The guards Freya mentioned were a team of Truth Seeker's trained guards and two ninjas. I always thought ninjas worked alone and in the rare cases they would team up, it would be with fellow ninjas.
It only hit home now that I saw the security detail, how bad it was to feud with ninjas. I wondered if someone has ever feuded with ninjas and lived to tell the tale. Maybe other martial art specialists, the ones whose heritage has either remained unbroken since its inception or at least their styles are old enough to have seen use in wars or actual deadly fights.
I had remained in the past two hours seated in Freya's office. While our talk had turned more cordial and we were hashing out some specifics regarding my time as a private tutor and my time in the academy.
Her mood had improved as we talked, it seemed like she was not as angry with me as I thought. It was probably my attitude once she mentioned I will be going to the academy. It cannot be helped, I like to use my time as I see fit and I am a very at my own pace guy. The academy is the exact opposite of who I am so it really gets under my skin.
In our discussion she told me that it was not all bad, there is some stuff I can only gain in the academy that I have not considered. First and foremost now that my own safety is compromised, I might as well aim for being an expert in one domain.
My early training under Freya and my dad's supervision had granted me a competent level mastery in Karate, samurai swords (iaido to be specific as you cannot gain novice level in "swords" per se but more in a certain kind and certain style) and finally in the art of throwing knives.
So the four mastery levels are Novice, competent, expert, and master. Some of the old-timers like to segregate them in another way: they call it the Five Stages Of Learning:
First Stage: Unconscious Incompetence, Second Stage: Conscious Incompetence. Third Stage: Conscious Competence, Fourth Stage: Unconscious Competence and Fifth Stage: Reflective Ability over the other Stages.
I will get back later to the interesting speculation of mastery levels.
When I was in the academy everyone had to become competent in one weapon and since I was trained to the novice level in three combat styles already, I was used to kicking everybody's ass. That was why I chose to become competent in two things, Karate and iaido.
Karate was among the top 3 that was preferred in the academy all thanks to the Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van-Damme movies. If anyone you meet or you do not know them, well you are too young.
Iaido sword style is actually a rarity in the academy. I happened to meet an expert in Iaido in the academy who actually was not there in a tutoring capacity but more of a guard for the martial arts scroll warehouse.
I am too resourceful to be stumped by that, not to mention that the rules were very clear in being competent in only one singular martial arts or weapon style. In other words, I attained a competent level in Iaido under the noses of everyone with none the wiser. It felt good pulling a fast one on these snobby tutors, whom I will soon be among them. The tragedy!
Actually Freya urged me to attain expert level in Karate since there was a master-level Karate tutor in the academy who owed her a favor. Master-level martial artists have weird temperaments and ideals so he is unlikely to take me in easily without cashing in said favor.
Regardless I will see if that Iaido martial artist is still there. Imagine being an expert in two domains. That would definitely ensure I am two steps ahead of whoever might come after my life. I will mull over all of this when I get to the academy.
It has been two hours since the team of mercenaries has arrived and we were all seated in an official meeting room of the Chamber as Freya's office, as spacious as it is, is rather an inconvenient place for this number of people.
The two ninjas are actually twins and are famed as the twin dragons. I knew this not from their mouths but from the other guards, the ninjas were as silent and somber as the ones I had seen last night. It seems like it is their thing to be silent and look mysterious.
The organization's guards, on the other hand, were chatty, friendly, and to be honest, too laid back which made me worried. The three guards, who did not give their names, introduced themselves with a lame joke about how I can call them as Uno, dos, and tres, as their height disparity was quite obvious.
Interestingly, you would think the tallest is Uno but the shortest is Uno and he is the eldest of them. If you were expecting an ascending order, you would be wrong. Dos was the tallest and the last one was tres. A bunch of confusing jokesters.
The debriefing in the meeting room was done by Freya, who everyone including the ninjas showed respect and were completely serious. I did not expect the ninjas to hold Freya in such high regard, as they are famed for their snobbiness. Freya seemed like she was as impressive as ever.
Freya started off by saying: "This mission can be one of the most dangerous you will ever face or the most relaxed in your entire lives. There is little to no information about the Gate of Heaven's movement, not to mention ninjas have their ways in infiltration so we cannot be completely sure that the existing information is correct."
None of the guard team expressed surprise, I am unsure if they were picked or volunteered by themselves. The inner workings of the guards of any organization are not for outsiders, even the ones to be protected are not privy to the details.
Freya then turned on a projector and dimmed the lights, all done from the laptop of course. Can you even imagine a meeting room without a projector?
