Chapter 4:

First mission

My boring life as a mercenary

It's been two months since I was allocated to Little Clove, and saw my plans of having an awesome life going down the drain. I was supposed to be a mercenary that shoots stuff, but now I’m some sort of freelancer that works for food. Life is indeed full of surprises, hahaha! I’m depressed.

- Can you believe it, old man? After that annoying job interview and a whole day of work, he decided to not hire us because we were too good. He even fired Crush for the same reason! - I said while tinkering with the engine of a classic truck.

- That's certainly something else, boy. - said Carlos while working on another car. - I can see that coming from him. The manager of that supermarket cares way too much about "where a person deserves to be or not". He can't stand to see people without skill getting praised or when someone's wasting their potential in something small while they could be somewhere better.

That explains one thing or two about that man. Do you remember Carlos? He's that kind person that gave me a ride to Little Clove. We coincidentally met two weeks ago, and he invited me to visit his workshop. Here, I told him about my situation, leaving the mercenary details aside, of course. Carlos was in need of an assistant so he ended up hiring me because he noticed my obvious great qualities.

- It’s done. So, how is it? - I stepped aside so he could see my attempt to fix the engine.

- I'm impressed, Kireng. At first, I only hired you out of pity because you knew absolutely nothing about cars, but you learn fast! - you didn’t read that. - After a few months working here, you'll become better than me.

- Thanks…

You know... I always thought my moment would come. Like I was some sort of main character just waiting for his “call to adventure”, but right now, I accepted my fate as a regular citizen. It’s just a matter of time for me to become like Joe. At least working in this workshop is not so bad, and I’ve learned a lot.

My phone rang. I quickly reach it with all my speed. Will my prays finally be answered, and I'll be able to leave this damn city with the help of a mentor that will guide me through a fantastic journey?

I looked at my phone to see who was calling me. The name "Loser" is displaying on the screen.

I rejected the call.

- Are you not going to answer that? - said Carlos, confused.

- It's no one important.

A few seconds passed. The phone started to ring again.

- Call again when you become Gandalf or something. - I answered with an annoyed voice.

- Kireng, wait! - he said right before I could hang up.

- Loser, I'm working-

- We have a mission.

- I'm listening. - I replied with a deep voice.

- We will do a job for a politician of Little Clove. It's going to need all of us and will involve a lot of money. Meet us in half an hour at the coordinates I'll send you. Don't be late. For now, that's all. - he hanged up. Loser's voice sounded serious.

Okay, now I'm excited! So excited that I'm trembling. I can't believe it! We are finally going to have some real action! But it's so sudden... I can't leave Carlos like that.

- Your friends need you?

- How did you know?

- I can see it all over your face, boy. Go help them.

- But I-

- You will end up getting in my way, staying depressed like that. If I need your help, I'll call you. Now, get out of here.

Carlos... Despite the passive insults, he's a very good person.

- I owe you another one. - I said while grabbing my things and running back to the apartment to prepare myself.

- Yeah, yeah. I'll add it to the bill. - he said while waving and smiling at me.

Man, I can’t wait! My very first mission as a mercenary and involves politics. Are we getting hired to help this politician during some sort of corruption scheme? Or maybe he's a good guy and needs our protection from some assassin after him. Either way, I hope for a lot of gunshots and action!

Twenty minutes later, at the coordinates Loser gave to me:

- Loser. - I called him.

- Yes? - he asked.

- YOU TRICKED ME! - I said calmly while trying to strangle Loser.

- Calm down, Kireng! - Crush is holding me tightly with both arms. He’s doing an uncomfortable face. - You are making a fuss for nonsense.

I don’t want to hear that from you!

- I didn’t trick you. - Loser answered casually while typing something on his phone.

- You said we were going to have a mission!

- We are on a mission.

- This is a library!

- It is. That’s why you should be quiet.

- AAAAAAARRRGH! - I’m foaming from my mouth.

- So, Little Clove's elections will be next month. A politician named George is running for mayor. He hired us to renovate this library in less than a week to help with his political campaign. Something about gaining popularity and showing everyone how he cares about the city's heritage, education, and literature. . - Loser explained.

I didn’t ask you to explain it to me again!

- This place is abandoned! Where are the corruption schemes and the hitmen?

- I never said anything about that. I just manipulated a bit the way I gave you the information so that you would think it was something related to mercenary work. Otherwise, If I had told you all the details by phone, you wouldn't have come.

He's not wrong, but I’ll never admit that.

- Mmmmmnnn... - Joe said, buried by a pile of books.

Joe… he’s right. Boring work still is work. Complaining will only delay us. Damn, I feel kinda ashamed now.

- Ok, I will calm down. - Crush released me. - How has this guy even heard about us anyway? Is this your doing, Loser?

- Actually, it's yours. George is an acquaintance of the supermarket manager. - this guy doesn't have a name at all, does he? - Somehow, he managed to convince him to hire us instead of a specialized company. In fact, the manager spoke so well about you, Joe, and Crush that one of the conditions for hiring us was the mandatory participation of the three of you. That's also the reason why we need to renovate this whole place in less than a week. He created a lot of expectations after what he heard.

