Chapter 8:

The Mysterious Wanderer

Soul Weapon

April 22nd, 3184

Sunday - ???

The figure with armoured skin stood in front of me yet again. I couldn’t see its face, but it looked angry. And saddened. It took slow, methodical steps toward me as I stood still, paralyzed—but not with fear. Once it got close, I felt something. A presence? An energy? It’s something. Something familiar. It’s face suddenly glowed a bright red where its eyes would lay and then—

I snap my eyes open to find myself back in my bed like usual. However, this time my arm is weighed down by something as I feel a pressure on the right side of my body. I look down to see Kiyoko lying on her side in my bed with her head resting on my chest. Kiyoko’s right hand lay gently on my stomach as her body slightly rises and lowers from her calm breaths. My arm, trapped under her body, starts to go numb and tingly.

Despite how picture perfect this scene may seem, my heartbeat starts to fly as I panic, not knowing what to do. Do I try to wake her? Try to slip out without her noticing? My arm, filling with more and more pins and needles, starts to grow in pain. Thankfully, my worries are answered as Kiyoko starts to move and open her eyes.

As her vision adjusts, she looks up at me dead in the eyes, her face still in a hazed state. But that didn’t last long as she realized where she was and what was happening. Shocked, Kiyoko jumps out of the bed with a squeal as she darts to the door, still in her hoodie and tights.

“I’m sorry,” Kiyoko yells as she dashes out of my dorm, slamming the door shut behind her.

“Okay,” I say to myself as I lie frozen in my bed, “I guess I’m alone now.”

Eventually, I exit the bed and get ready to head out. It may be the weekend, but with this supposed tournament coming up, I can’t really risk falling behind at all. So most of my day consisted of training in the woods where Miho and I spared yesterday—this time, I did bring myself some food.

With the day flying by, I eventually head back to my dorm and sleep once more, only to be woken up in the morning by Kiyoko. However, unlike any other time, she looks visibly embarrassed about what happened yesterday morning.

As the classes went by, I noticed the knight, Jiro, now wearing a modern style gambeson, as he watched the students from afar. It’s impossible to know what he’s even thinking about with his face stern like a rock. By the time break comes around, I search for both Jiro and Miho as I’m worried about those two interacting. I really don’t trust this guy, yet Mirai simply allows him to stay at the academy?

Eventually, I find Jiro talking to a student with his back facing me, but I can’t make out who he’s talking to. Somehow, noticing my presence as I walk up, the student leans over, looking past Jiro and waves their hands.

“Hey, big bro,” Miho yells, “Come here! This guy is super chill!”

“Miho,” I exclaimed, jogging to the two, “I told you to stay away from him.”

I forcefully grab Miho’s arm as I pull him away, giving Jiro a stern look. Jiro looks back unapologetically as we lock eyes for a moment.

“Bro,” Miho speaks, releasing himself from my grip, “Just listen to him.”

Miho takes a step away and looks at Jiro.

“You mind telling him what you told me?”

With a sigh, Jiro loosens his face.

“Fine,” he mumbles, “If you’ll listen.”

Hesitantly, I give Jiro a nod and he explains why he attacked.

Just over 20 years ago, back when Jiro was 30, he had a peaceful life with a woman that he took as his wife. The two of them never really cared for society all that much. It got too advanced for their liking. So instead, together, the two of them bought land in the woods, got a house made, and lived in solitude together. Of course, when they needed necessities, society wasn’t too far away. And they planned it that way because they always knew they wanted to make something special together. A child—a daughter. A daughter that they already had a name planned for, picked out by his wife.

Without much trouble, the two were successful in what they wanted. And his wife, a seemingly healthy pregnant woman, was eventually ready to give birth. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as before. Jiro’s wife, while giving birth, sadly passed away moments after their child was born, unable to even hold the child in her hands. It took him a little bit of time to process, but the loss didn’t keep him down—didn’t abandon his child, become an alcoholic, or anything. In his mind, Botan, his daughter, was a passing gift from his late wife, keeping her soul alive.

A couple years had passed with Botan just recently turning three, and life was, all things considered, fine. That was until someone appeared. Jiro and Botan were playing in their backyard swings when from deep within the forest, a figure could be seen. Despite them not being too far from any town or city, that doesn’t mean that many people—or really, anyone—pass by in these woods. If someone was spotted, you know they weren’t welcome.

Locking eye contact, the person appears to be a slim woman wearing some kind of dress, but due to the darkness of the forest, the details couldn't be seen. Sensing the danger the woman possesses, Jiro ushers Botan to stay inside the house and lock the door. After returning his gaze to the woman, she’s noticeably closer, almost as though she teleported.

