Mandilyn approached the table with a bowl of vegetables and fruits. She sat down in front of Arslan, who was resting his head on his hands while reading a book. The location they were in was almost strangely empty, given that they were outside the lab, on campus. She speared a tomato and a few leafy greens with her fork, then she twisted it to get all of the contents stuck on the utensil.
“Find anything interesting?” She asked, spewing out some food that got dangerously close to the book Arslan had.
He casually flipped the page to the next and looked up at her, his eyes bloodshot with heavy bags hanging under them. “Thirty-one hours,” he started, “I haven’t learned anything about these stupid symbols yet.” He grabbed the paper that laid in his lap and slammed it on the table in front of Mandilyn; she didn’t flinch. However, he continued to rant, “The compendium of runes, useless. Anthology of alchemy, fun refresher but still, pointless.” He slammed the book, ‘Encyclopedia Of Arcane’ closed.
Mandilyn swallowed her food. “I asked if you found anything interesting, not ‘have a breakdown in front of me.’”
“I know,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m sorry, no. Nothing interesting at all.” Arslan sighed, “Just a lot of frustration.”
She crunched on another fork-full of greens and peered at the paper with alien-like scribbles and nodded. “Yup, still don’t understand anything about this.”
Arslan put a hand on his face and sighed. “Thanks, Mandi. You’ve been a great help.” She gave him a wink and continued to eat her food. Arslan face planted onto the table, the lack of sleep finally taking its toll on him.
“Why can’t this be as easy as creating you girls?” He muttered to no one in particular.
“Mr. Arslan, what do you got there?” Asked a familiar voice.
Arslan lifted his head to get a look at the person speaking; it was Bernard.
Arslan answered, “Just some external work; don’t worry about it.”
Bernard leaned over the tired alchemist’s body and picked up the transcript, then rubbed his chin. “Hm. This looks vaguely like ancient Alchomarian. But some things on here are kind of strange to me.”
Arslan shot up from his seat in excitement, vigor replacing his exhaustion. “You know what this is?”
“Of course I do, we offer classes here on languages, both active and extinct.”
Mandilyn chuckled, “A simple problem solved by a simple solution.”
Arslan glared at the eating rabbit-girl, then turned back to Bernard and asked, “Why are you here? I already gave you my notes from the week.”
Bernard frowned and put his hands on his hip, “It’s time for us to apply what we’ve learned from your research. Don’t you remembered the contract required you to oversee every trial?”
Arslan’s gaze went wide as he realized his critical mistake. His words scrambled as much as his actions, picking up the books into a neat pile. “Uh right, right uhm,” he stammered, trying to collect himself, “The trials. I got really caught up in trying to decipher that Alchomarian, you called it?”
Bernard nodded, “No rush, the dean has full confidence that even if this first one is a failure, he’s fully counting that your research will cure the condition before it gets any worse… In the meantime...” Bernard held up the text and smiled, “I’ll get this translated for you, as thanks.” He turned and walked away.
Arslan sat back down, rubbing his temples. Mandilyn had waited for Bernard to get out of earshot before she spoke. “I still can’t trust these guys. Everything they do just smells bad, worse than Winterwell.”
“I said it before, but whatever they do with this information isn’t my problem. My goal is just to break the current wall that science erected around itself.”
“Still, I can’t help but think this is some elaborate plot.” She stopped then continued after eating some more food. “We haven’t even seen the dean’s daughter.”
Arslan thought about it some. “You’re right.”
“Huh? You agree?” She asked.
“Well, yeah,” Arslan admitted, “You had stated a problem and presented evidence to support it. Hard to argue with that.”
“Then are you going to do something?”
“No, not actively at least.” He packed up his stuff and prepared to leave. “Just have my back if it ever comes down to you being right.”
She gave him a thumbs up as he left.
Arslan walked into the east wing of the school. Upon entering, he noticed a group of scientists standing on the far side of the room. The group included the dean and Bernard. In the area were a small podium and a small wall with a glass window, separating the group from a horned rabbit next to a wolf, both in cages and alive.
Bernard waved over Arslan to join him and the dean behind the wall. As Arslan passed the two caged animals, he noticed that the floor and ceiling had a similar rune pattern to his modified golem one. Positioned directly above and below the two animals he’d have to be an idiot not to have noticed they were attempting live transmutation. He took up a spot in the middle of the two, and Dean Arden greeted him by shaking his non-injured hand.
“Arslan, glad you could join us in this monumental moment,” Arden said smiling, then pointed to Arslan’s arm and continued, “You gave us a bit of a scare when you came in that state.”
“Uh. Yeah, unless I’m dead, you shouldn’t have to worry.”
Arden chuckled, “The experiment is starting.”
Arslan turned his eyes to the two caged animals. The circles began lighting up. Inside the runes, the cages started to shake, and the animals became restless. The wolf howled and bit at the bars. Arslan squinted, the process did not look pleasant in any way; the rabbit itself could be seen breathing heavily, trying to escape.
Arslan couldn’t stand to see the two animals in this state, but as a scientist, he had to continue to watch without averting his eyes. Seconds later, the cages broke open and lifted the animals into the air before slamming onto the floor. The wolf at this point was whimpering as an artificial gravity was keeping it glued to the floor. At this point, a scientist clad in all white entered the other side of the room, approaching the edge of the rune and pouring nearly a gallon of honey on the floor. When he tried to pull his arms back out, they were stuck in the same pull that caught the two animals. The scientist turned blue in the face and started to panic.
Arslan looked around at the rest of the group, but no one was making any effort even to try to help the man in distress. Arslan shouted, “Is no one going to stop this?!”
Bernard put a hand Arslan’s shoulder and spoke softly. “Mr. Arslan, as are our regulations, we do not tamper with any ongoing experiments.”
Arslan looked at Bernard in disbelief. He checked to see what was Arden’s reaction to this, which to his surprise was the same as everyone else’s in the room. He couldn’t believe that they would toss away a life like this so casually.
The man was screaming at this point as the gravity brought him down to his knees, shattering the bones in his forearms, his arms limply bent unnaturally. Slowly that very same invisible force pulled him further into the rune and brought the three together. Like a sentient gelatinous blob, the honey came to life and began consuming the three, engulfing them in a giant opaque yellow womb. There was an evident struggle within the blob, and then the rune dropped its brightness, the experiment was finished. The remaining scientists gathered around the finished product, Arslan stayed in the back. The strange way it squirmed made Arslan sick, more so than the usual way it did. Something about it just felt terrible. However, Arden stood there watching intently with his hand over his mouth.
One ‘lucky’ scientist got the honor of delivering the finished result into the world. That scientist cut the membrane from the bottom up; an unknown liquid was the first to spill out before carrying out the abomination. A creature with two malformed human arms, half a human face that had slightly morphed into a wolf’s. The eyes without lids darted around the room in a way as if everything irritated it. The front legs of the wolf hung limply from the sides of the stomach. The worst part about the creature was when it started to wail. The mouth was mostly toothless except for buck teeth. However, the sound it made was between a man’s sobbing and a wolf’s howl, a harrowing noise.
Arslan choked back some vomit when the dean turned to him and said, “The experiment was a success!”
Arslan coughed, “You call this a success?”
He nodded and smiled, “Yes! The outcome wasn’t as desired, but I can say we just proved that live transmutation is completely plausible! With a few more tweaks, we can master this!”
Arslan looked at the dean with discontent. He wasn’t in the wrong, but whatever happened here was one hundred percent disturbing.