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You ruined everything

Chapter Text

In this unkind and rotten world ruled by Alphas, where might makes right the only fairness anyone could find was what they grabbed for themselves as they scratched and clawed their way to the top. Safety and comfort obtained while retaining one’s freedom and independence was a rare luxury that was jealously guarded by omegas like Shen Jiu who struggled so hard to achieve it.

Shen Jiu raised his fan to cover his nose when he passed by a glassy-eyed man who stumbled through the street coming from the other direction. Green eyes following the unstable figure as the overly sweet scent, like cakes or spun sugar, wafted off the wretched thing announcing for all the world the man's impending heat.

An escaped Omega whore, based on the fresh and still bleeding brand burned into the man's exposed hip he must have run away from black market slave traders. Shen Jiu tsked, turning up his nose when the distressed omega came too close before sneering and looking away, ignoring the phantom ache pulsing at his own hip as he continued on his way.

Flowy blue cloth fluttered in the air as his robes trailed behind him, picked up by the icy cold wind blowing in his direction that heralded an oncoming winter storm. He had more than enough problems of his own to deal with and he could not invite danger onto himself by trying to rescue every abused thing he saw or the uncountable shadows of who he was and the all too numerous reminders of what could have been had he not managed what he had.

“A-Jiu!” A female beta called. One of the long sleeves of her beautifully made but otherwise simple red and white robe fluttered in the wind as she waved at Shen Jiu from an upper window as he approached. She was the owner of this brothel, one that he frequented so much it had become more of a home to him than anywhere in Cang Qiong Sect, even his own bamboo house, as his short few years of ownership of that abode was still too new for him.

The stares of nosy people in the crowds milling about did not go unnoticed by Shen Jiu, nor did he miss the judgmental glares, or their haughty huffs. No matter, let them judge. Let them form their own conclusions and find him wanting, better that than the truth.

“Madam Zhou,” Shen Jiu greeted warmly, tucking his fan into place at his belt before offering his friend a small, but genuine smile.

“I’m so happy you’re here, we have missed you these past months,” Zhou Lifen greeted. The numerous ornaments decorating her dark hair jingled like little bells with every movement she made as she hooked her arm around Shen Jiu’s own and pulled at his elbow. She urged him deeper into the building and led him up to the second level before pushing him into a seat located in a sectioned off area. The beta woman began to fuss over him, patting at him with her smooth and impeccably manicured hands before softly pinching his cheek. “A-Jiu should take better care of himself, look at you, you’ve lost so much weight.”

For the first time in many months, Shen Jiu felt warmth fill his chest, the frigid numbness he had grown used to melting away like winters frost on the first days of spring at the familiar touch of his best and oldest friend. “It’s good to see you,” he sighed, both of his cheeks now cupped in Zhou Lifen palms as she squished at his flesh, an unsatisfied frown marring her beautiful features. “Have things been well?”

With the increasing raids on black market shops that catered to omegas such as him, he had been concerned for his friend's continued safety. As luck would have it, out of all the shops hit, none of them had been brothels. He owed these women so much, literally everything he has been able to do, the freedom he enjoyed, was all thanks to them.

“All is well and everyone is safe. There is nothing A-Jiu needs to concern himself with.” Zhou Lifen tilted his head back using the grip on his cheeks and pressed a kiss to his brow. Her petal soft lips sent the pleasant warmth of her affection zipping down his nerves and straight to his heart. No doubt the unnatural red of her painted lips had smeared off on to his own pale skin.

Skeptical of her reassurance, Shen Jiu said nothing, choosing to let his doubt be known through looks alone as he stared at his friend when she moved to sit across from him. Even during the best of times, there was always some danger or drama lurking around every corner. If it wasn’t their underground activities then their legal trade brought the usual havoc of upset Omega wives of Alpha noblemen, abusive patrons, and even the odd person with violent desires or murderous intent.

Prostitutes always made for a tempting target for those with violent appetites looking for someone they saw as disposable to take their urges out on. He had lost more than one dear friend to such violent ends and bloodied his hands each time as he ripped apart those scum responsible for their deaths. He made certain to inflict the pain the creatures had subjected his friends to thrice fold before finally granting the vile things the death he made them beg for. Sick pigs could never handle even a fraction of the pain they so loved to inflict on others. Sadists such as those that preyed on the weak and vulnerable were always cowards it seemed and they never failed to wet themselves long before Shen Jiu ended their pathetic little lives.

“Don’t look at me like that.” A hand over his chased the chill from his fingers, the warmth bringing attention to a long ignored ache in his bones. He had to clench his hand to resist turning it over and intertwining their fingers, his shameful burning need for human touch was not something he wished to acknowledge or give in to.

A server came by, dropping off food and drink, watching in bright eyed curiosity as Shen Jiu poured Zhou Lifen and himself tea before leaving them to their private meeting secluded away from prying ears and eyes when he shot the young beta boy an annoyed look.

”You’re too skinny,” Zhou Lifen complained as she insisted on filling up his bowl with the food she knew he favored. Despite his polite protesting, Shen Jiu couldn’t help the twitch at the edge of his lips as he fought against the smile that wished to form along with the swelling of his heart.

Finally, after nothing more than Shen Jiu’s continued look of doubt, Zhou Lifen sighed as she gave in. “The truth is, while we are indeed doing well, the raids have dwindled our supplies.” She paused, tapping her nails against the polished table before continuing, “without a fresh shipment, I’m afraid we will have to turn away all those who depend on us for...”

“What supplies do you need?” Shen Jiu interrupted before taking a sip of his fresh tea, eyeing the woman from over the brim of the cup as he drank. He set the cup down in the palm of his free hand, and cradled the hot porcelain between his fingers before sighing. “If you can provide a list I will get them for you.”

“Oh, A- Jiu.” She reached for him, but fell short as he pulled out of her range.

“Do not mistake me,” She Jiu said, taking another sip of his tea before continuing. “This is not a charitable act on my part. Without your wares, my life would return to whence it came and I do not relish the thought of losing all that I fought so hard to gain.”

“Of course,” She said softly, smiling warmly at him as she placed her hands in her lap. “It will only be a happy coincidence that our other patrons will not go without this month thanks to A-Jiu’s selfishness.” Shen Jiu pursed his lips at her coy tone, glaring at her as he drained the last of his tea from his cup.

And that's how Shen Jiu found himself on a hunt through many large markets arranging shipments, and traversing the wilds for the remaining ingredients that simply could never be found in the legal stores and marketplaces.

While returning from dropping off the final items on his list and picking up his purchase Shen Jiu had to pass through Huan Hua territory, the people of that sect were brutal enough in their pursuit of wayward omegas that they even set him on edge. He stuck to the cover of the brush as he made his way through, refraining from flying least it draws attention to himself and the bag of contraband in his possession. The bag slung over his shoulder and resting at his waist was heavy, filled to the brim with scent blocking soaps, lotions, and artificial Alpha pheromones disguised as perfume and mixed into special hair and bath oils.

Something had the Huan Hua Palace in an uproar he noticed as he passed by one of the smaller towns under their protection, their noisy panic was so distracting that Shen Jiu could no longer ignore his nagging curiosity. The brouhaha drew him to a town nearby. He stood on a rocky hill overlooking the riverside city and watched as Huan Hua's pathetic disciples ran amok, their torches dancing wildly against the dark of the night like frantic fireflies as their desperate angry shouting grated on his sensitive ears.

Seems like Huan Hua Palace had lost someone based on what Shen Jiu can make out from the cacophony assaulting his senses. His curiosity overrode his common sense that told him of the danger he would be in if caught with such contraband in his possession he found himself sliding down the gravelly hills. Everything was silent except for a few rocks that fell lose as he made his descent. Once at the bottom he crouched down, making himself as small as possible as he looked around for some decent cover.

Dense frost-covered foliage near the river seemed promising enough Shen Jiu decided as he crept over to it and hid amongst it. Shifting his weight he leaned forward to peek out from his hastily chosen hiding place and watch the yellow-clad noisemakers as the searched. “That woman is long gone by now, why are we still out here? It’s pointless, we will never find her,” one of the male disciples whined as he bent in half to pant and clutch at his knees in support.

She Jiu mentally snorted, a bunch of weaklings this pathetic lot are.

A taller disciple holding a torch turned on the whiner and grabbed him, harshly pulling him up by the collar of his robes to come face to face with the sneering man, “If we don’t find her we are as good as dead you idiot!” The man tsked before shoving the trembling disciple away causing the boy to fall his ass.

“He, he wouldn’t...would he?” The coward mumbled with a tremble before hastily getting up and chasing after his disappearing senior.

Holding as still as possible Shen Jiu waited, and listened as he watched the torches disperse. The ruckus dying down enough that it no longer drowned out the slow-running river, or the creaking and groaning of its ice flows. An odd mewing noise drew his gaze as an oddly shaped black blob floated by as glacially slow as the slush surrounding it.

Curious, Shen Jiu crept closer, hissing when his hand snagged a thorn as he brushed the dense foliage out of his way. He ignored the injury after a quick glance at the plant, it was just a simple berry bush, nothing to worry about, and continued forward before reaching out to snatch the blob from the river.

Lifting the thing from the water it becomes obvious that it is a wicker basket of some sort, how the thing managed to stay afloat is a mystery. By all rights, this heavy waterlogged thing should have sunk by now. A sneeze coming from inside startled Shen Jiu so badly he nearly dropped the thing. He stared at it wearily cursing his damnable curiosity for leading him here before a hiccuping cough made him rip the lid off the thing.

Shen Jiu stared down at what was obviously a newborn, his heart raced as he frowned at the creature. It whined and kicked as it mewed weekly before its eyes as dark as the night around them blinked up at him and its blue-tinted lips trembled.

Oh no, no, don’t cry!

The baby hiccoughed again, a weak pathetic and rasping cry leaving the shivering infant as it reached up for Shen Jiu. He considers tossing the thing back where he found it and leave the infant to its fate and lowers the basket back down.

An ice-cold and so, so tiny hand grabbed onto his finger, and Shen Jiu stares into the infant watery eyes as the baby smiles weekly at him with its too blue lips. He stared at the baby frozen with indecision, a pang in his heart whispering in his ear, hadn’t he himself been in the same position as this baby, dumped and abandoned like trash? But look what happened to him? Would it not be kinder to let the pathetic simpering thing die, right here, right now?

Footsteps coming his way limit his internal debate, and staring wide-eyed at the small hand clutching to his finger Shen Jiu’s decision is already made. He lifts the baby from what should have been its death cradle and pulls the infant to his chest as he flits away back up the hill. He looks back down at the riverside as he tucks the infant, a boy, into his robes to press the baby against the warmth of his skin and shivers when the child's freezing skin meets his own.

There is what looks to be a local woman putting around the river in whatever task she set for herself at this absurd, and frankly dangerous, hour. The woman finds the hastily discarded basket and picks it up too inspected it before shrugging and taking her discovery along with her.

A small contented sigh and a spattering of coos sang out from inside the safety of Shen Jiu’s robes. The baby's face just barely peeked up at him as the boy kicked and smiled sweetly up at him and waved a slowly pinking hand up in the air.

Shen Jiu huffed a laugh which sent a breathy cloud flying away with the chilly breeze as he engulfed the baby’s little hand with his own and gently rubbed warmth back into it. “Let's get you home, hmm,” he says as he uses a finger from his occupied hand to brush across his baby's chubby cheek.

Chapter Text

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The high pitched wailing hadn’t ceased since the half-frozen infant Shen Jiu had stupidly fished out of the river had warmed up. He had tried desperately to feed the thing, ladling tiny spoonfuls of milk into its mouth when it first began to smack its lips. The baby just stuck its tongue out and pushed the milk out and made it trail down its chin in a chain of disgusting bubbles.

Shen Jiu rocked the hiccuping and crying child as the baby gnawed at its fist, the hours of failed attempts to feed the wretched thing fraying so badly at his nerves that he found himself wanting to cry along with it. He paced his home one more time before returning to his kitchen and trying to feed the infant yet again, this time he tried watered down congee, but that to, failed.

“Why won't you eat?” Shen Jiu asked as he returned to rocking the starving creature. He cuddled the wailing monster close to his chest as he looked down into its watery black eyes. “Stupid thing,” he softly scolded the baby as he wiped away the tears from its cheeks with a thumb. It is its own fault that it is suffering so, Shen Jiu had offered him all the things the infant care instruction book he had nicked from the library had said to try, and yet the baby rejected every last option.

At first, Shen Jiu paid no mind to the baby snuggling into his robes, focused only on rocking the thing as he paced, but then a sudden wet and tugging pressure at his chest sent him rearing backward as he stared down at the baby. The silly creature had somehow managed to latch onto him as if Shen Jiu was its mother.

He stared dumbly down at the infant suckling at him for what had to be hours before sighing.

