Chapter 12: There’s Nothing More Annoying Than Getting Fleas
After shaking the water off his body and chasing away the noisy parrot with a pebble, Zheng Tan went to the tree where he hid the keys and entry card and retrieved them. He hung them around his neck again, slid down the tree and trotted towards the Eastern Residence where the Jiao family lived.
He jumped up to swipe the entry card and ran all the way to the fifth floor.
Because this was an old building, many of the residents kept the outer security door to their apartments. The Jiao family apartment was the same, only that the lock on their metal security door was broken. But since the building security was rather good, and furthermore it was on the fifth floor, usually no one came up here. This was why they never fixed it. Having a wooden door was enough.
The security door was left wide open against the wall so it wouldn’t inconvenience anyone coming in and out. Since it was there for quite some years, the door had a lot of rust.
Zheng Tan jumped on the grated metal security door, and when he got to the spot around the lock, he tightly clung to the top and then lifted his legs to give the wall a strong push. The security grate brought Zheng Tan towards the main door, and the hinge of the rusted door gave a shrill creak.
Just as he nearly reached the lock and Zheng Tan was about to stick the key inside, the door was suddenly opened from within.
Last night, Yi Xin borrowed Associate Professor Jiao’s computer to write his thesis, and only went to sleep on the sofa when morning nearly came. He had woken up with an urge to go to the bathroom and was just about to sleepily lie back down on the sofa when he suddenly heard some noise at the door. He shot up and ran to open the door without even putting on his shoes. Boss Jiao had said before that when their family cat comes back, that security door will sound out.
Yi Xin never understood how Boss Jiao’s family cat had anything to do with the security door making noise, but when he opened the door, he understood and was struck into a daze. Right in front of him, a black cat was using its legs and furry paws to cling to the metal bars of the security door with a pair of keys in its mouth. It was approaching the door lock on his side while the hinges of security door creaked.
Zheng Tan obviously didn’t expect there would be anyone at home, but the person he saw was vaguely familiar.
Zheng Tan tried to remember who in the world this person in front of him was while Yi Xin continued to be in the state of shock. Momentarily, a man and a cat exchanged stares.
In the end, it was Zheng Tan who first recalled the identity of the person in front of him. In the past, when Jiao Yuan and the others snuck Zheng Tan to Papa Jiao’s office, Papa Jiao had once mentioned Yi Xin to him. At the time, Yi Xin was guiding an undergraduate student through an experiment and walking with several other graduate students who were carrying samples to the public laboratory. Papa Jiao had stood at the window pointing out while explaining to Zheng Tan.
Having confirmed the identity of the person in front of him, Zheng Tan no longer gave much thought to it. If he was able to get in, he must have been approved by Papa Jiao. If he was capable of receiving Papa Jiao’s approval, then he must be trustworthy.
Zheng Tan jumped off of the security door and made a beeline for the sofa.
To make it easier to sleep, Yi Xin had moved all of the snacks off the sofa and onto the adjacent chair.
Zheng Tan looked at the moved snacks and counted them. Nothing was missing. He immediately felt a bit more satisfied.
Yi Xin was still in a daze in his spot. Although he had already somewhat recovered from the scene at the entrance, he was shocked again by the incident at the chair. Yesterday on the phone with Boss Jiao, Boss Jiao had even told him not to eat the snacks on the sofa. If he wanted to eat something, he should eat the things placed on the second shelf of the refrigerator, but don’t ever touch the ones that are left on the sofa.
While he was on the phone, Yi Xin didn’t understand, but right now, he understood. Just moments ago that cat was staring at the snacks on the chair while nodding its chin. It was actually counting, wasn’t it?
Zheng Tan didn’t pay any mind to the dazed Yi Xin. He was very hungry right now so he bit off the plastic wrapper around some pudding and began to eat.
Yi Xin watched the black cat that was eating pudding as it laid on the couch. His face twitched, then he shuffled his feet to the bedroom and gave Boss Jiao a call.
Zheng Tan perked his ears up to hear what was going on with the phone call in the bedroom.
Yi Xin held the phone and said, “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” and then turned on the speakerphone. Papa Jiao’s voice came through the phone. “Ash, say something.”
Zheng Tan tilted his head back: “Mraoowww–”
Yi Xin: “…” Even its call was that unusual.
“He sounds pretty energetic,” said Papa Jiao, and then he had Yi Xin turn off the speakerphone. He still had a few more instructions for Yi Xin.
Yi Xin responded very deferentially as he held the phone, but his facial expression was very reluctant. After he hung up, he went to the kitchen to heat some water, put a white plastic tub from the shelf into the sink, and washed it.
In the past. before he started studying for his PhD, he heard some people say that when picking a PhD advisor, it was best to pick one that wasn’t planning on having any more kids and didn’t have pets, otherwise you’d need to babysit the kids and take care of the pets. At the time, he thought they were all joking. He never thought that one day, it would be him in those shoes. Although he didn’t need to babysit the kids, as for this pet…
As he adjusted the water temperature, he wondered if he’d be sent over to take care of the pets frequently in the future. When Boss Jiao gets back, he should ask for a raise!
When Zheng Tan walked into the bathroom, he looked at the water in the tub, and lifted his paws to touch the outside of the plastic tub to test the temperature. It wasn’t too hot or cold, but just right. As expected from a PhD student, his control of temperature was precise. Zheng Tan looked at the shower gel that was specifically for his use beside the plastic tub as well the towel on the stool and the blow dryer that was left aside there. He contentedly jumped into the plastic tub and splashed water onto the fur atop of his head. Then he rested his chin on the edge of the tub and closed his eyes to soak.
