The Divine Hunter

Reaper Scans


Chapter 431: Illusion


[TL: Asuka]

[PR: Ash]


It was night. Calanthe sat before the vanity in her resplendent room, removing her makeup. Her reflection showed a woman whose skin was still smooth and supple. Her body was as slim as ever, with not a hint of fat on it. Still, her skin no longer glowed as it used to, and wrinkles appeared at the corner of her eyes. Stress lines appeared on the sides of her nose, and strands of grey hair hid in her hair.

Melancholy flashed in the queen's eyes. She was already forty-four. No longer young, and no longer rich in time. After the witcher's speech earlier, she had a rough guess of what her future would be. Something deep within her soul told her that no matter how much Cintra struggled, it would face certain doom.

She turned around to see her husband sitting before the war map beside their bed. He was thinking about the moves he could make. His chin rested on the back of his right hand, and his beard extended down his chest.

None of the fake scenarios ended well. His eyes were bloodshot, and his breathing was ragged.

Calanthe looked away and sighed. It had been a rocky life for her. Miscarriage, widowship, and the curses of her people. But at the same time, she had enjoyed the greatest glory anyone could ever have. She ran a kingdom for decades, and in her later life, she found a man who loved her deeply. And she also had a cheeky granddaughter.

They were her family, but Calanthe always had one regret in her life. It grew after she had multiple miscarriages in her first marriage, and it grew even more after Pavetta's death. When Roy told her she and Eist would die while Ciri struggled to live, the idea to fill that void in her heart mounted to a breaking point.

She wanted to change something. For her and her family. "Eist, we still have time. Don't overwork yourself. Come here and rest." Calanthe was wearing a translucent robe. She leaned on their bed, her chin resting on her hand. Her cheeks were red, and she beckoned her husband over.

Eist was beguiled by his wife's beauty, and the flames of desire flared in his eyes. But then he shook his head, his desire replaced by determination. "I'm going to pull an all-nighter and come up with a viable strategy. Then I'll run it through Paris tomorrow."

"Get in here right now."

"Very well, my queen." Eist smiled dryly and put his pawn down. Without wasting a moment, he got into the bed and wrapped his arm around Calanthe's shoulder. They were millimeters away from each other, enjoying each other's embrace.

"Eist, I have something to say."

"It's not like you to hesitate."

"Why don't we have a child?" Calanthe looked at her husband gently, and she touched his face. "I'll give you a child of your own."

Eist cocked his eyebrow and gave his wife a look of surprise. The passion in the air was quickly doused. "I thought we agreed not to have a child."

"Nobody expected Pavetta to die, and now we have no children of our own." Sadness filled Calanthe's eyes. "If I'm right, you never had a child of your own. Don't you think that's the kind of regret you want fixed?"

"Ciri is my granddaughter."

"If the witcher's prophecy comes to pass, we will both perish. Ciri will have no one to call her family. She will be forced to live her life alone. That's a fate too cruel to even think about. And she'll have to face the world all by herself. The witcher claims the Law of Surprise is unbreakable, but I'd rather place my trust in true familial bond."

"No. On the name of Skellige, I swear…" Eist held her tightly in his arms. He promised, "I will not let anything happen to you. You will live. My family on the isles will treat Ciri as their own. Hjalmar shall be her brother, and Cerys her sister."

Calanthe shook her head. "I'm already in my forties, and I've miscarried two times, and yet I'm willing to try. What are you afraid of?" She stared at her husband, demanding, "Why won't you accept your bloodline? Tell me the real reason."

She put on a look of sadness. "For years I've respected your decision and allowed the ministers and nobles to call me a barren woman. They call me Calanthe the Barren."

Eist's face turned red with shame, and his beard trembled. His wife was called all kinds of names because of his own selfish desire. After hearing the witcher's prophecy, he realized if he didn't tell her the truth, this secret would be taken to the grave. I can't let everyone think Calanthe is barren until the very end.

He said honestly, "I've seen how Pavetta lost control of her mana. And since your mother's generation, Cintra's royalty has possessed magic in their blood. Elder Blood. If our child is born with that kind of power, then…"

He took a deep breath and enunciated, "Then should my wild bloodline join the equation, the child would be a disaster for Skellige, Cintra, and even the whole world."

Calanthe was surprised. That was the first she had heard of this. She never realized her husband was carrying a burden of this magnitude, and she held his hand. "Eist, think about it. Will fishermen stop going to sea just because they're scared of storms? Will the farmers stop farming just because they're worried about bad weather and pests? No. So why would you abandon your own bloodline for something so uncertain? Eist, children are a blessing from the gods, not disasters."

Eist stared at the ground, his eyes filled with guilt.

"We don't even have a child of our own. We can't possibly know what the future holds for them," Calanthe said. "We can't take away their right to be born just because of something so intangible."

"But it's too late now. There's less than a year before the war begins," Eist said. He finally spoke of the secret that had been kept for so long, and he apologized. "I'm sorry. I failed you."

