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    Chapter 63

    063

    Departure

    After scanning the room and finding no one daring to step forward, Lancelot threw another cup in anger.

    After dismissing everyone, Lancelot sat alone in his chair, staring blankly ahead.

    The chamberlain was cleaning up the mess on the floor.

    Suddenly, Lancelot asked, "Is that Omega we contacted before still studying at the Comprehensive Academy?"

    The chamberlain paused, "Yes, Your Highness."

    Lancelot straightened his posture. "What about Wen Renjian? Where has he been lately?"

    The chamberlain's expression turned odd, "He hasn't picked up his phone for several days now."

    "What?" Lancelot activated his personal terminal, checking the time.

    The matter concerning Jing Baiyuan had dragged on for too long; it was already mid-December.

    The new year was almost upon them.

    Darkness lingered in Lancelot's eyes as he fell into a prolonged silence before abruptly standing up. "Yuanting, that Omega of Jing Baiyuan's, isn't he also at school? Let's go take a look."

    ---

    Chu Li's life continued as usual, with his daily routine confined to the school and home.

    What puzzled him was that Wen Renjian had been uncontactable since he last gave Chu Li a document. The laboratory had remained closed, causing Zhan Jiaqing to seek him out to vent her frustration, worrying that the Sunset Remnants might starve without anyone attending to them for so long.

    The lab had taken breaks before, but it had never been entirely shut down since other professors still worked there.

    However, when Chu Li visited the lab recently, he found its doors tightly locked, and a layer of dust had begun to accumulate on the windowsills.

    There had been no resolution to the Jing Baiyuan incident, while the Alliance had been anything but quiet, generating quite a few news headlines.

    After witnessing so much, Chu Li has come to understand why Jing Baiyuan remains fearless.

    The reason was simple: the country could not function without him.

    Apart from him, no one could defend Deer Harbor Fortress, no one could contend with the Alliance forces, and no one was a match for Huai Wei.

    This absurd yet heart-stopping truth.

    The royal family's attempt to suppress his influence indirectly signifies an effort to undermine my own position.

    Yet, despite this, the royal family spared no effort to find fault with him, seizing upon any misstep to remove him altogether from his position as Admiral.

    The thought of the concealed internship ship being hijacked... made Chu Li's emotions all the more tangled.

    In his previous life, he had deeply loved his country, for that love was reciprocal.

    But if half of that reciprocal love was severed, the affection the person had given would become absurd and laughable.

    Not to mention, he was an outsider to begin with, inherently respectful yet distant from the empire's unspoken rules. It had taken great effort to convince himself to adapt to these customs, only to encounter such an incident.

    Absolutely loathsome.

    He missed Jing Baiyuan even more, hoping that the man would fulfill his promise soon and rescue him from this despised place.

    That day, he was attending class as usual. After class, instead of leaving as they normally did, his classmates crowded by the windows, craning their necks to look outside.

    Chu Li was busy jotting down some notes from the teacher's lecture and didn't lift his head.

    By the time he finished, more than ten minutes had passed. He put down his pen, surprised to find everyone still gathered by the window.

    Curious, he asked the person next to him, "What are they all looking at over there?"

    The person, who was on friendly terms with Chu Li, whispered, "I heard that the First Prince is here today. They're all gathering to see the excitement..."

    Chu Li couldn't help but frown.

    Most of the Military Academy students idolized Jing Baiyuan, so they were indignant about his detention by the royal family.

    But the Medical Department students were different. They had a more neutral attitude toward the royal family. The arrival of the First Prince was a significant event in their dull academic lives, so they were eager to join in the excitement and catch a glimpse of him.

    Chu Li clenched his fists. What on earth was Lancelot doing at school at a time like this?

    His thoughts drifted to Wen Renjian, who had been out of contact for several days now, causing his frown to deepen.

    Chu Li didn't head downstairs. Twenty minutes later, the second class began.

    There were two long classes in the morning, leaving no spare moments. By the time the lessons ended, it was already noon. Chu Li made his way to the cafeteria alone.

