An excerpt from J.J. Thorn's upcoming LitRPG. J.J. Thorn is the author of "The Weight Of It All" which can be found on amazon or www.jjthornbooks.com.
He probably doesn’t even remember me.
Not that it matters.
Skulking from one shadow to the next, I followed his path as he walked through the city's remains. Honed steps, dark clothing, and stealth-related skills ensured I wasn’t noticed as I trailed behind him.
The man’s name was George.
A simple name for a simple man.
I hadn’t known George firsthand, but I wasn’t going to know everyone on the list firsthand.
One hundred names.
One hundred targets.
And I’d been young back then. I, or should I say ‘we,’ couldn’t have been expected to keep track of every piece of scum that crossed our path. Let alone the ones that hid behind desks, unable to even look at what they’d signed up for.
No, I couldn’t remember George, but if there was anything I could trust in this new world, it was the system. The system hadn’t lied to me yet.
George stopped to talk to one of the goons on the street. Some idiot in a beanie and run-down coat, probably handing him some of the money he’d made for the week. George seemed like a connected guy as he walked from shop to shop, chatting and talking with the owners as they closed for the day.
I’d only been to this part of the city a couple of times, but I knew most were crooked in one way or another. Still, most folks were trying to get by. And sometimes, that meant doing things you didn’t want to do to make it to the next day.
I couldn’t say the same, but who was I to judge.
My day-to-day involved either killing people or waiting to kill people.
Finally, George was getting ready to leave as he left the street and walked back to his building. I could’ve waited for hours longer, but I wasn’t complaining as the night got darker and the roads became barer.
George must’ve thought he was untouchable. He walked with a purpose, shoulders back and head held high as if no one would dare try to jump or rob him. Like he was the most powerful man on these streets. Skills could do that to a man, I guess.
Make them think they were invincible, that is.
I kept following at a safe distance until I noticed George walking down one of the side streets. Picking up the pace and noticing no one else around, I decided this was the best time to strike. Jumping up and onto the nearest roof, I ran directly above where George would be walking.
George was still there as I scaled the brick wall, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. Closing in on the ground but still invisible in the darkness of the shadows around me, George finally stopped and looked around.
“Whoever you are, let’s fucking go! I haven’t got all night,” he yelled, darting his eyes, trying to find me.
By his expression, I knew he still couldn’t tell where I was, but it looked like his paranoia had earned him a skill good enough to notice he was being followed.
I contemplated trying again later, but I’d waited long enough already. A few more days weren’t going to help when I didn’t even know what skill he had.
No, George may not have been on my personal kill list, but his death meant one more step towards finding the others. The quest didn’t let me skip names, after all.
So, too bad for George, but tonight was his turn to die.
I threw a punch dagger towards George’s leg. I jumped down as the dagger flew towards his leg, another dagger flying towards him already. Each dagger didn’t pack much of a punch individually, but each was fast and sharp enough to annoy George as I raced down the wall towards him.
Stealth discarded, I threw daggers as I raced to meet George on the ground.
A couple of daggers pierced his skin, proving he wasn’t as untouchable as he thought. Most were swatted away as his hands became encased in a hard glowing substance like the boxing gloves of the past. George kept most of his body safe as he leaped away from my raining knives.
Still, I’d never expected to kill him with a couple of daggers, and I was now close enough to strike out with the daggers in my hand. He was target 43, after all.
Faster than George could react, I was on the ground, my legs quaking from the quick descent, and crouched as I slashed the daggers into his thigh.
“Fuck!” George cried out, feeling the cooling breeze on his now bloody and exposed leg. A fist struck out towards me, but I was already behind him, another dagger stuck in the small of his back.
Another dagger appeared in my hand as I drove the one in my left hand into his hip.
George was already riddled with holes, some of the daggers still sticking out of him as he realized this was a losing battle. But, to George’s credit, the guy could take a hit.
Understanding the odds were stacked against him, George finally stopped swinging as he fell to the ground.
There, he got his first real glimpse of me amidst the alley's darkness.
In complete black wrapping and with my face covered by a white mask, I knew I probably looked terrifying to George’s disoriented brain. The man knew he was about to die as his blood glistened off his clothes and the one remaining dagger I still held.
I manifested a second. The dagger appeared in my left hand, identical to the one in my right.
He deserved to see his killer before he died.
Stalking towards him, George fumbled to hit his wrist where he had a bracelet with two small baubles. Worrying that he might use them to escape, I threw my daggers, unwilling to lose him when I was already so close.
Fush, I really need to find a better way to cripple them so they don’t run away. I thought, hoping I wouldn’t be forced to track George down again.
The daggers hit their mark, piercing his hand, but they weren’t fast enough to stop him from throwing the baubles to the ground.
Thankfully, they weren’t a way to escape; instead, two large dogs appeared in front of his failing body.
“Get that bastard!” George cried, pointing towards me as he slowly stood up to run away.
The mutated dogs charged immediately, following their master’s commands.
Bulkier than I was and with teeth the size of my daggers, the dogs were George’s trump card in a bad situation.
Still, George wasn’t the only one with other tricks to play.
The world around me blurred as the dogs took slow steps. Unwilling to risk them getting loose, two daggers appeared in my hands. A couple precise cuts and a kick to the ground was all it took. I dropped the skill, the bodies of both dogs lying on the floor beside me, and already felt the exhaustion from the new skill as I faced George on the ground again.
George’s back was to me as he slowly limped towards the other end of the alley. A proud man, George was above screaming for help, but his complete trust in the dogs also made him unprepared for the daggers crashing down into his back.
Falling down into him like a thunderous crash, his body slammed into the dirt, and George breathed his last breath.
I spared a glance at George but quickly jumped back up to the roofs around me. Some might have tried to loot his body for ingredients or money. Still, I didn’t want the people in the neighborhood to think a thief was going around randomly killing people.
No, when they found George, they’d realize this had been targeted. That George had likely gotten in over his head for the last time, and someone had finally taken their revenge.
And as my quest updated, they would be right.
George wasn’t on my personal list, but he was complicit, just like the rest of them.
And sure, he probably wouldn’t have remembered me. Or any of us.
I’d forget about George just as easily.
Not that it matters – he’s dead.
Avenge the other orphans – kill everyone related to the program.
Target # 43 terminated.
Targets Killed: 43
Targets Remaining: 57
Next Target Available in 2 weeks.