Chapter 1:

Loser's Way

My boring life as a mercenary

Hello! How have you been? It's me, your boy Kireng. The guy who joined Black Stream, a famous mercenary group, to have a more exciting life and ended up in an ordinary city with absolutely nothing to do named Little Clove. Yeah, yeah. Laugh all you want.

Let's not forget about the new friends I made! A military man that fights with cats, a dude called Loser, a psychopath who loves chocolate, and a corpse.

Anyway, do you remember how the last chapter ended? What a coincidence, me neither! My face hurts like hell for some reason.

I tried to move and noticed that a blanket is covering me. Looking around, I can see that I'm on a metal bunk bed in a small bedroom. My backpack is by my side. The source of light is coming through a window and a laptop on an office desk. There's a chair near the desk, another bunk bed on the other side of the room, and some clothes scattered all over the place.

When I was about to stand up, Loser entered the room and noticed me.

- Oh, you are awake. - he said, smiling. - You okay? That jab Smile gave you must've hurt a lot since you went "Joe mode" for around twenty hours.

Well, she did smile before hitting me. Oh, I remembered what happened! She got a little mad after I let it slip an unfortunate statement about her lack of curves.

- I'm fine, don- Did you say twenty hours? - I may not be fine.

- That's Boss for you, haha! Don't worry, Crimson checked on you and said you are ok.

I'm worried, more than before.

- "Boss", you said?

- Oh, that's the way we call her. You know, because she's the squad leader and all. It's less catchy than Smile, but way cooler. She doesn't seem to mind either way.

- Maybe I should apologize to her.

- Nah. I'm sure the punch was exactly to call it even. That's the way she is.

It's confirmed. Every member of this squad is a weirdo. Except for me, of course.

So that woman is the squad leader? She did have a mature aura, but I'm a little disappointed. By her looks, I would say she's probably a little younger than me. I thought our leader would have a more badass style.

- Urgh... - a voice came from the top of the bunk bed on the other side of the room.

- Looks like Joe's fine too.

I stood up and saw Joe lying down on the bed, but somehow he seems more dead than yesterday.

- Something happened to him?

- For some reason, after you were down, Joe tried to avenge you and ended knocked out as well. - Loser said, a little confused.

Joe... I knew we had a connection at that moment! You are a true friend!

- Oh, right! My hopes and dreams! I still need to get out of the city.

- Why don't you contact HQ before leaving the city. You know, so they don't think you are a deserter and send some hitmen after you?

- An even better idea, indeed.

I grabbed my smartphone in my backpack and dialed a safe number to contact Black Stream's HQ.

- Mr. Robson's Bakery. What would you like to order? - a male voice answered.

- A baguette, three croissants, an orange juice, and a Dantalion's special. - that's a code that means, "I need to talk to someone important as soon as possible". This is important, after all.

- Just a moment.

I waited around two minutes until a female voice answered with "be brief". I told her my name and explained the situation.

- No. - she hung up.

- Guess it's impossible, huh? - I said while looking at my phone.

- Told you. - Loser answered like this was all a waste of time.

- Mmmmmmn - Joe mumbled.

I can feel the frustration in his voice. Sorry, Joe. I tried.

Well, I can always bring excitement to this city myself. I wonder how much a grenade launcher is.

- Don't you try. I can see all over your face that you are planning something stupid. - Loser looked at me with a suspicious face. - Why do you want to leave so badly? You just arrived.

- If I wanted to have a normal life, I wouldn't have become a mercenary.

- Fair enough, but if you just wanted to use guns and high-tech drones, you could have joined the army.

- I have my reasons. I need a life worth living, fast. Otherwise, theirs will have no meaning.

- Oh...

Damn, I’ve said too much. It's kind of taboo to talk about your past.

We had some seconds of silence until Joe made a loud noise to drag our attention.

- Hum! - he did a rock symbol with his hand.

I don't get it. Is he trying to tell me that everyone has their reasons to become a mercenary, so I don't need to worry? That was cool Joe, thanks.

- A-Anyway, let's go for a walk. Boss ordered me to show you the city when you woke up. - he's doing his carefree face again.

- Ok, I'll grab my backpa-

- No guns, Kireng. It's just a walk.

What a boring person.

- Alright, alright. Bye Joe, see you later.

- Mmmmmrrr - he waved back without looking at us.

