Chapter 388: Arrangement
Yet again, the sun slowly set behind the horizon. The children at the orphanage had their dinner and were playing with their chicks. Two months had gone by since they received their pets, and most of them weighed two pounds now. The chicks were clucking and following the children closely.
Some of the chicks looked a little famished though, as their masters would sometimes forget to feed them.
Monti was tossing a chick around, but then he stopped suddenly. The boy turned his attention to the woods outside. His jaw dropped, forming a comical O.
There was a man and a woman approaching the orphanage. The man was wearing the familiar Manticore armor Monti had seen so many times. A pair of swords were strapped to his back, and he looked like a mountain under the sun.
The woman was in a white dress. Her hair was fiery-red and billowing in the wind, while her beautifully tanned skin was glimmering under the last rays of the sun. A smile tugged on her lips. She was holding the witcher's arm and leaned closely on him.
"Hey, people! Roy's back! Surround him! Don't let him get away! And the lady's here too!"
The kids let out happy shouts that shook the earth. They quickly surrounded Roy and stared at him innocently like puppies wagging their tail and waiting to be petted.
Their chicks were clucking loudly behind them, and the scene was chaotic.
"Did you miss me, kids?" The muscular witcher took his sunglasses off and patted the children's heads. "You grew a bit, Acamuthorm. Monti, you put on some weight. Did you slack off? Charname, stop looking so glum. Carl, you're even prettier now. The girls might think you're one of them."
"Renee, open your mouth. I wanna see if you've grown any teeth."
"Oh, as neat as a comb. And Vicki, your eyes are glimmering again. So, how many full marks this time?"
The beautiful girl with twin ponytails stared at the ground and tugged on the hem of her clothing happily.
"We thought you weren't coming back, Roy!" Monti shouted.
Roy smiled and looked at the children. "I won't leave you kids behind."
The children started gushing and throwing a lot of questions at Roy.
"Your eyes are different. They're different colors now."
"Did you grow taller, Roy?"
"Halt!" Roy smiled and looked at the sorceress standing behind the children. She was smiling at him. "How about you kids play with Lytta?" He winked at the sorceress. "Take care of the kids, Coral."
"Huh?" Lytta's jaw dropped a little. There was confusion and anticipation in her eyes. Deep inside her, she wanted to play with the children, but one was enough. This was too many.
"You wanted to play with the kids? Here's your chance."
Roy put Vicki's hand in Coral's hand and wiped the sweat off his forehead before he left the orphanage. Getting bombarded by so many questions was more tiring than going through a Trial. Even now, he could still hear the kids asking Coral questions.
"You're so beautiful, Lytta. Are you a nymph?"
"Are you Roy's bride?"
"How old are you? Auckes and Lambert told us to call you granny."
And Lytta's smile was wiped off her face.
"One month. Can't believe you came back, kid." Letho was leaning on the wall outside the classroom, his arms crossed. There was a solemn look in his eyes. "Now do you see why I told you to stay away from them? I hope you've learnt your lesson."
"Yeah, Roy." Auckes showed up on the other side of the classroom. His eyes were narrowed and filled with envy and sarcasm. "You need to be really strong to date a sorceress. Their bodies are modified, and their stamina is on par with ours. Slip, and they'll drain you dry. I can't believe you lasted for a month. Made us proud."
Serrit emerged from the classroom. "Odd. Instead of losing weight, you gained muscle. And some height."
"Of course he got taller. He's at that age. His eyes, however…" An energized Vesemir came out right after. There was approval in his eyes, but also a question. "I might be old and forgetful now, but there are some things I don't forget. Like how your eyes used to be dark gold. But now they're heterochromatic."
All eyes turned to Roy, especially the grey part of his left eye.
"Did you really think I was there for a vacation?" Roy smiled. "I went through a lot of potions just to optimize the Manticore Trial. Some of them affected me and changed my eye color."
And he gained a look of gratitude from Felix. He knew Roy did that to protect Carl and elevate his chances of success.
Roy continued. "But don't worry. I went through it because my premonition said it would be fine. And I have a special healing skill. Aside from this change in eye color, nothing else happened. The optimization is a big success. All that's left is for Carl to take the Trial."
Letho mused. He was reminded of Roy's regenerative ability, but he still looked displeased. "You were supposed to assist her, not test her drugs out. Did she force you into this?"
