Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Miss Möllen, your telegram!” The letter carrier pushed open the door of the store and handed a small piece of paper to the young girl in work clothes behind the counter.
The young woman thanked him, lifted her monocular magnifying glass, scanned the text on the telegram, turned back upstairs and shouted, “Fabian! Bring out the ‘key’!”
The telegram was sent from London, England, and was extremely brief. The only words were, “Watch the butterflies with me tonight.”
The Trading House hadn’t been opened since the purchase of the Phantom Phosphorus Butterfly wing powder. Fabian, who was responsible for guarding the key, said he had seen the rune suddenly glow several times, but then suddenly extinguished. He didn’t know whether the Trading House only opened a second or two, or he was blind.
The telegram was no doubt a reminder that the Trading House would open its doors to them tonight.
Miss Margaret Möllen waited with great interest until the evening. The Secret Trading House’s runes glowed to represent “open for business.”
The two siblings looked at each other and stepped into the spell at the same time. They were already early, but the Trading House was already bustling with activity. People in all kinds of strange clothes wandered in the hall saying, “The Trading House hasn’t been open for a long time,” and so on. It seemed that not only the Möllen siblings felt this way, in the eyes of most customers, the Trading House being closed for so long was very unusual.
The Trading House had posted a long list with the word “acquisition” at the top. A glance at it showed it was for various materials and magic weapons. Many customers were gathered in front of the list, as they pointed.
“Spirit dust, fire lizard eggs, hell water. How much do you want?”
“At a glance, they are all materials for making offensive magic weapons. Is the Master of the Trading House ready to go into battle?”
As the siblings followed suit and pondered that list, the Master of the Trading House approached with a smile on his face. “Welcome, sir and lady. I have some business to discuss with you.”
Miss Margaret immediately understood. An ordinary customer certainly wouldn’t need to be reminded of business by the Master of the Trading House. The telegram had been sent to ensure that they would be able to enter the Trading House tonight to discuss matters with the master of the place.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” she asked. When the spell runes from the Trading House had inexplicably appeared in their shop, they could only have been sent by the Master of the Trading House. The other party knew who they were. They weren’t big shots. What they could help with was nothing more than mechanical engineering.
The three men walked together to a corner of the Trading House.
“The friend who you made the mechanical prosthetic eye for at your place last time,” the Master of the Trading House smiled meaningfully. “Needs you to make another prosthesis for him. Can you take the job?”
Miss Margaret remembered the white hair and red eyes of the customer. He was really a friend of the Master of the Trading House, otherwise how could it be so coincidental that when she needed Phantom Phosphorus butterfly wing powder and the Trading House key was automatically delivered to their door?
“I see. I am willing to help that gentleman,” Margaret said with a playful wink. “Just, is that Nightman, Sir, is he willing to accept the help of occult practitioners?”
After the business of the Trading House was over, Duan FeiZhou sent the other customers away, until only Margaret and Fabian remained behind. He opened the second exit and took the siblings out of the Trading House.
Once outside where they discovered that they had gone straight to London, the siblings were so surprised that they exclaimed in unbelievable voices.
“If this occult art could be widely used, then would people no longer have to suffer from the pain of traveling?” Miss Margaret’s first thought was how to promote this convenient technology, worthy of a mechanic. “Wherever you want to go, from one end of the world to the other in an instant…It could make the world smaller, and people closer than ever before!”
Miss Margaret had long suspected the identity of the Master of the Trading House. She had speculated that one of the two companions around Z was the Master of the Trading House, but had really thought it was Z. Although it was unbelievable that a Nightman could also run the Trading House, it wasn’t impossible. Maybe this guy was an undercover agent?
It turned out that she guessed a third of the answer. The Master of the Trading House was the doctor. As they followed him upstairs, Fabian asked uneasily, “Is it okay for you to show us your true identity directly like this?”
“Didn’t you already know it anyway?” Duan FeiZhou was both helpless and amused. “And soon the Trading House may not need to hide anymore.”
