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The Divine Hunter

Reaper Scans

 

Chapter 379: Meeting at the Seven Cats

 

[TL: Asuka]

[PR: Ash]

 

"How do you feel, Vicki? Are you alright?"

Vicki was back at the orphanage, and everyone huddled around her. They were inches away from her, the worry in their eyes palpable.

"Does it still hurt?" A girl with pigtails and no front teeth held her friend's hand and blew on the bruise.

"I'm alright, Renee. It doesn't hurt." Vicki nodded. She was moved that her friends cared so much about her. The girl announced, "You didn't see it, but Auckes was awesome! He beat that bad guy down before he even took me out of the forest!"

"Who's the bastard?"

"A kidnapper, perhaps?"

"We're making him pay for what he did to Vicki!"

The boys were infuriated. Carl, Monti, and the other reserve apprentices stepped forward. Their eyes were glinting viciously, and they announced to Vicki, "We're kicking that kidnapper's butt for what he did to you!"

"He's going to wish he never did that!"

"We'll make him cry like a little baby!"

Protecting their friends at the orphanage, especially the pretty ones, was their responsibility. Or at least that was what the reserve apprentices thought.

"Yeah, you guys are tough, fast, and the teachers taught you how to swing a bat!" A short-haired girl with freckles around her nose agreed, and she swung her fists happily. "You can beat him up if you work together!"

"Hey, they aren't bats. They're practice swords!" Carl quickly explained, and then someone smacked him on his head again. "Ow!" The boy held his head.

"Did you just say you were going to smack someone, kid? Look at yourself. You'd do nothing but scratch him."

Vesemir made his appearance, and the kids quickly went into their formation and held their heads high. Even Vicki did the same. And this time, no one lost their shoe.

Vesemir looked at the kids and thought they reacted decently. The brotherhood's training works. But he didn't show that recognition outwardly. "Kids, you're to stay in the classroom from now on. No leaving the orphanage without permission, and no going into the woods."

Monti raised his hand. "Sir, how will the kidnapper be dealt with?"

"He will receive due punishment." Vesemir looked at the shut door behind him, and worry flashed in his eyes for a moment. And then he beamed at the children. "And the five of you are coming with me to 'swing a bat.' Plow stance! The rest of you, return to the classroom and go through yesterday's lesson. You have a test to take!"

***

The chamber was lit by nothing but a flickering candle. Within it was a man tied to a chair, his eyes glassy. Sitting before him was an old and blackening wooden table, and it was covered with tweezers, pliers, and scalpels.

A group of men with viper eyes were standing around him.

"Name?"

"Jurgen."

"Age?"

"Forty-two."

"Who are you, and where do you come from?"

"I'm a bounty hunter from Nimnar."

"Nimnar's a city in the northeast of Novigrad," Aiden explained. He knew geography better than most people there. "It belongs to Redania."

Serrit was still casting Axii, and he kept asking, "Why were you in the woods? Why did you kidnap the child?"

The man shook his head, and his eyes started to glint. There was a struggle happening in his mind.

"Not talking, eh? We have time." Auckes picked up a scalpel and twirled it around his fingers, but he didn't get to play.

Jurgen answered, "A request… to keep an eye on the orphanage… kidnap a girl…"

The witchers' eyes glinted fiercely. The orphanage was their source of new witchers, and they would not allow anything to happen to the children.

"Wonder if it's the blasted kidnappers," Lambert guessed.

"One kid isn't enough for those hyenas, Lambert." Letho shook his head. "If they want to take the children, they're going to be a lot louder about it."

"Why did you want the girl? Where were you going to take her?" Serrit asked. "Who's your boss?"

"I was taking her to the southeast outskirts. An alleyway behind Seven Cats Inn. Going to hand her to… to the employer. I don't know his name or who he is."

"What does he look like?"

"About thirty years old. A man. About six feet tall. Fat. Really fat. More than two hundred pounds. Reddish-brown hair, flat nose, beady eyes, pale skin, no facial hair…"

The witchers wondered where they had seen that kind of man before, but they couldn't put a finger on it.

"I don't care who the bastard is, but I will cut his hands off for trying to kidnap our kids!" Letho roared while thumping the table.

"That's all?" Lambert's scar turned slightly red. He screeched, "I'll toss him to the ghouls and watch them tear him apart!"

They hadn't been with the kids long, but the witchers wouldn't let anyone touch them.

Aiden was raring to go. It wasn't every day he got to fight alongside a group of witchers, and he wanted to see how adept the brotherhood was at fighting.

"Calm down, people." Serrit asked, "When were you going to meet up with him?"

"In a week."

Serrit grilled Jurgen for a password, possible hidden partners, and the reward for doing this. And then he knocked the hunter out. "We've been lax. Can't believe we allowed a pest to crawl around for two weeks." Serrit shook his head and chortled. "But he's brave. Charging straight into a dragon's lair for three hundred crowns."

If more than ten witchers worked together, they could kill a green dragon. In a sense, they were more dangerous than a dragon, and their lair had no gemstones to speak of. No matter what, infiltrating their lair was a wrong and foolish choice.

"So what do you think?"

"Probably a request from Bedlam or Cleaver." Auckes rubbed his chin. "We tried to stay in the shadows, but they probably found us out. Couldn't let us grow our forces, I think."

"Might not be the gang lords. Don't forget who else we're dealing with," Letho said. "The church is even more on guard against us. Cleaver and Bedlam at least have an agreement with us. It's unlikely they would break it."

"I disagree." Serrit shook his head. "The church isn't hunting us down as aggressively as they do with other non-humans. Stealing a child isn't their style."

"People, may I suggest something?" Aiden interrupted. "Bedlam, Cleaver, and the church aside, the town hall might be involved in this. You know the upper society hates us for no reason. They take pleasure in getting rid of us."

Lambert told him he would die because a noble set him up. Of course he had to be more careful.

The air was somber. None of the witchers ever thought of this before, but now that they thought about it, they did have a lot of hidden enemies. The church, the town hall, Cleaver, and Bedlam. Any of them would be hard to handle if they came after the witchers.

"We need to have a contingency plan." Letho rubbed his shiny head. "Call Gawain and listen to what he has to say. We'll prepare for the worst-case scenario and come up with a plan to fend off our enemies." He looked at the unconscious witcher. "And we need to make this guy submit. Then we'll play along and drag the real mastermind out into the light. I want to see who's behind this kidnapping."

"It's been a while since I got some action." Auckes grinned toothily and cracked his knuckles. "So, Alonso's manor all over again?"

"Count me in this time." Aiden's eyes glinted, the burn mark on his chin widening as he smiled.

"Did any of you think this through? Modern problems require modern solutions!" Serrit retorted. "We pull another Alonso's manor, and we're gonna be fugitives!" He said, "Even if we have to fight, we need to keep the battle at a minimum. Don't ruin the city too much. We're not only working for ourselves now. The orphanage needs to go on."

"Should we call for Roy, Eskel, and Felix?" Lambert asked.

"Not at the moment." Letho answered, "We'll have to cover for them. One extra patrol for the night, and tell the kids to stay away from the woods. You keep an eye on them and come up with an exit strategy. I'll see Gawain in the afternoon."

 

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