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169 Trouble At The Hunting Grounds

 The nobles' hunting grounds at the outskirts of Lancaster.

Given that the hunting grounds were set up specially for the nobility, there naturally was a sturdy wooden hut that was decorated exquisitely as a resting stop, aside from the rich variety of game.

With the fine environment, beautiful sceneries and the constant patrols that kept it free from monsters, there would always be nobles bringing their families even outside of hunting season for a stroll.

The hut had a single door, and while it was very convenient for the patrols to keep watch from, things were very different at the moment.

"Mommy, I'm scared..." A girl was shaking in her mother's arms.

"It's going to be alright, Gwendolyn... Your grandfather will come for us." The gentle noblewoman was gently patting her head and consoling the girl repeatedly.

Meanwhile, a massive head was stuffed into the hut where the head had been: a frightening head that had both the features of human and fish.

***

Having received highborn education since she was a child, the noblewoman had read through the encyclopedia of magical beasts written by a Lancaster peasant scholar, and knew a thing or two about the creatures that appeared around the city.

Even so, she knew that a monster like this existed nearby.

At the moment, two lightbulbs were protruding out of the fish head with a human face, its eyes that could swivel freely over three hundred and sixty degrees glaring tightly at the few humans left in the hut.

Previously, a soldier had thought that the monster could not move when he saw that it was caught in the door frame. He tried to blind it and then cut off its head, only to be caught in a jet stream of water it breathed out and washed right down its gaping jaws.

Even the soldiers' heavy armor that was sturdy enough to easily guard against the sharpest blades was no different from a bean. The poor soldier could only scream once, and was then chewed with loud crunching sounds, a dish of mince meat blended with steel chunks and gulped down soon enough.

The remaining soldiers, unable to bear with the mountainous pressure of the monster fish's glare crumbled entirely in spirit. Believing that death was certain, they cornered themselves in the delusion of having a taste of the noblewoman and the heiress apparent of Lancaster in her arms-only to be slain by the noblewomen's two battle-maids who were skilled with the sword and becoming fish food.

But after that, there was even greater desperation in the air within the hut.

While the building was definitely sturdy and exquisite, there wasn't any food or water stored here since no one stayed the night here.

Not to mention that there were up to seven of those monster fishes nearby when they fled inside the hut!

The noblewoman did not know how the monster fishes attacked, but they must be omnivorous from the look of their jaws.

In fact, the noblewoman could hear them gnawing at the wooden walls from the outside.

To tell the truth, the so-called 'sturdy wooden-walls' did not really instill confidence.

Moreover, their deaths appeared fated with the single way out of the hut being blocked by one of those monsters.

At the same time, the noblewoman knew very well that Mayor Corinth was having a serious shortage of manpower. If that wasn't the case, Corinth wouldn't have braved the risk of wronging others when he sought out the churches and force them to dispatch the Holy Corps to help cull the gathering swamp fishmen.

'I must at least let Gwendolyn escape even if I die here...'

At that thought, the noblewoman once again felt implacable rage towards the designing of the hut that did not even think about putting in an escape route.

"You two could have whatever food and water remain." The noblewoman told her two battle-maids, but only after Gwendolyn had drifted off to sleep after crying herself weary. "After that, rest and save your strength to knock down the wall, and run away from those monsters!"

"What about you, milady?" One of the battle-maids could not help asking worriedly, noticing that the noblewoman did not mention herself.

"I'm too slow, and I'll just slow you down... It's better for me to distract them. All you got to do is save Gwendolyn!"

The noblewoman had resolved herself.

Gwendolyn's father-Corinth's son had died unexpectedly on top of another woman involved in his indulgent debaucheries. Still, he clearly was lacking in certain aspects despite countless nights of vice-seeking that he fathered no child aside from Gwendolyn.

On the other hand, old Corinth was only married to one woman in his entire life, fathering only one son and had no other blood relations.

As such, if Gwendolyn dies here as well, Lancaster would end up in the hands of the Valla's imperial family.