He had always had an idea to change the attitude of the Nightmen towards occult practitioners. So they would no longer drive them to extinction, but just to regulate and police them. Occult practitioners could survive in that country with integrity, just as in other countries like Switzerland and Greece. The Nightmen would be the police of the occult society, and maintain order and punish evil instead of wiping out all occult practitioners.
The directive to exterminate occult practitioners may have been a conspiracy of the Committee from the beginning. The Nightmen were manipulated and used by the Committee from the beginning to the end. When they lost their value, they were kicked out and replaced by “cannon fodder soldiers” who had been carefully trained by the Committee over the years.
If they beat the Committee, then they would have a chance to convince the Queen to change her policies. If they failed…there would be no more Trading House masters in the world, and the Secret Trading House would be sealed forever. It wouldn’t matter if their identity was revealed or not.
Z looked a little uncomfortable to see Miss Margaret again. It was like a patient meeting a doctor. Especially since this doctor was also a mechanic who was proficient in the occult arts. However, his reaction was much calmer than the last time.
“A lot must have happened since you left Switzerland.” Margaret was thoughtful.
A lot had happened indeed. Enough to change a person’s worldview forever.
The occult practitioners weren’t all enemies. The occult arts could be used to destroy the world or to save lives.
Margaret examined Z’s body. When she saw the cross-section of his stump, Miss Margaret frowned. The means used to dismantle the prosthetic limb had been extremely rough, not only had it damaged the prosthetic limb, but it also brought great pain to the user.
Duan FeiZhou said, “His prosthetic limb was made by ‘that lady’. The lady left a back door in his mechanics and can manipulate his body. So not only do you need to make a new prosthesis, you must also stop the woman from controlling his body.”
“It’s that woman…” Miss Margaret remembered the lady that grandfather had mentioned. I thought she was an occult practitioner who was well versed in mechanics, but I didn’t expect to do such a thing to someone else, what a shame for a mechanic!
Even the most skillful person, if they lose their moral character, they couldn’t be called part of the generation of masters.
“I can do it. It just takes some time.” Miss Margaret said.
“How long will it take? We only have a week at most.” Duan FeiZhou’s heart drummed.
Margaret looked at him, slightly annoyed. “Are you looking down on me?”
By relying on the Trading House, the Möllen siblings could move quickly between Geneva and London. Since Margaret’s tools were in Geneva, they took Z back to the shop there for treatment (or repair?).
The others weren’t idle either. All the goods in the Trading House were taken out by Duan FeiZhou to support the Nightmen. Unfortunately, the number of items that could be used in combat was slim, so Duan FeiZhou had to post a list to buy materials to make their own. Mrs. Q and Yeats were busy copying spells every day. Xenophon, who had studied alchemy, used the acquired materials to make two sets of alchemical bullets for Miss Acheson and Mr. R to use. Evangeline, on the other hand, made a trip out of the country and showed up in distant Ireland, where she deliberately allowed sightings of herself. The Committee would certainly send people to Ireland to search for her after getting the news, which could more or less distract their manpower.
The Trading House was open for business for several days in a row, and this unusual move naturally attracted the attention of the occult practitioners. They instinctively felt that the rain was coming, and that the Master of the Trading House was doing something shocking.
If that thing succeeded, everything would change.
While the Nightmen were gearing up, a little-noticed event was taking place in a corner of London.
Many years ago, Prince Albert, the Queen’s lifelong love, died and was buried in the royal tomb at Frogmore. There stood a beautiful white palace, named after the pond, where the frogs sang in the summer.
On this night, the moonlight spilled over the pond, and the frogs were crouching at the water’s edge, as they sang one after another. Suddenly, the pond rippled and broke the reflection of the moonlight. The frogs looked back and immediately fled into the grass in panic.
The ripples got bigger and bigger, the bubbled up with a gurgle, followed by a head that poked out.
It was a small man, with a face like some kind of rodent. He swam laboriously up to shore against the lotus leaves and water plants, then shook the water off himself like an animal.
“Whew! Finally, I got out!” Palmer could not help but shout. “I, Palmer, am free! Hahahahaha! You’ll see, shameless Nightmen! One day you will refuse to recruit me and then–” His words were choked back into his throat.
