Noah, in a state of stupefy, remains frozen for a second, five seconds, ten… He doesn’t even register when Yang Rong had begun fondling his hair again, still intent on finding any hidden feline ears. “The shape is normal?” the man mutters to himself in rumination. “Perhaps they morph over your human ears. The thought is rather interesting, I suppose… There would need to be a shift of the auditory canal if the ears do shift upward. It sounds like a painful process, so I wonder—"
Noah grabs his shoulders, pushes him away and asks with incredible confusion, “…What did you say?”
Yang Rong raises an eyebrow and repeats himself. “I am asking whether or not you have cat ears, Noah.”
“…” Noah’s brow twitches. “Not that.”
“The mutation?” Yang Rong gives him a relaxed smile, with a twinkle in his eyes and everything. “You should be intelligent enough to figure out the implication that I was infected since birth. Is it so shocking that my birth was as spectacular as my current self? The proverbs claim that great men are born in great—"
“—You.” Noah’s expression twists in complication. Over a trillion questions remain unanswered in his head – Yang Rong’s sudden, nonchalant reveal, his background, his upbringing, who he is, and… Yet, the only question he musters up is, “How are you alive?”
Noah parts his mouth and rambles, “A… successful mutation during the embryotic stage is less than one—no, a less than zero point zero…ugh, less than the possibility of a ten-kilometer asteroid slamming parallel down planet Earth tomorrow morning at twenty miles a second—Colonel Yang, you—who are you? Why do you—"
Yang Rong laughs. “When you go on a scientific spiel like that, Noah, I cannot quite keep up. Please use less statistics and lesser of those strange analogies. You do say I live in the Stone Age, but I suppose you live in the Mesozoic with how knowledgeable you are on celestial comets.”
“…” Noah’s expression is a mix of borderline exasperation and murder. “Stop talking nonsense.”
Yang Rong moves to sit against the wall. Their bodies are an inch apart. Noah had gotten rather used to the close proximity, the familiar vetiver scent, the masculine balm of the alpha beside him. Exposure therapy, perhaps, but he doesn’t find Yang Rong as revolting as earlier. The colonel has a light-caramel skin tone that glistens fiery orange in front of the fireplace and Noah, by contrast, has a soft glow on tender ivory skin.
“Then Noah, I ask you the same question.” Yang Rong’s voice drips of velvet next to him. “How are you alive? The first conjecture is you were born from an embryotic experiment. If you were… it’d make sense for you to be a runaway. It would be a problem for the Nexus to let you, a successful experiment, escape so easily. The second conjecture, accidental exposure to solar radiation as a newborn. The third conjecture… hm, I haven’t thought that far.”
No response. The younger man’s line of sight is glued to a broken nail on the floor. Sensing that Noah is unwilling to answer, Yang Rong prompts further, “Off the mark?”
A shake of his head is all Noah gives.
“Alright.” Yang Rong leans back. “I will wait until you tell me. Your Rong-ge is very patient.”
“Colonel Yang,” Noah says. “You… will really not force me to go to the Nexus?”
“As a colonel, I have many obligations,” the man responds, turning to face him. “There are several stricter ones. I am to meet quota for ten anomaly shipments a month, to report my location and findings to Command weekly, to report and take in any… valuable persons. That includes intelligent children from the slums, young fertile persons of age, runaway omegas and… suspicious hybrids.”
“I will not go,” Noah tells him, narrowing his eyes. “I will kill you if necessary.”
“It is only unfortunate that I am unable to capture a particularly fierce tiger,” Yang Rong says with a low chuckle. There is resignation and complication in his tone. “And so, the colonel of Unit One broke all the rules and is now on the run with you. Potentially, I would already be written off as dead. Won’t you take responsibility?”
“I don’t understand you,” Noah says, his brows furrowing. “Does the Nexus know about your condition? If so, why would they allow—no, why would you willingly work for them and as a colonel, no less? Were you forced into your position?”
Yang Rong raises a brow. “Isn’t it a logical fit? A person who is already infected is better on the battlefield. It is simple utilitarianism, Noah.”
“I see where our perspectives differ,” he replies. “I do not think in categorical imperatives.”
“Of course.” Yang Rong smirks at him. “Hence your unruliness.”
“The problem is with your mindset,” Noah tells him sharply. “It is unreasonable.”
“The contrary, little kitten. I am very reasonable. I think in terms of value and pragmatism.”
“If you had to offer yourself up for dissection, would you?”
“I would if I believed there would be an astounding scientific discovery made through my corpse,” Yang Rong says easily. “Unfortunately, modern technology doesn’t prove outside of probability. The chances are so infinitesimal that my role in combat serves greater humanitarian good.”
Noah’s face turns cold. “And it is practical to crate me, lock me up and ship me.”
“You can serve very distinct roles,” Yang Rong muses. “An omega hybrid like you – there is a higher possibility for there to be breakthroughs. In terms of reproduction, for example. The process of it and how you may be able to give birth to hybrid children. Through a series of trials, perhaps they may find that—"
Just then, a flash of silver overtakes the colonel’s vision, the movement so blurred he could hardly react. Even someone as battle-hardened as he is, Yang Rong is caught off-guard by the sheer intensity of Noah’s punch. The fist lands a centimeter away from his face, slamming into the brittle cottage walls, splintering through wooden carpentry. The timber cracks apart upon impact, bits and pieces scattering downward onto the floor.
