The word ‘food’ made Li Yao shudder. He asked, “They could’ve explored the space zones nearby, or search on the remains of the fleet after the apocalypse. Perhaps they could collect enough resources to build their own space towns and recycling system.”
“You are right,” Bai Xinghe said, “but the solutions were too far away to resolve the imminent problems. Both the exploration and the search required plenty time and resources, and they had neither of those.
“Oh, I was wrong.”
Bai Xinghe put on the creepiest smile that Li Yao had ever seen, as he said, “They had resources but not enough to sustain every one of them on board.
“If all the resources were concentrated, chances were than one tenth of the Fire Stealers could survive.”
Li Yao thought of something and immediately pictured something scary in his mind.
Bai Xinghe announced gravely, “The Fire Stealers might have been people of integrity who were willing to sacrifice themselves. However, at that moment, it was not just their own lives that were at risk but the last hope of the Flying Star Sector!
“If the impasse continued, everybody would die. But if some of them were ‘sacrificed’, the rest of them might survive and have enough resources to explore new space zones and collect more debris. There would be a chance, however slim, that the ash of the humanity of the Flying Star Sector could be rekindled in the future!
“Do you see it now? The fleet of the Fire Stealers had turned into a small dark forest where the resources were limited, and everybody had a good reason to survive. Even though some of them were willing to sacrifice themselves, they were usually not alone but accompanied by their family on the starships!
“There being no other options, the Fire Stealers immediately started attacking each other!
“It is impossible to verify the details now, but in the end, about nine tenths of the Fire Stealers died in the internal strife for the competition of resources. Only one tenth of them lived on, over their companions’ dead bodies, with their companions’ resources.
“They were like ghosts wandering in the sea of stars. With whatever resources they had, they struggled hard at the edge of the Flying Star Sector for a hundred years, until the influence of the apocalypse completely passed.
“At that time, they finally received messages from the central area of the Flying Star Sector. They learned that the main fleet had not been completely destroyed by the apocalypse. Some of the starships survived and were rebuilding the civilization slowly.”
Bai Xinghe smiled, very bitterly.
“Everything seemed to be an absurd, vicious, and ironic joke.
“The only reason that motivated the Fire Stealers to attack each other by resorting to all kinds of sordid methods was that they were the last Flying Star citizens and that everything they did was meant to sustain human civilization in the Flying Star Sector.
“Therefore, although they were guilty, they were not wrong. They had no options!
“However, after they discovered other survivors, the belief that had gradually seeped into their blood over the hundred years collapsed!
“A hundred years ago, when their fathers implemented ‘Plan Prometheus’, their fathers could have gone to the court of law confidently and justifiably, despite the unforgivable crimes they had committed.
“But now it was their turn, they had no courage to face any trials.
“Because they knew that they were wrong and that they had violated the ethics of the Cultivators and even all human beings!
“Or rather, after struggling for a hundred years in the dark forest, after mauling each other willingly or unwillingly, the ethics and code of conduct for the old human beings had been ripped apart. They had established a new set of rules and ethics, the rules and ethics of the dark forest!
“Although they had the facial organs, limbs, and appearance of mankind and spoke the human language, below their skin, they had mutated into a different species. They were alien humans!
“Finally, they encountered other survivors.
“Maybe, the survivors asked of their background, and they were too ashamed to talk about it.
“Maybe, they were running out of resources again, and they simply picked up their weapons habitually.
“The bottom line was, they did not cooperate with the survivors and did what they had become most familiar with over the past hundred yearskilling and looting!”
Li Yao took a deep breath and imagined the edge of the Flying Star Sector thousands of years ago.
Hundreds of crystal warships that looked that iron coffins packed with corpses were drifting in space. They collided and exploded, releasing fatal mystic rays nonstop.
Colorful halos were appearing, like flowers that were blossoming on decayed bodies. Most of the coffins were shattered. Only few of them rushed out in the end
Were the Cultivators inside them Cultivators?
Were the human beings inside of qualified to be called human beings?
Li Yao swallowed and asked, “How do you know such secret events as if you’d seen them in person?”
Bai Xinghe said casually, “The posterity of the Fire Stealers cruised in the edge of the Flying Star Sector all the time. When the first job was done, there was no stopping it. When they met other survivors, they often hunted the victims down ruthlessly. After they gathered enough resources, they would explore new space zones. In the end, they truly found a new space zone, as well as resource planet that was left by the Star Ocean Imperium named Spider Den.”
It was an unexpected and yet reasonable answer.
