Edited by PohTahTvh
When He An woke up, it was already the first day of the new year.
He opened his eyes, and in his blurry vision, a long, broad and white band appeared, seeming to extend endlessly towards two ends.
To face the bright lights right after sleeping for a long time, waves of dizziness crashed upon him. He An did not know the date, nor did he know where he was, but his first instinctive action never changed — reaching out, he touched his belly.
It was flat, no longer raised and curved like before.
Panicking, he only felt his body collapse, and in his alarm, his five senses sharpened. His ears abruptly picked up various loud noises — the sounds of chattering, footsteps, the clinking of cups and bowls, the crying of infants… It was a cacophony, and could be likened to a large farmer’s market. Right after that, his nose detected all sorts of scents that mingled together — the smell of milk, food, the acrid smell of disinfectant, and the vaguely gentle scent of Omegas’ pheromones.
Figures of people kept flashing past his eyes. He An could not see clearly. He wanted to sit up to ask about his situation. The moment his abdomen flexed, an acute pain tore through his stomach instantly.
A groan burst out from his throat, and he fell back onto his pillow.
“Eh, you’re awake already?” A bright and lively voice spoke up from beside him. “Don’t move first, just lie there properly. There’s still a wound on your belly, be careful not to split it.”
He An breathed rapidly, bearing with the pain. It took him a while before he could do anything else.
He faced the direction of the voice. A round faced Omega with chestnut coloured hair sat on the bed next to him; looking back at him. Next to the Omega was a stocky Alpha with a buzzcut. The Alpha wore a contamination suit that prevented his pheromones from intermingling in the air, and the back of his neck was covered with a breathable sealing compound that prevented the release of his pheromones. His muscles were bulging, and he appeared to be the boorish and unruly sort. What stood out in stark contrast was a delicate and small infant in his arms. His bent arm rocked gently, like an iron cradle.
Looking past them, He An now saw the entire scene clearly for himself.
This was a six-bed ward, and staying there were all male Omegas who had just given birth. It was probably due to the ward costing less, the space inside was not huge. Omegas, Alphas, neonates and visiting friends and families all shared the same room. With seventeen to eighteen people squeezing together, the atmosphere teetered between liveliness and noisiness, and there was not a moment of peace.
Such inexpensive wards had no protection of privacy. There were three rails installed in the ceiling around each bed, and when the curtains hanging there were pulled shut, that would be considered to be their own private space.
Next to the little round faced Omega’s bed was also a bassinet. He An turned to look, and there was one by his own bed too, with a soft, light blue cushion laying on top of it. However, it was empty, and he did not see Linglan. Worried about the safety of his child, he could not help but become anxious, and wanted to seek a doctor to ask about it.
At this time, Cheng Xiu entered, carrying a box of food while chewing on a stalk of bok choy.
Upon seeing him, Cheng Xiu’s eyes widened, shouting in delight. “You’re awake?!”
When he finished speaking, that stalk of bok choy was like a piece of hay in a bunny’s mouth, swiftly demolished. The knot at Cheng Xiu’s throat bobbed, and he wiped his mouth clean as he hurried over to He An’s bedside, showering his concern everywhere. “How are you feeling? Do you feel giddy? Does it hurt? Do you need me to get the doctor?”
Without waiting for He An’s reply, he had already taken the liberty of hitting the call bell.
He An’s heart was entirely on his child. Supporting himself on the railings by the bed, he wanted to sit up. “Linglan? Where’s Linglan?”
Cheng Xiu quickly pressed him back down, giving him an OK sign. “Linglan’s fine, and is currently staying in the nursery for newborns. Eating and sleeping well, Linglan weighs about 3kg already. These few days that you were unconscious, I went to take a look over hundreds of times, to the point where all the nurses there recognised me. Every one of them assured me that Linglan would just be as healthy as all other children who reached full term.”
Only then was He An relieved, and he asked, “Then… Linglan is…”
“She’s an Omega girl, just like you, she’s extremely pretty!” Cheng Xiu was bursting with praises. “Her eyes are big, her hair is black, and her tiny arms and legs are soft and cuddly, she’s just too adorable!”
Listening to Cheng Xiu’s description, the adorable image of his daughter appeared in front of He An’s eyes. His lips curved in a smile, but tears gathered in his eyes.
