Guo Chunfeng was dazed for a moment, too. Then, the warmest smile beamed out of his face.
“About Elder Nether Spring…” Li Yao hesitated for a moment but still asked, “Do you still hate him?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I? He ruined my life. Even though he is gone now, I am destined to carry the shadow on my back and walk on until I die!” Guo Chunfeng replied resolutely in anger. “Even in the young demon Ye Yuya’s memories, Elder Nether Spring, as his father, was an out-and-out fiend!
“A child less than ten years old had to receive training a hundred times crueler than that of adult warriors under the oppression of the fiend! I would shake and sweat if I recalled the misery right now!”
After pausing for a moment, he went on. “However…”
Guo Chunfeng lay on the giant rock again with his hands as the pillow. Looking at the blue sky, he could not help but put on the smile of an innocent child. “In the young demon Ye Yuya’s memories, other than the hellish suffering, there was also crayfish fishing.”
Li Yao was dazed for a moment. “What’s crayfish fishing?”
“There isn’t any Sand Bamboo Worm in the cold spring where we picked up the water just now. I lied to you. But in the place where the young demon Ye Yuya grew up, many Sand Bamboo Worms could be found near the underground cold springs,” Guo Chunfeng explained. “They were the most sweet and fresh food!
“The Sand Bamboo Worms taste delicious when they are mixed with fiddle ferns, and they taste even better if they are taken together with the oil of certain demon beasts. The most incredible thing is that the Sand Bamboo Worms can be used as bait to fish the Silver-Striped Crayfish, which is a specialty of the Nether Spring Kingdom. It is the most mouthwatering food that I can imagine!
“In the young demon Ye Yuya’s memories, there were several times, mostly when Elder Nether Spring won the wars outside and his son had made satisfactory progress in his training, that he would bring his son to the underground water area and fish the crayfish.
“At first, they would find a cold spring where the Sand Bamboo Worms gathered. Like we did just now, they would crouch next to the spring, hold their breath, and grope carefully. They could not resort to their demonic energy and had to pick up the Sand Bamboo Worms with the tiniest movements of muscles and tentacles.
“Half of the Sand Bamboo Worms would be mixed with the water from the cold spring, the underground fungi, and the spices, which would satisfy their stomachs for the time being. Then, they would pin the other half of the Sand Bamboo Worms into hooks before going to the rivers or swamps. He got a big stool and I got a small one. Holding our breath and waiting patiently, we could fish up two buckets of the Silver-Striped Crayfish in only half a day!
“Soaked in the fresh blood of demon beasts along with spices, the crayfish would be ready to be cooked. Elder Nether Spring was an expert at cooking crayfish. When the crayfish were out of the pot, all the demon beasts in the caves nearby would be attracted over. We would slay the fat and delicious ones among them and make them into another dish! Very soon, we would be enjoying ourselves in the dark underground.
“I often competed with him about who ate faster and whose crayfish shells were more intact and without any meat residue. He won most of the games. Occasionally, when I won, I almost bit my fingers off!”
Li Yao noticed that, at first, Guo Chunfeng was talking about ‘the memories of the young demon Ye Yuya’, but as he got more excited, he started to use first-person pronouns.
Of course, Li Yao did not point it out.
Sitting aside and listening to Guo Chunfeng, he remembered the good old times when he lived with his foster faster in the magical equipment graveyard more than ten years ago.
Soon, Guo Chunfeng finished the whole story and sipped the cold water.
The two buckets of water had almost been drunk up by him alone now.
Li Yao smiled. “It appears that we’ll have to go back and refill the buckets now. The girls must be complaining about what’s taking us so long.”
Guo Chunfeng was dazed for a moment. “You have learned everything now. What are you going to do?”
“What am I going to do?” Li Yao blinked and said, “Thank Brother Guo for telling me all this, of course. In fact, you and I are both clear that I don’t have any evidence. It was quite a mess when the Patriots Partnership was crushed. Elder Nether Spring’s body was destroyed in the chaos. Besides, your appearance has been changed through the secret techniques. I’m afraid that even a paternity test is unavailable now.
“No one can force you to say that if you don’t want to. Nobody can confirm your relationship with Elder Nether Spring, either.”
“Yes,” Guo Chunfeng said after a long sigh. “You would’ve got nothing from me if I made up my mind not to say anything. However, I’m really tired after carrying such heavy burdens walking to far. I want to put these things down and take a good rest!
He suddenly raised his voice. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t decide who my father is. Why can’t I say it? Cultivators must Cultivate truth! Elder Nether Spring is truly my father. It is a fact that nobody can change! If I don’t have the courage to face the truth, do I deserve to be called a Cultivator?”
“Well said.” With mixed feelings, Li Yao suddenly rose up and bowed to Guo Chunfeng. He said earnestly, “Thank you, Brother Guo, for not attacking just now and for trusting me and telling me everything without reserve.”
