214 Land of Hope
A train whistle resounded in every corner of the station as a metal behemoth, in the form of a steam locomotive, came to a slow stop with more than twenty carriages in tow.
Dressed in a tuxedo and half top hat, Klein was carrying an exaggerated luggage bag that appeared incongruent with his figure. He took a firm step onto the ground of the Loen Kingdom's capital, Backlund.
This city was divided into two regions by the Tussock River which flowed to the southeast. The two lands were connected by the Backlund Bridge and ferries, with a population exceeding five million people. It was the most prosperous capital in the Southern and Northern Continents.
Klein looked far into the distance and saw faint yellow hazes everywhere. Visibility was terrible, and the gas lamps hanging above the train platform were already lit to dispel the gloominess and darkness.
It's only half past six? It looks like it's nine or ten… Klein shook his head indiscernibly. Suddenly, he recalled a joke he read on the Tussock Times.
A gentleman who just arrived in Backlund finds himself lost in the thick haze. Helpless, he asks a drenched gentleman passing him by, "How do you get to the Tussock River?" The gentleman answers him in a friendly manner, "Walk straight without stopping. I just swam from there."
Every time I read Backlund newspapers or magazines, the reporters and editors will make a mockery of the polluted air or the increasing number of foggy days in every conceivable way possible… Previously, the Backlund Daily Tribune even did the statistics, and it was found that it has gone from about 60 days a year from thirty years ago to the present 75 days a year… For this, many farsighted people established organizations like the Soot Reduction Association, Smoke Reduction Association… Apparently, there was a bill in September that motioned the need to establish the National Atmospheric Pollution Council… Klein lowered his huge luggage bag and pinched his nose to gain respite from the sudden discomfort.
Then, tracing his golden chain, he fished out a golden pocket watch from his vest pocket. He popped it open and looked at the time.
When he truly bade farewell to his siblings, he had especially visited a department store and spent 4 pounds 10 soli to buy a golden pocket watch and matched it with a golden chain worth 1 pound 5 soli.
To not constantly be aware of the exact time made him feel a sense of horror.
Klein had planned on buying a silver pocket watch as he felt it matched his temperament. But after considering the true essence of a Clown, he finally chose a more showy and exaggerated golden watch.
6:39… It's not that much later… Klein put away his pocket watch and held his cane and luggage bag as he slowly walked out the steam locomotive station with the crowd.
Suddenly, he made a sudden turn, causing a person who was secretly tailing him to have his hand fall empty when reaching for his pocket.
Klein was unfazed by this episode as he followed the cement-paved road and mixed into the crowd, arriving at an intersection in front of him.
There was a lawn and garden that circled around a column that resembled a chimney.
No, it's very likely a chimney… Klein saw the column spewing thick smoke from its top end.
A portion of the smoke floated high into the sky as a portion condensed into tiny liquid droplets that scattered everywhere.
Klein paused once again and placed his luggage down. He spread open the newspaper and map that he had held onto using his other hand.
While on the steam locomotive, he had already planned where he was going to go or what to do next.
The experiences that he had undergone, and the mental experience that he had, when disguised as a clown in the morning, made Klein finally understand the true essence of a Clown—"Although being capable of knowing a little about fate, one remains helpless towards fate; therefore, one might as well use a smiling face to hide all the pain, sorrow, confusion, and depression."
At that moment, he clearly felt the Clown potion "digest" and believed that if he continued "acting" this way, it wouldn't take long for him to make another attempt at advancing.
But herein lay the problem—he didn't know the corresponding name of the Sequence 7 potion, much less know its exact formula.
How should I obtain the formula? The Secret Order seldom appears. They only seem to be interested in the Antigonus family's items… This is also why others have little understanding of them. Yes… I should consider two aspects. One, I need to come into contact with the local Beyonder circles and see if I can find clues. Two, I should set a trap and use the Antigonus family's treasure as bait to lure the Secret Order out. After all, I do possess knowledge of the strange vertical pupil formed from the numerous mysterious symbols.
But that's too risky. I need to be careful since the bait cannot be too good or too bad. It won't garner their interest if it's too bad, and if it's too good, I might end up attracting a shark, a shark that can swallow me whole… The Secret Order's leader, Zaratul, is a figure who guided Emperor Roselle. Maybe he had obtained the biggest slice of the pie during that revolutionary feast… Of course, he might not still be alive as that was something from two hundred years ago…
Amidst his thoughts, Klein felt the coldness of Backlund and couldn't help but shiver. He decided to find a residence as soon as possible.
He flipped through the papers and, once again, browsed through the rental section and saw a circled advertisement.
