“Good evening, Sir.” The circular, No. 2 housekeeping robot stretched out its long metal arms at the doorway, blue electronic lights flickering in its eyes like water waves, “How was your day today?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming hung his briefcase and suit jacket on its metal arm: “Good, how about you?”
It turned away as soon as it collected the things, broadcasting a short happy jingle as it cheerfully said: “Very good, Sir.”
There were no partitions on the first floor of the small duplex, you could see the dining room as soon as you walked in. Tong Yan had already stood up from the dining table, and when Zhuo Xiang Ming approached, he politely greeted, “Brother Xiang Ming, you’re back.”
“Yeah.” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “Were you comfortable at home today?”
Tong Yan: “I was comfortable.”
After briefly looking into Zhuo Xiang Ming’s eyes, he looked towards the kitchen. “The dishes are almost done, you can go wash your hands.”
He desperately tried to appear nonchalant, but Zhuo Xiang Ming still sensed his anxiety.
“I was in somewhat of a hurry this morning, so I forgot to tell you.” In order to show proper affability, Zhuo Xiang Ming motioned Tong Yan to sit down, then walked over to him, resting his hand on the back of his chair as he looked down at him. “Xuan Gui has the right to unlock all the rooms in the house, if you need to open a room, just ask it. Umm…it also knows where the car keys are … Have you got a driver’s license?”
Tong Yan nodded, then shook his head: “I have one, but I haven’t driven yet.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “That’s fine, when school starts, I’ll send… Tong Yan?”
Tong Yan tilted his face towards him, within a considerably short period of time, a fine layer of sweat had appeared on his forehead. His eyes were shut tight, fanned by extremely long eyelashes.
Zhuo Xiang Ming quickly realized what was wrong, immediately retracting his hand and backing away, suppressing his pheromones: “Sorry.”
Tong Yan also got up and walked away, but his legs were unstable, so he tripped over the table’s legs.
“Be careful.” Zhuo Xiang Ming stepped forward to catch him before he could fall into the table, one hand against Tong Yan’s lower back, the other hand catching his shoulder.
“Pardon.” He said again, after letting go.
Tong Yan had already made it to the kitchen doorway. This was obviously a result of Zhuo Xiang Ming’s carelessness, but he somehow looked even more troubled than Zhuo Xiang Ming, repeating: “It’s fine … it’s nothing, this is my problem.”
This was a bad beginning. Even though Zhuo Xiang Ming didn’t intend to establish a deep relationship with Tong Yan, he still blamed himself for his own carelessness.
He wanted to keep comforting him, but Zhuo Xiang Ming realized that it would be more effective to take a shower and change his clothes. Most of the employees in his company were alphas, in his current state, standing in front of Tong Yan was equivalent to bombarding him with the pheromones of dozens of people. He headed towards the stairs: “You eat first, I’ll be right back.”
This happened right before dinner, both of them were a little embarrassed. They no longer tried to force conversation, quietly eating their meal.
Unexpectedly, the atmosphere after the meal was much better. Only Zhuo Xiang Ming’s own pheromones remained on his body, and he’d suppressed it as much as he could. It was a very light smell of cedarwood, once he was in a soothing mood, there wasn’t the slightest hint of aggression. Tong Yan sat three people widths away from him on the sofa, watching the financial news that was being broadcasted on the super ion screen. Zhuo Xiang Ming was earnestly engrossed, and Tong Yan also slowly followed along.
Unexpectedly, about midway through, a broadcast about yesterday’s wedding suddenly began.
Although the offscreen anchor’s appearance and tone was solemn and upright, the content was very gossipy: “… putting aside the two consortia, the newly-wed omega is only eighteen years old, and the alpha is the largest shareholder of the recently listed company, YaTai Securities. Coupled with the age difference of nine years, and the newly-wed omega’s status as a high school senior, this wedding also caused an unprecedented amount of heated discussions on OUKM.”