Stupid, stupid thing, Shen Jiu smiled as he returned to rocking the now quiet baby, you won't get any sustenance that way. Once he got used to it he didn’t even feel the child useless suckling and he didn’t see any harm in comforting what he was now sure was a dying child.

At least the baby is mostly quiet now.

The wailing started up again after far too short of a reprieve, the baby pawing and kneading angrily at Shen Jiu in its frustration.

Shen Jiu tried again to get the infant to eat, offering all the recommended foods only for them to be spat out by that frustrating little tongue before letting the wretched thing latch again in an endless looping cycle throughout the night.

Come dawn the poor thing had become so weak it no longer cried, and only mewed pathetically every time it unlatched itself. She Jiu sat on his bed and slowly rocked the infant as he watched its every movement, desperate for any and every sign of life his baby would give him. A sudden and painful tugging pressure at his chest made him hiss as the baby in his arms suddenly began making loud gulping sounds.

When Shen Jiu tried to pull the baby away, the previously weak and dying thing came to life and aggressively hung on and continued to make that alarming noise as the pain in his chest intensified. Clenching his teeth against the new and alarming pain Shen Jiu returned to nestling the baby comfortably against his chest and swiped a finger over the tight seal that the infant's mouth had become.

Shen Jiu started horrified and relieved at the cloudy substance on his finger. It seemed, impossibly, that his baby wouldn’t be dying just yet.

>>>>>>>>>>>>

“An Alpha can not raise a newborn on their own.” Yue Qingyuan pressed a hand to his forehead and rubbed in self-soothing circles as he emitted a low, nearly inaudible growl. He had been arguing with Shen Jiu over this matter since he so rudely let himself into Shen Jiu’s home claiming Shen Jiu’s lack of response as an excuse.

“Typically, when someone doesn’t answer that implies either they aren't home or you are not welcome, not let yourself in and make yourself at home!” Shen Jiu had snapped as he hastily adjusted his robes and was successful in hiding that he had been nursing, but had been too late to hide his baby from the unwelcome intruder.

“Shidi, newborns require a bond with an omega mother to survive, that child won't last the week without such a bond,“ Yue Qingyuan said, with that nauseating, oh so reasonable placating tone.

That’s false. Shen Jiu had seen plenty of beta mothers raise their infants just fine, even widower beta fathers had managed the task all on their own.

“Besides, what will the child eat? That baby will soon starve if we do nothing,” Yue Qingyuan continued on in that tone, that soft tone that said I know better than you so why don’t you just do as I say.

When Yue Qingyuan tried reaching for his baby Shen Jiu turned away from him, tucking his baby close and shielding him from Yue Qingyuan view. “He won’t starve,” he snapped over his shoulder. He had managed to feed his baby its fill the past three days so far, the desperation of the first day fading by the next as his milk supply grew large enough to fill the infant's tiny tummy every four hours.

Every time Yue Qingyuan tried to reach around him Shen Jiu would turn away, and bring his baby away from Yue Qingyuan’s grasping hands. They ended up in an awkward spinning dance as he evaded the taller man at his back.

“Xiao Jiu,” Yue Qingyuan huffed.

Shen Jiu smacked the hand that nearly grabbed hold of one of his baby’s little feet as they kicked with his baby’s excited giggles. “Don’t call me that!” He lashed out, teeth bared as he just missed scratching Yue Qingyuan’s face by a breath, the alpha taking a step backwards just in time to evade the strike.

“Qingqiu,” Yue Qingyuan hastily corrected as he raised his hands up in a nonthreatening manner, and looked at Shen Jiu in wide-eyed confusion. As the red hot flare of anger receded Shen Jiu slowly became aware of first the rumbling sensation in his chest, and then the enraged and distinctive sound of an omegas protective hissing breaking through the pounding in his ears.

Shen Jiu took a step back, swallowing down the damning sound, and turned away to stare intently out a nearby window. His baby cooed questioningly up at him, little hands grabbing hold of stray strands of inky black hair draped over his mother's shoulder before he suddenly began to wail. “Shh Shh Hush now,” He purred as he clutched his baby close, just under his chin, and bounced and rocked his baby as he quietly purred. Once his baby was soothed, its crying turned to happy coos as he rested his head against his mother's chest and played with his favorite toy that was his mother's hair, Shen Jiu turned back but refused to look directly at Yue Qingyuan as he murmured, “I can feed him.”
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Hands raised up and away from his body with his fingers splayed wide Yue Qingyuan took a tentative step closer to Shen Jiu. The omega cradled the babe close and brushed his nose across its hair and cheek, breathing its scent in deep, before his eyes darted up to stare intensely at Yue Qingyuan when he slid his foot across the floor to take another step.

Yue Qingyuan paused his movements, frozen mid-motion before carefully lowering his frame slightly, and hunching his shoulders in a submissive and nonthreatening posture. “What is the infant's name?”

Shen Jiu glowered at Yue Qingyuan, watching the alphas every minute movement, “I have yet to give him one. I wasn’t sure if he would even survive the week, the poor wretch had been near death's doorstep when I had found him.” Finally, Shen Jiu turned his gaze away from Yue Qingyuan to look down at his happily cooing baby, and smile as small barely there smile, his lips quirking as his baby reached to try and snag some hair from higher up his mother's head, before placing a lingering kiss to his baby's brow. The action allowed his baby to grab hold of his target, tiny fingers twisting into his mother's dark tresses near Shen Jiu’s ear and held on with all the ironclad strength of a determined infant.

“I found him in the Luo river floating amongst the ice, tossed away as if he were garbage,” Shen Jiu said as he looked up when Yue Qingyuan drew near, close enough to place a tentative hand on Shen Jiu’s shoulder. Angling his body to the side, towards Yue Qingyuan, Shen Jiu adjusted his hold on his baby and presented the infant to the alpha, allowing Yue Qingyuan to look at his babe.

Inhaling sharply Yue Qingyuan reached out carefully, pausing and looking at Shen Jiu as if to ask permission, before cautiously touching the infant's cheek. “The Luo river hmm.” Yue Qingyuan rubbed his thumb back and forth across the infant's plump cheeks.

“Luo Binghe,” Shen Jiu announced so confidently that it made it seem like that had always been the baby's name, even though just a moment before the baby had been nameless.

“Not Shen?”

Shen Qingqiu snorted as if he would curse his poor baby, his Binghe, with such a tainted and soiled name.

“The child, Luo Binghe needs to be examined by Mu Shidi.” A pair of large hands grasped Shen Jiu’s shoulders and held firm as Yue Qingyuan tried to coax him towards the bed. “You and the child should rest while I go fetch him, you look exhausted. When Was the last time you slept?”

“That is none of your business.” Typical Yue Qi, always fussing about like a rattled hen when he isn’t needed, and nowhere to be found when he was. Shen Qingqiu shrugged out of Yue Qingyuan’s hold, swatting at the Alphas hands when the reached for him as Shen Jiu walked away to sit on his bed.

Chapter Text

Hushed voices disturbed Shen Jiu from his light dozing, his baby clutched close and wrapped warmly in his robes as he laid on his bed curled up in the comfortable pile of blankets he had placed on the bed that first freezing night.

Blinking his eyes open as light assaulted his face, Shen Jiu watched as Mu Qingfan paused in the doorway of his home. “Do you need an invitation?” Shen Jiu asked dully as he slowly sat up, careful not to disturb the babe sleeping at his chest, tiny little whistling snores chimed with each of his baby's breaths.

Mu Qingfang glanced at Yue Qingyuan as he walked past, “Apologies, but if what I have been told is true, then yes.”

Shen Jiu tsked, annoyance flaring and taking a bite at the last of his patience. “Consider yourself invited then,” Shen Jiu lazily waved his hand indicating for Mu Qingfang to come closer. Yue Qingyuan leaning against the wall next to his bed served to shave away at his dwindling patience, the mans hovering and intent gaze fraying at his nerves.

An overstuffed bag plopped heavily on the bed next to him as Mu Qingfang got to work pulling many unfamiliar tools from it. What on earth was the man planning to do with all those tools? Wasn’t this supposed to be a simple check up to determine his baby's health? Shen Jiu shot a quick glare Yue Qingyuan’s way. “May I see?” Mu Qingfang asked as his hands hovered over Shen Jiu’s sleeping baby who was shielded under his mother's robes.

Swollowing back the beginnings of a protective growl, his lips forming a quick, twitching snarl, Shen Jiu reluctantly pulled the cloth keeping his baby warm away to reveal him to the curious medic. When Mu Qingfang’s hand drew too near for comfort, the unwelcomed alphas attempted contact riled up his barely repressed urges once more, and the only thing that stopped him from raking his nails across the alpha's face was the baby cradled in his arms.“Don’t touch him!” She Jiu pulled his baby away from Mu Qingfang's reach, twisting his body to block the alpha doctor's approach.

The sudden movement startled Luo Binghe awake, his wide onyx eyes blinking up drowsy at his mother as he yawned and stretched his little hand into the air before catching hold of one of his mother's fingers and holding it tightly in his tiny fist. Shen Jiu’s chest felt warm as he looked into dark curious eyes, a slight vibration in his chest breaking out as he cooed softly at his sweet baby who cooed back at him.

“Fascinating,” Mu Qingfang said in a mixture of curiosity and awe, “you said you found this child? He isn’t yours by birth?”

“Yes, as I told Yue Shixiong, I found my Binghe near frozen in the Luo river three nights ago,” Shen Jiu answered cooly, looking up from his now wide awake and happily babbling baby.

“I didn’t mean to offend, it’s just your bond with this child is so strong...It is a good thing, your bond likely saved the infant from certain death.” Mu Qingfang stumbled through whatever he had been attempting to say, not wanting to upset the anxious mother. “I was told you have been feeding the...Binghe yourself, is this true?”

“I can feed him,” Shen Jiu said as he nodded.

“Could you demonstrate?” Mu Qingfang asked gently, hands held aloof as he watched. If he could get the supposed omega to breastfeed it would help soothe the anxious and irritable man, and aid in the necessary examination of the infant.

“What, now?” Shen Jiu looked back and forth between Yue Qingyuan who stood silently nearby, and Mu Qingfang who sat on his bed.

“Please,” Mu Qingfang said and assumed a non threatening pose as he drew closer, “It would be beneficial for you and your child, and would aid greatly in my exam of you both.”

With great reluctance Shen Jiu brought his happily cooing baby to his chest, his child latching easily as the greedy thing suckled hungrily from him as if Shen Jiu hadn’t just fed him a short while ago. His Binghe always ate frequently, and so desperately, that it was as if he was half starved and thought each meal was his last.

When Shen Jiu’s chest began to rumble again, Mu Qingfang leaned forward into his line of vision as one of his hands stopped and hovered over Luo Binghe, refraining from touching by meer inches. “I’m going to check Binghe over now, I only need to hold his wrist while you continue to nurse him. Is that alright?” Mu Qingfang asked when Shen Jiu looked up and met his eyes.

Watching silently Shen Jiu continued to nurse his gluttonous Binghe before finally nodding his ascent. Mu Qingfang, after getting his agreement, gently wrapped his fingers around the infant's wrist that was not tucked against his mother's body and did a quick, but thorough check of the child. “He seems to be in perfect health,” Mu Qingfang announced happily giving Shen Jiu a warm and please smile before releasing Binghe’s wrist.

“Will that be all?” Shen Jiu hummed. The rumble in his chest growing deeper as he ignored the alphas in his home, preferring to watch his Binghe nurse greedily as he pets the back of the infant's head, and ran his fingers through the tiny dark curls.

Awkward silence pecked at Shen Jiu’s nerves as Mu Qingfan continued to hover instead of leaving. “I’m afraid not, I still need to examine you Shen Shixiong,” Mu Qingfang said, his tone picking up a slight timber typical of alphas who were attempting to calm or soothe.

Growling, and giving Mu Qingfang a glare filled with as much ire as he currently felt at having an alpha try and calm him for the first time in his life Shen Jiu snapped irritably, “Me? Whatever for? I’m fine, I assure you.”

The sickening tone was joined by an uncomfortable pressure in the air, duel presences lapping at Shen Jiu’s skin and burning irritably at his nerves before a hand was placed on his arm.“I’m sorry Shixiong, but it is necessary, for both yours and Binghe’s health,” Mu Qingfang implored softly as his herb like scent began to fill Shen Jiu’s nose.

“Stop it,” Shen Jiu snapped, tugging his arm out of Mu Qingfang’s reach while still supporting his Binghe with his other arm. “Don’t think I don’t know what you are doing, it won't work on me.”

“I meant no harm,” Mu Qingfang said as he held still, “but I do need to examine you, would you be comfortable with Yue Shixiong holding Binghe?”

Shen Jiu narrowed his eyes, watching Mu Qingfang with suspicion. “Why?”

