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152 City Watch

 "Want some? The seasoning is not that good, but it would taste good when cooked with soup."

The middle-aged man Mufasa who always appeared casual whipped out a wooden spoon from out of nowhere, stirring the bubbling, boiling meat soup while scooping out a spoonful. "I'm quite confident in cooking soups." He said.

Nala, who had been drifting to sleep, slowly woke up after sniffing the fragrant smell of the soup.

"Could it be a trap, like 'You kids are now a convert of our church after drinking our soup'?" Simba asked cautiously.

He could not help being careful, with children disappearing from the slums every passing day.

"Relax, I'm not that desperate... it's a permanent quest in the first place."

Mufasa nonchalantly said something Simba didn't understand at all, although he did appear to not bear ill will.

Moreover, despite Simba and Zazu clenching on the stones and looking ready to attack at any given moment, they were actually putting on airs since they had long since became powerless after going hungry for so long.

Indeed, Mufasa would have used his long knife that could slice off thick bacon like butter to easily destroy them if he was hostile.

The two boys looked at each other and eventually decided to compromise.

The three children hence took out the small wooden bowl hidden in a corner of a room, took a huge serving of soup before taking turns to drink it.

"It's so tasty!" Simba couldn't help whispering.

Nonetheless, it was obvious that both him and Zazu were trying their best to control their impulse of finishing the soup in one gulp so that the frail Nala could have more.

Mufasa could not help but smile at that serious look. "Drink as much as you want."

"Aren't you having any, sir?" Nala asked in her tiny, meek voice.

"Hahaha! I may look like this, but I've actually earned a lot just a few days ago. I won't miss a little food!" Mufasa smiled in return.

"Liar. I saw you getting caught by the city watch-they even hung you at the gates to warn the people!" Simba did not hesitate to expose Mufasa's lies.

"Ahem! What are you talking about? Kids like you won't ever understand adults' plans. It's a tactic I made with the city watch!" Thick-skinned, Mufasa started boasting instead. "We are basically brothers now!"

The three children merely casted him doubtful looks.

At first, Mufasa had been intending to continue making things up as he went along when his gaze sharpened and he stopped talking to listen carefully.

There were footsteps outside the house once again.

Unlike just now when he came in himself, there were at least a dozen people this time. Almost half of the footsteps were also quite dull, and no one could have heard it if they didn't strain their ears. Moreover, it could only be either some fat person weighting over two hundred catties, or they were wearing heavy armor.

And the only people who could wear armor in the city was the watchmen under the mayor's command-church military units only wore cloth armor, and those without heavy armor were ordinary soldiers. After all, the winter left the city watch shorthanded, and they had to ordinary bring in a mix of ordinary soldiers for patrols and other duties.

Mufasa's face dropped immediately. "Eat up. Pretend you never saw me if anyone asks!"

With that, he slipped away swiftly, climbing up what remained of the roof and vanished from sight.

And just after he left, soldiers from city watch arrived inside the broken house.

However, the one leading them wasn't the city watch captain who was fully-armored as usual, but an adolescent who was dressed in flamboyant dyes and had an arrogant air to him. He was clearly a noble whom the captain of the city watch submits to.

The young noble then drew out a wanted poster and showed it to the children, and the portrait unsurprisingly showed Mufasa.

"Have you kids seen this person recently?"

The trio did not hesitate to shake their heads.

"Tch. Are you sure this acquaintance of Marni Wilf often met these three brats?" The young noble asked, turning to the captain.

"Yes. That's what our contacts told us." The captain answered respectfully.

The young noble clicked his tongue in irritation, but when he was about to leave with the soldiers, he inadvertently noticed the cauldron hanging over the children's bonfire-it used to be a helm, and it was one rarely seen around these parts.

Smiling sinisterly, the young noble paused and conveyed his orders to the captain. "Take those brats away! Have someone stay here too, so that the fellow would know to come find them at the city watch's base."

"Would he offer himself for these brats?" The captain asked puzzledly.

"No idea. But they are nothing more than dirty peasants, so it won't matter if they die." The young noble thought nothing of it. "What matters is that we get him, and torture him for Marni Wilf's weakness... That merchant has a fat stock of resources that the people in the city have their eye on! The earlier we get him, the better!"

Hence, the city watchmen who never flinched from bullying townsfolk charged forward menacingly at once with their orders, capturing the three children and even awarding Simba a punch for his struggling, leaving him battered and bruised.

For some reason, the young noble felt great annoyed that the brat was glaring at him fiercely and unyieldingly despite being wounded.

"Two hostages are enough!" He then pointed at Simba. "We'll get rid of this one right here so that that fellow would know that we're being serious! Let me think... right, cut off his head and hang it over the door!"

The soldier who had been pressing a hand over Simba's head did not hesitate to draw his sword.

"Wait!"

That was when Mufasa leapt off the roof.

***

Mufasa had felt ill at ease from the very start, which was why he returned to check on the children.

He certainly did not expect to see something so infuriating like this.

Mufasa could not help feeling fearful after the fact too, because Simba would have died for no reason if he had been late.

"Aha! What did I say?!" The young noble looked delighted as if he had hooked a big fish.

"You are wise, my lord." The heavy-armored captain beside him licked his boots immediately.

Mufasa stared at the two of them in bemusement. "Why would you do this? Aren't they citizens of Lancaster? Or is the purpose of the city watch not to protect her citizens?"

"Citizens? You are wrong there. Only those who pay their due taxes every month are citizens, while these are nothing more than sewer rats, scum of the city barely surviving on scraps."

The young noble never faltered in his words and then pointed at Mufasa. "But all of that has nothing to do with you now. Guards, take him!"