The question pierced into Master Bitter Cicada’s heart like a piton.
Master Bitter Cicada’s face had no hint of blood at all, and his lips were terribly pale. The handsome, dustless man before now could not have looked more devastated.
In a voice as soft as a falling dry leaf, he said, “Who else should go to hell if not me?”
There was no telling whether it was an excuse or just his self-comfort. The monk fell back to his seat after saying that, breathing heavily against the back of the seat.
Observing his face, Meng Chixin knew that Master Bitter Cicada had reached a critical moment where he was wrestling with himself.
Two days earlier, the monk had vomited blood and almost gone mentally deranged. It must have been because he could not overcome the reluctance in his heart.
If other people pushed any further, it was very possible that the monk’s head would get caught in a dilemma, and he could die abruptly!
With a solemn expression, Meng Chixin said, “I believe that whatever your choice is, Fellow Cultivators, you certainly have your own reasons and concerns. As long as they are not completely unreasonable or against common sense, there is no need to interpret them in great detail!”
Ba Xiaoyu walked forward to support Master Bitter Cicada in a hurry. His ugly face was cramping and filled with embarrassment. He said in a low voice, “Monk, it—it must’ve been very difficult for you! Your words have enlightened me. I can’t just leave everybody in the Ancient Sages Sector behind and simply go away. I will stay with you and keep the Four Rapscallions in check for the Ancient Sages Sector. We cannot allow them to turn a means to an end into a complete surrender and even implement the Imperium of True Human Beings’ systems where humans are not treated as humans.”
“Only the high and mighty Cultivators don’t treat humans as humans!” Wan Mingzhu glared and shouted, “We are poor folks in the first place and nothing like the wealthy nobles such as yourself!”
Although Ba Xiaoyu the Beggar looked poor and slovenly, he had indeed been a wealthy noble on one of the islands in the East Ocean in the beginning.
For Wan Mingzhu, who had been born a poor folk in the southeast near the ocean, her hostility toward the nobles who owned their private islands and considered serving justice their hobby, such as Ba Xiaoyu, was almost natural.
“Alright. Now that we have agreed on the same decision, there is no need to talk about anything else. Fellow Cultivator Wang, you are almost the ‘mastermind’ of the twelve of us. What’s your take?”
Meng Chixin resolved the argument and accelerated the pace of the meeting again.
Everybody looked at Long Yangjun, or Wang Xi, at the same time.
Long Yangjun’s opinion was indeed very important. One might even say that she was the most important speaker, only secondary to the two Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators.
Although, theoretically speaking, the twelve participants of the meetings were equal, they were still different from each other because of their specialties.
When it came to the technological issues concerning the Colossi or other magical equipment, Li Yao doubtlessly had the loudest voice and was the highest authority.
When personal combat ability was in need, Yan Liren would be the right person. Even the two Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators would have to respect the opinion of the Sword Maniac.
If the topic in question was about life, souls, and ghosts, everybody would have to listen to Wan Mingzhu, the mother of all ghosts, no matter how mean and acrid her words were because she was the real professional.
Qi Zhongdao was fondest of and best at setting up rules. Perhaps he could work as the organizer and the supervisor of the twelve of them and sort out the internal relations among them.
Han Baling and Meng Chixin, the disciple and the master, were both generals and commands who had ambitions and strategic views. When it came to long-term plans, they would be able to offer much more valuable opinions than Yan Liren and Ba Xiaoyu could.
What about Long Yangjun?
She was a wicked official who had dominated the court, helped the emperor manipulate the major sects, and seized power for decades. She had also established Ghost Character, a super intelligence and assassination agency that had caused a storm of blood to the world of Cultivators!
If she had to be labeled, in the eyes of most of the Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and the Divinity Transformation Stages, she was an out-and-out ‘schemer’!
Of the other eleven participants of the meeting, many might dislike, if not loathe, Long Yangjun.
But none of them would overlook her opinion on the issue!
Her opinion could possibly change many people’s minds and prompt them to reconsider their decisions!
Li Yao’s heart was racing. He thought to himself that Long Yangjun was thankfully on his side. As long as she raised an objection, the whole issue would certainly be reviewed from a new perspective. Chances were that there would be a turning point!
Ba Xiaoyu and Master Bitter Cicada were not firm about surrendering to the Imperium. It was only because they did not have better options. They could still possibly be persuaded!
Himself, Long Yangjun, Ba Xiaoyu, and Master Bitter Cicada made four dissenters. Four dissenters against eight supporters, of whom Yan Liren was not firm about the surrender, too, but merely echoing with other people. As for Han Baling and the rest of them, surrender was no different from drinking water. Rebelling again soon after surrendering was a common practice for them.
Their stances could all be changed. Therefore, the situation was still hopeful, as long as Long Yangjun—
“I choose the Imperium,” Long Yangjun said shortly.
“…” Li Yao.
Long Yangjun looked quite at ease. When she glanced at Li Yao, her face was quite natural and honest, too, as if she did not recall the deal that she had made with Li Yao two days ago or care about the consequences if Li Yao exposed her identity.
