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    Chapter 67

    067

    An Unexpected Incident

    He also wanted to experience the feeling of marking someone.

    Jing Baiyuan was taken aback and said, "Alphas can't be marked."

    Despite that, he tilted his head back, exposing the gland on the side of his neck for Chu Li to see. "You can bite here."

    Chu Li took a glance and noticed there was already a love bite there.

    Sorry, I forgot. I bit you yesterday.

    What an embarrassing day. Chu Li pushed Jing Baiyuan away and said, "No, I'm hungry. I have to go eat!"

    He turned around, picked up the bathrobe from the floor, and threw it at Jing Baiyuan. "Put some clothes on first!"

    Jing Baiyuan Yuanting, dressed and standing by the bed, wore an innocently bewildered expression.

    Chu Li thought to himself, You're the one who's innocent. He then unfeelingly propelled the man towards the bathroom. "Go freshen up."

    After both had finished grooming themselves, they descended the stairs together.

    The owner was wiping down the coffee machine at the front desk. Upon seeing them, he smiled and said, "Finally, you two are up. I was starting to think you were going to sleep all day upstairs."

    Chu Li assumed that the owner had caught on to their shameless behavior and blushed. Lowering his head, he started walking towards the dining table. However, the owner remarked, "It might be raining outside, but you can still take a stroll in the woods across the way. Don't just stay cooped up indoors and waste such lovely moments."

    Chu Li then realized that the owner merely wanted to suggest a rainy walk.

    Feeling somewhat awkward, he coughed softly and asked, "Is there anything special about the woods?"

    "The temperature is slightly warmer in there compared to outside. The forest is humid, often shrouded in mist or rain. You could forage for mushrooms and bring them back; I'll cook them for you."

    Chu Li widened his eyes. "Red caps with white stems? The kind that sends you straight to the morgue after eating them?"

    The owner chuckled. "Not at all. I've been living here for over five years, so I can distinguish between edible and poisonous mushrooms."

    In the end, Chu Li accepted the innkeeper's suggestion. After all, spending an entire day with Jing Baiyuan in their room would truly mean day and night without respite.

    Before they left, the innkeeper kindly gave them a small basket.

    Chu Li wasn't particularly interested in mushroom picking. Before long, he passed the basket to Jing Baiyuan. Jing Baiyuan didn't bother collecting any either, and the two walked through the woods, one in front of the other.

    The trees emitted a faint fragrance under the drizzle, and the deeper they ventured, the quieter their surroundings became.

    Looking back, the inn's cottage had vanished behind the foliage. Chu Li suggested, "Shall we head back?"

    Just as he spoke, laughter from a few children echoed from ahead. Chu Li froze, momentarily thinking he had encountered mountain spirits.

    Jing Baiyuan explained, "This planet does have some indigenous inhabitants."

    Chu Li blinked. "Should we go take a look?"

    Jing Baiyuan pondered for a moment before nodding in agreement. "But not too close. Indigenous people on most planets tend to be wary of those from the Empire."

    As they walked forward, Chu Li asked, "Why is that?"

    Jing Baiyuan Ting explained, "Most of the time, the Empire only focuses on harvesting crystal mines and pays little attention to their inhabitants' well-being... Life on most planets that have been depleted of their crystal mines usually doesn't fare well after that. Their original ecosystems are disrupted by the Empire's activities, and after experiencing more advanced technology, they find it hard to return to their previous way of life. Besides... they're forcefully incorporated into the Empire."

    "Ah." This interstellar conflict clearly didn't align with Chu Li's expectations.

    Human beings were so prone to conflict, even in the vast expanse of the starry domains.

    "But shouldn't seeking consent be a prerequisite for joining the Empire?" Chu Li asked.

    Jing Baiyuan Ting replied, "But that wouldn't adhere to the Galactic Court's constitutional regulations, which only permit mining on planets under one's jurisdiction. In truth, these planets have all signed voluntary agreements. After all, the Galactic Court was jointly established by the Alliance and the Empire. Without signing such an agreement, they would lose the Court's protection."

    It was essentially coercion, but with the involvement of the Galactic Court, it lessened the likelihood of wars.

    Chu Li sighed. "Then we're the villains here. Maybe we should just turn back."

