The Divine Hunter

Reaper Scans

 

Chapter 434: New Secret Base

 

[TL: Asuka]

[PR: Ash]

 

Countless candles lit up in the corners of the lab. Whispers of the wind fluttered into the chamber.

Auckes was clutching his stomach. He hurled and hurled until there was nothing left in his stomach. "Do we have any more portals to travel through? Give me a day of rest before that, yeah?" He wiped his mouth and shuddered. "At this rate, I'll die from portal travel sickness."

"You won't. You sell yourself short, Auckes." Roy looked at the other witchers. They too looked unwell. "Perk up, people. Let's look for some records, components, and crystals. But don't leave this place. I have a feeling there’s nothing but danger anywhere else.."

The group split into four directions. About five minutes later, Lytta found some telescopes. They had runes on them and were in the form of a triangle. She fiddled with them and found something. "The owner must have used these to record his experiments. Five crystals, so five entries."

Lytta snapped her fingers. Her fiery red hair billowed in the air, and mana flowed from her pendant into the first crystal. The glass of the telescopes shone and converged in the center, forming a blue screen the size of a human. A bespectacled man in wizard robes paced within the screen, muttering to himself, "Year 1102, eighteenth day of Yule. Today, the biggest plan of my life is put into action. This shall be the greatest experiment of my life. This experiment is important for my son."

He was speaking slowly, and yet the excitement and anxiety in his voice were unmistakable. His eyes were shining. "Fifteen years ago, I was attacked by a beast while trekking through the forest. A witcher saved my life, but I didn't know the price I had to pay for that. I paid for it with my son's future. If I could rewind time, I'd rather lose my life than hand my son to the man named Erland. Since that day, I have sworn to return my son to how he used to be. Years of research and preparation later, I've finally come up with a device that allows me to research witcher mutations. Should Kreve help me, I shall be able to come up with a way to reverse the mutation and grant Jerome a normal life."

The screen blinked, and the recording disappeared.

"Yule? That's what Nilfgaardians call the third month." Letho rubbed his head. "In the year 1087, Tomas was subjected to the Law of Surprise, and a witcher took his son away a few years down the line. In 1102, he started researching a way to reverse witcher mutation. It's been more than a hundred and sixty years since then. Wonder if he's made it."

"He's a Nilfgaardian mage." Lytta pulled her hair back and explained, "I remember all the graduates of Ban Ard and Aretuza for the past two hundred years, but this one isn't on that list. He must have hailed from an academy in the south."

"Still, he's a good father." Eskel crossed his arms. "I think most parents who lost their children to the Law of Surprise would want their children to return to normal, but they do not have the technical skills to pull that off."

"I don't think he's doing it only for his son." Kiyan noticed the bizarre tone Tomas took in the recording. "I think he was treating his son like an experiment. A challenge he's interested in."

Roy nodded. The experiment Tomas did was exceedingly cruel. It didn't look like anything a father would do. The reason might sound righteous, but his actions spoke otherwise.

"He talked about Erland, if I heard it right." Coen gulped. There was worship on his face.

"Yep." Auckes teased, "Your grandmaster came all the way to Toussaint, saved a mage, and took his son."

"Erland was a powerful man. And famous too. That's why Tomas didn't break the Law of Surprise. He could have easily evaded the law if he wanted to. He's a mage." Roy asked, "Coen, have you ever heard of the name of Jerome Moreau?"

Coen shook his head in confusion. "He was probably active before that avalanche." He paused. "I cleaned the graveyard every year, but not once had I seen the grave of Jerome. Wonder if he's still alive."

That was a question nobody had any answer for.

***

Lytta lit up the second and third crystals. Once again, the blue screen appeared. This time, Tomas looked cold and sounded like a machine that cared only about his research.

"Twenty-second observation. Even after a great overdose of poison, subject still shows no sign of poisoning. I believe this is one of the mutation's effects. It increases Jerome's resistance to poison. Thirtieth observation. The mutation didn't happen right away. It will only show after a set amount of time. And a successful mutation must be paired with the consumption of suitable mutagens. Subject’s condition does not look encouraging, but I have found a way to lessen the pain brought by the mutation. I've added the protein of a mutated pale widow's larva to the mutagens. This concoction shall be fed to the subject."

"Is that a normal mutation process, Coral?" Roy asked. "Is the protein of a pale widow's larva part of the process?"

"It's the base for the mutagens for witchers." 

Roy frowned. She rested her head on Roy's shoulder, her eyes twinkling. "But the protein he used came from a mutated pale widow. Something must be different. That was irresponsible of him. His subject would mostly die." She said, "Or it might lead to a breakthrough. Fact is, Tomas spared no expense in getting his experiment this far. Probably a few dozen humans died. Wonder where he hid the bodies, though."

"We have one right there." Coen turned to the experimentation area, his face black as thunder.

A shriveled corpse hung on a steel pole that resembled a stake. Its cheeks were sunken, and its eyes were nothing but empty sockets. The victim must have experienced a horrifying nightmare before they died.

