The Divine Hunter - Chapter 163
Chapter 163: Into the Palace
“Why does he have to go to the palace? Did he notice our operation?” Serrit saw Roy off. “If he tells anything to that bitch, Calanthe…”
“Serrit, you have to lighten up a little,” Auckes interrupted his brother. “You know why women distance themselves from you? It’s because of that attitude of yours. Besides, we finished our operation before he came to Cintra. Roy’s one of us now. Trust him a little.”
“Alright, shut up,” Letho whispered. “If anyone has actually noticed your operation, the soldiers would have surrounded us by now instead of sending someone to look for the kid. As for the reason, it’s probably because of some request. Nobility and royalty are arrogant fools. They like those who have the kid’s looks. We have more pressing matters at hand.” Letho looked into the house. The girl was still on the sofa. “This child might be the Wild Hunt’s quarry. It is just a possibility, of course. How should we handle her?”
“Why don’t we…” Serrit straightened his hand out and made a slitting motion over his neck. “Even if it’s only a possibility, we can’t let the Wild Hunt find her.”
“Alright, that’s enough.” Auckes put his hands on his hips and glared at his brother. “How could you even do that to a poor girl? Do you think you’re a killer?”
“Well, why don’t you come up with a suggestion, then?”
“Send her to Aretuza. Let the witches mentor her,” Auckes said. “Unlike us, Aretuza is still powerful. Not even the Wild Hunt can infiltrate that place. The witches will destroy them before they can even get near.”
“Good idea!” Serrit’s eyes shone. “They’ll exhaust their strength, while we can reap all the benefits.”
“Yes, but first, we have to get the girl’s permission.” Letho looked at the girl, who was moving her shoulders almost imperceptibly. “Thelma, I know you’re awake.”
The witchers advanced like beasts, and when Thelma felt them near her, she started breathing quickly, and she curled in on herself, her eyelashes fluttering in fear.
“Do not be scared. We will not hurt you.” Letho stopped before her. “Do you remember what happened to you? My guess is that this isn’t the first time. Perhaps you have lost count of the insults thrown to you. They look down on your lineage, they insult your looks, and they abuse you to no end. How long have you suffered that kind of life?”
The girl froze.
The witcher goaded her. “If there is a chance for you to change your life, for you to be as beautiful as a goddess, if there is a chance for you to dole out punishment for those who have tormented you, will you take it?”
“Are you demons? Is the price for that offer my soul?” Thelma opened her eyes, and they were filled with fear and desire. “Wh-What will I have to sacrifice?”
The sun’s blinding rays granted a golden sheen to the castle. Roy was standing right before the castle gates, and he took a deep breath to calm himself before he marched toward the soldier who was armed with a halberd.
“You are the witcher the queen wishes to see?” The soldier looked Roy up and down. He’s young, but his eyes are the color of dark gold, and he’s tall for his age. “Roy of the Viper School. You seem really young. I thought you witchers carried swords around, so where’s yours?”
“I can bring my weapons into the palace?”
The soldier searched him and confirmed that he wasn’t bringing anything dangerous with him, then he asked four other soldiers to lead Roy into the castle. The castle gates were twenty feet tall, and two soldiers had to push with their full strength to open it. The castle’s great hall stood behind the gates, and it had generous space. A luxurious red carpet lay in the middle of the corridor, and Roy went ahead with the soldiers at an excruciatingly slow pace.
Expensive oil paintings and specimens of wild beasts hung on the walls that flanked the corridor. Huge vases and armor exhibits lined the ends of the corridor, and elegant adornments were littered on the gigantic glass windows. There were a lot of wooden doors that led to gods knew where as well. Servants who held expensive containers and nobility in exquisite clothes would come out from behind the doors occasionally.
The castle was like a maze, and anyone would be lost if they didn’t know the layout. Roy was getting frustrated by how long the journey was taking, and they had been making a lot of turns. A long while later, they finally came to a clearing behind a door, and an open garden stood behind it. “Can you tell me why the queen summoned me?”
The soldiers didn’t answer his questions. They didn’t even turn around. They seemed solemn, but Roy didn’t take it to heart. Eventually, he came to a clearing in the middle of the garden. A middle-aged man with a mustache, combed-back hair, and a rapier hanging from his waist came to welcome Roy in the middle of the flowerbeds. “I have been waiting for you, witcher. I am Cintra’s royal swordsman, Henrique. By the queen’s orders, I am to spar with you.” He looked at Roy sharply, and his gaze was hostile, as if Roy had insulted him before.
“I don’t believe we have ever met, Mr. Henrique.” Roy was confused. He didn’t know why he was summoned, let alone why the man was so hostile towards him.
