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Chapter 1.1 The Pretty Lady’s Bane of Our Faculty (1)

Due to Gu Pingsheng’s arrival, the Law Faculty suddenly came into the limelight.

As an academic institution known for science and engineering, the faculties of Telecommunications and Management had always been the leaders of the school, and the Faculty of Architecture and the various science faculties were also not to be taken lightly, despite their habit of remaining quiet. As for the few lonely faculties that belonged to the liberal arts category, they practically had no status in the school worth mentioning.

“ ‘Law school? This university has a law school? Isn’t it only Fudan[1] that has one?’” Shen Yao indignantly read the heading of one of the threads on the school’s BBS forum. “How dare they actually say that. They’re looking down on us!”

Her eyes had been fixed on the online discussion board the entire afternoon and even lunch had been taken care of with only some instant noodles.

Because of a single photograph of Gu Pingsheng, though, the Law Faculty finally became famous.

The weather was very hot, and Tong Yan lay sprawled on her bed.

She was biting open longan shells with her teeth, and one by one, she ate the fruit while occasionally lifting aside the muslin bed curtain to toss the shells under the bed.

“We’re normally so low-key, but this week, we’re practically catching up to Super Girl[2] in popularity. It’s all Gu Ping–– “ Midway through, she realized she was actually addressing him directly by his name and immediately caught herself. “… Teacher Gu’s fault.”

Shen Yao cackled with a “hehe” and corrected her, “The thing is, we’ve successfully trampled the Faculty of Architecture and now have the most beautiful teacher in the entire school.”

Tong Yan nearly swallowed her longan seed.

Gu Pingsheng’s face was relatively fairer in complexion and more slender, and relatively sharper and more defined, and every so often, his attire would be rather attractive and pleasing. But to use the description, “most beautiful” on a teacher of the Law Faculty was just… However, Gu Pingsheng’s ability to incite the masses was something she could not deny either.

This was apparent just by looking at this week’s three classes of International Commercial Arbitration Law. The students who sat in on the class just to listen, despite not actually taking the course, had filled the entire classroom, causing her and the class prefect, who were both late, to have no seats and only stand at the door, staring blankly.

A classroom that seated more than sixty people… And our faculty only had nineteen students in it for our year… Where did all these people come from?

It was fortunate that when Gu Pingsheng stepped in, he had quickly discovered that their territory had been completely overrun by outsiders[3] and had softly asked two girls sitting in the front row, “Could I trouble you…”

Before his question could be completed, the two girls had immediately jumped to their feet. “Teacher, it’s no problem. We’ll just stand.”

Tong Yan had been speechless. In this day and age, there were still people willing to stand to listen to a class lecture?

Luckily, he only came to the school three times a week.

In the end, to preserve the rights and interests of the students of their year, the class prefect had held a small internal meeting and established that no one should in any way divulge this semester’s class schedule or else that person would become the public enemy. They couldn’t make Teacher Gu sacrifice himself and his good looks every time to help them, right?

Tong Yan finished eating her longan fruit and then climbed down the bunk bed ladder to discover that Shen Yao had seated herself back in front of the computer.

The subject headings for every post on the entire screen were flashing with the words, “Law Faculty.”

“Risking My Life to Leak Law Faculty’s Timetable,” “Discuss the Abrupt Rise of the Law Faculty and its Journey to its Current Celebrity Period.” “Open Letter to the Leaders of Our School re: Waste of Educational Resources in Law Faculty,” “May I Ask Which One of You has Friends in the Law Faculty?”……

Shen Yao clicked the mouse and opened up a post with the subject line, “Strongly Against Teacher/Student Romances. Bring Back Our Pure, Clean Campus!’

“Wasn’t it, last year at the Faculty of Architecture’s graduation ceremony, there was a teacher-student couple that got married on that day? How come no one’s ever mentioned them? God’s finally blessed us for once, and we’ve suddenly stepped on everyone else’s toes.”

Tong Yan could not be bothered to pay attention to her, and alone, she left and went outside to attend her elective course. Because it was Friday and many people had selected their courses to avoid falling on this day of the week so that they could return home, there were not many students on the university campus. She walked along the pathway and was right in the middle of letting her mind go blank and feeling utterly fatigued, when someone unexpectedly called her name.

In that moment when she turned around, she was taken aback.


Facing the sunlight, she looked over to see Gu Pingsheng, who was extremely popular in the school by now, poking his head out from a Range Rover.

Because he was framed by a background of sunlight, she could not see his expression clearly and could only sense that his eyes were on her. For reasons unknown, she remembered that night when he had sat quietly on the ground outside of the emergency room. The occasional nurse walking by had not dared to look at him.

Tong Yan walked up beside the vehicle, making an effort to slow her speech. “Teacher Gu, why are you here today?”

