Kim Junmyeon was not the average incoming freshman.
His age did not match his rank, for starters. Despite rooming with another freshman within the four walls of their dorm, Junmyeon was older. Even though the majority of freshmen were around the age of eighteen, Junmyeon had already turned twenty.
It was a little odd to some, perhaps, but Junmyeon found it amusing that the majority of people in his classes were going to be younger than him, considering he had to start with the basics, just like everyone else.
A lot of people that he knew decided to attend university right after their high school graduation. Junmyeon, on the other hand, didn’t. The gap years between school attendance were instead spent at work and tending to family. For Junmyeon, that had been more important than hurrying back onto school grounds.
And, third, unlike a large percentage of the human population, Junmyeon absolutely adored Mondays.
“Close th’ curtains,” a voice slurred from across the room. Junmyeon, in the process of tugging open the pastel blue curtains hanging above the window of their bedroom, paused to glance in the voice’s direction. There was an absent grin on Junmyeon’s face as his roommate squirmed inside of his nest of sheets, yanking his blanket above his head. “’S in my face.”
Well, that was true enough. Junmyeon smiled a little wider, ignoring the fact that bright golden sunlight was now gushing into the room, spilling itself over his roommate’s bed and face.
“Well, it’s time to get up, so there’s no point in closing them,” Junmyeon said with a happy laugh, stepping away from the window. He padded across the room to where his roommate’s bed. Smile mischievous, Junmyeon heaved himself onto his tiptoes before leaping onto the fellow freshman’s bed. “Come on, Sehun! Get up!”
Buried beneath his blankets, Sehun let out an unhappy grunt as he kicked and squirmed, attempting to roll away from Junmyeon and his loud voice and high energy. He was slurring as he spoke, still half-asleep. “Go ‘way, ‘m tired!”
“It’s the first day of class. You can’t be tired yet,” Junmyeon argued with a giggle, reaching out with two small hands and letting his fingers wrap around the hem of the blanket. There was a brief moment of tug-of-war as both boys attempted to have the advantage, but Junmyeon won. And, victorious, he let out an excited yell as he forcefully yanked down the blanket, revealing the grumpy face of his roommate. “Now come on. You still need to get ready and you said you would go with me to get breakfast with the others before class!”
“Are you goin’ to be like this every morning?” Sehun whined, stretching one arm out in annoyance. The palm of his hand met Junmyeon’s cheek, and with a grunt, he attempted to push the other out of his personal space bubble. “Scoot. ‘M up.”
Junmyeon just grinned big and wide in response, despite the fact the other was squishing his face in the process. Obediently, he scooted away, before clambering off the bed. Sehun just yawned in response as he forced himself to sit up, hair tousled and eyes heavy.
And as the younger boy shuffled away to go get ready, Junmyeon eagerly plopped back down on his bed, staring out of their bedroom window. He had yanked the curtains aside and opened the blinds, leaving their room to be bathed gold and granting Junmyeon with a wonderful view of the street below.
He couldn’t quit smiling. Perhaps this was only the beginning, but Junmyeon was awfully excited and optimistic. Things had not been easy, but he was finally here. He could finally begin focusing on his own future and his own dreams. This was a new beginning that overlapped the rocky and rough past two years. And Junmyeon was aiming to make these new months and years the best that he possibly could.
Sehun returned after a few minutes, still yawning, but otherwise already put together. Junmyeon was practically bouncing on his bed as he waited for his roommate to get dressed, nothing but happy and excited energy despite the fact it was just past eight in the morning.
“Do you ever hold still?” Sehun mumbled, tugging a shirt over his head.
“I can’t right now. I’m too excited,” Junmyeon said, swinging his legs absently over the edge of his bed. Sehun just gave him a disbelieving look of ‘it’s too early for this’, but Junmyeon ignored it. “Just trust me on this one. I’ve been waiting to do this kinda stuff for forever, so I’m really excited.”
“I know. You told us,” Sehun said with a sigh as he grabbed his backpack off his desk chair. “Well, come on then. Let’s go eat.”
Not needing any further motivation, Junmyeon practically leapt off his bed. Taking only a moment to grab his shoes, Junmyeon was the first one to make it out of the door to their dorm room, nearly tumbling down on the way. Sehun merely shook his head and shuffled after him, their door closing with a secure click.
He and Sehun had pretty similar schedules during the week. Both of their classes started at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They had different courses, of course, but the timeframe that the two shared was quite alike. Sehun would finish his classes about an hour before Junmyeon, but Junmyeon did not mind one bit.
