Chapter 278: Society of Animal Protection
The witchers pushed the cart of buckets into the napier grass patch. They saw dried dung on the ground, and the air was filled with the stench of urine.
"You know how ecosystems work as well, so you know a lot of animals mark their territory with excrements. We're in Jacob's territory now, but it had lunch, so it's resting in its lair." About ten meters later, they saw the dracolizard leaning against a redwood, possibly trying to scratch itself.
"I'll show you another specimen." Linus said goodbye to the dracolizard and led them into an area filled with sand and rocks. An obviously modified boulder sat in the center of the area, and two triangular nests stood on it. Linus whistled in the direction of the nests, and two pointy heads stuck out of the nests. A couple of gigantic creatures leaped down the boulder, dragging their wings as they quickly huddled closer to Linus.
One of the creatures had a thick black mane, while the other had a white mane. They had the bodies, claws, and tails of lions, and beaks and wings of vultures.
"A family of griffins?" The witchers were dumbfounded. They couldn't imagine how griffins could live with a dracolizard. Griffins were special creatures, according to them. They had virtues most humans didn't. For example, bravery. They weren't afraid of battles. Loyalty was another one. Griffins only have one mate for life. If their partner were to die, they would fight the killer to the very last breath, or they would stop eating and die alongside their partner. However, they were impulsive and dangerous as well.
"Try not to meet gazes with it for too long. They'll take it as a challenge and start a duel," Linus warned them, though he masked it behind his humor. He pushed the buckets toward the griffins. They were fully tamed and had no idea about protecting their own food. They huddled around Linus, pecking away at the food he was holding. Linus petted the griffins. Thanks to their incredible metabolism, they had high temperatures.
Roy watched as the griffins interacted with Linus. He never thought he would see any griffin as tame as Gryphon. Not to mention they were adults. These griffins were capable of battle.
Age: Three years old
Chimera (Passive): Griffins have the best of lions and vultures. Their digestive and recovery abilities are buffed. Adult griffins have +8 to DEX, STR, and CON.
Predator (Passive): Griffins are apex predators. Their claws and beaks are specially built. The wounds they cause will never stop bleeding. It has a better sight and sense of smell than most animals. Adult griffins have +6 to Perception.'
The witchers were observing from a distance. Carl looked astonished, while Kantilla looked like she found her prey. She rubbed the tattoo on her neck, her eyes shining with the urge to fight. Letho, Auckes, Serrit, and Felix had seen griffins before. They killed quite a lot of them as well, so they were a lot calmer than the others.
"Do you want to have a go as well?" Linus patted the griffins and smiled. "Wanna feed Blake and Chelsea? It'll be fine as long as I'm here."
"I'll do it," Roy volunteered. He approached the griffins and lowered his head just like Linus told him to. He slowly picked the meat up and placed it in front of them.
The griffins looked at the meat for a while and picked it up after the professor gave his permission.
They started eating. Roy felt envious of Linus. He was just a regular human, but he tamed a dracolizard and a family of griffins. Roy had Forced Taming, but all he did was tame a horse and a mount that wasn't really useful outside of being a mascot. I have a long way to go before I can soar the skies. Hm. I wonder if I can borrow the professor's griffins if I manage to befriend him.
While Roy was thinking about his little plan, Gryphon was starting to squirm around. It sensed its brethren nearby. Eventually it got out of the hoodie and fell down to the ground, then it rolled straight to the griffins like a ball.
The griffins stopped eating and stared at the slimy little vodyanoi. They purred, looking at it curiously.
"Don't worry. For some reason, Blake and Chelsea like this little creature. They wanna play with it." Linus held Roy back, his eyes gleaming in surprise.
"Are you sure they just wanna play?"
Blake pushed Gryphon to Chelsea, and Chelsea pushed it back. They pushed the little vodyanoi around about a dozen times, as if it were a little ball of yarn. Gryphon was getting dizzy at the end. Eventually the griffins howled in satisfaction and stopped pushing Gryphon. They licked its belly, as if they were combing their brethren's hair.
Gryphon expended its webbed hands angrily and held the griffin's talons. At the same time, it attacked them with bubbles, but Linus pulled it up right away. He patted the griffins' necks and told them to go back to their nests. "This is a vodyanoi, isn't it? A brave one at that." Linus looked at Gryphon curiously. "It's not even scared of the griffins."
Roy held Gryphon by its tail and hung it upside down. He flicked the creature's belly as a little punishment and let it blow bubbles at him. Gryphon started throwing a little tantrum, seeing that its master wasn't going to do anything. "It's a long story. Gryphon's origins can be a little complex." Roy changed the subject. "Did you raise those griffins as well, Mr. Pitt?" He only managed to tame Gryphon thanks to Forced Taming, and he wondered how a regular human like Linus did it.
"A forest-watcher stole both of them while they were still eggs. He sold them in the Oxenfurt marketplace, and I ran into them. I recognized what the eggs were immediately and bought them off. I made some nests for them to hatch in after that. It's been three years since." Linus pinched his stubble proudly. "Like most creatures, griffins form a bond with the first living being they see after they hatch."
"You must know a lot about griffin rearing then. Like how to make them healthier and grow faster, perhaps?" Roy pinched Gryphon's belly. His eyes were filled with expectations.
"Of course. Raising a child is easier than a griffin, especially the six months after their hatching. Their food, nest, deworming, and amount of exercise take a lot of time to figure out. If you're interested, we can talk about it after the tour."
