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    Chapter 81

    081

    Failed Awakening

    The hardworking Omega had barely slept the previous night and was busy all day. In the afternoon, he finally couldn't hold on any longer. With the cat in his arms, he fell into a deep sleep on the bed.

    However, the cat with the white bandage on its head didn't fall asleep with him. Instead, it quietly climbed down from the bed while the Omega was sleeping and went to the living room.

    In the living room, Little Key was playing with its little duck toy in a corner. After what had just happened, it completely ignored this 'new' cat. Seeing it come out, it didn't even move its nest and continued to play with its toy indolently.

    Little Li Hua Cat wasn't convinced. It meowed at Little Key, "Meow!" Only I can accompany the two-legged creature to sleep! You can only play with your duck here!

    Little Key replied, "Meow."

    You're bald.

    Little Li Hua Cat: "…"

    Meow, meow!

    The two-legged creature dressed my wounds all by himself! He was so worried that he almost cried; he loves me even more now!

    Meow.

    You're bald.

    Meowwww!

    I am his cat; you are the one he picked up from outside!

    "Meow."

    You are bald.

    Li Hua Cat: "..."

    "Meowww!!" If cats could embody their emotions, this one would probably be running away with two wide noodles dangling from its eyes as tears.

    The poor bald kitty let out a pitiful meow and rushed back to the bedroom, clumsily burrowing itself back into Chu Li's embrace, pressing its bald forehead against the crook of Chu Li's neck. In his sleep, Chu Li subconsciously reached out to stroke its fur, soothing it to sleep.

    "Meow..." The little Li Hua Cat rubbed against him pitifully. The outside world was too harsh; only the embrace of the two-legged creature offered some warmth.

    How could the poor kitty survive without the warmth of the two-legged creature?

    Chu Li slept until nightfall. When he woke up, he finally felt somewhat relieved. Just as he was about to get out of bed, he noticed the warmth beside him. He lifted the covers and found a Li Hua Cat lying on his left side, sprawled on its back in deep slumber. He decided to get up from the right side instead, but when he shifted over, he discovered that the right side was soft as well. He lifted the covers on that side to find another Li Hua Cat curled up, sound asleep.

    Chu Li: "..."

    This should have been a heartwarming moment, but with Jing Baiyuan's condition in mind, Chu Li couldn't bring himself to smile. He gently stroked the heads of both cats, one on the left and one on the right, then cautiously lifted the covers and went to the living room.

    When Ya Lan had dropped off the cats earlier, both of them were too emotional to discuss everything properly. So Chu Li called Ya Lan again to inquire about what had happened these past few days.

    Ya Lan explained that everything had been going smoothly, and they were quickly advancing towards Blue Stripe Star. Lancelot, seemingly resigned to his fate, had shrunk the protective barrier, allowing them to surround the palace and prepare for the capture.

    "It's all my fault. I sensed something was wrong at the time but didn't manage to stop the admiral in time..." Ya Lan's voice was filled with regret through the phone. "Then the explosion occurred, and the admiral shielded us with the barrier while facing it directly. If not for his body fat, he wouldn't have been injured so severely... Injuries can be recovered from, but turning into a cat might be a tricky issue."

    Ya Lan had mentioned that the method to awaken Jing Baiyuan had a certain level of 'resistance.' The more times they attempted it, the higher the chance of failure, and eventually, this method would become ineffective. At that point, they would either need to find another means to awaken him or... Jing Baiyuan would be a cat for life.

    In Chu Li's eyes, Jing Baiyuan, or Bai Yuan Ting, was always an enigma he could never fully grasp.

    When Little Li Hua Cat had wanted to become human, Chu Li had been reluctant to part with the feline. Now that the cat had transformed into a person, he found himself unwilling to let go of the human form.

    Sighing, Chu Li wondered why he couldn't have both.

    After his conversation with Ya Lan, Chu Li returned to his room and discovered that due to the cold weather, the two cats had snuggled together for warmth, unintentionally ending up in the middle of the bed.

