Chapter 14:

Chapter 14: Horizontal Merger

A Black Market LitRPG

“Sir, how did you know they were not going to call in for reinforcements? It seems a bit stupid not to do so, seeing as they lost half a squad.” Damian was confused as he oversaw the gang members dragging captured Red Lion members to new holding cells.

“Wrent is a showman through and through. Any action that could potentially damage his reputation will not be taken. Even then, us providing Strength potions to many of the other smaller gangs around them has increased the number of issues the main base of the Red Lions has to deal with, which means they can spare even fewer men to counter us.” Kyle explained.

“Then why did we not chase them down and defeat them in one single blow? This means they would have time to recover and fight us again in a few days.”

“A cornered star fleet is just as dangerous as a wounded one.”

“Fleet? As in naval battles?”

“Never mind. Either way, pushing them too hard would cause us to attract more attention from the major bases. The victory over them must be complete but not too attention-grabbing.”

Damian finally understood Kyle’s line of thinking. It wasn’t right to go all out and stomp the opposition in a domineering fashion, especially when the foundations of the gang were not solid enough. There were too many big fish in the district watching right now. Having the Seven Snakes come to a ‘draw’ or a very minor ‘victory’ was less alarming.

The two of them began checking on the injured members, with Kyle healing them with his Necklace of Healing. The Red Lions were still dominant in their level of weapons, with some being unconscious due to fighting against the enemy squad leaders that had arctech equipment. A few even had mangled or severely bruised limbs. I should reverse-engineer a health potion as well, but after this.

Kyle soon returned to his office, slightly tired from the intense running he had to do. The plan had been pulled off perfectly with no mistakes, though he might have been forced slightly to buy the Aero Shoes from the dealer to move faster.

With this, the chances of the Red Lions attacking them would be much lower than expected. They were now even in numbers, which gave them a level playing field. Kyle was well aware that the Red Lions still had the edge in terms of equipment, as evidenced by the damage inflicted on his gang members.

However, Kyle was not worried at all. In a few days, they will crumble internally, and it will be an easy negotiation…

Five days after the assault…

Wrent woke up groggily, his forehead sweating buckets as he struggled to get up from his bed. Fuck, have I been infected with a plague or something? He could feel his heart rate increasing slightly, and there was a general sinking feeling in his stomach.

The nerves on his jaw and spine were especially tender, as though he could feel every millimetre of his gum going numb, causing him to yawn or try to dislodge the feeling constantly.

The other Red Lion members were not faring any better either, some even puking or reporting intense nausea. “What in the world is going on?” Wrent exclaimed as he watched the members stumble about, lacking strength. “Hey, you, weren’t you supposed to be on patrol? What if the Seven Snakes attack?”

“Hu-hu-huh?” The Red Lion member could barely register what Wrent was saying, obviously hallucinating slightly.

Fucking shit, what is happening?! Wrent tried to recall what had happened. Did Kyle somehow infect the base’s utilities or something? How is this happening to us?

However, Wrent has been taking antidotes for the last two days, which only managed to barely stave off the symptoms. He had tried even a precious Health Potion, but it did not work at all. It isn’t poison, so what is it?

His eyes landed on the broken crates of Stamina Recovery Potions, a sense of understanding finally hitting him. Did they drug the potions? How in the world is it so addictive?! But I tested it!

Addiction was not a particularly new symptom, but he had not seen anything on the black market that even remotely came close to the same level of addiction and mass production as this.

The strategy employed by the Seven Snakes was finally clear as day. Before Wrent could even think about doing anything, a loud bang at the entrance to the base was heard. It was the Seven Snakes.

Kyle walked in, dressed in a clean formal suit, unlike the arctech equipment he had worn previously. Damian and Keith flanked him, along with a dozen other gang members.

“Grrr, you dare come to your own death? Red Lions, attack him!” Wrent grunted weakly. Instead of complying, none of the Red Lion members could even move properly, some merely staggering while others suffered from slight seizures.

Kyle simply snapped his fingers, with the Seven Snakes moving forward to restrain the Red Lion members, who barely resisted. Some struggled weakly, but it was a futile resistance.

“Useless!” Wrent grunted as he grabbed his sword with his right hand, about to unleash another red arc with a swing. But in a single instant, Kyle sprinted towards him with the Aero Shoes, closing the distance in merely four strides before gripping the right hand of Wrent and forcing it down.

“ARGHH!” Wrent yelled in pain as Kyle crushed the right hand against the hilt of the sword. He tried to muster the strength to fight back, but the withdrawal symptoms made it even harder. Wrent could feel that his muscles were severely weakened.

“This is no way to treat your esteemed suppliers, is it not?” Kyle smiled with a sinister grin.

At this point, Wrent heavily regretted not asking for help from the main base, realising he had far underestimated Kyle. He had been too used to the image of Seven Snakes being useless under Ulon.

“Do it then, kill me,” Wrent spoke through gritted teeth as he was brought to one knee on the ground, forced to look up at Kyle. “The top leader of the Red Lions will never let you off.”

“Ah, why would I ever kill my precious customers? Please, no need to kneel. Such courtesy.” Kyle let go of his hand, with Damian moving forward to lift Wrent up.

