Before Li Yao could reply, Cui Lingfeng came up with yet another possibility. “Are you from the Covenant Alliance? I’m told that the latest generation of demi-humans in the Covenant Alliance can already simulate all the emotions of a normal human being. Even the Ring-Tu Test cannot distinguish them. So, you are here on behalf of the Covenant Alliance?”
Although the enemy’s enemy was not necessarily a friend, Cui Lingfeng definitely found the Alliance of the Holy Covenant slightly more affable than the Imperium of True Human Beings.
Li Yao scratched his head. “I am neither from the New Federation, nor from the Imperium, much less the Covenant Alliance. Although I do not have conclusive proof, you can figure it out if you think about it more carefully, Speaker. It is purely a coincidence that I appeared here. You were the one who chose me randomly to examine the ‘polygraph’, and then you brought me to this place later! Regardless of whether I’m from the federation, the Imperium, or the Covenant Alliance, it is impossible that I could be so prophetic that I could guess a random decision you made before you did so, right?”
Cui Lingfeng was slightly dazed. “Fair enough. For confidentiality, it is true that I never decided which refiner exactly would be testing the ‘polygraph’ in advance. Originally, I was thinking of picking a random name on the list of professors of the Refining Department of Star Ocean University at the last moment. But after I read Professor Luo De’s analysis report, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be even more confidential and secure if I summoned Professor Luo De here. Nobody at that time knew my real purpose, and therefore, nobody would play any tricks on Professor Luo De!
“Even if you are from the Covenant Alliance, you couldn’t have learnt of the decision in advance because even I didn’t know back then!
“Besides, there is no reason for the representatives of the Covenant Alliance to visit the rear of the rear of the Imperium after covering such a long journey. This place is the most underdeveloped area at the remote edge of the cosmos. It is not a critical battlefield in any sense!”
Li Yao nodded quickly, “Exactly. You do have a point, Speaker.”
“Not from the federation, not from the Imperium, and not from the Covenant Alliance. Then, who are you exactly?”
Cui Lingfeng stared at Li Yao deeply, especially his plain, unattractive hands that had resumed the previous appearance. “You were quite skilled at dismantling and analyzing the magical equipment. You were even able to mimic Professor Luo De’s style to some extent. You also boast such tough combat ability. Xuansu was a top-tier expert even taking all the warriors on Firefly into account, but she did not even have the guts to escape in front of you! You should be a ‘double-talented’ Nascent Soul Stage Cultivator who has climbed to the peak of both fighting and refining, right? It is my mistake that I did not learn the existence of such an expert at the edge of the cosmos in advance. Who are you exactly? Whose interests do you represent? For what purpose have you snuck into Firefly? Now that you’ve saved me, I believe that you want to make a deal with me, right?”
Blinking, Li Yao said, “You’re overthinking it, Speaker Cui. As I said, this is purely a coincidence. I merely saved your life for the sake that we are both Cultivators. Me and my partners are definitely going to make a deal with someone, but I’m afraid that you are not the one we’re looking for.”
“…” Cui Lingfeng was dazed.
Li Yao coughed and said, “About our identity, there is no need to conceal it anymore. You’ll know it soon enough anyway. However, you may find it hard to believe—”
“Why don’t you let me decide?”
Li Yao hesitated for a moment and said, “Well. We’re the local Cultivators of the ‘Red Lotus Sector’.”
Cui Lingfeng frowned deeply. “The Red Lotus Sector?”
“Yes. An insignificant, minor Sector,” Li Yao said, “Because our star is highly unstable, and enormous sun storms break out every now and then, the living environment in our place is terribly harsh. Even Red Lotus, the only barely habitable planet, is scourged by calamities caused by the fury of the sun. Therefore, even in the era of the Star Ocean Imperium ten thousand years ago, the Red Lotus Sector was never developed on a large scale. There were only a few residents who made their living by growing certain cash crops that could only grow in the high-heat environment and by raising spiritual animals of the fire class.
“Thankfully, for the same reason, the Armageddon Rebellion ten thousand years ago and the world-blighting battle between the Supreme Emperor and the Mad Armageddon did not affect the Red Lotus Sector much.
“In the ten thousand years that followed, the Star Ocean Imperium completely collapsed, and the Star Ocean Republic struggled to reconstruct everything. But it never had the time to explore our tiny world. In fact, wasn’t it the very purpose of Firefly to search for the minor Sectors that strayed from the center of the cosmos when the starship was built in the beginning?
“We developed independently in the extremely harsh environment for ten thousand years. The furious flames of the sun destroyed our civilization time and time, keeping the development level of our civilization to a shockingly low height where we could barely manage to survive. Everybody could only fight with the shabbiest magical equipment and their flesh and blood. Basically, well, we were no different from the ancient Cultivators in the tales.
“We lived in ignorance just like that for ten thousand years. Although the legends of the Star Ocean Imperium spread in our world, and we looked forward to the advanced civilizations of mankind, hoping that they would bring us new hope, eventually, what we got was the conquerors of the Imperium of True Human Beings.
