Report
Chapter 150

150. Code 0

Through empty hallways, Zack headed towards the basement.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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!

“Gonna put on ‘em pounds, Zack!”

Zack cringed from the surrounding jeers.

“Boss, let’s have another stripper show with the boys!”

“That shit’s great, boss!”

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

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.

“Brothers, we are in difficult times. Lately, there have been more attempts to cull our numbers. Why only yesterday, a coach carrying officers was assaulted, 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 bastard OWL is in this camp.”

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.

“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.

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.”

And leave they did without a moment to spare.

“—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.

“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.

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 fuck!!”

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

“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 damn, so you’re really that OWL…”

“Truthfully, I’m really not.”

“… Wait, you’re not?”

Zack didn’t seem very convinced.

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

“Yeah, sure. You think you can pass 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.

“Fuck me. You gotta help me out, man. Boss is fucking 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.”

“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.

“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.

“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!”

“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.

“Can’t you tell me something, even a hint?”

“… You’re sure?”

I closed in and whispered to him.

“Code 0.”

“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.

“— HUH!? He’s gone!? Fuckin hell, the door’s still closed, how…”

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