21 An Old Friend In A Different World
In that instant, Klein even believed that he had transmigrated back. However, the elegant gas lamp surrounded by brass grids and the silver-inlaid tin, which Old Neil kept his handground coffee in, made him recognize the reality he was in.
The transmigrator, Emperor Roselle, is really a fellow countryman of mine? He was using Simplified Chinese—which doesn’t exist in this world—to record secrets? With the indescribable feeling of identifying an old friend in a different world, Klein quickly read through the three pages.
“18th November. Truly a fascinating matter. A blue-sky experimentation and a chance mistake made me discover the pathetic fellow lost and trapped in the deep darkness amid the storms. He can only approach the reality of this world on the day of the full moon every month; yet, he is unable to transmit his cries. He is lucky to have met me, the protagonist of this era.”
“After reading the paragraph I wrote above, I suddenly felt a little down. Even my Chinese is written like a translation. Four decades have passed in a finger snap. My past memories feel more like a dream.”
“1184, 1st January. At the grand New Year Gala, Lady Florena was truly splendid.”
“2nd January. My diplomats are all idiots!”
“3rd January. I made a hasty choice back then. In hindsight, I should have chosen the Apprentice, the Seer, or the Marauder. Unfortunately, there is no way of redoing it.”
“4th January. Why are my children so stupid? I’ve repeated myself so many times. Do not be fooled by those charlatans! The key thing about potions is not about grasping them, but digesting them! It’s nothing about tapping powers, but acting! And the name of a potion is not solely symbolic at its core, but a concrete imagery, and the ‘key’ to digestion!”
“9th September. An alliance opposing me has been established. Feysac from the north, Loen from the east, Feynapotter from the south. My enemies have finally joined forces, but I have no fear. I will use facts to teach them that the generations of weapons and knowledge cannot be compensated by mere numbers and low-grade Sequencers. Besides, it’s not as though I do not have subordinates. As for the higher-grades, heh heh. Have they forgotten who I am?”
“23rd September. I have lost communications with the ship seeking the Forsaken Land of the Gods. I should consider inventing wireless telegraphs. I hope it would not be affected by the storm.”
“24th September. Miss Ithaca is more mesmerizing than Lady Florena. Perhaps, I’m just being nostalgic about my youth.”
Due to the complexity of characters in Simplified Chinese, the font was slightly larger than normal, leading to less content on each page. Furthermore, for preservational and research purposes, the back of each page was left empty. But even so, Klein still felt an upheaval of emotions when he read the diary. In particular, Emperor Roselle’s description of the crux of potions made him feel like he found the path to the solution. He was thrilled at having learned a priceless secret.
Perhaps, this will be a beacon for my future path as a Beyonder! Well, the three pages belong to entries at different times. It seems Emperor Roselle only writes the year on the first entry of each year. It cannot be determined which year the two pages with September and November belong to… Who is the pathetic fellow he discovered?
What do “digesting” and “acting” actually mean?
Where is the Forsaken Land of the Gods? …
These questions bubbled in Klein’s head. It made him eager to immediately gather all of Emperor Roselle’s diary and read it from cover to cover!
“Klein?” At that moment, Old Neil asked puzzledly across him.
Klein jolted awake as he hurriedly covered it up with a laugh. “I thought I would be the most special one. I was trying to decipher and interpret it.”
“You are young indeed.” Old Neil nodded, laughing. “I once believed that I was the most special one as well.”
Klein flipped through the three pages in his hand and after confirming that he had not missed anything, he handed it over to Old Neil and thoughtlessly asked, “Do we only have these few pages?”
I want to see more of Emperor Roselle’s diary! “Did you think there would be many?” Old Neil caressed the scripts as his wrinkles deepened from his scoff. “There are not many incidents a year that involve Beyonders and mystery to begin with. Sigh, the major reason is the gradual extinction of extraordinary species in our Northern Continent. Without them, there won’t be a lot of potions, causing the number of Beyonders to reduce with time. Sigh, over the past few centuries, dragons, giants, and elves have become simply records in books. Even the seafolks are no longer seen near the coastal waters.”
Upon hearing this, Klein suddenly thought of a meme. He immediately said with a smile, “I think it’s time to establish a Dragons and Giants Protection Association.”
Old Neil looked confused when he heard that. It took him quite some time to figure out what it meant. After figuring out its meaning, he rapped the table and laughed quite heartily in a not-so-gentlemanly manner.
“Haha, Klein, you really are humorous. This is a tradition of our Loen Kingdom. It’s good that young people have a sense of humor. I believe we shouldn’t be overly narrow in scope. Why are we only protecting dragons and giants? It should be called Fantastic Beasts Protection Association.”
“No, no, no. How can we forget those poor plants?” Klein shook his head.
They exchanged looks and proclaimed in unison: “Fantastic Organisms Protection Association!”
Both of them laughed tacitly. The awkwardness and unfamiliarity of the atmosphere between them dissipated considerably.
“There are fewer interesting young people like you these days… Where was I?” Old Neil’s wrinkles suffused a smile as he said, “I remember. There are not many incidents a year that involve Beyonders and mystery to begin with. The retards who revere Emperor Roselle are the minority of the minority. It’s already pretty good that we can obtain three scripts… Well, the other larger cathedrals or dioceses might have some…”
After muttering a few words, he took the approval note which Klein had placed on the table earlier and took a look.
“Are they pistol bullets, rifle bullets, or steam-pressured bullets?”
“It’s a revolver,” answered Klein honestly.
“Alright. I’ll go get them. Ahem, do you have an armpit holster? As a gentleman, we can’t let you have something bulging below your waist in public.” Old Neil made a joke that all men understood.
“Heh, no. Do I need to get Captain to include it?” Klein smiled cooperatively.
Old Neil stood up and said, “There’s no need. I just need to make a record. It’s an accessory item. Repeat after me: accessory item.”
“Were you a teacher in the past?” joked Klein.
“I spent some time at the Church’s Sunday school and free schools.” Old Neil waved the note and took out a key from the drawer. He then opened the iron door that led into an inner chamber.
Beyonders do not seem much different from commoners… Klein murmured silently before casting his gaze on the table where the three pages of the diary were.