Jiro had always been a bit of a fighter and had a simple, but effective Soul Gear.

“Stage Two: Sacred Paladin ,” Jiro murmurs.

Large gold and silver armor suddenly forms around Jiro as a large claymore appears in his right hand. A faint golden glow surrounds Jiro, almost as though he had been blessed.

“Leave now,” Jiro demands, “I won’t give you a second warning.

The woman started to advance, almost cheery in nature.

“Oh,” she says, tilting her head, “I’m not here for you.”

Now in the light and out of the forest, her wardrobe is completely visible as it flaps in the wind. The unknown woman wore deep black heels over fishnet stockings. White satin gloves ran up to her elbow, almost touching her short sleeved dress—her black and white French maid dress. Completing the set laid elegantly a white frilly headdress on top of her long, golden hair.

A maid.

“What are you here for then,” Jiro questioned.

The maid simply tilted her head at the view behind Jiro. Standing in the window with her hands pressed against the glass was Botan. Noticing the maid’s gaze, Botan shot down out of view in an instant. Realizing what the maid was looking at, Jiro speaks.

“The hell do you want with her,” Jiro asks, “Not even the government knows she exists. How could some random maid know?”

Without any reply, the maid simply smiles.

From behind, a clicking noise echoed, followed by a creaking sound. Shooting his attention behind him, Jiro whips around as fast as he could in the large armor. Stepping out of the house was Botan as she slowly made her way toward the two of them.

“Botan,” Jiro exclaimed, “Get back in the house right now! It’s not safe.”

In response, completely silent, Botan simply smiled.

Whipping his attention back to the maid, she was gone. Within a second, he scans the area before turning back to Botan. In front of her stood the maid. The woman crouched down and extended her hand.

“It’s okay,” the maid spoke in a soft, almost hypnotic voice, “Just come with me and everything will be fine.”

“Botan, don't,” Jiro yelled at the top of his lungs.

He dashed toward the maid and took a large swing. Casually, the woman turned around, stuck two fingers outward, and spoke.


Instantly, Jiro froze in his spot, completely unable to move. The maid focused her attention back to Botan who slowly continue toward her. With the maid’s hand still extended, Botan takes it. The woman then stands up, gives a glance to Jiro, and the two of them walk behind him, leaving his sight.

After what felt like hours, Jiro was released from his invisible bind and searched the area. He continued to search farther and farther until—nothing. He still searches even 20 years later, going from land to land, city to city, trying to find any trace of the maid or his daughter. But nothing.

Knowing he would be too weak to face the maid if he ever crossed paths with her, over the time of searching, he acquired what is known as Fabled Gears. Most gears, when passed down genetically, are seemingly random, while some of the children share certain traits of their parent’s Gears. However, there are certain groups of Gears that don’t operate that way. Once someone with a Fabled Gear, for example, has a child, the power of their Gear will be stripped away from them and passed on to their offspring. Alternatively, once slain, their Gear will be transferred to whoever had killed them.

He had collected Headhunter, a staff; Twin Fangs, a pair of blades; Dragonguard, a dragon; and a few others. Acquiring a Soul Gear is not simply gaining a new power, it’s taking control of an entirely new soul within your body. If not compatible, you will become unstable and won’t be able to control yourself. The fact that Jiro was able to control so many just showed how big his resolve was.

After years of searching and research, Jiro concluded that the maid must have been a certain academy—The Gifted Tempus Academy. Not knowing if his daughter is still alive, he just wanted revenge if nothing else. Using his gears, he wasted no time and crashed into the academy, doing whatever means necessary to draw the maid out.

If he was wrong and the maid wasn’t there, he would have simply left after a few hours—as he usually did when targeting a place. Over the years of Jiro searching and wandering throughout the globe, never giving a name or reason, people eventually found the name to refer to him as: The Mysterious Wanderer.

“That’s why I’m here.”  Jiro finishes.

“You see,” Miho elbows me, “Two sides to every coin!”

I stand between the two, darting my head back and forth in confusion.

“How does this redeem him,” I exclaim, “Sure, I’m sorry for what happened to you, but that doesn’t excuse what he’s not only done to us, but to everyone he’s attacked in the past.”

“I’m not looking for an apology,” Jiro says firmly, “I don’t care what you kids think. I’m after the maid.”

“And that’s another thing,” I continued, “You mentioned a blonde maid. I don’t know if you noticed, but the headmaster, Mirai, is a brunette. You’re wasting your time here.”

Jiro said nothing and only gave me a stare so intense it's as though he’s looking into my soul.

