Chapter 8: Behave When Home Alone
Because of the incident with the stranger, Yellowy and Detective contentedly stayed home for a few days, and Chubs reverted to his old routine of not going out unless called upon. As for Zheng Tan, he accepted Xiao Guo’s offer to act in the cat food commercial, so Papa and Mama Jiao brought him to “Just Like This” pet center for two days of filming.
The first commercial wasn’t the video commercial that Zheng Tan expected, but consisted of the old style of storyboard photos.
Before, Zheng Tan had always overlooked one thing. In this time period, the development of online videos hadn’t reached the popularity it would have ten years later. On top of that, many people weren’t optimistic about its growth. Some speculated that its future prospects didn’t look good, while others even believed it to be hopeless.
However, Xiao Guo didn’t think that way, saying, “The charm of the Internet comes from its ability to change something rotten into something magical, thanks to the innovations of technology,” as he discussed the business contract with Papa Jiao. Those words had made Zheng Tan see him in a better light. Furthermore, since he was experienced with it, Zheng Tan could attest better than anyone how successful the Internet would become ten years later.
Compared to other businesses that only produced a single photo for an advertisement, Xiao Guo felt that making the advertisement in the form of a picture story would have increased appeal. Even if families didn’t have their own pets, they would still enjoy reading it; if nothing else, it would increase the reputation of their brand.
With Zheng Tan present, shooting a picture story like this didn’t require much effort. They didn’t even need to use any cat food, which made Xiao Guo blissfully happy. Not only was getting a cat to make the ideal expression very difficult, but the limitations of the era also kept the business from spending too much time on perfecting this kind of advertisement.
Xiao Guo planned to post this picture story advertisement on an online pet forum, while also printing a hardcopy version in a magazine. The other reason why Xiao Guo was in such a rush to get Zheng Tan to come for the advertisement photoshoot was that not long ago, a friend of Xiao Guo’s had recently established a monthly published pet-related magazine. As a result, Xiao Guo had enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon.
Actually, before Zheng Tan came to the pet center, Xiao Guo had tried using some other cats. Some were even rare breeds, but the process and results of the photoshoot were… so exasperating that it gave him a stomachache.
However, after Zheng Tan came, all of the photoshoots went very smoothly. Each movement and every expression did not require much fussing, so Xiao Guo’s stomach stopped aching, and cat food was saved. As a result, he had hurriedly gotten Papa Jiao to sign the contract.
Since《Loving Pets》was a monthly magazine, Zheng Tan only needed to come in once a month for photos. To Zheng Tan, this wasn’t particularly troublesome. Consequently, despite the fact that it netted them a little extra cash, Zheng Tan maintained a playful attitude about the whole thing. The funniest part was that in the credits at the end of the picture story, a line was written in small font: “Actor: blackC.”
Including the pet’s name was the usual practice by Xiao Guo’s company, but “blackC,” in particular, was Papa Jiao’s idea as a form of protection for Zheng Tan by not directly putting his real cat name.
As for “blackC,” when Xiao Guo asked for the reason behind the name, Papa Jiao explained that “black” was black, and the “C” on the periodic table was carbon, so…
Because it was the first time they had made a cat food advertisement, Xiao Guo paid them ten thousand yuan. Although Mama Jiao said it was much more than she expected, to the former Zheng Tan, ten thousand yuan wasn’t all that much. However, at the present time, it was a huge sum that was rarely seen.
Additionally, Papa Jiao created a separate bank card for Zheng Tan, specifically to deposit Zheng Tan’s advertisement wages. It wasn’t just Zheng Tan, though. He also registered bank cards under both Jiao Yuan and Gu You Zi’s names, in order to deposit their New Year’s money and rewards for doing well on tests. They were also allowed to draw their allowances from their accounts, but Papa Jiao kept their cards to prevent them from abusing it for now. This was Papa Jiao’s unique style of teaching.
Even so, Zheng Tan always had trouble understanding why Papa Jiao would use the same methods he used to teach his children for a cat.
Even though there were times that Zheng Tan couldn’t understand what Associate Professor Jiao was thinking, they had been together for three months by now. Because of this time, Zheng Tan had already obtained a certain level of understanding towards Papa Jiao. At the very least, he could confirm that Papa Jiao would not cheat him, but he wasn’t sure if all people who did scientific research were able to accept such extraordinarily abnormal situations so easily.