“As for the reason, I believe that the few fellow Cultivators before me have concluded it quite well. I have nothing to add for now. The Imperium of True Human Beings is our only option!”
After Long Yangjun, Wu Suiyun, the other Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivator who represented the Great Qian Dynasty, said, “I don’t like the Imperium of True Human Beings very much. However, we actually don’t know the first thing about the real situation in the universe. So, there won’t be much difference no matter what we choose. The most critical thing is that we must be united and stick together!
“Therefore, now that so many fellow Cultivators have chosen the Imperium, there is no need for me to add more trouble and conflicts. Let’s just surrender to the Imperium for now and figure out what to do after we get to know the situation in the universe!”
Now, the two Divinity Transformation Stage Cultivators and eight Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators had all chosen the Imperium of True Human Beings.
Only two Cultivators had not spoken yet, namely Master Spiritual Vulture and ‘Emperor Phoenix’ Zhu Zongyou.
Everybody’s eyes and all the pressure were on their faces and bodies!
The pressure that was as heavy as a mountain, as overwhelming as an ocean, and as smothering as a swamp turned into sweat the size of beans on the forehead of the young emperor. His countenance was changing nonstop, suggesting that he was in quite a dilemma. “I—I—I—”
Honestly speaking, Emperor Phoenix certainly did not want to surrender to the Imperium.
On one hand, Heiye Lan, the female warrior of the Imperium, had lied to him for such a long time and even pretended to be one of his ancestors. Who could bear such humiliation?
On the other hand, he was the sovereign of the Great Qian Dynasty, and now he was asked to bend to somebody else just like Ba Xiaoyu, who was a beggar; Master Bitter Cicada, who was a monk; and Qi Changsheng and Wan Mingzhu, who were bandit leaders?
Did that not mean that his ancestors’ hard work would end in his hands?
For a moment, the miserable outcomes of the countless last monarchs of their dynasties in the past flashed inside the head of Emperor Phoenix. He would rather not accept such an ending no matter what!
“Your Majesty,” Long Yangjun said to Emperor Phoenix respectfully, but she ‘happened’ to be looking at Li Yao. “How can a dragon soar in the sky if it hasn’t been concealed in the abyss for long enough? Right now, the enemy is strong, and we are weak. What’s the big deal about conceding briefly?
“Just think about when you hadn’t risen yet, Your Majesty. Did you not hide in the Thunderous Martial Temple and keep distance from the conflict in the royal palace before you made your great accomplishments? Where are the royal princes who fought heatedly in the palace right now?
“Our temporary surrender is just a means to an end. The independence of the Great Qian Dynasty will not be affected. You will still be the supreme sovereign of the Great Qian Dynasty!
“Even if the country is doomed, it can always be revived again as long as its seeds are kept. However, everything will be gone for good if you are killed and your soul is dispelled. You must think carefully before you leap, Your Majesty!”
“You—” Emperor Phoenix glared at Long Yangjun. It was obvious that he hated the powerful eunuch who had messed up the court more than anybody else.
Long Yangjun smiled. Completely ignoring Emperor Phoenix’s obvious hostility and Li Yao’s very clandestine fury, she casually said, “Your Majesty, you should be more or less a ‘disciple’ to Heiye Lan, the female warrior of the Imperium of True Human Beings. You must have a deeper understanding about the formidability of the Imperium than we do, right? As the saying goes, it is better to be the head of a hen than the tail of a phoenix. Do any of the twelve of us really mean to surrender to the Imperium of True Human Beings? But what choice do we have except to lower our head for now? This is just a means to an end, a humiliating compromise!
“Even the Cultivators in the Divinity Transformation Stage and at the peak of the Nascent Soul Stage can grit their teeth to bear the humiliation. You have great prospects ahead of you, and your accomplishments will be sung throughout all eternity, Your Majesty. Can you not be perceptive and preserve part of the strength for yourself and for the Great Qian Dynasty?”
Emperor Phoenix was rendered speechless. He wiped his sweat and closed his eyes. His eyelids shivering, he struggled to say, “I… agree to negotiate with the Imperium of True Human Beings and cooperate with them!”
Eleven of the twelve top experts of the Ancient Sages Sector had chosen the Imperium.
Eleven versus one.
Li Yao was the only one left.
Li Yao’s head was in a mess. Thousands of thoughts were dancing and colliding in his head like snowflakes.
What was Long Yangjun up to? Why did she suddenly change to the Imperium’s side? Was she not scared that he would expose her secrets in his desperation?
However, her stance did not seem very firm.
All her talk about ‘better to be the head of a hen than the tail of a phoenix’ and even the high-level Cultivators having to bear the humiliation were obviously meant to arouse the discontent deep inside every participant’s heart.
However, what would happen even if their discontent was aroused? It was eleven against one right now. Did she and he have any solution to reverse the situation?
“Fellow Cultivator Spiritual Vulture!”
While Li Yao was thinking quickly, Meng Chixin’s voice came over coldly.
“The eleven of us have made up our minds. I wonder whether or not you have a different opinion. If not, it will be settled now. Sincerely or insincerely, the Ancient Sages Sector has to join the Imperium of True Human Beings for now!”