Translator: Alex_in_Wonderland Editor: mjn0898
Jiao Wei gave Zheng Tan a strange look when he came down from the tree. He didn't understand why the cat suddenly decided to look inside someone's dorm.
Zheng Tan didn't care what Jiao Wei thought. He glanced sideways at the boy then lay down and yawned.
The dorm was newly built and the trees surrounding it were young and short. They didn't provide much shade.
Papa Jiao only asked Zheng Tan to be a guide. Jiao Wei was the one who should decide where he wanted to see. The guy didn't say anything, so Zheng Tan walked around randomly. They had been walking for quite a while, so he wanted to rest.
Jiao Wei saw the cat stop and wiped the sweat off his forehead. He could use a rest too.
There was a small convenience store nearby. He was thirsty so he folded the map and headed toward the store. He stopped and turned around, he wondered if he needed to say anything to the cat. Before he could say anything, the cat was headed to the convenience store.
Zheng Tan saw what Jiao Wei wanted to do so he ran after him. He was thirsty and demanded to be repaid for his efforts.
Jiao Wei followed the cat.
At the time, the convenience store was mostly empty. The cashiers were huddled together chatting and a couple sat near the milk tea stand enjoying the free air-conditioning.
The convenience store didn't ban pets, but Jiao Wei was still unsure if it would be ok to bring a cat inside. However, it was not up to him. The cat was already inside.
The lady slicing a watermelon at the door saw the cat and boy. She opened her mouth, then closed it again. Students brought their pet dogs in from time to time. No one said anything as long as they didn't make a mess. The cat was a first though.
The cat had a tag on its neck, so it had an owner. She went back to her business. The others stopped chatting and stared at them. Jiao Wei felt the pressure rising.
Jiao Wei took out a bottle of water from the fridge. He was a frugal young man. The cat was behaving itself so far. It didn't run around and mess up the shelves even though it wasn't leashed.
Zheng Tan saw Jiao Wei take out a bottle of water and jumped on to a refrigerator.
"Does the cat want an ice-cream?" A cashier came over. She didn't open the fridge. She was mindful of the cat. If anyone saw the cat jump into the fridge, they could forget about selling any ice cream.
Zheng Tan looked at the available products then patted at a box of ice cream.
The cashier looked at Jiao Wei, who nodded. She opened the door and took out a box of double flavored ice cream.
Jiao Yuan always bought this stuff with his pocket money so Zheng Tan knew the prices of most of the ice cream here. He knew which ones were expensive and which brands were good.
He got what he wanted so he jumped off the fridge and waited outside.
"What a smart cat." Said the cashier who helped get the ice cream.
Jiao Wei smiled grudgingly. Only then he realized he had spent one yuan on himself but two yuan on the ice cream for the cat. This was idiotic.
The two found a bench in the shade and sat down. Jiao Wei laid down the ice cream but didn't open the lid, just to see what the cat would do.
Zheng Tan held the ice cream box down and opened the lid with his teeth. He didn't use the spoon provided but started licking the ice cream directly. Cats had little barbs on their tongues that made licking ice cream easy.
Jiao Wei gulped. Were cats owned by professors smarter than other cats? However, can cats eat ice cream? He made a note to tell Mingsheng uncle when the got back.
Jiao Wei opened his campus map and found the freshman dorms. They were close from here and easy to find. He just needed to see which one he was assigned to when school started.
The campus was huge, even larger than he had imagined. He had heard about university from other people, but it was different actually being inside one.
After a short rest, Jiao Wei tried talking to the cat, although he still had an accent. Zheng Tan followed instructions and took Jiao Wei to the building and classrooms he asked about.
On their way home, Zheng Tan took a few shortcuts. They were passing by Professor Lan's flowerbed when Zheng Tan saw the gate to the greenhouse was open. He peered inside. Professor Lan had a straw hat on and was busy at work.
