Chapter 24 – The Bodyguard Became A Bait
by lemuel moo
It was rare for Agatha to organize a family meeting.
The last time a family meeting was called, Agatha asked if Clere wanted to be a covert ops agent like Athena. Clere declined because she felt she was too inferior to take on such a significant role. Moreover, Clere wanted to be a ‘normal’ schoolgirl.
As Clere walked up to the front door of her house with Athena, she couldn’t help but feel nervous. Athena saw Clere’s worried expression and patted her on her back.
“You’re such a worrywart! It’s just a family meeting, and you’re already thinking about all kinds of possibilities of what Mom might say. Chill, girl!”
Clere smiled wryly and entered her house.
As the girls walked into the living room, cups of hot steaming tea was awaiting them, and Agatha rose up from her seat to welcome her beautiful daughters.
“Both of you are just in time! The scones are hot from the oven so let’s eat while we discuss.”
The aroma of the scones and the tea filled the room, and after Agatha saw that Clere was comfortable at her seat, she began her discussion.
“I heard you want to fight alongside with Gale, and not feel weak and powerless by being a bystander. Is that true?”
Clere nodded in reply. “Yup. He knocked me out so that I couldn’t go with him to Babel Square! I can’t believe he would knock me out when we’ve been through so many things together!”
Agatha and Athena snickered. “It may be wrong of him to knock you out, but it turned out to be a very astute move. Has Gale told you about the Babel Square tournament and what had happened?”
“Gale mentioned that Zeel met an old flame that was trapped by her brother, Dylan. There’s a lynchpin behind this mess, and Zeel almost lost his life at the tournament.“
Agatha noticed something amiss. “Anything else? Has Gale told you he met Lucy Adamas, the leader of the ‘Black Diamond Syndicate’?”
Clere stared blankly, and Athena and Agatha shook their heads. “Typical Gale. Always telling you only what you need to know and leaving the juicy portions out.”
“Why? What happened? Gale met with the leader of the group who wanted to kidnap me?!”
“Well, I think the leader changed her mind for now. However, before I tell you more, I need to know what do you want for yourself.
You’ve always wanted to be a normal girl, have a happy childhood, and proper school life. Isn’t it?”
Clere nodded emphatically.
Agatha continued. “However, that conflicts with what you said to Gale. I’m not absolving Gale of his criminal method of knocking you out and bringing you back here on his shoulders, and as a side note, he should take advantage of it and kiss you or something…”
Clere’s face turned beet-red, and Athena laughed heartily at her response. Agatha continued as though nothing had happened.
“Yet, leaving you out from dangerous situations is the only way to keep you as a normal girl. If you’re going to be upset with Gale for leaving you out, you’re saying you want to be like Athena and become an agent for our business.
But clearly, you want to be part of Gale’s world. What do you want to do?”
Clere was silent. She longed to live as an ordinary student, and she wished Gale could be part of it. However, trouble follows Gale, and she knew she would end up like Athena as an agent before long if she involved herself with him.
Athena then broke the silence and continued for Agatha.
“I’ve received reports from the Black Diamond Syndicate and Mr. Raul, the lynchpin who is behind Dylan’s power and authority. Gale attracted too much attention from them, and it has become dangerous for him to guard you.
If you want to your typical school life without dangers and hassle, Mom told me I’m not free to give you any more information, and we’ll look for a new bodyguard to replace Gale.”
Clere couldn’t believe her ears! She never thought she might lose Gale as her bodyguard and tears were forming in the corner of her eyes. She tried her best to keep her tears in, and Agatha knew Clere was struggling.
“Darling, I’ll just be honest with you. As long as you’re in the Sigrun family, it’s never going to be normal. The secret I placed in your body is always going to make you a target to governments and criminal syndicates. It’s unfortunate that Gale attracted attention in the underworld, but it’s inevitable, or Zeel would have died.
We’re all doing our best here to live a happy life, and if you ask me, forget about trying to be normal. Be happy. Now, what will make you happy?”
Agatha knew what Clere would choose, but it was important for Clere to make the decision. Clere breathed in deeply before replying. “I-I understand. Fighting with Gale makes me happy, and I want to be part of what he is doing.”
Agatha giggled. “It almost sounded like a love confession!”
“MOM! We’re just classmates!”
“Tell me honestly, how do you feel about Gale?”
Clere was caught in a pinch as Athena and Agatha looked at her expectantly for her response.
“H-He’s nice, strong and always saves the day. I don’t know how I feel about him…”
Athena then tugged Clere on her sleeves to get her attention. “Don’t take too long, because if you’re not having him, I will. Kasumi made all the inroads into his heart already.”
“E-Even you, sis?”
Athena sighed in exasperation. “He cares a lot, looks out for you, hides himself from credits and risks his life to save you. His face doesn’t look bad. I don’t know what else you can ask for a man.”
“Well that’s true but… it’s just too sudden. I need some time!”
Agatha smiled and shook her head. She had fun prying over her daughter’s private matters, and it was time to talk about business.
“Now that I have heard you want to fight alongside with Gale, I’m going to include you in our secrets. We won’t be able to cover everything today since it’s just too much, but you will know everything eventually.
