Ch19 - One Step Behind
(The Earl Died Again)
Edited by Silver Wind
Truthfully speaking, there was no difference between day and night at the castle; perpetual dark clouds shrouded overhead, and it made the sunlight dismal.
And when the sun set below the mountains, the darkness only grew thicker.
The evening banquet began when the bells tolled through the castle at night.
First to enter the hall was the balding middle-aged man and the chequered shirt otaku, and they sat at the corner, anxiety distorting their expressions slightly.
After the bearded man was overcome with an inexplicable sickness, they had heightened their vigilance and they did not dare to touch anything, for fear of committing a taboo and dying in vain.
Even the delicious food set in front of them did not shake them.
However, Shen Dongqing did not abstain from the partaking.
In his opinion, the game was akin to going on vacation and it did not place a single shilling of psychological burden on him.
The moment he sat down, he picked up a slice of the warm apples and delivered it to his mouth.
The chequered shirt otaku asked quietly, “You’re still eating”
To him, it was plausible that the bearded man had met with trouble last night because he ate something, considering how he ate the most last night.
Shen Dongqing stopped his movements and said: “It’s quite delicious, no”
Chequered shirt otaku glanced at the table of food and quietly swallowed his saliva but he did not make a move.
The large doors were pushed open all of a sudden, and it attracted everyone’s attention.
The housekeeper stepped behind someone.
She was clothed in a black dress, and the barest of skin she exposed was pale and fragile.
A black veil covered her head and concealed most of her visage and only full, scarlet lips were revealed.
The Earl had arrived late.
“Good evening, ladies.”
The Earl lifted the corners of her skirts and sauntered towards the head of the table.
As she moved, the black veil rose slightly, and it allowed a flashing glimpse of her face.
The Earl was a well-maintained old lady with an elegant temperament whose age dangled between her forties and fifties.
If the bearded man was present, he would certainly be surprised – the Earl that he had murdered in cold blood last night had been an old lady on her deathbed, without a doubt.
But the people at the scene were unaware of this fact.
The Earl raised her glass from her seat: “Let me offer my sincerest greetings; because of your presence, the Bumper Harvest Ceremony will be… colourful.”
After she spoke, she drank the red wine in her glass in one gulp, and the red wine stained her lips, making it rosy.
Placing down her wine glass, the Earl gazed at the chequered shirt and middle-aged man before she laughed softly, “It seems like the ladies this time around are meeker, do I, perhaps, frighten you”
The chequered shirt and middle- aged man shook their heads and picked up their wine glasses in a hurry before they took a trembling sip of the contents.
Zhou Wenyan interrupted her: “Lord Earl, what is the Bumper Harvest Ceremony exactly”
The Earl’s gaze landed on Zhou Wenyan’s body and her voice became a few degrees colder when she realised that he hadn’t donned the resplendent dresses she had prepared: “Naturally, it is to celebrate the bountiful harvest that God has bestowed upon us.”
“Alright, let us begin the dance.”
When her voice fell, the sound of music started playing from the corner.
The chequered shirt and middle-aged man did not dare to act first, choosing to look at the others.
Zhou Wenyan took the lead and extended his hand towards Shen Dongqing: “May I invite you to this dance”
Shen Dongqing was still eating and his cheeks were bulging on both sides, and he could only say vaguely: “I don’t know how to.”
Zhou Wenyan replied, “I’ll teach you.”
The two of them stood up and walked towards the dance floor in the middle of the hall.
Zhou Wenyan held onto Shen Dongqing’s hand with his and placed the other behind his waist before he said softly: “Put your hand on my shoulder.”
Shen Dongqing liked learning about human behaviour, and he was interested in it no matter what it was.
Obediently, he placed his hand on Zhou Wenyan’s shoulder and moved in accordance with his steps.
Fortunately, Zhou Wenyan was tall in stature and leading Shen Dongqing through the female dance steps was a non-issue to him.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
The Earl observed the pair who were dancing lightly and gracefully on the dance floor and narrowed her eyes slightly before she glanced at the remaining three.
