Edited by PohTahTvh
The answer spilled like a breath. Sitting right in front of him, so pretty, so delicate, why did he not think of this answer?
The confusion Cheng Xiu felt immediately vanished. He cheered up, feeling a delight of having taken his greatest revenge – no matter how impressive you are, Zheng Feiluan, you’re still being led around by He An’s pheromones like a puppet!
Tickling Linglan’s round little belly, he teased her, “Darling, heard that? Your bastard father wants you now. Other than you, there’s no other flowers or weeds that he can bear. What is this called? Let your godfather teach you, this is called ‘despite your spoken refusal, your body is still honest’.”
A gurgle, and Linglan drank a large mouthful of milk before burping loudly. The swing set was immediately surrounded by the scent of milk. 606 became alert, its pink tongue licking wildly at its nose, turning its head around as it wondered where the milk was coming from.
On the other side of the call, Yu Yue was still urging him. Cheng Xiu made her wait, then covering the phone, he quietly asked, “Linglan, are we going to help your bastard father?”
Linglan blinked her bright shiny eyes, not making a sound.
She could actually speak, able to call He An “Papa”, and 606 “kitty”. Her voice was soft and sweet, her enunciation a little poor, and it had a child’s unique adorable quality to it. Cheng Xiu’s question was too complicated, she did not understand, and so she gave him an honest smile, before returning to sucking on the teat of her bottle, drinking her milk in enjoyment.
“Good girl, Linglan, tell your godfather, shall we help him or not?” Cheng Xiu again repeated the question.
Linglan’s delicate brows wrinkled. “Ah?”
606 finally found the source of the milk. It stood up, shaking itself off. On the swing set, it raised its buttocks up high, extending its paws, giving a good stretch before bounding off the structure and landing on the ground. Its swaying tail brought down a flower with it, and the flower danced lightly in the wind, floating gently into Linglan’s arms.
Linglan’s attention got pulled away, and she solemnly played with the little white flower in her palm.
“Who are you talking to on the phone? Why do I hear Linglan’s name?”
The second before 606 leapt into the cradle, a pair of hands reached in, scooping out Linglan along with her milk bottle. The empty cradle caught a fat and round 606, drawing a curve in the air, swinging far from its original position.
Cheng Xiu swiftly hung up. “Oh, it’s nothing, just someone selling milk powder. I said that our mother at home has an ample supply of milk, and there’s still a long way to go before the baby will be weaned. There’s no need for their formula milk with a nutritious recipe that has been passed on for a century.”
Linglan looked at Cheng Xiu, puzzled, her eyes opening wide.
He An was not suspicious, and only laughed. “What nonsense are you saying? See, Linglan is now unhappy.”
He patted Linglan’s back lightly, swaying and coaxing her at the same time. “Our darling is very very good, and weaned off breast milk in less than half a year. Now, she can drink formula milk, right?”
However, Linglan was uncooperative. She stared hungrily at He An’s flat chest, reaching out and tugging at it as she gurgled greedily and drooled.
Holding his belly, Cheng Xiu roared with laughter, and was given a kick by He An.
It had been over nine months since he was discharged from the hospital, but He An was still extremely thin. He had not put on much weight, and his clavicles jutted out sharply. Fortunately, his body frame was small, thus he did not look sickly despite his weight. His skin was also a lot fairer than most ordinary Omegas, hovering between the colour of health and illness. Even so, compared to when his surgery had just been completed, his complexion was a lot more flushed with vitality now, and at the very least, his lips were no longer ashen-coloured.
Waking up early in the morning, he was dressed in a chinese-styled jacket, buttons running down the front. The edges of the sleeves and the hems were blue with white patterns, with a coarse hemming running around the lower edge. This was a commonly seen style of dressing in Luotan. His hair was uncombed, its ends curling lazily. With a cowlick in his hair, he looked like a college student majoring in art.
Linglan was dressed in a chinese-styled dress as well, the hem of her dress embroidered with flowers, and a cluster of colourful lacquered beads on her chest, and a five-coloured string bracelet around her wrist. With any small movements of her body, the silver bells would chime crisply.
She was normally quite fussy, but in He An’s arms, she became extremely docile. Hugging her milk bottle, she obediently had her breakfast, not even shaking her little ponytails, just like a little kitten with the back of its neck clasped by its mother. Halfway through her bottle, she reluctantly released its teat. Sweetly calling out to He An, “Papa”, she then swiftly placed the bottle teat back into her mouth, as though afraid that the milk would leak out.
Smiling, He An patted her head. “Drink slowly, there’s no hurry.”
Cheng Xiu tucked his phone back into his pocket. He let Yu Yue continue calling him non-stop, and the vibrations from the calls left his thigh numb.
The cradle was still swinging hard in the air. Scrabbling against the cushion, 606 anxiously climbed to the edge, wanting to jump but not daring to. Cheng Xiu grabbed hold of the cradle, stopping it from swinging, and received a grateful meow.
He asked He An, “Why did you wake up so early? Last night, Linglan had made such a big fuss, nearly lifting the roof with her cries. I thought you’ll be sleeping until noon.”
“I wasn’t sleeping very deeply, and kept dreaming of weird things. My stomach isn’t feeling too well too, so I decided to just wake up.”
Cheng Xiu’s heart seized. “You vomited again?”
