THE FINAL MISSION
The wind blew through his hair and rain pelted his face as he made his way back to the castle in his homeland of Mythira. His arms and legs felt like lead, his head pounded, and he felt like his entire body was on fire. He could not wait to go home and just sleep, but he entered the castle and took his place in front of the king.
“Mission complete, Your Majesty,” he said, struggling to keep his seventeen-year-old frame from collapsing. He had made that mistake many years ago after coming back from his first mission when he was four; he still had the scars.
“Well done, Leon. Tell me, how do you feel?” the king asked, baiting him.
“I feel nothing, Your Majesty. An assassin has no use for feelings, emotions, or even thoughts.” He expressed his true beliefs in that one statement, beliefs that he had learned through pain and suffering, thereby pleasing the malevolent king who gave a cynical grin at the response.
“Very good, Leon, you have learned well. How long has it been since you have become an assassin, Leon?”
“It’s been about 13 years, Your Majesty. I successfully completed my first assassination mission when I was four, Your Majesty.”
“Ah, that’s right. So you have been my faithfully-serving assassin for 13 years. That means you are at the same number of years of experience as your superior, correct?”
“That is correct, Your Majesty.”
“Then you should be promoted to elite assassin, don’t you think?”
“If it pleases you, Your Majesty.”
“It would. However, before I give you such an esteemed position, I believe that I should administer a test of your skills and mental strength. It is the most prudent thing to do, don’t you think, Leon?”
“If Your Majesty wishes it, then it shall be done.”
“Well said, Leon. Then I shall administer your final test. You may rise.”
Leon carefully rose from his bowed position, his joints softly cracking as the strain and pressure of the position was relieved.
The king continued, a sinister smirk adorning his face. “We have received a treaty from the nearby kingdom of Tara from the royal advisor, Lord Ronan, giving us control of the entire kingdom and leaving him to serve as our vassal-king. The only thing standing in the way of this treaty is the current monarch, King Eyan. Your mission is to get close enough to the king’s daughter, Princess Kiara, as her personal escort and bodyguard in order to kill Eyan. A swift, silent, and undetectable killing is required, for we do not want to betray our involvement in the incident.”
“Understood, Your Majesty; I shall use my mana to kill him.”
“A wise choice, Leon. You will have the next seven years to complete this mission. You are to leave immediately. You are dismissed.”
“I will not disappoint, Your Majesty.”
“I would hope not, Leon. You know the penalty for failure?”
“It is death at your hand, Your Majesty.”
“That is correct, Leon. Do not forget that.”
“I will not, Your Majesty.”
“Good, now be gone. Your delayed presence is bringing me great displeasure.”
With those final words, Leon exited the king’s court and entered the outskirts of the surrounding village, approaching his home.
It was small house with a suitable bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. His bedroom held the many trophies that he had acquired during his missions — mostly books. Reading gave him a strange, almost pleasant sensation. It was something that he couldn’t place since he had no emotions. Thus, it caused him great confusion when he read about a person being sad, happy, angry, or content: he had never felt anything like that. He had been trained to view emotions and feelings as a waste of time and energy, things that would impair his ability to perform on missions. And nothing but perfection was accepted on their missions, for anything less merited death.
Leon wandered into the bath, the hot water cascading down his body as he poured it over his head, the heat soothing his aching and tired muscles. He thought about the past 13 years, but all he could remember was killing to make a living. At first, he didn’t like it. But eventually, it became second nature to him, something that was as effortless as a flick of the wrist. And that was how he did the majority of his killings: with a flick of the wrist. That was how powerful his mana was, when he chose to use it. But there were times where he chose to play with his prey before killing them. It gave him a strange thrill, a unique shiver up his spine that was somewhat pleasant. It was the closest thing to an actual feeling or emotion that he had been allowed to have in the last 13 years. But he still felt empty, as if something was missing, something very important and something that was just out of reach.
He stepped out of the bath and changed into a fresh set of clothes before packing enough supplies to sustain him for the journey to Tara.
“It seems a little strange for the king to send me on such a long mission when I just got back from an assignment. Normally, I would get at least a day of rest before having to leave again,” Leon thought.
He then shook his head. It wasn’t an assassin’s job to think about why the king made certain decisions. All he had to do was follow instructions without hesitation.
With that, he left his small home to begin his final mission. There was a slight sense of foreboding, a small ounce of doubt that he might not complete this mission like he had all the others. Something seemed different. He had never had to get close to one of his targets, and certainly not one of their children. But he shook his head again. This was not the way to think just before a mission. He would complete this, even if it meant forfeiting his life, the daughter’s life, and the employer’s life in order to get the king.