11 Real Culinary Skills

The norm is for everyone to die together? Very glad that I’m still alive? Fortunate that I’m still alive?

Klein shivered and quickly ran to the door, trying to catch up with the policemen and ask for protection.

But as soon as he reached the handle, he suddenly stopped.

That officer talked so horribly about it, why didn’t they protect me, an important witness or key lead?

Isn’t that too careless?

Were they just probing me? Or maybe it’s a bait?

All kinds of thoughts rushed into Klein’s mind; he suspected that the police were still secretly “watching” him, observing his reaction.

He felt much calmer after thinking of this and was no longer so panicked. He slowly opened the door, deliberately shouting with a trembling voice at the staircase, “You guys will protect me, right?”

Tap, tap, tap… There was no response from the police officers, and there was no change in the rhythm of the contact between the leather shoes and the wooden stairs.

“I know! You’ll do that!” Klein shouted again in a tone of feigned conviction, trying to act like a normal person that was in danger.

The sound of footsteps gradually weakened and disappeared into the bottom floor of the apartment.

Klein snorted and laughed, “Isn’t that response too fake? Their acting skills are not up to standard!”

He did not run after them. Instead, he turned back to the room and closed the door behind him.

In the next few hours, Klein fully expressed what they called back in Foodaholic Empire, China—restlessness, nervousness, agitation, inadvertence and murmuring words that he did not understand. He did not slack just because there was no one around.

This is called the self-cultivation of an actor! He laughed at himself in his heart.

When the sun moved to the west, the clouds on the horizon appeared to be reddish-orange. Tenants in the apartment came home one after another; Klein shifted his focus elsewhere.

“Melissa is almost done with school…” He looked at the stove, lifted the kettle, peeled off the coal and took out the revolver.

Without pause or delay, he reached to the back of the board under the double-decked bed where more than ten wooden strips were staggered out.

After clipping the left wheel between a piece of wooden strip and board, Klein straightened up and waited uneasily, fearing that the police would burst open the door and rush into the room with guns in their hands.

If it was an Age of Steam, he was certain he would not be seen by anyone when he did that. However, there were extraordinary powers here, ones that he had proven through his own experiences.

After waiting for a few minutes, there was no movement at the door. There was only the chatter between two tenants who were heading for the Heart of the Wild Bar on Iron Cross Street.

“Phew.” Klein exhaled, feeling assured.

All he needed to do was wait for Melissa’s return and cook the stewed mutton with tender peas!

When the idea came to Klein’s mind, his mouth seemed to taste the rich flavor of the gravy; he remembered how Melissa cooked stewed mutton with tender peas.

First, she boiled the water and stir-fried the meat. Then, she added onions, salt, a little pepper, and water. After a specific period of time, the peas and potatoes were added, and the stew was to be cooked for an additional forty or fifty minutes with the lid on.

“It’s indeed a simple and crude way to do it… Supported purely by the flavors of the meat itself!” Klein shook his head.

But there was no other way about it. It was hard for commoners to have many kinds of condiments and various cooking methods. They could only pursue simple, practical, and economical methods. As long as the meat was not burnt or spoiled, anything was good for people who could only eat meat once or twice a week.

Klein was not a very good cook himself and ordered takeout food most of the time. But by cooking three or four times a week, after many weeks of accumulated practice, he had a passing standard and felt that he would not let the pound of mutton down.

“When Melissa comes back to cook it, it will be done after 7:30pm. She would be starving by then… It’s time for her to see what real cooking is!” Klein made an excuse for himself. First, he started the fire again, went to the bathroom to collect water, and washed the mutton. Then he took out the kitchen boards and knives before chopping the mutton into tiny chunks.

As for the explanation for his sudden culinary skills, he decided to blame it on the dead Welch McGovern, who had not only hired a chef who was good at the Midseashire flavor, but also often created his own delicacies and invited people to try them.

Well, the dead cannot refute me!

Nevertheless, tsk, this is a world with Beyonders; the dead are not necessarily unable to speak. With that in mind, Klein was a little guilty conscience.

He threw aside his confused thoughts and put the meat into the soup bowl. Then he took out the condiment box and added in a spoonful of the crude salt, half of which had begun yellowing. In addition, he cautiously took some black pepper grains from a special small bottle, mixing and marinating them together.

He placed the saucepan on the stove and, while waiting for it to heat up, Klein rummaged for the carrots from yesterday and cut them into pieces with the onions he bought today.

When he was done with his preparations, he took out a small can from the cupboard and opened it. There was not much lard left in it.

Klein took a spoonful, put it in the pan, and melted it. He added in the carrots and onions and stirred it for a while.

As the fragrance began to pervade, Klein poured all the mutton into the pot and fried it with care for a while.

He should have added cooking wine in the process, or red wine at least. However, the Moretti family did not have these luxuries and could only drink a glass of beer a week. Klein had to make do with whatever was available and poured in some boiled water.

After stewing for about twenty minutes, he opened the lid, put the tender peas and cut potatoes in it, and added a cup of hot water and two spoons of salt.

He closed the lid, lowered the fire, and exhaled satisfactorily, waiting for his sister to reach home.

As seconds turned into minutes, the fragrance in the room intensified. There was the allure from the meat, the rich smell of potatoes, and the refreshing scent of onions.

The smell gradually mixed up, and Klein swallowed his saliva from time to time, keeping track of the time with his pocket watch.

After more than forty minutes, some not-so-brisk but rhythmic footsteps approached. A key was inserted, the handle was turned, and the door opened.

Before Melissa came in, she whispered doubtfully, “Smells good…”

With her bag still in her hand, she stepped in and glanced over at the stove.

“You made this?” Melissa took off her veil hat and her hand paused mid-air, looking at Klein in astonishment.

She twitched her nose and inhaled more of the fragrance. Her eyes quickly softened, and she seemed to find some confidence.

“You made this?” she asked again.

“Are you afraid I’d waste the mutton?” Klein smiled and returned with a question. Without waiting for an answer, he said to himself, “Don’t worry, I specifically asked Welch to teach me how to cook this dish. You know, he has a good cook.”

