Chapter 11:

Chapter 11: Addiction Symptoms

A Black Market LitRPG

The training routine went as planned. The main reason why Kyle wanted that many prisoners were due to the mental trauma inflicted on each prisoner after combat training. No prisoner could remain sane after being beaten up by twenty gang members in a row, continuously being healed.

“JUST LET ME DIE!” One of the Red Lion prisoners shook the pig iron bars of his temporary jail violently. They were segregated into separate cages, ensuring they couldn’t help each other to break out.

“Shut up, idiot; they can’t even hear you from inside this room,” Lionel grumbled. It’s only been a day since they got imprisoned, but already a few of the members’ mental states were at an all-time low.

But there was someone else in the room who clearly had it much worse than anybody else, judging by the continuous groaning, moaning, scratching of nails against rusted metal and clattering of teeth. Lionel glanced over at the cage of Riker, who was lying on the floor, breaking out in a cold sweat and shivering.

Lionel wasn’t particularly surprised to see Riker here after they were captured. Kyle was that strong, after all, so he didn’t expect Riker to escape either.

“Fucking hell, what did they do to you? Potion overdose?” Lionel asked, but Riker barely registered the question, only turning and tossing about on the cold metal surface.

At this moment, the room’s main door opened, revealing Kyle flanked by Damian.

Immediately the other Red Lions members started cursing and swearing at Kyle, blasting them with everything they had ever learnt in their short life within Raktor. Kyle simply raised an eyebrow at some of the more colourful expressions they had for him while Damian was lugging a sack of Stamina Recovery Potions, giving them one each.

Lionel grabbed the dark yellow potion flask, still slightly astonished at how many the Seven Snakes had. This was the third one they’d received since they arrived here. Going by Haui’s price, it meant Kyle had spent more than a thousand eight hundred on each prisoner. Is this guy loaded or what?

He noticed Damian didn’t give Riker any Stamina Recovery Potions, but the moment Riker’s eyes met Lionel’s and saw the potion in his hand, Riker turned into some sort of feral beast, lunging at the potion. The bars barely restrained him as Riker forced his arm through, trying to reach for Lionel.

“How many days has it been?” Kyle asked Damian.

“About four full days since we stopped, sir.”

“Hmm, he still seems a bit too feisty. Open the cage.”

Damian carried out the order, immediately opening the cage. Riker pounced on Kyle, but Kyle immediately parried his attacks and flipped him onto the ground, slamming him down hard.

Riker gagged, a slight froth coming out from his mouth, but he was far too weak to sit up. Lionel could tell Riker had not eaten for maybe a day or so. The food platter was still filled in the cage, with Riker barely touching it at all.

Kyle dragged Riker away from the room, with Damian, shutting the door behind them. A cold shiver ran down Lionel’s spine. What in the world are they attempting to do?

Riker was tossed into a spare empty room and tied onto a wooden chair, with only Kyle being the other person inside.

“How are you feeling?”

“f…fuck you…” Riker was still in a cold sweat, his eyes bloodshot as he tried to keep his head up facing Kyle.

Kyle placed his hands on Riker’s shoulder, who began to struggle but was unable to break free of the ropes and Kyle’s iron grip.

“Inspect. Analyze. Identify.”

Nothing appeared.

“Interesting.” Kyle thought he might have been able to see a statistical table of Riker or at least a status effect of some sort, but it did not exist. He tried a few more words, but nothing happened. Hmm…

Kyle began to examine Riker carefully, checking his eye reactions, heartbeat, pulse and so on. If only I had a full medical wing here. A side project for the future.

Noted symptoms: Increased sweating, heart rate, hot and cold flashes, slight hallucinations and perhaps loss of vision, not unlike dehydration.

“Riker.” Kyle stood in front of him, snapping his fingers to catch Riker’s attention.

“If you defeat me now, I’ll let you go and give you this potion.” Kyle pulled out a Stamina Recovery Potion from his suit’s inner pocket.

Riker’s eyes were suddenly rejuvenated with life, his head nodding vigorously. Just as Kyle removed the ropes, tying him down to the chair, Riker immediately attacked without hesitation.

