The pictures displayed to the acting captain of Firefly were collected by the crystal cameras installed in various cabins and by the sensors on the crystal suits of the Immortal Cultivators.
However, even if there were ten times more crystal cameras and sensors under his control, it would still barely be possible for him to clearly see what ‘Team Red Lotus’ was exactly because Team Red Lotus was simply too fast.
It was especially so during the assault that Black Stone Jail suffered. Except for the three warriors of Team Red Lotus who walked up to the defense line slowly at the beginning, other people never showed up in front of the crystal cameras or left their appearances clearly at all, as if they were well aware of the distribution of all the crystal cameras!
Even the three of them also turned into unpredictable shadows after the explosions echoed and they took action for real. They were unstoppable flashes, they were white mist that was breaking the sonic barrier constantly, and they were residual images that lingered on the retina and the crystal cameras!
However hard Ding Zhengyang bulged his eyes, to the point that surging spiritual energy almost blew out his eyeballs, the only thing that he could see was that the Immortal Cultivators who were loyal to him were screaming miserably and dancing like marionettes fighting the invisible devils. They were thrown high up and smashed into the ground, their bones broken. Some of them were cut in half before they could react. Their crystal suits, although known as the ‘king of magical equipment’, seemed to be made of tofu, and the fracture was even smoother than a mirror!
The mind-boggling picture displayed on one of the light beams left a particularly deep impression on Ding Zhengyang.
Inside the picture, the Immortal Cultivators loyal to him seemed to have captured the trace of one of the intruders. Three crystal railguns that were a hundred meters away from each other adjusted their angle at the same time and were all aimed at the warrior of the Team Red Lotus who appeared to be a dwarf. The long-prepared magnetic rails were spluttering, and the electric arcs were pressed down like springs. The cannonballs of spiritual energy at the end of the rails could hardly wait to dart out.
Then, the picture suddenly blinked. The bald dwarf waved his hands casually, as if he were just yawning or driving away several annoying flies…
But the three crystal railguns a hundred meters away from each other broke apart at the same time, not slashed at a slant, but cut right in the middle vertically into two parts as if they were nothing more than sugarcane!
Boom, boom, boom!
The furious spiritual energy, like a flood breaking out of the dam, immediately went out of control and surged out crazily. They tied up the batteries like rampant boas and instantly evolved into three ever-expanding lightning balls. The artillerists inside, whom Ding Zhengyang had gone through a lot of trouble to turn into Immortal Cultivators, were vaporized into ash before they had the chance to scream. The only things left behind were some faint remains!
“What—what was that sword art? How can there possibly be such a terrifying sword art in the universe?”
Ding Zhengyang would not have been so surprised even if the bald dwarf had blown up the three batteries with the invincible strength of the Divinity Transformation Stage, because it was at least something that he could understand.
But he was absolutely certain that, judging from the spiritual waves around the bald dwarf, the guy was only showing the Cultivation of the peak of the Core Formation Stage at best. He had achieved everything purely with his ‘sword art’, not his ‘spiritual energy’!
Ding Zhengyang’s experience and understanding of the arts of training collapsed all of a sudden.
His ambitions fell apart at the moment, too.
“Where is the bald dwarf from exactly? This—this—this is too unbelievable!”
The explosions and riots deep inside Black Stone Jail gradually died down.
However, based on the soldiers who gave up their weapons, kneeled on the ground, and surrendered outside of the jail, Ding Zhengyang, however optimistic, found it hard to believe that the peace was because the intruders had all been annihilated.
In the meantime, on another light beam, Ding Zhengyang saw that Speaker Cui Lingfeng, who should have been dead, was striding toward the Third Military Academy, escorted by a seemingly unattractive man in a mass-produced Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit.
The man in the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit looked stranger and did not appear as tough as the bald dwarf in the Black Stone Jail.
Ding Zhengyang did not see him attack because the guy did not have to at all. Behind him and Speaker Cui, countless soldiers at the bottom level had gathered. There was no telling what kind of drugs the man had given to the disordered and disorganized soldiers, but they were a hundred times braver under his lead!
Like magma, like a red lotus, like iron torrents that were flowing forward unstoppably, they marched into the Third Military Academy, supporting Speaker Cui!
When the mysterious man raised Speaker Cui to the flag tower and broke into the arsenal with the soldiers, retrieving enough attack magical equipment to arm the thousands of students in the school, Ding Zhengyang’s last hope perished.
For a moment, he even wished that everything was simply a foul trick. Was it possible that the enemy had hacked their mainframe crystal processor and played fake videos that had been recorded previously, and all the pictures were in fact virtual and synthesized and the actual situation was not that bad?
However, the panicked screams, the desperate roars, and the cries for help in the private communication channel soon dragged Ding Zhengyang back to the cruel reality.
The air pressure was extremely low on the enormous bridge. Everyone was whispering to each other. It was the calm before the storm.
Ding Zhengyang had plotted to send Tang Dingyuan, the previous captain, to prison and control the bridge. However, of the hundreds of operators, navigators, communication officers, and other works on the bridge to keep Firefly functioning, no matter how hard he tried to influence and persuade them, only one fifth were his co-conspirators. The other eighty percent of them did not know the truth at all.