"No. It's never too late." Calanthe stared at her husband, her eyes shining. "And you should apologize to the unborn child." She pressed her hand on his chest and shoved him back onto the bed. Eist felt his blood roaring just from staring at his wife. "And now, you're going to work with me…"

What happened next needed no explanation.


Dawn broke through the horizon as promised. Cintra's princess, at long last, had escaped from her prison. She was wearing a pink cloak and running around the streets like Little Red Riding Hood. Standing around her were her servant, Coria, the witchers, and a group of soldiers in disguise.

The group entered Cintra's bustling marketplace. The people in the crowd jostled against each other, merchants selling their products all along the streets. Sellers hollered into the air, hoping to attract more customers. Cows mooed, sheeps bleated, chickens clucked, and ducks honked.

The cacophony of voices made Ciri's head spin, but she stubbornly grinned and hopped into the crowd.

A customer was holding up his fish, haggling with the seller. Yet the seller was filing his nails, standing his ground calmly.

All of a sudden, Ciri slammed into the customer, and his fish fell to the ground. The girl stepped on the fallen fish and—to her wide-eyed shock—skidded ahead like she was skating. She crashed into a chicken cage and pulled off the belt of a fat lady.

All the excess fat on the lady's waist poured forth, and she pulled her pants up. She opened her mouth as wide as she could, but just when she was about to let out a scream sure to shock everyone, a handsome man appeared before her and took his sunglasses off. And then he smiled.

The sight of his wild eyes made the woman swallow her scream.

And then the witcher went after the cheeky little girl.

Ciri was profusely apologizing to the merchants and their customers, paying for their losses.

"Slow down, Ciri! Run off again and you're not riding the griffin tonight!"

"No, please, I'm sorry. Please don't do that to me!" Ciri returned to the witchers, holding Roy's hand with her left hand and Geralt’s with her right. She stared at the black cat in Roy's hoodie and looked around her.

She saw a halfling with furry legs swinging his dagger at a blinding speed, carving beautiful patterns on the goat's leg cooking over the spit roast. She saw a half-elf sucking on a long, circular wooden pipe before puffing out circles of white smoke.

"That smells special. What's that?"

"Something only adults can do."

"I'm hungry." She rubbed her belly and scrunched her face up. "I can't ride the griffin on an empty stomach."

"We'll take three." Roy took three golden fried squid rings from the seller and shared it between him, Geralt, and Ciri.

Ciri wolfed her squid ring down like a hungry cat and gobbled an apple pie infused with grape juice. Only then did she lick her fingers, though she didn't look content.

"That should be enough, Ciri. You're a lady. Try to stay slim," Roy joked. "Besides, the palace chef can make better food."

"As if!" Ciri shook her head. "Grandma won't let me eat anything. There's barely any salt in the food I eat. I wanna eat all I can this time!"

"Kids grow fast. They can eat however much they want." Geralt patted the girl's head and nodded.

Ciri dragged the witchers and the soldiers around the marketplace. She followed her foodie instinct and went to a stall that sold beef stew. The girl sniffed the air, and her face lit up. "I want one!" She sat down, ignoring the stains and grease on the bench.

Roy and Geralt sat beside her, but their eyes were on another table.

A blond, muscular man in casual grey attire was wolfing down his beef stew. Noticing the look the witchers were giving him, the man turned around, though the look on his face spoke of surprise. "By the knights, this must be fate!" He picked his bowl up and shared a table with the witchers. "Good morning, witchers."

"Morning, Grimm."

Geralt served a hot bowl of stew to Ciri, and she scooped up a spoonful only to shove it all into her mouth. And then she closed her eyes and purred.

"I thought you and Raymund returned to Toussaint." Roy looked around, but Grimm's armor and sword were not with him.

"By the knights, I lost my job." Grimm smiled. There was not a hint of sadness on his face. "The duke thought I lost on purpose. Infuriated, he terminated my services and left me in Cintra."


"Oh no, Geralt. This isn't your fault. It's just right. I've killed just about every bandit around Toussaint over the last ten years. It's time for this knight to expand his patrol territory." He took his beef out and cut it into smaller pieces for easier eating. "Time for an odyssey. The northern lands are my goal. I shall spread justice and battle evil's henchmen to train myself."

"That's a respectable goal. And you're a respectable man." Roy's cheeks twitched. There weren't many men as naive and innocent as Grimm. But of course, in this world, that kind of innocence could only mean one thing. "Pardon me for asking, but do you have a clear goal for this trip?"

Ciri let out a burp and snatched Coria's blueberry juice, then she took a big swig.

"Making a plan before any operation is the basics of being a knight." Grimm glanced at Ciri, her servant, and the soldiers in disguise, and he nodded. "I shall be traveling to the east of Cintra, passing through Temeria and Aedirn. Then I shall turn around and make my way through Kaedwen, Redania, and eventually come back to Cintra. It's going to take a year or two," he said. "Once I'm back in Cintra, I shall board a boat and sail to Skellige, where I can spar with the men of the sea."

So he's going to travel across the continent, huh? Roy was a little envious. Once the brotherhood settles down, I'm going on a continent-wide trip as well. But his trip is going to end in failure. The war will have started halfway through his trip, and Cintra will be no more.

