Li Yao could clearly sense Cui Lingfeng’s shaking belief that was like the flickering starry light in the dark space. He could not help hurrying to say, “Sir Speaker, you are not confused by the so-called ‘Immortal Cultivator 2.0’ that Lu Qingchen and Ding Zhengyang proposed, right?”
“No.” Cui Lingfeng shook his head. “Before Ding Zhengyang said anything, and even before we encountered the Star Glory Federation, I was thinking about these questions.
“Do you know why I have always objected to the integration with the Star Glory Federation? It is partly because of the stubborn pride of the Star Ocean Republic and the mistrust for the federation. But more importantly, it is probably because my suspicion about us.
“The Star Ocean Republic in the past, the great nation in the golden age that had yet to produce the monstrous ‘Blackstar the Great’ Wuying Qi, was definitely worth being proud of.
“But what about later? Is the ‘rightful government’ that fled in panic and drifted in the sea of stars for a thousand years after Wuying Qi was born still worth being proud of?
“Once our integration with the Star Glory Federation is accelerated, all our endeavors over the past thousand years for survival will definitely be exposed. The classified files that are locked deep inside the Speaker’s office are not all upright and blood-boiling!
“I don’t know how the people of the federation will view us after the files are disclosed and they learn about everything that’s happened to Firefly in the past thousand years.
“Will they still consider us as ‘real Cultivators’, or will they regard us as a mini civilization of the Immortal Cultivators, one that is in a different form and in the middle of degeneration, and therefore simply hate us and reject us?
“Do you understand it now? Perhaps, deep down in my heart, I do not object to joining the federation; I’m only scared that the federation will refuse us after discovering the whole truth!”
Li Yao took a deep breath. He felt that Cui Lingfeng looked different under the illumination of the profound stars in space.
Perhaps it was the most real side of the Supreme Speaker of the Star Ocean Republic.
After all the darkness, lies, and struggles, he and everyone else on board was only one step away from the Immortal Cultivators like Ding Zhengyang and Cheng Xuansu.
Staring out of the crystal dome and simply allowing the starry brilliance to dart through his old and weary body like arrows, Cui Lingfeng gloomily said, “However, we don’t have a choice.
“I don’t know whether or not Lu Qingchen’s Immortal Cultivator 2.0 forwarded by Ding Zhengyang is a universal truth, but at the very least, it does seem irrefutable on Firefly. If we hadn’t met the Star Glory Federation, we would’ve fled further into the desolate, unvisited area of the universe. How much longer could we have persisted in the path of the Cultivators when the starship became more broken, the resources became more insufficient, and the population continued to rise? In the end, without the corruption of the Imperium of True Human Beings, we would’ve automatically turned into Immortal Cultivators. The most horrible Immortal Cultivators!
“The resources in the universe are limited, whereas the boom of life can be infinite. The serious shortage of resources is a regularity for the universe. All of us—regardless of whether we are from the federation, the Imperium, the Covenant Alliance, or the Republic—are living on a slightly larger ‘Firefly’ that is sailing toward the unknown darkness. Therefore, the true path of immortality, which follows the trend of the universe, should be the ultimate guideline for a civilization that will keep the civilization flourishing forever. Captain Lin, what’s your take on such a theory?”
Li Yao was silent for such a long time under the cold, starry light that Cui Lingfeng almost thought that he could not answer the question at all. Waving his hands lethargically, he was about to end the conversation when Li Yao suddenly said, “Sir Speaker, there are cockroaches on Firefly.”
Cui Lingfeng was dazed. “Of course.”
“And more than one type of them. At least, I have sensed more than ten different mutations in the corners when I released a few random telepathic thoughts.
“In terms of ‘survival’, the cockroach is truly a very successful species. Not only is it more successful than mankind, it is also even more successful than our parent civilizations—both the Pangu civilization and the Nuwa civilization!
“According to the findings of our historians and archeologists, even our parent civilizations, the Pangu Clan and the Nuwa Clan, rose and declined somewhere around a million years ago. The whole ‘longevity’ of their civilizations could not have been more than two million years.
“But the cockroach appeared at least 350 million years ago. Up till now, the ‘longevity’ of this species is three hundred times longer than that of the Pangu Clan or the Nuwa Clan!
“During the 350 million years, countless species and civilizations that were once brilliant and glorious have been destroyed. The dinosaurs, the Pangu Clan and the Nuwa Clan, the demons… dominators of the universe in the past, the invincible tyrants and their dazzling civilizations, have all been obliterated in the tides of time.
“But the tiny cockroaches survived doggedly. Together with the prehistoric experts who conquered the universe one step after another, they expanded to every place in the three thousand Sectors and developed into billions of mutations. In the dark, cold, forsaken starships that are almost a vacuum, in the desert planets whose surface temperature is more than a hundred degrees, and in the frigid planets where a drop of water will immediately be frozen into ice… Cockroaches can adapt to the environment very quickly and live a good life everywhere.
