Tap! Tap! Tap! The sound of footsteps echoed through the dark, narrow corridor, which was otherwise silent.
Klein kept his back straight as he kept up with the priest’s pace. He did not pose questions or chat idly with him, remaining silent like a windless body of water.
After passing through the heavily guarded passageway, the priest opened a secret door with a key and pointed down a stairwell made of stone. “Turn left at the intersection to reach Chanis Gate.”
“May Goddess bless you.” Klein gestured the sign of the crimson moon on his chest.
Commoners practiced etiquette, while the religious partook in ritual blessings.
“Praise the Lady.” The priest returned with the same gesture.
Klein did not speak further as he walked down the dark stone stairwell with the aid of the refined inlaid gas lamps on both sides of the wall.
Midway, he subconsciously turned back and saw the priest standing at the entrance. He was in the shadows and appeared like an immobile wax statue.
Klein looked away and continued to proceed down. It did not take long before he hit ground laid with ice-cold stone slabs. This led him to the intersection.
He did not turn towards Chanis Gate because Dunn Smith, who had recently finished his shift, was definitely not there.
He turned right and saw the familiar path. Klein went back up another flight of stairs and appeared inside Blackthorn Security Company.
Seeing doors that were tightly shut or half-closed, he did not rush into them. Instead, he went to the reception and saw a brown-haired girl focused on a magazine with a sweet smile.
“Hi, Rozanne.” Klein came to her side and deliberately rapped the table.
Knock! Rozanne stood up suddenly and knocked over a chair and said in a fluster, “Hi, nice weather today. Y-you, Klein, why are you here?”
She patted her chest and heaved a few sighs of relief. She was like a young lady afraid that her father had caught her skiving.
“I need to find Captain,” answered Klein simply.
“…You gave me a fright. I thought Captain came out.” Rozanne glared at Klein. “Don’t you know how to knock!? Hmph, you should be thankful that I’m a tolerant and kind woman. Well, I do prefer the term lady… Is there a reason why you are looking for Captain? He’s in the room opposite Mrs. Orianna.”
Even though he felt uptight, Klein was so amused by Rozanne he smiled. He pondered for a moment before saying, “A secret.”
“…” Rozanne’s eyes widened and while she reeled in her disbelief, Klein did a slight bow before bidding her farewell.
He went through the reception’s partition and knocked on the door of the first office on the right.
“Come in.” Dunn Smith’s deep and gentle voice sounded.
Klein pushed the door and opened before closing the door behind him. He took off his hat and bowed. “Good morning, Captain.”
“Good morning, how can I help you?” Dunn’s black windbreaker and hat were hanging on a clothes stand to his side. He was dressed in a white shirt and black vest. Even though his hairline was rather high, his gray eyes were deep, and he appeared much fresher.
“Someone is following me.” Klein honestly answered without any embellishments.
Dunn leaned back and clasped his hands together. His deep gray eyes silently looked at Klein’s eyes. He did not follow up on the topic of being followed and instead, asked, “You came from the cathedral?”
“Yes.” Klein answered.
Dunn nodded gently. He did not comment on its merits or demerits as he switched the subject back. “It might be that Welch’s father doesn’t believe the cause of death that we reported and had hired a private investigator from Wind City to investigate the matter.”
Midseashire’s Constant City was also known as Wind City. It was a region with extremely advanced coal and steel industries. It was one of the top three cities of Loen Kingdom.
Before waiting for Klein to give his opinion, Dunn continued, “It might also be a result of that notebook. Heh, we happened to be investigating where Welch received the Antigonus family’s notebook. Of course, we can’t eliminate other people or organizations that might be seeking out this notebook.”
“What should I do?” Klein asked in a serious voice.
Without a question, he hoped that it was the first reason.
Dunn did not immediately answer him. He raised his coffee mug and took a mouthful, his eyes not showing the sliver of a ripple. “Return the way you came, then do anything you wish.”
“Anything?” Klein returned with a question.
“Anything.” Dunn nodded with certainty. “Of course, do not scare them off or violate the law.”
“Alright.” Klein took a deep breath and bade him farewell. He left the room and went back underground.
He turned left at the intersection, and bathed in the light from the gas lamps on the two walls, he arrived silently to the empty, dark, and cold passageway.
The sound of his footsteps echoed, making him sound more alone and terrified.
Soon, Klein arrived at the stairwell. He went forward and saw a shadow standing there—the middle-aged priest.
The two did not say a word when they met. The priest turned around in silence and made way.
He proceeded silently before returning to the prayer hall. The circular holes behind the arched altar were still as pure and bright, while the darkness and silence of the building’s interior remained. There were still men and women lining outside the confessional, but much fewer than before.
After waiting for a moment, Klein slowly left the prayer hall with his cane and newspaper as though nothing had ever happened, successfully leaving Saint Selena Cathedral.
The moment he walked out, he saw the burning sun. He immediately regained the familiar feeling of being observed. He felt like he was prey being eyed by a hawk.
Suddenly, a question surfaced in his mind.
Why didn’t the “observer” follow me into the cathedral? Although I could have still used the dark environment and the priest to conceal my temporary disappearance, would it be hard for him to continue monitoring me by pretending to pray? If he had not done something wrong, there would be no problem walking in with an open and aboveboard manner, right? Unless the person has some dark history, making him afraid of the Church or fear the bishop, knowing that he might have the powers of a Beyonder.
In that case, the likelihood of it being a private investigator is very slim… Klein exhaled and no longer acted as nervous as he was previously. He took a casual stroll before going around and to the back of Zouteland Street.
He stopped at an ancient-styled building with mottled walls. The address on the door was ‘3.’ Its name was the Zouteland Shooting Club.
Part of the police department’s underground shooting range was opened to the public as a way to earn some additional funds.
Klein went in and the feeling of being watched vanished instantly. He took this opportunity to hand over his Special Operations Department badge to the attendant.
After a short verification, he was led underground to a small, confined shooting range.
“Ten-meter target.” Klein informed the attendant simply. Next, he retrieved the revolver from his armpit holster and the box of brass bullets from his pocket.
The feeling of being suddenly targeted made his desire to protect himself win over his procrastination. Therefore, he could not wait to come over to practice his shooting.
Pa! After the attendant left, he flicked open the cylinder and removed the silver demon hunting bullets. Following that, he filled the cylinder with normal brass bullets.