Folding his hands in his lap as he sat up Mu Qingfang sighed. “I do not wish to cause you any alarm, but this exam will be very thorough and...intimate, it would be best if you were not holding Binghe, and,” Mu Qingfang paused, looking at the silent Yue Qingyuan before delicately placing his hand back on Shen Jiu’s arm. “You may wish for privacy.”

“It’s fine,” Shen Jiu tsked. He would prefer Yue Qingyuan to stay, rather than be left alone with Mu Qingfang. When Luo Binghe finished suckling, signaling his full stomach with a loud contented burp, Shen Jiu leaned forward and nuzzled his cheek and smiled when his baby giggled and played with his mother's hair. “Take him,” he lifted Binghe up, and hurriedly passed him to Yue Qingyuan who startled but took the baby without question. “Wipe that idiotic look off your face,” Shen Jiu huffed at the shocked look on Yue Qingyuan’s face as he stared down at the curious infant held awkwardly in his arms. You would think the man had never held an infant before with the way his stupid face lit up with awe.

“Xiao Jiu,” Yue Qingyuan said, his eyes so wide Shen Jiu almost worried they would pop right out of their sockets.

Mouth twitching, and hands clenched tight into the blankets beneath him Shen Jiu said icily, “Qingqiu.” It was like the man was dull-witted or something with how often he insisted on calling Shen Jiu like that, only he knows the man is not, the alpha was practically a genius at literally anything else that didn’t involve Shen Jiu.

Shen Jiu twitched as Mu Qingfang leaned close and took a large open mouthed breath. “Remarkable,” Mu Qinfang said as he indicated for Shen Jiu to give him his arm before taking another large breath as he smelled Shen Jiu’s wrist, ”There is not a trace of omegian sweet scent to be found.” His body stiffened when Mu Qingfang hesitantly leaned forward, pausing long enough for Shen Jiu to deny him before inhaling close to his neck, his breath burning Shen Jiu’s ear as he slowly exhaled. Leaning back, Mu Qingfang had the look of an excitable child, his eyes alight with wonder. “If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t be able to tell the Alpha pheromones where false. How was such a thing achieved?”

Shen Jiu remained silent, watching the far too interested medic wearily. As if he would willingly share that information he mentally huffed, the protection of his priceless treasure and his expensive bottles and soaps of false pheromones where hard-won secrets.

“When was your last heat cycle?” Mu Qingfang asked, carefully hiding away his fascination and returning to speaking softly with that annoying timber.

“I haven't experienced a heat since I first presented,” Shen Jiu answered honestly, they already know the truth and he no longer felt inclined to lie.

Twin gasps, more akin to loud inhalations came from the alphas in the room at his answer. “You had to have been no older than sixteen,” Mu Qingfang said somehow keeping that calming timber despite his shock and awe. “Using suppressants for so long is dangerous.”

“Then it is a good thing I’m not using any,” Shen Jiu said, and nearly laughed at the expression on Mu Qingfang’s face.

“How?” Mu Qingfang asked quickly, his excitement spilling over and tainting his professional and calming persona. “It shouldn’t be possible for an Omega to control their heats without suppressants, even those poor souls who have been cruelly sterilized by illegal brothels continue to experience heats.”

Brothels, Shen Jiu grimaced at that word, as a slave he only narrowly avoided that fate himself. It may be illegal to have an omega as a slave, and the crime of sterilizing an omega punishable by a slow and painful death, but that didn’t stop that lucrative trade. Harming an omega in any way was supposed to result in the offender's hand being lopped off, but that didn’t stop the Qiu’s from their sadistic treatment of him even though they knew full well what he was and repeatedly threatened to sell him to those hellish brothels to be nothing more than a drugged-up toy.

“As if I would tell you anything,” Shen Jiu huffed and turned away from Mu Qingfang.

The herbal scent thickened, becoming almost cloying as it filled Shen Jiu’s nose and tasted bitter on his tongue. “Shixiong.” Mu Qingfang rubbed a thumb into the underside of his wrist, “ As your physician, I need to know.”

“An implant,” Shen Jiu started reluctantly, covering the crux of his elbow with his hand as Mu Qingfang continue to rub soothingly at his wrist, “in my arm.”

Slowly pulling up Shen Jius sleeve and coaxing the shielding hand away to examine his arm Mu Qingfang asked, “And the alpha pheromones? How is that achieved?”

Licking his lips, Shen Jiu shot a glance at his bedside table that Yue Qingyuan stood next to, “A bottle of artificial pheromones I purchased, there is one in my nightstand.”

“Shixiong knows he can not keep using that anymore correct?” Mu Qingfang asked as he gently palpated Shen Jiu's arm, searching out the implant.

Staring at the wall, resolutely ignoring the alpha as he poked and prodded at him Shen Jiu growled softly. “And why can’t I?” He has always used the same false scent, he doesn’t even remember what his true scent smells like and would prefer to never know.

“The infant, your Binghe, will need to know your true scent if you wish to raise him,” Mu Qingfang explained while he rummaged through his bag while still holding onto Shen Jiu’s arm. “And false pheromones are detrimental to developing brains.”

Alarmed, Shen Jiu sat up straighter and squeezed his hands into fists, his nails digging into the palms of his hands. “You mean it can harm him?” What if his Binghe was already hurt? Could three days of exposure to an old dose permanently damage his baby? It figures that any attempts at doing something good would turn back and slap him in the face, it always had. Please, someone, tell him his baby was going to be alright.

“Shh,” Mu Qingfang patted his shoulder before coaxing Shen Jiu to lean against him, Shen Jiu’s forehead pressing against the crux of Mu Qingfang's neck where the herbal scent was strongest. ”Your baby is unharmed, but you should not expose him to such things again.” Once he calmed Mu Qingfang spoke again, “I do not wish to upset you, but it is necessary for me to excise the implant in your arm.”

“No!” Shen Jiu tried to jerk away, but the hand at his back shot up to the back of his neck and held firm and the deft fingers of a medic quickly rubbed at the glands in his neck, the action flooding him with foreign endorphins. A pleasant and sleepy calm the likes of which Shen Jiu had never experienced before overwhelmed him, warming his body and making his limbs heavy as he blinked his eyes and every breath brought with it a strange soothing and terrifying scent.

“Hush now,” Mu Qingfang soothed, the timber in his voice growing deeper when Shen Jiu whined and weakly struggled against the hold at the back of his neck. “It’s for your own good. Suppressing your body like this, using such harmful false pheromones, it is no wonder you have experienced so many setbacks, unexplained fevers, and your infamous unstable moods.”

Cold antiseptic was rubbed carefully on Shen Jiu’s arm as Mu Qingfang held firm, his fingers still kneading into his neck and clouding his mind. No one had ever done such a thing to him, not even Yue Qi. Shen Jiu whined again as something pricked his arm and he slowly lost all feeling in the area.

“There we are,” Mu Qingfang said as Shen Jiu felt a painless tugging in his arm before he felt a pop as his implant was pulled free from his body. “All done.” The hand at his neck squeezed tighter as Mu Qingfang rubbed his cheek against Shen Jiu’s own, providing an unfamiliar and almost forgotten sensation of comfort as he rubbed his familiar scent into his skin, reaffirming their rarely acknowledged pack bond.

At the back of his mind he knew he should be panicking, a voice whispering words of anger and violence muted by the warm, and overwhelming fog that blanketed his mind. “What?” Shen Jiu mumbled as he wobbled, and was slowly lowered to lay back against his stack of soft pillows and blankets.

The mournful look Mu Qingfang gave him as he hovered over his prone body made She Jiu want to slice it off his face. His hand was caught by Mu Qingfang when he tried, the attempted attack amounting to nothing more than a soft and pathetic swat that never met its target. Mu Qingfang flipped his wrist and quickly found his veins before doing a slow and thorough check of his body.

Growling unhappy at whatever it was he found, Mu Qingfang released Shen Jiu’s hand, and gently laid it on the bed next to him. “The next part of this exam is going to be very...intimate and alarming, would Yue Shixiong assist in keeping Shen Shixiong calm.”

“Yes, yes of course,” Yue Qingyuan said as he sat on the bed next to Shen Jiu, holding a sleeping Binghe in one arm, and running his free hand through Shen Jiu’s hair.

Feeling his legs being parted and his sleeping gown being rucked up as Mu Qingfang coaxed him to bend his knees Shen Jiu tried to sit up. “What are you doing?” He growled weakly before Yue Qingyuan pushed him back down, and leaned over him to block his view of Mu Qingfang as Yue Qingyuan’s metallic ink like scent flooded his senses and a thumb pressed into his neck, rubbing firmly into the gland behind his ear.

“Yue Qi,” Shen Jiu gasped out a whine when cold air washed over his most private of places.

“Shen Shixiong is without a doubt an omega.” He heard Mu Qingfang say as a finger brushed over his sex.

Shen Jiu jerked back and kicked his legs at the startling sensation. “Are you sexually active?” Mu Qingfang asked.

As if. “No,” Shen Jiu answered as he tried to close his legs.

“Have you ever had intercourse before? Not just with an Alpha, but with any partner?” Mu Qingfang asked, his tone implying his disbelief. “Shen Shixiong’s trips to the brothels are well known, there is no need to be shy.”

Heat rising in his chest and head, Shen Jiu’s anger managed to break through the fog in his mind as he kicked at Mu Qingfang, “I already said no, I’ve never lain with anyone.”

“Yue Shixiong, please,” Mu Qingfang implored as he restrained Shen Jiu’s legs. The hand that had gone lax at his neck moved to wrap around awkwardly at the back of his neck, cradling Shen Jiu’s head like a pillow in Yue Qingyuan’s oversized hand as he began to press his thumb and fingers at each side of his neck and dunked Shen Jiu back into the warm fog.

With his body limp, barely able to move as the warmth spread quickly through his body like poison, Shen Jiu could only whine and curse softly as Mu Qingfang pressed a slick finger into him, breaching his body with the disinterest unique to medical professionals as he began the first steps of a pelvic exam. “I’m going to insert a speculum now, it will feel cold but it shouldn’t hurt,” Mu Qingfang warned, waiting a few minutes before resuming.

Shen Jiu choked at the sensation of the cool device being inserted into him, and reached desperately for Yue Qingyuan, wanting and craving comfort, the poison the alphas had coaxed into his blood chasing away any shame or anger he would normally feel at such desires. Yue Qingyuan allowed him to latch on as Shen Jiu wrapped his arms around Yue Qingyuan’s neck.

“Would you like to hold Binghe,” Yue Qingyuan asked, directing Shen Jiu’s attention to the sleeping babe still held safely in Yue Qingyuan’s arm. As soon as Shen Jiu nodded, and release his death grip on Yue Qingyuan’s neck, his Binghe was back in his arms, pressed safely to his chest as he cooed at the sleeping infant.

Hands now free, Yue Qingyuan focussed entirely on keeping Shen Jiu calm and pressed his forehead to Shen Jiu’s when he hissed at Mu Qingfang when the man probed uncomfortably into Shen Jiu as he finished the far too intimate exam.

“Remarkable,” Mu Qingfang muttered as he extracted the speculum and dropped it onto a nearby tray, “An omega was not only able to cultivate but also managed to achieve such high cultivation as this without duel cultivation, it’s unheard of.”

“Mu Shidi,” Yue Qingyaun interrupted an annoyed and impatient growl rumbling beneath his words.

Coughing, Mu Qingfang rearranged Shen Jiu’s clothes to their original state before continuing, “He's in perfect health, he will need periodic check ups so I can monitor his development and the inevitable return of his heat cycle.”

Heat? Shen Jiu’s mind registered as the poison receded from his veins, and the endorphins started to lose their hold on him.

Yue Qingyuan nuzzled against Shen Jiu’s face and neck, rubbing his scent into his skin, and hid a smile into Shen Jiu’s neck when he wasn’t pushed away. “And the child?” He asked as he reluctantly pulled away from Shen Jiu to sit up, and rubbed a thumb across the sleeping babe's chubby cheek.

“The bond is strong, any attempt to separate them now will only result in undue stress for them both,” Mu Qingfang said with a hint of warning marring his otherwise polite tone.

“Separate?” Shen Jiu’s mumbled as he collected his scattered mind, and clutched Binghe closer, arms locking tight around his baby.

“Xiao Jiu,” Yue Qingyuan soothed, a hand rubbing up and down Shen Jiu’s arm. “No one in their right mind would separate an omega from their child. If anyone dared to try I would...”

“You would what!” Shen Jiu snapped, “What? Are you going to protect me? Just like you did before Qi ge.” Shen Jiu snarled on the verge of hissing as he tried, and failed to push Yue Qingyuan away.

Chapter Text

“We should go,” Mu Qingfang said as he packed up his supplies, “omega mothers are volatile during the first few weeks of bonding with their infants, and I suspect our continued presence will only rile up Shen Shiniongs protective instincts.”

