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    Chapter 55

    055

    Then let the battle commence.

    Chu Li was locked in an adjacent room, all alone.

    One side of the room was a vast glass window, allowing him to observe the situation outside—this corridor was lined with similar rooms, each holding different individuals, some of whom Chu Li didn't recognize.

    It seemed they had been here for quite some time, as people had become numb. When new individuals were thrown in, they would sit motionless on the floor just like the rest.

    Opposite him were his classmates and Teacher Cao Yun.

    Cao Yun was leaning against the glass, seemingly shouting something loudly in their direction, but Chu Li couldn't hear a word.

    The soundproofing here was exceptional; not only could he not hear the opposite room, but even voices from the corridor were muffled.

    He attempted to yell back at Cao Yun, but no sound escaped his lips.

    He could only gesture to her, asking her to remain calm.

    Cao Yun, being a teacher, quickly regained her composure upon realizing that she couldn't hear Chu Li's voice. She turned around and said something to the panicked students, who then settled down in each corner of the room.

    Chu Li watched from the glass window for a while. Realizing his inability to change the situation, he stepped back and leaned against the wall to sit down.

    It had been several days since they were captured, and not once had he been able to sleep soundly. The moment he sat down, exhaustion overwhelmed him.

    Struggling to keep his eyes open, Chu Li fought against sleep, but as he remained wide-eyed, he gradually lost consciousness.

    He had no idea how long he'd been asleep when the sounds in the room suddenly roused him. He lifted his head and found the door already ajar, with two figures standing guard at the entrance. Another person entered from outside, tall and sporting a thick beard.

    Looking at Chu Li on the floor, he chuckled. "To still be able to sleep through all this, you've got quite a strong will. Rise."

    Chu Li leaned against the wall and stood up.

    The man was more than a head taller than him. What did people in this world eat to grow so large?

    Judging by his physique, it was clear without even smelling him that he was an Alpha.

    Chu Li pressed his back firmly against the wall, clenching his fists.

    The Alpha stroked his beard and chuckled. "No need to be nervous. Omegas are a rare commodity here. I won't do anything to you as long as you behave and listen to me."

    As he reached out to pull Chu Li closer, Chu Li took a step back, evading his touch.

    The Alpha's expression turned cold with displeasure.

    But at that moment, Chu Li smiled. "How am I supposed to listen?"

    He actually had the audacity to smile here!

    Which captured Omega wouldn't be on the verge of despair? Yet, he was laughing!

    It was the first time Gou Fei had seen an Omega smile. His heart warmed, and his previous annoyance vanished instantly. He even entertained the idea of indulging this Omega.

    "I mean... you'll do whatever... I tell you to do..." He laughed too, his eyes now filled with teasing and a hint of longing.

    Chu Li retreated another step. "That won't work."

    "Why not?"

    Chu Li chuckled. "You have to treat me better if you want me to willingly obey."

    "Oh?" This answer piqued Gou Fei's interest. He appraised Chu Li with his gaze, but Chu Li didn't shy away, allowing him to look.

    When he noticed the mark on the back of Chu Li's neck, his expression changed. "You've been permanently marked by someone else? Who's that Alpha?"

    Chu Li replied, "I don't know. There were so many people; how would I know which one?"

    Gou Fei raised an eyebrow, noncommittally acknowledging the response. He didn't continue pressing Chu Li on this matter but instead asked, "What's your name?"

    "Lin Yi." Chu Li didn't reveal his true identity.

    "All right, Lin Yi, come with me." Gou Fei turned and walked out.

    Chu Li glanced back at Cao Yun and the others through the glass window. They had seen the situation as well and were anxiously peering in. Chu Li gave them a reassuring gesture before following Gou Fei.

    As they walked down the corridor, Chu Li noticed that Gou Fei seemed to have a slight limp in his leg.

    As Chu Li walked, he casually asked, "Have you ever injured your leg?"

    Gou Fei paused and turned to look at him. "You know medicine?"