    He was afraid they might be captured by the locals.

    But Jing Baiyuan Ting held his hand tightly and reassured him, "Don't worry, there won't be any conflict. Apart from taking their crystal mines, I've made every effort to ensure Ya Lan compensates for their loss of livelihood. Judging from their current technological level, their lives will actually improve."

    However, without crystal mines, they would lose their autonomy to enter the interstellar age and forever remain as a satellite planet of the Empire.

    The empire might help them develop, which would be beneficial, but if they were ignored, it would be disastrous.

    Chu Li didn't quite understand, as he was a poor student in this area.

    "Hold my hand," Jing Baiyuan said, taking Chu Li's. "Let's go take a look. When we first regained control of this planet, I visited. They shouldn't be too resistant."

    Chu Li followed him.

    The road was long, and along the way, Jing Baiyuan intermittently told Chu Li about the process of reclaiming the planet.

    The native inhabitants of this planet had not entered the interstellar age, but their technology level was still quite high. However, it seemed that they had invested in the wrong areas of research, resulting in peculiar inventions like mechanical owls, aircraft shaped like bird wings, and swords that ignited automatically when drawn, ideal for combat.

    It had a distinct flavor of mechanical ascension.

    Back then, the crystal mine discovered during exploration was located right beneath their capital. According to the Blue Stripe Star's initial plan, they intended to relocate everyone in the capital. This would have been a tremendous blow to the original inhabitants.

    Jing Baiyuan intervened and negotiated with the empire, persuading them to change the mining site, thus sparing the residents from losing their entire capital.

    Although the capital was eventually relocated due to pollution issues, the original inhabitants recognized and appreciated the favor.

    Chu Li listened and felt that Jing Baiyuan had an emotional attachment to the planets under his jurisdiction. He then asked, "What about the innkeeper?"

    Jing Baiyuan replied, "Back then, he was an interstellar merchant, trading goods between planets. He was kidnapped by space pirates, and I happened to save him."

    Chu Li was even more surprised. Jing Baiyuan's life in Deer Harbor was different from what he had imagined. Although he was busy, he had done many things.

    Curious, he asked about life among the stars. Jing Baiyuan explained that each planet had its specialties, and many people roamed the universe, seeking opportunities on different planets. Interstellar travel tickets were expensive, and they didn't earn much. On some lawless planets, their lives might be at stake, not to mention the potential dangers they could encounter along the way.

    Yet, many still aspired to it, for the vast expanse of stars and the sea had been a dream for countless generations.

    The innkeeper was one of them. However, after spending all his life savings to buy the inn, he put down roots there. Even when his wife and children left, he remained, with no intention of going anywhere.

    Listening to this, Chu Li felt a longing. "In the future, we can also become interstellar wanderers, traveling everywhere. When we're old, we can find a remote planet with hot springs and live out our retirement there."

    Jing Baiyuan smiled upon hearing this, reaching out to stroke Chu Li's hair affectionately.

    Soon, the two emerged from the woods and found themselves on a cliff, not too high, but from which they could see the bustling town not far ahead.

    Chu Li exclaimed, "We didn't even notice that there was a city here when we arrived."

    Jing Baiyuan said, "Their research field is quite niche. They only have personal flying wings, no cars or airplanes. Without going to the gathering places, it's very hard to encounter anyone."

    Chu Li asked, "Then would the innkeeper's tavern also accommodate the native inhabitants?"

    Jing Baiyuan replied, "Presumably so."

    Otherwise, with just a few interstellar travelers, the innkeeper's tavern would likely have closed long ago.

    "Ah, I see," Chu Li realized.

    He had initially imagined the native inhabitants living in tribes, and now that he knew they didn't, he felt relieved. With so many people in this town, it was unlikely they would be recognized as outsiders. It wouldn't hurt to explore for a bit.

    The two of them followed the narrow path along the cliffside, descending towards the town. After about twenty minutes, they finally reached the entrance.

    Sweaty from the exertion, Chu Li was glad that the drizzle had stopped. He handed the umbrella to Jing Baiyuan and went to inspect the town gates himself.

    This city had a style unlike any other he had seen before – grandiose and flamboyant, resembling a fantastical world from a fairy tale.

