The impact of Wu’s appearance didn’t stop there though. A new student in the prestigious class attracted attention, and there were constantly people testing their mettle against him, students who wanted his space in the class and even teachers who disliked our ‘genius’ on principle, like Mr. Morito.
In addition to regular classes and our training, our school would teach some extracurricular knowledge, mostly regarding Japanese legend and folklore. Our teacher, Mr. Morito was a snivelling man of short height, balding hair and had been a practicing Buddhist monk before he got kicked out for ‘fraternizing’, which was a nice way of saying he had the habit of dicking around with female patrons. Everyone said he was nasty to his students because he was jealous and wanted to snuff their potential as some twisted form of retaliation. He especially loathed the class A kids. He kept forgetting most of us had really poor impulse control.
Today, he’d zeroed in on Wu as his latest victim, new, a loner and hence in his mind, vulnerable. Morito liked to select old passages of Japanese text that spoke of some legend or creature or a piece of folklore. The language was old and dated and even those who were Japanese had trouble with the translation, not to mention those who were foreign. Whenever anyone tripped or stumbled over words or pronounced them wrong, he’d grab the opportunity to humiliate them, sometimes to tears.
“You, the one with the dog.” Morito shoved his glasses up his face with a cruel smirk. “You’re new.”
Wu looked dead ahead, eyes aimed at some place on the whiteboard. “Yes.”
One word. That was it. No honorific, no nothing. I could actually hear Morito’s teeth grinding.
“And rude too, stand up when you’re addressing a teacher.” Wu got slowly to his feet, standing in the middle of class, surrounded by people and exposed.
“Your full name isn’t on my register. What is your family name?”
“I don’t have one.” Wu said.
“Nonsense,” Morito snapped. “Everyone has one.”
“I don’t have one.” He repeated.
The class was so quiet I was afraid to breathe too loudly. We had us a showdown, ladies and gentlemen. Morito tapped his desk, his long nails making unpleasant tacking noises as he contemplated and discarded dozens of remarks and shouts that would diminish his authority.
“So. Mr No-Last-Name, is it? Sounds like your mother was less than reputable. Couldn’t get a legal name for you, could she?” He sneered. “Someone’s piece on the side?”
Wu said nothing.
“Since you obviously have all the smart answers, read out the passage from page 181-3. See what you can make of it, if you can.”
Wu was new, and probably didn’t even have all of the textbooks yet, and Morito was counting on that. My classmates were looking down on their desks, their faces miserable and some were glaring at Morito with ill-concealed hatred. It was a common sight. I was kind of looking forward to how Wu would deal with this. I passed my textbook to him, which he accepted with a small nod of thanks.
“Come on, we don’t have all day.” Morito goaded, his nasal voice higher than usual with anticipatory glee. Wu opened his mouth and the class sucked in a breath.