If people outside knew about the method of communication used between Professor Jiao and the family cat, who knows how many eyeballs would pop out. Even Mama Jiao, Jiao Yuan, and Gu You Zi didn’t know that Zheng Tan and Papa Jiao interacted with each other like this.
After the commercial was finished, Zheng Tan no longer had anything else to do. Unable to stay idle after staying at home for two days, he ran outside to go for a stroll. This time, he didn’t encounter anyone suspicious. Going to the side of the large lawn, he looked around. Although he didn’t see the person from last time, he did see a guinea pig. A girl about the age of Gu You Zi and the girl’s mother were watching the furball of a guinea pig as it ran on the grass. Zheng Tan decided to stay far away from this mother and daughter couple in order to avoid provoking the person from last time.
That day, as Zheng Tan was returning from a walk outside, he detected a stranger’s scent before he entered the door.
The atmosphere in the living room wasn’t too good. It was eerily silent, and even though Mama Jiao was cooking in the kitchen, she was a bit absent-minded. Papa Jiao and that person were smoking silently as they sat on the couch.
The guest appeared to be about the same age as Papa Jiao, and he did not seem to be mentally stable. His face seemed full of depression, and his eyes were bloodshot, as if he had stayed up late on many nights. Papa Jiao called him “Yuan Zi,” and it was clear that they were on good terms. But when it came to why these two were abnormally solemn, Zheng Tan really did not know.
There was a small table placed in Jiao Yuan’s room. Whenever there was a guest over and it was inconvenient for two little children to be present, Mama Jiao would take out that Chinese chess patterned table to let Jiao Yuan and Gu You Zi eat in the small room. Some adult topics simply weren’t suited for children’s ears.
So, seeing this, Zheng Tan was even more curious. What topic was serious enough that they did not want the children present?
Zheng Tan leaped onto his dedicated chair and lied down to rest, as he paid attention to the situation.
Seeing movement, Papa Jiao lifted his head and glanced at him, but didn’t say anything in a way that could be considered tacit approval.
After three cups of wine, their tight lips opened up despite the earlier silence.
While the two men conversed with runny noses and tears, Zheng Tan was able to roughly grasp the situation.
Papa Jiao’s advisor during his graduate student days, Professor Yuan, was also this “Yuan Zi’s” father. Professor Yuan had fourth stage lung cancer, and his current health condition wasn’t very good. It was estimated that he only had two months left to live.
After Papa Jiao graduated from the University of South China, Professor Yuan had left the country. As a result, Papa Jiao also didn’t stay at the University of South China. Instead, he returned to his home province of Jing Han, to teach at Chu Hua.
The University of South China was the top school in the southern coastal region of China, holding the same status as Chu Hua University did in Central China.
Mama Jiao, Papa Jiao, and Yuan Zi’s relationship back when they were in university had been pretty good; so naturally, their relationship with Professor Yuan had been equally good. Both had difficulty bearing the news about Old Yuan.
Yuan Zi didn’t carry on his father’s legacy, and he had no intentions of doing research. In other words, he had never put in his full effort during university. In a way, he was similar to the previous Zheng Tan: a wastrel.
Zheng Tan didn’t know what this “Yuan Zi” had experienced after graduating, or even how big a blow he had suffered due to his father’s illness. Based on their conversation, this Yuan Zi seemed to have changed a lot. It was similar to what Papa Jiao had just said, “the return of a prodigal son.”
There is a saying that a prodigal son’s return home is worth more than gold. However, most of the time, a wastrel would rather stay as a wastrel forever because the price to turn away from being a wastrel would be enormous. He’d rather never return than pay that “price”.
“So, if it weren’t for Fei Hang notifying me about you coming to Chu Hua City, would you have continued to carry this burden all by yourself? Prepared to conceal this from everyone for the rest of your life?!” Papa Jiao’s eyes were red and, while his voice wasn’t loud, it trembled. Clearly, he had reached the point where he could no longer control his emotions.
Mama Jiao sat alone to the side, wiping her tears away, and not saying a word.
“The old man… he doesn’t want to let too many people know. Right now, he’s no longer continuing his various treatments and just wants to pass away peacefully at home.” Yuan Zi sniffled as he spoke.