    Chu Li suggested, "Instead of operating an inn at this hot spring, we should turn it into a film and television city."

    "Film and television city?" Jing Baiyuan's tone was laced with curiosity.

    With his hands gesturing, Chu Li explained, "Have you seen movies? Those magical fairy tale worlds... Don't they resemble this place? Humans love novel things they've never seen before. Although a town like this could be built elsewhere, it wouldn't be on such a grand scale or immersive."

    Jing Baiyuan chuckled. "Your imagination is quite imaginative."

    Chu Li pouted but didn't respond further.

    They strolled into the city, which was bustling with activity. On both sides of the streets were small stalls selling trinkets that Chu Li had never seen before.

    He spotted a uniquely designed windmill with feathers attached to its base. Touching the feathers with his fingertip, he turned to Jing Baiyuan and asked, "Can I buy this? I want to get it as a gift for Little Key."

    Looking into his expectant eyes, Jing Baiyuan felt a mix of helplessness and a tinge of envy.

    He nodded gently and summoned his personal terminal to pay for the item on Chu Li's behalf.

    As they had joined the empire, they used the universal currency.

    After purchasing the little pinwheel, Chu Li held it up while his other hand was being held by Jing Baiyuan. They strolled slowly through the crowd.

    As they walked, a sudden commotion ahead caught Chu Li's attention. Curious, he craned his neck to see what was happening. A group had gathered around a small stall, with someone shouting, "Oh no, he's coughing up blood!"

    Chu Li's expression turned grave. He then heard them say, "Is he sick...? Quick, get him out of here!"

    "Clear the way! Don't crowd around!"

    The relaxed atmosphere vanished instantly, and people's faces tensed as they hastily moved away. Many didn't even bother to watch the spectacle, instead choosing to keep their heads down and walk on.

    Confused, Chu Li looked in that direction and asked, "What happened?"

    Jing Baiyuan released his hand and said, "I'll go take a look."

    With that, he made his way towards the crowd.

    In the midst of the throng was an elderly man who seemed to have fainted while shopping. There was fresh blood on his chest from his coughing fit. The onlookers were wary, having initially offered assistance but quickly dispersing afterward.

    Jing Baiyuan seized a person who appeared to know the situation and inquired, "What's going on here?"

    The man was about to flee but, upon turning back, he met Jing Baiyuan's serene, yet piercing gaze. A shiver ran down his spine, causing him to forget what he was going to say. After a brief pause, he said, "He has tuberculosis, it's contagious. The hospital can't treat it. You should leave now. His family has already been notified, someone will come for him. Don't meddle in other people's business."

    "Tuberculosis?" Jing Baiyuan frowned. He had never heard of such a disease and instinctively turned to look at Chu Li.

    Chu Li was still some distance away. He lowered his head to glance at the old man lying on the ground, his complexion sallow. Jing Baiyuan didn't understand medicine and dared not move him. He returned to Chu Li's side and, with a frown, recounted what he had learned.

    Chu Li also found it peculiar. "I'll take a look."

    "They said it's contagious," Jing Baiyuan held Chu Li back.

    Chu Li looked around and noticed a small supermarket nearby. He pulled Jing Baiyuan inside. Within five minutes, they emerged fully equipped with protective gear and returned to the old man's side.

    Chu Li squatted down to assess the situation. Having completed most of his medical courses in school, he was familiar with common illnesses. He observed the old man closely; he was struggling to breathe and coughed occasionally, with a thick phlegmy sound coming from his throat.

    He frowned. "It seems like untreated pneumonia. Didn't he go to the hospital?"

    As he spoke, Chu Li patted the old man's shoulder and whispered, "Sir, if you're unwell, why haven't you gone to the hospital?"

    The old man was barely conscious, merely shaking his head slightly in response.

    Someone nearby overheard Chu Li's words and interjected from afar, "Going to the hospital won't help. This illness can't be cured!"

    How could that be?

    In Chu Li's previous life, this condition wasn't a particularly severe issue.

    He looked at Jing Baiyuan, his astonishment evident in his eyes.

    But Jing Baiyuan pulled him up at that moment, "Get up first."

