Li Yao had been quite at ease during the verbal competition with his disciple.
It was not until Jin Xinyue threw out that question that the smile on his face froze.
Taking a long breath, Li Yao replied, “My spiritual root was awakened when I was motivated by the seven Cultivators who stood up to protect the ordinary people at the cost of their own lives on the crystal train north to the Grand Desolate Plateau.
“Therefore, I will always stand on the side of ordinary people.
“I will make the choice that is most beneficial for ordinary people. If I believe that some policies of the federal government will harm the interests of ordinary people, I will certainly try to change or stop them.”
Jin Xinyue’s eyes were clearer, and her voice became more firmer. “You didn’t answer my question, master.
“Stand on the side of ordinary people? Then, who exactly are ordinary people? Or rather, what are ‘people’?
“Naturally, the citizens of the Star Glory Federation are the ordinary people that you would like to protect.
“I believe that my current appearance might be human in your eyes, too.
“For the chaotic-blood demons whose features are not very obvious, perhaps you may still consider them as ‘ordinary people’ and protect them sincerely.
“But what about the hideous and even bizarre-looking bronze-blood demons and black-blood demons?
“In your eyes, are they really ‘people’? In the most extreme circumstances, are you really willing to go against the Star Glory Federation for ‘people’ of such appearances?”
Li Yao was dumbfounded.
His third disciple was truly vastly different from the previous two.
Her performance had far exceeded his expectations!
Looking at Jin Xinyue’s eyes, which were glittering like marrow crystals and noticing that the saintess of the Pantheon of Demons and Jin Tuyi’s daughter was shining with all her brilliance, Li Yao found it impossible to consider the conversation as one where a master offered guidance to a disciple anymore.
Now, it had become the communication between two equal Cultivators!
“This is truly the most critical question. Ever since I found out the truth about the origins of the demon race, I’ve been ruminating on the same thing. What are ‘ordinary people’? What are ‘people’? How do you distinguish human beings from demons? And what am I fighting for?”
Li Yao gestured Jin Xinyue to sit cross-legged just like him.
She had been kneeling a moment ago, which was a posture when a disciple was listening to the tutelage of a master. If both of them were sitting cross-legged, it would be an equal discussion.
Jin Xinyue bowed and quickly sat cross-legged.
She knew that the conversation that followed would be about the meditation on the ‘great Dao’. Under the great Dao, all the Cultivators were equal, including a master and a disciple.
“The question is too complicated,” Li Yao said. “I was almost mentally deranged when I tried to figure out the answer. I argued hard with my other self in my head and came up with a lot of absurd theories.”
Naturally, the so-called ‘other self in his head’ was not a rhetorical device. There was indeed another Li Yao inside his head.
She listened attentively to her master’s understanding about the great Dao.
“Let’s do a mind game. Let’s say that you are a real Cultivator who abides by the ‘Constitution of Cultivators’, and you see a weak, young girl caught in danger. Naturally, you are obliged to be there for her, right?”
Jin Xinyue nodded. “Of course.”
“But what if it is not a girl but an ugly, uncivilized, thick-headed man who is caught in danger? Should you protect him?”
Jin Xinyue hesitated for a moment before she replied, “I think I should. Being ugly is not a crime. As uncivilized as he appears to be, he is perhaps also a husband, a father, and a son. He is an ordinary person, too. If he is caught in danger and cannot resolve himself, any real Cultivator will take action and protect him.”
“What if, due to a serious disease that caused the failure of his internal organs, the man has replaced 99% of his body parts with ‘artificial organs’ made of metal, gears, and magical equipment, and only his brain remains the same?” Li Yao asked.
Pondering for a moment, Jin Xinyue replied, “Ordinary people using artificial bodies are still ordinary people.”
Li Yao’s eyes were shining. “What if he doesn’t even have a brain? He is dead, and only part of his soul is left.”
Jin Xinyue frowned. “The laws of the Star Glory Federation acknowledge the rights of the ghosts. So, ghosts are equal to ordinary people, too. Theoretically speaking, he still should be protected.”
“Great,” Li Yao said. “Let’s assume that the man is about to die from the serious disease. What if the only thing that can save him is not an ‘artificial body’ but a bottle of ‘Divine Water of Kunlun’?
“After he drinks the ‘Divine Water of Kunlun’, his cells will mutate, and he will turn into a demon with a terrifying face and sharp tusks in his mouth. Then, is he still an ordinary person? Is he still under the protection of the Cultivators?”
Jin Xinyue failed to come up with a reply.
The question was too complicated for her to give an answer. She shook her head while deep in thought, not giving a negative answer but showing that she did not know.
“Alright. Another question. Let’s assume that the bottle of ‘Divine Water of Kunlun’ has barely any side effects after special refinement. After the man drinks it, his cells will still mutate, but his appearance will be not very different from normal human beings, the only difference being that his canine teeth are one millimeter longer than those of ordinary people.
“Then, is the man who has been saved from doom a human being or a demon?”
