Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Light suddenly faded from where Ince Zangwill disappeared, staining the area with the richest and deepest darkness.
In the darkness, the sounds of melodic chanting could be heard. It was quiet and tranquil, hypnotic even. Even the countless pale arms flailing upwards underneath the pitch-black water seemed to slow down, no longer as frenzied as before, as if they had won redemption for their souls.
In such a “dark night,” a figure walked out. It was none other than Ince Zangwill who had just been dragged into the spirit world.
Compared to before, he had lost the bonnet on his head. The clothes on his left shoulder were tattered, and a piece of flesh had been torn off. Faint yellow pus bubbled out one after another.
His eyes were no longer indifferent, but filled with pain, as if he was suffering some unimaginable torment.
The 0-08 quill continued writing.
“Some might feel regret, while others might rejoice. Ince Zangwill had the umbilical cord of the evil god which came from the baby in Megose’s womb. It was from the True Creator, and through the umbilical cord, he successfully escaped from the restraints of the unknown existence and forcefully returned to the real world, but as a result, he had lost that mystical item. In addition, he would suffer the ire of the evil god’s spawn from having failed to descend for a short period of time.
“This made his strength appear like some kind of commodity in a department store during a change of seasons, with only 55% left. Yes, this number is extremely accurate.”
In a street in the depths of East Borough.
Old Kohler hurried back to his rented apartment, carrying some ham in a paper bag.
He looked around warily, afraid that those ravenous wolves around him would pounce on him and steal his New Year’s gift.
He had seen wolves back when he was still in the countryside, but to his surprise, he was able to experience that familiar feeling in Backlund.
It’s still too expensive. I can only split the cost with someone else and cut it into pieces… This is enough for the new year holiday. I can eat two slices of ham for every meal. Three slices, no—at least five slices of ham. I can cut some of them off and stew them together with the potatoes. I don’t even need to add salt… With this in mind, Old Kohler looked at the ham in his arms, seeing the white spots mixed in with the red meat, his throat couldn’t help but twitch and he swallowed a mouthful of saliva.
As he walked, he felt the fog around him grow thicker. The cathedral’s clock tower that was still relatively clear in the distance was gradually swallowed by a mixture of iron-black and pale yellow colors. Even the pedestrians around him were reduced to blurry shadows once they were ten steps away.
Old Kohler suddenly felt like he has been forgotten by the world as he raised his palm to cover his nose.
“Why does the fog smell so bad today?” he muttered, and he quickened his pace.
One step, two steps, three steps. Old Kohler felt his face heat up and his forehead start to burn.
His chest tightened, his throat felt uncomfortable, and soon he was experiencing difficulty breathing.
Have I fallen ill? Damn it, I still want to have a good new year’s, and now I can only send my savings to the clinic or hospital… No, perhaps I’ll be fine with some sleep. I’ll be fine sleeping with a blanket over me! Old Kohler silently muttered to himself as his head grew hotter and hotter and his senses became more and more muddled.
Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. He heard his own labored breathing, and his hands went limp as the bag of ham fell heavily to the ground.
Old Kohler instinctively bent down to pick it up, but he ended up falling to the ground.
He held the bag of ham and tried to keep it in his arms.
At this moment, he thought there was thick phlegm rushing up his throat, blocking it, so he fought back, making panting sounds.
Thud! Old Kohler began to see, through his blurry vision, that a few steps away, someone else had also fallen and was gasping for breath. He was about the same age as him, in his fifties, with white sideburns.
Suddenly, he understood that he was about to die.
It reminded him of his own wife and children, who, like him, suddenly got infected with the plague and died shortly after.
It reminded him of the time when he had been hospitalized. The patients in the same room were still chatting and laughing that night, but they would be sent to the morgue early the next morning.
It reminded him of the friends he had known as a tramp, many of which had disappeared over the course of the winter until they were found stiff under a bridge or some spot which was sheltered from the wind. A small number died from suddenly having food.
This reminded him of the days when he was still a decent worker, when the neighbors in the neighborhood would suddenly die like this. Some of them died from headaches, some of them died from accidentally falling into molten steel, some of them died from all sorts of painful, bloating ailments. Some of them even collapsed silently in the factories, one batch after another.
This reminded him of what he had heard from a drunk in the bar when he was scrounging for information.
“People like us are like straw on the ground, falling when the wind blows. It’s even possible to fall on our own even without the wind.”
The wind is coming… Old Kohler suddenly had such a thought.
He clutched the bag of ham tightly as he groped the pocket of his old jacket for the crumpled cigarette he had always been unwilling to smoke.
What he couldn’t understand was why his healthy body would suddenly become ill. It wasn’t like he had never experienced such a dense fog before.
What he couldn’t understand was the reason for him suddenly collapsing just as his life was back on track, moving in a direction that was sufficiently nice for him. Furthermore, he had been paid in advance by Detective Moriarty to buy his long-awaited ham for the new year, and he was looking forward to tasting it.
Old Kohler fished out that crumpled cigarette, but he no longer had the strength to lift his arms again as they slammed heavily to the ground.