"On the contrary, we almost got into a big fight because she tried to stop me."
"Then why? Why did you do that? Are you stupid?" Serrit shook his head and pointed a finger at Roy. "If something had happened to you, we'd have lost our seer. Who would’ve taken over?"
"You didn't go through the Trial, did you?" Eskel blurted. He had been quiet until now.
"I'm not stupid. Of course not." Roy lied as naturally as he breathed. He shook his head. "I'd die if I took a second Trial. It'd clash with the Trial I have. Look at me, I'm fine. And one month isn't enough to hold a Trial. They were just regular potions."
The witchers fell silent, but their doubts were starting to wane.
"Heterochromia isn't something trivial." For once, Auckes was serious. "Your luck will run out sooner or later. Genetic mutation is unpredictable. If you had lost an eye or a nose, Lytta would have dumped you."
She wouldn’t. Roy was sure of it. Her taking care of him over the past month told Roy enough of her loyalty.
"Next time something this dangerous pops up again, tell us about it." Geralt patted Roy's shoulder. "We'll talk it through. Can't let a young lad take all the risks."
Lambert thumped Roy's chest. "If you think of us as your friends, that is."
Eskel and Kiyan gave Roy a look of concern. Aiden was staring silently. The veteran witchers might be chastising Roy, but he could see they were worried about him.
Aiden was a little envious. Gatherings rarely happened between Cats, let alone showing concern. Even if someone did show concern, they usually had something to gain.
Eventually, Roy gave in to the lectures. "Fine, I promise I'll tell you before I do anything like this next time."
"Don't even try to bullshit your way out of this, kid." Letho shot him a withering look.
"I'll leave the brotherhood if I break that promise."
Everyone calmed down a little.
Roy changed the subject. "So, did you guys do anything while I was gone?"
"Lots of things." Vesemir pinched his beard and told Roy about the tale of Sebastian. "So…"
An image of a two-hundred-pound, six-feet-six man popped into his head. Geez. Looks like a pig that just got a shower.
If memory served him right, Redania's intelligence agency manager was that towering man in his mind—Sigismund Dijkstra.
He was a controversial man with many flaws. Hiding in the shadows while cooking up conspiracies was what he did best. Still, he was truly loyal to Redania, his home country. Didn't expect a fight with Sigismund to break out so soon, and we actually won.
But that was not the end. He didn't think Sigismund would give up so soon. There must be more Redanian spies lurking in Novigrad. Heck, spies from every kingdom, perhaps.
Roy did remember a part of Chappelle's history. A few years ago, he died from a heart attack, and a doppler was wandering close by, so he took Chappelle's place and started doing charity with the power he had.
But ten years later, Redania invaded Novigrad and had the church under control. The doppler was found out and burned at the stake. That won't happen this time. I'm here now.
Roy fell silent for a moment. "So we have two dopplers in Novigrad now. At least he's a better neighbor than the evil chancellor. This is good news."
Serrit smiled. "This is Destiny's decree. Not only did Redania's spy fail to thwart us, but they made us look like saints. Chappelle recognizes our efforts and is now in on the peace treaty. We just signed the revised treaty at a brothel a while ago. The church is our ally now, so long as we don't do anything illegal."
"We can get Gawain to convince his friend to join our alliance," suggested Roy.
"And he's working on it. Chappelle needs us to cover his ass for the hierarch. He will have to join the alliance whether he likes it or not," Letho answered.
"We've cleared all obstacles." Lambert was shivering in excitement. "Now nobody can stop our expansion."
"We gotta take it one step at a time. We're not in a hurry to take in new students." Vesemir looked into the distance. Coral was sweating from answering all the questions the children were throwing at her. "First, we have to raise the ones we have. They're plenty brilliant."
The witchers were reminded of the day these kids defended them from the church despite them being so outnumbered and outclassed. Even though they were scared and terrified, they still stepped in bravely.
"You raised them well, but only less than a quarter of them can be witchers." Vesemir said, "We know how witchers are traditionally trained. And what about the regular children? What do you think? Should we just go on with the classes and activities like usual? Are we going to tell them to leave once they come of age and strike out on their own?"
The Vipers exchanged smiles. "We were just waiting for that question, Vesemir."
