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    Chapter 57

    057

    Encounter.

    Despite being a space pirate, Gou Fei enjoyed the protection of the Alliance. They were stationed in a remote area of the Alliance, preying on Imperial trading vessels for their livelihood. Their methods were brutal; not only would they plunder cargo, but they also left no survivors, earning them the notorious nickname "Ghosts Who Don't Spare Even Bones."

    Ironically, he had deep connections within the Alliance. Despite multiple requests from the Empire to extradite him, the Alliance always found excuses to evade the matter.

    Now that they were at odds with the Alliance, being able to directly confront the pirates' hideout was not without its rewards for the Expeditionary Force.

    The pirates were stationed on a barren, uninhabited planet rich in minerals. They maintained the planet's original state and constructed an underground base directly beneath the ruins of a once-thriving city.

    Jing BaiyuanYuanting led his team independently to break through the front line and reach this location. The moment his squad discovered the pirate base, Huai Wei retreated. It was uncertain if his initial resistance was merely a ruse to cover for the pirates.

    Surprisingly, the base was well-equipped. As soon as their team triggered the alarms, several fighter jets emerged from underground, all manned by actual pilots. Most of Jing Baiyuan's forces remained at the front line, with only a swarm of hive warships accompanying him. Although the warships were effective, they lacked the agility of human-controlled crafts, temporarily trapping them in a stalemate.

    What puzzled Jing Baiyuan, however, was that despite the prolonged battle, the pirates seemed disorganized, and their leader had yet to make an appearance.

    Not long after, the enemy spacecraft of the celestial pirates were obliterated. As for the surviving pirates, they were captured and subdued by the expeditionary force.

    Ya Lan hurried over, clad in resplendent white armor. She stumbled to Jing Baiyuan's side. "General, have you found Mr. Chu Li?"

    Jing Baiyuan shook his head. He surveyed the devastated area. Earlier, he had been wary of damaging the ground structures and thus refrained from using excessive ammunition, which had slowed them down significantly.

    Just as he was about to dispatch troops to search, an odd sound echoed from afar, shrill and piercing. Ya Lan immediately covered her ears. "What is that?"

    She had arrived late and was unaware that this base's intrusion alarm sounded like that. But since the pirates had already been captured, where did this alarm come from?

    Jing Baiyuan frowned and strode toward the source of the noise.

    After passing through two walls blasted to rubble, Jing Baiyuan saw two figures crouching on an empty patch of land. One of them was covered in blood, while the other person said, "This thing makes too much noise. We have to operate it manually, so we can't leave. By the time someone comes, we might end up deaf too…"

    Chu Li: "…"

    He hadn't expected the facilities in this base to be so primitive. The pirates seemed to act with impunity here, but in reality, they were far from the empire and the alliance's centers, unable to enjoy any technological benefits. They didn't even have medical scanners.

    Probably all their money went into stockpiling weapons.

    "I still need to try…" He barely finished his sentence when he felt a chill behind him, causing him to freeze in place.

    Moments later, sensing something, he turned around.

    Not far away, the person he had been longing for was standing behind a dilapidated wall, staring intently at him.

    Zou Changchun was still pondering how to trigger the alarm without standing next to it. Unaware that the person beside him had gone quiet, he studied the device for a while before suggesting, "What if we place it higher up and attach it with a stone… Chu Li?"

    Realizing Chu Li's silence, he glanced back and found no one there.

    Alarm bells rang in his head. Could the space pirates have returned and taken him away again? !

    But why wasn't there any sound at all?

    He immediately abandoned the alarm and started searching everywhere. Just as he turned around, he froze in shock. Chu Li had somehow gotten up and was now tightly embraced by someone. The figure wore a familiar bright white armor, exuding a strong alpha pheromone scent.

    It was an Alpha!

    "Who are you?! Let him go!" Zou Changchun mustered his courage and shouted at the stranger.

    Jing Baiyuan Yuanting held Chu Li in one arm, pressing his head against his chest. Glancing at the young Alpha in the distance with a cold gaze, he intimidated the other without saying a word. The Alpha immediately fell silent.

    Zou Changchun was startled with fear. Why... did this person look so familiar to him?

    At that moment, Ya Lan finally caught up. Seeing Jing Baiyuan holding someone, she knew it must be Chu Li. Relieved, she approached Jing Baiyuan. "General, how is it?"

