Chapter 28 – Hero Grooming Project
by lemuel moo
The next morning, the school was buzzing with Reynard’s feat from the previous day’s match. The underdog managed to cut and wound Dylan critically, and the students believed that Reynard could have defeated Dylan if the referee didn’t cut the match short.
Victor Spectre, the referee of the match and the combat instructor of Class 1B, saw that the match was heading towards a bloodbath. Dylan was about to make Reynard pay for the injury he suffered, and Victor intervened, and Dylan was declared the winner.
As Reynard was walking to the class with Jacinta, many students stopped Reynard to congratulate him.
“That was an awesome match and an epic performance! Have you formed your team yet, Reynard?”
Reynard would bow sheepishly, thank them and walk away hurriedly. Reynard was super embarrassed, and Jacinta laughed at Reynard’s response.
“You’re a hero now so don’t be shy! Girls will flock to you like honey, and you’ll better get used to it!”
Reynard stuttered. “B-But, that’s not what I want!”
Jacinta laughed. “C’mon! All guys like a bed of flowers and there are so many of them waiting for you!”
However, Reynard didn’t like the attention and frequently hid behind Jacinta when students approach him for congratulates, while Jacinta giggled away. The girls saw how beautiful and stunning Jacinta is, so they didn’t transgress her personal space and both Jacinta and Reynard would walk away.
Jacinta and Reynard finally managed to reach their classroom when a beaming Gale greeted them.
“W-What hero?! I don’t like this attention at all! Gale, what do I do?” Reynard asked.
“What’s there to do? Embrace your new found fame! It sure beats having being called a ‘monster’.” Gale replied.
At that moment, Hideki entered the classroom. He was quiet and cold, but when he saw Reynard, he stopped to congratulate him properly.
“I saw the video footage of your match, and it was great. Congrats!”
“T-Thanks! It’s all down to G — ”
Gale interjected Reynard’s words and placed his arm around his neck. “It’s all down to your hard work and tenacity! You deserve every bit of it!”
Hideki looked into Gale’s eyes, and the latter smiled warmly back. However, Hideki was upset, so he turned away without a single word and sat at his desk. Gale wasn’t sure how to respond to Hideki’s behavior when the latter suddenly spoke, “when will you stop playing dumb and come out of hiding, Gale?”
“Hiding? I’m not hiding. I’m right here — ”
A group of girls barged into the class noisily and began talking loudly among themselves. “Did you see Mr. Valerian coming through the school gates with Ms. Kasumi? Ms. Kasumi is so pretty, and Mr. Valerian is so handsome! They looked compatible together!”
“I think Mr. Valerian went to Ms. Kasumi’s house to pick her up!”
It was at that moment when Gale wished he could be more forthcoming with Kasumi. He knew he was jealous, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. To calm himself, Gale silently practiced his breathing techniques under his breath and a surge of cold energy circulated within his body. It brought peace to his mind and heart instantly.
The school bell rang shortly after, and Miss Mia and Kasumi walked into the class. The girls were excited for Kasumi, and they unloaded a bunch of questions to her.
“Hey Ms. Kasumi, did Mr. Valerian walk you to school this morning?”
“Ah… err yes,” Kasumi replied.
“How do you find him?”
“He’s my colleague, that’s all. Let’s not read too much into it.”
Kasumi stole a glance at Gale, but Gale distracted himself with his book. Gale used his [Cold Heart Technique], a breathing technique which suppresses emotions and reinforces mental, energy and physical defense for the user. It was the only way he could think of to calm himself down.
Kasumi felt a little disappointed from Gale’s response, but she was in class, so she faced the students with a bright countenance.
“Enough talking about me, and let’s focus on our exciting news here! We are going to have two school trips, the first is your annual school camp, and the second is your cultural excursion. I’ll like you all to find a buddy, register both of you with me and both of you will be accountable with each other for safety and well-being.”
Reynard tugged Gale’s sleeves, and the latter immediately nodded in agreement.
A hand was raised for a question.
“Will Mr. Valerian be coming with us?”
“Err… I think so.”