With it presently being only 8:20 in the morning, campus was rather quiet. A lot of students were still asleep; Junmyeon knew a lot of kids that lived on the same floor as him and Sehun didn’t start their classes until late morning or early afternoon.
Junmyeon had, along with the other freshman, moved into his dorm the previous Saturday. That, of course, was the first time he met Sehun. The two boys spent their day unpacking and decorating their shared bedroom and trying to get to know each other a little better, considering they were going to be living together for several months.
The next day, that Sunday, the other students on campus began to move in. That had also been the day that he and Sehun began to try to interact some more with others that lived on their floor within the dorm. Junmyeon had yet to really click with anyone in the building to stabilize a complete friendship, and it seemed like Sehun was a bit in the same boat.
However, there was a boy a few doors down that Sehun had known since he was in high school, and, oddly enough, the other was also a dance major. Sehun had introduced Junmyeon to the boy, and even though it had only been about two days since they had met, it felt like Junmyeon had known Jongin for a lot longer. Jongin had a warm personality that was quite welcoming; Junmyeon attributed part of the coziness between them to that.
Jongin’s roommate, Zitao, was a little older, though still younger than Junmyeon. Junmyeon still didn’t know Zitao very well yet, but there was still plenty of time for the four of them to get to know each other better. This was only the first day of the semester, after all.
“Wow, your schedule is boring,” Zitao said bluntly, presently seated at a table in the dining hall with Junmyeon, Sehun, and Jongin all squeezed in on their own chairs. He was peering over at Sehun’s schedule that he had scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper.
“That’s what happens when nearly all you’re taking is gen ed classes,” Sehun replied, still sounding half-asleep. With furrowed brows he tugged the piece of paper away, tucking it back into the safety of his pocket. “Jongin is taking quite a few of them. Junmyeon too.”
“Like what?” Jongin asked curiously, he and Zitao glancing up from their food to give Junmyeon an interested look.
“Um,” Junmyeon started intelligently, having to pause for a moment to fish out his own schedule, jotted down on a piece of paper, just like Sehun had done. The last thing Junmyeon wanted was to be late or miss his class because he couldn’t remember the room number. “Let’s see… Mine are mostly introduction level classes too. Science, history… I’m taking a painting class, too. That’s actually what I’m most excited about.”
“Introduction to painting?” Zitao asked, arching one dark eyebrow. “Are you an art major?”
“No. To be honest, I’m still undecided on my major,” Junmyeon said sheepishly, absently rubbing the back of his neck. “I just want to learn how to paint.”
“Who are you taking the class with?” Jongin asked, head vaguely tilting to one side, strands of dark hair falling into his eyes. “There’s a ton of professors who teach the basic art classes around here, since this is a larger school…”
“Ah, I don’t really know how to say his name, so bear with me, because I’m probably going to mess it up,” Junmyeon said with a laugh as he worked on cramming his note back into his pocket. “Yi…fan? Is that right?”
Sehun and Jongin didn’t seem to find a problem with Junmyeon’s response. Zitao, however, paused entirely to scowl at Junmyeon from across the table, dark eyebrows knitting together.
“Wu Yifan?” Zitao asked. When Junmyeon nodded in confirmation, Zitao’s expression only grew darker. “You willingly signed up for a class with him?”
“Well… I mean, the others were full, and I noticed his class still had quite a few seats open, so why not?” Junmyeon offered in reply, though his words didn’t seem to help his case much. Zitao still looked unimpressed. “Why?”
“Did you not read any online reviews about his classes before you signed up?” Zitao asked dryly.
Junmyeon blushed, caught off guard by the sudden inquiry. “I didn’t even think of that. I’ll keep that in mind for next semester’s classes, I guess. But… Are they not good reviews?”
“There’s a website a lot of the kids here use to look up reviews and such on the professors located here on campus. And, well, Yifan – he goes by Kris – he has one of the lowest scores out of the entire teaching body,” Zitao explained, his face sour as he went to take a sip of his drink. “I’ve read a lot of stuff about him. Heard some things from some people in our dorm, too. He’s insanely strict. And according to the reviews, Kris won’t hesitate with telling you what’s on his mind, no matter how badly it will hurt you. Making kids cry has happened quite a few times.”
“He’s made people cry?” Jongin echoed, frowning in concern as he glanced over at his roommate.
“If the reviews are true, then he’s made quite a few people cry. He won’t go easy on you, basic level class or not. He’s an ass,” Zitao said simply, rolling his eyes as he shook his head. “Which, in my opinion, if you don’t have any patience, you don’t need to be a teacher, let alone teaching an introductory level class where kids aren’t going to know much, if anything.”
