"QiLingggg, feed meee," XiaoLong whines.
I look at him with a weird expression.
"My arms hurt…"
I sigh and pick up a spoon.
"Here you go~"
Commander Yang literally barfs at the PDAs and I laugh.
"Don't get jealous~ You have your SanXing~"
His face reddens once more, "Don't tease me please, your majesty."
XiaoLong frowns and wraps his arms around me, "Don't talk so intimately."
I laugh and pat his head, "We're not. It's just fun to tease people."
"You've caught a weird habit," he comments.
"Ah yes, how would you like to punish the Pirate League, your majesty?"
"Lock them up and let our parents deal with them. We don't know them as well, and our parents are still the rulers. In the meantime, XiaoLong, should we deal with the North?"
"Sure, we should clean that up," XiaoLong agrees.
Commander Yang pauses for a moment to process everything, "Ok, your majesty, I will assemble guards to help. How many do you need?"
I ponder, "Hmm, maybe three troops…"
I turn to XiaoLong, "That should be enough to surround the city right?"
"Yeah," he responds, calculating.
We dismiss Commander Yang, and head North after a day of rest.
The trip to the North was especially long, and XiaoLong had to knock me out a couple times. We arrived in a couple days.
"Ugh! What happened to my rest, my vacation?"
"Our honeymoon~" he corrects.
"Yes, yes, our honeymoon. Who would've guessed we'd be kidnapped, tortured, disguised, capturing criminals, saving the kingdoms, etc?" I retort.
We stroll through the city of Ri Kingdom.
"The people in this city also have those collars. That's weird… so the bandits have taken over towns of both kingdoms…" I conclude.
"Well, that is expected because of their rebellion."
The lifeless eyes of the townspeople don't even look up to see us. We arrive at the Inn and stay for the night. I open the window, allowing a refreshing breeze to come in.
Under the light of a lamp, I spy tens of the lifeless townspeople. Their lifeless eyes start to show a strange glint. They all head in the same direction: towards the mountains. Walking like zombies, the young and old, fat and slim, short and tall, townspeople walk in lines towards the mountains.
I tap XiaoLong's shoulder and put a finger over my mouth, signaling to be quiet.
"Let's follow them," I whisper.
We sneak around quietly, pouncing from roof to roof in our black cloaks that blend into the night. They start to speed up as they near the mountain, breaking into a run. They run quickly into the mine caves.
"Shh, let's wait 'till everyone goes in and then we'll follow," XiaoLong says.
We hide behind a boulder. XiaoLong buries his head in his hands.
"If you're tired, tell me, I'll carry you," I whisper, concerned.
XiaoLong puts his hand up, "No that's embarrassing, I'll be fine."
I glare at him.
"I swear," he finally spits out.
I nod, "You better not collapse like that again or else…"
I furrow my brows and talk in a lower whisper, "Not a single one of them doesn't have a collar."
"... that's creepy… it seems more like an ID than a fashion trend…" XiaoLong summarizes.
The last of the townspeople walk in, and we follow silently. Everyone cuts through the labels, saying do not enter, and I frown, remembering the shadow behind that door last time in the Yue Kingdom's northern city.
We walk and walk, for an entire half an hour before emerging into a gigantic room… and when I say gigantic, I mean gigantic. Thousands, if not, millions of people emerged into the enormous room, not just the townspeople from the Ri Kingdom town, but ones from other tunnels too, most likely, other towns.
The one thing they had in common is: they all wear the black collar.
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