149 Code 0

Through empty hallways, Zack headed towards the bas.e.m.e.nt . .

Going past aged corridors that stank of rusted iron, he stopped before a large door . He retrieved a key from his breast pocket and turned the lock . Checking behind him to make sure he hadn't been tailed, Zack entered the room . .

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I heard the lock click as soon as the door was closed . .

I too checked my surroundings and seeing no one there, I revealed myself . .

I turned the door handle . Locked, as expected . .

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I jutted some slime into the keyhole and picked the lock . Lockpicking is something I learned in my past life so it was a breeze . What's a power in the shadows if he can't open a few closed doors?.

Incidentally, I have my slimes hidden inside my body so they won't find anything even with a full pat down . .

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I checked the presences on the other side and, determining it to be safe, stealthily entered the room . .

It was a large, dimly-lit room . A celler of sorts . .

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At the back of the room, there was a lit lamp with a number of men gathered around it . .

I sneaked closer and hid behind a crate . I checked and the crate was empty . .

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The men were discussing something in the dark room . Zack was among them . .

"Boss, we're all here like you ordered . ".

"Seems so…".

The man who the others seemed to defer to as their boss stepped forward . I'd imagined him to be something like a boss grunt, but he turned out to be a lot younger . .

In his early 20s, most likely . .

He had gray hair extending down to his shoulders and was well featured . He was no grunt . In fact, he even looked sort of intelligent . .

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From his musculature and posture, I could tell that he was trained in martial arts . .

He didn't have the air of an prisoner at all . .

I like it . Breaking the mold and all that . .

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"Well met, brothers . The Doem Faction is pleased with your various contributions . ".

The boss said with a practiced voice, casting his gaze over the surrounding men . .

He then proceeded to ask each one of them what he desired . .

I see, so the thing about giving it to a guard was a lie . .

 .

"Zack, what about you?".

"I want— food . Good food and more of it . Enough for two people at least . ".

Nicely done Mr . Zack!.

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"Gonna put on 'em pounds, Zack!".

Zack cringed from the surrounding jeers . .

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"Boss, let's have another stripper show with the boys!".

"That s.h.i.t's great, boss!".

"Again? …Try to keep it in moderation, men . ".

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Like that, Mr . handsome bossman listened to everyone's requests one by one . .

And once he was done, his face turned serious for the first time . .

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"Brothers, we are in difficult times . Lately, there have been more attempts to cull our numbers . Why only yesterday, a coach carrying officers was a.s.saulted, resulting in 7 dead . ".

For a moment, I thought that was talking about me, but I didn't leave the camp yesterday, so it must be someone else . .

"He's skilled . Every time he's killed, he's done so without a sound . We've taken to calling him OWL . ".

OWL, eh… sounds important . .

"And believe it or not, there are signs that this b.a.s.t.a.r.d OWL is in this camp . ".

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That got a slight reaction out of Zack . .

"Zack, something the matter?".

"N-nothin', boss…".

Zack lowered his gaze to escape from his boss's overpowering stare . .

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"This OWL likely wants to get in contact with Clara Oriana . We must find him before he does . Is that clear?".

All the men nodded . .

"Then that is all for now… no, there is one last matter . We have a traitor amongst us . ".

The bossman drew a knife and poised it towards Zack . .

"—You . ".

And with surprising speed, he threw it . .

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Other than me, none of the men gathered could dodge a throw like that . .

The knife grazed past Zack's ears and sunk into the face of the man behind him . .

"This is the fool who dared to leak our info to the Royalists . ".

The other men simply looked on silently as the traitor bled and died . .

"That is all . You all may leave . ".

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And leave they did without a moment to spare . .

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"—Zack . ".

Zack, however, was the only one told to stay . .

"You're— not hiding something, are you?".

The bossman looked at Zack with chilled eyes . .

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"N-never, boss . " Zack squeaked while seating bullets . .

"—All right . I will believe you . " The bossman patted Zack on the shoulder once, and left the celler . .

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Now left alone, Zack heaved a shuddering sigh and wiped off his sweat . .

Which is when I decided to also pat his shoulder . .

"Oo, ooooahh!? Wait what!! You!! What the actual f.u.c.k!!".

Mr . Zack got extremely freaked, and then seriously angry . .

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"Oops, didn't mean to do that . Thanks for keeping the secret . ".

"Like I have a choice . He'd kill me soon as I told . " .

"Likely, yes . ".

"But d.a.m.n, so you're really that OWL…".

"Truthfully, I'm really not . ".

"… Wait, you're not?".

Zack didn't seem very convinced . .

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"I never went out yesterday . This OWL is likely someone similar to me . ".

"Yeah, sure . You think you can pa.s.s any info about OWL to me? You saw it right? Bossman's suspicious of me . Mainly 'cause of you . ".

"It shouldn't take me long to find out who OWL is . I can't guarantee if I can have you know, however . There are few people in my line of business… those of reputable skill often turn out to be acquaintances…".

I said this so he doesn't ask any more questions . Since I had no clue who OWL is . .

"f.u.c.k me . You gotta help me out, man . Boss is f.u.c.king ruthless, you saw him right? You might be fine . You can use your mana . But me, I got nothing' . ".

"Oh, by the way, your boss's mana seal coller . It's a fake . ".

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"Y-yer kidding me!?".

"Nope . ".

"Fuuuck… so he's even stronger than you?".

"—What do you think?".

I did the instant mana release trick causing a small gust . .

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"Uh, yeah, maybe not…".

"It doesn't really… oh? What's this…".

Due to the sudden wind, a small piece of paper landed at my feed . .

I picked it up— and got a brilliant idea . .

"— Interesting . ".

I muttered cryptically . .

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"What's going on?".

"A note from one of my agents . I know have a very good idea who this OWL really is . ".

"What!? That's way too fast!".

"Take a look . ".

I handed over the blank piece of paper . .

"I, can't see anything!".

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"It only responds to very specific mana signatures . Namely mine . It's also an encrypted message . ".

"Seriously… looks completely white to me…".

Zack scrutinized the page from all sorts angles . .

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"Can't you tell me something, even a hint?".

"… You're sure?".

I closed in and whispered to him . .

"Code 0 . ".

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"Coat jeer?".

"Zero being the first of numbers, meaning—".

"Me-meaning what?".

Zack gulped . .

"—All will begin at last . ".

I said while simultaneously erasing my presence and moving out of sight super fast . .

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"— HUH!? He's gone!? f.u.c.kin h.e.l.l, the door's still closed, how…".

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Inside the empty crate, I stayed hidden until Zack left . .

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