Translator: Alex_in_Wonderland Editor: Zayn_
Zheng Tan hopped onto a branch of the Chinese Parasol tree. He squinted at the sunlight leaking between the leaves and scratched his ears with his now furry paws. He managed to find a comfortable position and yawned.
A sunny September afternoon; it was just the perfect time for a nap.
Zheng Tan was a cat, now. But once, not long ago, he had been 100% human. He didn’t know what spawned the transformation; he woke up one day and just like that, he had whiskers.
There he was, in an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar rooms filled with strangers. He had an unfamiliar, but more importantly, a devastating new identity. What’s more, his now magnified world was that of 2003.
Zheng Tan had to confess, he did not like cats, hated them even. He always felt that cats were a species closer to the insane. Now, he himself had become such an animal.
Maybe this was the universe’s idea of retribution?
Zheng Tan admitted that he was, by all means, not a very good person. He bullied the weak and may have set a few not-too-big fires. He idled about without any decent work and once lived way too extravagantly. But at least he never murdered.
Judging by his left-unchecked-for-too-long moral compass, there were more than enough bastards out there who were way worse than him. So why was he suffering from the universe’s vengeance?
Did he feel lost? Did he feel powerless? Did he feel angry? Did he feel hopeless?
In the face of stone cold reality, everything seemed to be of no avail. Remembering his past luxurious life, Zheng Tan sighed and told himself, [“Everything happens for the best.”]
Up to now, he had spent three months in the past. That was one season, a quarter of a year, ninety degrees on the wheel of nature. Despite his initial disbelief and despair, he had slowly grown comfortable in his new surroundings.
Sometimes, giving up one’s ambition and settling for whatever one had was not too bad.
So here he was, in one of the top universities in central China. Being an elite 100-year-old college, Chuhua university had a large campus filled with green spaces. Under his tree, students came and went, walking briskly past Zheng Hua. The atmosphere here was peaceful but full of youthful spirit.
Zheng Tan settled down and managed to almost doze off until he was jerked back into reality by a burst of dog barks. Without even opening his eyes, Zheng Tan knew perfectly well who was causing the ruckus.
About a hundred feet from where he was resting, a brown Chihuahua was barking at a camphor tree and on the branches stood a cat with a black and white coat. The cat was swaying its tail while barking at the creature under the tree. That’s right, barking.
This situation might seem like a common occurrence. Indeed, any pet owner could testify to seeing this situation countless times. However, there was one little thing here that was different from your everyday cat-dog standoff. Both the dog and the cat were barking.
This cat was named "Sheriff". Now eight months old and slightly smaller than Zheng Tan, Sheriff’s coat had an uncanny resemblance to the black cat in the popular children’s cartoon ‘Sheriff Black Cat’, hence his name. Sheriff was one of Zheng Tan’s closest friends since he became a cat.
Now there were two things one needed to know about Sheriff. Number one, he was aggressive. He fought with absolutely no regard for his life. Second, he knew how to bark. He was a dog-like cat.
Zheng Tan first met Sheriff when the guy was squatting on a landscape stone barking at the same Chihuahua. It was only when he saw Zheng Tan, did he sheepishly switch to meowing.
At that time, Sheriff had not yet mastered the canine language. But those days were gone. Now his barks were ‘dog’ enough to fool any listener. Zheng Tan even caught him panting with his tongue out like a dog on a few occasions.
Zheng Tan secretly suspected there was a dog’s soul inside that cat’s body.
No longer paying attention to that side, Zheng Tan yawned and curled up to sleep again. He was not even a little bit worried about Sheriff. Sheriff and that Chihuahua had been fighting since he was a kitten.
Sheriff has a simple reason for why he always gave the Chihuahua a hard time. The Chihuahua was the smallest of all the pet dogs in the Eastern Quarters of the Faculty Residence. Always pick on the weakling. Even cats knew that.
Zheng Tan slept until the bell rang, signaling the end of third period. He got up, stretched lazily, then slid down from his tree. He trotted down the trail through a patch of peach trees to a wall. Behind the wall was the primary school affiliated to Chuhua university, a school for the children of the faculty.
Zheng Tan hopped onto the wall, took a glance at two classrooms on the second floor and sixth floor and walked towards the school gate, where he sat and waited. Seven or eight minutes later, the school bell rang. It was a merry little melody instead of the usual sharp shrill. Very humane, Zheng Tan noted.
A little girl, wearing a floral dress and carrying a Hello Kitty backpack walked out of the building. The moment she came out the door, she started searching for Zheng Tan. When she saw him sitting on the wall near the gate, her normally emotionless eyes shone with excitement and she ran towards him.
"Yuan said he had a quiz in the last period, we may have to wait a while..."
Before the little girl could finish, Zheng Tan saw a boy shoot out the building, dragging his backpack behind him like a sack, his hair a tousled mess. He ran straight toward them, a bragging grin on his face, gesturing towards them a “V” for victory. Seemed like the rascal did quite well on the quiz.
The boy was Jiao Yuan, a sixth grader, the single child of the family that had adopted Zheng Tan. The little girl, Gu Youzi, was his cousin. Her parents were divorced and for some reason, her mother took her back from abroad and sent her to live with the Jiao family. She was in second grade.
Jiao Yuan took Gu Youzi’s backpack and slung it over his shoulder, then the pair and their cat set off towards the Eastern Quarters.
"Look, the Jiao family’s cat went to pick up the kids again!" some passerby exclaimed.
Most people they passed on their way home, however, were used to the scene. This had been going on for three weeks now, after all. Originally though, it caused quite a stir.
The faculty residence was not far from the school. They were there in under ten minutes. The Jiao Family lived on the fifth floor of Building B in the Eastern Quarters. Jiao Yuan swiped his key chain across the security sensor and the iron door sprang open.
There was a small round tag on Jiao Yuan’s key chain, which was a security access key. Everyone living in the quarters had one. Even Zheng Tan had one hanging from the collar. But his was special. It had his picture, the current cat version of course, on one side and the Jiao family’s contact information on the other. It was a security access key and a pet tag all in one.
Papa Jiao had it specially made.
Zheng Tan took a peek at the balcony of an apartment on the first floor. He didn’t see Fatty. He must have been taken along to visit relatives again.
Around dinner time, the Jiao family usually left the front door open. The little trio could hear Mama Jiao cooking in the kitchen and someone chatting in the living room. The faculty residences had excellent security. There were security cameras in the lobby as well as the security door outside.
"It’s a deal then. So I can count on you for the advertisement, Professor Jiao."
Zheng Tan paused before entering the door. He knew that voice, it was the owner of the pet supplies store near Chuhua University. His last name was Guo and his brother was a veterinarian. Zheng Tan had gotten his vaccine from the guy.
Last week, Zheng Tan had overheard Mama Jiao saying that Mr. Guo wanted him to pose in an ad for canned cat food. Was that what this visit was about?