Chi Shuo thought he'd misheard.
Ye Shaoyang was already twenty-one years old, and 99.9% of all youths in the country differentiated between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Years ago, Chi Shuo had differentiated as an alpha at age sixteen. His body had finished developing by age eighteen.
So when he first met Ye Shaoyang, he'd never asked himself whether or not Ye Shaoyang had differentiated yet—a twenty-one-year-old who had the scent of alpha masking spray on him had to be an alpha, right?
The man standing in front of him had earnestly said, "Take me to the hospital. I seem to be differentiating."
Chi Shuo looked like he'd been struck by thunder and lightning.
He remained absolutely paralyzed for a moment before he came back to his senses and asked in disbelief, "You… you haven't differentiated yet?"
Ye Shaoyang's expression was mild and calm. "That's right. I'm differentiating a bit late."
This was… more than a bit late, wasn't it?
A twenty-one-year-old who hadn't come of age?!
Chi Shuo looked at Ye Shaoyang with a complex expression on his face. This was something that Ye Shaoyang probably didn't have any reason to lie about, and Ye Shaoyang's current appearance did seem to indicate that he was differentiating.
Chi Shuo checked the time. It was already eleven at night. The team's driver was already off work. He furrowed his brow, then decisively turned back to grab his own car keys. "Let's go, we'll visit the hospital first."
Ye Shaoyang followed Chi Shuo out the door.
Wave after wave of dizziness swept over Ye Shaoyang's mind, making his vision blur and darken again and again. When he walked, his steps were very sluggish and clumsy. Chi Shuo saw him stumbling along like he was drunk, and instantly extended a hand. "I'll help you."
Ye Shaoyang huffed a laugh. "Thank you."
The alpha's arm was strong and firm. With Chi Shuo holding him up, Ye Shaoyang felt a lot more relaxed. He simply let his center of gravity shift over as he leaned against Chi Shuo, making it much easier to walk.
Chi Shuo didn't mind. He assumed Ye Shaoyang would differentiate as an alpha, so he half-led and half-carried Ye Shaoyang downstairs. After reaching his car, opening the door, and getting Ye Shaoyang buckled into the passenger seat, he climbed in and started the car.
The parking lot took up a space right below the team base.
When Chi Shuo started his car, the headlights drew the attention of the players currently training in the rooms on the second floor.
Cheng Xing curiously asked, "It's so late. Who's driving out now?"
Qu Jiang stuck his head out and snuck a peek outside the window, finding an answer. "It's Captain Chi's car."
Everyone started to gossip quietly.
"What's Captain Chi going out to do this late at night?"
Lin Feng was coincidentally not at the base that day. As a result, besides the driver and the lead coordinator, no one on the team knew that a new person had arrived. They all assumed Chi Shuo had left to deal with some personal matter.
Inside the car, Ye Shaoyang's condition was growing more and more severe.
He was completely curled up into a ball in the passenger seat. His eyes were closed, and his face was so red that it looked like blood would start to drip from his skin. The usually smiling, confident Ye Shaoyang didn't say a word now. His brows were faintly knit with obvious discomfort. He was sweating more and more profusely, and his hair was already sticking to his forehead, matted with sweat. He looked so weak, so miserable.
Chi Shuo put the pedal to the metal and sped straight onto the highway, speeding towards the nearest hospital.
The medical field in the capital city was very well-developed. Every few kilometers, there was a big hospital. Less than ten minutes after leaving the base, Chi Shuo parked in the underground garage of a hospital. He came over to the passenger side to open the door, quietly asking Ye Shaoyang, "Can you still walk?"
When he heard that deep, cool voice, Ye Shaoyang seemed to recover a bit of his presence of mind. He opened his eyes and looked up at Chi Shuo. "I can. Just help me up, thank you."
Chi Shuo took Ye Shaoyang's hand and helped him out of the car. They took the elevator from the underground parking lot to the outpatient services desk on the first floor, where they requested an emergency appointment with a pheromone specialist.
At 23:15 in the evening, not many patients were waiting to be seen. It was only a few minutes before their turn came up.
Chi Shuo helped Ye Shaoyang into the office of a pheromone specialist. The doctor working that shift was a woman with her hair pulled back in a neat ponytail. She looked up and asked, "Ye Shaoyang, right? What seems to be the problem?"
Ye Shaoyang lightly set one hand down on a table to avoid falling over. He pressed his other hand to his temples, which were throbbing with pain. A boiling heat coursed through his veins, spreading through his whole body. He felt like he was about to combust. It seemed like smoke could almost rise from his throat. His voice was an extremely hoarse rasp as he said, "Doctor, I seem to be… differentiating."
The doctor took in Ye Shaoyang's condition and instantly said to a nurse, "Give him some warm water, then help him into the diagnosis room."
Then she glanced at Chi Shuo and added, "Family members, wait outside."
Chi Shuo, who had been designated a family member all of a sudden…
Well, alright. He could wait outside.
Chi Shuo went out to take a seat in the hallway, waiting for an outcome with some rather complex feelings in his heart.