This time, neither did he leave an empty spot to prevent misfiring, nor did he take off his formal attire and halved top hat. He planned on practicing in his usual getup. After all, it was impossible for him to shout “wait a minute, let me change into something more comfortable” after encountering an enemy or danger.
Click! Klein closed the cylinder and rolled it with his thumb.
Suddenly, he held the gun in both hands, raised it up straight, and aimed at the target more than ten meters away.
However, he was in no hurry to shoot. Instead, he recalled his experience at military training 1 , how to form a line with the iron-sights, and knowledge about a gun’s recoil.
Rustle! Rustle! While his clothes rustled, Klein repeated his aiming and his holding stance. He was as serious as a student taking a high-school exam.
After repeating it several times, he retreated to the wall and sat down on a long, soft bench. He placed the revolver to the side, began massaging his arms, and rested for quite a while.
He spent a few minutes recalling his practice before he picked up the revolver with the wooden handle and bronze cylinder. He got into standard firing position and pulled the trigger.
Bang! His arm trembled as his body moved back from the recoil. The bullet missed the target.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Drawing from the experience he gained, he shot again and again until all six rounds were finished.
I’m starting to hit the target… Klein stepped back and sat down again as he exhaled.
Click! He swung the cylinder out and allowed the six shells to fall to the ground. Then, without a change in expression, he inserted the remaining brass rounds in.
After relaxing his arm, Klein stood up again and returned to his shooting position.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Ringing shots echoed as the target shook. Klein practiced and rested repeatedly. He expended all thirty normal rounds and the remaining five from before. He gradually hit the target and started aiming for the bull’s eye.
He swung his sore shoulders and threw out the final five shells. He lowered his head and inserted the demon hunting bullets with the complicated patterns back into gun, leaving an empty spot to prevent misfiring.
After putting the revolver back into his armpit holster, Klein patted the dust from his body and walked out the shooting range to return to the streets.
The feeling of being observed arose once again. Klein felt calmer than he previously felt as he slowly walked to Champagne Street. He spent four pence on a tracked carriage to return to Iron Cross Street before returning to his own apartment.
The feeling of being spied upon vanished without a trace. Klein took out his keys and opened the door to see a short-haired man nearing his thirties and wearing a linen shirt seated at a desk.
His heart tensed up before relaxing immediately. Klein greeted with a smile, “Good morning—no—good afternoon, Benson.”
This man was none other than Klein’s and Melissa’s elder brother, Benson Moretti. He was only twenty-five this year, but his receding hairline and decrepit appearance made him look nearly thirty.
He had black hair and brown eyes, resembling Klein somewhat, but he lacked the faint scholarly air which Klein had.
“Good afternoon, Klein. How was the interview?” Benson stood up as he grinned.
His black coat and halved top hat were hanging on a protrusion of their bunk bed.
“Horrible,” Klein replied in a deadpan manner.
When he saw Benson stunned, Klein chuckled and added, “In fact, I didn’t even participate in the interview. I found a job ahead of the interview and it pays three pounds a week…”
He repeated what he told Melissa again.
Benson’s expression calmed down as he shook his head with a laugh. “It feels like I’m seeing a child grow up… Well, this job is pretty good.” He sighed and said, “It’s great that the first thing I heard is such good news after being away for work. Let’s celebrate tonight and buy some beef?”
Klein smiled. “Sure, but I believe Melissa will feel the pinch. Let’s buy some ingredients later in the afternoon? Let’s bring at least three soli? Well, to be honest, a pound exchanges for twenty soli, and one soli exchanges for twelve pence. There are even denominations like the halfpence and quarterpence. Such a coin system just goes against logic. It’s so troublesome. I think it must be one of the most foolish coin systems in the world.”
When he said that, he saw Benson’s expression turn stern. Feeling a little unease, he wondered if he had said anything wrong.
Could it be that in the lost memory fragments of the original Klein, Benson was an outright, extreme nationalist who showed no tolerance for any negativity? Benson took a few steps and refuted him with a stern expression. “No, it is not one of, but the most foolish coin system.”
Not one of! Klein was taken aback, but he quickly snapped to his senses. He looked at his brother in the eye and laughed.
Indeed, Benson was great at mocking humor.
Benson lifted the corners of his lips and said in all seriousness, “You should understand that to institute a reasonable and simple coin system, one needs to know how to count and grasp the decimal system. Unfortunately, there are too few talents among those important figures.” This does not mean Zhou Mingrui was a soldier. Students in China are made to attend short military stints during their schooling days for short periods of time.
27 Siblings’ Dinner
It’s simply sharp and incisive… Klein burst out in laughter. Using the rich experience he had from his previous incarnation, he added another insult. “In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that those important figures have any brains at all.”
“Good! Very good!” Benson roared with laughter as he gave a thumbs up. “Klein, you are a lot more humorous than before.”
After taking a breath, he continued, “I have to go to the pier in the afternoon. I’m only off work tomorrow. After that I’ll have time… to go to Tingen City Housing Improvement Company with the both of you. Let’s see if they have cheap and good terrace houses for rent. Also, I need to pay Mr. Franky a visit.”
“Our landlord?” the perplexed Klein asked. Does our current landlord have some terrace houses from pretty good districts under his name?
Benson shot his brother a glance and said, amused, “Have you forgotten the one-year rental contract we have with him? It has only been six months.”
“Hiss…” Klein immediately drew a gasp of cold air.
He had really forgotten the matter!
Although rent was paid once a week, the lease was a year long. If they were to move now, it was equivalent to a breach in contract. If they were taken to court, they would have to compensate large sums of money!
“You are still lacking in societal experience.” Benson touched his receding black hairline and said wistfully, “This was a clause I fought so hard back then. If not, Mr. Franky was only willing to lease it to us for three months each contract. To those with money, landlords would sign leases for a year, two years, or even three years to seek stable income. But for us—the past us—and our neighbors, landlords would have to be constantly worried that something bad might happen, depriving them of their rent. Therefore, they would only sign short-term contracts.
“In that case, they can offer to raise prices according to the situation.” Klein summarized and added, using the original Klein’s memories and his own experience as a tenant.
Benson sighed and said, “This is the cruel reality of today’s society. Alright, you don’t have to worry. The issue with the contract can be easily resolved. To be frank, even if we owe him a week’s rent, Mr. Franky would have immediately thrown us out and confiscated whatever valuable items we have. After all, his intelligence is below that of a curly-haired baboon’s. There’s no way he can comprehend overly complicated matters.”
