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    Chapter 66

    066

    A Day Out

    From afar, Chu Li saw the spaceship approaching, and amidst the gust of wind it stirred, he could hear his own heart pounding wildly.

    It turned out that he had been missing Jing Baiyuan all along; the longing was merely suppressed deep within him, never having been unleashed.

    Only when he knew that Jing Baiyuan's landing was imminent did the pent-up yearning surge forth.

    His heart throbbed so fiercely that Chu Li could only clutch at his collar, squinting as he watched the spaceship draw closer in the sky.

    Hong Feng nudged him aside and whispered, "We're too close. We'll get swept up in the turbulence."

    Only then did Chu Li step back. After the spaceship had landed completely, he dashed forward.

    Sure enough, Jing Baiyuan was the first to disembark. Chu Li squinted for a moment before bolting towards him.

    Jing Baiyuan Ting didn't expect Chu Li to come over, and seeing him sprinting wildly, he was slightly taken aback, then stood still, extending his arms towards him.

    Chu Li accurately fell into his embrace.

    Ya Lan followed closely behind, unable to bear watching any longer. She blinked and averted her gaze.

    Jing Baiyuan Ting also found it difficult to restrain himself. Due to their position, he merely needed to lower his head slightly to see the slightly protruding gland at the back of Chu Li's neck, exuding a faint sweet scent.

    He licked his teeth with the tip of his tongue, averting his eyes, and spoke softly, "Why are you here?"

    Chu Li smiled and said, "It's almost New Year, I'm coming to fetch you home."

    The words "fetch you home" made Jing Baiyuan Ting's heart warm even more. Disregarding the gazes behind him, he lifted Chu Li directly from the ground, eliciting a surprised cry, "Ah! What are you doing?"

    Jing Baiyuan Ting didn't respond, walking forward while carrying him. Chu Li finally reacted, turning his head to see Ya Lan's teasing smile. His face flushed red, and he pounded Jing Baiyuan Ting's shoulder, whispering, "Stop joking around, put me down!"

    However, Jing Baiyuan Ting was oblivious to these matters. He carried Chu Li into the adjacent waiting lounge.

    There was a private lounge for him in the waiting area. Before entering, he said to Ya Lan, "Go back first, there's no need to wait for us."

    Ya Lan replied with a bright smile, "Alright."

    (Note: There was a mark and a kiss here, but they were removed possibly because some people consider the nape of the neck as part of the body that should not be exposed, and perhaps they believe that intertwined fingers signify an issue. People with problematic minds see problems everywhere; perhaps passing by each other is love at first sight, a glance is a wedding, and a word spoken means children have already been born.)

    (Note: Why am I writing this? It's due to my futile rage and a bit of self-deprecating humor. Also, I can't seem to meet the word count, even though over five thousand words is acceptable, but I'm a perfectionist. Rather than filling in later, I'll ramble on with useless information.)

    (Note: Why haven't I reached the word count yet? I truly... Thank you, thank you and your family. Wishing you and your loved ones good health, prosperity, and all the best. Happy New Year! The missing words will be compensated for in the final chapter when the main story concludes. Everyone has worked hard, and I'm exhausted, really exhausted. Hopefully, in my next life, I won't write on Jinjiang, and if it comes to that, feel free to highlight this passage again, it's alright, I don't mind the 'weary smile'.)

    The marking left Chu Li feeling weak all over, unable to gather any energy, even his voice sounding soft. Leaning against Jing Baiyuanting, he murmured his complaint, "Why didn't we wait until we got home... To do this... out here..."

    The scent of the marking wouldn't dissipate quickly, and when someone came to clean the rest room later, they would surely discover what had transpired!

    Embarrassing!

    Jing Baiyuanting, however, spoke in a deep voice, "I couldn't wait any longer, I was going crazy thinking about you."

    ---

    With everything packed and ready to depart, Chu Li approached Jing Baiyuan Yuanting mischievously and chuckled. "Are you done? Do you need to use the restroom?"

    The moment the words left his lips, Chu Li noticed Jing Baiyuan's pupils constrict, fearing that he might have gone too far. Without waiting for Jing Baiyuan's response, Chu Li hastily rushed out of the lounge.

    And then he followed the door, smiling as he looked at him.

