Not far away from the bridge of Burning Prairie, in a temporary office, Iron Commander Zhou Hengdao sat on the chair in a daze. The artificial limbs on his body were not moving at all as if they were rusted.
Inside the light beam, it was tens of thousands of people and flapping flags and banners in the wind. Everybody was shouting the same name while singing the soul-stirring national anthem.
“Li Yao! Li Yao! Li Yao! Li Yao!”
It was the picture where Li Yao broke through the blockage of the Patriots Partnership in the capital city and marched toward the parliament building. Dozens of media outlets had captured the whole process and montaged it.
The lights and shadows were changing nonstop, illuminating Zhou Hengdao’s face. The seasoned warrior who would not change his face color in the storm of bullets or the fog of venom found it difficult to resist and slightly narrowed his eyes.
Complicated emotions were flowing deep inside his eyes, including a hint of embarrassment.
When Li Yao’s face was featured under the Rising Dragon of the Nine Stars flag, Zhou Hengdao even tilted his head, as if he did not have the courage to stare at Li Yao.
His iron hand, which was holding a series of badges, was shivering, raising clattering noises.
Somebody knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Zhou Hengdao said lethargically.
A middle-aged man, tall, energetic, and bald, strode into the cabin, only to be great surprised by the sound from the crystal processor. He hurried to slam the door. Sweat all over his forehead, he asked, “Iron Commander, what—what are you doing? What if the guys from the Flying Star Sector overhear it?”
Naturally, the riot that Li Yao had raised in the capital city was still blocked in the Dark Desolate Domain right now.
The bald man was named Zhou Tieyi. He was Zhou Hengdao’s nephew and the captain of his guards who had fought with him for decades. He was one of Zhou Hengdao’s most trusted subordinates.
Of course, he was a member of the Patriots Partnership.
“Ah Tie, come over here and listen to the cheers. So many people are shouting Li Yao’s name.”
In a trance, Zhou Hengdao’s eyes were hollow, as if he were recalling things a long, long time ago.
“Do you remember what happened after the ‘Battle of Peaceful Tomb’ thirty-five years ago? We extinguished the largest beast tide in several decades and executed five demon kings. The dead bodies of the demon beasts weren’t burnt up until three days and three nights later!
“When we returned to the capital city with the dead bodies of the five demon kings in triumph, it was exactly what the millions of people in the capital city did. They welcomed us on the two sides of the street. The Rising Dragon of the Nine Stars flags were waved in every street and alley. They were shouting our name. They were cheering for the federal army!
“Federal army! Federal army! Federal army!
“To this day, I often feel like I’m hearing the roars when I can’t go to sleep at night.
“At that time, they were definitely more excited and enthusiastic than when they are shouting Li Yao’s name today.
“Do you remember, Ah Tie? Do you still remember?”
Colonel Zhou Tieyi was silent for a moment. Then he clenched his fists and said, “Rest assured, Iron Commander. After we conquer the Blood Demon Sector and return in triumph, we will certainly have cheers that are a hundred times louder than ‘Li Yao’! By then, not just those in the capital city, everybody in the entire federation will cheer for us and the federal army from the bottom of their heart!”
“Will they?” Zhou Hengdao smiled. “Will that include the families of the more than three thousand innocent victims who were killed in the explosions in the Federal Square?
“Even if they do cheer for us, are you and I qualified to embrace their cheers without guilt?
“And they…” He raised the badges in his hand and shook them. “What about their family? Will they cheer for us? Can we bear their cheers?”
Zhou Tieyi frowned. “Iron Commander, what are you holding?”
Zhou Hengdao split apart the eight dog tags. On one side of the dog tags, it was a Rising Dragon of the Nine Stars badge, and the basic information such as name, blood type, and level was on the other side.
Zhou Hengdao touched the names as softly as he could, as if he were touching the head of his great grandson.
“They are the dog tags of the eight signalmen who fought to the end to fulfill their responsibility only to be killed by us.
“Chen Gaoyi, Song Zuguang, Jing Guoyuan, Dong Rui, Liu Hao, Shan Shengjie, Deng Junhao, Xia Lesheng… Those are their names.
“Dong Rui was the youngest of them. He was only nineteen years old and only joined the army last year. Song Zuguang was the oldest of them. He was sixty-six years ago. He had almost dedicated half of his life to the federal army. He was a veteran who had participated in dozens of bloody battles!
“Hehe. After dozens of bloody battles, he was not killed by the demons. What a lucky man! Such a seasoned warrior would’ve been fought over by every troop!
“It’s a pity that he was not killed by the paws and tusks of demon beasts but by the guns of his brothers… and by our order!”