Upon hearing this, Klein suddenly recalled a particular Sir Humphrey’s meme. He shook his head and said seriously, “No, Benson. You are wrong.”
“Why?” Benson was puzzled.
“Mr. Franky’s intelligence is still slightly higher than a baboon’s,” Klein replied in all seriousness. Just as Benson seemed to smile in response, he added, “If he is on form.”
“Haha.” Benson lost it and burst out in laughter.
After a series of rapturous laughter, he pointed at Klein, momentarily unable to put his thoughts in words. Only then, he returned to the topic at hand.
“Of course, as a gentleman, we cannot employ such shameless tactics. I will discuss this with Mr. Franky tomorrow. Believe me, he’s easily convinced, easily.”
Klein had no doubts regarding Benson’s point. The existence of the gas pipes was excellent proof.
After some idle chatter between the brothers, the remnants of pan-fried fish from the previous night were made into a soup with some vegetables. During the boiling process, the steam moistened the rye bread. Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Smearing a little butter on the bread, Klein and Benson had a simple meal, but they were very satisfied with it. After all the fragrance and sweetness of butter brought them endless aftertastes.
After Benson left, Klein headed to the Lettuce and Meat market with three Soli notes and some spare pennies. He spent six pence on a pound of beef and seven pence on a fresh and succulent fish with few bones. Additionally, he bought potatoes, peas, radishes, rhubarbs, lettuce, and turnips, as well as spices such as rosemary, basil, cumin, and cooking oils.
During this entire time, he continued to feel like he was being watched, but there was no physical interaction.
After spending some time at Smyrin Bakery, Klein returned home and began weight-lifting with heavier items such as books to train his arm strength.
He had planned to exercise by military boxing, which he learned from his compulsory military stint for students. However, he had already forgotten the radio exercise routines from school, much less boxing which was only taught during the military stints. Exasperated, he could only do something simpler.
Klein did not overexert himself since it would lead to fatigue and thus put him in greater danger. He took an appropriate break and began reading the original Klein’s notes and study material. He wished to read anything regarding the Fourth Epoch again.
In the evening, Benson and Melissa sat in front of a desk. The food was placed neatly like children in upper primary school.
The fragrances of the dishes were composed of a rich melody of scents—the soul captivating fragrance of the stewed beef, the obviously tender potatoes, the sweetness of the thick pea soup, the mellow flavors of the stewed rhubarb, and the sweetness of the buttered rye bread.
Benson gulped a mouthful of saliva as he turned around to see Klein placing a crispy fish onto a plate. He felt the fragrance of the oil permeate through his nostrils into his throat and then into his stomach.
Groan! His stomach made a distinct protest.
Klein rolled up his sleeves and held up a plate of fried fish before placing it in the middle of the tidied desk. Following that, he returned to the cupboard and took out two large cups of ginger beer and placed them where he and Benson sat.
He smiled at Melissa and took out a lemon pudding as if he were performing a magic trick. “We’ll have beer, while you’ll have this.”
“…Thank you.” Melissa took the lemon pudding.
When Benson saw this, he raised his cup and said with a smile, “This is to celebrate Klein’s finding of a decent job.”
Klein raised his cup and clinked it with Benson before clinking it with Melissa’s lemon pudding. “Praise the Lady!”
Gulp. He tilted his head back and drank it down. The spicy feeling warmed his gullet, bringing him great aftertastes.
Despite its name, ginger beer did not contain any alcohol. It was a mixture of the ginger’s spiciness and the sourness of lemon that made it taste similar to beer. It was a kind of beverage that both women and children found acceptable. However, Melissa did not like the taste of it.
“Praise the Lady!” Benson drank a mouthful as well while Melissa took a nibble of the lemon pudding. She chewed at it repeatedly before swallowing it down unwillingly.
“Give it a try.” Klein put down his cup and picked up his fork and spoon and pointed at the tableful of food.
He was most pessimistic of his thick pea soup. After all, he had never eaten something so strange on Earth. All he could do was adapt the recipe from the original Klein’s memory fragments.
As the eldest brother, Benson did not stand on ceremony as he dug up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and stuffed it into his mouth.
The beaten potatoes were boiled thoroughly and mixed with the faint taste of lard and just enough salt. It whetted his appetite and made him salivate.
“Not… bad… Not bad,” praised Benson vaguely. “It’s much more delicious than the one I had back at work. They only used butter.”
This is one of my specialties after all… Klein accepted the praise. “It’s all thanks to the teachings of the chef at Welch’s place.”
Melissa looked at the beef soup. The green basil leaves, the green lettuce heads, and the radishes were submerged in the colorless soup, covering the tender beef. The soup was clear and its fragrance tantalizing.
She forked a piece of beef and placed it in her mouth to chew. The beef retained a little chewiness despite being stewed tender. The mixture of salt, the sweetness from the radishes, and the spiciness from the basil leaves complemented the deliciousness of the beef.
“…” She seemed to give her approbation, but she could not stop her chewing.
Klein tasted it and felt that although it was delicious, it was not without regret. This was still far from his usual standard. After all, he was lacking in certain condiments and could only use replacements. It was no wonder it tasted different.
Of course, even with the best standards, one could only make do with the dishes they cooked personally.
Suddenly, his heart pained for Benson and Melissa who were stunted in their world view.
After swallowing a piece of beef, Klein picked up a piece of fried Tussock Fish which was sprinkled with cumin and rosemary. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The char was a perfect golden brown and the saltiness and oil fragrance intertwined as one.
Nodding slightly, Klein tried a piece of stewed rhubarb and found it palatable. It got rid of the cloyed taste of meat.
Finally, he mustered his courage and scooped a bowl of thick pea soup.
Too sweet and too sour… Klein could not help but frown.
However, after seeing Benson and Melissa looking satisfied from tasting it, he began suspecting his tastes. He could not help but down a mouthful of ginger beer to cleanse his tongue.
The siblings were stuffed by the end of the meal. They laid slumped in the chairs for quite a while.
“Let us praise the Lady once more!” Benson raised his ginger beer—which had only one mouthful left—as he said in satisfaction.
“Praise the Lady!” Klein downed the last bit of his beverage.
