Chapter 90:

Briefing on Bandits

Mad God


Lulu, Yanda, and Kyu were traveling alongside one of the many roads of the Empire, going towards the south, namely towards the plains that are called the "Belly of the Empire," as most of the food production took place there. The air was hot, even though it was yet to be noon. Endless fields stretched across the horizon, growing crops of multiple kinds, slowly getting ready for harvest when in a few months, fall arrived. No trees were in sight, so the clear sky and bright sun shone directly on the trio as they walked along the dirt road. It was as if no other people existed besides them at that moment. The last farmhouse they walked past was in the early morning; since then, they saw no soul, only lush fields.


"I just don't get it… how can people live like this?" Lulu moaned, fanning herself with a paper fan, letting her blackish-purple uniform loose, showing a lot of skin at the top. "It's like I traveled back in time, leaving civilization, straight back to ancient times."


"If you have enough energy for moaning, you have enough for walking," Yanda added calmly.


"Hmf. Tell me I'm wrong! This is a no man's land-"


"You are wrong." He cut into her sentence, not letting her finish.


"Tsk. Sure M.A.R.”


"Mar?" Kyu blinked her eyes, not understanding what they were talking about, tilting her plump head sideways, wearing her long, double-colored hair in two buns.


"Mr. Always Right." Lulu chuckled. "He doesn't feel good until he contradicts me somehow!"


"You are just biased." Yanda countered, "Without this land, there wouldn't be enough food for the tens of millions living in the Empire. You try to tell me your Kingdom has no places like this?" He smiled with a sarcastic tone.


"Dunno. I never paid attention as I was never in the picture of inheriting something, being a girl and all! But I think every Kingdom at our side is self-sufficient if it must be!"


"So this whooooole place is… food?" Kyu asked once again, already salivating and smacking her lips.


"Yes. But they are still growing; it's not ready yet." Yanda nodded, patting her head, calming down the little demon.


“Oh… bummer…” She moaned but still stretched out her arm, and a blackish vortex appeared on her palm as she grabbed a still unripe corn, pulling it to her through the air, trying to munch on it. Yet as her mouth tried to bite down, no matter how hard she concentrated, her jaws couldn't shut close. "Kyuuuuuh…" She moaned, throwing it away with giant, sparkling tears in her eyes. "Kyu hates this!" She grabbed her collar, trying to take it off without success.


"Now, now, look at her!. Where is your resistance? Look how Master enslaved the innocent girl~" Lulu whispered to him, looking at Yanda sideways, provoking him.


"It's a punishment from Master. It's not permanent." He retorted calmly, patting Kyu's head, calming her down. "And you know how she is… She eats even when she is not hungry."


"Kyu is hungry!" She protested, stomping on the ground with a big pout.


"We just had breakfast." Yanda looked down at her.


"Second breakfast!" She protested louder.


"Also…" Yanda continued, lecturing, "We are already at a level where we can go weeks without food or water, Kyu. This is why Master punished you."


Mentioning not eating for weeks drew an ashen color on Kyu's face looking up at him pleadingly.


"Nooo… Kyu can't do that!"


"Ahaha, don't worry, little one, I'll feed you~" Lulu chuckled from the other side, playing the devil on her little shoulders.


"Yey, you are the best!" Kyu laughed immediately, tossing each of her worries away as she hugged Lulu's sides.


"Do not spoil her; Master already irreversibly did so." Yanda sighed, shaking his head.


"Relax, she is still growing! She needs energy for it." Lulu grinned, prompting Kyu to nod furiously. "But you need to be obedient to Aunt Lulu, okay?"


"Um, um! Kyu listens!"


"Tsk… you changed nothing." Yanda clicked his tongue.


"Heh, if you would be a little more obedient too…." She whispered, licking her lips. "So, when are we going to arrive? We have already been on the road for a week."


"Soon. The city we are heading to is Ushtagat. We will learn more about our task from the City Lord. Their local military couldn't keep up with the bandits' numbers in the region and asked for assistance from the Emperor. Until official help arrived, we were contacted and offered multiple missions to weed out precise bandit camps. We are not the only ones who came here; other groups from the Sect are active in the region. Only Master chooses the most challenging ones for us." he flashed a few letters in his hand before putting them back into the little, spatial bag on his belt given to him by his Master.


