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The Divine Hunter

Reaper Scans

 

Chapter 282: Suspect

 

[TL: Asuka]

[PR: Ash]

 

Dawn had just broken through the horizon, but Oxenfurt's marketplace was already starting to swing in full gear. It was filled with all kinds of people as usual. Coachmen pushing carts filled with merchandise ahead, coolies who were dragging their trishaws, and Oxenfurtians who came to the marketplace for their daily purchases.

The marketplace's air was filled with the stench of sweat, crops, meat, and something rancid. Even if the witcher could cover his nose, he couldn't block out the cacophony of noises in the marketplace. Shouts of the sellers, heated haggling, calls of livestock, cries of children, and the sound of people spitting on the ground.

"How much longer, Roy?" Kantilla frowned.

"Patience, Kantilla. In a moment." Roy looked at the logbook. He softly pushed away the pudgy, sweaty man ahead of him. Before the man could even turn around, he held Kantilla's hand and darted into the crowd. They stopped at a grilled bar. The seller's eyes were red from the smoke. Roy tossed him two coins and picked up two grilled cuttlefish from the stand. He chomped down on one of them and gave Kantilla the other. "Nothing better than some grilled cuttlefish in a place like this."

Kantilla chomped on her cuttlefish. The throng buffeted her ahead, and she curiously asked, "Roy, how'd you guys manage to stay focused for so long? Don't you need to rest or anything? You just finished that case back in the fief, and now you're already starting another investigation? Don't you guys get exhausted?"

Kantilla was reminded of the investigation the day before. She saw the house and thought it was a regular house, but Auckes saw the house and found a huge amount of clues. He was calm and efficient, not unlike a machine. If it weren't for the fact that she witnessed the witchers' banter, she would have thought they were a bunch of monsters who got their emotions erased, just like what the rumors said. Roy fits the bill though. If he still had any emotion, he wouldn't have refused me.

Roy finished his cuttlefish and smacked the grease off his hands. He grinned at the girl. "What kind of life do Zerrikanians idealize anyway?"

"A life of battling powerful monsters for honor," she answered without hesitation.

"Taking all kinds of requests and making a living out of it is a witcher's idea of an ideal life. We're born for this. We'll keep working until we retire. At most, we just reduce the number of requests we take."

***

"Seafood! Get your fresh seafood here! Just caught them this morning! And it's going for cheap!" A gaunt seller with a bandana around his head was standing in front of a row of fish tanks, yelling out at the passing people. His face was pockmarked from a life at sea, and his skin was a reddish-brown hue. "Trouts, sturgeons, carps, crabs, octopus, lobsters! You name it, I got it!"

"Ron Rick?" someone asked. A silhouette showed up before the seller. He was a lean man in light armor. He had an aloof look on his face, and his eyes were a special golden. It scared the seller a little, but he composed himself and bowed a little.

"What would you need, sir? Fish? My fish are the cheapest and freshest in the market. I guarantee it."

"I'm not here for your fish." He looked around. The fish tanks were filled with aquatic lifeforms from the sea and Pontar. This is the biggest aquatic produce supplier in town. "I'm here for answers. Do you know who Whishaw was?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"None of your business."

"Sorry," the seller said cautiously. "I might be a lowly seller, but I'm still a businessman, and integrity is important in business. I will not sell my customers out just like this." He emphasized the last part of the sentence.

The witcher and the lady beside him exchanged a look and smiled. "Give us a one-pound carp then."

"Will do!" Ron beamed, but he said, "I welcome any buyers, but I still can't answer your questions. Leaking a customer's details is against the rules. Nobody's gonna buy my stuff if I break the rules."

"I'll have two pounds of carp then."

The seller was not convinced.

"Ten pounds then." The witcher sighed. If they weren't in a crowded marketplace, he would have cast Axii on the seller and made him kiss his lobsters.

Ron was starting to waver, but he was still on guard. "Why do you want to know anyway? You trying to steal my customers?"

"Do you think I look like a fish seller?" the witcher snapped.

Ron leaned on his fish tank. He rubbed his chin, looking at Roy closely. "You look like them ganglord's lackeys. Younger and a bit more handsome than they are though."

"So do we have a deal or what?"

"Sure do. Ten pounds of carp it is. Been a while since he came." The seller made a decision. "But you'll have to pay me first. Two crowns, please."

***

"Whishaw was a big client." The seller weighed the coins and put them in his pockets. "He came here every other day for the last six months. Every time he came, he'd purchase a hundred pounds of fish, but the guy went missing last week. Another guy from the academy took over for him."

The other guy? Oh. Whishaw's roomie and Linus' other assistant—Ben. Are they competitors? "You should know him well, given that you've been dealing with him for months," Roy said.

