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Chapter 1: Like the Wind Blows on Eggshells
Zheng Tan jumped onto the branch of a Chinese parasol tree, narrowing his gaze to examine the sunlight as it leaked through the cracks of the leaves. With his paw, he brushed his ear to the side and began trying to find a comfortable position to lie in as he beat back a yawn.
On this September afternoon, the sunlight was just right. Perfect for taking a nap.
Although Zheng Tan was a cat now, he had once been a human. He didn’t understand how this had happened, he had simply woken up to this life.
Strange city, strange house, strange people… the strange new body he found himself in gave him even more despair. On top of that, the magnified world seemed to have reversed back a decade——to 2003.
Before, Zheng Tan didn’t like cats. He practically loathed them and had always thought that the species known as cats were of the same level as the mentally disordered. Now, however, he had transformed into such an animal.
Was this karma?
Zheng Tan recognized that his own way of life had not been particularly good. He had bullied and humiliated the small and weak, set off a few small fires, lazed around without caring about his job, and even blacked out once from being drunk. At least he had never killed anyone. As long as he could remember, he could be described as always having straddled the line of morality. Compared to his shameful behavior, there were others much worse, so why did this random karmic retribution fall upon him?
No confusion? No helplessness? No anger? No despair?
Compared to the incredibly clear reality before him, everything else seemed hopeless. As far as his once indulgent life was concerned, Zheng Tan could only use the phrase ‘like the wind blows on eggshells, when the money’s gone, a person feels at ease,’ to console himself.
[1. | Moral | Money is a burden. | Usage | This is usually used by a gambler who just lost all his money, but needs a philosophy to make themselves feel better.]
It had been three months, one season’s time. A quarter of a year during which nature’s seasonal cycle had already turned ninety degrees, making Zheng Tan’s wild attitude go from unfamiliar, to gradually calming down as he grew used to this strangeness.
After all, a lack of aspirations combined with the willingness to just get through life was a unique, seldom seen mentality.
This was the university ranked first among the top hundred universities in China’s Central District——Chu Hua University. The advantage of being the first ranked university was that the area provided to them was very large, allowing them to have a generous amount of land filled with vegetation.
Occasionally, students would walk past him on the paths under the trees. The atmosphere here was tranquil without losing any of its vibrance.
In this favorable ambience, Zheng Tan napped, only to be woken up by a dog’s bark. His ears twitched, but he didn’t bother looking as Zheng Tan already knew which two were once again disturbing him.
A hundred meters from Zheng Tan’s location, a brown Chihuahua barked at a camphor tree, where a cat with a black and white coat perched in the fork. At the moment, the cat was swinging its tail from side to side as it looked down the tree and shouted.
This scene playing out was very common and people raising pets would frequently come across this situation. However, this instance was different, as this dog and cat were both issuing ‘woof woof’ sounds.
This cat was known as’ Detective.’ Currently eight months old, the cat was a bit smaller than Zheng Tan. It was named after a tv show character since it and the animated cat ‘Black Cat Detective’ had very similar colored coats. At the same time, this cat was also one of Zheng Tan’s rascally friends upon his transformation into a cat.
This cat had two main characteristics: belligerence, making it a menace in fights; and it learned to bark like a dog, a completely canine attribute.
The first time Zheng Tan met ‘Detective,’ that animal was crouching atop a meter high rock, looking down and barking at that Chihuahua. Only when ‘Detective’ realized Zheng Tan was watching from the sidelines, did it slowly transform its ‘woof woof’ into a ‘meow’ sound.
In fact, while Detective’s ‘dog speech’ wasn’t normal at all and felt a bit out of place, this ‘dog speech’ had become increasingly more realistic these past days. The average person listening to this sound wouldn’t be able to tell if it was truly a dog barking at all.
Moreover, when this animal was tired, it would act like a dog, even stretching out its tongue to pant. As a result, Zheng Tan frequently harbored suspicions about whether or not a dog’s soul resided in this cat’s body.
Not paying attention to the commotion over there any longer, Zheng Tan beat back a yawn. Leaning forward to continue to sleep. He was not even a bit worried for ‘Detective’s’ safety. Detective and that Chihuahua had been fighting ever since they were children up till now and their experience was ample. You want to ask why ‘Detective’ always followed that Chihuahua and made life difficult for it? Because the Chihuahua was the smallest pet dog owned by an East District family. When picking fish, you pick fresh ones for consumption, when you pick persimmons, you should find soft ones to pinch, this cat knew all of this.
