“You will be meeting your new bodyguard soon. He already knows about you and will introduce himself to you personally. When you meet him, please bring him back here for a briefing.”
Mom and I were having breakfast, and she just had to spring this on me right in the middle of our meal, surprising me so much that I almost choked on my coffee.
“But Mom, I don’t need a bodyguard! It’s really embarrassing to have a bodyguard around when I’m with my friends!”
“That’s why I took the trouble to find a competent bodyguard around your age so you could pass him off as a friend to any outsiders.
“Our intelligence squad received word that the Black Diamond syndicate is out to kidnap you to get the [Key]. We are talking about an organization with assassins here who aren’t afraid to wage war on the government to get what they want.”
“B-but I will be spending most of my time at school anyway! They wouldn’t want to cause a ruckus with so many people around, would they?”
“Well, you know how special our family is. There’s no reason for us not to take precautions, and I won’t take no for an answer.”
I sighed in defeat.
Most girls around my age were absorbed in studying, shopping, having fun, or fantasizing about love. Meanwhile, I had to think about training, being wary of my surroundings and ensuring that I adhered to my curfew or my family would give me hell.
“At the very least, I will consider removing your curfew after you bring your bodyguard to me. I know it’s hard to pass on hanging out with your friends until late in the evening, but I can make a concession if you take your bodyguard with you.”
“Why can’t the bodyguard just report for his duty at our place? Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone?”
”He is moving into town for this assignment, along with his little sister. He has to get many things sorted out, so I thought it would be better for him to come to you when he is ready to report for work.”
What? Just for this assignment, he is moving with his family into this town?
“Isn’t it too much for someone around my age to handle such a huge responsibility? We are talking about assassins here, and he has to safeguard both his little sister and me.”
”Oh, I wouldn’t worry the slightest bit about his skills.”
Mom sipped her coffee with a smile.
“He may not look dependable at first glance, but I would trust him with my life.”
That was a huge statement. My Mom, Agatha Sigrun, was known as the ‘Mistress of Secrets’ in her line of work. As a keeper of secrets for affluent organizations and authorities, many people let her have her pick of their best bodyguards, but she had rejected all those offers. To even insinuate that this bodyguard could guard her was giving him a lot of respect.
“Alright, but only because you personally endorsed this person. I just hope he isn’t too weird.”
I loathed the feeling of being so sheltered.
It was not like she was doing this for no reason; my family had been gathering intelligence for various organizations and authorities around the world for years. From what I understood, the secrets we kept could make or break the world.
I enjoyed the fact that I got to experience things that would normally only be seen in movies, like infiltrating strongholds and bases to steal information, being a spy, and tailing and impersonating important people.
Except that it all came with a price. It was quite hard to be a normal girl with our family.
Although my elder sister had been sent on covert operations from the tender age of thirteen, I had never really seen her dress up ever since.
On the other hand, I was the “sacred treasure” of the house. Everybody needed to know who I met, and where I went. I couldn’t even go out in the evening without scrutiny.
Even the school that I attended was special. Aelfsige Academy was a private institute that my Mom had significant influence over.
Aelfsige Academy provided education from elementary school all the way to university, but my life would forever be protected by my family.
I could only hope my new bodyguard would change things for the better, especially if my Mom released me from my restrictive curfews.
“I haven’t seen you around before. You new here?”
“Why don’t you empty your wallet and we let you go from here?”
I heard voices drifting over from a back alley as I walked towards the school.
Figures, I have heard about a bunch of bullies in the area. A poor soul is probably being picked on.
I really didn’t want to be late for school for being a busybody.
There was a moment of struggle within me. This was none of my business, but I would feel like an absolute crook if I left without helping that guy.
Then again, I was not supposed to draw too much attention to my—
“You hear anything that I said? Give it up, and we won’t have to kick you like this.”
Fine, whatever. I’ll help out just this once.
I ran into the back alley and found four thugs extorting a single guy in a corner. The guy had silver hair and was wearing the same school uniform as mine.
I stood forward to address the thugs.
“So what’s up, boys? Care to explain the commotion here?”
“It’s none of your business, bitch! Run away before somebody else gets hurt.”
