Meng Chixin was emotionless. The dozens of spiritual threads extending from his hands were emitting weird brilliance as they churned inside Heiye Lan’s brain brutally.
Heiye Lan trembled violently with a pale face again. Blood and tears, mixed with unknown fluids, were flowing from the corner of her eyes. She was murmuring something to herself obscurely.
Li Yao pricked his ears and listened attentively for a long time, only to discover that she was simply repeating the same remarks in her subconsciousness. “Long live the Imperium! Long live the Black Wind Sector! Long live the Imperium! Long live the Black Wind Sector!”
Meng Chixin examined for a long time with his secret techniques but seemed unable to find any evidence to prove that Heiye Lan was lying. After a sniff, he proceeded the interrogation. “You’ve been lurking in the Ancient Sages Sector for long enough to learn all the details about our world. In your opinion, how many assets can the Ancient Sages Sector apply for from your… Black Wind War Bank through a m—mortgage?”
“I can’t say for sure without the appraisal of the specialists.” Heiye Lan was still shivering, but her face was even calmer than before, as if her tough nerves built by the secret arts for the Immortal Cultivators in the Imperium had been adapted to the excruciating agony. “If you are truly willing to join the Imperium and cooperate with the Black Wind Fleet, I, with my familiarity with the situation of the Ancient Sages Sector, will probably be admitted to the evaluation panel, and I will certainly try my best to help you increase the size of your loan.
“However, as for exactly how many assets you can get through the mortgage, it will depend on your collateral.”
Meng Chixin and everybody else fell into a daze for a moment.
“Of course, there must be collateral,” Heiye Lan said matter-of-factly. “Do you not need a guarantor or something to prove your financial ability when you borrow money from someone in the Ancient Sages Sector?”
Meng Chixin frowned and asked, “What kind of collateral are we talking about?”
“Generally speaking,” Heiye Lan replied, “you’ll use the revenue of your court, such as salt taxes and business taxes. The collateral can also be the mines of crystals with a reasonable reserve, the monopolization rights on certain internal trading routes, and even the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators themselves, in some cases.”
Everybody was stunned again. Meng Chixin asked in confusion, “How can the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators themselves serve as collateral?”
“We believe that the Cultivators in the Nascent Soul Stage and the Divinity Transformation Stage certainly boast very powerful abilities to plunder resources,” Heiye Lan replied. “Therefore, as long as those Cultivators allow the bank to implant a barrier in their bodies, they will be able to apply for a large loan and contribution points from the bank very easily!”
“What!” Meng Chixin lost his cool and shouted, “Why would those Cultivators allow other people to implant a barrier in their bodies? Won’t they be completely at the mercy of the loaner?”
“You’re free to turn the offer down, but chances are that some other Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators will agree,” Heiye Lan said. “After other Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators agree to the bank’s request and receive tremendous resources from the bank through mortgages after the barrier is implanted, their training speed will certainly be higher than yours, and they will soon be stronger than you. Then, they will be able to beat or kill you directly!
“Faced with such a threat, will you accept the bank’s terms or not?”
Meng Chixin was silent for a long time.
The Wolf God, who had once galloped and dominated the Dark Cloud Prairies a hundred years ago, could not help but bellow, “It seems that the internal competition of the Imperium of True Human Beings is rather cruel!”
“The universe is a cruel place itself,” Heiye Lan said calmly.
Meng Chixin sneered again, “All in all, as long as we accept the assistance of the Black Wind Fleet, the taxes, mines, and trades of the Ancient Sages Sector will be strictly controlled by you, and our starships and soldiers will be trained with your gear and fight under the command of their tutors, who are sent by you. Although we seem to be independent on the surface, we will be no better than a vassal to you! This is truly a brilliant way of exploitation. It is much more clean, efficient, and inconspicuous than a blatant suppression and raid!”
“This is how the game is played in the Imperium!” Heiye Lan gnashed her teeth. “Do you really believe that somebody will help you evolve from a planetary civilization to a universal civilization selflessly without their own plans?
“If a certain force proposes such ‘enticing’ terms to you, you should really be careful!
“Those who do you favors for no reason certainly have ill intentions!
“I can’t say that our terms are generous, but the sincerity of the Imperium is more genuine in such a way if you think about it more carefully. This is just a deal that we can negotiate on. As long as you agree to surrender to the Imperium, we can discuss the specific details and conditions slowly later!”
“Well…” Meng Chixin fell silent and began pondering again.
Wu Suiyun and the nine super Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators were caught in another round of intense calculations. White mist was popping up from the skull of every Cultivator, suggesting that their brains were functioning at an extremely high speed.
Li Yao’s heart was greatly disturbed, but he pretended to be cool on the surface and simply sneered, “You’ve been talking about so many bizarre things that we don’t even understand. Are you intentionally trying to confuse us? Let me ask you this. If you are so honest, and the terms you can offer are so captivating, why didn’t you tell us in the beginning but had to implement your clandestine plan in secret?”
