“Leader Cheng said that it is a theory that originates from but also transcends the true path of immortality. She said that it was an effective supplement and improvement for the true path of immortality today. However, she did not go any further with us and only told us that there would be deeper discussions after the job was done.”
“Alright,” Cui Lingfeng said solemnly. “Leave your ideology aside. Who else participated in the Immortality Orientations together with you?”
Cheng Bin shook his head. “I don’t know. During the Immortality Orientations, everybody changed into different appearances, and it was strictly forbidden to inquire about each other. Also, the participants of the Immortality Orientations must be of a similar level to myself. We were also asked to keep one-way communication with Leader Cheng. As for the members of higher levels, they had their own internal discussions and meetings.
Seeing that Cui Lingfeng was frowning in disappointment, he thought for a moment and said, “I took part in three Immortality Orientations, and one person left a deep impression on me. He should be Lieutenant Xiao Yunpeng of the Speaker’s Guard Corp. I once received training together with him a long time ago. His left leg was heavily wounded, and three artificial components were implanted into his knee to smoothen the veins. That’s why he walked in a slightly different way.
“Xiao Yunpeng of the Speaker’s Guard Corp…” Cui Lingfeng’s eyes twitched abruptly. “Anyone else?”
Cheng Bin lowered his head and said, “I—I’m not sure. I only have some random guesses. Anyway—anyway, when Leader Cheng encouraged us to do this, she said that there were our men in every critical post on Firefly. She told us to simply do the job without any concerns! So, I think…”
Cui Lingfeng interrupted him quickly. “No evidence is needed right now. Just say the names of everyone that you are suspicious of. Quickly!”
Cheng Bin swallowed hard and reported a series of names. Every name hit Cui Lingfeng like a burning bullet, making it difficult for him to breathe.
After he confessed eighteen names, he looked at Cui Lingfeng pitifully.
Cui Lingfeng could not have looked more awful. Every wrinkle on his face turned into a deep canyon. He suddenly pressed Cheng Bin’s neck and inputted a stream of spiritual energy, putting him into a coma.
After doing that, Cui Lingfeng was in a daze, his eyes mixed with the darkness of rust.
“We’re not going to the ‘No. 1 Fortress’, are we?” As if nothing had happened, Li Yao spoke casually next to him. “It appears that Speaker Cui’s close subordinates have been greatly compromised. A lot of your trusted people have betrayed you. You don’t know if the rest of them are trustworthy for the time being, either.
“That makes sense. If I were Cheng Xuansu and I was planning such a great thing, I would certainly start with those around the Speaker. I might not need to kill the Speaker at the very beginning, but I would have to find a way to make the Speaker a figurehead so that the subsequent operations would be more convenient!
“So, Speaker Cui, your five minutes are up. Have you decided where to go? I’m going to have to rescue Captain Tang and follow his orders after I escort you over!”
Cui Lingfeng struggled to turn his neck. He stared at Li Yao and said, one word after another, “My intuition tells me that ninety-five percent of what you said is indeed true.”
Li Yao nodded. “Of course. As I said, this is really just a coincidence!”
“But my intuition also tells me that the key lies in the five percent of what you said that is not true.”
Li Yao raised his hands. “It doesn’t matter whether or not you trust me. As long as Captain Tang trusts us, it will do. If he trusts me and gives us an identity under which we can enter the federation openly, we will serve him. Simple as that.”
Cui Lingfeng looked at Li Yao in the eyes. “Simple as that?”
Li Yao looked back at him honestly, too. “Yes. Simple as that.”
Cui Lingfeng took a deep, deep breath. He mumbled to himself, “I am still reluctant to believe that you are nothing more than locals from the Red Locus Sector. However, according to my calculations based on all the given information, the odds that you are from the Imperium, the Covenant Alliance, or the federation are hundreds of times lower than the odds that you are from the Red Lotus Sector. This is all too uncanny and sophisticated. I need to think about it more carefully…”
“By all means.” Checking the time on the tactical crystal processor, Li Yao tapped his wrist and said, “Why don’t you take your time to consider? I’m going back to save Captain Tang!”
After saying that, Li Yao truly turned around and strode off without looking back.
“Wait!” It was not until he had almost disappeared into the rusty darkness that every wrinkle on Cui Lingfeng’s face stopped vibrating. He made up his mind and gritted his teeth. “Tell me again. Who are you?”
Facing him with his back, Li Yao casually said, “Lin Jiu, from the Red Lotus Sector.”
“No,” Cui Lingfeng said quickly. “Your name is Lin Jiu, but you are not from the Red Lotus Sector. In fact, we have never heard of the Red Lotus Sector before. You are among the first batch of volunteers of the ‘Red Lotus Plan’ and the captain of ‘Team Red Lotus’!
“The Red Lotus Plan was a secret plan to train super warriors that was put into practice 233 years ago. The background of the plan was that, while Firefly moved further and further away from the home and the conditions of the starship got worse and worse, a lot of pessimists who lost all hope appeared among us. Those people could be swallowed by darkness and transformed into the Immortal Cultivators!
“The Immortal Cultivators lurked deep inside Firefly. In the perilous, ever-changing sea of stars, nobody was certain that those next to them would not suddenly have a mental breakdown and turn into Immortal Cultivators. Even the ‘Internal Affairs Division’, which is responsible for the internal security of Firefly, could also be compromised and sabotaged by the Immortal Cultivators!
