Chapter 27 – Rackeetering
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“Gulak, send three goblins to observe her. Once she has killed all six, drag the bodies here. If she tries to run, kill her as well. No one leaves the forest alive.” Kyle motioned as he watched Sasha leave the main entrance.

“To feed the pit?” Gulak excitedly asked. “What about the failed slaves?”

“Those who died during the surgery, throw them in the pit too. The rest who are still alive, keep them in the rooms and cage them.”

“Ah, for future food I see.” Gulak bowed, leaving Kyle alone.

He did not trust any of the slaves, not even Sasha. However, based on his observation, Sasha had all the right inclinations to be moulded into the perfect weapon. Hatred, revenge, anger… all of this can be easily manipulated.

Kyle walked down to a different set of rooms, where the failed slaves were being held. Most of them had devolved into rabid primal humans, growling and snapping at Kyle. He had lied to Ciel and the other five that all the other slaves had died.

In truth, Kyle had managed to save almost all the slaves save for the ones he killed in Paulie’s house. He looked into a room, noticing a failed slave that looked like Ciel’s father, twisting and groaning on the floor. At least your family would be useful for Sasha’s training.

Thanks to the number of human subjects, he had managed to figure out an approximate of the Taboo’s Knife success rate. It was abysmal, a measly 7 out of 50. His sample size and type of bodies were not exactly in the ideal state or range, but it was a telling sign that he shouldn’t try it on himself without further assurances.

It would be impossible to do it without someone’s help. The pain of engraving the arcite under the skin seemed immeasurable, and he would not be able to grip the knife effectively. Just one wrong move and the engraving would not be as effective or create a completely different effect.

Kyle would not say he did not trust anyone. He trusted Damian and Keith to handle affairs while he was gone due to mutual benefits, but he would not trust them to do such complicated surgery. I will have to find an extremely competent arctech engraver to do this, and I must establish trust or threat.

He had performed a simple operation on all the human slaves, engraving the exact same enchantment he had been practising – the force-increasing enchantment from Riker’s metal pipe. Engraving an enchantment did not mean it was the end, as Kyle could simply cut off the skin where it was engraved and re-healing it, generating new skin to try again. However, with no anaesthesia, it would prove to be a huge problem.

There was another huge problem he encountered: he had verified who was backing the forest bandits. When Troy had told him the truth, he was a bit hesitant to truly accept it, but after hearing Paulie’s final words he was certain now. The Violet Demons, the second major gang of the West Sector… If they found out I pillaged their business, it would be a big problem. I have to hide my tracks as much as possible. Best if I remain here for a while longer to stave off the heat.

Kyle had already been away from Raktor for close to a month. For all he knows, the Seven Snakes might have been taken over by another gang leader, but this was a necessary expedition to clear the debt owed to the Crimson Snakes.

He also knew that if he left the goblins alone right now, they would not work for him any longer, immediately rebelling. Someone has to stay behind and supervise them with force, that’s the only way.

This meant that he would need to stay for a month longer before everything was set up nicely and could operate independently. Once the Euria Seeds hit the streets of Raktor, the prices would plummet, but at the scale, I’m selling them, the profits would be immense. One million rakels would be done in a single week if everything goes right.

Just as he was thinking deeply, the gates of the wooden barricade around the main entrance opened to reveal Sasha dragging one of the six who left back alive, while three goblins behind her dragged the dead slaves back to the fort. All of them wore faces of shock and anger, a crossbow bolt lodged right into their brain.

Kyle’s eyes squinted as Sasha dragged the remaining slave in front of him before kneeling. “The mission was to kill all of them. Why have you kept this one alive?”

Instead of Sasha talking, the slave immediately grovelled on all fours, begging with tears streaming down her face. “Please, let me live! I made the wrong choice! I used to be a clerk: I can read and write and do whatever you need! I’ll be your slave!” She was clearly shaken by the slaves being killed by Sasha.

Kyle pondered for a moment, glancing at Sasha’s expression. While she did not follow the orders to the letter, it seems that she has brought me back an underling. Adaptability on the fly is great as well. This will be interesting.

“Good. Sasha, since you kept her alive, you will be in charge of her discipline. If she tries to go against me, you have every right to punish her. Name?”

“Merissa, sir!”

“Get up and follow me, the both of you.”

Kyle led them to another room that was now designed like an office. Kyle intended to handle the logistics of shipping the Euria Seeds out into Raktor here, but with Merissa and Sasha here, they could assist him with the entire operation.

“Merissa. You will now tally the number of Euria Seeds collected and delivered every single day without fail. You are also in charge of ensuring the well-being of the goblins. In the event they try to rebel, you immediately tell me or Sasha. Understood?”

Sasha tugged at Kyle’s clothes, pointing to the office table and doing a cross with her arms, shaking her head vigorously. “You can’t read and write? Not an issue. You will learn in a week.” Kyle dismissed her.

Kyle quickly showed Merissa the basics, all the while she was trembling. She was acutely aware that Sasha had been ordered by Kyle to kill them all, so she remained docile and compliant, following Kyle’s orders.

