Edited by Beth
The next day.
Zhou Rong woke up in the light of dawn. He gave a long stretch, then bent down and kissed Si Nan’s face that was flushed with sleep. Feeling all refreshed, he got out of bed and started working.
He packed up all the tools that could be used, rationing out the food into daily portions, then took out the map and carefully planned their journey, as well as possible locations for replenishing their supplies. The sun slowly peeped out, only for it to immediately disappear behind thick clouds. Standing in the front yard, Zhou Rong felt the moisture in the air, and surmised that it was probably going to snow.
The woods, the river, and the faraway villages were all shrouded in the thick, dense layers of clouds and fog. The world was extremely quiet.
If it were to start snowing, their departure would be affected.
Zhou Rong chose a random can of food. Turning on the gas stove to toast some bread, while making milk from the milk powder and hot water, he prepared breakfast for Si Nan, then called out for him to wake up. Still, when he walked over to the bed and took a look, Si Nan had yet to open his eyes at all. Sprawled across the bed, he was sleeping very comfortably.
Recently, Si Nan had been very lethargic. Perhaps, it was his body’s method of self-repair after experiencing a certain degree of exhaustion. When they were living in the factory, every day, Si Nan would sleep for less than six hours, and even in his sleep, he was still very vigilant. If someone got even the slightest bit close to him, he would immediately jerk awake. Compared to how he was now, lying down in front of Zhou Rong, even snoring slightly, they were like two completely different people.
Zhou Rong pinched his nose, softly calling out to him a few times. However, Si Nan slapped his hand away, flipping over, revealing an army-green piece of clothes he had been lying on.
Zhou Rong’s eyes fell upon it and froze.
That was the T-shirt he wore last night. He had clearly hung it up by the door, but hadn’t been able to find it this morning. Never would he have expected that Si Nan had taken it away, scrunching it up into a ball and hiding it inside his blanket.
“Little thief.” Zhou Rong laughed, reaching out to pull his T-shirt out.
He was unable to free it.
…… He still could not free it.
Zhou Rong ridiculed, “Comrade xiao-Si, are you this demanding for a love token?” He then tried to pull the T-shirt out from another side, and just as he exerted some strength, Si Nan suddenly sat up groggily, wrapping his arms around Zhou Rong’s waist.
Zhou Rong had yet to register what was happening. In his half-asleep state, Si Nan abruptly gave a fierce yank!
Zhou Rong fell entirely onto the bed, nearly winding himself in the fall. He then felt Si Nan wriggling a little next to him. It seemed as though Si Nan had found an even more comfortable position, and snuggling into the crook of Zhou Rong’s arm, he quickly fell asleep again.
“…” Zhou Rong was dumbstruck, his eyes slowly sliding downwards.
Only to see the sunlight reflecting upon Si Nan’s face, his expression peaceful and calm. His breaths were warm and sweet, and all in all, he looked just like a little angel… a little angel that would exert a force of over a hundred kilograms in his sleep and nearly concuss an Alpha.
“Si Nan…” Zhou Rong said, his voice trembling. “Do you… want to wake up first and calm down a little?”
Si Nan licked his lips unconsciously.
Zhou Rong’s breathing became laboured, his heart pounding rapidly. In a trance, he felt his head reeling. It was unknown if he really had a concussion, or if what he was feeling was due to the pink lips right in front of him. Exhaling harshly, he wanted to use his strong willpower to control his heated blood from going south… but the pervasive, increasingly rich, sweet scent left him barely able to catch his breath.
It was pheromones.
However, it was different from the scent of the pheromones enveloping Si Nan last night. If last night’s version could be described as a faint, honey scent, then today’s version had become sweet and cloying, even a little musky. When carefully scenting it from a close distance, one would even find it a little stimulating.
Zhou Rong stared fixedly at the ceiling, his ears buzzing. His brain seemed to have been repeatedly smashed into pieces by a hammer that weighed a ton.
A thrilling possibility came to his mind.
By the time Si Nan woke up, it was already close to noon. He was a little listless, and as he got up from the messy bed, rubbing his eyes, he asked Zhou Rong without much thought, “Why are you here?”
Zhou Rong, “…”
“What time is it now?” His actions were natural, as though he knew that they were for him, as Si Nan picked up the cool milk and toast next to the bed. Not disdaining them at all, he ate the food while glancing outside the window. “Is it going to snow?”
