Chapter 6:

Caring Smile

My boring life as a mercenary

- Boom morning, soldiers! It's me again! Your favorite military v-tuber, Mary Claymore-chan! How have you been? Did you miss me? You did?! I'm so happy! It's been a while since my last stream, so I was afraid you guys had forgotten about me... But of course, you wouldn't! You are my dear teammates, after all! Oh, yes! Do you know a city called Little Clove? It seems that a local politician named George recently promoted the renovation of a library in favor of young people learning and the appreciation of literature! Or something like that… He hired a very dedicated group of self-employed workers who completed the renovation in less than a week! Isn't that awesome? They are examples of soldiers! Talk about commitment!

- Guys, look! Claymore-chan is talking about us! - I said, excited.

Everyone stared at me for a second, then looked away, saying nothing.

- C'mon! You really don't understand how cool this is?

It's around 2 p.m. We are all gathered in the apartment. I'm watching Claymore-chan's VOD from yesterday's stream, Loser is reviewing some documents he got negotiating on his laptop, Crimson is doing some sort of sculpture with cards on Joe's head, Joe is dead on the sofa, and Crush is watching videos of cats doing random stuff on the internet. Basically, we’ve got nothing to do.

- I still don't get what you like so much about this girl. - Loser said, a little worried. - This relationship between v-tuber and viewer is not healthy at all, man. You'll end up sad.

- She's different! Claymore-chan truly cares about her teammates, and she's totally my type!

- You shouldn't say something like that out loud, Kireng. You'll never get a girlfriend. Women will think you are disgusting and weird. - Crush said, worried as well.

- Look who's talking!

- I don't think you are disgusting at all, Kireng. - Crimson stated, smiling.

- Thank you! - wait a minute. - What about weird?

She stared at me for a few seconds, then turned her attention back to the sculpture of cards she's doing.

- Hey!

- Mmmmmr... - Joe seems worried too.

- E-even you, Joe?! You guys don't understand! - I'm upset.

I looked at all of them and was about to start a lecture on Claymore-chan's qualities and everything I learned from her, but instead, I noticed someone is, as always, absent.

- Hmm? What about Boss? - I asked.

- Kireng, I think it will only hurt your feelings if we ask Boss what she thinks about a grown-up man that still loves anime and-

- Not that, you cat freak. - I interrupted Crush. - I mean, where is she? She'll become a side character if things continue like this.

- Boss is always busy dealing with HQ. Don't forget she's a high-ranking member of Black Stream. But right now, she's at work. - Loser explained. - You also know she's the type that doesn't talk much.

Yeah, her fists speak for her.

- I remember you said something similar last time. What does Boss do? She's out most of the day.

- Now that we're talking about it, I don't know too. - Crush realized.

- Me neither! - Crimson affirmed, raising her hand.

- Wait, what do you mean? You guys never asked her?

- Well... You see, Kireng. Interactions like this with everyone together were very rare before you arrived. - is... that so? - Most of the time, we didn't talk more than necessary and only minded our own business since there were no actual jobs for mercenaries. - Loser said.

- I know mercenaries only care about themselves, but this is no good. We are teammates... And friends, aren't we?

A brief silence. They looked at each other. Loser smiled.

- Yeah, I guess we are.

- Best friends! - Crimson is happy.

- Mmm! - Joe slightly nodded.

- As a way to express our bond, I will share with you my collection of kitty photos. - Crush said, raising his hand and closing his fist.

- That won't be necessary. - I stopped him.

- Getting back on track, I know where Boss works. - Loser said proudly.

- Of course you do. Where is it?

- Sorry, but unfortunately, that's a secret. Boss will kill me if I tell.

- I'll give you ten bucks for-

- I guess it can't be helped! - Loser quickly grabbed the money from my hand while pushing his glasses.

You were about to say it anyway, weren't you? He continued.

- But rather than telling, it will be more fun to show. - Loser made a dramatic pause. - After all, there's only one place in all of Little Clove that is not ordinary, and that place is exactly where Boss works.

- Oooooooh! - the others seem curious to know.

- Do they have cute kitties there?

- You could say that.


There's really nothing else that interests you?

- What about suspicious people with malicious intent?

- Yeah, in a way.

- Slice!

Let's not, Crimson!

- Mmmmrr Mmmm?!

- C-calm down, Joe. Well, let's say there's a small chance you'll find something like that there.

- Mmm!

That was rather specific.

They asked some questions, and Loser answered them all vaguely. He's building suspense on purpose. I will not fall for this.

- LET'S GO! - They're all excited.

-Yeah, yeah. - I bet she works in a video game store or something like that.

Around thirty minutes later:

We are all sitting together at a table. Crush is disappointed, Crimson is looking everywhere excited, Loser is hiding behind Crush, Joe is being Joe, I am with my hands clasped in front of my face while doing a solemn expression, and Boss is standing right in front of us. She's wearing a maid costume and cat ears.

