After Qi Zhongdao, the leader of all the Cultivators, and Wan Mingzhu, the leader of rebelling peasants, had chosen to surrender to the Imperium, there was no need to mention the rest of them.
As it turned out, hardly had Wan Mingzhu sat down when ‘Heaven Battering King’ Qi Changsheng, the other leader of rebelling peasants, who seemed much more blatant and lawless, chuckled and said, “What Mother White Lotus said was quite true. Since there is ‘autonomy’ in the Imperium of True Human Beings’ system, all we need to do is guarantee that we manage the affairs within the Ancient Sages Sector. As for exactly what system other places in the Imperium adopt and how they treat their people, it is absolutely none of our business!
“Nowadays, whoever has enough soldiers and supplies can call themself a king. As long as our fists are big enough, even if we join the Imperium, it will not be easy for them to meddle with our internal affairs! On the other hand, if our strength is insignificant to the Imperium, our struggles will be redundant no matter what we do!
“Therefore, I agree with surrendering to the Imperium first without considering so many things right now. We can always rebel again later. What’s the big deal? I’m already familiar with the secrets of the trade! Of course, we must settle on satisfactory terms and not sell so many Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators for some petty benefits! They want to hire us to fight a war? Fine. Bring us real gold!”
The leader of the bandits was indeed as straightforward as he had ever been. After giving the speech in delight while knocking the table, he scratched the stubble on his chin and grimaced at Yan Liren, who was sitting next to him. “Fellow Cultivator Yan, I’m done. What do you have to enlighten us, brother?”
Touching his big, bald head, Yan Liren casually said, “I don’t really have anything to say. Since the Imperium of True Human Beings is one of the two superpowers in the universe, I believe that they certainly have the most powerful sword arts and secret blades in the so-called… modern civilization of the Immortal Cultivators. I would very much like to find out how invincible the sword arts of the Immortal Cultivators can be. The Imperium is fine for me!”
Li Yao’s heart was colder and colder after hearing everybody’s speech. It was almost covered in a pale, icy shell. Then, he looked at Ba Xiaoyu full of expectation.
Ba Xiaoyu the Beggar was always a generous, chivalrous man who hated injustice more than anything else!
He should not agree with Imperium of True Human Beings’ practice to regard the ordinary folks as ‘humanoids’, right?
As he expected, there was hesitation, struggle, and even pain on Ba Xiaoyu the Beggar’s face, which seemed to have been mired in an invisible swamp where he could not even breathe.
Struggling hard to catch his breath for a moment, he was silent for a long time under everybody’s stare, his dry lips shivering nonstop. It was not until Meng Chixin urged him when he said in a low voice, “Can—can I abstain?”
Meng Chixin raised his eyebrow and asked, “Why would you abstain, Fellow Cultivator Ba?”
Ba Xiaoyu closed his eyes and said frustratedly, “I find it impossible to accept the Imperium of True Human Beings’ ideology to treat the ordinary people as swine. This beggar will not live in such a country for so much as one day!
“However, I do understand the formidability of the Imperium of True Human Beings, too. If we really choose to stand against it, the Ancient Sages Sector will be destined to embrace a catastrophe!
“Many people will die, many people will lose their homes, and many will scream miserably in the furious fire of war. Despite such gory prices, and even if we resist at the cost of the lives of everyone from the ordinary people to the Cultivators, I’m afraid that little will be helped. The iron hooves of the Imperium of True Human Beings will still march forward unstoppably!
“I can’t selfishly drag so many people in the Ancient Sages Sector to die together with me just because of my personal feelings!
“Your—your analyses are all quite right. Maybe right now, surrendering to the Imperium of True Human Beings is the best way out for the Ancient Sages Sector.
“I don’t want to surrender to the Imperium of True Human Beings, but I am unwilling to stop you from finding a way out for the Ancient Sages Sector. So, I choose to ‘abstain’!”
“That explains a lot.” Meng Chixin nodded, deep in thought. He asked again, “Then, if we do surrender to the Imperium, and the Ancient Sages Sector becomes part of the Imperium of True Human Beings’ territory, how are you going to deal with it, Fellow Cultivator Ba?”
Ba Xiaoyu’s face was particularly gloomy. After a long silence, he said in a low voice, “I shall go somewhere that I am tolerated. I believe that there must still be unaffiliated Cultivators in the so-called ‘modern civilization of Immortal Cultivators’, right? I will not stay in the Ancient Sages Sector to cause trouble for you. The universe is a vast place. I believe that I can certainly find a shelter for… an insignificant beggar!”
His frustration and loneliness were obvious. The vigor and hot blood when he was rushing and cursing in Roaring Tiger City had entirely gone!
Ba Xiaoyu’s choice cast everybody into silence for a long time.
Qi Changsheng and Wan Mingzhu looked quite ill at ease. Their eyes were flickering, and they did not dare look at Ba Xiaoyu’s ugly, frustrated face.
Han Baling, on the other hand, was sneering in derision. He seemed to think little of Ba Xiaoyu, who was a deserter in his eyes.