"You should stay awhile when you get to Redania." Geralt invited, "Come to Novigrad's ballroom. We'll treat you."

"I'll be taking you up on the offer, then." Grimm laughed heartily and wiped the remains of the stew from his mouth. Then he bowed. "I shall be looking forward to our sparring session in Redania. I'd like you to test my mettle then."

They clanged their bowls, and the scent of meat wafted in the air.

"I shall be waiting."

The three of them were chatting happily. While Roy wasn't looking, Ciri managed to lure Gryphon out and stuff it full of beef stew. It kept protesting, but Ciri kept feeding it.

"Grimm, you were born and bred in Toussaint, and you're a competent knight. You have also ventured into dangerous lairs." Roy paused and turned around to shoot Ciri a look of warning. The girl stopped pulling Gryphon's whiskers. "Have you ever run into any other witchers?"

Toussaint was a place of misfortune. Merten the Manticore and Jerome the Griffin met their lives' turning points there.

"Geralt is the first witcher I've ever fought, but before that, I encountered something off in a place called Mont Crane Castle. I was on my way to clear the place of bandits." A momentary pause swooped down on them, and a weird look overtook Grimm's eyes. "A man in tattered clothes darted out of the castle's basement. He had wild amber eyes and a griffin medallion. The man ran as fast as a stallion, but he seemed crazed. Gone into the wilderness before I could even stop him."

"Mont Crane's basement?" Roy's heart skipped a beat. That's the place I told Auckes to set up a waypoint in. "Are you sure it was a madman with a griffin medallion?"

Roy knew Grimm was talking about Jerome, but as far as his memory went, this particular witcher had been locked behind a one-way portal for a hundred years. So how did he escape?

"And this is the weird part. I scoured the whole castle, but the guy was gone. Like he disappeared into thin air."

"When did that happen?"

"About five years ago."

If that's the first time Jerome broke out of his trap, then how did he manage to survive in the underground for so long? Roy took a deep breath. Guess I'll have to travel to Toussaint for the truth.


After they bade goodbye, the group led Ciri across Cintra, only returning to the castle when she was sweating and huffing.

That night, Roy accompanied her on a griffinback ride. She had always wished to ride a griffin and fly through the air. For the next two days, the witchers played with Ciri. Hide-and-seek, make-believe duels, storytelling, and fishing. Everything Ciri loved, they did with her. And it made her a happy princess.

It was an overcast morning. Ciri was saying her goodbyes in the garden. She was in typical princess attire that day, and the girl was wiping her tears. With a plea and command in her voice, she said, "You have to come to see me. At least once a month. And you gotta bring Gryphon with you, Roy. I wanna ride him."

"We'll come when the time is right." Roy pinched her cheek. "And a serious warning. No matter what animal Gryphon turns into, do not pull its whiskers, or you're not allowed to play with her."

Ciri hiccupped. "You meanie!"

"What did you say?"

"Fine, fine. I won't do it." She puffed her cheeks like an angry squirrel, then she turned her attention to Geralt.

Before she could say anything, Geralt promised, "We'll hunt a dragon when you turn eighteen."

"You'd better not forget that!"

"Thank you for your concern, witchers." Calanthe put her hands on her belly, and she beamed. "Once Mousesack's student makes her way to Novigrad, she shall evaluate your base as well. If it proves to be a good place, Ciri might stay there for a few days."

"Really, Grandma?" Ciri raised her head in surprise.

"As long as you're good."

"I promise I'll be!" Ciri puffed her chest out and swung her grandmother's arm around.

"Here's a little gift for you, witchers."

A servant presented the witchers with an exquisite wooden box. Roy opened it, and the first thing he saw was the gleam of gold. It was all laid out neatly and was worth about twenty thousand crowns.

The witchers exchanged a smile.

"This is goodbye, then." Eist was in a bear hide jacket. He pinched his beard and waved the witchers goodbye. "I hope this won't be our last meeting, witchers."

Roy smiled and was about to open a portal back to Novigrad, but then he froze. Everything around him started to spin faster and faster. Elder Blood was blinking furiously on his character sheet, and time seemed to stop.

Weird ripples spread out around the rulers of Cintra and their granddaughter. Like bubbles floating on water, they quickly popped and faded away.

What replaced them was another silhouette. She was wearing a veil, and Roy couldn't see what she really looked like. The petite girl had black hair and eyes as green as the trees of a forest. She seemed to be chuckling at Roy, and the girl was extending an arm to him.

Roy felt a sense of familiarity coming from the girl. It was an unstoppable bond borne from the heart. It felt like there was an inexplicable knot that tied them together. A knot woven by Destiny.

"Roy?" Geralt asked.

The girl and everything around her shattered like glass. Once again, Calanthe and her family reappeared, still smiling.

"Sorry, I was thinking about something else."

"Did something happen?"

"No. Everything's fine."


The witchers leapt into their portal. Overcast was the sky, threatening to engulf Cintra's palace in one fell swoop. It seemed to herald the coming of a tragedy.


End of arc



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