He found there was a woman standing under a tree by the pond, as she cast him a surprised glance.
Palmer wanted to dig another hole in the ground when he thought about how his words and actions had been caught in the woman’s eyes.
He and the woman looked at each other for a long time before he managed to say, “Good evening, madam.”
The woman was silent for a moment, then nodded back to him. “Good evening, sir.”
This was a very unusual woman, Palmer thought. Would a woman usually be so calm when she saw a man in a sorry state climb out of her pond?
“…Do you live here?” Palmer had nothing to say.
“No, I’m here to visit my husband’s grave.” The woman said calmly.
He looked at the woman. She was old, past her prime, wrinkled, short. She wore a black dress, a dark blue ribbon, and a veil in her hair. She had a serious face, a sharp gaze, and an extraordinary bearing.
Palmer suddenly understood who this woman was. He shivered (partly in awe of the woman, partly because he was soaking wet and cold) and crouched down, as he kissed the woman’s dress.
“You are our great sire!” he said excitedly. “What an honor it is for me, Palmer, to have met Your Majesty in my lifetime! I will have stories to tell my grandchildren when I am old!”
At Her Majesty’s command, a group of royal guards would have rushed out, tied Palmer up and sent him to the gallows. She just looked down at Palmer with some confusion, some helplessness, and some interest, “I saw you emerge from the pond, so either you are a diving athlete or you are an occult practitioner.”
Palmer froze. My God, Her Majesty knew. He thought to himself. He thought they were well enough hidden as occult practitioners, but if even the Queen, who lived in seclusion, knew about them, what then?
The fact that he hadn’t yet been arrested by the royal guards meant that the Queen was interested in him. He was a fugitive, and unless he fled to the other side of the world, he would have to live a life in hiding. Palmer didn’t want to live a life of uncertainty.
However, it would be different if he had the Queen’s protection. Who in this land would dare to disobey the Queen’s orders? If he wanted to save his life, the only and best way was to cling to the Queen’s thigh.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” he said with a pleasing smile. “But I am a good occult practitioner, I am willing to serve Your Majesty!”
The queen looked at him with some amusement. “You snuck into my palace so stealthily, and say you want to serve me?”
“It was an accident. I’m good at digging holes, but I accidentally went the wrong direction when I was making a hole in the ground. I was going to head north.” Palmer scratched his head. “Although I am suspicious and sneaky, my loyalty to your Majesty can be seen in the sun and moon!”
The Queen puffed, amused by him, and Palmer’s heart lifted. He thought he had a chance.
“Oh? Whatever you are asked to do, you are willing to do it?”
“I am willing to throw my head and blood down for Your Majesty!”
The Queen looked into the distance, silent for a moment, then pulled out a small fan from her belt and fanned it leisurely. “Good. Then. I want you to do one thing…”
A week later. The Secret Trading House.
Duan FeiZhou leaned on the counter, as he squinted at the customers in the hall. They stopped in front of the display cases, and looked at the goods with curious and greedy eyes.
Today was the last day of business for the Trading House.
The committee was taking the “ribbon-cutting ceremony” very seriously and had transferred almost all their staff to Shropshire. The surveillance outside the Dodo was also withdrawn. However, Duan FeiZhou still didn’t dare to take any chances. Everyone was still hiding in the cellar, and all the work that needed to be seen was given to Mr. N.
After the business of the Trading House ended today, Duan FeiZhou and the others would leave for Perlilla Manor.
Of course, they couldn’t go with great fanfare, otherwise they would be intercepted halfway. Duan FeiZhou had conscripted Lord Perlilla, and after today’s business was over, the Second Exit Dollhouse would be put into a package and sent to Perlilla Manor in the name of His Lordship’s personal effects. Even if the package was opened for inspection, it didn’t matter. Who would suspect a cute dollhouse?
Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help it when the corners of his mouth started to rise.
The Möllen siblings walked side by side in front, followed by a tall, slender, white-haired man. He walked with a steady gait, and his silver hair was tied tightly in a bundle behind his head. He looked more spirited than ever.
“Please inspect.” The Möllen siblings said with a smile.