Professor Lan stood up to drink some water when he caught sight of Zheng Tan at the door. The black fur was hard to miss.
"What are you looking at, you rascal!"
Zheng Tan twitched his ears. Professor Lan really needed to watch the way he talked. He was a professor and swearing just wasn't right. He turned and saw the awkward look on Jiao Wei's face.
Professor Lan was a different person in front of people he knew well and students.
Zheng Tan took two steps inside. He shook his tail at Jiao Wei and motioned for him to follow.
Professor Lan had thought Zheng Tan was outside by himself on a walk. Seeing this he asked, "Who else is here?"
Jiao Wei forced himself to come out. "Hello."
Professor Lan frowned and asked, "Who are you?"
Jiao Wei went over and explained who he was and his relationship with Papa Jiao. This was his first time meeting the old professor.
"Oh, you're a guest of Mingsheng's. You're here at school early. It's not registration time yet." Professor Lan said. He took out a basket. "Have some grapes."
"It's ok. I brought water."
"Eat when you're told so!" Professor Lan glared at him, then fed a few to Zheng Tan.
"..." Jiao Wei was left speechless again. Why was the cat treated better than him?
He sat down and ate a few grapes. He was nervous at first but he relaxed after answering Professor Lan's questions.
He didn't communicate much before, mostly because he was nervous in a new environment and he was self-conscious about his accent.
No matter how much ambition and hope he had carried with him when he left his town, being in a metropolis like this for the first time made him feel small. People here didn't speak in the comforting dialect of his hometown and he felt they looked at him funny when he asked for directions with an accent.
However, this old man in front of him had a hint of an accent in his voice too. Though their accents were different, it made Jiao Wei feel better.
Professor Lan had been teaching for too long to not notice what was going on with the boy. "You need to talk more. You'll get used to it. There are many like you, so no one is going to look down on you."
Middle school teachers need to pass Mandarin tests, but professors in universities weren't subject to similar requirements. Many of the older professors had thick accents that people didn't dare make fun of. People treated students very differently.
Zheng Tan listened to them talk while eating fruit. When Professor Lan looked down, the grapes were half gone.
"You foodie!" Professor Lan rolled up the newspaper in his hand and whacked Zheng Tan on the head with it. He said to Jiao Wei, "You're young and strong, come help with the pots. Be careful, you can get hurt but my flowers can't."
It was almost five when Professor Lan left for the quarters with Jiao We and Zheng Tan.
He had a shovel in his hand and was talking to Jiao Wei who was carrying a small pot of flowers. He was more at ease now.
Zheng Tan had no interest in what they were saying and wanted to leave them, but thought it might be rude. So he stopped every once in a while to let them catch up while wishing they would walk faster.
They ran into people they knew on the way home. All of them greeted Professor Lan and Zheng Tan. Some asked about Jiao Wei but Professor Lan just said he was someone he had found to help out at the greenhouse.
Jiao Wei was surprised. He had thought the old man was a gardener at first. He was dressed in plain clothes no different than the kind his family wore at home. It was only now that he realized he was a person of some importance. What stunned him more was the way people greeted the cat.
"Does everyone know Charcoal?" Jiao Wei asked.
"This guy?" Professor Lan laughed. "He's famous in the eastern quarters alright. He led a fight with the cats in the western quarters earlier and none of those cats dare to come over anymore."
This was not fair. The fight was initiated by the cats from the western quarters. He had been playing with Fatty and Tiger that evening when a few cats came over from the western quarters. They were hostile and tried to steal Fatty's food. That was going over the line.
He had known a fight was bound to happen but didn't foresee them being so bold. Even Tiger who was mild-tempered after being neutered was upset. They had beaten up the western quarter cats and chased them back to their homes.
Those cats were lucky that none of the dogs nor General was home that day, or else they would fared far worse.
It was best that business between cats was left to cats.
"No matter cats or people, one has to rely on oneself to earn the acceptance of others," Professor Lan said.
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