    "I'm a medical student, as are my classmates... You hijacked our spaceship; surely you knew what we were studying, right?"

    A flicker of unease crossed Gou Fei's face, but he didn't show it. Instead, he said, "Even if you know medicine, it won't help here. There are no medical scanners for you to use."

    "But I know some remedies that might alleviate the pain, even if they can't cure it completely," Chu Li continued. "When you're out in the open and encounter harsh conditions, does your leg ache unbearably?"

    Gou Fei: "..."

    After a moment of silence, Gou Fei asked, "What good solutions do you have?"

    "There are medicines I brought on the spaceship. If you soak your feet in hot water with the right herbs and then massage them properly, it should significantly reduce your pain."

    Gou Fei was well aware that Chu Li's intention was to buy time.

    Although Chu Li seemed nonchalant about sleeping with anyone, Gou Fei knew that no Omega would willingly share a bed with a space pirate.

    Of course, he'd prefer to avoid it if possible.

    However, regardless of the omega's motives... if he could genuinely heal his leg, it would be a fair deal.

    He didn't mind giving this omega some "special treatment."

    "My leg was injured during a battle with the Empire many years ago. My spaceship was destroyed, and I escaped in an emergency escape pod, getting stranded on a dead planet. Its surface temperature was extremely low, and the rocks were incredibly hard. When my escape pod crashed, I lost consciousness for about twelve hours. When I woke up, my right leg was immersed in freezing water, and I had no sensation left. Although medical equipment eventually healed me, my leg still aches and swells intolerably when the weather turns bad or the air is too humid."

    Gou Fei said, "I've been treated on other planets as well, but they couldn't do anything. Do you have any better ideas?"

    Chu Li answered honestly, "It's not a perfect solution, but it can alleviate the pain and make you more comfortable."

    "That'll do," Gou Fei said. "You have seven days."

    Chu Li clenched his fists, inwardly relieved. Seven days, even that was better than nothing.

    He was quickly settled into a clean and tidy room. Gou Fei told him, "You can move around freely in here, but there are guards at the door who don't know you. If you try anything suspicious, they'll likely kill you. So, be careful."

    This kind of threat was far more terrifying than simply being forbidden from going somewhere. Chu Li nodded and said, "I won't wander off... but I might need to return to my spaceship once. All my belongings are there, including the medicine I'll use to treat your leg."

    Gou Fei glanced at him and said, "Someone will take you there tomorrow."

    ---

    The next day, as promised, Gou Fei dispatched someone to bring Chu Li back to the spaceship. It was docked at the harbor, and once again, his eyes were covered when he boarded.

    After Chu Li got on the ship, they followed closely behind him.

    However, after searching through several rooms for a while, he still couldn't find the medicine bag.

    The rooms were cramped, barely enough space for three people to stand. After a few collisions, the two men trailing Chu Li grew impatient. One of them gruffly asked, "When will you find it? Stop playing games!"

    Chu Li straightened up. "Is this my fault? When we got on board, you guys just dragged us to the main hall without saying anything. I don't even know where I lost my bag. Why don't you wait by the entrance? There are no other windows on this ship, so there's nowhere for me to escape."

    The two men exchanged glances, clearly not entirely at ease with Chu Li. But Chu Li didn't bother persuading them; he simply shrugged and moved on to the next room.

    The following compartment was even smaller, barely accommodating one person, let alone three.

    After another collision at the entrance, the duo reluctantly gave in. Instead of guarding the main door, they stood outside the room, not daring to enter.

    Chu Li circled the room and suddenly crouched down. The two paused and hurried over to him.

    They saw him holding a dried flower in his hand as he said, "I remember now. After hearing the commotion, I heard that someone was injured, so I took the first aid kit to the room across from this one..."

    With the dried flower in his hand, he rushed to the opposite room. Upon reaching the door, he saw the medicine bag lying on the floor. He bent down to pick it up and said, "Found it."

