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181 Applause

 The patrol captain did not have the faintest idea what a player was, but that did not stop him from getting the gist of the situation.

Someone was stealing his duck!

"Don't let them get away!" The patrol captain roared.

However, the floating snow and the sheer speed of the husky-powered sled prevented him from noticing that the ones who had suddenly whisked the noblewoman's group away were those three brats he had killed before.

"Relax! As long as we slide fast enough, their arrows won't reach us." Simba calmed the passengers as he spurred the huskies on.

"...Not that their arrows would have great effect even if they catch up." He added, perhaps sensing that his previous assurance was less than convincing.

Meanwhile, Zazu seized the opening to glance behind, only to find that the archers were drawing some red clay from their hip sack and applying it to their arrows.

Zazu told the others about what he saw, and the noblewoman's face fell. She turned to check behind, and exclaimed in shock. "It's Igni Clay; it's used for enchantment!"

"Say what?" Simba asked distractedly while keeping the sled going.

"It's an alchemy material, neither common nor rare and made from scraps of Illum crystals with the fire element trait. There are many uses for it in alchemy, and it's not expensive since it's not rare..."

"Put all that into a single sentence!"

The noblewoman appeared to be learned in alchemy and started rambling away confidently, but having no time for that, Simba promptly cut her lecture shortly and rudely.

"In short, when you paint it on the volatile metal of weapons and left it fly..."

Before she finished, one of the arrows landed on the snow beside them.

Booooooom!

That part of the snowy ground exploded, the thick snow layer vanishing with a crater blasted into the earth which should have been frozen stiff.

Soon, the snowflakes that were sent flying formed a tiny mushroom cloud overhead that slowly descended from the skies, prompting the illusion of winter's return with all its goose-feather sized snow.

"...it explodes."

"It's a little late for that!" Simba cried as he struggled to calm the startled huskies as he continued driving them towards Lancaster while evading the Igni arrows.

The huskies that had been a little leisurely and even thinking about rolling about in the snow were certainly frightened by the arrows. They actually stopped drooling as well and started running as fast as they could.

Zazu and Nala were not idling on the sled idea, but trying their best to use their spells or sacred arts to shoot those arrows down.

Nonetheless, pillars of snow kept blowing up on both sides of the sled, missing it by inches. It was therefore worth rejoicing that the city watch soldiers were not believers of the God of Games or the God of the Hunt, and their arrows did not have accuracy aid like the Rangers would.

Moreover, Codo Bosra was no city of horseback riders, and the archers' skill of shooting while riding was modest at best. They could aim better when their humpbeasts stayed still, but once those creatures start running, they could only depend on luck with the bumpiness, which meant that their accuracy was poor.

At first, Simba intended to flee all the way to Lancaster... or at least to a sentry spot nearby since those soldiers would not dare to be reckless where the guards could see.

In fact, they did not even have to get so far-they just had to reach the Lancaster troops that were tasked with culling swamp fishmen to turn the tables on those Codo Bosra soldiers!

Nonetheless, the Igni arrows messed up his plans.

Normal arrows would never have cut down their HP by much. They could just use healing potions when their HP dropped to critical levels, not to mention that Zazu and Nala could be meat shields for the others as well.

On the other hand, the Igni arrows were too powerful and there was no telling how much actual damage it could inflict. Still, by the looks of the towering pillars of snow, and their own tiny bodies at less than Level 10 in contrast, they are going straight to the Black Hut if even one arrow hits them.

"Wait, aren't we going to Lancaster?" The noblewoman asked, noticing that Simba had steered the sled onto a different path.

"Those guys will hit us sooner or later, whether luck is on their side or not," Simba explained. "I'm sorry, but this sled is just not tough enough-it's over for us if they even get one hit."

***

When they were coming to rescue the noblewoman and Gwendolyn, Simba realized how unreliable the sled was: the slightest shake would make it creak at the joints, and an entire part of the sled would be left in the snow if they accidentally run into a piece of rock.