Emperor Roselle is indeed involved in the realm of mystery…
His diary is invaluable… To others, they are just pieces of scrap paper. It is unknown when they will be deciphered, but they are a valuable treasure to me! I wonder where the remaining parts of the diary are…
I have to think of ways to get more… Klein’s mind went through upheavals as he could hardly calm down. This continued until Old Neil came out and closed the iron door.
“Ten demon hunting bullets, thirty revolver bullets. An ox-hide armpit holster, and a Seventh Unit, Special Operations Department badge. Please count them and give them a try. Remember to sign the log book.” Old Neil placed the items down on the table.
The revolver bullets were arranged neatly in a paper box which was divided into three layers. The bullets shimmered with a yellow sheen just like the bullets back home, but they appeared narrower.
As for the demon hunting bullets, they were kept in a small iron box. The shape was identical to regular revolver bullets, but their surface was silver in color. Upon a more careful examination, there were complicated and dazzling patterns with tiny Sacred Emblems—a black background dotted with stars and a half crimson moon—engraved at the bottom.
The ox-hide holster felt solid and it came with a belt and buckle. Beside it was a badge half the size of a palm. It had a metallic background with “Awwa County Police Department and Seventh Unit, Special Operations Department” inscribed in silver text. They formed almost two sealed circles and surrounded the “two crossed swords and a crown” police emblem.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a Nighthawks badge,” Klein said half wistfully and half probingly.
Old Neil smiled and urged Klein to test the armpit holster.
After he took off his jacket, Klein took quite a bit of effort to buckle up the holster, which hung close to his left armpit.
“Not bad.” He put on his jacket again.
Old Neil sized him up and nodded in satisfaction.
“It suits you well. My judgment is as accurate as usual.”
After putting away the other items into his pockets and signing the log book, Klein had a short, casual conversation with Old Neil before leaving.
Halfway, he suddenly he slapped himself in the forehead.
“I forgot to learn more about the Sequences and potions. It’s all the fault of Emperor Roselle’s diary…”
At this point, he was still unaware of what the first Sequence of the complete pathway the Church of the Evernight Goddess possessed. All he knew was that it started with Sequence 9.
Rozanne had apparently mentioned something… The Sleepless? Just as Klein was slowly walking towards the stairs, a person came down.
He wore tight trousers which made movement easy. His white shirt was not tucked in, and he had a clear romantic temperament of a poet. He was none other than the black-haired, green-eyed police inspector who had previously came to search Klein’s place. They had met upstairs previously, but they had not exchanged words.
“Good afternoon,” greeted the young poet-like Nighthawk with a smile.
“Good afternoon. I believe I do not need to introduce myself?” answered Klein humorously.
“There’s no need. I have a deep impression of you.” The young Nighthawk extended his right hand and said, “Leonard Mitchell. Sequence 8’s Midnight Poet.”
Sequence 8… He’s really a poet… Klein smilingly shook his hand as he returned with a question, “You have a deep impression of me?”
Leonard Mitchell’s green eyes were deep as he replied with a very faint smile. “You have a special disposition.”
He feels and sounds so gay… The corners of Klein’s mouth moved slightly as he barely said with a smile, “I don’t think so myself.”
“After encountering an accident like that, you remained alive despite not receiving our protection immediately. That makes you special enough.” Leonard pointed ahead. “I have to replace Captain. See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow.” Klein turned to make way for the Nighthawk.
As he walked to the ends of the stairwell, Leonard Mitchell suddenly turned around and stared at the stone-paved ground which was illuminated by the yellow sunset. He muttered into the air softly, “Did you manage to notice anything…”
“Indeed, there’s nothing special about him…”
22 Starting Sequence
After he went up the stairs and returned to the reception hall, Klein was about to bid Rozanne farewell when he heard the brown-haired girl mention briskly, “Captain says that you can come on Monday. He wants you to settle your household affairs first.”
“…Alright.” Klein never expected the Nighthawks’ management to be so humane and accommodating. It made him feel a little grateful.
He was planning on waking early the next morning and make use of the opportunity to “wander around” to visit Tingen University. He planned on informing the staff in charge of the interview that he was not participating in the follow-up interviews. After all, he had originally obtained the opportunity to make the interview because of his professor’s recommendation letter. Regardless, it was basic courtesy to have formal closure. Even if it was not for himself, he had to respect his mentor’s efforts.
And in a world without telephones, where telegrams were charged by the character, and the fact that it would be too late to send a letter, he felt that taking the public carriage to the university was the most economical and suitable solution.
Having received the Captain’s special approval, Klein did not need to tire himself out. He could wake up late and still make his way there on time.
Klein was just about to take off his hat to bid Rozanne farewell when he suddenly thought of something. He looked around and suppressed his voice. “Rozanne, do you know what the starting point of the Church’s complete Sequence is?”
He had forgotten to ask Old Neil.
Rozanne’s eyes widened as she looked at Klein in astonishment. “You wish to become a Beyonder?”
Was I that obvious? Klein’s body language betrayed him as he answered in embarrassment, “Having learned that extraordinary and mysterious powers exist in the world, it’s inevitable that I have some yearnings for it.”
“Oh my Goddess. Do you know how dangerous it is? Didn’t Captain tell you? The enemies of Beyonders are not just cultists or dark warlocks, but themselves! People lose control nearly every year. Some even end up sacrificing themselves! Aren’t you going to consider how your family will feel?” Rozanne’s hand gestures amplified her tone as her reaction appeared overly agitated. “Klein, I think the better choice is to be a civilian staff. There’s nearly no danger, and our salary increases every year. After a few years of work, you will have saved up much money, allowing you to rent a bungalow in the North Borough or in the suburbs. You can then marry a rich and charming lady and have a wonderful family, having adorable and naughty little angels…”
“Rozanne, stop! Hold up!” Klein hurriedly stopped her in exasperation when he realized that she was changing the subject. “I just want to… to, well, understand the basics for now.”
“Alright…” Rozanne fell silent for a few seconds as she lowered her gaze, feeling somewhat sorry. “Due to what happened to my father, whenever I face similar problems, I tend to be… well, you know, a little agitated. However, to be honest, I’m filled with respect towards any man or woman who willingly wishes to be a Nighthawk.”
“I understand, I understand,” echoed Klein.