    Sleeping face-to-face, their paws entwined, the scene was heartwarmingly affectionate. However, Chu Li knew that upon waking, they would undoubtedly fight. Thus, he stepped forward to separate them, cradling each one in his arms, one on each side.

    For a moment, he felt like an emperor with his harem of concubines attending to him... Hmm, something didn't quite fit, did it?

    ---

    Only a few individuals within the base were aware of Jing Baiyuan's ability to transform into a cat. Ya Lan had rushed him back because she believed that staying by Chu Li's side was the safest option. Remaining anywhere else in the base would increase the likelihood of being discovered.

    Despite Jing Baiyuan's absence, events continued to unfold. Following Lancelot's death, the empire existed in name only, with all territories now under Jing Baiyuan's control. Logically, it should be Jing Baiyuan and his associates who... But with him gone, these matters were put on hold.

    It was only during the settlement of the Butler family's assets that people discovered Lancelot's malevolence went far beyond what it seemed on the surface.

    Not only had he exploited the royal family's power to conduct covert experiments, but he had also kidnapped numerous orphans without parents for human experimentation. Most of these victims were Omegas, many of whom Lancelot had marked.

    Putting aside how the royal family had treated the people over the years, Lancelot's actions alone were enough to damn him in the eyes of ordinary citizens for eternity.

    Initially, some had criticized Jing Baiyuan for "betraying" his master. However, once the royal family's scandals were exposed, their supporters fell silent, while Jing Baiyuan's former backers reemerged in support.

    As for the truly unrelated bystanders, when the expeditionary force first established its base on Blue Stripe Star, they panicked momentarily. After all, there had been a change in leadership, and no one knew what would happen next... Yet, before long, they realized that everything remained the same; students didn't even get a holiday! They still had the same number of classes every day.

    Only then did they realize that Jing Baiyuan was also from the empire. It was more accurate to say that the conflict between Qian Yun and the empire was actually a battle between Jing Baiyuan and the royal family. After all, the royal family wasn't exactly a group of righteous people. Now that Jing Baiyuan had emerged victorious, wasn't it a cause for celebration for everyone?

    Thus, people returned to their lives as before.

    However, what puzzled many was that despite Jing Baiyuan's clear victory, he didn't seize the opportunity to ascend the throne. Instead, he vanished without a trace, leaving all matters in the hands of his adjutant.

    The students of Blue Stripe Comprehensive Academy were always at the forefront of gossip.

    Some had already sensed something amiss and posted about it on the school forum.

    Title: Has anyone noticed the resemblance between Admiral Jing Bai's disappearance... and his absence half a year ago?

    1st Post: This is purely speculation on my part, if there's any coincidence... then we're all on the same wavelength.

    2nd Post: When the Admiral went missing last time, that someone from our school... returned after summer vacation with a mark. Now it's common knowledge that Admiral Jing Bai was the one who marked him. Does this imply... that during the Admiral's absence, they were together?

    3rd Post: ? An unconsidered path, but upon reflection, it does make some sense.

    4th Post: Following your reasoning, if he's gone again... what could that mean?

    5th Post: ? ? The topic is taking a strange turn.

    ...

    18th Post: Based on the OP's logic, he disappeared last time to find love and managed to mark someone in just a short summer break. Then this time... could it be... he's... having a child??

    19th Post: So when the Admiral reappears, will we get to meet a little Admiral?

    Although there's no evidence for these speculations, who doesn't enjoy a good gossip? It quickly sparked a frenzy within the forum.

    They might not know Jing BaiyuanYuanting, but they were familiar with his other half! They had even shared a classroom back in the day!

    He was the white moonlight of many people – a term for an unforgettable past love. Discussing such gossip was thrilling, and before long, vivid stories emerged, complete with illustrations within just two days.

    The content was so sensational that it would surely not pass censorship.

    The timing of Jing BaiyuanYuanting's disappearance was too suspicious. Soon, this issue stirred up controversy across the galaxy, yet strangely, instead of speculating that he was injured or even deceased, people began to guess that he had abandoned his throne to start a family with his Omega!