Duan FeiZhou took Z’s hand and removed the glove. The brass-colored prosthesis was polished and shiny, and every screw exuded a brand-new glow.
“Your hands are so warm.” Z whispered.
Duan FeiZhou froze. He remembered Z’s dull sense of warmth and cold. He blinked and looked at Z. The latter’s lips arced. He had to turn back to the Möllen siblings.
“I tweaked his nervous system,” Margaret said. “A lot of his senses were turned off long ago, and it made him more, uh, powerful. Now those senses have been restored.”
A soldier who was neither in pain nor ever afraid of cold or heat was, of course, the perfect immortal soldier. However, for a living person the loss of those senses was instead a form of torture. Unable to experience many of life’s pleasures, even one’s own life itself became insignificant because the person wasn’t afraid of pain. It was certainly a good thing to regain one’s senses, but…
“We’re about to go to war. Is it really okay?” Duan FeiZhou asked.
Miss Margaret said, “I also think he would be more advantageous in battle if he had no pain. If he wanted to regain his senses, he could have waited and come back to us later. But he insisted on doing it now.”
“Why?” Duan FeiZhou couldn’t help but ask.
Z gripped his hand tightly. The cold metal gradually warmed up in the heat of Duan FeiZhou’s palm, and became the same temperature as his body heat. “I want to feel what it is to be alive,” he said. “To live like a human being.”
Z’s palm was clearly metal, but Duan FeiZhou felt as if a warm current was flowing through it into his chest.
After thanking the Möllen siblings (and paying them enough, of course), Duan FeiZhou announced that the Trading House was closed for business. The customers whispered and complained. The guys who had been only looking but not buying hadn’t seen enough. However, there would be another time, and the next time, one day they could save up enough money to buy the goods they wanted.
They didn’t know that there might never be a next time.
When he saw the last customer leave the Trading House, Duan FeiZhou closed the guest channel, and he and Z returned to the real world.
Mr. N prepared a large box to hold the dollhouse. After it was packed, the dollhouse would be on a carriage, all the way to Shropshire and the Perlilla Lake House.
The Nightmen smiled at the sight of Z, who was walking alongside Duan FeiZhou. Duan FeiZhou’s eyes lingered on everyone’s face for a moment before asking, “Is everyone ready?”
Xenophon put on his manners and gave a fancy dance with his cane. “If I say no, can you still give me a few days’ grace?”
Duan FeiZhou gave Mr. N a nod. The latter put the dollhouse into a box, tied it carefully with a string, and sent it to the mail cart outside the door.
“A glass of adventurous wine?” Mr. N said.
The crowd nodded their heads in agreement. So Mr. N got the best barrel of aged wine from his cellar and poured nine glasses of wine. The nine people raised their cups and clinked them in the air, their crisp voices as sweet as songs.
“May our martial luck prosper.” Mrs. Q offered the traditional toast.
“May Carter and the Committee be finished soon,” Miss Acheson said coldly.
“May all be safe and well,” Evangeline said in a quiet voice.
“May the boss and Chester be good for a hundred years…Mmmmmm!” Xenophon’s mouth was stuffed with a piece of hard-to-swallow black bread by Z.
Duan FeiZhou scratched his chin in embarrassment, and turned to Yeats, “Poem to toast us?”
Yeats smiled faintly and said in a poetic tone, “Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart longs for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.” 1
- I changed the quote to the original language from Yeats’ The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore. What the author had was, “O storyteller, let us go forth and capture all the prey that our hearts desire, and fear nothing more. All things exist, all things are real, and the earth is but a speck of dust beneath our feet”
I wonder what request Her Maj made of Palmer.
I get Z wanting to feel human, but I’m just not sure he’s picked the best time to do it. Then again, I suppose it would have had to have been done whilst Margaret was restoring him.
Enjoyed the T/N and inclusion of original Yeats.
Thanks for translating and editing.
And, I pray for their success.😄
Curious as to what Palmer is doing for Queen Victoria…does she suspect Carter?? Hopefully!
Such a nice touch to throw in Yeats’s poem.
Looking forward to their battle!!
Thank you for the chapter!