Rozanne blinked her light brown eyes and added, “My father once said that one should never think that they can resolve hidden risks or combat danger by simply becoming more powerful or a higher Sequencer. In fact, it’s the opposite. They will encounter more terrifying matters. When facing the unknown or a terrifying existence, death and insanity are the only two outcomes. Heh, he ended up sacrificing himself two weeks after saying that… Klein, don’t look at me with pity. My life is great now, really great! It’s only right to feel fear towards these matters!”
“I only want to know the basics…” Klein repeated his previous reply, not sure whether he should laugh or cry.
Captain explained it more clearly than you. And even if I do not become a Beyonder, I have already encountered something extraordinary… “Alright,” said Rozanne ruminatively. “I’ve heard Captain’s and Old Neil’s conversation before. As extraordinary creatures are declining or going extinct, few high Sequencers exist in this era. It’s already very impressive to become a Beyonder! Combining our Tingen City and the suburbs, there are hundreds of thousands of people or maybe even more. Yet, there are only about thirty plus Beyonders. Well, it’s just my guess… I’m not counting the cultists and dark warlocks who hide in the dark…”
Without waiting for Klein’s reply, she seemed to regain her vibrancy as she clenched her fist and brought it to her chest.
“And among these thirty plus Beyonders, most of them are at Sequence 9! Uh, it seems I have gone off topic…”
“It’s okay. That was something I wanted to know as well.” Klein wished that Rozanne could be like her usual self, revealing more information as she rambled on.
“Anyways, it’s already very, very impressive to become a Beyonder!” Rozanne repeated herself. “The starting Sequence of our Church’s complete Sequence is Sleepless: Sequence 9, Sleepless!”
Indeed… Klein nodded as he watched Rozanne finding hard to stop herself from describing in detail.
“You should be able to guess from the name. A Sleepless is someone who does not need to sleep at night. Three to four hours of rest in the day would be sufficient. Man, I’m so envious… No, not at all! Sleep is a gift bestowed upon us by the Goddess. It’s the truest bliss!
“Where was I? Ah, right. A Sleepless can see through the darkness even without any lights. The deeper into the night, the more powerful they become. I mean more powerful in the aspects of their physical strength, their intuition, and their mental capabilities. However, although they can detect unknown dangers that lurk in the dark, they will still rely on demon hunting bullets and other items to handle monsters they are unable to deal with via normal means. My father was once a Sleepless.”
Without waiting for Klein to press on, Rozanne continued, “After that, it’s Sequence 8’s Midnight Poet, and one level higher is Sequence 7’s Nightmare.”
Nightmare? Klein instantly recalled that Dunn Smith had guided his dreams. He asked as a confirmation, “Captain?”
“You know about it?” Rozanne’s mouth nearly turned into an “O” shape.
“Captain once entered my dream…” Klein glanced around as he lowered his voice once more.
“Got it…” Rozanne was enlightened as she answered with a whisper.
She picked up a coffee cup beside her and took a sip before saying wistfully, “There are only two Sequence 7 Beyonders in our Tingen City’s Church. It’s likely that Captain is one of them. Even if he goes to a large diocese like Backlund, he is still an impressive figure. Some deacons might not even be stronger than he is!”
“So Captain is that impressive.” Klein echoed with a smiled.
Frankly, Dunn Smith’s appearance last night had left a deep impression on him. He had basically believed that Dunn was an extremely powerful Beyonder.
“Of course!” Rozanne proudly straightened her back.
In moments, the scatterbrained her said with a vexed expression, “As for what’s above Sequence 7, I have no idea. Among all the Nighthawks, perhaps only Captain will know.”
“Then what about other starting Sequences? The ones that aren’t complete?” Klein was satisfied as he changed the subject.
It had to be said that Rozanne’s description of Sleepless did match his imaginations and expectations of Beyonders. However, it was not the kind he wished to become. The perfect Sequence 9 was likely one that could study and grasp more knowledge of the mystery. By doing so, he could leverage on them to figure out the reason for his transmigration and lay the foundations of his future transmigration back.
Rozanne thought for a moment before saying with a sigh, “I’m not that interested in this aspect. I only know we have more than other churches. After all, the Goddess is the Mother of the Secrets… Well, there should be two or three. Some of our teammates are cold and distant, making me fear them. They also have a strange smell to them. Some members… Well, I mean you should talk to Old Neil. He knows a lot, as well as quite a number of interesting magical rituals. Let me think. He once mentioned his Sequence 9 title, which is also the name of the potion formula… Ah, yes, it’s called Mystery Pryer.”
Quite a number of interesting magical rituals? Mystery Pryer sounds very close to what I want… Klein was slightly delighted.
“In addition, I also know of the name of a Sequence 7, the kind that’s incomplete!” Rozanne said with a flaunting tone. She had just thought of it while recollecting.
“What is it?” Klein was abnormally curious.
In a world where high Sequencers were scarce to the point of them possibly not existing, Sequence 7 was probably considered quite a potent force in the Church.
Rozanne revealed a sweet smile as she replied smugly, “Spirit Medium!”
“Mdm. Daly?” asked Klein subconsciously.
After his initial surprise, he realized that it was nothing unexpected. Only a Sequence 7 Beyonder could achieve such an impressive performance as a medium!
Rozanne’s eyes widened once again as she said in disbelief, “H-how do you know of that too?”
“I’ve met Mdm. Daly.” Klein did not hide the matter.
“Alright,” said Rozanne with an envious tone. “If I can become a Spirit Medium, one just like Mdm. Daly, then I’ll be willing to be a Beyonder. No, I’ll consider it carefully for ten minutes…”
“Yes, Mdm. Daly fulfills all my imaginations as a Beyonder,” echoed Klein in a slightly exaggerated manner.
Having fulfilled his goals, he chatted idly with Rozanne for a few minutes until he realized he was not getting any new information. He took of his hat and bowed before leaving.
As he walked down the stairs, Klein suddenly stopped after taking a few steps. He reached out to pad the notes in his inner pocket.
Immediately following that, he took out twelve gold pound notes and clenched then tightly in his left palm. Then, he reached his hand into his pocket and refused to release or pull them out again. Without realizing it, a smile appeared on his face.
According to the customs of the Foodaholic Empire—China—a treat had to be given after earning money!
