Chapter 72:

Arriving at Elzur

Mad God


"This is a grave problem! We will be held responsible if we don't know which group did it! Worse, what if they come and blackmail us with what they took?" the region's logistic minister asked as the main leaders of the few departments held the meeting in the city hall's private council room.

They sat at an oval table, the people who held power over everyone else in the past few years. Namely, they were Jarkat, the finance minister and main Leader of the group, Penvise the logistic minister, responsible for transporting the resources and wine in and out of the region; Zergolt, the garrison leader, responsible for the region's military and law enforcers and finally Haptun the local nobles and landowners' representative. All of them were someone who never bothered with cultivation, simple people, blessed with the most innate human trait. Greed. Being able to command those cultivated by the nature of their authority gave them such an ecstatic feeling, it was deeply addicting, and they were stuck in its grip already...

"That would be the best because then we can work out something." Haptun cut in.

"The main problem is, a quarter of the guards there were our people…" Zergolt tapped on the table with a furrowed brow. "We are forbidden from working together with local businesses! If the royals get a whiff of this…!"

"On paper, yes, but nobody follows that rule!" Jarkat clicked his tongue.

"Why are we even worried?" Haptun raised his eyebrows. "It's not like slave trading is illegal!"

"Didn't you listen?" Penvise snorted. "We are forbidden to meddle in something like this! It's one thing to dabble in trading a little, but we must be independent and unbiased as ministers!"

"Plus, this was going on under the table! It wasn't reported anywhere, no taxes, bigger profit!" Jarkat held his head. "Why do you think you can bathe in the finest bath salts from the Storm Coast every day, eating delicacies from any territory you fancy, even those rare delicacies imported from the Empire? Think a little, gentlemen!"

"Plus, they were acquiring slaves by not just trade or contracts but by force too." Zergolt lit up a cigar, imported straight from the Naulin Kingdom.

"And?" Haptun leaned back. "Let's blame it on the Ironclaws! We didn't know about it, and if it comes to light, it is nothing more than a smear campaign now because some rival gang attacked them, and they want to drag the authorities in too!"

"If there are no other options, we can do that, but only as a last resort as it stands on shaky legs." Jarkat shook his head. "The main problem is, they kept records! I understand a big operation needs to trace what goes where by whom, or they would collapse into a mess. But I told them to burn evidence every second day, at least! Fucking hell… this is why I say cultivators have muscles only and no brain!" He massaged his forehead.

"What should we do?" Penvise asked, nervously playing with his fingers.

"First, we all should purge every evidence leading to us! Documents, excess luxuries, people!" Jarkat looked around the room. "We need to get ready if someone from the royal family arrives to inspect us; we need to look clean if they were the ones who did it! But… hopefully not, because then we would be in cuffs already! Also, I'll send it to the Governor, and we need to tell her what happened, leaving out some… minor details. We need to feed that stupid girl with the, let's just say, correct information and steer her the correct way. If she stands behind us, the royal family stands behind us, and we are in the green. Got it?"

"That is the easiest way." Zergolt nodded, followed by the others, agreeing after a few seconds.

"Good!" Jarkat leaned back with a calmer look now, his brain already writing up the part he would play before the Governor.

Later in the morning, when Lulu arrived and listened to their story, she was furrowing her brows all the time but let them explain everything. By the words of Jarkat, it seemed a local branch of a slave trader organization, from where she also bought Yanda, was raided, the goods stolen, and everyone killed. Jarkat painted a picture of some unknown, vicious bandits or even the doings of rebellious slaves, and this may be just the beginning of a revolt in the territory.

"We advise and ask of you, Lady Governor, to consider enacting martial law on the territory until they are caught and brought to justice!" Jarkat finished his tale, bowing his head deeply.

"They do seem dangerous. But enacting martial law… Wouldn't it hamper the output of our region, impacting the whole Kingdom?"

"It would only mean stricter oversight of the vineyards, the roads in the region, and especially the region borders' traffic," Zergolt explained.

"I see. I agree; you should do what you feel is necessary to catch them quickly and bring them to justice! You don't need to inform me of other small things, only the end results." Lulu waved her hand, and after it seemed there was nothing more, she just left, in tow with Yanda, who was required to follow her anywhere.

"That was easy," Penvise whispered, leaning back, letting out a breath of relief.

"We are blessed to have her around." Jarkat chuckled.

While they were already planning how to enforce an even stricter grip over the region, not just in a chance to find the culprits but also to break down any remaining opposition they had in the local nobles. What started out as a headache now seemed like it would be turned into something advantageous for them.

When Lulu arrived back at her villa, taking a relaxing bath, Yanda stood beside the bathtub with towels ready for when she got out.

"I think that was a grave mistake," Yanda spoke up.

