After the police had left, Madam Sung cornered her husband in his study. Cornered is perhaps too aggressive a term, he was reading a scholarly journal and she brought him tea. When he looked up from his reading to thank her, she asked him, “Sung Kao, do you remember who introduced us?”
“Wasn’t it Pun? That fellow from the park exercise group?” Her husband picked up his cup.
“But it wasn’t my father, or your father for that matter,” she pressed on and he looked at her oddly before she added, “so, when does Nai get to have fun?”
“I beg your pardon?” He was clearly puzzled.
“After I finished my secondary exams, my parents sent me to the seaside for a holiday, then the following year I started tertiary school. I went to parties, made friends, studied, fell in love and had my heart broken then, after two years, I met you.” She smiled fondly at her husband and the father of her children. “If we go forward with your plan, when’s Nai going to get to do all those things?”
Scholar Sung put down his tea and his journal. “We meant to do everything we did for the others for her too, and yet,” he made a helpless gesture. “I can’t see any other way to make it up to her.”
“At the expense of giving her time to finish growing up? I’ve seen the list of characteristics you’ve drawn up to aid your search for a suitable husband.” She smiled gently at him, “It sounds like you’re trying to find a friend for yourself to discuss poetry and play go with, not a husband for a young woman.” The smile turned sad and pained, “She doesn’t need a husband who doesn’t think she’s important, she’s had enough of that from us. Mightn’t it have been better to give her a party for the end of her exams, even if it was late, and then work out how we could help her get into the course she wants next year?”
“It’s too late to get her into a good school for next year,” Kao said pettishly. “She’s the great-great granddaughter of a reincarnated scholar and the sister of one, if we could only identify which of her brothers it is. There are only a few universities she should go to.”
“Then perhaps we should let her have her road trip,” suggested his wife, “and enjoy time with her friend and their teacher?” Something else occurred to her, “How could you arrange for this Master Que to teach her without meeting him?”
“I didn’t arrange for him to teach her,” Kao carefully put down his cup. “I thought you arranged it. I merely made some enquiries once I received his first account. So who did arrange it?”
“Oh dear,” Nai’s mother sat down heavily on a vacant chair. “She did. She was six. She must have thought that going around to a gi school with a plate of biscuits or treats for the teacher was how you got a gi teacher, because that was what she saw. The poor little mite, it would have been when I was sick having Jin.” She covered her face with her hands. “Whatever must he think of us?”