It’s time to give Melissa a treat tonight!
23 Side Arm
As Klein walked down Zouteland and while taking in the warm, humid breeze, he suddenly realized something.
He only had three pence of change. If he returned to Iron Cross Street via public carriage, it would cost him four pence. If he were to hand over a one-gold pound note, it would be akin to using a hundred-dollar bull to buy a bottle of cheap mineral water back on Earth. There was nothing wrong with that, but it was just quite awkward to do so.
Should I use three pence to travel three kilometers and walk the rest of the journey? Klein reached into his pocket with one hand as he slowed down his pace, considering other solutions.
That won’t do! Soon, he rejected the idea.
It would take him a while to walk the remaining journey. Considering how he was carrying twelve pounds—a massive fortune—it was not safe!
Furthermore, he had deliberately not brought the revolver with him, afraid that the Nighthawks would confiscate it. If he were to encounter the danger that instigated Welch’s death, there was no way he could fight back!
Get some change from a nearby bank? No, no way! There’s a 0.5% processing fee. That’s way too extravagant! Klein shook his head silently. Just the thought of the fees involved pained his heart!
Having ruled out one solution after another, Klein’s eyes suddenly lit up when he saw a clothing shop in front of him!
That’s right! Wouldn’t the normal course of action be to buy something appropriately priced to get some change? A formal suit, shirt, vest, trousers, leather boots, and a cane were all within budget. They had to be bought sooner or later!
Oh, it’s very troublesome when fitting clothes. Besides, Benson knows more about this than me and he’s better at bargaining. I should consider it only after he’s back… Then should I buy a cane? That’s right! As the saying goes, a cane is a gentleman’s best choice of defense. It is half as good as a crowbar. A gun in one hand and a cane in the other is the combat style of a civilized person! After debating internally, Klein made up his mind. He turned around and entered the clothing shop, Wilker Clothing and Hats.
The clothing store’s layout resembled the clothing stores on Earth. The left wall was filled with rows of formal attires. The middle rows were decked with things like shirts, trousers, vests, and bowties. On the right were leather shoes and boots placed inside glass cabinets.
“Sir, may I help you?” A male salesperson dressed in a white shirt and red vest came over and asked politely.
In Loen Kingdom, rich and powerful gentlemen of high standing enjoyed wearing black suits comprising of white shirts matched with black vests and trousers. Their colors were relatively monotonous, so they required their male servants, salespeople, and service attendants to dress more brightly and colorfully, in order to distinguish themselves from their masters.
In contrast, ladies and mistresses wore dresses of all kinds in glamorous fashions. As such, maidservants would wear black and white.
Klein thought for a moment before answering the male salesperson’s question. “A cane. Something that’s heavier and harder.”
The kind that can crack the skulls of others! The red-vested salesperson sized up Klein furtively before leading him into the store. He then pointed at a row of canes in the corner. “That cane inlaid with gold is made of Ironheart wood. It’s both very heavy and hard, and costs eleven soli seven pence. Do you want to give it a try?”
Eleven soli seven pence? Why don’t you go rob a bank! Big deal with the gold inlay! Klein was shocked by the price.
With an unperturbed expression, he nodded gently. “Alright.”
The salesperson took down the Ironheart wood cane and carefully handed it to Klein, seemingly afraid that Klein would drop and break the merchandise.
Klein took the cane and found it heavy. He tried moving with it and discovered that he could not sway it smoothly as he wanted.
“It’s too heavy.” Klein shook his head in relief.
This is not an excuse! The salesperson took back the cane and pointed at another three canes.
“This is made of walnut wood, created by Tingen’s most famous cane artisan, Mr. Hayes. It’s priced at ten soli three pence… This is made of ebony wood and inlaid with silver. It’s an hard as iron, costing seven soli six pence… This is made from the core of a white boli tree and also inlaid with silver, costing seven soli ten pence…”
Klein tried each one of them and found them of appropriate weight. He then tapped them with his fingers to gain an understand of their hardness. Finally, he chose the cheapest one.
“I’ll take the one made from ebony wood.” Klein pointed at the cane with the silver inlay which the salesperson was holding.
“No problem, Sir. Please follow me to proceed with the payment. In the future, if this cane is scuffed or stained, you can hand it to us for handling for free.” The salesperson led Klein to the counter.
Klein took the opportunity to release the four gold-pound notes from his tight grip and removed two of the smaller denominations.
“Good day, Sir. It will be seven soli six pence.” The cashier behind the counter greeted with a smile.
Klein was planning on maintaining his gentlemanly image, but when he extended his hand with the one-gold pound note, he could not help but ask, “Can I get a discount?”
“Sir, what we have is all hand-crafted, so our costs are very high.” the salesperson beside him answered. “Since our boss isn’t here, we are unable to lower the prices.”
The cashier behind the counter added, “Sir, sorry about that.”
“Alright.” Klein handed the note over and received the black silver-inlaid cane.
While waiting for the change to be given to him, he took a few steps back and distanced himself from them. He swung around his side arm as a test.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
The wind sounded heavy when the cane sliced through the air. Klein nodded in satisfaction.
He looked forward again, prepared to see notes and coins, but was appalled to see the red-vested salesperson retreating far away. The cashier behind the counter had retracted into a corner, leaning close to a double-barreled shotgun hanging to the wall.
The Loen Kingdom had a semi-regulated policy on firearms. To possess a firearm, one needed to apply for an all-purpose weapon usage certificate or a hunter’s license. Regardless of which type, one could still not be in possession of restricted military firearms such as repeaters, steam-pressured guns, or six-barrel machine guns.
An all-purpose weapon usage certificate could be used to purchase or store any kind of civilian firearm, but earning the certificate was extremely troublesome. Even merchants of substantial standing might not be approved. A hunter’s license was relatively easy. Even farmers in the suburbs could receive approval. However, the license was limited to hunting guns with restricted numbers. People with sizable assets would tend to apply for one to use it for self-defense in emergency situations, such as now…
Klein looked at the two wary salespeople as the corners of his mouth twitched. He chuckled dryly. “Not bad. This cane is perfect for swinging. I’m very pleased.”
Realizing that he had no intention to assault them, the cashier behind the counter relaxed. He handed over the notes and coins he had taken out over with both hands.