Kyle then brought Sasha out back to the single rooms where the failed slaves were held. “Over the next month, I will teach you how to read, write and fight. We will also learn how you can activate the engraving on your body to your benefit. At the end of the two months of training, you will be strong enough to kill everyone in this den. You will then be in charge of overall operations here in the goblin den, ensuring Euria Seeds are being delivered consistently. Anyone who steps out of line, you will punish them. Understood?”

Sasha nodded vigorously. She already planned to make the best of her time here, to make herself stronger and independent. This was the best training arc she could hope for herself.

“Good, let’s begin.”

Sebastian entered the grand office of Bishop’s Vernette alone, smiling at the two inquisitors and bishop who were waiting for him.

“You’re a hard man to meet, Mr. Sebastian.” Mason stood up to shake his hand. “Took a month of beating up your associates to even get you to respond.”

“My apologies, I was busy with some other personal matters.” Sebastian sat down quietly into a nice velvet chair, crossing his legs. He glanced at the serene face of Mason, contrasted by the obviously hostile expression on Kitana’s face. “I assume she’s the mad dog being let loose on us. Since when were the inquisitors this violent?”

“Want to find out?” Kitana grinned, grabbing the pistol on her waist.

“Not interested. I’m more interested in how such a young inquisitor could turn out to be the most bloodthirsty in history.”

“Let’s just say your men were very adamant in resisting arrest. Nothing else we could do.” Mason smoked his pipe, before tapping it on the edge of the table. “Let’s get straight to the point. Baron Cain wants more money.”

“How much more?” Sebastian didn’t care about his associates getting killed. They had thousands of them, a hundred or so dying was just a statistic to him.

“I’m not privy to how much he specifically wants. But you should know how angry Baron Cain gets.”

“So, you’re killing my members, trashing my businesses and then asking me to pay you?”

“Sounds about right. Shouldn’t be new to a gang who runs a protection racket.” Mason chuckled, while Kitana still glared at Sebastian.

“Mason. I came here to save my business, not take another loss.” Sebastian sighed, tapping the holster of the chair.

“I’m sure the losses of your front businesses are more than enough to warrant an increase in payment to Baron Cain.”

“I know the two of you have been investigating quite a fair bit into the factories. The entire Sector is talking about it. Perhaps instead of payment, I can be of some assistance?”

Mason grinned as though he had already been expecting the conversation to twist this way, huffing out a plume of blue smoke. “What assistance?” Mason played dumb.

“I can provide protection to the factories you need. I’m sure the factory workers are compromised beyond belief and will never talk to an enforcer. I already have my men inside. I know everything.”

“How do we know you’re not going to nick the goods themselves?” Kitana scoffed.

“For one who likes to kill so much you’re surprisingly naïve.” Sebastian let out a small laugh, infuriating Kitana slightly. “I’m business-focused first and foremost. Stability is the best for business. We’re on the same team here, you and I.”

“I think my definition of stability is not the same as yours.”

Mason held up his hand to stop Kitana. “What about the districts outside of your jurisdiction?”

“Well, again. Stability is my main concern. I do not step into other gangs’ districts without permission, and I highly doubt any of the other gangs would be willing to allow me to establish a permanent presence there in their factories. But I can assure you the factories in my district will not be touched. That reduces the number of factories that you need to protect.”

“Who said anything about your help-“ Kitana started before Mason held up his hand again.

“When can you start?”

“Don’t be so impatient, we have yet to discuss what you will offer me.”

“It’s obvious, no payment required to the Baron.”

“I want a deal that my businesses and members would not be touched for the next two years.” Sebastian stated.

“Two years?!” Mason was taken aback. “You’re out of your mind, a free pass for two years?”

“I was not talking to you, seeing as you don’t have the power to make such a deal yourself. Isn’t that right, Bishop Vernette.”

The bishop who had been staying out of the conversation sighed, finally putting down her pen. “Only if your men will protect the factories for that same duration.”

“Of course.”

“Then we do have a deal.”

“Good. I will be moving my men into the factories tomorrow. Tell your enforcers to get out of our way, from now on. And stop killing my men. Don’t think you’re invincible.” Sebastian bowed to the Bishop, before leaving the office.

Mason and Kitana sat back down on the sofa, the angry expression on Kitana’s face dissipating quickly. “Well, that went rather well.” Kitana smiled as she leaned back onto the sofa, her zealous haughty attitude long gone.

It was a ploy by Mason and Kitana: have Kitana act as an enthusiastic inquisitor and beat up gang members, forcing the gang members to come to the table to parley.

“Like I said, carrot and stick. Now we only have to cover the remainder of the factories.” Mason eyed the map now pinned on a wall, checking the twenty districts left.

“So I get to beat up another gang?”

“Maybe, maybe not. We do have enough manpower to watch over the remaining factories though just barely. Too many different gangs watching the factories might incite them to backstab each other. Besides, with the rumours we’ve been putting out, no one should be stupid enough to hijack our factories.”