Qi Zhongdao sighed with mixed feelings. His eyes were unfocused. There was no telling if he was recalling the night when they were chatting with each other over the delicious wine after they unveiled the scheme of the ‘Black Devil Cult’ together outside of Roaring Tiger City!
Li Yao sighed to himself, too. The beggar, who was the most promising candidate to stand up to the Imperium, had bent!
Eventually, it was Master Bitter Cicada who broke the embarrassing impasse and softly said, “I choose the Imperium of True Human Beings.”
What! Li Yao shrieked loudly in his heart and could not help but bulge his eyes.
“Monk, you—” Ba Xiaoyu and the other Cultivators at the meeting were all slightly dazed.
Regardless of their stances, they had thought that Master Bitter Cicada would be the target that they would spend the most time convincing. Why did he choose such an attitude?
“It’s true that the Imperium of True Human Beings’ ideology goes against my wishes and the principle of the universal benevolence of the Stupa Sect. Logically, I should choose to go away and be an unaffiliated Cultivator somewhere in the universe exactly like Fellow Cultivator Ba.”
Emotionlessly, Master Bitter Cicada said, one word after another, “However, just like you said yourself, Fellow Cultivator Ba, for the safety of the billions of living souls in the Ancient Sages Sector, we have to surrender to the Imperium of True Human Beings.
“After we surrender to the Imperium of True Human Beings, it is very possible that the affairs of the Ancient Sages Sector will be decided by the twelve of us.
“You and I are free to go away because we are not fond of the Imperium of True Human Beings’ ideology. Out of sight, out of mind. However, as a result, the future of the Ancient Sages Sector, and the safety and happiness of the folks, will fall into the hands of… the other fellow Cultivators sitting here.
“Not that I’m biased against any fellow Cultivators here, but Fellow Cultivator Ba, do you really want to see some of them to seize power?”
Master Bitter Cicada’s eyes suddenly turned sharp, not disguising his mistrust of Wan Mingzhu, Qi Changsheng, and some others at all!
Wan Mingzhu sensed the obvious unfriendliness in the monk’s eyes. She sneered and said, “Master Bitter Cicada, there is no need to beat about the bush. You obviously don’t trust the homeless bandits and the rebelling peasants, do you?”
“It’s inappropriate for a monk to lie. Yes. I don’t trust Fellow Cultivator Wan, Fellow Cultivator Qi, Fellow Cultivator Han Baling, and Fellow Cultivator Wang Xi at all!
“You are the infamous Four Rapscallions. I really can’t choose to go away for the peace of my mind while leaving the future of the Ancient Sages Sector and the lives of billions of people in your hands!”
“Good monk!” Wan Mingzhu burst into fury, with cold air flowing out of her body. “I knew that you are just a puppet monk that the court and the major sects throw out to enchant the general public and corrupt our determination for resistance! What about the Four Rapscallions? Was the world a peaceful, prosperous place where everyone lived happily before the Four Rapscallions existed? Just ask yourself! Disasters and suffering were as frequent as today!
“Open your goddamn eyes and watch carefully. It is the court and the Cultivation sects behind you that have caused the disasters and suffering, and the disasters and suffering created the Four Rapscallions. The Four Rapscallions never created the disasters and suffering!
“Hehe. I don’t trust you as much as you don’t trust me, monk! The most vicious people in the world are the bald ones, and the worst people are the wretched monks like you who don’t work but just recite your sutras every day!”
Wan Mingzhu was originally a homeless peasant. She only grasped the phantomic techniques slowly after absorbing the fury and hatred of many poor folks. In peacetime, she was able to pretend that she was a civilized Cultivator like everybody else. However, after she burst into fury and began cursing, everybody was frowning hard.
Black flames of spiritual energy surrounded Meng Chixin and condensed thousands of wolf heads that were opening their bloody mouths grimacing at Wan Mingzhu. “Fellow Cultivator Wan, just now, we all agreed that everybody would be free to say whatever is on their mind. Anything can and should be discussed openly! This is a time that calls for solidarity. Why are you cursing somebody else?”
Wan Mingzhu narrowed his eyes and stared at the raging wolves behind Meng Chixin for a long time. Invisible spindrifts seemed to be surging between the two spectral Cultivators!
In the end, it was Wan Mingzhu who retreated first under Meng Chixin’s glare. She smiled back at Master Bitter Cicada and said, “Master Bitter Cicada, I am too blunt to keep anything to myself. You are a great monk, and you must forgive what I said.
“Getting back to our topic, judging from what I’ve heard, you seem to have made up your mind to conspire with the bandits and rebellions such as us and surrender to the Imperium, right, Master Bitter Cicada?”
Emotionlessly, Master Bitter Cicada replied, “I will stand where the folks of the Ancient Sages Sector stand. There’s no way that I will abandon them.”
“Oh?” Wan Mingzhu rolled her eyes and laughed. “However, after we surrender to the Imperium, chances are that we will have to march to foreign worlds together with the fleet of the Imperium. We will burn, kill, and plunder. Master, will you go with us, or will you stay back in the Ancient Sages Sector pretending that you know nothing about it while watching us feed the poor people with the abundant trophies that we have pillaged?”