Chapter 37 – Awkward Arrangements
by lemuel moo
After a sumptuous meal at Agatha’s house, the Gainsboroughs and Jacinta walked home together. It was late at night, and everyone was in a hurry to go to bed.
Aunt May decided to stay with Gale and Raine for a while. She already had her clothes in another guest room, so she didn’t have to prepare anything.
In the house, the ladies used the shared bathroom first before Gale had his turn. Gale then took a quick shower when someone hugged him from behind as he walked away from the bathroom door.
Flustered by the embrace, Gale immediately asked, “J-Jacinta? What’s up?”
“… We need to talk.”
Ever since Jacinta went to Agatha for help, she wasn’t herself. Her responsibilities as a SPAW spy conflicted with what she did that day, and Jacinta couldn’t rest with the struggles in her heart.
Gale had no idea what happened since he was busy fighting. “Sure! Aunt May and Raine are going to sleep, and we can talk downstairs at — “
Jacinta interjected immediately. “I would like to talk in your room.”
Gale froze and peeked at Jacinta’s face. She’s beautiful to behold. Jacinta’s hair flowed over her shoulders like silk, and she looked dazzling under the moonlight. However, sadness cast a shadow over her expression.
Seeing Jacinta’s sorrowful countenance, Gale promptly agreed.
“Okay. I’m going to get some water first, and we’ll head to my room.”
Jacinta followed behind Gale as he went into the kitchen for water before heading to his room. Gale mulled over and over, but he couldn’t figure out what was happening with Jacinta.
After Gale closed his room door, Jacinta hugged him from behind again. “J-Jacinta?”
“Stop. I want to talk like this, is that okay?”
Gale realized Jacinta didn’t want him to see her face. “Okay.”
Jacinta hugged even tighter and rubbed her cheeks against his back. “I really thought I was going to lose you today, and if you died, I would’ve ended my life with you.”
Gale was alarmed at her words. “Why would you end your life with me?! That’s not — ”
Jacinta interrupted Gale. “Because I would’ve belonged to the organization that caused your death! How can I ever forgive myself?!”
Gale realized what Jacinta was alluding to. “Oh, I already knew you were from SPAW from the first time we met.”
Surprised, Jacinta looked up. “Really? How did you know?”
“Your breathing patterns. All SPAW operatives follow a certain breathing pattern because of how they are trained.”
Jacinta asked. “If you knew, then why did you allow me to live with you?!”
Gale innocently replied. “Why not? You’re a classmate in school.”
Jacinta was touched because Gale never saw her as a threat and only as a friend. Jacinta then said, “Then let me tell you what happened in the morning and what’s my role in SPAW — “
Gale interrupted quickly. “Hang on. Would your life hang on a balance because you told me your secrets? If that’s the case, I don’t want to know.”
Gale’s magnanimous attitude moved Jacinta. She could’ve been an enemy who could endanger his family, but Gale never put it in his heart.
Her heart could no longer hide her feelings, so Jacinta reached forward and kissed Gale in his ears. As she stuck her tongue into his ears, Gale’s face flushed red as he didn’t know how to respond.
“So that’s how you steal maidens’ hearts,” Jacinta whispered into Gale’s ears.
Gale was aroused, and he embarrassed. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Jacinta rested her cheeks on Gale’s back, and his warm presence soothed her. “My life is already hanging on a balance. I’ve told Agatha my secrets, and if SPAW knows about it, my days in Aelfsige Academy are over.”
Gale realized Jacinta risked her life to get help for him during the City Plaza battle. “Aunt Agatha isn’t called the ‘Mistress Of Secrets’ for nothing. Your secrets are safe with her.”
“I know. However, I feel strongly that you should know some of it. Would you be willing to hear me out?”
Gale nodded his head in reply, and Jacinta started her story. She hugged tightly from Gale’s back, and he knew she still didn’t want her face to be seen.
“I was bought by SPAW from an orphanage when I was seven. SPAW wants a monopoly of psychic users and ushered children with psychic powers into their training academy. Thus, as soon as they knew I had that power, I was sold to them.
The MAPR scientists found that my powers were one of the strongest they have ever seen, and so they put me through specialized training to maximize my potential. It was hellish training every day, and I missed my friends at the orphanage.
