Back when I served in the Cleansup Unit, we dealt with some pretty intense stuff.
There was this crew of big shot generals in the Demon Army known as the Seven Dragon Kings. Each one staked the honor of their species, considering themselves the ‘heroes’ of their kind.
Before the hero party showed up, the United Kingdom was getting trounced pretty bad by these demon types.
It was impossible to fend off these demon creatures, as they surpassed humans physically and were dead set on taking over the world.
The war with the Demon’s Army was essentially a war between humans and all other species.
The brainiacs from the United Kingdom, feeling trapped, came up with a plan.
“To break the unity of the demons, we need a sneaky move, not an all-out brawl.”
They sent our soldiers to the front lines, desperately trying to hold the fort.
Meanwhile, they planned to send an ‘assassin’ to bump off the Seven Dragon Kings and mess up the enemy’s unity.
Since the demons were just a bunch of strong tribal nations, once the Dragon Kings were gone, their crew would start fighting among themselves for the top spot, causing internal conflicts.
And guess what? It worked.
So, in the big picture, the hero party was basically an assassination squad.
Thrown into battle but always coming back in one piece. That’s why even the big shot kings from different kingdoms didn’t mess with them easily.
That’s why Ivan couldn’t stand the hero party.
It reminded him of the reason the Krasilovs Royal Family decided to disband the Cleansup Unit.
We were too good with our swords to keep around during peaceful times.
Chapter 8: These orphans need a director
Ivan got hold of the schedules for the hero party’s kids as intel and enjoyed his leisure time.
His plan was foolproof.
First, a few days back, the rescue of Ecdysis.
Then Isabelle, Hero Maximilian’s daughter, was set to leave in early February from Tyllese Kingdom.
Shortly after, within a few days, Oscar, Knight Jilber’s son, also departing from Tyllese Kingdom.
There wasn’t much to worry about with these two. Tyllese and Krasilov had okay relations even before the war, and they were close enough geographically to handle any trouble during the train journey.
As for Elphiera, the wizard Veolgrin’s daughter, she wasn’t taking the train in the first place. Veolgrin’s turf was an island beyond the Black Sea, the Kalion Empire. She’d be coming by warship, making her safer than anyone else.
Krasilov lacks a harbor, so she’s likely to arrive via Tyllese since there is no direct route. However, I doubt she’d leave an entourage behind if he arrived by ship in the first place.
Finally, Enrique’s apprentice, Lucia.
She was from Krasilov Kingdom and seemed to have already arrived somewhere in the capital.
Seems like no big deal even if checked briefly at the end, and he didn’t feel an urgent need to meet her soon.
So, basically, if I let the train situation for the two new students in February pass smoothly, the rest can be managed without my direct involvement.
The train terror itself was part of the tutorial process.
Through Ecdysis, now fully convinced. There was no reason for him to act until enrollment.
“Man, I’m craving some kimchi stew.”
He passed his time making a list of ‘foods to devour once back on Earth.’
Chilling by the cozy fire in the director’s office with a cup of coffee became his treasured leisure.
Tteokbokki. But not the fancy kind. Not the usual delivery-style tteokbokki with a lot of soup.
He was longing for that homemade street-style, hipster tteokbokki from the school’s snack bar. He could remember that joint that sprinkled curry powder; it was all the rage.
“Ah, I miss home…”
“Are you leaving us again?”
Ivan’s relaxed gaze suddenly sharpened. The internal Kim Sunwoo vanished, leaving him alone, turning around.
A little kid was hanging by the window.
“How long have you been standing there…?”
“Since you started mumbling about food, Director!”
“This is the third floor here.”
“I’m known for diligently working hard in class!”
“…Does our curriculum now include wall climbing…?”
Ivan strolled to the window, opened it wide, scooped up the giggling kid, and carefully placed them back inside the room.
“I won! See that?”
“Don’t turn it into a game. Use the hallway next time. It’s dangerous here.”
“Well, it’s the only way I can win!”