    Jing Baiyuan let out a momentary pause, shaking his head helplessly.

    Ya Lan and Hong Feng had driven away their respective vehicles, leaving Jing Baiyuan and Chu Li to rely on public transportation for their return journey. Fortunately, the public transit system in Deer Harbor was quite sophisticated. The autonomous buses truly lived up to their name, being devoid of any passengers. This allowed the two of them to forego concealing their identities, and they stepped onto the bus like any ordinary couple would, side by side.

    Despite having taken the aerial bus numerous times, Chu Li was still amazed by it. As it glided along the suspended lanes, he always felt as if he had grown wings and was soaring through the air.

    "Maybe this is how it feels when the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro flies," he murmured to himself.

    Jing Baiyuan, hearing his whisper, inquired curiously, "What's a Catbus?"

    Chu Li smiled, knowing that this world lacked Hayao Miyazaki. He explained, "It's a story about a giant cat creature called Totoro and two little girls. There's a magical flying cat-shaped vehicle in it, with soft, furry seats."

    Jing Baiyuan: "..."

    He had no idea what a "dragon cat's car" was, but he knew that Chu Li genuinely loved kittens.

    He looked at his own non-furry human arm again and couldn't help but draw closer to hug Chu Li tightly.

    Chu Li: "Mmm?"

    Jing Baiyuan said, "Nothing, I just wanted to hold you."

    Chu Li was long accustomed to Jing Baiyuan's intimate gestures. The man might seem reserved, but when it came to emotions, he was surprisingly open. Chu Li smiled slightly and leaned into Jing Baiyuan's embrace, trusting his full weight on him.

    This time, they didn't return to the base but went straight home.

    There were many new additions to their home, not extravagant but cozy enough to feel like a real home.

    With the base about to close for the holiday season, Chu Li had brought the small key back earlier. It was currently napping on the sofa.

    After spending this period of time together, the creature had finally grown used to Jing Baiyuan's presence. It no longer lunged at him with a "harumph," nor was it overly enthusiastic. Lazily lifting its head for a glance, it let out a single meow before curling back up into a ball and resuming its nap.

    Chu Li grumbled, "Ever since you came along, Little Key doesn't pay me any attention anymore."

    Jing Baiyuan: "…"

    What could he say? He could only hold back his frustration and continue vying for affection with his feline master.

    He attempted to follow Chu Li for some affection but was pushed up to the second floor. "You reek. Go take a bath."

    Only then did Jing Baiyuan recall that he had attended a long meeting before returning home, confined in a closed room with a group of Alphas for over ten hours. Their scents had mingled and clashed with one another.

    It's inevitable to be infused with the scent of others.

    Chu Li has never been fond of the pheromones emitted by other Alphas.

    With this thought in mind, a hint of a smile flickered in Jing Baiyuan's eyes. He dutifully went upstairs to freshen up.

    Before leaving, Chu Li had prepared an abundance of ingredients for dinner. Taking advantage of Jing Baiyuan's trip upstairs to freshen up, he began cooking.

    The little key, discovering Jing Baiyuan's departure, wandered into the kitchen and cozied up around Chu Li's ankles, playfully seeking attention.

    Chu Li, however, didn't have the time to cuddle it. He stealthily tore off some boiled chicken breast as a bribe and fed it to Little Key.

    As Little Key ate, it meowed unhappily. These two-legged creatures! They only had eyes for each other. As soon as that other two-legged creature came back, he wouldn't let him into the bedroom at night, nor would he hug the little cat during the day.

    "Meow!"

    After finishing the chicken, Little Key still wasn't satisfied and whined. Chu Li helplessly patted its fur.

    But before he could stroke it for long, the pot started protesting. Chu Li hurriedly got up. "Oh no, my pot..."

    Just as he was frantically rescuing the kitchen, Jing Baiyuanting descended. Seeing the situation, he took the initiative to lend a hand.

    Having spent so much time together, they knew what the other was thinking without words. Chu Li had intended to let Jing Baiyuanting rest after his long journey, but Jing Baiyuanting said, "It's alright, I want to help you."

    Chu Li quickly gave in. Originally, he had planned to cook a big feast to reward Jing Baiyuanting, but now he found himself standing by with an apron on, merely giving instructions while the man silently worked away.

