Lander did not pay attention to the angry Chief of Police leaving. He went upstairs, opened the window, peacefully waiting for the person at the end of the alley to appear.
No one knew that the reason this mad scientist moved to the square that was not in a very good condition two years ago, settled in a house that did not attract much attention in front of a small alley, was just so he could see a person.
The black-haired man was good-looking, but his background was not very honorable — he was a gang member.
Sometimes, the world of Lord Lander's spirit was just as difficult to understand as the mind of the Difference Engine he had built.
But to be honest, how normal could the person who devoted themself to researching this monster be?
It was not surprising at all.
Upstairs, there was a small table, covered with a thick stack of drawings, but they were not drawings of the Difference Engine, nor a complicated programming chip — it was of a flower.
Lander wanted to create a rose that would bloom forever — when he opened the goat skin sheet, he didn't dare to believe he had come up with such a stupid idea, but, fact is, he did.
Today, Lander was a bit unhappy, the conversation with the stupid Chief of Police had wasted half an hour of his time, and the other person, due to some unknown cause, did not return on time today.
Perhaps he and his group of bad friends were in a cheap little pub cursing loudly, maybe he was taken home by some prostitute.
Due to a series of assumptions in his head that became increasingly noisy, Lander's eyes darkened, and he crumpled the failed goat skin sheet, suddenly a thought entered his mind: "Why can't I talk to him?"
Immediately, he used the same satirical self-denial to refuse himself: "Come on, you basically can not even let out a single syllable."
He treated himself with the same cruelty he treated others with.
Although he thought this way, his legs moved as if possessed by demons, betraying his great brain. Lander put on his coat, turning back after walking two steps, then looked in the mirror. Feeling that his collar was a bit wide, he opened the dresser again, changed into a dark coat that looked basically no different, put on a hat, and respectfully took out an old quill pen, shoving it in his pocket.
The quill pen had started to leak ink... or rather, this pen, from the moment it was created, had already been leaking ink. Lander, in the material aspect, was someone who would not force himself to endure things even a little, but for some reason, he did not have the heart to change it from beginning to end.
Having done all this, he then stepped out with a serious look.
A mechanical dog with metal skin operated its limbs, running to him, its tail waving, its back spraying a string of steam.
"No, you can't follow me, if I take you with me, he will see me as a monster." Lander stopped, staring at his loyal dog.
Unfortunately, the mechanical dog did not know how to read minds and could not understand his thoughts.
Lander raised his head to look at the gray clouds; the sky of this city was always like that, as if it was already abandoned by God, filled with hopeless suppression and vicious chaos.
"Alright." Lander shrugged, opened the door and led the mechanical dog toward the small back alley.
A wandering Romanian dressed in robes looked at his robotic dog in fright, struggling to get up, running away like smoke, as if the handsome man was an evil witch.
At first, feeling unnatural, Lander pulled his hat down. The outside world always made him feel uncomfortable, the defiant, stubborn crowd always argued that machines and steam had ruined everything —— just stop, it was stupidity that ruined everything.
But just thinking about what he was out to do, Lander felt even more nervous. His palms were cold with sweat, he could not help but loosen his collar.
"Damn it, you're not going to propose, just wait there, when he comes, just smile and say hello to him!" Lander rudely scolded himself without holding back at all. "Enough, you mute bastard who always thinks he's right."
He kicked the mechanical dog's tail with his leg, let it hide in the corner of the alley, and waited there.
The normal clothes stuck to his body made Lander unable to breathe, he had to pull slightly at them from time to time.
"I'm such an idiot," Lander thought, "maybe ... maybe I should finish that flower, maybe he'll feel this is too sudden ..."
At this time, the corner of the street echoed with the sound of footsteps. Lander stiffened his spine at first, his ears reddened uncontrollably, but soon, his spirit stiffened, too— this was not right, these footsteps did not sound right!
Immediately, Lander jumped by instinct, avoiding a fatal bullet. He turned his head around, seeing a cloaked man standing at the other end of the alley, a black muzzle pointing at him.
