The Mech Touch Chapter 1317
1315 Secretive Order
Ves did not find a bodyguard he wanted to buy out on the spot at Trinity Halls.
Certainly, he met many competent and athletic Kinners who knew how to triage, how to survive in a wilderness and how to operate dozens of different weapons.
Some of the more expensive ones even incorporated alien organs in their body that gave them capabilities that might prove invaluable.
The ability to sniff out toxins, see infrared, fire out bone shards from an organic arm cannon and more offered additional flexibility when their equipment failed.
With the prevalence of hacking, relying too much on technology was a common vulnerability that many unscrupulous actors exploited!
Yet despite all these fancy offerings, the bodyguards themselves seemed to be a bit devoid of.. personality.
Similar to elite mech pilots, these top Kinner bodyguards underwent the most intensive training programs to become so good. This left very little time for self-expression and other activities.
"They're too much like bots." Ves shook his head. "I don't doubt their competence, but I never liked to surround myself with people who don't think for themselves."
Kelandra looked surprised at that. "Oh? That is not what other clients think. They prefer to hire consummate professionals. They're easier to control and they don't have to divert extra attention to keep them happy."
"I'm looking to hire a person. I'm not looking to acquire furniture."
He said this for a very specific reason. Even though spirituality did not appear to play a significant role to people other than mech pilots and mech designers, Ves knew better than to take this assumption for granted.
Throughout his career, he encountered a fair amount of abnormal incidents related to spirituality. The frontier especially showed him that different applications of spirituality did indeed exist.
Although the possibility was faint, Ves wanted to try his luck and see if he could uncover a Kinner with spiritual potential among the bodyguards for hire.
Two of the most iconic examples of humans wielding spiritual power in a personal capacity stood out to him. The memories still haunted him whenever his paranoia flared up at times.
One was an assassination attempt that happened early in his career. Some sniper armed with a railgun of all weapons seemingly marked him with a touch of spiritual energy that harkened to a cold wind snuffing out a flickering candle.
The other was the weird stealth tricks employed by the cultists of the Church of Haatumak.
Ves did not have any hopes of uncovering a Kinner who could do something as crazy as the latter. The worshippers of Haatumak were only able to develop these extreme abilities due to their hidden connection to the Five Scrolls Compact.
In truth, even if he found a bodyguard with dormant spiritual potential, Ves had no clue how to develop it into an actual power.
For this reason, Ves did not perform his search for a bodyguard with high expectations in mind.
After passing over the elites, Ves began to trawl through the lower tiers of bodyguards. While they lacked the proficiency and augments of the former group, they were livelier and more motivated to attract his attention.
Ves found that kind of odd, but Kelandra quickly explained the reason.
"When these bodyguards sign themselves over, they have accepted the possibility that they might have to sacrifice their lives to perform their duties. They do so willingly because they invest all of their pay into their children."
"Perhaps it is a little odd to a foreigner like you, but some of the elite bodyguards you've encountered before are products of such sacrifice."
The Kinners were very much oriented towards martial service. They elevated fighting professions above civil professions. For this reason, wanting a child to become a much better bodyguard than themselves did not sound odd to the tribesmen.
Ves privately considered them weirdos, but he knew better than to voice his opinion.
As the hours went by, Ves patiently sounded out a lot of prospective bodyguards. Most of them share similar backgrounds, so none of them diverged too much from each other.
Despite that, Ves still took a liking for a couple of them. Gavin noted his selection and already started to research their background details.
As Ves encountered more and more bodyguards who didn't appear to possess any special qualities, Ves finally diverted his eyes towards a large and athletic woman who entered the sparring ring.
The woman challenged a shorter but equally tough-looking woman for a light spar. Both of them began to circle around each other while darting close to exchange some quick punches and kicks. A remote cushioning system built into the sparring ring made sure that none of the strikes delivered any severe damage.
While Ves hadn't noticed the tall woman with medium, braided blond hair before, the spar she engaged in had tickled his spiritual senses.
The others also stopped to see what caught his attention.
The blond woman made for a remarkable sight. Not only was she taller than Ves, she also possessed an excellent, balanced musculature that reminded him of professional athletes.
Her training outfit did not show off too much skin. What the female bodyguard did reveal was plenty of tattoos, each of them harmonizing with each other in some profound, tribal meaning.
Though her appearance did not conform to the prevalent beauty standards, she attracted plenty of stares even from other Kinners due to her Amazonian physique!
"Don't you already have Gloriana, boss?" Gavin frowned. "How would your 'girlfriend' react when she finds out you've been ogling at another woman? Or are athletically-strong women your type?"
"It's not like that, Benny." Ves hissed. "There's something special about her. She's different from all the other bodyguards I've approached so far."
"I don't see how. Her appearance might be more exotic, but the other bodyguards look much stronger when they spar."
Ves couldn't adequately explain what he found so remarkable about the female bodyguard. Not without bringing up his secrets.
