Chapter 385: From Redania
The orphanage was surrounded by plenty of soldiers, and people from the most powerful organizations in Novigrad were found gathered there. The witchers, the gang lords, and the church. Nine men were surrounding the bounty hunter and Senator Sebastian, while the brave children were led back to class, where Vesemir was teaching them the basics of ideologies.
"Someone tossed a letter into the donation box the day after Sebastian was caught." Chappelle mused. "This is no coincidence."
"Chancellor." Letho rubbed his shiny head again. "I take it you have no luck in pinpointing the sender, just like Bedlam and Cleaver?"
"Witcher, you need to understand that Novigrad is a city inhabited by tens of thousands of people. There are at least thousands of believers who pass the donation box every day. How do you expect us to locate the sender?"
"Fine, I get it, but you can't deny that Sebastian is a part of this scheme." Serrit said, "My gut tells me the sender is a failsafe he set in place."
The witchers stared at Sebastian's face closely in case his expression changed in the slightest.
"This pig knew what would happen. He told his mate to send you guys the letter if he was captured. You'd send a troop to surround this place and arrest us under the charge of child abuse while he gets off scot-free."
The witchers were making a strong accusation, but Sebastian looked confused. He didn't even blink. It was like he knew nothing of this.
"But you failed!" Lambert pointed at the fat man angrily. "We never did anything evil! Your slander didn't work! And look what that got you into!"
"Witchers, that's your speculation. You have no proof." Chappelle shook his head and held the fat man's head down like he was inspecting a dead body. "But everyone has witnessed his crimes. He hired a kidnapper to steal a child, and he shall be charged with the crime of human trafficking. The stake awaits him, and Jurgen shall be punished as well. Let me go through the wanted posters. Perhaps they're on the list of wanted fugitives."
Jurgen and Sebastian's eyes went wide with horror, and they wriggled on the ground like maggots.
"Tell me, Senator. Why did you slander the witchers?" Chappelle asked. "What did they ever do to you? Tell me everything, and you may enjoy a quick and painless death. Perhaps you might only end up with an exile."
Sebastian shook his head like crazy, snot covering his whole face, and his eyes were filled with an unspoken plea.
"It's no use, Chappelle. Nothing works on this guy." Auckes shook his head. "We went with magical and regular interrogation, but his story remains the same. He claims he did this because the girl resembles his dead daughter."
"What if that's the truth?"
"No." Letho shook his head. "My gut tells me he's lying. He's hiding something, and my instinct has saved me countless times."
"Why don't I take over for you guys?" Chappelle caressed the Lamia hanging from his belt, and his eyes narrowed. He looked like a viper staring at its prey. "I've been doing this for ten years, and I've seen my fair share of stubborn souls, but none have lasted longer than half an hour when I stepped in. It's disappointing." He shot the fat guy a cruel smile. "Maybe the senator can break my streak."
Lambert wanted to say something, but Gawain held his hand. "I trust Chappelle. We might actually find some answers if he's doing the interrogating."
Everyone who knew the real identity of Orloff was shocked. What the hell? The doppler is praising someone who's been hunting him down for most of his life?
But something even more shocking was waiting for them. Chappelle and Orloff exchanged a look and nodded at each other. It was as if a bond were formed between them.
"Then that settles it." Gawain had made up his mind. "Chappelle will be interrogating Sebastian."
"I need a quiet room." Chappelle smiled. "Somewhere enclosed where I can be alone with him."
The interrogation went faster than everyone expected. Chappelle had his answers half an hour later, and he came out of the toilet with an unconscious Sebastian. He whispered something into the priestess' ear, and she led the soldiers back, away from the woods.
"What did you find, Chancellor?" Cleaver rubbed his hands in anticipation.
Chappelle heaved a sigh of relief and smiled. "I promised, and I delivered. He told me everything."
The witchers were surprised. Chappelle's just a regular guy. How did he make Sebastian tell him the truth when not even Axii could do it?
"Thank you for capturing this man, witchers," he said genuinely. "He claims to be the owner of two boutiques and a senator who misses his late daughter, but it’s more complicated than that. In fact, he's a threat to the city's proud heritage."
What proud heritage?
The people were wondering what Chappelle meant by that, but they quickly realized what the heritage was. Novigrad was part of Redania, but it was akin to a sovereign country free from Redania's control. With its natural, gigantic port, it could trade with all Northern Kingdoms and Skellige Isles without trouble.