Let’s start with what had happened between Lucy Adamas and Gale at the Babel Square Tournament.”
Agatha then explained that Lucy interrupted Gale’s battle, froze his body, kissed him and forced him to become her bodyguard. When Clere heard Lucy forced her lips unto Gale, she clenched her fist with jealousy.
“THAT WOMAN! What was she doing?!”
Athena and Agatha giggled as Clere couldn’t stop herself from feeling frustrated, and Athena continued for Agatha.
“Don’t worry. It’s not like Lucy’s in love or something. It’s a set-up.”
“Lucy Adamas is one of the Twelve Gemstones, the most beautiful and deadliest women in the world. Many lynchpins lust for her, and she knows it. However, she’s so strong that she could destroy a country’s army single-handedly, so the lynchpins didn’t dare to try anything.
Lucy is facing a crisis with her own powers. By kissing Gale in front of the camera, she made Gale the target of every lynchpin who saw it.”
Clere was even more irritated from hearing that. “But why? What’s the point of kissing Gale?!”
“It has to do with Lucy’s [Black Ice Technique]. Her powers are inherited, not trained. As a result, her body is barely adjusting to the powers she inherited.
She is reaching a critical point where her powers could go out of control if she doesn’t spend a month in retreat on training her body.
During her period of retreat, Lucy will be very vulnerable and unable to fight. Thus, she needed someone who could protect her, and she found Gale from the tournament. Kissing him is just a diversion and a distraction so that she could hide herself to train while Gale would be bait for her enemies.”
Everything started to fit like a puzzle. Lucy didn’t need Gale to be with her to protect her. With that kiss, every enemy would target Gale instead of Lucy.
“… That’s pretty wicked from Lucy. So I’m implicated since Gale is my bodyguard?”
Agatha answered. “Bingo. And you mustn’t tell anyone about Lucy’s weakness. Athena and I have been guarding her secret for years!”
Clere was confused. Why would her mom and Athena guard a secret for an enemy? Seeing Clere’s dumbfounded expression, Agatha explained in detail about the relationship between the Black Diamond Syndicate and the Sigrun family.
“We are allies, and enemies at the same time.”
“…Mom, that’s even more difficult to understand. Have you forgotten how she sent an assassin against me?!”
“I know, darling. It’s going to be a mouthful, so brace yourself. I will bring you to the past, and you will also understand the secret that is hiding within you.”
The family took a few moments to enjoy their tea and scones. It was going to be a lengthy discussion, so everyone wanted to be as comfortable as possible.
Agatha then began her discourse. “Many people view the Black Diamond Syndicate as a terrorist group, but in truth, they worked with us during the ‘Hidden War’ to bring the peace we enjoy today. They are a vigilante group that desires to bring down governments and corrupt politicians who incite war or take advantage of its people.
Fifteen years ago, we were almost destroyed by corrupt governments and other organizations that wanted our secrets. The Black Diamond Syndicate came to our rescue, but they were nearly wiped out themselves because of us.”
Clere exclaimed. “What?! All these happened before I was born! If they helped us then, why do they want to target me now?”
“The general public’s account of the ‘Hidden War’ is where countries clashed among themselves using super-powered individuals who possessed extraordinary skills to fight. The people could only see the aftermath of the battles by the damage on properties, buildings, and disappearances of people.
Of course, there were more than meets the eye. This world was about to wage war with another world.”
Clere couldn’t believe her ears. “Our world was about to fight another world?! There is another world?!”
There was too much that Clere didn’t know, so Athena took over to give Agatha a break.
“Do you know magic powers were never known as a form of warfare in our world until some decades ago? Magic was much simpler before and was never used for war, but based on Gale’s report on his experience at Babel Square, it is clear that advanced magic combat is possible now.
Years ago, explorers from another world came into our world through a magic portal. The governments didn’t know what to do with these explorers, so they came together to create a united front known as the ‘World Alliance’ today. As the World Alliance didn’t know what they were up against, peace was the first thing they pursued, and they quickly enacted laws to govern relations with regards to another world.
We began referring our world as Eretz, and the other world as Dagda.
Our family was tasked to govern goodwill exchanges between Eretz and Dagda. We are the ambassadors for both worlds, and we created an exchange program so that we could share information and trade in a tightly-controlled environment.”
It was a bombshell for Clere. She always thought her family business was just to broker information for organizations across the globe, and everything she knew about her family crumbled into pieces.
Moreover, how could there be explorers from another world? It’s equivalent to finding extraterrestrial life from outer space, and it would be headline news for the entire globe if it were known!
“Initially, everything went well. We shared information on our culture, goods, resources, and food, and the World Alliance enjoyed the exchange. However, when it came to military and how we fight, the World Alliance found out that Dagda had magic, dragons, and beasts, and our current weaponry isn’t up against those things, while Dagda found out that we are advanced in technology.
One of the kings of Dagda eyed our technology and lands, and as soon as the World Alliance found out, they wanted to conduct a preemptive emergency strike so that they could establish a foothold and bring the battle to Dagda instead of Eretz.
