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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 53

    The spaceship had some issues.

    Chu Li sat in the shop for a while.

    The elderly lady was very familiar with these plants and flowers. As she tidied up, she introduced them to Chu Li.

    "This little plant is called Jie Jie. People discovered a substance in its leaves that promotes bone regeneration. One of the medications used in your medical devices is extracted from Jie Jie grass... Actually, consuming Jie Jie grass directly would have the same effect. If it's just a simple fracture and you don't want to stay in the hospital or spend a fortune on medical devices, you can ask the doctor to prescribe medicine for you to take at home..."

    As she spoke about these plants, the old lady became more talkative. However, she suddenly fell silent.

    Chu Li was wondering why she stopped talking when the lady said, "Oh, I've confused myself. When you're sick, you should go to the hospital. Never try self-prescribed remedies at home."

    With that, she turned around to arrange a bunch of vibrant red roses. Her hunched back seemed desolate no matter how one looked at it.

    Chu Li suddenly recalled what his classmates had said during dinner. The people of this era relied too much on medical devices. Back then, when Chu Heyang was scratched by Li Hua Cat, he had gone to the hospital to use the medical device to treat even a tiny cut on his face. Other medications and treatment methods seemed to be outdated.

    He understood the old woman's meaning: the medical device could maximize the efficacy of the Jointed Grass, but without it, the grass still had healing properties, albeit less conveniently.

    Chu Li stayed here today for two reasons: one, he was lost and waiting for the old woman to guide him; two, he found the old woman's knowledge about these plants fascinating... He enjoyed learning new things, but hearing her words, he couldn't help feeling a deep sadness for some reason.

    Perhaps the traditional method of using Jointed Grass to make medicine had become outdated, but learning about the characteristics of these plants seemed harmless enough.

    Seeing the old woman's lonely demeanor, Chu Li felt compassion. In a gentle voice, he said, "These things are very interesting, Grandma. Could you tell me more? It seems like you know a lot about plants?"

    The old woman smiled and replied, "Yes, my family used to be in this business. But after the medical devices were invented, we lost our jobs. However, I couldn't bear to part with these flowers and plants, so I opened a flower shop. And before I knew it, thirty years have passed."

    Chu Li was surprised. "This flower shop has been around for over thirty years?"

    "Yes," the old woman said as she took a straw hat from a nearby cabinet. The brim was adorned with a circle of artificial sunflowers, which made her look especially warm, kind, and several years younger.

    She chuckled and added, "Well, thank you for keeping me company for so long. I need to go out now and will take you back home, young man who got lost."

    Chu Li smiled apologetically and followed behind her.

    Accompanied by the acquaintance, Chu Li realized just how lost he had been. After wandering for hours, he had actually been right beneath the hotel... Yes, the hotel appeared to be on level ground, but nearby was a large slope that he hadn't noticed before leaving the building.

    At the entrance of the hotel, Chu Li bid farewell to the elder, but he was reluctant to part with the floral haven. He asked, "I'm very interested in the topic we discussed earlier. Would it be possible for me to come to your shop tomorrow and help out?"

    The elder chuckled. "Of course, I'm always happy to have young people around."

    With the elder's permission, Chu Li spent the following days assisting at the flower shop.

    After conversing with her, Chu Li learned that her surname was Wang, and her family had a long history in traditional medicine. Unfortunately, after the invention of medical instruments, traditional practices were largely replaced.

    Though traditional biomedicine suffered a similar fate, doctors and hospitals were relatively less affected. Those who had dedicated their lives to pharmaceutical research, however, were the unlucky ones. They were told that there was no longer a need to develop drugs for various diseases since purified substances targeting specific ailments could simply be injected into medical devices, which would do the rest.

    "But there must still be... other fields that require skilled individuals," Chu Li mused, thinking of Wen Renjian's experiment on immortality, something a medical instrument couldn't solve.

    Grandma Wang smiled. "Yes, the younger generation in my family changed careers, but I'm a bit stubborn. I didn't want to switch professions, so I resigned and returned to my hometown to open a flower shop. I was originally a plant researcher, and I've spent half my life studying them. I couldn't bear to let go, and this has turned out to be quite fulfilling."

    The elder had an extensive knowledge of plants, including their composition, growth habits, and origins. These subjects were vastly different from what Chu Li had studied, yet he found them fascinating. During his time at the flower shop, he occasionally lent a hand but mostly listened as the elder shared her expertise, feeling like a novice apprentice.

    Three days later, the shuttle that had transported the students for their internships returned to port. A day prior, Cao Yun contacted the students, informing them that they would depart at eight o'clock the following morning.

    After Chu Li personally bid farewell to Grandma Wang, he went to meet the others.

    It was still the familiar bus that took them to the harbor.

