Chapter 7 – The Man With Chains
by lemuel moo
It’s already been a day and yet the picture of Kasumi and Gale kissing keeps on showing in my head! What’s wrong with me?!
It was a chilly Thursday morning, and I was walking across the school grounds returning to class after running an errand for a teacher. My brain felt like it was running on a treadmill non-stop ever since I woke up from my slumber because I couldn’t shake off the awkward feeling of having become a third-wheel for Gale and Kasumi’s upcoming date on Saturday. Another part of me was upset with Gale because he was so defenseless when it came to girls!
I marveled at the fact that Kasumi was able to do whatever she wanted to do with Gale while he was strung like a puppet. The Kasumi that I knew five years ago had undoubtedly changed dramatically, and it was frightening that she unleashed her feminine wiles on Gale so shrewdly!
As I was mulling over this, I noticed there was a guy with spiky hair wearing a leather jacket, leather pants, and had metallic chains all around him, and he was walking around hesitantly looking where to go.
Isn’t he the one who was taunting Hideki in Yildirim Woods? What is he doing here?
Our eyes met, and that spiky guy hastily walked towards me. I was tempted to walk away and ignore him, but he was pretty quick on his feet, and I found myself staring into his eyes.
“I want to know two things from you. The middle school building and Satori.”
Aelfsige Academy was one of the most significant learning institutes in the country, comprising of junior school all the way to university. It was little wonder that strangers could not find their way if they did not have a map.
Why is he asking for the middle school building? Satori is in high school! And doesn’t he recognize who I am?! Why would he ask help from me!
“That left building you see over there? That’s the middle school building. As for Satori, I’m not sure where she is since the school is pretty big. She’s not difficult to spot since a bunch of people always surrounds her.”
That guy tried to pull down on his leather clothes as though he could straighten it any further and checked his mirror before walking towards the middle school building.
“So what are you here for?”
That guy continued walking as though he didn’t hear me.
I wanted no further business with him, so I walked on to class. When I came back, I motioned Hideki to go so I could tell him who I just met.
“You know that punk-looking guy who challenged you to a fight in Yildirim Woods? He is on campus right now.”
Hideki was alarmed. “Seriously?! What is he doing here?”
“He was heading to the middle school building, and he was asking for Satori.”
“Satori? Is he looking for revenge — “
Another lady’s voice suddenly came into the conversation. “Hey, Hideki! Over here!”
Satori appeared at our classroom door, and she was waving Hideki to come to her.
Ever since Hideki transferred to this school, Satori had been hanging around our classroom rather frequently. Hideki was always nice to girls, so most of the time he would submit to her requests to hang out with her.
However, Hideki was not interested in joining Satori’s fighting group for our school’s upcoming competitions. That didn’t deter Satori from meeting up with him frequently though.
“Speak of the devil; she’s here. I will catch up with you later.”
Moments after Hideki and Satori left, a familiar, bright voice came from the entrance.
“Brother! Want to have lunch together?”
Gale was snoozing on his desk before he looked up at Raine.
“You have been coming here somewhat frequently. Are you making friends in your class?”
“You don’t like to see me during lunchtime?”
Gale shook his head. “That’s not it. You are new to your class, and I figured you should be spending some time with your friends. Find a friend to eat with today.”
“B-But I came all the way here… okay, how about you join me for lunch with my friends instead?”
Gale paused for a moment to think.
“Yeah, why not? You know who I hang out with, but I don’t know anything about your group of friends. I’ll take you up on your offer.”
As Gale picked up his lunch box, he saw me looking at both Raine and him and turned to Raine for a question.
“Hey Raine, do you mind if Clere joins us?”
“Well, if she doesn’t mind tagging along.”
Gale came to me with puppy eyes, and those eyes were beckoning me to join them. I was about to refuse when he came over to my ears and whispered:
“Do me a favor and come along. I don’t want my sister’s friends to think that she has a brother complex.”
I was quite sure my presence wasn’t going to help at all though. Nevertheless, I gave in to those puppy eyes.
There were a few cafeterias throughout the Academy, and there was one dedicated to middle school students at their building. Thus Gale, Raine and I headed there.
It didn’t take long to find Raine’s friends as there were four happy girls having fun discussing the latest gossip that spread like wildfire around them.
Raine’s group of friends asked. “Raine! Did you decide to join us today? Who are those people with you?”
“Hey! They are my brother Gale and his classmate Clere!”
Gale and I greeted those girls and sat with them. Those girls could not stop peering intensely at Gale.
“Kehehehe… I now understand why you would join your brother for lunch. All the boys in our class are going to be disappointed!”
Gale inquired immediately.
“Oh? Is Raine popular in class?”
One of the girls replied. “You bet! She has received several confession letters —“
“Stop it, Vania! Don’t embarrass me here!”
