Ye Shaoyang ordered some takeout for dinner and ate while looking up Star City University online. This was one of the top ten universities in China. If Qin Rui had been able to test into that school, he must have been a top student.
Not long after Ye Shaoyang finished eating, the doorbell rang. He got up to answer the door, where he saw Qin Yue carrying an oversized suitcase. A youth, around 1.7 meters tall, was standing next to him.
The kid's face still had some baby fat on it, but his figure was slim. He wore a white, short-sleeved tee and jeans. His head of black hair made him look pretty sweet and well-behaved. Upon meeting Ye Shaoyang's gaze, the youth flashed a timid smile and said, "Yang-ge, I'll be intruding on you. Our school is just two stops from here. Taking public transportation is more convenient."
Weren't college students supposed to live on campus? Maybe this world was more lenient towards omegas. Ye Shaoyang politely answered, "Welcome, welcome. I'm bored at home by myself anyway. It's great that you'll be able to keep me company while you're here."
"Shaoyang," Qin Yue said. "I'll trouble you to help me take care of Ruirui, then. Ruirui has learned how to cook, and his course load is pretty light. After his classes, he can make dinner. It's healthier for the two of you to eat together at home, anyway."
"Sure!" Ye Shaoyang had just been worrying about the ramifications of ordering takeout every day. It was a good thing that his cousin knew how to cook.
Qin Yue leaned in and whispered in his younger brother's ear, "Shaoyang hasn't differentiated yet. If you detect any distinctive pheromones from him, call me immediately. Save some of your suppressants for him too, just in case. Got it?"
Qin Rui nodded obediently. "Got it, ge."
Qin Yue looked towards Ye Shaoyang and said, "I have the night shift tonight, so I'll be heading back to the hospital now. Ruirui has quite a lot of luggage, he brought a bunch of clothes. Once you guys get settled in, send me a message."
"No problem," Ye Shaoyang said. "Good night, cousin."
Once his older cousin left, Ye Shaoyang helped carry Qin Rui's luggage inside and found a pair of slippers for Qin Rui. While Qin Rui leaned down to change his shoes, Ye Shaoyang stood behind him and peered curiously at the pale nape of the youth's neck. He didn't see anything that looked like these supposed 'omega glands' there, so they were probably hidden under the skin?
Qin Rui finished changing into his slippers and lifted his head to ask, "Yang-ge, which one is my room?"
The omega didi looked like an extremely sweet, good boy when he smiled. Probably because they were related by blood, Ye Shaoyang felt some goodwill towards him and helped him carry his luggage into a guest room. "You can take this room. Right outside, to the left, is the guest bathroom."
Qin Rui followed Ye Shaoyang into the guest room. He took a big pile of clothes out of his suitcase and started hanging them up in the closet.
Ye Shaoyang asked, "I heard your ge say you differentiated as an omega? When you differentiated, was there any discomfort?"
"My whole body felt hot, and I sweated all over. But it wasn't all that uncomfortable, besides that." Qin Rui paused for a moment. "It was pretty unexpected. That day, I was out shopping when I suddenly fainted from a fever. It was a good thing no unfamiliar alphas were around at the time. If there was an alpha, and if their self-restraint wasn't good enough, they might have marked me. That would have been a problem."
Ye Shaoyang had come across the concept of 'marking' several times while doing his research at the hospital. But he had been skimming too quickly, and he hadn't gotten a clear idea of how exactly it worked. He couldn't help but feel curious now. "Mark? How's that done?"
Qin Rui's eyes widened slightly. "Ge, did you not take a physiology class in middle school?"
Ye Shaoyang self-righteously explained, "I returned everything I learned in middle school to my teachers a long time ago." He pointed at his own head and laughed. "My brain hasn't felt too bright lately. There are lots of things that I can't seem to remember very clearly."
Qin Rui was silent for a moment. He scratched his head in confusion as he took in Ye Shaoyang's innocent expression. If Ye Shaoyang had forgotten such important information, then Qin Rui figured his older brother must have been right. There was probably something going on with Shaoyang's psychological state.
"There are two types of marks, temporary marks and complete marks," Qin Rui explained earnestly. "A temporary mark is formed when an alpha pierces the nape of an omega's neck with their teeth. They inject their pheromones into the omega's glands with their saliva, which suppresses the omega's pheromones and calms them down."
Ye Shaoyang nodded to show his understanding. "Oh, so it's just letting an alpha bite the back of your neck?"
