This follows on from Social Business and runs for 2,745 words.
Madam He continued to be penetratingly dissatisfied with He Ban first thing in the morning, and I escaped to the bathroom as quickly as I could on waking. I went downstairs for breakfast and provided for the family shrine before I ate my own meal. Master Que was not evident until I came downstairs with my university things to grab my lunch before I left, which was when I found him making a fresh pot of tea in the kitchen.
“Have a good day,” he told me as he poured the water into the pot. “I’ll check whether you need to enter this Student Professional Tournament in advance, or if it’s entry on the day, then tonight we should start serious preparation before we go out to dinner. I’ll book us into the Riverside Terrace again.” He took a deep breath of the steam coming out of the teapot and added, “I hope that this evening doesn’t increase your acquaintance and experience in quite the way last week did.”
“That sort of thing can’t be a regular event,” I pointed out. “No-one would keep coming back”.
“And that’s obviously not the case,” agreed Master Que. “Now get going so you’re not late – and don’t forget to spend time with your new friends!” He shooed me out of the house at that point and I set off on the walk to the university.
I met up with Thi Mung and Tsing Ying outside the building again, and again we passed the horde of people trying to get into the ground floor lecture theatre and headed up the stairs to the third floor. The horde was slightly smaller this morning as more of us just went straight upstairs to the other lecture theatres, and we were joined on the stairs by Tang Jung, of the orange pom-pom hair, and her school friend, Wu Ai, with whom she shared tutorial groups in Geology, Statistics and Literature.
We were talking as we climbed, and Tang Jung said, “I liked Professor Tian’s lecture last week, and he was nice about my brother. Some of my secondary teachers were…unkinder than they needed to be.”
Tsing Ying replied, “Some teachers don’t really embrace that whole enlightened scholarship ideal, do they? I had a few who were odd about the fact that I was boarding in the city, so I could go to school while my father worked out in the mines.”
“We almost got expelled in the last year of primary school for yelling back at a teacher who called Tang Man an animal,” said Wu Ai sunnily. “We made her repeat what she said in front of our parents and the principal.”
“You made her repeat it,” corrected Tang Jung. “And your mother was more upset about it than my mother.”
“My mother probably wasn’t as used to people being that nasty about a child,” answered Wu Ai. “Besides, she’s still convinced that he saved all our lives that time when he was little. You can’t convince her or my grandmother that he’s not some sort of divine messenger.”
I would have liked to hear more about the incident when Tang Man ‘saved everyone’ but we reached the lecture room at that point and separated to grab our preferred seats. The room wasn’t as empty as it had been the previous week when we’d arrived, but it still filled up only moments before Professor Tian arrived.
As promised, he started his lecture on time this week and I was immediately too busy with note taking to notice if there were late comers. The subject matter was still things that had been covered in my secondary school courses, but there was more depth being added. At one point Professor Tian pointed out, with cutting remarks about the secondary studies curriculum committee processes, that something that was a directed teaching point in the secondary curriculum was, in fact, wrong, and followed this up with both references and the admonition that we lose any emotional or intellectual attachment we might have to this “fact.” I added the references to my reading list and got on with the note taking. We finished again with an admonition to read the relevant chapters for this lecture and the next one in our text books, and a reading list. Finally Professor Tian called for questions, and a hand shot up in the front row on my extreme right.
“The eager young man in the front row, next to the fire exit.” Professor Tian Pan seemed slightly surprised that there were any questions.’
The male student stood and bowed, “Xu Wen, Professor Tian. I’ve noticed that just under half of the Introductory Geology readings we’ve been given come from The Proceedings of the Geological Advisory Committee. Would subscribing and reading the issues as they are published benefit our studies?”
Professor Tian paused for a moment and I could almost see him putting his answer together before he spoke. When he did reply, he said, “Mr Xu, as a geologist, yes, regular reading of The Proceedings would be of interest and benefit to you. Equally, there are half a dozen other reputable, peer reviewed periodical publications that would also benefit you. There are more if we think globally and consider languages other than Tang-jian. I, personally, subscribe to a number of journals that are most likely to publish articles related to my personal fields of expertise and interest, but I am grateful that I have access to the University’s copies of all the others. Keep in mind that each of those subscriptions is around twelve hundred standard taels per year. As a student, and presumably of limited means, you may well be better served reading articles of interest to you in the library’s copies.”
