The two children waited for the bus in front of the hospital door. The first two buses that passed were too full. Jiao Yuan decided to wait a little longer for one with less people.
Buses that went from the hospital to the East gate of the university came so frequently that there was no point in squishing onto a crowded one.
The commuters were mostly people leaving work. The population of Chuhua was very large, and the city didn't have a subway system yet, so buses were always crowded during rush hour.
Today, Jiao Yuan was very quiet. If it was any other time, Jiao Yuan would be kicking a tree or peeling stickers off a pole or talking to people nearby.
He wasn't someone who could wait quietly for the bus.
Today he just held his sister's hand and stood still. Besides telling Gu Youzi they should wait for the next bus, he didn't say another word.
Zheng Tan stayed in Jiao Yuan's backpack. The zipper was not completed zipped. They left a little gap so Zheng Tan could stick his head out and fresh air could get in.
It was uncomfortable staying in there, but to avoid any unnecessary trouble, he kept his head down and remained safely hidden in the backpack.
Jiao Yuan's backpack smelled of tea eggs . He probably went to the cafeteria and bought some to snack on before lunch.
They waited for fifteen minutes before an uncrowded bus came. Jiao Yuan and Gu Youzi got on the bus. Someone was getting off and gave them his seat. Jiao Yuan thanked the person.
The kids shared the seat and carefully placed the backpack carrying Zheng Tan on their legs.
It was only two stops to the university east gate, but two more stops to the eastern quarters. It was better to ride the bus than to walk.
Zheng Tan was feeling stuffy, so he poked his nose close to the gap to get some fresh air.
The bus stopped and started again, sometimes because it reached a bus stop, sometimes because of the traffic lights. Zheng Tan was feeling sleepy.
However, not before long, Zheng Tan felt a sharp pain in his whiskers.
Looking out of the gap, a mother with a toddler was sitting in front of them. The child was facing backwards sitting on the mother's lap.
The child probably saw Zheng Tan's nose and a few whiskers poking out of the bag and ripped a whisker.
Zheng Tan retreated back into the bag after feeling the pain. He dragged his whiskers with him.
"Cat ... hair ..." The child couldn't yet speak fluently. He saw the cat, whose whisker he still held, disappear back into the backpack, so he pointed at Jiao Yuan's backpack and cried out loud.
Jiao Yuan and Gu Youzi, both in a trance, were jerked back into reality. They didn't know what just happened and only saw the child pointing and yelling.
They thought people had found out about their cat and were very nervous. Even though there wasn't a 'no pets' sign on the bus, most people were against bring animals onto public transportation.
The good thing was other people did not notice the whiskers poking out. The lighting was dim on the bus, plus people were exhausted from a day of work and paid little attention to others.
Even the child's mother thought her kid was only pointing to the cat decorations on the backpack. She smiled and patted her child.
When they got to their stop, the two children got off as quickly as they could for fear of being caught. After all, they were young. They hadn't quite mastered public humiliation like adults.
Entering the quarters, Zheng Tan jumped out. He felt much better now that he could breathe fresh air.
The sky was already dark; the streetlights were lit, and they could vaguely hear the song that signaled the end of the school radio broadcast.
A gust of wind swept by; leaves rustled around them, accompanied by the soft sound of leaves falling to the ground.
Zheng Tan shivered. He ran a few steps and climbed halfway up a tree. Then he slid back down. The exercise made his body feel warmer.
Seeing their cat perform his tricks, the kids, who were depressed all day, finally felt a bit better. They were surrounded by people taking strolls and cars driving home from work.
They could hear dogs barking in the quarters. The street was full of life.
At the entrance of their building, Jiao Yuan swiped his access card. Zheng Tan led the way inside.
These building were relatively old. They didn't have sound-controlled lights, but the people living here were used to the slightly out-dated system.
Lights on the third floor and below were on, but the fourth and fifth floor corridors were pitch black. The parrot's owners on fourth floor were not home.
They were probably on a business trip again. Even that otaku Qu Xiangyang seemed to be on one of his rare trips downstairs, so no one turned on the lights.
Zheng Tan wanted to switch on the lights first, so that the children won't bump into anything on the stairs.
For most people, it was impossible to see anything in corridors at night without the lights. It was, however, a piece of cake for Zheng Tan, or cats in general.
Zheng Tan jumped up and switched on the light on the fourth floor, then went up and did the same on the fifth floor. He went back down to greet the kids and ran into them on the second floor.
Two more flights of stairs later, the two children found out what their own cat was doing running up in advance.
When they were outside, they saw that the corridor was dark on the fourth and fifth floor.
"Charcoal is really smart!" Jiao Yuan laughed.
This was the first time he laughed since he found out about Mama Jiao's accident.
"Yes!" Gu Youzi didn't talk much, as usual.
Zheng Tan was flabbergasted. This wasn't something worthy of praise.
"My dad said that cats that are too clever will alarm some people, so some things are best kept to ourselves. There's no point of telling other people what just happened." Jiao Yuan remarked.
"I know." Gu Youzi nodded. She never talked about the cat. She had seen a child in her class bring her Barbie doll to school every day to show off. Soon, the doll was gone.
When the girl found it again, the Barbie was trampled and thrown into the trash. It was apparently because some other girls got jealous.
The fact that the cat came to pick her up from school every day was eye-catching enough. There was no need pile on other stories.