Bai Xinghe stared at Li Yao in silence. The image of stars and apocalypses blinked on his face. Beneath the shadow of the universe, there was no telling whether he was crying or laughing.
Li Yao’s head was a mess.
He had once discussed the origins of the apocalypses with Xiong Wuji on Iron Plateau and listened to Yan Xibei, who was apparently possessed by the Blood Stripe Virus, explaining why the Blood Stripe Virus initiated the apocalypse on Iron Plateau.
Right now, everything that Bai Xinghe spoke was neatly aligning with their theories.
Was it possible that everything was true? Was the universe really a dark forest?
Li Yao gritted his teeth and shook his head.
He felt that the Dark Forest Theory had loopholes, very big ones, intuitively. However, he could not tell exactly what they were.
Maybe, it was because he did not like the Dark Forest Theory from the bottom of his heart, or a universe that was so cold and cruel!
Again, Li Yao remembered what Huangpu Xiaoya and Xiong Wuji once said.
“Even if the universe is truly nothing more than a bloody, shadowy forest, we Cultivators will burn all that we have to give out a single spark!”
“If there are no roads in the dark forest, then just set a fire and make your own road!”
Only after Li Yao learned the truth did he realize the tremendous confidence between the lines.
Taking a long breath, Li Yao held his head high and looked Bai Xinghe in the eye. He said, one word after another, “I don’t like the Dark Forest Theory. Not at all.”
Bai Xinghe laughed in amusement. “The laws of nature have nothing to do with your personal feelings. Like it or not, the dark forest is right here around us.”
“We seem to have gone off topic,” Li Yao said coldly. “How is the Dark Forest Theory, whether it is true or not, related to the Immortal Cultivators?”
Bai Xinghe’s voice turned even more ghostly as he continued his explanation. “Like I said, the dark forest is right here around us. It is not just among different civilizations. A dark forest can appear anytime inside a civilization, too!
“Have you ever heard of a bunch of people named ‘Fire Stealers’?”
Li Yao was suddenly alarmed.
Of course, he had heard the name before.
Five thousand years ago, when the Flying Star Sector encountered an apocalypse, the citizens of the Flying Star Sector were divided.
One group of people constructed an enormous space fleet, hoping to shift their entire civilization into the starships and flee from the planet. They were known as ‘spacers’.
The other group planned to concentrate all the resources of the Flying Star Sector on ‘Iron Plateau’, the capital planet, in order to build a planetary-level defense array to resist the apocalypse. They were known as ‘homers’.
Although the spacers and the homers held completely different ideologies, they were compatriots after all. Therefore, ostensible peace was maintained until the end. After negotiations, all the techniques, Cultivation arts, and the training facilities were divided into two halves, and the two groups were supposed to go their separate ways and develop on their own.
But as it turned out, a bunch of radicals among the spacers believed that Iron Plateau could never resist the apocalypse. They held the belief that it was better to keep the Cultivation arts and techniques to the spacers so that their future development would be smoother than to let those classics be buried together with the homers forever.
The radicals made thorough plans carefully for decades and eventually stole the vast majority of the Cultivation arts, techniques, and resources that were left on Iron Plateau!
Those people believed that their endeavors were to make the torch of the civilization of the Flying Star Sector burn brighter. Therefore, they called themselves ‘Fire Stealers’!
“It appears that you do,” Bai Xinghe said casually. “That’s understandable. You are the best warrior of the six tribes of Iron Plateau. How could you not know those guys who made the Iron Plateau natives unable to train normally and have to turn into ‘qi-trainers’?
“However, have you ever thought of one question?
“At that time, after the Fire Stealers took away abundant Cultivation arts, techniques, and training facilities, they left Iron Plateau in advance and retreated to the edge of the Flying Star Sector.
“By logic, the Fire Stealers had a lot of crystal warships. They were made of the experts among the spacers. Besides, they were not struck by the apocalypse from the front because they were at the edge of the Flying Star Sector.
“But today, while the offspring of the Iron Plateau natives and the space fleet, who were struck by the apocalypse, managed to survive and thrive in every space zone of the Flying Star Sector, why did the Fire Stealers who hid themselves in the edge of the Flying Star Sector vanish into thin air?”
Li Yao was dazed for a moment. It was indeed an unanswered question.
Of the three forces at that time, the homers and the spacers all endured destructive strikes, and the fleet of the Fire Stealers couldn’t have suffered more damage even if they were affected by the blast of the apocalypse, too, considering that they were hiding at the edge of the Flying Star Sector.
Where did they go in the five thousand years that followed?
After a long sigh, Bai Xinghe said, “Let me tell you what happened. After you hear the story, you may realize that ‘apocalypses’ are not the most terrifying things in the universe!”
Li Yao listened attentively and somewhat nervously.