    Jing Baiyuan shook his head and lifted Chu Li horizontally. Unbeknownst to them, Chu Li had already passed out. Now, leaning against Jing Baiyuan's embrace, his dirt-stained fair face evoked sympathy.

    However, Jing Baiyuan deduced from the pheromones that Chu Li was unharmed – the blood on him belonged to someone else. Partially reassured, he still couldn't fully relax and instructed Ya Lan, "Search for the others."

    Soon, the others hiding in the large pit were also found.

    They never expected to be rescued, let alone by the renowned Jing Baiyuan Yuanting.

    Even when they were boarded onto the spaceship, they were still in disbelief.

    Cao Yun's face was pale, but her thoughts were with Chu Li. Seeing only Zou Changchun return, she grabbed him for news about Chu Li. To her surprise, Zou Changchun wore a complicated expression, shaking his head and sighing for a long time, refusing to divulge what had happened to Chu Li.

    Cao Yun was even more anxious and couldn't resist going out to search for Chu Li.

    In a corridor corner, Cao Yun finally spotted Chu Li, but his eyes were closed as he was being held by Jing Baiyuan, Yuan-ting.

    Why would Chu Li be in the arms of the Admiral? Why was he with his eyes shut? Could it be... something happened?

    Cao Yun tried to rush forward in panic but was stopped by Ya Lan.

    Ya Lan whispered softly, "Chu Li is fine, he's just asleep. You should go back."

    "But..." Cao Yun wanted to say more, but she saw Jing Baiyuan carrying Chu Li into a room.

    The rooms on the spaceship were small and single occupancy, with a bed visible as soon as you entered.

    She was held back by Ya Lan at the corner, watching helplessly as Jing Baiyuan placed Chu Li on the bed and reached to undo his shirt buttons.

    Cao Yun was startled. "What is the Admiral doing?"

    Ya Lan closed her eyes in exasperation. "Admiral Jing is Chu Li's Alpha... you... aren't you going back yet?"

    Two lovers reuniting, naturally they'd be affectionate and intimate—why was she standing here like a third wheel? She was about to leave, yet this teacher still hadn't budged.

    Cao Yun exclaimed in shock, "Chu Li's Alpha is Admiral Jing Baiyuan?!"

    ---

    Inside the room, Jing Baiyuan helped Chu Li remove his bloodstained jacket, tossing it aside on the floor.

    By now, Ya Lan had finished explaining the situation to Cao Yun and came over to close the door for him.

    Jing Baiyuan looked down at the person in the bed. After being held captive by Gou Fei for several days, he had lost weight; all that effort he put into gaining some flesh back on Blue Stripe Star was now gone.

    There was still an indentation on the palm of his right hand, as if he had tightly clenched something with great force.

    While boarding the spaceship, Ya Lan had informed him of the Expeditionary Force's clean-up of the battlefield. She said that the pirate leader, Gou Fei, had already been found dead in his own quarters.

    A thin blade had been used, a fatal strike.

    No wonder they hadn't encountered the pirate leader when they arrived.

    It turned out that Chu Li had already been struggling inside.

    He couldn't have imagined that Chu Li actually killed Gou Fei.

    The person on the bed had his eyes tightly shut, unconscious and unaware, yet Jing Baiyuanting felt as if his heart was being cut by a blunt knife, causing him a steady ache.

    He pressed Chu Li's bloodstained and soiled hand against his face, whispering, "I'm late."

    The sleeping man seemed to sense his presence and stirred slightly, his fingertips grazing across Jing Baiyuanting's cheek, leaving a faint tickling sensation.

    Jing Baiyuanting buried his head in Chu Li's palm and closed his eyes.

    ---

    Chu Li slept deeply. Halfway through, he woke up from a nightmare, shivering. His hands and feet were immediately held tightly by someone. In his sleep, he suddenly remembered that he was no longer in the base of the interstellar pirates but had been saved by Jing Baiyuanting.

    Right, Jing Baiyuanting was by his side.

    Exhaustion prevented him from opening his eyes, and after realizing this, Chu Li drifted back into sleep.

    When he fully regained consciousness, it was unclear how much time had passed. He felt weak and powerless from the deep sleep. Struggling to open his eyes, he noticed that he was wearing different clothes, lying on clean, soft bedding on a narrow cot. However, the bed seemed too small for one person.

    To his surprise, there were actually two people on this compact military cot. His back was pressed against the wall, held securely in someone's embrace. A broad and solid chest was right in front of him, exuding a familiar scent.