“It’s good that she’s fine, she’s fine… she’s fine…”
He was truly ecstatic, and laughed until his shoulders trembled. Due to not paying attention, he ended up pulling on the wound at his belly, and the pain caused him to suck in a breath. However, he could not help but want to laugh some more. As such, his expressions switched between a frown and a cheeriness. Huffing and puffing away, he looked rather comical.
The little round faced Omega in the next bed was amused by the sight, and joked, “You better calm yourself down, if you’re too excited when seeing your child later, you might end up sending yourself to the operating theatre.”
After receiving the alert, the resident doctor brought along a nurse and did a series of assessments on He An. Upon seeing him brimming with vitality, how his mind was quick and deft, completely unlike someone who had been unconscious for six days, the doctor could not help but click his tongue in surprise. Still, despite He An’s spirited appearance, the results of his blood and urine analyses were not optimistic — he was anaemic, malnourished, his pheromones were severely out of balance, and the rate of his wound healing was concerning. With such a multitude of symptoms, the evaluation was at best a C grade, and He An needed to remain in the hospital for observation for at least half a month.
“Your Alpha is not with you, and you can only rely on medication to maintain the balance of your pheromones. For now, we’ll be using an injection for the first few days, and when your situation improves, I’ll prescribe you a spray of low concentration pheromones, and you’ll have to use it until you’re discharged at the very least.” Holding onto a tablet, the resident doctor spoke as he tapped on the screen. “You have to eat proper meals as well, and you have to pay attention to your diet. The nurse will help you plan your dietary needs. The food will not taste as good as what you can buy outside, but you have to try and finish as much as possible, understand?”
He An nodded. “I understand.”
The doctor focused on entering his orders, not mentioning the child at all. He An was very eager to see Linglan, his anxiousness chomping at the bit. Tilting his body a little, he raised his head and asked, “Can I see my child first?”
The doctor froze, then turned his head to look at the bassinet, and immediately responded with a large smile, “Of course you can.”
Nudging the nurse next to him with his elbow, the doctor urged her, “Bring over the child of bed 208, this new father is anxiously waiting.”
The nurse went off to carry little Linglan here. He An leant against the head of the bed with anticipation. The little round faced Omega in the next bed hugged a hot water bottle as he fixed his eyes on He An, looking as though he had something to say but was hesitant about it.
Seeing that, He An took the initiative to ask, “What’s wrong?”
The little round faced omega faltered, “The doctor… the doctor said that your Alpha is not around. All by yourself, I can’t imagine the pain you must have felt while giving birth. How did you manage to give birth to your child?”
The muscular father coaxing their child laughed, revealing a doting expression as he reached out to ruffle his Omega’s hair. He explained to He An, “This husband of mine, he’s not afraid of anything at all, just painalone. The day he gave birth, I happened to be stuck in a jam on the expressway, and so was two hours late. He thus scolded me two hours straight in the delivery room without even needing to take a breath, and when I arrived, the entire department already knew who I was.”
“But I was really in pain!”
The little round faced Omega was very embarrassed. He shoved at his Alpha and spoke to He An, a little aggrieved, “Alphas like them are not the ones giving birth, they completely don’t understand!”
The muscular father immediately bowed his head and apologised.
He An quite liked this bickering couple, and he smiled as he said, “It actually wasn’t too bad for me. It only hurt for about a couple of hours, then later on, I fainted from the pain, and I felt nothing from then on.”
“You fainted?!” The little round faced Omega looked horrified. Grabbing at his Alpha’s sleeve, he yanked on it nonstop. “See, see, I already told you I would faint! If you were just a few minutes later that day, I would faint from the pain too!”
After he finished grumbling, he asked He An, puzzled, “That Alpha of yours, he didn’t accompany you when you gave birth, nor did he come and see you after you finished giving birth. Letting you lie here alone, he… what is he doing?”
“He…” Thinking about Zheng Feiluan, He An’s eyes instantly dimmed.
A moment later, he raised his head, answering calmly, “He’s dead.”
“S-s-sorry, I shouldn’t have asked!” The little round faced Omega had not expected such an answer, and the hot water bottle in his arms fell to the ground.
He An shook his head. Unruffled, he smiled, “It’s fine, I’m not sad about it anymore.”
Just as he spoke, he suddenly felt a couple of tugs on the sleeve of his hospital wear. Turning his head to see, he saw Cheng Xiu staring at him with his mouth open. Cheng Xiu then raised his thumb up, showing admiration and support.