"But..." The battle-maid clearly wasn't about to abandon her mistress, but that was also when the fish monsters started to shriek outside.

The noblewoman's face fell.

She knew that sound well: the fish monsters were excited-they had found their prey.

Could it be that help from Lancaster had arrived?

No way. They never sent for help over here... Lancaster was completely oblivious.

Moreover, this was a hunting ground of the nobility with a garrison, which was why Lancaster's military force and the mess of a Holy Corps that were busy culling swamp fishmen would never come here.

'It must be some peasant who inadvertently ventured wandered here...' the noblewoman quickly guessed. 'Sorry, we can't help you... we can't even protect ourselves.'

"Mommy?" Gwendolyn looked up at her, having been jolted awake.

"It's alright, Gwendolyn." The noblewoman did her best to soothe her daughter. "It'll be over soon."

And yet, the fish monsters' shrieking wasn't dying down as she expected.

As a matter of fact, it was getting louder.

Soon, sounds of fighting could also be heard from the outside, as if someone was fighting their way here.

The sharp clangs of metals against monster flesh echoed, just as there were loud explosions from spells or sacred arts along with human cries and fish monster roars, making it sound as if a vicious battle was taking place outside.

The two battle-maids had their blades out and were ready to join the fray, but the fish monster that was blocking the entrance had its eyes fixed tightly on them.

Meanwhile, things did not look positive outside either. Should the battle-maids knock down the wall and leave, the fish monsters that had gotten rid of their adversaries would come and devour both the noblewoman and Gwendolyn.

Still, things became quiet once again after a while.

"Who won?" One of the battle-maid whispered to her partner.

"Must be the fish monsters." The other battle-maid grimaced. "You know how frightening they are... the five-hundred men garrison here were already wiped out even before they could send for help, and even our lady's elite escorts were likewise slain before they could fight back..."

Not only were the fish monsters extremely strong, their scales were just like steel plates that no normal blows could penetrate.

The battle-maid then paused before continuing. "It takes two hundred elites at least to survive that long against those monsters."

"Could it be a squad of Extraordinaires?" The other battle-maid could not help asking.

"You've never met one, have you? Any group of those inhuman monsters are truly frightening, and they definitely would have quickly wiped out those monsters instead of brawling for so long." The first battle-maid shook her head and sighed. "There should be cheers if the elite squad had won, too... but there's only silence, so the fish monsters must have won."

Her words were true and convincing. Even the noblewoman could not help nodding in agreement.

They must rely on themselves if they were to free themselves from their current predicament.

But suddenly, the fish that had its head stuffing the doorway opened its jaw and shrieked deafeningly, starling everyone in the hut.

Just as they thought that the fish monster was about to force its way into the hut, goo was spurting out of its eye sockets and mouth, whereas its frightening bulbous eyes were slowly becoming turbid. Its head thrashed, crushing the doorframe into wooden splinters before sagging on the ground as if it was exhausted, devoid of any signs of life.

The two battle-maids shared a glance, unsure of what was happening.

However, before they could walk up and check if the fish monster was feigning death or something weird really was happening, the creature's body was becoming transparent. Its head and its entire body that was still outside soon vanished, leaving four dark organs that were evolved from fins and resembled clawed limbs...

"What's going on?"

It wasn't just the battle maids-even the knowledgeable noblewoman had never gone through such a situation, and were confused as to what they should do.

That was when a young boy who was just a little older than Gwendolyn ran inside the hut. He did a double-take when he saw the four of them, and promptly ran outside while shouting. "Uncle Mustafa! There's someone inside the hut!"

After that, a man's rich, calm voice asked. "Who is it? The hunting ground garrison?"

"I don't know, they're all women!" The boy replied.

"What color?"

"Yellow!"

The four people in the hut looked at each other, unable to help studying one another as the same question bugged them: how were they yellow?

Still, before they could think, the adult man had entered, and the noblewoman's body tightened the moment she saw him.

She had seen that face on a report when she had arranged Mayor Corinth's desk: it was the murder suspect of Baron Nigelania whom the city watch captains had uncovered after much difficult investigation!