With difficulty, Zhou Rong exercised his arm that had lost feeling due to having a weight on it for the past few hours. Sitting up, he said mildly, “Comrade xiao-Si, the organisation would like to speak to you…”
Si Nan turned around, leaning against the windowsill as he raised a brow.
“… Are you certain that you injected your inhibitor at the end of September?”
“Of course,” Si Nan said unconcernedly, “I found you guys on the way to the pharmacy to look for inhibitors. Fortunately, Yan Hao and you only rushed in after I finished injecting it. Otherwise, if I knew then that you were Alphas, you would long been riddled into sieves… Why?”
Zhou Rong did not know if he should laugh or cry. “Then, do you know that there are actually two types of inhibitors in our country?”
Si Nan paused his chewing.
“The ones that are easily found in pharmacies are the ordinary inhibitors, and they can hide the pheromones of Omegas who are in their normal state. These prevent any distractions while working outdoors or jobs that require discipline, and they’re effective for half a year. The other type can let Omega avoid their annual heat, and it’s a controlled prescription. Normally, it would not be left in the cabinets for sale. A prescription is needed, and they can only be found in the warehouses of state-owned pharmacies.”
“In other words,” Zhou Rong explained, “the ordinary inhibitor you took from the cabinet after breaking the glass, although it can help you disguise yourself as a Beta, once your heat arrives, it becomes useless. At most, after your heat, it can continue working for another two months…”
Si Nan, “…”
Their eyes met, and Si Nan’s expression turned very strange.
Zhou Rong carefully deliberated over his words, then slowly said, “According to what I know of biology — the army doesn’t really teach us about this — your heat might be coming.”
“The organisation would like to seek your opinion, Comrade xiao-Si — Will you be exerting the subjective view to overcome this difficulty, or would you take the objective view, selecting an Alpha you like in this ten-mile radius, and the organisation can help arrange a meeting?”
After a long bout of silence, Si Nan confirmed, “There are two types of inhibitors.”
Zhou Rong nodded.
“The prescriptive type is not stored in the cabinets.”
“… The one Guo Weixiang found for that Ren guy…”
“He had broken into the pharmacy warehouse, but when the outbreak occurred, all the staff hiding inside had turned into zombies, and that was why he was chased by so many of them.”
Si Nan was unable to say a single word.
“As such, if you need it,” Zhou Rong said regretfully, “we can also try moving now and searching for it. However, the nearest city is more than two thousand miles away, and you best try to endure for this entire journey…”
Si Nan stood up absent-mindedly, his grip relaxing.
Long prepared, Zhou Rong shot forward. Lightning-fast, he caught the freefalling cup, placing it back again into Si Nan’s hand, gesturing for him to hold it properly.
“A ten-mile radius,” The corners of Si Nan’s lips quivered.
— Although he had no intentions of taking this option, other than Zhou Rong, there could not be any other Alphas in the ten-mile radius. Even if there was, they would be zombies.
“The organisation will definitely help you set a meeting,” Zhou Rong promised solemnly. “The organisation is very democratic.”
Tilting his head back, Si Nan finished his milk and shoved the empty cup into Zhou Rong’s hand. He then pushed at Zhou Rong’s chest, signalling him to leave.
“… I’ll think about it,” Si Nan said mechanically. “May the organisation first give me twenty minutes.”
Zhou Rong left considerately with the empty cup. When he was in the kitchen, he meticulously washed all the bowls and cutlery, then transferred three days worth of food and water for two people from the car. After that, he picked up a rifle and patrolled nearby, confirming that there were no zombies or beasts within the vicinity, or any other possible danger.
Finally, he reversed the SUV to a spot where it would block the only entrance of the little cement building, and took all possible preventive measures. Upon returning to the first floor, he stopped when passing by the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror at the sink, he carefully examined himself.
Zhou Rong, currently twenty-nine years of age, with a height of 1.89 metres, weight of 83kg, and a body fat percentage of 9.
He had black hair and black irises, his visual acuity in both eyes 20/10, and his genes were excellent.
Zhou Rong had been fooled by a phrase from his old instructor, that “scars were the best medals a man could have”. After being dispatched to 118, there was a year where he led a mission in Bali to carry out an ambush. As they were setting it up, he saw Yan Hao teaching Chuncao to apply sunscreen. Right there and then, he laughed mockingly at them with no restrain, and gleefully claimed that even when he was up in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, he had never used sunscreen, this sort of sissy thing. He even bragged about his copper-tanned skin. At that time, Yan Hao gave him an unfathomable look, shaking his head and sighing, but did not say a word. When the mission was completed, and they were on the way home, because of the fourth-degree burns on his face, Zhou Rong had nearly been disfigured. The healing process of half a month gave him a painful lesson on what it meant to be a human being.