Just now, he had sent a message to them under the name of Cheng Xuansu, stating that the Immortal Cultivators had launched a rebellion that threatened the Speaker’s life and the safety of Firefly. Those people had bought it for now.
However, the best that Ding Zhengyang could do was block the pictures sent by the crystal cameras. It was impossible for him to stop all the messages between the bridge and the outside world. They would grow suspicious very soon!
What do we do?
Ding Zhengyang noticed that a lot of his co-conspirators were dropping hints at him with pale faces.
Pretending to be calm, he nodded at his subordinates, implying that everything was under control. He tried to control his nerves and muscles, as he walked to the captain’s office in the deepest part of the bridge.
After he slammed the door, his hands began trembling beyond his control. He tried four times to complete the simple movement of retrieving a secret crystal processor from his Cosmos Ring and activating a top-secret communication channel.
An extremely twisted, lackluster light beam, full of streaks and snowflakes, gradually lit up.
The ripples and snowflakes slowly condensed into a face, one whose eyes were unfocused and whose eyebrows were furrowed, as if the guy had been meditating the whole time.
The owner of the face appeared to very young, but the hair that was dangling from his head was gray. Perhaps his brain was a greedy beast that continuously sucked his vitality.
“Did I not tell you that the secret route must not be activated unless it is absolutely necessary?” the gray-haired man in the picture reproached expressionlessly.
“Master Lu!” Ding Zhengyang took a long breath in relief. “It is absolutely necessary right now! We’ve been exposed. We’re done and doomed!”
“Oh?” If Master Lu was surprised at all in his heart, he certainly did not show any of it on his face. He was as calm and peaceful as before as he said, “No need to be hasty. Take your time. Tell me what happened.”
“How can I not be hasty? It was an absolutely perfect plan, but we did not expect that the Speaker had been keeping Team Red Lotus, a secret armed force, to himself the whole time!”
Gnashing his teeth, Ding Zhengyang quickly explained the key events with a twisted face. In the end, he begged, “Master Lu, what do we do now? Can we only fall back to the Dragon Snake Space Zone now?”
“Let’s see.” Master Lu had been listening attentively the whole time and was not anxious at all even to this moment. Pondering for a moment while holding his forehead, he raised his head and stared at Ding Zhengyang.
Ding Zhengyang was impatient. “Master Lu, do you have a solution?”
“I do.” Master Lu nodded and casually said, “It’s time to sacrifice.”
“Huh?” Ding Zhengyang was slightly dazed, not knowing what he meant. “I—I beg your pardon.”
“It’s time to sacrifice!” Master Lu’s head grew huger. He seemed to have moved his head close to the crystal camera. Breathtaking brilliance was glowing out his deeply hollowed eyes, as he solemnly declared, “The situation on Firefly is hopeless now. The key is to keep the fellow Cultivators hiding in the Dragon Snake Space Zone and within the federation unaffected. Therefore, we will have to sever the arm to save the body! Sacrifice now, Fellow Cultivator Ding. Summon all our fellow Cultivators on board who are aware of the secrets and shed your blood for the true path of immortality!”
“You—you must be kidding!” Shocked, Ding Zhengyang stuttered, “This—this is not what we agreed upon in the beginning!”
“The situation right now is different from what we anticipated,” Master Lu said. “The Secret Sword Bureau and the Dim Moon Fun have been keeping an eye on us closely. The few underground branches in the Dragon Snake Space Zone risk being exposed. I cannot add to their risk by getting you there.
“The true path of immortality is a path of thorns that is rife with snakes and wolves. Everybody who walks on it must be prepared to sacrifice themselves for the civilization! Fellow Cultivator Ding, you are not scared of death, are you? Are you even an Immortal Cultivator at all if you do not have the courage to sacrifice yourself for your beliefs?”
Ding Zhengyang was rendered speechless. His face was flushing before it turned pale. “I—I—I—”
“So, you are truly scared of death.” Master Lu frowned. A third eye seemed to be opening at the center of his eyebrows. “Hehe. I wasted so much time teaching you the true path of immortality and helping you develop fellow Cultivators because I thought that you were a real Immortal Cultivator! It never occurred to me that you are just a cowardly, selfish, shameless guy who hopes to earn benefits for yourself through the true path of immortality!
“A scoundrel such as yourself is a shame to the true path of immortality. Are you even qualified to beg for my mercy and the protection of the true path of immortality? Men of different beliefs should go their separate ways. It’s time we bid each other farewell!”
“Please don’t!” Ding Zhengyang completely panicked. He begged in a low voice, “Fellow Cultivator Lu, I am a real Immortal Cultivator. Of course, I’m a real Immortal Cultivator! I am absolutely loyal to the true path of immortality! Trust me. You must trust me!”
“Alright. I’ll trust you one more time.” Eyeing him up and down, Master Lu put on a thin smile. “If you are a real Immortal Cultivator, prove yourself. It’s time you sacrifice yourself for your belief!”
Master Lu cut off the communication, and the light beam fell into darkness. There was no reply at all no matter how many times Ding Zhengyang called.