Linus had more animals than the witchers thought. Aside from the dracolizard and griffins, they met a basilisk. It looked dumb, but it was actually a dangerous species. Of course, they also saw the kayran that was locked in the pond. There were also animals that were not so dangerous. There were about fifteen to sixteen specimens of endangered species here. Linus raised and tamed them since they were young. Most of them, anyway. Unlike their wild counterparts, they were less aggressive. Thanks to that, they managed to live together in peace.
Some of the more rebellious ones were locked in a cage or tied to chains, then he would train them slowly.
Roy made the calculations in his head. If he destroyed all the creatures here, he could fill up most of his EXP bar, and the mutagens he got would be enough for the Manticore School's trial. But I can't kill his pets, not after he took us on this tour. I'd rather keep them as backup mounts. I'll eventually get the chance.
Even a knowledgeable witcher like Auckes thought he learned something from the tour. He teased, "Mr. Pitt, might you actually be a druid who's just pretending to be a Natural History lecturer?"
"You jest, witcher. I'd have gone to Skellige's druid circle if I had an ounce of talent for magic." Linus grinned. "A pity I'm a regular human who can't even sense chaos energy. I can never be a druid my whole life. All I can do is research endangered species according to the records and train the creatures to be a more docile version of their feral counterparts. I spent more than two decades building this little place up."
Everyone looked at Linus with respect. It might be a silly endeavor, but it was impressive he hung on for this long.
"Are you going to keep these creatures in your warehouse forever?" Serrit asked.
Linus shook his head. "I've been looking for a suitable place to release them, and I'm ready to dish out adaptive training if the day of their release were to come. I have a job to keep the balance of the ecosystem, remember? It's a pity the world is crawling with humans. The only place that's unconquered will be the barren wasteland. I don't think the animals are gonna survive that. And we're short on manpower. It sounds unbelievable, but there are fewer people with the resolve to protect rare animals than the number of rare animals themselves. So I need some help…" Linus squinted, and he gazed at the witchers. He said, "You've seen the little forest. What do you think of it?"
"You can cut to the chase now."
The witchers exchanged looks.
"I need your help. I have this little association here. It's called the Society of the Protection of Endangered Animals."
"What's that?" Auckes was a little shocked.
"The Society of the Protection of Endangered Animals, or SPEA for short. Master Dorregaray and I came up with this idea after a long discussion. The main goals of this—"
"No!" the witchers said unanimously. Even Kantilla shook her head. They were hunters, not protectors.
"I respect your actions and ideas, Mr. Pitt, but you're taking this the wrong way. Witchers kill dangerous monsters for a living." Letho asked, "Do you expect us to turn away from our tradition?"
"Not even the mini ecosystem could change your mind?" Linus was starting to get agitated, and he was buzzing too. "I just proved that even dangerous creatures like griffins, dracolizards, and basilisks can be tamed with effort. Why can't you try to complete your requests in a gentler way instead of killing the monster every time?"
"What do you mean?" Auckes was starting to get impatient. He hated lectures.
"I'll cut to the chase. For example, if someone wants you to get rid of a basilisk, you don't actually have to kill it. You can subdue it and settle it down somewhere else, and it'll be the same thing as completing the request. If you don't have the patience for that, you can take the specimen back to Oxenfurt. To me, specifically. I'll train the creature. I'll pay you handsomely. Double or even triple of what they'll pay you. You won't be disappointed."
The witchers fell silent. Roy was in a dilemma. If we let the monsters live just for money, I'll have no way to gain any EXP. You can't expect me to kill livestock and humans. I can't agree to this.
"Battles are always unpredictable. Your 'endangered animals' are, more often than not, deadly. Showing mercy to them in battle will cost us our lives," Letho said sternly.
"That's just an excuse, witchers. You're more than capable of subduing a creature without killing it. You just have to work together."
"We can't abandon our tradition," Felix objected.
"Tradition?" Linus took a deep breath and tried to explain calmly. "I know all about it. Witchers were called monster killers. After the conjunction happened, witchers traveled the lands and made a living by getting rid of monsters who threatened humanity. But things are different now. You've killed too many of these monsters. Basilisks, wyverns, cockatrices… They're all endangered. Those who managed to survive are forced to live in barren wastelands and suffer their whole lives."
Linus stopped talking, and he said grimly, "Most monsters don't kill because they're invading human territory. It's the other way around. Humans are invading their living space. Can't you show them mercy? Give them a chance to grow?"
A long silence followed. The witchers still looked tense. They still disagreed with the idea.
Roy heaved a sigh and changed the topic. "We'll think about your suggestion, Mr. Pitt. Let's set it aside."
"I have a question. How much do you have to spend on these creatures? It must cost a lot." The buckets were filled with food when they first came in, but the creatures finished them all in no time flat. If he has to feed them once every day… Roy was shocked by the amount of money that would cost. All the money I have won't even last for more than a few years. "Do you even make enough money to cover the costs?"
Linus shrugged. He didn't mind the money. "Do you remember the business district in front of the Philosopher's Gate?"
"Business is booming, yes."
"My family owns twenty percent of the shops there."
Linus said nonchalantly, "When the academy was first built, my ancestors noticed the potential this place had, so they snagged some land up. Didn't expect it to grow so big though."
So you're born to money. No wonder you came up with that stupid association. No, wait. You just have too much money to spend, Roy thought.
"It's getting late." Everyone looked at the skies. "Why don't we talk about things over dinner?"
"Sure. Oxenfurt has a lot of rare delicacies. I'll introduce them to you," Linus said. "And I need your help on another thing as well."
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