"Ai, what happen? We've discussed about this right?"
"Papa didn't say that it will be today. I... I don't want to stay with Madam Lisa. Can you let us follow?" Aira looked up to reveal a tear-stained face. She was very upset at this moment.
Arash sat beside her and gave her a hug.
"Be a good girl, Ai. This is important. It seems that Tok Silihan is going to help us look for Mama. So, your job is to look after Aina. Divide and conquer, like Mama always say, right. Pity Aina. Papa definitely can't bring Aina with us since she's a baby. Do you want to leave her alone with Madam Lisa? Who will protect Aina in our absence?" Arash asked his precious eldest seriously. He had to do this, though he felt guilty for placing the excellent caretaker in a bad light. He needed to give his girl a purpose.
Aira was a thoughtful girl for her age. His beloved had trained their daughters well, though sometimes, with a bit too much random information.
Aira made a miserable expression for a full minute before answering sadly, "How many days, this time?"
"Not more than three. Promise."
"Two pink unicorn plushies with rainbow-colored horn by the time we come home. One for me, one for Aina."
Aira hugged her Papa wholeheartedly. It will be three days full of heartache. She really hoped she could bear with it and act cutely in front of the mean caretaker.
Both father and daughter returned to the dining counter while holding hands together. The sweet girl didn't say anything after that. She became a little quiet, a little less excited. But she smiled at 'Uncle Alan' after a while and even complimented that his 'contact lenses'1remember that Alan's eyes are gray in color? In Malaysia, everyone has black or very dark brown eyes (typical Asians haha). It is very rare for someone to have light-colored eyes. Everyone who has multicolored eyes actually uses contact lenses. suited him very well, unintentionally gaining additional brownie points from the young man.
Arash parked his car by the side of the road where he promised to meet up with Rob. In front of him, there were two jeeps with a fully loaded cargo this time; one was gray, while the other one was matte black. Both showed signs of weathering difficult paths, with dents, scratches, and rust as ornaments. Random stickers were plastered over them; an attempt to cover the rough imperfections of the vehicles.
From inside the jeeps, three persons came out to greet Arash. One was Rob, the previous professional tracker, while the other two were unknown to him. All of them looked very fit and slightly brawny.
"Mr. Arash! Are you on a diet? It looks like you've lost some weight in just two weeks!" Rob came over and gave Arash a bear hug. Spending a short 2-day excursion together with Arash had made them bosom friends now. It was not about how long they knew each other, but how well they 'clicked'. Once a person knew Arash long enough, they will usually have a very good impression of him.
"Ahaha... Work issues, work issues." Arash chuckled lightheartedly.
"About your request last time, I have bad news. Quite a number of helpers had withdrawn at the last minute! I tried to reach you since yesterday but couldn't. However, we did bring with us 20 packs of 10 kg fragrant Siamese rice and five dozens of ready-to-eat meals of different flavors as per your instructions. I'm so sorry!" Rob had a very guilty expression etched on his face. He was so embarrassed with what happened after confidently telling Arash that he could definitely provide the manpower needed.
"Ahhh... About that. My fault too. My kid used my phone to play for quite some time. After that, she played hide and seek with it. Seriously. I couldn't find my phone half the night." Arash chuckled drily. That cheeky Aira silenced and hid his phone inside the rice container, submerged at the very bottom. Thank God she finally let up and told him this morning after bathing.
"Nonetheless, don't worry about it. I brought additional people this time." Arash patted Rob's shoulder to appease him. Well, at least something good came out of bringing his boss along.
Just in time, a group of sleek 4WDs stopped and parked beside Arash's gray Exora2a local low tiered MPV. Usually, people with big family will buy this one since its the cheapest MPV in Malaysian market. Ten tough-looking burly men in black suits and black shades came out, encircling a dashing young man with dark auburn hair and soft gray eyes. Anyone could see that this young man wasn't a local. Either he's a celebrity or the prodigal son of someone with a very deep pocket. Regardless, he looked like a stinking rich western tourist. Another older man with silver hair came out last from one of the vehicles. He was the only one who wore normally besides the young man. However, he too, looked like an out-of-place foreigner tourist; albeit one who looked poised and calm all the time.