“Right,” he finally says, “But when’s the last time you’ve seen anyone in a French maid outfit nowadays?”

“Uh,” I rub the back of my head, “Last week?”

“Exactly,” Jiro replies, “I’ve done my research. Almost all throughout time there have been sightings and reports of women in maid outfits who take children and women. Whoever this Mirai woman is who runs your academy, I can guarantee, is a part of that cult.”

Speechless, I think about the possibility of our headmaster having more sinister intentions as Jiro implies she does.

“So,” Jiro continues, “If you’d like to trust me, you can. If not, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Once he finished speaking, Jiro immediately turned around and walked away, leaving just Miho and I to ourselves.

“What do you think about that, eh,” Miho asks, nudging me again, “Our savior, preparing us for a future war, might be a crazy child stealer!”

“Well, look,” I trail off, trying to figure out the right words to say, “All this means is that we can’t trust either of them, alright?”

“Or,” Miho says, dragging the word out, “We trust both of them and let them fight over who wants to stab us in the back first!”

“What,” I blurt out.

“The way I see it is that there’s two sides here. Sure, we can pick one side, but now we’ll have an enemy on the other. We’ll definitely have a strong ally, but they could potentially stab us in the back. We could distrust both of them and have two enemies, which—obviously—is even worse. So what’s the best option? Trust both of them and have two allies. Neither can stab you in the back because the other will be there to save you.”

“I… Uh,” I stumbled over my words, shocked at what Miho said, “That… makes a surprising amount of sense actually. I think?”

“Nah, don’t think about it too long, bro,” Miho says, slapping his hand on my shoulder, “But break is almost over, I’ll be heading off to my next class. See you later!”

I waved Miho goodbye as we parted ways. After what Miho said, I suppose I really do have to figure out who to trust—even if only on the outside. Both Jiro and Mirai appeared out of nowhere, and they seem to have good intentions, but based on what Jiro had said, they both may have blood on their hands.

Thinking about that, I headed to Soul Gear Ed. 10 minutes early to meet Kiyoko to see what’s wrong with her APM—again. Standing in front of Dr. Mundoch’s lab stands Kiyoko fiddling with her APM, probably trying to figure out a way to solve the problem herself.

After an awkward greeting, we head inside to meet with Dr. Mundoch. Sitting at his desk, he reads one of the textbooks, preparing for class before he notices us and pulls his glasses down.

“Oh, what a surprise seeing you two kids here early,” Dr. Mundoch says as he stands up from his desk, “Are you eager to get some learning done?”

“Well, I wish it was that, Dr. Mundoch,” Kiyoko says as she shows her APM, “But I’m having the same problem with this APM, too.”

“What,” Dr. Mundoch blared, “There’s no way.”

Without hesitation, he takes the APM from Kiyoko’s hand and starts examining it. After a moment of fiddling, he returns his attention to Kiyoko.

“Are you sure it’s still acting up?”

“Definitely,” I butt in, “Like, just the other day I walked into my dorm and saw her—”

“Doing nothing,” Kiyoko exclaimed as she hit my arm.

With a short chuckle, Dr. Mundoch turns away and makes his way to the filing cabinet

“Alright,” he said as he pulled something out of it, “Take another one.”

In his hand is yet another brand new APM as he hands it to Kiyioko. This time, Kiyoko takes it much more hesitantly.

“Are you sure,” she asks.

“Absolutely,” Dr. Mundoch assures, “At this point, there is definitely something going on. The second you see something wrong with it, take it back to me, okay?”

“Yes, of course,” Kiyoko says, slightly confused as she glances at me.

A couple students make their way into the classroom and Dr. Mundoch looks at his watch. Realizing the time, he sends us off to our seats as we wait for class to start. Just as soon as the students finished filing into the classroom, I couldn’t get a word to Kiyoko before being interrupted by a voice coming from the front of the class.

Displayed on the class’ LED Blackboard was Mirai’s face as she tapped the lens.

“I think this thing is on,” she mumbled to herself, “Crossing my fingers, I suppose!”

Even Dr. Mundoch is surprised by the sudden appearance of Mirai on his screen. I guess she’s not well coordinated with the teachers.

“Okay, hello to all of you students,” Mirai says as she takes a few steps back, leaving her stomach to her head in frame, “So I’ve given you all about a week to adjust to what had happened. Once I first met all of you, I said that I would be assessing you to figure out where all of you were at in terms of strength and skill. And that is why I’m here, broadcasting this message!”

Mirai then pauses, waiting for something.