Our family was caught in the midst of that mess because we hold the [Key] to control time-space portals between the two worlds. Our agents were killed, and the Black Diamond Syndicate was nearly annihilated because they wanted to protect the [Key] from both the World Alliance and the errant king in Dagda. Subsequently, Mom performed a magic ritual on you when you were a baby, and I’m tasked to train and fight to protect you.“
It sounded too crazy to believe. No one in class would believe even if Clere told them. However, it made sense because their [Cursed Ink Technique] was a mix of magic and martial arts, and Gale’s report of a magic user was plugging all the holes of doubts.
“The ‘Hidden War’ was fought to stop the inter-world war from happening, and we achieved that by destroying the magical paths in-between both worlds, while we hide the [Key] in you. As Mom couldn’t fight with both the World Alliance and Dagda, Mom had to find allies who had the same vision as her. And that was how the Black Diamond Syndicate became our allies.
As a result, the battle between Eretz and Dagda never happened. Since then, we have been living in peace these fifteen years.
However, the World Alliance had a taste of how magic power works through skirmishes against Dagda before the magical pathways were destroyed. SPAW, what we know today as the ‘Special Powers And Weapons’ association, was created by the World Alliance in response to the threats that Dagda posed. After the Hidden War, the World Alliance and SPAW began gathering an army of talented individuals who could fight for them if the pathways between Dagda and Eretz ever open again.
Besides, SPAW began researching magic warfare intensively through MAPR, which is another organization known as the ‘Magic And Psychic Research’ group. The Black Diamond Syndicate caught wind of those magical research, and they came to me to seek a pathway to the Dagda to get magical resources so that they can resist the World Alliance again. They know if SPAW continues to develop their magic arsenal, the Black Diamond Syndicate will not be able to withstand them anymore.
But Mom did not think it was a good idea to open a pathway to Dagda to resist the World Alliance and SPAW because it could become another war again. Therefore, our disputes with Black Diamond Syndicate intensified, and they sought to kidnap you to extract the [Key] to secure a path by themselves.”
Clere didn’t know how to react to these secrets. Everything sounded like a fantasy book, and she found it hard to believe. Agatha then picked up from where Athena left off.
“You were given the [Key] which is embedded by magic into your body right after you were born. Athena was initially considered to hold the [Key], but our agents were nearly all wiped out, and we were on the brink of destruction. Thus, I needed Athena to train to fight, even though she was only five then.
That’s why I apologize to you, my darling Clere, that you were given something that you’ve never asked and it caused you to lose so much freedom in your growing years. I had to make sure the [Key] was safe by being an overly-protective mother towards you.”
Agatha then turned to Athena.
“And I’m sorry, Athena. You spent all your time training instead of making friends — ”
Athena immediately interrupted Agatha as it wasn’t necessary for Agatha to apologize. After all, Agatha needed to make sure her family survives during dangerous times. “Mom, I never regretted it one bit. I am proud of you doing everything you can to save us and made sure we have a good home.”
Clere knew how Athena devoted herself to training and she realized that everything her mother said was right, even though she struggled to believe it. Both girls grew up without a father’s presence, and Agatha had to protect them from enemies, provide for the family and also be a loving mother to them.
Athena went forward and hugged Agatha, and Clere instinctively went ahead to embrace the both of them as well. They wept as they reminisce the hardships they faced as a family.
After a good hug, Clere rubbed her eyes and asked Agatha a question. “Does Gale know all these things?”
“Definitely. What I have told you isn’t complete, and we have to leave everything else for another day. There’s too much to absorb in one sitting, and we need to focus on the problem which is in front of us.
Mr. Raul, who is Dylan’s sponsor, is one of the founders of the ‘Last Legion’. The Last Legion is a criminal group for money laundering, sex trafficking and all sorts of vice. He doesn’t care too much about Lucy or Gale, but he’s been using spies and selling information to other syndicates about them. Some syndicates want to take down Lucy, and the Black Diamond Syndicate as rumors of Lucy’s weakness surfaced in recent weeks. Unfortunately, we don’t know who wants to target Lucy yet.
Since you’ve agreed to fight alongside Gale, it’s crucial for you to know these things and you’ll need to be alert. I’m using Gale’s protection over Lucy to negotiate terms between the Black Diamond Syndicate and us. They have agreed not to kidnap you for the moment.”
Gale became bait for Lucy, and Clere didn’t want to face his challenges alone. “What can I do, Mom? How can I help?”
“Focus on your training. You’ve shown significant progress in your practice with Gale, and I’m proud of you, but try to reach to the level of an ‘A’ ranked assassin at least.
Only then would you be able to help Gale in a fight. Leave the rest of planning and intelligence to Athena and me.”
Clere got up from her seat and took her brush from her bag. Her mom was right. She would be a liability if she couldn’t defend herself from the weakest assassins. She then looked at Athena and issued a challenge.
“Sis, let’s spar.”
Athena didn’t hesitate and rose to the challenge. “Why not? It’s been some time since we fought and I will see how much you’ve improved.”
As her daughters’ leave the dining hall, Agatha laughed to herself. In the past, it was challenging to get Clere to train. Now, Clere took the initiative instead.
Love really works wonders.