At St. Basilicia Orphanage, there’s a favorite game: sneaking up on the director.
It was a hit among the kids. Ivan, the mysterious man who effortlessly caught objects flying behind him without even looking, made him a fantastic buddy for the kids who judged based on actions, not appearances.
“I’ll fix you some hot cocoa, just drink it and scram.”
Ivan didn’t object. After all, these orphans needed a way to survive once they left the orphanage.
If one can outsmart his senses, they won’t go hungry no matter where they end up.
After seeing the kid off with a smile, Ivan settled back into his peaceful downtime.
He had about two weeks until Isabelle hopped on that train.
That’s how he used to think until a student got snatched out of the blue.
“Let me go, what the heck do you think you’re doing?”
“You folks don’t get it. If our director finds out, you’re in for it!”
“Wow, this kid doesn’t know where she stands right now!”
Frechenkaya, the capital of Krasilov, is a big deal on the continent. Like any city, it’s got its ‘back alleys’ and ‘rough areas,’ where all sorts hang out, including gangs and some seedy characters. Among them are the ‘assassination organizations.’
If you stab someone with a knife, you will be brought to justice. The law tends to be a little stricter the higher up you are, but the pay is also sky-high.
So, these assassins figure they can risk it, stab once, and vanish with a bag full of cash after the deed.
That whole stylish assassin like Léon, sneaking in, slashing, and vanishing in the dark? Yeah, that’s just in the movies.
“So, who’s your director then!”
“I-Ivan Petrovich! Heard that name, huh?”
These guys definitely knew the name Ivan.
Heck, even the surname Petrovich.
In Krasilov, Ivan’s as common as John, and Petrovich isn’t far off from Doe.
It’s like when someone laughs at the mention of a basic name like John Doe. The folks in Frechenkaya’s back alleys chuckled at the name.
Then, a hushed voice cut through the darkness of the alley.
The gang members were spooked, lowering their weapons and stepping back as a path opened up, step by step, for someone emerging.
“Who’s that again?”
“I-Ivan Petro, Petrovich… Director, sir…!”
That person sized up the captive for a moment, then cracked a wide grin.
“That rascal said he was calling it quits, yet he’s been putting together an assassin squad behind my back?”
The tradition at St. Basilicia Orphanage of sneaking up and startling Ivan might have seemed playful to the kids, but to someone in the business, it looked different. Especially to ‘Shadow Blade’ Enrique, a real pro among pros in this world.
Pretending to be dead, spinning rumors of a clean break to start anew. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How could the Cleansup Unit rectify such behavior?
Enrique chuckled and nodded.
Ivan Petrovich, pegged as the head of a shady outfit that trains orphans for assassinations!
“A grad student’s been snatched?”
“Yeah, sir! Remember Priscilla?”
“I never forget.”
Ivan kept tabs on the details of all 300 of his current and past students, including the grads.
Priscilla. No last name. 17 years old. Orphan from the war.
Abandoned during the war, scavenging near the military base.
Despite her mischief, she was gutsy and talented. So, as graduation neared, Ivan wasn’t overly worried.
Seemed like she was exploring job options these days, moving around…
“Who, where, when?”
“Not sure, but only her coat’s turned up… Could be a threat, right?”
Ivan carefully inspected the handed-over coat.
Traces on the sleeves, a crumpled collar, one loose button.
Flipping through absentmindedly, his hand suddenly halted.
A faintly imprinted handprint. Barely visible, just a smudge beneath dirt.
Beneath the dirt, a subtle cross-shaped scar etched at the base of the hand.
Those were the marks of the fiery fellows in the organization.
There wouldn’t be foolish guys kidnapping orphans for money, so it was either a provocation, a warning, or… an invitation.
Ivan felt the need to readjust the schedule he had put off meeting, the one he least wanted to meet.
Shadow Blade Enrique. In other words…
It’s the call from the Grand Master.
Considering the Cleansup Unit was Enrique’s brainchild.