“Praise the Lady.” Melissa finally put the last bit of lemon pudding into her mouth and enjoyed the flavors swishing through her mouth.
When Klein saw this, he took advantage of his tipsiness and smiled. “Melissa, that’s not right. You should eat the thing you find most delicious thing at the beginning. That way, you can fully appreciate its most delicious aspects. Tasting it when you are filled and satiated will not do the food justice.”
“No, it’s still as delicious as it can be,” answered Melissa firmly and stubbornly.
The siblings had a happy chat, and after digesting their meals, they cleaned up the plates, cutlery, and stored the oil which was used to fry the fish.
After busying themselves, it was revision time. One refreshed his accounting knowledge while another continued reading the study material and notes. Time was spent to its fullest.
At eleven, the siblings extinguished the gas lamp and went to bed after washing up.
Klein felt groggy as he stared at the darkness in front of him. A figure wearing a black trench coat and halved top hat appeared suddenly in Klein’s vision. It was Dunn Smith.
“Captain!” Klein jolted awake and knew he was dreaming.
Dunn’s gray eyes remained calm, as though he was mentioning something trivial. “Someone has sneaked into your room. Pick up your revolver and force him to the corridor. Leave the rest to us.”
Someone has sneaked into my room? The observer has finally taken action? Klein jumped in fright, but did not dare ask further. All he did was nod and say, “Alright!”
The scene before his eyes changed immediately as a swath of colors appeared like the bursting of bubbles.
Klein’s eyes opened as he carefully turned his head. He looked toward the window and saw a thin but unfamiliar back standing at his desk, rummaging for something in silence.
28 Secret Order
Badump! Badump! Badump!
Klein’s heart began beating rapidly. It shrank into a clump before expanding abruptly. It made his body tremble gently.
There was an instant when he nearly forgot what he had to do until the lurking figure suddenly paused. The figure pricked his ears slightly as though listening for any changes.
Blood flowed back from his brain as Klein regained his basic cognitive abilities. He reached beneath the pillow for the wooden grip of the revolver.
He felt the firm but smooth feeling as he rapidly calmed down. He silently and slowly pulled out the revolver and aimed it at the trespasser’s head.
To be honest, he had no confidence in striking the intruder. Although he was already able to stably hit the target during practice, a moving person and a fixed target were completely different. He was not arrogant enough to confound the two together.
However, he vaguely remembered something from his previous life; the general idea was that a nuclear weapon wielded the greatest strength before its launch.
The principle held in his current situation. The best deterrence was before he shot!
By not pulling the trigger or shooting blindly, the intruder was unable to determine whether or not he was a complete rookie who had an extremely high chance of missing him. His worries and fears would make him deliberate more, resulting in him restraining himself!
In an instant, another thought arose in him. It immediately made Klein turn decisive. He was not the kind of person who turned calmer when faced with danger; instead, he had already imagined the situation when he faced the observer—using intimidation instead of attacking.
The Foodaholic Empire had an idiom: Where there is precaution there will be no danger!
When Klein pointed his gun at the intruder, the thin man froze suddenly, as though he had sensed something.
Following that, he heard a voice that hid a chuckle.
“Good evening, Sir.”
The scrawny man clasped both his hands together, and his body seemed to tense. Klein sat on the lower bunk, aimed the person’s head with the revolver, and tried to speak as leisurely and as naturally as he could.
“Please raise both of your hands and turn around. Try to do it slow. To be frank, I am very timid and I get nervous easily. If you move too quickly, I can be frightened, and I can’t guarantee that there won’t be a situation where I misfire. Yes, that’s right.”
The scrawny man raised both of his hands and held them up near his head before turning his body bit by bit. The first thing that came into view was a black tight suit with neat buttons. Next, he caught a pair of brown eyebrows that were thick and sharp.
The intruder’s deep blue eyes didn’t reflect fear, but rather gazed upon Klein with the intensity of a ferocious beast. It seemed that if Klein were careless for a second, the other person would leap forward and tear him to pieces.
He clenched the handle tightly as he tried his best to appear calm and indifferent.
It was only when the thin man faced him completely did Klein jerk his chin towards the door. He softly and gently said, “Sir, let’s take this outside. Do not disturb the beautiful dreams of others. Oh, do keep your motions slow. Lighten your footsteps a little too. It’s basic courtesy for a gentleman.”
The thin man’s cold pupils rolled as he swept Klein a glance. He continued raising his hands as he walked slowly to the door.
Under the revolver’s aim, he twisted the handle and slowly opened the door.
When the door was half-opened, he suddenly lowered himself and rolled forward. The door was pulled by a strong wind and it closed with a slam.
“Uh…” Benson, who was on the top bunk, was stirred. He almost woke up in a daze.
At that moment, a leisurely and serene melody entered from outside. The heavy and comfortable voice started to sing.
“Oh, the threat of horror, the hope of crimson cries!
“One thing at least is certain—that this Life flies;
“One thing is certain, and the rest is Lies;
“The Flower that once has bloomed forever dies 1 …”
The poem seemed to possess the power to calm and relax others. Benson, who was on the top bunk, and Melissa, who was in another room, again fell asleep amid their grogginess.
Klein’s body and mind was also peaceful and quiet. He nearly yawned.
The way the thin man had darted off was so agile that he could not react in time.
Looking at the closed door, he smiled and muttered to himself. “You might not believe it, but pulling the trigger would not release a round.”
The empty chamber to prevent misfiring!
Following that, Klein listened to the midnight poem as he patiently awaited for the battle outside to end.
Within a minute, the tranquil melody which resembled the reflection of moonlight on the surface of a lake stopped, and the dark night resumed its deep silence.
Klein silently spun the cylinder and moved the empty chamber away as he awaited for the outcome.
He uneasily waited for a full ten minutes. Just as he wondered if he should investigate, he heard Dunn Smith’s staid and warm voice from the door.
Phew. Klein exhaled. He held his revolver and took his key. Barefooted, he carefully approached the door before silently opening it to see the black windbreaker and the halved top hat. Dunn Smith was standing there with his deep and calm gray eyes.
He closed the door behind him and followed Dunn to the end of the corridor and stood amid the weak crimson moonlight.
“It took me some time to enter his dream,” said Dunn calmly as he looked at the red moon outside the window.
“Do you know his background?” Klein felt a lot more relieved.
