Prologue: The Mercenary
Six months ago,
Madison Square, New York City.
It was New Year’s Eve, and the coldest one that the NYC had ever seen.
Even Aguilar, who was normally resistant to chilly weather, regretted not wearing thicker clothing than his inconspicuous attire of black thermals, over which he’d worn a nondescript leather jacket and black jeans. His boots were no help either, although it did keep him from getting his toes frostbitten.
Okay, so he thought he looked inconspicuous, until he noticed many pointed looks towards him.
He figured that he stood out like a sore thumb at the parking lot of one of New York’s most sought-after attractions at noon, and for some reason, Zeke had chosen this godforsaken place, at this time of the year to meet him up.
And he just had to be fashionably late, that bastard.
“He better hurry the fuck up before my fingers freeze,” he muttered, his breath coming out in thick puffs. “Or else that old man’s gonna pay for this as well.”
The damn bastard had no idea who was behind the identity of the most skilled and ruthless mercenary in the US, and he had no intention of letting him know that. Aguilar had carefully disguised himself by bleaching his hair platinum blonde, applied a lighter shade of makeup over his tanned skin and removed his piercings before arriving here. He even practiced speaking at different pitches on the way here.
He hadn’t recognized himself when he was done.
Thirteen seconds later, he heard footsteps behind him.
Zeke had arrived.
“Took you long enough, Zee,” Aguilar chuckled, and turned to see none other than a very familiar face that still haunted him, even after so long. He didn’t even bother to disguise himself, unlike Aguilar.
Little did ‘Zeke’ know that Aguilar knew his ‘real’ identity. For all he knew, Aguilar was just another human being who knew about mages. A mercenary who would finish off his given task.
A really good one at that.
“We better not be spotted here,” Zeke replied, while he looked around surreptitiously.
“Why, scared that your well-earned reputation in the Mage world would disappear if you were seen with me?” Aguilar taunted, giving his voice a higher pitch.
“You know nothing of my reputation in the Realm of Magic, you insolent human,” he hissed back, and it took a lot for Aguilar not to laugh right there.
Oh, if only, he thought, liking how this was going.
“Alright, what do I know, anyway? I’m just the greatest mercenary that existed in the US, soon to be serial killer,” he quipped back, “You know, you should think of joining the business too, Zee-man, when you’re sick of Mage-shit. It would do–”
Zeke cut him off, clearly annoyed, “Would you shut up and finish off the deal, instead? You want the money or not?”
Aguilar cocked his dyed eyebrow. “I don’t want your damned money, Zee-man. You want the job to be done. I will get the job done for you, but for that, I will need the details.” God knows Aguilar was never short of money. In fact, he’d inherited a large fortune. He never wanted the money.
Hell, no. It was all about personal satisfaction to him.
“And the devil is in the details, they say. The details come quite costly, you must know,” he smiled humorlessly.
“I will arrange the details for you. Just do the job,” he snapped.
Although there was no trace of any emotion on Zeke’s face, Aguilar knew him well enough to know that he was more than just nervous. Hell, he might just be scared.
It gave him immense satisfaction to know this.
This must be a big one if the old man’s sh*tting his pants, he thought.
Aguilar didn’t trust Zeke one bit, though. Especially on the details, but he didn’t want to give him benefit of that doubt. Keep him satisfied, he thought to himself.
“Will do, old man. But I work on my own terms. I don’t like my clients butting in when I’m on the move.”
“When will you finish her off?”
“It’s a her?” Aguilar chuckled softly, finding the idea completely ridiculous. And too off.
“Now I get it. You don’t want to get your hands dirty killing a girl. Bad publicity for your status. Good move, I’ll have to say.” He was beginning to really like this ‘deal’.
“Shut up, Aguilar. It isn’t as easy as it seems. She’s from my guild,” he sighed, suddenly looking weary, “Her name’s Azaria Stone. A-class mage. She’s smarter than you think, so you better be careful.” Was he mistaken, or was there... pride on his face?
Aguilar didn’t know where, but he had definitely heard that name before.
“So, why do you want to kill that girl? Surely you can do the job yourself, in your underhanded way. Why hire me?” Aguilar asked.
“None of your business,” Zeke snapped, yet again. It left him intrigued.
After a quiet minute, he said, “Anything else?”
“No. That is all.”
“Do we have a deal then?” Aguilar wasn’t too enthusiastic about the details.
“Deal. I will contact you later as to how to go about the mission. But her life should end on Winter Solstice.”
Screw it. He was giving him a dated mission, that assh*le. “I do things in my way. But the job will be done, rest assured.”
“Alright, then. I’ll contact you some time later as to how to go about your mission. Do not disappoint me.”
“Will not,” Aguilar internally recoiled at the remark, but didn’t show it.
After Zeke walked away, Aguilar laughed mirthlessly. To think he hired him to kill a mage from his own guild? And all this just to kill a girl? Things just got into a whole new level.
For all he knew, Zeke was planning something really big. Aguilar felt it in his bones. This Azaria, whoever she is, wasn’t someone ordinary.
And if Zeke thought that he would meekly do his bidding, he was wrong. Aguilar would do his homework. He always did.
And besides, Aguilar had his own agenda when he first took up the task – get the job done, and finish off ‘Zeke’ in the process. Damn, he could even take on that devil’s spawn that was his son if he got lucky. Killing two, no, three birds with one stone; the saying couldn’t have been more fitting.
He watched Zeke’s retreating figure.
“Azaria Stone, ready or not, I’m coming for you.”