Before leaving, Loser gave me a quick tour of the apartment. Besides the living room, the kitchen, our "guys’ room", and the bathroom, there's also the "girls’ room", but that's kind of a forbidden place for us so he couldn't show me.

I asked once more about military equipment, and he said we actually do have some besides the M4A1 and the bulletproof vest mentioned yesterday. After all, there's a small chance that we end up having a real mission. Unfortunately, they are scattered around the apartment because we don't have a specific room or cabinet to store them. That's dangerous, isn’t it?

We left the building, and I walked with him down the street.

- So, where are we going? - I asked.

- Let's see... A lot of places, I guess?

- This is gonna take all day, isn't it?

- Haha, probably.

And then my free tour of Little Clove has started. During all day, Loser showed me relevant places in the city.

First, we went to the police station. Doesn’t have many cops around and there are some police cars parked near it. We talked while passing by.

- Do they have big guns?

- Kireng, no.

- Are they interested in hiring us for some job they can't handle alone?

- Nope.

- Someone I should know about inside? Like a contact of yours or some thug who got arrested and needs our services?

- I do have a contact inside the police, but she's just a rookie as bored as you. About the thug, no.

So Joe and I aren't the only ones suffering from the peacefulness of this city?

- Can we trust her? Rookie or not, she’s still a cop. - I asked, a little worried.

- She’s kind of an airhead, so it’s fine.

Another weirdo, I suppose.

- But what about you, Kireng?

- What?

- You would make a good cop with that strong personality of yours.

- I don't think so. Cops fight for the law and to protect people. I only fight for myself.

- Some sort of lone wolf?

- I wouldn't go that far. I'm just not the kind of person who would risk his life for someone else.

- A very mercenary thing to say, haha. Are you sure you are okay working on a team? - he asked casually.

- You got it wrong.

- Did I?

- You guys from the squad are not "someone else". I would risk my life for the people I care about, and I care about my teammates.

- Even if we just met?

- Of course. We may not be friends now, but we will get along eventually, right?

I looked at him, and for a brief moment, it seemed like he was really surprised by my answer.

- Let's keep going. - Loser said, with usual face while looking forward.

- Ok, let's go.

Our next stop is a hospital. The same I saw yesterday. It’s busier than the police station, but nothing serious is happening.

- Is this the only hospital in the city? - I asked.

- It's the biggest, but not the only one. Anyway, the important thing here is that an old friend of Crush works in this hospital.

- Does he know about our squad and that we are mercenaries?

- Yeah. He's an excellent doctor that agreed to help us with any medical care for a fair price. His only condition is that we are discreet. Not that we will need it so soon, but it's good for you to know about him if you ever get badly injured.

- Seems like a nice person. It’s good to have people like this around.

- Indeed. He’s very professional, reliable, and has a good family. I wonder if people like us could have something like that.

- I’m not getting a regular job, Loser. - I looked at him with a suspicious face.

- Hahahaha! Well, we’ll see about that when Boss comes ordering you to get one.


- But that’s not what I mean. - he completed.

- No? - I asked, a bit confused.

- I was talking about family. Getting married, having kids. This sort of stuff.

Now that he mentioned it, I had never stopped to think about that.

- I don’t know. Doesn't seem like something we have time to dedicate ourselves to. - I looked at the sky and thought a little before continuing. - But you know? Why not?

Loser gave a big smile after hearing my answer.

- Right? Would be cool to marry a fine woman and have a kid or two!

- Yeah, but that’s something for later. For the future.

- Of course, of course.

We stopped to eat, rest, and did some more chit-chat. Loser sure is a person that likes to talk a lot. Later, we were passing near a school until he suddenly stopped.

- Wait, Kireng. That's close enough. - he said, getting on guard.

- Why? What’s wrong? - I asked while looking around.

- We must turn around and find another way. That’s a dangerous place. Never go near it. - Loser answered with a serious face while putting one of his hands on my shoulder.

- Are you talking about that elementary school with kids having fun on the playground?

- Exactly. - Loser said that totally out of character. He’s talking seriously.

Are you afraid of education or something?

- We could just cross the road.

- That won’t do. They will smell our fear.

Your fear, you mean. What the hell is he talking about? Is he just messing around? I ended up giving in, and we changed our route.

I lost count of the places we went. We also ended up going to “less important” places like the shopping mall and the supermarket Crush works. He was working overtime for missing work yesterday. Did he chase that cat all day?

