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The Divine Hunter

Reaper Scans

 

Chapter 280: Montes Distanse

 

[TL: Asuka]

[PR: Ash]

 

Not long after Auckes and Kantilla set off, Linus went through the system and gave the witchers temporary student IDs. For the next three days, the witchers could drop in any lectures they wanted, save for anything related to the alchemy faculty and espionage faculty. These faculties were strict and would never accept any drop-ins.

It was a day off though, so they didn't need the IDs. "Mr. Linus, I'd like to know more about griffin rearing."

Roy gave it some thought and decided to be honest with Linus. He told the professor about Gryphon's real identity.

"You transfigured it with an item? And it's actually a female griffin? It's not even one year old yet?" Linus held Roy's hand, his eyes filled with excitement and delight. "Master Roy, I couldn't believe you tamed Gryphon instead of killing it! You're different from the other witchers. You're on my side, aren't you? Protecting endangered animals is—"

"I'm partly on your side," Roy interrupted right away. "I need your suggestion. How can I raise a griffin more efficiently?"

He pinched his stubble. "I'll need to see your griffin and perform a full-body checkup before I can come up with a plan."

"So you double as a vet, too?"

"I spent my whole life in the zoo. I'm in charge of everything, so I have to know a bit of everything, though I'd say I'm on par with most vets in Oxenfurt."

Roy nodded. He wanted to see if he was raising Gryphon correctly, and if it had some underlying problems like malnourishment. "You'll have to wait until night time before Gryphon can turn back."

"Can you leave it with me? I need to study it."

"Sure."

The witchers did their own stuff that afternoon. Roy went to the library alone, while the other witchers went with Linus. They wanted to see more of the endangered species. They preferred live specimens over books.

***

As one of the most famous academies in the world, Oxenfurt had a lot to offer. Its library was gargantuan. Unlike most libraries, which only took a single story in a building, Oxenfurt's library was a three-story building hidden among the woods. It was even bigger than the library in the temple of Melitele. The first two stories were open to the students and public, but the third floor was only open to the teaching staff.

The structure was similar across every floor. Both sides of the halls were filled with bookshelves. Roy made a rough estimation and realized that there were about three to four thousand books per side. With literacy being as low as it was, books were as valuable as coins and gemstones. Oxenfurt was really rich if they could purchase this many books.

Rows of long, rectangular tables sat between the shelves. The place was enough to house two to three hundred people at once. Pots of beautiful plants stood between the tables, filling the air with a refreshing and lively scent. The hall looked spruced up with just the plants alone. The library was attractive enough to become one of the most popular spots to hang out, even on days off.

The library was filled with students immersed in books, gleaning every sliver of knowledge they could. Everyone tacitly remained silent. The only sound in the library was the rustle of quills on paper. The young witcher walked around silently. He took out a book titled Rare Herbal Potions and Diseases from a bookshelf with 'Medicine and Herbs' labeled on it. Since his Alchemy was already Level 2, he decided to delve deeper into the field of medicine.

The witcher walked around, but he found no empty spots on the first floor. Roy went to the second floor, though the only spot there was the one beside the restroom. The medical information in this library was exactly what he needed. He didn't have a lot of potion recipes, and some of them were taught by Kalkstein, though they were incredibly niche.

Now that he had gotten his hands on this, he could take his time to figure out all kinds of precious potions recipes. Eventually, he got engrossed.

***

Time flew when he was focused on something. Roy had no idea how much time had passed. All he knew was that he felt people come and go a few times. In the meantime, he managed to memorize the potion recipes to heal three of the most common diseases: flu, fever, and acid reflux.

Something was egging him on, and he was drawing something in the air. His itch for alchemy was acting up again. There was one thing worthy of note here. Even if he did master the recipes and create the potions, it was strictly for private use. Anyone who wanted to sell potions in cities of the northern kingdoms would have to pay an exorbitant amount of coins for the patent. Patent laws in the north were well developed, especially in trade cities like Redania. Using Oxenfurt's studies to make money was against the law.

Selling the potions in villages or smuggling them somewhere else was a different story altogether, though.

