Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Secretary Carter cleared his throat, and said aloud, “Before you is Her Majesty Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen of India, protector of the Anglican Communion.”
The overly long title confused Duan FeiZhou.
“Is this the young occult practitioner you spoke of?” Queen Victoria said as she narrowed her eyes and examined Duan FeiZhou.
Carter bowed deeply. He moved like a jerking puppet. “Exactly, Your Majesty.”
The queen gracefully extended an arm to him. Carter nudged Duan FeiZhou, who then responded by taking the Queen’s hand and kissing it carefully.
“What is your name?”
“I’m the occult practitioner, unlicensed black doctor in Aberdeen, former part-time employee of Nightmen, and owner of 49 Frances Square, Leopold Chester.”
Carter’s eyes looked as if they were about to kill. The queen, however, threw back her head and laughed. She had a serious face, like that stern grandmother everyone had, who wasn’t easily approachable, but laughed with brightness and cheerfulness. “I like young people who are funny and interesting. The ones who stay around me these days are old and annoying.”
“It is a great honor for him that Your Majesty praises him.” Carter continued to give brainless rainbow farts.
Duan FeiZhou wanted to be sarcastic, but when he thought of Carter’s advice, “Shut up. You’re not allowed to talk.” He gave up on the idea. He wasn’t facing the easy-going Princess Sissi now, but the Queen of the Sunset Empire, who was surrounded by lapdogs like Carter. If he said one wrong word, he might get his tongue cut out.
“Do you know why I brought you here?” The queen asked.
Duan FeiZhou shook his head. He secretly decided to say as few words as possible. After all, more words could lead to more mistakes.
“I have heard a lot about you recently.” The queen opened a folding fan, and slowly fanned herself. “Some time ago, there was that Aberdeen Jack the Ripper case, and I heard that you cracked it. The Nightmen submitted a report where your bravery is greatly praised.”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t know whether to speak or not. He questioned Carter with his eyes.
“Say what you want to say.” The queen said.
With her permission, Duan FeiZhou was relieved. “The case was dealt with between me and Z…Detective Zeno Xenia. We solved it together. I don’t dare take sole credit.”
Duan FeiZhou’s heart throbbed at the mention of Z. He missed Z so much.
“What a modest young man.” The queen smiled. “Later, when Jack the Ripper escaped, I heard that it was also you who beheaded him with a sword. Is that true?”
“At that time he and Duncan McKellen had fought to a standstill. I just picked up a human head…”
“So excellent. No wonder Lord Perlilla and his mother came to me three days ago to beg for mercy.”
“They…pleaded for me?” Duan FeiZhou was surprised and at the same time his heart was filled with warmth. At least there were still people in the world who cared about him.
“Lord Perlilla and his mother said that you are their benefactor. When they were swindled, it was you who exposed the true nature of the swindler and saved the estate for their family. Is that true?”
Duan FeiZhou nodded.
“Did the Nightmen give you a bad offer?” the queen suddenly asked. “Why did you defect?”
“Defection?” Duan FeiZhou was confused.
“Superintendent Xenia’s report said that you intended to flee abroad, and he had to put you in the dungeon. Is that not the case?”
Z didn’t tell anyone about his identity as the Master of the Secret Trading House, just imprisoned him as a defector. Why was that? Was it because Z had also entered the trading house and had no way to reveal his identity? No. Even if Z was restricted by the secret contract, there were other Nightmen. They had discovered his identity as the Master of the Trading House on their own, so they weren’t restricted by the secret contract. Could it be that Z was more or less mindful of their past times, and intended to give him a lesser charge?
He couldn’t guess what Z was thinking. Some aspects of Z were very straightforward and easy to understand, while some were extremely deep.
“I…I’ve been abroad before.” His mind worked quickly, as he searched for plausible reasons. “And I found foreign countries that were very tolerant of occult practitioners, so I was very eager to..”
He paused, and feigned regret.
Mr. Thales had said that England had once been more tolerant of occult practitioners. It was only in recent years that the attitude had become harsher, and it was because the “one above” had changed her mind. He must have been referring to Queen Victoria.