“First time?” Melissa’s eyebrows creased subconsciously, but they were smoothed by the fragrance.

“It looks like I’m talented.” Klein laughed. “It’s almost done. Put your books and veil hat down somewhere. Go to the bathroom and wash your hands, and then get ready to taste it. I’m very confident about it.”

When she heard her brother’s orderly arrangements and saw his gentle and calm smile, Melissa stood rooted at the door and failed to respond in her daze.

“Do you prefer the mutton to be cooked longer?” Klein urged with a laugh.

“Ah, okay, okay!” Melissa jolted back to her senses. With handbag and veil in each hand, she rushed into the room quickly.

When the lid of the saucepan was uncovered, a sudden blast of steam appeared before Klein’s eyes. Two pieces of rye bread were already placed to the side of the mutton and tender peas, allowing them to absorb the fragrance and heat to become soft.

By the time Melissa had packed her items, washed her hands and face, and returned, a plate of stewed mutton with tender peas, potatoes, carrots and onions was already placed on the table. Two pieces of rye bread, colored by a light dip into the gravy, were on their plates.

“Come on, try it.” Klein pointed to the wooden fork and spoon next to the plate.

Melissa was still a little confused. She didn’t refuse; she picked up a potato with her fork, put it into her mouth and bit it lightly.

The taste of the starchy potato and gravy fragrance flooded her mouth. Her saliva secretion went crazy as she gobbled down the potato in a few mouthfuls.

“Try the mutton.” Klein gestured at the plate with his chin.

He had tasted it just now and thought it was barely at a passing standard, but it was enough for a girl who was inexperienced with what the world had to offer. After all, she only ate meat occasionally.

Melissa’s eyes were filled with anticipation as she carefully forked some mutton.

It was very tender and, as soon as it entered the mouth, nearly melted. The fragrance of the meat exploded in her mouth, filling it with delicious meat juices.

It was an unprecedented feeling and that made Melissa unable to stop eating.

By the time she realized it, she had already eaten several pieces of the mutton.

“I… I… Klein, this was supposed to be prepared for you…” Melissa blushed and stammered.

“I’d nibbled some of the food just now. It’s the privilege of being a cook.” Klein smiled and soothed her sister. He picked up his fork and spoon. At times, he would eat a piece of meat and sometimes, he would stuff his mouth full of peas. At other times, he would put down the utensils, break off a piece of rye bread and dip it in gravy.

Melissa relaxed and was immersed in the delicacy again by Klein’s normal behavior.

“It’s really delicious. It doesn’t seem like you were doing it for the first time.” Melissa looked at the empty dish and praised him with all her heart. Even the gravy was finished.

“It’s a long way from Welch’s chef. When I’m rich, I’ll take you and Benson out to the restaurant and have a better meal!” Klein said. He was beginning to look forward to it himself.

“Your interview… Burp…” Melissa did not finish her words because she suddenly let out a sound of contentment involuntarily.

She put her hand over her mouth in a hurry and looked embarrassed.

The fault is with the stewed mutton with tender peas just now! It was just too delicious.

Klein laughed secretly and decided not to make fun of his sister. He pointed to the plate and said, “This is your mission.”

“All right!” Melissa stood up immediately, took the basin and rushed out the door.

When she came back, she opened the cupboard to check the condiment box and other items as per normal.

“Did you just use them?” Melissa was surprised, and turned to Klein, holding the black pepper bottle and lard can.

Klein shrugged his shoulders and laughed.

“Just a little. It’s the price of a delicacy.”

Melissa’s eyes twinkled, her expression changing for a few moments, before she finally said, “Let me cook in the future.”

“Um… You have to hurry up and prepare for the interview. You have to think about your job.”

12 Here Again

Melissa, can you not rub my nose in it… Klein muttered inwardly. He felt a throbbing pain in his head.

The amount of content Klein had forgotten was considered a lot, but neither was it negligible. The interview was in two days, so how could he find the time to make up for it…?

Furthermore, he was involved in such strange paranormal activity, so how would it be possible that he would be in the mood to revise?

Klein gave his sister a perfunctory response and began putting on the appearance of studying. Melissa moved a chair over to sit beside him. With light shining from the gas lamp, she began working on her assignments.

The atmosphere was serene. When it was almost eleven o’clock, the siblings bade each other goodnight and went to bed.

Knock!

Knock! Knock!

Poundings on the door roused Klein from his dreams.

He peered out of the window to see the first glimmer of dawn. In a daze, he flipped over and sat up.

“Who is it?”

Look at the time now! Why didn’t Melissa wake me up?

“It’s me. Dunn Smith,” a man with a deep voice outside the door replied.

Dunn Smith? Don’t know him… Klein got off his bed and shook his head as he walked towards the door.

He opened the door to see the gray-eyed police inspector whom he had met the day before standing in front of him.

Alarmed, Klein asked, “Is there something wrong?”

The policeman replied with a stern look, “We found a carriage driver. He testified that you had gone to Mr. Welch’s place on the 27th—the day when Mr. Welch and Ms. Naya died. Furthermore, Mr. Welch was the one who paid for your transportation fees.”

Klein was startled. He did not feel a tinge of fear or guilt that one would expect from having his lies exposed.

It was because he was not even lying. In fact, he was surprised by the evidence provided by Dunn Smith.

On the 27th of June, the former Klein had indeed gone to Mr. Welch’s place. On the night that he returned, he killed himself, the exact same way as Welch and Naya did!

Klein gave a forced smile and said, “This is insufficient evidence. It does not directly prove that I am associated with the death of Welch and Naya. Honestly speaking, I’m also very curious about the whole incident. I want to know what exactly happened to my two poor friends. But… But… I really can’t remember. In fact I have almost completely forgotten what I had done on the 27th. You may find it hard to believe, but I fully relied on the diaries I had written to roughly make a guess that I had gone to Welch’s place on the 27th.”

“You sure have great mental fortitude,” Dunn Smith said while nodding. He showed not a trace of anger; nor was he smiling.

“You should be able to hear my sincerity,” Klein looked him straight in the eye and said.

I’m telling the truth! Of course, only part of it!