"Yeah, show off if you want; I don't mind. I told you I am fine with you being named the leader for the mission and getting the good stuff. You are more logical than me anyways!"


"Oh?" He raised his eyebrows, not expecting her words.


"Heh, You think I don't know my strengths and weaknesses? Please…” She rolled her eyes. "So? What are the exact missions?"


"I don't know the details; we are going to be briefed by the City Lord, as I said. I only know there are going to be three bandit groups we need to take care of."


"Nice! Should we just massacre them, or do we need to capture them and bring them back for hanging?" Lulu asked with a grin.


"There are… no instructions about that."


"Double Nice."


"Double rice?" Kyu turned her head. "Kyu likes rice!"


“No… not rice…” Lulu chuckled, and even Yanda flashed a smile before hiding it from Lulu.


….

…..


Since leaving for the southern region, the sun was nearing the horizon as they arrived near the first city they saw. Ushtagat was built not long after the Empire formed, and when it was established, it fell on one of Aerthus's first ministers to govern it and set up the region as the pantry of the Empire. It had 8 meters tall, thick walls, surrounded by fields and farmhouses outside, and stood out from the flat land like a sore thumb, recognizable from far away.


The current ruler, who called himself City Lord, was still from the same family, wholly loyal to the royal bloodline. His name was Jarik, a cultivator in the Harmony Realm, but he reached it only in the 4th stage of Body Refinement. He was already looking like someone in his mid-forties, having a receding brown hairline. However, his body still radiated energy, wearing simple clothing without any jewelry when he met with Yanda's group in his castle's study.


The study was filled with the smell of incense, and the 2-meter tall bookshelves were filled to the brim with thick books and reports dating back centuries. Jarik was sipping on a cup of tea when they were led in by a guard, and as he saw them, he stood up with a smile.


"It's great to meet you, Young Lords!" he said, cupping his hand, surprising Yanda, who returned the greeting quickly.


"Please, the honor is ours! We are here on behalf of our Sect, responding to your letter, asking for help. My name is Yanda, she is Lulu, and she is Kyu."


"Ah, yes, yes, Lord Aerthus, be blessed!" He nodded with eyes shining like a kid's; clearly, he was in awe of those selected to join the returned ancestor's new home as disciples. "If I were young again… I would travel the land to try to join, alas… I am already old and past my prime." He sighed with deep remorse in his voice.


"Every Empire raised official is this devoted? Complete brainwashing, huh?" Partly because he also didn't know. Lulu sent a voice transmission but got no answer from Yanda.


"We are honored that you think this way, City Lord!" Yanda continued, "Our Master said you would brief us about the complete details concerning your request."


"Yes, yes, please!" He invited them closer and rolled out a giant map on his table, pinning it down with stacks of books. "This is the most detailed map of the surrounding area. We identified three bandit groups and had spies planted inside them." He explained as he placed little pins on it.


"Into all three?" Lulu asked.


"Yes. We planted them years ago, they have been working with them for a long time now, and it wasn't easy to raise their ranks! But now they are trusted members of their groups."


"Can WE trust them?" Lulu asked with furrowed brows.


"Yes. They are loyal to me; they won't turn against us."


"Mm." Yanda nodded, prompting him to continue, while Kyu was just standing there, completely bored, picking her nose with a deadpan expression.


"Two have fixed bases; one is to the western side, near a valley that was an open-pit mine until around 200 years ago before it was abandoned. They built up a base inside; they number around 30 members. They mainly deal in drugs and smuggling. We had an epidemic of junkies here in the city 40 years ago. The drug they sold was even affecting cultivators and was highly addictive. We cracked down on it, yet it reared its ugly head again! I'd like to squash it once and for all before it becomes as bad as previously!"


"No problem. It will be done." Yanda agreed with a serious expression.


"The second group lives near the southern border, at the shores of Calm Blue. They are assaulting the caravans that go towards the docks and back. We have not just the farms here, but our shores are dotted with fishing towns and harbors, bringing in a lot of seafood and other niceties from deep underwater! Like beautiful pearls that fetch a good price in the Capital." He smiled proudly. "They occupy an abandoned harbor city. It was burned to the ground hundreds of years ago and was never rebuilt. Now it's occupied by this vermin, numbering around 40 members."