“The Imperium of True Human Beings swallowed the Red Lotus Sector. The Immortal Cultivators destroyed our home and savaged our compatriots! The Imperium was too magnificent for us, who were still in the medieval age, to resist. Countless Cultivators of the Red Lotus Sector perished in the war against the Imperium. Most of the survivors were transformed into Immortal Cultivators and joined the army of the Imperium, establishing a new reign of terror!
“Only a few of us were lucky enough to have stolen a starship of the Imperium of True Human Beings and captured a lot of marines on it. From them, we learned the tricks to pilot a starship.
“When the army of the Imperium was not alert, we fled from the Red Lotus Sector and bid farewell to our hometown forever. I will never forget that day. It happened 443 years ago.”
Li Yao’s eyes gradually turned red, but there were no tears in them, as if his tears had long been vaporized by his fury.
His statement was almost flawless.
The Red Lotus Sector was a real existence. It was also true that the temperamental star of the Red Lotus Sector and the catastrophes that it caused had led to the slow development of the civilization there, which was in the medieval age in many respects. The Imperium of True Human Beings’ conquest over the Red Lotus Sector had taken place 450 years ago for real, too.
The Star Glory Federation had captured some members of the army of the Imperium from the claw fleet where Heiye Lan was ten years ago. After interrogating any random captive, they would prove that the Red Lotus Sector was a real thing.
Of course, as for whether or not a tiny number of Cultivators stole a starship of the army of the Imperium and escaped from the Red Locus Sector more than four hundred years ago, it could never be proved true or false.
Deep in thought, Cui Lingfeng asked without offering any remarks, “What then?”
“We were essentially another ‘Firefly’, only many times smaller. We hid here and there in the sea of stars and evaded the pursuit of the Imperium,” Li Yao said. “But we were too weak and too inexperienced at piloting the starship. Therefore, we were no match for Firefly at all. In just a couple of years, the Cultivators who escaped perished one after another, until there were only a dozen of us left in the end.
“After the survivors discussed the issue, we agreed that we could not continue like that anymore. It was not because of the Imperium’s hunting. Our starship was so insignificant that it was basically a grain of dust in the universe, and it would be very difficult for the Imperium to catch us. The biggest problem that we faced was the shortage of resources. The survivors all boasted a high Cultivation, and the resources we consumed every day were astronomical. We took few assets with us in the first place. They were far from enough for us to consume at such a rate.
“If it went on like that, we would either end up attacking and eating each other or surrender to the Imperium when we were grasped by desperation.
“We were neither willing to kill each other nor to surrender to the Imperium. Therefore, we could only wager on setting the destination of the starship to the edge of the cosmos. Then, we switched the starship to autopilot. After that, everybody entered the hibernation capsules, hoping to try our luck.
“Just like that, the starship drifted for more than four hundred years while we were all in the hibernation state, until the starship detected very intense spiritual waves nearby, which we learned later to be the space ripples triggered by the melding of the Heaven’s Origin Sector and the Blood Demon Sector. We were woken up by the mainframe crystal processor of the starship, and we blended into this place, the Dragon Snake Space Zone, in secret.
“As absolute strangers, we did not know what this place was at all and whether or not it was another territory of the Imperium. Therefore, we decided to change our appearance and conceal our name so that we could observe everything in the Dragon Snake Space Zone.
“After we discovered that there was a powerful country of Cultivators in this place named the Star Glory Federation, which was preparing to resist the Imperium of True Human Beings, we were all overjoyed and thought about collaborating with the Star Glory Federation. Or rather, well, we were even thinking of joining the federation to deal with the Imperium together, hoping that we could march back to the Red Lotus Sector one day.
“However, we did not want to go to the federal government directly, because… because…”
“Because you had your concerns,” Cui Lingfeng said. “On one hand, you were worried that the federation would not trust you but suspect you to be spies from the Imperium, in which case you would be imprisoned and interrogated. Or maybe, you brought tremendous secret treasures and techniques of the Red Lotus Sector when you escaped, which you would rather tell nobody else.
“On the other hand, you were worried that you would be manipulated or even regarded as cannon fodder by the federation because you were terribly outnumbered. Furthermore, you were worried about whether or not the Star Glory Federation was an ideal country of the real Cultivators and whether or not it boasted the capabilities to resist the Imperium, right?”
Li Yao pretended to be shocked. “How did you know?”
“Because what worried you worries me, too.” Cui Lingfeng smiled bitterly. “Alright, please continue.”
Li Yao licked his dry lips and said, “You’re quite right. We are the last hope of the Red Lotus Sector. Naturally, we brought a lot of treasures of the Red Lotus civilization when we escaped. We do not want those treasures to fall into somebody else’s hands.
“One can never be too cautious. At least, we do not want to lose all our secrets before we decide that the Star Glory Federation is really trustworthy.
“As it happened, we learned something about Firefly in Fish Dragon City. Then, I happened to run into Tang Xiaoxing, Captain Tang Dingyuan’s daughter, in a magical equipment store.”