“Wait!” Meng Chixin interrupted her. “Expanding the territory and conquering the foreign worlds should be a mission of the utmost glory. Why does it seem to be considered a lesser, menial job in the Imperium?”
“You—you may not know this, but…” Heiye Lan smiled miserably and explained the reason.
When the Imperium of True Human Beings was first founded and occupied the center of the cosmos including the Empyreal Terminus Sector, expanding the territory and controlling more Sectors and space zones were certainly of paramount importance. At that time, even the war against the Covenant Alliance was not nearly as important as the expansion of territory. The best legions and fleets were all deployed to conquer more worlds.
However, after a thousand years of development, the Imperium of True Human Beings had already subjugated most of the prosperous areas in the Star Ocean Imperium.
The rest of the prosperous areas were under the control of the Covenant Alliance, and it was not easy to seize them.
The two superpowers had essentially divided the entire ‘central plateaus’. All that was left were the desolate worlds that were extremely far away and short of resources.
The universe was too vast a place, and it could be very tricky to find a world that was of value to be developed and habitable for human beings. Those desolate worlds were scattered at the edge of the boundless cosmos, hundreds if not thousands of lightyears away from each other!
When an imperial fleet marched out to explore the foreign lands, it was possible that the fleet would fail to find any target worth conquering after wasting hundreds of years. Even the places where civilizations were thriving as marked in the ancient star maps could have ended up as wastelands because of the passage of time or the apocalypses!
In other words, at such a time, exploring the foreign lands became a dirty, exhausting job. It could consume tremendous time without any promise of a satisfactory yield!
The Black Wind Fleet, as a high and mighty elite troop, should have been making great contributions in the war against the Covenant Alliance and reap a lot of resources as a reward. But now, it was dispatched to carry out exploration and colonization tasks that could potentially take hundreds of years as if it were one of those mediocre troops. The fleet could get absolutely no benefits after hundreds of years of hard work. Of course, the warriors of the fleet felt helpless and humiliated!
“None of us were willing to carry out the colonization task. The only thing that was on our mind was to take our home Sector back.”
Heiye Lan’s cheeks were shivering as she gnashed her teeth. “But it didn’t change the fact that we lost the battle. So many other elite legions in the Imperium were coveting us. If we remained disobedient, we would’ve truly been disbanded!
“As it happened, the Imperium received a fuzzy signal sent from a certain Sector at the edge of the cosmos by a star child—well, that’s some sort of scout—who was sent hundreds of years ago. The signal suggested that something was out there.
“Therefore, we accepted the colonization task. While gathering resources and exploring the surroundings, we flew toward the general coordinates of the source of the fuzzy signal.”
Li Yao thought of something. He realized that Heiye Lan was talking about the signal sent through the space gate near Spider Den by the star child who directed the ‘riot of the Immortal Cultivators’ in the Flying Star Sector more than a hundred years ago!
Everything made perfect sense now!
“You’ve been on your way for more than a hundred years?” Meng Chixin asked with great interest.
“Yes,” Heiye Lan replied dutifully. “In the boundless sea of stars, it is perfectly normal for a colonization task or a war to take three to five hundred years. Our war against the Covenant Alliance has been on for a thousand years. It is an out-and-out millennium war! A hundred years isn’t really a long time.”
“You…” Meng Chixin thought for a moment and asked, “Can’t you just teleport yourselves over directly?”
“We can’t.” Heiye Lan shook her head. “The coordinates sent back by the star child were too obscure. If we had performed a space jump recklessly, it would’ve been very likely for us to lose our direction in the storms in the four-dimensional universe and be ripped into shreds by the super tempests!”
The locals of the Ancient Sages Sector understood the notion of ‘super tempests’ very well. They all nodded.
“Also, we were not in a hurry to reach the destination,” Heiye Lan said. “We simply collected resources and explored on our way, hoping to establish a stable base at the rear of the Imperium.
“As the saying goes, many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. It was possible that we might find some unknown worlds or resource planets on our way that were more valuable than the target that we had set in advance. This is not unusual in the colonization tasks.”
“You spent a hundred years on a big boat.” Wu Suiyun asked, “Is the life not monotonous?”
“We’re used to it,” Heiye Lan said. “The Imperium boasts very advanced hibernation technologies. Most of the crew members pass the long journey in hibernation. Only a small portion of them are awake and take turns to train themselves and explore the situation in the universe nearby. Although we have lived a hundred years on the warship, the time when we are really awake is probably less than ten years.
“Also, our warship is huge. It is like a super large town with all kinds of facilities. You can spend your entire life on it. You can even get married and have children!”
The Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators found it hard to imagine how living an entire life on such an enormous warship would feel like. They could not help but feel amazed.
“Therefore,” Wu Suiyun said, “the Black Wind Fleet found the Ancient Sages Sector after a hundred years of searching. Why are you alone?”
“Well…” Heiye Lan hesitated.
“Huh?” Wu Suiyun frowned and Meng Chixin sneered. All the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators were staring at Heiye Lan, their eyes glittering.
