While Su Changfa was deep in thought, Li Yao had been sitting cross-legged across him.
The ivory sunlight beamed into the room from the window nearby, illuminating the dust around him and making him appear to be wearing a bright golden cloak.
After hearing Su Changfa’s demand, Li Yao smiled. “As I have said just now, legally speaking, you are not guilty of anything requiring imprisonment. Now that you are even willing to cooperate with us, of course, I will fight for the best privileges for you.
“You will certainly not be regarded as a prisoner, a captive, or a hostile agent while you are in the Star Glory Federation. You can rest assured about that.
“Maybe, Senior Su, you think that the so-called ‘law’ and ‘morals’ only apply to one’s own country and that two countries at war should resort to whatever means possible without any restraint!
“But I don’t think so.
“Both the Imperium of True Human Beings and the Star Glory Federation originate from the Star Ocean Imperium, the greatest nation of human beings ten thousand years ago. Also, we are both ambitious enough to inherit the last will of the Star Ocean Imperium, restore the former glory of mankind, and make it shine even more brilliantly!
“I think that, even if a war truly breaks out between us, it will only be a ‘civil war’ of the civilization of mankind, one about our rightfulness, belief, and direction!
“Such a ‘civil war’ is vastly different from a racial war against alien species in the universe.
“What I’m defending is not a planet, a land, or a city of the Star Glory Federation but the spirit of the federation, Cultivators, and humanity!
“Since the Flying Star Sector is not part of the Star Glory Federation yet and you have done no harm to the Star Glory Federation, making sure that you are treated properly will be the first realization of such ‘spirits’!
“Trampling on such spirits is equivalent to destroying a city of the federation in person for me. It is not going to happen.
“Therefore, I will try my best to defend your legal rights, whether we have fought side by side with each other or not.
“Just now, I talked with Director Guo of the Secret Sword Bureau of the federation. In your case, Senior Su, if you are willing to cooperate with us, you can totally be granted freedom and live in the homeland of the Star Glory Federation.
“Of course, for a very long time, your residence and your communications will be monitored, which I believe is understandable, but the surveillance will certainly not affect your normal life.
“In my opinion, you can even go to work, say, as a professor in a college! A great expert in the Nascent Soul Stage. That’s something that normal colleges might not have even if they want to hire one!”
“What did you say?” Su Changfa found it almost impossible to believe his ears. Pondering for a moment, he replied quickly, “It makes no mistake. Just because I’m willing to cooperate with you to some degree doesn’t mean that I have given up my belief as an Immortal Cultivator! I am an Immortal Cultivator, and I always will be. It is absolutely impossible that I will be transformed into a Cultivator!”
“I know.” Li Yao smiled. “So what? There is no law in the Star Glory Federation that states that you are guilty for having an opinion different from others, nor will anyone be punished because of their ‘identity’. Just like you said, being an Immortal Cultivator carries no conviction itself. You can always be one if you want to.”
“If you really set me free and give me the right to speak…” Su Changfa gnashed his teeth. “I will certainly promulgate the true path of immortality within the Star Glory Federation and bring up even more Immortal Cultivators!”
“I’m hoping that you will do that,” Li Yao said casually.
Su Changfa was dumbfounded. “You are not planning to shut my mouth?”
“Mouths can be shut, but ‘ideas’ are invisible and all-pervasive,” Li Yao said carefully. “As the communication between the federation and the Imperium grows more heated, maybe into the ultimate form of communication that is ‘war’ later, the ideology of the Immortal Cultivators will certainly spread out on a large scale sooner or later. Will it really help to shut your own mouth alone?
“Nothing can stop an idea from spreading out. Even if everybody’s mouth is shut, they can still make eye contact! Also, the more you shut it, the more curious people will be about the ideology. They will prompt themselves to explore and learn it!
“After your brainwashing and your stories, which I can’t tell are true or false, I have to admit that the ‘true path of immortality’ is a seemingly-justified and highly-intriguing ideology!
“Such an ideology is very dangerous!
“I have been pondering about it for a while. Right now, it is possible for us to shut your mouth one way or another. However, if the citizens of the federation know nothing about the ‘true path of immortality’, will we be able to stop it when your expedition fleet arrives and implements a ‘collective brainwashing’, disseminating the true path of immortality like a flood?
“If we cannot block it forever, we might as well publicize it sooner. We will let the citizens of the federation get to know the real Immortal Cultivators and true path of immortality sooner. We will gather the wisdom of all the citizens to find loopholes in the true path of immortality in the hundred years to come, in order to win the debate between the Immortal Cultivators and Cultivators!
“You must know ‘vaccines’, mustn’t you, Senior Su? A vaccine is a collection of pathogens, too. But it can trigger the immune system of a human body so that it will gain resistance to the viruses and germs of a higher intensity!