Kyle did not counter-attack this time, merely dodging left and right as he observed Riker’s muscle movements and reaction timing. Too slow, too weak, lack of awareness. A shadow of his former self. Perfect.

“I’ve seen enough.”

“n-no wait ple-ase!” His hands tried to grab onto Kyle, missing completely as he collapsed onto the floor. Kyle tied him up back with ease, returning him back to his cage.

Damian and Keith waited for him in the office. “Continue to feed Riker, but do not give him any more Euria-infused Stamina Recovery Potions. Moving forward, for the remainder of the prisoners, we will split them into three groups.

Non-Euria Infused Stamina Recovery PotionsEuria Infused Stamina Recovery Potions non-stopEuria Infused Stamina Recovery Potions, stopping after the first day.

Each gang member will rotate and defeat one of each group every day in combat. At the end of the day, I will heal all of them. Got it?”

Damian nodded, leaving the room to pass down the modified training regime.

“Sir, a few people have shown up at the entrance, wanting to join the Seven Snakes,” Keith informed.

Faster than I expected. “Have them all gather in my office as soon as possible.”

Ten young men were lined up, their eyes eager and glancing around at the office, as well as staring at Kyle. Niko was among them, having quit his factory job after witnessing his performance of Kyle first-hand, completely enamoured by the prospect of gang life and being strong. How could he accept languishing in mediocrity when greatness was right in front of him?

Kyle recognised most of them as onlookers for the skirmish when he fought the Red Lions. He got up from his chair and inspected them for any irregularities. As he returned to the first of them, he suddenly launched a high kick towards the first’s face, only stopping mere millimetres away from his face. The man barely had time to react at all, only stumbling slightly backwards a few moments later in a panic.

“If you’re here, you know what you’re signing up for. Death is a real possibility.” Kyle returned to his standing position. “I am not looking for members who simply want to ‘take it easy’ or ‘boss others’ around. Mutual loyalty is an integral part of how I run the gang – do right by me, and I’ll do the same for you no matter what happens.”

Niko’s heart swelled with happiness, his fist clenching as he praised himself for making the right choice here. His prior factory job was soulless, with the manager barely caring if anyone died or was missing. They were just numbers to be replaced. Kyle’s words had struck a chord with Niko, causing him and a few others among them to nod their heads vigorously. It was right to come here!

Kyle’s modus operandi for the Seven Snakes was vastly different from the Red Lions. His former life as a galactic crime lord has taught him an important lesson in fostering loyalty among even the lowest of members.

He did not do it because he was nice. Conversely, he has identified this method to be the most secure in preventing betrayals. Something he did not do very well in his former life before he was killed by his own friend.

Performing a small beneficial action that is ultimately meaningless to me will mean a great deal to the recipient and will build loyalty over time. A minute cost for a great benefit. Kyle smiled gently as he noticed the happy expressions on their faces.

“There is a war with the Red Lions coming soon in about ten to thirteen days. If anyone wants to back out now, this is your last chance.” Kyle said with a stern, serious expression.

None of them backed out, standing firmly. All of them knew of the conflict – for some, it was why they signed up in the first place.

“Good. Keith will now perform an induction program for all of you today. At the end of it, I will present each of you with your armband as ‘associates’.” Kyle showed the Seven Snakes Armband, which had an elaborate crest on it.

A clear wave of excitement rippled through the ten men. Formal ceremonies to make them feel important are another critical key to retaining loyalty.

The ten men left the office with Keith in the lead, giving them a tour of the base. Kyle headed to the kitchen again, this time staring at the strength potion that now had its full description.

[SYSTEM MESSAGE] Item [Strength Potion (Basic)] Boost muscle strength for a short duration Good for quick short battles Recommended Usage: Drink entire flask in one go Active for five minutes Ingredients: Greis Powder, Olio Roots, Yul’s Tears, Water Cooldown: Thirty seconds Consuming another within a day will result in diminishing effects May experience side effects after main effect wears off

He sent for two gang members to collect the required materials of Olio Roots and Yul’s Tears, which came in a sack and pot separately.