Dunn Smith did not give an immediate response. He swept his glance across the room before saying slowly, “Mr. Welch lost a revolver. I guess… I should be able to find it here. Right? Mr. Klein?”

Indeed… Klein finally understood where the revolver had come from. A thought flashed in his mind and he came to the final verdict in an instant.

He raised his hands halfway and retreated, leaving a path open. Then, he signaled at the bunk bed with his chin.

“Behind the bed board.”

He did not specifically mention that it was the bottom deck, as no one would normally hide things at the back of the bed board on an upper deck. That would be too obvious for guests to notice at a glance.

Dunn Smith did not move forward. The corners of his mouth twitched as he asked, “Nothing to add on?”

Without hesitation, Klein replied, “There is!”

“Yesterday, when I woke up in the middle of the night, I realized I was laying on my desk with a revolver beside me. There was a bullet at the corner of the room. It was as if I had committed suicide. But due to a lack of experience of never having used a gun, or maybe I was too scared at the final moment… Anyway, the bullet did not achieve the desired result, my head is still in its place. I am still alive now.

“And since then, I have lost some memories, including what I saw and did at Welch’s place on the 27th. I’m not lying. I really can’t remember.”

For the sake of being eliminated as a suspect. For the sake of getting rid of all these strange events surrounding him, Klein explained almost everything that had happened. Except, the transmigration and “gathering.”

Also, Klein was careful with his words, allowing every sentence to be amenable. Such as, not revealing the fact that the bullet had hit his brains, but only mentioning that it did not achieve the desired result, and that his head was still in its place.

To others, these two statements might seem to convey the exact same ideas, but in reality they were like chalk and cheese.

Dunn Smith listened quietly, then said, “This corresponds with what I had surmised. It also corresponds with the hidden logic of similar incidents in the past. Of course, I have no idea how you managed to survive.”

“I’m glad you believe in me. I don’t know how I survived either.” Klein heaved a small sigh of relief.

“But—” Dunn threw out a conjunction. “There is no use in me believing you. You are currently the prime suspect. You have to be confirmed by an ‘expert’ that you have indeed forgotten what you went through, or that you indeed have nothing to do with the deaths of Mr. Welch and Miss Naya.”

He coughed, his expression becoming serious.

“Mr. Klein, I seek your cooperation on coming with me to the police station for the investigation. This should take roughly two to three days if it is confirmed that there are no issues with you.”

“The expert is here?” Klein asked blankly in return.

Didn’t they say it would take another two days?

“She came earlier than expected.” Dunn turned sideways, signaling for Klein to leave.

“Allow me to leave a note,” Klein requested.

Benson was still away and Melissa had gone to school. He could only leave a note to inform them that he was involved in an incident associated with Welch so that they would not worry about him.

Dunn nodded, barely minding.

“Alright.”

Klein returned to the desk. As he searched for paper, he began thinking about what was about to occur.

Honestly speaking, he did not wish to meet the ‘expert.’ After all, he had a bigger secret.

In a place where there were seven major churches, under the premise that Emperor Roselle, who was suspected to be a transmigrator predecessor, was assassinated, a thing like ‘transmigration’ usually meant having to go to court and enter arbitration!

But, without weapons, combat skills, or superpowers, he was no match for a professional policeman. What’s more, a few of Dunn’s subordinates were standing in the dark outside.

Once they draw their guns and shoot at me, I’d be finished!

“Ugh, I’ll take one step at a time.” Klein left the note, grabbed his keys, and followed Dunn out the room.

Along the dark aisle, four policemen in black-and-white checkered uniforms split into pairs and guarded them on both sides. They were very alert.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Klein followed alongside Dunn as they went down the wooden stairs which occasionally creaked in protest.

Outside the apartment, there was a four-wheeled carriage. On the side of the carriage, there was the “two crossed swords and a crown” police emblem. Their surroundings were crowded and bustling with noise as usual.

“Go on, up.” Dunn signaled for Klein to go first.

Klein was just about to step forward when an oyster seller suddenly grabbed a customer and claimed that he was a thief.

Both parties wrestled and triggered a response from the horses, causing great chaos.

An opportunity!

There wasn’t much time for Klein to think any further; he bent forward and dashed towards the crowd.

Either shoving or dodging, he escaped frantically towards the other end of the street.

Right now, for the sake of not “meeting” the expert, he could only proceed by going to the pier outside the city, taking a boat down the Tussock River and escaping to the capital, Backlund. The population was higher there, making it easier to hide.

Of course, he could also get on a steam train, go eastward to the nearest Enmatt Harbor and take the sea route to Pritz, then towards Backlund.

Not long after, Klein arrived at a street and made a turn onto Iron Cross Street. There were several carriages that could be hired.

“To the pier outside the city.” Klein reached out his hand and hopped onto one of the carriages.

He had thought through things clearly. Firstly, he had to mislead the police that were coming for him. Once the carriage was a suitable distance away from them, he would jump right off!

“Alrighty.” The carriage driver tugged at the reins.

Clop! Clop! Clop… The carriage left Iron Cross Street.

Just as Klein was about to jump off the carriage, he noticed that it had turned into another road. It wasn’t leading out of the city!

“Where are you going?” Klein blurted in his momentary daze.

“To Welch’s place…” the carriage driver answered monotonously.

What!? Klein was at a loss for words. The carriage driver turned around, exposing his cold gray eyes. It was Dunn Smith, the gray-eyed policeman!

“You!” Klein was flustered. Everything suddenly became a blur as though the world spun around him when he instantly sat up.

Sat up? Klein looked around, confused. He noticed the crimson moon outside the window and the room being covered in a crimson veil.

He reached out with his hand to feel his forehead. It was all moist and cold. Cold sweat. His back felt exactly the same.

“It was a nightmare…” Klein heaved a sigh. “All is well… All is well…”

He found it weird. He was rather clear-minded in his dream, he was even able to think calmly!

After calming down, Klein looked at his pocket watch. It was only two in the morning. He got out of bed quietly and planned to head to the washroom where he could wash his face and empty his burgeoning bladder.