He touched the back of his own neck and felt around, but he only found… some hard cervical vertebrae? If he were an omega, he would probably be able to feel the glands already, right?
Ye Shaoyang dropped his hand and asked, "What about 'complete' marking?"
Qin Rui's ears went slightly red. In a quieter voice, he answered, "For a complete mark, an alpha needs to enter an omega's body and form a knot inside. They need to leave their… you know, in the omega's womb, to completely possess the omega."
Ye Shaoyang thought about it for a moment before realization struck. "So you mean having sex! Is that right?"
Qin Rui's blush deepened. "…right."
Ye Shaoyang finally understood.
Omegas had something called a 'gland' on their napes, and they had a 'womb' inside their bodies. A temporary mark was formed by letting an alpha bite their nape, while a complete mark was a thorough union of the flesh.
He took out his cell phone and rapidly typed in this new information.
Qin Rui saw him taking notes on these mark-related subjects. He couldn't help but ask, "These things are all common knowledge. You still need to write them down in your phone?"
"Important information should naturally be written down," Ye Shaoyang said. "Otherwise, what do you do if you forget?"
Could this sort of thing be forgotten? Qin Rui stared at him, speechless.
Ye Shaoyang finished taking his notes, then asked, "What exactly are suppressants?"
"Suppressants are a type of medicine that can inhibit the production of pheromones. Some can be taken orally, and some are injected. You can buy them at any drug store." Qin Rui saw Ye Shaoyang taking notes again. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to laugh or cry. "Ge, how come you didn't even pay attention in physiology class?"
Ye Shaoyang said, "If I didn't pay attention in any class, it just means I'm unbiased."
Qin Rui was rendered speechless once more.
After taking down those notes, Ye Shaoyang felt he had taken one more step towards fully understanding the rules of this world.
At first, he'd thought male omegas who could bear children would be bizarre creatures. But after meeting the Qin brothers today, he realized that omegas weren't strange at all. Based on their outer appearances, they were just like ordinary men.
Ye Shaoyang was starting to feel a bit relieved—after all, a doctor had told him that his parents were an alpha and omega pair, meaning he had a fifty percent chance of differentiating as an omega. As long as he didn't lose every last shred of his masculinity, he could live with that.
Even if he wound up as an omega, there would be various ways of controlling his pheromones. For example, he could use suppressants. Or he could let an alpha bite him. Either way, it wasn't something that would affect his ability to play esports.
While Ye Shaoyang was lost in thought, Qin Rui finished hanging up his clothes. He pulled a laptop out from the bottom of his suitcase.
"Omegas don't need to participate in military training in college," he said as he booted up the laptop and loaded up a game. "So I still have ten days before the school year starts. I can play with you."
Ye Shaoyang saw a familiar image on the screen. "Gods War?"
"Yeah. It was me who dragged you into this game in the first place." Qin Rui set down his computer and turned around to ask, "By the way, Yang-ge, you lost all three of your placement matches? I checked my friends list, and it says you're still at Bronze III."
"Right, uh, I'm currently at Bronze." As a professional esports player, Ye Shaoyang hadn't been ranked at such a low level in many years. He'd spent all afternoon studying and practicing a mage-type hero, so he was keen to get some practical experience. "Bring your laptop into the study. Let's double queue together!"
Meanwhile, at Team Tianhuan's HQ.
Cheng Xing stretched as he gazed at the screen, which displayed a 'congratulations on reaching the [Ultimate King] rank' message. He grinned at the teammates sitting next to him and said, "I was on a winning streak all afternoon. Guess I can finally take a break now that I've made it to King!"
The other new players all chimed in with praise.
"Xing-ge, you're awesome! Making it to King in one day, without losing a single match!"
"To Xing-ge, making it to King is a total piece of cake. Our Xing-ge is definitely going to win the Best Rookie award this year!"
A deep voice suddenly sounded out from behind them. "Is the Best Rookie award something that your teammates can hand out with their mouths?"
Everyone fell silent.
Cheng Xing jolted like he'd been whacked over the head with an electrified rod. He instantly sat up straight, going as stiff as a statue.
The other newbies next to him swiftly stood up, each donning a more respectful attitude than the next.
"Hello, Captain Chi."
Chi Shuo's expression was inscrutable. "The playoffs will be starting in just ten days. If you guys have time to brag and shoot the shit, you'd be better off watching more games and studying the play styles of other teams."
The newbies all hung their heads, and for a while the whole training room sank into silence.
The alpha captain's stern gaze swept across the group of newbies, ultimately settling on the youth sitting in the middle of the pack, with his head drooping so low that his chin practically touched his chest.
