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    Chapter 171

    As Carmen stepped off the aircraft, a large group of people in dark ecclesiastical attire were already waiting outside the airport. The others instinctively kept their distance from that area.

    "You've finally arrived, our guest from afar," said the leading priest with a polite smile as he approached Carmen. He led her to a car. "Please come with us, Your Excellency. The bishop has been awaiting your arrival."

    Carmen returned the gesture with a smile, a white camellia pinned to her chest. Lane was observing the surroundings through the spirit plant.

    The address of Blichton University was on the outskirts of New Harbor, distant from the city center. Adjacent to it were fishing villages and small towns. The university campus, like most overseas institutions, had no walls, allowing anyone to enter freely. The only prominent landmark was the abundance of churches surrounding the area.

    As Carmen alighted from the car, the cardinal was already there, personally greeting her with a hearty smile while leaning on his cane. "Priest Camuyi, it's an honor to meet you at last."

    "Bishop Muel," Carmen replied calmly, extending her hand for a handshake. "I didn't expect you to personally welcome me."

    The cardinal chuckled. "After all, this concerns our mutual cooperation. It deserves some solemnity."

    Curious, Carmen asked, "Has the cult in New Harbor truly formed an alliance? Who is leading them?"

    The cardinal sighed and said with a bitter smile, "It's not that simple. Ah, let's talk as we walk. I'll also show you the university we plan to establish. This way, please."

    Carmen straightened the white camellia on her chest, ensuring it faced forward as she walked alongside the cardinal towards the university city.

    The newly established Blichton University was undeniably a religious institution.

    As they strolled, the cardinal explained, "We didn't start from scratch. We purchased an underperforming school and transformed it. Thus, with renovations to existing structures, the addition of more academic buildings and facilities, we can quickly put it into operation."

    Indeed, as he said, many buildings along the way were undergoing intense renovations. Carmen saw numerous young people energetically moving about, their faces devoid of exhaustion or bitterness despite the laborious work. Normally, Carmen would attribute this to their strong faith and become vigilant. However, after his god shared the university's situation with him, all that remained on Carmen's face was bewilderment:

    "Where did you find these workers?"

    "Workers? Haha, no, they're volunteers – believers who offered to help," the cardinal replied, suddenly invigorated, even displaying a hint of pride. "They work out of their own devotion, unlike those lazy good-for-nothings who only work for money. Look, how happy and selfless they are."

    Upon hearing this, Lane, who was monitoring the forum and viewing through Carmen's perspective, nearly choked on his tea.

    Wiping his mouth, he glanced at the player forums.

    Security Guard: Lugging bricks brings me joy, yay!

    Instant Millionaire: It's my first time doing manual labor in this game, quite novel. I guess after playing for so long, you encounter all sorts of missions.

    Tax Official: Here's the guideline for installing surveillance cameras and listening devices on the walls. Please follow the instructions.

    Tax Official: Also, for those working on the secret passage, make it discreet. Start the construction after those cultists leave.

    Bloodthirsty Follower: Don't worry, those cultists are lazy bums. They only worked for five hours before taking off. The site is now under our control.

    Yangyang Loves Women's Wear: Why don't we just install an extra cable for the surveillance while we're at it? That way, we won't have to hack in.

    Pelup: Noted. (salutes)

    Calories Are Sin: How about planting bombs under the floor? Just in case?

    Tax Official: That might be too much. What if we accidentally hit our own people?

    Li Yu Fish Fish Fish: Yeah, it's too risky under the floor. How about putting them beneath the principal's office? God-on-Earth Boss said the principal might choose between a cardinal and the leader of the Secret Order. Both seem like potential bosses. If we open a new chapter later, one less would be one less problem.

    Not Bald: You guys are genius! I agree!

    Tax Official: Alright, remember to report the cost of these materials to me later. I'll need to cook up some fake receipts so the old folks won't catch on when it comes to reimbursement.

    Lann: "Hmm... genuine happiness is indeed genuine, but selflessness might be a stretch."

    Carmen, though he hadn't seen the players' discussions on the forums, knew that these individuals were similar to those who appeared in Arkham City after the disaster. Recalling the players' nature, his expression subtly changed, but he still had to flatter the cardinal out of social decorum, "You're right, oh how wonderful it would be if our believers were as selfless."

    The cardinal burst into laughter, "No need to rush, such things can't be hurried."