    Soon, the meal was prepared. As Jing Baiyuanting carried dish after dish out, Chu Li felt somewhat guilty, though not entirely sincerely. "I wanted you to rest, but you ended up doing all the work."

    Jing Baiyuanting replied, "They were just small tasks, there's no need to fuss over them."

    Chu Li's smile curled his eyes into delightful arcs.

    During the meal, the two of them sat together, chatting. Chu Li knew that the Expeditionary Force Base was on holiday but was unsure for how long, so he seized the opportunity to ask, "How many days off do you have?"

    Jing Baiyuan pondered for a moment before responding, "This year, it's two weeks."

    Chu Li exclaimed with excitement, "Two weeks? That's such a long time?!"

    That was much longer than the annual leave in his previous life.

    Yet, he hadn't taken any time off for the New Year either. Upon reflection, there wasn't much to be overly excited about.

    And then, it suddenly became tranquil once more.

    In Jing Baiyuan's eyes, it appeared as if the Omega was excited only to be suddenly disappointed. He asked, "Is there somewhere you wish to go?"

    Chu Li inquired, "Can we depart from Deer Harbor?"

    "Ensure the shift arrangements are in order." Jing Baiyuan knew that Chu Li was eager to explore the outside world, but given the recent tensions with the royal family and the fact that Chu Li had run away on his own, he didn't feel it appropriate to take him around freely. Thus, he could only keep him within the base.

    However, it seemed that the royal family had quieted down recently, causing no trouble. It wouldn't hurt to go out and have some fun during the break.

    Chu Li stirred the vegetable soup in his bowl with chopsticks. "Where can we go?"

    He only knew that Luguang Port was an artificial harbor. It wasn't very big, with half of it serving as a garrison base for the Expeditionary Force, while the other half was where ordinary people lived, amidst a concrete jungle. There were no unique features or anything particularly interesting to do there.

    Jing Baiyuanting glanced at him and noticed his dark pupils rolling around, looking as adorable as a little key with dilated pupils at night.

    Lowering his head to cough softly, Jing Baiyuanting said, "The Expeditionary Force has many bases with autonomous authority. You can visit any of those places if you want."

    Chu Li was surprised. "You actually have your own planets!"

    "Of course…" Jing Baiyuanting replied. "The Empire is vast. In the past, when mining Blue Blood Crystals, many planets were brought under the Empire's jurisdiction. However, most people still prefer to settle on Bluemark Star. The further away a planet is from Bluemark Star, the less developed its technology will be. Those who remain are either indigenous inhabitants or those without much wealth."

    Jing Baiyuanting paused slightly. "But the landscapes on these planets are beautiful. We could visit them first."

    As he spoke, he opened his personal terminal and pulled up the current interstellar map of the Empire, pointing to it for Chu Li to see. "This… this one, and also this one, are all Expeditionary Force bases. Further away, there are others, but they're under the royal family's jurisdiction. If we were to visit, we'd need to return on the same day."

    Out of curiosity, Chu Li tapped on one of the planets and found that the map could be zoomed in. After repeatedly doing so, he saw a vast, pristine forest.

    Upon reflection, there didn't seem to be such primitive vegetation on Blue Stripe Star.

    Indeed, humans had grown accustomed to controlling the weather with artificial systems, living in steel cities, and enjoying all sorts of convenient technological tools. It would likely be difficult for them to revert to a more primitive lifestyle.

    These planets could be considered military outposts, or they could be deemed as abandoned by the Empire.

    Chu Li pondered for a moment. "Are there any hot springs here? I'd love to soak in one with this chilly weather."

    Blue Stripe Star had temperature control systems, and artificial hot springs were so realistic that they could even surpass natural ones. However, in this remote Deer Port, they could only seek out a genuine hot spring.

    Jing Bai Yuanting thought for a while and said, "Yes, there's one on Longli Star."

    He tapped on one of the smaller planets, zoomed in with three fingers, and arrived at a valley. "There's also an inn here. I just don't know if it's still in operation after all these years."

    Chu Li chuckled. "Why would it go bankrupt? You're just cursing them."