One day, the head of the science and research department, Colonel Jack, came to the training facility and inspected the recruits. He took notice of me instantly.
From that day on, I was shielded away by Colonel Jack like a precious flower. My missions would be less risky than my counterparts because Colonel Jack didn’t want me to lose my life out there. Moreover, I would be assigned support roles instead of the frontline.
I thought it was great for a highly influential person to look out for me, but I began hearing rumors from my seniors. ‘Colonel Jack eyes beautiful SPAW operatives, and once they are ripe, he will de-flower them.’ They had no doubt I was specially prepared for that occasion.”
Gale heard what Colonel Jack wanted to do with Jacinta, and he clenched his fist tight. He determined to find out more about Colonel Jack and rescue Jacinta out of SPAW.
Jacinta continued. “I tried hard to get myself out of headquarters. I looked for missions that I could do outside of Colonel Jack’s clutches, but he overwrote them one-by-one, citing the dangers of losing someone powerful to the upper echelons. I finally found one job he gave his approval on, and that was to monitor Clere in Aelfsige Academy.
SPAW has been trying to get information on the Sigrun family, but Agatha was such a bulwark against them that they haven’t figured out a way yet. Monitoring Clere was the only safe job, and that’s how I met Reynard and you when thugs surrounded both of you.”
Gale then asked a question. “Did you know I was a bodyguard to Clere then?”
“No. SPAW heard there was a talented young swordsman, Hideki Mizushima, and they tasked me to find out more about him and his family’s sword techniques. They told me that Clere and Hideki were childhood friends, so it was two birds with one stone.
If there was anybody who could be guarding Clere, SPAW assumed it would be Hideki.
But lately, SPAW changed their assessment and focused on you. They checked your background, and couldn’t believe how somebody so strong would slip under their radar. Because of the Babel Square tournament, SPAW wanted me to get information out of you.”
Gale took a while to ponder about what Jacinta said before continuing. “So you’re feeling guilty and responsible because SPAW left me to die at City Plaza?”
Jacinta didn’t say a word and hugged Gale tightly.
Gale responded. “Jacinta, you risked a lot by telling Aunt Agatha and me what you’ve been hiding. You may be a SPAW operative, but you’re still you.
Instead of blaming you, I have to thank you for informing us as soon as you could about the City Plaza battle. Zeel and Sunny’s presence in the battlefield was especially important.”
Jacinta felt relieved. She didn’t know how Gale would take it if he knew she was spying on him, but Gale didn’t think that it was a big deal at all.
Jacinta continued. “If you’ve forgiven me, there’s one last favor I want to ask of you. Could you take my virginity? I really don’t want Colonel Jack to have my first time.”
Upon hearing that, Gale took Jacinta’s hands, turned around, and hugged her. “Instead, I’ll get you out of SPAW as soon as possible. Let’s talk with Aunt Agatha and see how we can make it happen.”
Tears flowed from Jacinta as she basked in Gale’s warm embrace. It was words that seemed impossible for her to imagine. Many of her friends were in SPAW, and no one could do anything about it, but Gale’s assurance made her feel that anything was possible
Gale loathed SPAW because he was aware of their underhanded tactics while he was doing missions with Agatha. However, they were also the only organization who could keep lynchpins in check and maintain public order. He didn’t want to be involved with them if possible.
Stirred by his sense of justice, Gale knew that a collision course between SPAW and him was unavoidable. He made it his mission to rescue Jacinta even if all hell broke loose.
Aunt May was listening behind the door, and she walked back to her room after she heard what she needed to hear.
It was Sunday, a day after the City Plaza battle. Kasumi was preparing breakfast when Hideki was walking down the stairs.
“Hey sis, could you prepare an additional breakfast set? We’re going to have a guest.”
Kasumi looked surprised. “Oh, is Satori dropping by?”
“No. It’s Mr. Valerian.”
Kasumi immediately felt awkward that Valerian was coming to her house. “What brings Valerian here?”
“We have been talking ever since I had my duel with Dylan, so I thought I should invite him over for once.”
Kasumi wrapped up her cooking and put the food on the dining table before replying, “I see.” Hideki went to the table and saw only two breakfast sets.
“Wait, there are only two sets?”
Kasumi picked up her outer-coat as she prepared to leave the house. “I’m not joining you guys for breakfast. Both of you seem to have something to discuss, and I shouldn’t interrupt.”
