn’t have to face Madame Boyle’s sword as soon as they stepped out of the runes. Z knew it was useless to threaten him. This was the domain of the Master of the Trading House. He was in full control, he refused to let someone go, no one could leave.
Z could only stare hatefully at the non-moving gold clock.
“Ten minutes.” He said, “Only ten minutes.”
Chaos reigned outside the theater. The escaping audience was running around in a panic. Some sat on the ground and bawled. Others called out the names of friends and family, while others passed out. The Scotland Yard detectives struggled to maintain order. There was also a large group of Londoners gathered around to see what was going on.
“I heard that the lead actor was killed by a chandelier on stage!”
“No one from the troupe escaped!”
“The curse of Macbeth! It must be the curse of Macbeth!”
Lord Perlilla, mother and son, were standing at a distance from the theater, while John pulled at passerby to ask anxiously, “Have you seen a young girl of sixteen? She’s my sister. I don’t know if she escaped from the theater…”
After he got a negative answer again and again, the young man couldn’t help but choke up. Lady Edith pressed his shoulder. “Don’t panic. Maybe your sister just got separated!”
John squeezed out a bitter smile. He understood that the old lady was just trying to reassure him. Madeleine was so smart. \Even if she was separated from him, she would definitely try to find him, and he had searched for so long without any trace of Madeleine…He was afraid she was in a bad way.
Xenophon stood in front of the theater, and leaned on his cane. His two yellow eyes seemed to shine with golden glory, as if a raven were watching the night.
Not only did the troupe not escape, he thought to himself. Boss Z didn’t escape either. With his ability, he should have. Unless something has tripped him up…
Xenophon looked at the building, and saw a group of gray-faced men and women in costumes as they poured out of a side door of the theater.
“It’s the actors!”
“Great, they’re okay!”
Xenophon’s eyes zeroed in on a familiar figure among the actors. He had seen that man at the Perlilla estate. What was his name again? He forgot. It seemed to be a poet who wrote poetry.
Without waiting for Xenophon to initiate the conversation, the poet came running towards him.
“Something big is going on.” The poet looked to his right and left, then lowered his voice for fear of being overheard. “There is a ligeia in the theater. She killed Count Lut. Detective Xenia and Mr. Chester are fighting with her. Detective Xenia asked you to go in for support.”
There was a bit too much information and Xenophon needed to slow down. He’d never heard of any Count Lut. There were so many noblemen in England, how could he remember them all? At least he knew that the other man was a count, and that count died in the theater. For that crime alone, Scotland Yard would be drowned by the outrcy of the people of London.
If he remembered correctly, ligeia referred to an occult technique of transferring a dead soul to a new body. He thought this occult art was people’s fiction, or had been lost for a long time. Still, would something like that exist in the world?
Boss Z and his little friend side by side wasn’t so unusual. The problem was asking them to go in for support. Why did it sound like a trap?
Xenophon felt something was wrong with the poet. At Perlilla Manor he had suspected that the poet might be an occult practitioner, but had to give up because there was no proof. However, just as the poet escaped with the actors, Xenophon clearly saw him use occult magic to draw away the flames from their position.
Ordinary people might notice, they would think the flame was blown aside by the wind. However, for an occult practitioner of Xenophon’s caliber that was as obvious as gold on the street.
As if the poet had read his mind, he laughed bitterly and said, “If I wanted to set a trap for you, I wouldn’t have revealed my identity as an occult practitioner.”
“…You admit it?” Xenophon raised his eyebrows.
The poet said calmly, “Now that we are facing a common enemy, we should abandon our differences and fight side by side instead of dividing into camps.”
“Well said.” Xenophon was very impressed with the poet. Xenophon thought Z had escaped, but when he turned his head, smoke was rising from the theater, and after a few moments tongues of fire were leaping out of the windows.
“It was Mr. Chester who set the fire.” The poet narrowed his eyes. “The ligeia manipulated rune spirits, but a fire attack was faster.”
