Chapter 3 – An Assassin
by lemuel moo
“What in the world happened to you, Gale? Why do you have bandages all over?”
I didn’t ask since I knew what happened, but Hideki had a truly concerned look on his face.
“A bunch of clowns had nothing better to do. Don’t worry about it as it has already been taken care of.”
“… If you say so. Let me know if anyone finds trouble with you, okay?”
Even as Hideki said that, he remained unconvinced with a concerned look. Upon noticing his worry, Gale tried to alleviate his worries.
“Look I’m really alright. Just some scratches here and there.”
Hideki didn’t push the matter forward since Gale was adamant about it.
When school ended, Raine came by and told Gale that she would be with her school friends and as such, would be going home late. Meanwhile, Hideki had to also go for a karaoke session with the girls in our class.
As I already had my time with Hideki through the guy’s gathering yesterday, I didn’t particularly want to join in on the karaoke session with the girls in my class. Hence, I opted to walk home instead.
Naturally being my bodyguard, Gale also accompanied me along on my journey.
It was at this moment where I had a sudden realization that we never really shared a good heart-to-heart conversation together before. Thus, I decided to take the step forward into the unknown and try to get a better understanding of Gale.
“When I saw you with all those injuries, you seemed like you needed a bodyguard more than I did.”
“Yea, the nurse was pretty paranoid with all the blood and bruises, and now I feel like I’m a walking mummy.”
I laughed and stared at Gale in his eyes.
“Really, why didn’t you fight back?”
Gale turned towards the sky as we embraced the soft wind that blew by for a moment.
“Although It’s pretty easy to fight back, it’s much harder to restrain.”
After a short pause, he continued.
“I’ve caused quite a bit of trouble for Raine before because I was impulsive. I fought back at every chance I got when we were the targets for bullying, and as you know, Raine does not know the whole picture of my strength due to me having to keep it a secret.””
You mean your previous display of killing aura was normal to Raine?!
“As a result, we had to move from place to place. It was arduous to keep relocating, and because of me, Raine did not have many friends. There would also be people who would come by and challenge me to test out my strength, making it increasingly difficult to hide my powers from her.
Raine has been suspecting that I’m different from the normal guys around my age. And as She is quite perceptive, she knows that other guys who trained as hard would never reach the level of strength that I possess.
Until the day I can freely tell Raine about myself, I will have to try my best to restrain.”
Hearing his side of things, I could sense that Gale had a mountain of things that he hasn’t told anyone yet, and felt like he was used to being burdened with secrets that a fifteen-year-old teenager should never have been burdened with.
“I don’t know how Raine would react if I tell her everything and I’m not certain if she could also keep my identity a secret. If people truly knew how powerful I could be, I might be forced to live a lifestyle of fighting rather than as a student in the academy.”
He turned to face me and looked at me in the eyes.
“Just like your family has secrets that have drastic consequences to would affect the world, I too have secrets that can affect the people around me. At present, I would prefer a life of peace and laughter.”
I felt like I could feel Gale’s heart a little. In my body rests a certain [Key], and its expected that many organizations and authorities have been eyeing my body for a long time.
Mom had never explained why she embedded the [Key] in my body and what was the [Key] for because she feared that if it got leaked, I would never have a taste of the peace I experience now.
“I never imagined that we would be so similar… that our lives would revolve around the very secrets that we carry —”
We didn’t manage to walk far from school when Hideki suddenly came running from our backs.
”Hey Gale, I think you should take a visit to the hospital with your kind of injuries. Just bandaging you up shouldn’t be enough. In fact, you should probably also give your body a scan to check if there are internal bleedings or worse… possible complications that we do not know of.”
After taking a glance at me, who was on the left of Gale, he continued.
“I will see to Clare’s safety as an interim bodyguard and send her home.”
Both Gale and I were puzzled after seeing Hideki in the flesh.
”Didn’t you leave with the bunch of girls for a karaoke session?”
”I told them I could not bear seeing you so wounded and yet have you still trying to keep up with bodyguard duties. I will make it up to them some other time. Also, I am also neighbors with Clere so it shouldn’t be a hassle to walk her back.”
Gale sighed. It was clear from his facial expressions that he did not want to burden Hideki and cause him to ditch his previous appointment for nothing.
”You do know I’m getting paid and you aren’t, don’t you?”
“ Treat me for a meal for helping you out in your bodyguard duties another time. I think I at least deserve that much.”
It was a heartwarming display of friendship. Perhaps I became soft-hearted because I could not hang out with my friends for too long in the past and thus I had not been able to develop deep and intimate friendships with the people around me.