Raine was beet red with embarrassment. It was not unexpected that Raine would attract the attention of guys since Raine looked pretty good herself.
“Oh~? Raine never mentioned anything like that back at home. You have the photos of the guys who confessed to her?”
Vania immediately interjected to tease Gale.
“Wha — are you jealous of competition, big brother?”
“Certainly not! I want to greet them and give them advice on how to impress Raine!”
Raine protested. “BIG BROTHER! Don’t do that!”
Everyone was laughing at the sight of the embarrassed Raine, who was slapping Gale’s arm in annoyance.
“Have my mobile number, Vania. Tell those guys I will give them personal advice as her brother who knows EVERYTHING about her.”
Vania and the girls couldn’t stop laughing and teasing Raine while Gale was pushing his mobile phone to Vania, as Raine was desperately pulling his arms away from Vania. ‘Isn’t this just a cheap way to pick up a middle school girl’s number, Gale?’
Vania looked at Raine and said. “Your brother is certainly entertaining, Raine! You should’ve introduced him to us much earlier!”
“All he does is entertain himself at my expense!”
Vania looked at me for a moment and asked Raine.
“Is this the girl your brother is currently guarding?”
“Yes! My aunt gave this job to Gale. Seems like an easy job and it pays well.”
I wasn’t convinced if fending off assassins qualifies as being easy.
“You must be a rich lady from an influential family!
I have met a few students with personal bodyguards, but I’ve never met a bodyguard who is also a classmate as well. Your brother must be pretty strong!”
Raine glanced daggers at Gale before eating her food again.
“I just hope nothing dangerous happens to my brother. I have seen him injured all over and it is terrifying.”
“He might be doing that because he loves Clere you know… kekehehe!”
Gale suddenly raised his voice in affirmation.
“YEAH! You bet it is out of love!”
I turned to Gale after that obnoxious comment and Gale winked back in response. Seriously, how playful can you get?
The girls just laughed at Gale’s goofiness and played along with it. We had a hearty conversation over our lunch and time passed by almost too fast. Gale certainly knows how to engage a crowd.
I noticed a girl looking at us from another table from time to time. Gale traced my line of sight and then asked Raine:
“Do you know that girl?”
“Oh, that’s Sunny Zackloft. She usually joins us, but she said she’s going to have lunch with her brother today.”
Sunny had short, light-blue, curvy and lean hair. Somehow her clothes pressed tightly onto her body, which revealed the curves of a small but well-rounded chest, and she gave the vibes of a sexy naughty girl.
Gale then addressed the group. “I’m going to ask her to join us for the time being okay? She looks lonely just waiting there.”
I never knew Gale was that kind, but as he is a big brother, I guessed he wanted to set an example. Gale promptly walked to Sunny and invited her to our table.
“Hey there! I’m Gale, Raine’s brother from high school. I noticed you are sitting alone for quite some time now, do you want to join us for a while?”
Sunny looked a little surprise when she heard Gale’s invitation.
Vania whispered to us while her eyes kept tracing Gale’s movements.
“Is your brother always that charismatic?”
“He may look rather laid-back, but I admit, he has his charm.”
At that moment, the spiky-haired guy, whom I met earlier, came to greet Sunny.
“Hey Sis, sorry for making you wait this long… Is this guy your friend?”
What?! This punk has a sister in our school?!
“Hey, I’m Gale! I noticed your sister’s been sitting by herself for a while now and as she and my sister are classmates I wanted to invite her over.”
“I-I see. I-I’m Zeel Zackloft.”
Gale and Zeel shook hands. This is going to be so awkward. I had never mentioned to Gale about my encounter with Zeel!
Gale asked. “Want to join us at our table?”
“E-Eh I think we are fine by ourselves. R-Right sis?”
Zeel looked really nervous. Perhaps he was conscious of how he looked in front of Sunny’s friends with his leather outfit and metal chains. Thus he didn’t want to embarrass Sunny nor himself.
“Aww come on! won’t it be nice to make friends with everyone?”
Gale was trying to alleviate his fears. After coaxing for a few moments, Zeel finally gave in, and they joined us at our table.
“Hey ladies, meet Zeel Zackloft!”
Everyone was silent. I guessed the girls were a little intimidated by how Zeel’s looks because he was dressed as a hooligan. I thought it was crucial to break the ice, and thus I extended my hand towards Zeel.
“Hey Zeel, I’m Clere Sigrun. Nice to meet you.”
“N-Nice to meet you too.” Zeel stuttered.
I wonder how Hideki would feel at this point in time if he was me. Both Zeel and I looked at each other awkwardly, and then we avoided each other’s gaze for a while.
However, Gale did not stop trying to make Zeel feel at home.
“So what brings you here to the Academy, Zeel?”
“I-I had to meet with Sunny’s teacher for something,” Zeel replied.
“Are you working right now?”