Gu Pingsheng watched her amusedly. “You don’t need to speak so slowly. It makes me feel like I’m watching a movie played in slow motion. Where are you going?”

His voice had much texture to it, but unfortunately, he could not hear himself speak.

The tone in which he spoke was like a very close friend and not like a teacher.

Smiling rather awkwardly, Tong Yan answered, “The library.”

She had thought she was just exchanging small talk with him and did not expect that she would end up sitting in Gu Pingsheng’s vehicle. He had said he would drive her there, but in reality, it was merely a three to four minute car ride. Still, she could not refrain from sneaking glances at him a couple of times. To be truthful, from the time they had met each other again, she had not dared look directly at him.

When it was time to get off the vehicle, he also stepped out. In this place where there was always a relatively large number of people coming and going, Tong Yan was still rather nervous about walking together with him. However, it would be inappropriate for her to say anything, and so, she could only cautiously probe, “Teacher, you’re here to borrow books, too?”

He locked his vehicle before turning to her and asking in return, “You don’t know about today’s special lecture?”

Tong Yan searched hard through her memory and seemed to remember that a certain well-known figure in international trade laws had been invited to the school. It seemed her class prefect had mentioned it to them on Wednesday. Now, she glanced over Gu Pingsheng’s appearance — a black suit and tie, a calm expression in his eyes, a smile that seemed imperturbable. Besides his small action of hooking his keys around his finger, he did indeed look much more stern and authoritarian than normal…

“Don’t tell me you’re the speaker?” She blurted out the question.

“It’s my friend,” he answered with a slight chuckle. “I’m here to check over the lecture hall. Have you eaten yet?”


“It’s past six o’clock now.” He contemplated briefly and then suggested, “The lecture begins at seven. Time is a little tight. I’ll go buy some sandwiches and drinks and we’ll…” He took a glance at the lake called “Remembrance of Roots[4]”, which was in front of the library. “Let’s eat beside the lake.”

She had actually never intended on attending this lecture.

Unconsciously, her eyes flitted away. “I really want to go but I have a computers class this evening…”

“Would you be able to look at me when you speak?”

Her cheeks grew hot and immediately, she turned back to meet his gaze.

Smiling slightly, he explained, “I didn’t get a clear look at what you said just now.”

With his gaze on her, she did not dare say any of the fibs she had had prepared and could only reply, “I was saying, I need to go to the fifth floor to borrow some books. You might need to wait for me for a little bit.”

Because of Gu Pingsheng’s warmness and enthusiasm, she had no choice but to attend this unforeseen lecture.

Sitting down by the lake, the two of them hastily ate their dinner. As she took the first bite out of her sandwich, she glanced over at Gu Pingsheng, who was browsing through some papers. At the same time, he started putting away his materials and turned to look at her.

Tong Yan immediately adjusted her facial expression, and with a sincere and respectful look in her eyes, she waited for her teacher’s instructings.

“Your mother is well? How is her health?” He unwrapped his sandwich and took a bite.

“Very well.” She thought for a moment and then asked him a similar question. “Your mother…”

“She passed away.”

She offered her apology. After she had finished her entire sandwich and was starting to take sips of her coffee, she finally asked the question that had been on her mind. “Teacher Gu, I remember you used to be a doctor.” And moreover, a cardiac surgeon at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital.

When she said this, two girls walked by in front of them, casting curious and envious glances.

Tong Yan was slightly embarrassed. Earlier, when Gu Pingsheng had made the suggestion, she had wanted to say that Remembrance of Roots Lake was known in the school to be “a lake for dates,” especially on nights like this one, where a gentle breeze was blowing. Every bench was occupied by snuggling couples…… She had already deliberately placed the books she had just borrowed between the two of them, but Gu Pingsheng was just too striking. All those stares of jealousy and envy were impossible to avoid, even if she tried.

“Technically, I couldn’t be considered a doctor. Back then, I was just doing an internship at the hospital my mother worked at,” he told her. “Later, because I could not hear, I could not work at an operating table anymore and so I switched to study law.”

“You were able to get your PhD so quickly?”

“I took my undergraduate studies in the U.S. Both law school and medical school require that you have an undergraduate degree before you are eligible to apply.” He smiled, ate the last bite of his sandwich, and then pulled out a package of moist towelettes, holding it up first to her. “At the time, I had completed two years of medical school and had not graduated yet when a mishap occurred. One of my [female, elder] cousins introduced me directly to her advising professor, and so I went to the U.K. to study law. So in fact, I actually did not waste too much time.”

She understood now. Pulling out a towelette from the package, she asked, “But, why did you come back to China? Wouldn’t it be good to stay at the college you graduated from?”