I’m glad that the manager is keeping his promise, but isn’t he exaggerating a little? I looked around, paying more attention to get a better picture of the library. I was exaggerating when I said this place is abandoned but it is not that far from that. There's dust everywhere, some spider webs visible in corners, lots of books thrown around, and even some bookshelves lying on the floor. My guess is that people stopped coming here some years ago, so the city hall stopped caring as well. Now this place is being left to its luck. It's a shame because even a fool like me can see how beautiful it was. I mean, it's not that big, and the building is old, but it does have a "fantasy aura" from video games and movies with its two floors full of wooden bookshelves and windows.

I'm getting lazy just thinking about cleaning it all up...

I noticed that two of my squadmates are missing.

- Where are Crimson and Boss?

- Crimson got bored before you arrived, so she started exploring the place by herself. Boss is at work. - Loser answered as he examined a pile of cleaning products and bug spray the politician provided for us.

- I see. - So Boss has a job too? Now that I think about it, she's rarely with us. Well, Crush did say she is reserved. Although, she doesn't mind punching me in the face from time to time.

- Hey, guys! Look what I found! - Speaking of the devil, that's Crimson's excited voice. She's coming in our direction with her hands open near each other. I have a bad feeling about this.

- Cool! Loser said he would love to see it! - I pushed him forward.

- Kireng, what are you- - better you than me, pal.

- Look, look! - she said, moving her hands towards Loser's face.

Well, you know where this is going. What do you think Crimson has in her hands? I'll give you a hint! It's fluffy and fits in the palm of your hand! Oh? Bullseye! You are right once again! IT'S A BIG FRICKING TARANTULA. YAAAY!

- I wonder if she is lost, This is not her natural habitat. - Of course you know about that.

- So, do you like spiders? - Crush asked.

- Actually, no. - throw that thing away then! - I read on a book I found upstairs that boys like this sort of thing, so I caught it to show to you guys!

Tell me where this book is. I'll burn it right now.

- What do you think, Loser? - she asked, filled with anticipation. He's being quiet for some time now. Is he okay?

Loser collapsed on the floor like a tree falling after being cut down. I took a closer look, and it seems he fainted. Arachnophobia, huh?

- So... He didn't like it? - Crimson asked, disappointed.

- I think he loved it.

Before we could do anything else, a book fell from the second floor. I quickly looked up from where the book had fallen and saw a figure running into some room at the back of the library.

- We were being watched. - Crush said.

- Should we chase it? - Crimson asked, ready to follow it.

- Wait, let's not get ahead of ourselves. It can be a trap. - I looked at my teammates in their eyes. - Crimson, Crush, Joe! Since Boss is absent and Loser is down, I'll take the lead in this operation. Will you guys follow me?

- Show us what you got, rookie.

- I trust you, so I don't mind!

- Mmmm!

You guys!

- Crush, you will go upstairs and go after that person. You are free to confront her if necessary.

- Aye, aye. - he nodded and ran towards the stairs.

- Crimson, you go outside and secure the perimeter. We cannot allow her to escape.

- Okay! - she saluted any which way and jumped through an open window.

- Joe, you stay here in case she comes back.

He quickly gave me a thumbs up while still buried by a pile of books.

- I'll secure the rest of the first floor. Maybe there is some sort of secret passage that person can use to lose us.

Hehe, now it feels like a real mission. I loaded my gun and started searching around, but it wasn't long before I heard a scream coming from the second floor.

- Argh! - that's Crush's voice!

I quickly climbed the stairs and followed the same path the figure had taken. It led to a half-open door. I kicked open the door with all my strength and walked into the room, pointing my pistol.

- Crush, are you alright?!

Another scream, but now it's from a woman. Probably a reaction from the loud noise. I pointed my gun where it came from and saw a woman with messy long brown hair sitting down on the floor with some cats around her. She's wearing round glasses, a brown coat that reaches her knees, black pants, and a pair of brown boots. She screamed again after noticing my gun.

- Ah, this is heaven... - That was Crush.

He's on the other side of the room with his arms wide open while doing a very satisfied face. He has some cats hanging on and scratching him. Looks painful. It looks like this room was used by the administration of the library, but now it's home to these cats.

- What in the hell is happening here? - I asked, confused.

So, long story short. This woman is called Amelia. She was a librarian who came here a few times a week to take care of the place to keep it from falling apart. A few months ago, some stray cats took shelter here, and now she takes care of them too. She was very happy when we told her about the renovation we are going to do and even offered to help. Also, I managed to convince her the gun is just a toy to scare bandits and drug dealers. In the meantime, Crimson joined us.

- Once again, I would like to apologize for spying on you. Since I had no idea about the renovation, I was afraid that you were delinquents who wanted to cause harm to the cats or destroy the remaining books. - she apologized politely.