Li Yao took a long breath in relief. “So, space pirates are the offspring of the Fire Stealers. That explains why the space pirates who had no technological backgrounds could develop a planet and cause chaos in the entire Flying Star Sector.”
Bai Xinghe bent down and stared at Li Yao without even blinking, before he asked creepily, “You think space pirates are merely the offspring of the Fire Stealers?”
Li Yao shivered. “What do you mean?”
Bai Xinghe’s voice seemed to be coming from a deep, deep abyss, as he said, “Do you want to hear another story?
“You’ve heard a lot of events in the history. Now, let’s talk about something closer. I’ll tell you my experience and how I came to Spider Den.”
Li Yao was somewhat shocked.
It was well-known that, when Bai Xinghe was young, the starship he boarded on was engaged in a cosmic storm. He was rescued by the space pirates that were passing by and sold to Spider Den as a slave.
Was there more to the story?
Emotionlessly like a withered tree, Bai Xinghe started narrating before Li Yao replied. “My parents were both Cultivators. But they were unaffiliated Cultivators and did not belong to any sect. They each bought one carrier both to make a living and to travel in different space zones to expand their horizon. They believed that it was beneficial for their training.
“I had been living with them on their carriers since I was born. Other than being short of playmates, my life had been quite carefree, until we encountered a super cosmic storm that almost equaled to a space swirl during a voyage when I was seven.
“In order to avoid the super cosmic storm, we deviated from our sailing route. There was no telling where we ended up. The carrier was seriously damaged. A lot of food and fuel had been destroyed. Our communication equipment was damaged, too.
“We had lost in touch with the rest of the world.
“At that time, a starship larger than ours was involved in the same cosmic storm and blown to the same unknown space zone with us. It rescued us at the crucial moment.
“The cosmic storm was still raging, and we could only sail deeper into the unknown space zone together, looking for a peaceful port where we can hide.
“My parents appreciated their help very much. Our friendship after working together against the cosmic storm grew deeper, too.
“At that time, everybody thought that the cosmic storm would pass very soon, and we could at least repair the navigation and communication magical equipment on one of the starships so that we could reach out to the closest space town and ask for help.
“But as it turned out, the duration and scale of the cosmic storm far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“The hundreds of space towns near the main sailing route were all affected by the cosmic storm and could barely rescue themselves. They had no spare hands at all.
“To make matters worse, after being assaulted by the aftershock of the cosmic storm, our starships were so damaged that they were beyond repair.
“One month later, the cosmic storm gradually died down, but we had ended up in a godforsaken place in the depths of the universe.
“The remainder of our food and fuel was running dry, too.
“The navigation and communication magical equipment could not be repaired anytime soon, either. There was even a lot of new damage. The two starships were likely to collapse at any point.
“In the beginning, nobody had expected that the situation would be as bad.
“During the cooperation, we informed each other of the remaining resources on our starships and even exchanged a few items.
“Therefore, we both knew very clearly how many resources the other starship had left.”
“In the next”
Bai Xinghe suddenly fell silent when he got to that part of the story.
He seemed to have put on a rusted mask.
In an inhuman voice, he said, “We launched an attack.
“My father, an honorable Cultivator who used to risk his life protecting ordinary people and who had almost ten irrecoverable scars after multiple battles with space pirates, launched a fatal attack on our life-savers with the excuse of another barter when they were not prepared!
“Everybody was killed by us!
“All the resources were taken away!
“Their starship was dismantled into the most fundamental components to strengthen our starship.
“However, haha, everything proved to be in vain in the end. When my parents were about to complete everything, the aftershock of the cosmic storm arrived again and battered our starship, pushing it to an even remoter area of the universe!
“In the end, everybody died. I lay inside the debris of the starship alone and was discovered by a starship of space pirates that was passing the area in a hurry to avoid the hunting of the Cultivators.
“When they searched the debris, the space pirates took me away as their trophies and sold me to Spider Den. I became a slave in the darkness just like that.
“After you hear the story, do you feel that a karma happened to my parents?”
Li Yao did not know what to say.
“You may find it hard to believe,” Bai Xinghe said, “but before the cosmic storm, everything my parents ever did deserved their title as ‘Cultivators’.
“If there were only the two of them on the starship, I dare say that they would rather have killed themselves than attack the people who saved their lives.
“However, things were different if their most beloved son was on board.”
Bai Xinghe’s voice was lower and lower, until in the end it was so softly that he seemed to be speaking right inside Li Yao’s ears. “Although I was only seven at that time, I remember clearly to this day what my father said to my mother when they sent me to the safe house in preparation for the battle.
“Out of two, one will live.
“If I don’t kill them, they will kill me.”