    Chu Li took a deep breath of this recognizable pheromone, feeling somewhat restless. Looking up, he indeed saw that familiar face.

    It was Jing Baiyuanting.

    After almost a year apart, they had finally reunited.

    He seemed no different from when they last met, except that he appeared to have neglected his grooming. His face looked slightly haggard, with stubble sprouting from his chin, tinted with a shade of blue, giving him a more rugged and masculine appearance.

    Due to his physique in this life, Chu Li didn't grow facial hair. Seeing the stubble, he felt a nostalgic twinge and couldn't help but smile, reaching out to touch it.

    As his fingertips brushed Jing Baiyuanting's chin, his hand was captured. Jing Baiyuanting opened his eyes, gazing intently at Chu Li with his deep, serene gaze.

    Upon their long-awaited reunion, Chu Li felt a bit awkward. He tried to withdraw his hand, but after exerting some effort, it remained held captive. He lowered his head and whispered, "Why are you holding me?"

    "Little Li..." Jing Baiyuanting murmured softly, as if confirming that Chu Li was indeed right in front of him.

    Chu Li softly replied, "Mm."

    His heart, which had been floating in the air, was gently anchored back to the ground.

    It was at this moment that Jing Baiyuan felt the reality of reclaiming a lost treasure. Gradually, he moved his hand holding Chu Li's wrist upward until their fingers interlaced. With his other hand, he wrapped it around Chu Li from behind, drawing his head down and pressing it against his own.

    He leaned forward, embracing Chu Li tightly.

    Not only was this embrace tight, but it also trembled slightly, as if all the affection he couldn't express was condensed in this one act of holding him close.

    Chu Li, feeling the intensity of his burning emotions, couldn't help but shiver. He reached out and hugged Jing Baiyuan just as tightly, "I'm fine."

    How could he be fine?

    It was only now that Jing Baiyuan became acutely aware of his fear. He pulled Chu Li even closer into his embrace. Only in this way could he truly sense that the person in front of him was unharmed, still safely by his side.

    "I shouldn't have let you come here," Jing Baiyuan's voice was somewhat hoarse.

    Chu Li, however, smiled. "An old friend once taught me a phrase: 'to stop eating for fear of choking.'"

    "We can't be like that," Chu Li pushed Jing Baiyuan away gently and pressed their foreheads together.

    The army cot was narrow, and they had to cling closely to each other for both of them to fit. Yet, it was precisely because of this intimacy that their breaths intertwined, blending their essences into one another.

    Staring into Chu Li's eyes that were so close, which had witnessed such danger yet still sparkled brightly, he was even smiling, comforting him.

    Jing Baiyuan felt a surge of emotions. He tilted his head back and placed a gentle kiss on Chu Li's forehead, repeating the gesture over and over again. He traced down the high bridge of his nose, kissed his brows, his cheeks, and paused slightly before finally placing a soft kiss on his lips.

    Yet, this comforting kiss soon took on a different connotation as their positions shifted. Chu Li found himself lying on the bed with Jing Baiyuan Ting hovering above him.

    Their interlocked fingers gripped each other more tightly, their lips and teeth entwined, while their breathing grew labored.

    After nearly a year of separation, their bodies couldn't withstand such sparks without igniting a flame. When Jing Baiyuan Ting's tongue invaded his mouth, Chu Li struggled to contain the rapid pace of his heartbeat. It was as if an electric current spread from their lips, leaving him in a state of intense tension, yet frozen in place.

    He parted his lips, responding to Jing Baiyuan Ting's advances.

    As their kiss deepened, and the atmosphere heated up, footsteps echoed from the doorway, followed by a knock and Ya Lan's reluctant voice: "General... Has Mr. Chu Li awakened? His teacher and classmates wish to see him."

    Jing Baiyuanting: "..."

    The man lying on top of him suddenly stilled. Though Chu Li couldn't see his expression due to being embraced, he could sense the displeasure emanating from him. Chuckling, Chu Li patted his shoulder and said, "I'll just go reassure my teachers. They must be worried about me."

    When Chu Li had just woken up and was still weak, there was little he could do.

    Of course, Jing Baiyuanting was well aware of this.

    Yet, he was unwilling to accept it.

    Reluctantly, the large cat released Chu Li, turning to gaze at the slight flush now coloring his pale face from the kisses. Satisfied, he whispered, "Go on. I'll ask Feng Yichen and the others to cook for you. What do you want to eat?"