“How frank, how direct, you’re the model of a widower!”
He An bowed his head, chuckling, “In the future, I will live well with Linglan, and it will be as though Zheng Feiluan have never existed in our lives.”
The nurse had left for about fifteen minutes. When she returned, she was carrying something swaddled up in her arms.
Linglan was wrapped within the bundle of cloth, her gestures innocent and charming. She bit on her little pink fist, a thread of saliva connecting her hand to her red lips, and she gurgled and cooed in a language only babies understood. Her eyes were black and bright, guileless and clear. There were no traces of impurities within them, and they were just like a pair of flawless, black pearls, so shiny that one could see their own reflection within them.
He An was extremely emotional. His heart pounded fiercely, his hands reaching out to the air in anxiety. However, he did not know how he should carry such a small, tender body so as to not hurt it. The nurse slowly guided him, and he followed her example. Clumsily, he struggled for a few minutes, and was finally able to carry Linglan firmly in his arms.
The moment she was in his arms, Linglan released an adorable, short sound.
Unable to stop himself, He An burst out laughing, and his wound immediately started complaining. Still, a child was the best analgesia, and the pain that had previously caused him to break out in cold sweat could actually now be endured with just a slight frown.
He caressed his baby’s cheek with his thumb. “Linglan, how about cooing again for your father?”
Linglan’s eyes shifted. She stared at He An for a while, and her cheeks suddenly puffed up, obligingly blowing a mini bubble from her mouth.
The mini bubble burst.
This time round, it was not just He An. Even the nurse, Cheng Xiu and the little round faced Omega could not help laughing. The nurse praised effusively, “As expected, biological relations cannot be denied. The soothing effect of the pheromones cannot be replicated. When in the nursery, your little princess was extremely good at crying, and she could frequently be heard complaining. However, with you carrying her, aiyoh, just look at how obedient she is, as though she’s a completely different child.”
He An looked down at Linglan. Everything he saw, he loved. His heart was brimming with sweetness, and unconsciously, the corners of his lips curved up in delight. He kneaded his child’s little hands, sniffing at his child’s sweet, milky scent, and felt that a world of sweetness and brightness was concentrated within this little bundle of cloth.
He teased his child. “Linglan?”
The father “asked”, and the daughter “responded”. Immersed in their very childish interaction, they chattered nonstop in pleasure. After playing like this for some time, He An looked up to see that the nurse had yet to leave. She had her hands in the pockets of her uniform, as though she was waiting for something. As such, he asked, “Uh… Are there other things I should pay attention to?”
The nurse bent forward, leaning towards He An with a smile. “Does the new father have any discomfort anywhere?”
He An was unable to understand what she was referring to.
The smile of the nurse was brilliant, her words assured, and her eyes were gleaming brightly. It seemed as though she was not asking a question, but that she was convinced he definitely had some discomfort lurking within him.
Carrying Linglan, He An seriously assessed his body. He felt that his body was just like how it normally was, and just as he was to reply in the negative, his expression changed slightly, and he bit his lip. Gradually, an embarrassment spread over his face, his brow furrowed, and he could not help but sneak a look at his own chest. Slowly, his cheeks turned pink.
“I… I feel a little…”
He stammered, unable to force the words out of his throat.
The nurse probed, “A little what?”
“A little… swollen.” He An felt very embarrassed, and he quietly mumbled, “It’s… it’s around the chest area.”
The nurse’s smile brightened even more. “Do you understand why you’re feeling that way?”
Having been an Omega for twenty-odd years, how could He An not understand why? His face flamed up, the heat spreading to his neck, and his cheeks were as red as a ripe apple.
The nurse patted his shoulder, encouraging him. “It’s your first time, don’t worry. Just prepare yourself first, and I’ll guide you.”
She stood up, pulling the curtains shut around them and forming a private area. Seeing Cheng Xiu, still muddleheaded, sitting there with his box of food, she immediately gave a few loud coughs. “This Mr. Beta, shouldn’t you be stepping outside to avoid gossip?”
“Huh?” Cheng Xiu was chewing on his bok choy, his face confused. “Why?”
“Take a guess,” said the nurse.
Cheng Xiu was unable to come up with a guess, and he looked at He An, asking, “Why?”
Embarrassment burned through He An, and he felt like a prawn that had been boiled pink. Gritting his teeth, he told Cheng Xiu, “You… Anyway, just step outside for a while.”
