Han Wenqing expected a lot of things out of his third year in college. Classes. Preparations for senior year. DMing in the Club of Tabletop Roleplaying Glory (No, he didn’t make up the name. They all call it the Glory club for convenience's sake). Three roommates.
Most things he expected. Some things caught him off-guard, but he’ll survive.
The year before, Tao Xuan kicked Ye Xiu out of the Glory club for some reason, and now Han Wenqing is lacking a traditional rival-slash-close friend. He still sees the guy around on campus, but because of their different majors, they don’t interact very often.
And of the three roommates, two and a half arrived. Lin Jignyan and Zhang Jiale already unpacked, and established themselves as members of the dorm room. He considers half of Zhang Xinjie to have arrived, because his things are here and impeccable, but it's been, what, four hours since the other two roommates have come and he hasn’t seen a hair of him?
None of the three roommates saw a sign of Xinjie. Eventually, Zhang Jiale went to go visit his boyfriend at the hospital, and Lin Jingyan was called over to mediate between Fang Rui (King of Dirty, widely considered the worst player to DM for. Strange affinity for water) and whatever new campaign group whose players he managed to piss off.
Han Wenqing stayed in his room, because he didn’t have any outside obligations at the moment. Still no Zhang Xinjie.
He was simply doing a little research for a possible campaign when he heard an incessant tapping. Too light and high-pitched to be the knocking of knuckles against wood; more like if a bird was pecking the door?
Low chance of it happening, if ever. The dorm didn’t allow animals, and it wasn’t like the hallways had any windows facing outside.
The tapping didn’t stop, and Han Wenqing got the growing feeling that who or whatever’s at the other side of the door was becoming very annoyed. He stood up, his spine cracking as he stretched his back, and opened the door.
He looked both directions, leaning out the doorway to check if perhaps the visitor had run off. Doesn’t seem like it. He looked downwards to find a rooster standing by his feet.
The rooster stared back at him, with eyes that seemed too intellectually inconvenienced to belong to a bird. Or maybe that’s normal for chickens; Han Wenqing grew up in the city, it wasn’t like he’d know.
He almost expected the rooster to lose interest and run off, but it continued to look at him. Perhaps Zhang Xinjie kept pet birds? Still, pets weren’t allowed in the dorm building. Maybe he was trying to sneak them in and got caught, and now he was having a serious talk with the hall monitor while his rooster ran feral. Feral didn’t seem like the right word to describe the bird, though. It seemed very well-mannered.
Well, even if it turned out Zhang Xinjie didn’t keep chickens, they could just eat it or something. He stepped aside, allowing the bird to come in. It made a beeline for Zhang Xinjie’s desk, hopping up with more precision and purpose than one would expect of a rooster.
Was it getting weird yet? Han Wenqing didn’t want to jump to that conclusion. Stranger things probably happened in the rooms that housed people (and creatures) who practiced magic. He didn’t like to gossip, but there probably was a reason why Ye Xiu called Wang Jiexi “Sans”. Even more puzzling were the rumors surrounding Ji Leng’s “disappearance”, but he liked to think his old roommate just transferred schools and didn’t bother to tell anyone.
Meanwhile, the rooster tore through Zhang Xinjie’s books, and Han Wenqing felt his heart ache a little for the man who appeared to value organization so much. The rooster was really making a mess, it ought to pray Xinjie wasn’t the type of person that would turn it into soup if he was angry.
Eventually the bird lifted its head, a pen clenched in its beak. It seemed triumphant, like it won a chicken court battle or something. It then proceeded to try and remove the cap from the pen with its beak and claws.
Out of pity, Han Wenqing uncapped the pen for it, and prayed that it wouldn’t suddenly do something extremely stupid.
The rooster attempted to write. A bold effort, very laudable, but ultimately a failure. Despite the uncanny resemblance of the marks on the paper to words, they were completely illegible, and Han Wenqing didn’t bother to try and find a meaning from it.
