Chapter 25 – A stone-cold killer
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O Goddess of the Sun
With your burning arrows
Destroy the spreading plague
—Hymn to Elyon, author unknown

Asteria

There were five Lifers which seemed like overkill to me. One was driving the van while two were seated on either side of me. Two more were seated in front. One of the Lifers had taken my wand, spare artifacts, and pack.

“Er.” I cleared my throat nervously. “Lifers” was the nickname given to the Kraej family’s lackeys. There were families who had served the Kraej for generations and their members took care of the Kraej family’s personal needs. They served as the chefs, maids, personal assistants, bodyguards, etc. to the Kraej and were called “Lifers” because their contracts were for life.

Soldiers like Oren were part of the professional army who were sent on official Kraej Company missions. Lifers, on the other hand, were only sent on the Kraej family’s personal errands or on top-secret clandestine missions.

“Miss, stay calm. We’re just taking you to see someone,” said the youngest Lifer.

He wasn’t the problem. The problem was the oldest Lifer, the one who seemed to be in charge, who looked like Alfred the Bloody, also known as “Iron Hand” from “Tales of Vesterland.” Alfred was a stone-cold killer whose backstory involved countless assassinations.

“Okay,” I said meekly. I smoothed the skirt of my dress over my knees and kept my eyes on the floor of the van to avoid eye contact with them, especially Alfred.

The assassin’s cold, dead eyes had looked as though they could see right through me. He was middle-aged and had slicked-back brown hair. Like all of the Lifers, he was wearing a black suit and black sunglasses.

I followed their directions when the van entered the Kraej Company main building and they led me inside. The elevator stopped at floor 38, and they took me through an empty hallway to a small, nondescript room with grey walls, grey carpeting, and a table with two chairs.

“Sit down, miss.”

I hadn’t forgotten about Magnus Kraej, the little boy I’d saved from his kidnappers five years ago. It’s just that my priority was the hero, so I’d planned to contact Magnus after the hero had started his quest. I wanted to limit my involvement with Magnus because the Magnus of the sequel video games was a dangerous, slippery character. Dealing with him would be like swimming with a shark.

“Uh, can I make a phone call first?” I said to the Lifer who had spoken. He looked at Alfred who nodded slightly. The youngest one left the room and returned with a phone extension. Everyone watched me closely as I dialed the number I had memorized years ago. When I was done dialing, Alfred left the room.

“Hello,” I said to the phone when someone picked it up.

“Who is this?” said the person on the line.

“This is Asteria,” I said. “I’m on the thirty-eighth floor of the Kraej Building right now.”

“Please hold,” said the man’s voice on the phone.

The door opened, and Alfred came back inside. One of the other men said, “She said her name’s Asteria.”

Alfred took the phone from me and spoke into the handset, “This is Alfred. I’ll take care of it.”

He gave the phone to one of the men and said to me, “Miss, he’s in a meeting right now, but he’ll be here soon. Please come with me.”

The room they took me to this time was a light and airy waiting room with plush cream-colored carpets and modern artwork on the walls. The reception desk was a sleek, stylish affair in metal and dark-colored wood. I sank down onto a comfortable chair while the secretary offered me drinks. Two of the Lifers stood watch near the door.

“Just water, please,” I said.

Looks like I was right, and this was about Magnus since they were treating me nicely now. I picked up one of the magazines that were scattered around the waiting room and started leafing through it.

After around thirty minutes, just when I was starting to get restless, the secretary came back and said, “I’m afraid the young master won’t be here until much later. Would you like to have dinner?”

Bah, these rich people have no consideration for others! Did they think I didn’t have anything better to do than to cool my heels here? My feet were aching and I wanted to go home to rest.

“If it’s going to take that long, why don’t I go home and change?” I could use a shower to wash off the dust and grime from the day's activities.

“Ma’am, you can change here. Would you like me to bring you a change of clothes from one of the boutiques?” the secretary offered.

The Kraej Company’s main building housed the company’s offices and was flanked by five residential and commercial buildings connected to it by walkways. The elites of the company need never leave the headquarters since this place had all the best restaurants, bars, shops, salons, and everything else the wealthy wanted. The top floors of one of the adjoining buildings was an exclusive club with a yearly membership fee that was more than most people made in ten years.

“No, thank you. I’d prefer to go home for that,” I said.

The secretary glanced at the Lifers. One of them shook his head, and she said to me, “Ma’am I’m afraid there isn’t time for that.”

I sighed and gave in. “Alright, then I guess I’ll have dinner. Sandwiches are fine.”

At least the food should be good.

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