    Relieved that the bag had been found, both of them sighed in relief.

    Under their watchful eyes, Chu Li wouldn't have had the chance to pull any tricks while searching for the kit. Thus, they said, "Alright, let's go now that you've found it."

    Chu Li followed the pair as they made their way out. When they reached the hall, they blindfolded him again.

    Chu Li only had time for a fleeting glimpse outside; the scenery was still the same as that day. The old harbor outside was deserted, not a soul in sight.

    Before he could take a closer look, he was pushed down a long staircase.

    In the following days, Chu Li attended to Gou Fei's leg injury as agreed upon.

    It was a chronic and untreatable condition, but fortunately, Gou Fei had never used any medication before. Now, with even a little treatment, the effects were noticeable.

    The condition was effective, and Chu Li could only soak his feet in the medicine once a day. As a result, his symptoms indeed improved.

    Gou Fei was quite satisfied. Originally, he had planned to sell Chu Li, but now he entertained the idea of keeping him around.

    One day, as he watched Chu Li preparing the medicine, he asked, "Do you want to stay here?"

    In reality, Chu Li only used a bit of blood circulation-boosting medicine. His daily routine of preparing the medicine was just for show. Hearing this question, his heart skipped a beat, but he maintained a calm expression. "Stay here? What's in it for me?"

    Gou Fei chuckled. "What kind of benefit do you want?"

    Chu Li replied, "I can't handle hardship. I just want good food, good clothes, and good things. If you provide them, I'll stay."

    Gou Fei's smile widened. Conveniently, his foot soak was finished, so he wiped his feet casually and approached Chu Li. He reached out to embrace Chu Li, but Chu Li evaded him.

    Gou Fei froze, his expression turning sour. "What? You want good food, good clothes, and good things, but you won't even let me touch you?"

    Chu Li's face was cold. "You just finished washing your feet and now you want to touch me?"

    "..." Alright, that was an unassailable reason.

    Gou Fei wore a sardonic smile. "Do I need to burn incense and take a bath before I can touch you?"

    Chu Li lifted his chin. "You pirates are all talk. Release my teacher and classmates, and I'll believe you."

    "Huh... Not a chance." Gou Fei's gaze was fixed on him as he sneered coldly. "Do you know how much they're worth? Their hearts, livers, spleens, and lungs are worth more than their weight in gold... I took the risk of offending the Empire and Jing Baiyuan just to get them. I'm not going to let them go for nothing."

    Chu Li knew that the captors wouldn't release them easily, but he never imagined that they hijacked the spaceship to "sell" people.

    After the invention of medical scanners, many humans had been saved from fatal illnesses. However, there were still some diseases that couldn't be completely cured with medical scanners.

    For example, cancer – the scanner could replace chemotherapy from his previous life, eliminating cancer cells and prolonging patients' lives, but they would have to keep receiving treatments and be hospitalized periodically, enduring no less pain.

    Then there were organ failures that could only extend life, not cure it... unless they got transplants.

    In this era, artificial organs were available, but they were still substitutes. While their functions were similar to real organs, people felt that they were carrying a fake heart inside them.

    At some point, humans developed a fascination for natural organs. The wealthy and influential refused to implant mechanical organs, turning instead to living victims.

    There was no method to cultivate a new organ from one's own cells.

    One could only extract it from others.

    The more affluent and influential individuals were, the less willing they were to rely on medical devices to prolong their lives, nor did they wish to become 'half-human, half-mechanical' monstrosities. Naturally, they turned to illicit methods.

    Despite operating beyond the Empire and the Alliance, these interstellar pirates would undoubtedly conduct business with both nations. After all, weaponry had always been the most expensive commodity.

    To these pirates, the people on this ship were nothing but cargo.

    Upon Gou Fei's conclusion, Chu Li fell silent, undoubtedly intimidated by the Omega before him. A triumphant smile spread across Gou Fei's face.

    Calm and composed as he might be, he's still just an Omega.