Cue Tong Yan’s sudden:
He glanced at Zhuo Xiang Ming out of the corner of his eye. After switching to home clothes, the other man appeared much more relaxed, sitting upright, his expression hadn’t changed. He was still looking forward while occasionally sipping his coffee, as if the story being reported in the gossip, finance, and current trends news, every social network and major newspaper had nothing to do with him.
Tong Yan pouted covertly; adults always love to pretend.
But Zhuo Xiang Ming really wasn’t pretending to be calm-The Zhuo and Tong family were actually aiming for this kind of overwhelming publicity. If they had gotten married in a low-key and secretive way, it would’ve been no different than not getting married.
However, the omega sitting beside him was obviously a bit uncomfortable. Zhuo Xiang Ming’s post-work relaxed nerves gradually tightened, and even his heartbeat accelerated slightly. After a while, he finally realized that Tong Yan was unconsciously releasing nervous pheromone.
When omegas release pheromones of a help-seeking nature, nearby alphas immediately start to develop a desire to protect them-alas, this was their animal-like instinct.
Zhuo Xiang Ming remained calm, sitting to the side.
By the time the news broadcast concluded, it was completely dark outside, the smart lights in the room lit up one by one. He sent for another cup of coffee before asking, “Will this trouble you?”
“This news.” Seeing Tong Yan’s blank look, Zhuo Xiang Ming clarified, “Will this cause any trouble for you at school?”
Although Tong Yan was obviously very concerned, unexpectedly, he subconsciously responded right away, “It shouldn’t.”
The international high school Tong Yan attended indeed had a relatively relaxed atmosphere, but this was his first marriage, he couldn’t speak from experience. Additionally, after a one-year leave from school, he’d have to restart the school term, he wouldn’t be familiar with his classmates, nor his teachers. In fact, inwardly, Tong Yan was on the verge of panic.
“Really?” Once the conversation didn’t go in the expected direction, Zhuo Xiang Ming’s intention to placate could only be put aside. In the end, he could only say, “That’s good.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming’s temperament made him appear to be a very unfriendly person. If Tong Yan had to describe him, his first word would be solemn, the second, handsome.
His estrus came earlier than most omegas. With only an alpha father and a beta older brother in the family, both with varying levels of denseness, they were completely unprepared. Tong Yan had lost his appetite for nearly a week, when he finally had no strength to get out of bed, they still categorically identified his illness as influenza.
The similarly ignorant Tong Yan endured his estrus for two days without an inhibitor. During that time, the family didn’t avoid bringing over visitors, whether alpha or omega. Pheromones of diverse flavors ran rampant in the villa. When Tong Yan’s “illness” caused him to not be able to keep down any food, and the antipyretic medicine didn’t make the slight dent in his fever, the family doctor was finally called in.
At that point, it was already too late. His sex gland had been frightened into withdrawal before he was able to release pheromones. The sex gland was also developing slowly, the skin on his nape feeling thinner and softer than everywhere else. That lasted until two months ago, when a little scent gradually started to emerge.
He smelled it one day when he was alone in the bathroom. He’d torn off the isolation patch, and the sweet smell immediately filled his nose.
At the start, Tong Yan was horrified at this change, the scents of all the unfamiliar alphas rendered him a hermit. Later on, whenever he met an individual with the attribute A, he habitually got out of the way.
Zhuo Xiang Ming, who he’s only met a few times, was no exception.
That man’s pheromones were so overbearing, even when he was gone, and the housekeeping robots cleaned everywhere several times, his scent lingered in the house for a long while. Tong Yan had to hide away, waiting until the afternoon to come out.
The hour was late, having a general understanding of each other’s work and rest schedule, the two went upstairs together and bid each other good night, heading to their respective bedrooms.
Tong Yang had to work during the day, only now did he find the time to contact Tong Yan.
He forwarded an OUKM post discussing “Desk-neighbor CP” to Tong Yan. Tong Yan didn’t open it, replying: Boring.
Tong Yang: Where is it boring? I just think it’s good to have a chat. Big Bro Zhuo Xiang Ming got off work, right? What did you guys talk about?
Tong Yan: Nothing in particular.