    Jing Bai Yuanting replied, "Back then, the Empire wanted to develop tourism here, but they soon realized that interstellar travel tickets were too expensive for the average person, and the wealthy wouldn't bother coming to such a remote star system. In the end, they only completed half of the construction before withdrawing their investments and leaving. I know the owner of that inn. He invested all his assets into building it five years ago. If there are no guests, bankruptcy is inevitable."

    Chu Li was taken aback. "This... That sounds rather whimsical."

    Jing Baiyuan Ting said, "Five years ago was when the First Prince had just begun to assume governance. Around that time, the emperor had started to become less visible. He acted impulsively, but eventually became more cautious... However, he left quite a mess behind back then, which the parliament had to clean up."

    "Five years ago." Chu Li widened his eyes. Could it be possible... that the current First Prince is actually the emperor himself? Five years ago would have been the time when he took the medication and retreated, while the true First Prince, Lancelot, took over the empire, only to have his antics corrected by the substitute Augustus later on.

    With a glance, Jing Baiyuan Ting understood what Chu Li was pondering. He added a piece of food to Chu Li's plate and said, "There's no need to dwell on this now. Whether they're one person or two isn't crucial – they both represent the royal family."

    Chu Li nodded. "Then I'll treat them as one person."

    Jing Baiyuan Ting asked, "Have you decided where to go?"

    Chu Li thought for a moment. "Let's visit that inn first and see some old friends."

    ---

    The inn they were heading to was called 'Dawn Inn.'

    It could also be referred to as a hotel or guesthouse.

    Before setting off, Chu Li checked for bus tickets but found none available to their destination. As Jing Baiyuan Ting had mentioned, the tourism business there had indeed come to a complete standstill.

    The inn seemed to be still operating, so Jing Baiyuan took Chu Li there in his car.

    They left the cat at home, entrusting its care to Ya Lan and the others.

    By the time they arrived at the inn, it was already dusk. The establishment stood beside a cold lake, accessible via a wooden bridge that led to the center of the water.

    Chu Li alighted from the car and turned his head to see the inn's door closed. Instead, someone was fishing on the bridge.

    He approached the glass window of the inn for a peek inside. The tables and chairs were all in place; it was indeed open, but perhaps due to the absence of guests, the entrance remained shut.

    Knocking on the door, he received no response. Taking two steps toward the bridge, he called out, "Hey! Is anyone there?!"

    The person on the bridge heard the voice, removed their hat, and looked up. Chu Li waved at them. "We have a guest here—"

    Innkeeper: ?

    Five minutes later, the two met with the innkeeper inside. He was a short and plump Alpha male, probably in his forties, with an amiable appearance but a questioning gaze that repeatedly assessed them. "You... are really here to stay?"

    Jing Baiyuan still wore a mask, revealing only his eyes. The owner studied him several times, feeling a sense of familiarity but unable to recall who this person was. Thus, his focus shifted to Chu Li. "Why would you come here in this freezing weather to seek accommodation?"

    Despite the fact that the First Prince's mess had drained most of his life savings and his wife, seeing no future in running an inn, had left with their child, he still had a few clueless guests now and then.

    But winter visitors were scarce, and most came for the scenery rather than the hot springs.

    Chu Li, however, smiled and said, "Yes, it's perfect for soaking in a hot spring during winter."

    The owner gave Chu Li a careful look and then gave him a thumbs-up. "Good taste."

    Turning to the counter, he said, "Come over and register."

    Jing Baiyuan stepped forward to register. When the owner saw the information displayed on Jing Baiyuan's personal terminal, he was stunned, freezing in his tracks as he repeatedly examined Jing Baiyuan's face. After a long while, he exclaimed in disbelief, "You... You're General Jing Baiyuan?"

    "Mm," Jing Baiyuan acknowledged gruffly.

    The owner immediately became excited. Within a blink, his face flushed red. He hastily registered both of their information while saying, "I never expected to meet a general in my lifetime... Since you're a general, then... Then your stay will be free of charge! Anyway, not many people come here, so consider it a visit from an old friend."

    Chu Li chuckled nearby. "How can that be? On this trip, Yuanting promised to treat me. If you give us a free stay, wouldn't it seem like you're treating me instead?"

    The owner was taken aback, suddenly remembering that there was another person present.

    An Omega.