“Although I am not sure, but there is a ninety-nine percent likelihood that, when the civilization of mankind goes completely extinct one day in the future, the cockroach will not. They will continue to ‘evolve’ in the harshest and cruelest environment and survive for another billion years or even longer!
“From that point of view, the civilization of mankind is perhaps only a passer-by in the universe, and the cockroach is the eternity.”
Cui Lingfeng finally turned around. Looking Li Yao in the eye, he frowned and said, “Captain Lin, what are you trying to say?”
“I’m trying to say, if the whole purpose of a civilization’s evolution is to make it survive longer, the ‘truth path of immortality’ is definitely not the best option for human beings, and the ‘truth path of the cockroach’ is the most optimal solution. We should figure out a way, say, by editing our genes or practicing the secret arts, to abandon everything, from our vulnerable body to our useless mercy, kindness, and morals, and turn everybody into a cockroach of a certain form. Assuming Firefly truly sinks into darkness under certain circumstances, and all the survivors become Immortal Cultivators after attacking each other, you will still not outlive the cockroaches on the starship, will you?”
Cui Lingfeng was silent and deep in thought.
“Do you think that I’m being unreasonable?” Li Yao smiled and opened his arms toward the universe. “In fact, over the past couple of days, I’ve been reflecting on the words of ‘Master Lu’ of the CFIA. The so-called ‘Immortal Cultivator 2.0’ does not sound too bad when you first hear it. It is true that darkness is the dominant hue of the universe, and survival of the fittest is the logic of nature.
“However, something suddenly occurred to me later. Does ‘civilization’ not denote violating nature and changing the universe? Since the moment our earliest ancestors ignited the very first fire and burnt a forest to the ground of an unknown planet, we have been changing the planets below our feet and the universe above our head step by step. There were good changes and bad ones. Some of them even led to catastrophic consequences. But our footsteps to march forward have never stopped. We grit our teeth to change, challenge, and conquer the universe with our will. As the ancient sages said, fighting nature is the greatest pleasure!
“The universe is so vast and invincible. The result of going against the universe is probably to be crushed into smithereens. Therefore, the Immortal Cultivators caved in and retreated. They pledge loyalty to the dark universe and surrender to its cruel nature. They allow the ‘ultimate guideline of the universe’ to change them and efface the ‘humanity’ in them that our ancestors finally accumulated after more than a hundred thousand years.
“Even so, what will become of the civilizations of the Immortal Cultivators eventually? However humble and compromising they are and however hard they try to abandon everything to distort themselves, they can never outlive cockroaches!
“No. That’s not right. In my opinion, only the species who dare declare war on the universe with their will are qualified to be called ‘civilizations’. Every ‘civilization’ is born to conquer the universe and to spread the belief of the civilization to every corner of the sea of stars!
“Without such resolution, no matter how magnificent their techniques and how powerful their armed forces, they are merely doing everything driven by their instincts for survival as pathetic toys that the universe has created!
“Therefore, Immortal Cultivator 2.0, Immortal Cultivator 5.0, or even Immortal Cultivator 100.0 are all the same to me. In my eyes, they are not qualified to be called a ‘civilization of Immortal Cultivators’ at all; they are just a bunch of iron cockroaches that live for the sake of remaining alive.
“Perhaps, they have truly pointed out part of the nature’s law. To quote the ancient Cultivators, they might have discovered the ‘heavenly rules’—the heavenly rules are unstoppable, and whoever goes against them will perish. However, Cultivation is about going against the heavens’ will in the first place. Why bother to embark on the path of Cultivation if you do not even dare go against the heavens’ will?”
The more he talked, the more excited Li Yao became. He was waving his hands, his saliva darting out.
Cui Lingfeng looked at him in a daze. Suddenly, he burst into such laughter that his face flushed, and he could barely catch his breath. Every wrinkle on his face was shivering, as if he had laughed out all the fog and darkness that had been pent up on his heart in the past thousand years.
“I’m finally convinced that you are not an Immortal Cultivator.” Dirty tears flowed out because of his laughter. “The Immortal Cultivators can never say such things. They cannot even pretend to say it. Here you are—”
He handed over a silver jade chip to Li Yao and said, “This is the key to the center of classified files of the ‘rightful government’, which was kept by Cheng Xuansu before. The center recorded all the glory and brilliance in the golden years of the Star Ocean Republic and all the darkness and ugliness in the age of escape, including stuff like the Rebirth Plan. In any case, they are indispensable parts of the Star Ocean Republic.”
Li Yao blinked and finally realized why Cui Lingfeng had invited him for a conversation.
It seemed to have been a special test.
Now that he had passed the test, he had been given… the history of the Star Ocean Republic.