Staring at the mirror, Zhou Rong studied himself, feeling that he was too coarse-looking. If he was ten years younger, just by his facial features alone, he would definitely be able to compete with Yan Hao for the label of the belle of 118.
He gave a cough, then straightened his collar and sleeves, feeling a little nervous.
… A ten-mile radius.
There should be no other Alphas here, right? Zhou Rong pondered uneasily.
Zhou Rong tidied up his hair, trying to flatten that little flick of hair in front of his forehead that always stood up haughtily. Again, he coughed, then went over and pushed the bedroom door open.
“It’s been twenty minutes already, Comrade xiao-…” Zhou Rong froze.
Si Nan was sitting cross-legged on the bed, and he happened to be looking at a brass pendant on his chest. Hearing Zhou Rong, he looked up, his eyes bright and guileless.
The T-shirt that Zhou Rong had changed out of, the singlet that Zhou Rong wore right against his skin, the pillowcase that Zhou Rong was using last night when he slept… They were scattered in a mess around Si Nan, just like the beginning of a nest made by a feline.
“…” Zhou Rong looked at him, unable to decipher right now, if Si Nan was alert or not.
Instead, it was Si Nan who first spoke, baffled. “What’s wrong?”
“… I,” Zhou Rong said cautiously, “I came to tidy up.”
Only then did Si Nan realise the mess of clothes around him, but his first reaction was, “Why do you have to tidy up?”
Zhou Rong said, “… For laundry.”
“But they’re not dirty.”
Zhou Rong had nothing to say in response. Si Nan leant back, nesting into the pillow Zhou Rong was sleeping on last night, looking a little fatigued. “Just now, I was trying to recollect what those people asked me after injecting me with the drug.”
Zhou Rong walked over and sat down by the bed. Docilely, Si Nan rested against him, allowing Zhou Rong to place an arm around him and pull him onto his chest.
In the short twenty minutes, the scent of the pheromones in the room had changed. It was even more fragrant and richer than when he woke up in the morning, and even if Zhou Rong were to hold his breath, he could still sense it clearly.
— That was because the hormones worked directly on the central nervous system.
“What did you remember?” His voice slightly husky, Zhou Rong asked softly.
“They asked me where something was located, but I really cannot remember what it was. Romuller’s father is the director and investor of many biological research projects. Could it be that I stole some information related to the zombie virus?”
Si Nan pressed the center of his brows with the knuckle of his index finger, massaging the spot wearily. Zhou Rong could not help asking, “Then the relationship between that Romuller and you…”
“We’re step brothers,” Si Nan replied, “after my father passed away, I think my mother married his father. However, the reason for the marriage was very complicated, and right now, I can’t remember what it is exactly.”
Zhou Rong, “…”
Zhou Rong completely did not know how to continue this conversation. A beat later, he pointed outside the window. “You… you know that his father is the ex-vice president of Country A, right?”
“Probably,” Si Nan said sleepily.
At that moment, Zhou Rong’s thoughts basically could not be described in words.
“Look.” Si Nan opened up the brass pendant that had never left his body. “These are my parents… Mn… Don’t look like that. You’ve only beaten up the son of Country A’s ex-vice president, then threw him to the zombies. To think of diplomatic issues now would be too late.”
Zhou Rong did not know whether to laugh or cry. “Comrade xiao-Si, tell me first if your parents are some high level government officials, noted public officials or something like that. If that’s the case, our diplomatic relations might still be salvageable…”
Si Nan chortled.
“No,” he said slyly, raising the pendant and waving it in front of Zhou Rong. “My parents were just ordinary people, and I can no longer remember what they did.”
Zhou Rong gently took the pendant. Placing it in his palm, he looked at the old photo within.
The pendant was still hung on Si Nan’s neck, and with this position, if Zhou Rong were to pull hard, he would immediately be able to gain control over one of Si Nan’s vital areas. However, Si Nan seemed to be like a fierce beast who had put down their defenses against the human race, and was currently leaning lazily against Zhou Rong’s shoulder.
