"You don't know this, but even though this machine appears clumsy, every single one of its joints holds a different formation array. Several researchers have been involved in its creation, and many different materials have been tried. The workload is immense. I think it'll take a few thousand years to weaponize."
Huo Yuhao flatly asked, "Sister Ju Zi, do you think there was a point to doing such research?"
Ju Zi replied without missing a beat, "Of course there was a point. Research into soul machines will have a monumental impact on both our society and era. However…"
She frowned, then continued, "Looking at things right now, soul machines seem to be too advanced, which is why continuing to research them has become so hard. If we spent more time on fundamental research, soul machines would surely become a thing of the future. In my opinion, we need to focus on researching a replacement for soul power. If we don't, only soul masters will be able to use this sort of soul tool. This massive limitation will surely affect the development of soul tools."
Huo Yuhao hadn't expected Ju Zi to be so open about it. With respect in his heart, he gently nodded, but chose not to express his own opinion.
"Why haven't you said anything? Is it because you're afraid that we'll use it to attack your country?" Ju Zi seemed to understand what Huo Yuhao was thinking.
Huo Yuhao didn't try to hide his thoughts. He nodded again and then said, "Many technological advancements are made to fuel the war engine. Once war breaks out, civilians are the ones who suffer the most."
Ju Zi looked at him in the eye and said, "I understand this point perfectly. Hence, rapid technological advancement might not be a good thing. Regardless of whether it's me or Teacher Xuan, we all share this sentiment. You don't know this, but Teacher Xuan is considered the best researcher of his generation in the Illustrious Virtuous Hall. He could be considered one of the top researchers in the entire Sun Moon Empire, but he's never once revealed his full ability. This is because he doesn't want his research to be used for war, and is why I respect him."
Huo Yuhao was shocked and said, "You mean to say that Teacher Xuan doesn't submit his research?"
Ju Zi nodded. "That's right. When you came to the Sun Moon Empire, didn't you feel that our soul tool research progress was much faster than the other three countries?"
Huo Yuhao nodded.
Ju Zi said, "In reality, our research has reached a bottleneck—in all directions. We haven't made any improvements in the last decade. This is also why we have yet to see a Class 10 soul engineer emerge in the past few years. Coupled with the constant turmoil in the imperial family, which results in the ruling class not having a proper direction, our research into soul tools has naturally stopped.
"Many years ago, the Sun Moon Empire was defeated by the other three countries of the Douluo Continent, which caused the Sun Moon Continent to be stripped of its name. Because of this, the empire devoted all of its energy to developing soul tools for a period of time. Our progress was the fastest back then; in just a thousand years, our progress in soul tools and all aspects of technology surpassed that of the other empires. However, the presence of soul masters kept us in check, thus we didn't dare to act carelessly.
"However, following the development of soul tools, the country progressed well too. Thus, the imperial family started to believe that our country's defences were adequate, and that we were powerful enough to compete for supremacy on the continent. Hence, the official policy of the imperial family started to change; hedonism reigned, and income inequality throughout the empire widened. Conflicts began to erupt between the rich and poor, especially in the past few decades. The common people have rioted several times now. Do you know what the best option for the ruling class is now?"
Had Ju Zi asked Huo Yuhao the same question two years ago, he would've only been able to show her an expression of confusion. However, the Ultimate Soldier Plan had let him gain quite a bit of knowledge over the past two years, including knowledge pertaining to politics and history of the continent.
"A war would be able to resolve all of the empire's conflicts. Following an invasion, the empire could resolve all sources of conflict. War would let the country gain more land, which would in turn enrich more people. The lower class could become rich and aristocratic through war, while societal conflicts would be partially resolved because of it. At the very least, there wouldn't be any large-scale riots."
Ke Ke appeared completely confused, but Ju Zi looked at Huo Yuhao and smiled slightly. She then said something that caused the hairs on Huo Yuhao's back to immediately stand on end. "You seem more and more like a spy, albeit one who's not fully qualified."
A startled expression crossed Huo Yuhao's eyes, but he soon returned to normal and said plainly, "As an exchange student from Shrek Academy, I wasn't welcome from the very start, right? But don't worry, I'm not a spy, nor am I serving any country. However, if possible, I want to prevent a war from happening."
Ju Zi smiled and said, "Yuhao, do you know what my life's goal is?"
Huo Yuhao shook his head.
