Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Duan FeiZhou looked at Hecate in a daze. The goddess looked back at him with a smile on her face. If he was Leopold Chester, then what was the nineteen years of his life in the other world? He spoke with difficulty, “You mean that my life…my life as Duan FeiZhou, was all a sham?”
Hecate tilted her head. “Why do you think it is false? Why can’t both worlds be real?”
“Both are real?”
Hecate’s eyes were inscrutable. “There are endless branches of multiple histories, and each of them is certainly true.”
Duan FeiZhou didn’t quite understand what she meant. He guessed, it was probably similar to parallel worlds? Leopold Chester’s soul was sent to another world to grow up with another identity. After that, he returned to his world again, back to his own body.
So what happened to the “Duan FeiZhou” in the other world? He first crossed over to this world because he clicked on a fraudulent email. If that world was also real, then he suddenly disappeared from the university. Wouldn’t his friends, family, classmates and teachers be surprised? And what would happen if he could return to that world one day?
“Do you want to go back?” Hecate asked with a smile as if she had heard his heart.
“I…” Duan FeiZhou was speechless for a moment.
That world had no occult practitioners, no Ether crystals, no messy feuds and conspiracies, more advanced technology, more convenient life, and more open culture. In his mind, of course, it could not be better. But in this world…There were people he liked.
Not only Z, but also his friends and partners, Yeats, Al, the Lynn family, Ruth’s family, Lord Perlilla and his mother, the Nightmen, Councilor Evangeline and Beautiful Gaia…
If he was asked if he wanted to go back, his answer would be…no.
“Whether you want to or not, with the current you, you cannot go back. The you in that other world of yours is already dead,” Hecate’s tone was calm, as if she was talking about gas or dinner, not someone’s life or death.
“…How did I die?!” Duan FeiZhou raised his voice.
“You are an occult practitioner. Don’t you understand this? Leopold Chester should have died, but I saved his life with an occult technique, so accordingly, another person needed to die in his place. That was, another him in another world.”
Duan FeiZhou was speechless. I killed myself? In his self-perception, he was Duan FeiZhou, not Leopold Chester. He had the memories and knowledge of the other world, but not the memories of Leopold. Now Hecate suddenly tells him that he and Leopold are actually the same person. To be honest, it was a little hard to accept.
Unfortunately, no matter how much he resisted, he could only helplessly accept this fact.
Well, there was at least one good thing about that. He didn’t have to worry about what to do when Z found out he was a turtledove. He was the real owner of this body, only with a little memory lost and a little memory gained. He just needed time to digest the news. Now that his self-perception was a little off, it may take him a long time to adjust to the fact that he had two lives.
“Why are you telling me about this?” he asked. “To call me all the way to Aberdeen just so I could learn about my past?”
The Goddess of the Crossroads curled a strand of her long hair, and fiddled with it absentmindedly. “As I said, something is happening in London. You can avoid some bad outcomes by staying here.”
That was a strange expression. Shouldn’t it be, “You’re safer here”? What did she mean by “bad outcomes”? Since Hecate could know what happens in other worlds, and can even send a person’s soul to other worlds and reincarnate them, could she also foresee the future?
“I can’t foretell the future,” Hecate said. “I’ve only studied multiple histories and have a little understanding of where they are going.”
Duan FeiZhou was a little uncomfortable. Every time a question surfaced in his mind, Hecate answered him. His mind could hide nothing from the Forerunner. No one likes to be peeked at in their mind.
“So when can I go back to London?” he couldn’t help asking. “Will my friends in London be in danger?”
A woman’s voice rang out behind him. “Sir, what can I do for you?”
Duan FeiZhou turned around. The sales clerk was standing behind him with an attentive smile on her face.
He turned back again. Hecate had disappeared without a trace.
“Where is the lady who came with me?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
The clerk was confused. “You came alone.”
Could it be that the clerk couldn’t see Hecate? Or was it that Hecate had never appeared in the real world, so Duan FeiZhou had just been standing in the clothing shop and daydreaming?
He didn’t have time to think about it. Hecate’s words about London’s change of circumstance lingered in his mind like a shadow. He walked out of the shop without a backward glance. The clerk mumbled behind him, “What’s the matter with you? You’re just looking and not buying?