"It's a bit far away from here…" Lulu crossed her arms, watching the map.


"Yes, and whenever we tried to move a group of the army, they always noticed in time and could get away. Even if we cleaned out the ruins, they were back in a year or two."


"What about the third?" Yanda asked.


"Well… this is the… hardest." He sighed and circled a giant area to the west. "They are like nomads. Always on horseback, roaming the territory, and camping under the sky. They number around the same as the previous two, but they are always on the move! Even when our spy updates us with their position, they have already moved by the time we get the information. They prey on everything they come across, and when they need food, they rob it. Need women? Kidnap. Warriors? Kidnap kids and brainwash them. You get the gist of it."


"Yeah, catching them sounds tricky." Lulu chuckled before looking at Yanda. "How do you plan to do this?"


"We have three targets; we can split up and do it simultaneously." He said after a brief thought.


"You… plan to… split up?" Jarik blinked, surprised by his words, but as he had complete trust in the disciples of the Immortal Wonders Sect, he was happy this may go way smoother than he had thought.


"I'm fine with it." Lulu nodded, "Which one do you want to go after?"


"Leave me the ones in the old mine." Yanda pointed at the map.


"Not the ones at the shore?" Lulu chuckled, revealing a provocative smile


"No. I need to challenge myself! Having that endless body of water close by would make me rely on it too much. The mine will be fine. You?"


"I'll take on the nomads. I am pretty fast; even if they run, I can catch up!" Lulu answered with confidence.


"Then Kyu goes to the beach? Yey!" the plump little girl clapped happily.


"Ahaha, sure, and you know what? Master allowed me to give you orders." Yanda patted her head. "You can go and eat everything they have at their base."


"Really?" She squealed with a thin voice, looking up at Yanda with sparkling eyes.


"Yup. You can!" as his words left his mouth, the collar on her lit up, and Kyu happily started to dance around and shake her buttocks.


"Yey, yes~ Yummy food, yey~ Ahahaha!"


Noticing the strange expression on Jarik's face, Lulu quickly explained before he thought something really weird.


"She is not human and our Master's steed, in fact. Don't worry; she is pretty strong and reliable."


"Kyu is the strongest! But hungry… Can Kyu go? Can we go already?" she grabbed their clothes, trying to pull them out of the room.


"Relax, relax… we will!" Yanda calmed her down. "What can we expect from the spies inside?" He turned back towards the City Lord.


"They were already informed of your possible arrival. Here are three drawings of our people. The one in the mine will be on night guard. If you meet up with him, he can give you a complete map from the base down there! The second, down south, is on scout duty; he is patrolling this area during the daytime." He circled it for them on the map. "If you meet with him, he can guide you inside without noticing."


"Do you understand?" Lulu knocked on Kyu's head.


"Um! Meet the man in the picture, and he shows Kyu where she can eat!"


“Well… something like that…” Lulu murmured, twitching her mouth. "So, the last one is my contact?"


"Yes. Sadly I have no way of contacting him, but when you meet with the bandits, he can be of assistance. Also, he is at the Harmony Realm but has only displayed a talent for Body Refinement since joining them. He can help you prevent them from fleeing."


"Nice! I think we know everything there is to be known." Lulu grinned.


"I agree." Yanda nodded.


"Wonderful! I can arrange a place to stay for the night."


"No need." Yanda shook his head. "We are going now!"


"Amazing…" Jarik whispered, awed by their eagerness, and thanked them again for the help.


As they left the castle, Lulu stretched her arms looking sideways at Yanda.


"I bet you I'll be back before you do." She licked her lips.


"..."


"See? You even know~."


"Hmf, childish." He snorted, walking away, but she quickly caught up.


"What do you say? The one who arrives back here first gets to… I don't know, be the other's Master for a day or two?"


"..."


"I get it, I get it; you are too afraid to accept the bet."


"Just don't cry when you are late," Yanda murmured before disappearing, shooting out like a rocket, leaving behind a laughing Lulu.


"Gotcha!" She grinned with fired-up eyes as she followed suit and rushed out.


They did not realize the moment they stepped out of the castle, Kyu was already gone, on her way, fired up by the prospect of a feast and jumping over roofs, rushing towards the sea, already expecting to have a sumptuous dinner.