“I’ve heard it said more than once,” the queen said faintly. “I used to expect all occult practitioners to serve the country, so I was extraordinarily lenient with them. Unfortunately, not all of them were willing to contribute their abilities. That will sooner or later lead to chaos, so we had to tighten control. However, the occult practitioners who are willing to do their best for the country, I always treat them with kind eyes.”
Duan FeiZhou immediately understood that this must be the result of Carter’s stream of slander to the queen. There was no reason to restrict the occult practitioners. Or was it that Carter, and the Committee for the Advancement of Science behind him, who wanted to suppress occult practitioners?
As the saying went, “Confucianism is a disruption of the law. Chivalry is a violation of the law.” Those in power had never looked kindly on marginalized groups who were skilled and disobedient.
“Why did Lord Carter bring me to you?” Duan FeiZhou asked bravely. Since the queen appreciated him, if he said a few more words it probably wouldn’t provoke her dragon’s temper.
“I have a task that needs a trustworthy person,” the queen said. “Carter recommended you as a candidate to me. I have heard of your deeds, and I think you are indeed suitable.”
“You flatter me.” Duan FeiZhou could not forget that Carter might be the one behind the Perlilla Manor incident. Why did he join forces with “Miss Melissa” to seize the Ether crystals under the Estate? Was it for the Committee for Scientific Progress? The most important goal of the Committee for Scientific Progress was to develop the Ether crystals. However Ether crystals were condensed together with the resentment of the Lord of Light, and caused people to suffer from disease.
The cases of Etheric disease were endless, yet the Committee for Scientific Progress continued to pretend to be blind. They even pulled in a group of experts and scholars to endorse it. Were they too confident in their technology, or did they have ulterior motives? Just like those capitalists who polluted the environment for economic gain in later times?
Duan FeiZhou had saved the estate for Lord Perlilla and ruined Carter’s plan. Carter had every reason to hate him with a passion. So why did he recommend him to the Queen?
Duan FeiZhou could only think of two reasons; first, he misunderstood Carter and Carter was not behind the Perlilla manor incident. The photo of him and “Miss Melissa” didn’t mean anything, they just happened to know each other; second, the Queen’s mission was extremely dangerous, and Carter wanted him to die in the execution of the mission. He was lending a knife to kill people invisibly.
The latter was a hundred times more likely than the former.
“Since your skills are so high, I will be able to entrust this task to you with peace of mind.” The queen got up, walked to the window, and gazed at the sky outside.
Duan FeiZhou resisted the urge to spit on Carter, and asked, “May I ask what the task is?”
Outside the window, a dark shadow swept across the sky. It was an airborne ship of incredible tonnage, several times larger than the Sappho, which Duan FeiZhou had been on. It came from the direction of London, and its brass-colored shell reflected the sunlight, which showed off its golden color.
Everyone noticed the airship. Duan FeiZhou felt that it did not appear in the sky by chance.
“That’s the Wellington.” The queen’s tone was subtly proud. “Today is the day of its test flight.”
“The Air Force’s newest airborne ship.” Carter explained. “It is also the first air travel ship equipped with the fourth generation of Ether crystal steam-powered engines. The speed is forty percent faster than others of the same class.”
“If all of the Air Force’s aircrafts are equipped with these engines, our army will be the best in the world.” The queen said exuberantly. She dreamed of a golden empire that would never set. However, she couldn’t imagine that the more brilliant the sun was, the deeper the shadow would be, and the other side of her golden empire was imperialism.
“Does my mission have something to do with the Wellington?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“You’re going to take it on a trip to the North Pole,” the queen said.
Duan FeiZhou raised his eyebrows. “That sounds quite far.”
“It’s not too far for the Wellington.” The queen turned back to face him. “As the queen of a country, I naturally want my country to grow stronger and stronger. Nowadays, on the European continent, countries are eyeing each other. War is imminent, and is impossible to avoid so it is best to prepare well in advance.”