    Suddenly, the entire Qian Yun Empire and the galaxy lamented – their future emperor/chief was hopelessly infatuated!

    Meanwhile, Ya Lan initially planned to come up with alternative explanations to downplay the situation. However, seeing how the public had already jumped to conclusions, she decided to steer in that direction, even announcing that Jing Baiyuan and Chu Li would be marrying soon.

    This revelation caused another uproar – who knew that the Marshal and his Omega, who had already undergone the bonding ceremony and were expecting a child, hadn't tied the knot yet?

    Unacceptable! The public started urging Jing Baiyuan to hurry up and get married, with some addressing him directly, saying he could skip the succession ceremony but must first obtain a marriage certificate.

    Ya Lan found the situation both amusing and exasperating. She gathered all these reactions and went to see Chu Li late into the night.

    When Ya Lan found Chu Li, the latter was in a quandary over the feeding issue involving two cats.

    Currently, there were two felines in his home. One appeared to be a cat but was actually a human, while the other looked like a cat and was indeed one.

    Of course, cats should eat cat food, but Little Li Hua Cat was an exception. It refused to touch any kibble, leaving Chu Li no choice but to continue feeding it human food. Unexpectedly, Xiao Key, seeing Little Li Hua eating on the table, also wanted its share and positioned itself opposite the other cat, ready to snatch the food.

    This caught Chu Li off guard. He had only prepared one serving for Little Li Hua, which was now insufficient. Worried that the two cats might fight, he tried negotiating with Little Li Hua to share some with Xiao Key.

    Ya Lan arrived just as he was attempting to reason with the cats. Even knowing that one of them was the transformed Marshal, the scene still seemed peculiar.

    Perhaps feeling sorry for Chu Li, who was taking care of everyone, Little Li Hua finally agreed to split its meal in half. Chu Li quickly fetched a small porcelain bowl from the kitchen, but during the division, Little Li Hua stood guard, insisting strictly on a fifty-fifty split, not a single extra chicken strip allowed!

    After finishing the cat's meal distribution, Chu Li finally had a moment to turn his attention to Ya Lan, who was sitting on the sofa.

    First, Ya Lan presented the documents that needed Chu Li's attention. After discussing official matters, he brought up, "Recently, there have been some online discussions urging you two to get married. Since the Marshal cannot appear in person right now, I've been considering if we should respond to these rumors in some way..."

    Chu Li was taken aback. "What rumors?"

    Ya Lan shared with him some threads from online forums. After scanning through them, Chu Li grasped the situation. What amused and frustrated him was that the most active forum pushing for their marriage was actually the Blue Stripe Comprehensive Academy's school forum.

    Is this considered a push from the maternal side?

    He turned off his personal terminal, a frown creasing his brow. "But there's still no sign of Yuanting's recovery. Even if we respond to this… what if, when the appointed time arrives, Yuanting can't show up? What then?"

    Ya Lan sighed, acknowledging the valid point. After a moment, she suggested, "Why don't we take him for another check-up at the base tomorrow?"

    Chu Li pondered and eventually nodded in agreement.

    After Ya Lan left, Li Hua Cat had just finished its meal and leaped into Chu Li's arms. Chu Li fondly pinched its ears and paws, sighing softly.

    ---

    The next day, Chu Li brought Li Hua Cat to the base.

    For the first time, he used a cat carrier for the little feline. Everyone at the base knew he had a cat and often brought it along. With the cat concealed in the carrier, no one could tell which particular cat was inside, making it easier to pass off as another.

    Upon reaching the central area of the training base, he felt relieved enough to open the carrier door and let Li Hua Cat out.

    Having been informed beforehand that Chu Li would bring Jing Baiyuan Yuanting, Bai Xian and Wen Renjian were already there. Upon hearing that Chu Li had arrived, Bai Xian emerged from her room and immediately spotted the proud, tail-held-high, head-up cat in the corridor. She froze, her eyes wide. "It really turns into a cat…"

    Chu Li: ?