“How long will he be teaching in Aelfsige Academy?”
“He’s on a tour, and it usually spans for a few months. However, I don’t know the details of it.”
The questions kept coming, and Gale was so bored that he started to doze off on his desk. Kasumi saw Gale’s behavior and hurriedly ended the questions.
“How about asking Mr. Valerian directly questions that pertain to him? He’s friendly, and I’m sure he will be able to answer you.”
Another girl suddenly spoke up. “We think he likes you, Ms. Kasumi! Both of you look good together!”
Kasumi smiled wryly, and Gale continued to show his disinterest. Clere was observing Gale from a distance and didn’t understand why the latter was acting the way he did.
During lunchtime, Reynard approached Gale to discuss plans for the upcoming trips. The school camp was going to happen in a couple of weeks, and the cultural excursion was going to happen a few months after.
“Let’s shop for snacks and games! Camping is going to be fun! Want to do it this Saturday?”
Gale pondered for a moment and declined. “I owed Raine a date, and this Saturday is exclusively for her. There’s still some time, and we can do some shopping after school though.”
Clere and Jacinta were walking towards Gale and Reynard when a beautiful black-haired voluptuous girl walked into the class. She had a bow on her shoulder, and the students froze at her presence.
“T-That’s Yumiko, the vice-president of the Occult Research Club! What is she doing here?!”
Yumiko was the object of fantasy for most guys, and the school polls ranked her one of the top ten beauties of Aelfsige Academy. She peeked into the classroom and was looking around.
“Hello! I’m a senior from year 2! Is Gale around?”
Gale looked up and tried to leave, but Yumiko noticed and stood before him.
“I saw Reynard’s match, and It was fantastic! Are you responsible for his growth?”
Gale took a side glance at Reynard before answering Yumiko. “… Reynard fought with his own strength, and I have little to do with it.
Anyway, I’m not sure if I know you. Who are you?”
The students in class gasped, and everyone stared at Gale, but he was innocently ignorant of Yumiko. Yumiko giggled and responded cheerfully.
“I’m Yumiko, nice to meet you! My president and I would love to know you more, so come to tea with us!”
Everyone couldn’t believe what they just heard, and their eyes were affixed at Gale. Gale was aware that everyone was looking at him and he heaved a sigh.
“I’m Gale Gainsborough, nice to meet you. Is there anything I can help you with? I’m not sure if I have time for tea though.”
It was ludicrous that anyone would reject an invitation from two of the most beautiful ladies in school. Yumiko smiled and handed her name card to him.
“Call me when you’re free, okay? We really want to know you more.”
Gale was staring at the name card before taking it. “…You have name cards?! Alright, I’ll let you know when I have time.”
Gale didn’t mean what he said as he had no intention of meeting Yumiko and the president of the Occult Research Group. Yumiko then walked gracefully out of the classroom before taking a last glance at Gale.
“Don’t stand me up, Gale! I’ll be waiting for your call!”
As Yumiko left, she left a trail of fragrance, and the guys were drowsy with infatuation. Everybody couldn’t believe that Gale would think so lightly of Yumiko’s invitation.
“It’s Yumiko! She’s usually ranked as the number one fantasy in the ENTIRE Aelfsige Academy! How can you not know her and why didn’t you accept her invitation the moment she asked?!
Are you going to have tea with them?”
Gale looked at his classmates and had his palm on his face.
“…If I’m that bored, maybe.
Clere and Jacinta are in the top ten beauties list too. I would rather go out with them.”
Clere and Jacinta blushed at being called out, and Clere stuttered. “W-We aren’t in any list! H-How can we compare with our beautiful seniors?!”
Gale shook his head at the obliviousness of Jacinta and Clere. Clere’s number nine, and Jacinta’s one of the top five, but it’s been fluctuating since she’s new to the school.
Gale then turned to Reynard and remarked. “Just look at these two! They think I’m oblivious to beauty, but it’s pot calling the kettle black.”
Reynard was silent as he didn’t know how to respond to that.
There was kendo class after school at Kasumi’s dojo that day, and both Hideki, Reynard and Jacinta went together. Hideki told Satori that he wanted to be left alone, so she didn’t follow him.
