“Got the initial capital?” Li Yao could tell that the job was certainly done from Long Yangjun’s lighthearted chuckle.
“Yes. Very smoothly.” Long Yangjun’s voice was directly vibrating Li Yao’s eardrum. “As it turns out, the golden match ‘Ace Game’, which is held once every three years, is now underway in Fish Dragon City. There are various forms of competitions and gambles, and the wager is unlimited. Many magnates from other places in Fish Dragon City and even from Firefly and the Star Glory Federation have come to have fun. This is exactly the best opportunity for us to make money. We have already earned the bucket of gold.”
“Of course.” Li Yao smiled. “Nothing can possibly go wrong if Sword Maniac Yan Liren is on the move.”
Long Yangjun coughed and said, “You’re wrong about this one. Although Yan Liren’s sword is aggressive enough, he does not know the first thing about disguise. While he tried to suppress his capabilities to the Core Formation Stage, he failed to conceal his dominating aura, the desire to execute everything in his way be they gods or deities! The people here all know the trade well. Seeing his appearance, and after witnessing his two games, who would ever bet on him losing? As it turned out, he soon became the guy with the highest expectation in the ‘Ace Game’, and his odds rose time and time again. The games were completely one-sided. There was little advantage that we could make use of!
“Fellow Cultivator Ba Xiaoyu the Beggar, on the other hand, is a natural-born actor. He pretended to be stumbling through every match. He also participated in a competition where he needed secure nine victories in a row.
“Of course, we wagered all the money we had on that he could win nine times. The game alone has earned us enough money for almost five high-level crystal suits. Ha!
“It is a pity that Ba Xiaoyu has revealed his true capabilities after the winning streak. Right now, his odds have already reached the peak. We can barely take any further advantage from them.
“Thankfully, I’ve done enough investigations and locked onto a few wealthy magnates. We’ll do the job when the time is right tonight.
“Send me the dynamic account number of the anonymous crystal card now. I’ll transfer the first sum of money to you, and you’ll prepare the crystal suits and the magical equipment while waiting for our second harvest later.”
Li Yao nodded. “Alright.”
He took out an anonymous crystal card issued by the underground bank of the Dragon Snake Space Zone. After a stream of spiritual energy was inputted, the colorful surface of the crystal card immediately glittered glamorously. A random number of more than twenty digits that was changing all the time popped up.
In such a lawless place as the Dragon Snake Space Zone, many people did not want other people to trace the source and the investment of their capital. Therefore, the commonly used ‘anonymous crystal cards’ did not require any real-life files. They did not even have a fixed number. Otherwise, the account number would be leave traces for the enemies or the headhunters from the federation to follow.
Such anonymous crystal cards adopted very advanced dynamic account technology. Every crystal card was generating a new account number randomly, which was only effective for one minute. It meant that the user had a brand-new, traceless card unconditionally, anytime, anywhere.
The deposit and withdrawal through such cards naturally meant a high commission charge from the underground bank that possessed such a dynamic account algorithm. But such cards were safe, secret, and convenient enough, which made them the best tools for stealing and robbery.
As it turned out, not a moment after Li Yao had sent over the randomly generated account number, the anonymous crystal card shivered. A number that was huge enough for someone to whistle popped up.
The Dragon Snake Space Zone indeed has a lot of rich people! Li Yao thought to himself.
For him right now, however much money it was, and even if it was a few digits longer, it was nothing more than a number.
“Right. Try to keep a low profile in the magical equipment store, and be careful when you’re outside,” Long Yangjun suddenly reminded him in the communication channel. “When we were doing the reconnaissance, we felt that the atmosphere wasn’t right. Something big will happen soon. It seems that a few other forces are planning some secret operations besides our gang.
“I have tried to learn a thing or two about them. Such cases have happened before. This is a once-in-three-years super game after all. All the experts and capital of the Dragon Snake Space Zone are concentrated in this place. It’s only natural that something is wrong. Tranquility is the last thing we can expect.
“However, how should I put it? I still don’t feel good. The forces lurking in the darkness do not seem to have come for money.
“All in all, just pay attention and keep a low profile.”
“Got it,” Li Yao said. “Up till now, I have been keeping a very low profile.”
He cut off the communication and waved his hands at a worker of the test field who was standing on his toes eagerly watching the performance of the mysterious Professor Tang from Firefly.
“I want to check the special materials and components on the front part of your product catalog. But for me to check the goods, it seems I’m obliged to transfer a security deposit to the account of the magical equipment center. Can you help me arrange it?”
The worker was already dumbfounded after watching the marvelous operations that Professor Tang performed on the Azure Thunder. He did not notice that Li Yao was waving his hands at all.
