Chapter 175: Shepherd Bouillon
Jiang Baimian turned to look at Shang Jianyao and repeated the keywords. “Tampered memories?”
Guo Zheng’s hysterical screams horrified her.
This wasn’t only because of the other party’s performance and voice, but also because memories were a person’s most private and precious possessions. If one’s memories were also tampered with, there was no way to distinguish what was real and what was fake.
When the time came, he might have to take the initiative to join the Monks Conclave with the daily recitals of phrases like ‘this world is an illusion,”dream, an illusion, a bubble, and a shadow,’ and ‘everything with form is unreal.’
Shang Jianyao didn’t show any fear and nodded seriously. “All of Father’s abilities are accounted for.”
“Indeed…” Jiang Baimian snapped to her senses and exhaled.
From the information they had obtained so far, the true Father’s three Awakened abilities were: Hypnosis, memory tampering, and creating a common illusion.
Compared to the fake Father, his abilities didn’t involve physical control or enhanced combat abilities. However, these abilities struck fear in others due to them appearing mysterious and terrifying.
At this moment, the fake Father, Guo Zheng—who had finished shouting—calmed down. He sat there and panted heavily.
Shang Jianyao looked at him through the screen and suddenly smiled. “Then, here’s the problem. Since the real Father can tamper with other people’s memories, why not directly make you remember that you are a real Father? In that case, there’s no need to worry about the effects of hypnosis being destroyed.”
If this had been done, the words that shattered his mental defenses and exposed his false recognition would appear empty.
Guo Zheng fell silent. After more than ten seconds, he said, “Maybe it’s because he doesn’t allow a fake Father to become the real Father. It won’t do even if it’s being a real Father in my memories. There can only be one true Father; it can only be him.”
When a person’s memories involved them being the real Father, they would be a real Father no matter what kind of interrogation they underwent.
Jiang Baimian was just about to say that this train of thought was a little dangerous and crazy when Shang Jianyao agreed. “I accept this reason.”
“…” Jiang Baimian quietly rolled her eyes. She then asked, “Apart from the memories that have been tampered with, can you remember other details related to the real Father? For example, what price did he pay?”
Guo Zheng shook his head. “The only thing I’m sure of is that we should be in the same batch of Awakened.”
Jiang Baimian believed that Oudick had likely used the dreamscape’s influence to search for an answer to such a question. Since he didn’t remind his good brother, Shang Jianyao, about what he should pay attention to, it meant that Guo Zheng’s relevant memories either didn’t exist or they had problems.
She stopped harping on this matter and began asking other questions. “How many Anti-intellectualism Church Elders do you know?”
Under the Pope was the Eight-Man Council’s Elders.
“I only came into contact with one person—the one who presided over our Awakening Ceremony. He was also the one who issued me the orders later.” When the topic no longer involved the real Father, Guo Zheng’s condition clearly improved. “He’s from the Red River. His name is Bouillon, and he’s in charge of First City’s greater district. Yes, it’s not the entirety of the First City faction, but the city and its surrounding suburbs.”
The First City faction’s capital, First City, was recognized as the most prosperous city in the Ashlands. It was also known as the City of Desire.
Jiang Baimian’s eyes lit up. “What does he look like, and what Awakened abilities does he have? The large-scale search of people’s memories should only be an application of one of his abilities.”
This was a big fish. Of course, this didn’t look like something their Old Task Force could deal with. According to Du Heng, these might be Awakened who had already entered the Mind Corridor. Be it the range of their abilities or the number of targets they could influence, they were sufficiently exaggerated.
“Do you think I can remember his face?” Guo Zheng laughed self-deprecatingly. “His nickname is Shepherd. His voice always made me feel a little uncomfortable; it’s like a wound in the throat that never heals.”
Jiang Baimian’s thoughts raced as she found a possible problem. “Since Shepherd Bouillon is in charge of First City’s greater district, why were you sent to Weed City? Was it just to assassinate Xu Liyan?”
“Weed City is an area that the religion doesn’t cover. Whoever proselytizes first will be in charge,” explained Guo Zheng simply. “Since we’re here to assassinate Xu Liyan, we might as well proselytize while we’re at it.”
Jiang Baimian then asked about the priests under Guo Zheng, how many believers he had converted, and where he obtained his usual supplies.
Guo Zheng only smiled. “Oudick should already know the corresponding situation through a dream. You can just get the report from Xu Liyan; why do you need me to repeat it?”
“It’s just procedure.” It wasn’t Jiang Baimian who spoke, but Shang Jianyao—who helped her with a voice-over.
Not bad… Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and silently praised him.
After Guo Zheng finished answering, Shang Jianyao took the opportunity to ask, “What do you know about the Mind Corridor? What’s up with the Pope entering the New World? Where is the New World?”
Guo Zheng laughed. “These are all confidential secrets. Not to mention me, even the real Father might not know. I only have a vague impression of it. Elder Bouillon has some magical trinkets that are apparently gifts from the Kalendaria. Heh heh, I’m still facing the fears in my heart in the Sea of Origins. I’m still worlds away from the Mind Corridor.”
At this point, Guo Zheng suddenly froze and muttered to himself, “No wonder… No wonder I’ve never been able to clear that island… People who are hypnotized will never succeed…”
Jiang Baimian nodded thoughtfully and asked another important question. “When did you learn about Lei Yunsong and the others being from Pangu Biology? How did you learn about the price Oudick paid? Was it from Christina, the vice president of the Hunter’s Guild?”
