Bai Xinghe narrowed his eyes and sensed the vast sea of stars flowing past him slowly.
Li Yao also saw that a light spot that represented an apocalypse just flashed by his cheek.
Bai Xinghe opened his eyes slowly and said in an old, coarse voice, “Imagine that you are Liu the Prier, the great scholar who studied the apocalypses ten thousand years ago. You’ve finally built the observatory successfully and managed to simulate the real-time universe with the three hundred super crystal processors. You see for the first time so many apocalypses flying here and there right above your head.
“Then, what will you think?
“What is the truth about the apocalypses? Where are they from, and where will they go to?”
“The universe is a vast place. It’s perfectly normal that there are prosperous civilizations other than mankind. Now that even human beings are considering to weaponize the apocalypses, it is very likely that the apocalypses are the weapons launched by a strong civilization for the purpose of destroying or corrupting another civilization,” Li Yao replied.
It was the deduction that Li Yao and Xiong Wuji had made together on Iron Plateau.
Bai Xinghe was surprised, too. He stared at Li Yao in deep thought and remarked, “My young friend Li Yao, you are giving me more and more surprises. I didn’t know that there were such excellent young men in the world of Cultivators.
“It’s perfectly normal that you would regard the apocalypses as weapons of a different civilization after witnessing the horror of an apocalypse’s arrival.
“However, many Sectors that experienced apocalypses are actually quite underdeveloped. They are of little threat to other civilizations, like the Flying Star Sector five thousand years ago.
“Why are such harmless Sectors attacked by the apocalypses?
“Why are there so many apocalypses cruising in the sea of stars? Are they part of a cosmic war where hundreds of civilizations are involved?
“For exactly what purpose did the civilizations launch the apocalypses?”
Li Yao considered carefully for a moment and shook his head. “I don’t know.”
After a long sigh, Bai Xinghe said, “Liu the Prier was truly one of the most distinguished persons of the Star Ocean Imperium ten thousand years ago. If the civilization of mankind does exist in billions of years, maybe they will have forgotten the ‘Supreme Emperor’, but they will definitely remember Liu the Prier!
“Ten thousand years ago, Liu the Prier sat alone in this very palace below the endless stars and meditated for several years. Finally, he came up with two and a half rules that were of paramount importance!”
Li Yao raised his eyebrow. “Two and a half?”
Bai Xinghe ignored him and extended one of his fingers. He said, “Firstly, the resources of the universe are limited.”
Li Yao was dazed and almost laughed out aloud. What kind of rule was that? It was a simple fact that everybody knew!
In the world of ancient Cultivators forty thousand years ago, it was exactly because of the internal strife among the major sects, which even created a monster species named the demon race, under the pressure of quickly diminishing resources, that society finally collapsed.
Although it was widely believed that the universe was boundless, it remained unknown whether or not the universe did have a boundary. Besides, even if the universe was truly boundless, the resources available for human beings were limited anyway.
Therefore, such a rule was a correct and yet useless statement.
Bai Xinghe seemed to have foreseen his reaction. He quickly extended his second finger and said, “Secondly, chains of suspicion exist in the entire universe and among all the civilizations.”
Li Yao frowned. “What are the chains of suspicion?”
“Just think about the multiple confrontations we had just now,” Bai Xinghe explained. “It is a perfect example for the chains of suspicion.
“Li Yao, since you killed Fengyu Zhong’s only son and were under the threat of the Immortal Cultivators, theoretically speaking, your best choice was to cooperate with me. But why did you keep all kinds of traps and tricks ready to kill me at any moment?”
“Of course!” Li Yao said. “Even if I did have the motivation to work with you, I didn’t know whether or not you would stab me in the back!”
Bai Xinghe smiled and nodded. “That’s right. It was the same for me, too.
“I naturally knew that it would be best if we cooperated. But who could tell your real purpose? Who could say for sure that you would not suddenly change your attitude and stab me in the back for reasons I didn’t know?
“Look. You didn’t want to kill me, but you were scared that I wanted to kill you. So, you had to prepare to kill me at any time.
“I didn’t want to kill you, either. But I was scared that you wanted to kill me, and I was more scared that you might kill me first because you thought that I was going to kill you. Therefore, I had to kill you in advance before you killed me.
“This is a perfect example for the chain of suspicion. Quite a tongue twister, isn’t it?
“Now, let’s break the chain of suspicion and trust each other. We will work together and fight against the Immortal Cultivators together. I can make a Blood Oath that I will not kill you no matter what. Will you believe it?”
Li Yao shook his head and immediately replied, “No!”
The moment he replied, he realized the terror of the ‘chains of suspicion’.
Bai Xinghe nodded in satisfaction. “That’s right. You don’t believe me, and I don’t believe you. Even if you make ten Blood Oaths, I will still not believe you. Our peace right now is exclusively maintained by the ‘mutual deterrence’.
“Remember this, though!