- So... I'll assume this was Loser's idea. - Boss said, with her usual calm expression and a simple smile. - I'll make sure to punish your insubordinyation later, master.

- C'mon, you don't need to get mad, Boss. What's the problem with a visit? - Loser said. - They were going to find this place sooner or later anyway. Especially, Kireng.

-... - Joe didn't react.

- Where are the kitties?

- YOU FOOL! - I screamed. - There's a catgirl right in front of you and a lot more around you! Can't you see?! As a cat lover, you have an obligation to appreciate it!

We are in a place called "Sabrina's Cafe". It's a maid cafe with a catgirl theme. There's "moe" and "nyah nyah" everywhere! I can't believe this damn city had a piece of heaven on it all this time!

- Ahn? Why should I like something like that? - Crush said, looking at me with a disgusted face.

- You don't have the right to be here! Ask forgiveness to all people of culture reading this and go away!

- Master, stop bothering other customers with your screams. That's an order, nyah. - Boss said, intimidating me.

Don't sound much like I'm the "master" here. At least she's keeping her character.

- Wow! So nostalgic! This place reminds me of my old employer's house! - Crimson stated.

What kind of person did you work for?

- It's kinda awkward, but I like the atmosphere here. It's relaxing. - Loser said, sitting properly.

- Mmmm... - Joe seems to be looking towards one of the maids with a purple wig and cat ears. Is he blushing? Ha! I knew you had good taste! But this is a sacred place, man. Be careful not to fall in love, my friend.

- At least they have cute cat drawings on the napkins. - Crush's still disappointed.

Boss sighed.

- Well, you guys coming here saves meow the trouble of gathering you together later. - she said, handing us a menu. - There's something I need to tell.

That phrase caught the attention of all of us. Don’t know about Joe, though. We stopped messing around and paid attention to her.

- I don't have anya details yet, but tomorrow morning I'm going to HQ to discuss something important with Black Stream leaders. We got hired for a job. A real one.

Did she say real job?

- They couldn't have told you over the phone? Or the internet? - Loser contested. He's serious.

- You know how pawranoid some of the leaders can be. They want to discuss it in person.

- You are going alone? You should bring us with you. - Loser recommended.


-About that, I can't. I have a job interview at the library tomorrow. Sorry. - Crush said.

We all stared at him for a few seconds.

- What?

- That won't be necessary. I can pass everything to you all later. Besides, Loser, you are still not welcome there, Crimson hates to be at HQ, Joe can't hold his tongue with superiors, and Kireng doesn't know how to behave. I can nyandle it by meowself.


- Boss, it will be good to have someone on the team with you. Allow me to go too. - I proposed.

- Absolutely not. You'll do something unnyecessarily stupid.

It's not like I was planning to steal a big gun or something.

- You have my word I won't cause trouble.

- Kireng-

I interrupted her.

- Please, Boss. Give me a chance. - I looked at her in the eyes.

Yes, I'm begging. You guys don't know how bad I want to have an excuse to leave this city, even if it's just for a day or two. Also, I need to make sure this is a real mercenary job and not another like the others we did so far.

She thought for a few seconds and sighed again.

- Okay, you can go. But no jokes, do you hear meow?

- Yes, ma'am!

NICE! I'm glad she gave in. I still had a card up my sleeve, but "throw myself on the ground and start a tantrum" was not going to be pretty.

After that, we ordered some food, but the place got packed, and Boss was too busy to stay with us. Another maid brought us what we ordered.

- Thank you for waiting, masters! Here is your delicious food made with love and care, nyah! - she said.

- Cats don't say "nyah"... They say "meow"... - Crush is depressed.

- Stop that already, man.

The next day, at the apartment, early in the morning:

I woke up. It's so early that it's still dark. I got ready fast, trying not to make too much noise. Not that it matters since Crush snores so loud. Very loud. I left my room, and Loser is in the living room.

- Hey man, good morning.

- Yeah, good morning. Where's Boss?

- She's outside. Waiting for you downstairs. So, ready to go? It's a long trip.

What's with this small talk?

- Something's bothering you, Loser?

- Yeah, kinda... - he took a few seconds before continuing. Is he... Reluctant? - It's about... You know what? Forget it.

- What? Now you made me curious.

- Nah, it's nothing. On second thought, there's nothing to worry about. If something happens, I'm sure you'll manage.

- If you say so.

What is he talking about?

I opened the front door and was about to leave when he started talking again.

- Kireng.

- What now? - I said, without looking at him.

- It may not seem like it, but Boss does care.

He said that like it was no big deal at all. I looked at him, and he's with his carefree face, as usual. I didn't understand exactly what he meant by that, but if I ask, he'll probably not answer anyway. Is this related to the fact that he didn't want Boss to go alone to HQ?