Cheng Xing instantly stood up and instinctively shouted, "Here!"
The youth was as alert as if he'd been called out by an instructor at military training. He stood with his legs pressed flush together. His posture was stiff, and his back was ramrod straight. He looked like he was close to giving his commanding officer a proper military salute.
Chi Shuo coldly ordered, "Come with me to the conference room."
Cheng Xing brimmed over with confidence and arrogance in front of the other newbies, but he was as docile as a snow white rabbit in front of his master. He kept his head down all the while as he followed Chi Shuo into the conference room down the hall, hardly daring to breathe.
The starting players of Team Tianhuan were all already there. The entire coaching staff was present as well. It was an intimidating crowd.
Chi Shuo sat down and leaned over to Coach Lin to whisper a few words into the coach's ear. After that, Coach Lin looked towards Cheng Xing and smiled.
"Little Xing, come have a seat."
Cheng Xing wobbled over trepidatiously. He obediently took a seat next to the coach and sat properly, like he was prepared to listen to a lecture.
"The coaches have talked it over," Coach Lin said. "We've decided to let you play in official matches next season. However, you've been practicing assassin-type heroes with Captain Chi all this time. Our team isn't short on junglers right now. Do you want to try playing a marksman?"
Cheng Xing looked at the coach with confusion. "Marksman? But Cheng-ge…"
Nie Cheng, who was sitting nearby, frankly interjected, "I'm getting old, my hands aren't quick enough to keep up in these fast-paced games. I've decided to retire after this season. Already turned in my paperwork and all." He reached over and patted the young player on the shoulder. "Little Xing, you're pretty talented. Everyone thinks highly of you. If you take over my role, I would feel at ease."
Coach Lin added, "Team Chi is also in support of you transitioning into a marksman. You have quick reflexes, you have a good awareness of the field, and your ability to get out of a sticky situation is superb. Marksman is actually a better role for you than jungler."
Nie Cheng also smiled and encouraged, "The coach is right. Start training hard from today onwards, okay? You've played some marksman-type heroes with me in the past, anyway. I have faith that you'll be able to adapt swiftly."
Cheng Xing couldn't stop the corners of his eyes from reddening when he thought of Nie Cheng, a veteran player who'd been with Team Tianhuan for five years already, retiring so soon. It was nothing out of the ordinary for newer players to replace older ones in the esports world, but Cheng Xing didn't want to replace this good-natured senior who had always taken such good care of him.
When he met Nie Cheng's warm and gentle gaze, Cheng Xing choked up. He managed to say, "I got it, Cheng-ge. I'll train hard."
Chi Shuo looked over at him and said, "You don't have much time. Practice with all the marksman-type heroes in the next month, then choose five to specialize in. Get yourself into the top ten of the national rankings with those five heroes. Once you've done that, join the starting team for practice in our training tournament."
The domestic teams were full of expert players, but Chi Shuo's demands may have seemed harsh even to those pros. Cheng Xing had long since grown accustomed to his master's demands, though. He unhesitatingly answered, "I got it, master. I'll definitely get it done."
Only then did Chi Shuo nod, indicating for the coaches to take over.
Coach Lin opened a slideshow presentation and adopted a serious tone. "Next, let's talk about our plans for the first round of the playoffs. I have a few strategies laid out here. Let's run through them and analyze them together."
The atmosphere in the conference room was extremely tense, and the discussion about tactics lasted for more than an hour.
After all the other players filed out, Coach Lin held Chi Shuo back and said to him, "Giving Little Xing the opportunity to transition into a marksman was your suggestion, and I agreed to try it for your sake. But he plays aggressively and impulsively, and his emotional state isn't always stable. Next season, Tianhuan's marksman and support are both retiring. Games will be more difficult for us if we field him next season."
Chi Shuo's expression remained calm. "It'll be fine. We've survived difficult times before. Besides, we need to change our tactics. Cheng Xing is fairly talented. He should take the field to hone his skills while he's able."
Coach Lin laughed and said, "You're usually so cold and stern with him, but you actually care about your apprentice. I hope Little Xing will perform well. If he drops the ball out there, I won't keep him in the game just for your sake."
Chi Shuo nodded. "Of course. Let's focus on preparing for the playoffs first. These will be the final playoff games for Old Nie and A-Ning. Let's play well."
Ye Shaoyang is so cool, he even took notes on marking omegas in his phone. Hahaha~
Chi Shuo: ??? Something's not quite right with this omega.