Gale turned towards me and gave a sly grin.
”Sure, she’s all yours. Just make sure she doesn’t hop around too much and flash her bear — ouch! Why do you hit me for?”
”Why do you have to keep insisting on this silly joke about my underwear?! Hasn’t this grown old by now?!”
Hideki and Gale laughed heartily, while I was so embarrassed about Hideki having to keep hearing about my underwear.
Gale walked back in the direction of the school. Aelfsige Academy had a hospital for medical undergrad students within it, but earlier Gale had instead checked in at the branch clinic which was located nearer to our classroom. Hence, he did not go for a complete checkup.
Once Gale was out of sight, Hideki looked at me and sighed.
“Gale prefers to bear his burdens alone, doesn’t he?”
It was not as if we could help it. Our secrets were forced upon us since our childhood, and it was the very price we paid for being who we are.
“Hopefully someday he will be able to find someone who he can bear his burdens with, but for now I guess we can only leave him be.”
Hideki and I spent our journey reminiscing about the past, laughing over how we used to play pranks on our other friends and neighbors, exploring new territories and exchanging inside jokes with one another.
It felt like a divine arrangement for having Hideki instead of Gale with me now.
“Want to detour and take a look at Yildirim Woods? It’s been awhile since we have been to that nature reserve!”
My heart skipped a beat upon Hideki’s suggestion.
”Yes! We had lots of memories there before!”
That sounded like an awesome suggestion from Hideki! Yildirim Woods was a place where we used to hang out a lot to hide from my sister! I could almost picture that annoyed look on my sister’s face whenever I tried to escape as I broke my curfews in the past.
As we neared the entrance of Yildirim Woods, we saw golden beams pierced through the dense tree coverage, illuminating the ground in front of us. It was a woods brimming with tall redwood trees and canopies reaching towards the heavens, majestic and breathtaking beyond our wildest comprehension. Similarly, the trails both in and out of the woods twined and twisted to places unknown, as if mirroring the intentions of the trees surrounding it. All these unique features, coupled with the mysterious and mystifying atmosphere of Yildirim Woods, made it a location worth exploring.
As we brisked through one of the trails, flashes of memories began to ignite the nostalgic feelings within my heart. When I saw the bushes, I could see images of the young Hideki and me trying to escape Athena’s keen eyes as we huddled close between the leaves. There was a little brook near those bushes, and I could picture Hideki and I picking out stones to mark our hiding spots.
An enthusiastic voice came from Hideki.
“Wanna look for our old hiding spots?”
We scurried deeper into the woods as though an imaginary Athena was hot on our trails. As we began looking for little nooks and rocks for our hiding place, we heard a voice suddenly.
“Ara Ara…I have never thought it will be this convenient to kidnap you here, Miss Clere Sigrun.”
Startled, I looked up at the direction of the voice and saw a masked woman in tight fits, standing on a tree branch and armed with two giant claws. The jet black latex mask only covered the bottom half of her face from her nose down, while her long and straight blonde hair flowed like silk as the wind blew by.
“Who are you?!”
“Just another mercenary hired by the Black Diamond Syndicate. I was given strict orders not to kill if I can help it so I would like you to surrender to me before anyone gets hurt.”
Fortunately, Hideki was carrying his katana with him. He immediately unsheathed his sword and moved into a combat stance. Similarly, I took out my wooden brush and extended it to its maximum length as the assassin chortled at our faces.
“You kids shouldn’t be playing with swords at your age. You do know that it is futile for high school students to fight against a ‘C’ class assassin such as me.”
Fighters who had a criminal record were ranked from an ‘F’ class onwards, and being a ‘C’ class assassin meant that she had killed over fifty opponents before.
This was how the government ranked them 15 years ago, and before long, many of the ordinary common folks started using this system to evaluate themselves against one another.
Upon hearing her condescending words, Hideki furrowed his eyebrows with fear. Even though we received combat training from our families and in school, we both knew our combined strength could barely scratch our adversary since we had basically no real combat experience, much less fighting against a ‘C’ class assassin who had experience in life or death battles.
Our hopes of winning instantly plummeted into negatives. However, Hideki reignited his determination as he had just thought of a new ploy.
“Clere, on the count of 3, I want you to run all the way home without looking back even once until you’re safe at home, okay?”
I could not believe the ludicrous suggestion given by Hideki and stared at him blankly.
“That’s suicidal for you Hideki! She’s an assassin and both of us had never even noticed her presence until we were deep in these woods! Let’s just fight together and make it out safely!”