They were the type of losers who wouldn’t learn until they suffered pain. I grabbed my weapon of choice from my bag—a long, wooden brush that could extend approximately two meters in length—and placed it across my shoulder.
“We can end this here without anyone getting hurt, or I can make you show some respect.”
The guys laughed.
”What are you going to do with that brush? This ain’t drawing class!”
I swung my brush down and struck the guy nearest to me.
His head sunk into the ground, covered in blood.
“Tsch! This girl can fight! Bob, take her left. Barock, take her right!”
Seems like these punks have been doing this for a while. They’re closing in on me to prevent me from running around too much.
I jumped over the two guys to attack their leader.
Hearing those words, I shrieked, holding down my dress and glaring murderously in the direction of the voice before turning back to my target again. It came from the helpless guy over there whom I’m trying to save? I don’t believe it. Enraged, I prepared to channel my emotions into a swing at the thug in front of me, but as my hands were occupied, I settled for a kick instead.
I missed my target, so I stared daggers at the silver-haired guy.
“Of all the people here, it came from the one I’m trying to save?!”
“I-I’m so sorry!” The guy flushed red with embarrassment. “You jumped too high, and I blurted that out without thinking.”
“Pervert… I will deal with you later.”
As I said that, the guys to my left and right came charging at me, swinging their left and right fists respectively. As I had a longer reach with my brush, I stabbed my brush into the shoulder of the guy on my left and swung a roundhouse kick towards the head of the guy on my right.
CRASH! The kick sent the guy crashing onto the wall behind him. Meanwhile, the guy on my left was pushed back by the momentum of my jab. At that moment came the wail of a police siren.
One of the punks immediately shouted.
“Guys, let’s get out of here! I hear the police!”
The three guys picked their friend up off the floor and ran out of the alley in haste.
“So much for these guys. Did you lose anything to them? Are you hurt anywhere?”
Turning my head towards the guy I rescued, I checked his well-being.
The guy shook his head. Upon closer inspection, he appeared quite good-looking.
“Why were they picking on you? And why did you have to comment on my underwear while I was fighting?!”
“I’m new here, and I ran into these guys while I was looking for directions. Your underwear looked kind of cute so I—“
Hearing that, I kicked his leg as hard as I could and stomped away.
“Oww!” The guy hopped around on his other leg, writhing in pain.
“Pervert! Who on earth comments about underwear in the middle of a fight?!”
With that, I stormed away from the alley.
“Hey wait..miss, I think we both attend the same school… “
I turned a deaf ear to him and sped up my walking pace.
As I approached my classroom, I could hear faint sounds of chatter growing louder as I increased my walking speed. The classroom was filled with excitement.
“Have you heard the latest news?”
“What news? Are we finally getting a combat instructor?”
“No, that’s not it.”
I heaved a deep sigh, and my shoulders drooped. As our class had been deprived of our combat instructor at the start of school, we have missed out on field-training for a couple of weeks already.
Ever since the “Hidden War” which happened fifteen years ago, the government has been placing an emphasis on identifying talents in fighting and teamwork. There would be an annual fighting competition at our school in which we would compete as a class or a club.
To miss out on our combat curriculum because of the lack of instructors was just straight up depressing.
“There will be two transfer students joining our class today!”
“I hope they’re both cute girls!”
“Sorry to disappoint you boys, but according to my sources, both of them are guys. One of them is from the renowned Mizushima family!”
“The Mizushima family? The family of famous swordsmen who exclusively served the Emperor of the Rising Sun in the past!”
“Yes! A hero has arrived in our town and in our school! I can’t wait to see what he looks like!”
“Who’s the other one then?”
“Oh, we don’t know much about him. Apparently, he came from the countryside or something.”
Mizushima family. A family of swordsmen. It certainly rings a bell. Could it be…
As I thought about that, a petite brunette with curly hair and glasses walked into the classroom to start our day.
“Alright kids, the bell just rang so let’s get homeroom started!”
The one who said that was Miss Mia, our homeroom teacher.
In Aelfsige Academy, we were supposed to have two homeroom teachers, one who focused on academics and the other for combat. Miss Mia was in charge of academics.
“As you have all heard, there will be two transfer students joining us today. Let’s give them a warm welcome!”
Loud rounds of applause immediately filled the classroom
“Can the new students please step into the classroom?”
