144 Concentration Camp

I was given a lax pat down . .

The kingdom of Oriana was in a state where war could break as early as tomorrow . They obviously don't have time to spare for a mob like me . .

 .

I had a mana sealing collar put on me and was taken to a large building . .

 .

"You'll be staying in this camp . ".

"Camp?".

"Lord Doem is in the process of purging the Royalists . Prisons are all full . ".

"I see . ".

 .

"Well, good luck, kid . Whether you can live or die in here all depends on your choices . ".

"Huh, what choi—".

The soldier guiding me put on a knowing grin, opened the large iron door and shoved me inside . .

 .

The door was shut behind me with a thud as I took in my surroundings . .

What I'd been imagining was some dreary, medieval-fantasy dungeon of solid stone, but this was certainly not that . .

In very few words, it was a big courtyard surrounded by tall walls . .

The floor was paved with stone, and the place was packed with prisoners . .

 .

Some of them looked to be sleeping in tattered clothes, some just sat there with dead eyes and looked at me . Still others were standing in groups, discussing something or other . Seems they've made factions here . .

Our jailors stood atop the tall walls, overseeing everything . .

 .

Actually, those walls looked like they had rooms attached to them . The prisoners seemed to be granted free entry into them . .

Not as rigid as I'd imagined . .

 .

First of all, I needed to secure a place to sleep . I began walking with that purpose in mind . .

And, "Ho, newcomer . ".

Came a voice from the side . .

I turned to see a tall, thuggish man with unkempt hair . My internal Bandit Radar began tingling right away . .

I was 100% positive . This guy was a bandit . .

 .

"You are…?".

"The name's Zack . Long story short, I'm a nice guy who teaches new blood like you how it works around here . " Said Zack, eyeing me like prey . .

"M-my name's Cid . Thank you so much, I really don't know what to do…".

 .

"I feel ya, buddy . Them fuzz catch you and throw you in here and there's nothin' you can do about it . I totally get that you're scared . " Zack said while patting my shoulder . .

He then closed in and whispered so only I could hear, "Listen, Cid . Food, bed, fun, none of that's equal in this here camp . Look over there . ".

Zack pointed at a group of people huddled in a corner . All of them looked thin, ragged . .

 .

"The people in this camp are largely divvied up into 3 groups . Those ones you see over there are the worst off and also has the most people . They're what we call the Trash . Useless trash who aren't worth a d.a.m.n . They get a few gulps of water and even less food . Just waiting to die . They're trash who have no power, or smarts, or even info… Now, look over there . ".

Next, Zack pointed at a group of people who were standing and talking amongst each other . .

"Those are the Royalists . They're all idiots who went against Lord Doem and are now in here . They get the bare minimum food and bed . They're also our targets . ".

 .

"Our?".

"Yeah, our group . The Doem Camp . We got people who betrayed the Royalists to people like me, actual criminals . Us in the Doem Camp gets good food, comfy bedding, and a few other, privileges . ".

"… Privileges?".

"I'll give you and example . You see, they don't give one d.a.m.n if he beat and kill any of the Trash— like this!" Zack kicked down a nearby man . .

 .

The ragged man cried out and ran away, and the guards on the walls watched the whole thing happen . .

They said not a word of warning to Zack . .

Making a bemused smile, Zack once again came close and spoke into my ears . "It ain't like fights and killing each other are allowed in here . But the guys up top will ignore it . Still, doesn't mean we can go around killing every f.u.c.ker that gives us the stink eye . Even Trash can be useful once in a while . And needlessly antagonising them isn't a good idea . You still with me, Cid? It's curious right? How we can get away with all this . ".

 .

"Y-yeah, it is . ".

"Here's how it works… it's all 'cause we keep an eye on those Royalists and leak any info we get to the guards . Do that, and we easily get food, bed, and those nice privies . Sweet deal, yeah?".

"By, uh, info…?".

"Anything they don't want us to know . Get us some good info, and you're on the Doem side, p.r.o.nto . And if the info is really good, useful even, you can some fun too . We even got wh.o.r.es . ".

"B-but, how am I supposed to…".

"I get it, really do . How're you supposed to know anything? Think . Jog that noggin a little . Only Royalist traitors have that kind of inside intel, right? Now, how did someone like me get in?".

"I, uh…".

"Honestly, there's a lotta ways to go about it . One, you could try capture one of them and drag him in for some good ol torture . Well, they're also on guard lately, so that might not be so easy . And the guards can't ignore it if you go overboard . .

"Two, you could try getting in their faction and gleam intel that way . They're on guard for those too, so something like that can take some real skill . .

"Three, eavesdrop . They won't make it easy, but you can definitely try . .

"And four, there's that fact that they likely have people who're pretty willing to sell . Really, anyone would get tired of it eventually . They'd want food, booze . They'd want to get their d.i.c.ks wet . But alas, they're still Royalists and the guards aren't exactly inclined to believe anything they'd say . That's where we come in . We make it so that they can get that food, booze, and wh.o.r.es they're starving for . ".

 .

"I, understand…".

"I'm sure you do, Cid . You now understand very well that if you do nothing, you'll be part of the Trash . Useless, worthless trash . The only you can survive in here is either get us some info, or try to get the Royalists' trust . ".

"B-but, how…".

"I'm a nice guy, Cid . So this is all I can do . Tell you what, you get anything good, and you come to me . I know some real nice guys among the guards, so we can definitely work something out . " Zack said, giving me an obviously shady grin . .

 .

"Thank you, thank you so much, Zack!".

"Best of luck, kid . ".

 .

"Oh, uh, Zack, please wait!" I called as he was about to walk away . .

"What's up?".

"I— Actually, I might know something really good . " I said in a whisper . .

"… Huh . You know, if that info's something bogus, those jailors won't let you off with just a little beating . How about I hear you out, before you go to them . ".

"Can we, uh… go something a bit private?".

"Sure thing . Follow me . ".

 .

Following after Zack, I went beyond the walls . .

Inside were hallways of stone with cells on either side, containing prisoners here and there . .

"The only guys who get private quarters are us Doem Camp and a small part of the Royalists . The Trash get to huddle down in the hallways, or just sleep outside . That said, we have our own territory in these halls and outside . You sleep there just cause it's empty and… you might not wake up . Get it?".

"… Of course . ".

"In here . " We walked some ways into the hallway and Zack opened a door . .

"This here's my crib . Not bad eh?" Zack said with grin after closing the door . .

 .

It was the size of an average bedroom . More than enough for one person to live comfortably . There was a clean bed, a few sets of clothes, books, a board game, and even p.o.r.n mags and a shelf with snacks . .

 .

"Well, this isn't the even close to what the big shots have . Heck, they say our boss held a stripper show at his place . " Zack sad with a dirty grin . .

"There we go, complete privacy . Now, let's hear it . ".

 .

"Right, the real good info… yeah, I got nuthin . ".

"Huh— wh!?".

With a single step, I got into arms length of Zack, grabbed his neck and lifted him up . His feet now dangled in the air . .

 .

"Fuh, ker, yer, gon, pay, for…" Zack croaked in pain . .

"Can't work the body without food . I mean, I can easily survive going on nothing for a month, but I'll get a little weaker if I do . So I really don't want to skip meals . I guess I can go out into town and eat . And, sleeping outside isn't really a problem… Oh but, I don't want to sleep outside in the rain, I guess . " I spoke while gradually tightening my grip . .

"St-stahhhp…".

"Mr . Zack, you have two choices . Live, or die . Choose wisely now . ". 

Next chapter