“The radicals among the spacers, when starting Plan Prometheus, were actually not evil or shameless guys.
“On the contrary, many of them were determined and of high integrity. They were willing to sacrifice themselves for the continuation of their civilization at any time.
“They implemented Plan Prometheus with the thought of ‘one for all’ in mind.
“After stealing tremendous Cultivation arts and techniques from Iron Plateau and fleeing to the edge of the Flying Star Sector, they had maintained contact with the main fleet of the spacers at all time, claiming that they would join the main fleet when the apocalypse passed and everything was settled, and that they should be punished according to their crimes.
“Many of them even made Blood Oaths that they would kill themselves immediately after they returned.
“All the sins will be shouldered by us, with the hope that the humans of the Flying Star Sector will live long and thrive forever!”
“That was the slogan of the Fire Stealers at that time.
“It sounds selfless, ambitions, and decent, doesn’t it?”
Wearing a weird smile, Bai Xinghe continued coldly. “Then, the apocalypse arrived. However, instead of lunging at Iron Plateau, it divided into two halves and attacked Iron Plateau and the space fleet simultaneously!
“For a moment, the overwhelming apocalypse swept the two cores of the Flying Star Sector. Iron Plateau and the space fleet were each mired in the swirl of destruction. The Flying Star Sector was caught in chaos and did not recover until a thousand years later!
“The fleet of the Fire Stealers, while hiding at the edge of the Flying Star Sector, observed the arrival of the intimidating apocalypse and detected that the cores of the Flying Star Sector were wreathed in destructive strikes. Naturally, their connection with the main fleet was cut off, too, because the main fleet was crumbling and struggling in the rampant cosmic storms!
“After a certain amount of time, maybe several years, of observation and analysis, the fleet of the Fire Stealers made sure of something, which was that Iron Plateau and the space fleet had been both destroyed in the apocalypse!
“After ascertaining the ‘fact’, other than shock and grief, they were also overjoyed after the catastrophe.
“Because they had survived!
“They still boasted a fleet of a reasonably large scale as well as many experts. More importantly, they boasted countless techniques, Cultivation arts, and training facilities!
“The torch of the civilization of the Flying Star Sector had not faded away yet. Right now, they were the only hope of mankind in the Flying Star Sector!
“In a moment, the last bit of guilt in the Fire Stealers vanished!
“In retrospect, what they did had been right all the time.
“If they had not been as bold, the entire civilization of the Flying Star Sector would have been demolished!
“Right now, they were the last Flying Star citizens. They had to revive the civilization and pass on their legacy no matter the cost!”
Li Yao was fascinated.
Everything seemed very logical to this point, but Li Yao had sensed a hint of danger.
Bai Xinghe smiled and continued. “When the ecstasy from the beginning gradually faded, the last Flying Star citizens found a fatal, unresolvable conundrum.
“They were short of food and fuel.”
“What?” Li Yao blurted out.
“It’s quite understandable. Plan Prometheus was a top secret from the beginning. Naturally, they could not attract everyone’s attention by moving a lot of starships,” Bai Xinghe explained. “Therefore, the crystal warships under their control were not large in number, and they were not necessarily carriers that were most suitable for cargo.
“Cultivation arts and techniques did not take up much space. But the training facilities and the various kind of magical equipment would occupy a lot of room.
“They did not carry enough Cosmos Rings to store so much magical equipment and training facilities.
“As for food and water, it was difficult to store them for long in Cosmos Rings, too.
“In order to steal more magical equipment and training facilities, they could only modify the starships discretely by expanding the warehouses and reducing the food and fuel they carried.
“After all, according to the plan, they would stay at the edge of the Flying Star Sector for only one to two years, no longer than five, before they turned themselves in to the main fleet when the apocalypse passed.
“The point had been repetitively made in the conversation between them and the main fleet. They had stressed that they were not traitors and that the resources they carried were not enough to support a journey across Sectors. Therefore, they would have to turn themselves in in the end. Otherwise, there was no way that they could survive.
“Naturally, the main fleet carried enough food and fuel, and there was enough room to build a self-circulating biological system in space to produce new food.
“Therefore, right now, the Fire Stealers, the ‘last Flying Star citizens’, were caught in an extremely awkward situation.
“They boasted the strongest techniques of the Flying Star Sector, the most advanced magical equipment, and the most complicated training facilities!
“But they did not have the food and fuel that were mandatory for their survival!
“Without food, people would starve. Without fuel, the starships were not going anywhere. Even if the strongest magical equipment of the universe was stored in the vehicles, they were nothing more than iron coffins drifting in the boundless universe!
“What was more critical was that, before making sure that the main fleet had been destroyed, they had been drifting in the edge of the Flying Star Sector for years. Even though the most rigorous rationing system had been implemented in the beginning, there was still not much food left!”