[2. Saying that means to take advantage of the situation (fish) and to take advantage of the fortune/weakness (persimmon)]
Zheng Tan slept until the university’s third class of the day was let out by the ringing of the bell, whereupon he rose to leave. Stretching his body, he slowly slipped down the tall Chinese parasol tree, softly padding along the sidewalk. Afterwards, he passed through the peach grove until he reached a fence.
This was Chu Hua University’s subsidiary primary school. The younger family members of the teaching and administrative staff would often attend this school, as the children’s guardian could easily pick up and drop them off. The close proximity to the school also reassured the guardians of their children’s safety.
Zheng Tan jumped on top of the fence, looking at two classrooms on the second and sixth floor before walking along the fence to head over towards the school entrance.
Zheng Tan perched atop the fence twenty meters from the school entrance, waiting for seven to eight minutes before the primary school’s end of class bell sounded. The small bell rang with a cheerful and lively melody, rather than a sharp, piercing sound—very user-friendly.
Wearing a small, fragmented floral dress and a Hello Kitty school bag on her back, a little girl left the building and spotted Zheng Tan when she reached the stairs. Seeing him perched atop the fence, the little girl’s dim eyes immediately brightened as she quickly descended the stairs.
“Big bro Yuan said that they have a quiz in the last class which might take a while…”
Before the little girl even finished speaking, Zheng Tan saw a person rush out of the stairs alone, slightly hunching over as he dragged his bag behind him. His hair was pulled to one side like a C as he rushed directly over to them. With a smug smile on his face, he gave the little girl and Zheng Tan a ‘V’ victory sign. It seemed this child did pretty good on the last class’s quiz.
The sixth-grade boy was called Jiao Yuan and he was a child of the family that took care of Zheng Tan nowadays. This little girl called Gu You Zi was Jiao Yuan’s younger cousin through her mother. Her parents divorced a while back for some small reason and her mother had gone abroad, so she lived with the Jiao family, currently attending Chu Hua University’s primary division as a second-grader.
Jiao Yuan took Gu You Zi’s school bag, and the two kids and the cat left the school entrance, walking towards the family compound in the East District.
“Look! Jiao Yuan’s family cat came to pick them up again!” someone exclaimed.
On their journey home, they came across many people who had grown accustomed to this scene already. This had been happening for nearly three weeks now, since the beginning of the new semester. Back when it first started, it became an entertaining subject for the nearby people to talk about over food.
The family compound wasn’t very far from the subsidiary primary school, so it took them less than ten minutes to arrive.
The Jiao family lived in East District, Courtyard B, Building 5. Every building in the area had a gated entrance. Jiao Yuan swiped his card key across the touchscreen, and the iron gate opened with a clank.
Jiao Yuan’s key had a small chip at the top. This was the ‘key’ for the gated entrance, and almost every person living in this family district had one. Zheng Tan’s neck also had one hanging from it, but this was somewhat unusual. The front of the metal tag had an engravement of Zheng Tan’s current portrait, whereas the back had the Jiao family address and telephone number on the back. It was a two-in-one gate key and a pet tag. Papa Jiao had specifically created this for him.
Zheng Tan entered the first floor balcony of the first family’s household. Looking inside, he didn’t find that fatty, so he reckoned that the fatty was taken along to go visit relatives again.
The Jiao family’s door was always open during this meal time. After all, this was a family compound in the school, and the family compound had a gated entrance and surveillance cameras. The security was significantly higher than external apartment buildings. As Mama Jiao was cooking, a conversation occurred in the living room.
“Then, I’m going to trouble Teacher Jiao with the matters about the commercial!”
Zheng Tan stepped into the room and paused. He was familiar with this voice; it was the boss of the pet store near Chu Hua University. His family name was Guo, and his brother was a veterinarian and that brother had given Zheng Tan injection vaccines with needles.
Last week, Zheng Tan had heard Mama Jiao say that Xiao Guo had wanted to use Zheng Tan in a cat food commercial, meaning that today’s visit must be to specifically explain the matters about the commercial?
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