Prologue (Together Forever)
“I graduated from King’s College London. I will be with you for an entire semester. You may call me ‘Teacher’ or you may also directly address me as Gu Pingsheng.” He gripped the chalk loosely and on the blackboard, wrote out his name. The morning sunlight shone in through the window and seemed to envelop that light-colored figure. “I cannot hear. If you have a question, please face me and I will watch your lips and eyes to read what you say.”
His voice had a slight mellow tone and was clear, bright, and gentle.
Everyone looked at him with sense of rue, and even their breathing fittingly became lighter.
King’s College London. One of the top three law schools in the United Kingdom.
Prior to this Teacher Gu’s arrival, all the teachers in the Law Faculty were either full suit-wearing pedants who had come back from studying at Waseda University in Japan or were American PhDs, dressed in sport coats on top but paired ridiculously with jeans and sneakers on bottom, returning from Yale or something similar.
From a London university? This was a first.
All the third year law courses had switched over to teach international law using English, and many were looking forward to having this teacher, who would be the only one who had actually returned from London. They had wondered whether he would be gentlemanly, elegant and modest, or quiet and refined. His appearance, though, was somewhat not what they had expected.
The way he held the chalk between his fingers was very attractive, like a surgeon holding his scalpel. Of course, it was one of those glamorized surgeons from a television drama. He was very young, much younger than expected. He was wearing a soft, stylish white dress shirt and trousers, and his sleeves were rolled up so that a tattoo could faintly be seen on his arm…
One who did not know better would have thought that he was a fellow older schoolmate from the Faculty of Architecture.
He seemed to perceive everyone’s sympathy but merely loosened his tie slightly.
And then… lowered his head, pulled off his tie, and undid the top button of his shirt. “This semester, I will be responsible for your course on International Commercial Arbitration Law. A very simple course. It will be taught in English. If anyone does not understand what you hear, you may raise your hand at any time and interrupt me.” There seemed to be a smile on his face, and at the same time, there seemed not to be one. It was difficult to distinguish. “Remember, you need to raise your hand. Speaking up to interrupt me will not be any use.”
Someone said in a lowered voice, “I’m willing to bet that he’s in his twenties.”
The voice was not overly quiet and every person pondered on this.
“In my class, you can whisper amongst yourselves.”
Oh god, he actually saw that.
“But, I will likely be able to see it. Can we call attendance now?”
He smiled. His eyes were very calm and focused as he looked out at everyone. This sort of gaze caused all the girls present to want to avoid it. But immediately, they remembered that he needed to be able to see their lips. Nearly every single person obediently turned to look in the direction of the podium.
When Gu Pingsheng finished saying this, he lowered his head slightly and added, “I will call out one name at a time. When you are called, you may ask me one question. Zhao Qing.”
“Teacher.” A female student in the front row rose to her feet. “What is your tattoo?”
With a slight smile, he answered, “The name of a woman.” He did not look at the list of names as he continued the roll call. “Li Dongyang.”
A male student from the back row of the classroom stood up and grinned, “Teacher, is it the name of your first girlfriend?”
He lowered his head again to read the next name. “No, it is my mother’s name.”
Silence fell everywhere. They surmised that must have touched upon a personal, off-limit topic.
He seemed unconcerned. “Wang Xiaoru.”
“Teacher, all the other teachers in our faculty have doctorates. Do you? You look really young.”
“Teacher, do you have a girlfriend?”
The class broke out into a ruckus. The person asking was their class prefect, but the problem was… he was a man.
The class prefect cleared his throat. “Teacher, I was forced to do it.”
Several female classmates behind him became indignant and collectively buried their heads.
With a smile, he picked up the class roster and placed it across his arm. “No.”
A roar of laughter sounded out from everyone, and the room buzzed with discussion.
Because the class prefect had started things off, every student that followed also began to purposely strategize to bring the questions in a more personal direction. They probed at his personal travels and his knowledge about King’s College, and he obligingly answered each one of the questions, occasionally even expanding upon them with many interesting stories or information. It was very enjoyable listening to him.
He could not hear? That was an enormous benefit. This way, so long as he was speaking to you, it would seem like he was gazing lovingly, devotedly only at you.
“God, does our school have any rules that bans romances between a teacher and a student?” The person who had just been called sat down again and murmured quietly.
His voice suddenly paused, and he lifted his head to allow his gaze to sweep the classroom. “Tong Yan.”
In the very back row of the class, a girl stood up. “Teacher, are you a northerner?”
Since the moment he had stepped into the classroom, Tong Yan could not really recover herself. His face was so familiar, so similar to a certain person. However, that person should have studied cardiac surgery, and he was not deaf either. But if it was not him, why would they look so much alike? Even the dimple on his right cheek when he smiled was the same.
In silence, he smiled until everyone found this moment rather peculiar. Finally, he nodded and answered, “Yes.”
It really was him.
In fact, they had only seen each other once, but they had each since remembered the other person’s name.
That night outside the emergency room, he, in his white doctor’s coat, was especially striking, but unfortunately, he had not been this warm and gentle.