Jacobin’s Abbey was the address on the anonymous email, a place about ten minutes’ walk from the town hall.
This Gothic monastery was built by the Dominicans in 1215 and had a history spanning more than 800 years. The entire building was made out of red-clay bricks and tiles and was divided into churches, the inner courtyard cloister, and the priests’ dining hall. It was also the final resting place of Thomas Aquinas, Catholic’s most famous theologian, and philosopher.
When Zhang Heng and Leah walked into the church, the first thing that caught their attention was the beams that rose to nearly thirty meters in height. These beams supported the roof of the church, and spreading out into a distinct ‘palm-tree’ at the top. The elongated windows, also supported by the beams were made up of hand-painted stained glass. When the sun shone through the window and landed on the central bench, it made whoever sit there feel like they were being bathed in a holy and cleansing light.
Zhang Heng looked around and notice a group of tourists who were also visiting the chapel. He didn’t see anybody suspicious, though. Edward did not like to take pictures, but during the parallel quest, Zhang Heng managed to get a glance at a sixteen-year-old Edward from his driver’s license. According to Leah, Edward had changed a lot in ten years, so Zhang Heng decided to bring her along. Nonetheless, after a tiresome search, Leah failed to spot her brother in the church.
The two were now disguised as lovers, where Leah clung to Zhang Heng’s arm lovingly. They posed as tourists who were visiting the 13th-century building. She had also given her hair a new coat of silver dye from the blue that it once was.
“I feel like a spy in a spy movie. Has my brother really become so cautious now?”
“Little Boy’s worries are actually justifiable. Edward must have used a different email address to contact us because he knows his original email address isn’t secure anymore. In other words, Black Nest is getting closer and closer to him,” Zhang Heng said. Considering that his appearance was exposed when he met Piercings at the bar, Zhang Heng had to put some effort into modifying his looks. He was inspired by Fox when they met for the first time, so, to make sure that no one would recognize him, he put on a suit, sprayed on some cologne, and slicked his hair back. Now, he looked more like an elite from the financial industry.
In the parallel quest, Black Nest had found Edward in a nursing home three weeks later. Edward replaced a volunteer there. This, however, wasn’t his first hiding spot in Toulouse, where he had been constantly on the move to avoid detection.
Nobody really knew where Edward’s hideouts were before this, and if they failed to meet up with him today, Zhang Heng could only go to the nursing home in a week to try his luck. However, the plot of the quest had taken a different turn thanks to the participation of a player. This applied not only to the 01 Guerillas but also to Black Nest.
It would also prove difficult for Zhang Heng to explain how he knew Edward’s hiding spot, the reason why he was careful not to be rash during the two months. These two months in the small town was a precious gift granted by the system so players could learn as much as they could about the game. Speeding up this process may not yield any benefits. On the contrary, it had the potential to put the players at great risk. “Would you like to go elsewhere?” Leah asked. The two had been in the church for almost 20 minutes, but they saw nothing that sparked an interest.
“Yeah,” Zhang Heng nodded. Behind the church was a beautiful cloister, a place for the priests to communicate and meditate. Two sections of the cloister had been destroyed during the war, and it was rebuilt in 1964. In its center was a courtyard, planted with trees and other foliage.
The two walked across the red stone pavement searching high and low, and despite their best efforts, they still couldn’t find Edward there. In fact, they spent nearly two hours in the Jacobin Monastery, exploring every single corner of the building. Yet, they failed to find any clues.
Left with no other options, the two left the monastery empty-handed. Someone was handing out leaflets at the exit. Leah took one and returned to the car, taking off her hat and oversized sunglasses.
“Maybe he’s not around today?”
“It is highly unlikely,” Zhang Heng frowned, “there’s always this one thing I’ve never been able to understand. Edward’s email only stated the location but not the time. This means that we can come here any time we want. And he can’t be in the monastery every day since it’s guaranteed to attract a lot of unwanted attention. I think we must have missed something there. Let’s do this again tomorrow and pay closer attention to our surroundings.”
“Is it possible that whatever my brother left behind is outside the monastery”? Leah instantly asked.
“Huh? What have you discovered?”
“When I was young, my brother and I would play a cryptography game. Texts are compiled and ciphered in Hebrew.”
“Do you speak Hebrew?”
“No, no, no, but these have very simple keywords. We don’t care about its meaning. All we did was to compare it with the corresponding French letters, then translate them to get the information we want,” Leah explained as she waved the Catholic leaflet in her hand. She pointed to an inconspicuous spot on it. “Here, look,” she said.
Zhang Heng looked closer and saw a sentence written in Hebrew. From the interpretation of typography and context, it seemed to be a passage from the Bible. Leah then attempted to translate it, and she got the word ‘garden.’
“Garden? Could it be the atrium’s garden that we saw earlier? Did we overlook anything over there?” Leah asked curiously.
She grew excited knowing that the mystery was about to be unraveled, just like opening a clue from all those treasure hunts she played when she was a child.
Little Boy spoke to them through the communicator again, “I searched the garden in Toulouse just now and found a restaurant, a training ground for boxing, and an elementary school. Is it possible that Edward is hiding in one of those places?” “Pick one,” Zhang Heng said to Leah. “Restaurant? I happen to be a bit hungry.”
Zhang Heng pulled open the navigation app on his smartphone, searching for a restaurant named Garden. He knew that it was unlikely that Edward would be there. The restaurant was a popular hotspot, ushering in throngs of diners each day. Such a place was obviously not the ideal spot for a person desperately trying to stay hidden and to avoid getting tracked down.
Fortunately, though, the foie gras and sausages were delicious. For Leah, who had been strolling in the monastery for the whole afternoon, it couldn’t be better. The food rejuvenated her exhausted body and mind.
The sky was turned darker as the two finished up their meal.
“There are still the training grounds and elementary school. You can choose this time,” said Leah.