Winter was coming to Chuhua.
It was still early. Third period had just ended and Zheng Tan wasn't due home for lunch until the fourth period.
If he went home early, he would just end up wasting time waiting around for food to be cooked.
As usual, he decided to go to the lake.
It seemed like calm, obedient animals had the ability to make people lower their guards, which was why people often vented to their pets. That Zhuo talked to Zheng Tan sometimes.
She never mentioned "Project A" though. She mostly said pointless things like "you came again" or "are you hungry?".
Once in a while, Zhuo would talk about stuff related to her field like Papa Jiao. One time, she was reading something, when she suddenly got excited and tore a corner from her notebook.
She then tore the corner into even smaller pieces. She closed her notebook with the torn paper still inside, then took out a pen with a rubber cap and rubbed it against Zheng Tan.
She put the pen close to the pieces of paper in her notebook and was able to attract paper scraps.
Zhuo showed the pen, now covered in paper scraps, to Zheng Tan with a wide smile: "Look, this is called the static electricity for friction! So what caused it? Let me tell you.
Everything in our world is made up of atoms. The atom, on the other hand, is made up of positively charged protons and neutrons... "
Zheng Tan almost wanted to choke when he heard "Look, this is called static electricity from friction". Then he heard "Let me tell you". He wanted to cry.
Why did he always run into people like this!
Zheng Tan stayed on the bench next to the lake until end of fourth period, when he got up to go pick up the kids.
However, Zheng Tan didn't see the two little figures come out of the school.
Lan Tianzhu and his bunch saw the black cat sitting on the wall, so they called out: "Charcoal, Jiao Yuan left already. Auntie Ling came and got him after first period."
Auntie Ling was Tiger's owner, but also Mama Jiao's colleague.
He was soon informed by a girl that Auntie Ling picked Gu Youzi up from class as well.
Zheng Tan started to worry. Something must have happened or else the kids would not be taken out of school early.
He ran back to the Eastern quarters, brushed his security access card and hurriedly climbed up to the fifth floor. He meowed loudly at the door for a long time, but no one answered.
So he went back down and fetched the key he hid in the tree.
The house was quiet, very quiet, just like how he left it in the morning. Usually, by this time, it would be full of hustle and bustle and the aroma of food.
Today was different. Zheng Tan searched every room, not even the kids' backpacks were here. That meant they never came home after they left school.
There was no notebook spread open on the desk or notes stuck in the corridor. No tips and memos left around the house.
Zheng Tan was at a loss. He started walking in circles out of frustration.
Although this family was not related to him by blood and he probably wouldn't even meet them if not for this whole turn-into-a-cat fiasco,
but Mama Jiao had found him inside a dumpster at the farmer's' market and brought him home. The Jiao family, all four of them, treated him really well.
And after five months, Zheng Tan had developed a sense of belonging he did not want to admit.
When he was human, he had properties in several locations, but none of them made him feel the way he felt now. He couldn't quite describe this feeling.
It was as if whenever he was upset or angry, all he needed to do was come through the front doors, and he would feel alright again.
Just when he was starting to feel dizzy from circling too much, Zheng Tan suddenly remembered something. He ran back into the bedroom and hopped next to the phone on the table.
He pressed the speaker button before dialing Papa Jiao's cell phone.
It rang several times before he picked up.
Papa Jiao's voice sounded hoarse. Zheng Tan could feel he was suppressing his emotions. This made him even more upset. He let out a howl.
On the other end of the line, Papa Jiao was momentarily speechless. Only his family's cat made noises like that.
He did not expect to receive a phone call from his landline at home. When he saw the caller ID, he had no idea it was his cat.
His cat wasn't like any other house cat, but he didn't expect it to call.
Not getting a response, Zheng Tan howled again.
This time, Papa Jiao answered.
"I am at the hospital; I have the kids here with me. Ronghan got into an accident. Be a good boy and stay home for now. There are snacks in the fridge..."
"Ah Woo- Ah Woo-" Zheng Tan continued to howl.
Ronghan was Mama Jiao's name. Her full name was Gu Ronghan. Hearing she got into an accident, he couldn't just remain calm and stay put.
He wanted to ask where the hospital was, but of course he couldn't. Frustrated, he just kept howling.
He was so irritable that when he saw a stack of books nearby, he lifted his paw right away and smacked it off the table.
Hearing the sound of books falling to the ground, Papa Jiao was silent for a second, "I'll get Yi Xin to bring you some food?"
"Ah woo -"
Zheng Tan looked around. There was a cup they got from their milk supplier sitting next to the keyboard.
He wagged his tail and off the table it went.
Papa Jiao heard the sound of glass breaking through the phone; he was silent for a bit longer this time.
"I will get Yi Xin to bring you over; wait at home. Stop breaking things. "
Zheng Tan howled his agreement :"Aoo."