“Why, you ask?” Holding the handle of the gun and touching it for a long time, Cheng Xuansu chuckled. She stared at Cui Lingfeng’s face carefully and said, “You should ask yourself that question, Sir Speaker. What kind of zealot could possibly support your sick belief and make you believe that the ‘Star Ocean Republic’ still exists, that such a ‘Firefly’ jumbled up by hundreds of piles of garbage can sail for another thousand years and even march back to the center of the cosmos to defeat the invincible Imperium of True Human Beings one day?
“Tang Dingyuan was not wrong at all. The Star Ocean Republic is long dead. It died the moment Wuying Qi barged into the supreme parliament and declared that he was the Speaker! Firefly is nothing more than its dead body, and we are the insignificant worms living inside the body that is gradually decaying!
“Marching back to the center of the cosmos? Reviving the Star Ocean Republic? It’s not going to happen. Just stop your fantasy already!”
Gazing at Cheng Xuansu, Cui Lingfeng seemed to be planning to open her skull with his eyes that were as sharp as hooks. His voice was quite low, but it was filled with desperate strength. “Xuansu, even you think so, too? Even if it is a fantasy, it is not my own dream but the dream of tens of thousands of people, including your father! Your father and so many other heroes who were exactly like him dedicated their lives to the dream without regrets. They sacrificed their everything just to leave a chance of hope for the great country a thousand years ago! How could you? How could you possibly think in such a way?”
There was nothing but indifference on Cheng Xuansu’s face, but the brightness in her artificial eyes grew darker and darker, turning from red to purple and from purple to black. She said coldly, “Let me repeat myself. That man is not my father. The so-called hope of the Star Ocean Republic is just a delusion that obstinate guys such as yourself fool yourselves with. What does it have to do with me?
“Perhaps, for you, the Star Ocean Republic really stands for an episode of great history. It means a lot of things. It is even possibly who you are! Many of you were born at the center of the cosmos and grew up in the prime of the Star Ocean Republic. You witnessed and enjoyed the magnificence and prosperity of the country yourselves, like my sperm provider did. Then, you were packed into the hibernation capsules like zombies and slept to this today for the entire voyage. It is only natural that you reminisce about the country of old that has been gone for a long time.
“But what about me?
“I was born in the cold, dark, narrow, and damp boat. Throughout my life, I have been faced with incessant disasters. Today, this cabin had a leakage. Tomorrow, that tube exploded. The day after that, a famine was caused because of a fault in the artificial greenhouse!
“Behind us are countless pursuers from the Imperium, and in front of us is the dark universe that no human beings have ever set foot in before. Our ragged starship is rusting and decaying day by day, too. There is absolutely no hope at all!
“If that was all, it might have passed, but you also have the habit of fooling yourselves with the ‘glory of the Star Ocean Republic in the past’ and telling jokes such as marching back to the center of the cosmos!
“Just because I am that man’s daughter, just because his blood flows in my veins, and just because of your continuous bullsh*t, I ‘volunteered’ to receive the harshest training from the age of five. Stimulated by the lies, I kept breaking limits, trying to change myself into a ‘hero’ just like that man, only to find that I turned myself into such a wretched appearance with injuries all over my body!
“Then, after realizing that I’d been tricked the whole time, that what I fought for in my entire life was nothing more than a joke that could never be fulfilled, isn’t ‘betrayal’ the most normal reaction that I should have?
“You asked me why I chose the Imperium of True Human Beings? Hehe. The reason is simple. I’ve had enough of the days on Firefly! The suffocating air, the narrow cabins, the tasteless food, the fears day and night, the hopeless voyage in the darkness in which everybody looks like a headless fly… I’ve had enough of everything!
“I have devoted half of my life to the carrion named the Star Ocean Republic. For the rest of my life, I am going to switch to a different way of living. I’m going to live like a real human being!”
Cui Lingfeng himself looked quite like a zombie that had been dead for a long time. He hissed, “Even so, even if you truly… hate living on Firefly, you can also choose the Star Glory Federation!”
“What’s the difference between the Star Glory Federation and the Star Ocean Republic?” Cheng Xuansu snorted. “Both of you are destined to fall under the conquest of the Imperium of True Human Beings. I have escaped once, and I do not intend to be a stray dog twice, not even if I must be killed! The Imperium can offer me everything that I want. Everything!”
“So,” Cui Lingfeng said poignantly, “you have betrayed your compatriots and degenerated into an Immortal Cultivator?”
Cheng Xuansu looked at him scornfully. “What’s the difference between a Cultivator and an Immortal Cultivator? Everybody can say the nice words. ‘Cultivators are the sabers of humanity’, or ‘Cultivators are born to protect the ordinary people’, but is it the truth?
“If the Cultivators of the Star Ocean Republic such as yourself are truly so great and so supported by the general public, how on earth did Wuying Qi have the chance to usurp the power of the supreme parliament and crown himself ‘Blackstar the Great’?