    With nothing at hand to aid in the rescue, Jing Baiyuan directly contacted the local authority of the town. In no time, a short and plump man hurried over, his face filled with surprise upon seeing Jing Baiyuan, "General, it's really you."

    The autonomous rights of planets under the Empire were significant, but this place was still under the jurisdiction of the Expeditionary Force.

    Jing Baiyuan didn't waste any time with pleasantries, simply stating, "Save the person first."

    Only then did the man notice the elderly person lying on the ground. His brows furrowed, a hint of panic flashed in his eyes as he hastily transferred the person to the hospital.

    Chu Li and Jing Baiyuan followed leisurely behind.

    Arriving at the hospital, Chu Li heaved a sigh of relief as he saw the elderly man hooked up to various machines and his condition stabilizing.

    He glanced around and noticed that the hospital was unusually crowded with patients coming and going.

    This was quite uncommon in this age of medical devices, where major or minor illnesses were typically treated by them. Even if the devices couldn't cure a patient, they could alleviate the pain temporarily. For instance, the cancer patient he had met on Blue Stripe Star—although the medical device couldn't heal him, during the treatment, he appeared no different from an ordinary person.

    Seemingly in conversation with the man, Jing Baiyuan Ting didn't approach. Instead, Chu Li strolled around the hospital.

    Everyone knew that he was here with Jing Baiyuan Ting, and although Jing Baiyuan Ting hadn't introduced his identity, no one dared to stop him from going wherever he pleased. After circling the hospital, Chu Li realized that not only were there many respiratory patients, but other departments...such as Internal Medicine for Respiratory, Digestive, Neurological, Cardiovascular...all were bustling with patients.

    He wandered into the nurses' station and struck up a conversation with the young nurse on duty.

    Initially, the nurse was reserved, but since Chu Li was also a medical practitioner, they had plenty to talk about. Before long, the nurse opened up and whispered in Chu Li's ear, "Actually, we're all confused. These patients who have been coming to our hospital lately can't be cured by the medical devices, or else their effects are halved...I've heard that it's the same in other places too."

    Chu Li frowned. "Could it be that your hospital's medical devices are faulty?"

    The nurse puffed up indignantly. "How could that be? Could they all break down at the same time? Besides, I said it's happening elsewhere too. Not just our planet—I've heard that nearby planets are experiencing similar symptoms."

    "What do you mean?" Chu Li pressed. "Who did you hear this from?"

    The little nurse said, "There are often interstellar merchants who come here to do business. My neighbor's son works in that line of work, but he's on vacation recently. He said it's rather chaotic out there, so he's not making any trips for now."

    Chu Li nodded, not pressing further. He conversed with the nurse about other topics before Jing Baiyuan arrived.

    Approaching Jing Baiyuan, Chu Li shared the information he had just gathered.

    Jing Baiyuan furrowed his brows. "I've heard the same from the mayor here. He also mentioned that several nearby planets are experiencing similar situations. It's not an issue specific to our place; it seems to have originated from outside… I need to head back. Let's go first."

    Chu Li replied, "But looking at the severity of the situation here, don't we need to think of a solution?"

    These illnesses were not incurable; however, humans had relied on medical devices for so long that their sudden malfunction inevitably caused panic.

    Jing Baiyuan said, "I plan on dispatching the military doctors stationed in Deer Harbor. They're accustomed to working without medical equipment due to their frequent service on the frontlines, so they should be able to assist."

    Chu Li suggested, "How about I stay as well?"

    Jing Baiyuan's eyes darkened as he gazed silently at Chu Li, clearly disagreeing with the proposal.

    Leaving Chu Li in such a place would not sit well with him.

    Chu Li simply smiled at him, saying nothing. After a moment, Jing Baiyuan eventually nodded. "Alright, then I'll send Hong Feng over as well."

    Chu Li pondered that this place indeed needed someone to uphold its authority. He didn't interfere with Jing Baiyuan's arrangements and thus nodded in agreement.

    One task after another was arranged, and Chu Li swiftly secured himself a position within the hospital. Recognizing the limitations of his own capabilities, he drew upon the extensive knowledge he had acquired from the military medical school in Lugang. Rather than handling everything personally, he took to leading a team, moving from ward to ward, meticulously explaining the treatment methods and precautions for each illness to the staff.