“No, it’s a lot better than before. After stopping the medication, I’m no longer vomiting. Other than getting a headache right after I wake up, everything else is fine.” He An smiled at him warmly, shifting Linglan higher in his arms. The child was growing heavier, and He An did not have enough strength. After carrying her for a short period of time, she would tend to slide down. “What about you? You woke up so early, was it because of Dai Xiao’s snoring?”
Hearing this name, Cheng Xiu’s expression immediately turned dark.
Dai Xiao, the boss of Green Apple Inn, 606’s official poop shoveller in name, and a rough and rugged Alpha with tattoos covering his right arm. A highlight of his character was that he was miserly, and putting his extreme miserly aside, due to money-saving measures, he was currently sharing a room with Cheng Xiu.
Once this person was mentioned, Cheng Xiu was overcome with anger, like an egg cooked in a microwave — if he was not exploding this second, he would be exploding in the next.
Glaring at the direction of Dai Xiao’s bedroom, he said angrily, “Don’t even mention him! In my life, I’ve never seen an Alpha that’s even more stingy than him! No wonder he’s way over thirty years old already, and still can’t find an Omega! How many times have I told him that it’s now the low season for tourists, and there are many empty rooms. I can pack up and move next door, and move back when the rooms are fully booked during the peak season! It’ll be good for everyone, both of us will mind our own business, and we can live in peace — this request isn’t too much, it isn’t too much, right?! But he completely refuses to do so! And even used up a piece of paper showing me the cost, the water, the electricity, the coal, the wear and tear of the furniture, and he even calculated the cost of keeping the air clean of scents! I’m a fucking Beta, what scent can I have?!”
Linglan saw how angry he was, and promptly reached out with her little hands to soothe him. Sweetly and slowly, she said, “Don’t be angry, don’t be angry…”
“Sure, sure, sure, I won’t be angry, I’ll control my emotions.”
Cheng Xiu held Linglan’s tiny hands, but his anger was still broiling. “This sort of extremely miserly Alpha, he’s so ruthless to others, he’ll definitely be even more ruthless to his own partner! Being with him, there’ll definitely be no blissfulness in the future! He An, you’re someone who has seen the world, you must not follow his way, and putting aside 606…”
Cheng Xiu pointed at the cradle. 606 happened to be lying inside with a very guileless expression. “Even if he were to bring out 808, 909 or 1001 to propose marriage, you must stand strong and not agree! You must keep him and the cat out, got it?”
“Uhh… Dai Xiao, he, towards me…”
He An felt a little awkward.
To tell the truth, he really had a pretty good impression of Dai Xiao.
Although this Alpha’s manners were rough, he was very stingy with regards to money, and had no talent for business, nearly managing Green Apple Inn to the point of bankruptcy, with just the point of him taking them in when the inn was in the red, He An already gave him full marks.
He An said, “Cheng Xiu, don’t keep being hostile towards Dai Xiao. It’s out to his kindness that he gave us a place to stay, it’s not to woo me…”
“Come on, he clearly wants to woo you. He can’t even hide that wolf tail of his anymore, and look at those gleaming eyes! All that’s missing is him grabbing and taking you to the bridal chamber!” Cheng Xiu reached out, pretending to be a wolf grabbing at He An. “Last month, I was talking to him before sleeping. His nature had completely come to light, and everything about him was exposed. He said that his greatest dream in life was to find a cute and adorable wife-material Omega to be his partner and manage the inn together, and then they would give birth to a pretty little girl — hah, cute, adorable and wife-material, isn’t that you? And a pretty little girl, that’s Linglan, right? Don’t tell me that’s not the case.”
“Uhh, umm…” He An was stuck for words.
Over and over he pondered over those descriptions, and no matter how he thought about it, he felt something was not right.
Cute, adorable, wife-material?
After so long, this was actually the impression Cheng Xiu had of him?
No, that could not be the case.
Here, Cheng Xiu was verbally putting down Dai Xiao, while over there, 606 was playing the role of the rescuer. Sprawled in the cradle, it mewled to the sky, implying that they should stop chatting, and quickly prepare its meal. The corners of Cheng Xiu’s lips curved downwards, scolding it scornfully, saying that he was not its owner. However, Cheng Xiu’s limbs clearly were not listening to him, as he diligently went to prepare its food.
With loud sucking sounds, Linglan finished what was left of her milk, and then waved her empty bottle at He An.
He An praised her, and as though seeking credit, she said, “Go see duckies.”
She had just started learning to speak, and she had yet to learn many words. “Duckies” were referring to ducks. Outside the inn, a nest of spot-billed ducklings had just been born. Everyday, without fail, Linglan would want to go and see the ducks after she finished her milk.
He An carried her out of the inn. Right by the gate was a little bubbling brook. It was not wide, nor was it deep. If one were to step into it, its depth would not reach above one’s head . The water was clear and refreshing, like a row of silk stretching into the distance. Across the brook was the famous Yawen Street of Luotan, where there was a bar, teahouse, a printing and dyeing workshop, an embroidery and tailoring shop, as well as various crafthouses. Other than the noise from the bar at night, the other shops were all rather artistic.
Over the brook was a stone arch bridge. Every morning, He An would carry Linglan and stand by the stone railings, looking at the gaggle of ducks swimming about.
After some swimming around, the mother duck would jump onto the basalt steps, and the fluffy little ducklings would also follow along, shaking off the water droplets off their back.
Linglan pointed at them. “Duckies!”
He An corrected her, “Duck—lings—”
Linglan still could not pronounce the “-ling” sound. She moved her lips, and again said, “Duckies!”
He An doted on his daughter, and would only correct her once a day.