“Thank you, Professor.” I thought Xu Wen seemed slightly deflated as he answered, but Professor Tian was dismissing us in the absence of other questions, so I wasn’t paying that much attention to the rest of the room as I packed up my stuff.
Thi Mung and Tsing Ying went to get ready for their Geology tutorial while I took myself across the campus to my Literature tutorial. This time I went via Student Services to find out if my bank had a branch on campus and to check where on campus I could buy the supplies that I needed for my Geography lab work. The answer to the first question was, yes, just south of the main entrance in a fusion-style building that someone had chosen to paint vermilion, gold, and hot pink. The second question had multiple answers, but the two most convenient ones for me were in the Student Services building itself and over amid the Classical Studies buildings.
I walked through the shop in the Student Services building while I was there and while the prices were good, the items themselves were out of stock. No doubt the thousand-odd students of my course arming themselves for their classes had something to do with that.
My next stop was the shop in the Classical Studies area – perhaps fortunately for me it was on the ground floor of the same building as my Literature tutorial, albeit with an entrance that couldn’t be seen from where I went in to get to my class. The prices there were higher than in the Student Services building shop, but they were different brands. The brushes, for instance, were made by the same people who’d made the calligraphy brushes that I’d bought in the capital, and some of the papers were by the manufacturers that everyone always recommends for calligraphy paper. I made a note of the prices, so I could get enough money out of the bank in my next break and went to my Literature tutorial.
Scholar Tao Zhung’s fan was in Fu-style brocade today, and he handed back our annotated reviews with general comments on how to improve them. “The thing is,” he told us, “none of you got them completely wrong, and you didn’t all make the same errors. Writing, and its appreciation, are skills of continuous improvement and our year together has just begun. We’ll spend some time talking about the two most common errors that people made, then we’ll move on to something new.”
I, as it turned out, had only made one of the two most common errors so the majority of my faults weren’t addressed by Scholar Tao’s gently but firmly worded explanation of how to do better next time. Then we had a discussion of style variations in the documents that we were looking at in this module and finished off with our new reading list and the writing assignment due to be handed in next week. At the end of the class, after reminding us that we were here to develop a range of skills and not write the same piece over and over, Scholar Tao waved us out into the world again with his fan before gathering up his books and going to his next class.
I went straight to the bank, where a painter was touching up the hot pink sections of the façade, and withdrew money for the week. Well, it wasn’t quite that straightforward. I presented my pass book with my withdrawal slip, and the teller asked for my identification, which I supplied. Then the teller called the supervisor. That corporately garbed lady looked at me, looked at the identification, the bank book, and my withdrawal slip, and called the manager. In my best imitation of Master Que, I raised an eyebrow. The manager looked at the identification, looked at the withdrawal slip and passbook, then at me. Finally, he asked, “Are you Sung Nai?”
“Yes, I am. Is there some problem, Mr…?” I smiled politely.
“I am the manager here, Miss Sung. My name is Shu Ci, and my job is to ensure that this branch of the bank functions correctly. My staff is, rightly, concerned that this is not a valid withdrawal request. There are a number of triggers we’ve identified that make us concerned that you should not be withdrawing this money.”
“Mr Shu,” I bowed politely. “My name is Sung Nai. This is my transaction account. I am over eighteen and financially independent, so I do not require a counter signature on my withdrawal slips. What is the problem?”
He said bluntly, “Young persons such as yourself do not normally have access to these sums.”
“I work, and have been doing so for some time, Mr Shu.” I looked at him and asked equally bluntly, “What is it that you suspect that I’m doing?”
“We have to be satisfied that you are only accessing funds to which you are entitled.” I thought Mr Shu was prevaricating. “We have both moral and legal obligations to our shareholders and depositors.” He smiled.
I repeated my eyebrow raising imitation of Master Que. “Perhaps you can confirm my identity as a young person with your mortgage lending department, or I can contact my solicitors to lodge a complaint with your managers while I find another branch at which to conduct my business.”
“I am the manager, young Miss.” He bowed with a smirk.
