In the boundless universe, as well as the celestial bodies such as stars, planets, and comets, space was actually not an absolute vacuum but filled with floating cosmic dust in most places.
Their elements were fundamentally the same as the elements that constituted planets, which were all the powder of rocks and metals. Restrained by appropriate gravity and force fields, they often condensed into celestial bodies that looked like clouds. They were also known as ‘nebulas’.
Kunlun, the relic of the Pangu civilization, was hidden inside a crab nebula. Right now, there was another nebula that seemed to be a black spot.
It was also possible that the Pangu civilization had grasped a certain secret technique that allowed them to manipulate the nebulas.
Li Yao knew that, according to the different metal constituents of the nebulas and the changing force fields that restrained them, the nebulas could display all kinds of amazing features, such as sending out and blocking specific radiation or absorbing and releasing spiritual energy.
“This is about everything that we know right now,” Professor Mo Xuan said. “Although we have discovered the sender’s location, it is covered in a large ‘black spot nebula’. It is impossible for us to observe them directly from the Heaven’s Origin Sector, the Flying Star Sector, or the Blood Demon Sector with our current technology!
“However, from the perspective of the grand universe, the sender of the signal is not very far away from us, and it is hard to tell whether it’s a blessing or a curse now that such a mysterious, unknown world has suddenly jumped out right next to us and even greeted us promptly.
“We cannot allow a stranger to sleep right next to our bed soundly, much less someone we know absolutely nothing about!
“There’s something that’s even more critical. Come here and take a look. This is an estimated trajectory based on the star map of the Pangu civilization and the diagram of apocalypses in the Star Prier’s House. Have you noticed anything wrong?”
Professor Mo Xuan pointed at the top of the picture and said, “The mysterious world is not far away from the route of the expedition army of the Imperium of True Human Beings. In a hundred years, when the expedition army of the Imperium brushes past them, it is possible that they will discover this Sector, like the Immortal Cultivators including Su Changfa who discovered Kunlun five years ago.”
Li Yao took a long breath. He could totally imagine the dire consequences if Su Changfa and the other Immortal Cultivators occupied Kunlun.
‘Kunlun’ was just a weapons factory that the Pangu civilization established with the spiritual energy dispersing from the pulsar. However, since the mysterious Sector was considered an evacuation destination by so many members of the Pangu Clan, it was obvious that the place must have been an important stronghold for them or perhaps a local military center.
If such a world was involved with the expedition army of the Imperium, it would definitely not be good for the federation, which was trying the best to defend.
Did the extremely mysterious Sector still exist at all after hundreds of thousands of years?
What kind of species or civilization was living in the world?
The place was far away from the prosperous area at the center of the cosmos. Therefore, it was unlikely to be part of the Imperium or the Covenant Alliance. Then, who could the residents be? Were they demons or demonic Cultivators? Were they the heirs of the Pangu Clan or the Nuwa Clan? Or were they beings that were even more bizarre?
Also, why did they say hello to the Heaven’s Origin Sector and the Flying Star Sector? Was it friendly or malicious? Did they really mean to communicate, or did they set up a trap with ill intentions?
“I understand it now!” Li Yao narrowed his eyes and said, “Now that we’ve discovered the stranger, we cannot sit by and do nothing about it. We can only resort to the most primitive method by sending out an exploration team to the mysterious Sector in order to figure out the details of the unknown Sector, including their stance, their civilization level, if they are a threat to us, if they will be manipulated or even conquered by the expedition army of the Imperium, and so on!
“Otherwise, it will be hilarious if formidable enemies from a mysterious world march to our door together with the expedition army of the Imperium when we think that we are certain winners after a hundred years of construction!
“Your ‘special mission’ must refer to this job, right? It’s not a big deal. Just let me go. There’s no one more suitable for the task than me!”
Professor Mo Xuan and Si Koulie looked at each. The professor coughed and said, “Li Yao, don’t rush into any decision. Let me finish first.
“The mysterious world deeply hidden in the black spot nebula is vastly different from the other space zones that are going to be explored according to the ‘Heavenly Road Plan’.
“First of all, it is extremely far away. As you can see, the Sector is almost at the edge on the star map of the Pangu civilization. It will be extremely difficult to directly jump over!
“Secondly, dozens of galaxies are around the mysterious world, all of which are covered in the hazy mist. We don’t know what is inside at all!
“To search for a Sector that has been hidden since hundreds of thousands of years ago from such an overwhelming black nebula is like fishing for a needle in an ocean. It is almost a hundred times more difficult to find than other Sectors!
“Therefore, the starship for the exploration mission must be capable of enduring hundreds of space jumps. It will also have to boast an extremely high regular cruise speed and preferably the ability to receive the signals released by the Pangu civilization. A hibernation system with full facilities is mandatory, too.