    As they walked, Carmen observed the various chapels and small confessionals they encountered, "However, I'm very curious. Religious schools aren't uncommon, but with so many people from different religions in one school, are you sure they won't fight? And how about daily prayers?"

    The cardinal replied, "That's indeed an issue. We've been discussing solutions in recent meetings. Eventually, we decided not to provide dinner, nor will we have residential accommodations for students. They'll only gather here for classes or training, which should alleviate many problems."

    This made sense. While living together due to religious differences could potentially trigger taboos, if they didn't congregate outside of classes, the influence of the higher-ups could maintain some order. Moreover, there were towns and villages near the university where students could rent individual housing, and food wouldn't be an issue.

    "The school, of course, doesn't allow proselytizing. Teachers can impart professional knowledge, but we don't promote any particular church. After all, those who come here have already received recommendations from their respective organizations."

    "Hmm? You don't openly recruit students? Then what about tuition fees?"

    The cardinal explained, "For now, admissions are limited to within the New Port's religious community, as it's an experimental initiative. Later on, we might open up to a broader societal level. However, it's unlikely that proselytizing will occur within the school, but there will be scriptures from various denominations in the library. When they graduate, they'll need to choose a faction to join... As for tuition, currently, admission is free. Once the school becomes established, fees will be introduced, but given our current fledgling state, we're in dire need of funding."

    Carmen heard this with a wry smile, "With so many churches involved, how could you possibly be short on money?"

    "Indeed, the more money, the better," the Cardinal said sincerely.

    It wasn't that the Church lacked funds; in fact, they were one of the wealthiest groups in New Port. However, running a school turned out to be even more expensive than they had anticipated. During their last meeting, influenced by Divine's persuasive talk, the higher-ups decided that their school couldn't be inferior to Miskatonic University, especially in terms of libraries, collections, and research institutes. As a result, the believers not only contributed their church's hidden treasures but also spent heavily to gather various ancient texts from the mysterious world to enhance their prestige, aiming to establish the first top heretic academy in the mystic realm.

    The investment was growing, and while the larger churches could still afford it, the smaller ones were starting to feel the pinch and were seeking external investments.

    Of course, the Cardinal's invitation to the Secret Church to become a school trustee wasn't that straightforward.

    Carmen didn't immediately agree but continued to negotiate with the Cardinal. "I'll have to review your curriculum and faculty, as well as your student intake and job prospects. You must have plans for these, right?"

    "Absolutely," the Cardinal smiled, turning to the follower behind him. The follower promptly handed over a plan document, perceiving the situation.

    "In addition to regular majors, we're planning to establish a separate Mystic Academy, including Monster Studies, Spellcraft, Weaponry, Martial Arts, Anatomy, Rituals, Mythology, and so on. The teachers will be senior heretics, some of whom may not have had formal education, but trust me, they are the best in these subjects."

    "For student intake, we'll initially rely on recommendations within the Church, then expand to enrollments from society. As for job prospects...ha ha, rest assured, we guarantee employment."

    Yes, upon graduation, they would dedicate themselves to the sacred cause of serving the evil gods, so unemployment was not a concern. The most unconventional might establish their own church and become the head, but everyone had a future with shackles or the noose awaiting them.

    "I see, a very comprehensive educational plan indeed." Carmen pretended to remain calm as she took the plan document.

    "So..." The cardinal awaited Carmen's response.

    After consulting with Lane, Carmen lifted her gaze and gave the cardinal a faint smile. "I do have one final question. Since you already have such a well-conceived plan and are primarily recruiting local students, why bother extending an invitation to us? After all, our headquarters isn't in New Port."

    "Sir Mauer, let's be frank with each other. I'm aware that you previously sent people into Arkham... What exactly are your intentions?"

    "The truth can't be concealed from you..." The cardinal sighed. "Actually, it's nothing major. It's just that your MIT is rather troublesome. That's why we had no choice but to establish this university to counter them."

    To be honest, he was reluctant to admit this. Wouldn't it mean that the Secret Church, which had been suppressing MIT, had caused such chaos in New Port by diverting only a portion of its forces, forcing them to unite against it?

    Wouldn't that imply that the Secret Church > MIT > All the cults united in New Port?

    Wait, the Secret Church seems to have a deity backing it up. In that case, it doesn't matter.


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