He went straight to the Aberdeen station, and bought a ticket for the next train to London.
If not for the urgency of the situation, he actually wanted to stop by to see the Roberts family and pay a visit to Ruth’s grave. However, he couldn’t care less about that now. He silently apologized to Ruth in his heart. That kind-hearted girl would understand him.
The train to London was frequent, so he didn’t have to wait long at the station for the departure. However, because he bought the ticket on short notice, he could only get into a second-class carriage, and when he opened the window, he choked on the soot. Luckily, because it was the night train, there weren’t many people on board, so Duan FeiZhou was able to occupy a whole row of seats.
Since that morning, he had been on the run. He had to go to Soho, then to Aberdeen, and then back to London, where he was so busy that he hit the back of his own head. When he was finally able to relax, he got sleepy. Even though the carriage smelled like smoke, he still fell asleep.
He had a strange dream. This time he did not dream of Hecate, but of Xenophon.
He didn’t know how long he slept, but he was awakened by a sound of tapping on the glass. When he opened his eyes, a raven was hovering outside the train car’s window. Its feathers were ruffled, as if it had been abused, and the train’s air currents had swept it around.
When it comes to ravens, Duan FeiZhou was naturally reminded of…
He looked around to make sure the other passengers were asleep, then opened the window a small crack. The raven burrowed in, landed on the seat opposite him, and transformed back into human form.
Xenophon’s appearance was miserable. He looked as if he had been beaten up. His face was colored with bruises, the corners of his mouth were open and stained with blood. His raven-feathered black hair was in disarray, and the congealed blood on the strands caused it to curl into locks.
Duan FeiZhou lowered his voice. “What happened to you?”
“It’s a long story…hiss!” Xenophon touched the corner of his lip, which hurt to the point of severe pain.
Duan FeiZhou took out a handkerchief and handed it to him. He muttered a thank you, and covered his face. Soon the handkerchief was stained bright red.
“How did you know I was on this train?”
“It’s the only line from Scotland to London, and I’ve watched every train that passed,” Xenophon said as he covered his bleeding lip.
“I’ll help you heal,” Duan FeiZhou said.
“No need. It’s not like I can’t do it myself.” Xenophon gave him a blank look. “This is an injury caused by an occult technique. It can’t be cured.”
“Something happened in London?” Duan FeiZhou remembered the ominous words of Hecate.
Xenophon nodded. “The boss is in prison.”
“Sh–” Duan FeiZhou almost shouted. He looked around at the sleeping passengers, and swallowed the shout again. “Who dared to imprison him? He is the chief of the Nightmen!”
“From now on, there will be no more Nightmen.” Xenophon grinned sarcastically in spite of the pain. “His Excellency, Secretary Carter has laid off our entire section. Now the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit is full of people from the Council for the Advancement of Science, and they will train occult practitioners.”
Duan FeiZhou’s jaw dropped.
“That’s why I flew out to see you,” Xenophon continued. “If you had gone straight to Scotland Yard without knowing anything, they would have put you in the dungeon as well.”
Duan FeiZhou’s mind was in turmoil. Z was not the kind of person who would just give up. Even if the Queen ordered his arrest, he would resist as long as he felt that the reason wasn’t justified. Still, Z was locked up. This meant that either they held some sort of leverage that forced Z to submit, or they directly overcame Z with force.
“The boss was arrested. It’s funny that the leader of the Nightmen should be arrested.” Xenophon laughed angrily. “The rest of us were thrown out, and the Abnormal Case Investigation Unit section was re-staffed with Carter’s own men. We’ll get off early, and I’ll take you to a shelter. I suspect there are some of their people in King’s Cross Station. Damn it, Carter! I’m going to fuck that guy up, and that lousy old lady!”
“Which old lady? The Queen? How can you call the Queen a bad old woman?”
“The other bad old woman!” Xenophon was not happy. “The one who turned into a little girl!”
Duan FeiZhou froze for a moment before he realized who Xenophon was referring to.
“Madame Boyle?” He was shocked, “What’s she up to now?”
“Didn’t I tell you that not long after she was taken into Scotland Yard, Carter took her away under the name of arraignment? I thought he was arranging her at the time. I didn’t expect…” Xenophon gritted his teeth and told his story.