    Chu Li's eyes lit up. "I want to eat, I want to eat a lot!"

    He poured out his thoughts in one breath to Jing Baiyuan, who sat quietly beside him, his eyes shimmering with a subtle amusement, nodding in agreement to every point.

    Outside the door, Ya Lan paced anxiously, shifting from standing on the right side to the left, unable to contain his restlessness.

    She couldn't help but wonder if the Admiral would scold her for this intrusion. Although she was fully aware that it wasn't an ideal time to disturb the Admiral, the group of students had proven exceptionally difficult to manage. Unaware of the relationship between the Admiral and Chu Li, and hesitant to divulge such information herself, she found her repeated attempts at persuasion falling on deaf ears. Left with no other recourse, she reluctantly sought the Admiral's assistance.

    It was uncertain if Chu Li had woken up yet.

    After waiting for about ten minutes, the door finally creaked open from inside. Jing Baiyuan Ting emerged with a stern expression.

    Ya Lan blinked. Jing Baiyuan Ting always wore this unfeeling facade during his military expeditions, and she was accustomed to it. She couldn't discern Chu Li's condition from his expression, so she summoned her courage and peered into the room behind him.

    There, she saw Chu Li sitting on a campaign bed, smiling at her.

    From his appearance, he didn't seem to be injured.

    Ya Lan heaved a sigh of relief. As long as he wasn't hurt, that was good.

    She lifted her gaze to Jing Baiyuan Ting, about to speak when he said, "Tell the kitchen to prepare lunch."

    "Ahh..." Ya Lan froze. "It's only..."

    Not even ten o'clock yet.

    Jing Baiyuan Ting ignored her and, as he walked out, began listing dishes. After naming over a dozen, he instructed, "Let those people come and visit him, but not for too long. He needs rest."

    "Understood," Ya Lan acknowledged, promptly seeking out the group of students while sending a message to Feng Yindun to inform the kitchen to prepare the meal in advance.

    ---

    When Jing Baiyuanting left, he informed Chu Li that Cao Yun and his other classmates would be arriving soon.

    Worried that his presence might restrain their relaxation, and eager to deal with the matter of the star pirates, he decided to leave first.

    Chu Li sat on the bed, awaiting Cao Yun and the others' arrival.

    While waiting, he looked around the room.

    Spaceship cabins were generally similar - a single room with a bed, a table, and a wardrobe. However, Jing Baiyuanting's quarters were more simplistic, adorned with a gray and somber palette. One might even have nightmares about corporate overtime when sleeping in here.

    Jing Baiyuanting's character...

    From their previous interactions, Chu Li had sensed that Jing Baiyuanting was a man of few words, introverted, and serious. Yet, he hadn't expected his demeanor to be even more pronounced within the Expeditionary Force.

    Working under him must have been quite challenging.

    After a bout of daydreaming, footsteps echoed from the entrance. Chu Li lifted his gaze to see Cao Yun leading a group of students, arriving in a grand manner at the door.

    Upon catching sight of Chu Li, Cao Yun's eyes welled up with tears, especially when she noticed him still sitting on the bed. Instantly, she imagined numerous terrible scenarios. She rushed forward and squatted beside Chu Li's bed, whispering, "How are you? Are you injured? Admiral Jing Bai...?"

    Chu Li placed a hand on her shoulder, assuring her, "Teacher, don't worry. I'm fine, really. I'm just exhausted and took a nap. How about you? Have you rested? eaten?"

    Although Gou Fei had kept them fed and watered in the glass room, how much were they actually given?

    After being confined for several days, everyone had lost weight.

    Cao Yun nodded. "The Expeditionary Force has taken good care of us..."

    The room was too small, so when Cao Yun spoke to Chu Li, the others could only wait outside. However, they were desperate to see Chu Li, pushing and shoving each other, causing the crowd to sway.

    At first, Chu Li conversed earnestly with Cao Yun. As their talk progressed, his attention drifted to the students behind her, staring for a long while before sighing, "What are you doing?"

    Cao Yun turned around, giving them a stern look, then said to Chu Li, "They already know that you killed Gou Fei. If not for your negotiations with the pirate leader, they would've likely died. They're immensely grateful to you and wanted to come and visit."

    Chu Li never expected that it would be something like this. Just as he was about to tell them not to overthink it and go back to rest, someone pushed their way through the crowd.