Qe Alj ofia j rfcrf bo mglrlr jcv tf ugjyyfv atf mtfdefgfv rtlga bajxe klatbea vfijs jcv vgjuufv tlw bcab atf vjcmf oibbg.
Jtfdefgfv rtlga: “Qtja jgf sbe vblcu!”
Qe Alj tlrrfv, “Gjcmf lo sbe kjca ab ilnf!”
Veyrfdefcais, atf akb ylu wfc rajgafv ab vjcmf raloois.
Ktf Sjgi ibbxfv ja atf gfwjlclcu yjivlcu wlvvif-jufv wjc, jcv rtf kjr rbwfktja vlrrjalrolfv klat atf rqjgrfcfrr bo tjlg bc tlr tfjv.
Lbkfnfg, rtf ralii rafqqfv obgkjgv jcv gjlrfv tfg rxlga mbgcfgr.
“Beautiful young lady, may I invite you to this dance”
The beautiful and balding “young lady” froze and he wanted to ask the others for help, but no one would ever be willing to offer their own lives as tribute for the sake of others.
Under the black veil, the Earl’s lips hooked up strangely: “Are you not willing That is truly a pity…”
Hastily, the balding middle-aged man said: “I’m willing!”
The Earl extended her hand: “I’m extremely honoured.”
But the expression she had on clearly showed her regret as if she was lamenting the fact that the balding man hadn’t refused her invitation.
Similarly, the balding middle-aged man showed a smile that was uglier than crying when he took the Earl’s hand.
The two of them stepped onto the dance floor.
With a twinkling of an eye, there were already three pairs of dancers on the floor.
It was just that one of them was stiff in their footwork and would step on their partner’s feet every few beats while looking like two geese contending over a personal grudge.
The other pair was far more harmonious.
Zhou Wenyan held Shen Dongqing in his arms, and despite wearing a simple shirt and jeans, he appeared to be a true aristocratic gentleman, and he would look at the person in his embrace from time to time.
And Shen Dongqing, was in turn, integrated into the dance under his leadership.
The weirdest couple, however, was the Earl and her balding “young lady”.
Expression natural, the Earl’s movements were elegant, acting as a sharp contrast to her partner who was shaking like a sieve; almost as if he was dancing cheek-to-cheek with a portrait of the deceased.
The balding middle-aged man pressed down his fear and wanted nothing more than to run far away from the Earl once the dance was finished.
Just as he was dancing, hopping and jumping, he suddenly smelled a fragrance.
It was barely discernible, and it smelled like white sandalwood.
When the fragrance passed, there was a faint tang of rust.
The middle-aged man stiffened for a moment, and he forgot to be afraid as he stared straight at the Earl.
And like a stringed, wooden puppet, his dancing posture and movement started to conform to the normal standards.
The song stopped.
Leaning closer to the ear of the balding middle-aged man, the Earl whispered in a low voice: “I’ll be waiting for you tonight…”
The middle-aged man was despondent and his voice was asway: “Yes.”
Smiling gently, the Earl let go of his hand.
“Joyous times are always transient and brief; the banquet ends here.
Please excuse my absence.”
She glided out of the hall under the aid of a servant.
The door closed slowly and it issued a dull noise.
The balding man seemed to wake up from a dream though his sweat started pouring like rain, and his legs were so soft he could hardly walk.
Zhou Wenyan eyed him: “It’s a pity I was not selected.”
Silently, Wu Jia thought: If you were chosen, I’m afraid the Earl will be the next victim.
The evening banquet concluded.
Thus, the players returned to their respective rooms.
The balding middle-aged man was not in the right state of mind and returned back to his room with an ashen face.
Even when other players called out to him, he did not respond.
Meanwhile, Zhou Wenyan, Wu Jia and Shen Dongqing gathered in the same room again.
Zhou Wenyan flipped through the book he had brought back from the library and he gave the corner-sitting Wu Jia a casual and sweeping glance: “I have never found you to be so obtrusive.”
Wu Jia did not dare to speak, and he could only put in extra effort into shrinking himself and ensuring that he did not disturb the pair.
Shen Dongqing moved closer.
“What are you looking at”
“Anecdotes on the Territory of Carlisle,” Zhou Wenyan replied.