“Oh, right,” she said as she clapped, “You can’t respond to me. Sorry, I’m more used to a live audience. Well, I guess you’re technically live, just not physically here—but whatever! In front of you all, I announce: The Tournament That Will Determine Who Will Save The Future And Who... Won’t… I’ll think of a better title later. But regardless! On April 30th, one week from today, I will be holding a week-long tournament to see where you are all at. We’ll sort out the technicalities at a later time, but for now, all you need to know is that if you are a first or second year highschool level student, your tournaments will be singles. Third years, on the other hand, will be doubles. Figure out who you want to be partnered with and report it to me ASAP, otherwise you’ll be paired with someone randomly chosen. So, I think that’s everything I needed to cover for now. You’ll be given e-mails announcing when and where you’ll be fighting, and it will also be uploaded to the bulletin board located at the highschool division's entrance. But anyway… Announcement, out!”

Mirai struck a pose before awkwardly fumbling around the camera for a second, trying to shut down the broadcast. With her face far too close to the lens, it eventually turns off.

After a moment of chatter among the students, Dr. Mundoch calms the class down.

“Well, alright kids,” he says, gesturing the students to quiet, “I guess there’s a tournament happening. Very unexpected. But very exciting, isn’t it? Be sure to train, but don’t wear yourself out too much!”

Dr. Mundoch pauses, letting the class chatter momentarily as he thinks.

“I suppose throughout the week, instead of going through various random Soul Gears, we can focus on all of your Soul Gears, shall we?”

Over the next two periods, almost every student focused like I’d never seen before—even Kiyoko. Not much happened over the next few days as most extra time is used to practice for the upcoming tournament. Over these few days, many students challenged each other, getting used to real combat.

I’m not normally interested in these fights between students, but I’ll take them as ‘study time’ in the off chance I face off against one of them. There are certain students I’m particularly interested to see fight, however. I’d love to see Asaka and Kano battle as those two will most likely become partners for the tournament. Takashi has a very intriguing Soul Gear that I’d quite enjoy seeing pushed to the limit. But those are second and third years, it’s not like I’d benefit from watching them spar.

From my right, a figure suddenly appears. She flicks one of her blonde twintails as it nearly slaps me in the face.

“Oh, sorry,” Ena mockingly apologizes, “I didn’t see you there, poochie.”

“Eugh,” I scoff, “Was that a lover’s nickname, or something?”

“What? Ew,” she winces, “For you? Absolutely not.”

Ena crosses her arms as she shoots her head away with a pout. For some reason I started to chuckle for a moment as Ena looked back, confused at my amusement.

Settling down, I notice that her makeup and hair is done as usual unlike her previous appearance. However, wrapped around her hand is still a thin layer of bandaging, not limiting her movement too much.

“So,” I say, nodding to her arm, “You okay to do the tournament?”

Looking down at her arm for a moment, her attention moves to the students sparring in the center of the training grounds.

“Strange how everything is fixed,” Ena ponders.

“What,” I ask, confused as to where the direction of this conversation is headed.

“It’s almost as though none of it ever happened. Even the students who were fatally injured are now back at a hundred percent. Except…”

She raises her arm up for a moment before lowering it.

“I’m sorry,” I say as Ena darts her head at me, confused, “If I wasn’t so distracted I could have warned you.”

“What? No, it’s,” Ena trailed off before blurting out, “I don’t need pity from a dog like you!”

Like before, she swings her head away and pouts. I Smirk.

Noticing us from across the room, I see Kiyoko running in our direction.

“Oh great,” Ena rolls her eyes.

I wave at Kiyoko as she waves back.

“So,” Kiyoko says with her arms on her hips, “Are you two friends now?”

Ena and I both speak at the same time.



She spins her head at me.

“Friends,” Ena scoffed, “Just because I said you won, that doesn’t mean we’re friends.”

“Well, you’re the one who started this conversation, so…”

With that, Ena immediately grew silent.

Eventually, Miho joined us as the four of us watched and studied the fights that took place—although most of the time was spent simply talking amongst ourselves. It puts me at ease to be able to just relax and not focus on anything serious. With the tournament coming up, who knows what will happen after it. After this year. After we graduate. This could be one of the last times we are able to relax like this.

Thinking about the future and the tournament sends shivers down my spine as anxiety shoots through it. The thought of being in a situation like I was in before—potentially unable to control myself, I don’t know how to handle it. Noticing my shaky right hand during the group chatting, Ena glanced at it and her left hand twitched as though it wanted to move. Kiyoko looks at me with glee in her eyes as she laughs at one of Miho’s jokes. Despite the usual tension between a lot of these people, together at once, they could be seen as great friends. Seeing them like that puts me at ease because I know what I’m fighting for.

I’m not alone anymore.