“Hey!” Li Yao frowned. He snapped his fingers three times in a row in front of the worker’s nose, finally making the guy wake up. “Did you hear what I said?”
“Huh?” In a trance, the worker wiped his saliva, not entirely awakened from the shock of the incredible, extraordinary methods of adjustment performed by Professor Tang.
Li Yao sighed. “I want to submit the security deposit so that I can directly check a few pieces of magical equipment and materials in your warehouse.”
“Yes. Now. Is there a problem?”
Half an hour later, in a VIP refining workshop at the Four Sectors Magical Equipment Center, Chu Chongjiu was talking with the mysterious Professor Tang.
Now that nobody was around, Chu Chongjiu was even more respectful than before. He changed his form of address toward the mysterious girl, too. “Miss, why are you out here? The Dragon Snake Space Zone is truly a mess. I—cough, cough—I shouldn’t have pointed out your identity just now!”
“It doesn’t matter, Uncle Chu.” The mysterious Professor Tang smiled and said, “I didn’t intend to conceal my identity on my trip this time in the first place. I’m going to the Star Glory Federation to observe their election as a member of the ‘Election Observation Delegation’. It’s best that I leave some traces everywhere I go in order to show our frankness, in case… those guys spread unnecessary rumors. That’s why I took the initiative to stand out. It was really not your fault, Uncle Chu.”
“That explains a lot.” Chu Chongjiu was relieved. He thought for a moment but still lowered his voice, asking, “The Election Observation Delegation? This is your father’s arrangement, isn’t it? So to speak, has he made up his mind to get closer to the Star Glory Federation?”
“It is indeed my father’s arrangement, but we are not getting closer to the Star Glory Federation.” Professor Tang had been speaking very gently just now, but she suddenly turned determined when she talked about the issue. “We are joining the federation and integrating into it!”
Chu Chongjiu was slightly dazed before smiling bitterly. “I didn’t know that you are even more radical than Captain Tang!”
“This is not radicalness but the last chance of survival in our desperation. Other than joining the Star Glory Federation, we don’t have a choice right now!”
Deep sorrow was flowing out of the face that was hidden below her mask of light and shadow. “Uncle Chu, you know Firefly’s condition for the past thousand years, too!
“For a thousand years, we have been wandering in the sea of stars. At first, we were still able to receive supplies from the worlds that were unwilling to give in to the Imperium. The warships of many Sectors were even connected to Firefly, and a lot of rebel and elite Cultivators from countless worlds joined us, turning Firefly into an enormous amalgamation of super-large warships. We had a lot of new recruits!
“But… that’s all hundreds of years ago!
“In the last few hundred years, the Imperium of True Human Beings and the Alliance of the Holy Covenant have swallowed all the prosperous areas of the civilization of mankind. They are also extending their claws and tentacles to the corners of the universe from the heartland of the civilization. One world after another has fallen to them. The rest of the Sectors are all shuddering in fear and self-seclusion. Even if they are discovered by us, they do not dare get in touch with us at all under the horror of the Imperium and the Covenant Alliance!
“We have completely become orphans in the sea of stars. We are now an insignificant and lonely civilization of starships!
“To accommodate a civilization, and also to make the civilization stride forward, a certain population size is mandatory!
“The shortage of assets and energy, the harsh environment, and other problems on Firefly might be overcome one way or another, but we only have a population of 150 million in total, which is the maximum capacity that Firefly can support. How can so few people ensure the continuity of a great civilization?
“Uncle Chu, you and I are both refiners. Let’s just talk about the arts of refining that we are both familiar with. Tell me, how many techniques of ours have been lost over the past thousand years because we could not find enough talented heirs from the limited population on board?
“A lot of knowledge was actually grasped by only one refiner, but if he couldn’t find a suitable disciple from the hundred million people on Firefly, his lineage would be entirely gone after he passed away. Even if the techniques can be preserved through jade chips or other forms, many skills and tricks that require personal tutelage will not appear again!
“It is for this reason that our technological level and our reserve of techniques has actually been declining slowly for the past thousand years. Ours is a starship civilization that is degenerating to our doom due to the limitation of ‘population’. Nobody can deny that!”
Chu Chongjiu’s dry smile froze in his wrinkles. His face suddenly turned extremely gray as he helplessly said, “We can preserve the specialists and experts of the main fields through our hibernation technologies. They are the ultimate treasure of the Star Ocean Republic and the seeds of our civilization!”
“Indeed, we can, but leaving the side effects of prolonged hibernation aside, such an attempt is highly risky itself,” Professor Tang said gloomily. “Have you forgotten the accident a hundred and twenty years ago, Uncle Chu? In the accident, 355 masters who were in the hibernation state were instantly killed. It was a catastrophe for our civilization!”