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Episode 3: Operation Campus Cat, A Covert Investigation By Chief Infiltrator Da Qing

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Da Qing padded on silent feet through the halls of Dragon City university. Lessons were long since over, but here and there light still shone under the doors of various offices. In one classroom Da Qing passed by, a TA was going over the correct answers of the last multiple-choice quiz and explaining to the students who had guessed differently where they went wrong. Da Qing lingered long enough to verify they weren’t talking about biology or engineering before moving on.

A quick scuttle-by Professor Shen’s office proved the professor was still working, the lights shining through the half-closed shutters. Da Qing hid behind a potted plant sitting innocuously in the middle of the hallway and pretended to clean his fur, ears perked in the direction of the office. With his superior hearing, he could make out the occasional shuffling of papers and the scratch of a fountain pen. No voices were to be heard, no mysterious sounds hinting at the secrets the professor was clearly keeping.

Tail lashing in frustration, Da Qing took a moment to wash a particularly itchy spot in the back, the repetitive motion calming him down.

He couldn’t believe lao-Zhao had agreed to go on a date with the man! After Da Qing had expressly warned him! Professor Shen was clearly suspicious, and his interest in lao-Zhao waved all sorts of red flags. Not that lao-Zhao was blind to the signs, no, they just made him even more curious. His lack of self-preservation instincts were definitely not Da Qing’s fault, he had tried teaching the boy! But lao-Zhao was stubborn and thick-headed, the lessons just wouldn’t stick.

Clearly, the allure of this Professor Shen was too strong. Perhaps that was his Dixingren power?

Da Qing narrowed his eyes at the door to the offending person’s office. It didn’t seem like Professor Shen was inclined to leave any time soon or offer him any other opportunity to snoop around. Office hours were obviously over, too, so that way was out. Sniffing, Da Qing stuck his tail up high and trotted out of the hallway.

Surely, there must be someone on the administrative staff who would be open to letting him read their sensitive documents. After all, who could say no to his cute face?

Proving he was a lucky cat, a young woman stepped out of the chancellor's office just as he turned the corner.

"Oh!" she exclaimed before crouching down, holding out her fingers for him to sniff. Da Qing deigned to smell them and, keeping his goal firmly in mind, rubbed his cheek against her hand with a cute, little 'mrrrp'.

"Are you lost, kitty?" the girl asked, scritching behind Da Qing's ears and under his jawline. Da Qing closed his eyes, enjoying the attention and forgetting for the moment why he'd come here in the first place. "You must be looking for the entrance, huh? C'mon, I'll help you outside."

Before Da Qing could protest, the girl heaved him up off the floor. With her tiny statue, Da Qing's mighty cat form filled out her arms easily. Then she carried him away from the offices, towards the exit.

Da Qing took a moment to examine the situation he was in. He could struggle his way out easily – he wasn't the king of cats for nothing! But that would take effort, plus the time to find a new benefactor to carry him inside where the files were. Who knew if there was anyone more talented at catching the itch at the back of his neck as this amazing student? No, surely fate was offering him a hint to stay and endure more petting by this girl.

Satisfied with his reasoning, Da Qing settled into the arms and purred to his heart's content.

They entered the courtyard and headed for the park attached to the university. It was mostly dark out by now, the sort of dim evening where the sky was still red but the sun no longer visible. A gasp had Da Qing's ears twitch.

"Jiajia!" The name was whisper-shouted, a crowd of students descending on the young woman Da Qing had chosen to carry him. "Ohhh, look at that fat kitty! Where did you find it?"

"It's so round and adorable," another girl gushed, wiggling her fingers in Da Qing's face. He considered her, then rubbed his cheek along her finger until the tip landed behind his ear. The student made a tiny little squeaking noise full of glee, fingers moving to scratch at the base of his ear and down his neck, now that she had gained Da Qing’s permission.

Clearly, these students knew how to treat a kind with proper respect.

“It’s so fat,” one student marveled, the other students murmuring in agreement and approval.

“I found it inside,” the young woman holding him—Jiajia—explained, continuing her masterful petting, much to Da Qing’s approval. “I think it might’ve gotten lost. I haven’t seen it around before.”

“Me neither, I would’ve remembered such a well-fed cat,” another student agreed. "I mean, look at its cute, squishy face!"

Da Qing preened, stretching out to give them more room for pets. Surely, indulging his adoring fans with his presence for a while longer would only serve to establish his cover. The better the students knew him, the less suspicious he would seem, strolling around campus.

Decision made and justified, Da Qing offered them a pitiful meow and settled down to enjoy the scritches.