Yue Qingyuan pulled Shen Jiu close, hugging him tightly as he also messaged the back of his neck one last time. “Xiao Jiu,” he said into She Jiu’s ear, sounding as if he were holding back tears. “I have failed you far more than I had realized.” Yue Qingyuan pulled away to lay a kiss to the dazed omegas forehead.

“Leave,” Shen Jiu demanded, managing to spit the word out viciously through the drunken feeling permanating his body and mind. Yue Qi had promised it was just a quick check up, and stupid him had believed him. Shen Jiu huffed out a bitter laugh, he should know better by now than to trust any promises Yue Qingyuan made to him.

Shen Jiu ignored the alphas as Mu Qingfang packed up and Yue Qingyuan sat on Shen Jiu’s bed like an idiotic puppy that had just been kicked by its master and didn’t know what it had done wrong but continued to seek attention and praise anyways. He turned his head away when Yue Qingyuan reached for him, his hand brushing down Shen Jius cheek and neck before he sighed and got up to follow after Mu Qingfang. He paused to rifle through the nightstand to confiscate the beautifully decorated perfume bottle filled with false alpha pheromones before finally making his exit, leaving without another word.

He spent hours fussing over his bed, tossing off the blankets that smelled of Mu Qingfang, only to be dissatisfied with the coolness of the fresh clean blankets and pulling them back on, then tossing them off again when the scent irritated his nose and soured his mood until exhaustion finally forced him to sleep.

When morning came, the sun rising to peek through Shen Jius window to stab painfully at his eyes, he woke to a happily babbling Luo Binghe. His baby was nestled safely in a makeshift nest with his mother curled protectively around him as the baby kicked its feet into the air and blowing spit bubbles to entertain himself as Shen Jiu slept.

“Good morning,” Shen Jiu cooed as he propped himself up on one elbow and smiled down at his baby. Luo Binghe squealed happily in response and reached up for him, his little hands opening and closing, demanding for his mother to pick him up while smacking his lips indicating his desire to be fed.

Once they both were full, Shen Jiu opting for a more nutritious meal compared to the normal light fare he preferred, and Luo Binghe greedily draining all the milk his mother had to give, Shen Jiu brought them outside. With the weather so good relaxing and playing in his secluded gardens would be good for his baby.

Shen Jiu reclined in a long chair, the kind designed for relaxing outside, with his knees up and his bare feet planted firmly on the chair so he could support his Binghe who was cradled safely in his mother's lap in a reclining position as Shen Jiu cooed incoherent babble at him and Binghe tried to copy him. Luo Binghe watched intently as his mother stuck his tongue out and held it that way for a long moment before retracting it and repeating. Soon Luo Binghe's tiny tongue poked out of his own mouth as he tried to imitate his mother making Shen Jiu laugh at each successful attempt his baby made and laughed harder when Binghe blew a cute unintentional raspberry at his mother when he giggled while his little tongue was still poking out.

“So it’s true,” Liu Qingge said, appearing from nowhere and startled so much life out of Shen Jiu he could practically feel the grey hairs forming on his head. Not that he did more than twitch and forced himself not to scowl, he didn’t want to upset his happy raspberry blowing baby.

“I thought the oh so great Bai Zhan war god was above such mortal things like gossip,” Shen Jiu said with an odd coo as he smiled at his Binghe and made it seem to his baby as if he were speaking to him and not the intruder come to ruin Shen Jiu’s day.

Boots crunching and kicking his decorative rocks made Shen Jiu twitch with each sound as it took a monumental effort to stay focused on his Binghe and not beat Liu Qingge with his fan for ruining his garden. “Mu Qingfang said nursing mothers need nutrient dense food,” Liu Qingge said as he dropped something heavy on the ground next to Shen Jiu.

Shen Jiu leaned over to the side and looked down at whatever Liu Qingge had just defiled his garden with and recoiled with a tsk, a dead coarse furred beast lay on the ground as its vibrant red blood seeped onto the grass and flowers it had been dumped into. "Bringing your disgusting catch to me like this, are you a cat now?” Shen Jiu’s nose twitched and furrowed as the smell of filthy wet fur made him want to retch.

“Its liver is said to be the best for pregnant and nursing mothers,” Liu Qingge said plopping on the free space at the end of Shen Jiu’s reclining garden chair.

“I don’t want it," Shen Jiu said before he pulled his bare feet closer to himself. “Liu Shidi has never brought me such...Gifts before, why start now?” And why so close? Liu Qingge had always went out of his way to keep as much distance as possible between the two of them in the past, growling threateningly when Shen Jiu strayed to close.

“It's an alphas duty to provide," Liu Qingge nodded to himself as he spoke, “and you need the nutrients if you are to feed your infant, and nourish your body as it recovers."

Snorting, Shen Jiu turned away from his brutish shidi and smiled when Binghe cooed at him before sticking his little tongue out again.

“Peaches?” Liu Qingge leaned close, placing a hand on Shen Jiu’s knee for support as he took in several deep breaths. “Your scent smells sweet,” the alpha said as he sat back up, and pulled out of Shen Jiu’s bubble, "like peaches, and milk.”

“So? What of it?” Shen Jiu kicked at Liu Qingge, the blow far too soft as he couldn’t put any true force behind it without jarring the baby cradled in his lap. He hadn't even noticed his natural scent overtaking the false one and thought the smell of peaches in the air around them came from the nearby treas.

Removing his hand from its place on Shen Jiu’s knee, Liu Qingge dropped it into his own lap as he stared down at it. “I always thought you were weak for an alpha, unworthy of your status as peak lord, but it turns out it’s like this.”

Sneering, a growl growing in his chest, Shen Jiu turned away so his baby couldn’t see the look on his face. “Like what? Liu Shidi always made it clear how much he held me in contempt, not that I ever cared." From the moment they met Liu Qingge never missed an opportunity to rub in his face how unworthy and dishonorable he believed Shen Jiu to be.

Liu Qingge squeezed the hand in his lap into a fist. “It turns out that you are not a weak and unworthy alpha,” he paused to take a slow shaky breath, “Instead, you are the strongest omega I have ever known."

Chapter Text

“What is that supposed to mean?” Shen Jiu picked up Luo Binghe and pressed his baby's head to rest against the crook of his neck so he wouldn’t see his mother sneering at Liu Qingge before kicking harshly into Liu Qingge side, no doubt leaving a bruise.

Frustratingly, despite the blow he received, Liu Qingge did not budge and stayed firmly seated near Shen Jiu’s feet. “I wasn’t good enough in your eyes when you thought I was an alpha. A detestable cheat you said. Weak, and unworthy. But now? Now I’m suddenly strong and worthy of your praise?” Shen Jiu tried to kick Liu Qingge again only to have his ankle caught in a firm and annoyingly gentle grip.

The hand trapping him squeezed tighter before carefully setting Shen Jiu’s foot back down on the chair and holding it there as Liu Qingge had the gall to give Shen Jiu a wounded look. “That’s not…I’m trying to apologize!”

“You can take your lame excuse of an apology and shove it.” Shen Jiu tugged on his trapped leg, struggling to release himself from Liu Qingge’s grip. The struggling jostled Luo Binghe, and combined with the loud and upset voice of his mother, caused him to first whimper and then wail loudly in distress.

Shen Jiu stopped trying to break free and focused entirely on his baby, “Shh, shh, it’s alright.” Patting his Luo Binghe’s back in a soft and slow rhythm, hushing with each pat, Shen Jiu shot a glare at Liu Qingge from over his baby's head once he stopped crying before placing a quick peck on top of Luo Binghe’s soft curly tufts of hair.

A pressure spread out and surrounded Shen Jiu and his baby as it pricked oddly at his skin, and alighted his nerves with a strange sensation. At the same time the scent of fresh cut foliage, a grassy wood like smell, along with something else that left a tang on the back of Shen Jiu’s tongue as he breathed in, filled the air and grew in intensity until it was all he could perceive. “Don’t you dare,” Shen Jiu hissed weakly as his body grew warm and heavy.

Liu Qingge finally released Shen Jiu’s captured foot before he pulled his legs up to kneel on the chair, moving to push Shen Jiu's shoulders and forcing him to lay back against the incline of the chair. Shen Jiu watched with wide eyed horror as Liu Qingge placed himself over him, pinning Shen Jiu to the chair bellow as he lowered his weight onto him, making sure not to jeopardize his hold on Luo Binghe as he did so.

That horrible rumbling whine alphas made in an attempt to comfort came from Liu Qingge as he leaned closer and cupped the side of Shen Jiu’s head where his skull met his neck, and his other went to help support Luo Binghe. Shen Jiu choked when Liu Qingge rubbed his cheek to his, placing his scent on Shen Jiu for the second time in their lifetimes as the alphas nose and breath tickled his neck. “I’m sorry,’ Liu Qingge said in a pained mumble as he rubbed his thumb behind Shen Jiu’s ear.

Dazed as he was, Shen Jiu still managed to spit out, “screw you,” before his mind clouded over. Liu Qingge’s weight pressed more firmly against him as Liu Qingge continued to rub his scent onto him and picked up some of Shen Jiu’s own, marking them both as the siblings they were supposed to be but had only been acknowledged this way once before all those years ago when they ascended together as peak lords.

Purring? Shen Jiu noted as a very odd purr met his ears as something deep in his chest came to life. The sound was different than any purr he had heard in a long time, it sounded like someone was hurt and trying to self soothe. The last time he heard such a sound was when he witnessed an older omega, one from those infamous illegal brothels, curled up in a corner of a room when the Qiu’s had dragged Shen Jiu there to witness what could become of him if he did not behave to their liking before using their illegal purchase to slake their desires.

Chapter Text

Concerned eyes stared into Shen Jiu’s own as he clutched Luo Binghe tighter against his chest, the slight vibration coming from it causing the baby to giggle and babble up at his mother.

“Are you alright?” Liu Qingge asked, his eyes roaming over Shen Jiu’s face before he pressed their foreheads together while crooning in concern. The scent all around them thickened as Liu Qingge tried to comfort, and the peach like scent took on a sour note, growing more and more bitter with each passing second.

When Liu Qingge rubbed his cheek against Shen Jiu’s own he nipped at the alpha, his sharp teeth just missing Liu Qingge’s ear as his teeth clacked together. “Get off of me.” Shen Jiu weakly snarled, lifting a knee to push at the heavy weight above him.

Finally, the hand rubbing at his neck, and the weight pressing Shen Jiu down abated. Liu Qingge pushed himself up, supported by his arms on either side of Shen Jiu’s head, and frowned down at him. Shen Jiu’s breathing picked up, faster and deeper as the light purring persisted on rumbling away in his chest, the longer Liu Qigge hovered over him like that, staring down at Shen Jiu without saying a word. “Get. Off.” Shen Jiu kicked, and pressed a knee up into Liu Qingge chest before releasing a small blast of qi to aid him in pushing the heavier man off him and knocked the alpha to the ground.

Liu Qingge fell into the bloody grass below with an “oof,” missing the carcass he had so carelessly tossed there earlier by inches. “Wha?” Liu Qingge mumbled as he pushed himself up. His hair was a tousled mess that poked out every which way, blown free of its usual neat ponytail by Shen Jiu’s mostly harmless blast.

Shen Jiu snorted at how ridiculous Liu Qingge looked, the flabbergasted look on the mans face adding to the amusing sight. Served him right. The brutish man never seemed to listen to words, and only action got through his thick as a rock skull.

“I...’ Liu Qingge blinked like an idiot while he moved to sit at the end of Shen Jiu’s chair once more, and rubbed a hand through his messy hair in an attempt to tame it. “Is it because it's me? Should I get sect leader Yue to help instead? I know the two of you are close.”

“What nonsense are you blabbering about?” Shen Jiu slapped away Liu Qingge’s hand when the alpha reached for his neck again causing the other man to whine at him. What kind of bizarre sound was that? Shen Jiu wondered, he had never heard anything of the like before.

“You’re distressed,” Liu Qingge said with his hand hovering in the air as if he was unsure what to do with it.

Distressed?

After having his decorative rocks kicked about?

His garden was trampled, and the plants he painstakingly cared for where sullied!

There was a stinking and disgusting dead animal bleeding all over the place!

And then! To add to that wonderful series of events, he had been violated by an Alpha who had until today claimed Shen Jiu as his worst enemy within their sect.

How shocking it must be that he was less than pleased. Shen Jiu could practically feel his sarcastic thoughts trying to burn the offending alpha through the glare he gave Liu Qingge.

Sneering, Shen Jiu’s twitching lips curled over his teeth as he swiped at Liu Qingge’s face when the man leaned near him, but unfortunately, it was not close enough for Shen Jiu to reach. “If I am distressed it is because you are making me so!” He kicked at Liu Qingge again, but his attempt to de seat the alpha from his lounging chair failed and Liu Qingge refused to budge. Shen Jiu snarled in frustration and gave Liu Qingge one last shove for good measure.