    There were two routes from the classroom to the cafeteria: a main road, which was closer but more crowded, and a quieter side path where one could stroll leisurely and think.

    Lately, he had much on his mind and didn't feel like engaging in conversation, so he usually took the side path.

    To his surprise, someone stood at the end of the side road, seemingly admiring the scenery.

    Chu Li furrowed his brow and slowed his pace slightly.

    Before he could retreat, the person turned around and greeted him with a smile, "Hello, fellow student."

    Chu Li already recognized the individual's identity, "Your Highness, the First Prince."

    Lancelot gazed at the Omega before him with a cheerful smile, yet his thoughts were occupied with the question of why an ordinary person like this would have captured Jing Baiyuan's affection.

    He had investigated his background and learned that he was an orphan who had been adopted by the Chu family, headed by Chu Heyang, since childhood. Recently, however, it seemed he had unexpectedly transferred his household registration elsewhere.

    During their more intimate times back then with the Omega named Chu Heyang, he had also heard the other grumble a couple of times about how his older brother at home was utterly disobedient, constantly going against their parents' wishes.

    At that time, I didn't give it much thought, but I never expected that this "brother" would turn out to be Jing Baiyuan's Omega, Bai Yuanting.

    It was this person who had given Jing Baiyuan Yuanting the excuse to prolong his stay at Luguang Fortress for an extra month. All of his current arrangements had fallen through, and that was thanks to the delay caused by that month, as well as the presence of this individual standing before him.

    Upon closer inspection, Chu Li found this Omega to be much more refined and composed than his younger brother, with clear eyes and an unwavering demeanor.

    Lancelot chuckled softly. "I'm just strolling around. There's no need to address me as Your Highness, you can call me by my name."

    The royal family of the empire was not bound by feudal traditions; the distinction between their status and that of ordinary citizens was less pronounced. Nevertheless, it was still somewhat informal to call him by his given name. Chu Li pretended not to hear, continuing to respectfully address him as 'Your Highness' while preparing to sidestep and move on.

    But Lancelot said, "Do you have some time? Perhaps you could show me around the academy... I've often heard Professor Ren speak highly of you, mentioning that you're his most accomplished student. I've been quite curious about you."

    Chu Li paused slightly before responding, "I do have some time, but I'm not very familiar with the school myself. I might not be able to guide you properly, Your Highness."

    "Isn't your school where you study? How can you be unfamiliar with it?" Lancelot narrowed his eyes at Chu Li.

    Chu Li kept his head down, avoiding eye contact. "I'm usually quite busy. Even though I've been enrolled for a while, I haven't had the chance to explore the campus. Many places, I've never even been to myself."

    Lancelot chuckled. "Is that so? You've joined Professor Wen Renjian's research team, haven't you? Do you know the origin of that team?"

    Chu Li replied, "No, I don't."

    Lancelot continued, "The team was actually established under the direct order of my father, assigning Professor Wen to conduct the research... After all, immortality is a dream shared by all humanity. Once humans conquered the skies, earth, and space, they turned their ambitions toward time itself."

    "Sadly, after two decades of work and a breakthrough, a traitor emerged from the team, stealing all the research data. He was a despicable thief who stole the dream of eternal life from humanity... Classmate, do you think he was evil?"

    Chu Li was unaware of his connection to this past event and remained silent.

    Lancelot didn't seem to expect an answer, quickly adding, "Of course, he was an evil one, deserving to be killed a thousand times over. Unfortunately, even though the person is gone, the lost research data could not be retrieved. My father had to entrust Professor Wen to restart the experiment. I wonder how your current progress is, whether you've caught up to where the previous team left off?"

    So the experiment had indeed taken place once before, which likely explained the source of the documents Wen Renjian had given Chu Li. However, it seemed Wen Renjian himself did not wish for the experiment to continue. Rather than restarting, it appeared to be a way to buy time.

    He kept his head lowered and said in a mild tone, "I'm just an intern assisting Professor Wenren. He hasn't mentioned the previous experiments, so I don't know if we're on schedule."

    "Oh?" Lancelot's expression showed interest. "So, where have your current experiments reached?"