“Y-yeah! I own a motorbike repair shop near here.”
Gale was intrigued. “You own a motorbike repair shop?! You look pretty young to start your own business. Are you girls ever curious about riding a motorbike?”
Slowly but surely, Gale was able to incite interest around Zeel’s life and pull us girls into the conversation. We gradually warmed up towards Zeel and became curious about how Zeel started a motorbike business when he looked so young.
Sunny was very impressed by Gale, with his charisma and willingness to engage everyone in a conversation with Zeel. I was impressed as well.
Time passed quickly, and we had to end our lunch because we had our afternoon lessons, so we got up to leave the cafeteria.
“Catch up with you soon, Zeel!”
“Y-yea sure, Gale!”
I hesitated to tell Gale how I met Zeel before. It was purely a misunderstanding that we got into each other’s bad books in Yildirim Woods. From our conversation, Zeel was a decent guy who had a decent job, and he was trying to be the best brother that he could be in front of his sister’s friends. I was willing to give him a pass and didn’t have any wrong impressions left.
We returned to our class and lessons started shortly afterward, but I noticed that Hideki wasn’t back from lunch yet. Did Satori make Hideki play hooky?
One of our classmates came running in and screamed.
“Hey guys, Hideki is fighting someone outside!”
It dawned on me that Satori was with Hideki and Zeel was looking for her!
Miss Mia was giving an academic lesson, and when she heard about Hideki fighting, she trembled with fright.
“O-Oh? A fight on school grounds?! That’s t-terrible! L-Let’s gather some of you and stop this fight! Many of our combat instructors are out on a short retreat at the moment so they will not be able to deal with it!”
Gale and I looked at each other and ran out of the classroom. Students were gathering at one of the open space of the school on the ground floor, so we rushed there immediately.
In the midst of the open space, Zeel was in an aggressive stance with metal chains wrapped around his hands and Hideki was in his combat stance with his katana while Satori was hiding behind him.
“That electricity from Zeel isn’t normal. We have to be careful.”
I could see electric currents run across Zeel’s body. It was usually not possible for anyone to have that amount of electricity to run through him.
Gale stepped forward and attempted to break the fight.
“Guys, what’s happening here? We need to calm down and talk things through.”
“That bitch has been harassing my sister! That’s why I’m here today so that I can address the issue with one of her teachers!” Zeel roared.
Satori hid meekly behind Hideki upon hearing Zeel’s outburst.
“That’s not true! I didn’t do anything to your little sis! I don’t even know who she is!”
It was not easy to give Satori the benefit of the doubt based on what I knew about her, but Hideki was the sort of guy that would protect a meek-looking girl in distress without questions or hesitations.
“My sis has been bringing weapons to school just to defend herself from Satori’s group of cowards. We are not pushovers, but this bitch keeps on challenging my patience. For some reason, even the teachers here are not helping much at all!” Zeel continued.
Hideki reacted strongly.
“No matter what it is, it is still wrong for you to make the first aggression towards Satori in school! You will go to jail because of this!”
Zeel was incensed. “COWARDS! You say all that but hide knives behind your backs! You will stab us when I’m not looking!”
Zeel whipped the ground with his chains and blew a big hole through the concrete. Gale stepped in-between them in a flash.
“Hold it, both of you!”
Zeel and Hideki stopped in their tracks at Gale’s intervention. Gale stared straight into Zeel’s eyes.
“Zeel, do you trust me?”
Zeel looked at Gale and calmed down a bit. “Much more than those two over there!”
“My sister is in the same class as your sister. Let me find out more, and I will protect your sister from now on, okay?”
Zeel gave a doubtful look.
“Do you think you can protect my sister from Satori and her lackeys?”
“Feel free to test my strength at any time. Do we have a deal?” Gale asked.
Zeel stopped his electric currents from overflowing around his body.
“Deal. I will test your strength.”
Gale smiled as Zeel’s aggression subsided. Gale then reached into his pockets and tossed his phone to Zeel.
“However we won’t do it now. This is not the place for it. Let’s exchange our numbers and agree to a spot where we’ll have a duel.”
“Today, after school. Meet me at my shop,” Zeel immediately answered.
After Gale and Zeel exchanged mobile numbers, Zeel reeled his chains in and walked away without a single word. Hideki finally loosened up and sheathed his sword.
Facing Gale, Hideki said. “Thanks a lot, Gale! Let me face that guy instead. This should have been my fight.”
“I’m the one who promised to protect his sister. Are you going to assume that responsibility instead?”
Hideki persisted as he felt sorry for Gale who stepped into a conflict that he never signed up for.
“We can get started by introducing me to his sister. I don’t know the girl.”
It wasn’t a bad idea for Hideki to be Sunny’s bodyguard since Satori would never want to upset Hideki. But Zeel clearly did not have a good impression of Hideki, and I doubt Zeel would agree. Moreover, those metal chains were no joke! How was Hideki going to deal with those electric currents?
