Chilling, aggressive brilliance was beaming out of Heiye Lan’s swollen eyes, stinging Li Yao’s heart like a venomous bee.
Meng Chixin listened to their conversation in silence not far away. His face had been deep and indifferent, and there was no telling what was on his mind. It was not until this moment that he slowly said, “In your opinion, we have to join the Imperium of True Human Beings?”
“Do you have a second option?” Heiye Lan smiled with a face full of bruises. “You have been hiding in the dark nebula for hundreds of thousands of years without ever being discovered by the outside world. The odds are one in a billion!
“However, now that the Black Wind Fleet has expanded to this area on behalf of the Imperium, and we have discovered Firefly, which is of paramount importance, we are certainly not going to leave this space zone unexplored.
“Moreover, the Star Glory Federation, a local force nearby, has also expanded to the proximity of the dark nebula. They are capable of cross-universe colonization, too. It’s unlikely that they will stop their march of invasion!
“In any case, you will not be able to conceal yourselves any longer. Your peaceful life in the unvisited paradise as you had in the past hundreds of thousands of years is over!
“You don’t have a choice. If you don’t want to wait for countless starships, Exos, and Colossi to rain down from the sky like a meteor shower, you will have to move forward actively to embrace and be assimilated into the universe, a boundless, real world you belong to!
“Vast as the universe is, there are only two superpowers of human beings. You can choose either the Imperium or the Covenant Alliance. As I stated earlier, the ‘demi-humans’ in the Covenant Alliance are just puppets of flesh and blood that are devoid of humanity, feelings, and free will. They can’t even be called real human beings. I don’t suppose you would want to live such a life, do you?”
Meng Chixin and Wu Suiyun looked at each other. The two of them had more or less tasted the feeling themselves a hundred years earlier. They were obviously reluctant to become cold machines again.
Seeing that the two Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators were wavering, Heiye Lan bulged her eyes even wider. The blood vessels in them were also exploding out of the eyeballs. She panted and said, “Maybe the poor folks living at the bottom class of the Ancient Sages Sector will believe that, as long as they can live in safety with enough food and clothes, it doesn’t matter if they throw away their feelings, self-awareness, and independent will!
“But you are all in the Nascent Soul Stage and the Divinity Transformation Stage. You are the elites that represent the direction of humanity’s evolution! You can’t abandon your belief, your will, and your thoughts, can you? You want to promote your belief, will, and thoughts to the entire world and universe, don’t you?
“The Imperium of True Human Beings welcomes the elites such as yourselves most. Where else can you go to if not the Imperium?
“Join the Imperium and become noble and glorious Immortal Cultivators. This is the only way out for you and the only hope for the Ancient Sages Sector. Cough, cough, cough, cough!”
Anxiously, Li Yao almost could not wait to refute, but considering the subtle situation that he was in, he tried to hold back his urge.
As it turned out, somebody else spoke on his behalf. It was Long Yangjun!
Long Yangjun looked at Li Yao with a sly smile before she turned to Heiye Lan and asked, “If what you said is true, that Alliance of the Holy Covenant is certainly out of the question. However, what about the Star Glory Federation? Since they were capable of defeating your fleet, they must be reasonably strong. Why can’t the Ancient Sages Sector consider asking the Star Glory Federation for help?”
“The Star Glory Federation?” Heiye Lan chuckled in great amusement. “You certainly wouldn’t want to go to the Star Glory Federation. The Star Glory Federation is just a primitive country that you can find anywhere at the edge of the cosmos! Perhaps they have occupied a few planets or even a few Sectors. But so what? The Imperium of True Human Beings has shattered too many small countries like them throughout our history. The Black Wind Fleet alone has annihilated quite a few!
“Let me put it this way. If the Imperium of True Human Beings can be compared to the Great Qian Dynasty, and the Covenant Alliance to Ghost Qin, this Star Glory Federation will be the Southland of Sorcerers at best. No. It will only be a small tribe in the Southland of Sorcerers at best!
“With the world in chaos, it would be understandable if anyone wanted to join the Great Qian Dynasty or Ghost Qin to make a name for themselves, but what idiots would join the Southland of Sorcerers to compete for the world?
“If you are already willing to open up and join a certain force in the universe, of course, you should join the most powerful one! The Star Glory Federation? They can never offer as good terms as we can, nor can they ensure your safety. Chances are that after you join the Star Glory Federation today, you will be annihilated by the Black Wind Fleet tomorrow. You will just be buried together with the poor federal citizens!”
Long Yangjun glanced at Li Yao again and said with a smile, “That doesn’t sound right. You don’t have much contact with the Star Glory Federation. How do you know that it is just a small, insignificant country? If the federation is so weak, how could they defeat your fleet?”
“I am a warrior. I’m neither a negotiator nor a liar!” Heiye Lan gnashed her teeth. “Everything I said just now is true, including my own brutal failure and the enemy’s formidability when she was in the Colossus. I talked about the whole event in the most honest way!