Before, Papa Jiao had been Professor Yuan’s trump card. Back in those days, at the University of South China, who in the life sciences department didn’t envy Professor Yuan for having such a student? It could be said that Professor Yuan treated Papa Jiao like his own son, considering his own son’s lack of accomplishments. Papa Jiao’s present success had been brought about by Professor Yuan. Ever since Professor Yuan went overseas, both sides only communicated by email or chatting software once in awhile. However, it wasn’t very frequent, since Old Yuan always seemed to be extremely busy. Last week, Papa Jiao received an email from him, saying he wouldn’t have access to a computer for a long period. Looking at it now, he really must not have planned on telling others.
After remaining silent for a while, Papa Jiao finally calmed down, asking, “Why did you come to Chu Hua City this time? Fei Hang mentioned that you came for an inspection. What are you inspecting? If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Yuan Zi rubbed his face with his palm and said, “I’m preparing to start a biotech company. It’s not something on a small scale.”
Papa Jiao nodded. “Chu Hua City isn’t a bad choice at all. The south coast has too many new companies. One after the other, domestic and international parties have abruptly established companies there. Ming Zhu City in eastern China already has Southern Genomics Inc, and the capital has Chinese Genomics Institute. Although it is true that the various top bases have already become stakeholders, it’s not impossible to get involved. However, it would be very difficult. Comparatively, the competition in central China is much less, and the rate of development is also fast. I can even offer some help in this area. “
Zheng Tan didn’t really understand the discussion between Papa Jiao and Yuan Zi, whether it was the topic they were discussing, or what the company was for. After listening for awhile, he finally just got up and went to Jiao Yuan’s room.
A few days later, Papa Jiao called Zheng Tan to the study, informing him that the Jiao family would be going on a trip to Northeast China.
Professor Yuan’s hometown was in the Northeast. After something like this happened, Zheng Tan understood the reasoning behind Papa Jiao’s decision, but… Wouldn’t this mean that he would be staying home alone?!
Papa Jiao asked Zheng Tan for his opinion. If Zheng Tan wanted to come along, then Papa Jiao would rent a car, and they would drive there because it would be more convenient that way.
Zheng Tan thought for a bit, then shook his head. If they were going to the southern side, he would definitely have chosen to go with them, as he wanted to know if his other self still existed. But, since they were going to the north this time, it was better to pass on it for now.
As Zheng Tan didn’t want to be sent off to the pet center or stay at someone’s place, Papa Jiao simply left a key for Zheng Tan.
After repeatedly warning Zheng Tan, the family left. In short, what they said was: “When home alone, you need to behave and don’t open the door to strangers.”
Zheng Tan: “…” They’re really treating me like a child, aren’t they?
Jiao Yuan and Gu You Zi only left reluctantly. They even took out their own snacks and placed them on the sofa because they were afraid that their cat would go hungry.
After the family of four left, Zheng Tan looked at the sparsely empty house and felt that this old place had suddenly become a lot bigger.
How friggin’ boring. ~
In the living room, Zheng Tan rolled from one side of the sofa to the other. After rolling back, he lay upside down on the edge and examined the horizon.
Finally, Zheng Tan’s line of sight fell onto the calendar in the living room. Papa Jiao said that they would be gone for a week. Since today was Wednesday, he still needed to wait until next Wednesday…
Zheng Tan got up with a flip.
Dong Yuan Supermarket received new stock every Wednesday. The delivery truck would arrive at four or five o’clock in the afternoon and leave around six or seven in the evening.
Right now, it was half past four in the afternoon.
Zheng Tan hung the key that Papa Jiao left for him around his neck and went out the door.
As a result, not even three hours after being told repeatedly to “be good and stay at home”, Zheng Tan decided to go take a long trip as well.
黑碳: Hēi tàn, Black Carbon, the Chinese name given to Zheng Tan. We have used “Ash” instead in translations. “Coal” can also be used.
Idiom based on the Christian parable “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”.
The “prodigal” part is misleading because the son really isn’t a prodigy.
In the parable, the delinquent son leaves home and wastes all his money. He ends up suffering a lot because he ends up broke and miserable and seriously regrets everything (the “price” of the trials). Then he goes home as a changed man and his father welcomes him back warmly and sacrifices the best calf in celebration.