It took the boys three seasons to find Great Master Gry. He’d gone reclusive in the modern wilderness: slums. It would have been easier to track of the man on a mountain top or distant island. In a sea of scrawny, old foreigners, with names in another alphabet, he was almost invisible.
That was on purpose. Gry refused to train them, even when they offered him their entire trust funds. They sent him ten newly-sewn suits, and ten handmaids, and ten immaculate meals from the master chefs of the metropolis. He left their gifts unworn, unsullied, and uneaten. The boys found their food rotting in the alley, supped upon by stray imps and tentacle monsters.
They did not give up easily. They accosted him every time he stepped outside – for the bathroom, for the mail, for his morning walk or sunset meal. He only ate once a day, and refused anything but the smallest container of unprocessed rice, and he refused conversation when they took supper alongside him, spurning their money.
On the third sunset, while he was out at his meal, they bribed the landlord and broke into his apartment. Gry returned home to find no cracks in his ceiling, no vermin in his walls, and for the first time in twenty-one seasons, that his single light fixture actually turned on. They’d left it on. He sat up with the light on all night long, though he did not invite the boys in.
The next morning, though, he invited them outside. The Great Master would begin their training just as soon as they donned more practical clothing.
The first lesson was of Stamina. The boys would pick up every piece of trash in the adjacent street, which stretched for four kilometers. No newsprint, turd or broken bowl could be left behind, and they had only two hours to collect all of it. Being boys of unfairly fair youth, they managed it, even if they collapsed at the end.
They thought it unfair until the next day, when they were assigned the next street over, and only an hour and a half. Every consecutive day drew another street of waste.
After four days of the exhausting work, Great Master Gry added a second lesson: Perception. The police of the city were needlessly abusive to many parties, running them out or collecting extortion from shops. The boys were not allowed lunch until each could find at least one police-servant who had broken the code of conduct and reported them all back to Gry. In a week, he increased their assignment to three a-piece. In three weeks, they found it much harder to find such police-servants, much as the police-servants found it quite difficult to retaliate against the children of the rich.
Every day they had their lesson in Stamina and Perception. They chaffed to learn exotic fighting styles, of the Charred Fist and the Unknown Walking. Yet as quickly as they could clear a street of refuse, Gry said they were not ready. He introduced the third lesson: Agility. It seemed that serpents and rats infected with tentacalia had beset the slum in recent seasons, and were often snatching babies or otherwise tearing up tenement ceilings. The only way to combat them was to scale the very structures they tormented.
Building upon their existing stamina and cleverness, the boys had to dispatch a dozen tentacled fiends per afternoon, and doing so meant either flying along scaffolds or swinging from ropes. Often Gry took his sunset meal on the sidewalk while watching the boys in their spectacular fights with the tentacle monsters. He was seldom alone; they drew great crowds of the poor, who could always use a little more entertainment.
Gry was the only one not enjoying the spectacle. He had to make up a fourth exercise for them before they got too good. Eventually the boys would realize what you already have, and they would be quite angry about it. Perhaps some mysticism about Patience? He hoped that would take, or if it didn’t, that they finished cleaning up the slums before killing him.