“Mn. By the way, it also burned down someone’s theater,” Xenophon spat mercilessly.
“I promised Mr. Chester that I would go back to assist him after taking the actors to escape.” The poet looked at Xenophon.
Xenophon blew a loud whistle. Soon, Ms. Q and Mr. R came through the crowd toward him.
“The boss is trapped inside. Let’s go in for support.” Xenophon instructed.
“Should I call Ms. Acheson?”
“No need, she will stay outside to see what happens in case we all are lost.”
The three Nightmen and the poet exchanged a definite look, and rushed into the theater as one.
Madame Boyle looked at the spell runes on the floor, and almost gritted her teeth to dust.
The Master of the Secret Trading House. Why hadn’t she thought of it? Customers could enter and exit the trading house through runes so the Master, of course, could use the same method. He could hide inside the trading house at any time, but without his permission, no one could enter that other dimension.
“Okay, I’ll have to make sure you don’t return.”
Madame Boyle raised her hand with the intent of burning the talisman paper.
The theater doors slammed open and then fell down. Four people rushed inside the theater, as they used occult magic to block the flames and heat as they closed in on her. One of them was the poet Yeats, the other three…Were probably Nightmen.
The times had changed for occult practitioners to work with Nightmen. A cold smile appeared on Madame Boyle’s lips.
“That’s her!” Yeats shouted.
“Where’s Boss Z?” Mrs. Q asked.
“I’m sending you to him!” Madame Boyle manipulated the flames to surround the four people.
Xenophon and Mrs. Q fought back at the same time. Mr. R unloaded his waistband, and with a gun in his left hand and a knife in his right, he approached Madame Boyle with the speed of a thunderbolt.
Yeats drew a thin sword from his cane, and followed him.
Madame Boyle used her bracelet sword to swat away Mr. R’s sword, just as Yeats stabbed her in the face. She had to turn her body to avoid the stab, which Mr. R had already anticipated, and raised his left hand to fire a shot.
Madame Boyle’s pupils suddenly narrowed. The bullet flew inexorably towards her forehead, but stopped when it was only a centimeter away from her, as if it had hit a transparent wall. Madame Boyle stretched out her finger and flicked away the bullet that had stalled in the air.
Mr. R fired five more shots in quick succession. All five bullets were blocked by the invisible wall.
Xenophon, who was trembling within the flame, suddenly attacked, as he turned into a black wind and pounced on Madame Boyle. Faced with four enemies at the same time, Madame Boyle was stretched to the right and left, and could not continue. If she had a talismanic spirit in the fight it wouldn’t be so difficult, but her talismanic spirit has been turned into ashes by the flames.
Her eyes turned to the bullets scattered all over the place. Since they were inanimate objects, they could be manipulated as rune spirits. She poured her power into the bullets. Six bullets floated up and formed a circle in front of her. She gave a command and the bullets flew at the four enemies.
Yeats was quick to dodge the bullets. Mrs. Q used a similar occult technique to build an invisible wall in front of herself. Mr. R waved his short knife, and caused a silver flash of light as the bullets attacking him instantly split in half.
The remaining three bullets flew at Xenophon from three directions. The black-haired, yellow-eyed police officer and Nightman stood there with a winning smile on his face.
Madame Boyle was a little alarmed. She had calculated the trajectory of the bullets. Whether he dodged or blocked, it was impossible to avoid all the bullets. Did he want to die?
Just at the moment when the bullet was about to hit Xenophon, he shook his body and transformed into a raven. His body size suddenly shrunk, so the bullets swept through the air and missed him. The raven rose on its wings.
Madame Boyle secretly blamed herself for being careless. However, it was still fine. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t dealt with shapeshifters before. She raised her hand and pointed at the raven hovering above her head, ready to cast a spell that could tear a person apart.
However, just as the incantation came to her lips, she suddenly couldn’t make a sound.