Junmyeon swallowed nervously. He was trying to remain optimistic. Maybe all of that was just a lot of gossip. He could only hope so. “Are you sure about all that?”
“I mean, so many people have complained, I’m sure at least some of it must be true.” Zitao shrugged his shoulders in response as he slumped back in his chair. “Then again, maybe he’s just in a foul mood because he knows that he’s getting old.”
Junmyeon frowned down at his plate, an odd feeling in his stomach. The painting class was going to be his first lecture of the day, three times a week. It was the class he was most excited about. It was about something he had wanted to learn for ages now.
He could only hope that things would work out.
After wandering in circles for about ten minutes, Junmyeon had to finally cave and ask for directions. The art building, as it turned out, was a little bit of a challenge to find. Its structure was practically hidden, red bricks looking oddly lonely in the shadow of taller and bigger buildings and shady trees.
There were kids beginning to wander campus more freely now, and Junmyeon found several more students in the hallways as he headed for his class. Based on the note he had written to himself, and the fact the room started with a one, Junmyeon could only assume his class was located on the first floor.
After continuous loops and turns around the first floor, losing himself in the various doors and glass cabinets showing off the artistic creations of his fellow students, Junmyeon was left with only one other option. And that was to take the small set of steps located at the end of the eastern hallway. It was the only place he hadn’t been yet, and so far, he still hadn’t managed to find his class.
Junmyeon crept down the three steps, his sneakers silent against the cold floor. And almost instantly, a smile lit up Junmyeon’s face, because there on the wall, was a little plaque with what exactly what he wanted to see: a simplistic 1210 in black text.
The large wooden door leading into the room was open wide and Junmyeon hesitantly peeked his head around the corner to see what was within. Initially, Junmyeon had decided that down three random steps was an odd place for a classroom, especially considering that it made the area nearly isolated from all the others. But upon peering in, Junmyeon could understand why the classroom was far apart from the others. It provided more space.
The room was enormous compared to the others that Junmyeon had seen on tours. The floor was the same, colored that soft off-gray shade. It was littered with countless tables and chairs, the opposite wall filled with nothing but large windows. Junmyeon couldn’t help but stare at the back of the room, gazing past the few other students that had slithered in early. A sink, countless cabinets, a long expanse of countertop. There was a large table set up near the corner, along with a small cart with metal racks, which Junmyeon could only assume was used as storage for paintings that needed to dry.
Junmyeon wandered inside then, absently clutching at the straps of his backpack, and feeling oddly nervous. It was his first class, after all. The room wasn’t very populated with other students at the moment, and majority of them were either playing on their phones or quietly talking to each other.
There was a seat that caught Junmyeon’s eye, set up near the front of the room. However, the seat right next to it was occupied by a brunet male, busy typing away on his phone. Junmyeon wanted to make sure no one else had claimed his desired spot, but would he be a disturbance if he said anything?
Shaking those thoughts from his head, Junmyeon wandered closer until he was standing right beside the chair he wanted. The other male didn’t seem to notice him, still staring down at his phone with a sleepy look on his face.
Junmyeon cleared his throat to make his presence known, and it was only then that the other male at last glanced up at him.
“Is anyone sitting here?” Junmyeon asked, his voice hesitant and unsure.
Thankfully, though the male’s face was cloudy with a confused expression for a moment, it at last warmed into a friendly smile. “Not that I know of.”
Junmyeon laughed as he began to shed his backpack, sinking down into the chair next to the other. “Hopefully not. I’d rather not steal someone’s seat and fight over it on the first day.”
“I think you’ll be alright,” the stranger replied with that same smile, one cheek marked by a dimple. “I’m Yixing by the way.”
“Junmyeon,” the freshman answered, white teeth still on display as he slung his bag over the back of his chair. “Nice to meet you. Are you an art major?”
“Dance major,” Yixing said, and Junmyeon mentally chalked down a note to ask Sehun whether or not he had heard of Yixing later. After all, those with the same major usually wound up sharing a lot of core subjects farther down the road. “I’m still missing my credit for an art elective outside of my major, so that’s why I’m here. I’m not really the best at painting, and I know Kris is really strict, but I didn’t really have anything else I could take.”
“That’s kind of why I’m here too. I’m still undecided for my major, so I’m trying to knock out some electives. A lot of things were already filled up when I registered and a lot of things I can’t take anyway because I’m a freshman,” Junmyeon explained, watching as Yixing nodded absently to show that he was paying attention. Junmyeon couldn’t help but furrow his brow a little in concern, thinking back to Zitao’s words. A second opinion on the matter couldn’t hurt, right? “How strict are we talking, though? Do you think he’ll go easy on me if I mention that I’ve never painted anything before in my entire life?”