- We would never! - Crush said with a straight face.

- It's okay, you were just worried. - what was she going to do if we were delinquents?

It will be nice to have someone like her around during the renovation. Amelia should know a lot about this library.

- Kireng, come here for a second. - Crush put his arm around my shoulder and led me out of the room.

- What is it?

- We need to have a serious conversation.

- Sorry, Crush. But we are not at the end of the chapter yet.

- I'm going to ask for Amelia's hand in marriage. - he said with a determined expression.

- You met her ten minutes ago.

- You don't understand. The way she cares about those kitties... It's so lovely!

- You don't even know if she's single.

- That's why I need you to ask her that.

- I can’t just-

- Hey, you two! Don't leave me out of the conversation! - Crimson put herself between the two of us.

- Oh, right. Crimson, I've been meaning to ask you. Where did you leave that spider?

- Hmmmm, I forgot! - Oh, dear Lord.

- AAAAAAAAH! - That's Loser. I guess he found it.

Me and Crimson ran back to him to see if he was fine.

- Kireng... You want some action, right? - Loser asked, trembling.

- You are kinda out of character right now, man. Are you all right?

- Forget the money. We can use the cleaning products to burn this place down. I can convince the politician that a gas leak caused a small explosion that started the fire. Don't worry. I'll make sure they will never know the truth. - Loser sounded kinda scary right now. The things that fear does to a person.

- Loser... - even Crimson looks worried. - Sounds fun!

Maybe not. I'm not gonna lie. It's a tempting offer...

I'm thinking...

Okay, okay! I know! The cats. I won't do it. I was just kidding.

I calmed him down, and after that, we finally started the renovation. The first few days, we focused on cleaning.

- Joe! - Crimson screamed, worried.

- What happened? - I came running after hearing her.

- The spiders got him! - she pointed at a location near a wall.

Joe is trapped inside some sort of cocoon in the spider's web. Only his head is showing.

- For God's sake! How did this happen?!

- We could make a flamethrower or even a Molotov using the cleaning products. - Loser is sounding scary again.

- You moron! Stop letting your arachnophobia take the best of you!

Then, when we finally finished cleaning, we dedicated our efforts to organizing and painting everything.

- Kireng, I found something that might interest you. - now that the spiders are gone, Loser is back to his old self.

- Loser, there's nothing that could possibly interest me in a library.

- Even the manga session? - he said, pushing his glasses.

- Are you trying to pick a fight with me?

- They have all volumes of Duelcaptor Sakurai.

- Tell me more about it.

Lastly, we focused on fixing any structural problem and coming up with ideas that would make people re-interested in the library.

- What about an airsoft field?

- Absolutely not, Kireng.

- I know! A knife shop!

- A store is not a bad idea, Crimson. People love to waste money on souvenirs.

- Mmmmm...

- That was a good one, Joe. But the city probably has no budget for that.

- What if they opened a cafe inside the library and left the kitties free to roam around it? That way, people could read a good book while appreciating a coffee and having some nice company.

- It has some problems, but that's not a bad idea, Crush. Isn’t there a risk that the cats will end up destroying the books or pissing everywhere?

- Amelia assured me that she trained them enough so they wouldn’t.

- Those scratches on your face don't give me much confidence, but whatever. I will present these proposals to George tomorrow. After we get paid, it's not our problem anymore.

Why did only my ideas got all rejected?

After six long days of hard work, we made it. The library is good as new. Amelia can't believe we managed to do it in less than a week, and neither does George. In fact, he was so impressed with our work and the proposals we showed him that he paid us almost double. Also, he even promised to rehire Amelia and find a good place for the cats if they ended up not being able to stay in the library. He could at least pretend he's corrupt and is only doing all this for the money...

About his appearance, you ask? George's a stereotyped version of his role, just like everyone else in this city. He has around my age and has long white-colored hair. He's wearing glasses with orange lenses, a Hawaiian flower shirt, purple jeans, and yellow leather shoes. Oh, he's always with a lollipop in his mouth and with a big smile on his face.

What? No, I'm not joking. How did you think he looked like? Yes, he's running for mayor, what about that? I talked to him a bit, and he seemed to be someone reliable and intelligent. Also, very charismatic. I wonder if he has any chance of winning.

Anyway, enough about that. I haven't had a good night's sleep in a while, and I hope Boss had a lot of fun at her work because she didn't appear even once to help us in the library.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to dream about all the cool guns I will be able to buy with the money we got today. Yeah, this is the end of the chapter. No deep conversations today. Good night!




Somewhere in Little Clove. Eight hours before Kireng wakes up desperate, remembering that 75% of his profits go to Black Stream's wallet:

Boss is going home after working extra time. It's nighttime. Her phone starts ringing, and she looks at the name appearing on the display. She thinks a few seconds before answering.

- What is it? - Boss goes straight to the point.

- We have a job for your team.

Another few seconds of silence.

Many things go through her head before making her decision.

- I'm listening.