"The brotherhood is only made up of witchers, but there's no rule saying we can't work with regular people." Roy started explaining his plan. "We're spending a lot of time and effort raising these kids. It'd be best if we could maintain an amicable bond. We need all kinds of people for the brotherhood to work. Once they master common speech and identify themselves as a part of our community, we can go into specialization. Since they would put themselves in danger to protect you, I think they've already thought of themselves as one of us." Roy looked at his companions. "Some prefer medicine and alchemy. They can learn from Letho, and we have a workplace for them to practice."
"I'm a decent alchemist too." Kiyan pushed his sunglasses up, revealing his eyes.
"Of course. You're one of the best people who can teach them. And some of the kids prefer farming and husbandry."
"You expect us to hire a druid to teach them?" Felix cocked an eyebrow.
Roy smiled, but he said nothing.
"Let me guess. Some of them are interested in poetry and culture." Lambert asked curiously, "Should we get Dandelion to teach them, then?"
"No. Let him enjoy his retirement." Roy shook his head. "They can further their studies in Oxenfurt Academy. Don't underestimate intellectuals. If they make a name for themselves, they can write books and epics that'll alter how the public sees us. That'll help our mission."
A long silence ensued.
Vesemir broke the ice. "That's a big dream, lad. A dream that needs a lot of time and money. A decade, at least. And a lot can change in a decade. Perhaps reality will not end up as ideally as the vision you have in mind."
"That's where we come in. Novigrad is the perfect place for us, so we have to try." Roy's eyes shone. "We'll raise and guide them. They can work for the brotherhood, and we can help them out as well. Blacksmithing, alchemy, farming, culture… No matter which field it is, when the regular children make a name for themselves, they'll be a big boon to us. We can leave the regular work to them while we concentrate on expansion."
"Too early, if you ask me," Eskel commented. "We should raise the kids we have and build a solid foundation for them."
"No. I think we should be prepared." Serrit suggested, "We should build a furnace and workstation near the orphanage. Then we'll find a spot to set up a garden." Serrit rubbed his chin and ran the calculations in his head. "We'll need about a thousand crowns."
Letho, Auckes, Serrit, and Vesemir suggested something as well, and they reached a decision.
Roy turned his attention to the witchers who just came back from clearing the sewers and finding the Griffin diagram. "So, how did things go on your end?"
"Your premonition was spot on. Six diagrams, all accounted for." Geralt nodded with a smile. He was wearing green leather armor with chains covering his vitals. It was the Viper armor Vesemir brought back.
On the other hand, Kiyan was wearing heavy Ursine armor. His chest and torso were covered in chainmail, while his hands were covered in plate armor. And he was wearing brigandine armor that draped down to his knees.
"Wasn't an easy trip. Harpies, drowners, wyverns, wraiths… We killed them all. Got nearly ten mutagens."
"I'm getting the next mission, right?" Lambert wiggled his eyebrows. "Staying here all the time makes me rusty. Don't you think so, Aiden?"
"Yes." Aiden's interest in the brotherhood was growing, but it wasn't enough to make him join. He needed a good battle.
"You'd throw away an easy job for battle?" Vesemir chuckled.
"Easy jobs are for you, old man." Lambert snorted.
Roy rolled his eyes and turned to Felix. "So, how did the sewer cleaning go?"
"Eh, a nice trip. And good training, but…" He looked at Eskel, the guy who went with him.
Eskel rubbed his arm, and Roy noticed a bandage under his sleeve. "The sewers are filled with drowners and ghouls. Felix and I killed about a hundred of them in a month."
"The church should make you model citizens." Roy smiled.
"I got ahead of myself, and one of them got me, but it was just a scratch. Nothing more."
"And we gained a lot from this trip." Felix pushed his sunglasses up, his eyes twinkling with a smile. "Monster organs and mutagens galore. If we add Geralt's loot onto the pile, we'll have enough to make two doses of the Trial and a lot of pre-Trials. And a lot of decoctions too."
"There's a passage we didn't clear in time." Eskel paused for a moment. "We'll finish the job tomorrow."
"You stay here and rest." Roy wanted to take this. "It's been a month since I had some action. I'd like to fight."
"Count us in." Aiden and Lambert raised their hands.
Nobody was sent out for any mission. Everyone stayed back to prepare. They were looking forward to Carl's Trial. He was the first one to take it since the orphanage's inception.
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