Chen Shi said, "It seems that we have to start the investigation with Shida."
Gu You said, "I want to hypnotize Little Worm to see if the effects of the brainwashing can be removed."
"Will the success rate be high?"
"It’s just an attempt!"
Gu You got Sun Zhen to lie down. Sun Zhen, who already trusted her a great deal, entered a hypnotic state after just a few words of guidance. Gu You said next to his ear, "Try to say the word 'Zhou'."
Even in a hypnotic state, Sun Zhen shook his head desperately, "I can't say it! I can't say it!"
"When you think of the word, what do you feel? Fear? Anxiety?"
"Fear! It’s fear!"
"It seems like that person must have tortured you. Rest assured, you are with us now and it’s very safe. Try and think of the word in your mind. You’ll feel a little scared, but it doesn’t matter. I’m here with you!"
Gu You held Sun Zhen's hand. Sun Zhen had sweat all over his brow and stuttered, "This... This... This..."
With constant encouragement from Gu You, Sun Zhen finally said the word, "Zhou! Zhou! Zhou!"
"That’s amazing. It's successful!" kk praised.
"It's just a small step." Chen Shi said. Zhou Xiao's brainwashing associated those information with deep fear. Gu You was using a systematic desensitization method to slowly reduce his fear.
Gu You encouraged him, "Now, say the name 'Zhou Tiannan'."
"Zhou... Zhou..." Sun Zhen suddenly sat up, eyes wide, sweating, "No! I can't say that!"
"He woke up?" kk asked in surprise.
Gu You shook her head. "The brainwashing effect is too deep. Long-term treatment may be needed to remove this 'patch.'"
Chen Shi suggested, "I have an idea. If he saw Zhou Tiannan with his own eyes, would he remember everything at once?"
"Excessive stimulation may also cause his mind to collapse instantly." Gu You said.
Sun Zhen piped up, "I want to give it a try. I hope to do something to help you catch him."
Chen Shi said, "Now that I know his name, I'll go to the bureau and look for his photo. Wait for me."
Chen Shi returned an hour later and said, "I found dozens of people named ‘Zhou Tiannan’ in the household registration database. Let's try them one by one!"
"Wait!" Gu You looked at Sun Zhen. "Let's get you into a hypnotic state first. This time I’ll guide you to enter a deeper state, so that you’ll have a buffer."
"I’ll listen to Miss Gu." Sun Zhen said.
Gu You poured a glass of water for him. After drinking a large glass of water, Sun Zhen lay down again, and soon went into hypnosis under the guidance of Gu You. He was hypnotized three times in total. Each time deeper than the last. He could only hear Gu You's words now as he entered something like a semi-conscious altered sleep state.
Gu You said, "Open your eyes!"
Sun Zhen opened his eyes and kk said, "It's scary. He’s just like a zombie."
Gu You explained, "His consciousness has entered a deep state of hypnosis. Even with his eyes open, there would seem to be a layer of frosted glass in front of his eyes... Mr. Chen, let's start!"
Chen Shi showed him the photos. After Sun Zhen looked at each photo, Gu You would ask, "Is it him?"
Sun Zhen shook his head. Judging by his physical movements, he was in a state of extreme tension, as if he was playing Russian roulette by himself.
Upon seeing a certain photo, Sun Zhen suddenly struggled as if he was getting electrocuted. Gu You was unable to hold him down as she desperately asked him to calm down and not to be afraid. At that moment, kk went over and kissed his forehead.
Sun Zhen relaxed his limbs as if he was in extreme bliss with a smile across his lips. He lay down calmly and serenely.
Gu You looked at kk in surprise and kk asked, "Sister Gu, how did I do this time?"
"No comment!" Gu You smiled, "Little Worm, you will wake up when I count to three. One, two, three!"
Sun Zhen sat up like someone who was drowning. His chest heaved up and down and he was breathing heavily. He was still remembering the kiss that had just happened. He looked up at Gu You with a red face. "Miss Gu, just now..."
"Yes, that's right, Sister Gu kissed you." kk said, looking as if he was excited about the drama that would ensue.
Gu You didn't know how she should respond. Sun Zhen's mental state was still relatively fragile. She didn't want to shock him with the truth, so she could only agree tacitly.
Chen Shi held the photo in front of him. "Little Worm, are you still scared when you see this face?"
Sun Zhen stared at the photo for a few seconds, shook his head, and smiled shyly, "I will just remember being kissed by Miss Gu and feel a little excited!"
"Pavlov's dog!" Kk commented.
"Fuck off!" Sun Zhen chucked a shoe at him.
"Ahem, let's be serious. Who is he?" Chen Shi said.
"Zhou Tiannan!" Sun Zhen said clearly and forcefully. "My former colleague."
"What happened to him in 2007? What's the connection with Shida Company?"
"Pour me another glass of water." Sun Zhen drank the water, wiped his mouth and said, "Actually, Zhou Tiannan and I met over the Internet. It was the kind of relationship where we admired each other’s talent. At the time, I was still in school and he was already working in an IT company. His monthly salary was 10k. It was naturally fucking amazing in the eyes of a loser like me. I called him ‘Big Brother’ and we often had fun together. One year, the Japanese embassy website was hacked. That was us.”
"In 2007, he accepted a project to build a virtual engine for a game. The gameplay was equivalent to the laws of physics in the virtual world. For example, how far can a stone fly when it is thrown, how quickly things fall, etc..."
"We understand. No need to explain!" kk said.
Sun Zhen continued, "Back then, China's technology in this area was still behind other countries. It could even be said that no one here had done it yet. Zhou Tiannan thought it was a very challenging job and took it on. The company gave him a year's salary in advance. They allowed him to work at home. He got me to share the work for part of the project and gave me some financial remuneration. It took a lot of effort and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s like building a magnificent pyramid. I wrote the code and found several bugs after doing some debugging. And the more the patches we applied, the more mistakes we made. This put heavy pressure on us.”
"In order to cope with the high-intensity work, Zhou Tiannan seemed to have started taking some hallucinogenic drugs. I found out indirectly and I suspected that he had developed a mental problem. Once he asked me online, 'Sun Zhen, do you think this world we live in is also a virtual game?’ He also found some information. Something about a holographic projection theory, multiverse hypothesis and that the real world was just a virtual simulation… I thought he was going to go crazy, so I suggested that he stop with the project and not destroy his health. But he was totally obsessed. You guys may not understand this frame of mind. Writing code is not the same as writing an article. Those who write online novels can close their eyes and make things up. Any bugs can be explained away casually. But coding is different. A single bug can crash the entire program, often destroying weeks or even months of hard work. There are news of programmers committing suicide on the Internet due to this.
1. Ivan Pavlov’s experiments using dogs are quoted to this day, however, some of his experiments were very cruel. I happen to remember this from a course I once took that touched on classical conditioning, but it’s something I highly recommend reading about.
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