442 Thing Part 1
The new form the living tissue had assumed was that of a featureless human head with a slender neck which ended with the outline of a left shoulder.
It would have reminded Lith of a broken mannequin, if it weren't for its glowing blue eyes.
"This is bad." He said.
"I can't be sure of it, but the only time I've seen blue eyes was during Necromancy classes.
If I'm right and the principle is the same, we're being watched."
The head's lips curled into a smile, confirming Lith's suspicions.
Manohar had completed his spell, but nothing happened.
Remote control despite the Association's arrays." The Professor took the enchanted tray the specimen was set upon, to seal it inside the quarantine array again.
Suddenly, thin tendrils of flesh emerged from the severed neck and shoulder, wrapping around his arms.
Nothing happened, again.
"And" Manohar grinned at the thing's surprised expression.
The tendrils let go of his arms and went straight for his face, but a thin barrier of light surrounding Manohar prevented them from touching his skin.
"As I said, without a host you are powerless.
You're not the first pest I've faced.
I was just testing the limits of this form of yours."
"You really are just as annoying and arrogant as they say you are." The head replied with a soft, feminine voice that was identical to Tista's.
"Let's see how you respond to this…"
Tista and Lith stepped back while pretending to cast a fake magic spell.
Manohar, on the other hand, didn't budge.
"You're just wasting my time.
The door is closed, I've protected the three of us, and I'll not let my specimen die.
"Please, Professor, let go of me! Help! Somebody help me!" The face screamed with a terrified crying voice.
As usual, Tista had made quite an impression on the mages standing guard outside the lab, just as Manohar did for completely different reasons.
As soon as they heard Tista screaming for help, they assumed the worst and opened the door while calling for reinforcements.
"Told you he is a creep! You owe me twenty copper coins!" Mage Trewan said to his partner, Mage Assa.
"Close the door, you dimwits! Can't you see I'm busy" Manohar yelled in outrage.
The thing had shapeshifted again, assuming Tista's features and melting the half of the face not exposed to the guards.
The melted flesh formed a naked shoulder and a part of an arm.
Its tendrils were still clinging to Manohar's body despite his best efforts to get free of the living tissue without damaging the specimen.
So what the guard saw was a half-naked young woman whose body was covered by the Professor's ample robe screaming for help.
"Help me! He tried to rape me!" The head sobbed, sending the two guards into a frenzy.
They didn't even notice the real Tista standing a few meters back staring in horror at her doppelganger.
"Nice try, but no one is dumb enough to believe…" Manohar was cut short by two massive high-pressured wind blows that sent him crashing against a nearby column and made him lose consciousness.
It was the tier tree Soft Blast, a non-lethal air magic spell devised in case of hostage situations.
It all happened so fast that Tista and Lith barely had any time to react.
The head sprung from Manohar's body and bolted toward the now shocked guards.
Lith attempted to catch it with spirit magic while Tista conjured a ten centimeters (4") thick wall of earth to stop its advance.
As soon as it perceived the pressure from the mana tendrils, the thing split itself into smaller pieces to escape from them and charged toward the barrier.
The smaller bits remained stuck inside Tista's spell, but the impact created several cracks and weakened its structure enough to allow the two biggest fragments to reach the other side of the wall.
'How the heck can they be so powerful' Lith thought while staring in awe at the broken barrier.
'That thing is full to the brim with world energy.
The merchant first and our experiments later allowed it to feed to its heart content.
Do you remember Manohar's words Half the mana was stored all along.' Solus explained.
Tista didn't waste time and made the wall implode, destroying all the fragments still stuck inside it and clearing their line of sight all at once.
Sadly, it was too late.
The living tissue had turned the mages into its hosts and was merging the two bodies into one.
'Fuck! We can kiss our specimen goodbye.' Lith cursed the unknown enemy.
'That thing made a magico as strong as a mage.
I can't afford to discover what it can do to someone with a decent core.'
'The guards both had bright green cores.' Solus thought.
'I have no idea how two mana cores in one body will interact, but based on what happened earlier, it should be like fighting a blue cored mage.'
"Tista, I'll hit high, you hit low we must…" In the heat of the battle, Lith had completely forgotten that his sister had never seen an Abomination, one of Balkor's undead, or any of the monstrosities which had been his bread and butter for years.
Tista was pale as a ghost, incapable of averting her gaze from the bodies of the two mages as they were twisted inside out.
Their bones snapped and merged forming thicker limbs.
Their flesh writhed and bulged, spurting blood whenever a blood vessel proved incapable of sustaining the increased pressure just to be mended a split second later.
Lith looked at Manohar, still on the floor with a small pool of blood forming under his head.
"We don't have much time left." Said the left head using Lith's own voice.
"Let's play." Said the right one, accomplishing the unbelievable task of making Manohar's voice even more annoying.
Count Lanza's Mansion.
"Your allegations could put Count Xolver in some serious trouble.
What makes you so certain that he could be the one behind the made mages" Jirni asked.
"You don't know him like I do." Even if the corridor outside her father's office was pleasantly warm, Mynna Lanza shivered while recalling their shared past.
"Arik has always been envious of anyone capable of lighting a fire without matches.
He's not just talentless, he can't even use chore magic.
Over the years, envy turned into hate, it's gotten to the point that he has forbidden his staff to use magic.
The last time I visited him Arik almost whipped a butler to death for conjuring a glass of water." Her beautiful blue eyes turned watery.
"He was yelling like a lunatic, babbling about restoring his honor.
He had a feverish look in his eyes, like he'd become insane."
"Thanks for your help.
I assure you we'll pay Arik Xolver a visit." Jirni said.
At those words, Mynna gave them a curtsy with a look full of gratitude before taking her leave.
The housemaid accompanying Mynna hesitated before following her ladyship.
Jirni hadn't missed how the housemaid had kept staring at her Constable badge during the whole conversation, nor that she had bitten her lower lip more than once to stop herself from speaking.
Lady Ernas caught up with her before she could disappear around the corner and grabbed her by the shoulder.
"Is there anything you would like to add, miss" Jirni asked.
The housemaid turned around nervously, making sure no one was in sight before answering.
"Please, don't listen to the Marquis.
He's only telling you half of the story."