The raven perched in the treetop outside the window, his yellow eyes staring straight into the room. He recognized the woman in the room. Boyle or something. She was blind in one eye and wore an eye patch. That eye was blinded by Xenophon, so he couldn’t forget.
How did she get here? Yes, she was taken away by Carter, but Xenophon thought that Carter wanted to extract some secret secrets from her, so she should be locked up in a cell and tortured. Why was she sitting in this beautiful palace like a noblewoman?
Madame Boyle didn’t notice the raven outside the window. She was sitting sideways, and her blind eye was to the window, so her sight was limited. Even if she saw the raven, she might not associate it with the Nightmen. There were too many ravens in the world, and if they were checked one by one, they may have to be checked until the day the world comes to an end.
Xenophon cursed. That guy Carter brought Boss Z here, and Madame Boyle was also here. Was he planning to punk the boss?
His eyes turned to the room next to him. It was bigger and more spacious, so extravagant and luxurious that Xenophon’s tears of jealousy all flowed down to the corners of his mouth. The room was empty. After a moment, the door opened, and Carter and Z walked in, one after the other.
Carter and Z. Xenophon was tempted to rush in and warn the boss of the deception, but he resisted the urge to do so. If he did, he would have spooked the snake. He wanted to see what Carter was up to.
Z looked around the empty room, and asked coldly, “Where is Her Majesty?”
Carter replied smilingly, “His Majesty is at Buckingham Palace today to receive foreign envoys.”
Z turned to the secretary, his icy expression a contrast to Carter’s smiling face. “You didn’t trick me into coming here under false pretenses just to talk to me, did you?”
“I would love to have a chat with you, but unfortunately you seem to have a problem with me and we always have bad conversations.” Carter shrugged his shoulders. “So this time I’ll get right to the point. Many years ago, when your father was still alive, he made a proposal to Her Majesty to create an army that would not die. Are you aware of this matter?”
Z looked aghast. He said in a dark tone, “I know.”
“Her Majesty felt it was inappropriate at the time, and rejected his proposal. Since your father’s regrettable death in an accident.” Carter looked meaningfully at Z. “No one has ever suggested anything like it. Until now.”
Z stared at Carter. His red eyes glowed with the cold light of a sword, as if he wanted to nail Carter to the wall on the spot. “You…proposed something to Her Majesty?”
Carter flinched under his glare, then put on a hard, fearless look. “I proposed the creation of a special army.”
“An undead army?” Z’s eyes grew colder and colder.
“That’s right. But instead of transforming living people into undead soldiers, we’re going to directly replace the human body with machinery. After our research, this theory is completely feasible.”
“That’s crazy,” Z said coldly.
Carter raised the corners of his lips. “Don’t you think this is a genius plan? Imagine an army that would never be reduced in strength! They would be invincible on the battlefield! All the nations of the world would fear us and bow down to us! The fame of the undead army and the glory of Her Majesty will be sung in every corner of the world!”
Z looked at Carter as if he was looking at a madman. After a long time, he slowly said, “Well, even if you really want to do that, what does it have to do with me? You called me here so I could hear about your amazing plans?”
“Of course it’s more than that. This plan also requires your cooperation.”
“I don’t know much about science and technology, so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help to you.”
“You are the most important part of this project.” Carter smiled more and more treacherously. “This plan is under the auspices of the Committee for Scientific Progress. I asked you to come here so you could meet with our new researcher.”
Z took a wary step back, removed his gloves and flexed his metal fingers. He was ready for a big fight with Carter. “Does Her Majesty know you’re falsely passing on the royal orders?”
“If no one has told her, how would she know?” Carter noticed his defensive gesture. “Relax, Superintendent Xenia. I’m sure this meeting will be very – easy and pleasant.”
With that he clapped his hands twice.
Madame Boyle in the next room heard the claps, got up, straightened her dress, smoothed her hair, opened the door connecting the two rooms and walked in with her head held high.
The moment he saw her, Z breathed a sigh of relief. Immediately after, anger erupted. His chest felt like it was full of churning lava, and he shook slightly and uncontrollably, as he tried his best to curb the urge to strangle the woman on the spot.