“Don’t call him in such an embarrassing way …” Tong Yan couldn’t help but add.
Tong Yang: Although my identity is a matchlessly respectable brother-in-law, please remember that ‘everyone loves beauty.’ Now then, may I ask my darling baby brother, this is the second night after the wedding, how far into the desensitization treatment course have you gotten?
Tong Yan blushed furiously: Go away!
While Tong Yan punished his cell phone, at the other end of the hall, Zhuo Xiang Ming picked up a call from Lin Yue Hua.
“Did you eat?” Lin Yue Hua asked as usual.
Zhuo Xiang Ming replied as usual: “Yes.”
“And Tong Tong?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “He ate too.”
“…” Lin Yue Hua said, “I meant, where is he? Don’t you sleep in the same room?”
This time it was Zhuo Xiang Ming’s turn to be speechless: “Why would we sleep in the same room?”
Lin Yue Hua laughed as if she was watching a good play: “How many days are left until school starts? Anyway, you have to hurry it up.”
Why could he hear mockery in his mother’s words? Zhuo Xiang Ming guarded against further humiliation, deciding to not lower himself to her level, “Understood.”
“Do you really understand, or are you coping with your need to understand?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I’m hanging up.”
“Fine.” Lin Yue Hua said, “As long as you live together, it’s certain that you’ll keep running into each other. You guys will slowly get used to it. The boy is still young, don’t bully him.”
Thinking about Tong Yan’s crestfallen expression as he watched the news, Zhuo Xiang Ming asked: “When will the wedding wire copy be sent out?”
“In a few weeks’ time, as soon as the bidding document comes out.” Lin Yue Hua said, “Why do you ask? Are you troubled? I don’t think you’ll run into anyone on your way to work. You’re not a celebrity, you’ll be fine in a few months.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming also thought this way before, and no matter how much Lin Yue Hua liked Tong Yan, she couldn’t completely see the problem from Tong Yan’s perspective, so it’s natural that she overlooked it.
“You know that he’s about to start school. When the other students see him and point at him, even if it’s not malicious, he’ll always feel uncomfortable.” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “Almost done will have to do. Bidding for the project still depends on your strength, it has little to do with public opinion.”
Enlightened, Lin Yue Hua immediately agreed: “You’re right. Sigh … The Tong family didn’t mention it, and I also never thought about this side-effect. Mom understands.”
“Go to sleep first, mom has to apply her facial mask.”
“Okay.” Zhuo Xiang Ming hung up.
After dealing with a bit of work, when he looked up again, it was already passed midnight. Seeing that none of the robots were nearby, Zhuo Xiang Ming left the worktable, planning to pour himself a glass of water. But as soon as he walked out, he saw Xuan Gui’s electronic eyes flashing a blue light in the darkness.
“… Brother Xiang Ming.” Unexpectedly, Tong Yan’s voice sounded.
The home system detected a lack of drowsiness in the voices, and the lights were immediately turned on to the dimmest setting. Tong Yan was in his pajamas, holding a glass of water, Xuan Gui following behind him.
“I came out to fetch a glass of water.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I also came out for some water.”
He looked at Xuan Gui, which had apparently come out of Tong Yan’s bedroom: “Was it in your bedroom?” Zhuo Xiang Ming frowned. “I don’t know what kind of program those guys wrote, but it’s recently become very talkative and clingy. You can sleep by yourself, you don’t have to indulge it.”
“No, I’m the one who let Dudu in.” Tong Yan couldn’t stand the dark, it was tolerable when he was drunk last night, but today he was sober. Being in that unfamiliar room, he was completely unable to sleep by himself. But on second thought, this butler robot had already worked all day, and now he was making it accompany him, perhaps Zhuo Xiang Ming was worried. Therefore, he explained, “I have a charging station in my room, it can still re-charge.”
After hearing this, Zhuo Xiang Ming suddenly felt a bit speechless.