Hideki then stood in front of Kasumi, and the latter asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I saw you kissing Gale yesterday.”
Unperturbed, Kasumi probed further. “And?”
“Are you in love with Gale?”
Kasumi wore her shoes, picked up her bag and affirmatively said, “Yes.”
“What is it about Gale that you like?” Hideki asked.
“And why are you asking such questions as though you have something against it? Aren’t you happy that your sister is in love?”
Hideki was conflicted within himself. He saw Gale as a rival in strength, but with his sister being in love with Gale, he didn’t know what to do with his feelings of rivalry.
Kasumi asked. “Let me guess. You’re trying to set me up with Valerian this morning, am I right?”
Hideki was silent, and Kasumi answered. “I choose whom I want to be in love with, Hideki. Thank you for your concern, but leave my choice to me.”
“…But Uncle Kenji likes Valerian.”
Kasumi glared at Hideki. “You spoke to Uncle Kenji about Valerian?! Did you tell him about Gale?!”
“I haven’t. I only found out about Gale and you yesterday.”
Kasumi softened her tone significantly. “Right. Correct the mistake and tell Uncle Kenji about Gale. I’m going to do it if you don’t, regardless.
Why would you do such a thing, anyway?!”
Gale replied. “Uncle Kenji has been looking for potential suitors for you. Ever since our parents died, he’s been a parent to us, and he’s always been asking about you, so — “
Kasumi interrupted. “And you know one of the reasons why we moved back here in Aelfsige City was because I can’t stand Uncle Kenji’s ways, isn’t that correct?! I’m thankful that he took us in to raise us for five years, but he’s overbearing and wants his way as though I’m his possession!
You know full well what Uncle Kenji is going to do! He is going to make an arranged marriage with Valerian because you opened your big mouth to him!”
Hideki saw that Kasumi snapped utterly, and he uttered not another word.
“I’m leaving before Valerian arrives, and I want you to take responsibility and clean this up. If you refuse, I’m moving out of this house.”
Kasumi stomped out of the house, and Hideki was crestfallen. His image of being a hero from SPAW with Valerian and Kasumi crumbled before his very eyes.
Moments later, Valerian appeared in front of the door, and Hideki welcomed him.
“I apologize. My sister isn’t going to join us for breakfast today.”
Valerian was disappointed, but he put on a brave front. “Is that so? Well, let’s not waste it and have breakfast together.”
Reynard was walking to Agatha’s house when he saw Kasumi stomping out of her home and away from him. Kasumi looked angry, so he didn’t want to reach out.
Reynard saw Agatha on her front porch, and he quickly walked towards her to greet her. Agatha was staring at Kasumi, but Kasumi’s back was facing her.
“Wow, I rarely see Kasumi so angry.
There you are, your Highness! I’ve been waiting for you, and you’re finally here!”
Reynard hurriedly held Agatha’s hands and pushed her into her house, while Agatha laughed. He exclaimed. “Didn’t you promise me you’ll keep this a secret?! Stop calling me ‘Highness’ in public!”
“Well, there’s no one around to hear us. Let’s go to my office before Clere and Athena wake up. I’ve prepared breakfast for you in case you’re hungry.”
Reynard gingerly walked to Agatha’s office in case Clere or Athena lurked in a corner, and Agatha couldn’t stop giggling. “You’re so antsy, Reynard! My girls had a long day yesterday, so they aren’t going to eavesdrop on us. Besides, my office is soundproof, bulletproof and a bomb shelter. You’ll be very safe with me.”
After Agatha closed the door behind her, Reynard nervously asked. “So w-what do you want to talk about?”
Agatha sat down on her sofa with Reynard, and there were scones, bread, scrambled eggs and all sorts of goodies on the coffee table.
“You must understand your position, Reynard. If anything happened to you while you’re here, it’s not going to affect you only. The King of Aragon will demand an explanation, and in the worst-case scenario, a war could break out in Aelfsige City!
You were caught by assassins yesterday, and because everybody believed you were a commoner, nobody thought anything about it. If our enemies had known, do you know what a catastrophe it could have been?!”
Reynard was sorry. “I know my actions here caused a lot of trouble. I sincerely apologize for my mistakes!”
