Li Yao felt like he had fallen into an endless dream. He was a drop of water which had plunged into a boundless ocean. The crystal suit and star shuttle that covered him gradually collapsed. In the end, even his body had entirely disappeared.
The only thing left was his soul. It turned into a brilliant star joining the swirl of galaxies constituted by billions of other stars and dived to the depths of the universe.
He had completely forgotten his past and his destiny. He was fascinated by the raging sea of stars.
When he finally reached the center of the swirl and passed through a long, dark channel, he saw a splendid battlefield unfolding in front of him.
Against the dark background, billions of stars were burning furiously. Streaks of redness and streaks of blueness formed two legions that were engaged in a fierce war.
Every nebula was a soldier. The ferocious clouds of stars were the horses that they were riding, the burning brightness was their gunfire, and the spiral arms were their swords and sabers. Every spark resulting from the clashes was a new star!
The fierce war seemed to have lasted millions of years, or perhaps it had only started a moment ago. The legions of redness and blueness perished together and melted into a cluster of chaotic cosmic dust.
Li Yao's soul was still diving into the cluster of dust deeper and deeper.
After he didn't know how long, he finally realized that he was not diving, but falling.
But his heart was more tranquil than ever. It seemed to have become part of the universe.
Somebody was calling him. The voice seemed to be from the other end of the galaxy, but it did wake up his soul which had been on the brink of being lost.
Like someone who had just died, his soul was split in two halves. Part of his soul was still inside his body, locked in his crystal suit and bound to the foam seat of the star shuttle.
But the other part of his soul had been tossed lightyears away because of the inertia of the momentum before it was pulled back brutally.
Just like a spring which had been extended fully and suddenly let go, his soul bounced back and forth many times until it finally settled again inside his body.
Not knowing what was going on, Li Yao was dazed for a long time with his eyes half open. In the end, he remembered everything again. He opened his mouth and found his tongue blurred, because there was a large cluster of sour and bitter liquid inside his mouth, and he couldn't tell the difference between his blood and saliva.
He cleaned the liquid with the hygiene system of the helmet and rolled his tongue. Then he opened his mouth again. "Have we really crossed ten thousand lightyears?"
"Yes. But we're not there yet."
Captain Hong Tong freed himself from his foam seat by force and treated Yan Yangtian together with 'Dummy' Ba Weiqi.
A distance of ten thousand lightyears was too much of a burden for both the body and the brain. Yan Yangtian's soul had been shocked, resulting in minor injuries to her brain.
Li Yao shook his head to refresh himself. Besides a strong sense of nausea, he also felt numbness all over his body now that he regained control over his internal organs, limbs, and fingers.
He turned back and noticed that Ding Lingdang was waking up too. She was extending and folding her fingers one by one to warm herself up.
Li Yao barely had chance to feel relieved as the star shuttle started trembling violently as if someone had punched it right in the face. Ominous red lights were blinking inside the cabin.
Hong Tong and Ba Weiqi both fell over because of the unexpected impact.
Fortunately, after the mental guidance from Ba Weiqi, Yan Yangtian had awoken. Li Yao heard her gasping for almost ten seconds in the communication channel and her desperate cough as if she had just returned from the worst nightmare.
Hong Tong and Ba Weiqi hurried back to their seats and buried themselves in the buffer foam again. The captain bellowed, "Careful! We've been captured by the gravity of Ultimacy. But we are passing through a debris belt!"
Li Yao looked at the outside through the cabin window. From his angle, he could only see a deep, dark universe, with no sign of any stars, let alone Ultimacy.
But he did notice that many tiny metal scraps were brushing past the star shuttle.
Li Yao felt like somebody had grabbed him by his neck.
They were not teleported to the surface of Ultimacy directly, but the middle of the atmosphere and the gravity boundary.
Without any guidance of star beacons, this was already a very favorable outcome.
To teleport a star shuttle precisely to the surface of a planet ten thousand lightyears away was as difficult as hitting the wing of a fly hundreds of kilometers away with a needle.
Frankly speaking, it was already a miracle that they weren't teleported into the mantle of Ultimacy, or a galaxy nearby.
To be prepared for the expedition to ten thousand lightyears away, the five star shuttles for the mission had all been installed with a simple power system which could calculate the best route and landing spot automatically with the advanced crystal processor on board.
But this was as far as their luck went.
They'd been teleported to a debris belt occupied by space garbage in the periphery of the gravity zone of Ultimacy.
The seventy-eight crystal cameras on the outside of the star shuttle scanned the surrounding and sent the image to them.
Therefore, they all saw a space battleground that probably dated back to thousands of years ago.
Scraps of weapons and magical equipment, as well as bodies of Cultivators and demons in all kinds of bizarre shapes, were all around them.
Not far ahead were several starship remnants that were riddled with holes. There was also a lumpy star fortress of the demon race which looked like a super large hermit crab.
