I couldn’t take my eyes off the old man. He was sitting behind the large mahogany table. He was wearing the similar jacket as in the camp but not any sort of uniform, just a soldier green hunting jacket. I doubt if he was wearing any shirt underneath the jacket because all I could see was bandages. He had stayed silent all this while.
When I received a call this morning, claiming that a great offer to enter a college I was, well, disinterested. With the constant pain emanating from my head and leg, I rather think about college later on. I hung up the call after giving them a minute to promote the so called prestigious college which I have never heard of. My mum was out to get some groceries when someone rang our doorbell. My dad was still not back from Indonesia so it was only me at home. I was on my way downstairs, taking all my time moving with the stick when the door opened, without me unlocking. I had no time to try to run or scream when two girls in suit came straight at me and pressed white fabric on my mouth.
The next thing I know is me waking up in this room.
I could so much so stare at him, wondering if I’m dreaming. When I was sure it was him I almost ran out of the room, by run I mean awkwardly move with only one leg working, but he instructed me to take a seat. He told me that I could never get out from here so don’t bother trying. His voice were not kind but at the same time not threatening either.
I asked him the reason I’m here, he simply told me to wait for the rest. I didn’t get it at first but as soon as Jane arrived, I understood that all my friends needed to be here.
Miss Gabriella arrived later on and she had been standing at the corner like a statue. The room was uncomfortably quiet I had to avert my gaze from staring at both of them. Jane started questioning the old man when nobody uttered a word, but no reply was given. They stayed quiet which was both annoying and maddening. Finally Naomi arrived minutes after Anna did. Her eyes almost popped out when she saw the old man. She didn’t try to cover her expression, it was full of horror. She walked in stiffly and sat at the only empty chair beside Jane.
The old man shifted in his chair and lean forward. “Welcome ladies. I believe you know the reason as to why I had brought you here.” He said in his strong voice. I tried to look for some sign of pain but he appeared normal as though those bandages are only decorations. Anyhow I was secretly happy to see him alive. At least what we did at the camp was not worthless. He was staring at each one of us. I was too focused into my own thoughts that I forgotten what he said. He was waiting for us to speak but none of us did. He set his lips in thin line.
“Okay, last Monday, you helped me to get to the east house.” He said as a matter of fact. He waited another minute, none of us made a peep. He went on, “I would like to know, how much do you know and how much did you see? How did you get involved in the first place?” I glanced at my friends and they were all avoiding his eyes. The lady that came in with Naomi stood behind of us. “Open your mouth and answer his questions, you impertinent kids.” She yelled all of a sudden. I cringed in my chair. The old man raised his hand and said, “Don’t scare them, Fiona.” Right then, he sounded tired and weak. “We don’t know what you are talking about.” Anna said. Her voice was shaky. “Adrianna Andwill, we mean no harm to you and your friends. We are trying to help.” He said and he meant it. “Why would we need your help?” Naomi asked in clear voice. I could see each of my friends are gaining courage to speak up but of course as planned we stick to the story of how we know nothing about the incident. “Your involvement might attract unwanted attention.” His voice went ice cold. I felt a tinge of shiver ran down my spine. I sat straight and asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“We wanted to know your side of the story, Ivy. It is crucial.” He stressed. I looked at my friends and they were undecided as to come keep clean or continue to pretend. “This is absurd, these girls are beyond insolent. Give them some treatment then they will choke out the truth.” The lady named Fiona growled. She made my hair stand. “Fiona!” the man warned her. “Adrianna, Ivy, Jane and Naomi.” He looked at each of our faces as he mentioned our names. “I need your co-operation in regards to the issue at hand. I believe you are sensible and bright enough to not cause any more inconvenience.” “Sir, would you mind filling us in with the type of situation we are involved in and who are we dealing with. We would like to know who are we talking to right now and if this is some sort of illegal undertaking going on?” Jane boldly asked. The old man took some time before answering her question. “To start with there is no any illegality in our part. We are fully authorized by the government.” “Did they government authorized you to tricked young girls to be locked down in a room for questioning to be done?” I asked, accusingly. I heard the lady made some noise at the back but she didn’t say anything. I know I was being rude but I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out. The situation was hopeless, both side had been dodging questions. “Ivy, bringing you here without your consent is wrong. I’m truly sorry for the inconvenience but we don’t see any other way.” He replied calmly. “Inconvenience? You practically kidnapped me here!” I yelled, feeling the frustration boiling within me. neither His expression nor demeanor was wavered by my outburst. I was impressed to see his control.
“What is this?” Anna produced a letter from her bag.
“That is an acceptance letter to enroll in Angels’ Town Institute. I thought that would be the best way to repay your help.” He said. I frowned at that. “This is the way you thanked us for saving your life?” Naomi asked, clearly amused to hear that. “Yes, that is true. This would also allow me to train you as well.” He explained. “Train us?” Anna interrupted. “Listen carefully, indeed we are working under the government but our institute and agency works independently. Our institute is designed for training young chosen kids to become an agent for the government as well as the privatized agency. Normally the kids will be chosen based on their talent and ability throughout the country at the age of 15. They would complete their training in year 4 and then they will proceed to join mission that are suitable for them. You should be aware that our agency sends agents to various jobs among the criminals. That is why the corrupted fear us and intend to harm us. Right now, the involvement of you four in saving my life could bring you danger. We are not sure if any of the bad guys aware of each of you in person. I personally feel responsible and would like to take extra precaution now itself. I want to provide you this rare opportunity to join the Angels and learn to protect yourselves. Of course we will also provide the course you wanted to do in pursuant to your higher studies.” He explained.
I had to blink a few times, trying to make sense his words. “So, you’re saying that you are willing to provide us education as well as trainings of self protections, all in your expense just because you think that our life could be in danger?” Anna clarified.