The first guy who came in was rather tall, with spiky hair and a sharp chin. Overall, he looked pretty well-built.
“Clere? Hey, long time no see!”
“A-aren’t you Hideki?! You moved back here?”
That’s right! Hideki is my childhood friend. We used to have mock sword fights together, but he moved away five years ago.
“Yeah, things happened, and my family wanted to move back here to open a martial arts school.”
“Now now, Hideki, you will have time to chat with your childhood friend later. Please introduce yourself to the class!”
“Oh right. Yeah, hey everyone! My name is Hideki Mizushima. I moved away from this town about five years ago, and my family is moving back here to run a dojo that specializes in swordplay. Nice to meet you all, let’s make good memories together from now on.”
You could literally see the girls swooning over him already. My heart beats for the handsome dude as well but could you ladies keep it down?
Now, is he my new bodyguard?! Mom, if you picked Hideki to be my personal bodyguard then you’re the best! I will never have any more complaints with —
“Thanks, Hideki! Now let’s introduce our next transfer student! Come on in!”
A silver-haired guy with a slender build came walking in.
What?! That’s the guy that I saved. He’s going to attend my class?
“Hi everyone, my name is Gale Gainsborough, and I came from the countryside with my little sister to fulfill my assignment as a bodyguard to Clere Sigrun.”
The class exclaimed in shock.
“Wow, Clere! You are going to have a personal bodyguard from now on?”
I immediately planted my face into the desk.
My gosh, did he really have to say that?! Wasn’t he supposed to be inconspicuous about the whole bodyguard deal and be passed off as a friend? And how can Mom think he’s dependable when he can’t even fend off a few bullies by himself?!
“And hey Clere, I couldn’t find the opportunity to thank you for helping me subdue those bullies back in the alley earlier! Oh, I also apologize for commenting about your bear panties in the middle of the fight.”
The mutters of “oh, is she wearing bear panties today?” were really audible even though everyone tried to suppress it.
However, I couldn’t keep it in, so I stood up and roared at Gale.
“Argh! That does it! Why do you have to make so many unnecessary comments at the start of school?!”
“Oh, you don’t like me thanking you for your good deeds?”
“Not that, you imbecile! Argh, never mind!”
Noticing the curious stares from my surrounding classmates, I got flustered and quickly sat back down in my seat. Gale made a slight grin with the corner of his mouth.
You did that on purpose, didn’t you?!
At lunch, the girls in our class gathered around my table with their curiosity shooting through the roof.
“Hey Clere, you protected Gale from bullies earlier today, right?”
“Yup, what about it?”
“Isn’t he supposed to be protecting you instead?”
That’s exactly what I’m thinking at this moment.
“I didn’t need to be saved because I didn’t run into trouble. Gale did. Anyway, I still have to bring him to my Mom after school.”
“Your Mom sure picked a weird guy to be your bodyguard. Since you’re childhood friends with Hideki, it wouldn’t hurt to recommend Hideki over Gale.”
“Gale moved here with his little sister just for this assignment, and if I know my Mom, she’s not the type of person who makes important decisions flippantly —”
“Sorry to interrupt, is Gale in this class?”
A middle-school girl popped her head into our class. She looked like a junior who was only one or two years younger than us. With long black hair and a ponytail, she looked really adorable.
“Brother! There you are! You forgot to bring your lunch, so I came to drop it off! Want to eat together?”
“Oh thanks, sis! Did you make new friends today? Don’t you want to eat with your friends?”
“I thought I would check on you first and see how you are doing, in case the girls are swooning and making advances on you.”
Oh, Gale’s sister has a big brother-complex?
“Nah, I’m not popular at all. My classmate here is the star of today’s show. Meet Hideki Mizushima.”
In response, she turned to Hideki and immediately extended her hand in courtesy.
“Hello! I’m Raine Gainsborough! Nice to meet you!”
“Pleasure to meet you, Raine! Feel free to call me Hideki. Gale, I didn’t know your little sister was so adorable and beautiful!”
Raine puffed up her chest and slapped Gale on the back.
“Hear that bro? You should appreciate your little sister more!”
“Yea yea. Keep this up, and you’ll have trouble finding yourself a boyfriend — Ow!”
Raine pinched Gale in retaliation.