Gale looked at Satori with piercing eyes.
“More importantly, Satori, do you have anything to do with this?”
“Well, would you believe me if I said no?”
“What’s the point of insinuating that we won’t trust you? Just answer the question.’
Satori gave a disgusted look before answering.
“My friends only messed with a few of their uneducated friends, but we didn’t bother his sister, neither did we have a reason to.”
Gale pondered for a moment.
“I will need to ask Raine, Sunny and perhaps Vania about this. We need to have a better understanding before we can do anything.”
I wanted to get to the bottom of this as well. I really didn’t think Zeel was a bad guy and I hope this matter will be solved peacefully.
“Let me join too! I’m quite a competent investigator!” I said.
Gale gave an unconvinced smile and walked away. What, why are you that unconvinced of my investigation skills?
“Let’s head back before Miss Mia gets too worried about us. Satori and Hideki, come along with us so we can find Zeel’s sister after school as we could need your assistance.”
Satori protested instinctively.
“Why should I be helping you? I don’t owe you — ”
Hideki stared straight into Satori’s eyes, and she quickly quietened down.
“… If you say so Hideki.”
As discussed, we met Raine, Vania, and Sunny after school.
“I believe all of us here are aware of the quarrel between Zeel, Hideki, and Satori. Sunny, I’m supposed to meet your brother at his shop later, but first, we want to have a better understanding of this situation. Do you know who harassed you?”
“That girl over there, Satori. I remember her face when I was attacked.”
“Hey, little twerp! Don’t start spouting nonsense here! I haven’t seen you around, and I have no reason to mess with you!”
Hideki pulled Satori back a little before both Sunny and Satori got into an argument.
“Okay, chill a bit! We still need to find out more! Raine and Vania, do you know anyone in our school who has a problem with Sunny?”
“Not that we know of. Sunny’s pretty popular in our class. She did mention that she was always harassed while returning home from school.”
Gale pondered for a moment.
“Returning home from school, huh? How were you harassed and how often was it?”
“The person came after me with small daggers and fought me without warning. All these happened only a few weeks ago.
The first time it happened, I was without any weapons, and my uniform was torn from the attack. My brother happened to be around the area, so he came to my rescue. Afterward, I did bring my weapons and exchanged blows with the assailant — ”
Satori interjected abruptly.
“Wait, you said small daggers. I don’t use small daggers to fight.”
Everyone immediately looked at Satori.
“I fight with twin swords. Daggers are not efficient in fights because they lack reach, so I never use them.”
Upon hearing that, I decided to verify what happened during the assault with Sunny.
“Was there no one around when you were walking home?”
“It was a shortcut trail that my brother and his friends know about, so there was hardly anyone around. Nowadays my brother’s friends would patrol around that area to prevent attacks.” Sunny replied.
“And the person who you saw resembled Satori?”
“Yes, the assailant resembled her.”
It was obvious. Someone has been impersonating Satori. Some people in this world can replace their appearance with someone else’s using cosmetics or face masks. This was a popular strategy for assassins.
“It’s impossible to know the motive of who is behind those attacks at the moment, so we should try capturing and exposing the assailant.
Do you know anyone who has a problem with you Satori? Someone who may be framing you.”
Satori scratched her head.
“Well… it’s hard to pinpoint one person.”
That’s because your tyrant reputation draws enmity!
Gale stood up to bring an end to our discussion since it was getting late.
“It is time for me to meet Zeel. Let’s tell Zeel this and work on a plan to catch this assailant! That’s all!”
Raine immediately stood up with a determined look.
“Brother, I’m following you.”
Gale refused. “No, you are not. Why would you come along?”
“What if Zeel decides to fight you? Maybe if I’m there, I can convince him otherwise.”
“At the very worst, it’s only going to be a little sparring session between the both of us. Don’t worry too much about it.”
Raine pouted in objection.
“…You promised me you wouldn’t try fighting unnecessarily.”
Gale rubbed Raine’s head compassionately.
“It’s not unnecessary, is it? We are trying to help Sunny. Surely you wouldn’t want your friend to be harassed and be hurt?”
I rested my hands on Raine’s shoulders to further assure her that everything was going to be alright.
“We may encounter the assailant today, since we are going to check out the shortcut route, so Gale is concerned that you might be caught up in it. Trust us and go home, alright?”
Raine sighed in resignation.
“Make sure you are safe, brother!”
“Yes, my little worrywart!
Satori, I’m sorry, but you can’t come along with us since Zeel’s friends might find fault with you.”
“… That’s fine, and I’m not interested either. Hideki, would you please find out who is impersonating me? I’m pretty upset that someone is smearing my reputation,” Satori said.
You caused some of these problems yourself you know?
“Sure, I will do that for you.”