Luo Binghe started crying again, whimpering at first when he was jostled and then wailing his little lungs out when the movements didn’t stop.

The entire world shrank down at the sound, Shen Jiu’s full attention going to his baby in an instant. Ignoring everything, even the concerned croon and the hand Liu Qingge placed on his knee, Shen Jiu Quickly pulled open his robe and brought Luo Binghe to his chest.

The crying came to an instant stop when Luo Binghe latched himself, his little sniffles taking longer to soothe as his mother comforted him.

A louder, but softer purr sprang forth like a lullaby from Shen Jiu’s chest as he rocked his nursing baby. Luo Binghe’s little hands grabbed at the fabric of Shen Jiu’s robes, and his tiny fists opened and closed as he kneaded at the cloth.

Chapter Text

Thankfully the brute finally took a hint and left Shen Jiu alone. Although Liu Qingge was still on his peak, the suddenly eager to help alpha wandering off to butcher his kill and make some meal out of it. It is going to be disgusting, he knows it. Liver, as unpalatable as it already was, throw in some medicinal recipe intended to nourish...Shen Jiu might just die.

Leaving seemed to be the best choice.

Shen Jiu barricaded the front door of his bamboo house from the inside as he hastily packed anything of value he could find along with any needed clothing. If he was quick about it he could be at his friend Zhou Lifen’s private estate by nightfall. He could resupply while there as well, and try and source another implant before his time ran out and he was forced to face the indignity of another heat.

He filled every interspatial item he had as full as he dared with all his hidden treasures he squirreled away over the years, things he never reported finding to the sect like he was supposed to and instead kept for himself. After he had finished, he slipped on some of his robes that blended better with the rich district he was going to, and left behind anything that would out him as a peak lord of Cang Qiong.

Scooping up the napping Luo Binghe, Shen Jiu adjusted his bay into a sling, making sure his babe settled before hopping out the window of his room. No sooner had he done so did he hear knocking at the barricaded door.

Shen Jiu ran swiftly, keeping to the forest floor and avoiding flying as he made his way down the mountain. He avoided all the trails, and went around the odd disciple messing about expertly. His footfalls not making a single sound as he moved.

He wondered how long it would take the others to break down his door and find him missing. With how often he had locked Yue Qingyuan out of his home and refused to answer him for hours if not days, he had a small hope that it would be some time yet before they discovered he was missing.

He ran for hours on end, forcing himself to continue on and not give in to the temptations to take the easy way and just fly when his lungs burned in protest at every breath. It was nearing sundown, the sky turning a dark orange overhead. There were no signs that he was being followed, but it was best not to test his luck, that never went well for him.

The lights from the town flickered from below the forested hill he stopped on in order to catch his breath. The quickly darkening sky turning the vague flicker of the lanterns into beacons of hope that shone as if to guide his way out of the dark.

With one last breath to soothe his aching chest, he made his way down. He fiddled with his cape, pulling the hood down and revealing his face so it did not seem as if he were trying to hide who he was or what he was doing. One must act like they belong if they want to hide in a crowd. Or break into places, guards and servants never suspect him of lying on the rare occasions he got spotted and casually took up conversations with whoever came across him.

“A-Jiu!” Zhou Lifen rushed to him when he hopped through her open window. “What happened?” She patted down his arms, before looking into his eyes. “Oh, A-Jiu.” A soft thumb whipped against his cheek catching a stray tear as it fell.

“My friend,” Shen Jiu said. Reaching up to cup the soft and familiar, safe, hand against his cheek, he took a deep breath, closing his eyes on the intake and opening the on the release. “My dearest friend, I am in desperate need of your aid.” Luo Binghe, who had been a good and unnaturally silent baby all day, began to kick up a fuss, tugging at the cape he was enclosed in.

There were no implants anymore. The maker had been executed for the crime of distributing them to omegas, and endangering their health and their coveted fertility before he had even joined Yue Qi’s sect. Shen Jiu was the very last of the small group fortunate enough to receive such a priceless treasure all those years ago that was still alive, the rest being short lived mortals. He had to make do with ingested suppressants, that were admittedly of the highest quality, but simply could not compare. One missed dose and it was all over.

Zhou Lifen and the others of the black market that catered to omegas helped him sell some of his things and purchase a property in Huan Hua’s territory. What better place was there to hide than the one place Cang Qiong would never suspect an omega to go?

“This...This one can never thank you enough,” Shen Jiu said, pausing to look back at Zhou Lifen as he stepped out of the carriage at the gates to his new home.

“A-Jiu need never thank me,” Zhou Lifen crossed her arms. “But I know you. A-Jiu always hates to feel indebted or useless. So if it would help, we are always in need of fresh supplies. Providing for all our patrons is no easy task with all these raids.” She leaned over, placing a hand on the seat for support and placed a lingering kiss to his brow.

The new home was spacious enough, the supplies he had ordered and paid for had already been settled in, and the courtyard freshly cleaned and refurbished. He paused at the pond, watching the colorful fish swim as he gently rocked Luo Binghe. A nice touch, the pond resembling one from Cang Qiong.

“This is our home now Binghe,” he crooned down at his baby. Luo Binghe's hands reaching for his face, and catching on his hair instead. The familiar action made him laugh as he took the first steps into the building they would be staying in for the foreseeable future.

Chapter Text

This was not the first time Shen Jiu had to pass himself off as a beta, but the lack of any discernible scent bothered him. He missed the familiar, safe, alpha scent he had grown accustomed to. A steady scent of bitter green tea with soft hints of bamboo.

The treatment he received from most alphas he encountered since he settled here, was one of indifference, or the odd entitled bossing when one felt the need to assert their dominance. His choice to pass himself off as a rich and successful business owner, and recent widower, served him well enough in avoiding too much trouble from the alphas whose influence he lost the ability to shield himself from with the confiscation of his implant, and spoiled bratty omegas. There where omegas who were worse than alphas in their treatment of their beta servants and slaves. Treating the more vulnerable under them as an emotional outlet.

He once witnessed such an omega, a traditional omega cultivator and wife of a prominent clan head, beat one of her servants nearly to death before abandoning the young beta girl in the street to die. His stupid heart ached for the girl laying limp like a broken doll in the wet mud, and he ended up hiding her at the Qiu estate, sneaking around and scrounging for money to pay for the medicine she needed. Three weeks had passed before the Qiu’s found him out, and sold his friend he had so diligently nursed back to health off to a brothel. They even had the nerve to compliment him on the quality and unparalleled beauty of his find, giving him rewards that stung worse than any whip of theirs ever had.

Zhou Lifen and he would not meet again until he left the Qiu household behind, and fell in with Yue Qi’s sect. She proved to be adept at the cultivation he taught her whenever he could afford the cost of a night with her, and she practiced hard from the manuals he had given her that he nicked from those unworthy bastards who dared look down on him. Liu Qingge’s manual had proved to be useless, but watching him run around like a chicken with its head cut off looking for it was well worth the wasted effort. So was the endless, often loud, and violent scolding that haughty wanna be righteous teen had been subjected to by his equally brutish shifu.

“Master Shen,” called one of his new servants. An omega girl disguised as a beta he had taken in at a friend's request. Not suited to cultivation, unfortunately, but eager to serve and didn’t shy away from an honest day's work. “There is a man at the gate looking for his friend Xiao chen.”

“Ling’er may Let him in,” he waved her off, ignoring how much the joyful girl reminded him of his female beta disciples. Not a single alpha disciple defiled his peak while he was in charge, he wondered how long it would take for the other lords to find an Alpha head disciple to take over his duties and ruin his hard work.

He chatted with one of the Friends Of Xiao Chen, an Alpha male he had only met in passing, and arranged for the shipment of the necessary goods each of their brothels were in dire need of. At his level of cultivation, procuring such ingredients was a simple task, it was the distribution that proved difficult. It required his friends combined efforts and intense collaboration to pull off the delivery of such hot goods, what with the near paranoid checks of all the carts going in and out of each major city. It cost them an absurd amount of money to bribe the right people, and made the cost of their products nearly unattainable for any new customers.

“One of Cang Qiong Sect’s peak lords has gone missing, they put out quite the handsome reward for any information on his whereabouts,” the nameless man said as he handed him a poster. “Now the rest of the world is aware of why Cang Qiong has been in such a panic of late. Best to keep your head down.”

Shen Jiu took the poster and frowned at the large chain of numbers listed over his visage. It was a rather poor likeness. He rocked his baby as he sat down and just stared at the paper in his hand.

There was nothing on his recently exposed status. Why were they keeping the fact that he was an omega secret? If the other sects knew the truth about him they would surely be all too eager in assisting Cang Qiong hunt him down.

No matter, he wouldn’t dwell on it. Let the fools needlessly cripple their efforts.

A bath served as a good way to relax and take his mind off everything. He held Luo Binghe close to his chest as he leaned against an edge of the large bath carved into the floor of the room, its smooth decorated tiles so different from the wooden tubs he was used to. Wonderfly warm water came all the way up to his sternum if he sat down properly, and he could lay completely flat with his arms stretched out in the middle of his bath and still not reach either end of the large pool like bath.

His Binghe had grown more playful and energetic since their move, but now insisted on comfort nursing non stop. He suckled at his mother's sore breast while trying to simultaneously play with the water. His mouth holding on with a tight seal and tugged the nipple painfully with each turn of his head. “Binghe!” Shen Jiu hissed at the next painful tug, and tried to break the stubborn boys latch on him only for his baby to look up at him with wide watery eyes, looking at him as if he had somehow betrayed his child. Wailing soon came, Luo Binghe altering between desperate pulls at his mother and terribly sad sobs.

Damn it! Shen Jiu plunked his head back against the raised edge of the bath, and gave in, as he always did when it came to his baby. He patted Luo Binghe’s back and hummed, a soft purr joining in, and his humming turned to trilling croons as he instinctively comforted his baby.

He ended up having to make use of the goat milk he had been purchasing as part of his cover as a widowed beta father. Luo Binghe was growing so fast, and Shen Jiu could no longer fill the greedy child's stomach. Watching Luo Binghe chug down another bottle of supplemental goat milk, Shen Jiu ignored the rising sense of failure that threatened to strangle his heart, and simply enjoyed pinching gently at Luo Binghe’s soft and plump cheeks and arms. Each giggle spit out between gulps of milk lightened the strain pressing against his heart.

Chapter Text

It was a normal day out, spent wandering the stalls lining the market when it happened by chance. Nobody had been looking for Shen Jiu and his Binghe in this city and Qi Qingqi had simply been passing through on unrelated business when she had caught sight of him on the overcrowded street purchasing a small trinket for Luo Binghe. Barely eight months had passed since he had successfully left the sect, he didn’t even make it a year all thanks to pure chance.

Unaware of the alpha woman's gaze following him around the market, Shen Jiu smiled at his baby that he held securely against side, Luo Binghe’s little legs wrapped loosely against his mother's hip as Shen Jiu teased the new toy in and out of his little hands reach. Cats and babies, it seemed, had a lot in common he mused as Luo Binghe let forth a new round of raucous laughter each time the toy was pulled out of his range. The wildly curly hair his baby had always sported bounced around as Luo Binghe strained to swat at the toy, the curls had grown tamer the longer they grew, and their length now reached just above Luo Binghe’s chin.

He had just finished putting Luo Binghe down to sleep that night, and was hovering over the crib watching his baby's chest move slowly up and down when an arm wrapped around his waist. Before he could do more than gasp, a hand latched onto his throat and pulled him firmly back against the intruder so a nose could nuzzle lightly against the side of his neck as his assailant breathed in a deep breath. He instinctively grabbed at the hand at his neck, catching the deceptively delicate wrist in his grip. “Qi shimei,” he greeted calmly when she lifted her head away from his neck, her grip on him unyielding.

“Huan Hua territory,” Qi Qingqi huffed, ending with a small snort of laughter. “The one region no one would think to look for a runaway omega, smart. One hell of a gamble though, you’re lucky it was one of your own pack that found you and not one of those Huan Hua perverts.” A musty scent of old flowers, the kind of flowers that had long since been plucked and dried and had nearly lost all their natural smell, with a hint of musk invaded his senses. It was comforting rather than muddling, his mind remaining blissfully clear for once with the lack of a thrall behind Qi Qingqi’s overpowering presence.

They stood at a standstill for some minutes, when no attempt to struggle came from him Qi Qingqi let go of his neck, sliding her hand down to join its twin at his waist. ”Cute kid,” She said, resting her chin on his shoulder as she looked down at the sleeping babe in the crib in front of them. “It’s too bad I didn’t get to see him before that idiot chased you away, I bet he was even cuter as a newborn.” A whine of complaint followed her words, the noise making it easy to imagine a pout on his shimei’s face. “Disturbing a new omega mother like that,” she tsked, hugging his waist tighter. He relaxed in her grip, the warm sense of comfort easing his tense nerves, and he placed a hand limply against the noose of Qi Qingqi’s arms.

