Kieran felt safe for the time being.
The lady still had her guard up, though, listening carefully and inspecting their surroundings. When she felt assured that there were not any more pursuers, she kept walking.
“Keep up!” she said.
Kieran quickly followed her as they went deep into the ruins.
After dodging a number of wooden beams and passing through several piles of debris, they came to a stop. The lady used her hand to wipe the dirt off the debris before her, revealing a hidden wooden entrance.
Quietly, she lifted up the wooden cover and a set of stairs that led underground was revealed.
“Come on!” the lady signaled to Kieran, motioning for him to go in.
He obeyed without a second thought.
Through a line of faint light, Kieran saw what was hidden at the bottom of the stairs.
It was a storage locker with some wooden racks and a few tools lying around.
There seemed to be no one else there, which lessened the possibility of an ambush.
Kieran entered the storage room and waited by the stairs for the lady to follow him.
When she did, he introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Kieran.“
“Colleen. Are you a soldier?”
She seemed to want to find out who he was. It was her voice that betrayed her suspiciousness.
Obviously, the way that Kieran had wielded that dagger was still fresh in her memory.
“No, I’m not. I just like martial arts. And in this goddamn war, I’ve put them to good use. Look, I mean you no harm. You should know that. If I did, I wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble.”
He noticed that her eyes remained alert while he explained, so he chose his words carefully and elaborated as much as he could.
A soldier was not a good thing to be during a war.
Soldiers were a threat to the enemy and needed to be eliminated.
Civilians thought of them as a threat too.
War was like poison. It brought out the darkness in people, especially when one side had an advantage over the other. Kieran could understand her attitude, considering all the soldier brutality that she must have witnessed during the four months of the war.
After all, the Dungeon Mission description had mentioned a “rebellion”.
Kieran could never have been identified as a soldier, and that was certainly the right move for him.
Kieran’s words must have had some effect over the lady.
When he was done explaining, her eyes looked slightly relieved and she seemed less worried.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked, but I did meet a lot of rebellion deserters. Some of them are okay, but most of them are…”
Colleen frowned. She did not know how to go on explaining.
“There is good and bad people everywhere,“ Kieran said.
It could not be considered comforting or judgmental, just the right thing to say at that time.
These words made Colleen acknowledge him.
“I could let you stay with me for a day to repay you for helping me, but you must leave before nightfall tomorrow,” Colleen said.
“Thank you,” replied Kieran.
Although he wanted more information, he felt that it was not the right time to ask Colleen.
Even though it was just a game, the realism made Kieran realize that if he made any inappropriate moves, they would most likely cause a chain reaction that would influence his future in the game.
That reaction might be good or bad, but based on his experience, it was more likely be the latter.
At least now he did not have to explain how a guy who had survived four months in the war had not gotten familiar with the city.
Even so, Kieran thought that if he asked Colleen a question that did not match his chosen identity, her attitude towards him would change fast.
He’d possibly even risk losing his hiding place for the day.
So, when Kieran watched Colleen walk to the other corner of the room, settled down there and made no further noise, he did the same. He walked to the other end of the room, backed up against the wall and closed his eyes.
When his eyelids were shut, darkness filled his vision, and with every breath he took his body recovered, allowing him to have some rest.
He was mentally tired, though.
Images of blood and death were imprinted all over his brain, taking a toll on his mental health.
It took him a while, but he managed to fall asleep.
Kieran was woken up by the sound of movement in the room.
He opened his eyes to see Colleen having a biscuit at the opposite corner. By the looks of it, it must have been in the backpack that she had acquired from the headless body the previous night.
When Kieran looked at her, Colleen stiffened up.
Food had a totally different value at times of war.
The biscuits and bread that were expendable during any other day were a cause for fight in the midst of a war.
Colleen and the headless guy had fought for them just the previous night.