"Judging from the scale of the debris here, it seems that humans and demons had a fierce battle in the space around Ultimacy before, which means there must be something very important on Ultimacy!"
While he was talking, Hong Tong turned to Li Yao.
Li Yao observed for a while and commented as the magical equipment expert of the team, "Correct. Although the broken starships ahead are not very clear at this distance, it is not hard to tell from the distribution of cannons and cabins that they should be more powerful than the 'Tiger Shark' starships that we excavated before!
"The 'Tiger Shark' starships require at least five Core Formation Stage Cultivators to steer. If I had to guess, the starships in front of us can only be driven by Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators!
"Given the amount of debris, there are presumably dozens of such starships nearby. Far ahead, I can see starships of even higher levels!
"Which means, the battle here involved dozens of Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators and even stronger Cultivators!
"Although the Star Ocean Imperium was the peak of the Cultivation civilization and there were countless brilliant Cultivators, a battle including so many Nascent Soul Stage Cultivators was still a rarely-seen one!
"It is the same for the demon race. I've never seen a star fortress of such a shape before. But it should be no weaker than the star fortresses recorded in our database. Based on its enormous size, I think it is safe to conclude that it was also a high-level, or even a main force, weapon of the Demon Beast Empire!
"There must be something precious on Ultimacy that led to this great war."
Hong Tong pondered for a moment and asked, "Are the starships and the star shuttles valuable enough to be retrieved?"
Li Yao thought for a while and shook his head.
"They are not, I'm afraid. They perished together at the end of the battle after using up their spiritual energy. Also, judging from their appearance, they were detonated on purpose, too. After floating in the sea of stars for thousands of years under the scourge of cosmic dust and radiation, even perfect magical equipment turns into garbage, not to mention that they were garbage in the first place.
"I suggest that we focus on the exploration of Ultimacy for now. If we find nothing of value on Ultimacy, we can always come back and clean up this ancient battleground.
"To be honest, they are just a nuisance at the moment!"
Before Li Yao could finish his sentence, another two metal scraps hit the star shuttle heavily, making it tremble like in a storm.
The debris in front of them was becoming denser and denser. The noises of impact turned from the sound of a breeze to that of a gale.
The spiritual shield of the star shuttle was dropping down fast. The 3D model on the light beam turned from green that represented absolute safety to bright yellow that indicated the vehicle was under attack, until in the end it lit up in a dangerously orange color.
In another dozen or so seconds, it turned into desperate crimson!
The mainframe crystal processor was calculating the best dodging route. But since they were tossed into the middle of the debris zone by the inertia of the space teleportation, they were wreathed by debris with no way to escape at all.
The only solution was to accelerate downwards and breach into the atmosphere of Ultimacy as soon as possible!
Li Yao saw half of the corpse of a hideous demon crashing into the shell of the star shuttle.
The corpse had been weathered by cosmic radiation to the brink of disintegrating in the first place and only managed to maintain the basic appearance. Now after the heavy clash, it immediately broke into smithereens.
But his teammates were all screaming.
Li Yao turned around, only to find that the almost ten light beams inside the cabin were showing the same picture, which was a wrecked star shuttle more than three thousand meters in length floating in the path of their descent.
The star shuttle continued diving, trying to pass the barricade through the gaps in the middle of the starship.
Although the route calculated by the crystal processor should be precise, the scraps around them had been stirred by their movement and were flying everywhere. Who knew whether or not new scraps would fill in the gaps because of the new collisions?
The defense ability of the spiritual shield had been reduced to minimum. A minor impact would be deadly for them.
All the lights inside the star shuttle were turned off. The only feeble brightness was from a light beam. All the spiritual energy was transmitted to the mainframe crystal processor for it to overclock.
Holding their breath and keeping their eyes wide open, everyone watched the wrecked starship growing larger and larger in front of them in silence.
The star shuttle was like a small firefly dancing into the bloody mouth of a tyrannosaur.
The sharp bumps inside the starship was like the interconnecting teeth of the tyrannosaur.
The ten seconds passing through the 'teeth' felt even longer than the duration of the space teleportation to Li Yao.
It was not until the lights inside the cabin were turned on and the cabin was bathed in brightness again that everyone finally exhaled a mouthful of air in relief. They fell into their foam seats, not even having the strength to cheer.
The debris belt was left behind. In front of them was a mottled planet, half blue and half red.
The star shuttle proceeded toward the atmosphere of Ultimacy.
The atmosphere of Ultimacy was thinner than that of the Heaven's Origin Sector. Something unknown in the air cast icy flames on the cabin window, as if thousands of flowers of frost were blossoming.
After a shiver, the star shuttle broke through the atmosphere.
The mysterious Ultimacy finally revealed itself to the guests from ten thousand lightyears away!
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