    On the bus, a classmate sitting beside Chu Li gazed out at the undulating horizon, remarking, "For a ground bus to navigate through such a complicated city, it's quite impressive."

    Recalling his own past experiences with getting lost, Chu Li nodded in agreement.

    The spacecraft was too massive for the terrestrial port; thus, they needed to take a smaller vessel to exit the atmosphere before transferring to another one at a spaceport outside the planet.

    The smaller spaceship resembled a compact aircraft. As they waited at the boarding gate, an unexpected delay occurred, and no one came to guide them.

    As time passed, whispers of curiosity emerged among the group. "What's going on?"

    Cao Yun, growing impatient, addressed the other students, "Wait here for a moment, I'll go see what's happening."

    With that, she left.

    After more than half an hour, Cao Yun returned, followed by a tall man. He was wearing an extremely long gray coat, a hat, and a scarf, completely covering himself.

    Cao Yun introduced, "This is the captain who will be guiding us for the next few days. His name is Huai Chuan."

    "Captain Huai, nice to meet you," the students greeted lazily. The captain then pulled down his scarf, revealing his well-proportioned features.

    Huai Chuan stood by the boarding ladder, smiling warmly as he folded his arms, saying, "Sorry to keep you waiting. Climb aboard."

    The boarding ladder was narrow, just wide enough for one person. The students formed a line, taking turns to ascend.

    When it was Chu Li's turn, Huai Chuan gave an acknowledging "Mm."

    Chu Li paused in his step and glanced back at him.

    But Huai Chuan smiled and said, "Surprisingly, there's even an Omega here. This adorable little O, if you encounter any trouble on the way, feel free to look for me in my quarters. I'll personally help you sort it out."

    Chu Li: "..."

    Before he could respond, Cao Yun stepped forward protectively, like a mother hen shielding her chick, and said, "He already has his own Alpha. Also, please, Captain Huai, refrain from flirting with my student."

    Huai Chuan paused, feeling rather unamused. He pouted and said, "It was just a joke, relax."

    Despite his words, Chu Li sensed from his eyes that he wasn't joking.

    He simply didn't have much interest, especially after learning that Chu Li was an Alpha.

    Chu Li wasn't sure if he was straight or not; his acceptance of Jing Baiyuan didn't mean he could accept other men. He owed Jing Baiyuan for sparing him from many complications.

    Without lifting his head, Chu Li walked past Huai Chuan.

    Once on the spacecraft, he discovered that its interior was vastly different from what he had imagined.

    A corridor ran through the front and back, with individual rooms on either side, resembling the cruise ships he had seen in his previous life. However, it made sense since interstellar voyages could take anywhere from three to four days to over half a month, necessitating private rooms.

    Nonetheless, such trips were expensive, and many people never left their home planet in their lifetime.

    After everyone boarded, Cao Yun hurriedly called out the students' names along the corridor, assigning each person a room.

    In contrast, Huai Chuan shed his playful demeanor and strode briskly towards the cockpit at the front.

    Ten minutes later, Chu Li received his room number and key. He opened the door to find a plain single room, roughly the size of two double beds, equipped with a wardrobe and an ensuite bathroom.

    The room had no windows. A map was posted by the entrance. Upon a glance, Chu Li noticed that apart from the massive porthole in the central hall that offered a view of the outside, none of the other rooms had windows.

    Eager to explore the space he had been longing for, Chu Li promptly set aside his luggage and headed for the central hall.

    As expected, the others had also gathered there, filling the hall to capacity. Two individuals who couldn't squeeze in stood by the entrance, chatting with a hint of disdain on their faces. "What's so fascinating about space? Why are they all crammed here? Such a bunch of clueless bumpkins!"

    Chu Li glanced back at the speaker—wasn't he just as inexperienced and unsophisticated?

    Unable to push his way through the crowd, he stood by the door and gazed at the porthole. Outside was an endless expanse of deep darkness, yet it wasn't desolate. As the spaceship traveled, it occasionally brushed past luminous nebulas and stars. Some were exceptionally bright, but due to their distance, their positions appeared stationary even with the ship's movement. From afar, they resembled a delicate painting.

    This was space... the environment Jing Baiyuan Yuanting had lived in all along?

    A myriad of emotions swirled within Chu Li, leaving him momentarily unable to articulate his thoughts.

    In the midst of the students chattering and jostling, a person squeezed through the crowd, seemingly a crew member. He shouted towards the throng, "Stop pushing, stop pushing... oof, you stepped on my foot!"

    Amidst the chaos, he arrived at a small door beside the hall and opened it, saying, "This is the dining room, usually only open during meal times. Seeing how crowded it is here, I'll make an exception today. You can all go in; there are seats available."

    Upon his words, the crowd surged forward. Chu Li, however, was not in a hurry. After everyone had left, he walked alone to the porthole and gazed quietly at the scenery outside.