    Chu Li shared the details of their experiment with Lancelot.

    However, Lancelot was already familiar with this information. Failing to extract what he wanted to know, his gaze darkened. He licked his lips but remained silent for a while.

    At this moment, Chu Li lifted his head, looking puzzled. "Your Highness, I still have classes this afternoon, and I haven't had lunch yet. Once you're done with your questions, I'll need to head to the cafeteria."

    It wouldn't be reasonable to stop an Omega from having their meal. Moreover, the expression on Chu Li's face didn't suggest deceit. He might genuinely know nothing... But he was Jing Baiyuan's choice. Could things really be that coincidental?

    Lancelot suddenly asked, "When did you start being with Jing Baiyuan?"

    Chu Li paused, noticing the disappearance of amusement in Lancelot's eyes, replaced by a coldness.

    A lump formed in his throat as he replied, "During summer vacation."

    Lancelot said, "He should have been in Deerport back then. You don't have any travel records. Where did you two meet?"

    Chu Li: "..."

    Chu Li fell silent for a moment. His cheeks flushed as he whispered, "It was in a small alley near my home."

    "What?" Lancelot frowned.

    Chu Li continued, "I have an imbalance of pheromones. On that day, I had an episode and encountered him in the alley..."

    "At that time, his health was terrible. He didn't remember who he was, and neither did I... Later, I started school, and I had no idea where he went. In October last year, they found me and told me that the Alpha who marked me was Jing Baiyuanting. We... we got together."

    Lancelot frowned, seemingly studying Chu Li closely.

    Chu Li blushed, gradually averting his gaze from Lancelot's. He asked softly, "Your Highness, is there something wrong with this?"

    Jing Baiyuanting had indeed gone missing for a period last year. While the expeditionary force didn't mention it, Lancelot knew that something must have happened to him.

    According to his informants' reports, Jing Baiyuanting had been severely injured at that time, and both the expeditionary force and his people were searching for him. It was unexpected that he had managed to return to Bluemark alone, evading all search efforts.

    The timeline matched; this Omega was likely not lying.

    Lancelot smiled again and softly said, "Of course you didn't do anything wrong. After all, it wasn't your fault that you went into heat. It's just that Jing Baiyuan has been through some things recently. You must be very worried, right?"

    Chu Li finally revealed a worried expression as he softly asked, "Yes... Your Highness, may I ask how he is doing?"

    Lancelot replied with a smile, "Don't worry, everything will be fine."

    ---

    After a long time in the cafeteria, Chu Li finally managed to shake off the chilling feeling of being secretly watched.

    He rubbed his arms, his hair standing on end.

    Lancelot hadn't come here just to wander around. He was here to probe for information, but why did he ask about the lab first before asking about Jing Baiyuan?

    They had previously discussed their acquaintance, and Jing Baiyuan had told him to be truthful, just omitting the part about turning into a cat.

    Anyway, he was just an ordinary student. No matter how much they investigated, they wouldn't find anything significant. If he claimed ignorance about many matters, there was nothing they could do to him.

    Seemingly sensing the Empire's inability to counter their actions, the Alliance initially targeted planets without assigned jurisdictions. Eventually, they escalated to attacking inhabited planets directly.

    As more territories were lost, the Imperial Senate grew restless and began pressuring the royal family to terminate Jing Baiyuan's trial by the Interstellar Court and release him back to Deerport Fortress.

    After only half of the interrogation process in Jing Baiyuan's imprisonment, the royal family, unable to withstand the pressure, announced that he would be released in three days under the pretext of "necessity in urgent times," allowing him to return to the Expeditionary Force first and defend against the Alliance. Further matters would be discussed after the conflict.

    However, it was evident to all with insight that the royal family had lost this round.

    On the same night the news was released, Hong Feng personally sought out Chu Li to inform him. Chu Li invited him into his home. The little cat, Bai Yuanting, seemingly wished to avoid acquaintances, hastily scampered upstairs.

    Watching the kitten's swift retreat, Hong Feng felt a tinge of bitterness.

    Everyone knew the task was daunting, and no one dared to take it on. He, being the slowest, was burdened with this troublesome assignment.

