“You want us to do what?” Ha Ri was incredulous. “Sir, you do realise that I’m a foreign national, don’t you?”
“A trifling matter when you’re already a member of the Illustrious Board of Referees,” replied Pan Tao, a very senior referee, calmly. “Also, given that criminals can be most unrespectful of national boundaries, potentially advantageous.”
“Sir,” said Rau Wang very respectfully, “I haven’t finished secondary school yet, I’m not even old enough yet to leave before completion.”
“Then we’re in a position to influence your subjects for your final few years,” returned Pan Tao smoothly. “Have you considered Water Sciences and Modern Studies?”
“You are the second Master to suggest Waters Sciences to me, sir,” admitted Rau Wang.
“Then there is probably substance in the recommendation,” Pan Tao told him with a smile. “Ha Ri, I understand that you are studying Economics in tertiary school?”
“Yes, Master Pan.” Ha Ri added, “My parents hope that I will find employment with one of the large multinational corporations or trading companies.”
“And to do so would be very filial of you,” agreed Master Pan. “There is, however, something to be said for being instrumental in allowing your parents’ employer the surety of knowing that they can continue to operate in a sensible manner and not be prey to unscrupulous sorcerers.” He took in Ha Ri’s confusion and added, “I’m an honest man and I can see at least five ways that an unscrupulous person could disrupt the internal economy of the Vereenigde Oost-Oceanen Compagnie. Heaven only knows what a dishonest man could think to do to them and companies like them.”
Ha Ri noted that Master Pan’s accent was quite good when he spoke those few words of Ha Ri’s parents’ native tongue.
“Sir?” That was from a thoroughly confused Rau Wang.
“What is not widely known,” said Pan Tao as he settled back in his chair, “is that one of the precipitating factors of the northern invasion, quite aside from their odd moral indignation concerning reincarnation and distaste for other ‘superstitions,’ was the actions of a sorcerer named Xu Fong and known as Kai Zhu Fong. Master Xu apparently managed to reduce the Compagnie’s nutmeg income by 50% for two years running, so they took steps.”
“Wait,” put in Rau Wang, “a company started the northern invasion of Tang-ji over profits from the spice trade?”
“These days,” explained Pan Tao, “the international retail nutmeg and mace trade is worth over a little over a billion standard taels. Back then, the Compagnie still had the monopoly on those two spices and they wanted Master Xu’s depredations stopped; so they called in favours, activated a few treaties and reminded some governments that they’d been persuaded to give up their own, private, armed forces less than a decade earlier.”
“I’m fairly sure that wasn’t in any of my history courses,” commented Ha Ri.
“Going to war to protect the Dutch East Ocean Company’s profits doesn’t sound nearly as noble as taking over our country to save us from the weight of our superstitions, now does it?” Master Pan smiled. “More to the point, at the moment, is that there have been criminally inclined sorcerers in the past. There will be criminally inclined, trained gi exponents in the future, and as the only major group who has oversight of these things and even appears to take them seriously, we need to be ready to deal with such people.”
“And you want us to train up as some sort of gi-powered crime fighting team?” Ha Ri sounded like he didn’t believe what he was saying.
“Yes,” replied Master Pan. “Because we’re going to need you.”