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156 Not in The Top Three Ye

 Simba, Zazu, and Nala followed Mufasa along the wide and bright streets, dazed and feeling as if they needed more eyes.

Despite having worked in the trade district at Eastern Lancaster himself, Simba thought that the streets were clean and beautiful compared to those bustling avenues.

In fact, Eastern Lancaster must still be piled full of rotten snow, and yet that wasn't the case for this town. There wasn't a single snowflake on the main streets, and if not for the snow accumulating over the roofs of the buildings beside the streets, Simba would have thought that they were teleported to the mythical southern continent that was warm even in winter.

Moreover, the bleakness of winter that should be present was missing here-even though there weren't many citizens, most shops were still opened for business.

If Simba hadn't joined the Church of Games, he would have thought that they could survive by earning through odd jobs-the children did not refuse when Mufasa extended an invitation to join them once again after he had chopped the young noble in two.

They could no longer stay in Lancaster after they left the broken house where the young noble was killed, but it was still natural that they would be curious about the mysterious church that Mufasa had mentioned after witnessing what he could do.

Since Simba and the other children weren't Players and couldn't use the Lifestone in the Lancaster Hideout to teleport, Mufasa had visited old Vanke to buy a Teleportation Permit (Consumable, allows non-Players to teleport with the Lifestone).

Still, Mufasa did not take them to pray at the God of Game's effigy immediately. He brought them to the System Tavern where they had a good meal before all else-the cauldron of meat soup back in Lancaster had been knocked over when Mufasa fought the city watch, leaving the children starving.

For Mufasa, the food in the tavern was as it always had been: it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either given that the Players were no longer poor, powerless tramps. If it wasn't for the Teleportation Permit costing him his dwindling savings, he would certainly have chosen the Iron Cauldron since the smoked meat there was much tastier.

Even so, for the three children who were famished and hadn't eaten normal food for days, it was heaven on earth.

The toasted bread was a golden crispiness, and anyone would be able to smell its fragrant scents of butter and cheese, having its own special taste to the bite. The crust was crunchily delicious, the crumb sweetly soft even as the satisfying calories from butter and cheese brought the children an experience they never had before.

In comparison, it was much better than the dry, hardened black bread of Lancaster that also carried weird fermented scents, which also included the occasional grass crumbs and wheat shells.

If those black breads weren't softened by soaking them in hot water, it tasted no different from leather to the bite and was simply indigestible.

Moreover, aside from the bread, each child got to enjoy a plate of fruit jam and more steaming meat soup.

There was no telling what fruit the jelly was made, but it was a tasty sour-sweet, and one could swallow it on the crunchy toast in a gulp. Simba definitely had not eaten anything so tasty since his parents died.

It was naturally worse for Zazu and Nala who were orphaned as children. No longer caring to talk, they did all they could to stuff their hastily layered jam-bread down their mouths as if they would stuff themselves full and die today.

Be that as it may, the children's throats were only that wide, and they would definitely choke on the bread if they gorged too much of it.

Therefore, it was fortunate that the meat soup that had floating fat chunks was there. With one spoonful, the already-soft bread would become even more soggy and could be easily gulped down the stomach, after of which the soup's abundant freshness and warmth would reinvigorate the body, from the limbs down to every bone!

"So... delicious... What would happen if I can't eat food so tasty anymore..." Having devoured every last bit of food and even licked his own wooden bowl clean, Zazu was staring at the wooden tray on the table, seemingly considering whether he should eat that too.

His younger sister Nala was much more adorable in comparison. Holding her own bowl, she let out a soft burp with a warm and satisfied look on her face.

***

After that particularly scrumptious meal, Mufasa brought the trio to the hot springs.

As the Players had been overworking excessively, they had become fatigued in spirit and lethargic in whatever they did.

Early on, the hot springs was mostly frequented by women, with visits from men hence increasing and subsequently plummeting as they realized they couldn't peek on women, and hence had to give up on patronage as if it was a torn shoe. Still, it became a favorite spot when someone noticed that soaking in the hot springs greatly reduced fatigue, with many Players now feeling as if their day wasn't over without bathing there once.

Still, it was early in the day and therefore not many people around.

After entrusting Nala to a female Player's care, Mufasa then went to the men's bath for an 'open' meeting with Zazu.

The springs wouldn't have much effect for children usually, but both Simba and Zazu had gained many hidden injuries given how often they were doing difficult odd jobs and were frequently bullied or beaten by other tramps. The effect of the warm water therefore became apparent once they entered the pool, and they could not help groaning as the slight itch and numbness reached across their joints.

"You're so awesome, Mufasa. You have to be one of the greatest champions of the church!" Zazu could not help himself from exclaiming even as he enjoyed the rather hot spring water.

Simba also remembered Mufasa's clean and precise fighting style, and knew right then that he must be a formidable champion given how easily he defeated the city watch's captain!

After all, the city watch captain was the most powerful person the children had encountered beforehand.

Meanwhile, Mufasa was recalling that he was probably ranked around seventy with the points he gained from the Fishmen Island event, and didn't even manage to get the stupid dolphin helm he liked so much.

And even in duels, there weren't many whom he could defeat amongst the Explorers of the Seven Seas save for Terrosche (fat) and Silva (skinny) who were just there to fill the numbers. After all, not many Players had AOE skills and it was just too troublesome to deflect projectiles, and they all knew what the only Kengyoku was capable of unlike the common folk who knew nothing. As such, they would never engage him in close combat during duels, which made things very difficult for Mufasa the peerless melee combatant...

Hence, he cleared his throat and adopted a serious, sagely tone. "I'm good, I guess, although I have not reached the top three yet."

The two boys promptly looked awed and worshipful towards Mufasa, their gazes so bright without any shred of feigning that he felt stabbed.