“Is that how you should treat your little sister who came all this way to deliver your lunch? So who are you a bodyguard for? Aunt May sure gives you some weird jobs from time to time.”
“Oh yea, let me introduce her. Wait, she’s upset with me because I saw her bear panties this morning —“
I came over quickly and extended my hand to Raine.
“Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Clere Sigrun. I guess I will be in your brother’s care for a while .”
“Oh hi! I’m Raine Gainsborough, nice to meet you.”
Raine sized me up from top to bottom. I could see that she was trying to make a mental profile of my appearance.
Raine leaned over and muttered in Gale’s ear.
“So why are you always with pretty girls who have good bodies? Are you a pervert or what?”
I can hear that you know, and yes, your brother is a pervert.
Gale shrugged and extended his hand towards me for a handshake.
“Pretty rough morning we had! Hope we can work together from now on.”
I looked at his hand and turned away, crossing my arms.
“Wow, she sure is mad at you.”
“Yea, probably because I commented on her underwear and really, it looked like the ones around our — ouch! Hey, that hurts! Stop throwing books at me!”
I couldn’t bear to go home with Gale when embarrassed me for the whole day by constantly mentioning my underwear, so I slipped a piece of paper with my address into his bag and left school first.
However, to my surprise, he somehow managed to reach my house before I did and was engaged in conversation with my mother by the time I arrived.
“Oh, there you are Clere! We were just talking about you.”
Gale looked at me with a sheepish smile, but I ignored him. My mom stood up and walked toward the kitchen.
“Let me get tea for everyone! Oh, Athena will be joining us for this conversation as well.”
“Oh, sis is back from her assignment? It’s been a while since I last saw her.”
“I pulled Athena off her assignment to talk about this bodyguard duty. She used to be your personal bodyguard, so I will have her inform Gale about your tendencies and habits in detail.”
“What?! Why should Gale learn about my tendencies and habits from the start?”
“Being a bodyguard is an intimate duty. Knowing your tendencies and habits can help the bodyguard notice something amiss. You and Athena grew up together, so she already knows you, but Gale needs to start from scratch.”
“Uhhhh…Mom, I have something to say. I had to save him from bullies this morning, and he even saw my — “
“Your bear panties? Gale told me about it.”
Mom giggled. So that’s why you came to my house early! It was to prepare my mother for this incident?!
At that moment, my sister came into the room.
“Everyone’s here? Sorry, I’m late. You must be Gale, I have heard so much about you from my Mom. I’m Athena.”
“Pleased to meet you, Athena. I heard a lot about you as the Gatekeeper of Sigrun.”
Why does Gale treat my sister so differently to me? He’s so respectful, unlike how he always mentions my underwear in front of everyone.
As we sat around the coffee table in our living room, I calmed myself down with a good brew of tea before making my statement.
“Mom, you know Hideki? Five years ago, he lived next door to us.”
“Oh yes, I saw his family this morning. They have moved in as our neighbors, and apparently, they are setting up a martial arts school here.”
“Yes, wouldn’t Hideki be a better bodyguard than Gale? Hideki’s family is renown for swordplay, and I’m sure he would be an excellent bodyguard.”
Mom looked at me out of the corner of her eyes before sipping on her tea. Yes, Mom, I know I’m being disrespectful of Gale in his face, but this guy has been getting on my nerves since this morning.
“Hideki is a prodigy at his craft and will surely make a name for himself. However, in his present state, he cannot handle assassins at any level. We need someone experienced in this field.”
“You mean Gale has experience?”
“Gale has been doing co-op missions since he was five years old and solo missions since ten. He has infiltrated bases and worked for me for the past ten years.”
Seriously? That’s even more incredible than my sister who only began her covert operations at thirteen years old!
“The only reason Gale took this job is because his Aunt wants him to take a break from all this work, and being your bodyguard is the perfect opportunity for him to enjoy school life while resting his body.”
Immediately, I glared at Gale.
“Then why on earth did you not manage to even fend off the bullies this morning?!”
“I didn’t see the need to. I wasn’t carrying my wallet with me, and their punches didn’t hurt anyway.”
Gosh, it certainly pays to be kind doesn’t it.
“Yet from this incident, I know you have a good sense of justice. So I must really thank you for that.”