“Yes, Adrianna that’s right.”
“Then why not simply call us like a normal college would instead of tricking us here?” Anna asked accusingly. “Except for the case of Ivy, we did not trick you here. You came by your own will.” He answered. Anna clearly didn’t like that respond. She turned and looked at each of us. “Can we talk among ourselves and come up with a decision.” She asked for his permission. “Of course, go ahead. You may use the hall out there. We will ask Miss Mary to step out for few minutes.” He replied. “Thank you, sir.” We murmured and went out of the room. Jane and Naomi had to escort me out slowly while the three strange people stare at me. I hated my condition during this sort of situation.
Finally, I felt relieved to be able to escape each of their sharp eyes. “I need to sit down.” I sat on one of the chair placed far from the room. “Me too,” Anna and Jane joined me. The young girl at the table had just stepped out after giving us an irritated look. I smiled at her apologetically but she didn’t notice. “It’s like a string of crazy things happening around us.” Jane muttered, as she twiddled with her handset.
“I know, I mean did you hear him.” Anna said. “Yes, I couldn’t believe any of his words. Sudden college acceptance and wants to train us? What on earth is that? What kind of college is that? Ever heard of it, guys?” I asked my confused friends. They simply shook their head. Jane sighed and sat beside me at the round table.
“I googled it before coming here.” We looked at Jane expectantly, “I found nothing.” she stated. “It was weird to find nothing about the institute that sent me acceptance.”
“We don’t have much time, so should we tell them the truth?” Anna asked the question. “They sort of know it’s us, what’s the point of pretending to know nothing.” I said. “Ivy is right, they knew it’s us, so the real question is do we have any other choice?” Jane asked sullenly.
We went in after our short discussion. Miss Fiona looked at us disapprovingly. I ignored her and went to sit at the same place. Miss Gabriella is now sitting at the back of the room, watching us with her careful eyes. She looked radiant as always but she wore an expressionless face. I shifted my gaze and found the old man was staring at us intently. I shoot the question that we wanted ask, “Is it a must for us to join the institute, sir?” He smiled knowingly and produced four sheets of papers and gave it to us. Anna took the papers and gaped at it. “It was approved by the government.” He claimed. I took the papers and found each of the papers was signed by the education ministry. Our names were boldly written in it and our acceptance in the Angels’ Town Institute had been acknowledged by the government itself. This is huge. The old man had went to great extend to add us in his college but why he has to do this? This soon? My mind reeled in questions and finally I came down to one, “Sir, this means, you want us because our lives seriously in danger?” He looked at me and for a second I thought I saw pained expression on his face but he recovered too soon or probably I imagined that. “I cannot be sure on that point. But sure enough someone wanted me dead and now they would be very unhappy to see me alive. If that person found out the reason I survived or the person who was behind my survival, I couldn’t be sure what he would do. I rather not take the risk.” My throat went dry listening to that. I felt as if he was trying to pass on a warning.
“Alright then, since you’re trying to protect us from whoever you were talking about, we will tell you what happened last week at the camp.” Jane started to give out every details of the incident including the one we overheard them. She kept it short and brisk. The old man nodded all along as his face grew darker. “That is more than I expected.” He stated when Jane finished our little tale. “Thank you, Jane. Now before I let you go, I need you to take this to your parents and get their approval. Be aware that, you must not tell your parents or any other person the truth of the institution. As the commoners, you’re only expected to reveal the only known fact that it is simply an institution that provides education.”
“But shouldn’t they know the truth?” I asked. I have no idea how I’m going to hide such a big thing from them. They would eventually find out. “No, not in your case, it’s better to let them in dark. That would prevent them from getting dragged into unnecessary situation. Telling them the truth would only make them anxious. Don’t worry. Staying away from them would make things easier.” He explained.
“What? Staying away?” Anna almost shouted. “Yes, accommodations will be provided in the institution itself, just like the others. Another important reminder, your sudden recruitment should be kept secret, only those in this room would know the reason behind. No matter who it is, never give away the information. Look for me and only me, if anything goes wrong.” He added, with a serious tone. We nodded. “But sir, what if we do not want to join or, my parents didn’t agree to it.” Jane asked him. He smiled at her, as if she just asked a sheepish question. “That should be your least concern, I will talk to your parents if it’s necessary and if you do not wish to join, then I had to make a new plan or make you comply with this. You should know that there is no turning back from now onwards. I believe each of you understood the importance of this recruitment. I expect you to join this coming week and we will send another letter providing further details.” He wrapped up his speech. I was stunned to see the progress of the meeting, from threatening questioning to lecture from the old man in regards to our college soon we will be attending. There was something I wanted to know so I cleared my throat, “Sir, will you be there to guide us?” Clearly dislike the idea of going to a new place without having someone I know to help me out. “Of course I will be there. I am the principal of the Institute. You may seek me whenever you need my guidance.” He informed us. I wanted to ask for his name but Anna voiced out her curiosity, “Sir, I have another question, as per your explanation, I’m confused, uhm, is the institute about, I mean a place to train the spies?” I was amazed that Anna had asked something that we were discussing out there just now. I was half expecting they would burst out laughing but they didn’t.
“You’re absolutely right, Adrianna. Spies of the nation are made there.” He affirmed our thoughts. More questions rise in my mind and I could see my friends are eager to ask more too but Miss Gabriella, for the first time, spoke. “Girls, that’s it for now. You will learn more as you join the institute. You may leave now and start preparing yourself for next week. Good day.” She dismissed us and went on to stand beside the old man. He was growing restless so I thought it’s best to leave now and not strained him further with questions. We left with millions of questions and thoughts running in our mind. I couldn’t be sure whether I’m intimidated or excited with the unexpected turn of events.