Chapter 435: Second Mutation
The hole in the wall led to something like a cavern. A dark, dank cavern. Roy hung from the ceiling, staring down at the cavern's layout. Narrow paths littered the place, and all of them were set on different levels of elevation. The cavern's structure kept it in a warm bubble. This place felt warmer than the lab.
Bizarre stalactites hung from the ceiling. Between the debris and soil on the ground stood little mounds that resembled volcanoes. They were proof pale widows dwelled here.
Mutated pale widows spent most of their time either creating underground tunnels or resting. Only when they sensed danger or an intruder did they break through the ground. They would attack with their poisonous limbs or spray venom that could corrode even granite.
But these abilities couldn't even harm Roy. He climbed across the almost perfectly vertical walls like a spider. His sticky gloves and boots granted him the ability to climb walls like it was nothing. He could move as fast as he did on ground.
A grey cloak covered him, minimizing the sounds he made every time he moved. Quen and Heliotrop surrounded him, keeping his scent away from the monsters' detection.
And there was another layer of protection. Coral cast a spell on him that made him weightless. If anyone were to see him right now, all they could see would be a silhouette running across the ceiling and wall. Roy moved through the dangerous terrain easily.
About an hour later, he had scoured the whole lair and finally found three larvae in one corner. The larvae were covered in yellow pus and tumors. The air was filled with a sickly sweet scent. From afar, these larvae looked like hedgehog cacti.
'Mutated pale widow larva
Gestation period: Two months
Habitat: Warm, humid, and dark places.
Roy wouldn't take all of them. He tucked two of the larvae into his cloak and went back through the path he came from.
"Damn, this is disgusting." Auckes touched the larvae, and he shivered. "Don't tell me you want us to eat this raw."
"It's filled with poison that can even kill witchers. You can eat it if you have a death wish." Coral smiled. She circled a metal container, reading the journal while touching it. "I think I got how this works. Tomas is a genius. This device will turn the larvae into a ball of mist, and then you can absorb it. The proteins within these larvae will fill in the gaps of your mutated genes. Tomas thought it would’ve reverted the mutated genes back to normal, but it did the opposite. According to this journal, anyone who absorbs the mist will see a marked improvement in their strength, speed, and reaction speed."
"What about the success rate?" Roy asked the most important question. His comrades, unlike him, didn't have a second life. "Will any danger come to them?"
"This is my guess, but…" Lytta looked up and explained, "The second mutation won't create a new chain of genes. It's an extension of what is already there. A lot safer and more reliable than the Trial."
She tapped the device. "And I've checked this device. It can still be used, so the chances of failure are close to none. Even if it fails, the participant won't die. At most, they won't see any effects from the mutation. But I'll need concrete data to prove my hypothesis."
Everyone heaved a sigh of relief, but then they were faced with another dilemma.
"We don't have infinite resources. Two larvae is only enough for one person." She looked at the witchers and shot Roy a look of warning. "Who wants to go first? Not you, Roy. You need at least four of these."
Roy fell silent. Why? Because I've gone through two Trials?
"You wanna steal some more, Roy?" Eskel asked. There was anticipation in his voice.
Roy shook his head. "I've searched the whole place. There's only one left. You have to wait until the next mating season if you want more."
Coen was a little envious, but he didn't ask if he could have the chance. He wasn't a member of the brotherhood, after all. All he wanted to know was if Jerome was still alive.
"Alright, prophecy time." Auckes winked at the young witcher, telling Roy to pick him. "Roy, Roy, on the wall, who's the best candidate of them all?"
"I am not a magic mirror." Roy shook his head and peered at his character sheet.
'Level 9 Witcher (6100/6500).'
Okay. A few more monsters and I'll have another Full Recovery. This is for the best. He closed his eyes. "Alright, I've seen the future, and I'm the best candidate."
"Piss off, kid. Didn't you hear Lytta? You're not on the list. Don't push it." Letho shoved Roy away and thumped his chest. "I'll do it!"
"What? Why you?" Auckes' eyes went wide. Unhappily, he complained, "You're one sly motherfucker." He was a little worried.
"Because I'm stronger than you." Letho waved his fists around and quickly took off his armor and pants, leaving only a pair of white shorts on. His body was covered in scars, and his biceps were on par with a troll's. His shoulders were as broad as a mountain range.
Lytta weaved complicated gestures in the air, and magic needles buried themselves in Letho's chest, taking a sample of his blood.
The device's lid slowly moved away. Letho walked into it, and he looked like someone standing in a vertical casket. His eyes flickered, and he looked calm. "I'm coming back better and stronger." The lid closed over the device, and the last thing the witchers saw was his smile.
"If you don't make it, we'll bury you in the pig pen!" Eskel shouted.
"You fucker!" Letho shouted.
Coral placed the larvae into a fusiform container beside the metal box, and magical flames burned underneath. The larvae melted right away and turned into smoke. Not too long later, the gusts of smoke flowed into the glass pipe.
"Alright, now's the time to talk about who gets the next mutation," Auckes said.
Kiyan shook his head. He wasn't that desperate for power. "I'll go last."
"Don't let Lambert know anything about this." Eskel said, "Or he's gonna fight you for it."
The witchers joked and bantered, but they never left the device. Time passed, and the light in the lab dimmed.
An hour later, the blue flames of the burner disappeared.
The metal device vibrated, and something fizzled in the air, the sound akin to someone opening a can of soda.
White smoke billowed from within the device. It disappeared into the air eventually, revealing a muscular silhouette within. He knelt on the ground, his breathing ragged. Sweat drenched his body, and black veins covered his face.
For just a moment.
The silhouette stood up and clenched his fists, his bones cracking.
"How do you feel, Letho?" Auckes' eyes went wide with anticipation.
"Never better." Letho rubbed his head and grinned. He looked delighted. Delighted because he got a new life.
Roy nodded and cast Observe on Letho.
Age: Eighty-two years old
Status: Viper School witcher, member of the brotherhood of witchers.
Alchemy Level 10, Witcher Senses Level 10, Meditation Level 6, Viper School—Dual Wielding, Witcher Signs Level 8, Griffin Arts Level 3: Dual Sign.
Second Mutation (Passive): Mutated pale widow larva protein has extended his mutated genes. Permanently increase Strength and Dexterity by twenty percent.'
Roy froze. Letho's Perception was a lot higher than his, so he couldn't see the veteran witcher's offensive stats. But according to his calculations, Letho's Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution were about twenty-three before the mutation. Now that they were all increased by twenty percent, Letho's offensive stats were almost at rank three. That was the highest the brotherhood had at the moment. The guy's a beast now.
"Wanna spar?" Auckes beckoned Letho over, and then Letho disappeared. His inner alarms screamed at him, and he tensed up like a bristled cat.
Auckes leapt backward, but he was one step too slow. Letho lashed out at him and grabbed Auckes by his nape like he was a kitten.
"Dammit!" Auckes broke free of Letho's grasp and cursed.
"Haha!" Letho moved his neck and joints around. "Looks like I'm still the head of the school."
Kiyan, Coen, and Eskel looked shocked. Letho moved even faster than they could see.
"Alright, Letho. Sit down right here." Lytta stood beside a wooden operating theater, her arms crossed. She nodded at Letho. "I need to check your body and make sure there are no side effects."
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