Noah had aimed to disable, no doubt, and it is only Yang Rong’s last millisecond swerve that prevented him from losing an eye. Noah is murderous, his features schooled into total hostility. Clouded pupils narrow into vertical slits, the heterochromatic hue of his orbs aglow in the dark.
His legs straddle Yang Rong’s body, locking him firmly in position.
“The more you speak, the more I want to kill you, Colonel Yang,” he whispers. Cold and dangerous, an absolute dichotomy to his elegant features. Frost-colored hair casts shadows down his upper cheek. He moves his fist away from the wall and grabs Yang Rong by the collar, hoisting him so he won’t escape. “Do shut your mouth before I stick a knife into your throat.”
It’s a threat, coldhearted and simple. His hands are still shaking in excess. “And I have done that, haven’t I?”
His body is rigid with tension and not even his fever deters him from carrying on the threat. He had expected for a fight to break out, for the colonel to force him to quell, for him to reverse their positions and easily subdue him. He hadn’t expected, however, for Yang Rong to let out a low, drawn-out sigh.
The man has no arrogance on his face. Instead, there is complication. He looks up and examines Noah’s obvious agitation. A part of Noah would really like to pummel him for how softly the man looks at him – as though he, an omega, would never be capable of harm. The thought makes him scoff. Noah curls his fingers threateningly onto cotton fabric, carving his nails closer to the man’s jugular.
“I haven’t finished,” Colonel Yang says, interrupting his actions. “I mean to say that you will be useful to the Nexus but I also…”
Willow green eyes are made a soft golden in front of the fireplace. They do not hold the phosphorescence of Noah’s own. Yang Rong holds no killing intent and neither does he exude sickening alpha pheromones. The man softly taps on the knuckles of Noah’s hand – an unspoken request for Noah to calm down – and then says, “Little kitten, I am in the process of sorting out my emotions.”
Noah doesn’t calm nor is he willing to ease the death grip on the man’s collar. “What are you talking about?”
Noah almost loses his balance as the man pulls him in, gently yet insistently closing some space between them. Colonel Yang handles him so expertly, taking ahold of his slender wrist and guiding it upward, forcing him to loosen his grip. Noah remains confused and alarmed.
Then a pair of lips moves to kiss his hand. A gentle graze of lips on skin, on the jut of his knuckles, trailing up to his slender fingers. Yang Rong’s eyes are low-lidded, his dark lashes long enough to obscure all emotions on his face. Chapped lips brush against sensitive skin and Noah’s fingers quiver reflexively. Warm breaths skitter across his creases and his veins, the colonel treating him as delicately as he would porcelain.
Noah has every opportunity to throw him aside… if not for the hesitance in the man’s movements. If his vision isn’t failing him, there is also a tinge of pink on the man’s ears, just on that single spot not covered by his obsidian hair.
Noah watches in silence and Yang Rong… is still silently resting his lips on pale skin.
When Colonel Yang finally retracts, he gives a low cough that may even be considered awkward. The proud and powerful alpha, Yang Rong, looks up and says in the meekest tone Noah has ever heard out of that incorrigible mouth, “Give me some time, Noah, and do not kill me just yet…?”
Pindrop silence. Noah is unsure what expression he’s making for Yang Rong to be so on edge.
“…” Colonel Yang opens his mouth. “I was not calling you a reproductive tool. Rong-ge will admit to having a foul mouth.”
Noah, still straddling him by the hips, is completely blank-faced, staring out wordlessly at where their hands are now intertwined.
“…” Yang Rong lets go of his hand and continues, “The kiss was an act of apology. I have often done this to appease women and bedroom partners.”
“…” Noah climbs off and resettles himself by the wall as far away as he could. A mere two meters, however, is hardly enough of a distance.
“—A slip of the tongue. I don’t mean you are a woman nor a bedroom partner,” Yang Rong tries to correct himself. “In fact, I haven’t had very many sexual relationships either. Your Rong-ge is not that kind of crude person. There were very few perfunctory engagements that were worth my time. Your Rong-ge is also very health-conscious, responsible, and so does not have any illegitimate offspring nor does—"
“Enough.” Noah buries his head into his arms. Body language that straightforwardly screams for the other man to shut up. “Don’t talk to me anymore.”
“…I mean I am a responsible person,” Yang Rong tries to appease in futility. “It is natural for a twenty-seven-year-old man to have had sexual intercourse. Not to mention someone with my looks is bound to get all sorts of attention. Besides, I am also very selective of my partners and extremely careful about the risks of infection. Noah, you shouldn’t think too poorly of me, alright?”
Now that the conversation has been led irredeemable, Yang Rong makes it a point to stray even further off topic, trying every possibly way to list out his positive traits.
“In fact,” the man says as he peers over to Noah (still unresponsive), “while I am fully capable, I do not often engage in the more extensive activities. My previous bedroom partners have been daunted by my—"
“Colonel Yang,” Noah finally replies, lifting his head up to look at him. The judgment is incredibly clear on his face. “If you are done speaking, you may now go outside and catch a dinosaur with your bare hands. When you come back, I will be gone.”