“Of this branch only,” I reminded him. “You have superiors within the bank, and they might be interested to hear that you vet access to personal account funds based on individual appearance and not presentation of the mandated documentation.” I paused and added, “I’m sure that’s a conversation my solicitors would be delighted to have with your provincial manager. Particularly as you seem to have decided that my personal identification isn’t accurate.”
We were beginning to attract attention. Other customers were looking at us, and I suspected that Mr Shu was enjoying the attention.
“The bank is obliged to satisfy itself that the funds held in its care are only disbursed to the correct persons,” said Mr Shu stiffly, “and the police agree with us, as these officers will attest.” Over my shoulder he said, “Good afternoon, officers. This is the person that we called you about.”
I turned in place to see Detective Fat and Detective Liew who had interviewed me a week before at the Riverside Terrace, so I bowed politely and greeted them, “Detectives.”
They gave Mr Shu and I short, professional bows, then Detective Fat asked, “We received a call about an attempted fraudulent transaction. What seems to be the problem?” Everyone in the branch was definitely looking now.
Mr Shu spoke, “I am Shu Ci, manager of this branch. This young woman,” he indicated me, “has attempted to access an account that not only has a balance far in access of normal for someone of her age, it has also been recently internally flagged within the bank for priority handling. I cannot allow our valued customer to stolen from in this fashion!”
Detective Fat turned to me and asked, “Miss Sung, from your point of view, what is going on?”
I said, “Detective Fat, I came in between classes to get some money out for the week, and the branch staff here seem to have trouble believing that I’m me, despite my identification, my pass book, and my chop.”
Mr Shu said slowly, “You know each other?”
Detective Liew said blandly, “Miss Sung very graciously gave us a statement last week concerning an incident where someone attempted to kill a number of innocent bystanders, including her. It was useful.”
Detective Fat added, “Miss Sung is a rising professional gi fighter. Given her recent successes, I would hope that she has a high bank balance as opposed to having spent it all already.”
Detective Liew went on, “This is what, the sixth call of this nature from this branch that the police have received since university classes resumed. Miss Sung has the advantage of being known to my colleague and I, but what about your other customers? Perhaps your staff could process Miss Sung’s transaction while we discuss this issue further in your office?”
“If you wish,” acceded Mr Shu. “If you’re certain that this young woman is Sung Nai?”
“What reason do you have to disbelieve her identification? Remember, being too young for her to have that much in her account, in your opinion, doesn’t count,” pointed out Detective Fat.
“My office is this way,” Mr Shu gestured towards the back of the branch. “My assistant manager will facilitate Miss Sung’s transaction, if you know her.”
Detective Fat gave a devastating version of the eyebrow raise. The corporately garbed lady appeared at my elbow and led me to a teller who had just opened a window at the end of the counter. This new teller processed my transaction quickly, the assistant manager bowed me out of the branch, and I resolved to not set foot in the place again unless it was absolutely necessary.
Thankfully my lecture didn’t start until two, so I still had time to buy the supplies for my Geography lab, eat lunch, and read one of my assigned pieces from the morning’s classes. I also managed to borrow a book that contained one of the literature readings, the reserved copies all being in use.
The Physical Geography lecture was a solid hour of geomorphology delivered by Professor Luk, while I was flanked by Mu Gen and Shai Ben. I don’t think either of the boys meant anything by it, except that in a room of three hundred odd people I and they were familiar faces. Mu Gen made beautifully ordered notes in fine tipped pen on my left, while Shai Ben faithfully rendered the diagrams from the board with neat efficiency on my right. I had to remind myself that lecture note taking was neither a competitive sport nor an assessable activity.
After we made our farewells, I walked down the stairs to the ground floor where I chatted with Thi Wei for a few minutes before making my way home.
When I got there, I was greeted by a grinning Master Que who was smoking and drinking something that looked like cold tea from a tea cup. “Good news,” he told me cheerily. “The Lao family lawyer, and various Lao family members, supervised two moving van loads’ worth of furniture being taken away today. We’re almost at the stage where you can choose a decent bedroom to use. Also, we should talk about this Student tournament. You may need to dampen my enthusiasm for upsetting my fellow man.” He smiled some more.
This is now followed by Returning To The Scene of Someone Else's Crime.