- Ok, I'll remember.

- Thanks. Have a safe trip.

And with that, I left the apartment.

The trip will take some hours, and since Boss is not the talkative type and I can't give you any details other than that we'll take at least a plane and a car to get to our goal, why don't I tell you what I know about Black Stream on the way?

In short, Black Stream started as a group offering gun-for-hire services to people and small businesses that needed protection but didn't have enough money to hire specialized security services. If you think about it, you could even call it a noble.

However, money came. Illegal services! You know the deal. When Black Stream was able to buy military weapons, we started to offer our services to big companies and even to the armies of some countries. Efficiency at their work and achievements brought new members and even more money, making Black Steam grow even more. Here is when I come in. That's enough about the history.

Our emblem is black with blue lines that show the source of a stream spreading out and creating new streams and rivers. This symbolizes the growth of the organization and how it spreads around the world or something. I don't remember. I slept when they explained that during the training.

Did I forget something? Oh, right! We have our own book of rules and morals and a hierarchy system, but since everyone is called by the nickname they've received at some point, I can't remember the name of any rank.

After eight long hours of travel, the awkward silence that had lasted all the way here finally ended. We arrived.

Brack Stream's HQ is like a military base, but on a smaller scale, and without all the formality and respect you see among soldiers. We have no jets or tanks, but we compensate with our very efficient infantry, modern gear, and technological equipment. We are located in a mountainous region that I, unfortunately, cannot share where it is.

Maybe if I'm fast enough, I can sneak in and-

- Kireng.

- B-Boss?

- Don’t try anything funny.

Does she have that little faith in me?

- Yes, ma'am.

No one seemed to care much about our arrival until Boss and I got off the jeep that picked us up at the rendezvous point in the nearest city. As we walked towards a hangar where our command center is, I noticed some glances and whispers directed at us, especially from people that seemed to be high-ranked or squad leaders. Since I'm a nobody, I'd guess Boss is some sort of celebrity around here, but the looks weren't very friendly. I looked at her, and she seems to ignore it. I wonder if something happened in the past.

An agent is waiting to guide us at the entrance of the hangar. He's wearing a helmet with black lenses covering his eyes, a mask covering his face, a military uniform, and a tactical vest. When you read "command center", you may expect a very organized and modern area with computers and monitors, but this place is a complete mess. There are some computers with people monitoring a lot of stuff I don't understand, but there are also agents repairing guns and broken equipment. Some others are running around while writing things down or talking on the phone.

There are wires everywhere, documents and tools laying around, and the list goes on. But at the same time that the hangar looks chaotic, everyone is being able to work very well and in good synergy without disturbing each other. I have never been here before. I love it.

He guided us to a steel staircase that led to a closed door. We stopped right in front of it.

- The meeting room is just upstairs. - he said.

- Thanks, Guard 4.

- No problem ma’am. Good luck up there, you will need it. - he left us.

I have several questions. Especially about why his nickname is Guard 4 and where are the other three.

We climbed the stairs. I’m anxious. I won't believe this is a real job until I hear it from them. My heart has been hurt too much with false hope.

- Who do you think is waiting for us? He said, “good luck up there”.

- They told me the job is very important. - she said, opening the door. - But I don't think anyone with a high rank will-

She stopped mid-sentence after seeing who's inside. There is a look of disbelief on her face.

I stepped in and saw three people. They're all wearing the same black military coat with dark blue and white details and Black Stream's emblem on it, a pair of black pants, and midnight blue gloves.

- Cool! You guys are here. We can finally start. - said a charismatic man a little older than me. He's sitting resting his feet on a big table.

He has neck-length blond hair and brown eyes. You could say he's a cooler version of Loser, his smile pisses me off way more.

- Well, well, well. If it isn’t Smile, the lone wolf. Where are the other members of your squad? Since you don’t know how to work in a team, I assume this poor man behind you is the only one left already? - an impatient man around his thirties said in a provocative tone. He has a formal posture and is with his arms behind his back.

He has short brown hair, a mustache, is wearing a black military beret, and believe me or not, an eye patch AND a monocle. One in each eye. I didn't like him.

- Behave yourself, Dam. You were the one who insisted that this meeting happens in person. A new episode of my favorite series launches today so let's get this over with already. - now it's a mature woman around her thirties as well. Somehow I felt her giving me a death glare after thinking that. She's sitting quietly, crossing her arms with her eyes closed. She has some large ballistics if you know what I mean.

She has long black hair in a ponytail and a scar on her face. She's draping her coat over her shoulders leaving some of her muscles showing.

They seem kinda important.

- Who are these three stooges? - I whispered to Boss.

- You keep your mouth shut, understand? - she is tense.

