16. Two Birds in One Shot

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"Do you want one, Mr. Black?"

Glancing down, Mr. Black saw a small boy offering a chocolate bar. Within his hood, a dark brow arched. Such sweets were a hard find, and if a child got a hold of one, it was more likely they'd hoard it themselves. Why this child was willing to part with his treat was a mystery to him. Perhaps it was because the boy wanted something from him, or felt an obligation to do so for some reason.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Black was feeling somewhat hungry. And he had no problem taking candy from a child. So he reached out and snagged the chocolate. "Thank you," he told the boy.

The boy looked startled. He looked at his empty, outstretched hand, like he couldn't believe it. It looks like he didn't expect me to take it, Mr. Black thought to himself, while unwrapping the bar. He found it amusing.

He ate the bar, watching the boy from within the shadows of his blue hood. Once he got over his shock, the boy looked like he wanted to cry. But he managed to hold back his tears, and gave Mr. Black a brave, determined look. It lasted all of two seconds before he turned and fled.

Ah, reminds me of a certain brat, Mr. Black smiled. He stuffed the wrapper into a pocket, and strode out of the small room. It was more of an alcove, filled with a variety of supplies. Shelves lined the walls and boxes and barrels nearly covered the floor. This room was one of many spread throughout the tunnel system.

As the scavengers came back with more and more useful items, these supply alcoves were gradually being filled. There was still quite a ways to go, but Mr. Black could envision a complete underground fortress with enough supplies for hundreds of people to survive on for quite some time.

He slipped his hands inside his coat's pockets as he walked, allowing a soft sigh to puff into the cool air.

How long had he'd been down here? It felt like years, even though he knew it to only be a few short months. It was cold and damp and utterly stifling down here, and he hated every moment of it.

Yet it was the only option he had left. To stay on the surface would be an extremely foolish and risky idea. He gone above ground a couple of times in the past, but only for a few hours at a time. What he learned then had been enough for him to decide on the course of action he was taking now.

Still, will I have enough time? The hands in his pockets clenched, and his chest twinged with a familiar, dull ache. His chin dipped, his shoulders slightly hunched, yet he didn't stop moving. I'm sorry. But all I can do is rely on you. Buy me some time, that's all I ask.

"Gyaa!" A woman's pained cry cut into his thoughts. And although he didn't want to admit it, it was a welcome distraction. Lifting his head, he followed the sound's echo through the tunnel.

He came across a half-naked woman surrounded by three men. All of them bore the pale, unhealthy skin of the Forbidden residents. The men had cornered her against the wall, blocking off all pathways to escape. One was currently pawing at her waist, tearing off her thin clothing.

Mr. Black came up behind them as silent as a ghost, so that only the woman saw him. She gazed at him with hopeful, almost worshipful eyes. It was an expression that made his stomach twist in distaste, but one that he could do nothing about.

"Mr Black," she whispered. Then louder, "Mr Black, please."

At her words, the three men froze. The one pulling off her clothing just laughed crudely and kept at it. "He ain't gonna save ya this time, whore."

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