Thanks to its free and bustling trade, Novigrad rose to prominence and became the north's richest city. Redania, Kaedwen, Temeria, and Aedirn were trying to get their hands on the wealth of Novigrad, but none of the rulers would launch an all-out attack for fear of Novigrad's administrators destroying the port, burning the ships, and emptying the treasury. Thanks to that concern, Novigrad managed to become a free city.
Letho and his companions exchanged looks. They were reminded of the time they interrogated Sebastian. He had an iron will and resilience that allowed him to endure the power of Axii.
"Is he some kind of intelligence agent?"
Chappelle smiled but didn’t elaborate. "Patience, people. Kasha shall return with evidence in an hour, and you will know the truth." He then smiled apologetically at the group. "Witchers, the Collector, I apologize for believing false rumors without verifying."
"Apology accepted," Letho said. "And we hope there won't be a next time. I don't like soldiers scaring our children, or it might result in a tragedy."
"I'm sorry for my impetuous actions. I just wanted to find out the kind of people you are." He scanned everyone, and his dark, cold look changed into a livelier expression. "Are you butchers who would destroy families and conduct inhumane experiments on the poor orphans, or are you kind souls who provide for these children while asking for nothing in return?"
"And what's the conclusion you've arrived at?" Letho asked.
"I think we can work together, and you're reliable people." He paused for a moment. "Can I be a part of the peace treaty you've agreed upon? As long as you follow Novigrad's rules and do no harm, then the church is more than willing to coexist with you."
"That's more like it!" Cleaver's face was red with excitement. "Can't expand this city if we keep killing people, right? And sooner or later that karma's gonna bite us in the ass. I am down for this idea."
"A question." Bedlam caressed his ring in an anticlockwise direction. "Chappelle, if memory serves, you have an intense hatred toward non-humans. You're a lot stricter when it comes to dwarves, part-elves, and gnomes, and a big part of our group is made up of non-humans. Yet you wish to sign the peace treaty? Is this a dream?"
"People change. We grow." Chappelle smiled, and he set his sights on Orloff. "The Collector used to harbor the same hate I had for non-humans, but he changed his policy all of a sudden. You started accepting them and outlawed any discrimination."
Orloff smiled at Chappelle. It looked like he found someone who understood him.
Chappelle continued. "And I'm just a human. Unlike mages, I don't possess the power to see through human minds. Yet personality is the most important aspect for me. Francis and Bedlam were willing to antagonize you out of their concern for the children. I can see they have their own creed."
Bedlam didn't even respond to that attempt at a praise. He thought the change in attitude from Chappelle was odd, but him signing the peace treaty was good for him, so he didn't object to it.
"And the witchers have provided much for the orphans. No doubt they're men of integrity," Chappelle continued. "We need people of integrity and who have kind, tolerant souls if we want to keep thriving."
Letho, Auckes, Lambert, Aiden, and Vesemir exchanged a look.
"We need some time to think."
"Take as much time as you need. Once you've come to a conclusion, meet me at Spear's Pit two days later, and we can sign the agreement."
The witchers nodded.
"Chancellor, we have a question. Can we keep taking in orphans?"
"Of course. As long as you don't break any laws, there won't be any restrictions imposed on you."
For some reason, the tension in the air was lifted, and everyone was having a peaceful discussion. Aside from Chappelle, everyone was feeling nervous. They were waiting for an answer.
An hour went by quickly, and the priestess and soldiers came back with a fourth letter. During the earlier interrogation, Chappelle found out their secret spot.
"Sebastian's accomplice has been arrested, and this letter will answer all your questions." He tore the envelope open, and this time, it wasn't a letter of slander.
Novigrad's situation is ever-changing. Mission is progressing slowly.
Months ago, an agreement was reached with Alonso Wiley, one of the biggest gang lords in the city. He agreed to be your pawn, but tragedy struck.
Five witchers invaded his manor and slaughtered everyone, including Wiley. Our partner died. Then they signed a peace treaty with the remaining gang lords: Cleaver, Bedlam, and Orloff.
The gang lords convinced the church they were behind the massacre, and they took the loot that is Alonso's estates.
Chappelle, the current Chancellor of Security, fears the witcher and wishes to gain something from this pact. Not only did he not apprehend the criminals, he cleaned up after them. This is a disgrace.
The witchers sold themselves out for two shops, and now they're living in peace. Dandelion the famed bard began working for them. He came up with new scripts to change how the public perceives them.