Klein took a look at what he received and saw two five-soli notes, two one-soli notes, a five-pence coin, and a one-penny coin. He could not help but nod inwardly.
After a two-second pause, he ignored the way the salespeople looked at him and unfurled the four notes towards the light to ensure that the anti-counterfeit watermarks were present.
Klein put away the notes and coins when he was done. With the cane in hand, he tipped his hat and walked out of Wilker Clothing and Hats. He extravagantly spent six pence by taking a short-distance trackless carriage before transferring once before reaching home safe and sound.
After closing the door, he counted the eleven pounds and twelve soli notes thrice before placing them into the desk drawer. He then found the bronze revolver with the wooden grip.
Clink! Clang! Five brass bullets fell onto the table when Klein inserted the silver demon hunting bullets which had complicated patterns and the Dark Sacred Emblem into the revolver’s cylinder.
Like before, he only inserted five rounds and left an empty spot to prevent any misfires. The remaining rounds were placed together with the five ordinary bullets in a small iron case.
Pa! He snapped the cylinder in place, giving him a sense of security.
He excitedly lodged the revolver into the holster at his armpit and buckled it securely. Then, he repeatedly practiced unbuckling and drawing the gun. He rested whenever his arms ached, and this continued until sunset when he heard the sounds of tenants walking along the corridor outside.
Phew! Klein let out a foul breath before putting his revolver back into his armpit holster.
Only then did he take off his formal suit and vest. He wore back his usual brownish-yellow coat and swung his arms to relax them.
Tap. Tap. Tap. He heard the sound of nearing footsteps before the twisting sound of an inserted key.
Melissa with her soft, black hair entered. Her nose twitched a little as she swept her gaze towards the unlit stove. The luster in her eyes dimmed slightly.
“Klein, I’ll heat up the leftovers from last night. Benson will likely be home tomorrow.” Melissa turned to look at her brother.
Klein had his hands in his pocket as he leaned against the edge of the desk. He smiled and said, “No, let’s eat out.”
“Eat out?” Melissa questioned in surprise.
“How does Silver Crown Restaurant at Daffodil Street sound? I heard they serve delicious food,” suggested Klein.
“B-but…” Melissa was still confused.
Klein grinned and said, “To celebrate my new job.”
“You found a job?” Melissa’s voice rose unknowingly, “B-but, isn’t the Tingen University interview tomorrow?”
“Another job.” Klein gave a faint smile before fishing the stacked notes from the drawer. “They even gave me an advance of four weeks’ pay.”
Melissa looked at the gold pounds and soli as she widened her eyes.
“Goddess… You- they- what job did you get?”
This… Klein’s expression froze as he deliberated on his words.
“A security company whose mission is to seek, collect, and protect ancient relics. They were in need of a professional consultant. It’s a five-year contract, earning me three pounds a week.”
“Were you vexing over this last night?” asked Melissa after a moment of silence.
Klein nodded. “Yes, although being an academic at Tingen University is respectable, I prefer this job.”
“Well, it isn’t bad either.” Melissa gave an encouraging smile. She asked half-suspiciously and half-curiously, “Why would they give you an advance payment of four full weeks?”
“It’s because we need to move. We need a place with more rooms and a bathroom that belongs to us,” said Klein while grinning and shrugging.
He felt that his smile was impeccable, just short of the word: “Surprised?”
Melissa was stunned momentarily before she suddenly spoke out in a fluster, “Klein, we are living quite well now. My occasional grumblings of not having a personal bathroom is just a habit. Do you remember Jenny? She lived next door to us, but ever since her father was injured and lost his job, they had no choice but to move to Lower Street. The family of five ended up staying in one room, with three of them sleeping in a bunk bed and two of them sleeping on the ground. They even wish to rent the remaining empty spot to someone…
“Compared to them, we are really very lucky. Don’t waste your salary on this matter. Besides, I love Mrs. Smyrin’s bakery.”
Sis, why is your reaction completely different from how it played out in my head… Klein’s expression went blank when he heard his sister.
The sky outside was gradually dyed golden as Klein looked into Melissa’s eyes. He was momentarily at a loss for words; none of the lines he prepared could be used.
He coughed lightly twice as he quickly racked his brains.
“Melissa, this isn’t a waste of salary. In the future, my colleagues, as well as Benson’s colleagues might visit. Are we going to host them in such a place? When Benson and I get married and have wives, are we still going to sleep in bunk beds?”
“None of you have fiancées yet, right? We can wait a little while and save up more money in the meantime,” answered Melissa in a logically concise manner.
“No, Melissa. This is a societal rule.” Klein was stumped and could only count on lofty principles. “Since I’m earning three pounds a week, I should look like I’m earning three pounds a week.”
To be honest, having rented an apartment before with others, Zhou Mingrui was no stranger to his present living conditions as Klein. He was very used to it, but it was because of his past experience that he knew how inconvenient such an environment was for a girl. Furthermore, his goal was to become a Beyonder and study mysticism to find his way home. In the future, he was bound to conduct some magical rituals at home. Having too many people in the apartment building made incidents prone to happen.
Klein saw that Melissa was about to continue arguing, and hurriedly added, “Don’t worry. I’m not planning to get a bungalow, but probably a terrace. Basically, it has to have a bathroom we can call ours. Also, I like Mrs. Smyrin’s bread, Tingen biscuits, and lemon cakes too. We can first consider places near Iron Cross Street and Daffodil Street.”
Melissa pouted her lips slightly and fell silent for a moment before nodding slowly.
“Besides, I’m in no rush to move either. We have to wait for Benson to return,” said Klein with a chuckle. “We can’t have him be shocked when he opens the door to find nothing, right? Imagine him saying in astonishment—’Where are my things? Where are my siblings? Where’s my home? Is this my home? Did I make a mistake? Goddess, wake me up if this is a dream. Why is my home gone after a few days of absence!?’”
His mimicking of Benson’s tone made Melissa involuntarily smile as her eyes scrunched up and revealed her shallow dimples.
“No, Mr. Franky would definitely be waiting by the door to get Benson to hand over the apartment keys. Benson wouldn’t even be able to come up.” The girl disparaged the miserly landlord.