    Isn't she the one who gave birth to Jing Baiyuan? Didn't you know that your son can turn into a cat?

    Bai Xian explained, "The Snow Mountain Beast Clan has long been extinct. His father only had a trace of their bloodline three generations back… But Feng Cun never transformed. I never expected… that with little Yuanting, the ancestral traits would resurface."

    Speaking, she crouched down and called out to the little Li Hua Cat, "Meow, meow, meow." The kitten squinted its eyes at her, likely recognizing the familiar aura around this woman. It then strolled over to Bai Xian with a graceful feline gait.

    At first, it was quite reserved. It meowed at Bai Xian and then walked to her leg, rubbing its forehead against her.

    Everyone else watched in amazement. Everyone knew that the Marshal's cat form was as aloof as the Marshal himself. Apart from Chu Li, no one had ever seen it be so clingy to someone.

    Bai Xian was also surprised. She reached out to stroke the cat's head. Surprisingly, the little kitten raised its front paws and placed them on her knees, nudging itself into her embrace. Then, it began kneading her with a purr!

    Watching from the side, Chu Li felt a twinge of jealousy for a moment.

    The little Li Hua Cat would only knead on him when he lay down!

    With its eager affectionate behavior now, it showed no trace of the cold detachment it had shown as a human.

    Bai Xian also didn't expect this. Her arms holding the little Li Hua Cat froze, and she looked up in disbelief. "Is this really my son? Did you guys just find any random cat to fool me?"

    Ya Lan smiled bitterly by her side. "How could that be? I witnessed him turn into a cat with my own eyes."

    Bai Xian fell silent immediately.

    She looked down at her son. When he was human, he had been indifferent towards her, and she had always thought that their mother-son bond had weakened. After all, she was the one who had abandoned her youngest son, so she didn't have the right to ask for his affection. She believed that watching him be happy was enough. But now, judging from the cat's reaction, it was clear that he still cared about her.

    It was simply his nature not to express himself well.

    Bai Xian felt a sting in her nose but forced a smile, gently patting the kitten's head before placing him back on the ground. She stood up and said, "The awakening process is ready. Take him there."

    Her son should remain human; as a cat, everyone would have to worry about him.

    Especially that Omega, who seemed to have lost weight in just a few short days.

    Though he didn't say anything, Bai Xian knew that he was the most worried of them all.

    The rays required for the awakening process were harmful to the body, but Chu Li didn't insist on staying out of it this time. He accompanied Bai Xian and the others to the resting room, waiting for the results of the awakening.

    During this time, Bai Xian shared with Chu Li about the Snow Mountain Beast race.

    They resembled humans in appearance, but were not human. They grew up in animal forms until they were around seven or eight years old before assuming human form. Upon adulthood, they could freely switch between human and beast forms.

    "Bai Yuanting's inability to control his transformation might be due to his weak bloodline," Bai Xian explained. "Or it could be that no one taught him how to wield this power." He added, "I do have some information on the Snow Mountain Beast clan. If the awakening is successful, I can show it to him; it might be of assistance."

    However, listening to Bai Xian's description, Chu Li couldn't help but feel uneasy.

    Everyone seemed to base their hopes on the assumption of a successful awakening. But he couldn't shake off the thought: what if it failed?

    Somehow, an uneasiness lingered in his heart, refusing to dissipate.

    Yet, everyone was eagerly anticipating Jing Baiyuan's awakening. He dared not voice such pessimistic thoughts, so he suppressed his concerns and pretended to be composed in front of others.

    Seemingly sensing Chu Li's worries, Bai Xian fell silent, and the two of them waited quietly in the resting room.

    As time passed, Ya Lan didn't appear. With each passing moment, Chu Li's heart sank lower. Half an hour later, he couldn't sit still anymore and stood up.

    Bai Xian also rose to his feet. Realizing he had unintentionally conveyed his anxiety to Bai Xian, Chu Li hastily said, "I... I'll just go to the restroom."

    He turned and briskly walked out of the lounge, leaning against the wall outside the door while clutching his chest.