    These physicians are well-grounded, quick to grasp new ideas and able to draw conclusions from one example.

    The hospital quickly fell into an orderly rhythm, with everyone moving briskly and purposefully, their eyes fixed ahead, barely sparing a glance at others.

    When Ya Lan came to find Jing Baiyuan Ting, Chu Li had already entered the patient's room accompanied by others. Jing Baiyuan Ting stood outside, watching through the glass window on the door.

    Ya Lan ventured, "Do you want to go in and say goodbye?"

    At that moment, Chu Li was leaning over to speak with the person on the hospital bed. Whatever he said must have been amusing because the young girl on the bed giggled, seizing Chu Li's hand. Chu Li's eyes crinkled with a gentle smile as he allowed her to hold onto him.

    Jing Baiyuan Ting's gaze darkened slightly, but he shook his head. "Let's go. We shouldn't disturb his work."

    Ya Lan glanced back, surprised. However, she never interfered with the Admiral's decisions and followed Jing Baiyuan Ting out.

    Their annual leave was unexpectedly cut short. Upon returning to Luguang, Jing BaiyuanYuanting contacted the leaders of other planets under his jurisdiction, inquiring about the state of their local hospitals. He discovered that the hospital he and Chu Li had visited was one of the more severe cases. There were scattered patients in other areas who couldn't be treated by medical equipment, but overall, the situation wasn't too dire.

    However, there was one piece of news that caught his particular attention.

    "I've heard that something similar is happening in the Alliance."

    Jing BaiyuanYuanting immediately contacted Huai Wei. They had a special communication channel that didn't require queuing. Lately, they had been interacting more frequently, with Huai Wei benefiting greatly from Jing BaiyuanYuanting. As a result, Huai Wei answered the call promptly.

    The moment Huai Wei's sluggish face appeared on the screen, Jing BaiyuanYuanting's brows knitted together.

    Huai Wei had no other hobbies except for enjoying Jing BaiyuanYuanting's scowls, so he was delighted and asked enthusiastically, "What can I do for you? Have you finally decided to rebel?"

    If the people of Blue Stripe Star knew that their Admiral was being constantly urged by the Alliance Marshal to rebel, they would never have allowed Jing BaiyuanYuanting to return peacefully.

    Jing BaiyuanYuanting replied, "Have you had any patients recently who couldn't be treated by medical equipment?"

    Huai Wei: "..."

    Huai Wei's smile faded. He stared at Jing BaiyuanYuanting for a while, noticing the seriousness on his face. It was clear that Jing BaiyuanYuanting wasn't joking or mocking him with this matter.

    Huai Wei's tense body relaxed slightly as he asked, "How did you know?"

    ---

    To Huai Wei, Jing Baiyuan was someone he genuinely admired.

    This was because he seldom resorted to underhanded tactics; when he took action against someone, it was always done openly and honestly.

    He possessed the capability to win honorably without such tricks, capable of defeating his opponent and gaining their respect.

    Though being his adversary was undoubtedly challenging, it was still far better than dealing with the fickle and unscrupulous lot on Blue Pattern Star. At least with Jing Baiyuan, Huai Wei knew what actions would provoke a response and which ones would not.

    After ending the call with Jing Baiyuan, Huai Wei sat in his chair, motionless for a long while.

    A moment later, the door opened, and a man with long hair entered the room. His gaze was aloof as he glanced at Huai Wei and asked, "What happened?"

    Huai Wei replied, "We've been ambushed by those scoundrels from Blue Pattern Star."

    The man with long hair furrowed his brow.

    Huai Wei muttered to himself, "First, they tempted us with crystal mines, only to use the matter against Jing Baiyuan. When I switched sides, their plan failed, but they still managed to call Jing Baiyuan back to Blue Pattern Star. The Butler family can't just eliminate him. We took advantage of the chaos recently..."

    He then laughed bitterly, "Fortune begets misfortune, and misfortune brings fortune... Those damn Blue Pattern Star folks truly can't stand us. It turns out they were behind the recent troubles in the Alliance."

    The man sat down opposite him, silently observing him.

    Huai Wei's bitter smile was fleeting. Soon, he straightened up, a bloodthirsty glint appearing deep in his eyes.

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