Dunn nodded and said, “An ancient organization known as the Secret Order. They were established in the Fourth Epoch and are related to the Solomon Empire and a number of fallen aristocrats of that period. Heh, the Antigonus family’s diary came from them. Due to a member’s negligence, it entered the antique market and was obtained by Welch. They had no choice but to send people in search of it.”
Without waiting for Klein’s question, he paused before continuing.
“We will capture the remaining members they have according to the clues. Well, it might not end too well. These fellows are as good at hiding as the rats in the sewers. But at the very least, they would believe that we have likely obtained the Antigonus family’s notebook or that we have obtained a critical clue. In that case, as long as it’s not something extremely crucial or important, they would abandon the operation. That is their philosophy on surviving.”
“…What if the notebook is extremely crucial and important?” asked Klein worriedly.
Dunn smiled without an answer. Instead, he said, “We know very little of the Secret Order. Our success this time is all thanks to your sharp wits. This contribution is all yours. In light of the possibility of hidden dangers and how heightened perception would aid in finding the notebook, you have a chance at choosing.”
“A chance at choosing?” Klein vaguely guessed something as his breathing subconsciously turned heavy.
Dunn wiped the smile from his face as he said in all seriousness, “Do you wish to become a Beyonder? You can only choose the starting Sequence of an incomplete Sequence.
“Of course, you can give up this chance and choose to accumulate the merit you have garnered. Then, all you have to do is wait till there’s sufficient room for you to become a Sleepless, which is also the first, complete Sequence the Goddess has bestowed on the Nighthawks.”
Indeed… Klein felt delighted and did not have any hesitant emotions. He took the initiative to ask, “Then from which of the Sequence 9s can I choose from?”
I have to have detailed information to decide whether to give up or accept, as well as choose which one!
Dunn turned around and seemed to be cloaked in the crimson veil that shone down on him. He looked into Klein’s eyes and said slowly, “Apart from the Sleepless, the Church has three Sequence 9 potion formulas. One of them is Mystery Pryer, which is also the power Old Neil controls. Heh, Rozanne has likely mentioned this to you. She can never hold her tongue.”
Klein smiled awkwardly, at a loss for an answer. Thankfully, Dunn did not mind it as he continued. “Our Mystery Pryer potion formula and the later Sequences that aren’t directly chained were obtained from the Moses Ascetic Order. Back then, it was said that they had yet to fall to corruption. They persisted in their morals and precepts, determined in their pursuit of knowledge. They kept their secrets strictly confidential. Anyone that entered the order would be barred from speaking for five years after becoming a Mystery Pryer. They would learn to keep silent, so as to cultivate and enhance their focus. The motto of Moses Ascetic Order—do as you wish, but do no harm—began from them.
“Mystery Pryers have a comprehensive but rudimentary understanding and grasp of magic, witchcraft, astrology, and other mystical knowledge. They also know a fair number of magical rituals, but they can easily sense certain existences that hide among matter. Therefore, they have to be careful and show respect to their powers as a Beyonder.
“We lack a large portion of this Sequence, causing it to be an incomplete chain. For example, its Sequence 8. Of course, perhaps the Holy Cathedral has it.”
This pretty much meets all my requirements… Klein nodded slightly, to the point of having the urge to choose.
Thankfully, he still remembered certain things.
“What about the other two?”
“The second type is named Corpse Collector. Quite a number of cultists who worship Death in the Southern Continent choose it. After consuming the potion, unintelligent dead spirits would mistake them as one of their kind and not attack them. They would gain resistance to the cold, decay, and corrosiveness of cadaveric auras. They will be able to directly see a portion of evil spirits and see the characteristics and weaknesses of undead creatures, as well as gain certain attribute enhancements. We have the Sequence 8 and Sequence 7 that follows it. Heh heh, you probably can guess Sequence 7—Spirit Medium! This was chosen by Daly back then,” described Dun in detail.
Spirit Medium does appear mysterious and cool, but what I want most is to grasp knowledge of mysticism… Klein did not interject; all he did was listen quietly.
Dunn Smith looked sideways at the crimson moon and said, “We only have Sequence 9 of the third type. Whether the Holy Cathedral has it, I’m not sure. It’s called Seer.”
Seer? Klein’s pupils constricted as he recalled the regret Emperor Roselle had left in his diary: He regretted not choosing Apprentice, Marauder, or Seer! Adapted from the English translation of Rubáiyát.
29 “Jobs” and Rentals Are Serious Business
Klein tried his best to remain his usual self as he asked with genuine interest, “What abilities do Seers have?”
“Your question is inaccurate; the question should be, ‘what abilities does consuming the Seer potion give?’” Dunn Smith shook his head and chuckled. His gray pupils and face turned away from the moon as his features hid in the shadows. “There are many kinds of things involved—astromancy, cartomancy, spiritual pendulums, and scrying. Of course, it does not mean that consuming the potion will immediately allow you to grasp all of them. The potion only equips you with the qualifications and ability to learn it.
“As they lack direct means of fighting enemies, heh. You can probably imagine that setting up a magical ritual requires a lot of preparation. It’s not suitable for combat. Therefore, in terms of knowledge of mysticism, a Seer will be more learned and professional than a Mystery Pryer.”
It sounds like it matches my requirements as well… However, the lack of means to directly deal with enemies is quite a dilemma… Furthermore, the Church of the Evernight Goddess likely doesn’t have the subsequent Sequences… The Holy Cathedral likely refers to the headquarters, the Cathedral of Serenity… The means available to low-Sequence Beyonders against their enemies might not be comparable to firearms… Klein fell into deep thought as he racked his brains. He kept going back and forth between Mystery Pryers and Seers. He no longer considered Corpse Collector.
Dunn Smith smiled when he saw this.
“You don’t have to rush into a decision. Tell me your answer Monday morning. Regardless of your choice of Sequence or giving up this opportunity, none of us from the Nighthawks would have any other thoughts on the matter.
“Calm down and ask your heart.”
With that said, he took off his hat and bowed slightly. He slowly walked past Klein and headed for the stairwell.
Klein did not say a word and did not immediately reply. He silently bowed and watched as Dunn left.
Although he was constantly hoping to become a Beyonder previously, he was thrown into a dilemma when the opportunity arose; the subsequent missing Sequences, Beyonders having the risk of losing control, the believability of Emperor Roselle’s diaries, and the illusory murmurs that could corrupt people into madness all mixed together and formed a moat that obstructed his advancement.
