Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The deafening sound of gunfire rang out overhead again and again, and caused Duan FeiZhou’s eardrums to want to break. He had heard this sound more than once when he was inside the airship. But the walls of the airship were lined with soundproofing material, so he only felt the sound of shelling was ear-splitting and nothing else.
Now the row of turrets were firing grenade after grenade less than a hundred meters above his head, and the powerful sound waves shook everything around him. Coupled with the hum of the Ether crystal-powered engines, Duan FeiZhou simply thought his brain, flesh and blood, and bones were going to be shattered.
Even the whole world seemed to be shaken by it. The grenades whistled past their heads and hit the Leviathan in the lake. The giant beast’s wail resounded through the whole island. Blood rained down on the lake, staining the clear, pure waters crimson.
While it was wounded, at the same time, the beast was also completely enraged.
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t understand the beast’s language and couldn’t communicate with him, but he could understand what the Leviathan was thinking at that moment. It must have thought that Simon had woken it up just so that it could take this shelling.
“Please wait, Leviathan!” Simon was at a loss for words. “We didn’t mean to endanger you. It was a misunderstanding, I came here to do…”
His voice came to a screeching halt. The Leviathan gripped his body.
Duan FeiZhou’s jaw dropped. He held on to the faint hope that maybe the Leviathan was just playing with Simon, like cats and dogs sometimes do when they gently bite their owners. Leviathan’s upper and lower jaws came together and it bit down lightly. Simon’s tattered body was like a fruit that fell from the branch after ripening, plop, as it fell on the tundra.
Duan FeiZhou was a little dazed. The shock he received was too much. His brain couldn’t function for a while.
Simon was dead. The young man who could communicate with animals was so easily bitten by a giant beast. As easily as an ant being trampled to death.
He looked at Z, and Z looked at him. The two just stared at each other for a while.
Leviathan opened its bloody mouth, and let out another long roar. Duan FeiZhou and Z turned around in unison and ran. If they didn’t run now, Simon’s end would be their end!
“Damn it Carter, I’ll kill you!” Duan FeiZhou shouted incoherently as he ran.
What was Carter’s intention in sending them to the North Pole? Did he know there were spies lurking on the Wellington? If he knew all about it, and still deliberately let the two of them to carry out the mission, then it was like pushing them into the fire!
The Leviathan spread its wings and leapt up from the lake.
The Wellington began a second round of bombardment. The howitzers trailed their smoke trails at the behemoth. But the gunners underestimated the beast’s dexterity. It looked huge, but it wasn’t bulky at all. It raised its wings so violently that a sharp gust of wind nearly blew Duan FeiZhou and Z off the ground.
As it rode on that wind, the giant beast rose abruptly, and the shells flew under it, so that none of them hit it.
Its body was almost as big as the whole airship. The Wellington was already the largest airship in the British Air Force in terms of tonnage, but the beast was on a par with it. No wonder the Queen was full of hope that the beast could be tamed. If you have such a fierce beast, the enemy would be scared to death just by looking at it!
The beast flew towards the Wellington with its long fish-like tail. It slammed into the hull head-on. At the same time, the airship fired a third round of shells.
One of the shells hit the beast in the eye. It wailed and spun away from the ship, then plunged headlong into the icy sea.
A huge wave instantly submerged half of the island.
Black smoke came out of the stern of the airship, and it was about to fall, but it finally managed to keep its balance with great difficulty.
Shortly after, the black smoke gradually dissipated. It seemed that the crew had put out the fire. The Wellington came towards Nameless Island. It didn’t land on the surface, but hovered in the air a few dozen meters above the sea. The lowermost hatch opened and two small skimmer boats slid out.
Compared with the huge whale-like airship, the size of the skimmer was like a small dolphin.
Duan FeiZhou looked at the shadow of the swept boats, then he and Z looked at each other. “Looks like we’ll just have to get on board.”
Z grunted lightly, noncommittal. Duan FeiZhou climbed to his feet and patted away the moss and dust that stained him. He looked towards the nameless lake. Simon’s body had also been swept away by the current. Now Duan FeiZhou couldn’t find the place where the teenager was killed. It was impossible to even pay tribute to him.
Simon had come from the center of the world to the edge of the world just to be friends with a monster. But he died. He died not in the mouth of a giant beast, but in the vortex of intrigue and power struggles.
The skimmer boat landed in front of them. and several heavily armed soldiers jumped off.
They wore thick coats over their uniforms and carried rifles. As soon as they saw Duan FeiZhou and Z, they parted to the sides and surrounded the two of them. A tiger-backed man stepped forward, his eyebrows thick and his black eyes stared straight ahead, but he didn’t look directly at Z or Duan FeiZhou.
