Chapter 6:

Chapter 6: Bring To Market

A Black Market LitRPG

Five days later…

Six associates were now lined up in a spare empty room, with only two basic long wooden tables in the middle and at the side along with chairs. They stared in awe at the equipment on the tables and the crates stacked at the back of the room, filled with flasks and portable arctech stoves.

Kyle had gotten Keith to use the remaining extra cash to buy them, with the one hurting the most being the arctech stoves.

“You, you’re number one. You weigh each of the ingredients before putting them into separate bowls.”

Two weighing scales were on the table, the counterweight already perfectly calculated. Kyle had gotten Keith to write labels on parchment onto the weighing scales, indicating which ingredient they were for.

“Next, number two.” Kyle motioned to another one. “You take each of the ingredients and put them into the same flask, and fill it up to the brim with water.”

“Finally, number three. You boil the flasks, each for exactly three minutes. No more, no less.”

Kyle then moved over to the other table, where there were only Euria Seeds and a few mortar and pestles.

“You, number four. You grind as many Euria Seeds as you can. Pour the oil out into a flask.”

“Number five. You boil the flask as long as possible until you see a dark yellow residue like this.” Kyle showed an example. “Then, for every other flask the group makes, you drip just a pinch in.”

“Number six. You then pack the normal flasks separately from the ones that have received the Euria Seeds residue. Everybody clear?”

They all nodded except for one who raised his hand. “Sir, sorry to ask, but what exactly are we making?”

“Stamina Recovery potions. A stark reminder – anyone, associate or even vipers, caught drinking the Euria-infused potions will immediately be punished heavily and imprisoned for a while. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Start now.”

The operation began, with the associates slightly fumbling about as they got used to handling the equipment. However, they went slow and steady, afraid of being chided by Kyle, who watched over them like a hawk.

Soon, after ten minutes of repetitive action, the muscle memory began to be engraved into them, making the job faster and similar to a factory line. Kyle nodded in approval before leaving the room.

The associates felt a sense of belonging and felt part of a greater whole. They might have had more passion for the job if they didn’t realize that they were basically performing menial labour, just like a factory worker.

Kyle’s idea of the production line wasn’t exactly unique to them – there were already plenty of factories in the vicinity doing the exact same thing, though they have yet to see one making potions en masse due to tight controls by the Alchemist Guild. “Didn’t I join the gangs so I didn’t have to do this kind of thing…?”

Kyle was not too worried about the recipe leaking – he himself did not expect to retain monopoly over such a simple modification to an already existing potion. He assumed that there were already thousands of alchemists who could do exactly what he was doing right now: the issue was the Alchemist Guild and its apparent laws against mass production.

He had yet to learn about the exact restrictions, but it was enough for him to try to lower the production cost while evading detection. This alone would be more than enough to cut into the market and begin making some much-needed profits to fuel his other plans.

Kyle returned to his office, checking a list of all businesses owned by Seven Snakes, sorting them out by revenue. It wasn’t so much of a list, seeing there were only two external businesses – a pub and a brothel. The brothel was performing very well by relative standards, providing the majority of the revenue.

He had been learning to read and write from Keith every night for the past few days. As he could already ‘speak’ the language, reading was fairly easy to pick up rapidly, though writing still needed some work. A lot of work.

He called Damian in. “In three hours’ time, we’ll visit the highest-performing brothel that the Seven Snakes own.”

“You mean the Lusty Arcian?”

“… Yes. Once the potion production has completed a crate, we will bring it over with us, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“One more thing. I want you to give Riker three Euria-infused potions in a single day. Follow the recommended dosage of eight hours. After that day, don’t give him any more, even if he asks for it.”

“…What? Why are we giving him our product?”

“Just do it. Make sure to feed him and provide water. I’ll check in four days later.”

Damian was uncertain about what Kyle wanted to do this time but agreed instantly, having lost all hope of trying to understand his mind.

The brothel was very well hidden, as prostitution was illegal in the city. It was nested on the second floor above a reputable restaurant, but only accessed via a hidden side entrance.

It was narrow and cramped, the violet carpeted floor on the hallways stained with bodily fluids from years ago or even recently. A dense fog of Euria smoke hovered permanently just under the arctech bulbs above that flickered white against the blue hue.

Kyle entered through the main entrance, noticing the décor to be highly feminine in every sense of the word, the flowery impression permeating the entire lobby area while a sensual tune wafted in through the perfumed air.

“Oh, my dear Damian, did you bring a new customer today? It’s a bit too early for any sort of action, no?” A toned muscular man was resting his head on his arm against the countertop, smiling at the two of them. He wore a pink formal shirt with black pants and sported a slick haircut.

Kyle was mildly impressed by how well the man carried himself. “Good afternoon. I’m here to meet Slavin Tudor.”

“That’s me!” The man said cheerfully before taking a closer look at Kyle. “Hmm, I think I remember seeing you before in the Seven Snakes…”

“He is the new gang leader of the Seven Snakes, Kyle…” Damian glanced back at Kyle.

“Just Kyle is fine.”

“Oh my, Ulon is dead? Finally! That fat pig deserved it; I never really took a liking to him. So, to what do I owe the pleasure? Perhaps you have come to sample some of our products? They aren’t ready yet, but I can call in a few of them as a special gift to our new leader.”

“I’m here to observe the operations if possible and discuss future plans regarding finances. You two,” Kyle motioned to the other two gang members outside carrying a few bags of potions. “Leave them here and return.”

Slavin watched intently at the reactions of the two gang members as Kyle ordered them. “Glimpses of leadership qualities, something Ulon clearly didn’t have. Am I about to see the rise of a new shining star, Damian?”

“I believe so. I hope so.” Damian nodded in agreement.