“Let’s shift to the examples that are closer. Even on the tiny Firefly, doesn’t a higher Cultivation mean better privileges and greater powers?
“The ordinary people and the ground-floor sailors live in the dark, damp, narrow cabins. Many of them do not even have their independent sleep capsules. They have to share a room with their family and go to sleep in turns.
“The high and mighty Cultivators, both the MPs and the commanders in the bridge such as Tang Dingyuan, in comparison, enjoy privileges hundreds of times better than the ordinary people, don’t you? At the very least, you don’t need to cram into the same sleep capsule in turns, right?
“There are more than a hundred Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators on Firefly, but I have never seen any Nascent Soul Stage Cultivator whose cabin is smaller than the cabin of a ground-floor sailor. And these are just the legal differences. As for the illegal businesses that the MPs under your lead have been doing, how they gather assets with their power and trade them on the black market and so on, I don’t even want to waste my time talking about them. So, what’s the difference between the Cultivators and the Immortal Cultivators? What’s essentially different between the Star Ocean Republic and the Imperium of True Human Beings?”
Cui Lingfeng’s face was flushing. “It was just a means to an end in the troubled times!”
“Of course, the troubled times.” Cheng Xuansu chuckled. “I still recall that during the last ‘trouble time’, because of a serious shortage of food, the parliament at that time even made the decision that natural conception and birth were strictly forbidden. All the sperms and eggs were frozen in order to precisely control the number of newborn babies according to the resource circulation status and the change of population. I was born through such ‘precise control’ under the policy. Does it look like something that the Cultivators should do?”
Cui Lingfeng’s eyes were twitching violently, as if his heart was being savaged hard. He breathed heavily and said, “It was a tough decision, but we didn’t have a choice. We had limited space and resources on the starship. If the population grew exponentially beyond control, there would certainly be a grave food crisis later. Everybody would’ve been caught in a terrible dog-eat-dog hell!
“The policy has proved to be effective. After a hundred years of difficulties, we finally overcame the problem of food shortage. Our society returned to normal and was back to life again!”
“Speaker,” Cheng Xuansu said, “do you think that I’m criticizing the policy from that time? No. On the contrary, I couldn’t agree with the policy more. Under the circumstances at that time, it was the only possible plan if our civilization was to be continued!
“After realizing that, I suddenly thought everything through!
“In many cases, right and wrong are meaningless, and being a Cultivator or an Immortal Cultivator are also meaningless, because we don’t have a choice.
“There are limited resources and space on Firefly, but the population can grow to infinity at any point. For the continuity of our civilization, we have made a lot of decisions that couldn’t be helped.
“Then, from a broader point of view, isn’t the entire civilization of mankind, piloted by the Imperium of True Human Beings, nothing more than a slightly larger ‘Firefly’ in the boundless dark universe? Perhaps, for the continuity of the entire civilization of mankind, the Imperium has to make a lot of decisions that can’t be helped, too!”
Cui Lingfeng was truly dazed. Pondering for a moment, he trembled hard and said, “Where… where did you learn such heterodoxy?”
Cheng Xuansu chuckled. “Do not underestimate the desolate land at the edge of the cosmos. Aren’t such places where the great hermits in the legends live? President Lu Qingchen of the CIFA is really a scholar who has done profound studies on the truth path of immortality. Many of his ideas are truly enlightening and mind-blowing!
“Alright, if you don’t have any further questions, let’s call it a day today.
“I am sorry, Speaker… No, Uncle Cui. Despite the bullsh*t with which you deceived me for decades, let me call you Uncle Cui one last time! Nobody wanted things to end up like this. Really. It’s nothing personal. It can even be barely counted as a conflict of beliefs. I just want to live a life of a real human being that I should’ve been granted a long time ago.”
Cheng Xuansu raised her pistol and aimed at the center of Cui Lingfeng’s eyebrows. “I remember that years back, when I was too exhausted to stand up because of training, you always encouraged me by saying that I could definitely make a miracle if I persisted to the end!
“However, it is a pity that the days when I believed in miracles are long gone.”
Cui Lingfeng’s face was as gray as that of a dead person. He seemed to be so aggrieved that he could not say anything anymore.
“Well…” Scratching his hair, Li Yao raised his hand, hinting that he wanted to say something.
“Huh?” Cheng Xuansu raised her eyebrow. The redness released from her artificial eyes locked on Li Yao precisely before she said, “Professor Luo De, I’m very sorry that you are involved in this incident. You can only blame yourself for your bad luck. Any last words?”
“I don’t have any last words, but there is truly something that I would like to say.”
Looking at Cui Lingfeng and then at Cheng Xuansu, Li Yao blinked and said, “Firstly, in my humble opinion, since the universe is such a vast place, there must be ‘miracles’ occasionally.
“Secondly, for the two of us, one indeed does not have much good luck today, but sadly… it is probably not me.”