Say that without mentioning anything about my underwear please.
Mom and sis looked at me with a smile.
“You will get to know his actual capabilities firsthand in the future. For now, there are other important things to discuss.
First off, Gale’s sister, Raine, doesn’t know anything about Gale working with us in the past, nor does she know about the severity of his bodyguard duties now.”
“T-that’s impossible! If Gale were to start work at five years old, it makes no sense why his sister would not know.”
“Before Gale went on any night operations, he would hypnotize his sister into a deep sleep, and she would wake up the next morning with no knowledge of what had happened the previous night.”
“So what does Raine know about his bodyguard job now?”
“Raine knows it as just simple monitoring of you, without assassins and without the Black Diamond syndicate’s involvement. She does know that her brother can fight, but she will probably imagine it at Hideki’s level, good for his age but incapable of fending off assassins.”
I did notice that Raine is quite the brother-lover, so it makes sense to keep it from her.
“Therefore try to keep all the details about Gale, our family’s work, and you from her. Her parents have already made the decision to reveal everything to her once she reaches high school so we will keep it from her until then.
She gave a short twirl of the stirrer and took a sip from the exorbitant-looking teacup she was holding before continuing.
“Secondly, you’ve probably never heard mention of Aunt May from us. Aunt May is supposedly Gale’s and Raine’s aunt, and she is the one who referred Gale to us for this job.”
“For now, take it as Aunt May is who she seems to be and that she is Gale and Raine’s aunt. She has been overseeing Gale’s development as a fighter, and she is the main person who takes freelance work from us. If Raine mentions Aunt May to you, pretend that she is a long-term friend of ours and nothing more.
All will be revealed in due time, but we need to be patient about it because Raine is still in the dark about these things.”
“Wow, Mom, Raine is really going to have a shock from all these revelations.”
Gale chimed in to provide an explanation for all this secrecy.
“Yes, my family hid it from her because we wanted her to have the most normal and peaceful childhood that she could experience, and I don’t want to hurt her if possible.”
Gale’s face looked very serious. Maybe he’s trying to do his best as a good brother.
“I understand. I will do that to the best of my abilities.”
Gale smiled and gave me a nod of thanks. I guess he can be nice if he actually tries.
“Luckily, I also gave a discount to Gale for this bodyguard duty.”
“Yes, a fifty percent discount. So Gale is going to guard you for only half your battles.”
Did I hear that correctly? I have never heard of a bodyguard who only protects for half the time. In fact, what use is a bodyguard who only protects someone half of the time?
“So what am I supposed to expect? Is he only going to guard me during school?”
“No, you heard me wrong. It’s half your battles, not half the time. This means that when you are confronted with a challenge, Gale will use his discretion in whether to fight for you or not.”
“…That sounds really ambiguous.”
“You will understand it when the challenges do come. At the bare minimum, if your life is endangered, Gale will protect you at all costs. One of the main reasons for this arrangement is because you have been skimping on your training.”
My shoulders dropped when my Mom commented on my training.
“… I’m just not as good as my sister at fighting.”
“That’s not true. Your heart has never been into training because you never saw a reason to, and that’s why your progress has plateaued. Athena saw how we almost perished about fifteen years ago, so her motivation to be at her best has stayed strong ever since. However, you have lived in safety since birth, so it’s understandable that you would not want to be as strong as your sister and instead be a normal girl.
With Gale’s cooperation, I want you to see the need of being strong yourself.”
I hate to admit it, but I do desire to be normal and have fun, even though I am always looking up to my sister for being good at what she does.
“I know it’s unfair to you for making such demands. If only you were not born as part of the Sigrun family — “
“Mom, I have never thought being born into our family was bad. In fact, I am proud of our family for playing a pivotal role in ending the ‘Hidden War’ fifteen years ago. It was tough for you and my sister when I was born in such a difficult time of chaos.”
With that said, I stole a glance at Gale.
“I will cooperate with Gale in my battles to grow my strengths.”
Gale reached out his hand for a handshake.
“Pretty rough day we had! Hope we can work together from now on!”
I looked at his hand and then his eyes. He acts like a jerk who just likes to tease, but ultimately he is still sincere in what he does.
“Sure, pleased to work with you from now on.”