He took a deep breath and slowly breathed out.
“No matter how bad it is, it can’t be worse than making an eighteen-year-old high-school student decide on his future career…” Klein gave a self-deprecating chuckle. Gathering his scattered thoughts, his opened the door softly and laid back on the bed.
He laid there with his eyes open, silently looking at the bottom of the top bunk that was dyed with the faint crimson of the moon.
A drunkard staggered outside the window as a carriage sped down the empty streets. These noises did not break the serenity of the night but instead made it even darker and more distant.
Klein’s emotions settled down as he recalled his past on Earth. He recalled how he liked exercising, his father who always spoke loudly, his mother who enjoyed busying herself despite having a chronic disease, his friends who grew up with him, going from playing sports like soccer and basketball to games and mahjong, as well as the person he made a failed confession to… These were like a silent river; it did not have many ripples or deep sentimental feelings, but it silently drowned his heart.
Perhaps one will only learn to cherish things after they have lost them. When the crimson receded and the sky turned golden-yellow from the flaming ball’s illumination, Klein had made his choice.
He got out of bed and headed to the public bathroom to wash his face to wake himself up. Then, he took a one-soli note to Mrs. Wendy’s to buy eight pounds of rye bread with nine pence, replenishing the staple food that had been consumed the previous night.
“The price of bread has begun stabilizing…” He commented after breakfast as Benson changed.
It was Sunday, so both he and Melissa finally had the chance to rest.
Klein, who was already in proper attire, was sitting on a chair and flipping through the outdated newspapers he brought back from yesterday. He said in surprise, “There’s a house for rent here: North Borough’s 3 Wendel Street, a bungalow with two floors. There are six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two big balconies upstairs. Downstairs, there’s a dining hall, a living room, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and two guest rooms, as well as an underground cellar… In front of the house are two acres of private land and there’s a small garden behind. It can be rented for one, two, or three years, with a weekly rent of one pound six soli. Those interested can head to Champagne Street and look for Mr. Gusev.”
“That’s our goal for the future.” Benson wore his black halved top hat as he smiled to say, “The rent for the places in newspapers is usually a little too expensive. The Tingen City Housing Improvement Company has options that do not pale in comparison to that for cheaper.”
“Why are we not searching in the Tingen Housing Improvement Association for the Working Class?” Melissa walked out from her room holding an old, veiled hat. She had changed into a grayish-white long dress that had been mended several times.
She was silent and introverted, but that could not mask her youthfulness.
“Where did you hear of the Tingen Housing Improvement Association for the Working Class?” Jenny? Mrs. Rochelle? Or is it from your good friend Selena?”
Melissa looked to the side and whispered a reply.
“Mrs. Rochelle… While washing up last night, I happened to meet her. She asked me about Klein’s interview and I told her roughly what happened. Then, she suggested I find the Tingen Housing Improvement Association for the Working Class.”
Benson noticed Klein’s puzzled expression and shook his head in amusement.
“They are targeted at the poor. Well, a precise description is that they are a housing association for the lower strata of society. They build and renovate houses that basically have communal bathrooms. They only provide three choices—a single, double or triple bedroom. Do you wish to continue living in such an environment?
“The Tingen City Housing Improvement Company share similar businesses as them, but they also provide choices for the lower-middle class. To be honest, we are a little better than lower-middle class, but we still quite worse off than true middle-class families. It’s not a matter of salary; it’s just that we did not have the time to save up.”
Klein came to a realization as he put away the newspaper. Picking up his top hat, he stood up.
“Then, let’s set off.”
“I remember that the Tingen City Housing Improvement Company is on Daffodil Street,” Benson said as he opened the door. “They are like the Tingen Housing Improvement Association for the Working Class, known as Five Percent Charities. Do you know why?”
“I don’t know.” Klein raised his cane and walked to Melissa’s side.
The girl with black hair that reached down her back nodded.
Benson headed out and said, “These kinds of housing improvement associations or companies were established as a result of Backlund. They are funded in three ways: One, by requesting donations from charitable foundations. Two, through funding proposals. They receive grants from the government’s commission at a special rate of 4%. Third, through investments. By taking a portion of the rent received, they will give their investors 5% returns. That’s why they are called Five Percent Charities.”
The siblings went down the stairs and slowly walked toward Daffodil Street. They decided to confirm a place before talking to their present landlord, Mr. Franky. They did not want to be in a situation where they were forced to move when had no place to stay.
“I heard from Selena that there are housing improvement companies that are purely run as charities?” Melissa asked in thought.
“There are, such as the Deweyville Trust which Sir Deweyville donated money to establish. He builds apartments targeted for the working class. He also provides dedicated estate management personnel while only charging rather low rent. However, the criteria for applying is very strict.”
“It sounds like you aren’t fond of the idea?” Klein acutely sensed it as he asked with a smile.
“No, I respect Sir Deweyville a lot, but I’m certain he does not know what true poverty is. Staying in his apartment is like a priest giving hope. It’s not very pragmatic. For instance, tenants have to receive the main vaccines and they have to take turns cleaning the bathroom. They are unable to sublease their apartments or use it for commercial activities. They aren’t allowed to throw their rubbish wantonly and children are prevented from playing in the corridors. Goddess, does he wish to make everyone ladies and gentlemen?” Benson answered in his usual tone.
Klein creased his brows in doubt.
“Doesn’t sound problematic. Those are all very reasonable criteria.”
“Yeah.” Melissa nodded in agreement.
Benson cocked his head and looked at them before chuckling.
“Perhaps I have protected the both of you too well that you have not seen actual poverty. Do you think they would have the money for the main vaccines? The line for free charitable organization sets them back three months.
“Do you think their work is stable and not temporary? If they cannot sublet parts of their apartment to receive some extra income, are they to move out when they lose their jobs? Besides, many ladies mend clothes or make match boxes at home to maintain their livelihood. Those are included as commercial activities. Are you going to chase them all out?
“Most of the poor use all their efforts to survive. Do you think they have the time to discipline their children and stop them from running along the corridors? Perhaps they can only be locked at home until they’re old enough, then sending them to places that accept child labor when they are around seven or eight years old.”
Ben did not use many adjectives to describe the matter; it caused Klein to shudder a little.
This was how people from low socioeconomic classes lived?