Kyle’s face slightly baulked at the price of the Yul’s Tears reported. A pot with five kilograms of Yul’s Tears was more than ten thousand rakels. I only hope that the recipe is not too intensive on the percentage of Yul’s Tears used…

He internally cursed the Alchemist Guild and Haui for not providing the recipe. However, Kyle was cognizant that he would have done the same thing as well. Recipes and methods of production were far too precious to be freely distributed in this kind of city.

The same brute force method was employed as the last time, albeit with more than four ingredients in the mix, the number of potential combinations was a lot higher. Kyle brought in a few helpers to speed up the process, utilizing the numerous arcite stoves to iterate continually.

At one point, he had more than ten flasks going, writing down on parchment and crossing out combinations he had failed.

Keith soon popped his head in. “Sir, they are ready for the ceremony.”

“Good.” Instead of being irritated at being interrupted during the process, he put everything down and moved to the common area, where the ten men were already lined up.

The ten men had already seen Kyle working hard, so the action of him immediately stopping just for them caused them to feel even more valued directly by the gang leader.

The ceremony was a simple oath to the gang while Kyle put on the armband for them individually. “You are all now official members of the Seven Snakes, under my protection. I will fight through hell and back to ensure your safety, and I only ask you to do the same for the gang and me.”

The ten men bowed with true respect. “Yes, sir!”

The loyalty will take a few days to truly instil and drive it deeper, but it’s a start.

Keith showed them to their bunks while Kyle continued trying to figure out the recipe.

The process proved to be difficult. There were a huge amount of potential combinations, and Kyle didn’t know when he would complete it. Too many variables were present in the recipe. He now understood why Damian said reverse-engineering alchemy was near impossible without a hint or a guiding book.

As he completed his 60th failed potion, a new title appeared for him

[SYSTEM MESSAGE] Title Obtained [Potion Crafter (Intermediate)] This title was supposed to be handed on successful potions, but the failures are pretty hard to watch +10 INT, Increased description of potions examined, +10% chance to craft an intermediate potion when using basic materials 5% increased chance of discovering basic potion recipes per attempt, stacking Resets on discovery

Suddenly, it was as though three pieces of information appeared in his head, informing him of what the recipe consisted of partially. It seems that for every twenty attempts I make, one of the variables of the recipe is revealed. Hence, with sixty crafted, I now have three variables revealed.

Kyle quickly drew a new combination table, narrowing it down to between two variables, making it simpler. With time, he locked down yet another variable after 20 failed attempts. Kyle could already imagine Haui’s face if he knew exactly how Kyle was able to reverse engineer recipes so fast.

A few hours passed through dinnertime before he finally got the recipe down. “15% Greis, 15% Olio Roots, 35% Yul Tears, rest water. Boiled for five minutes.” Kyle nearly raged at the sheer amount of Yul Tears he had wasted, having finished the entire pot with only one Strength Potion to show for it. At least another product has been completed. Infusing it with Euria should be possible too.

He did not try to reverse engineer the health potion just yet. It was far too costly to waste the Yul Tears on it – if the percentage were even higher, he might go bankrupt now.

He sat back in his office, eating his late dinner while Keith reported the daily finances to him.

“Sir, you can’t keep burning through money like this. We don’t have a lot of cash reserves left. Assuming you want to make another set of Strength Potions, it’s going to wipe us out for the rest of the month unless we get some revenue in.” Keith was worried about the expenditure for reverse engineering the potions.

“It’s no problem. The expansion of the brothel will be completed in a few days. Then we will easily make it back. Who are the other rival gangs that are at odds with the Red Lion as well?”

“The Ilysian Punks or the Wretches are the main ones that come to mind, but they have been ignoring us for a long time.”

“I want the smaller gangs in adjacent districts. Anyone at the same size as us and lower. Deliver this sealed message to them.” Kyle packed a few parchments into message tubes, handing them over to Keith.

“Ah, you want to ask for their help! I’ll send it right away.”

“No, Keith. We’re going to find some customers.”

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