“It was an accident!” Zhou Tieyi’s eyes were more or less red, too. He stepped forward and supported Zhou Hengdao, who was shaking slightly. He bellowed, “Iron Commander, it was an accident. You must not blame yourself! Now that Director Lu has been captured, you are the spine for all the ‘patriots’ right now. In order to save the federal, Iron Commander, you must not fall over at this moment!”
“Accident. Hehe. Accident.”
Miserably, Iron Commander Zhou Hengdao buried his face into the eight dog tags.
The eight dog tags were hissing on his face as if they were scorching irons.
His trembling voice leaked out through his fingers. “I don’t know how things end up like this. I really don’t.
“Didn’t we make the best plan, the most flawless plan, in the beginning?
“As long as Jiang Hailiu was blown up in the Federal Square and Li Yao took the blame, it would have been enough. All possibilities of negotiation would have been cut off without any doubt. A war would start!
“The Blood Demon Sector suffered tremendous losses in the destruction of the Eye of Blood Demon. It is also faced with the threat of the plague. Its capability is at the lowest point in its thousands of years of history.
“In comparison, not only do we have the Demon God Virus and a hundred Children of the Nether World who are familiar with the inside information of the Blood Demon Sector, we also have the super warship Burning Prairie and two hundred thousand Grand Illusionary Soldiers!
“It was supposed to be an overwhelming victory. With the minimal price, we would gain the greatest benefits!
“Those who should be sacrificed should be Jiang Hailiu and Li Yao alone!
“Jiang Hailiu is a boneless capitulator, and Li Yao is a malicious traitor who intended to introduce the demons into the federation! The two of them had it coming whatever became of them in the end!
“Everything… should’ve been just like that. Those who were dead should’ve been those who deserved to be punished. Not a single innocent victim should’ve been involved. Then, we would’ve embraced the greatest victory and led the sacred federation to a brilliant path!
“Why did everything change when our perfect plan was implemented? ‘Accidents’ were jumping out one after another!
“In the Federal Square, so many innocent victims were killed, but Li Yao got away! To execute him, Ye Changkong and Diwu Jian… heroes who had made great contributions to the federation, Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators who defended humanity, were so heavily wounded that they might’ve been better off dead! Eventually, the whole situation escalated to a point where Lu Zui’s crystal warship was opening fire toward the federal citizens in public!
“If Li Yao hadn’t stood in front of them, perhaps hundreds more unrested souls would be caused by our plan!
“Hehe. Even so, Li Yao was not stopped. We were forced to turn to our last resort!
“For our last resort, we lied to everybody, manipulated everybody. We have even killed our own comrades and brothers!
“We abandoned everything and walked this far. With a last, tiny jump, our plan would’ve worked out, but at such a critical moment, another ‘accident’ took place again! Even a mouse of the Heaven’s Origin Sector was against us and stalled us for almost four hours!”
“Iron Commander!” Zhou Tieyi roared. “The space jump array will be repaired very soon. The other legions in the drill do not know what is going on yet. It’s just a few hours. Everything is definitely going to be alright. There will be no accidents!”
“Is that so?” Zhou Hengdao smiled. Looking at the flapping flags on the light beam, he said, “Ah Tie, I’m thinking about one thing. When so many accidents overlap, are they still accidents? Or maybe, they are… the heavens’ will? Some supernatural power has been stopping us?”
“Iron Commander!” Zhou Tieyi was anxious. He raised his voice again and even shook Zhou Hengdao’s body hard without bothering with courtesy. “We are both soldiers! Soldiers should believe in their own sabers and swords! What is the heavens’ will? Our weapons are the heavens’ will!
“Everything we have done was meant to save the federation. It was a price we had to pay even if some victims were sacrificed in the process! People die in every war! Have we not lost too many comrades in the battles over the past hundred years in order to secure the final victory?
“There will be no more accidents. Iron Commander, we will succeed because we stand for justice! Evil never laughs to the end! Even if the heavens’ will does exist, it is definitely on our side!
“Evil never laughs to the end! Evil never laughs to the end! We are right. Our path is the only right one!”
The dim brilliance in Zhou Hengdao’s eyes was intensified again, but it only glittered for a few seconds before it was interrupted by hasty door knocks.
A major who was tall, slender, and had a gloomy face walked in. On the surface, he was a member of the communication department in the military, but in fact, he was the liaison officer that Lu Zui had sent to Zhou Hengdao.
He brought a new accident.
Vulture Li Yao had rushed to the edge of the Dark Desolate Domain despite all the obstacles!