“I want you to be a ‘vaccine’ that will trigger the federation’s ‘immunity’ to the truth path of immortality!
“This is also a reason I’ve trying to restore your freedom, Senior Su!
“Of course, if you have unwavering faith in the true path of immortality, you should be even more glad to accept my proposal because, if your path is the correct one, everybody will turn to the true path of immortality at the end of our debate.
“Then, by confessing some intelligence, you will be given freedom and the opportunity of public preaching, which is definitely in the interests of the Imperium of True Human Beings, right?”
Su Changfa’s eyes were deeply hollowed.
Li Yao’s words cast him into a tricky dilemma.
“The ‘unexpected factor’ you mentioned is too heavy a load for computation. Right now, I can’t tell whether there are more benefits than harm for the Imperium in the federation’s rise.”
After a long time, the old Cultivator gave up the argument and decided to give in for now. “I will need to live in the homeland of the federation for a while to learn how this world of Cultivators functions before I make a choice.
“If the Star Glory Federation is as hopeless as the Curly Dragon civilization, the Medicine Fork civilization, and the Martial Meritocrats civilization, it will be unnecessary for us to cooperate at all.”
Li Yao shook his head. “I can’t convince the Secret Sword Bureau to let you walk out of this place so easily. At the very least, you must offer part of the critical intelligence that is verifiable. For example, the control and production methods of the war base!
“If you can prove your sincerity about the cooperation with such critical intelligence, it is not unlikely for us to set you free and give you time to study the history and society of the Star Glory Federation!
“After all, there will still be a hundred years to go before the full-scale communication between the federation and the Imperium. We can talk about the intelligence within the Imperium later!”
Looking at his wrinkled fingers, Su Changfa was deep in thought for a long time before he eventually opened his mouth. “Fellow Cultivator Li, believe it or not, I truly find your decisions and your demeanor admirable!
“Now that you are frank enough to have such a sincere talk with me, I don’t want to waste our time with more lies.
“There isn’t much I can say about the critical intelligence regarding the Imperium of True Human Beings. Most of it is just empty, superficial talk.”
“How is it possible? Stop making fun of me, Senior Su.” Li Yao laughed. “Formidable as the Imperium of True Human Beings may be, experts in the Nascent Soul Stage can’t be a pawn everywhere to be seen, can they? Considering that you are in the Nascent Soul Stage and you have been given the responsibility of exploring with such a war base, you must be a man of high social status in the Imperium. How can you not know any secrets?”
Su Changfa tapped his head and said, “Pay attention to my choice of words. I didn’t say that ‘I don’t know’; I said that ‘I can’t tell’. It’s not that I’m unwilling to talk. I’m simply incapable of doing that.”
Li Yao blinked. “What do you mean by ‘incapable’?”
“I mean that the critical intelligence inside my head was locked through secret arts before I set off,” Su Changfa said casually. “You may consider me as a patient of ‘selective amnesia’, and I have forgotten part of the things in my past. If somebody else tries to activate the memory cells about that part, the barriers may be triggered and cause my brain to die instantly.”
This time, it was Li Yao who was dumbfounded.
“Isn’t the reason obvious? To prevent the situation that I am in right now, of course!” Su Changfa said matter-of-factly. “The universe is dark and full of terror. Even the best expert in the Imperium might be caught in a desperate situation in an exploration mission through thousands of space zones. Should he be captured by the hostile forces and confess top confidential information from the Imperium, wouldn’t the Imperium suffer great losses without gaining anything?
“It is not about the loyalty of the Immortal Cultivators. The soul-searching techniques nowadays are too advanced. Even the most loyal Immortal Cultivators cannot weather through them.
“Therefore, before we set off for a mission, we examine our souls carefully and seal the important memories unrelated to the mission. When the mission is completed and we return to the homeland of the Imperium, we unlock the memories with special magical equipment. That way, there will be absolutely no losses!”
Li Yao scratched his head hard.
He finally understood why Professor Mo Xuan and his fellows had failed to retrieve much valuable intelligence after swallowing the star child in the Flying Star Sector last time.
The star child must have sealed a lot of critical memories before he left like Su Changfa did.
“Right now, my knowledge about the Imperium of True Human Beings won’t be much more than what a college student in the Imperium knows. Most of it is about the basic concepts and the general picture. Regarding the distribution of armed forces, the coordinates for space jumps in different Sectors, the sailing routes in the universe, the detailed refinement procedures of various kinds of magical equipment… all the specific, professional stuff has been sealed!”
Su Changfa looked at Li Yao as earnestly as Li Yao had looked at him a moment ago.
“That should be enough for now!” Li Yao gnashed his teeth. “What about the war base? You are the captain of Flourishing Sun. You won’t tell me that you have forgotten how to use or build it, will you?”