    The person stumbled into the room and opened his mouth, looking straight at Chu Li. Chu Li thought he had something to say, but after waiting for a while, the man remained silent.

    This person looked familiar, and Chu Li still remembered his name. "Zou Changchun, what are you doing here?"

    Upon hearing his name mentioned, Zou Changchun's face turned even redder. After stuttering for a long time, he suddenly bowed deeply to Chu Li and exclaimed, "I'm sorry!"

    His voice was so loud that Chu Li was startled. He stared wide-eyed at him.

    Zou Changchun kept his head down, maintaining the bowing posture, and spoke to Chu Li, "I misunderstood you earlier, thinking that you were in cahoots with the star pirates, and blamed you for leaving without helping us. I'm sorry! I judged you wrongly! I was being selfish, assuming that you were the same as me!"

    "I'm sorry!"

    He apologized loudly, almost lowering his head to the ground.

    Chu Li was quite surprised. He hadn't heard Zou Changchun curse at him, so he didn't have a real sense of what he was saying.

    He turned to look at Cao Yun.

    Cao Yun reluctantly turned his head away, clearly acknowledging that he had indeed spoken ill of Chu Li.

    Chu Li pondered for a moment and said, "Forget it. I didn't hear anything anyway, so there's no need to make such a big deal out of it. It's awkward for everyone."

    Zou Changchun lifted his head, his entire face flushed red. "I... I'm sorry, I really... I'm such a beast! Chu Li... you... you..."

    He was too agitated to speak.

    The young Omega sat on the bed with his head tilted, looking at him with a hint of curiosity in his delicate features. Under the light, his skin was as fair as snow, and his eyes were captivating.

    Zou Changchun wanted to ask if Chu Li really had an Alpha, who his Alpha was, and why they hadn't shown up in the face of such a significant event.

    But just as he mustered the courage to voice his questions, a series of resounding footsteps echoed behind him. The students behind him spontaneously made way, revealing a tall figure before them.

    Before leaving, Jing Baiyuan had instructed Ya Lan to take the students for a quick glimpse and then let Chu Li rest.

    Little did he know that despite his departure, the group was still blocking the entrance.

    From afar, they could hear their voices echoing loudly.

    Jing Baiyuan's expression was rather grim. After entering the room, he didn't look at anyone and went straight to Chu Li's bedside, bending down to ask softly, "Are you hungry?"

    Chu Li had been starving for a long time. Upon hearing this, he nodded repeatedly. "Yes, I am."

    Jing Baiyuan's tone softened slightly. "I'll take you to eat."

    "Ahh..." Chu Li instinctively wanted to get out of bed but realized his shoes weren't by the side.

    Before he could react, Jing Baiyuan suddenly bent down and scooped him up from the bed. Chu Li let out a startled cry and instinctively wrapped his arms around the Alpha's shoulders. "What are you doing?!"

    Jing Baiyuan turned with him in his arms, his gaze sweeping across the stunned faces at the door.

    Chu Li also realized what was happening – was Jing Baiyuan planning to carry him to the dining area? But there were so many people here, and he wasn't even wearing shoes – it was too embarrassing!

    His bare feet shyly wiggled, and even the Omega's toes were delightfully rounded and cute. Jing Baiyuan glanced over, casually grabbed a spare bedsheet nearby, and draped it over Chu Li before striding out, holding him aloft in a brazen manner.

    Despite the crowd at the entrance, no one dared to block their path.

    When they reached a person named Zou Changchun, Jing Baiyuan gave him an extra look. The young Alpha, however, didn't dare say a word and could only watch in astonishment as they left.

    A faint smile tugged at the corners of Jing Baiyuan's lips as he stepped out of the room and made his way to the cafeteria.

    Zou Changchun stood rooted to the spot, oblivious to the voices of his classmates and teachers around him.

    It turned out that Chu Li really did have an Alpha, and that Alpha was Jing Baiyuan.

    He had already seen from his personal terminal the news about the strained relations between the Expeditionary Force and the Alliance.

    Chu Li's Alpha hadn't been absent during such a significant event; he had been here all along.

    His adolescent heart, just beginning to bud with feelings, had been violently crushed in its infancy before he could even confess to the object of his affection.

    Author's Note:

    I'm late; I accidentally locked myself in a virtual room and couldn't get out. The scheduled post is ten minutes overdue.

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