In the diagnosis room, a nurse gave the severely dehydrated Ye Shaoyang half a cup of warm water. His throat felt much better after that, but the scorching heat in his body hadn't subsided. Ye Shaoyang was vaguely aware of someone helping him lie down on a hospital bed. Lots of strange machines were hooked up to his body, most likely to give him some sort of exam.
Ye Shaoyang's whole body felt weak, sore, and powerless. He lay in bed and let the doctor do as she pleased.
After taking his temperature, the doctor started to check his pheromone value and asked, "How old are you this year?"
"Twenty-one," Ye Shaoyang said.
The doctor was clearly surprised. "Only differentiating at twenty-one?"
The corners of Ye Shaoyang's lips quirked up with a helpless smile. "I didn't intentionally wait this long."
The sooner he differentiated, the sooner the matter would be settled. This day had always been inevitable.
Ye Shaoyang had actually been worrying the whole time about what would happen if he suddenly differentiated during a game. That would definitely trouble his teammates. Now, with him differentiating right before joining the team, he could at least rest easy about that.
The doctor swiftly finished examining Ye Shaoyang. When she saw the data on the machines, she said to the nurse next to her, "Bring me a strong omega pheromone suppressant. His pheromone value is already extremely high. We need to get it under control right away."
Ye Shaoyang was silent.
His consciousness was a bit fuzzy; he thought he might have misheard. Ye Shaoyang struggled to sit up, wanting to confirm what he'd heard. The doctor lightly pushed him back down and said, "Don't flail around. You're differentiating as an omega."
Ye Shaoyang could hardly believe it. "How could I be an omega? Don't I seem more like an alpha?"
The doctor explained, "Differentiation isn't based on personality, it's based on your genetics. What were your parents?"
"My father was an alpha, my mother was an omega… oh, that's right. I did have a fifty percent chance of becoming an omega." Ye Shaoyang obediently settled back down on the bed. He quickly accepted this as his reality and closed his eyes, not saying anything else.
He'd made his peace with this possible outcome a long time ago.
There had been a fifty percent chance, after all. Not a five percent chance. There was nothing strange about this.
A moment later, the nurse returned with a strong suppressant. The doctor turned to Ye Shaoyang and said, "Although there's only a low probability of patients experiencing an allergic reaction to these suppressants, we'll still give you an allergy skin test to be on the safe side."
The nurse lifted Ye Shaoyang's hand and injected a tiny bit of the suppressant into the back of his hand. Ye Shaoyang felt a faint sting at the back of his hand. Immediately afterwards, a small red spot appeared on his skin.
His skin was extremely pale. That little red spot was very vibrant in contrast, and it didn't seem like it was going to fade anytime soon.
The doctor looked surprised by the sight of it. "Really? An allergic reaction?"
The nurse hadn't imagined this outcome either. "Isn't it said that less than one in a hundred thousand people are allergic to strong suppressants?"
Less than one in a hundred thousand.
But this person in front of their eyes was apparently the one in a hundred thousand.
The doctor asked, "Your genes… you're mixed race?"
Ye Shaoyang hazily answered, "It seems that way. My mother had some foreign blood on her side. I'm not too sure of the specifics."
The doctor fell into thought for a moment, then looked towards the nurse. "Let's switch to an imported suppressant and try it out."
The nurse ran out of the room like a gust of wind, then swiftly raced back with the requested medicine.
With a new needle, they tried this suppressant on the back of Ye Shaoyang's other hand.
And as a result, his left hand very obligingly presented them with the sight of a little red splotch as well. It was a perfect match for his right hand.
The doctor helplessly looked at him and said, "Your condition is quite unique. These are the only two widely used omega suppressants on the market, but you're allergic to both types. You won't be able to use them."
Ye Shaoyang was a bit confused. Allergic? Was it the same as being allergic to penicillin? He recalled Little Rui telling him that besides injected suppressants, there were suppressants that could be taken orally as well. He hurriedly asked, "If I can't have the shots, can I take the oral medicine?"
The doctor explained, "The composition of oral suppressants and injected suppressants are the same, and orally ingested suppressants aren't as effective. With your allergy to the composition of the medicine, it'll be dangerous for you to take it orally as well."
With that, Ye Shaoyang found himself at a complete loss. "Then what do I do?"
He was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. The heat burning through his body made him feel like he was melting into a glob of water. A strange, hollow sensation was taking root within him. The nape of his neck started to feel faintly swollen and itchy. Most likely, those were his 'glands' starting to grow in. The pheromone suppressing patch his didi had given him didn't seem to have much of an effect.
As expected, the doctor helped him remove the patch and said, "This patch will be useless to you. There are two options here. First, we can take a sample of your DNA and pheromones to be distributed to various pharmaceutical companies. We can see if they can develop a new type of suppressant to help with your situation specifically, but the research period would be very long."
"How long?" Ye Shaoyang asked.
The doctor sighed. "To develop a new type of medicine… at least a year or two."
"…what's the other option?"
"Find an alpha to mark you," the doctor said.