Just when Roy was immersed in his thoughts, he felt a gust of warm air brush against his face. Someone was standing before him, and he cleared his throat.

"And you are?" Roy looked up. The guy was a man. He was in impeccable clothes, and a yellow bucket hat stood on his head. His eyes were sparkling with the power of youth, and he looked like a perfectly typical scholar. The man was smiling at Roy.

"I'm very sorry to disturb you, sir," the man whispered. He would hate to disturb anyone else. His eyes were starting to glimmer with excitement, though. The man was glancing at the young witcher's right hand. More specifically, he was looking at the crimson mark on it.

Roy quickly rolled his sleeve down. Gaunter's mark hadn't been doing anything lately. He had almost forgotten about it.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Montes Distanse, a researcher of the occult and a student of the Applied Archeology Faculty. Your eyes seem different, good sir. You are a witcher." The man stopped for a moment, trying to organize his words.

A researcher of the occult? Roy considered that fact for a moment, and he closed his book. The young witcher stood up and shook the man's hand. "Good afternoon, Mr. Distanse. I'm Roy of the Viper School. Pardon me, but you don't look like a Redanian."

The man had a slightly long face, crooked nose, deep-set eyes, and his Common Speech sounded rigid, but he did not sound like Letho and the others, who were from the south. The way he spoke was a bit retroflexed.

"I'm an Ofirian. By chance, I came to further my studies in Oxenfurt, and I've been here for eight years."

Ofir was located beyond the ocean. It was far, far away from the land they were in. "Did you come here by ship?"

"Yes. I was at sea for more than two months. Ran into quite a lot of problems, but through sheer luck, I lived to see this land." He smiled dryly. "That was a long and arduous trip."

Roy looked a little disappointed. "So why did you… Wait. Where have you seen this mark before?"

"In a book belonging to my mentor. Let's talk more about it outside, shall we?" The man looked around. Some students were already upset that they were discussing in the library.

***

The sun was warm, and the grass was swaying in the wind. The young witcher and Montes were walking down a golden path in the woods.

"What kind of book is it? A record of legends, poems, or folklore?" Roy asked.

"Folklore," Montes said. "It's a record of about a dozen strange tales of the land."

"For example?" Roy asked, interested. "I'm interested in these stories. Tell me more."

"On the day of the solar eclipse, a poor girl was born on the outskirts of Oxenfurt. When she was ten, her parents, terrified for their lives, abandoned her in the woods. She was forced to live a life of suffering. The girl resorted to petty tricks like theft and deception to make a living. She was even forced to sell herself sometimes. She eventually joined a group of bandits and lived a life of crime. And so she lived, until the second eclipse came. She led her comrades back to her hometown and killed everyone who abandoned her." He stopped for a moment. "She stripped herself naked and traveled into the woods, drenched in blood. Nobody saw her ever again, but since then, a grave hag who would ambush travelers took up residence in the forest."

"That's obviously nonsense." Roy looked ahead coldly. "A story to demonize girls who are born during eclipses. Same kind of nonsense as the Curse of the Black Sun."

The Curse of the Black Sun was a prophecy left by Eltibald. According to that prophecy, sixty girls who were born during eclipses would eventually turn into cruel creatures and sacrifice countless human lives to resurrect a demon called Lilit to bring about the end. Because of that prophecy, girls who were born during eclipses were far more infamous than witchers, even until now. They were hated, and they suffered worse fate because of their lack of power like witchers.

Countless baby girls were tortured and dissected by mages. If they were not dissected, they would be locked up in towers and die alone. The most famous victims of that were Sylvia Anna and Renfri. The former was the sister of Toussaint's duchess. Most people knew that the curse was a lie, but a few of the superstitious mages took it as truth.

"We're still not sure about the curse's veracity just yet. Too early for conclusions." Montes shook his head. "The stories are based on two of the human civilizations that are extinct. They gleaned these stories from the Wozgor's mausoleum and the Dauk's stele. There's some grain of truth to the prophecy. Of course, you can ignore it if you'd like."

Eventually, they arrived at the edge of the island. The young witcher looked down at the river. It was gleaming under the sun. He rolled his sleeve up and revealed the mark. "And what about this mark? Any stories about it?"