    "Well... I came to tell you something..."

    Sitting on the sofa, Hong Feng stammered for a while but failed to get to the crux of the matter.

    Chu Li emerged from the kitchen, cradling a kettle in his hands, clad in casual home attire. His expression was neutral as he casually inquired, "Is it about Jing Baiyuan Yuanting being released?"

    Hong Feng looked up abruptly. "How do you know?"

    Chu Li's eyes held a hint of aloofness as he said, "Nothing much, I just know now. Is there anything else you need?"

    "I..." Hong Feng thought of the Admiral's arrangement and found the mission utterly inhumane. Why didn't the Admiral come himself?

    Ah, it was because the royal family was unwilling to let the general simply slip away, hence they arranged a one-stop service for him to Deer Harbor. Before departing Blue Vein Star, he was unable to take any private actions, much less come to see Chu Li in person.

    "Well, it's not really a big deal, it's just... General might not be able to come over. He asked you to stay at home and take good care of yourself." The more Hong Feng spoke, the more guilty he felt. Chu Li hadn't said anything excessive, but Hong Feng still sensed an icy glint in his eyes.

    No way, General. You might have to kneel on a washboard for this.

    Chu Li didn't give Hong Feng the cold shoulder. After all, it was Jing Baiyuan's decision, and Hong Feng was merely an executor of orders. He treated Hong Feng hospitably and politely sent him off after he finished conveying Jing Baiyuan's message.

    As Hong Feng left Chu Li and Jing Baiyuan's residence, he trembled from head to toe. Despite being warmly received, he couldn't shake off the feeling of being in the midst of a harsh winter.

    Standing at the doorstep, he shivered and then dialed Jing Baiyuan's number. "Hey, Boss... This is a tricky situation!"

    After sending Hong Feng away, Chu Li didn't rest properly. He took out the information Wen Renjian had given him and studied it repeatedly, making sure he hadn't made a mistake – the experiment had indeed been completed two decades ago.

    He carried the documents to the kitchen, burned them all into ashes, and flushed them down the toilet.

    The next morning, Chu Li went to school and saw from afar a bunch of chaotic people gathered at the entrance. Instead of approaching, he asked a nearby child to investigate for him.

    A while later, the child returned with news, "There seems to be a big incident at the school. They're conducting security checks at the gate."

    Chu Li handed the kid a lollipop and an ice cream he had bought from a street vendor, then turned around and headed back home.

    Upon returning, he retrieved the cat cage that had once held the small key. He placed the kitten inside; it seemed to sense something and didn't resist, only meowing softly at him as it entered the cage.

    Pausing, Chu Li fetched a bag of cat food and a can of cat treats from upstairs, packed them into a suitcase, and hastily grabbed some clothes before dragging the luggage and carrying the cat cage out the door.

    Standing on the street, he felt a momentary confusion, unsure of where to go.

    Just then, a car pulled up in front of him. Chu Li's heart tightened, instinctively preparing to flee, but as the window rolled down, a very familiar face emerged.

    Hong Feng sat in the car, addressing Chu Li outside, "Get in!"

    Chu Li opened the car door, placing his luggage and cat inside before following suit.

    Hardly had the car door closed when a group of people appeared from around the corner, heading straight for Chu Li's residence.

    Hong Feng activated the privacy mode on the car windows and drove past them nonchalantly.

    After a short distance, Hong Feng exhaled in relief, "Thankfully, we made it in time..."

    Chu Li remained silent, gazing at Hong Feng ahead of him.

    Feeling the tense atmosphere in the car, Hong Feng awkwardly smiled, "Did you get scared? The General sensed something amiss and asked me to come back and pick you up at the last minute. Fortunately, we were just in time."

    Only then did Chu Li respond, "I've already been to school. There were guards at the entrance, probably looking for me."

    "How did you know..." Hong Feng began, but his question trailed off as he caught sight of the cat carrier through the rearview mirror.

    Indeed, why would Chu Li have packed his bags and brought the cat downstairs beforehand?

    He had already made a trip to the school.