He opened the door and walked along the dark corridor. Under the dim moonlight, he walked lightly towards the washroom.

Suddenly, he noticed a silhouette outside the window at the end of the corridor.

That silhouette was wearing a black windbreaker that was shorter than a coat, but longer than a jacket.

That silhouette was partly camouflaged in the darkness, bathing in the crimson moonlight.

That silhouette turned around slowly. His eyes deep, gray, and cold.

Dunn Smith!

13 Nighthawk

Plop!

Klein could not help but take a step back. For a moment he was unsure if he was awake or still in his dreams.

The silhouette took off his black top hat and bowed a little as he said with a smile, “Reintroducing myself, Nighthawk, Dunn Smith.”

Nighthawk? One of the codenames of the Church of the Evernight Goddess’ Beyonder teams which ‘Justice’ and ‘The Hanged Man’ mentioned before? Klein suddenly realised something, and exclaimed after making a connection, “You can control dreams? You just made me dream of that?”

Nighthawk Dunn Smith wore his black hat again, concealing his slightly high hairline. With deep gray eyes he said, “No, I only entered your dream and made the necessary guidance.”

His voice was deep and soothing; it reverberated through the dimly lit corridor without disturbing the sweet dreams of others, “In dreams, even though much of your usually suppressed emotions and various dark thoughts in you are amplified—making everything seem chaotic, absurd, and crazy—they are all rooted in reality since reality exists. For veterans like me, everything is crystal clear. Compared to a conscious you, I believe the you in your dreams more.”

This… What normal human being could control his dream? If I had dreamed of something on Earth, wouldn’t Dunn Smith have noticed? Klein was petrified by what had happened in the dream.

Yet he quickly found it bizarre. He remembered being very much sober and rational—knowing what to say and what not to say.

To put it simply, it did not feel like dreaming at all!

So, Dunn Smith only “saw” what I wanted him to see?

Klein’s mind whirled as he gained a glimmer of understanding.

This is a perk that resulted from transmigration? Like having a special body and soul? Or was it the effects of that luck enhancement ritual?

“So, Mr Smith, do you believe that I really lost my memory?” Klein organized his thoughts and asked in reply.

Dunn Smith did not answer him directly. Instead he looked at him keenly.

“You are actually not surprised by the course of events?”

“I’ve met people who wouldn’t believe in the power of the Beyonders, and they would rather believe that they haven’t really woken up.”

Klein tersely acknowledged as he said, “Perhaps, I have always been praying, hoping that there was such power to help me.”

“An interesting train of thought… Perhaps you survived not only because you were lucky.” Dunn nodded expressionlessly. “I can now confirm that you really lost parts of your memories due to the incident, especially those related to it.”

“So can I go back now?” Klein heaved a long sigh of relief in his heart as he probed.

Dunn placed a hand in his pocket and walked slowly towards Klein, the surrounding darkness becoming tranquil and gentle.

“No, you still have to come with me to see the expert,” he smiled politely and said.

“Why?” Klein blurted out, then added, “You don’t believe in the findings from my dream?”

You must be joking, if that “expert” specializes in hypnosis or mind-reading and stuff, then wouldn’t my biggest secret be exposed?

The consequences would be beyond imagination!

“I’m quite humble usually, but I’m still confident for things related to dreams.” Dunn calmly replied, “However, for important key matters, there is no harm in confirming them again. Plus, our specialties lie in different areas. Perhaps, she can help you recover some of your memories.”

Not waiting for Klein to reply, his voice turned deeper. “After all you’re connected to the whereabouts of that Antigonus family notebook.”

“What?” Klein froze.

Dunn stopped in front of him, locking his gray eyes on Klein’s eyes and said, “At the scene of the suicide, there was not a single trace of that notebook from the Fourth Epoch. Welch is dead, Naya is dead; you are our only lead.”

“…Alright then.” Klein went silent for a moment before exhaling.

A missing notebook… now this is really peculiar!

How did I not think about the whereabouts of that notebook from the Fourth Epoch!

Dunn nodded slightly, walking pass Klein and said, “Lock your door and come with me to Welch’s apartment, the expert is waiting for us there.”

Klein took in a silent breath. His heart was thumping wildly as he felt uneasy.

He wanted to decline and even had the intention to run. However, he believed that with what had happened in his dreams, Dunn Smith would have definitely heightened his level of guard. And with the difference in strength between a normal human and a Beyonder, there was little chance of success by using force.

He must have a revolver with him too… He must also have had practice using the revolver…

Many thoughts flashed past his mind, and eventually Klein chose to accept the reality.

“Alright.”

Sigh, I can only take one step at a time and see how things unfold; maybe, that miraculous power in my dream will take effect again…

“Then let’s go,” Dunn said in an indifferent tone.

Klein turned and followed. After taking two steps, he suddenly stopped and said, “Mr. Smith, I… I would like to use the bathroom first.”

I came out originally for the bathroom…

Dunn did not stop him. Instead, he gave him a keen look and said, “No problem, Klein. Believe me, I am far more powerful than you can imagine in the dark night.”

In the dark night… Klein silently repeated this phrase.

He did not make any reckless attempt to escape and honestly relieved himself. He then washed his face with cold water, completely calming himself down.

Klein changed his outfit and closed the door to his apartment. With gentle steps, Klein followed Dunn down the stairs and walked towards the building’s entrance.

In such a tranquil setting, Dunn Smith opened his mouth and spoke suddenly, “At the end of the dream, why did you try to escape? What were you afraid of?”

Klein immediately thought of an answer as he said, “I do not remember what I did at Welch’s place, nor do I remember if I was directly involved in Welch’s and Naya’s deaths. I was afraid that if it was really proven to be my doing, I would rather gamble and escape. I can then start anew in the Southern Continent.”

“I would’ve done the same if I were you,” Dunn said as he pushed opened the door to the building, letting in the cool midnight breeze to disperse the sweltering heat inside.

He was not afraid of Klein running away as he got on the carriage. It was exactly the one Klein had dreamed of—a four-wheeled carriage drawn by a single horse and the carriage driver. There was also the police emblem of double-crossed swords that clustered a crown carved onto the side of the carriage.