    As the seconds ticked by, Ya Lan's absence signaled to Chu Li that something must have gone awry.

    Deciding to head towards the awakening chamber, he rounded the corner and was immediately hit by a familiar sense of tension. Ya Lan and the others were all stationed at the entrance. Upon seeing Chu Li approach, Ya Lan gasped and hurried to support him. "Why are you here?"

    Chu Li shook his head, his gaze fixed on the direction of the awakening chamber. This time, curtains had been drawn, obscuring what was happening inside.

    He inquired, "How long have they been in there?"

    Ya Lan looked at the clock with a troubled expression. "It's been forty-five minutes."

    "Still no response?"

    Ya Lan shook his head.

    Chu Li suggested, "Let's bring him out then."

    "This... " Ya Lan hesitated for a moment but, upon observing Chu Li's expression, nodded in agreement.

    Turning to ask Feng Yichen to turn off the equipment, it wasn't long before the door opened and she carried the cat out.

    The little Li Hua Cat spotted Chu Li at first glance. Despite its recent tribulations, it could barely lift its head but still weakly meowed towards Chu Li.

    Ya Lan felt overwhelmed with guilt as she placed the little Li Hua Cat into Chu Li's arms.

    Chu Li said, "I'll take it back first. Maybe its body hasn't fully recovered, that's why the attempt failed... Let's try again after some time..."

    Ya Lan understood in her heart that with this failure added to the last, they had already tried twice. It was highly likely that their awakening method had become ineffective. To make the kitten go through it again would only be causing it unnecessary suffering... However, she dared not contemplate the consequences of the method failing completely, so she could only agree with Chu Li's suggestion, nodding gently as he took the little Li Hua Cat away.

    As Chu Li carried the kitten out, Bai Xian emerged from the resting room, his brows deeply furrowed upon seeing the scene.

    ---

    Chu Li brought the little Li Hua Cat back home.

    After the awakening attempt, the kitten appeared listless. He removed the bandage on its head and noticed blood seeping from the bald spot. The wound didn't seem severe, but Chu Li's heart ached as he instinctively held the kitten tightly in his embrace, whispering, "Let's not change anymore. There's nothing wrong with being a cat, why endure such hardship?"

    He knew how excruciating the awakening process was; otherwise, the little Li Hua Cat wouldn't have reacted that way.

    Back then, there was no choice but to endure the pain and let it undergo the awakening process. But now that they knew it was ineffective, the little Li Hua Cat had suffered needlessly for over forty minutes. The thought of this made Chu Li unbearable.

    But what could he do? He still needed to find a new method of awakening and have the little cat try it.

    At this moment, he found himself so weak, resorting to evasion as a means to face problems.

    After changing the little cat's bandages and giving it some water and food, its spirits slightly revived. During this time, Little Key also emerged from its room. It seemed to know that the little Li Hua Cat was injured and didn't engage in another fight. Instead, it obediently crouched beside it, waiting until the little cat finished eating before Chu Li pushed the bowl to it, allowing it to take a few bites.

    Chu Li was in no mood for anything. He carried the little cat back to the bedroom, placing it in soft bedding while he sat beside it, lost in thought.

    He couldn't quite grasp how things had turned out like this. Jing Baiyuan, in his human form, had accomplished so much, yet as a cat, he endured such suffering. Even though he understood that no one was at fault, witnessing someone close to him endure such tribulations stirred a hint of resentment within him.

    Working until the sky began to darken, he sighed deeply before getting up to resume his usual activities.

    After having a light meal, he called the base. Ya Lan and the others were indeed working through the night, researching a new awakening method.

    Chu Li told Ya Lan, "I'll come over tomorrow to help too."

    Ya Lan appeared hesitant. "Well... perhaps it's better to stay home and rest. The Marshal could also use some company..."

    "No worries," Chu Li said. "I'll take it to the base. The sooner we find a new approach, the more relaxed we'll all be."

    After some thought, Ya Lan nodded in agreement. "Alright, then let's both head over tomorrow."

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