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Episode 4: A King's Gratitude

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"What. The. Fuck."

Guo Changcheng poked his head into the locker room where Chu Shuzhi was standing stock-still in front of his locker, glaring even more than usual.

"Guo Changcheng, do you have any idea where THIS came from?" Chu Shuzhi reached into his locker and pulled out a little brown mouse, dangling it in the air by the base of its tail, right in front of Guo Changcheng's nose.

"A dead mouse?" asked Guo Changcheng, sounding intrigued rather than startled. "Do you own a cat, Chu-ge?"

"It isn't dead and I don't own a cat." Chu Shuzhi put the mouse back in his locker, this time setting it down gently on a folded towel and smoothing its fur with one finger. "Who would put an unconscious mouse in my locker?"

"W-well, let's, let's think like detectives!" Guo Changcheng burst out. Chu Shuzhi rolled his eyes. "W-who has a key to your locker other than you?"

"That's ... actually a good question," Chu Shuzhi admitted. "The Chief has a skeleton key. So does the Deputy Chief ..."

"... Da Qing!" Guo Changcheng exclaimed, just as--
"... Da Qing!" Chu Shuzhi finished.

Chu Shuzhi clenched his fists. "When I get hold of that damn cat--"

"Wait, Chu-ge," Guo Changcheng interrupted. "Cats usually leave mice and birds for people as a way to show their gratitude. Sometimes they leave them alive so the people can play with them."

Chu Shuzhi visibly relaxed. "They do?" he asked. "Wait, why would Da Qing be grateful to me?"

It was Da Qing who answered. "Don't you remember, Chu Shuzhi?" he asked, slouching into the locker room in human form. "You got me away from the face-stealers yesterday. With your strings. You even shielded me with your coat when they got blown up."

"You did," said Guo Changcheng, nodding. "I saw you, Chu-ge."

"I was just doing my job," muttered Chu Shuzhi, staring at the floor. "You don't owe me anything."

Da Qing shrugged. "Well, then, I'll take the mouse back. I might need a snack later on."

Chu Shuzhi blocked the way to his locker. "You can't have Xiao Bao. She's mine now."

Guo Changcheng looked at Da Qing. Da Qing looked at Guo Changcheng. They both looked at Chu Shuzhi.

"Whaaaat?" Da Qing managed to say.

Chu Shuzhi huffed. "She was a gift from the King of Cats. It would be rude for me to turn her down."

Da Qing preened at the use of his title. "That's fine, Puppet Master. I'm glad you like it."

Chu Shuzhi closed the locker door and snapped his fingers in front of Guo Changcheng's face. "C'mon, kid. Let's go buy a cage. And toys. And ... I don't know, whatever mice like to eat."

"I know just the place, Chu-ge!" said Guo Changcheng eagerly, his face lighting up. "Let's go!"

Da Qing shook his head as he watched them go. "The King of Cats has had many strange conversations over the years," he mused aloud. "This one definitely belongs on the list."