“It’s not her; it’s Mute. Heh heh, maybe it’s the real Father who gave me the information.” Guo Zheng shook his head and said, “I originally only wanted to find a few ‘helpers’ who were unrelated to the Church and could be abandoned at any time. Who knew that Mute would directly give me information on such a group of people? Only then did I have a plan to frame another party and incite a dispute.”
Was it because Lei Yunsong and the others want to visit Xu Liyan that he specially flipped through their memories and checked their backgrounds? He then ‘set up’ the time so that they couldn’t avoid the fake Father? Jiang Baimian made further guesses in her heart.
At the end of the interrogation, Shang Jianyao asked excitedly, “How does your Anti-intellectualism Church pray and salute?”
This was a casual topic.
Guo Zheng exhaled and rubbed his temples. “Praying involves shaking your head before eating. The exact number of times doesn’t matter; it just means that you don’t have to think. The salutation involves covering the eyes with hands from both sides, indicating that you can’t see, hear, or notice anything.
“The blessing phrase is, ‘May you lose your intelligence too.’ When it’s said to the Kalendaria, it is: ‘Please believe in God with all your body and heart.’ When proselytizing, it mainly involves: ‘suspect everything; there is no truth,’ ‘thinking is a trap; knowledge is toxic…’”
Shang Jianyao had taken out a small notebook at some point in time and recorded everything down.
“The symbol is a person without facial features? Then, what’s Mass like?”
“Yes, a person without facial features.” Guo Zheng leaned back in his chair and said, “Our Mass is very simple. First is the sermon about the disadvantages of knowledge and thought. Then, we will shout slogans with the priest. As for what we shout and how loud we do so… That’s determined by the existing situation. It can also be replaced by applause.”
Upon hearing this, Jiang Baimian curiously asked, “How do you proselytize? How did those people truly gain faith in the religion?”
Guo Zheng looked at the screen in front of him and said a little listlessly, “In the beginning, we used the temptation of food to gain a deeper understanding of the believers’ difficulties and help resolve a portion of them. Finally, we made them completely rely on us and completely give up on thinking.”
“The first half is pretty normal, but the second half is…” Jiang Baimian pursed her lips. “I thought that you guys would directly use Hypnosis to proselytize.”
“There’s no need to do so. Only during Mass will we make some arrangements to enhance the effects.” Guo Zheng’s smile contained some mixed emotions as he said, “For most people in the Ashlands, living is a very arduous task. If we can help them think, help them make arrangements, and give them a relatively stable life, they will deceive themselves and choose to believe us even if they know that there’s a problem with the teachings.”
Phew… Jiang Baimian exhaled and closed her notebook.
In a damp and dark corridor on the second floor of Ah Fu’s Gun Shop, Long Yuehong walked toward the staircase with his hands in his pockets.
As he passed by a family, he sniffed and smelled the fragrance of food.
A middle-aged man—who was cooking with a charcoal stove at the door—saw Long Yuehong and enthusiastically greeted him. “Want to try some? I’ll cook the rest of the food according to the Hodgepodge recipe you mentioned.”
After the battle to protect their home, Long Yuehong had formed a relationship with many people in this courtyard building.
He waved his hand and said, “No, it’s fine. I just ate.”
Long Yuehong was too embarrassed to eat this family’s food. They had also suffered a disaster and needed to receive help to maintain their lifestyle.
With a smile, he passed the man and entered the stairwell.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
A 17-year-old girl ran up from the first floor. She had a pretty face and was wrapped in a shriveled, white cotton coat. She also had a piece of yellow cornbread in her mouth.
“Huh?” Long Yuehong was a little surprised to see her at this moment.
The girl held her cornbread and smiled as she greeted, “Good morning.”
She sensed Long Yuehong’s puzzling look and casually explained, “There’s no business recently, and we can receive aid. Teacher An is also willing to give a discount for a few more lessons. Of course, we have to make the best use of our time!”
With that said, she stuffed the cornbread back into her mouth. She then waved her hand with a bright smile and quickly walked upstairs.
Long Yuehong laughed as well. He went down to the first floor and met Auntie Nan at the door leading to the courtyard.
Auntie Nan was leading a seven-year-old girl inside.
“Good morning.” Long Yuehong took the initiative to greet them before asking curiously, “Where’s Xiaodong?”
“His grandmother and mother are still alive; they took him back. They said that they would sell the shop here and go to First City to make a living after the new year,” Auntie Nan said calmly. “That’s good too.”
She then smiled and stroked the little girl’s head. “In any case, I won’t have any children. It’s a perfect match.”
The little girl cowered a little and hid behind Auntie Nan, her eyes bright.
Long Yuehong sincerely extended his well wishes and entered the courtyard. He then looked up at the winter sky—which was neither bright nor dark—and fell into a daze.
“What’s on your mind?” Bai Chen came over.
Long Yuehong retracted his gaze and smiled. “Every time I walk along the corridor upstairs, I feel like I’m back in the company. It’s always a very closed, sealed environment. I would even encounter familiar faces from time to time and have a few words with them.”
He looked at the clouds again and gently said, “But here, you can see the sky, see the clouds, and feel the wind as soon as you walk out of the stairwell. I’m wondering when we won’t have to worry about being attacked. Everyone will live aboveground, exchange greetings, and walk out to see all of this when done chatting…”