Instead, he turned to Lucky, who was perched on his shoulder. "What do you think, buddy?"
"You agree, right?"
Gavin looked askance. "Uhm, boss, is it really wise to trust the judgement of your cat? Did he come with a human resource management software package or something?"
"No. Lucky is just astute when it comes to sniffing out remarkable people."
"Well, you're right about that, sir." Kelandra spoke up. "She's a famous one at Trinity Hall."
"Who is she?"
"She's called Fe Nitaa, and she's not a regular Kinner. She used to be a trainee of the Order of Fl'xix."
The way she pronounced Fl'xix sounded so odd that Ves had the impression of hearing an alien!
"What is this Order of Flix all about?"
"It's pronounced Fl'xix. Don't let anyone of the order hear you butcher that word." Their local guide warned. "The order is a secretive organization in the Kinner Tribe. I myself don't know what they do, exactly, but most of us guess that protecting our most revered tribesmen is among one of their duties."
"Since this order is so secretive, why is Miss Nitaa at Trinity Halls looking for another job?"
"She failed to meet the order's standards. The Order of Fl'xix is an elite institution. Every Fl'xixian that has appeared in public has always left an unforgettable impression. Miss Nitaa.. falls short. She has no place in the order."
That sounded fairly brutal to the woman in question. It was very difficult for someone to pick themselves up after investing all their time and effort into meeting the order's unattainable standards.
Still, Fe Nitaa maintained a stoic face. If Ves did not hear her story from Kelandra, then he would have thought that Fe Nitaa was just an odd bodyguard.
Now, he found out that the odd bodyguard possessed a complicated past as well.
"What do you think about Miss Nitaa? It seems like you're familiar with her already."
"For a bodyguard, she's good enough, I suppose." Kelandra replied. "She's not as good as the elites who have been trained for the job from birth, but many of her existing skills cross over with what is expected from a personal bodyguard."
"You'd expect someone like her to get hired already." Gavin noted from the side. "Since you know her by name, that means she's been hanging out in this hall for a while. Why hasn't she been snapped up yet?"
Now that Ves thought about it, that did sound odd.
Kelandra shook her head. "She refused their offers. A lot of clients, particularly men, offered her cushy positions, yet she refused their offers outright. It didn't matter if they wanted to hire her for a fixed period or buy her out for an indefinite time, she all said no to them. For what reason, none of us know."
That sounded like another tough customer to Ves. He already grimaced as he feared another instance like Commander Mair. It was so excruciating for him to find a promising treasure, only to leave it behind.
Nonetheless, nothing ventured, nothing tried. He had to see for himself if Fe Nitaa proved to be an equally unattainable hire.
Ves sent a look to Kelandra, who got the message.
She stepped forward and approached the edge of the ring. She sent a hand signal to the sparring combatants that prompted them to separate from each other. A slightly winded Fe Nitaa stretched her limbs a bit before approaching the guide.
The two leaned close and whispered to each other. After this brief exchange, Nitaa took a deep look at Ves with her yellow eyes.
The exchange lasted for a minute before they separated again. When Kelandra came back, Ves expected a rejection. Why else would Nitaa turn away?
"She accepted your offer of buying her out."
"Wait, what!?" Gavin spluttered. "We haven't even extended her an offer yet!"
Even Ves was taken aback. He took another look at Nitaa, but all he saw was her back as she entered a side corridor in order to shower and freshen herself up.
"According to Nitaa, Mr. Larkinson qualifies." Kelandra said with an odd face. Even she was confused! "She accepts any contract you give her. It matters little to her if you want to employ her for a year or for the rest of her life. Even if you pay her enough money to buy a single nutrient pack, she will still take an oath to serve you as a personal bodyguard for the rest of her life!"
Gavin simply couldn't get his mind around this absurd circumstance.
Even Ves didn't know what had happened. He was too suspicious to believe that Fe Nitaa just took a liking to him after rejecting so many other offers to employ her services.
There was something fishy about Fe Nitaa's premature acceptance!
Even Gavin could tell that something abnormal went on. He turned to Ves. "Maybe you should reconsider, boss. Normal Kinners don't offer themselves to a random client for free. At least even slaves think they are worth something!"
Ves turned back to Kelandra. "Do you know why Miss Nitaa offered those conditions? Is it an imposition from her former order, maybe?"
"No." Kelandra shook her head. "The Order of Fl'xix has produced plenty of dropouts. Many Kinners aspire to join their ranks. Few actually manage to pass their tests. She.. has not been forthcoming with her reasons to me. Perhaps you should ask her yourself."
That was a good idea. So far, Fe Nitaa only expressed verbal approval at any employment arrangements that Ves might wish to make. They hadn't signed any contracts yet. As long as neither of them recorded their agreement in a legally-recognized document, Ves could still walk away if he didn't like what Fe Nitaa had to say.
The special quirk in spirituality that he and Lucky sensed during her spar might be interesting to him, but it wasn't worth a blind leap into the unknown.