“We both belong to the same species. We can communicate with each other freely. We share the same way of thinking and the same emotions. We are under the threat of a common foe. In this place, we also have abundant resources. Crystals, magical equipment, drugs, you name it. Everything is sufficient.
“Despite all the favorable circumstances, there is an unbreakable chain of suspicion between us!
“What if we remove all the favorable circumstances?
“If we don’t have the Immortal Cultivators to focus our attention on, if the resources around us are running dry with only one bottle of a high-nutrition drug left, if we belong to different species and cannot comprehend each other, like”
Bai Xinghe suddenly changed into a giant lizard that stood on its feet without giving any warning. The lumpy, thick skin of the lizard was packed with festering wounds, and stinky liquids were dripping off the wrinkles. The lizard was shrieking and waving its claws at Li Yao crazily!
Although he knew that it was an illusion created by Bai Xinghe, Li Yao could not help but jump up and unsheathe his saber.
After he drew out his weapon, however, he blinked and found that Bai Xinghe was still sitting cross-legged, staring at him peacefully.
Li Yao’s heart was pounding, and his back was soaked in sweat. He did not know that Bai Xinghe’s mental attacks were so powerful until now. He gnashed his teeth. “What were you doing?”
Bai Xinghe smiled casually. “Just now, I turned myself into a very kind alien species and bid you the highest respect in a very friendly posture.”
Li Yao almost started cursing immediately. Was the wretched appearance of the creature anything close to kindness?
But a moment later, he realized what Bai Xinghe meant.
Different civilizations originated from different planets and evolved into different appearances in different environments. It was inappropriate to judge the attitude of a different civilization against the aesthetics of human beings.
Bai Xinghe and I are both human beings. We have a common foe and almost unlimited resources. Yet, we cannot trust each other and are deeply wary of each other. If anything goes wrong, we will attack each other immediately!
If two different civilizations of entirely different life forms and with opposite ways of communication run into each other in the universe where the resources are limited, they will also have an unbreakable chain of suspicion between them, and they will constantly be wondering if the other party is trying to kill them.
Li Yao found it too scary to go any further.
Bai Xinghe said gravely, “Now you see. The resources of the universe are limited. Chains of suspicion exist among different civilizations. Under the two rules, there will only be one outcome for the universe.
“Liu the Prier described his assumption with a very vivid metaphor.
“The universe is like a dark forest. Every civilization is a hunter lurking in the darkness. They have to tread lightly and never make any sound, because countless other covetous hunters are lurking in the deeper darkness, waiting for them to expose their tracks.
“Whatever alien species a civilization finds, they should launch a fatal attack as soon as possible. Because of the chains of suspicion, nobody will cooperate with a totally different civilization sincerely. Even though two civilizations work together occasionally through approaches such as ‘mutual deterrence’, the balance can be very feeble and will collapse easily.”
Li Yao was silent.
The mutual deterrence between Bai Xinghe and him had been broken in less than one second.
No. Since the beginning, the mutual deterrence had been a trap that Bai Xinghe set up.
Right now, although a second mutual deterrence had been achieved, who could tell how long it would last?
Li Yao pondered for a while and suddenly said, “There is a loophole about the Dark Forest Theory.
“Civilizations do not necessarily need to fight each other brutally when they find each other.
“Consider such a possibilitya highly-developed civilization finds a civilization so underdeveloped that it would never be any threat to them.
“Then, is it not possible that the highly-developed civilization would consider the underdeveloped civilization slaves, pets, or cannon fodder?”
“Maybe,” Bai Xinghe replied. “That is where the last half rule that Liu the Prier proposed comes in, the ‘Child-of-Destiny Rule’.”
Li Yao was amused. “‘Child-of-Destiny Rule’? What is that? Why is it a ‘half rule’?”
“The Dark Forest Theory can be used to explain the major apocalypses,” Bai Xinghe said, “but it is not convincing enough to explain the minor apocalypses.”
Li Yao thought for a moment and realized that he was right.
The apocalypses could be divided into two kinds. The apocalypses that could destroy a planet or an entire Sector, such as those that happened to the Flying Star Sector five thousand years ago, were known as ‘major apocalypses’.
In the history of mankind, the number of major apocalypses was very low. Only two or three such events had been recorded in the history books. Most of the other tales were mixed with myths and legends that could not be verified.
What were much larger in number were the minor apocalypses that targeted individuals. There were too many of them to count.
Many Cultivators who tried to break into the Divinity Transformation Stage from the Nascent Soul Stage had experienced the minor apocalypses.
In fact, in the world of ancient Cultivators forty thousand years ago, most Cultivators had no awareness of the ‘major apocalypses’ at all. The only apocalypses they knew of were the ‘minor apocalypses’ that targeted individuals!
If the apocalypses that could destroy a planet were attacks launched by a different civilization, what were the minor apocalypses exactly?
It was unlikely that a civilization was so bored as to send an apocalypse across the vast sea of stars just in order to kill a single person, wasn’t it?