The European powers had a long history of friction with each other. In another twenty years or so an unprecedented war would break out. Until then, there were countless small wars for power and profit.
“I hope to obtain a powerful weapon. In war, you can never have too many things like weapons.”
Duan FeiZhou said, “An airborne ship like the Wellington is already very powerful.”
“It’s not enough,” the queen said gently. “Young man, have you heard the story of the Franklin Expedition?”
Duan FeiZhou had heard of many Franklins. The one who flew kites, the one who became president…Which one was involved in an expedition? He meditated for half a day, and finally dug information about the Franklin Expedition out of the corners of his memory.
In the world there has always existed a legend that there was a “Northwest Passage” in the Arctic Sea, that could quickly open the way to the East. In 1845, Captain John Franklin led two ships, the H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror, north to explore the polar regions, in the hopes of finding the legendary Northwest Passage. Unfortunately, the expedition turned into a tragedy. The two ships never returned, and the wreckage of the ships and the remains of their crews were never found.
Later, many expeditions also went north to look for traces of the Franklin Expedition. According to the scattered evidence they found, the expedition may have been trapped in the Arctic sea ice. It was reasonable to say that the food carried on board the ship could have lasted until the ice melted, but unfortunately, the quality of the food wasn’t up to scratch and spoiled at the beginning of the voyage. The crew had to eat the bodies of their companions…
The story of the Franklin Expedition had thus become one of the unsolved mysteries of the world. 1
“The expedition that disappeared in the Arctic?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“They did not disappear.” The queen looked serious. “They were all lost. To cover that up, they were declared missing.”
“Why cover it up? Looking for the Northwest Passage was open to the public, and accidents were common on expeditions, so why not announce the truth?”
“Because the actual purpose of the expedition to the North Pole was not the Northwest Passage. That adventure was just an excuse. Their real purpose was to find a ‘weapon’,” the Queen said. “That, of course, cannot be made public, otherwise other countries would come around like vultures thirsty for blood.”
Duan FeiZhou asked, “So, you want me to finish what the Franklin expedition left undone?”
The Queen’s lips lifted slightly. “To be precise, I have organized a new expedition and need you to be part of it.”
“How can I…”
“I have heard so much about your glorious deeds, I believe you will be able to complete the task successfully.” The queen gave a nod to Carter. “Explain to him.”
Carter puffed out his chest like a rooster. “The ‘weapon’ Your Majesty was looking for was in fact a creature; a huge beast of immense proportions. According to the anecdotes that circulate among the occult practitioners, in ancient times, that giant beast was the pet of a certain Forerunner.”
Duan FeiZhou tried to hide his surprise. Carter knew so much about occult society. He was afraid that he was more than just a foxy gentry.
“Legend has it that the giant beast has been sleeping in the North Pole since the fall of the Forerunner. If we could awaken it and harness it, our army would be as powerful as a tiger.”
“So, the Franklin Expedition went to the North Pole to look for the giant beast?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“That’s right. At that time, the military underestimated the difficulty of the mission and they failed. How could the pets of the Forerunners easily bow down and submit to others? We abandoned the project until this year. However, since a certain opportunity came along, we finally restarted the project and developed a feasible plan,” Carter said.
“Oh, I’m all ears.” Duan FeiZhou spoke with a sneer.
Carter glared at him in disdain. “The beast is just a beast in the end. Unlike humans who have a rational mind. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to find an occult practitioner who can communicate with the animals, and he’s the heart of this mission. He is going to the North Pole to tame the beast, and the Wellington is responsible for escorting him.”
“Sounds like it has nothing to do with me.”
“The occult practitioner is very young,” Carter said. “I thought it best to have an adult occult practitioner to guide him, so I recommended you to Her Majesty. In short, your task is to follow the expedition to the North Pole, to protect the young occult practitioner and then bring him back safe and sound after he has tamed the beast. The collective crew of the Wellington will back you up.”
Duan FeiZhou was not as optimistic as Carter. The Franklin Expedition was still fresh in his mind.
“What if it fails?” he asked. “What if we make the same mistake as the Franklin expedition…?”