Ye Shaoyang's head was swimming, but he'd taken notes on all these important topics in his cell phone earlier. Marks were apparently split into temporary marks and permanent marks. The temporary marks could be given with a bite to the nape of the neck, while permanent marks were formed through sexual intercourse.
Ye Shaoyang tensed. "A temporary mark, or…?"
"A temporary mark is effective for one to three months," the doctor said. "The duration depends on the compatibility between your pheromones and the alpha's pheromones. The higher your compatibility, the longer the mark will last. A permanent mark would do a better job of resolving your problem. In the future, you would just need to renew it once a year during your heat period."
Ye Shaoyang let out a breath of relief. "One to three months for a temporary mark! That's no problem, then."
It was a good thing it wasn't something that had to be done daily. Being bitten once a day would have been way too much of a hassle.
The doctor froze. She hadn't imagined that an omega would be so cheerfully accepting of something like a mark. This patient probably had a boyfriend or girlfriend, then?
She smiled and said, "If you have a set alpha partner, then that's the best thing possible. You can have them mark you temporarily to suppress your pheromones."
Ye Shaoyang was silent.
He didn't exactly have a partner.
But he did have a captain. Right outside.
As long as it was for the sake of competing in games, there was no problem with asking Captain Chi to give him a bite, right?
Captain Chi was a captain with a very strong sense of responsibility. Considering his current predicament, Ye Shaoyang could only ask Captain Chi for help.
Ye Shaoyang decisively said, "Can you help me call in the alpha waiting outside?"
The doctor assumed the person outside was Ye Shaoyang's boyfriend, so she told the nurse to call him in.
Chi Shuo was just waiting outside when the nurse suddenly walked out. She wore a small, warm smile as she said, "Sir, please allow me to trouble you to follow me inside. Ye Shaoyang has differentiated as an omega, and he needs your help."
Chi Shuo was dumbstruck.
These words were like exploding mines, bursting noisily inside Chi Shuo's head.
The corners of his lips twitched downwards, and the calm expression he tried to maintain on his face nearly cracked.
An omega? Were they sure this wasn't a mistake?!
He furrowed his brow and followed the nurse into a separate pheromone isolation room. The nurse tactfully backed out, smiling slightly as she said, "We'll leave it to you."
Then she considerately closed the door.
In hospitals, pheromone isolation rooms were specifically designed to house omegas in heat or omegas who had otherwise lost control of their pheromones. This room could keep all pheromones contained, to prevent an omega's pheromones from leaking out and causing chaos.
As soon as Chi Shuo stepped inside, he detected a strong, decadent scent.
The scent was like that of sunflowers in bloom on a fall afternoon. It wasn't excessively sweet, and it seemed to carry a warmth reminiscent of the sun. It made a person feel like they were standing in a huge field of sunflowers.
That warm, aromatic scent instantly enveloped Chi Shuo's whole body, as though seeping in through every pore.
Chi Shuo stood there rigidly, his back suddenly tensing.
Then, he met a pair of dewy eyes.
Ye Shaoyang was currently slumped weakly on the couch. His shirt, which had been soaked through with sweat, clung to his skin and highlighted the lean, beautiful shape of his waist.
His delicate collar bones were half-exposed. Drenched in sweat, they gave off a glowing sheen.
Ye Shaoyang's hair was soaked as well. His usually clear, bright eyes were now clouded by a hazy mist due to the pheromones racking his body. The corners of his eyes were faintly reddened, and he couldn't possibly have been more alluring.
Chi Shuo was completely speechless.
The air in the room seemed to have frozen. Chi Shuo didn't even want to breathe. Because every time he drew a breath, he drew in the overpowering scent of the omega's pheromones. To him, this was practically a form of torture.
It was at just that moment that Ye Shaoyang suddenly spoke.
The man's voice was tinged with a sensual sort of rasp. He looked so frail in his current condition, but the energy in his voice hadn't wilted at all. In fact, he spoke with absolute confidence—
"Captain Chi, I've differentiated as an omega."
Chi Shuo found his bearings, but didn't know what he was supposed to say.
What happened to his alpha teammate?!
How had his perfectly nice alpha teammate suddenly turned into an omega?!
Ye Shaoyang immediately added, "The doctor says I'm allergic to suppressants."
"…what does that mean?" Chi Shuo asked.
Ye Shaoyang's smile became a little helpless. "It means I can't use omega suppressants, or I'll have an allergic reaction. Right now, you're the only one who can help me."
Chi Shuo was completely unable to process this information right away.
Ye Shaoyang couldn't use suppressants? Then what was he supposed to do?
"How…" Chi Shuo's voice was stiff, nearly frozen. "How am I supposed to help you?"
Ye Shaoyang suddenly stood up from the couch. He approached Chi Shuo in slow, clumsy steps, then stopped in front of Chi Shuo and turned around to point at his own nape.
"Just give me a temporary mark. Bite me here, thanks."
Chi Shuo was floored.
He finally couldn't keep his cool any longer. Chi Shuo's expression completely cracked.