Guo Chunfeng took a deep breath and mumbled, “I understand what you mean now. Over the past few months, I’ve been troubled by my identity as Abyss. I was even scared that Elder Nether Spring had implanted other barriers or traps inside my head that would be activated when the time was right and turn me into some evil being.
“However, you do have a point. Lu Zui is neither Abyss nor the Blood Devil. There is no evidence indicating that he has been bewildered by the Imperium of True Human Beings. He has always been a pure Cultivator, but after one wrong step, he became insane to such an extent that he nearly caused a catastrophe to all three Sectors!
“If so, why should I be troubled by my identity? Is there anything bad that can only be done by Abyss and the Blood Devil but not general Cultivators?
“I think that identity doesn’t matter at all. As long as you deserve yourself, it will be enough. As for the other things, that’s not our business!”
Li Yao laughed. “Exactly! Perhaps, when the news that Lu Zui was not an agent of the Imperium of True Human Beings is out, more people will be disappointed, and more people will be suspicious about the federal government and the Cultivators. There might even be a riot among the public, but I always believe that it is better than pacifying people with a lie!
“A lie requires more lies as camouflage, just like Lu Zui’s minor plot required more plots and killing to mend the loopholes. I believe that everybody in the Star Glory Federation, both the Cultivators and the ordinary people, will have the courage to face their heart eventually, and when they discover the dark side of their heart, they will also discover more brightness!”
“You’re right. You’re right. I should point it out in parliament. Without solid evidence, we should not accuse Lu Zui of being the Imperium of True Human Beings’ spy because we want him to be. Otherwise, is there any real difference between us and Lu Zui?”
The two of them kept walking forward. There was no telling what Guo Chunfeng thought of, but he suddenly burst into laughter.
With a smile, Li Yao asked, “Brother Guo, what are you laughing for?”
“I just thought of an ironic thing!” Guo Chunfeng laughed so hard that he was wiping his tears. Intermittently, he went on. “The Star Glory Federation considers itself the guardian of humanity. But at the critical moment, it is an Abyss and a Blood Devil who saved the situation! Isn’t it hilarious?”
Li Yao was dazed for a moment. “Brother Guo, you can look at it from a different perspective. The Star Glory Federation is such a country that even Abyss and the Blood Devil are willing to fight and be sacrificed for her. This is the source of strength for our country, and it is also the only reliance we can count on to compete with the Imperium of True Human Beings!
“In the hundred years to come, we will certainly walk out of the desolate land and the edge of the cosmos, marching to the depths of the sea of stars that are much more brilliant. We will certainly encounter all kinds of weird species and their brilliant civilizations! After ten thousand years of separation, perhaps, even the civilizations of other human beings might look vastly different from ours.
“It is impossible for the federation to absorb all those civilizations with slaughter and conquest. Even if they are truly conquered, we would not be able to digest them in only several decades!
“I think that, if we are living in a federation that even Abyss and the Blood Devil are willing to fight for, we might be able to unite all the civilizations in a different way and compete with the unparalleled Imperium of True Human Beings at the center of the universe together, mightn’t we?”
Guo Chunfeng thought for a moment. Then, with an even brighter smile, he roared to the sky to express the delight in his heart.
His roar was echoed by another roar at the bottom of the mountain. It was Ding Lingdang who was shouting, “Li Yao, where are you?”
Ding Lingdang’s shout was followed by a much weaker voice. “Dad! Dad! I caught two fish. Two very beautiful fish!”
Li Yao and Guo Chunfeng looked at each other, both amused.
“Young brother, thank you. I truly can’t thank you enough,” Guo Chunfeng said sincerely.
“For what now?” Li Yao scratched his head.
“For not letting the war take place.” Guo Chunfeng’s eyes pierced through the shadows of the tree. He seemed to see two vivid people jumping vigorously on the mountain path. His eyes full of affection, he said, “Did you know? When the federation was seething with fury, and the federal army was enlisting, my daughter almost joined the army because her natural talent could boost the morale.
“If she really joined the army, and the war between the two Sectors broke out, it would have been impossible for her to stay out of it. She was bound to be involved in the cruel warfare.
“There could only be two outcomes to the war.
“Either the war did not go on as smoothly as we thought, in which case the federal army and the coalition army of demons would maul each other on the barren land of the Star Glory Federation. The young people would be like ants passing through a river, swallowed by the torrent and consumed mercilessly.