The queen interjected, “Victory and defeat are commonplace. I have always been very lenient with the defeated.”
In other words, even if they fail, there will be no serious punishment. Provided they can come back alive to be punished.
“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll escape with that little occult practitioner in the middle of the battle?” Duan FeiZhou asked teasingly.
Carter had expected him to ask this question, and smiled, “So I also took out double insurance.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, there was a knock on the door.
“Ah, what a coincidence.” Carter rubbed his hands together.
“Come in.” The Queen said aloud.
Z pushed the door open.
The moment he saw him, Duan FeiZhou forgot how to breathe. He thought he would never see Z again in his life, and he definitely never expected to meet him here. Z looked at him and was also amazed.
“You’re just in time, Superintendent Xenia.” The Queen turned around, and pursed her lips at him.
Z and the Queen looked like they had known each other for a long time. He skillfully walked up to the queen, and half-knelt as he kissed her hand in salute. Duan FeiZhou’s eyes followed him, and refused to leave him for a second. Z looked no different from before. That was good news. It proved that he was not injured or sick.
“When I heard that you had summoned me, I came immediately,” Z said respectfully.
The queen looked at Z, and seemed satisfied. “Your eyes really have been cured.”
“Thanks to your blessing.”
“I wonder which country’s miracle doctor was responsible for this? If the technique can be spread, it will be a great blessing for the blind people of the world.”
Z hesitated for a moment and said, “It’s a Swiss mechanic. I’m afraid she’s patented the technology, and doesn’t want to share it with others.”
The queen wasn’t satisfied with this answer, and her expression said, “London doesn’t even have an artisan who can make mechanical prosthetic eyes, so is this still the capital of the world?” However her calm words were, “That you could regain your sight is very good. You used to be good at martial arts, but it’s better for your eyes to see, isn’t it?”
“What you say is very true.”
The female monarch raised her chin. “Do you know this young man?”
Z didn’t even look at Duan FeiZhou. It was as if he was an invisible person. He gritted his teeth, “Yes.”
“One of your Nightmen defected. That’s too much to say.”
“It’s my fault for not supervising well.”
“Such a capable young man, you must keep a good eye on him.” The queen looked at Duan FeiZhou thoughtfully. “I have a task to give him. But I believe I can’t let him go alone, lest he get the idea to run away again, so I called you. You will supervise him. Anyway, you have been colleagues, so you are more suitable than others.”
“Leaving some task to him?” Z was surprised.
“It is the task that I mentioned to you before.”
Z’s expression was complicated, “The Abnormal Case Investigation Unit Section has many excellent occult practitioners, why him?”
“He is able to do so,” the queen said lightly. “Take them down, Carter. If they need to buy anything before they leave, you can prepare it.”
Carter bowed deeply, picked up Duan FeiZhou by his collar, and dragged him down the corridor.
Z also intended to leave, but the Queen called him back.
“Superintendent Xenia.” She waved at Z, and gestured for him to come forward.
Z hesitated, then walked up to the queen.
The queen lowered her voice, and said in a volume that only the two of them could hear, “Your job is not only to supervise the young man. The maiden voyage of the Wellington is of great importance, and has attracted the attention of other countries. I think that some countries do not want the successful return of an airborne ship with the most advanced engines.”
“They want to intercept the Wellington halfway?”
“More than that. I suspect that the Wellington has been seeded with spies who are waiting for an opportunity to sabotage the whole plan. I need you to protect the Wellington. You and Mr. Chester’s ostensible identities are as biology and environmental scholars accompanying the army, and preparing to go to the Arctic expedition. You are to use this identity to uncover the spies lurking on the ship.”
Z lifted the corner of his mouth. “It’s not my specialty, but I’ll do my best.”
“You’d better. Your father was loyal to his country. I hope you won’t dishonor his name.”
Z didn’t change his expression, but secretly clutched the corner of his coat.
The queen returned to her seat, and picked up the unread book, “Stand down.”
Z bowed, took two steps backwards, and left the room.