He was really tempted to ask his new roommates what to do. If Zhang Xinjie came back tonight, he might throw a fit over the whole situation with the bird, and there would lie the prospect of being on good terms with everybody to start the year off.
Speaking of, what did chickens even eat? He couldn’t exactly sneak the bird out every time it’s hungry, and he wasn’t entirely sure if they sold chicken feed on Jingdong. Whatever the hell is even in chicken feed, anyways? Might as well just steal a baguette from the cafeteria. The rooster is smart. It can eat mosquitoes that fly in the dorm if it needs protein.
Seeing that its effort to write failed miserably, the rooster proceeded to make bird noises at Han Wenqing. And not soft clucking sounds, which might’ve been somewhat calming, but angry screeches, as if it wanted to turn its back to hell and challenge God to a death match. It was becoming very apparent that Han Wenqing and his roommates would be stuck with this creature for a good while.
But if he was disturbed by that, he didn’t look any different from his customary resting bitch face. The walls of each dorm may be thin, but he will be inconvenienced to perish, if he must, for sake of this strange visitor.
He ignored the bird, which continued to scream, and looked through his contacts for Lin Jingyan’s number. He figured that if Jiale went to visit his boyfriend, they might want alone time or something. People like Fang Rui, on the other hand, could have their head shoved under a running faucet in order to easily resolve many of the world’s problems.
Jingyan picked up on the second ring. “ Wei ?” (1)
“It’s Han Wenqing. We sort of have a problem in the dorm, and I think you might want to see what’s going on.”
“Wait.” He heard silence from the other end, as if Lin Jingyan was trying to listen to something. “Did Ye Xiu summon a demon again? What is that noise?”
“I think Zhang Xinjie has a pet chicken. He still hasn’t appeared, but we have a bird in our dorm room and I need your opinion on how to deal with this. Oh, and it’s yelling at me, if you were wondering.”
Again, silence. Then his roommate spoke up. “I’m heading over right now. Is it okay if Fang Rui tags along?”
“If he can stay silent about the rooster for now, I guess he can.”
Han Wenqing ended the call, and returned his attention to the bird. “Please stop screaming. If someone hears, they might call the Hall Monitor, and then we’re all in trouble.”
That caused the rooster to shut up, though it still looked very pissed off.
“Xinjie is fine.” Or, at least he hoped he was. “He should come over soon.” Maybe he went out to buy chicken feed? And perhaps they didn’t sell it at the supermarkets so he had to go out to the country to buy it off a farmer?
The rooster didn’t look to have calmed down, but it hopped over to to what was probably Zhang Xinjie’s bunk and settled on the man’s pillow, as if to take a nap. Han Wenqing wondered how his absentee roommate would feel about having a permanent chicken butt-shaped indent in his pillow.
Ten minutes ticked by, the rooster sulking and Han Wenqing with his face buried in his hands. The door creaked open, Lin Jingyan peeking in with Fang Rui close behind, smelling like burnt hair. The two of them entered the dorm, closing the door behind them. Despite the burnt smell, Fang Rui’s hair was wet, as if someone dunked him in a bucket of water.
“Is that the chicken?” Fang Rui made a beeline towards one of the desk chairs, while Lin Jingyan stayed standing.
“Yeah.” Han Wenqing’s voice was slightly muffled by his hands, but it sounded a little tired. “I told it to stop screeching and it shut up.”
“It looks like it’s decided to stay here. Maybe Zhang Xinjie does keep pets.”
“But what if he doesn’t? What do we do if he has a problem with a random bird illegally hidden in the dorm? Actually,” Han Wenqing looked up at Lin Jingyan. “What if Zhang Jiale doesn’t like us keeping it here? What if you don’t?” How would they explain the rooster to classmates who might come in, and how could they protect it from somebody who required fresh chicken blood, or something?
“Well, I think it’s kind of cute. And it seems well-behaved, so as long as it doesn’t make a mess…”
The rooster made an annoyed clucking sound. Maybe it didn’t like being called cute.
Why were they doing this, again? Han Wenqing had the ominous feeling that if he tried to drive the rooster out, it would come back.