I momentarily shifted my gaze from Hideki back to the tree branch to ensure that she was still there, before turning back and continuing.
“Besides, do you think I could simply outrun an assassin of her strength?!”
This moment brought back memories of Athena and me. In the past, my sister did most of the fighting whenever I was confronted with an enemy while all I did during these actual battles were to just pick up the pieces that she had left.
To be fighting at the forefront without Athena certainly felt a lot more stressful.
“Hahaha! Foolish kids. Your only way of survival is but to surrender. Afterall, it is rare for assassins like me to be ordered to refrain from killing our targets, so you should try and make the best of it.”
A trickle of sweat flowed down the side of my face. To be honest, I was more worried about Hideki than myself.
“Don’t worry my darling little Clere, we will definitely need you captured alive to extract the [Key] out of you. Though if you struggle too hard, you just might lose a limb or two at the very worst. However, for that handsome man over there, I don’t really have orders to keep you alive so you probably should be more worried for yourself and get out of here before I change my mind.”
She said that with a twisted grin and a look of ecstasy plastered across her face. It was as if the surrounding atmosphere plummeted a few degrees, but Hideki was undeterred in the slightest and gripped his sword tightly.
“Then I guess it can’t be helped. I will be the vanguard and Clere, you work around and strike at any openings you see.”
The assassin crossed her arms and snickered at our plans.
“I can’t even be serious with you kids here.”
Suddenly, she disappeared from the branches and slashed at Hideki with her left arm, Hideki parried with his blade and moved towards her chest to counter-attack.
[Mizushima Waterfall Slash]!
It was an uppercut slash that released a long distance sword energy projectile  from the blade. Legends say this technique could slice a waterfall into two and alter the very landscape it hits.
However, even though a wave of sword energy had been released, the assassin dodged easily to her left and counter-attacked with her right claw.
I saw an opening and pierced my wooden brush towards the assassin’s chest which was left wide open before the claw could reach Hideki, but she ducked instinctively and returned a kick to my chest.
I flew, crashing into the tree behind me.
Hideki swung his sword to the right, hoping to catch the assassin with his blade. But as luck would have it, a rookie swing completely based on luck had no qualms against a skilled assassin such as the one he was facing. Incidentally, the assassin kicked Hideki’s arm in a swift and precise motion, one that could deliver a force large enough to crack your average joe’s skull, preventing him from completing his swing, before driving the back heel of her other foot into the face of Hideki, sending him flying a few metres before colliding back with the earth.
“That was a decent slash, boy. However, you are not Mizushima Kasumi. If it were her, I maybe wouldn’t have been able to dodge that waterfall slash.”
Blood flowed from the corner of Hideki’s lips as he picked himself up and assumed a combat stance with his katana again.
I tried picking myself up, but as I began to stand, my legs felt wobbly and gave way.
Seeing Hideki picking himself up, I could not just stand there and watch, so I tried picking myself up. However, my body said otherwise. The moment I began standing up, my legs would wobble and give way. Come on body, don’t do this to me now.
“You are too inexperienced at fighting, young lady. I kicked at your acupuncture point on your chest so you will have difficulty gathering your strength and energy. Just stay there and sit tight till I am finished with this lad.”
What are acupuncture points? I asked myself before recalling what my mother once told me.
Acupuncture points are pinpoint locations within our body that gather or release energy for either defense or offense. To be struck on these points with such precision is similar to being struck on our nerves by accident. Just a seemingly gentle knock on one elbow on our nerves could render our entire forearm weak and numb. It was a pretty effective tool at immobilizing your enemy quickly and effortlessly.
Looks like the assassin not only struck me on my acupuncture point on my chest, but her kick also left some residual energy on my acupuncture point, and it was acting as an energy clot in my chest.
I sat up and began channeling the rest of my energy from my body onto my chest, using special breathing techniques , to dissolve the energy clot that was blocking my acupuncture point. It wasn’t a serious injury as the assassin only wanted to weaken me or render me immobile.
Hideki saw that I was largely alright, and girded his attention back towards the assassin for the next attack. The assassin looked at Hideki with a smirk.
“Boy, you’d best unleash your best move right now, or you will never make it out alive.”
Hideki closed his eyes for a moment and unleashed the [Thousand Waves Of Fury] technique.
It was the most potent move that I had seen Hideki use when Kasumi was still teaching Hideki about five years ago. It was a barrage of high-speed slashes at a single focal target that resembled a tsunami crashing upon the land.