A sense of panic raced through his blood and pounded against his heart when Qi Qingqi tried to pull away, a desperate, pathetically needy whine slipping out of his traitorous throat as he dug his fingers into her arm. The foreign, near silent purr that vibrated inside his chest when Qi Qingqi wrapped her arms tightly against his waist again caused shame to burn through him, its flames licking at his face and stinging his eyes.

Qi Qingqi let out a low croon as she nuzzled lightly at his brow, an alpha’s attempt at comfort that Shen Jiu had never experienced before. All other affection or comfort from an alpha he had ever been offered had come with the strings of control attached, even Yue Qingyuan’s so called comfort was tainted with it. Yet another promise he had broken.

He turned in Qi Qingqi’s arms, wrapping his own around the alpha as he hid his face in her neck and choked in surprise. Peaches, he breathed in again, his natural scent clung to Qi Qingqi’s skin. The milky scent stark and fresh. Clinging tighter with his growing unwillingness to let go of this undemanding affection from a bonded pack member, his fingers dug in so desperately that his nails scratched into the skin of his shimei’s back. It must have been painful, but Qi Qingqi didn’t pull away or chastise him.

Chapter Text

Lithe fingers traced slow languid circles into Shen Jiu’s back, the tips pressing ever so softly across his shoulder blades as they made their rounds before dipping down to follow his spine. It was so good, a torturous relief that wasn’t nearly enough. It was like feeding drops of water to a dehydrated man dying in the desert sun. He whined, the sound loud in his own ears before clutching Qi Qingqi even tighter. The Alpha rubbing her cheek against the side of his head brought even more of the tortuous drops, fueling his growing awareness of just how thirsty he was and making it impossible not to beg for more.

The shameful purr, an undeniable trait of his cursed dynamic, grew, its vibrations growing and growing with each breath he took until the sound of his own purring was all that he could hear. He turned his head, removing his nose from Qi Qingqi’s welcoming scent to rub his own cheek against her neck and shoulder, adding more of his own scent onto the Alpha as she did the same to him.

“Just how long have you been neglected?” Qi Qingqi asked, pulling away to look at him and winced when his nails dug tighter into her back. “You’ve been all alone this whole time, haven't you? And not one of us noticed a thing.”

No, he shook his head, he hadn’t been alone. Far from it in fact, until he took over as peak lord he never had any easily won peace within the sect. It was why he spent so much time away, finding any excuse to leave and sneaking around when he couldn’t, and spending as much time with Zhou Lifen and their ever growing band of merry friends as he dared. The disciple dorms had been the worst, constantly surrounded by Alphas who were always competing, trying to one up everyone and prove themselves the best in everything and anything. Not to mention the smell, his eyes sting just thinking about how dense and rank the pheromones and sweat had been in the shared Alpha dorms. Absolutely disgusting, vile creatures, leaving their unwashed stink everywhere they touched. Getting his own bedroom when he became a senior disciple didn’t even save him from the strangling scents coming from his neighbor's rooms.

One of Qi Qingqi’s hands traced up his spine and along his shoulder as it sought a path to his neck before her knuckles ran up and down his neck while she watched him. “Is this alright?” She added a feather’s touch of pressure into his neck in the same place Mu Qingfang had, coaxing out only a taste of the relaxing drunk like feeling that Mu Qingfang had induced in him. Tilting his head, he leaned into the touch and lifted his eyes to look into Qi Qingqi’s before nodding.

“Is it alright?” Qi Qingqi asked him again, “I need you to use your words.”

Shen Jiu furrowed his brow, searching Qi Qingqi’s eyes as she the hand at his neck stayed frozen. “It’s...Alright.” He nodded again. Since when did Alphas ask an Omega for permission for anything?

Qi Qingqi smiled at him, her stilled hand returning to life to run through his hair once, then twice, before her fingers gently kneaded into the flesh of his neck. The stimulation was light, enough to make him feel warm and fuzzy, but not enough to muddle him the way it had the only other time someone had done this for him. “How about we lay down and call it a night? You seem exhausted.” Qi Qingqi butted lightly against him before looking around his bedroom.

The way her eyes became pained when they landed on his bed made him croon, both in confusion and the new desire to comfort. Until now, he had only ever felt a similar need to comfort for his Binghe. What was so distressing about his bed? His eyes followed her gaze, and he looked over where he had been sleeping for these past months. An unused closet had been emptied out by him, the doors long gone so he could fit his bed longways into the space and decorative hanging curtains took their place. He had needed to make room if he wanted to have Luo Binghe’s crib in the same bedroom as him.

“It’s nothing,” Qi Qingqi reassured, tilting her head towards the bed before pulling away from him. His hands slipped easily from her back, the desperate need to cling to her like a needy child no longer drowning him. She walked over to his bed and sat down before kicking off her shoes from where she sat on the edge of the bed. “I only just noticed that you had a fondness for canopied beds, I remember you choosing the largest and finest of curtains for your bed back home. Shang Qinghua always complained about the cost and refused to replace them the last time you requisitioned some.” A snort followed the end of her sentence as she patted the mattress at her side.

He shifted his weight from one foot to another, the coldness seeping back into his limbs urging him to move. A numbness he hadn’t known was there returning. Unruly feet moved without his command and he found himself standing in front of Qi Qingqi. “The fabric caught fire during my most recent deviation.” It had been a trifle of a thing, hardly a hiccup compared to some of his worse Qi...Issues. Although it may have been a little bit worse than he had thought as sleep did not come easy to him after that night, but whatever had gone wrong must have resolved itself on its own as he had been sleeping just fine lately.

Skin brushing against his hand made him twitch, pulling him from his own mind as he blinked his eyes to clear his vision. Qi Qingqi grasped his hand in hers and gently pulled, encouraging him to join her. She sat there patiently, waiting for something, him probably. After his vision cleared he sighed, and crawled into his own bed and ignored the way Qi Qingqi guided him to lay on the inside closest to the wall and focused instead on pulling the blankets up around himself.

Looking at his bedmate, he watched as Qi Qingqi let lose one of the curtains from its entrapment and let it fall but left the other side still trapped and held aloft by its tie. Qi Qingqi's scent slowly filling up the confined space and mingling with his own. It shouldn’t be possible, but somehow his bed got more comfortable, and the sense of warmth and safety drained the tension out of his body. Feeling heavy, he sank into the pile of pillows and blankets he had stashed around his bed and sighed in relief. He rubbed his face into his pillow, blinking as he tried to fight the oncoming tide of drowsiness that flowed in as his body warmed up, feeling returning along his skin starting at his fingertips. The last thing he saw before he could keep his eyes open no longer was Qi Qingqi’s face as she smiled at him from where she lay nearby with her head on a pillow. One of her hands rubbing soothingly into his back sealed his fate, and his fight against sleep was lost.

Chapter Text

The sounds of Luo Binghe giggle, and playing around in his crib woke Shen Jiu from his slumber. His ears immediately zoning in on his baby's sounds as he cuddled deeper into his warm cocoon.

He drifted in the warm darkness, keeping just aware enough to hear Luo Binghe play happily with his toys, banging and running something along the bars and giggling at the sounds. His baby was such a good baby, he sighed contently letting out a small sleepy chirp.

“Mama,” Luo Binghe obediently responded before the sound of a toy being tossed to the floor followed.

“Good morning,” someone, Qi Qingqi said. A hand brushed across his brow ad moving his hair behind his ears.

Shen Jiu blinked his eyes opened and stared sleepily at Qi Qingqi who held herself up on one of her elbows while she continued to run her fingers along his forehead and cheek. What? He blinked at her, trying to chase away his sleep and with it her visage.

“MA!” Luo Binghe shook at his crib, the infant's patients running out now that he knew his mother was awake.

Not a dream then. Shen Jiu pushed Qi Qingqi’s hand away as he slowly sat up. His Shimei really had discovered him. Why hadn’t she dragged him back to Cang Qiong, or reported him to the local authorities yet? “Good morning Qi Shimei,” he responded as he watched her, wary of any move she might make. She was on the outside of his bed, blocking his way out. Qi Qingqi would either have to move or he would have to climb over her.

Whining followed shortly by loud grating crying came from Luo Binghe as he called for Shen Jiu again and again. The rising panic in his chest released as soon as it began when Qi Qingqi sat up and flipped her feet over the side of the bed.

With the Alpha no longer in his way Shen Jiu bolted out of his bed and went to the crib nearby. Luo Binghe clung to the bars to help him stand and reached one of his little arms up to him as he approached. His baby's cute pudgy face was marred with tears, and blotches of red. Scoping his distressed baby up he wiped away the tears from those round little cheeks and cooed down at his hiccuping child. “Hush now,” he purred.

Luo Binghe nudged at his chest, pulling at the robe blocking him from his mother. Despite the supplemental milk, and the abundance of solid food the boy now ate, the ravenous thing still insisted on feeding from his inadequate breasts. With a sigh, he loosened his robe and allowed his greedy baby to latch on, Luo Binghe crying instantly reducing to whining and embarrassingly loud suckling.

“You feed him from your own body?” Qi Qingqi said, a sense of wonder in her voice as she came up next to his side, pausing to meet Shen Jiu’s eyes before carefully touching Luo Binghe's arm. She rubbed her sharply manicured thumb along the soft flesh of his baby's arm, making a rumbling coo down at the suckling babe. “That’s no small feat for an adoptive mother, and nursing is already a rare achievement for male Omegas.”

“Of that, I am uniquely aware,” Shen Jiu huffed but otherwise allowed Qi Qingqi to continue her fussing over his Binghe. If this seemingly impossible miracle had not happened Luo Binghe would have died in his arms the day he found him. It may no longer be enough to sustain his growing child, but it had been enough to save his life, and continues to be enough to comfort his baby.

He had to suppress an unseemly gasp when Qi Qingqi nuzzled into his shoulder, his body betraying his as he tilted his neck and allowed the Alpha better access. “There is no need to fear, I won’t force you to return against your will, and you’re secret is still safe.” She hummed, her musky floral scent seeping in everywhere around him.

The tightly tensed muscles of Shen Jiu’s body loosened, sagging in relief as he leaned back into Qi Qingqi when she wrapped herself around him at his back. “It would be safer for you if you dressed and looked the part of an Omega, if Huan Hua discovers you are hiding your status...They do not treat what they see as unruly or unchaste Omegas well.”

Shen Jiu laughed, startling Luo Binghe before the boy let out a little laugh of his own. “And you think they would treat an unbonded Omega without a chaperone any better?” He would be free for any passing Alpha to try and claim, going to the strongest or richest Alpha who decided to fight over him if they deemed him fit to mate. The higher birth rate of Omegas in this region made the Alphas here more unreasonable and brutish than anywhere else. A bunch of beasts pretending at being fine upstanding men of wealth and honor.

“You won’t be without a chaperone, Your Shimei will stay with you as long as you need.” Qi Qingqi pulled away, leaving his back feeling frozen and sending a shiver through his body.

“Qi Shimei would stay here, with her lowly and disgraced Shixiong?” This felt like a trap, it was all too good to be true. Having a bonded Alpha pack member living with him would ensure his safety, a much needed shield in this dangerous city he took refuge in.

Qi Qingqi convinced him to go shopping with her, guiding him into the section of town that had rows and rows of businesses that catered to Omega’s. He flinched away from the richly dressed women and a few men who where draped in layers and layers of cloth and jewels. Each one of them was escorted by an Alpha, or a gaggle of betta servants.

He was consciously aware of the sweet peach scent wafting off of him, the scent annoying his nose. It smelled good on Qi Qingqi but he could not stand it on his own skin, its presence screamed danger and alighted his nerves making hyper aware of everyone around them on the overcrowded streets. He clutched Luo Binghe tighter to himself, hiding his nose in the infant's downy soft locks and inhaling his baby's scent.

“That is garish,” Shen Jiu declared at the first outfit Qi Qingqi gushed over and tried to show him. He literally turned his nose up at the unsightly cloth littered with numerous bright colors. It looked as if one of his watercolor paint trays vomited up all over fine white silk and ruined the expensive fabric. Such a waste.

“Oh! What about this one?” Qi Qingqi held up the sleeve of a green robe that was displayed on a prop.

Shen Jiu’s eyes twitched, while he did like green, that shade of it was painfully bright. Not to mention the style. “This Shixiong is not a girl.” He frowned at the clothing, his lips twitching in and out of a sneer. With Luo Binghe happily in his arms and playing with his hair, he could not growl at the offending garment in the way that he wished.

Qi Qingqi frowned, a pout forming on her pink painted lips. “But Shen Shixiong is so beautiful...” She sighed, letting go of the green silk.