Shen Dongqing glanced at it.
The pages were scrawled with curving and twisting words and small tadpoles and he could not recognise a single thing, which caused him to sigh sincerely: “You sure know a lot.”
Perhaps it was because Shen Dongqing’s eyes were overtly bright that Zhou Wenyan coughed gently in embarrassment.
“No… it’s just superficial knowledge I gathered in the passing.”
Wu Jia was shocked.
This big boss knew how to be humble
Shen Dongqing pointed at one of the paragraphs and asked curiously: “What is this saying”
Zhou Wenyan explained: “It writes that the Bumper Harvest Ceremony in Carlisle’s territory probably began as far back as two hundred years ago.
Prior to that, no one had ever heard of this ceremony.”
Shen Dongqing interrupted him: “Wait!”
He ran towards his bed with a few thumps,grabbed a pillow and hugged it in his arms as if he was going to listen to a bedtime story.
Once he was ready, he said: “You can begin.”
“I also looked into the history of Count Carlisle’s succession and discovered that men were predominantly the inheritors of the title and territory up until two hundred years ago.
Due to a malady, almost all the people in the blood lineage had died cleanly, save one young girl, which ushered in the first Countess.
And two hundred years since then, a Countess had always inherited the title.”
Zhou Wenyan turned to the next page.
A portrait of the first Countess Carlisle was painted on it.
The girl in the painting was in a splendid attire and she wore a black veil on her head.
However, from her scantly visible facial features, she looked very similar to the Earl Carlisle that had attended the evening banquet tonight.
“Which means to say the Earl of Carlisle has been the same person for the past two hundred years” Wu Jia remarked.
“But that doesn’t make sense; vampires do not age and they are undying, but the Countess appears to be in her forties or fifties.”
Zhou Wenyan wrote in the book: “Follow me, we’ll know once we see it.”
His voice fell.
Simultaneously, there was a knock on the door.
The balding middle-aged man was terrified.
He did not know why the Earl had invited him to dance, but he knew that it had to be bad news.
For example… It could lead to his death.
The balding middle-aged man wandered around his room, wrought with anxiety, and he took out all his life-saving objects.
His blessed jade buddha, talismans, peach wood……
The balding middle-aged man hid them under his skirt and sat in the chair, waiting for the unknown danger to arrive with extreme vigilance.
However, after waiting for a long time, his head slanted and he fell asleep.
The bell rang.
Seemingly awoken, the balding middle-aged man opened his dull eyes.
His hands and feet were stiff as he walked out of the room soundlessly.
There were no lights in the corridor, only pitch-black darkness.
The balding middle-aged man stepped into the darkness without any hesitation.
He heard a woman’s voice which was tinged with laughter.
My sweet and pretty lamb, dedicate your everything as tribute to your Lord.”
“With your cool spring eyes, with your snowy-white skin, with your nightingale voice, with your satin black…”
Moonlight dripped down, and the back of the balding middle-aged man’s head shone like a lightbulb.
“… We can forget that, just come here.”
The Earl stood in a garden full of roses and extended her hand out to him.
The balding middle-aged man felt a cold wind blast past him and it gave him a start.
He opened his eyes and found himself in the flower garden, with the Earl standing in front of him.
The Countess was smiling at him; half of her face was youthful and unchanged while the other was bone white and ghastly.
Under the trickling moonlight, countless tentacles crawled out from her shadow.
Despite seeing the approaching tentacles, the middle-aged man felt abnormally calm.
Since the Earl wanted his life, he might as well kill the Earl.
Either way, as long as the Earl was killed, they could clear the copy.
The balding middle-aged man revealed a demented grin.
Zhou Wenyan opened the door.
And he saw a gleam of bright light down the steps.
He chased after it, but he only saw the housekeeper at the end of the stairs.
Expressionless, the housekeeper asked, “Young lady, are you in need of something”
Zhou Wenyan stood still and said the first thing that came to mind.
“The Earl invited me tonight.”
The female housekeeper stared at Zhou Wenyan with deep eyes and there were no fluctuations in her tone of voice: “Someone has already gone, so please, you do not need to worry, young lady.” Her eyes rolled strangely as she smiled, “Either way, it will eventually be your turn.”