In fact, the sled had shrunk by a fifth of its original size on its way here.

"Well, running this way wouldn't make a difference either, would it?"

The noblewoman had looked around, taking in their surroundings and realizing that they were heading towards the hunting grounds. The garrison here had all been killed by the human-faced fish monsters, and those monsters in turn killed by the murderer of Baron Nigelania. And while there was that hut where they could take refuge, their assailants had Igni Clay, and an ordinary building such as that would never stop it...

"It'll be fine. Trust us."

Simba said seriously but did not turn back, focusing on steering the sled instead.

The noblewoman was silent for a while before nodding somberly.

The truth was that she had many questions.

The patrol captain did not appear to be lying when he told her that he had killed these children, and yet here they were in perfect condition... somehow getting their hands on a sled too...

And why would they go so far to help them? Or should she say, why would the guild of the Baron Nigelania's murderer help them to this extent?

If they only wanted good ties with Lancaster, they only had to rescue Gwendolyn who would be easily brainwashed. The noblewoman and her maids were unnecessary, especially the noblewoman herself who was a mere burden without any combat ability. That was why dumping her so that they could escape with the enemy breathing down their necks was the most basic move.

But even now, the three children were doing all they could to hold off the city watch soldiers of Codo Bosra. They show no inclination to dump her even against such odds, and might never have actually considered that possibility too.

Watching as the sled was about to be blown by the Igni arrows into pieces, the noblewoman finally couldn't stop herself. "Leave me and run, I'll try to buy you some time! It's alright as long as you can get Gwendolyn to safety!"

"Milady!" The two handmaidens had tears welling in their eyes, having barely a breather before motion sickness left them half-dead. "We're coming with you!"

Mistress and servants watched each other, and despite often seeing each other faces, it was a little chagrining to lay things bare like that.

Still, strong emotion overwhelmed them after the embarrassment-being childhood friends in the first place, they had accompanied the noblewoman even after she was married and left for Lancaster.

They remained ever loyal even now, and would never leave her side.

"What are you talking about?"

Simba, however, was unmoved at all, and merely found their behavior perplexing. "There's no need to kill yourself-we've reached the hunting grounds!"

"As I was saying, running here won't change a thing..."

"If I remember correctly, there's a mini colosseum, right?" Simba asked even as he kept the sled going, paying her no attention at all.

Since there were certain ferocious beasts that were usually prowling at the hunting grounds, the nobles would occasionally capture them during their hunts and pit them against other beasts in the colosseum for entertainment as the creatures tore at each other necks.

However, that colosseum was too small-it was a small facility for pleasure-seeking, and could hardly be compared to a standard colosseum.

"Wouldn't that place be less defendable than the hut?" The noblewoman could not help asking in return. "What are you thinking?!"

Simba didn't answer, instead driving the sled straight inside the colosseum while knocking down the paddock.

The soldiers pursuing them charged right within as well and surrounded them.

Even though winter had passed, the weather hasn't been nice with cloudy skies over the last two days, leaving the mornings in darkness.

A canopy was attached over the mini colosseum of the hunting grounds, which was the reason why it was much darker here than a normal colosseum-they could not actually see the spectators' seats clearly.

"We've got you! Surrender, there's nowhere to run!" The patrol captain finally looked excited, having surrounded Simba and the others inside the colosseum. "There's twenty of us, and I'm amongst the finest swordsman of Codo Bosra. There's no getting away!"

That was when Simba composedly stood up from the sled and clapped in his face.

Confused by the child's actions, the patrol captain seethed viciously. "Don't move! Don't try anything funny!"

But Zazu and Nala stood up from the sled as well, smiling as they joined the clapping.

Soon, however, the Illum lights hanging over the canopy shone, dispelling the darkness shrouding the spectator seats.

There, the near-hundred Players who had just finished slaying the Marsh Drake rose from the spectator seats. They had all seen Simba's post on the player forums and hurried here, all of them now clapping for the patrol captain who had been boasting away despite being less than Level 20.