“With that in mind, it was necessary to establish an elite squad that was above the secret police of the Internal Affairs Division and more confidential. The Speaker would control the squad personally as the last line of defense in case the Immortal Cultivators initiated a riot and everything was in peril!
“The Red Lotus Plan was proposed and implemented by ‘Shui Yian’, the Speaker 233 years ago. For absolute confidentiality, all the files concerning ‘Team Red Lotus’ were erased, and the records of the crystal processor were tampered, too, after the first batch of elite warriors were refined. They were delivered to the hibernation capsules as the specialists of non-combat fields!
“After that, the Red Lotus Plan became a top secret of top secrets that was told to the next Speaker when the previous Speaker relinquished their duty. Today, only the Speaker is aware of the existence of the Red Lotus Plan and the way to activate Team Red Lotus!
“Warriors of Team Red Lotus are all heroes. To be prepared for the blatant attacks of the Immortal Cultivators, they are willing to protect Firefly forever in prolonged hibernation. When they are woken up by the Speaker, it means that Firefly has come to the most dangerous moment.
“Under such circumstances, Team Red Lotus will only listen to the Speaker’s command. They will be authorized with all the permissions on Firefly by the Speaker. As long as the threat of the Immortal Cultivators can be extinguished, they are allowed to resort to all approaches available other than hurting the ordinary people and making use of all the resources on board!
“There were originally ninety-seven members in Team Red Lotus. However, eighty-four of them unfortunately passed away during the last malfunction accident in the hibernation cabin. Today, when they were woken up, aside from Captain Lin Jiu, there are still twelve tough secret warriors!
“Captain Lin, am I right?”
“Wow…” Li Yao exclaimed in amazement. Tilting his head and thinking for a moment, he remarked, “It sounds like Team Red Lotus is just a group of simple soldiers.”
“Of course not,” Cui Lingfeng said. “Team Red Lotus is an elite troop against the Immortal Cultivators. Other than direct assaults, they are certainly also capable of tracking, investigating, infiltrating, and even assassinating. That is, when Team Red Lotus still had all its members.
“Right now, since the number of Team Red Lotus has been greatly reduced, and we are also faced with the merger with the federation and the confrontation with the expedition army of the Imperium, the mission for Team Red Lotus needs adjusting to better reflect the current situation that is different from two hundred years ago.
“After taking care of the threat of the Immortal Cultivators on Firefly, Team Red Lotus, having been exposed, does not need to go into hibernation again. I’m planning to ask Team Red Lotus to escort a batch of trustworthy MPs to join the ‘Election Observation Delegation’ and go to the federation with Captain Tang’s men, partly to discuss the issues regarding the merger and partly to inform them of the threat of the local Immortal Cultivators of the federation. What has happened on Firefly has a lot to do with the CIFA, the organization of the local Immortal Cultivators in the federation. Therefore, the cooperation between the two parties is highly necessary in that regard.
“As for you, Captain Lin, you will visit the federation as the Special Representative of the Speaker’s Office. Any problems?”
Crossing his fingers, Cui Lingfeng stared at Li Yao.
Li Yao stared back at Cui Lingfeng for a long time, too. Amused, he shook his head and said, “Speaker Cui, did you know? When you said that you were acting for the Star Ocean Republic and you were not greedy about your power at all, I almost believed you.
“It never occurred to me that you could play such a move in order to keep your power?”
Cui Lingfeng smiled, somewhat sadly. “You think that I’m proposing the terms because I’m greedy for the power of the Speaker and I’m unwilling to see Tang Dingyuan surpass me and even kick me out of office?”
Li Yao raised his eyebrow. “Are you not?”
“No,” Cui Lingfeng said. “If we are left with no choice except to join the Star Glory Federation, Tang Dingyuan is still not the best candidate to deal with the specific affairs. I am!”
“Oh?” Li Yao said. “I’d like to hear you reasons.”
“Firstly, although many people mistake the MPs who cling to the name of the ‘Star Ocean Republic’ in parliament as shameless dogs who are waiting to sell themselves at a high price, it is not exactly the truth.”
Looking at his own hands, Cui Lingfeng said, “You don’t understand Firefly. You don’t understand what a rough journey we’ve had in the past thousand years. You cannot cruise for a thousand years in the depressing darkness without a bit of powerful spirit! They may say that we are just fooling ourselves, that we are just weaving a dream that we cannot wake up from, or that we are fooling both us and other people. Regardless, a thousand years is enough for some people to turn the words ‘Star Ocean Republic’ into a scorching stamp and etch it into the deepest part of their soul!
“Is it extreme? Perhaps. But under such circumstances, they might’ve completely collapsed had they not been so extreme, and they would’ve slid to the other extremity, the abyss of the Immortal Cultivators!
“Tang Dingyuan does not understand those people at all. He does not understand their belief and pride. He mistakes their belief for stubbornness, their persistence for idiocy, and their passion for craziness!
“Tang Dingyuan thinks that they… that we are either a bunch of obstinate lunatics or pretentious phonies. He couldn’t be more wrong!
“He won’t be able to convince those people. Only I can persuade them, my own kind!”