    However, he preferred someone who willingly chose to stay by his side rather than forcing obedience. After all, their lives as space pirates were unpredictable; one never knew when they might meet their end. Wouldn't it be comforting to have someone genuinely care for and tend to them?

    "Gou Fei narrowed his eyes and chuckled. "But don't be scared. As long as you behave, I can spare one or two of your friends." He added, "I can easily let one or two of those twenty-one go without any issue."

    Of course, he had no intention of actually setting them free. At best, they would share the same fate as Chu Li—staying here.

    He had noticed that there were a few girls among them, and they were quite attractive.

    Chu Li didn't respond but gathered the herbs, saying casually, "It's up to you."

    With that, he headed for the room he was temporarily staying in.

    As soon as the door closed, the sound of a lock clicking into place echoed.

    Gou Fei followed him to the door and tried to open it, only to find it locked. He narrowed his eyes and stood there, unmoving.

    Two subordinates happened to pass by and, seeing Gou Fei's posture, immediately knew that he had been rejected once again by that Omega.

    This scene had become quite common these days.

    But they couldn't fathom their boss's intentions for tolerating it all.

    Could it be that he was truly smitten?

    The pair approached and whispered, "Boss, he said no? Should we lend a hand?"

    "Scram," Gou Fei slapped each of them and said, "What's it to you if I'm courting an Omega? Mind your own business and do what you're supposed to."

    Like a butterfly trapped in a spider's web, how long could one struggle before succumbing?

    Gou Fei smiled faintly and left Chu Li's room with grace.

    Inside the room, Chu Li leaned against the door, his shirt drenched in cold sweat.

    He tilted his head back and, after a long while, wiped the perspiration from his forehead. Thankfully, Gou Fei hadn't followed him in.

    Perhaps because he believed that Chu Li had nowhere left to escape, Gou Fei didn't want to waste energy on him, or maybe he found the cat-and-mouse game amusing. In any case, Gou Fei hadn't dealt a fatal blow, leaving some leeway and time for Chu Li to turn the situation around.

    Regaining control of his rapid breathing due to anxiety, Chu Li straightened up and retrieved the severed personal terminal from his belt.

    The material of this device was unknown; when it adhered to the skin, it transformed into an inconspicuous pattern that was invisible under normal circumstances. Once severed, the terminal would become non-functional.

    However, it had an integrated location tracker connected to each individual's citizen ID.

    If Chu Li's assumption was correct, the pirates wouldn't take long to sell that spaceship, and the personal terminal on it would be carried away from this place.

    But if he could keep the damaged terminal with him, there might be a chance for outsiders to locate them.

    But… who would come looking for them?

    He had already conveyed his situation to Jing Baiyuanting. Would he come to find him?

    However, the worst-case scenario was that they might have left the Imperial space domain. As an admiral of the Empire, would Jing Baiyuanting face opposition if he were to search for them in the Alliance? If he insisted, would it provoke a conflict between the two nations?

    Chu Li hid in his room, lost in wild speculations, unaware of the chaos unfolding outside.

    ---

    On October 3rd, the spacecraft transporting the medical students from Azure Pattern Comprehensive Academy to Seacloud Star departed.

    Three days later, the ship vanished without a trace, and its disappearance was reported to Azure Pattern Star. It was suspected to have been hijacked by interstellar pirates. Despite multiple attempts to contact the captain, there was no response. Azure Pattern Star issued an urgent message, indicating that the captain might have met with foul play.

    On October 6th, news emerged from the Expeditionary Force that they intended to venture into the region where the ship had disappeared to eliminate the interstellar pirates.

    Azure Pattern Star did not authorize this mission, but the following day, Jing Baiyuanting led his people to the neighboring star region.

    Lancelot flew into a rage, smashing countless precious artifacts in the palace as he angrily scolded Jing Baiyuanting for his audacity to act on his own.