Beside him, Melissa fell into silence. It took a long while before she said in an ethereal tone,
“Jenny no longer wished for me to visit her after she moved to the Lower Street.”
“Let’s hope her father gets back on his feet after that injury and finds a stable job. However, I have seen too many alcoholics use alcohol to numb themselves…” Benson laughed with a somber tone.
Klein was at a loss for words. Melissa seemed to be the same. As such, the siblings walked silently down Daffodil Street and found Tingen City Housing Improvement Company.
The person who served them was a middle-aged man with an amiable smile. He did not wear a formal attire or a hat, but instead, wore a white shirt and black vest.
“You can call me Scarter. Might I know what kind of house you have in mind?” When he caught a glance at Klein’s silver-inlaid cane, his smile widened.
Klein looked at Benson, who was better with words, and gestured for him to answer.
Benson directly answered, “A terrace house.”
Scarter flipped through the files and documents in his hand before smiling.
“There are currently five that haven’t been rented out. To be honest, we are geared more to serving customers—laborers and their children who have housing difficulties where six, eight, or even ten or twelve people squeeze into a house. There aren’t many terrace houses. There’s one at 2 Daffodil Street, one in the North Borough, one in the East Borough… The weekly rent goes from 12 to 16 soli. You can take a look at the detailed introductions here.”
He handed over a document to Benson, Klein, and Melissa.
After reading through it, the siblings exchanged looks and pointed to the same spot on the piece of paper simultaneously.
“Let’s take a look at 2 Daffodil Street first,” said Benson. Klein and Melissa nodded in response.
This place was a district they were familiar with.
30 Brand New Beginning
2, 4, and 6 Daffodil Street were terrace buildings with multifaceted hipped roofs. Their exteriors were painted grayish blue, and three chimneys stood erected.
The place obviously did not have lawns, gardens, or porches. The entrances directly faced the street.
Tingen City Housing Improvement Company’s Scarter took out a bunch of keys and while opening the door, introduced, “Our terrace houses do not have foyers, so you enter directly into the living room. There’s an oriel window facing Daffodil Street, so there’s pretty good lighting…”
Klein, Benson, and Melissa were greeted by a fabric sofa bathing in the golden rays of the sun, and an area more spacious than their previous two-bedroom apartment.
“This living room can be used as a guest hall. To its right is the dining room and on the left is a fireplace that will keep you warm in winter.” Scarter pointed around with great familiarity.
Klein looked around and confirmed that it was a crude, open-style concept. The dining room and the living room were not separated by any partitions, but they were also far from the oriel window, making those spots rather dim.
There was a rectangular red wooden table surrounded by six hardwood chairs with soft cushions. The fireplace on the left wall looked exactly like the ones in foreign movies and TV series that Klein used to watch.
“Behind the dining area is the kitchen, but we do not provide any appliances. Opposite to the living room is a small guest room and a bathroom…” Scarter walked around and described the remaining layout of the house.
The bathroom was separated into two parts. The outer area was where one would wash their face and brush their teeth, while the inner area was the toilet. There was an accordion door that separated them. The guest room was described to be small, but it was as big as the room that Melissa currently stayed in. She was stunned at the sight.
After looking around the first floor, Scarter brought the three siblings to the stairway next to the bathroom.
“Down below is the underground cellar. It is quite stuffy downstairs, so you must remember to let some fresh air in first before entering.”
Benson nodded casually and followed Scarter to the second floor.
“On my left, there’s a bathroom. On the same side, there are an additional two bedrooms. It’s the same layout on my right, but the washroom on this side is next to the balcony.”
As he spoke, Scarter opened the bathroom door and stood sideways so that he would not obstruct Klein, Benson, and Melissa from looking in.
The bathroom had an extra bathtub. Like the other bathroom, there was an accordion door next to the toilet. Although it was a little dusty, it wasn’t dirty, smelly, or cramped.
Melissa looked in a daze until Scarter walked to the bedroom next to it. Only then did she stop looking and follow the rest slowly.
She took another few steps before looking back.
Klein, who was experienced in life, was delighted and excited as well. Even though their landlord often supervised their cleaning up of the bathroom, it still was not clean enough. It was often nauseating, let alone the fact that they would easily encounter a line when they needed to relieve their urgencies.
The other bathroom was similar. One of the four bedrooms was slightly bigger and was furnished with a bookcase. The rest were about the same size as each other and had a bed, table, and wardrobe.
“The balcony is very tiny, so you won’t be able to dry too many clothes in the sun at a time.” Scarter stood at the end of the corridor and pointed to a spot with a door and lock. “There is a complete underground drainage, gas piping, meter, and other facilities. It is very suitable for you gentlemen and a lady like yourselves. It only requires thirteen soli of rent and five pence for use of the furniture weekly. In addition, there is a deposit that amounts to four weeks of rent.”
Without waiting for Benson to say a word, Klein looked around and asked curiously, “Roughly how much would it cost to buy the house?”
As a transmigrator from the Foodaholic Empire, the desire to buy property still existed within him.
Upon hearing that question, Benson and Melissa were shocked. They looked at Klein as though they were seeing a monster. Scarter replied calmly and firmly, “Buy? No, we do not sell property. We only provide rental properties.”
“I’m just trying to have a general sense of the prices.” Klein explained awkwardly.
Scarter hesitated for a few seconds before saying, “Last month, the owner of 11 Daffodil Street sold a limited-period land deed with a similar property sitting atop the land. 300 pounds for fifteen years. It is much cheaper than renting directly but not everyone can fork out such a large sum of money. If one would like to buy it over completely, the owner’s posted price 850 pounds.”
850 pounds? Klein quickly made the mental calculations.
My weekly pay is three pounds, Benson eans one pound and ten soli… Rent is thirteen soli and if we eat well every day, we would spend nearly two pounds a week. On top of that, there are expenses such as clothes, transportation, social expenditures, so on and so forth. We can only save less than twenty soli a week. One year adds up to about 35 pounds. 850 pounds would require more than twenty years. Even if it we bought the land for a limited period of time for 300 pounds, it would take us at least eight or nine years… That doesn’t include getting married, living independently, raising children, traveling, and so on…
In a world without individual housing loans, most people are likely to opt for rental…
Realizing this, he stepped back and stole a glance at Benson. He beckoned him to talk to Scarter about the rent.
As for Melissa’s intentions, they were obvious from her bright eyes!