Klein followed into the carriage. Inside, there was a thick carpet laid out and the place was filled with a soothing fragrance.

Having sat down, he looked for a topic to probe for more information.

“Mr. Smith, what if—and I mean if—the ‘expert’ confirms that I have really forgotten a part of my memories? And that there is no other evidence which points to me being the perpetrator or a victim, would this be over?”

“In theory, yes. We will try to search for the notebook through other means. As long as it exists, it can be found. Of course, before that, we will have to make sure you are not cursed or have any scent of cacodemons and that there are no related psychological problems lingering. We must ensure that you can embrace the rest of your life peacefully and healthily.” Dunn Smith had a smile on his face, a rather unusual smile.

Klein caught on to this point keenly, and promptly inquired, “In theory?”

“Yes, only in theory. In this field of work, there are always twisted, unorthodox, and inexplicable things happening.” Dunn looked Klein in the eye and said, “Their continuation or end are not what we can foresee or control at times.”

“For example?” Klein actually felt frightened for a moment.

The carriage sped through an almost empty street. Dunn took out his tobacco pipe and sniffed it, saying, “When we believe that things have come to an end, with everything going back to normal, it would resurface in a terrifying, chilling way.”

“A few years ago, we handled a case regarding an evil cult. They did live sacrifices to please an evil god by making followers commit suicide. When one of the followers was chosen, his survival instincts triumphed over his foolishness, twisted beliefs, and psychedelic drugs. He secretly escaped and reported to the police.

“The case was handed over to us. It was a very small mission, since there were no Beyonders in that cult. The deity they worshiped was actually randomly thought up by their leader merely for the sake of money and satisfaction. Humanity was lost there.

“We only used two members, coupled with the support from the police, to suppress this cult. No one was off the hook. For that whistleblower, we also confirmed that he had no lingering demonic scent left on him. He was not cursed and did not suffer any mental disorders. He didn’t have any personality problems or any other irregularities, nothing.

“Later, he got a decent advancement in his career, got married to a very good wife, had a son and a daughter. His dark past seemed far away from him. The horror and bloodshed seemed to have completely vanished.”

At this point, Dunn Smith gave out a laugh and said, “Yet in March this year, despite being in good financial health and having a loving wife and adorable kids… he strangled himself to death in his own office.”

The crimson moonlight outside the carriage window shone upon Dunn Smith.

At that instance, his seemingly self-derisive smile made Klein feel unspeakably horrified.

“Strangled himself to death…” Klein drew in a gasp of cool air silently, as if seeing his own tragic end.

Even if I escaped it once, it might just be temporary?

Is there any way to resolve this completely?

Become a Beyonder to fight it?

The carriage returned to silence. Countless thoughts welled in Klein’s mind.

Under an awkward silence, the carriage traveled for a long time at high speeds.

Just as Klein made up his mind to consult Dunn Smith for any solutions, the carriage came to a halt.

“Mr. Smith, we have reached Welch’s apartment.” The carriage driver’s voice was heard.

“Let’s get down.” Dunn straightened out his black coat that reached his knees.

“Oh, let me introduce beforehand, the official disguise of the ‘expert’ is the most renowned spirit medium of Awwa County.”

Klein suppressed his other thoughts and asked curiously, “Then what is her actual identity?”

Dunn half-turned his body and turned his head back, with his abstruse gray eyes he said, “A true Spirit Medium.”

14 The Medium

A true medium… Klein repeated this description inwardly, and did not speak again. He followed Dunn Smith down the carriage.

Welch’s place in Tingen was a detached house with a garden. The road outside the hollowed metal gates allowed four carriages to pass through at once. Street lamps lined the sides of the road every fifty meters. They looked different from the ones Klein had seen in his previous life. They were gas lamps and the height of every lamp was about that of an adult male so that it was convenient to light the lamps.

The black metal was closely appressed to the glass, forming a checkered pattern, casting out classical paper lantern-like ‘artworks.’ Coldness and warmth were intertwined while darkness and light coexisted.

Walking along the pathway blanketed by rays from the sunset, Klein and Dunn Smith entered Welch’s rented place through the ajar metal gate.

Facing the main entrance was a cemented road that led straight to a two-floored bungalow. Two carriages could go at once.

There was a garden on the left and a lawn to the right. The pleasantly faint fragrance from the flowers mixed with the cool scent of the fresh grass made one feel happy and relaxed.

As soon as he stepped in, Klein shivered and peered around.

He felt that in the garden, somewhere in the lawn, on the roof, behind the swing, somewhere in a dark corner, pairs of eyes were observing him!

There was clearly no one here; yet, Klein felt as if he was on a crowded street.

This strange contrast—this peculiar feeling—tensed him up. A chill ran up his spine.

“Something’s wrong!” he couldn’t help but exclaim to Dunn.

Dunn’s expression remained unchanged as he walked beside him and replied calmly, “Just ignore them.”

Since the “Nighthawk” had said so, Klein tolerated the chilling feeling of not being able to notice the perpetrator despite being followed, spied, and observed. Step by step, he arrived at the main entrance of the bungalow.

If this goes on any longer, I will go crazy… As Dunn reached out his hand to knock on the door, Klein quickly turned around. Flowers swayed in the wind, without a person in sight.

“Come in, gentlemen.” A seemingly ethereal voice came from inside the house.

Dunn turned the doorknob, pushed the door open and said to a woman on the sofa, “Daly, any results?”

The chandelier in the living room was unlit. A set of two leather couches surrounded a marble coffee table.

On the table was a lit candle, but the light emitted a cobalt blue glow. It covered the half-enclosed living room, dining room, and kitchen in a strange, eerie hue.

On the middle of the sofa sat a lady in a hooded black robe who wore blue eyeshadow and blush. An exposed silver bracelet with a hanging white crystal pendant was worn around her wrist.

At the first sight of her, Klein had an inexplicable feeling. She was dressed just like a real medium…

Was she stereotyping herself?