In the Moretti household, all of them would like to make Mr. Franky the butt of their jokes for every trivial and major matter. It was all thanks to Benson who initiated this practice.
“Right, there’s no way he would switch locks for the tenants after us,” Klein echoed with a smile. He pointed at the door and quipped, “Miss Melissa, shall we head to Silver Crown Restaurant for a celebration?”
Melissa sighed gently and said, “Klein, do you know Selena? My classmate and my good friend?”
Selena? An image of a girl with wine-red hair and deep brown eyes surfaced in Klein’s mind. Her parents were Evernight Goddess believers. They had named her after St. Selena as a blessing. She was not yet sixteen, and was half a year younger than Melissa. She was a happy, cheerful, and outgoing lady.
“Yes.” Klein nodded in affirmation.
“Her elder brother, Chris, is a lawyer. He currently earns close to three pounds a week as well. His fiancée works part time as a typist,” described Melissa. “They have been engaged for more than four years. To ensure a decent and stable life after marriage, they are still saving money to this very day. They have yet to go down the wedding aisle and plan to wait for at least another year. According to Selena, there are many people like her brother. They typically get married after twenty-eight. You have to be make advanced preparations and save up. Don’t squander your money.”
It’s just a meal at a restaurant. Is there a need to preach at me… Klein was rendered at a loss whether to laugh or cry. After a few seconds of thought, he said, “Melissa, I’m already earning three pounds a week, and I’ll have increments every year. There’s no need for you to worry.”
“But we need to save some money in the case of any unexpected emergencies. For example, what if that security company suddenly closes down? I have a classmate whose father’s company went bankrupt. He had to find temporary work at the pier and their living conditions turned terrible instantly. She had no choice but to quit school,” advised Melissa with a serious expression.
… Klein extended his hand to cover his face. “T-that security company and the government… Yes, has some connections with the government. It will not easily close down.”
“But even the government isn’t stable. After every election, if the party in power changes, many people will have their positions stripped off. It turns into a mess.” Melissa retorted in an unyielding manner.
…Sis, you sure know a lot… Klein found the humor in his exasperation as he shook his head. “Alright then…
“Then I’ll boil some soup with the leftovers from yesterday. Buy some pan-fried fish, a slab of black-pepper beef, a small bottle of butter, and a cup of malt beer for me. Anyway, there should still be some celebration.”
They were commonly sold items by hawkers on Iron Cross Street. A piece of pan-fried fish was six to eight pence; a not-so-big piece of black-peppered beef was five pence; a cup of malt beer was a penny; and a bottle of butter weighing about a quarter pound was four pence, but buying a pound of butter would only cost one soli three pence.
The original Klein was responsible for buying ingredients during holidays, so he was no stranger to the prices. Klein did a mental estimate that Melissa would need about one soli six pence. Therefore, he took out two one-soli notes.
“Alright.” Melissa did not object to Klein’s proposal. She put down her backpack of stationery and took the notes.
When he saw his sister taking out a tiny bottle for the butter and pots for the other food before briskly walking to the door, Klein thought for a moment and shouted out to her. “Melissa, use the remaining money to buy some fruits.”
There were many hawkers on Iron Cross Street who would buy low-quality or expiring fruits from other places. The residents were not outraged about this because the prices were extremely cheap. They could taste the magnificent flavors after removing the rotten parts, so it was a cheap enjoyment.
With that said, Klein took a few brisk steps forward and took out the remaining copper pennies from his pocket and stuffed it into his sister’s palm.
“Ah?” Melissa’s brown eyes looked at her brother in puzzlement.
Klein took two steps back and smiled. “Remember to go to Mrs. Smyrin’s. Reward yourself with a tiny lemon cake.”
“…” Melissa’s mouth widened as she blinked. Finally, she said a single word, “Okay.”
She quickly turned around, opened the door, and ran toward the stairwell.
A river tore through the land, with cedar and maple trees lining the banks; the air so fresh, it was intoxicating.
Klein, who was here to put closure to his interview, had his revolver with him. He held his cane and paid six pence for the public carriage. He walked down a cemented path and approached a three-story stone building which was shaded by greenery. It was Tingen University’s administrative block.
“It’s truly worthy of being one of the two major universities of the Loen Kingdom…” With this being his first time here, Klein sighed as he walked.
Compared to Tingen University, Khoy University right across the river could only be described as shabby.
Voices approached slowly as two rowing boats made their way upstream across the Khoy River. Oars were being rowed in an orderly and rhythmic manner.
This was a rowing sport that was popular among all the universities in Loen Kingdom. With Klein requiring a scholarship to finance his university studies, he, Welch, and the others had joined Khoy University’s rowing club and were pretty good at it.
“This is youth…” Klein stopped and looked into the distance before sighing wistfully.
Such sights would no longer be seen in another week since school would break for summer.
As he proceeded down a road sheltered by trees, Klein stopped by a three-story stone building. He entered after successfully registering himself and easily found his way to the office of the person who had tended to him the other time.
Knock! Knock! Knock! He knocked lightly on the half-closed door.
“Come in.” A man’s voice sounded from inside.
A middle-aged instructor dressed in a white shirt and black tuxedo frowned when he saw Klein enter. “There’s another hour until the interview.”
“Mr. Stone, do you still remember me? I’m a student of Senior Associate Professor Cohen, Klein Moretti. You have read my recommendation letter before.” Klein smiled as he took off his hat.
Harvin Stone stroked his black beard and asked, puzzled, “Is there something wrong? I’m not in charge of interviews.”
“Here’s the situation. I’ve already found a job, so I won’t be participating in the interview today.” Klein gave his reason for coming.
“I see…” When Harvin Stone learned of the reason, he stood up and reached out his right hand. “Congratulations. You are really a polite lad. I will inform the professor and senior associate professors.”
Klein shook Harvin’s hand and planned on making a little small talk before bidding him farewell when he heard a familiar voice behind him.
“Moretti, you found another job?”
Klein turned around and saw an elder with a head of silver hair that left a deep impression on his silhouette. His deep, blue eyes sunk deep into his face and he had few wrinkles. The man looked sharp in his black tuxedo.
“Good afternoon, Mentor. Mr. Azik,” he hurriedly greeted. “Why are the two of you here?”