The sound of footsteps increased, disorderly without concealing themselves, blocking him in the middle of the small alley. The long cloak of the assassin swirled into dense, black mist-like waves. Lander nestled close to the corner of the wall, hearing the sound of bullets grazing past him.
A bunch of nobodies...
Starting from the day the Difference Engine was born, Lander had been experiencing non-stop assassination attempts. The people of the church and the heretics who normally started fighting as soon as they saw each other both agreed on this external problem concerning him — they were determined to handle this spokesperson of the devil.
Lord Edward Lander had the eccentricity that everyone expected, who was not very enthusiastic with England being full of fog and fools. Perhaps, in a situation where no one interfered, one day he would grow tired of this world without reason and let go on his own, but the assassins swarming back had effectively provoked his naturally-born rebellious nature.
Now, he decided he had to live to be seventy, eighty years old, so that those lowlives could watch carefully, how he claimed to live to the end of his life.
The robot dog in the place where he was able to reach by raising his hand, was actually also a Difference Engine tank. In its head, there was a series of complicated chips, inserted right into the back of its neck. As long as he cracked open the mechanical dog's mouth, entered a simple command, those assassins of the anti-science and technology organization could turn into "self-assassins" in the blink of an eye.
"Come here, the land of the times needs your bodies as fertilizer."
On the handsome face of the evil genius, there was a smile full of malice. The back of his hand behind him slowly raised towards the dog-shaped Difference Engine.
Suddenly, at the end of the small alley came a round of horse's hooves.
The assassins were suddenly disturbed. A man standing at the end of the alley tried to turn his head and was suddenly knocked over by a shot that nobody had any idea where it came from. This sudden surprise caused the assassins to be unable to react. Lander's movements stopped, he coldly glanced at the direction of the shot.
Outsiders? He thought nonchalantly, They'll be dealt with altogether, just see it as you were unlucky.
He was not even grateful that the sneaking gun shot just now had indirectly helped him.
The one who came was a man. He was laying low on his horse, one hand holding the reins, the other holding a gun, relying on his high speed to dodge the bullets that shot at him while retaliating strongly — he was also an amazing marksman, every shot landed without fail.
Lander's long, pale fingers were already inserted into the mouth of the robot dog, he intended to kill everyone regardless if they were friends or foes — he hated the world anyway, there were almost no creatures he could put in his eyes. At that moment, the rider on horseback lifted his head, his eyes accidentally met with the young scientist. Lander's hands trembled, blood rushed up to his face.
Oh my God, why is it him?
In the next second, Lander was embarrassed to discover that he had entered the wrong command, the mechanical dog thought that the owner wanted it to stay away, so it backed into a deeper corner, escaping his control.
The scientist was completely unaware of how dangerous such a situation was. He opened his eyes wide, standing still on the spot, falling into the anxiety and worries of a surprise and awkward encounter. A bullet had even managed to hit his leg.
Lander staggered to the ground, discarding his most pathetic self-esteem and rebellious spirit in the blink of an eye.
"Just shoot me to death," he thought, "this is too humiliating."
But he normally disdained God. In a situation like this, of course, there was no god who heard his prayers. Following the sound of hooves approaching, the other man rode his horse, eventually charging towards Lander as destined.
The black-haired rider on the horse fired three shots at once, using up all of the bullets, then he bent down, reaching out his hand and told Lander: "Come up here!"
Lander held that hand as if he was possessed. The palm of the other was warm and dry, it seemed to have some kind of strange electricity, running through his entire body in the blink of an eye, thus he had forgotten the pain of the shot in his leg, strongly jumping onto the horse.
The brown horse rushed across the chaotic square, the fallen assassins along the road and the dangerous Difference Engine in the shape of a dog were all left behind. Lander tried raising his hand, hugging the small but powerful waist of the black-haired knight, and soon after, he could not help but take a mile after being given an inch, squeezing a little tighter.