She had been an occult practitioner for so many years, but this had never happened before. It was as if someone had grabbed her by the throat to prevent her from making a sound. None of the four people in the room seemed like they had this ability. Who was interfering with her spell casting?
She soon realized that the interference was not from outside, but from inside. She thought she had completely taken over the girl’s body. The Book of Ligeia clearly said so.
The moment she panicked, the raven swooped down on her face, and its sharp claws pierced her right eye.
The unprecedented pain registered to Madame Boyle. She screamed, but her right eye was now only a blood red stain. That Nightman, who had the audacity to take her eye…The Nightmen, how dare they take the eyes of the new body she just acquired…
The moment she lost her concentration, the flames also went out of control. Mrs. Q and Yeats captured the flames, and at the same time, all the energy around them also submitted to their control. Madame Boyle knew she had no chance of winning.
Since she faced three occult practitioners and a trained gunman, a moment of distraction was enough to drop her into hell. It was so hard to regain her youth, so hard to have a second life, she could not just die in vain! When faced with the pressure of survival, people could crouch down to the point of surprising themselves.
“I surrender!” Madame Boyle said in her girlish voice. “Show me mercy. I’m willing to surrender!”
She threw down her sword and raised her hands in a pitiful, polite and submissive manner.
The raven flew up, and changed back to human form.
“I don’t trust this kitty cat.” Mr. R quickly filled his revolver with bullets, and aimed at Madame Boyle’s brow. “Let me give her a shot after everyone clears out.”
“Wait a minute.” Xenophon narrowed his eyes as his gaze roamed the theater. “Where are they? The boss and the other? Did you burn them to the ground?”
Madame Boyle squeezed out a few crocodile tears. “I have no such skills. They disappeared and went into hiding,” she said she turned her head to look at the unburned spell paper on the ground.
This was good, she thought to herself. The Master of the Trading House must be hiding his true identity from the Nightmen, but this time he couldn’t hide it anymore. How would the Nightmen deal with him? I’m really looking forward to it.
Xenophon picked up the paper. In his eyes, it was just a plain white piece of paper.
“…What is this thing?” he asked.
Behind him Yeats revealed a nervous expression for a moment. He took a step back, only to find that Mrs. Q was blocking his back.
“I…Can’t talk about it…” Madame Boyle bit her lip red. “If I say it, I’ll die…”
Xenophon looked at the piece of paper, then at Madame Boyle. His brain worked at an unprecedented speed. “I get it,” he said. “It’s something to do with the Secret Trading House, isn’t it?”
Madame Boyle didn’t say a word, neither nodding or shaking her head, but Xenophon knew he had guessed correctly.
“No wonder we haven’t been able to find the location of the Trading House all these years. It turns out it has to be accessed through a special teleportation method.” Xenophon turned the piece of paper over and over several times. “But why is this piece of paper here? You just said that the boss escaped into this? In the Secret Trading House?”
He pondered for a moment, then suddenly slapped his head. “Holy shit! I understand what that kid has been hiding!”
As soon as the words left his mouth, two people dropped out of the sky and fell on top of him.
Xenophon shouted miserably as he was used as a human cushion.
Z and Duan FeiZhou stepped out of the spell rune.
Madame Boyle couldn’t help but react with a smug smile. Since her right eye was bleeding and was almost a bloody hole, that smile looked incredibly weird and creepy.
Xenophon climbed to his feet, “Boss, what’s going on?”
Z got up and shot a glance at Madame Boyle. “You guys restrained her? Good,” he said. “Give me a pair of handcuffs.”
Mr. R uncuffed the handcuffs from his waist and tossed them to Z. He thought Z was going to cuff Madame Boyle, but as soon as Z turned around, he snapped the cuffs on Duan FeiZhou’s wrists.
“…Why am I confused?” Mr. R was shocked.
“Don’t you see, my dear partner.” Mrs. Q’s voice was hoarse. “To be able to take others freely in and out of the Secret Trading House…He is the Master of the Trading House.”