Ju Zi's eyes narrowed into slits as she looked out of one of the windows and mumbled, "I hate war; I despise it. However, I have to avenge my father—to trample the Star Luo Empire under my feet. That's the reason for my existence." Right now, her normally-warm eyes held an ice-cold gaze. It was as if she'd put a pair of glasses over her heart.
Huo Yuhao was shocked. He'd thought that Ju Zi was a pacifist in his heart. He'd never expected Ju Zi to say something like this.
Ju Zi turned her head and smiled at him. "It's not a comfortable thing to hear, right? I know that you're a citizen of the Star Luo Empire, thus I hope I don't see you on the battlefield in the future. Let's go, Ke Ke."
Following Ju Zi's words, the atmosphere within the all-terrain exploration soul tool became solemn. The ball began to move forwards, while Ju Zi had already closed her eyes and appeared to be meditating.
Huo Yuhao sat there and stared at her quietly. His heart was heavy. Ju Zi made him uncomfortable. Even though she was only a Class 5 soul engineer, Huo Yuhao had heard several different things from her words that weren't something a soul engineer—engaged only in research—could think of. What was she hiding in her heart?
Suddenly, an unknown sense of danger flashed through Huo Yuhao's heart and manifested itself into a desire to kill. He suddenly felt that, in the future, the warm and pretty young girl in front of him would become a powerful and threatening enemy. He'd only seen a small portion of her heart, but it was enough to shock him. This girl was better at concealing herself than he was!
However, could he really do it?
No, he couldn't.
He couldn't forget the sorrow her eyes had held when she'd uttered the word 'father.' He couldn't bear to do so.
"If you have this sort of mentality, why are you telling me so much?" Huo Yuhao finally asked.
A warm light suddenly spread from her, separating Ke Ke from them. It was from a soundproofing soul tool. Surprisingly, Ke Ke didn't seem to realize. Ju Zi turned her head, smiled and said to Huo Yuhao, "Your heart is still young; you don't have the capability to be my opponent. If I'm to die in battle one day, I hope to die by your hands. Like this, I'll be able to taste my father when I die. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
Huo Yuhao's heart trembled. He could see the very same expression he'd had when he first left the Duke's Mansion in her eyes. However, she hid it very well. Furthermore, she'd cloaked herself in a layer of warmth. It was only because he'd cooked for them last night that the deepest thoughts in her mind had been triggered.
"So how are you going to lead the Sun Moon Empire into war?" Huo Yuhao asked in a low voice. Even though Ju Zi was a Soul King and Class 5 soul engineer, her powers didn't appear to surpass Huo Yuhao's.
Ju Zi smiled and said, "Guess. All I can say is that martial prowess isn't the only determinant." She appeared to have given a lot of thought to this. Naturally, she wouldn't tell Huo Yuhao.
"I've told you all of this today purely because I had the urge to do so. There's nothing I truly cherish in this world, as there's nothing that's worth cherishing to me. However, I have to avenge my father and mother. I can still clearly remember the look of desperation in my mother's eyes when she heard that my father had died, as well as my own desperation. At that moment, the entire world seemed to become black and white. Oh well, I know that you think I can't do much. Just treat it as a story then." Once she'd finished speaking, she deactivated the soundproofing soul tool.
Is it really only a story? Huo Yuhao didn't know. However, the Eye of Destiny on his forehead appeared to be telling him something. But when he tried to focus on it, the feeling disappeared.
Huo Yuhao looked deeply at Ju Zi and then sank into deep thought.
Ke Ke hadn't sensed the conversation that had just taken place. As she had to constantly channel her soul power, her attention was completely focused in front of her. Currently, they'd just started to ascend a branch of the Jing Yang Mountain Range. The ball's multiple legs proved their usefulness here. While it was still vibrating, it wasn't slowed down at all. Under Ke Ke's control, the metallic ball continued to move forwards. Since it had six legs, there were always at least three support points. Furthermore, they were made from firm metal that could easily be inserted into both the mud and granite around them. After a while, they managed to ascend a mountain.
Ju Zi didn't say anything else to Huo Yuhao. Instead, she took out a pen and paper and started to take notes. Evidently, she was recording notes on the all-terrain exploration soul tool.
"Ke Ke, if you're tired, just tell us," Ju Zi reminded Ke Ke.
"Yup," Ke Ke replied. Her face was pale from continually channelling her soul power into the all-terrain exploration vehicle.