Arash, Rob and the rest, "..." They were too speechless to say anything.
Arash covered his face with one hand. He was trying his best not to comment on anything. His boss was a little bit too flashy, just like a peacock.
"Morning, gentlemen." Alan nodded politely to the other three, as if he was here just to stroll around. He spoke nothing else and proceeded to walk towards the edge of the forest to look around with curiosity.
The men in black suits hovered around him like flies as they busied themselves with different kinds of technological devices. After a while, another man in proper hiking attire appeared and flaunted a folded chair just behind the young man as he was about to sit down. He then offered a bottle of mineral water for the young man to drink. A man in a black suit placed a watch over the young man’s wrist while he was drinking, while another one fixed something on his belt. The rest were surrounding the young man while looking around vigilantly, as if they were protecting him by keeping him in the middle.
Arash and Rob looked at each other, still feeling speechless. One word appeared on their minds; efficient. The second word was 'overrrr'3too flashy.
"Alright, you guys can return." Alan placed his right leg over his left while speaking without lifting his head. He was swiping through the info about the forest reserve they were going in on his tablet. His new subordinate hadn't provided the necessary information as requested beforehand, though he didn't blame him. Alan knew he was a bit forceful. He has no choice; he needed to get close to this man as soon as possible to observe his potential closely.
"Young Master, I still won't recommend you to go on this sudden trip. It is full of unknown variables. We lacked information. The Master will kill this old man if something happens to you. You need all of them to assist you." The old man with silver hair reproached Alan firmly. He was the only one who could simply talk to the Young Master without any consequence. The others could only keep mum, but if one removed all their shades, they too had the same look as the gray-haired old man.
"Miles, I can take care of myself. Additionally, Silas will be with me. You don't have to be worried. You guys already implanted a tracking device on me as well, right? So, what is there to worry about?"
"Bear in mind, Young Master, this is the first time you entered the forest of an Asian country. It is vastly different than the one you used to back home. I am worried about the signal's quality. It could affect your ability to contact us when you need help."
"Calm down. Calm down, everyone. This is just a short trekking session. It is not a forest in the middle of nowhere. It is just a forest reserve. Can you see how fit he is and how fit I am? He was the one who organized this trekking session. There won't be any problem. I heard it is a simple excursion to an aborigine village around thirty kilometers in after the end of the trail. Total time needed was just six hours. Anyone could do it. He has been there before. After all, this new subordinate of mine needed a little time to be tamed. This is imperative for our future goals."
Light lit up within the old man's eyes. "I see. Finally, the final piece of the puzzle, perhaps?"
"Might be." Alan grinned lightly.
"Alright, fair enough, Young Master. However, I will be accompanying you. Besides Silas, bring along Marco and Zidane."
The old man held up his hands when he saw Alan wanted to refute. "This is my bottom line."
"Already done with your preparation, Alan?" Arash asked the suave-looking young boss of his good-naturedly; he finally had come to terms that he had to babysit his boss in this occasion.
He missed the unbelievable stares directed to him by the other bodyguards around Alan, including the old man. No one had ever shed off the word 'Mister' from their boss' name in the three years he'd been in this country. No one.
"Yes. Let's go." Alan observed the rest of the bodyguards in three 4WDs moving back to his villa, leaving only one for their own use, as he answered Arash's query. Actually, he nearly never stayed in his villa and wasn't too familiar with the surrounding. His butler, Miles, took care of everything for him. He only needed to focus on his job at the company.
"Did you ever do a bit of trekking here? I mean, in Malaysia, er, Mr. Alan, right?" Rob added from the side. He was worried they brought along a totally clueless newbie again. They need to take extra precautions this time if they were newbies.
Alan's gaze fell on Rob but didn't answer.