“This is the new researcher hired by the Committee for the Advancement of Science?” The angrier he became, the colder his tone got. “I felt something was wrong when you spirited her out of the dungeon. I thought you were greedy for the secrets of some occult philosophy, but I didn’t expect it to be like this.”
“Well, it does have something to do with occult philosophy, I guess,” Carter said languidly. “This lady needs your cooperation with her research.”
“Even without me, this lady can still do remarkable research, right?” Z said.
Madame Boyle smiled. “I’m actually surprised that your body has worked for so long. Sometimes people invent things by accident, and then can’t figure out how it works. I have promised Sir Carter that I will make undead soldiers for the Committee. The adults on the Committee want to see my former masterpieces, so I need to take a closer look at your body.”
Z’s eyes rolled up and he stared straight at Carter. “You’re working with a murderer?”
Carter said in disbelief, “Haven’t you killed many people yourself?”
“What if I refuse to cooperate?”
“I’m afraid you don’t have the luxury of refusing.” Carter gave a signal to Madame Boyle. The latter smiled faintly, and her lips parted as she whispered a few incantations.
Z’s body stiffened. He tried to raise his arm, yet it was as if an invisible force was pressing on his body, and made him unable to move freely. The most terrifying thing for him was that the force wasn’t coming from the outside, but from inside him. It was as if his limbs were resisting his brain. He had experienced this power in the theater. How could he defy the will of his creator when his body had been transformed by Madame Boyle herself?
“Well done, Madame.” When he saw the leader of the Nightmen unable to move, Carter applauded with satisfaction. With his hands behind his back, he circled around Z like a curious tourist visiting a museum sculpture. “Thank you for removing the stumbling block to our plan, madam.”
“It’s nothing. We’re just taking what we can get,” Madame Boyle said easily. “But is it really not a problem to keep him in custody? Those men of his aren’t to be trifled with.”
“It won’t be long before he doesn’t have any more men,” Carter snickered. “I don’t think we need Nightmen anymore. What do you think?”
“So who’s going to catch the dastardly occult practitioners?” Madame Boyle pretended to be surprised. Those pretensions just made Z want to puke.
Carter cleared his throat and laughed, “The Committee for the Advancement of Science will take over the rest of the work. I think we can do a better job of controlling the occult practitioners.” He leaned close to Z and grinned, which revealed a mouthful of shiny white teeth. “Wouldn’t you say so, Superintendent Xenia?”
Suddenly, a raven flew in through the window, its sharp claws stabbed at Carter, aimed straight for his eye. Its speed was so fast that it was like a black lightning bolt. Carter reflexively raised his arm to block it. The raven’s claws tore through his cuff, and left a deep bloody mark.
Carter cried out, but quickly regained his composure. The previous frivolity and arrogance from his face disappeared. With a cold face, he sternly ordered, “Finish it!”
The raven turned deftly in the air, and swooped down on Madame Boyle.
The empty eye socket under the eye patch of the female occult practitioner burst with remembered pain. It was the beast that scratched her eye! No, it wasn’t a raven, but a Nightman! She must gouge out his eyes, so that he also tasted a pain worse than death!
She recited an incantation aloud, and shot a lightning bolt at the raven. The raven spun in the air, dodged the lightning bolt and instantly transformed into a human. Xenophon landed lightly, poured all his strength into his feet, stomped hard and lunged at Madame Boyle.
He grabbed the female occult practitioner’s shoulders and pressed her to the ground.
Madame Boyle was distracted for a moment, and Z regained control of his body. HIs mechanical prosthetic limb slid out a blade, and swung it at Madame Boyle.
After the initial shock and panic passed, Madame Boyle quickly regained her composure. She fought with Xenophon for the energy around her even as she recited a spell to suppress Z. Z couldn’t move again after only one swing of the sword.
“Boss!” Xenophon shouted.
As long as that woman was around, the boss couldn’t move freely, Xenophon thought. Unfortunately, she was so strong. Although on the outside she was a young girl of sixteen years old, inside she was an old woman who has lived decades longer than Xenophon.
Generally speaking, young occult practitioners were energetic, but lacked practical experience. Madame Boyle, however, had the strengths of both and was not only more experienced, but also unaffected by aging.
No wonder she would rather commit the crime of murder and take the body of a young girl.
“Run!” Z yelled.