Duan FeiZhou recognized him as Colonel Freeman’s adjutant. He couldn’t remember his name, though.
“Where is the other one?” The adjutant’s voice was mechanical, like a soulless mannequin.
“Dead.” Z replied indifferently. “Do you have no lookouts?”
The adjutant’s face twitched. “Take them away.”
The soldier pressed his gun against Duan FeiZhou’s back and shoved him deliberately, as he signaled for him to board the marauding boat. Duan FeiZhou touched the three rings on his hand. The previous fire had used up a little energy, but then he saved up again. Now the energy was full. Most of the energy stored by occult practitioners comes from surrounding heat sources, most notably the sun. It took Duan FeiZhou several days to store all three rings.
If they were caught off guard by a sudden attack…
Z grabbed his wrist. Duan FeiZhou was taken aback, but his expression remained unchanged. He knew Z meant to tell him to not act rashly.
“We’re just scholars who came to the Arctic to examine the ecology. Not soldiers.” Z said.
The adjutant didn’t say a word, as if he hadn’t heard him.
“We saw Colonel Freeman get murdered.” Z said.
The adjutant gave him a cold glance. He was so indifferent in the face of his officer’s death.
“All of you have been turned, haven’t you?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“Whatever you say.” The adjutant’s voice was as cold as iron and stone.
“Who is in charge of the ship now?”
“None of your business.”
“Who is the spy?”
“You don’t need to know.”
No matter what Duan FeiZhou questioned, the adjutant refused to answer. How attractive was the spy on the Wellington that even Colonel Freeman’s closest adjutant had fallen for him? At the same time, Duan FeiZhou also felt a sense of incongruity.
The soldiers escorting them were normal, and they were more naturally obedient to the adjutant than trusting and loving. As long as it was an order issued by their superiors, they would never disobey it, even if it contradicted their common sense. That’s what made a qualified soldier.
The problem was the adjutant. His demeanor was too mechanical, like a robot that had received orders.
This was not the first time Duan FeiZhou had seen such a situation. He had seen people become just like the adjutant before, like a puppet that had lost its soul.
–Jack the Ripper, who was controlled by occult magic.
At that time, the Nightmen were ordered by Carter to send Jack the Ripper to search for Duncan McKellen, and Mrs. Q had cast a mind control-type illusion on Jack. However, Jack the Ripper’s will was too strong (or too perverted), and eventually broke free of her occult control.
This deputy in front of him, could he also be under mind control? That would explain why even Colonel Freeman’s cronies were turned. They didn’t defect because of the spy’s rhetoric, but because they had been subjected to an occult spell.
The spy who lurked on the Wellington was an occult practitioner.
That was Z’s area of expertise.
The thought that Colonel Freeman was killed on the dinghy gave Duan FeiZhou a pang of discomfort. It always seemed that the adjutant would throw them into the sea halfway. But if the adjutant had wanted to murder them, he could have done it by now. The fact that they were being taken back to the Wellington meant that there was still some use for keeping them alive.
Whether to find out the truth or to leave the Arctic, they must return to the Wellington. Duan FeiZhou gritted his teeth and got into the skimmer.
On the Wellington, Duan FeiZhou and Z were led into an empty cabin. There were only two chairs there. Soldiers tied Duan FeiZhou and Z up and roughly pressed them into the chairs.
“I want to see the person in charge.” Z said.
The adjutant looked indifferent and led the soldiers out of the cabin like a line of fish. However Duan FeiZhou could hear that they had not gone far. Some of them were guarding the door, while others were patrolling the nearby corridors.
Duan FeiZhou rubbed his fingers. The adjutant hadn’t confiscated his rings, which indicated that he didn’t know he was an occult practitioner. He could burn the ropes, dismantle the hatch, and escape with Z.
But what would they do after that? They weren’t on a picnic, but at the North Pole; the end of the world. How were they going to get back to civilization? He heard footsteps in the corridor approaching rapidly.
The door to the hatch came open and a tall man, accompanied by his adjutant, walked in. He wasn’t wearing a military uniform, just a plain shirt with a fur coat over it.
Duan FeiZhou knew the man’s face.
He was Colonel Freeman.
“Aren’t you dead?!” Duan FeiZhou was horrified.
The Colonel smiled faintly. The adjutant didn’t react, just exited the cabin, and closed the door. Obviously no one had instructed him, yet he was so self-conscious. If someone said he wasn’t a puppet, Duan FeiZhou wouldn’t believe it.
“I had my own way to dodge the gun.” Colonel Freeman said courteously.