“Yes. It’s true that we were defeated by the enemy, but it was just a claw fleet that had a bloody battle with Firefly first. It had almost been drained in the previous battle!
“Our enemy, on the other hand, was a main-force fleet of an enormous scale, well-prepared with sufficient gear and supplies. They also launched an unexpected assault from behind us. How could we not fail?
“Such a tactical setback equals to the loss of a squad of scouts before the strategic war between the Ghost Qin and the Great Qian Dynasty. Does it really matter to the big picture?
“As for my claim that the Star Glory Federation can’t be too strong, it is not an ungrounded hypothesis. The reason is simple. This place is the edge of the cosmos! Ever since ten thousand years ago, few planets of abundant resources have been discovered. Even planets habitable for human beings are not large in number. The spiritual energy here is not dense, and there are few important relics!
“In the universe that mankind has already explored, this is a rough land that can be compared to the Southland of Sorcerers, which is soggy and full of venomous smoke, or the vast desert in the north. By chance, one or two experts such as ‘Master Spiritual Vulture’ can be born in such places, but overall, how can a powerful country emerge out of nowhere?
“Based on our past experiences, the remote countries such as the Star Glory Federation can control five to six Sectors with a few more habitable planets at best. Their worlds are of extremely low quality—thin spiritual energy, small population, and inadequate resources. How many starships and experts can they offer?
“The Black Wind Fleet, in comparison, boasts warriors not just from the Black Wind Sector but also from another four Sectors that have also been occupied by the Covenant Alliance. Our capabilities are more than ten times higher than normal Gamma troops. The magnificence of our state-of-the-art starships is beyond my description and your imagination!
“We are all rootless duckweed who desire to make great military credits so that we can march back to our hometown and reclaim our home and honor. Therefore, we are now more determined to fight than ever!
“A remote country full of bumpkins such as the Star Glory Federation will not be able to stand one strike from our main fleet. If they do not surrender obediently, they will be blown into smithereens in less than one year!”
Long Yangjun chuckled. “There’s no need to brag. Your enemy has Colossi, too, and experts to use them. For example, the Blazing Tyrannosaur!”
Heiye Lan lowered her head and looked at her shadow before saying, “Colossi can be as different as flying swords. You should know much more clearly than I do about the gap between lousy swords and secret swords from the primeval era.
“I—I was too young and didn’t have much experience. I wasn’t qualified to use a Colossus. It’s only because I was the daughter of the commander of the Black Wind Fleet that I was given a Colossus, but it was the one in the worst state with the greatest shortage of components.
“Just because the Blazing Tyrannosaur defeated me doesn’t mean she can defeat the other experts in the Black Wind Fleet, especially the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators such as my father with his Colossus!
“You must believe me! You must also believe in the invincibility of the Black Wind Fleet and the Imperium of True Human Beings! You don’t really have a choice. You can choose the Imperium, or you can choose death!”
Long Yangjun grinned, baring her sharp teeth. “Is that a threat?”
“It’s not a threat but a fact.” Heiye Lan’s voice was both deep and hollow. It did not seem to be from her throat but from somewhere in the universe far, far away. “The Imperium is not interested in threatening anyone or any force. We are simply informing you of what will happen in the future faithfully and allowing you to choose for yourself.
“The Imperium has embraced too many Sectors and planets that are willing to cooperate and destroyed too many countries and civilizations that refused to obey. You are not the first one, nor are you going to be the last. Whatever you choose, the Imperium doesn’t care about it at all. Not at all!”
Her words cast the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators into a long silence again.
“Wait!” Li Yao suddenly said. “You keep saying that you are the daughter of the commander of the Black Wind Fleet. Then, won’t you speak ill of us in front of the commander of the Black Wind Fleet because we have tormented and interrogated you? Will he even accept our cooperation sincerely? Chances are that he will burst into fury and destroy the entire Ancient Sages Sector to avenge his daughter!”
“Hehehehe.” Heiye Lan laughed weirdly. “Master Spiritual Vulture, you don’t understand how we think. Now that my plan has failed and I’ve fallen to your hands, it proves that I am weak. Isn’t it only natural that the weak are tortured and savaged by the strong?
“Besides, you are only doing this because you want to glean valuable intelligence from me and ensure that I am not lying.
“This is pure business and nothing personal. If our roles were swapped and I was one of you, I would’ve interrogated the target in the exact same way! What’s there to hate? If I must hate something, I should hate myself for not being strong and prudent enough!”
Li Yao secretly cursed. “Do you not hate us at all? Are you really not bothered by the suffering?”
“As long as you choose the Imperium,” Heiye Lan said. “I believe that your participation is in the Imperium’s favor. If it is in the Imperium’s favor, it is in humanity’s favor!
“For the future of humanity, I can abandon and obliterate my life and soul anytime! What’s the big deal about some suffering?”