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The carriages had stopped and all lined up along the side of the road while the Chom Brothers were busy tying them together. This way, it was possible for one person to drive all the vehicles.
After an intense argument, Annie had finally convinced the witches, taking them to follow Clown, plunging into the forest.
Now, it was the remaining people and Yorko's turn.
Rockhill carried a bag of food and walked passed him, saying, "My lord, we must leave now. If the enemies notice us, then all of our previous efforts will be wasted."
"Wait a minute. I want to talk with her."
He thought it would take him awhile to make a decision, but he actually needed less than 15 minutes.
No. 76 voluntarily stepped forward.
As did Rockhill and Annie, but as the leader of the group, Yorko eventually selected No. 76 to stay behind to cover their retreat.
"I went through five years of combat training at the 'Black Money'. I'm a fast runner, too, so don't worry about me." No. 76's words were simple, as simple as an ordinary farewell. "Isn't there a village nearby? When I drive the carriages to the village and sneak into the crowd, they won't be able to find me at all. After this crisis, I'll join you guys again—right at the border city of the Kingdom of Graycastle. Please remember to wait for me there."
Meanwhile, the magician was quietly whispering to him that the village was more than 10 miles away. Given the distance, it would be impossible for anyone to make it there before the knights arrived, and after taking the time to tie the carriages together, their chances became even slimmer.
If our pursuers haven't been ordered by the King of Dawn to capture witches, there isn't a need for concern. However, if what the magician had predicted happened to be true... Yorko could easily imagine how the knights would vent their anger once they found out No. 76 had deceived them.
Yorko had a sinking suspicion that if the carriages happened to be stopped by the knightage from the king's city of Dawn, he would be the sole survivor. Appen Moya would likely ask Roland for a ransom, and he might ridicule and make him a laughing stock among the nobility. However, he would not hastily send him to the guillotine, unfortunately, anyone else that got caught would end up being executed without remorse.
He thought, perhaps, he should be the one to stay behind to attract the attention of their pursuers.
He wanted to step forward numerous times but he kept chickening-out every time he tried to open his mouth.
[An ambassador represents his king. I can't let them catch me and mock me because that would be the same as humiliating the King of Graycastle.] Yorko comforted himself. Unfortunately, he now was unable to look No. 76 in the eye.
[Goddammit! She's just a bought slave.]
Yorko walked over to No. 76 and just as he was about to say something, she spoke first, "My lord, this is my decision. This has nothing to do with the 'Black Money'—even though Silvermask always instructs us to be ready to sacrifice ourselves for it, however, I don't like it at all. I thought I would be living underground for my entire life to adulate those customers until I grew old and became the new Silvermask. Or, sent off to become a handyman also to never to see the sun again. Fortunately, you brought me out of that place. You made it so I could feel the vastness of the outside world and I've no regrets now. Please hurry into the forest. You're running out of time."
No. 76 smiled and said, "Thank you, my lord. If you hadn't said anything, I would have been beaten to death in that underground limestone cave. My life belongs to you, and I may survive this crisis. If I do, let's meet in the Kingdom of Graycastle."
The Chom Brothers were behind Yorko urging him, "My lord, we have to go now."
Yorko took a deep breath, turned around, and left.
"Yes, she's just a slave."
[This is the best option.]
Yorko believed this, but he still felt an indescribable uneasiness in his heart.
Before he entered the forest, he turned one last time to look back. The carriages had begun to move slowly, driven by No. 76. She didn't linger and she didn't wave to bid farewell, she acted as if this were a common departure.
Just like the way she volunteered.
Soon, the shade from the forest blocked his view.
No. 76 did not drive the carriages all the way to the village.
After traveling for about 300 feet, she reined in her horse and stopped the carriages.
She wouldn't be able to see the entrance of the forest anymore if she walked further.
She jumped off her horse and sat on the back of the last carriage, quietly waiting for the arrival of their pursuers.
She had been waiting for quite some time, however, it felt as if only a moment had passed. Waiting was a habit she had developed over her very long life, so she had become accustomed to it.
As the sun began to set in the west she could finally see the knight's figures appearing at the end of the road.
They didn't wear an emblem or ribbon as the knightage of the king's city did but based on their exquisite armor and high horses they were from some big city.
No. 76 tactfully counted the number of knights. There were 35 of them, half of which were squires whose equipment and actions seemed to be more refined than the knights from a small town or village.
The leader of the knights frowned when he saw the carriages waiting on the side of the road. He cracked his whip and the knights swarmed forward, surrounding them.
"Sir Lougan, there's no one else in the carriages!"
"Interesting... It looks like our Ambassador of Graycastle sent out scouts." Lougan smiled scornfully, "Caro, Jester, you two go back and check for footprints on both sides of the road. Since they've abandoned their carriages and fled, they must have left some trace."
Lougan's words conveyed his intent.
"Sir, what about the woman?..."
"Cut off her hands and feet, then interrogate her. Unfortunately, since she dared to stay behind, you probably won't get any information from her."
No. 76 stood up as she said, "There's no need for an interrogation. They fled into that forest not too far behind you, but..."
"But, what?" A knight drew his sword with one hand and stretched out his other to try and grab her arm.
Apparently, the knights were not going to spare her life, even if she told them what they wanted to know.
"But, you guys won't get the chance to see the witches again."
With her impressive speed, No. 76 lifted her hand and clutched the wrist of the closest knight. She pulled his arm, sending him up into the air, flying involuntarily toward her.
She took this chance to slip his head under her armpit, getting him into a headlock.
She used her shoulder and squeezed. His armor made an unpleasant rattling noise and then with a snap, his helmet was dislodged, leaving a fist-sized gap in his armor near his throat.
The knight cramped violently, mouth gaping like a fish that had just been pulled from a river.
"Let go of Charlie!"
"Goddammit! Kill her!"
The other knights all pulled out their swords and thrust them towards No. 76.
No. 76 tossed the dead knight toward them, forcing them to pull back their swords. Taking her chance, she picked up the dead knight's sword and struck out at the nearest enemy.