This attack prevented the opponent from dodging due to its wide area of effect before funneling all the slashes into a single focal point. Therefore if the opponent did not dodge during the first few moments before the attack reaches them, the opponent would be forced to experience a tsunami wave of slash attacks.
In other words, Hideki challenged the assassin to a direct contest of attack techniques and strength with no room for trickery.
The assassin looked ready to take the attack and parried every slash with her twin claws with inhuman accuracy, seemingly as though she could see every single slash in stop-motion. However, the assassin did not have room to counterattack, and thus It became a battle of stamina as intense attacks from both sides brought the battle to a standstill.
After a short while, Hideki’s attacks were weakening with every slash, while the assassin’s claws remained sturdy.
Not too long after, Hideki’s was caught by the assassin’s left claw and clipped through his right shoulder. As Hideki was unable to move away, the assassin was about to slash Hideki with her right claw vertically and shred him into two.
“That was pretty fun while it lasted, boy.”
At that exact moment, a wooden sword flew out of nowhere struck between the assassin’s right claw. It was so violent and forceful that not only was the assassin unable to complete her slash, she was also thrown backward by the impact, and Hideki’s shoulder was freed from her left claw.
“Who was that?!”
I felt a palm on my back and energy channeling into my body. It dissolved the energy clot in my acupuncture point in an instant and even strengthened me from within as though water was flowing into a brook.
As I turned my face to see who was behind me, it was a silly but yet dignified-looking mummy that was helping me to recover my strength.
“Gale! How did you know we were here?”
“Athena did tell me about how you girls play hide and seek in Yildirim Woods, so that’s why I am here.”
I was surprised that such an insignificant detail about my life could’ve made such a big impact in this situation.
“I have bad news for you though. You know the fifty percent deal we have? You will need to fight this battle for the most part.”
I glared at Gale with great annoyance.
“ARE YOU CRAZY?! What good are you as a bodyguard if you want me to defend myself against an assassin that can kill us on a whim?”
Gale grinned sheepishly.
“I’m not trying to fool around you know. It is not that I don’t want to fight, but I can’t fight her. And besides, I have a biological disadvantage against fighting girls as well.”
I could not believe my ears. This guy must be joking for sure!
“What on earth is this biological disadvantage you are talking about?!”
“In general, when I fight girls, I become ridiculously weak. This was forced upon me ever since I was born. That’s why the fifty percent deal means you will have to fight all the girls, while I fight all the guys.”
I wanted to strangle Gale from the bottom of my heart. What the hell! Why didn’t you say so from the very beginning?!
“Then how did you manage to use your wooden sword and stop her attack?! The amount of force in that sword was ridiculously strong that shouldn’t you be able to wield it freely to fend off this assassin?”
“Certain conditions need to be fulfilled before my body will allow me to fight girls. One of them is when I am in an urgent state of needing to protect someone. When Hideki was about to be slashed, my body generated a rush of adrenaline allowing me to overcome my weakness for a moment.
However I cannot sustain this state of being for a long period of time, so I am only useful for critical moments.”
Unbelievable! I have an idiot as a bodyguard! Mom, are you truly sure this is the kind of person you would entrust your life to?
The assassin was looking at us during our conversation. Was it just me or were the pupils in her eyes quivering? Wait, look! Her right claw is trembling slightly as well.
“Who the hell are you?! You didn’t even use a decent sword to repel my attack! There are not many fighters in this world who can accomplish such a feat!”
“I’m just a weak bodyguard who cannot fight girls.”
I could not tell if Gale was serious or joking. I suspected the assassin couldn’t tell as well.
Hideki had taken this short moment to recover his strength, and so was back in his battle stance.
“I think this is good enough to at least allow us to escape.”
Upon hearing these words from Hideki, the assassin clicked her tongue and immediately launched an attack towards me. Tough luck! What met with her claw was not me but instead Gale, grabbing the claws from the underside and holding them in place.
“Take this opportunity to recover! I can at least hold her off for a few moments.”
Gale crossed his arms and a shroud of dark energy emanated from him. The assassin looked surprised and jumped back to begin her barrage of claw attacks against Gale.
Gale did not receive her attacks directly. With every claw, Gale was able to deflect and redirect the attacks away from his body with his palm techniques and fingers, so the claws were never able to reach Gale at all.
It seemed like Gale was at least several levels above the assassin because he was striking at all the acupuncture points on her arms and hands with precision, with every attack launched at Gale becoming weaker than the one before in nature. Thus he was using a minimum amount of effort to achieve the maximum amount of result by deflecting the assassin’s attacks away.
These are highly advanced techniques that only my mother can achieve through her decades of experience. How in the world is Gale able to do that with relative ease?