Daly, the “medium” with uncanny beauty, took a quick glance at Klein with her twinkling emerald eyes. She looked at Dunn Smith and said, “The original spirits have all disappeared, including that of Welch’s and Naya’s. Right now, all these little rascals know nothing at all.”

Spirits? Spirit Medium… All the invisible things that were spying on him previously were spirits? There were so many of them? Klein removed his hat and placed it across his chest, bowing slightly as he said, “Good evening, Madam.”

Dunn Smith sighed. “That’s tricky…”

“Daly, this is Klein Moretti. See if you can get anything out of him.”

The medium, Daly, shifted her gaze onto Klein immediately. She pointed at a single armchair and said, “Please, take a seat.”

“Thank you.” Klein nodded, took a few steps over, and sat down obediently. His heart raced uncontrollably.

Whether I survive, whether I get through this successfully or have my secrets exposed will all depend on whatever happens next!

And the thing that made him feel the most helpless was that he had nothing to rely on. He could only place his hopes on his inherent specialness…

This feeling really sucks… Klein thought bitterly.

Next, Dunn sat on the two-seater sofa opposite of Klein. Daly took out two thumb-sized glass bottles from her waist pouch.

Her emerald eyes smiled at Klein as she said, “I need a bit of help here. After all, you are not an enemy, I can’t treat you harshly. That might make you uncomfortable or put you in pain. It might even leave some serious after-effects on you. I will give you some fragrances, making you feel tender and smooth, which will allow you to let loose bit by bit so that you can truly indulge in those feelings.”

That sounded wrong… Klein gaped as his eyes were filled with shock.

Seated across him, Dunn laughed and said, “Don’t be weirded out. We are different from the fellows from the Church of the Lord of Storms. Here, the ladies can also verbally tease men. In this regard, you should be able to understand. Your mother was a devout believer of the Goddess. You and your brother used to attend Sunday school at Church.”

“I understand. It’s just that I never thought that she would be such a… such a…” Klein gestured, as he could not find the right words. He almost blurted out the direct translation for “veteran driver 1 “.

Dunn curved the corners of his mouth up and said, “Don’t worry. Actually, Daly seldom does this. She just wants to use these methods to calm you down. She prefers corpses over men.”

“You make me sound perverted,” Daly interjected with a smile.

She opened one of the little bottles and dripped a few drops onto the bright blue candle flame.

“Night vanilla, slumber flower, and chamomile, all distilled and extracted to form this aromatic floral essence. I call it ‘Amantha;’ it means tranquility in the Hermes language. It smells really amazing.”

As they chatted, the candle flame flickered, evaporating the floral essence and filling the room with its aroma.

A beautifully enchanting aroma found its way into Klein’s nostrils. He no longer felt tensed up. He was instantly calm as if he was gazing into the darkness of the silent night.

“This bottle is called the Eye of the Spirit. Barks and leaves of drago and poplar trees are sun-dried for seven days and decocted thrice. Then, they are immersed in Lanti Wine. Of course, there would be several incantations while we’re at it…” As Daly described the liquid, the amber substance dripped onto the cobalt blue candle flame.

Upon smelling the ethereal scent of the aromatic wine, Klein noticed that the candle flame was dancing wildly. The luster of Daly’s blue eyeshadow and blush shone oddly, to the extent of him seeing double.

“It is a great helping hand for mediumship. It is also a floral essence that is sufficiently enchanting… ”

As Daly explained continuously, Klein felt as if her voice was coming from all around.

Bewildered, Klein looked around and realized that everything was swaying and in a blur. He felt like he was shrouded by layers and layers of fog. Even his body was swaying as it phased away before he began floating and then losing his balance.

Colors blended like an impressionist painting—the reds were redder, the blues were bluer, and the blacks were blacker—appearing more defined than usual. It was dreamy and hazy. Distinct murmurs from the surroundings came through as if hundreds and thousands of people who could not be seen were debating.

“This feels similar to the luck enhancement ritual I did before, but without the kind of madness that makes your head feel like exploding…” Klein looked around and thought questioningly.

At this moment, his vision was locked onto a pair of eyes that were crystal clear like emerald. On a blurry “sofa” sat Daly in a black robe. Eccentrically, her gaze concentrated on the tip of Klein’s head. She smiled and in a gentle voice, said, “Let me properly introduce myself. I am the Spirit Medium, Daly.”

I can still… have rational thoughts… It’s like when I was at that luck enhancement ritual and that gathering… The thought crossed Klein’s mind as he intentionally behaved muddled and said, “Hello there…”

“The mental worlds of humans are extremely vast. Many secrets are hidden within the mind. Look at the ocean—what we know about it is all on the superficial level. But in reality, deep in the ocean, there is a larger unseen portion. Other than islands, there is the entire ocean. There is the boundless sky that symbolizes the spiritual world…

“You are the spirit of your body. Not only do you know of the islands above, but you also know of the things hidden beneath the sea, as well as the entire ocean…

“Anything that exists leaves some traces behind. The superficial memories of the islands may be wiped out, but what is left under the sea and the entire ocean will definitely have a corresponding projection left in it…”

Daly went on and on, bewitching Klein. The vague surrounding winds and shadows took on similar forms. It as though Klein’s spirit was fully exposed in the form of an ocean, waiting for him to search and discover.

Klein watched patiently, as he ‘churned’ the ocean occasionally. Then, in an airy voice, he replied, “No… I can’t remember… I have forgotten…”

He expressed his agony at just the right level.

Daly tried to guide him once again, but the clear-headed Klein was unaffected.

“Okay. We shall end here. You may leave.”

“Leave.”

“Leave…”

The airy voice lingered and Daly disappeared. The wind and shadows began calming as the ethereal smell and subtle scent of the aromatic wine became more distinct again.

The colors returned to their normal state and the fuzzy feeling was no longer around. Klein’s body quivered, and he found his balance again.

He opened his eyes, which he had no memory of closing, and noticed that the candle with the bright blue flame was still before him. Dunn Smith was still resting comfortably on the couch. Same for Daly with the black-hooded robe.

“Why did you use the theory that belongs to that bunch of evil madmen, the Psychology Alchemists?” Dunn furrowed his eyebrows and stared at Daly.