"We had this talk already. Stop it! You are starting to annoy me!" Lulu replied quickly with closed eyes, laying back in the water filled with rose petals.

"They are using you, Master. It is clear as day!"

"You think I don't know?" Lulu chuckled. "Let them! I couldn't care less; if it causes my father more headaches, it's even better. He tried to sell me to some fat fuck so he could control another family under him! I'm not some asset to shuffle around as he sees fit. I am already at the 4th stage, yet only 21! Do you think I am someone who wants to be the wife of some 40 years old noble who is weaker than me? Please!" She opened her eyes, looking at Yanda. "Here is good, I can focus on cultivating, and everything else is not my problem."


….
…..

"The whole base is gone?" a middle-aged man asked, wearing an expensive suit, sitting behind a giant desk filled with scattered documents while puffing out a ring of smoke, taking another puff from his pipe. His black, short hair had some silvery lines at its sides, and the same was true for his short beard. His blue eyes looked at his captain calmly, who came to report the events happening at the Elroth's territory.

They were at a luxurious hotel, far away, in the eastern part of the Kingdom of Ten, at the Enjin family's territory, bordering the Storm Coast. Behind him, from the other side of the double window, one could see the raging sea, and the sky was dark, filled with constant rumbling and lightning as the rain widely splattered on the glass, blurring the view.

He was Neiro, the Leader of the Ironclaw gang. He was not just someone who rose to the position; he has held this title for 400 years now, being the one who established the gang and spread its influence slowly but surely.

"Yes, Leader. Our other bases are intact in the territory; we doubled the security to ward against another surprise attack."

"Good. Send the Hounds there; they should be able to figure out if this was our guy's fault, someone provoking us, an inside job, or rebellion. Tell them they have the authority to interrogate those idiot ministers too! I get the feeling they are connected to this. If they think they can cut us out or something stupid like that… they lived a far shorter life than me but longer than they should've…." He chuckled while his captain also smiled.

"It will be done, Leader. It may take a few days; they just returned from an assignment. Probably they are drunk in one of our brothels."

"Let them rest for tonight, but I want them informed by daybreak of their new mission!"


….
…..

Kyu was lying in the shade of a giant cherry tree, lazing on her back, while Ren sat next to her, lying against her fluffy side, reading through stacks of papers.

When they arrived, to not freak out the city's people at once with their mounts, 01 and 02 were sent to rent out a villa on the outskirts, where they could keep a lower profile. At least for now.

"Found anything useful?" Isha came up, wearing a red, short skirt with a white blouse, letting her hair flow behind her as she held a glass of wine, clearly enjoying herself.

"Where is your uniform?" Ren looked up at her with a raised eyebrow.

"Come on, let me relax a little~ This looks good, no? I bought it this morning~ Man, this city has some exquisite clothing stores, and their wine is something else!"

"Hahh… sure, sure." She rolled her eyes. "Ren does the work while others do the playing. I get it!" grumbled a little, pouting.

"Ahaha, here, I brought one for you too!" Isha presented a very revealing top and mini skirt for her in one hand.

"Huh?" Ren put down the papers, standing up, immediately switching from a grumbling, serious team leader to an excited teen "Nice~ Thanks! This looks great; LeiLei is going to love it!"

"Fufufu, I bet! Here!" She gave it to her and also shared her glass of wine

"This is truly good! Mmm! We should buy some and bring them back as souvenirs to the others."

"Sure! So? What did you find?"

"Going by it, they are a giant organization, spanning multiple kingdoms here, at least 4 out of the 10. I can't make out too many deeper details. But the one we demolished was the most western of theirs, just a few years old. Their main supporters were the ministers in charge here. I guess the Governor has little power or only a figurehead if this can go unpunished!"

"01 and 02 should come back with more information about the city," Isha added after listening to her.

"If they aren't seduced by the sights like you were! What about Lacuss? Did you see him? He disappeared after arriving here, together with his wolf."

"Nope. I have not seen him. He will show up when he must, I guess."

"Really? Such a loose group… hah! Anyway! The rest of the documents only go back for a month or so and are about inventory, buyers, and sellers. They ran a pretty lucrative operation, you know. And organized."

"What are your plans? Make it public? Fan the flames and make a public outcry?"

"In a place where slavery is the norm? Won't work. Maybe if we spread their corruption and whatnot, we could do something. But these are all slow and inefficient methods. Maybe even something they expect, and I hate politics."

"So?"

"Honestly… I'm stuck!" She sighed, shaking her head.

"That's… new. I never expected something like this from you."

"I could pit the local nobles who run the vineyards against them or instigate revolts because I bet they hold the region with a firm grip that suffocates the rest…. But…”

"But?"