Yet Gale wasn’t lying when he said that he was weak towards girls. As the assassin pressed her attacks onto Gale, Gale was increasingly getting weaker and weaker as well.
As a result, Gale was pushed back due to his lack of strength. He couldn’t deflect one of the advancing claws, and Gale received a direct slash across his body. Blood splattered everywhere, and the assassin kicked Gale with a large force on his chest. Gale flew out of sight from the impact, crashing into the woods at a distance.
With Gale out of sight and out of the way, the assassin guffawed.
“That boy really shocked me! It seems that his weakness against girls wasn’t a lie at all!! I thought I was fighting against an ‘A’ grade assassin if not for the fact that his weakness, unfortunately, became his demise.”
I was baffled by the stupidity of Gale.
Why did that idiot have to tell everybody about his weakness in the middle of a fight? We could have scared this assassin off if he had just kept his mouth shut!
With great timing, I had also recovered enough strength, so I used my wooden brush to jab at her body, Instinctively, the assassin used her right claw to defend, but her arm felt considerably weaker than before as I was able to push her backwards.
“Argh, that blow from the wooden sword still hurts.”
The assassin immediately used her left claw to stage a counterattack, but Hideki attacked her from the right side, leaving her no choice but to completely jump out of the way to avoid a confrontation.
Hideki regrouped with Clere and hope began to rise in this seemingly despairing situation.
“Looks like Gale managed to damage to her right claw and arm. We will need to make the best out of it.”
“You kids don’t get it at all, do you?”
The assassin began emanating a killing aura. It felt familiar to what I experienced from Gale’s killing aura, but definitely with much lesser intensity and pressure.
“I have been playing nice because I was ordered to refrain from killing. Now that I am slightly injured, I cannot afford to play nice anymore.”
Without warning, the assassin appeared suddenly before Hideki, landing several kicks on his torso and finally one on his head. Hideki crashed through one of the trees behind him and landed on the next tree in line, knocking him unconscious.
This assassin was literally out of our league. The level of speed and precision to knock someone out was certainly mind-blowing and borderline unfathomable. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness overwhelmed me.
“Now Miss Clere Sigrun, would you please quietly come along with me so that I do not have to hurt you any more than this?”
I attempted to lash back at her with my brush, but before I could land a hit, something struck me from behind, causing my vision to slowly fade into darkness…
Next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and saw my mother right beside me, sitting on my bed.
“Yes Clere, you were finally able to regain consciousness.”
“…Where am I, Mom?”
“You are resting on your bed at home.”
I tried to get up but there was a sudden throb of pain on my head, so I grabbed onto my head as my vision spun for a little.
“You were struck on an acupuncture point on your head. There was no real damage done, but you will need some time to recover before you can move around.”
I rested my head on my pillow and looked at my Mom in disbelief.
“Did you save me, Mom?”
“No, Hideki carried you in. We gave him some light treatment, and he is now resting in his home.”
Hideki saved me. Wait, that’s not right. I clearly remember that he went out cold first.
“Who saved us?”
“Apparently as I told you, it is Hideki. He fended off the assassin and carried you back here.”
I really doubted that, but I had no reason to refute my mother.
“Any news about Gale? He tried to save us in Yildirim Woods.”
“He is alright as well. You should be seeing him at school tomorrow.”
What?! All these information made no sense whatsoever! He was slashed by a giant claw, and he should be in the hospital by now.
“How about drinking some soup before you rest for the night? You haven’t eaten anything since you were brought back here.”
Well, there is no real reason to wrack my brain over the details now. At least we are all safe, and I will find out what truly happened tomorrow.
 Sword energy or sword energy projectile is [剑气 jiàn qì] in Chinese. It is the technique of compressing a person’s energy onto a blade and shooting it like a beam.
The strength of a sword energy projectile is determined by the amount and density of the energy being compressed within the attack.
 Breathing techniques are reckoned as [内功心法 neì gōng xīn fǎ] in Chinese. In other wuxia novels, they are translated as ‘cultivation method’ in English.
I personally prefer translating them into breathing techniques because it feels more relatable to someone new to this genre.
These are meditative exercises that focus on channeling or cultivating energy through breathing and movement of energy within their body.
Not all breathing techniques are equal. Special breathing techniques focus on different things, such as improving allowing someone to hold their breath for long periods of time, or make their bodies light so that one could jump and walk on water, and various special effects.
Such skills are to be reckoned with in the wuxia world. Some skills can grant even momentary physical invulnerability during a battle or boost a person’s natural abilities to superhuman levels.