Completely bewildered, Cheng Xiu whined a couple of times before taking out a bottle of coke from the cabinet next to the bed and left with his food.
Leaning against the wall, he continued eating his vegetables, his ears perking up periodically as he tried to listen to what was going on within the curtains. However, the ward was too noisy, covering up the occasional rustling sounds that could be heard. Some time passed, and he still could not figure out what was going on. Cheng Xiu was bursting with curiosity, and so he decided to seek help from the Alpha-Omega couple in the next bed. Like a thief, he sneaked over. “What are they doing?”
The little round faced Omega did not let him in on the secret, his face full of bright amusement. Instead, it was the muscular daddy who was kinder, leaning into his ear and whispering a word.
Never in his life would Cheng Xiu ever expect this answer. Freezing, the chopsticks in his hand clattered onto the ground.
Omegas had the ability to give birth, and so they naturally had the ability to produce milk. This was in line with the laws of biology.
It was not that Cheng Xiu did not have such common sense, but just that in his memory, He An’s chest had always been flat. Other than his stomach, there was nothing else that bulged up, and he did not seem like he would be able to breastfeed his baby. Because of this, Cheng Xiu had been very busy, even stocking up on quite a lot of imported infant milk powder for Linglan. It seemed like his efforts were about to go to waste.
Cheng Xiu glanced secretly at the chest of the little round faced Omega. It was as flat as a runway, with no hint of even a bump. Could one even breastfeed like this?
He could not help but become curious about Omegas’ constitutions. If not for the well built Alpha sitting there, and it was not easy for him to ask anything offensive, he might have just fulfilled his curiosity.
A long, slow half an hour passed. The curtains were pulled open, and the nurse hummed a song, leaving the ward happily. Little Linglan was already sleeping sweetly in her bassinet, unconsciously smacking her lips. He An sat, half-reclining against the head of the bed. His hand clasped the front of his shirt, his cheeks a bright red, and around the chest area of his shirt was a small, suspicious stain.
When his eyes met Cheng Xiu, his expression was a little unnatural.
Cheng Xiu was immediately delighted.
Why was he being so shy? It was something that was already done. Furthermore, which Omega in the ward had not breastfed their baby? Just look at how timid and shy He An appeared, there was no need for that at all.
“Congratulations! Being able to perform your own production, and with it being so fresh and tasty and nutritious, did Linglan rate it five stars?” He propped his head by the bedside, happily teasing He An.
He An gave him the side-eye. “What are you saying?”
Cheng Xiu laughed as he rolled his eyes, feigning to be on the verge of death. Suddenly, he raised a hand towards He An’s chest. “Are you going through your second puberty?”
“You’re the one going through your second puberty!” He An smacked his hand away, shielding his chest with his arm. He held up his thumb and index finger, with about a one cm space between them. “It’s just a little, they’re not big. The nurse said that they’ll return to normal once the lactation period is over.”
“L-lactation period… Hahahaha!”
Cheng Xiu buried his face in the blanket, muffling his laughter. His shoulders trembled violently, and was hit in the back of his head by He An.
Finally, he managed to control himself. When he looked up, his eyes were full of tears from laughter. Rubbing the sore spot on his head, he asked He An, “How do you feel? Linglan survived, and you’re fine as well. You can even feed her yourself. Do you feel extremely blessed?”
He An nodded. “Mn.”
Cheng Xiu said, “So, everything in the past, just treat it as though it was a nightmare. Everything is fine for us now, so don’t be sad anymore, alright?”
“Mn, I won’t be sad anymore.”
He An looked at the bassinet next to him. The tiny Linglan was currently sleeping deeply within, so obedient and adorable, safe and sound.
When she was working hard on sucking for milk, there was a warm tingling around his chest. It was as though a flower of spring had bloomed in his barren heart, a tree of summer rising up. Bright sunshine was scattered across the fertile soil, melting the snow that had accumulated over the years. Even his frozen blood had warmed up, and started coursing through his veins again.
What he had now was too wonderful, so wonderful that he could not drag his eyes away. In comparison, what he had lost had long faded away — including that man who had once been always on his mind.
“With you, I have everything.” He An reached out, resting the tips of his fingers lightly on the sides of the bassinet. Gently, he smiled at Linglan. “As for the rest… I don’t care anymore.”