Beautiful? Had Qi Qingqi fried her brain? She used to make a point of telling him how ugly she thought him to be. How rude and uncouth or even villainous she found him, always lacking in her eyes. Dishonorable had been a popular description his sect siblings liked to give him.

He glared at his Shimei, she had to be trying to play a trick on him. Humiliate him by convincing him to dress shamefully.

The Alphas dark eyes softened, taking on a pained look as Qi Qingqi tried to reach a hand out to Shen Jiu. Taking a step back, he avoided her touch by a breath. “I. Am Not. A woman,” he reiterated sternly before turning on his foot and moving on to look at other clothing.

Chapter Text

Ignoring the stare of the shopkeepers and their staff Shen Jiu browsed the forign clothing. None of it looked practical. How was he meant to fight with so much fabric and useless finery? As if the garish colors weren't bad enough, the shades would scream his presence when much of his work required stealth.

“Of course you are not a woman,” Qi Qingqi said as she slid up to Shen Jiu and examined the bolts of cloth sitting off to the side. “These robes are intended for un-mated Omegas, not girls. There are more masculine styles available that would complement Shen Shixiong’s beauty well, if you would prefer those instead.”

There was that word again.

“Was it not Qi Shimei who said her Shixiong was ugly, why now do you suddenly proclaim otherwise?” Shen Jiu hummed, picking up the edge of light green silk, its muted and clean shade appealing to him.

A pained whine made Shen Jiu turn to Qi Qingqi in concern.

“It’s nothing,” Qi Qingqi smiled at him, a wince betraying her words. “You truly enjoy that color?” She asked, leaning over to inspect the cloth in his hand.

Luo Binghe giggled, letting go of Shen Jiu’s hair to snag onto Qi Qingqi’s hair instead.

“I do," Shen Jiu laughed. He gently pried the little fingers out of Qi Qingqi’s hair, detangling the stands one by one where they wrapped around and got stuck. “No, no.” Luo Binghe pouted at his mother's chiding, his lips wobbled but no cry came.

They spent hours looking through the clothing, most of them rejected by him at a glance. None of the footwear offered was acceptable to him, much too impractical and far too pretty, they would be ruined in the first battle he got into while wearing them. He gave in and let Qi Qingqi select jewelry for him but rejected any hair ornamentation. He had plenty of cultivation tools in the shape of crowns and pins, he had no use for pretty ornamental jewels.

When they were finished, Shen Jiu found himself dressed in new robes with many orders of different styles commissioned and set to be delivered to his home. There were many more layers than he was accustomed to, but the fabric was so fine it hardly made a difference. The fabric was mostly white with layers of green, and far too much embroidery. Bamboo seemed to dance across every edge available, only the sheer layer of fabric was spared such treatment.

He tugged on the high collar resting comfortably against his neck. The style was unique to this regions unmated omegas. It wouldn’t do for an Omega to show off their neck lest they tempt and Alpha. Pigs, the whole lot of them. Always placing the blame of their lusts at the feet of their victims.

“Your gorgeous,” the wide eyed attendant said in awe when she came in to help do the finishing touches to his freshly purchased robes. Qi Qingqi waited outside the fitting room and watched Luo Binghe for him. “I…” The beta women flushed, her face red and her eyes wide open in horror. “Many apologies, this servant spoke out of place...” She went to fall to the floor before Shen Jiu caught her arm and stopped her.

“It’s alright,” Shen Jiu soothed. Gentle words came easy to him when speaking to beta women, and soon the attendant calmed and returned to her mission, finishing the task fairly quickly.

When Shen Jiu left the private fitting room, he was greeted by Luo Binghe's angry crying.

“Give him here,” he held his arms out to Qi Qingqi. From the sound of things, his baby was tired, overstimulated, and hungry. A diaper change was probably in order as well. “We should return home, Binghe has had a very busy day and …” Shen Jiu looked up from rocking his baby. Qi Qingqi’s eyes almost shone with how wide and bright they were.

“What?” He demanded, her roaming eyes making him uncomfortable.

Qi Qingqi clapped her hands together in front of her mouth, her delighted smile still visible behind the inadequate shield. “Nothing, Your robes are lovely.”

“Where is that servant girl of yours?” Qi Qingqi asked after they returned home to a silent house. It was good that this house was empty, and void of the girl presence. No need for the poor child to be caught along with him.

“I had a friend pick Ling’er up and take her somewhere where she will be safe while we were out.” Shen Jiu said as he kicked off his boots and ignored his inside slippers. He preferred to be barefoot inside his own home.

“Was she in danger?” Qi Qingqi’s brows furrowed.

Danger. Of course, Ling’er was in constant peril with Qi Qingqi presence here. One wrong misstep and the young Omega girl would be ousted along with her master. “You could say that.” He said cooly, keeping his voice flat and without infection.

Ignoring Qi Qingqi’s questioning gaze, he made his way to his bedroom, laying his sound asleep baby into his crib before changing into a simple pair of robes.

He set to work in the kitchen, working with the ease earned only with years of practice to prepare their supper. Something light, with all the fatty and greasy street vendor food he had eaten that day he couldn’t stomach anything rich or heavy.

“I didn’t know Qin...Shen Shixiong could cook, it smells very good.” Qi Qingqi said as she watched him work.

Focusing on his task of chopping vegetables, he spoke to Qi Qingqi without looking at her. “Of course I can, can you not? It’s a skill any adult should have.” Some fresh fruit wouldn’t go amiss on his plate he thought as he eyed the bowls of various fruits.

There was a long pause with nails clicking against the table where Qi Qingqi sat. “No," Qi Qingqi finally said. “I can make a few different kinds of cakes but that is the extent of my abilities. The servants do most of our cooking.”

It figures, the only other peak lords he knew to have any skills in the kitchen were Liu Qingge and Yue Qingyuan. Liu Qingge was usually content to eat dried meat rations, and did most of his cooking by roasting his kills over campfires, and left any other cooking up to everyone else. And the man called him a spoiled rich master. The irony of his insults was always lost to the hypocritical brute.

Seeing Shen Jiu begin to put the food into serving dishes, Qi Qingqi got up and offered to help, taking the filled plates, bowls, and a pot of tea and setting up the table behind him. A soup of his own making, some lightly fried crisp vegetables, rice, and fruit were placed on the table while he finished frying a bit of meat for Qi Qingqi. He didn’t care for meat all that much, preferring fish if he felt inclined to indulge.

“Where do you obtain your suppressants?” Qi Qingqi asked when Shen Jiu sat down.

Ignoring her question, Shen Jiu handed her the plate of poultry he made for her and then silently picked up some vegetables and placed them into his dish. Only a small portion of rice was in his bowl, just the way he liked. He was incapable of eating more than what his sect siblings would consider child portions as his stomach refused to grow, most likely stunted under the Qiu’s and his first masters loving care.

Picking up a vegetable, he brought it to his lips and slowly chewed, enjoying the light crispness of his food and savoring its taste.

Qi Qingqi sighed and leaned back into her chair. “With the crackdowns, it is surprising you have such a stable supply. Every single shop has been raided, it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to get their hands on those kinds of goods anymore.”

They did indeed sniff out every shop selling illicit goods, snuffing out all of the storefronts that had popped up independently. All they did was cut off the main distributors, they never got the suppliers or the producers. Many of Xiao Chen’s recipes, the most effective available on the black market had been invented by him, and only a few people knew them as they were never written down. Not that just anyone could make those recipes. They utilized many spiritual herbs and beast parts that only cultivators and alchemists could successfully procure the ingredients and produce the products.

“This is good,” Qi Qingqi said when no reply came from Shen Jiu.

Chapter Text

That night's meal past mostly in silence, interrupted only once when Qi Qingqi tried to place some of her meat into Shen Jiu’s bowl. The unimpressed glare he gave his Shimei made her abort the attempt, a sad concerned frown pursing her unnaturally pink lips.

Blessedly, Qi Qingqi made no mention of his food choices, and the Alpha did not comment on him rejecting food from her plate. A small, normal gesture of affection given by an Alpha that only Yue Qingyuan, out of all Shen Jiu’s pack siblings and fellow peak lords, had ever afforded him in all his long years at Cang Qiong Sect. Even if he had been inclined to eat the offered food (which he most certainly was not, his stomach rolled at the mere thought of such heavy and fatty meat inside it) he would still have rejected her.

He chewed slowly savoring each small bite for as long as it could last, his small portion still unfinished long after Qi Qingqi had cleared her plate. “There are some cakes in the cupboard if Shimei is still hungry.” He offered between bites of cubed mellon indicating to one of the higher shelves, the dainty cakes were kept up out of reach to prevent Luo Binghe from gorging himself of his favorite treat.

It had been so long since he had to play host to an adult that he was uncertain just how much they might need to eat. And Qi Qingqi was an Alpha, her appetite should be above that of an adult beta. He frowned down at her empty dishes, did he not make enough? Even after all Qi Qingqi had eaten from the street vendors.

Qi Qingqi smiled at him, “Thank you, that's very kind of you to offer but I assure you my stomach is content.” One of her hands sneaked slowly across the table almost as if she were approaching a skittish cat she wished to pet before carefully placing her hand on top of his. “Shixiong need not concern himself with me, please,” she squeezed his hand, her thumb rubbing against the side of his wrist as if to soothe, “eat.”

Shen Jiu nodded, pulling his captured wrist free from Qi Qingqi’s lose hold and returning to his silent eating. It was awkward to have a guest across from him who had finished their own meal, the empty plates across from him screaming at him to stop eating himself.

With his stomach squeezing in protest, he could not take another bite. He politely set his utensils down with a sigh and ignored Qi Qingqi’s near silent concerned whine when he got up to tend to the clean up. He had barely eaten half of his rice, preferring the vegetables and fruit instead. Only a fourth of the fruit was left and not a speck of his vegetables or soup remained as he dumped the remains of their shared meal into to food bin. Food scraps didn’t go to waste in his household, any unfinished food was destined for the chickens he kept and supplemented the grain he feeds them.

Arms wrapping around his middle when he finished washing the last of the dishes startled him, and nearly made him drop the bowl he had been drying. Qi Qingqi crooned softly as she rested her chin on his shoulder, rubbing her cheek against his.

Warring impulses clashed through him, an old instinct to lash out at any Alpha that dared touch him fighting with a long and ruthlessly repressed needy creature that desperately craved such attention from his pack. In the end, all he could do is whine. His hands shook, promoting Qi Qingqi rescue the endangered bowl from him and placed on the counter before wrapping her arms more firmly around him. His body turned traitor, leaned back into her as his head flopped back against her shoulder and willingly exposed his neck to the Alpha’s encroaching hand.

“You’re distressed,” Qi Qingqi said as she gently squeezed at his neck, accepting his offered submission with a comforting hum. “The whole house is saturated with your distress hormones.”

But he didn’t feel any different than he always had. How could he be distressed? Nothing was wrong, he felt fine. Normal.

Qi Qingqi’s scent trickled out, teasing his senses as he inhaled the barest of wisps that brought with it a sensation of warmth and comfort that was not anywhere near enough. He choked back a cry, catching it in his throat before he could do more than whine as he turned and clung to his sister and soaked up the comfort she offered like he was starving. Each breath of Qi Qingeq’s scent he inhaled from where he burrowed into the crook of her neck soothed the pathetic creature wailing inside him.

Why hadn’t he known he was this upset? Shen Jiu wondered as his clinging grip grew loose now that comforting warmth spread through his limbs and made him sleepy. Warm exhaustion tugging at his consciousness, begging him to sleep. He rubbed at his tired eyes and frowned at the wetness he found there.

Tears? When had he cried? It shouldn’t be possible, he hadn’t cried since he was a small thing shivering in his Qi Ge's arms.

“I’m tired,” Shen Jiu said as he pushed out of Qi Qingqi’s embrace and ignored the sting of its loss. “I’m going to bed, there is a guest.”

“Let me help,” Qi Qingqi interrupted softly, one of her hands reaching towards his face but was slapped away before she could touch him.

“I do not need your coddling,” he had meant to snear, but his words came out flat and unconvincing to his own ears.

“Shen Qingqiu,” Qi Qingqi sighed as she dropped her hand to his arm instead. “Please.”

Shen Jiu looked up, meeting Qi Qingqi’s pleading eyes before wincing and turning away. He hated it when women begged, he was weak and always inevitably gave in. Throw in some tears and he was hopeless.
One simple please from his Shimei and he found himself sleeping in her arms with Luo Binghe snuggled safely between him and the wall and Qi Qingqi at his back. It was nice, he reluctantly admitted to himself. The space no longer seemed so big or so cold.