"That would take a lot of innocent lives too. I'm not into that. On paper, it sounds noble, but thinking about it logically, it could cost many lives that normally lived until we came and took a giant shit on their doorstep, lighting it up, then leaving."

"If you put it that way… yeah… I can see your point!" Isha sighed, shaking her head. "A civil war could ruin a lot of families. So? What then?"

"I want to wait for 01 and 02 and, after a little more thinking, maybe visit the Governor. Let us see what he or she has to say about it! As much as I want to screw with the Kingdom, I bet an instability here wouldn't hurt the Naulins at all… and throwing innocent lives into turmoil because of my selfish reasons is not something I am willing to do."

"So you can be noble, huh? But I admire that. And don't take this wrongly! Hmph!"

"Hehehe, I won't ~" Ren giggled. "But one thing is sure, we can find the rest of these Ironclaw slavers in this territory, at least demolish those and pin that on the ministers. How does that sound?" She looked up at her with an impish grin

"That is a good idea~" Isha nodded.

"Hehe, we will do that then! But first, we visit the Governor tomorrow. Maybe we can get some help locating them. For now, let's go and change; I want to try on that outfit you bought… and go out and have some fun! Maybe we should find a great place tonight and have a party!"

"Hey, now you are speaking my language!"

"Fufufufu sounds good, doesn't it? No boys allowed tonight~."

"Sure! Let me put this on you; I bet even Leinor would call you a mini bitch in this!"

"Nyahahaha~ Probably, you know, he can be forceful in bed!" She grinned as she followed Isha into the house.

"Really? Out with it, I'm curious. He looks so… soft."

"Nooo, he is NOT. You know…" Ren laughed, telling her everything as the two girls forgot everything, turning into two teens and having fun.

When 01 and 02 came back, it was already dark, but the whole place was empty; only Kyu was still sleeping in the big garden.

"Where is Master?"

"Or everybody." 02 echoed.

"Did they leave for the night? Haahh… what now?"

"I don't know. Should we look for them?"

"I don't know… if they wanted that, Master surely would leave a message. Well… if she is not here… should we go back out?"

"You mean?"

"Have some… fun? Well… she didn't tell us we couldn't!" 01 looked around, making sure they were alone.

"Well… yeah, we were not… um… let's go!" He nodded, gulping excitedly before both of them also disappeared.


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…..

It was close to noon the next day when Ren started to wake up. It needed a few rounds of energy circulation to clear her thoughts and expel any residue of alcohol as she looked around. Her head felt like splitting, and when opening her eyes, she could only see stars shining before her.

She was in a hotel room but barely remembered how she got there. Looking down, it was unexpected, but she was completely naked and started feeling the softness under her palms.

"Mmhm…" came a soft moan as Isha was sleeping below her, without any clothing, while Ren used her breasts as pillows, nestling between them while she slept.

"Damn… they are so big and so soft… Zern, you are a lucky one, huh?" Ren sighed with clear jealousy in her voice, patting her flat chest. "What the hell happened last night?"

Moaned, slowly getting up from her, looking around, seeing their clothes thrown all around the room. Scratching her head, she started to gather them, and that was when she looked into the mirror and blinked, not believing what she was seeing… She was wearing one of the slave collars.

"The fuck?" Ren gawked, yelping out loudly.

“Mmm… my head…” Isha woke up to hear her shaking her body, doing the same as Ren, removing the dizziness and feeling of wanting to throw up.

"The fuck is this?!" Ren asked again, almost screaming, looking at Isha, pointing at her neck.

"Do... don't scream… please…." She moaned, holding her head but seeing the collar, she instantly burst out laughing, forgetting everything else.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh! I bet this was your idea!"

"Ahahaha, I don't know! Ahahahaha, this is hilarious; you became a slave after one night? Damn, you are a masochist, are you not?!" Isha laughed so hard she almost choked on her saliva.

"Sure, I am. I love being a pet! The problem is, I don't remember! But I am sure this was your doing!"

"Maybe? Let's try it. Sit!"

"You- eh?!" Ren felt a sting in her brain and an irresistible urge to comply as she plopped onto her butt.

"Bwahahahaha! This is awsoooome!" Isha wheezed, almost crying, while her naked body shook everywhere.

"Fuck… what… damn... It is." Ren rolled her eyes and pointed at it to destroy it, but her own body refused to stab into it, to her surprise. "What…the...? Come on… this…." She tried again, but before she could tap it with her finger, laced with electricity, it just stopped.

By now, Isha was coughing, choking, trying to calm down but without clear success, leaving Ren sitting on the floor with a sulking expression, looking up at her on the bed.

“This… is… the… worst… day… of… my… life…” She gritted her teeth, still sitting there, unable to stand up because of Isha's command. "And it's still only morning…."