As Daly put away the two little bottles, she replied calmly, “I think it’s pretty accurate. At least, it corresponds with some of the things I’ve made contact with before…”

Without waiting for Dunn’s reply, Daly shrugged and said, “This tricky fellow did not leave a single trace behind.”

Upon hearing this, Klein heaved a huge sigh of relief. Pretentiously, he asked, “Oh, it’s over? What happened? It felt like I just took a nap…”

That was a pass, right?

Thankfully, I had the ‘luck enhancement ritual’ as a rehearsal!

“Just take it as such.” Dunn interrupted him and looked at Daly. “Have you examined Welch’s and Naya’s bodies?”

“The corpses can tell us a lot more than you can imagine. It’s such a pity that Welch and Naya had indeed committed suicide. So, the force that drove them to it is to be feared. Not a single trace was left behind.” Daly stood up and pointed at the candle. “I need some rest.”

The cobalt blue glow vanished, and the house was instantly inundated with a blurry shade of crimson.

“Congratulations. You can return home now. But do remember, do not reveal this incident to your loved ones. You have to promise this.” Dunn said as he led Klein to the door.

Surprised, Klein asked, “Is there no need to examine the curses or the trails left behind by the evil spirits?”

“Daly didn’t mention anything about it, so there’s no need for it,” Dunn answered simply.

Klein calmed down. As the thought of his previous worries came to mind, he asked hurriedly, “How can I be sure that I will be free from trouble from now on?”

“No worries.” Dunn twitched his lips and said, “Based on statistics of similar incidents in the past, eighty percent of the survivors of the incident do not experience any horrifying after-effects. Yeah… This is based on what I know… roughly… more or less…”

“Then… there’s still one fifth of those poor souls…” Klein did not dare to try his luck.

“Then you can consider joining us as a civilian staff. This way, even if there are any precursors, we can discover it in time,” Dunn said casually as he approached the carriage. “Or simply become a Beyonder. After all, we are not nannies. We can’t babysit you all day long and even watch what you do with women.”

“Can I?” Klein questioned the statement.

Of course, he did not expect much. After all, how was it even possible to be a part of the Nighthawks so easily and obtain the power of the Beyonders?

That was the power of the Beyonders!

Dunn paused, and turned his head sideways to look at him.

“It’s not that you can’t… It depends…”

What? The transition in his words shocked Klein. Klein stared blankly beside the carriage before answering, “Really?”

Who are you kidding? Is it so easy to become a Beyonder?

Dunn laughed lightly; his gray eyes were hidden in the shadow of the carriage.

“You don’t believe me, huh? Actually, when you become a Nighthawk you lose a lot. For instance, freedom.

“Even if we don’t talk about this now, there is another issue. Firstly, you are not a member of the clergy, nor a devotee. You can’t pick whatever you want or choose the safest approach.”

“And secondly…” Dunn held onto the handle and hopped onto the carriage as he went on. “Among the cases that we—us, the Mandated Punisher, the Machinery Hivemind and other Judiciaries—have to deal with annually, a quarter of them were a result of Beyonders who lost control.”

A quarter… Beyonders who lost control… Klein was dumbfounded.

Just then, Dunn turned slightly. His gray eyes were deep. With no sign of a smile, he continued, “And among the quarter of cases, a large number of them are our teammates.” Veteran driver is an Internet slang phrase describing people who are very experienced in particular domains, especially sexually-related things such as posting pornographic resources.

15 The Invitation

A wave of tumultuous emotions rose up in Klein’s heart after he heard Dunn. Instinctively, he uttered, “Why?”

The Beyonders have serious hidden dangers? So much so that the Church’s internal Judiciary and the Beyonders, who dealt with bizarre phenomenon, are also prone to problems?

Dunn stepped into the carriage and sat back in his seat. His expression and tone remained the same.

“This is not something that you need to understand. Neither is it something you can understand, unless you become one of us.”

Klein was struck dumb for a moment, after which he sat down and questioned in a tone that was half dubious and half-joking.

“If I don’t come to understand, how is it possible for me to make a decision to join?”

And not joining would mean Klein could not understand. This would end in a deadlock…

Dunn Smith took out the pipe once again, placed it against his nose, and took a whiff.

“You probably misunderstood; a civilian staff member is also one of us.”

“In other words, as long as I become one of your civilian staff members, I will be able to understand the relevant secrets, figure out the hidden dangers that plague Beyonders, and the dangers that may be encountered, as well as consider whether I want to become a Beyonder later?” Klein reorganized his thoughts and paraphrased what Dunn had shared.

Dunn smiled and said, “Yes, that is the case, except for one point. You cannot simply become a Beyonder just because you want to because every church will be equally strict in this aspect.”

It would be odd if the churches were not strict… Klein lampooned silently, as he added with a more intense tone coupled with stronger body language, “What about civilian staff members? This should be quite strict as well, right?”

“There shouldn’t be any problems if it’s you,” said Dunn with half-closed eyelids as he whiffed the pipe with partially relaxed countenance. However, he did not ignite it.

“Why?” Klein asked as he was once again grappled by doubt.

At the same time, he jested inwardly.

So my uniqueness and halo as a transmigrator are akin to the fireflies in the night, ever so bright and outstanding?

Dunn opened his half-closed eyelids, his silver-colored eyes reflecting the same tranquility as before.

“First, you managed to survive without our help in such a situation. Certain exceptional qualities are not present in others. For instance, luck. Lucky people are often welcomed.”

Seeing that Klein’s expression had turned blank, Dunn smiled slightly.

“All right, just treat this as a humorous statement. Second, you’re a graduate of the history department from Khoy University; this is something we urgently need. Although a believer of the Lord of the Storms, Leumi, perceives women in a way that is loathsome, his views regarding society, humanities, economics, and politics remain incisive. He said before that talents are key to maintaining a competitive advantage and positive development, a point that I very much agree with.

Noticing that Klein was slightly furrowing his eyebrows, Dunn casually explained, “You should be able to imagine that we often encounter documents and objects from the Fourth Epoch or earlier. Many cults and heretics have tried to gain power from these things. Sometimes, they themselves can lead to strange and terrible things.