Waking throughout the night to let his baby suckle from him was awkward, but he lacked any discomfort or shame when Qi Qingqi watched over his shoulder as he soothed his babe back to sleep. He didn’t feel the need to hide or shy away from her as he did with anyone else. Even the Alpha petting Luo Binghe’s head as he nursed himself back to sleep provoked no alarm and did not stir any need to flee or flinch. Qi Qingqi was pack and his baby’s rightful aunt, she was no threat. A purr built up in his chest, slow at first before turning into a truly contented purr that sent him to sleep.

When morning came, Shen Jiu woke feeling lighter than he ever had. The warmth at his back tempting him to go back to sleep but his whining wiggly baby made that impossible. Luo Binghe let out his first growl, a tiny yippy thing, as he nipped at Qi Qingqi’s hand that draped over his mother's waist.

“Adorable,” Qi Qingqi laughed, letting Luo Binghe gnaw at her as he growled before pulling away and getting up.

Not a beta. Shen Jiu lamented as he smiled down at his disgruntled and territorial baby. He couldn’t decide if Luo Binghe being an Alpha or an Omega would be better. Both options where undesirable.

Experimentally, Shen Jiu rubbed at the spot in Luo Binghe’s neck where Mu Qingfang and Qi Qingqi had in his. The effect was almost immediate, his baby freezing before blinking up at him in a dazed surprise before a happy giggle replaced the boy’s growling.

“Can you take him,” Shen Jiu held up his clingy baby after he finished changing him. He tried putting him down in his crib, but Luo Binghe was having none of it. Spoiled brat, he sighed affectionately. “I need to change.”

After last night's dinner, he had decided eating out from now on would be best. His preferred cooking was unsuitable for his Shimei, and he felt deeply ashamed for failing her. He couldn’t provide enough for his Binghe, and now he couldn’t provide for his Al...sister.

Shen Jiu shook his head, chasing away his errant thoughts as Qi Qingqi took Luo Binghe from his arms. “Of course I can,” She cooed with the voice people only used on babies and cute things.

The small gasp that interrupted Qi Qingqi’s cooing at Shen Jiu’s giggling baby made him turn to look at her as he finished slipping on the innermost robe of his new robe. “What is it?” He frowned, eyes wandering the aunt and nephew pair for anything that might be wrong.

Qi Qingqi smiled and shook her head before returning to that ridiculous cooing that brought a smile to Shen Jiu’s face. At least he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t help pampering and cooing at his baby. If this is how his other Alpha’s act around their nephew his child was going to grow up to be spoiled rotten.

Chapter Text

Qi Qingqi had brought them to a truly bizarre tea house. Instead of the usual chairs there where soft pillows up against circular spaces surrounding a low table, the ground beneath where they were instructed to sit was padded so softly, it felt like a bed. A mix of downy soft fur throws and the airiest silk that was as soft as a cloud against his skin was pilled randomly throughout their...booth. A thick curtain hung over their heads and offered them some privacy from the other patrons.

Shen Jiu picked at the finely embroidered thin layer of cloth of his sleeve as he looked around and tried to take in everyone else here through the drapery. Qi Qingqi had begged and cajoled him into wearing this brightly colored delicate robe she had purchased, insisting sweetly that they would look so wonderful on him. The flash of pride he had felt when Qi Qingqi had gushed over him had stunned him into letting his Alp...Shimei fuss over his hair while Luo Binghe sat in his mother's lap and played happily with the colorful fabric of the new clothing.

The deceptively simple diadem Qi Qingqi had slipped onto Shen Jiu’s brow before fitting some of his hair around it into some sort of odd style and pinned it in place tickled his forehead as the little bead danced around with every turn of his head. It had to be fake goods, the pure green color of the teardrop stone hanging from the delicate silver laced through his hair was too perfect to be anything other than glass. Imperial jade was too precious to waste on the likes of someone like him, and the matching earrings that swung about brushing against his neck would make the entire set worth no small fortune.

Qi Qingqi’s soft laughter brought Shen Jiu’s attention onto her, the woman seemed to be amused at the sight of Luo Binghe attempting to sit properly at the low sitting table as he drank greedily from a cup.

“My,” Qi Qingqi said with an amused smile as she helped steady Luo Binghe’s dubious hold. “What impeccable manners your little gentleman has.”

A more familiar and comfortable pride swelled up, prompting Shen Jiu to smile down at Luo Binghe. “Of course he does. No child of mine would ever behave like a brute.” He said while lightly petting one of his baby's cheeks with the sides of his knuckles before giving the soft flesh a small pinch.

“Mama,” Luo Binghe giggled, smiling happily up at Shen Jiu while he mouthed at his nearly empty cup. His poor baby must be famished, it was well past his scheduled breakfast.

Slipping a snack out of a concealed space item, Shen Jiu handed the prepared emergency treat that was still fresh and warm to Luo Binghe. The infant squealed joyfully as he took the little bean bun from his mother's hands and wasted no time biting into the fluffy bread that had been made by Shen Jiu’s own hands.

A server parting the curtains entered their space, a tray carefully balanced in his hands. The beta said nothing as he kept a polite distance from him, placing food that he did not recall either of them ordering around the table before leaving without so much as a word.

Just what kind of service was that? Shen Jiu frowned after the retreating server. The whole affair here since they entered was all wrong, the staff was so absent he could hardly tell they were there and no one came to take their orders. Just what kind of establishment was this place?

“Here,” Qi Qingqi said pushing a plate in front of him. “Shixiong, you must try these. They're absolutely divine.”

The little platter was filled with small squares and triangles of bread. When he carefully picked one up, frowning at the lack of any utensils he discovered it was actually two thinly sliced pieces of bread with chat seemed like cucumbers stuff snuggly between them. At least it was small, hardly two bites he comforted himself as he bit into the new food.

It was surprisingly good, fresh, light and sweet, just the way he liked. Shen Jiu’s face heated when he had to suppress a pleased moan as he finished the little treat. “What are these?” He picked up a different shape of whatever these where and inspected its contents. Was that salmon?

“Dainties,” Qi Qingqi said after taking a sip of her tea. “Small bites of food popular with,” she paused to pat her frowning lips with a cloth, “nobility.”

That would explain all the finely dressed ladies he spied in the other dining spaces, some of the omega women preening under the attentions of some local Alpha official or Lord.

Biting into the orange colored flesh of the fish dainty (as Qi Qingqi called it) Shen Jiu had duel warring reactions of pleasure and disgust. The texture of the meat felt like it was raw, but the light barely there smoke flavor and the succulent fish was as divine as Qi Qingqi said it would be.

The first sip of tea he drank out of the pearlescent cup was somehow better than the food. Subtle flavors, sweet and light, washed over his tongue, a gentle floral hint left in its wake. Seeing Luo Binghe licking his empty hands clean, Shen Jiu picked a few of the bite sized food and placed them on a plate in front of his baby who shoved one in his mouth as soon as he noticed they were there. Such a greedy child.

“Does, Qingqiu, like them?” Qi Qingqi asked before passing more bites of food to Luo Binghe.

Shen Jiu looked at Qi Qingqi, meeting her searching gaze with a frown. His Shimei had never called him like that before, and he didn’t know if he appreciated it or not. “The food is quite good. The tea is better, but,” he picked up a new shape from the numerous plates on the table, “it seems uncouth to eat with one's fingers.” He frowned at the tempting food held carefully between his fingers before sighing and taking a bite.

Stupid thing was just as delicious as he anticipated. Shen Jiu reached for a platter of fruit, and rejoiced at the chopsticks placed at its sides, the little bowl of brown sauce at its center didn’t appeal to him though. Whatever that mud colored goop was went ignored as he munched happily on the chopped ice cold fruit.

The three of them got lost in this little world, enclosed in warmth as they ate at a leisurely pace and chatted about everything that went on at the sect since Shen Jiu had left. Liu Qingge had been distraught when he discovered him gone, and had gone on a frantic search for his missing Shixiong. The trouble that man had got himself into while out hunting for him amused him to no end. Served the smug Alpha right, he deserved all the problems he got as far as Shen Jiu was concerned. After all the headache Liu Shidi had caused him he found it hard to feel an ounce of sympathy for him.

Chapter Text

As soon as they returned to Shen Jiu’s house, he began kicking off his shoes and tugging off the topmost layers of his clothes. His nose scrunched up in disgust at all the scents clinging to his clothing. Many passing Alphas had tried touching him on their return trip home, placing bits of their scent on him in a bid to attract his attention. Handsy disgusting men had placed their slimy stinky hands on the robes his Shimei had got him, ruining the cloth with their stench.

“I’m so sorry,” Qi Qingqi said, Luo Binghe resting on her hip. “I did not expect such terribly improper behavior like that, those Alphas should have known better...Though, I suppose I really should have expected it and been better prepared.”

She had done her duty, the Alpha had snipped at and chased away the offenders as soon as they were noticed. A few had their wrists nearly snapped when he had got a hold of them before Qi Qingqi could. The newfound and inexplicable attention drove him to have a humiliating fit in the middle of the Omega shopping quarter that drew everyone's notice. His rage and distress had been in full public view and he hated it. He hated all the eyes on him, hated all the scents clamoring around screaming for attention as people whispered around him, judging him and finding him wanting.

Qi Qingqi stopped him before he could rip off the last layer above his inner robes, her scent saturating the air around them as she cupped the back of his neck. The kneading fingers soothed his frayed nerves, her scent chasing away they cloying smell of the strangers who pawed at him that had been making him gag.

“I...we need a bath,” Shen Jiu said from where his forehead rested against Qi Qingqi shoulder. Luo Binghe was filthy, too many strangers cooing at him had soaked him in a disgusting blend of scents that had smothered his baby's natural milky infantile scent.

He didn’t want to move, Qi Qingqi was warm and safe. Her scent was familiar and calming. A confused and agitated chirp left his throat, a purr following soon after. Bath or his Alpha, he couldn’t choose and the inability to make a decision physically hurt.

Suddenly, Qi Qingqi was pushing him back and panic ripped through him as an inner voice that was normally kept stifled agonized about being abandoned again. And then Binghe was in his arms, his baby blinking up at him and cooing in confusion as their Alpha rubbed against his mother's neck.

Relief tore through Shen Jiu, ripping the wailing thing inside him to shreds. He wasn’t being rejected. Tilting his chin up, he allowed Qi Qingqi better access to his neck and the purring in his chest picked up as their scents mingled together to mark them as pack once more.

“Is Qi Shimei alright?” Shen Jiu asked when Qi Qingqi shuddered, the hand she had at his hip clenching and unclenching while she pressed her forehead against his collar. Something seemed to be causing her pain, and she appeared slightly winded. The concern he felt managed to wash away the warmth he had felt and woke him up like a bucket of cold water splashing against his skin.

“Shimei?” Shen Jiu prodded, frowning when Qi Qingqi nuzzled him again.

“Bath!” Qi Qingqi pulled away with a gasp and a cough. “As Qingqiu said, we are all in dire need of a bath, how about I get on that while you get BingBing ready.”

Shen Jiu blinked at his flustered Shimei, “the baths here are self cleaning and always heated. There is nothing to prepare.”

“Really?” Qi Qingqi asked. “We could really use these kinds of baths in Xian Shu. Why don’t we have them? Does your Qing Jing Peak have them?”

“No, it does not.” Shen Jiu answered. “The technique for making these baths is something my friends and I devised in our spare time. Are you sure you’re alright?”

Whatever had Qi Qingqi so flustered, she didn’t tell him and it seemed to get a bit worse when he asked her to join him and his Binghe in the oversized bath. At the back of his mind, he knew he should feel ashamed for being so needy, for desiring his Alphas continued presence, but he felt nothing other than the desperate need for Qi Qingqi to stay with him.

“Are you truly unaffected by my nakedness?” Qi Qingqi asked from where she sat at the other end of the bath, her feet kicking the water as she sat on the tub’s edge. She wasn’t truly naked, a thin bathing robe they both wore preserved some of their modesty. But not much.

Luo Binghe swam happily, Shen Jiu supporting his baby as he guided him along the water's surface. “You wouldn’t be the first woman I’ve seen in a state of undress, rest assured, such sights never affected me before nor do they now.” Shen Jiu said, most of his attention on his baby. His Alphas scent was everywhere in this room, its all encompassing presence settling the clingy and needy thing inside of him.

“Right,” Qi Qingqi pouted, hopping off the edge of the tub with a splash. “Why did you go to those brothels anyways, if not for...”

Shen Jiu sighed. The others all loved to gossip about him, making no secret about how they judged him a lecher and sneered at his disgusting perverse ways. “If Shimei must know, it was because my friends were there,” he answered without looking at Qi Qingqi.

“I see.” By the way Qi Qingqi spoke it was clear she did not actually see. “Are brothels really the best place to go for a social visit?”

“They are if one's friends are whores,” Shen Jiu laughed. A good brothel really was the best place to go for the kind of social visits he and his friends got up to. They could talk and plan as they pleased, sure in the knowledge that their secrets were safe.