“Your looks… “ Zhou Rong scrutinised the photo. “At first glance, you look just like your father, but after looking closely, you look like your mother. However, as an Alpha, your father looks very… hmm… very dignified…”
“You can just tell me directly that he looks like a scrawny weak chicken among the Alphas, the sort that read a lot of books.” Si Nan smiled. “However, he’s actually a Beta, and I’m the one in ten thousand Omega born out of a Beta/Omega pairing. Do you want an autograph?”
Extremely surprised, Zhou Rong studied Si Nan in wonder.
Si Nan turned around, rummaging through the bedside cabinet for a pen and paper. Before he could pretend to sign an autograph, the items were taken away by Zhou Rong. “No, darling, I was only marvelling for a moment as courtesy only. Actually, in our squad, there’s a readily available Alpha born from an Alpha/Beta pairing. The way they just stroll about everyday, there’s no longer any novelness to it already…”
Si Nan thought that he was talking about Chuncao. After all, Chuncao’s rate of growth and development had always left people puzzled. However, Zhou Rong shook his head regretfully. “Although medicine has proved that a union between any Alpha or Omegas with a Beta would only result in producing Betas, if this pairing were to produce Alphas or Omegas, it means that their genes are perfect, and are of great genetic value. However, I’ve once swore that before I find a wife, I am determined to avoid praising the genes of Yan Hao, that fellow, in front of any Omegas.”
“…” Si Nan was expressionless. “You’ve done it in front of me already.”
Zhou Rong smiled. “It’s fine. Yan Hao is a thousand miles away, and he has long been out of the ten-mile radius set by the organisation already.”
Si Nan glanced outside.
The sky was vast, the wind whistling through the trees.
In the radius of five thousand metres, putting aside any Alphas, it would even be hard to find any Alpha zombies.
“Still, even if he’s around, it’s useless.” Zhou Rong said suddenly as he fiddled with the pendant.
He pulled Si Nan a little closer to him. Almost plastered together, the two men nestled into the pillow. In the bedroom, the Omega pheromones wafting about had become even more distinctive, musky and sweet, swirling through the air, as though some sort of feelings were vaguely about to be revealed.
His head pillowed on Zhou Rong’s triceps, Si Nan made a small questioning sound.
“If he’s here, I’ll let you make the choice yourself, and you will definitely choose me. Right after that, I would exile any other male creatures out of this area, guarding you tightly within this piece of land. Without blinking, I would be watching you, waiting until you whimpered and held out your hand…”
Si Nan’s body melted, and he countered lazily, “Why would I definitely choose you?”
“Do you still need to ask?” Zhou Rong teased. “Ever since the first time you met me, you’ve been entranced by my good looks, my debonair demeanour, and my mature dignity. From then on, your heart has been secretly set on me, and you keep thinking about me day and night, insisting on no one else but me. Everything you’ve done, I’ve noticed them all.”
Si Nan released a small snort. Curling up under the blanket, he felt as though that part, deep inside him, had become even wetter.
It seemed as though that at any moment, it would dribble out with any careless motion.
Ignoring Si Nan’s protest, Zhou Rong tossed away his T-shirt that the Omega had secretly taken and hid. He removed the clean shirt he had just changed into, giving it to Si Nan who then shoved it under the blanket. The replacement did a very good job at settling Si Nan’s currently somewhat muddled emotions. Struggling, he stretched two fingers out, pinching one of the buttons on the shirt so as to prevent Zhou Rong from taking it away again.
Bending over, Zhou Rong kissed him on his temple, softly asking, “Seems like you’re going down the route of the objective stance, hmm?”
Si Nan was exhausted, and he could not be bothered to answer.
“Get some rest,” Zhou Rong comforted him. “I’ll bring some food up.”
Si Nan shut his eyes.
After tucking Si Nan under the blanket, just as Zhou Rong was about to stand up, something suddenly caught his little finger. Turning around, he saw Si Nan open one eye — every time he was a little bit interested in something, yet still remained very wary, he would do this action.
“Do you like me?” Si Nan mumbled huskily.
Zhou Rong laughed. “Of course.”
Just as he was filled with tender affection, feeling that Si Nan had asked a foolish question, the next question left him instantly on tenterhooks, and all his goosebumps appeared.
“Then, what about the other Omega?” Si Nan asked, his voice full of hope. “That one, the one you met during the special forces competition. Do you still remember him?”
Zhou Rong, “…”
Zhou Rong realised that he was currently experiencing his most rigorous test in his entire life. The demand for eloquence and ability to express himself would definitely not lose out to the world’s hardest question — If your mother and I were to fall into the water at the same time, who would you rescue first?