Yi Xin, who was standing at the door, felt as if a thousand alpacas had stampeded over and over in his brain. In the past, he had seen a relative get their hands scratched bloody while giving their cat a bath. This was his first time ever seeing a cat that would actually close its eyes and enjoy the bath.
As expected of… Boss Jiao’s cat.
When Zheng Tan felt the water temperature begin to cool down, he prepared to get up to dry himself off, but when he turned his head, he saw a small bug about the size of a sesame seed on the surface of the water. Its legs were still twitching.
Against the white backdrop of the plastic tub, the little bug was very easy to spot.
Yi Xin was calculating the time by the door, and he didn’t need a thermometer to estimate the temperature of the water in the tub. What was strange was that the cat inside hadn’t come out yet, so he craned his head in for a look. He caught sight of the black cat glaring like an angry temple god at the plastic bathtub.
What’s going on this time? Yi Xin thought back to Boss Jiao’s words, but couldn’t think of anything he missed. He still felt uneasy, so he cautiously inched his way over. Very quickly, Yi Xin’s gaze locked onto the bug that was on the water. As a master at picking bacterial colonies, there was no way a mere little bug could escape from his eyes.
Oh sh*t, a flea!
What should you do when you find a flea?
And then what?
Yi Xin couldn’t think of what to do, so he ran to the bedroom to give Boss Jiao a call. Five minutes later, Yi Xin went to the cabinet and opened the cupboard. Inside there were household chemicals and two kinds of insecticide. One was a rather famous chrysanthemum-scented anti-bug insecticide brand. The other didn’t have a name. The one Yi Xin was looking for was the nameless one. This was probably one of the insecticide prototypes that came out the research collaboration between the life sciences department and the chemistry institute. At its present stage, only insiders had the right to use it.
Yi Xin followed Boss Jiao’s instructions and sprayed it in several places in the house. Meanwhile, on Zheng Tan’s side, he bathed once again after the water was changed.
Getting fleas was the most annoying thing. The bushes in the area around the residential quad had fleas, but even though Zheng Tan had been playing there for a while, he never got any. Who knew that he’d attract a bunch this time when he went on a long trip. It must have come from the thick bushes in the suburbs.
Each time Zheng Tan found a flea in the water, he would kill it immediately with his claws. Zheng Tan showed no mercy even for those that seemed to have drowned already. Zheng Tan had Yi Xin hold the blow dryer to help dry his fur. “Ash, Boss Jiao said that the insecticide is almost used up and he wants you… to go ask for more from someone, and while you’re there get some medicine applied to yourself too.”
Yi Xin didn’t know why Boss Jiao had said this. He only told him it would be fine if he just followed the cat when the time came.
Yi Xin felt himself crying inside. Serving pets was even more tiring than writing a thesis.
After the fur on his body was nearly blown dry, Zheng Tan shook his fur, walked to the door, and looked back at Yi Xin.
Yi Xin remembered what Boss Jiao had said, and hurriedly put down the blow dryer in his hand and followed. Grabbing the keys, he opened the door.
Zheng Tan led the way in front, and Yi Xin followed from behind.
Yi Xin was full of skepticism, but since he was dealing with a cat, it would be a waste even if he tried asking something, though he felt just as bad keeping the thought to himself.
Zheng Tan went down two floors and stopped in front of a family unit on the third floor.
“Is it here? Let me ask…”
Yi Xin, who had mentally prepared himself, wasn’t even able to finish saying this before Zheng Tan jumped up and slammed the security door of this family unit as if he was spiking a volleyball.
Yi Xin’s hairs nearly stood up. Although he didn’t know just who lived here, he knew that the majority of the units in the Eastern Residential Quad were occupied by senior professors. A list of names he didn’t dare offend popped up in his mind. Right now, Yi Xin prayed with his life that the resident of this unit wasn’t any one of the people on his list.
Zheng Tan didn’t care what the frightened and on edge Yi Xin was thinking. He followed up by hitting twice again. Each one was louder than the last.
After three knocks, there was finally a response from inside.
“Coming! Coming! To knock three times, do you think I’m deaf?”
The voice was that of an old man. It seemed, somewhat familiar? Yi Xin became nervous.
The inner door opened, and the lock to the security door was also pushed open. The taut face of an old man peeked out.
Seeing this person, Yi Xin felt his heart go cold.
“Prof… P-P-Professor Lan!”
Seeing the strict face of this elderly man in front of him, Yi Xin had the urge to turn around and bolt.
But it was a pity that Zheng Tan never paid any attention to Yi Xin from the start. He lifted his paws and walked straight in. He wasn’t afraid of this old man. This old man owed him a favor.
The interior of the apartment was plainly adorned, and the floor had the signs of water damage.
Even though Zheng Tan had just taken a bath and was blown dry, the fur on his feet actually wasn’t completely dry yet, so while they were going down the stairs, it picked up a bit of dust. At present, a trail of dirty footprints was left on the floor.
“Little bástãrd! I just mopped the floor!” scolded Professor Lan.
Zheng Tan’s ears twitched, but he didn’t respond and continued to walk straight inside.
Professor Lan stared at the figure that was strutting its way inside and then at the cat paw prints on the ground. He turned his head and said to Yi Xin, “You better mop up the floor afterward!”
Yi Xin: “…”
He hated taking care of animals the most, especially cats!