    Going out with the General, it was obvious that it was for a vacation date! The owner's face turned even redder, at a loss on how to handle the situation of giving them a free stay.

    He truly didn't want to accept the General's money. Previously, the General had helped him and even saved his life. How could he have the heart to accept payment from his savior?

    But if this was something the General had promised his Omega... The owner was still hesitant when Jing Baiyuan said, "Just charge us the regular price."

    There weren't many customers here anyway; they shouldn't feel entitled to a free ride.

    The owner had no choice but to present them with the standard bill.

    After paying, the owner led the pair upstairs. "At this time of year, nobody comes here. Soaking in the hot springs is the most comfortable. I can pick you the best room with a view of the surroundings outside the window!"

    Although it was winter, the location was near a volcanic crater, and the plants in the valley were all hardy. Hence, there was still a lush green landscape by the lake. Upon closer inspection, one could even spot scattered flowers in the woods.

    The room was constructed of wood, creaking underfoot. Surrounded by wooden walls, opening the windows brought a gentle breeze and crisp air.

    It was truly excellent, and Chu Li was very satisfied.

    The owner, having spared them from being third wheels in the room, briefly outlined the precautions before departing.

    Eagerly, Chu Li tugged Jing Baiyuan Yuanting downstairs to view the hot springs.

    The hot springs were exclusively leased by the owner and situated behind a small building, enclosed within a courtyard decorated with white pebbles.

    The pools varied in size, and since they were the only guests, Chu Li brazenly chose a large one for a soak with Jing Baiyuan Yuanting.

    Jing Baiyuan Yuanting was rather helpless. "Would you like to explore the surroundings first?"

    "No! After all that traveling, a hot spring soak is just what we need to relieve our fatigue." Chu Li had a clear plan. "After the bath, we'll eat, then head upstairs to rest and recharge. We can go out and explore tomorrow!"

    Jing Baiyuan Yuanting had no choice but to agree.

    Unfortunately, Chu Li's prediction proved true in the beginning but not in the end. As he immersed himself in the water, everything seemed under control; the warm springs soothed his weary muscles, and he lounged contentedly in the pool – until he foolishly asked Jing Baiyuan Yuanting to scrub his back.

    At first, it was a pleasant experience, but as the scrubbing continued, the atmosphere shifted subtly.

    --

    In the end, they didn't go to the small building for their meal. The owner prepared the food, and Jing Baiyuan brought it up to their room.

    That night, the two of them went to bed early. Perhaps it was because they were thoroughly relaxed, or maybe the hot springs had truly been effective, but both of them slept deeply.

    The next morning, Chu Li was awakened by the gentle chirping of birds outside the window. The slender figure under the covers stirred before slowly opening his eyes, only to realize that he was entangled with Jing Baiyuan. He pouted in disdain and sat up to look out the window.

    It seemed to be drizzling lightly outside. The mountains and forests looked freshly washed, emerald green. Curious, Chu Li casually draped a robe over himself and headed to the window, pushing it open.

    A cold breeze carrying fine rain blew in, sending a chill down Chu Li's spine. However, he caught the scent unique to the mountain forest and hesitated to close the window.

    As he was absorbed in gazing outside, Jing Baiyuan also woke up. Without clothing, he got out of bed and walked behind him, embracing him and lowering his head to sniff at his gland.

    Chu Li's face flushed red again. He hurriedly closed the window and turned around, facing the man's robust physique.

    "Why aren't you wearing any clothes? !" Chu Li pushed him back into the room, urging him to get dressed.

    But Jing Baiyuan held onto him and rubbed his gland with his thumb, whispering, "Is this okay?"

    Normally, Jing Baiyuan wouldn't behave like this. Chu Li felt as if coming to this place had unleashed the beast within him, making him more unrestrained and impulsive.

    Yesterday, he had clearly marked him already!

    There were many ways for permanently marked AOs to exchange pheromones, such as through kisses and intimacy.

    Ever since they arrived in Nokang, Chu Li had never lacked his partner's pheromones.

    Normally, there was no need for marking, considering the recovery process after breaking the gland.

    Yesterday, he had been rather reckless, and now he was actually thinking of... Blushing, Chu Li tiptoed to look up at him. "Why do you always want to bite me? Let me take a bite of you and see how it feels."

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