The elder was none other than Senior Associate Professor of Khoy University’s history department, who was also his mentor, Mr. Quentin Cohen. Beside Cohen was a middle-aged man with bronze-colored skin of average build. He did not have any facial hair and held a newspaper in his hand. His hair was black and his pupils brown. His facial features were soft as his eyes revealed an indescribable sense of weariness like it had seen the vicissitudes of life. Beneath his right ear was a black mole which could only be seen if looked at carefully.
Klein recognized him since he was Khoy University’s history department lecturer, Mr. Azik, who often helped the original Klein. He enjoyed debating with his mentor, Senior Associate Professor Cohen. They often had a clash of opinion, but even so, they were best friends; otherwise, they would not have enjoyed meeting up for a chat.
Cohen nodded and said with a relaxed tone, “Azik and I are here to participate in an academic conference. What kind of job did you get?”
“It’s a security company which seeks, collects, and protects ancient relics. They were in need of a professional consultant and are paying me three pounds a week.” Klein repeated what he said to his sister yesterday. Following that, he explained, “As you know, I prefer exploring history, instead of summarizing it.”
Cohen nodded slightly and said, “Everyone has their own choices. I’m very happy that you bothered to come to Tingen University to inform them instead of just not showing up.”
At that moment, Azik interjected, “Klein, do you know what happened to Welch and Naya? I read on the newspapers that they were killed by burglars.”
The incident has become a case of armed burglary? And why it is already on the newspapers? Klein was taken aback as he weighed over his words.
“I’m not very clear of the specifics as well. Welch had obtained a diary of the Solomon Empire’s Antigonus family from the Fourth Epoch. My help on interpreting it was sought. I helped them for the first few days, but I later got busy with job hunting. The police even came to me two days ago.”
He deliberately divulged the matter regarding the Solomon Empire and the Antigonus family in hopes of getting any information from the two history teachers.
“The Fourth Epoch…” Cohen muttered with a frown.
The bronze-skinned and weary eyes of Azik went blank first before he inhaled. He rubbed his temple with his newspaper-wielding left hand and said, “Antigonus… rings a bell… But why can’t I remember…”
While Azik muttered to himself, he subconsciously shot a glance at Quentin Cohen, seemingly hoping for hints to jolt his memories.
Cohen, with his deep set blue eyes, shook his head without any hesitation. “I do not have any impression of it.”
“…Alright then. Perhaps, it just shares a root word.” Azik lowered his left hand and gave a self-deprecating laugh.
Klein was rather disappointed with the outcome, and he could not help but add on. “Mentor, Mr. Azik, as the both of you know, I’m very interested in exploring and restoring the history of the Fourth Epoch. If you ever recall anything or obtain relevant information, could you please write to me?”
“No problem.” As a result of Klein’s actions today, the silver-haired Senior Associate Professor was rather pleased with him.
Azik also nodded and said, “Is your address still the same as before?”
“For now, but I’ll be moving soon. I’ll write a letter to inform you when the time comes,” replied Klein in a respectful manner.
Cohen shook his black cane and said, “It’s indeed about time you moved to a place with a better environment.”
At that moment, Klein caught a glance at the newspaper in Azik’s hand. He deliberated on his words before saying, “Mentor, Mr. Azik, what did the newspapers say regarding Welch and Naya? I only learned a little from the police who were in charge of the investigations.”
Azik was just about to answer when Cohen suddenly pulled out the pocket watch that was linked to his black tuxedo by a golden chain.
Click! He opened the pocket watch and tapped his cane.
“The meeting is about to begin. Azik, we can’t be delayed any further. Give the newspaper to Moretti.”
“Alright.” Azik handed over the newspaper he had read to Klein. “We will be going upstairs. Remember to write a letter. Our address has yet to change; it’s still the Khoy University History Department Office. Haha.”
He laughed as he turned around and left the room with Cohen.
Klein took off his hat and bowed. After watching the two gentlemen leave, he bade farewell to owner of the office, Harvin Stone. He proceeded across the corridor and slowly exited the gray three-story building.
With his back against the sun, he lifted up his cane and unfolded the newspaper and saw the title: “Tingen Morning Post.”
Tingen sure has all sorts of newspapers and magazines… There is the Morning Post, Evening Post, the Honest Paper, Backlund Daily Tribune, Tussock Times, family magazines and book reviews… Klein casually recalled the several names that surfaced in his mind. Of course, a number of them were not local. They were distributed via steam locomotives.
Now that the papermaking and printing industries were getting more advanced, the cost of a newspaper has already decreased to the price of a penny. The audience it reached also grew wider and wider.
Klein did not scrutinize the details of the newspaper, quickly flipping to the News section with the report “Armed Burglary Murder.”
“…According to the police department, the scene at Mr. Welch’s home was a horrible sight. There was missing gold, jewelry, and money, as well as anything valuable that could be easily taken away. Not even a penny was left behind. There is reason to believe that this was done by a merciless group of criminals that would not hesitate to kill the innocent, such as Mister Welch and Madam Naya, if sight of their faces are caught.”
“This is outright contempt for our kingdom’s laws! This is a challenge to public security! No one wishes to have such an encounter! Of course, one piece of good news is that the police have located the murderer and captured the main culprit. We will do our best to provide news on any follow-ups.”
“Reporter: John Browning.”
The matter has been handled and covered up… As Klein walked through the boulevard, he nodded in a hardly noticeable manner.
He flipped through the newspaper as he strolled down the path, reading the other news articles and serials in the process.
Suddenly, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand, as though needles were stabbing at him.
Someone is watching me? Observing me? Monitoring me? Various thoughts welled up in him as Klein had a faint realization.
Back on Earth, he had once felt an invisible gaze before ultimately discovering the source of the gaze. However, it had never felt as crystal clear as what he was experiencing now!
This was the same in the original Klein’s memory fragments!
Was it the transmigration or the mysterious luck enhancement ritual which enhanced my sixth sense? Klein fought back the urge to seek out the observer. Using his knowledge from reading novels and watching movies, he slowed his pace and put away the newspaper before looking toward Khoy River.
Following that, he acted as if he was admiring the scenery, slowly turning his head in different directions. He acted natural as he turned around, taking in everything with his eyes.
