Chapter 377: Second Trial
After so many years, the oven in the underground lab was once again ignited, the flames shining on two silhouettes standing within.
Roy had changed into more breathable wool attire, and he was sitting on the cold operating theater. Standing before him was a solemn, frowning sorceress who was weaving her fingers across the air. Colorful lights of magic converged and blinked on top of her fingertips before they flew into Roy's body and glimmered.
A quill started scribbling lines and lines of data on a laid-out parchment without anyone controlling it. For a moment there, only the sound of scratching echoed in the air.
About eight minutes later, the magical lights faded, and Lytta stopped casting her spell. Then she picked the records up. "Blood pressure, heartbeat, oxygen levels, rate of respiration… All normal. You're very healthy."
"Told you I prepared for a whole year just for this. It'll be fine." Roy thumped his chest.
"Didn't take you for a braggart, Roy. So you're saying you've started preparing for your second Trial right after your first one ended?" Lytta scrunched her nose and shot him a playful glare, then she smacked his knee. "Now sit down and don't interrupt me. Dark golden eyes, black hair, slightly pale skin… Measures at 5 feet 8 inches, weighs 170 pounds, and your muscle density is a lot higher than most people's."
She stared at him and poked his chest. "You're at least twice as strong as regular humans. As strong as a bull."
"Is that a compliment? Well, you know my body best." He smirked and stared at her lips. "But won't I feel heavy when we do… that?"
"Alright, no nonsense now." A hue of red painted her cheeks, and Coral pinched Roy’s arm.
Roy gasped and rubbed it.
Lytta ignored him and continued. "Aside from that, your skin is unusually smooth. Even most women don’t have skin as smooth as yours. There's not even a scar or a flaw. That is impossible." She stared at him with envy. "You don't look like a witcher. They usually brave the elements and fight numerous battles. Are you a sorcerer from Ban Ard? Did you take over my little Roy?"
"If you know I have no scars at all, then you must've been really thorough. You're a good doctor." Roy held her hand and kissed the back of it. He stared at her, the desire in his eyes almost overwhelming. "I wish to repay you."
"That's as far as jokes go." She shivered and patted his face. "You're not a child anymore. You need to hold it in, got it? Especially when you're going through a Trial. You need to be focused."
Roy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and then he shook his head. "Sorry, Coral. I just don't know why I feel so fidgety these days. I just keep thinking about random things, like my mind is addled or something."
"It's normal for people your age. You just need to get used to it." Coral went around him silently and grabbed his shoulders. Then she made him lean on her before kissing his forehead. "Remember how the Trial goes?"
"First, the hormones, then the virus, and finally, the decoction. Are you sure you can do this in one month, Coral?"
"You've passed the Viper Trial and are a lot more resistant to poison than the adepts who are going through the Trial for the first time. We can skip through the resistance buildup and finish this in one month. Since you used the Furnace Virus and Ice Lake last time, you'll need stronger viruses this time. I've picked three out of the four recipes: Fear, Finch, and Silencer. Your immune system will be compromised for a while after you contract the disease, leaving you without an immune system. You'd be malleable enough to undergo the change of the Manticore Trial."
Roy wiped the sweat off his head and gulped. "So, what do the viruses do?"
"The first one tortures your nervous system and makes you spasm like a patient going through an episode of fits. And you'll feel needles poking over your whole body. The second one affects your brain. Records say the infected would produce sounds resembling a finch. Don't laugh. It's worse than you think. And the third one is the most dangerous of them all. It cuts off all your five senses, but your mind remains awake. You'd be like a vegetable… No, ten times worse than that."
The witcher took a deep breath. Indeed, the effects worried him, but that was not the end.
"That's not all. The last part is even worse. The Manticore Trial and your Viper Trial will fight for control. When that happens, it'll be a life-or-death moment. One month. That's all it takes to know the outcome. But don't worry." She leaned over and rested her head on his right shoulder, rubbing her cheek against his. Calmly, she said, "If you can't come back from the edge, then I shall end your misery myself and do it one last time with you."
"Are you sure I'll feel anything if I'm nearly dead?"
"No complaints. You made this choice." She patted his head, her eyes twinkling. "Your hair grew a little, and the style is out of fashion. You need a makeover." She produced a pair of scissors and held his sideburns. Before he could even protest, she snipped his hair off, and they fell to the ground.
Roy leaned on her soft bosom and took in her scent. "Just shave it all off with magic." He didn't care much about his hairstyle now. A ponytail, short hair, or going bald made no difference to him.
"Don't even think about it!" Coral's face fell, frustration filling her eyes. Sternly, she warned, "If you're taking after Letho's style, I'm going to ignore you for a whole month! At least!"
Roy froze. "But the mutation is unpredictable. What if the Trial turns me bald?" Not even Full Recovery could help with that. A bald head wasn't technically a debuff.
"Going bald at your age? Sorry, but bald heads don't fly with me." She purred and hissed, "I'd have to convince myself into accepting that new style, or… And stop moving! Sit down!"
Five minutes later, a short-haired and resigned Roy found himself going around the laboratory as per Coral's request.
The sorceress put her hands on her hips and commented on his new style.
And then it was the first step of the Trial—injecting the elixirs. Coral weaved her fingers through the air and chanted under her breath. An amber needle as thin as a strand of hair leaped into the air and pierced itself through Roy's chest.
The young witcher felt a cold sensation coursing through his body with every beat of his heart. A shiver traveled up his body, coloring his neck and cheeks in red. An incredibly heat welled up within him, not unlike a furnace building itself in the witcher's belly. He felt great surges of heat traveling through his body, and Roy licked his parched lips.
To the sorceress he went, flames almost bursting from his eyes. "What was that, Coral? Mandrake fluid? You'll have to cool me down yourself if that's the case."
"It's adrenaline. You used it once in the temple, remember? I just increased the dosage." Lytta smiled. "Now you need training. Lots of training. Now move!"
"I-I need you to do this with me!" Roy breathed laboriously and held Coral's hand.
Ten minutes later, Coral was heard counting in the lab. "One thousand and one, one thousand and two…"
A young, lean man who was naked from the waist up held his hands against the ground as he moved up and down like a well-oiled machine. Sweat poured from his skin and fell into a little puddle on the floor.
Roy was doing pushup after pushup, and Coral was found sitting on his back. Her face was gleaming, and a smile was curling her lips. Sometimes, she would smack Roy's deltoid to encourage him. "Don't slack off. You're doing three thousand of these."
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