“You swam from the sea back to the airship?” Duan FeiZhou couldn’t believe it.
“It is not appropriate to say ‘swim’. I naturally made my way back to the Wellington on my own.”
Something was wrong. No, he should say everything was wrong. Duan FeiZhou had been under the impression that Colonel Freeman was a loyalist to the Queen and that there was a foreign spy lurking on board. The spy had turned Colonel’s own soldiers and instigated them to murder him at sea. But the Colonel, who should have died, appeared alive before his eyes. The Wellington had been completely taken over by the mutineers.
Was the “murder at sea” they witnessed really what they thought it was?
Perhaps the opposite was true. It was not the loyal Colonel Freeman who was murdered by the mutineers. Rather, the two guards discovered that Colonel Freeman had defected, so they swooped in at sea to get rid of the traitor.
What did they say at the time? Colonel asked the two soldiers, “When did you start?”
Duan FeiZhou thought he meant “when did you become traitors?” But what if he actually meant, “when did you notice something unusual about me?”
“From the very beginning the spy was you?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
“Yes.” Colonel Freeman admitted it with a big smile.
No wonder the colonel knew there were spies on board, but still let them leak information, which caused the Wellington to be attacked by air pirates again and again. With the strong hand of a ship’s captain, he still couldn’t uncover a spy? It’s not that he couldn’t do it, but simply didn’t want to.
“You can manipulate the spirit of others,” Z said in a deep voice. “Just now that adjutant was manipulated by you, right? The mutiny went so well because the senior crew and officers were all under your control. You’re an occult practitioner.”
Now he understood why the Queen had sent him to the Wellington. This job couldn’t be done by anyone else. Anyone else would have fallen into the mental trap woven by Colonel Freeman and become his puppet from the very beginning of their journey on board. But the Nightmen have been dealing with occult practitioners for years and were familiar with their tricks, so almost all of them have received additional training to resist psychic manipulation.
In addition, occult practitioners could also resist psychic manipulation. Occult practitioners unconsciously built mental barriers for themselves to defend themselves against other occult practitioners. It was extremely difficult to use psychic attacks against these two groups of people. Unless the occult practitioner who launched the psychic attack was exceptionally powerful, or the person being attacked was in an unsuspecting state, such as in sleep.
No wonder Colonel Freeman hated Simon so much. He didn’t hate animals, he simply wanted to avoid Simon. The teenager was not only an occult practitioner, but also a beast whisperer, able to communicate with animals, which indicated that he was extraordinarily good at mental illusions. He could be considered Colonel Freeman’s natural enemy.
Unfortunately, the teenager was still inexperienced. Although he avoided the colonel’s mental manipulation, he failed to recognize the colonel’s true face.
Colonel Freeman grinned, and revealed a mouthful of neat white teeth. “That’s right, I am,” he said. “As expected of the chief of the Nightmen, you recognized me very quickly.”
“You know who I am?” Z frowned.
“You are very famous, Detective Xenia.” Colonel Freeman looked at Z. “If you want to remain anonymous, you’d better change your face, otherwise it’s really too obvious.”
Z grunted lightly. “Which country are you loyal to?”
“The Great Empire, of course.” Colonel Freeman sounded very proud.
There were only a few European powers that were qualified to call themselves empires. Even the Queen of England only dared to call herself “Queen of India” after the British colonized India. When India gained its independence, the title of “Queen of India” disappeared from the long list of titles of the British Queen. Among all the empires, the only one that had never been on good terms with Britain and was powerful enough to send such sophisticated occult practitioners was…
Duan FeiZhou remembered the beautiful lady he had met on Lesbos. Their encounter had nothing to do with politics, but politics now overshadowed that fond memory.
“So that’s how it is.” Duan FeiZhou murmured. “You were an occult practitioner from the beginning. A spy sent by them. You actually rose all the way up to the rank of colonel, it’s quite inspiring.”
Colonel Freeman raised the corner of his lips. “Sending spies to other countries is just a routine operation. We have a lot of spies in our country too. We are all just dog-eat-dog. As for what we can achieve in the end, it depends on our ability.”
Duan FeiZhou looked into the colonel’s eyes. “What is your purpose?”
“Everything is for my country,” he said.
“You’re not going to take this airship back to Vienna, are you?”
“No?” the colonel asked rhetorically. “With such advanced engines and equipment, if I bring it back for my fellow scientists to study, then we will be able to build the same, if not more advanced engines!”
Duan FeiZhou felt his head buzzing. So this was his purpose – to seize the Wellington completely and sail the airship back home as research material. “Those air pirates we encountered…”
The colonel smiled. “They were just used to test the strength of the airship. If this ship wasn’t as good as I thought, then I wouldn’t have carried out the plan later. However, the Wellington was a big surprise to me. It’s simply the most perfect airship I’ve ever seen.”