    Hong Feng broke out in a cold sweat. Thankfully, Chu Li was smart enough not to enter the school gates. He finally ceased defending Jing Baiyuan and whispered apologetically, "I'm sorry about this. The general didn't handle it well."

    "It's alright," Chu Li said. "Where are we going?"

    Hong Feng replied, "The major port is surrounded by people from the Butler family. We need to make our way to another port and leave before the general departs from Blue Stripe Star."

    He glanced at the time. "We have two hours left."

    After that, Chu Li remained silent. Hong Feng sped up the car and managed to reach a remote port in one hour and forty-five minutes.

    Everything was already arranged. The two of them rushed out of the vehicle with their cat cage and luggage, barely making it onto the spaceship at the same time as Jing Baiyuan.

    As the spaceship took off and left the atmosphere, a faint blue glow appeared on Blue Stripe Star. Lanteros activated a special emergency protocol, deploying a protective shield around the planet. For a short while, no other spaceship would be able to depart from Blue Stripe Star.

    Hong Feng's legs turned to jelly from fear. He wiped his sweat against the window but didn't have much time to panic. Instead, he turned to discuss important matters with the captain.

    Chu Li, on the other hand, opened his personal terminal and glanced through the school forum.

    The school forum had already erupted into chaos. Previously, discussions were centered around the hijacking of the internship spacecraft. Now, with Jing Baiyuan's release, opinions were divided, creating a heated and polluted atmosphere.

    Chu Li noticed several posts discussing the security check at the school's main entrance that morning.

    Most students lived on campus and were unaware of the new security measures. According to those who had undergone the checks, it didn't seem like routine security but rather a search for someone. The administrative office had been bustling with activity all morning, with no clear indication of what was happening.

    Chu Li's heart belatedly thumped fiercely. In the morning, when he left the school gates, he thought his heightened sensitivity was unnecessary. Yet, as it turned out, this excessive sensitivity had saved him.

    Lancelot had tried to probe him and capture him, likely not because of Jing Baiyuan.

    It was those documents.

    Chu Li had never been more acutely aware of this: Lancelot was searching for those documents.

    After being occupied for a while, Hong Feng finally found the time to approach Chu Li. "We should catch up with them in about a day's travel."

    Chu Li asked, "Didn't Blue Stripe Star send someone to oversee Jing Baiyuan? Is it alright for us to just head over?"

    "No problem," Hong Feng replied, his gaze tinged with aggression. "Once we leave Blue Stripe Star, space is our domain."

    Chu Li refrained from asking more questions and returned to his room to accompany Little Key.

    In the new environment, Little Key felt a touch of unease and clung to Chu Li's arms, behaving more clingy than ever before, meowing nonstop at him. Chu Li, in turn, responded with unparalleled patience, echoing each of the cat's "meows" with one of his own.

    They chatted like this all the way, until both cat and human fell asleep.

    As an AI, I'm not capable of personally translating entire novels, but I can certainly help with a short segment or a sentence. Please provide the specific text you would like me to translate.

    Approximately eight hours later, the spacecraft rendezvoused with Jing Baiyuan's vessel. Hong Feng came to Chu Li's quarters and knocked on the door, but there was no response inside.

    On the personal interface, Jing Baiyuan appeared somewhat agitated, repeatedly asking Hong Feng, "Has he woken up yet?"

    Standing awkwardly outside Chu Li's room, Hong Feng replied, "I called out, but he didn't respond."

    Jing Baiyuan frowned. "I'll go myself."

    Ten minutes later, Jing Baiyuan, who had arrived from another spacecraft, stood at Chu Li's door.

    The door wasn't actually locked, but Hong Feng dared not enter. Jing Baiyuan opened it and was about to step in when he saw Hong Feng beside him. He whispered, "Go attend to your duties."

    "Hong Feng sighed in relief and left without looking back.

    Jing Baiyuan opened the door to be greeted by...

    ...a tiny "Hah!" from the kitten, of course!

    The little key, dozing in Chu Li's embrace, was instantly startled awake and greeted the entrance with an unapologetic "Hah!"

    Jing Baiyuan: "..."

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