“To be honest, I doubt it. I know this is an introductory class, but… Well… I’m sure your roommate or someone around campus has already told you that Kris is a bit coarse,” Yixing replied, his voice dropping in volume, as if afraid he was going to be overheard. “If that’s even a good enough term I can use here. I’m sure you’ve heard already that people say not to take anything he teaches. People have told me he’s tolerable during the first week because he loads up on caffeine and doesn’t have anything to yell about yet, but once you start your projects, his patience is dry as a desert. And I’ve heard he’s… Well… Extremely blunt, to put it simply. I don’t think he’s one of those people that like to sugarcoat things, even if it means tearing you down a couple of pegs in the process…”
“My roommate and his friends did mention I’m probably crazy for signing up for this,” Junmyeon mumbled uncertainly. What on earth was he getting himself into this time? “But I’ve always wanted to learn how to paint, so I thought maybe a class would be a good place to start. Maybe he won’t be that bad.”
“I’m hoping so too, but you know where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Yixing said quietly. The class was slowly filling up now that it was starting in just a moment. Several more students shuffled into the room, sinking down into the assortment of chairs littering the area in random patterns. Junmyeon couldn’t help but notice that the area near the front of the room where he and Yixing were sitting was practically abandoned. It made him uneasy. “But hey, we’re in this together, I guess. We’ll get through it. It’s just one semester.”
Yixing fell silent then, and Junmyeon almost didn’t understand why, until he noticed an enormous figure crossing through the doorway. And, to his surprise, the man paused for one moment to roughly close the door behind himself, old bolts on the wood rattling weakly in response.
The man didn’t utter a single word, and Junmyeon only then realized how quiet it was in the room. Even the air itself felt suddenly thick and uncomfortable with a strange tension. Junmyeon shifted uneasily in his seat as the man walked across the room, heading to the front without so much as a ‘good morning’.
Stepping around the single barstool at the front of the room, he wandered closer to the large board set up upon the wall. And it was only then that Junmyeon received the opportunity of hearing the stranger’s voice.
“I’m sure you all know my name already, but I’m going to tell you anyway,” the man said, just loud enough for the others to hear. He was holding a thermos in his left hand, and his right wandered up to the chalkboard to wrap around one of the little white sticks. “And I’m sure the majority of you have already heard from others on campus that I do not appreciate any nicknames other than this one.”
Junmyeon shifted his weight anxiously in his seat as he watched the stick of chalk drag across the board. The otherwise silent room was filled with little scuffles as he wrote something down, and Junmyeon couldn’t see yet, his view blocked by the rather large and wide expanse of the man’s back.
At last, the writing stopped, and the stranger sank back down onto his barstool to let everyone get a view of the white letters tattooed onto the board as he merely went back to sipping his drink in silence.
KRIS WU, PROFESSOR
This was the art professor he had heard so much about? Junmyeon was not quite sure what he had been expecting, but this wasn’t exactly it. Even from across the room as the man sat on a barstool, Junmyeon could tell that he was huge. Tall, broad-shouldered, long legs, and even his hands seemed a little too large, the thermos looking scaled down within his fingers. His voice was deep and oddly smooth. There were a few piercings that marked his earlobes, his dark hair short and slicked back, the ring that somehow managed to fit around his middle finger clinking against his thermos as he adjusted his grip.
“I’m sure the majority of you either already know, or noticed when you registered for your classes, that my name is Yifan. Do not call me that. Kris is fine. Mister Wu or professor Wu are also acceptable choices,” Yifan said then, breaking the stillness of the classroom. “But that’s it. Your choices are one of those three.”
Yifan leaned back on his barstool then, dark eyes doing a quick scan around the room. When the man’s gaze fell upon him, their eyes locking, Junmyeon instantly smiled in return, doing his absolute best to appear friendly. Yifan’s gaze lingered on him for a moment, as if puzzled, but it was hard for Junmyeon to tell what he was thinking. The man’s facial expression didn’t change in the slightest, remaining in that unamused scowl as he proceeded to look away.
“No familiar faces. Very well. Let’s start from the beginning then. I have three rules in this classroom,” Yifan continued, hands absently resting on his thighs, the thermos still gripped in one of them. “One: do not be late to my class. I don’t care what your excuse is. If you’re going to be late, do not bother coming. Considering this is the first day, I’m being lenient. However, starting on Wednesday, the door will be locked upon the start of lecture. Do not bother showing up if you’re going to be late; there won’t be a way for you to get in the room regardless.