"I checked the victim. It was a regular human, but they passed half of the Trial." Kiyan sounded livid. "I see Tomas didn't manage to procure any Trial recipe. He didn't use any Mother's Tears, Wildrye Juice, or Speargrass Sap. Those are the staples. He mixed the mutated protein with the mutagen and forced the mutation. Most people would die from taking that concoction."

Everyone felt a chill run down their backs. He tortured and sacrificed countless innocents to make his son normal again. The guy's a demon.

***

Lytta lit up the fourth crystal. "Fifty-eighth observation. I have discovered a transmutation formula. Some mutagens can be transmuted into another mutagen if combined with certain materials. This is an important discovery."

Lytta covered her mouth in surprise. She of all people knew how difficult it was to research mutations. "Tomas might be a cruel man, but he's a genius. He's an expert in the field of mutation just like how Kalkstein is an expert in the field of explosions."

"We must find that formula." Letho's eyes shone. Even he was excited. "Then we can put a lot of unused mutagens to good use."

"We can kill all the common monsters and transmute their mutagen into red, blue, or green mutagens. That formula will enable mass production of pre-Trials and Trials," Eskel added.

"Well, looks like we found something big." Auckes shot Roy a look of approval. "Is that the secret you were talking about?"

"Keep watching."

And the last crystal was lit up. Tomas was seen plopped down on the ground, looking dejected. There was no clarity, wisdom, or calmness in his eyes. Despair was all that remained.

"Years of experimentation and research wasted. I failed to achieve my goal. The reversal failed to affect Jerome like it did my subjects. I thought I could cure him of his witcher mutations and give him a normal life, but all I did was worsen his mutation. He now possesses greater speed and strength. He's barely human now." And then he shook his head. "Perhaps a witcher is all my son can be. It is time to return to Lydia. Perhaps she will accept me. I have failed in my endeavor. I leave the formula and mutagen here. May they rest in peace, just like my dreams of getting my son back."

***

The recording fizzled out. Roy and Coral exchanged a look, their emotions conflicting. They sympathized with Tomas, and yet what he did was inexcusable.

"So that's what you were talking about." Eskel looked around. He noticed the steel barrel in the experimentation area, and his eyes lit up. "You'd put witchers through a second Trial by concocting something special. And through that Trial, they would gain a drastic increase in strength, speed, and reaction speed."

"Jerome was a proficient signcaster to begin with." Letho mused. "Now that he's gone through a second mutation, he’s a perfect warrior."

"Well, what are we waiting for then? Tomas might have failed, but I don't think we will." Auckes was raring to go. "Now let's find the formula and mutagen."

***

The group split up once more to search the whole lobby. A moment later, Letho found two dozen perfectly-kept mutagens, including red, blue, and green mutagens. Most of them were regular mutagens, while one out of four were greater mutagens.

Roy found the formula for mutagen transmutation, while Lytta found records for mutation and genetics around the bookshelves. Some of them included records for the second Trial. This is going to help our research. A lot. She tucked them all away in her ring. The mage couldn't stop smiling, for the rewards she had gotten far exceeded her expectations.

It was a happy trip, but the group also found something harrowing. Tomas had set up a prison at the rear end of the lab. Countless innocents used to languish in this place, tortured beyond what they could endure. One of them was his son—Jerome.

There was a wooden rack near the prison. On it stood glass containers filled with formaldehyde, and human organs floated within them. Yet another proof of Tomas' tyranny.

"Hey, do you think Tomas released his son after he failed his experiment? I mean, he wouldn't kill his own son, right?" Coen was excited. This discovery pointed to the possibility of another Griffin out there somewhere.

"It's weird, but there are no traces of Jerome in this lab. Perhaps we'll find our answer at our next destination." Roy paused for a moment and looked at the hole in the wall. "Now we need to get some mutated pale widow larvae and try out a second mutation."

Auckes unsheathed his blade. "And it needs fresh larvae, so that means we have a pale widow nest nearby. Let's hunt them all down."

"No. That's unwise. We'll leave all of them alive." Roy shook his head. He looked at his comrades and said solemnly, "There's about a dozen of us and probably less than ten of them. Mutated pale widows, that is. And we need their larvae for our second mutation."

"And you need a lot." Coral cracked open a book titled Second Mutation. She tensed up and explained, "Every mutation requires two larvae. And nature dictates that mutated creatures are in far fewer numbers than their regular counterparts. This is not good."

"So we can't kill any of them." Letho nodded. "So thievery it is."

"I have an idea." Kiyan and Eskel exchanged a look. Kiyan said loudly, "Don't you think this is a perfect spot for a secret base? It used to hold second mutation experiments, and there's a nest of mutated pale widows here, and it's filled with all the tools we need for any experiment. This is on par with the underground lab. And it's filled with deadly booby traps. All we need is for Lytta to deactivate that portal in the lake’s depths and build one that leads to Novigrad, and we'll have ourselves a new secret base. As long as we have the mutated larvae, we can let everyone go through a second mutation."

 

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