"An old and clichéd one," Montes said. "Once, there was a gambler who lost all his money and incurred a great amount of debt. The great debt crushed his family, leaving him with nothing to live for. The man, beset by despair and rage, went to a quiet alleyway and tried to hang himself on a tree. Just when he was about to hang himself, an old, hunched hag in a cloak appeared out of nowhere and saved his life."

"Wait. Are you sure it was an old lady?"

"That's what the story said. Not only did she save his life, she even gave him a priceless treasure—a teapot that could produce gold. That teapot granted the man all the money he could ever want, and he went on gambling."

"What about the price? Or the side effects, if you will. No free lunch in this world."

"Smart, witcher. There was a condition to get that gold. The owner had to put themselves through great agony. The greater the agony they put themselves through, the more gold the teapot would give."

"Let me guess. The man went too far and killed himself to get as much gold as he wanted?" Roy mocked.

"No." Montes shook his head, smiling. "A short while after he got that teapot, someone saw the man, injured and bruised, drowning himself in a river. Someone searched the area, but they found nothing. Neither the man's body nor the teapot was found. Some creative souls wrote down the man's story, and interestingly, that man had the same mark as you do."

Roy mused on it. Dramatic enough. Sounds like a Gaunter production. The guy went missing all of a sudden. Bet he's on a great adventure. Why'd he disguise himself as a lady though? I know he changes his appearances a lot, but he's always a guy.

"According to my mentor's investigations, this mark has appeared throughout the world at least a dozen times. Each of the bearers had gone through great changes in their lives and fell into despair. Before they went missing, they would run into a mysterious figure who could change their appearances at will. Though most of them ran into an old lady in a cloak. It provided a solution for the bearers' problems, but only for a time. Their lives would, invariably, end tragically." Montes shrugged regrettably.

"These are mere records or testimonials from witnesses. They're not detailed enough. It's nigh impossible to analyze anything, let alone delve deeper into the occult section of it. Until today. You're a living example!" Montes pleaded, "Can you tell me more about your story? Make it a request if you will. I'll pay you handsomely."

Roy massaged his temples. He thought about it for a moment. Instead of answering, he said, "You're a researcher of the occult. Do you believe in demons and devils then?"

"I've never seen those, but over the years of learning from my mentor, I've witnessed countless phenomena that can't be explained by science. Though they're all eerily similar. Something mysterious is controlling these phenomena. Something most people can't sense," he answered confidently. "And that's why I believe that demons exist. They're just living somewhere I can't see."

"And my story will drag you into this whole mess. You'll get involved with these beings. You can and will die. No. Death is actually merciful if you're dealing with demons. Do you still want to seek out the truth then?" Roy said coldly, as if he were threatening him.

Montes froze.

"Lad, let's put this discussion to a stop. Don't look into it. And stop investigating the occult. Transfer to another faculty." Roy patted his shoulder. "Leave while you can. Get married and have a child. It's not too late yet." No way a regular human can fight them. Not when it has you in its sights.

"Witcher, wait!" Montes clenched his fists, pacing back and forth nervously. "I might be too young and inexperienced to deal with something of this level, but someone isn't."

"You mean your mentor. What's his name?"

"Premethine Shakeslock. Oxenfurt's occult professor. Ever heard of him?"

Roy was surprised. He was reminded of a sage old man. Shakeslock. The guy Gaunter trapped in a circle many years later. The blind old guy tortured by nightmares and hallucination. He was a man worthy of respect. Premethine was a regular human, but he kept fighting Gaunter until the very bitter end.

Roy fell into silence.

Montes thought he had a chance. "Professor Shakeslock has been researching the occult for decades. Nothing is too mysterious for him. But he's out for work at the moment. He'll be back in two weeks. Can you give us that much time? You're a bearer of the mark. You must have gone through despair yourself, but the professor can help you."

"I'll be gone by then. Forget it." Roy shook his head and left. I might kill Premethine early if I get in touch with him now. 

"Where will you be going?" Montes followed Roy, huffing and puffing.

"Novigrad. We'll talk about this if we get the chance."

 

***

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