Since the latest system update, Xuan Gui suddenly started feeling that its name was no good, privately raising one suggestion after another, all of which were rejected by Zhuo Xiang Ming. The new system update was also very unstable, frequently overwriting its memories. For example, it forgot that he’d changed its batteries three years ago, and now thought that its current battery was still the factory version. It always felt that its battery life was short and frequently slipped away to plop its butt onto the charging station.
Since it had refused to acknowledge Zhuo Xiang Ming’s corrections, he’d simply let it be, he didn’t expect it to swindle the naive Tong Yan.
Naive Tong Yan: Brother, I have my water, so I’ll head to bed first.
Zhuo Xiang Ming: OK.
Naive Tong Yan: Dudu’s battery has to be replaced. Should I take him to get it changed tomorrow?
Zhuo Xiang Ming: It’s fine, let him tough it out for a few more days. I’m testing how long the battery will last.
Tong Yan: Oh … Okay.
Although he said that he’d head to bed first, in the end, Tong Yan waited at the door as Zhuo Xiang Ming brewed himself a cup of coffee.
It was really late, Zhuo Xiang Ming was used to it, but Tong Yan was an obedient child, it felt weird for him to not be in bed yet.
“Do you feel uncomfortable living here?”
Tong Yan quickly replied, then subconsciously lowered his eyes.
Zhuo Xiang Ming smiled for the first time since returning home, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly. Although fleeting, the gentleness in his eyes was real: “It’s normal to feel uncomfortable, the environment has to be slowly adapted to.”
Tong Yan was neatly dressed in light gray and pale pink checkered pajamas. With his thin shoulders, fluffy blow-dried hair covering his forehead, and eyelashes casting a faint shadow on his cheeks under the dim yellow lights, the boy looked huggable, but also a bit lonely.
Hearing what he said, he raised his head and looked at Zhuo Xiang Ming, nodding.
Although they’d only been in contact for a few hours, Tong Yan had always been thinking about how best to play the role of a newly-wed spouse. Coupled with the fact that both parties knew that the role was bogus, this play felt even more laborious.
His heartfelt nod at this time finally made him look like a child. Confronting a strange room and a strange alpha, he was a little confused, mostly terrified.
The dim light of night made it easier to feel softhearted. Zhuo Xiang Ming took a hand away from his coffee cup and placed it gently on Tong Yan’s shoulder: “The news reports about the wedding will go away soon. When you start school, most people will have already forgotten about it.”
After being touched, Tong Yan instinctively shrank away, afterwards, he forced himself to look nonchalant. When he heard what he said, he replied dully, “OK.”
“Good.” Zhuo Xiang Ming was much taller than him, if Tong Yan stood with his back straight, the top of his head could probably reach Zhuo Xiang Ming’s shoulder. Zhuo Xiang Ming moved forward a little, the hand resting on Tong Yan’s shoulder moving to the back of his head, completing a hug that had almost no physical contact.
Zhuo Xiang Ming didn’t linger, quickly letting go: “Was that okay?”
Tong Yan blushed furiously, his ears completely bright red: “Yes.”
“Then we’ll take it slowly like this.” Ambiguous status coupled with ambiguous actions; Tong Yan wasn’t the only one feeling embarrassed. Zhuo Xiang Ming said in a low voice, “Good night.”
Tong Yan: Only I have smelled my pheromones
Zhuo Xiang Ming: Yeah, it smells like cape jasmine
Zhuo Xiang Ming: My pheromones are very mild, veeerrry mild
Tong Yan: No, it’s strong! Very very strong!
Xuan Gui– lit. Spinning Turtle
Super ion- It’s what it says. Doesn’t seem to be something that exists. I guess it’s supposed to sound futuristic.
CP- hahachn.wordpress.com “CP n. Couple. This Internet slang term is often used to describe couples in movies or TV series. Sometimes it is also used to describe real-life couples.”
Big Bro/ baby brother- Tong Yang uses an unusual way to say older brother (Guo Guo), and relatively cutesy way to say little brother (Di di). Idk if that’s how he usually talks, or if he’s just being silly. Guess we’ll see.
There’s only a 9yr age difference. They way everyone acts, you’d think ZXM was pushing 50.