“My daughter wouldn’t have been an exception. She would have died on the battlefield, torn into shreds by demon beasts, perhaps not even leaving her bones.
“That would have been one of the luckier deaths. In worse scenarios, she might have been captured and tormented before she died.
“Or, if the war did go well, she might not have been killed, but she would have been forged into an iron-made, cold-hearted warrior in the terrible furnace that is called war. She might have twisted the necks of dozens of demons without batting an eye and pluck their hearts and livers out of their stomachs. When needed to, she would also have burned entire villages to the ground without hesitation and killed all the demons old and young, including the infants who were alike to the human babies!
“Believe me. I’ve worked in the Secret Sword Bureau for too many years, and I’ve seen too many Cultivators. They were all ignorant and naïve when they first joined. They had no idea what ‘slaying evil’ actually meant and thought that it was as cool as shown in the movies!
“However, after being baptized in the fires of war for several years, all of them, both men and women, will be what I just described. They will be like double-edged sabers that frighten both their enemies and their companions!
“Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep at night, I even thought, even if we won the war in the end and turned all the demons into slaves, what then?
“If the slaves were sent to the Flying Star Sector for mining, a lot of guards and soldiers would be dispatched to supervise them. Would my daughter be one of them?
“After staying for several years on the dark, cold planet in a foreign world, would my daughter become a monster who waved a thorny whip and wouldn’t stop until the last value of a demon slave had been exploited? Would she become a ‘fiend’ for all the demon slaves and even their young kids? Would she be so used to having conversations through sabers and whips after staying for too long on the foreign planet that she couldn’t adapt to the normal society at all?
“You see, it would have been a dark future even if we won the war unstoppably. That is not a ‘victory’ that I desire!”
Li Yao scratched his head and said, “You are overthinking it, Brother Guo. With your high position, it is highly unlikely that your daughter would be assigned to such posts.”
With mixed feelings, Guo Chunfeng said, “Yes, my daughter might not have been sent, but the sons and daughters of others would have been. Maybe, the children of the folk who have absolutely no power would have been sent to the resource planets light years away and transformed from innocent, carefree teenagers into ruthless, coldhearted, perverted fiends under the most glorious, most righteous slogan!”
Li Yao was silent and did not know what he should say.
“Human beings are all selfish.” Guo Chunfeng continued. “We always talk big. Slay evil, defend humanity, fight and clear all the obstacles in our way… We can talk for all eternity without repeating.
“Joining the federal army and protecting our homeland is the most noble duty for every citizen. Even a three-year-old knows that!
“However, when it comes to real action, I simply can’t bear to send my own daughter to the battlefield and watch her turning into what I have described!
“I hope that she can always be as she is right now. It doesn’t matter even if she is simple or even stupid. As long as she lives on in peace and without worries, it is all that I want!
“That’s why I must thank you, Li Yao. You prevented such a dreadful future from becoming the reality!
“Yes, in a hundred years, we will be faced with the gravest threat in history, but at the very least, in the hundred years to come, my daughter will live in a world without wars, where she can comfortably study, fall in love with someone, pursue her dreams, get married, and have children of her own!
“The iron and blood will not fall upon her until the most beautiful golden years of her life have past, and she has tasted all the happiness in the world.
“Shouldn’t I, as her father, thank you for giving her the opportunity?”
Li Yao scratched his head hard.
He was not a father yet, and he did not know what the feeling was exactly.
At this moment, Ding Lingdang and Guo Xiaohe both ran up to them.
Guo Xiaohe was wet from head to toe. Even her hair was stuck to her face, but she was waving two small fish proudly.
The fish were emanating golden colors under the sun, as if she had grabbed two beams of sunlight in her hands.
“Dad! Look! Dad! Look!”
Guo Chunfeng embraced Guo Xiaohe. Li Yao picked up Ding Lingdang’s hand and walked ahead.
Looking at his smiling face, Ding Lingdang found it odd. “You were just picking some water. What are you so happy about?”
Narrowing his eyes, Li Yao stared at the red sun above the endless ridges and trees and said with a smile, “I just feel that, if even such an insane, unpardonable guy like Elder Nether Spring still had a shining part in the deepest part of his soul, is there any reason why we shouldn’t believe in us and more people?
“Before, I was very uneasy about the upcoming attack of the Imperium of True Human Beings, but right now, I’m suddenly very confident about the future!
“Just stride forward. We will win. We will!”