I thought that was the end of the witchers' antics. I thought Novigrad's political landscape would finally settle. Thus I turned my attention to Orloff and managed to convince him into a partnership.
We would clear all obstacles and await His Majesty King Vizimir's arrival in Novigrad. Alas, after much research, I realized he was befriending the witchers. To be more precise, they brainwashed him.
He changed his ways and forbade his men from bullying non-humans. Many part-elves, dwarves, and oneiromancers started moving to his turf.
Something big must have happened to elicit this change. Something unknown. Something dangerous. It's a shame, but I have to kick him out of our list of candidates.
After some reflection, I realized why our operations have failed. The bulk of the blame lies on the witchers. They came out of nowhere and scrambled our plans.
Their actions changed the city's political landscape. Like a fierce school of fish, they muddied the waters, and I couldn't do anything about it.
I thought about making them our partners, but witchers would never interfere in politics. Also, they have Wolves and Cats among them. The former follows a code of neutrality, while the latter is just a school of madmen.
Many years ago, Kaedwen held a tournament only for it to be a witcher massacre that almost wiped out all witchers in the north.
The survivors harbored an intense hatred for all northern official organizations. They're more trouble than they're worth. If we wish to go on with our plan, then we must destroy these variables.
Just a while ago, my sources told me the witchers were working with the Collector in an orphanage project. They're opening an orphanage in rural Novigrad.
According to what we've learnt about the witchers, they will subject children to an 'evil' experiment and torture them physically. Only three out of ten can survive this mutation.
All we have to do is capture one child and force them to accuse the witchers of abuse and inhumane experimentation in front of the council, and we'll be rid of this nuisance forever.
And I've hinted Cleaver and Bedlam about this. They've harbored a grudge against the witchers, and their men are keeping an eye on them.
I also have a failsafe at the church, just in case my first plan fails. My employee has already made his move, and soon, the witchers will find themselves in a predicament.
The next time we find another partner, we can be sure nothing will stand in our way.
Good news is coming your way.
Your loyal servant,
Sebastian de Fretas
1262, first day of the third month.
"Vizimir II?" Serrit's eyelids twitched. "So Sebastian is a spy of Redania."
"In the flesh."
"This Dijkstra guy is probably a bigshot in the intelligence department."
"This is the decree of Destiny. You've ruined his plans one too many times and earned his ire. And this is his retaliation."
The witchers exchanged a look of amusement. We got on the nerves of a Redanian spy, and we had no idea about it until two seconds ago, but it matters not.
The witchers' faces fell. They tried to harm the children, and they will pay for that, no matter who they are.
Chappelle didn't seem surprised at all. He didn't seem to care about the repulsive actions outlined in the letter. He continued. "Conspiracies, fanning the flames, and slander. Spy tactics, alright. It's not the first time the Northern Kingdoms have sent their pests into the city, but most of them hide in the shadows. Sebastian and his comrade are just the tip of the iceberg. But they picked the wrong people to mess with."
Sebastian looked defeated, dejected, and out of breath. He had accepted his fate.
Bedlam said, "Any spy is an invader, no matter where they're from. They wish to devour the wealth of the citizens and ruin this tenuous balance. They wish to ruin our business."
Chappelle nodded. "All the reasons Novigradians should band together and cut the canker out of our tree, but that's all for today. We'll meet again in two days. I'll be taking these two with me."
The witchers were still dazed even after the soldiers were gone. In just one day, things took more twists than they could ever imagine. Not even veterans like them had the chance to see something like this happen every day.
"Feels weird, doesn’t it?" Gawain smiled. He looked at ease, as if a heavy weight had just been lifted from his shoulders.
"Yeah, especially how he acted," Letho said. "He's a bit too friendly to us."
"He wanted to work with us in the first place. That was an act to see if you were trustworthy partners," Gawain said. "Principled men of integrity are the partners he's looking for, and he's no regular Chancellor of Security."
"What do you mean?" Vesemir pinched his beard.
"If you couldn't drag Sebastian's secrets out of his mouth, there's no way a regular human could. He only had one way to do it."
"Which is?" Letho and Auckes were wondering what the answer was.
"He copied Sebastian's memories?" Auckes looked shocked.
"That's not the Chappelle I knew. That's why he let it slide when you guys killed Alonso. He was using the gang lords to cover his disguise up, and the gang lords prefer this version of Chappelle," Gawain explained, and he suddenly laughed. "I can feel it. He's just like me. He's a doppler, but he's more powerful and a better actor than I am."
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