Agatha continued her admonishment. “Moreover, you came to our country without bodyguards! I thought it was strange that you didn’t have undercover guards around you, so when I found out you were royalty, I couldn’t believe it myself!
What made you do such a reckless thing?!”
Reynard felt very guilty for troubling Agatha and everyone. As Reynard trusted Agatha’s nickname, ‘The Mistress Of Secrets’, he divulged some of his secrets to her.
“My presence will be detected if I bring undercover guards with me. I’m here on a mission to become strong. As you already know, there is a marriage duel that I have to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to win!”
Agatha asked. “And you picked Aelfsige City of all places? We aren’t famous for fighting schools.”
“I watched a documentary on Kenji Mizushima in the palace some years ago, and I was astonished by his sword techniques. I had my butler find out how I can learn from him, and he eventually found out Kasumi and Hideki are his relatives. It was a coincidence that Kasumi opened a dojo here, so I decided that Aelfsige City was my destination.”
Agatha leaned back and remarked. “Ah, Kenji Mizushima. That name certainly rings a bell. Who else knows you’re here?”
Reynard answered. “My father, a retired court magician, and my butler. No one else knows.”
Agatha nodded. “Okay, I’m friends with your father. Since the King of Aragon knows, I’m going to speak to him about you, and I will assign you a bodyguard, is that alright?”
Reynard stuttered. “C-Can it be Gale?”
Agatha shook her head. “Gale is Clere’s bodyguard, and also a bodyguard for an important lynchpin. As you witnessed yesterday, the assassins were targeting him, and they used you to threaten him. If I put him with you, your life will be in danger.
We need to make sure you’re safe. It was a close call yesterday and thank goodness everything went well.”
Reynard slumped his shoulders in disappointment, but he knew it was the correct decision. Agatha continued. “That shouldn’t stop you from learning from Gale. He’s going to protect you even if he isn’t your bodyguard, so you don’t need his dedicated attention.”
Reynard nodded. “I know. Gale didn’t even blink and popped the poison pill into his mouth.”
Agatha continued. “That’s the sort of guy Gale is. You should seriously think about what you must do, your Highness. As far as I know, your marriage duel was long overdue.”
Reynard gripped his cup of coffee tightly and saw his reflection on the surface. He was too easily caught by assassins, and he knew he was a long way off from his marriage duel.
“Winning my marriage duel is one of the options. I have another answer to the duel, but I don’t know if I can bring it up.”
Agatha smiled slyly and raised her eyebrows. “I know what you’re thinking, but you’ll need to decide. If you want me to put a good word to your father, let me know.”
Reynard sipped his coffee and replied. “Give me some time, and meanwhile, please keep my secret safe.”
“With pleasure, your Highness. After all, I’m the Mistress of Secrets.”
Zeel and Sunny were invited by Aunt May to the Gainsborough’s Residence in the afternoon. Aunt May wanted to know the current strengths of the Zackloft siblings and assess if they were a good help to Gale.
Aunt May measured Zeel’s energy level by reading his pulse. Afterward, she pressed Zeel’s body to feel his muscles and bone structure.
“Hmm… You’re a born talent for fighting, Zeel. It’s such a waste because you didn’t have a good instructor to guide you, and you’ve cultivated some bad habits when you fight.
Gale, when you train him, be merciless and correct his bad habits.”
Zeel looked at Gale, and the latter nodded. “Wait. Does it mean Gale is going to train me?”
Aunt May looked at Zeel in his eyes. “You want an old hag like me to train you? I’ll take Sunny, and Gale is going to train you.”
Zeel didn’t know Aunt May was the Purple Phoenix, who was widely regarded as the strongest person in the world. However, he refrained from questioning her credentials because he knew she trained Gale.
“You don’t look old, Aunt May. Aren’t you in your mid-thirties?”
Zeel was right. Aunt May looked shapely and beautiful in her dark tan. Aunt May moved to Sunny after the former finished assessing Zeel. “Thanks for the compliment, lad. But I’m way past the flower of age. You should pick someone younger.”
Puzzled by her answer, Zeel answered not another word.
Aunt May then took Sunny’s arms and repeated what she did with Zeel to the latter. “For you, you’re undertrained. Your overly-protective brother has spoiled you.”
Sunny cast a side glance at Zeel. “Hear that, brother?”