Looking at his face, Guo Chunfeng observed, “It seems that you don’t want to kill me now?”
“I never intended to kill you in the first place. I merely wanted to solve the puzzle. You know it, too, Brother Guo. We are the same type of person. People of our kind always want to figure out every detail when they are faced with such a delicate, marvelous scheme. Their heart will itch at night if they leave one puzzle unanswered.”
“I got it. Thank you, too, Li Yao. You are a good man and… a true Cultivator! Rest assured. I know what to do. When the thing is completely over, I’ll find an appropriate opportunity to resign as the director of the Secret Sword Bureau.”
Li Yao was dazed. Scratching his head, he said, “I didn’t mean any of that. Aren’t you doing a wonderful job as the director? Why would you resign?”
Guo Chunfeng was dazed, too. “Are you not troubled seeing me working in such an important position when you know my real identity? Aren’t scared that I’m lying?”
Li Yao scratched his head even harder. “You’ve told me your relationship with Elder Nether Spring. What can you possibly be lying about?”
“Maybe,” Guo Chunfeng said, “I concealed some facts from you that are of paramount importance.”
Li Yao thought hard for a moment and figured it out. He sat down again and extended his two fingers. “I’ve got it. Even if everything Brother Guo said just now is true, there are still two possibilities regarding Elder Nether Spring’s death.
“Firstly, although Elder Nether Spring is dead now, he was visionary enough to prepare another top confidential plan, say, the ‘upgraded version of the Spore Stratagem’, which he sent into the head of his successor, or the tool of his choosing, through the surging brainwaves at his death.
“In such a case, his death is just part of the whole plan. Even if he died, he was still considering his son as a tool that would carry on the Spore Stratagem!
“Secondly, there’s no more ‘upgraded version of the Spore Stratagem’. Or maybe, even if there was, Elder Nether Spring abandoned it in the end! At the last moment of his life, he was no longer an ambitious schemer, a man who dreamed to rule all the three Sectors, or an insane spreader of the Demon God Virus. He was just a father!
“Maybe, for Elder Nether Spring, he considered the ‘young Ye Yuya’ a tool for ninety-nine percent of the time to realize his ambitions. However, on the brink of death, when the fire of his life was about to perish, after all his ambitions and schemes were smashed into pieces, he finally remembered that Ye Yuya was not just a tool but also his son.
“I can vaguely recall that I saw a casual smile on Elder Nether Spring’s face at the last moment of his life.
“Before, I thought that it was my imagination or that Elder Nether Spring had yet another scheme.
“But it is also possible that the smile wasn’t my imagination nor the sign of a scheme. It was perhaps only because Elder Nether Spring remembered the days when he fished crayfish with his son decades ago.
“He chose to die because he wanted his son to survive, either in the appearance of a demon or under the identity of a human being. It didn’t really matter as long as he survived.”
Guo Chunfeng finally burst into tears. He asked, “Did he smile? Did he really smile in the end?”
At a loss, Li Yao stammered, “Brother Guo, you are a giant of the Star Glory Federation right now, and you are decades older than me. How—how am I supposed to comfort you?”
“I’m fine. I’m fine!” Guo Chunfeng took a deep breath and managed to control his emotions. He smiled, somewhat embarrassed. “Neither of the two possibilities is supported by any evidence. Their odds are fifty-fifty. Do you not think that I am a great hidden problem under such circumstances? Are you not worried that I’ve accepted Elder Nether Spring’s last will and plan to activate the new Spore Stratagem one day in the future?”
“Because somebody might cause harm to us in the future, we must kill them in advance before they do?” Li Yao opened his hands and said, “That’s what Lu Zui and the Patriots Partnership think. But for me, I’m not capable of time travel, and I cannot see through the ‘future’. What I can influence is just the ‘present’.
“The future is fickle, with all kinds of possibilities and infinite wonders. I cannot exterminate the present because one of the possibilities is bad because when I am exterminating the present, I will also be exterminating all the possibilities of the future that are marvelous!
“In a word, the Star Glory Federation is ruled by law. As a Cultivator of the Heaven’s Origin Sector, I must abide by the Constitution of Cultivators, too. I must train myself and slay evil according to the law!
“I don’t know what you are guilty of by being Elder Nether Spring’s son or your name as Abyss. Besides, everything is just a casual conversation between you and me, not a verbal confession taken by the police. Even if it was a verbal confession, our law has clearly stated that, without direct proof, verbal confession alone is not enough to convict anybody!
“Is it possible that the upgraded version of the Spore Stratagem exists? Of course it is! Maybe, I’ll look for the evidence that it exists slowly!
“However, until I discover evidence that you’ve committed a crime, what makes me qualified to judge you?
“Such an idea might be idiotic and short-sighted. Somebody may even call it petty kindness. But it can’t be helped. This is my belief as I enter the Nascent Soul Stage. Even if the galaxy turns into a waterfall and pours into my skull, it will not be shaken!”