Other than the trees, grassy plains, and students passing by in the distance, there was no other person there.
But Klein was certain that someone was watching him!
This… Klein’s heart raced as his blood surged through his body with the intense thumping.
He unfolded the papers and covered half his face, afraid that anyone would discover anything wrong with his expression.
Meanwhile, he clenched his cane and readied himself to draw his gun.
One step. Two steps. Three steps. Klein proceeded forward slowly.
The feeling of being spied upon remained, but there was no sudden outburst of danger.
He walked through the boulevard in a somewhat stiff manner and arrived at the waiting point for public carriages when a carriage pulled up coincidentally.
“Iron… Zoute… No, Champagne Street.” Klein continually dismissed his thoughts.
He originally planned on heading home immediately, but he was afraid of leading an observer of unknown motives to his apartment. Following that, he thought of heading to Zouteland Street to seek help from the Nighthawks or his colleagues. However, he thought otherwise, afraid that he would end up alerting his enemy and expose the Nighthawks. Therefore, he casually chose somewhere else.
“Six pence,” the ticketing officer replied routinely.
Klein did not bring any gold pounds with him today. He had hidden the money in the usual spot and had only taken two soli notes with him. And before he came, he had spent the same amount of money, leaving him with one soli six pence. Therefore, he took out all his coins and handed to the ticketing officer.
He found a seat after boarding the carriage, and finally with the closing of the carriage doors, Klein felt that unease of being watched vanish!
He exhaled slowly as he felt his limbs tingle slightly.
What do I do?
What should I do next? Klein looked out the carriage as he racked his brains for a solution.
Until he was clear about the intentions of the person watching him, Klein had to assume that there was malicious intent!
Many thoughts sprang up in his mind, but he dismissed them. He had never experienced such an event, and had to use a few minutes to organize his ideas.
He had to notify the Nighthawks; only they could truly get rid of this threat!
But I can’t head there directly or I might expose them. Perhaps, that might be their goal…
Following this train of thought, Klein crudely surmised various possibilities as his thoughts turned clearer.
Ffffffff! He exhaled as he regained some semblance of composure. He looked seriously at the scenery outside flying past him.
There were no accidents along the way to Champagne Street, but when Klein opened the door and stepped out of the car, he immediately had the uneasy feeling of being watched again!
He acted as though he had not sensed anything. He took the newspaper and his cane, slowly making his way in the direction of Zouteland Street.
But he did not enter that street. Instead, he took another route to the Red Moonlight Street behind. There was a beautiful white plaza there, as well as a large cathedral with a pointy roof!
Saint Selena Cathedral!
The Tingen headquarters of the Church of the Evernight Goddess!
As a believer, there was nothing odd about him participating in Mass or pray on his day off.
The cathedral exhibited a design similar to Earth’s Gothic style. It also had a tall, black, and imposing clock tower, situated between blue and red checkered windows.
Klein stepped into the cathedral and followed an aisle into the prayer hall. Along the way, the stained windows were comprised of red and blue glass patterns that allowed colored light to shine into the hall. The blue was closer to black, the red the same color as the crimson moon. It made the surroundings seem unusually dark and mysterious.
The feeling of being watched vanished. Klein acted unfazed as he walked toward the open prayer hall.
There were no high windows here. The deep darkness was emphasized, but behind the arc-shaped holy altar, on the wall directly opposite the door, were about twenty circular fist-sized holes that allowed the radiant sunlight to enter the hall.
It was akin to pedestrians seeing the starry sky when suddenly looking up into the dark night to see the shimmering stars in all their nobility, purity, and holiness.
Even though Klein had always believed that gods could be analyzed and understood, he could not help but lower his head here.
The bishop was preaching in a gentle tone as Klein silently made his way down the aisle that split the pews into two columns. He searched for an empty area close to the passageway before slowly taking a seat.
Leaning his cane onto the back of the pew in front of him, Klein took off his hat and placed it onto his lap together with the newspaper. Then he clasped his hands together and lowered his head.
The entire process was done slowly and routinely as though he was really there to pray.
Klein closed his eyes as he silently listened to the bishop’s voice in the darkness.
“Lacking clothes and food, they have no covering in the cold.
“They are drenched by rains, and huddle around the rocks for lack of shelter.
“They are orphans snatched from the breast, hope lost on them; they are the poor that have been forced off the proper path.
“The Evernight did not forsake them, but bestowed them with love 1 .”
Echoes amplified as they entered his ear. Klein saw a swath of darkness in front of him as he felt his spirit and mind cleansed.
He calmly took it in until the bishop finished his preachings and ended Mass.
After which, the bishop opened a confessional door beside him. Men and women began lining up.
Klein opened his eyes and donned his hat once more. With his cane and newspaper, he stood up and found his place in line.
It was his turn after more than twenty minutes.
He stepped in and closed the door behind him. There was darkness in front of him.
“My child, what do you wish to say?” The bishop’s voice sounded from behind the wooden damper screen.
Klein took out the ‘Seventh Unit, Special Operations Department’ badge from his pocket and handed it over to the bishop through an opening.
“Someone is tailing me. I wish to find Dunn Smith.” As though he had been infected by the silent darkness, his tone turned softer as well.
The bishop took the badge and after a few seconds of silence, he said, “Turn right from the confession booth and walk to the end. There will be a secret door to the side. Someone will lead the way after you enter.”
As he spoke, he pulled a rope inside the room, causing a particular priest to hear a chime.
Klein retrieved his badge and took off his hat and pressed it to his chest. He gave a slight bow before turning around and exiting.
After confirming that the feeling of being watched was gone, he wore his halved top hat. Without any excessive emotions, he held his cane and turned right, until he arrived by an arched altar.
He found the secret door in the wall facing his side. He silently opened it before sneaking in quickly.
The secret door closed silently as a middle-aged, black-robed priest appeared under the illumination of gas lamps.
“What is it?” the priest asked tersely.
Klein showed his badged and repeated what he said to the bishop.
The middle-aged priest did not ask further questions. He turned around and proceeded forward in silence.
Klein nodded and took off his hat. With his black cane, he followed silently in tow.
Rozanne had once mentioned that heading left from the crossroads towards Chanis Gate would reach Saint Selena Cathedral. Adapted from Job 24:8, Old Testament.