Madam Sung opened the front door of the house to two unfamiliar people clad in black scholars’ robes. “May I help you?”
“Madam Sung, we haven’t met, but I am Xu Mai. I’m Sung Nai’s year adviser and this,” she indicated her male companion, “is my colleague Shou Xian, head of our science department. May we come in?”
Madam Sung’s mind raced. She had never met her daughter’s high school teachers and she was at the moment hypersensitive about what those who had been normally involved in her eighth child’s life thought of her. The ‘why’ of their visit concerned her and there was only one way to find out what that was. “Please, won’t you come through?”
As she settled them into the guests’ places in the front, downstairs room that was kept aside as a receiving room she asked brightly, “So, would you like some tea? I can get it while I fetch my honoured husband.”
“Thank you, Madam Sung, but we don’t require tea,” Scholar Xu waved the offer politely aside, “and it’s actually your daughter Nai we’ve come to see.”
“I’m afraid Nai is away from home.” Madam Sung added hurriedly, “Please excuse me for a moment while I fetch my husband.” Her guests nodded politely in acquiescence and Madam Sung retreated from the room.
When she returned her husband preceded her into the room, bowed to their guests and seated himself in the head of household’s chair. “How may we help you, Scholars? I understand you came to see my daughter Nai but I’m afraid she’s away on a road trip with friends at the moment.”
The two teachers glanced at each other, then Scholar Xu replied, “That’s a pity. We’ve come to congratulate her on her examination results.”
“But surely the results aren’t to be released until tomorrow?” That was Madam Sung.
“Yes,” agreed Scholar Shou, “but some students are given advance notice through their schools.”
“We are aware of that,” Scholar Sung smiled benignly, “but I would not have thought Nai would fall into that category.”
“On the contrary,” Scholar Xu assured him with a tight smile, “Nai’s overall results put her in the top ten per cent of this year’s candidates. On top of that, she was in the top five per cent for two subjects.”
Visibly surprised, Scholar Sung murmured, “Our family has always been strong in the classical subjects.”
“Not the Classics,” interrupted Scholar Shou. “Earthscience 1 and 2.”