“I have been working for the royal family, while you have been fighting beasts and drowners in peasant villages. Naturally, we have never met.” Henrique sounded disdainful, and he started straightening his leather gloves out. “As for your earlier question…I came on the queen’s orders to test your skills and see if you are fit to coach the princess on swordsmanship.”
Princess? Swordsmanship? “Oh, I see.” Roy finally wrapped his head around what was happening. “And who might have been the one to recommend me to the queen? As for the princess… Are we talking about Ciri here?”
Roy put all the pieces together. He didn’t know about the details just yet, but Roy wouldn’t let this chance slip by. He had to get in touch with Ciri in order to meet Geralt, who was destined to run into her. Roy had to get in touch with the Wolf School to put his plan into motion. “Give me a weapon then. A steel sword will do.” Roy extended his hand, and a soldier handed him a two-handed steel sword.
Henrique squinted. “This is no game, witcher. Please do be understanding if I injure you by accident,” Henrique remarked sarcastically.
“Of course. I won’t blame anyone for my inferior skills,” Roy mocked. “Do your worst, and as thanks for your concern, I shall hold back a little so you won’t suffer a humiliating defeat.”
Tension rose in the air, and the swordsmen unsheathed their swords at the same time.
A group of servants and soldiers were standing around Ciri and Calanthe on the second floor. They were watching the fight from the shadows.
“Remember your promise, Ciri. When the witcher is defeated, you cannot ask for any more requests.” Calanthe looked at Roy. “He looks different from the other witchers, but he is still too young to be a match for Henrique.”
“Hmph!” Ciri was wearing a white dress, and she looked up haughtily. “Just watch, old lady! He might be young, but a dragonslayer is still more powerful than any mortal. He will win, just you see! You had better not go back on your promise, either.”
“By the gods! Ciri, mind your language.”
The servants covered their mouths and giggled silently.
“Well, won’t you look at that?” Calanthe suddenly smacked the armrest. “That’s the dragonslayer you hoped for? What a joke. He might be a witcher, but this is all he amounts to.”
The battle seemed to be one-sided. Henrique was holding his rapier and swung it elegantly. Every strike was beautiful and perfect, just like how his mustache was. His attacks were fast, and the young witcher could only defend himself before Henrique’s barrage of attacks.
He couldn’t land a single blow on his adversary. Henrique’s strikes were clean, fast, but also cruel and dark. Every attack was aimed at Roy’s vitals, and there wasn’t even a single opening between each attack.
It was all Roy could do to defend himself, but fortunately, his swordsmanship was solid, and he could change stances fluidly, keeping his defense up.
However, everyone could see that it was a matter of time before the witcher would be defeated, or so they thought.
Roy was controlling his strength and tried his best to pretend that it was a hard battle. It would be a dull fight if he overwhelmed Henrique in seconds. He knew a comeback would be more entertaining, and it’d leave a lasting impression. Besides, nobody would admire him for being too powerful. They’d only think of him as a threat.
Roy held back as much as he could and observed Henrique’s skills. He was different from all the enemies Roy had faced. Henrique did have some level of skill thanks to his twenty years of experience, and Roy’s skill was no match for him, as he had only been training for months.
However, thanks to the great difference in stats, the speed Henrique took pride in was too slow for Roy. The swordsmen clashed again, and Roy ‘barely’ dodged Henrique’s stab.
Calanthe muttered angrily, “Henrique, you fool! That attack was soft! Fight like a man! Keep that up! Faster! Aim for his neck! He can’t dodge you now!”
Ciri swung her fists nervously and told herself, “He’s just pretending to be vulnerable. That’s what you call a strategy. Once the mustache man exhausts himself, the dragonslayer will start his counter attack!”
About three minutes later, Roy quit his act and switched to full power mode. He crouched down and charged toward Henrique’s swing. Henrique’s rapier made an arc across the air, and Roy slammed his sword against the slim weapon. Before Henrique could even pull back, he felt the sword’s momentum traveling up his hand. It petrified him for a second, and he dropped his rapier.
In the next moment, he saw a steel blade resting against his neck, and Henrique stared down in fear, the sound of his gulping audible for everyone to hear.
A dead silence fell upon everyone.
“This is nonsense!” Calanthe shot up furiously and stormed off.
“Nice work, witcher!” Ciri leaped up unceremoniously and waved her hands at Roy in excitement. Her shout caught Roy’s attention, and he turned around to face her.
As they locked eyes, Roy thought to himself, Is that chubby little girl Ciri? “Could it be…”
She might grow up to be a beautiful woman, but Roy knew that the girl was no more than ten years old, judging by her looks. “She must be around eight this year.” She’s not the mature woman I saw in the game, and she’s not the ugly duckling everyone thinks she is.
Ciri noticed Roy spacing out, and she giggled with delight. “We shall meet again, dragonslayer.”