At that moment, Klein suddenly thought of letting Benson loose.
Benson tapped his plain cane and looked around before he said, “We should take a look at other houses. The dining area’s lighting isn’t good, and the balcony is very small. Look, only that bedroom has a fireplace, and the furniture is too old. If we move in, we have to at least change half of these…”
He pointed out faults in a hurried tone, spending ten minutes to persuade Scarter to lower the rent to twelve soli and the furniture usage fee to three pence, while rounding up the deposit to two pounds.
Without further ado, the siblings returned with Scarter to the Tingen City Housing Improvement Company and signed two copies of the contract. They then headed over to the Notary Office of Tingen City to notarize the contract.
After paying the deposit and first week’s rent, Klein and Benson’s remaining money added up to nine pounds, two soli, and eight pence.
Standing before the door of 2 Daffodil Street, they each held a bunch of copper keys. They were momentarily unable to look away; their emotions churning within them.
“It feels like a dream…” After a while, Melissa lifted her head to look at the future “Moretti Residence,” and she spoke with a low yet unsteady voice.
Benson let out a breath and smiled.
“Then don’t wake up.”
Klein wasn’t as emotional as they were. He nodded and said, “We need to change the locks of the main door and balcony door as soon as possible.”
“There’s no hurry. The reputation of Tingen City Housing Improvement Company is very good. The rest of the money is for your formal suit. However, before that, we need to pay Mr. Franky a visit.” Benson pointed in the direction of the apartment.
The siblings made do with rye bread at home before heading for a terrace apartment on Iron Cross Street. When they knocked on their landlord’s door, Mr. Franky declared imposingly while his short frame perched on a sofa, “You know my rules. No one is allowed to be behind their rent!”
Benson leaned forward and smiled.
“Mr. Franky, we are here to give up our lease.”
That straightforward? Would negotiating this way work? Standing beside Benson, Klein was shocked when he heard him.
On the way here, Benson had said that his bottomline was a compensation of twelve soli.
“Give up your lease? No! We have a contract, and there’s still half a year left!” Franky glared at Benson as he flailed his arms.
Benson looked at him seriously and waited for a moment before saying calmly, “Mr. Franky, you should understand that you could have made much more money.”
“Make much more?” Franky asked with interest, touching his skinny face.
Benson sat up straight and explained with a smile, “The two-bedroom unit was rented to the three of us for five soli and six pence. But if you were to rent it to a family of five or six people, with two or three of them working and getting paid, I think they would be willing to pay more to stay there instead of staying at Lower Street where its ridden with crime. I think five soli ten pence or six soli would be a reasonable price.”
Franky’s eyes brightened up and his throat moved as Benson continued to say, “Besides, you are certainly aware that rental prices have been increasing in recent years. The longer we stay, the greater a loss you incur.”
“But… I need time to look for a new tenant.” Mr. Franky, who had inherited the apartment building, obviously liked the idea.
“I believe you can find one very quickly since you have the ability and resources to do so. Maybe two days, maybe three days… We will pay for the losses you incur during this time. How about the deposit of three soli that we have paid? It is very reasonable!” Benson immediately decided for Franky.
Franky nodded in satisfaction.
“Benson, you are such a conscientious and honest young man. Alright then, let’s sign the termination of contract.”
Klein was dumbfounded watching this happen. He completely understood how easy it was to ‘convince’ Mr. Franky.
That’s way too easy…
With the problem of the previous contract resolved, the three siblings first helped Klein buy his formal wear and then got busy with moving house.
They didn’t have anything heavy or bulky as bulkier items belonged to the landlord. Thus, Benson and Melissa rejected Klein’s idea of hiring a carriage, and instead carried their things themselves. They went back and forth between Daffodil Street and Iron Cross Street.
The hot sun outside the window set in the west, and golden rays shone through the oriel window, scattering across the desk’s surface. Klein looked at the rack that had books and notebooks arranged neatly before putting an ink bottle and a fountain pen on the table which he had wiped cleaned earlier.
It’s finally over… He let out a breath of relief and heard his stomach growl. He loosened his rolled up sleeves as he walked towards the door.
He had a bed that belonged to him. The bedsheet and blanket were white, old but clean.
Klein twisted the doorknob and walked out of his bedroom. Just as he was preparing to say something, he saw both doors on the opposite side open simultaneously as Benson and Melissa came into his view.
Looking at the dust and dirt marks on their faces, Klein and Benson suddenly burst out into laughter, sounding abnormally cheerful.
Melissa bit her lips lightly but the laughter was contagious. She eventually let out a soft laugh.
The next morning.
Klein stood before a full-length mirror with no cracks, seriously smoothing out his collar and sleeves of his shirt.
The outfit included a white shirt, black tuxedo, silk top hat, black vest, a set of trousers, boots, and a bow tie. He felt the pinch of paying eight pounds in total.
However, the effect was great. Klein felt that his reflection in the mirror exhibited greater scholarly qualities and made him look more handsome.
He closed his pocket watch and put it into his inner pocket. He then took his cane and hid his revolver. He took the tracked public carriage and arrived at Zouteland Street.
The moment he entered the Blackthorn Security Company, he realized that he was so used to his previous lifestyle that he had forgotten to give Melissa extra money but allowed her to walk to school instead.
Shaking his head, he took note of it before stepping into Blackthorn Security Company. He saw the brown-haired girl, Rozanne, making coffee. A rich aroma permeated throughout the office.
“Good morning, Klein. The weather is great today,” Rozanne greeted him with a smile. “To be frank, I have always been curious. In such weather, don’t you men feel hot wearing those formal suits? I know for a fact that Tingen’s summer isn’t as hot as the South’s, but it is still summer.”
“It’s the price of style,” Klein replied humorously. “Good morning, Miss Rozanne. Where’s the Captain?”
“Same old place.” Rozanne pointed inside.
Klein nodded. He went through the partition and knocked on Dunn Smith’s office door.
“Come in.” Dunn’s voice was deep and gentle as usual.
When he saw Klein, who looked quite different in a set of nice formal wear, he nodded and his gray eyes smiled.
“Have you decided?” he asked.
Klein took a deep breath and answered seriously, “Yes, I have made a decision.”
Dunn slowly sat up straight. His expression became solemn but the deep recesses of his gray eyes remained the same.
“Tell me your answer.”
Klein replied without hesitation, “Seer!”