Footsteps sounded from above the stairs.
Shen Dongqing and Wu Jia had walked down.
Seeing that the two people at the intersection were at an impasse, Shen Dongqing asked: “What’s wrong”
“We’ve been deceived,” said Zhou Wenyan.
Evidently, the Earl had already guessed their intentions and staggered the time on purpose so they would not have the opportunity to speak to her.
The housekeeper’s eyes swept past the three men before she turned around and left.
Before she could take two steps forward, she felt a sudden pain in her neck and her entire person collapsed to the ground.
Simultaneously, the candlestick fell to the ground with a clatter and it caused the fire light to go out.
Zhou Wenyan raised his head.
Under the cold moonlight, he seemed more villainous than the housekeeper that was lying on the ground.
“Bring her back first.”
Wu Jia ran down, and hoisted the housekeeper by the collar before he started dragging her upstairs.
But halfway, he asked: “What about you”
Zhou Wenyan said: “Well… We’ll go and see if we can still rescue the Earl.”
It came as no surprise that they did not manage to do so.
The balding middle-aged man had already hacked the Earl to the point where she was dismembered into pieces; her limbs lied around the rose garden, and under the watering of her blood, the roses seemed more delicate and charming.
The executioner did not seem to see the two of them as he walked back to his room with a blank expression and a blood-stained peach wood sword in hand.
Zhou Wenyan commented, “Another one.”
Shen Dongqing looked towards the rose garden: “It’s the same as yesterday, there’s nothing.”
It was as though the Earl was just a body without a soul.
Zhou Wenyan stroked his chin: “Why do I feel that after two rounds, the game finally learned its lesson and specifically prepared a BOSS that can’t be killed to allow us to cut at it until we are satisfied”
“I don’t like cutting people,” Shen Dongqing muttered.
Zhou Wenyan laughed: “Let’s go back first.”
“We can’t find the Earl, but we can have a good chat with the housekeeper first.”
When the housekeeper woke up, she saw three people sitting in front of her.
“What are you doing” The housekeeper found herself tied firmly to the chair and unable to move.
Slightly panicked, she uttered, “Release me this instant, you’re provoking the Earl by doing this!”
Zhou Wenyan knocked his fingers against the armrest of the chair: “Relax, we just want to ask you a few questions.
After all, we aren’t bad people.”
Shen Dongqing chimed in solemnly: “We don’t hack people either.”
Even though they said that, it felt like they were going to take a knife and chop her up in the next second.
The housekeeper only panicked for a while before she calmed down: “I don’t know anything.”
Zhou Wenyan said in an affirmative tone: “You’re not afraid of death.”
The housekeeper’s pupils moved slightly.
Zhou Wenyan smiled at her: “Rest assured, we do not like killing and slaughtering, but… when it comes to trapping a person, there are many ways to ensure it lasts forever and ever and without a chance for reincarnation.”
Regarding this, Shen Dongqing was more experienced.
He offered a few examples cheerfully: “For example, you could stuff a person in a glass bottle, fill it with mercury and seal it up, or you could nail their limbs and head before burying them in soil.
Zhou Wenyan listened to his suggestions earnestly and gave occasional nods.
“I think your methods are fairly adequate.”
The housekeeper struggled: “We don’t have those items in the castle.”
Thoughtfully, Shen Dongqing said: “You’re right, then we should just go ahead with the simplest method.
I’ll eat you and be done with it, although you don’t look very appetising…”
He scrutinised the skinny female housekeeper resentfully.
Zhou Wenyan said: “No, you’re not allowed to eat hideous things.”
Obediently, Shen Dongqing nodded.
“Okay, then I’ll think of other methods.”
Wait, wait a minute.
Under their threats, the housekeeper spilled the beans on everything she knew.
“The Earl is not afraid of death, but the Earl is afraid of ageing.”
“The Earl found a forbidden book that taught her how to maintain her youth by means of black magic, but she has to sacrifice six virgin maidens to the devil every year.”
“No one can kill the Earl, no one can leave the castle, no one…”