    Life might be tumultuous, but things would eventually improve.

    Unbeknownst to Chu Li, someone was watching him from not too far away.

    It was Captain Huai Chuan, who at that moment stood in the spaceship's control room, frowning as he watched the students wandering about aimlessly.

    A figure suddenly caught his attention – the one and only Omega on this journey who stood out.

    With a hint of curiosity, Huai Chuan whispered to the person beside him, "Is he really an Omega? That's odd. Aren't Omegas treated as precious treasures in their empire? How could they bear to let him come all the way out here?"

    The person next to him said something, causing Huai Chuan to chuckle. "Don't misunderstand, I don't discriminate against Omegas. If Jinjin and the others heard me say that, they'd tear me apart. What I look down upon..."

    He laughed, leaving the rest of his sentence unsaid.

    Life aboard the spaceship was novel yet dull. The novelty lay in the ever-changing vistas visible through the ship's windows during its journey, while the boredom stemmed from the scarcity of activities. The recreation and activity rooms were perpetually crowded, so Chu Li found no motivation to compete for space and instead spent his days writing and reading in his room.

    He intended to organize the information that Grandma Wang had shared with him, figuring it might come in handy later.

    But sitting on the bed for extended periods was uncomfortable, so after meals, he would stroll around the ship to exercise a bit.

    As he wandered, something began to feel off.

    The layout of the spaceship's cabins was peculiar.

    This corridor had eight doors leading to sixteen rooms; some were spacious, others compact, with larger ones designed for two occupants.

    There were five crew members, one captain, Cao Yun, and twenty-one students, adding up to a total of twenty-eight individuals.

    The staff might reside in communal quarters, but the distances between the doors of the large and small rooms were identical.

    Curious, Chu Li stood by his door, comparing it with the neighboring one. He entered the room and measured the gap between the door frame and wall visually, finding the arrangement increasingly peculiar.

    In his usual habit, he shared this observation with Jing Baiyuan via the personal terminal. To his surprise, Bai Yuanting responded promptly.

    "You mentioned that there seems to be an issue with the spacecraft's quarters? Could you help me pinpoint the problem more precisely?"

    It was a stroke of coincidence that Jing Baiyuan, in the midst of his fruitless search for the missing minerals on Haiyun Star, was approached by the interns from Blueline Star.

    The Expeditionary Force was currently in a standby mode, neither exploring new planets nor engaging in conflicts with the Alliance. Yet, Blueline Star had sent over double the usual number of interns.

    Ya Lan felt that these students were not there to lend a helping hand but rather to create chaos.

    She had attempted to communicate her concerns with Blueline Star, but due to the recent downsizing of the Expeditionary Force that had strained their relationship with the royal family, she dared not be too forceful in her words on such a trivial matter. After all, the Expeditionary Force was still under the royal family's authority, and alienating her superiors wouldn't be advantageous.

    Yielding to their persistence, she eventually didn't refuse the matter.

    It was just that the timing of the other party's spaceship arrival was most inconvenient, coinciding with their air traffic control period.

    The first spacecraft carried over twenty individuals and promptly returned the same day, claiming it needed to fetch the second batch.

    Only after the spaceship left did they realize something was amiss.

    However, without any evidence, as the second spaceship was about to arrive, they had no choice but to accept its passengers.

    Amidst Jing Baiyuan's distress, he opened the chat window with Chu Li. He knew that Chu Li had a habit of sharing every detail of his life in their conversations, and due to his busy schedule, Jing Baiyuan usually saved these messages to read later.

    Reading Chu Li's updates had become one of the few sources of entertainment for him during his service in the Expeditionary Force. Through those words, he could momentarily escape the conflicts between the Expeditionary Force and the royal family, finding solace within himself.

    This time was no different, except that a new message from Chu Li caught his attention.

    Sensitive from years of wandering, Jing Baiyuan bypassed the previous conversation and immediately asked Chu Li about the peculiarities of the spaceship, hoping if possible, to conduct actual measurements on it.

    Chu Li promptly agreed, but Jing Baiyuan then felt a twinge of regret. If there were indeed issues with the ship, Chu Li would be the one in danger. He hastily cautioned, "Investigate if you can, but if not, forget it. Don't get yourself into trouble."

    Chu Li, understanding the concern, replied, "Alright, I'll make sure to stay safe."

    After that, there was silence.

    This left Jing Baiyuan even more restless. After pacing around his room for a while, he summoned Ya Lan, "Arrange a small spacecraft for me."

    ---

    Unbeknownst to Jing Baiyuan, Chu Li was oblivious to his plans. He turned off his personal terminal and headed to Cao Yun's room next door.

    Knocking twice, Cao Yun opened the door.