“Except for the Beyonders in special fields, most of us are not good with our studies, or have passed that age.” Having said that, Dunn Smith pointed to his own head, and the corner of his mouth turned up slightly as if he was mocking himself.

He then said, “Those dry, boring knowledge always puts us to sleep. Even the Sleepless can’t help it. In the past, we would cooperate with historians or archaeologists, but this posed the risk of exposing secrets, and mishaps might befall on these otherwise uninvolved professors and associate professors. Thus, the addition of a professional in our ranks is hard to refuse.”

Klein nodded lightly and accepted Dunn’s explanation. With his thoughts all over the place, he asked, “Then why don’t you directly, um, groom one?”

Dunn continued, “This brings me to the third point, which is also the final and most important point. You’ve already been through a similar ordeal, so inviting you doesn’t violate the confidentiality clause.

“With regard to developing others, I will bear the responsibility of exposure if it fails. Most of our team members, our civilian staff members, come from within the Church.”

After Klein finished listening silently, he asked curiously, “Why are you so strict about maintaining confidentiality? Wouldn’t spreading the news publicly to more people and increasing awareness lessen the chances of a similar mistake from happening again? The greatest fear stems from the fear of the unknown; we can make the unknown become known.”

“No, humanity’s stupidity is beyond your imagination. It actually leads to more people emulating these acts, creating more chaos and more severe incidents,” Dunn Smith shook his head and replied.

Klein acknowledged as he replied in enlightenment, “The only lesson that humans can learn from history is that humans do not gain any lessons from history, and they’re always repeating the same tragedies.”

“That famous quote from Emperor Roselle is indeed filled with much philosophical meaning,” agreed Dunn.

…Emperor Roselle said that? This transmigrator senior really did not give the ‘latecomers’ any chance to posture… Klein did not know how to follow up on Dunn’s words.

Dunn turned his head and gazed out of the horse carriage. The dim yellowish light of the street lamps intertwined to display the splendor of civilization.

“…There is a similar discourse within the judiciary of the major churches. This may be the main reason for the strict confidentiality and the prohibition of ordinary people from knowing.”

“What is it?” Klein asked as his interest was piqued, pleasured that he seemed to be spying on secrets.

Dunn turned his head; his facial muscles pulled themselves so slightly that it was hardly visible.

“Faith and fear bring troubles. More faith and more fear bring more troubles, until everything is destroyed.”

After he said that, Dunn signed, “Besides praying for the blessings and help from gods, humans can’t solve their real major problems.

“Faith and fear bring troubles. More faith and more fear bring more troubles…” Klein recited silently, but he could not fully understand it.

What followed next was the fear of uncertainty that came from the unknown. It was like the dark shadows formed by the street lights outside. In the darkness without light, it appeared as though there were pairs of callous-looking eyes and wide-opened mouths.

As the horse galloped vigorously and nimbly while the wheels of the horse carriage reeled on ahead with Iron Cross Street in sight, Dunn broke the silence suddenly and formally invited Klein.

“Would you like to join us as a civilian staff member?”

In Klein’s mind, multiple thoughts surfaced, making him indecisive. He contemplated and asked, “Can I have some time to consider?”

Since this matter had serious implications, he could not hastily and recklessly make the decision.

“No problem, just give me a reply before Sunday,” Dunn nodded and added. “Of course, remember to keep this a secret and don’t disclose the information regarding Welch to anyone, including your brother and sister. Once this is violated, it’ll not only bring them trouble, but you might also have to attend a special court.”

“Okay,” Klein answered gravely.

The carriage was once again plunged into silence.

Seeing that they were nearing Iron Cross Street and that he was almost reaching home, Klein suddenly thought of a question. He hesitated for a few seconds before asking, “Mr Smith, what kind of salary and benefits do civilian staff get?”

This was a serious question…

Taken aback momentarily, Dunn smiled instantly and answered, “There’s no need for you to worry about this issue. Our funds are guaranteed by the Church and the police department. For newly registered civilian staffs, the weekly salaries are placed at two pounds and ten soli. There is an additional ten soli as compensation for the risk and confidentiality. All of this will add up to a total of three pounds. This is hardly worse than a confirmed university lecturer.

“Afterwhich, your salary will gradually rise according to your experience and contributions.

“As for civilian staff members, the contract is generally five years. After five years, you can quit normally if you’re no longer willing to stay. You only have to sign a lifetime confidentiality agreement and you’re not allowed to leave Tingen until permission is given. If you want to move to another city, the first thing you must do is register with the local Nighthawk.

“By the way, there are no weekends and you can only work in shifts. At any point in time, there should be three civilian staffs on duty and if you wish to go to the South or Desi Bay for a vacation, you’ll need to arrange it with your colleagues.”

Just as Dunn finished speaking, the horse carriage pulled to a stop and the apartment building where Klein and his siblings resided in appeared on the side.

“I get it now,” Klein turned around and walked down the horse carriage. He stopped at the side and asked, “By the way Mr. Smith, where do I find you after I’ve come to my decision?”

Dunn gave a deep and low throaty laugh before saying, “Go to the ‘Hound Pub’ at Besik Street and find their boss, Wright. Tell him that you want to hire a small mercenary squad for a mission.”

“Huh?” Klein asked confusedly.

“Our location is confidential too. Before you agree to become one of us, I can’t tell you directly. Alright Mr. Klein Moretti, I wish you a good dream tonight as well,” Dunn smiled as he said.

Klein took off his hat and saluted, watching as the pace of the departing horse carriage gradually sped up.

He took out his pocket watch.

“Click,” he pressed it open and saw that it was only a little past four in the morning. The street was filled with a relaxing, cool breeze. A dim yellowish light from the street lamps illuminated the surroundings.

Klein drew a deep breath and took in the deep silence of the night around him.

The busiest and noisiest district in the day could be so lifeless and quiet at night. This was in stark contrast to the silent observations and medium’s seance in Welch’s residence.

It was only then that Klein realized that the back of his linen shirt was unknowingly drenched in sweat, cold and clammy.

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