She detailed the plan in total, the details were quite dull to me. I know that it is all about my safety, but I would prefer to know the summary rather than the entire strategy. Freya gave me a glare fully knowing that I had drifted off since we went into the meeting room, it was quite obvious as I kept glancing at the guards then giving the projector a glazed look.
Also, I was rather curious, what was the gender of the ninjas? I realize how vain the question is but I recalled a rumor, that female ninjas were the most lethal in subterfuge and assassination. All thanks to their physiques that no matter how much their muscles get tougher and stronger their stature remains relatively smaller than their male counterparts.
In other words, if they are sending female ninjas that would mean that they expected trouble and they were really going out on a limb since female ninjas fees are double male ninjas. Females getting paid double the salary of males, feminists would have a field trip if they ever knew.
Freya cleared her throat as she pointedly glared at me, it seemed like I really should stop daydreaming. She was stating a summary of the plan which was obviously for me. It went like this, they would use three decoy convoys each heading on a different route to the academy. Since we are working based on the assumption that our enemies already know our destination.
The trick here is that I will not be in a convoy at all. While a convoy could be two vehicles so it would be considered under the radar but if we are discovered we immediately become sitting ducks, more like running ducks really. It would be like survival mode in Call of Duty. They will keep sending teams of mercenaries in waves.
So, I will be heading to the sea with the ninjas while Uno, dos, and tres will each go with a convoy separately. Considering our enemies will potentially be ninjas, the fact that they are separating the guards is a testament to how able they are. As clownish as they are I was hoping they were not acting like sacrificial lambs, knowing Freya I do not think she will sacrifice anyone unless she has to.
My and the ninjas' route would be heading to the sea on foot then take a boat, well she said steal a boat but the same thing. Then head to a coordinate where we would board a ship that would take us to the hidden estate where I will work as a private tutor for a year until the academy is reopened.
A double trap, our enemies will think I am heading to the academy while in fact, I am heading to the private estate of a councilman not to mention the three convoys. I will be very disturbed and impressed if we are found after all of the trouble we have taken to stay hidden.
The hidden estate should be near the coast of India, or so I was told. It seemed like it is so far since we are in Switzerland, not planning to specify a certain place in case my journal falls in the wrong hands. I have started writing my journal recently, with instructions to my Mark and Ellaine to publish it upon my death. I plan to take my place in history by hook or crook.
I do not plan to die anytime soon though, back to the plan. The ship will be headed to a smuggling port in India where one guard from the hidden estate will meet us and lead us back to it. If they are sending a single guard, will he be an expert-level martial artist or a master-level one?
This guard should ensure that we are not followed to the hidden estate. The plan was made with my safety in mind as well as the secrecy of the hidden estate. Although I believe that sending me to the state itself is overkill, I realize I am not in a good position but I think any secret hideout would have sufficed. Maybe being sent to the hidden estate is all thanks to my future pupil-for-a-year whom I will meet soon.
After Freya finished summarizing the plan, she said, "We have prepared a room for you to wash up and sleep. The convoys will move out after you by one day, you will exit the room in secrecy and even if they know you are not in any of the convoys, it will be too late by then."
I nodded and said, "An immaculate plan as always, I look forward to arriving safely. I owe you, all jokes aside, I really owe you and my father this time. Send him my regards."
She smiled faintly and called for a guard to lead me to the room. The mismatched team of who I thought were my guards stayed behind with her, I wonder if there were some details I am not privy to.
As the guard led me to my temporary room, my mind wandered off again. I am not an absent-minded person but the sudden change in the genre of my life was not to my liking. I felt like my story has taken a turn for the worst, going from a vicious torturer and his adventures with his victims with someone appearing to question his morals at some point to a lowkey martial arts novel. I snickered to myself, the guard looked at me oddly I just waved him off.
The chamber I am being led to is owned by my family as the insignia is clear as the sun. The Crucintum insignia is a red rose, the stem was depicted as a black greenish scalpel with its edge pointed downwards while the petals were blood red, the heart of the flower looked like a swirl and if you looked close enough you would see the vestiges of screaming faces. To the right side of the stem, 3 blood drops dripped down; they were vertically above each other with the exact same distance between them.
The insignia was inside the elevator on the top right corner of the mirror. The Chamber looked identical to the one I used last night. Which was expected since each family's chambers are identical? However, there was an extra room in this one.
The guard had left once I had entered the elevator. I walked to the last door to the right, the door that does not exist in my Chamber should be the bedroom.
I turned the knob, the door opened silently. The room was completely white, which was odd. The room had a bed, a desk, and a door which assumed to lead to the bathroom.