They dragged him into the office, sitting him down at a table facing each other. Kyle retrieved a parchment from a message tube, rolled it out and slid it in front of Wrent for him to read. “I believe the samples we provided in the previous contract were much to your liking. In fact, it seems your members love it so much they are even dying for it.”

“Y-you!” Wrent cursed as sweat still dripped down his forehead. He could barely move his body now, and the bones in his right hand were also fractured from Kyle’s grip.

“Now, for our next contract, we would like to enter a mutually beneficial supply contract. How does that sound? If you sign this, we will immediately provide a few crates in advance for your perusal.” Kyle motioned outside the office’s window, where Wrent could see two additional Seven Snakes members carrying crates in.

Already, Wrent could see the hunger in his members’ eyes as they watched the crates come in. The members were not dumb, knowing they were addicted to the potions now, but they didn’t have the willpower to fight their bodies.

Wrent took another look at Kyle, who sat patiently with Damian and Keith standing behind him. While Kyle’s expression was calm and serene, Wrent knew there was a brutal streak hiding within. What is more important – my loyalty to the boss or my life?

He glanced again at his members suffering outside. Wrent grimaced, finally deciding to look at the contract, rationalising to himself that he was doing it for his members. He began reading through the contract, noticing the clauses were roughly the same except for the fact that he now had to pay for the potions.

He read the changes to the non-aggression clause, noticing that the contract had it extended to a year at minimum. This was expected, but the next clause was what threw him off.

There was an additional clause that stated that the Seven Snakes would admit publicly that it was their fault and loss for the conflict and would pay reparations in the form of potion discounts and the release of prisoners.

Wrent was utterly confused, but as he looked up into Kyle’s calm eyes, a realisation rose within him. He’s leaving me a way out, a way not to be replaced by the boss of the Red Lions. And if I or we renege on the reparation contract, our reputation would go straight into the gutter.

With this additional clause, the Red Lions would not suffer any reputation loss, and the Seven Snakes would also have its non-aggression pact. Wrent would have a much higher chance of retaining his position and control over the district, which was precisely what Kyle wanted. Wrent internally swore to kill Kyle in the future in any way possible. This man is far too dangerous. At this rate, he’ll take over the entire sector within two years.

Wrent eventually relented and signed the contract with his personal stamp. “Good, glad we’ve come to an agreement. We look forward to your future cooperation. Enjoy the potions.” Kyle smirked and left immediately. While the contract was between equals, Wrent knew he had become the underling in the unspoken hierarchy, gripping his fist tightly.

As the Seven Snakes released the restrained members and left the new crates behind, the members were all confused at what had just happened. Some of the members were certain that they would be dead.

Wrent did not know what to explain to them. All they could do now was to consume the potions. I swear I’ll find a way to remove this addiction and take revenge!

Always leave a way out for a cornered corvette, lest they choose the self-destruct option. It is better to milk your enemies. Kyle was happy with the result. While he would be losing the prisoners, he had tested the effects of addiction sufficiently now. With the gang members being trained well enough now over a month, there was no need for addiction-riddled prisoners to fight against. They could simply spar against each other now.

This would also prevent the other more significant gangs from clamping down on us. Any other gang that tries to attack us would risk angering the Red Lions, seeing as we are supplying them in a ‘reparation’ contract…

None of the Seven Snakes was unhappy with the outcome even though it was to be publicly declared; all were extremely clear that they had emerged victors of the conflict.

It boosted their pride and sense of accomplishment in the Seven Snakes, their respect for Kyle far in the clouds now, all of the original members comparing Kyle to Ulon, though it was a low bar to clear. Even the new recruits who did not fight as much were starstruck by how easily they defeated the Red Lions, a well known gang in the South Sector.

“Holy shit, it was only a few hours of skirmishes, four days of patrols and that’s it? Is our leader some sort of monster?”

“He managed to sneak into their base alone and escape even with Wrent defending! How awesome is that? Fuck the guy who told me Wrent was a beast!” Niko excitedly whispered under hushed tones as they watched Kyle return to the base with the rest.

Kyle began giving out orders to them. “Keith, prepare the public announcement. Spread it through our businesses. Get Slavin in on it as well.” The brothel expansion was going well despite the conflict, with the customers reasonably assured of the protection provided by the Seven Snakes.

“Damian, prepare for the prisoner transfer process. Return everyone.”

“Everyone else, gather in the common area in three hours for dinner. It’s time to celebrate.” A loud cheer erupted among the gang members. They had won a clear victory.

Kyle returned to his office, looking at the map parchment that showed the districts again.

The base is now secured against most smaller threats. The locals are now well aware of a resurgence of the Seven Snakes. Kyle nodded to himself with a satisfied expression, however, he knew he was far from being a significant power in the city of Raktor. If he truly wanted to achieve his original first objective of a solid power base, only when he dominated an entire city would he consider it as some measure of success.

His eyes laid on the list of gangs in the South Sector, noting the prominent individuals and the top dominator – the Ardent Cretins. Despite the daunting challenges ahead, Kyle already had a step-by-step plan of what to do, a slight grin appearing on his face. As long as he remained under the radar, everything was easy.

I used to rule nebulas, spice routes and star systems with populations numbering in the trillions. What is a small city like this to me?

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