He used the last of his strength to shout out the words that had been building up inside of him, but he could only let the frail words linger at his mouth without producing them.
He heard his last words.
He heard himself ask, “Why?”
In an apartment at the edge of East Borough.
Liv hung up the last piece of clothing she had washed and waited for it to dry.
She looked at the sky outside, somewhat unsure of the time due to the thick fog which had appeared without her realizing it.
“Anyway, it’s still early, and we’ve already done the laundry…” Liv’s expression grew heavy.
It wasn’t a good thing to finish work too early. This meant that they could rest, but it also meant that they didn’t have enough work which would imply inadequate income.
Liv took a deep breath, turned around, and looked at her eldest daughter, Freja, who was wiping her hands and casting her gaze towards the vocabulary notebook in the opposite room.
“It’s almost New Year’s. Most of our clients have left Backlund and have gone on vacation elsewhere. We can’t go on like this. We have to find new work.”
As she spoke, she walked towards the door.
“During this period, the rich will host banquets one after another. They definitely won’t have enough servants and might hire temporary kitchen cleaners. I plan on inquiring. Freja, you stay at home and pick up Daisy when the time comes. We need income, but so do the thieves, bandits, and human traffickers of those prostitutes to welcome the new year.”
In the East Borough, every woman, who didn’t work in the factories, had to be skilled or aggressive enough in order to survive.
Freja answered briskly, “Alright.”
Her mind was already on the desk and vocabulary notebook next door.
Liv had just opened the door when she stumbled and fell to the floor.
Cough! Cough! Cough! She broke into a violent coughing fit as her face flushed red, with every joint in her body experiencing an unbearable ache.
Freja ran over in panic and squatted beside her.
“Mother, what’s wrong with you? Mother, what’s wrong with you?”
“It’s nothing. Cough, I’m fine.” Liv began to find it harder to breathe.
“No, you’re sick—sick! I’ll take you to the hospital immediately!” Freja tried to help her mother up.
“It’s too expensive, too… expensive. Cough—Let’s go to a charity hospital. A charity hospital, I can wait. It’s n-not a big problem.” Liv gasped a response.
Freja burst into tears and her vision blurred rapidly.
But at that moment, she felt her lungs burn, and her body went limp as she fell to the ground with Liv.
“What’s the matter with you, Freja? Cough! You’re sick too?” Liv shouted anxiously. “There’s money, cough—in the closet, cough—in the hole in the wall. You have to be quick. Go to the hospital! Get a good—a good doctor!”
Freja tried to say something, but not a sound came out from her mouth. Her eyes slanted up to the door beside her.
It was their bedroom, their bunk beds. On top of it was her favorite table and her vocabulary notebook.
Her body suddenly began to twitch.
Liv’s coughing stopped.
Within the public elementary school at the edge of East Borough, the fog still wasn’t thick yet, but many students had already started to cough.
The experienced teacher on duty immediately ordered, “Quick, to the cathedral. We need to head for the cathedral next door!”
Daisy stood up in a panic and ran with the crowd to the cathedral next to the school.
Suddenly, her heart palpitated as she felt the horror of losing something important.
… Mother… Freja. Daisy turned her head sharply, wanting to rush home against the crowd.
However, she was stopped. She was caught by her teachers and forcibly dragged towards the cathedral.
Daisy struggled and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mother! Freja!
In East Borough, the dock area, and the factory district, the old or those with latent ailments collapsed in the fog in succession like felled trees, while those who came into contact with them felt as if they had been infected by the plague. They died quickly, and even the able-bodied adults and children also felt slightly unwell.
In their eyes, the light yellow and iron-black fog was like the descent of Death.
On the Tuesday of the last week in 1349, Backlund was shrouded in haze.
In the corner of the hall, Klein pressed himself against the stone wall so that he wouldn’t be discovered by Mr. A.
Soon, he heard muffled groans and could smell the scent of flesh and blood.
“Give up your lives for the Lord,” Mr. A’s voice suddenly sounded.
Thud. Thud. The sound of figures collapsing entered Klein’s ears, and a strong spirituality fluctuation appeared and constantly reverberated.
Mr. A sacrificed his four attendants? Just as this thought appeared in Klein’s mind, illusory layers of weeping sounds could be heard. Some of them were calling out for their mothers, others coughing violently, and some moaning in pain.
As half of an expert at mysticism, Klein seemed to see a series of disgruntled and transparent figures entering the ritual one after another, followed by the years of numbness, despair, pain, and resentment from the dock area, factory district, and East Borough.
Has it officially begun? Klein closed his eyes and leaned his back against the wall, his right hand clenching and relaxing.
For him, the best thing to do at this moment was to slip out of the hall and flee into the distance while Mr. A was concentrating on the ritual.
His right hand loosened and tightened before relaxing many times in a row.
Seven or eight seconds later, Klein opened his eyes, the corners of his mouth curling upwards in an exaggerated manner.
He reached out his hand to grab the revolver, turned around abruptly, and dashed out.
Dressed in his black double-breasted frock coat, he raised his right hand and aimed at the altar.