“Who could I tell the things to in the beginning a few years ago?” Heiye Lan asked back very sincerely. “At that time, the Ancient Sages Sector was still in chaos. Han Baling, Qi Changsheng, Wan Mingzhu, Wang Xi, or any of the other Cultivators here, none of you could decide the future of the Ancient Sages Sector. I didn’t have an appropriate candidate even if I wanted to find a partner to cooperate with!
“Besides, even if I did find some of you and tell you everything exactly as it is, would you have believed me and surrendered to the Imperium obediently?
“The locals of the desolate area tend to overestimate their capabilities and think that they are strong enough to overcome all obstacles. The people living on a tiny planet in a single Sector cannot begin to imagine the wrath of the Imperium of True Human Beings, which boasts hundreds of Sectors!
“Such tragedies have happened many times before. When the locals of a Sector in a desolate area discovered the diplomatic team sent by the Imperium, they killed the foreigners with their far greater numbers. After the fleets of the Imperium descended upon them and the most brilliant fireballs blossomed across the surface of the planet, they didn’t have an opportunity for remorse!
“If I offered to reveal my identity, this would’ve been a noteworthy risk.
“I would be killed by the barbarians that were you, and your world would be destroyed by the immense firepower of the Black Wind Fleet. It’s going to be a lose-lose. Why bother?
“Therefore, my original plan was to summon the Black Wind Fleet after the star beacon was established. I would show you the might of the Imperium first before we sat down and negotiated. I believed that everybody would be much calmer and more rational that way.
“Later, after I discovered so many intact Colossi in the Divine Palace, I thought that I could calm you down with the deterrence of a Colossus so that we could negotiate on the best way out for the Ancient Sages Sector. That’s why I began my operation. I didn’t know that everything would end up like this.
“My own life and death matter little compared to the great cause of the Imperium. It is a pity that the entire Ancient Sages Sector might be ruined because of the recklessness of a certain someone!”
“Stopping selling your alarmism!” Li Yao snapped angrily. “Why should we believe you? You said yourself that you Black Wind Cultivators have lost your hometown. The Ancient Sages Sector is such a great natural paradise with particularly dense spiritual energy. Who knows whether or not you are coveting the opulence of the Ancient Sages Sector and preparing to claim this place as your new den?”
“Well, I can’t say for sure,” Heiye Lan replied dutifully. “After all, I am not in charge in the Black Wind Fleet. I cannot speak for my father or the leadership of the fleet. I can only say that, according to my judgement, the likelihood of that is not high.”
Li Yao raised his eyebrow in disdain. “Why not?”
“If we find absolutely nothing of value in our expedition, the Ancient Sages Sector will certainly be our only target. Chances are that we will really conquer the Ancient Sages Sector and modify the place into a new Black Wind Sector as our base,” Heiye Lan admitted frankly. “However, we have already discovered the ‘government-in-exile of the Star Ocean Republic’ and the ‘Star Glory Federation’, a country in the desolate area that can build and maintain starships and Colossi. So, you are now far less important than them in our eyes!
“It is needless to mention the value of the government-in-exile of the Star Ocean Republic. The intimidation and value of the Star Glory Federation are obviously higher than those of the Ancient Sages Sector, too. They certainly have multiple well-developed Sectors in their territory anyway.
“So, the Black Wind Fleet can conquer the Star Glory Federation and occupy their territory as the new base and home of the Black Wind Cultivators. In the meantime, we can also capture Firefly and exchange the government-in-exile of the Star Ocean Republic and the Star Ocean Seal for tremendous contribution points.
“If you are willing to earnestly help us realize our plan, is there any necessity for us to lay our fingers on the Ancient Sages Sector? Wouldn’t it be straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel?”
Dangerous brilliance was flashing in Li Yao’s eyes. He laughed coldly and said, “Perhaps, the Ancient Sages Sector was indeed a ‘gnat’ in the beginning. However, a Nuwa warship and so many Colossi have been discovered in the Ancient Sages Sector right now. Do you not want them?”
“We do, but we don’t have to take them away by raiding. We can totally strike another deal that will meet both our needs.”
Heiye Lan looked at Li Yao and said honestly, “The Nuwa warship and the Colossi include the most enigmatic technology and secrets of the primeval civilizations. With the crude and primitive knowledge of your world, it is impossible for you to understand them.
“In other words, you will never bring out the full power of the Nuwa warship and the Colossi when they are in your hands. It will be only a great waste.
“Weren’t the legendary Twelve Cloud Qin Gold Statues in ancient times gradually worn out due to the lack of maintenance after years of battles?
“Your technological gap right now is severe. Chances are that your technology today is not even as good as that of the Cloud Qin Dynasty a hundred thousand years ago!
“Therefore, you might as well cooperate with the Black Wind Fleet. We will develop the assets together. Then, you can purchase a batch of starships and crystal suits from the Black Wind War Bank with your mortgage. After we are both armed, we will march to the Star Glory Federation together and dissect the barbaric country. That is the best option for you and for us!”