Sunny was Zeel’s baby. From a very young age, he took care of her diapers when their parents were out for work. After their parents died when he was ten years old, Zeel took care of Sunny and braved the world for her sake. He played the role of a mother for Sunny, but to a fault because he wouldn’t allow her to risk herself in training.
Deep within, Sunny knew the sacrifices Zeel made for her sake. Even though she griped that Zeel was overtly protective, she cherished the thoughts that Zeel had for her.
Aunt May took a step back from the Zackloft siblings and addressed them. “Both of you are raw gems which need to be refined. Zeel’s training emphasis has been power, while Sunny’s forte has been speed. When both of you make combination attacks together, it’s formidable.
But combination attacks are only useful if the situation allows. Both of you must grow individually without the other while training cooperatively for maximum impact.
I will give pointers to Sunny and help her maximize her potential.”
Sunny heard during their conversations that Aunt May single-handedly destroyed the assassins and saved Gale. She was excited that such a strong person was willing to train her.
Sunny asked. “Did you train Gale, Aunt May?”
“Yes, but Gale has surpassed me. It wouldn’t be long before I ask Gale for training.”
Everyone’s eyes looked at Gale, and Gale protested. “No, no, no! How can I surpass you — “
Aunt May interrupted. “Take our your silver needles and let’s have a match.”
“A-Aunt May, you know I’m not taking out these silver needles — “
Aunt May continued. “You are a prodigy, and you’ve created techniques for yourself. If both of us are at full power, I think you’ll slightly edge me out.
But for once I agree that you shouldn’t be in a hurry to take out your silver needles. Not until after Lucy returns to full power.”
Zeel asked. “Why? If Gale is at his full power, he would’ve won against all those assassins easily!”
Aunt May explained. “War isn’t all about brute strength. My presence yesterday exposed the fact that the lynchpins have to consider me when they fight against Gale. It’s easy to plan diversion tactics to keep me busy so that they can focus on Gale.
However, the lynchpins have no idea how to deal with Gale’s bottomless depth of power. It isn’t to say Gale is invincible, but they will experience a thousand defeats before they understand Gale’s strength.
As the silver needles are removed one-by-one, Gale’s strength explodes each time. The lynchpins wouldn’t know how to deal with such an unpredictable growth spurt. All we need to do is to hold out for a month, and the attacks should stop happening when Gale’s client is done on her end.”
At that moment, Gale’s phone rang. It was Kasumi, and he didn’t hesitate to pick it up.
“Good morning, Kasumi! I’m — “
Aunt May snatched Gale’s phone out of his hand and spoke to Kasumi. “Good morning, Kasumi! I’m Aunt May! Would you be a darling and drop by at Gale’s house now?”
Kasumi was shocked to hear Aunt May’s voice. “Oh, sure! I was about to ask Gale out for breakfast!”
Aunt May prepared breakfast that morning, and she had a lot of food left. “Ah, perfect! We have breakfast here!
We’re planning some training and strategies with Zeel and Sunny so that if Gale meets any trouble again, he would’ve adequate help. Why don’t you join us today?”
Kasumi didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely! I’ll be there in fifteen minutes!”
Kasumi ended the call and Aunt May threw the phone back at Gale. Gale said, “I could’ve told her that myself, you know.”
Aunt May looked at Gale with the corner of her eyes before turning away from him. “No, you wouldn’t. You would’ve pretended nothing happened and relied on yourself because you have a tendency not to involve anyone with your problems.
If you’re so inclusive about it, I should see Clere or Athena here right now.”
Aunt May caught Gale’s train of thoughts, and Jacinta, Sunny, and Raine stared daggers at him. Gale stepped back from their intense gaze.
Aunt May continued. “Nevertheless, Clere’s and Athena’s [Cursed Ink Technique] need unconventional training methods, so inviting them here isn’t going to be beneficial for them. I heard from Agatha that you’ve been doing a good job training Clere, so keep going what you’re doing, and it will be fine.
For this month, all of us need to be vigilant, and Gale will be discharged from one of his bodyguard duties without breaking a sweat.”
Everyone replied in unison. “Yes!”
After Kasumi arrived at Gale’s house, everybody spends the rest of the day talking about training and how they can prepare in case there was another City Plaza battle again.