The guys in the class didn’t warm up to Hideki as usual, because Hideki looked sullen after his defeat. However, the guys warmed up to Reynard instead.
“Fantastic match, Reynard! We didn’t know you had it in you to fight that well!”
Reynard stuttered. “I…err… Thanks!”
Jacinta stepped forward in front of Reynard to shield him. “Alright guys, let’s get on with our kendo class today.”
Reynard peeked at Hideki, but he was stone cold.
During break time, Hideki approached Reynard and asked the latter about how he grew his strength.
Reynard answered. “Gale said I would lose if I fight the way that I usually do. He asked me to stand my ground and let Dylan come to me. All I had to do was to look for an opening for a counterattack, and I only have one chance, so I need to use all my strength when I strike.
My training was customized for this very reason. Gale would send water tsunamis my way, and I’m to deflect the impending waves away with my stone sword.”
Hideki was surprised by Reynard’s answer. All he had in his mind was defeating Dylan, but he didn’t recognize his weakness at all. Gale acknowledged Reynard’s weakness and conceded that he would lose, but if they could exploit Dylan’s psychological vulnerability, perhaps Reynard could edge out in the match.
In a flash, Hideki saw the massive difference between Gale’s battle experience and his. Hideki looked at his hands again and lamented the futility of his efforts to become strong. It pained him to think that Gale didn’t need to be in the match to defeat Dylan.
Jacinta saw how crestfallen Hideki was and went ahead to encourage him.
“Dylan’s cheating and you know it. The [King Of Hades Scriptures] are supposed to be lost in history, and I wonder how Dylan got a hold of them.
You did great out there, Hideki!”
Even so, Hideki couldn’t help but feel that Jacinta’s encouragements were empty words. Gale trained a weakling, and the latter could injure Dylan, but Hideki received multiple power upgrades, and yet he couldn’t scratch Dylan.
Hideki walked away silently, and after the kendo class, he strolled by himself in an empty park. In the midst of the park, Hunter and Cindy emerged from the shadows and greeted Hideki.
“You put on a great performance, Hideki. You certainly lived up to our expectations.”
Hideki was enraged when he heard that. “Are you mocking me?! I couldn’t even scratch Dylan and someone who couldn’t fight weeks ago managed to crush Dylan’s ego!”
Cindy went forward and slapped Hideki in his face.
“Why are you so bitter? It was merely an unofficial match and who knew Dylan learned the [King Of Hades Scriptures]? Those skills could easily elevate anyone to become a triple ‘A’ threat!
You can’t be this disappointed after a mere defeat.”
Hunter continued. “Cindy’s right. We must have the foresight and see the bigger picture in all of this. The match vindicated the rumors surrounding Dylan and how he got his power.”
Hideki didn’t understand what Hunter was saying. “…Rumors surrounding Dylan? What do you mean?”
“A lynchpin, Mr. Raul, has been paying massive amounts of money to buy skills and manuals for Dylan to train from black markets and assassin guilds. SPAW has been tracking down the [King Of Hades Scriptures], but it was suddenly auctioned off the black market some months ago to an unknown buyer. With yesterday’s match, we now know who it was.
This leads us to believe that Dylan has an extensive collection of skills, and he is a more significant threat than what we initially think. Had we anticipated this, we would have upgraded your serums significantly.
By the way, we noticed that a guy was holding a wooden sword at a corner. From our records, his name is Gale Gainsborough, but I’m surprised we have little to no information about him. We need to find out more, so could you tell us more about Gale?”
Hideki answered. “We transferred to Aelfsige Academy together some time back, but I don’t know Gale before so I don’t know him myself. Gale is a nice guy, but everything about him is a mystery. I’m looking to find out more about him too.”
Hunter and Cindy looked at each other for a moment before responding to Hideki. “I understand. If there’s anything new concerning Gale, do let us know.“
Hideki couldn’t help but ask. “Are you trying to recruit Gale into your SPAW volunteer program?”