“One millimeter?” Jin Xinyue gestured and discovered that a one-millimeter difference in the length of the canine teeth was beyond noticing. Of course, he was an ordinary person!
She nodded without hesitation.
“What about two millimeters?”
Jin Xinyue nodded again.
Again and again.
“What about ten millimeters, or rather, one centimeter?”
One centimeter longer than normal? That’s a bit obvious.Jin Xinyue hesitated but still nodded.
Li Yao held his chin with his crossed fingers. “What about thirty centimeters? If he has long, sharp tusks like those of the sabertooth tiger, is he a human being or a demon?”
Jin Xinyue thought hard and slowly replied, “For many chaotic-blood demons, their only distinctive features are their tusks. If the man has tusks resembling those of the sabertooth tiger, I don’t think that he is a ‘human being’ in the common sense, is he?”
“So,” Li Yao said, “for the length of the canine teeth, there is a tipping point between one centimeter to thirty centimeters that divides a human being from a demon, right?
“Let’s say that the tipping point is fifteen centimeters.
“If the man is fortunate enough, his canine teeth might grow to 14.99 centimeters after he takes the ‘Divine Water of Kunlun’, which means that he is a human being. Theoretically speaking, the Cultivators should protect him.
“However, if he takes one more mouthful of the ‘Divine Water of Kunlun’, his canine teeth might grow to 15.01 centimeters, in which case he will be a demon. Theoretically speaking, the Cultivators should slay him because it is their duty to ‘slay all evil’.
“If the man makes up his mind and goes to his dentist, demanding that his tusks be removed. Then, he will turn from a demon into a human being, and the Cultivators should protect him again, right?”
Jin Xinyue felt her own canines aching.
According to the logic, that sounded about right.
But when she got deeper into the question, she felt that something was wrong.
How exactly should the concept of ‘human being’ be defined?
Jin Xinyue was completely confused.
Li Yao sighed. “It is rather preposterous, isn’t it? But this is the mindset for many people, including myself.
“You were quite right. I kept telling myself that demons originated from human beings and are merely human beings in another form, and I did not find it a problem to accept the silver-blood demons and the chaotic-blood demonswho appeared to be human beings with a tail, a pair of cat ears, or two wingsas my own kind.
“However, as for the creatures who do not look like human beings at all and are essentially insects that have been enlarged thousands of times it is still quite difficult for me to accept them.
“I know that it is wrong to judge somebody by their appearance, but however hard I try to overcome my bias, it is unlikely to be twisted shortly.
“Therefore, if you ask me what a ‘human being’ is exactly, I don’t think that I am qualified to define the concept.
“I only want to tell you a story about how the ghosts fought for human rights in the Star Glory Federation a hundred years ago.”
Jin Xinyue listened attentively and tried her best not to interrupt.
“A hundred years ago, as the relevant technologies such as ‘soul locking’ and ‘artificial bodies’ advanced, more and more ghosts were popping up in the Star Glory Federation. Debates remained unabated as to the rights of the ghosts and whether or not they should be regarded as human beings.
“Some supported the human rights of the ghosts. After all, they retained their memory and their self-awareness, and they were no different from when they were alive except that they did not have a body.
“But some other people believed that ghosts were just ghosts and that their destiny was different from living creatures. It was good enough to tolerate them walking in broad daylight, and now they were demanding human rights? Regarding ghosts as human beings would lead to the great collapse of ethics and social order. It was definitely not a viable option.
“Influenced by the latter, many organizations who insisted that ‘living lives matter’ emerged. Prejudice, if not persecution, against the ghosts was severe back then.
“In some places, the evil guys even imprisoned the ghosts and manipulated them into committing crimes. After all, ghosts did not have bodies. It was much more convenient to ask them to do the dirty work. Such incidents where ghosts were manipulated into hurting living people had been nothing new since ancient times.
“Under such circumstances, a typical case appeared. Part of the soul of a twelve-year-old girl was left after she passed away. Yet, a certain group of criminals obtained her soul and built her into a spectral Cultivator, forcing her to commit crimes with the abilities as a ghost.
“The little girl refused and tried to escape many times. The evil Cultivators were pissed off and blew her soul into nothingness in the end.
“After the incident was exposed, naturally, the evil Cultivators were arrested.
“However, in the court, their lawyers argued in front of the undeniable proof that, although they admitted that they had blown the soul of the girl into nothingness, a person could not be killed twice. The little girl had died a long time ago of a natural disease, which was not their fault. So, technically speaking, they did not ‘kill’ the little girl, and the murder case simply did not exist.
“Killing a living person was definitely a felony, but what about killing a ghost? The Star Glory Federation has a series of laws. Is killing a ghost a violation of the laws?
“It was a simple case in the beginning. But since it happened to be set to public when the two ways of thinking were crashing fiercely, the case was eventually appealed to the supreme court of the federation, turning into a great debate about the definition of ‘deceased’ and ‘living’!
“Was the soul that was hiding in an artificial body a human being or not? Was killing a ghost who had independent will an consciousness murder?