“What about Simon? You killed him because you didn’t want him to be able to tame Leviathan?”
“Yes. That monster was too powerful to be given to any nation. I’ve wanted to take out that animal boy for a long time. I just didn’t expect the assassin I sent there to be so useless.” Colonel Freeman bristled contemptuously.
“So Lieutenant Horn was sent by you…” Duan FeiZhou thought back to the corpse in Simon’s cabin. If Sergeant Bulwer hadn’t arrived in time, Simon’s death would have been a day earlier.
…He had only lived one more day.
Duan FeiZhou stared at the colonel. “You didn’t come here to tell us about your crime, and you don’t expect us to send you to Scotland Yard, do you?”
The colonel laughed. “I never knew Nightmen were so funny! I guess I made the right choice in coming to you. It’s a pity that Simon is no longer with us. Although he had such shortcomings, to lose a talent…I would like to ask if the two of you would be interested in coming to my country for a change?”
“Since you like humor so much, what you need is not the Nightmen, but the circus,” Duan FeiZhou said sarcastically.
“Your Nightmen are so competent, yet they are treated just like ordinary police officers. Our country is different. If you two come to Vienna, you will be able to get first-class preferential treatment.”
Z snorted disdainfully. “I’ve heard that your country is quite tolerant of occult practitioners, so I’m afraid there’s no use for us Nightmen.”
“Your skills aren’t just for arresting occult practitioners, they are needed in the military.”
“And if we refuse?”
Colonel Freeman didn’t answer directly, but proceeded to take out a pocket watch and opened it to look at it.
Duan FeiZhou speculated that it was made of the metal that the colonel used to store energy.
“You have plenty of time to think, sir,” the colonel said. “You can have until we arrive in Vienna to tell me the answer. And your answer will determine how you are treated when you land. Whether you become a guest of honor or a prisoner.”
“Not just throw us into the sea?” Z sneered.
“As I said, we always give preferential treatment to talents.” The colonel finished, went around behind Duan FeiZhou, and removed the three rings from his fingers.
“This is your energy storage metal, right?” Colonel Freeman played with the rings. “Such dangerous things. It’s better for me to keep them. When you want to join us, I will return them to you.”
He bowed teasingly to Duan FeiZhou and left.
Only Z and Duan FeiZhou were left in the cabin again. The two of them, tied up, were looking straight ahead at the same time, their eyes never meeting with each other.
After a while, Duan FeiZhou spoke tentatively, “I don’t want to join him.”
“What a coincidence, I don’t either,” Z said.
“This is the air. We have no way to escape unless we control the whole ship. There are possibly hundreds of crew members on the Wellington. Can we win?”
“No need to fight the crew.” Z said. “Capture the thief first. The reason the crew mutinied was because they were under Freeman’s psychic manipulation. Once the occult practitioners are dead, the psychic manipulation can be lifted.”
Duan FeiZhou nodded, “Got it. Beheading operation, right?”
“Can you find out Freeman’s location?”
FeiZhou concentrated his mind and extended his mental tentacles to the outer space.
It was easier to listen to the sound on the air travel ship than on the ground. It was a behemoth cast in steel, and all kinds of sounds flowed through the metal. And it was well known that sound travels much faster in solids than in air. He heard the roar of machinery running, the footsteps of soldiers on patrol, the gangs of men gathering on their shifts, the clanging of pots and pans clashing in the galley, officers giving orders by speaker tube, sound traveling down the copper pipes to the other end of the airship…
The various voices came together to form a complete map of the airship in his head.
“Freeman’s in the map room,” he said.
“You stay here, I’ll go,” Z said.
“How can you take on Colonel Freeman all by yourself? He’s not just one man, he can control too many puppets who do what he says.”
“Then we must try too.”
Duan FeiZhou was silent for a moment. He did have a way to greatly increase the efficiency of the decapitation operation. The only hindrance was that Z might not be very willing. However, at this critical moment, even if he wasn’t willing, Duan FeiZhou had to try to convince him. “Did you bring the trading house’s talisman paper?”
Z let out an unpleasant grunt. He said in disgust, “Brought it.”
“Come into the trading house with me. There are two things that can help us.”
Z wondered what kind of bad person could say such a thing. Knowing full well that Z treated the trading house with the least amount of respect, he still wanted him to go in with him again and again; to challenge him over and over again.
…And he just couldn’t refuse.
“When do you want it?” He asked hatefully.
Duan FeiZhou said, “Now.”