“Hmm, operations won’t begin until two hours later.” Slavin ran his hand over his beard, scratching it slightly.

“No matter, let’s go through your finances first.” Kyle pointed towards the accounts behind the counter.

“Ooo, a business-type leader as well! I like you even more now. Sure, go ahead. Seven Snakes own the majority of this place anyway - I just run it.” Slavin retrieved his account book and passed it to Kyle.

Kyle quickly glanced through the book, his eyes rapidly reading and looking out for discrepancies. “I note that most of the workers here usually take off days quite frequently?”

“Everyone in this line of work does. It is fairly exhausting, you know? Even our customers get tired as well.” Slavin explained. “We just run out of stamina faster, so we have to rotate our workers regularly. You can see this in our expenditures.”

“Indeed. Which is why I have a special proposition for you.”

The nightlife was roaring across the district, with hundreds of factory workers returning from their day job and trying to relax. Many sat at the various cheap food stalls at the markets, eating voraciously to compensate for the gruelling exertion of their jobs, living day-to-day off their measly pay.

Construction workers, wagon drivers and office workers alike mingled in a mess of people, patronizing every stall in the vicinity. Roadside food stall owners worked tirelessly through the night, frying up meat and vegetables in a never-ending cycle. Some grumbled as they ate at the makeshift tables and chairs propped up along the side of the road, knowing they have a long night shift ahead of them as they slurped on whatever concoctions came out from shady pots, only worried about every rakel they spent.

Even kids were out and about, begging on the streets or doing menial jobs for stall owners in return for a pitful wage. Other kids who were far more adventurous slunk through the crowds, snatching wallets and purses.

Drunkards sang and danced their stress and worries away, mingling with the bustling district's ever-growing crowd. Some stumbled home, shoving their way through the crowd. But not everyone made it out of the throng of people unscathed, some disappearing forever.

Streetside food was not the only thing on the menu for customers - the reputable restaurant beneath the brothel was booming as well, serving dishes to well-off families who ran farms, fishing trawlers and forestry companies or did administrative work. Even the enforcers of the Sanctum were having a break, simply enjoying their meals and laughing heartily with each other.

At the side of the restaurant in the dark alleyway, two men were squabbling right outside an inconspicuous entrance leading to a dodgy stairwell from which a clear cloud of Euria Smoke and overpowering perfume wafted down.

“Come on, man, just follow me! It’s going to be okay!” An older man slapped the younger one on the back.

“I don’t know… I haven’t done it before, and I don’t know what to do! To be honest, I’m pretty tired after today…”

“That’s exactly why you got to get it done today, Niko! Let out all that frustration at the job and have at it. Listen, I know the owner of this place, so just trust me, okay?”

Niko hesitated before nodding slightly. The older man immediately led him up the stairs, entering the brothel.

“Oh my, weren’t you just here three days ago?” Slavin smiled at the older man. “Already back for more? Won’t your wife miss you?”

“Ah fuck her; she’s probably out as well, screwing around. But err, she’s still in, right?” The older man leaned on the counter, a knowing look plastered on his face.

“Madison? Of course. In fact, we’ve recently received some additional products, so her schedule will be changed from every three days to every two days now.”

“Really? That’s fucking amazing!” The older man was extremely excited, but his mood was suddenly dampened. “Don’t think my aging body can keep up with it, I don’t have enough grit or stamina to do it that often…”

“Ah, for that we have a special gift for you. And for your newcomer friend as well.” Slavin retrieved two potions from behind the counter.

“What’s this?” Niko asked curiously, looking at the darkish-yellow potion. He had never ingested a potion before in his life, the cost always being far above his pay and his family’s means. What kind of factory worker could afford potions on the regular? Even buying one was like a month’s salary for Niko.

“Stamina Recovery Potions, on the house.”

“On the house!?” The older man nearly choked on his own tongue as he heard that. “Slavin, you must be rolling in the money now to be able to afford such expensive potions. The price of this would be almost the same as two weeks of pay for me at the factory!”

“Haha, you are all our dear customers! Why can’t I help you guys?” Slavin laughed it off.

Niko’s eyes’ bulged. A potion of this cost, for free? It sounded too good to be true, but before he could question it any further, the older man grabbed the stamina recovery potion from Slavin, popping the cork and immediately downing it.

Niko could visibly see the strength and vitality return to the old man, a far cry from his usual slack posture in the assembly lines. “Ohhh, that hits the spot! Niko, come on and try it!” The older man urged Niko on.

“Uhh, I don’t know, maybe I should save it for –“

“Don’t worry boy, I’ll give you one more after you’re… ‘satisfied’ here.” Slavin winked at Niko, who steeled his body. He gave one more hesitant glance at the older man, who nodded vigorously in response.

“You can trust him, Slavin’s been here for ages! Come on, boy, when have I ever been wrong? Hmm?”

Niko closed his eyes tightly with trust and drank the potion straight. He could feel the cold liquid rush into his stomach before a hot surging force raged through his muscles, relieving the aches and sores he had to endure on his factory job. Within a short moment, it felt as though he had just woken up after a restful sleep, ready to start the day anew. “This is awesome!”

“Ready to start?” Slavin motioned to a book, already filled with paintings of the girls working here. Niko gave a cursory glance at the book, before shirking away sheepishly. His reaction did not go unnoticed. “No worries then, I can get you a starter girl that will go easy. Follow me.”

Slavin led the two to their separate rooms with the girls waiting inside. Niko was still a bit hesitant, worried about what was about to happen. “Sorry, I’ve never done anything like this before… It’s my first time.” Niko confessed to Slavin.

Slavin patted his shoulder with a slight smile on his face. “Don’t worry, dear boy. You’ll be a regular with us in no time.”

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