Detective Ho Shum stood at attention in front of his station commander. “I must protest, sir. I specialise in undercover work. This will destroy my ability to slide into the community in an assumed identity.” His uniform looked like new, because it was, and it was impeccably pressed. For the first time in years his life-battered face wasn’t obscured by an unshaven fuzz.
“Detective Ho,” Superintendent Teo steeled himself to be patient, “the Jade Storm has put your picture in every underworld hangout between here and the capital. You can’t go undercover without being automatically recognised in three provinces, that we know of. This assignment is temporary pending your posting to the Academy for training duties.”
“I have given my opinion of that, sir,” replied Detective Ho with restrained feeling.
“And I thank you for not repeating it now,” answered his superior. “What you will do now is go and conduct the secondary school outreach program.”
Ho glared at him in a way which was not quite insubordinate. “Sir, yes, sir! Sir!”
Superintendent Teo gave him an evil look in reply. “Yuchuan Street Secondary School and this year’s student intake await. Go and do good. Dismissed!”
Detective Ho spent much of the morning glaring intimidatingly at schoolboys who thought they had clever questions to ask. Despite the school’s drawing area, it wasn’t until the last class before lunch that he met someone he knew, and she was quite unexpected.
He never discussed the matter with anyone but he’s always assumed that his gi teacher’s only child student would go to a private or selective school. He knew that her reading age was advanced and that she was already beginning to manipulate gi energies. Sometimes when Ho Shum needed structure to help order his mind, Master Que had him go through forms in a class with young Sung Nai. And here she was in her plain blacks, just like every other pupil, lined up with her classmates waiting to go into the room.
She didn’t quite bounce out at him, but he couldn’t ignore her bow and happy greeting of, “Senior Student Ho!”
He bowed gravely in return and acknowledged, “Miss Sung. I trust you are well?”
As the girl was about to answer, a short woman in scholar’s robes hurried up. “Sung Nai! You’re not bothering this officer are you?” Her worried face made it clear she didn’t want another problem on top of whatever burden she already had.
“No, Scholar Fong.” Sung Nai bowed again. “Has anyone made Ho Shum known to you, Scholar Fong? He and I are students at the same gi school.” She turned to Ho and added, “Senior Student Ho, this is Scholar Fong Siew who is my year’s Adviser and this class’ Literature teacher.”
A startled Scholar Fong and a reluctantly smiling Detective Ho bowed to each other, then Scholar Fong loudly instructed the class, “You may enter the room now, Class Seven Wood. No running or pushing, thank you Lu Jing!” Her last comment apparently made to a tall girl with dumpling buns and braces, she then turned to Detective Ho and asked in an undertone, “Do you think Sung Nai knows what she just said?”
“At that age, it can be hard to tell,” he admitted, “but as we’ve now been formally introduced, it would be quite proper for me to buy you lunch today - if you could show me where I can get lunch here.”
Scholar Fong, her eyes dancing with amusement, agreed gravely, “Indeed that would be very pleasant,” before adding with a mischievous smile that made her look very pretty indeed, “and you will need strengthening for your session with Class Nine Fire straight afterwards.”
“If I can deal with a gang war, then I can deal with a class of fourteen year olds,” said Detective Ho.
“Well, about Nine Fire,” began Scholar Fong.
“Three-way triad-tong territory war,” interrupted the Inspector. “I won, they lost.”
“Well then, after lunch I’ll introduce you to their year’s Adviser,” said Scholar Fong, “and you two can swap war stories, but right now there’s Seven Wood. I can hold your hand if you like.”
He smiled at her again and said slowly, “You know, I think I might like that.”
This is now followed by A Staff Issue.