Kieran had already known Colleen’s intentions after witnessing her suspiciousness around him. He signaled to her that he meant no harm and pulled out the can of food from his own backpack.
Colleen’s body remained stiff until Kieran took out the can. Only then she did she finally ease up.
If both of them had food, there was no reason for them to fight.
None of them spoke while they ate breakfast.
Colleen lowered her head, looking like she was thinking about something.
Kieran was munching on own his food while he looked at the system log.
[Main Mission: Survive for 7 days, 0/7] had changed to [1/7], and a [Hunger] status had appeared in the character window.
[Hunger: While in a state of Hunger, Maximum Stamina is 20% lower than normal and is exhausted twice as fast. When Stamina is insufficient, damage over time to HP might occur.]
After he gobbled up the canned food, the [Hunger] status disappeared from the slot.
“There’s hunger in the game, too?” he thought quietly.
Once again, he was amazed by the game’s realism.
Then suddenly, he frowned again. Thanks to the newly-discovered [Hunger] status, he would have to find and acquire more food in order to survive.
Obviously, such a task would not be easy in a war-ridden city like this one.
“The remaining food will last me for about two to three days. Two at most if I need to fight!” Kieran thought while he looked at the two remaining cans of food and the bottle of distilled water.
He would need to ration his supplies if he wanted to survive. Things were not looking good for him.
A sudden coughing fit interrupted Kieran’s thoughts.
He looked up to see Colleen covering her mouth with one hand, and beating herself on the chest with the other.
It looked like she was choking on the biscuit that she had been eating. Dry biscuits were not that easy to chew.
“Here, have some water!”
Kieran went closer to her and offered her the bottle.
Colleen took two big gulps, leaving only one third of the water for him.
She exhaled a long breath.
“Th… Thank you!”
Colleen looked at the remaining water and felt a little embarrassed.
Food was essential in the war, but so was water.
If one was willing to share their food and water during those times, then that was proof enough that they meant no harm.
Colleen knew that, and that was why she eased up on her attitude towards Kieran.
She grew more willing to talk to him, which was what Kieran had anticipated.
“What was your job before the war?” Colleen asked curiously.
“I was a student, but then something happened and I became an otaku. How about you?” he asked.
“I was a student too, but because of the fighting, the alcohol and other problems, I was thrown into a community service center. Before I could finish up my two hundred hours of community service, the war broke out. At first I was glad that I was relieved from my duties, but now I would much rather serve a lifetime of community service than keep living in this hellhole!” she added after Kieran’s explanation.
She did not seem to be able to stop talking.
Her cold vigilant face had dissolved in an instant.
All Kieran could do was accept what she told him and let her continue.
People wore masks in their daily lives to protect themselves, and these desperate times called for it even more.
“I was from around Sixth Broadway, but when the Vulture and his repulsive thugs came by and raided the place, I had no choice but to move to the Garden Villa Area, and who the fck knows, he might have followed there as well! That piece of sht!”
“So is this Vulture guy really powerful?“ Kieran asked when he heard that name again.
“Of course, you haven’t heard of him because you are not from here, “ Colleen said. “Before the war, that Vulture guy was just a nameless thug. But when the war started, I don’t know what kind of dogsht luck he had, but he suddenly acquired tons of weapons from the police station. He was locked up in there during that time. As the rebels were building up their forces, that piece of sht became relentless. He teamed up with the other criminals in the lockup and took over Sixth Broadway!”
“The other organization did not even dare face the Vulture head-on, because that assh*le is really strong and holds a grudge against anyone who crosses him. Civilians, thugs, anyone can end up dead if they get on his bad side. The last guy who opposed him, another organization’s head, was hanged and burned to a crisp on an electric pole at Sixth!”
Colleen seemed to know a lot about the Vulture.
Suddenly, her face turned pale as she talked.
She realized that the two guys that she and Kieran had taken out yesterday were his men too.
Hearing Colleen’s words, Kieran’s face shared the same sick look with her.