I entered the room and closed the door. I looked at the room furnishings, the bed was to the right of the door with its head in the corner and its end pointing to the door. I walked to the bed, the sheets were made of silk and the pillow was very soft to the touch.
I toured the room, it was not too big, it was about 45 square meters. The door was in the far left corner of the room. The desk, which was caramel brown with three drawers to its left, was directly facing it. Behind the desk there was a white leather office chair, it looked comfy.
The bathroom door was about a meter to the left of the desk and there was a wardrobe to the left of the bathroom door facing the side of the desk. The wardrobe would barely fit a few outfits and it had drawers at its bottom, it was colored pearl white.
The room was aesthetically pleasing but I felt the colors were weird; a black bed, a caramel brown desk, an alabaster white chair, and a pearl white wardrobe. I felt like I knew this room but I was too tired to care at this point. I speculated, fought, and thought way too much within the last twelve hours. I deserved some rest.
I showered groggily not even taking notice of how the bathroom looked like as my eyes were almost closed at this point. I cannot deal with lack of sleep, I would be a terrible guard thanks to that.
There was a change of clothes in the wardrobe, as well as a pajama in the bathroom. The pajamas fit me like a glove. I went to the bed and was already asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I was woken up by the PA system, which is connected to the Hall of Chambers. I felt so much better, it felt like I slept for four hours. This amount of sleep should suffice for now.
I took a shower and then got dressed in a hiking outfit. I found a variety of outfits in the wardrobe. All of them were my size, I guess they prepped the room while I was in the meeting room. If they did it before that, then that is kind of spooky. Too much efficiency is worrying, thank god I am on their side.
All of the clothes were specially designed by the Society tailors. They were resistant to wear and tear and possibly standard knives but I would not take my chances. The jacket was a tight fit as it also doubled as a bullet vest. The socks were nothing special, just comfy and thick enough to ensure long-distance hikes will not hurt the foot or sole. The shoes, on the other hand, looked like CAT half-boots. They were lighter than they looked, still, they were heavier than standard hiking shoes.
In the drawers, there were sets of knives, guns, and a variety of martial arts gloves. In the side of the wardrobe, there was a samurai sword in a black noncommittal circular case, similar to the ones used to keep paintings. I actually hesitated, wondering what should I be taking with me.
I wanted to travel as light as possible as the heavier my equipment is, the faster my stamina will wear down. I also considered the fact that I knew nothing about ninja stamina, so I would not want to be the dead weight of the team. Not that I felt it would be embarrassing but I was not in the habit of leaving my safety in someone else's hands.
After a few minutes, I made a decision to pack a pair of gloves and 4 lightweight knives. They can be used as throwing knives or worse comes to worst my Iaido will come in handy using them. Although Iaido is to be done using a long samurai sword, my master back then showed me how he used a table knife to cut apart three straw dolls. Masters are in a whole other league, but maybe I can copy the move amateurishly saving my life at some point.
I got ready and took a hiking bag ready with hiking gear as well as water and dried rations. I wore my usual watch as I just could not swap it for the monstrosity of a hiking watch that was with the outfit. I got to the elevator and as I saw myself in the mirror as it went up, I felt the ridiculousness of it all hitting me.
I was just going to add another book to my collection in a deal, I was getting ready to close a deal with a millionaire client in a week, and I had booked a spot in a spa in three days. All of that was gone in the light of this incident. It angered me but anger will do me no good. I took a few deep breaths, by the time the elevator got the first floor I felt better.
I was received at the elevator by a guard who escorted me to Freya for one last talk before I went. We walked in silence, it was almost 11 a.m. now. The hall of chambers is not busy at certain times, it all depended on how many had an appointment.
We walked to the stairs leading to the second floor, it was the same walk as last night. I felt relaxed considering the hardships in the upcoming journey. I was trying to change my perspective to consider it as an elongated enforced holiday. It will all be okay.
We got to the seventh door, with the same plaque of "Fear". There was none of the dread that I felt when I saw the door last time. The guard knocked lightly, waiting for the green light embedded in the plaque to go off before opening the door. As every room was soundproofed, it would be ridiculous for the owner to get up and open the door every time.
The guard opened the door for me and lightly closed it behind me. I walked in to see Freya standing by the window. The two ninjas were lounging on a sofa by the far left of the door. I greeted everyone then sat in the chair opposite the desk, waiting for Freya to speak up.
The room was silent for a moment then Freya said, "This upcoming journey will not be easy. The twin dragons -the ninjas- will escort you but they will remain hidden. The best-case scenario is that it will be a mere hiking trip for you all, with no dangers whatsoever. In the event that something does go wrong, they will intervene only when your life is at risk or you are getting captured."
Well, that's interesting!