"My God..." Lander thought as if he was sleepwalking. "I must be dreaming."
They rode on horseback for a long time. The scientist who did not go out very much quickly lost his sense of direction, thus he did not bother to evaluate the situation of his surroundings anymore, focusing on staring at the back of the person in front of him.
The back he missed and longed for day and night.
From what Lander knew, he should now think about why the other had appeared here, why he saved him from the hands of those people, and where he was taking him.
But in the blink of an eye, all these problems had difficulty entering the superhuman brain of the scientist. He glided past them, his thoughts running astray, not even paying attention to the leg that was shot and had been bleeding all this way.
He had no knowledge of how long it had taken before the black-haired rider stopped the horse in the backyard of a small pub.
"Come," said the black-haired knight, jumping off the horse first.
Lander followed closely behind, about to jump off the horse with a dashing gesture. Without paying attention, his knees softened, almost falling face down, and the black-haired knight raised his hand to support him: "Be careful."
Lander smelled a faint scent of tobacco on his body, suddenly producing a dizziness that was hard to describe.
"Is it because I lost so much blood?" He thought in a daze.
"Sorry," said the black-haired knight, "I should have appeared sooner, I was hindered by a mob and was unable to leave, are you alright?"
Lander's answer to the other was a smile — he had finally given this smile as he had always wanted.
It seemed that the black-haired knight thought that he spoke too fast, he stopped for a bit, at a slower pace, he seriously repeated: "I say, are - you - okay?"
Lander only pointed at his throat, using an expression to convey that he could not speak.
The black-haired knight was a bit surprised: "Sorry, they did not let me know who needed to be assisted ... um, I mean, you're Mr. Merck, right?"
Lander's bright eyes darkened, and he pondered for a moment, asking in sign language: did you recognize the wrong person?
The black-haired knight stood silently in front of him, exchanging a wide eyed glance with the lame scientist for a moment, and after a while he said, "Sorry again, I don't understand sign language."
Lander caught his left hand, the one with the half-inch long burn scar - the scar that his fingers just touched.
The black-haired knight closed his hand slightly, casually brushed it away. His hand was cold, his charming black eyes drooped down, with the right amount of indifference and politeness, he said, "I don't know how to read, neither do I know how to write."
Lander was speechless.
In that moment, the arrogant scientist was like a lost sheep, looking at the black-haired knight in front of him, appearing a bit pitiful.
The black-haired knight avoided his eyes, slightly giving way: "In any case, please go inside first before talking."
He reached out and pulled Lander. The other was a little wobbly, slowly starting to feel the pain. His pale fingers could not control themselves from trembling.
Only now did the black-haired knight notice his injured leg. Hesitantly, he stooped down and said: "I'll carry you."
Lander felt his heart was about to jump out of his chest, he did not know how he managed to climb on the other's back, the piercing pain all but vanished in the blink of an eye, both his body and his heart had gone numb.
"Looks like I haven't even introduced myself, my name is Arno, Arno Hall, the one who was sent to assist you."
Lander silently repeated the name in his heart once, staring at the black-haired knight's back with an extremely gentle gaze: "I naturally know you're Arno ... but, do you no longer remember me?"
He said with an inaudible sound: "My name is Edward, Edward Lander, did you not remember?"
The whole street was engulfed in the cheap Christmas atmosphere.
Lander hated Christmas.
He hated all the holidays that appeared lively, hated the noisy roaring crowds, hated the mixed smell of food in small restaurants, hated the feeling of being crowded with stupid people dressed in red.
But now, lying on Arno's back, he suddenly felt the out of tune hymn from far away was so warm, the old quill pen hidden in his coat pocket seemed to be radiating a hot temperature.
Arno piggybacked him through the bar, with good and bad people combined, going straight to the backyard, gradually, the noise of the commotion and the singing of the synagogue became distant, only the sound of boots on the snow-covered street was left, pulling Lander back to thirteen years ago.
It was also a winter day.