Yeah, they are important.

We sit and without further delay, the meeting started. The carefree guy turned on a projector that was on the table and turned off the lights. He introduced himself to me as "Nile". While he passed the slides, he explained that we are going on a payback mission. A rich man tricked Black Stream. He didn’t pay us after a job well done and tried to frame us to the police. Now we're going to make an example out of him. Our squad's client is Black Stream itself, and we will be well rewarded if the work is successful.

Then, the woman stepped in and couldn't care less about introducing herself. She told us that this rich man stays hidden inside his mansion all the time and that the place is heavily secured by his trusted men. She also provided us with all she could about their weapons and their security system.

Lastly, Dam showed us the mansion plan and informed us of all the information he had about the place. He even gave us a copy of it.

You have no idea how excited I am inside. This job looks like a really big deal. Finally, the action I longed for!

- I understand why we are after this man, but why do you need specifically my squad for this job, Nile? - Boss asked him.

- That is indeed a very good question. - that Dam guy said.

- Our target already alerted the police about the possibility of us going after him. He also has some documents that he stole from our agents right before betraying us that we need back. We don't want his sudden death to be linked to us, so we need to take him down stealthily and leave no traces of our presence in his mansion. Since this operation NEEDS to be a success, we need the best person for the job. And the best person we know is on your squad.


- Well, you could let us put her in another squad since the other members of yours will be completely useless for this operation. - I'm right here, you know? You are more annoying than the manager.

- I won't give up any of my subordinates. - Boss clenched her fists. She didn't seem to care when Dam offended her, but as soon as he bad-mouthed the squad, she got angry. - Besides, with everything you provided me, I already have a plan.

- You do? - he's getting aggressive and is walking towards Boss. - Does that plan involve letting your squad get wiped once again?

Boss is keeping her composure. Why? Because he is a superior? Retaliate!

- Dam! - the woman tried to stop him, but he continues. Nile is smiling like he's watching a good and entertaining show.

- Maybe it's also part of your plan failing miserably?

Shut up already!

- That's enough! You are letting your emotions take the best of you. What happened is in the past. - It's no use. He's not listening

- And here I thought, your father, Black Stream's commander, had sent you to a place where you could no longer be a disgrace-

He fell to the ground. Everyone took a few seconds to process what just happened.

- Kireng! - Boss said in a scolding tone and surprised.

- What? I didn't say anything. - I just headbutted his face.

- Now THAT'S an act of insubordination! - Nile said, entertained. It's like he was hoping to see something like that happen.

- Shut up, Nile. Now, About you. - she said, looking at me with an intimidating face. - You-

She was interrupted by the sound of an alarm clock. She looks at her wristwatch, the source of the alarm.

- So, why don't we call it a day? - she looks in a hurry all of a sudden. - You two are dismissed. Nile will send to your hideout everything we discussed here with the date and location of the operation. Smile, send me in detail that plan you said you have later.

- Urggh... My nose...

- Stop crying, Dam. You had it coming. If you'll excuse me, I have an important appointment now. - she left.

-Well, at least I had some fun. - Nile said, disappointed. - Kireng. You should be more careful with who you hit out there. Me, Dam, and the lady that just left are among Black Stream leaders, after all.

He knew who I am all along?

-Wait, does that mean I headbutted one of the people with the highest rank in Black Stream?! - I looked at Boss.

-I guess so. The only person above Dam in rank is the commander.

-It huurts...

I'm done for... How was I supposed to know a man wearing a monocle AND an eye patch was so important?

- Anyway, you seem like an interesting dude. I'll keep an eye on you. - please don't. - I'll be going now.

When he was at the door, he stopped and said one last thing while smirking and looking at us.

- Oh, I almost forgot! Tell Loser I said hi!

I take back what I said earlier. This guy is way more of a loser than our Loser.

Only me and Boss are left in the room. She broke the silence after a few seconds.

- Well, this is awkward. - Boss said. Since she's not looking at me, I can't see her face, but she seems uncomfortable. Probably because of what Monocle Man said.

- If you don't want to talk about it, I will not ask about it. - I said casually.

Actually, I want her to talk about it because today I'm prepared for a deep conversation!

- I see... Thanks.


It's okay. If she ever needs to talk about it, I'll listen.

- Let's go back to Little Clove. - she said, going towards the door.

Dear Lord, do we really need to go back there? I followed her, reluctantly.

- By the way, that was a good headbutt. - Boss is smiling.

- I know, right? My forehead’s still hurting.

- A bit unnecessary, though.

- I couldn't let a guy with a combo of mustache, monocle, and eye patch bully my leader.

- Empty words like that don’t affect me at all. I have nerves of steel.

- Yeah, yeah. - the punches you gave me say otherwise. - I'll pretend to believe it.




- Aaargh...