“In all three Sectors, such an exploration starship is nowhere to be found—our starship technology is still too underdeveloped. Even Sparkle, the multipurpose exploration ship of the Star Ocean Imperium, is still unqualified for the task.
“Only Spark, modified from the single escape capsule of the Pangu civilization and one size smaller than Sparkle, is good enough!
“As Fellow Cultivator Si said just now, Spark was transformed from the single escape capsule of the Pangu civilization. A lot of units from the Pangu civilization have been directly adopted, which means that the starship is a unique one. It’s unlikely that we can build a second one in the decades to come!”
Li Yao finally understood it now. He gasped, “Professor, are you saying that, with our technology right now, we can only send ‘Spark’ to accommodate one explorer into the dark nebula to look for a long-lost, mysterious world?”
“Yes.” Professor Mo Xuan nodded and said, “This will be a one-time deal. If the explorer is trapped deep inside the dark nebula, we will not even be able to rescue him. We can only abandon the mission completely and wait for him to come back one day by himself!
“That, however, is still not the most special part of the mission.”
“Huh?” Li Yao was dumbfounded. “This is still not special enough? What more problems can there possibly be?”
“The problem is that Spark is too fast,” Si Koulie said, stepping in when it came to his field. “Not only is it the fastest starship in the three Sectors, it is multiple times faster than the one in the second place. It is a real starship in the sub-light speed!
“It can accelerate to the ‘sub-light speed’ state immediately after a space jump, which is also the biggest reason why we have chosen it for the exploration mission in the dark nebula.”
“Isn’t that good?” Li Yao was puzzled. “Since Spark can perform space jumps repetitively, cruise at the sub-light speed, and has a good chance of receiving the stranger’s signals because it is modified from an escape capsule of the Pangu Clan itself, it is almost a starship tailor-made for the exploration mission. What’s wrong with a high speed?”
“Have you ever heard of the ‘Time Dilation Effect’ and the ‘Length Contraction Effect’?” Si Koulie smiled bitterly. “To put it simply, when an object gradually approaches the speed of light, the time around the object will be slowed down, and the space will be narrowed. The closer the object’s speed is to the speed of light, the more meaningless time and space will be. Once the object reaches the speed of light, time will stop, and the space will collapse into a singularity. The object will enter a state known as ‘zero space-time’!
“Reaching and even surpassing the speed of light is something utterly unimaginable for us with our technology level. Therefore, the ‘zero space-time’ state is just our speculation.
“However, that time is relatively slowed when the speed approaches the speed of light is a fact that has been observed and verified.
“Our interstellar trips in the past often bypassed the barrier of ‘lightspeed’ through space jumps in most cases. During normal cruising, it is hardly possible for our starships to be kept at a sub-light state. We can only stay in the state for a few seconds at best!
“Therefore, even if the ‘Time Dilation Effect’ and the ‘Length Contraction Effect’ do exist, their influence on us is still little to none.
“But this mission in question is a different case.
“First of all, Spark, which is to perform the mission, is the fastest starship of the three Sectors, and it can break into the sub-light state and stay in that state for a long time. Second, it has to fly for quite a while in the sub-light state in order to possibly find the mysterious Sector that is hiding deep inside the dark nebula!
“With the two factors combined, the explorer on Spark will have a very different perception of time compared to the people in the Heaven’s Origin Sector, the Flying Star Sector, and the Blood Demon Sector!
“Perhaps, according to his senses, he has only conducted the exploration for a year and a half, while in the three Sectors, decades of years have passed quickly.
“Do you understand now, Li Yao?”
Professor Mo Xuan sighed and said, “If we are truly going to explore the mysterious Sector, we can only send one explorer. But for him, even if he completes the exploration, topography, and localization tasks smoothly without any trouble, it will still be very likely that decades if not hundreds of years will have passed when he returns to the Heaven’s Origin Sector!
“This is the most special and the trickiest exploration mission in the ‘Heavenly Road Plan’.
“The sailing routes of other Sectors are all relatively clean, and their locations are clear. There isn’t too much interference. It will be best if we can find them, but if we can’t, we will still be able to immediately jump to the next space zone. If absolutely nothing is found at the end, we can still return to the federation in a couple of years to reunite with our family or join other projects.
“But this mission here is too uncertain and can potentially take too long!”
Li Yao and Ding Lingdang both fell silent.
The ‘Time Dilation Effect’ and the ‘Length Contraction Effect’?
The closer one was to the speed of light, the slower time would pass?
Decades for a single exploration mission?
It was something that the two of them had never thought of before they arrived.
“However difficult the mission is, however long it takes, and however huge the cost is, it will have to be carried out, won’t it?” Li Yao said solemnly. “Because we cannot pretend that we don’t see the mysterious new world after it jumps out of nowhere and even greets us blatantly, right?”