"Good day, I'm Miles." The old man with the silver hair gave out his right hand and firmly shook Arash's and Rob's hand.
"Mr. Alan here had a fair share of trekking as well as hiking experience, but not here, in Malaysia. He is a busy man. However, no worries, we will assist him if there is a need. Please leave everything concerning Mr. Alan in our care." He spoke politely while placing one hand over his chest. He too, was wearing an attire which was suitable for trekking, just like the other person who looked like a bodyguard. However, the other two additional bodyguards were actually wearing black suits with black shades. It seemed that they didn't plan to change clothes.
Arash and Rob looked at each other again. Well, it seemed that this might be their first excursion outside.
Arash wondered how sad it must be to already stay here in Malaysia for three years but did not spend his time for vacation locally. Malaysia is one of the most sought after destination in Southeast Asia region for foreigners from afar, especially the islands like Langkawi up north, Perhentian on the East coast and Pulau Sipadan at Borneo4names of a few popular destinations in Malaysia. Basically, picturesque locations were everywhere! One just needed to spend a bit.
Arash gaze softened somewhat; part of it was due to pity. Well, it wasn't too demanding to bring along another small group for a short sightseeing session at the edge of his town. He could cope with that. Later, he will have to ask a favor from Tok Silihan to ask the villagers to entertain this group when they reach the aborigine village.
"Alright. Let's go, Alan. We'll lead first, you guys followed at the back." His meaning was clear; the two jeeps should lead while Alan's brand new posh-like 4WD followed them from the back. Like this, the first two jeeps will do all the hard work clearing paths if there's any obstacles, while his boss could enjoy the scenery at his own leisure.
"Sure. Arash, you switch place with Miles. Let Miles traveled with... ehm... these gentlemen here. You travel with me in my car."
Everyone else, including Arash, "...."
Rob pulled Arash to the back a bit while excusing himself from the group of stunned people.
He whispered urgently, "Is everything okay here, Mr. Arash? Do you need me to send these people home? Are they imposing on you? I can call my two other friends. We could show them a thing or two!"
"Ahaha.." Arash laughed drily. "No-lah, don't worry. That is my boss over there. If you send him home like that, I'll be fired. Who's going to pay for all the expenses this time?"
"Seriously? So young?! Does he have a crush on you?!" Rob had an unbelievable expression over his face. He sweated as the edge of his mouth twitched slightly; he couldn't stop himself from blabbering his wild thoughts. The handsome foreigner was quite obnoxious; it was very obvious he wasn't willing to communicate with them. However, he treated Mr. Arash very differently. It was so suspicious!
"Don't think so. Haha. Just let him be. He's just a little eccentric. I'll accompany him. Please take care of the old man, alright. As usual, same location like last time as we discussed."
"Alrighty, Mr. Arash."
1) contact lenses = remember that Alan's eyes are gray in color? In Malaysia, everyone has black or very dark brown eyes (typical Asians haha). It is very rare for someone to have light-colored eyes. Everyone who has multicolored eyes actually uses contact lenses.
2) Exora = a local low tiered MPV. Usually, people with big family will buy this one since its the cheapest MPV in Malaysian market (tax on imported car is very high here). It looks like this --> https://www.carlist.my/new-cars/2020-proton-exora-1-6-turbo-ready-stock-max-loan-lower-free-tax/6851466
3) overrr = its just means too much, or too flashy. A sentence could be this way; "How do I look?" "So overrrr!" In this context, the reply implied the person was wearing excessively (too flashy).
4) Langkawi/Perhentian/Sipadan = names of a few popular destinations in Malaysia
What these places look like;
Langkawi - https://www.adventoro.com/blogs/adventure-news/the-jewel-of-kedah-langkawi-island
Perhentian - https://www.legalnomads.com/the-perhentian-islands-malaysias-perfect-beach-destination/
Sipadan - https://www.sabahtourism.com/destination/sipadan-island/?locale=en