Cindy shook her head. “Even though we hide in the shadows, we represent SPAW and the World Alliance. We can’t refer anyone to our program without a background check.
The wooden sword that Gale wields is not an ordinary sword. It’s the [Five Elemental Wooden Sword], a training tool to master elemental attacks. There is a mythical tree that we haven’t been able to find, called the [Five Elemental Tree], which absorbs energy from nature.
The wood allows the user to manipulate elements such as fire, water, electricity, earth, and wind. We were astonished Gale could craft a stone sword with that weapon, and usually, practitioners are in their fifties before they could accomplish such a feat.”
Hideki didn’t notice that Gale crafted a stone sword for Reynard since he went into the backroom after his match. He thought Gale was playing around with a toy when he met the latter at the battle arena.
Hunter went into another topic. “SPAW is trying a new initiative, and we want to groom heroes in our midst.”
“Yes. For the last fifteen years, SPAW was growing its arsenal to match the strengths of the underworld. However, the public is suspicious of our organization, and we need a public face to garner their support.
I’m letting you know because we’re eyeing you as a candidate. Valerian Tze is currently one of the faces we are promoting right now for SPAW.”
Hideki was surprised. “Valerian Tze? Our guest combat instructor?”
Cindy continued. “Yes. That’s the reason why Valerian is touring academies around the globe. He did some great work in fighting criminal syndicates and rescue missions, and we want to raise his profile through the schools here.
Valerian had just arrived in Aelfsige Academy, and we notice there are already rumors surrounding your sister and him as a couple.
SPAW thinks they make a good couple, and a good representation of the organization if your sister is willing. In any case, we believe you are a good candidate too, and we’re hoping to upgrade your status in our organization.
Do you want to be part of SPAW and be one of our operatives?”
“…So what entails joining SPAW?”
Cindy answered. “Well, the catch is that you’ll have less time for yourself, and we will have missions for you to do. It could be life-threatening, but the tasks will never be beyond your abilities.
We’ll continue to train and equip you to become the best hero out there, and you will have all the resources from SPAW at your disposal.
What do you say?”
Hideki had no reason to refuse. He received so much from the organization, and his ultimate goal was to make his family’s sword techniques shine in society. Hideki reasoned that there wasn’t going to be another opportunity such as this.
“Sign me in!”
After Hideki left Hunter and Cindy, Jacinta emerged out of the shadows and greeted them.
“See! I didn’t lie to you! No one knows anything concrete about Gale!”
Hunter apologized. “I thought Gale smote you and you felt indebted to him since you live in his house.
Anyway, good job getting all our intel for us. Has Dylan been reaching out to you lately?”
Jacinta heaved a deep sigh. “He’s asking me out, but I can’t stand it.
Cindy, would you take my place?”
Cindy raised her arms in protest. “NO! Dylan’s disgusting! I prefer Hideki, and most certainly Hunter!”
Hunter rolled his eyes and then continued with business. “Continue your surveillance of Clere and Gale, but try not to get in the sight of Agatha or Athena Sigrun. Once they smell something fishy, Agatha will be able to take countermeasures.
I know you don’t like Dylan, but if there’s an opportunity where you can dig information out of him, do it.”
Cindy then pressed her shoulders against Hunter’s chest and asked sinisterly. “Are you sure you want to place our beautiful agent in the hands of a wolf? Imagine what Colonel Jack is going to do to you if he finds out!”
“And he would have my head too if Dylan gets out of control. I’m screwed either way, isn’t it?
Moreover, this gives Jacinta more reason to stay around here instead of heading back to the headquarters. That’s what you want too, isn’t it?”
Jacinta nodded emphatically. “As long as I’m not going back to the headquarters, I’m good.”
Cindy then jumped towards Jacinta and grabbed her arms. “It’s been some time since we shopped together! Let’s head out!”
Hunter sighed. “I don’t want anybody to recognize the both of you, you hear me?”
“We’ll take care of ourselves, Hunter!”
The girls left Hunter promptly, and the latter lit a cigarette and smoked before leaving the park.
 [Cold Heart Technique] is translated from [寒心絕], or [hán xīn jué].