It’s nighttime already. What a day… Walking all over the entire city was tiring. Couldn't we have taken at least one bus or a taxi? Ah, right. The money... Well, what matters is that it’s over. It was interesting to get to know Little Clove better, but it confirmed what Loser said before. This city is way too ordinary. I mean, it's not like there are no crimes and conflicts, but nothing you would hire a mercenary for. No war, no international political interests, no mafia behind the scenes, no militia to fight with or against, and no corrupt CEO who needs some bodyguards or wants someone dead. Nothing like that at all. Black Stream does have an expansionist ideal and wants to be everywhere, but it's questionable why they choose to have a squad in a place like here with a lot of better options available.

Right now, we are almost back home.

- So, what did you think? Little Clove is not that bad. - Loser asked casually.

I stopped and looked at him with a straight face. He kept walking without looking at me.

- What about your test? Did I nail it?

He stopped. This reaction proved that I was right.

- Did I mess up? - he asked without looking at me.

- If I knew our leader better, I would even bet the money I don't have that you made up that she ordered you to show me the city. At first, I hadn't noticed. You tried well to hide it with your attitude like it was just small talk, but your questions sometimes were way too specific. - I said, in a serious tone.

- Is it that bad when someone wants to know a buddy better?

- If you wanted to be my buddy, you would have asked if I like any sport or if I have any hobbies. You planned the flow of the conversation in a way that you could know if I was trustworthy without being suspicious.

- Well, I had to make sure you weren’t some sort of suicidal madman.

- HQ spoke so badly about me?

- Nah, but all they gave me about you was a bunch of useless information in an e-mail. You know, having good intel not always means power or money. It also means life. I wanted to check myself what kind of person you are as soon as possible to make sure you wouldn’t risk the team’s well-being or plot against us behind our backs. If someone on the squad ends up dead because we lacked information, it’s my fault.

I remembered what Crush told me about Loser being responsible for gathering information. So that’s how serious he is about his work?

- But why do all that? Crush said you can read people like books. You could have been more straightforward and ask me what you wanted to know.

- Haha. - he turned around with his usual smile and looked at me. - People are way more difficult to read than books. I don’t exactly know you yet. If I asked you directly you could have just dodged all the questions or made it all up in a way I wouldn't realize you were lying.

He’s lying now. There is another reason why he chose something so complicated as trying to know my true intentions with a friendly conversation. If his only concern was to know what he wanted about me without me noticing, there were much more efficient methods he could have used. Also, I did notice and he doesn’t seem to care at all.

- How can you be so sure I didn’t lie today? - I asked, trying to bait him.

- Ah! - he did a surprised face. - You did end up noticing… So… You didn’t lie… Did you?

See? He knows I didn’t lie during our conversation, but doesn’t want to admit it and is now pretending to be incompetent to shift the focus. What? I may like to joke around, but I also know when to be professional.

I sighed. This conversation is going nowhere.

- You know what? Forget it. It’s not like you were trying to kill me or something, and you were thinking about the team’s safety, right?

- Today already proves that to me, but I have to say. You are a cool guy. - Loser said, with his usual carefree face.

- The best. - I joked.

- Despite been an otaku, you mean.

- I’m no otaku, goddammit!

We laughed and started walking again.

- I gotta ask. The only part I don’t quite get was when we were near the school. Were you trying to know if I like to play dumb games or something? - I’m curious to know what he was thinking.

- Let’s not talk about that school, ok? - he said, with a saddened tone while looking away.

Wait, was that reaction legit? Does Loser have a school trauma? Don’t tell me that’s the reason behind his name?

After two minutes we arrived at the apartment building

- You’re not gonna keep an eye on me or follow me around like a stalker, right? - I joked once more.

- Hahaha, nah. Don’t worry, now that I know you're good, I promise I won't bother you anymore.

Bother me? There were no explosions or shooting, but to be honest, today was kinda fun. It’s indeed difficult to understand Loser’s way of doing things, but I still wanna know him better since we are going to be teammates from now on.

- Next time you have some free time let’s talk about soccer or our favorite guns.

He understood my invitation to become his buddy, for real this time, and nodded while smiling.

- Kireng. - he called me before opening the apartment door. - I had my reasons yesterday, but now I can say it. Welcome to the team.