"Not as well as you might think, but yeah," Ron answered calmly. He wasn't as close to Whishaw as Roy thought.

"So what kind of man do you think Whishaw was? His personality, the way he talks. Anything. And don't lie." Roy pointed his skewered carps at the seller, his eyes filled with warning. "Or you'll be having carp sashimi for breakfast."

Sa… what's he talking about? The seller trembled. Roy might be a young witcher, but the look in his eyes scared Ron anyway. He had seen a lot of customers who came from all walks of life, but none of them were as chilling as the young witcher. "Of course, sir. You bought my fish, and I'll give you the answers you want. It's a fair deal." Ron stood up straighter and thumped his chest. "Everyone knows that ol' Ron Rick is a reputable man. Ask around," said the man who sold his customer's details for ten pounds of carp.

Roy nodded. "Continue."

"Whishaw was… a man of few words. Honest to a fault. Inflexible," Ron grumbled. "He wouldn't allow any mistakes. If he wanted a hundred pounds, he'd take a hundred pounds. Not even one pound less. Heck, sometimes the fish came up to a few ounces less than a hundred pounds, but he just wouldn't let it go. A loyal guy to his employer though. He records all his spendings in the logbook. I saw it sometimes. He wouldn't even lie."

Roy nodded. What Ron said fit the description Linus gave them. "Did he exhibit any strange behavior after his last purchase?"

Ron thought about it seriously. "He told me he needed to go home for some family business, so he might not be here for the next purchase. It's been a week since then, and the other lad is the one who managed the last three purchases. He's as efficient as Whishaw, but I do miss him. It's been a while. Where did Whishaw go, witcher?"

Roy stared at the seller for a long time. In the end, Ron averted his gaze. Roy said, "None of your business. Did Whishaw get into any argument with someone here? In the marketplace, I mean."

"Argument?" Ron's eyes widened. He froze for a few moments and shook his head.

"Did anyone ever ask for his details then?"

"You jest, sir." Ron nodded at him. "That's what you're doing right now."

"Aside from us," Roy said coldly. Ron hesitated. "So you do know something." Roy pointed the carps at the seller, swinging them around like they were his sword. The carp's head thrusted ahead, almost giving Ron a kiss. "Answer me."

"Put it down, sir!" The seller craned his neck backward weirdly and sighed. He smiled dryly. "Being a businessman is tough. Cross the wrong person and it's game over. Please, don't point the fish at me. I'll tell you."

The witcher removed the fish sword.

"It's nothing much. Some local thugs wanted to know about him," he explained. "He kept spending big money for six months. Anyone's gonna be curious about it. They were just asking around." He kept looking around.

"Just asking around?" Roy sneered. He didn't believe the seller. "You sure they didn't have anything else in mind?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"No matter. So tell me, who are those thugs?"

"I'm not doing your business anymore. I'll give you back the money. Give me back my fish!" Ron shook his head in terror.

"Are you sure?" Roy thrusted the carp into Ron's mouth. He wriggled his wrist and turned the fish around in his mouth, as if he were brushing Ron's teeth.

Ron's arms were held down, and he kept struggling. Eventually he rolled his eyes and made muffled noises. His face was red. When he was almost out of breath, Ron finally nodded.

Roy took a deep breath and let go.

Ron coughed violently, tears streaming down his cheeks. "Darn it, fine! I'll talk!"

***

Roy and Kantilla left happily a while later. They had twenty pounds of carp in their hands. Roy bought another ten pounds as an apology for what happened earlier. "This'll last Gryphon for a bit. I wonder if the thugs' friends are behind this. Whishaw did make the purchases every other day. He'd be buying about a thousand pounds of stuff over six months. Even if all he bought were carps, they'd cost about a few hundred crowns. That's no chump change. Anyone would be interested."

From what Ron told them, the thugs who wanted to know more about Whishaw were unemployed guys living on the outskirts of Oxenfurt. They were incorrigible bullies and lazy bastards. Every now and then, they would come to the marketplace and threaten all the merchants into paying them money. It was some sort of racketeering. They were also the members of some gang. There were about a few dozen members in it. Ron didn't work with them, but he didn't tell the truth in case the thugs came after him.

Still, these thugs were just small fries. They wouldn't go too far. At least, robbery and murder were out of their realm at the moment. "Suspicious. But it's a pity they didn't come. I could confront them and probably crack the case otherwise."

"What about the other assistant? Is he a suspect too?"

"Ben? Letho's dealing with him. He'll make sure Ben tells him everything."

***

They went to the butcher market and asked the seller for details. It was almost the same thing Ron told them. At this point, the thugs were the biggest suspects.

 

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