15 Minsk Street, Cherwood Borough… terrace house… Weekly rent of 18 soli…
Klein had thought this through very carefully about the area in which he was to stay in. Although Backlund had a population exceeding five million people, he still needed to be wary about meeting the local Nighthawks. Be it the newly transferred Daly or Lorotta, Aiur Harson, and Borgia that he previously met, they would definitely be able to recognize him.
Therefore, Klein eliminated the North Borough where the Church of the Evernight Goddess's Backlund diocese's headquarters and Saint Samuel Cathedral, was. He also eliminated areas with the best security and the extremely strictly monitored Empress Borough and Western Borough. These two boroughs belonged to the nobles and the richest magnates, with more of the nobles living closer to Empress Borough.
After eliminating the worker areas, the harbor, and the East Borough and Backlund Bridge region where the poor gathered, Klein had few choices left. The first choice was Hillston Backlund where the Backlund Stock Exchange, Clearing House, Futures Center, the seven major banks' headquarters, various Trust Funds, rail companies, and bulk cargo commerce companies were. It was known as the financial, business, and economic center of the Loen Kingdom. The second choice was Cherwood Borough where there were many small companies and residential buildings.
The two boroughs had a lot of people in them, and the security was relatively good. It was good for hiding in. After serious consideration, Klein chose the cheaper Cherwood Borough.
The reason why he didn't seek out organizations like the Capital Housing Improvement Company or Capital Housing Improvement Association was due to the fact that they needed identification which he couldn't produce at the moment.
If I can't find a place to rent today, I'll find a motel that doesn't need any identification to stay for the night… Klein gathered the things in his hand and carried his luggage. According to the map, he walked towards what seemed like a department store's entrance.
That was the Backlund Metro's entrance.
Yes, a metro!
The first time Klein saw the word "metro" on the newspapers and magazines, he nearly jumped in fright. He never expected that such a transportation vehicle had become a reality in this era which hadn't entered the age of electricity.
It was born twenty-five years ago. It first connected both banks of the Tussock River and had now expanded to the key city boroughs. Of course, there weren't many stations.
Through the main door, Klein followed the people ahead of him as he walked to the ticketing booth.
After being in line for a few minutes, he finally saw a cashier with a head with beautiful golden hair.
The lady didn't raise her head. All she did was point at the wooden board by the side of the window with the prices.
Peak period (7am-9am, 6pm-8pm): 10-minute headway.
15-minute headway for all other times.
First-class seat: 6 pence
Second-class seat: 4 pence
Third-class seat: 3 pence.
Return trips are respectively: 9, 6, 5 pence.
First-class: 8 pounds
Second-class: 5 pounds 10 soli
Third-class: No Annual Pass
It's cheaper than I imagined… There's actually no distance restriction… Melissa would definitely love this more than a horse carriage. This is the culmination of machinery… Klein thought as he suddenly felt upset.
He revealed a brilliant smile and fished out 4 pence and handed it to the cashier.
Smack! The cashier tore a ticket and stamped it before handing it to Klein.
After finding the line that led to Cherwood Borough and passing through the not-very-strict security checks, Klein went down the flight of stairs and quickly came to the platform. He followed the labels on the ground and found the corresponding location for second-class seats.
He didn't wait long before he heard the chugging sound of the train and the thunderous steam whistle. He saw a huge steam locomotive
Its large and meandering body, together with its black metallic luster and complex machinery, mixed together to form a unique beauty.
Backlund's metro still used steam locomotives. The smoke that they spewed was specially designed to enter a pipe above and travel through a chimney, out into the world.
This was also the true usage for the lawn and garden out on the streets.
Amidst the screeching sound of metal, Klein first waited for the passengers to alight before carrying his cane and luggage over slowly. He then allowed the conductor to check his tickets.
Unlike the third-class seats, the second-class seats were one person to a seat, so there were no concerns about having one's seat snatched. Just as Klein sat down, stowed away his luggage, and leaned on his cane, he suddenly heard hurried footsteps.
He subconsciously looked towards the door and saw a thin, adolescent boy rush into the carriage.
The boy was wearing a coat that didn't suit his age. He wore a rounded top hat and carried a ragged haversack. He kept his head very low.
"I'm sorry. I got on the wrong carriage. I'm from third-class…" He showed his ticket and apologized to the passengers before briskly walking towards the third-class carriage.
Klein retracted his gaze and once again confirmed his destination as he waited for the doors to the carriage to close.
At that moment, he heard chaotic and hurried footsteps. He then saw a few men dressed in black coats and half top hats rush into the carriage.
Are they chasing after that fifteen-year-old boy? Klein instinctively had such a thought.
He shook his head gently and continued reading his newspapers and map, just like the other passengers onboard the carriage.Joke adapted from English magazine 'Punch'