“Two: you can eat and drink in here. I am aware of the fact that the art rooms forbid food and drink. However, considering that I have to have my coffee,” Yifan continued, and Junmyeon’s eyes drifted to the thermos in his hand, “it would be hypocritical of me to tell you that you can’t bring anything into the room. Just don’t bring anything that will make a mess if you eat it. And if you do happen to spill something or make a mess, I expect for you to clean it up. And if you spill something on your project, that is on you. If you have to start over, so be it. Also, gum does not apply. There is no gum allowed in this room because I’ve long grown tired of you kids thinking it’s cute or appropriate to stick it on random objects.”
Yifan paused for a moment to take a long swig of his coffee.
“Finally, number three: I do not, under any circumstances, accept late work. Again, I do not care about your excuses. I do not care about what happened, as to why you didn’t have it in on time. I will not accept it. If your deadline is five p.m. on a Friday, it had better be in my hands by five p.m. that Friday. Otherwise? You will be taking the zero,” Yifan said, voice calm. “Considering that you all are enrolled in a university to become adults, I’m going to treat you like adults. And the real, adult world does not care about your excuses. Any questions?”
Dead silence was the only reply.
“In that case, let’s get started,” Yifan murmured.
He was attempting to stand up now, and Junmyeon couldn’t help but notice that he seemed to be struggling a little. He was trying not to show it, but Junmyeon noticed just how tense his body was as he tried to haul himself up, his eyebrows furrowing together. Even when he at last managed to heave himself onto his own two feet, his body still seemed stiff. What was that all about?
“We’ll go over the syllabus. I’ll outline some of the projects you’re going to be working on. Also, you will be graded on more than just your paintings. There will be two portfolio reviews this semester. We’ll talk more about that here in a while.” Yifan had crossed the room now, fiddling with the projector. It was slowly flickering to life, its light spilling across the white backdrop that Yifan had pulled down in front of the old chalkboard. “You all will probably get out of here much earlier today than you will normally. This is typically a three hour class, but since projects will not officially begin until Wednesday – bring your supplies – there isn’t much I can do to fill three hours. This will be the only time you will be getting out of here early, so don’t get used to it.”
There were some collective grumbles from the back of the room at that last comment.
“Right. How surprising.” Junmyeon couldn’t help but notice how Yifan seemed even more annoyed at this point upon hearing that reaction, his brow drawing inward even more than a few moments previous. “Now, considering this class is on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule…”
As Yifan began to read off the screen about his office hours, Junmyeon leaned over towards Yixing, speaking as softly as he could out of the corner of his mouth. “Does he seem upset to you?”
To his confusion, out of nowhere, there was suddenly a red dot shining on the front of his shirt. Junmyeon stared at it for a moment, before glancing up in an attempt of finding out where it was coming from. To his embarrassment, he realized that Yifan had stopped talking entirely. Instead, he had turned his attention onto Junmyeon, pointing the clicker used to change slides directly at the student. And, with the help of one of the buttons on the little remote, he was shining the laser right onto Junmyeon’s chest.
“You,” Yifan said then, and Junmyeon suddenly felt so horribly tiny as the professor stared him down with unamused eyes. Junmyeon had only one brief second to take notice of the man’s dark irises and the beginnings of dark circles beginning to crop up beneath the man’s eyes, his focus easily stolen away as Yifan clicked the laser pointer at him several times. The little red dot on his chest was flashing on and off like a target painted on the fabric. “What’s your name?”
“Uh,” Junmyeon started intelligently, his throat suddenly feeling tight as he realized that the man was calling him out in front of the entire class. “J-Junmyeon.”
“Junmyeon, do not talk while I’m talking,” Yifan continued, voice cold. There were some snickers from the back of the room, and Junmyeon vaguely felt his face growing warm with embarrassment and shame. “Understood?”
Completely red-faced, Junmyeon quickly ducked his head and nodded merely once as he wrung his hands together tightly in his lap. “Yes, sir. Sorry.”
“Hm.” Yifan’s thumb moved away from the little button on his clicker then, and the red dot on Junmyeon’s chest faded from sight. Yifan merely turned his attention back to the projection screen then. “Now, as I was saying…”
It took a moment to recollect himself, and even when he did, his cheeks still felt hot. Junmyeon at last picked his head up and glanced over to find Yixing flashing him a small and apologetic smile, as if to try to make him feel better. Junmyeon didn’t even attempt to smile back, still too embarrassed, and merely turned his gaze onto the board in silence as he shifted his weight uncomfortably in his seat.
Were all professors like this?