Meanwhile, the crackling sound of a plastic wrapper was coming from Fang Rui’s side of the room. With no consideration for the owner, he went through and stole a bag of shrimp chips. “Hey, wait.” His speech was a bit garbled, as he was chewing on shrimp chips as he talked. “Isn’t that a Cochin?” (2)
“You’re an agriculture major?”
Fang Rui seemed to take great offense at the question. “Who the hell would be an agriculture major? No, my parents are farmers. You only keep Cochins as a pet or if you’re going to eat them. They get really fat, they don’t like moving around. Oh, and they’re fluffy, so if you’re ever gonna eat it you also get a bunch of pretty feathers.”
“This one doesn’t look that fat to me.” Lin Jingyan stole a few shrimp chips.
“It was running around earlier.” Han Wenqing pointed towards Zhang Xinjie’s desk, still not cleaned up from the bird’s antics half an hour ago. “It did that.”
“Dunno.” Fang Rui shrugged, swatting at the thieving hand. “Maybe this one has some chicken mental disorder.
Han Wenqing frowned. “Don’t say that, you’ll hurt its feelings.”
“When did you ever start considering feelings, Old Han?” Seriously, Fang Rui was starting to doubt if DMs felt pity at all. (No they don’t. Y’all fucked)
“Um.” Lin Jingyan wheezed softly, to get their attention. “I texted Jiale about the rooster. He said he’s walking his boyfriend home, and then he’s coming over.”
“Ah?” Fang Rui licked the shrimp dust off his fingers, sitting up in curiosity. “He’s dating someone? Who is he?”
At the sound of the name, Fang Rui froze over as if remembering an embarrassing childhood memory. He fell back into the chair. “Oh.” He finished the chips, tossing them in a wastebasket. “I guess that means I gotta get out of here.”
Lin Jingyan waved at him as he opened the door and ran off. Han Wenqing wanted to ask if Fang Rui did something to Zhang Jiale’s boyfriend, but decided he probably didn’t want to know.
After half an hour or so, Zhang Jiale returned to find his roommates causing a ruckus. Han Wenqing was slumped protectively over Zhang Xinjie’s desk, Lin Jingyan with a rolled-up magazine trained defensively at the rooster standing by his feet. As for the rooster, it looked very ruffled, both physically and emotionally, and made angry clucking noises at the pair.
“... I didn’t know Xinjie would keep pets.” He shuffled awkwardly past the chaotic scene, taking a seat at the desk right across from their missing roommate’s.
“Not one like this.” Han Wenqing sounded a bit winded. Dealing with angry chickens for a few hours does that to you. “It’s like an immovable object, but we don’t have an unstoppable force anywhere to combat it.”
“What do we even call it?” Lin Jingyan wiggled the magazine in a shooing motion, which didn’t get a reaction out of the rooster.
Zhang Jiale made a little finger gun at the bird. “Roosters are male, aren't they? It’s a he.”
“We haven’t heard from Xingjie, right? It’s getting late, he might not be coming back before curfew.” (3) Lin Jingyan exhaled in relief as the chicken hopped back towards Zhang Xinjie’s bunk.
“I guess we’ll keep him here until Xinjie turns up, then.”
“We could.” Zhang Jiale appeared strangely enthusiastic about the suggestion.
Lin Jingyan broke out into a small smile. “He is cute. I won’t mind breaking the no-pets rule for this.”
Han Wenqing wanted to cry a little. “I was being sarcastic… But it wouldn’t hurt, right?” If anyone asked, say it’s a taxidermy.
“Do we name him, then?” Jingyan frisbeed the magazine towards his top bunk, and then proceeded to climb up.
“Well, you said he was like an immovable object, right? We’ll call him Immovable Rock.” Zhang Jiale stood up, bending down to pet the bird.
“He can be the Glory Club’s mascot.”
Han Wenqing felt like this probably wouldn’t go well. “I’m not buying chicken feed.”
“Just steal bread from the cafeteria!”