    Jing Baiyuan, however, defied Lanwen Star's command. Not only did he remain in the star domain himself, but he even summoned other teams to join him.

    Simply because he had detected Chu Li's personal terminal signal in the vicinity of the stellar region.

    His personal terminal seemed to have been compromised, with signals flickering in and out. The teams Jing Baiyuan had dispatched to trace the signal were certain that it originated within the League's territory. To enter for investigation would mean trespassing on another nation's soil.

    The Expeditionary Force's repeated probes eventually drew the attention of Admiral Huai Wei of the Alliance. This man, who had clashed with him multiple times, knew his modus operandi better than anyone. He was well aware that Baiyuan would not provoke the Alliance on its borders without cause. The day after discovering the Expeditionary Force, he dispatched a large fleet, with dozens of warships parked at the border, blocking Jing Baiyuan's path as he attempted to locate the signal.

    In the communication channel, Huai Wei, with a playful and indifferent expression, asked Jing Baiyuan: "When did you start picking up those bad habits from your Lanwen Star, looking for trouble for no reason? Jing Baiyuan, we've been rivals for so many years, I won't beat around the bush with you. The peace between the Alliance and the Empire has not come easily, so don't provoke me on my bottom line!"

    Before the screen, Jing Baiyuan's expression was colder and more solemn than ever. His sharp eyes locked onto Huai Wei on the other side, "Is the disappearance of our training ship related to you?"

    Huai Wei paused for a moment before promptly responding, "What training ship? How could it have anything to do with me?"

    That brief hesitation, however, did not escape Jing Baiyuan's keen observation.

    The Empire and the Alliance had long been at odds, and as the highest-ranking general of the Alliance, Huai Wei was a particular target of Jing Baiyuan's. Numerous strategies within the Empire were formulated through the study of Huai Wei's personality and behavioral patterns. One could say that Jing Baiyuan was the person in the world who knew him best, perhaps even more so than those closest to Huai Wei.

    The same could be said in reverse.

    The two rarely had the chance to face each other like this, and it was equally difficult for either of them to lie directly in front of the other.

    At a glance, Jing Baiyuan could tell that Huai Wei was lying, instantly confirming his involvement in the matter.

    After being exposed, Huai Wei froze for a moment before shrugging off the deception with a casual smile. "It's just an intern ship, I wouldn't know anything about it... But it is strange, why are you so concerned about a training vessel? Could it be that there's someone on board who... matters to you?"

    Jing Baiyuan sat upright, pressing his lips together without responding.

    Huai Wei found this even more astonishing. It seemed that Jing Baiyuan truly cared about someone on that spaceship... Could it be... that he had finally managed to sneak his mother out of the Imperial Palace?

    He leaned closer to the screen and whispered, "Are you planning a rebellion? Before you do, you should let your brother know – ah!"

    With a snap, the screen went black.

    Huai Wei gazed at his handsome reflection on the darkened display and scoffed. "Boring..."

    Then, turning to his adjutant, he instructed, "Investigate who exactly is so special on that spaceship we sold."

    --

    In the Empire, after the video call ended, the entire command room fell deathly silent.

    Ya Lan swallowed hard and asked, "Admiral, what should we do now…?"

    The training spacecraft had undoubtedly been taken into Alliance territory. If they were to proceed further, they would inevitably be embroiled in the conflict between the two nations… Even if they managed to retrieve the training spacecraft smoothly, it would undoubtedly infuriate Blueline Star.

    Did they deliberately set this trap…? Yet, she knew that no one was aware of the relationship between Chu Li and Jing Baiyuan. It seemed like a series of coincidences had led them to this point.

    Jing Baiyuan closed his eyes slightly. "Stay here and wait for orders. I'll go alone…"

    "No, Admiral," Ya Lan interjected. "Huai Wei has already seen through your plan. You'll be in danger if you go alone."

    Jing Baiyuan rubbed the space between his brows.

    There was no other choice.

    After a moment of silence, he said, "Then let's initiate a war."

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