Gu Pingsheng also yanked out a towelette, and after wiping down his hands, he picked up his paper cup and took a drink of his coffee. “After I graduated last year, I came back to China for vacation, and one time during a dinner, I met the dean of your Law Faculty. He invited me to teach for one semester as a trial. I have a friend here in this university, and she also convinced me to come here. And so, I decided to give it a try to see if I could be a teacher.” He thought for a moment, then added, “I only signed on for one semester.”

“Just one semester?”

He nodded. “I may not even get used to being called ‘Teacher’ before I’ve left.”

Tong Yan gave an “oh” in response and then turned her head away, continuing to sip at the coffee inside the paper cup. She had never before had to casually converse under someone’s constant gaze, and even when they stepped into the library building together, she still was not yet accustomed to it.

Generally, guest lectures were not scheduled on Fridays because most students would have gone home and attendance would be poor.

However, when Tong Yan stepped into the large lecture hall, she gaped in astonishment. This lecture hall that seated five hundred was packed, with not a single empty seat, and even the aisles were filled with standing people… She reckoned, aside from the presentations held for fourth year students to aid them in finding jobs, this had never before been seen.

Luckily, Shen Yao had saved a seat for her ahead of time.

The entire evening, Gu Pingsheng took on the role of facilitator for the lecture.

This American friend also had celebrity status and he spoke fluent Chinese. He was lecturing away on trade laws when he veered off to talk about how, when he was in the Middle East, he had passed through gunfire and even personally rescued a girl. As they listened to his descriptions, the entire hall of people would again and again let out anxious cries. Occasionally, Gu Pingsheng would throw in a couple of sentences, and though his words were few, his comments were even more vivid and exciting than if he had personally experienced all this.

Later, when the banter between the two of them became too animated, the American started to tell amusing personal stories of Gu Pingsheng. “Back in King’s, your Teacher Gu was definitely a “pretty lady’s bane[5].’”

The large, five hundred-person lecture hall instantly grew quiet… This American did not simply have “good Chinese,” he had mastered it to the point of perfection.

Gu Pingsheng shook his head and did not speak, merely smiling. When his American friend wanted to say more, though, he finally switched his microphone to his other hand and interrupted duly, “It is now time for questions, so do the students have any questions?”

A single sentence successfully caused the hall to liven up again.

Beside them, a Korean exchange student did not understand the meaning behind “pretty lady’s bane” but was truly curious. “The thing that American guy just said, what does it mean?”

Grinning, Shen Yao explained, “Beauty that causes ‘the moon to hide, the flowers to hang in shame, the fish to sink, and the wild geese to alight.[6]’ You understand that?”

The Korean student prided himself on having passed the Chinese language assessment examination and replied very seriously, “It means a woman so beautiful that she causes the fish and the wild geese to become so dazed that they forget how to swim and fly.”

Hearing this, Tong Yan wanted to giggle. The meaning was correct, but why did it sound so weird?

“That definition is about right. What that person is saying is, Teacher Gu is so gorgeous that even the pretty ladies are put to such shame they want to die.”

Not surprisingly, that night on the school’s BBS, the string of post headings that were lined up and down the screen had all become “Pretty Lady’s Bane.”

[1] 复旦. Fudan University is located in Shanghai (which is also the location of Tong Yan’s university) and is a highly prestigious institution.

[2] 超女 “chao nv.” Short for 超级女声, which has the English title “Super Girl.” It was a television series that aired between 2004-2006 in the form of a female singing contest and was very popular during its airing.

[3] 鹊巢鸠占 “que chao jiu zhan.” An idiom that literally translates as “the magpies’ nest has been invaded by turtledoves” and is used to describe a situation where one’s territory has been usurped by someone else.

[4] 思源 “si yuan.” Literally, “remember the origin/source.” There is an idiom 饮水思源 that means, “when drinking water, remember the source from which it comes,” which is an analogy to remind people not to forget their roots.

[5] 美人煞 “mei ren sha.” 美人 “mei ren” means “beautiful woman/maiden” while 煞 “sha” means “an evil, deadly demon or spirit.” So, it means a very “beautiful” person whose beauty is so deadly he could either steal all the ladies’ hearts or put them to shame for not being as “beautiful” as him. I’ll translate this title of Gu Pingsheng as “Pretty Lady’s Bane” (as opposed to something like “Beautiful Woman’s Bane”) to keep with the joking tone.

[6] 闭月羞花,沉鱼落雁 “bi yue xiu hua, chen yu luo yan.” A saying referring to the “Four Great Beauties” of ancient China. Diao Chan was said to have been so beautiful even the moon would hide shyly when compared to her. Consort Yang (Yang Guifei) of the Tang dynasty was said to have shamed even flowers with her beauty. It was said that fish that saw Xi Shi’s lovely reflection in the water were so beguiled they forgot to swim and sank down in the water. And one day, as Wang Zhaojun played a tune, her music captivated the wild geese and when they saw her beauty, they forgot to continue flying and dropped to the ground.

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