Heiye Lan sensed that her every nerve had been tied up by the spiritual threads from the two Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators, and it would barely possible for her to deceive them with lies. If anything, they would only grow hostile and vigilant to the Imperium, which was not good for her follow-up plans. Therefore, she simply gritted her teeth and spoke the truth. “The Black Wind Fleet did not discover the Ancient Sages Sector. You were not our initial target at all. I only escaped to this place by accident when I was hunted by my enemy!”
“You were hunted?”
Everyone, including Li Yao, was slightly dazed.
Meng Chixin raised his eyebrow. “By your archenemy, the Covenant Alliance?”
With a weird expression, Heiye Lan replied, “No, it was a far-flung force named… the Star Glory Federation.”
Li Yao immediately felt that his heart was cold.
He was shrieking in his head. What’s going on here?
Why on earth does Heiye Lan, a special agent of the Imperium, know about the federation’s existence?
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it! Has the Black Wind Fleet reached the federation’s territory in advance, and the war has already broken out?
But that doesn’t seem likely. Also, Heiye Lan’s face suggests otherwise!
All the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators looked at each other in bewilderment. “An Imperium first, a Covenant Alliance later, and now a federation? What is this… federation?”
“I am not very clear myself, either.” Heiye Lan struggled to reply. “I only know that it should be a local force not far away from this area, but its overall capabilities can’t be very high. It is incomparable to the Imperium and the Covenant Alliance. Just an insignificant country in this desolate area. That’s all.”
Han Baling sniffed and asked, “Is a country in a desolate area necessarily an insignificant one?”
Heiye Lan licked her dry lips. Not responding to Han Baling’s sarcasm, she went on. “It was… about ten years ago. At that time, my hibernation period was over, and it was my turn to carry out the reconnaissance mission. I left the range of the mother fleet together with my sub-fleets.
“When we are out for scouting and exploration tasks, dozens of sub-fleets, also known as ‘claw fleets’ because they are like the claws extended from the body, will spread to places far, far away from the mother fleet to search for valuable assets separately.
“The claw fleets and the mother fleet can sometimes be a hundred lightyears away from each other. They have their independent command and combat system and can explore on their own for years!
“Well, maybe you can’t understand what ‘lightyear’ is for now. All you need to know is that the ‘scouts’ are terribly far away from the main force!
“As it turned out, the claw fleet that I was in was very lucky. Although we did not find any resource planet or habitable world, we managed to find ‘Firefly’!”
Heiye Lan’s voice was shivering in excitement.
“What’s Firefly?” Wu Suiyun asked.
“Firefly is a hostile starship that has been on the run since more than a thousand years ago. For a thousand years, it has been hiding stealthily here and there in the universe and gotten away from the siege of the imperial army many times. However, it had not been seen in the last few hundred years. Many people thought that it had gotten into an accident in some cosmic storms. As it turned out, the starship had fled from the Imperium’s territory. Still, it was caught by us!”
Heiye Lan grinned. Although she was captured and tortured, there was still valiance in her eyes.
Meng Chixin pondered for a moment and asked, “Is Firefly very important to the Imperium?”
“Well—” Heiye Lan’s eyes shuddered quickly.
“Speak. How can we cooperate if you don’t tell us everything you know honestly?” Meng Chixin smiled. Glamourous brilliance resembling auroras beamed out of his deep eyes. The brilliance condensed into different beams and crawled into Heiye Lan’s eyes like colorful snakes.
In the meantime, Wu Suiyun also played with the strings that had pierced deeply into Heiye Lan’s brain crazily!
Heiye Lan’s head was trembling uncontrollably. Her eyes were gradually frozen, and her voice became hollow.
“It’s very important.
“The original Firefly carried the leadership from the parliament of the Star Ocean Republic. They were the last resistance of the Star Ocean Republic and claimed to be the ‘rightful government of the Star Ocean Republic’. Firefly was the last territory of the Star Ocean Republic!”
“The Star Ocean Republic was the previous dynasty in the Imperium of True Human Beings, right?” Meng Chixin smiled. “I understand it now. The former officials of the previous dynasty were on that starship, which meant that the previous dynasty hadn’t entirely been overthrown yet. No wonder you were so nervous.”
With a hollow voice, Heiye Lan said, “The Star Ocean Republic adopted a parliamentary-republic system. It wasn’t really a dynasty.
“However, rumor has it that part of the leadership stole the important ‘Star Ocean Seal’ of the parliament when they escaped from the Empyreal Terminus Sector. The seal was made of the pieces of the imperial seal of the Star Ocean Imperium ten thousand years ago and represented the supreme power in the universe! In the legends, it also concerned a great secret related to the Supreme Emperor!”
Meng Chixin’s eyes suddenly shone. “A national seal?”
Heiye Lan’s eyes moved for a moment. “Not exactly a national seal. The Imperium has ruled for long enough. It cannot be shaken by a single seal.
“However, it was still a great trouble that the remnants on Firefly wandered in the universe with the pieces of the imperial seal of the Star Ocean Imperium in the past.
“The Imperium of True Human Beings has organized hundreds of sieges in the past thousand years, but Firefly got away from all of them like a slippery loach!
“Now that we had run into it, how could we let it get away?”