    It was during lunch break, and with nothing to do, even Cao Yun had taken the chance to sleep in. When she came to see Chu Li, her eyes were still blurry from sleep, and she wasn't fully awake.

    Chu Li gave her a warm smile. "Teacher Cao, is there a water outage in your room? I was just about to wash my hands in mine but found that the water had stopped."

    "Huh? No water?" Cao Yun was surprised. "I don't think so. This is a spaceship; how could it have a water outage?"

    Half-asleep, she wandered into the adjacent bathroom and turned on the faucet. Water flowed out.

    "There's no water outage," Cao Yun's voice echoed from inside.

    Chu Li followed in effortlessly. "Really? Can I wash my hands here? Just now, something accidentally fell under my bed, and it took me a while to retrieve it."

    "Of course," Cao Yun agreed promptly.

    As Chu Li walked in, he carefully observed the spacing between the walls in Cao Yun's room. He noticed that, although they were both single rooms, Cao Yun's seemed slightly larger than his.

    He then made his way to the bathroom, turning on the faucet as if to wash his hands.

    Cao Yun had gone out to comb his hair, so Chu Li counted the floor tiles. One was missing.

    Including the one outside, it was roughly fifteen centimeters… Fifteen centimeters… Even with this extra length, the gap between the doors wasn't right.

    There was a secret passage in this spaceship room.

    How could this be…

    After washing his hands, Chu Li left calmly. "Teacher Cao, I'm done. Thank you."

    Cao Yun was still grooming himself and didn't come out. His voice echoed from within the room. "No trouble at all. Go ask the spaceship staff to check it, perhaps there's a blockage in the pipes."

    Chu Li nodded. "Alright, I understand."

    Exiting Cao Yun's room, he immediately returned to his own and recounted the tiles in his bathroom. He found that Cao Yun's bathroom indeed lacked one tile.

    He opened his personal terminal, planning to tell Jing Baiyuan about it, but after some thought, he went back to the bathroom.

    Standing there for a while, Chu Li decided to unscrew the faucet pipe connection. There was an access point for replacing pipes, designed as an external handle for easy manipulation without tools.

    After twisting it open, water flowed from underneath, but no matter how long they waited with the faucet on, not a single drop emerged.

    Following Cao Yun's instructions, Chu Li contacted the spaceship staff. Within ten minutes, someone entered his quarters.

    Chu Li opened the door, grumbling, "Why is your spaceship so outdated? The facilities break down at the slightest use."

    Two men, one plump and one thin, arrived. They carried no scent, nor did they wear collars, appearing to be Betas. However, Chu Li had a hunch that both were actually Alphas.

    He carelessly unlocked his door, inviting them in. "Please take a look quickly. I have to go to Teacher's room just to wash my hands, and what about my evening shower? Also, your bed is too dirty underneath... Things get stuck there for ages before I can retrieve them. Can't you switch to a floor-standing bed?"

    From the moment they entered, Chu Li continued to chatter alone, perfectly fitting the stereotype of an Omega as fragile. The two men chuckled along as they walked in, but their eyes betrayed their lack of interest, clearly not taking Chu Li's words seriously.

    As it was Chu Li's personal space, it inevitably exuded his pheromones. An Omega who had already been marked would not attract special attention from Alphas. Nevertheless, allowing two strangers into his room so easily demonstrated remarkable boldness on this Omega's part.

    Upon seeing each other, the crew members viewed Chu Li as a rather simple-minded, delicate beauty.

    They joked around as they entered the bathroom. Upon opening the door, they saw water flooding the floor, immediately realizing that the pipe had cracked. Upon closer inspection, they found that the pressure valve had come loose.

    One of them yawned as he tightened the valve back in place. "The captain really worries too much. I told him an Omega wouldn't encounter any major issues. He might even trip over flat ground... Such a minor issue, and he can't fix it himself. Yet he complains about our spaceship's facilities. Let me tell you, we have..."

    "Enough with the complaints," the other person interjected, clearly more reserved. "This tension valve does tend to come loose. We should inform the captain and replace all of them on the ship later."

    The first person replied, "But we have to wait for the mission..."

    Upon receiving a chilly glance from his companion, he realized his mistake and promptly shut up.

    After fixing the valve, the two went out to explain the situation to Chu Li. Leaning against the door frame with crossed arms, Chu Li was evidently displeased with their explanation. The duo, not wishing to engage in a drawn-out argument with an Omega, fabricated an excuse to leave.

    Once they were well away, Chu Li locked the door and activated his personal terminal to share his findings with Jing Baiyuan Ting.

    This time, Jing Baiyuan Ting's response was prompt.

    He wrote, "Be cautious and take care of yourself above all else. If the ship docks, find a way to disembark."

    Not receiving an explanation, Chu Li felt a hint of confusion, but observing Jing Baiyuan Ting's reaction stirred a sense of unease within him.

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