While most of my work touching on Vayne's Mana power is done in the context of Bink's Talent, the series this fic brought to mind was Slayers, most specifically the end of Slayers Next. Although while Amalgam, the Atelier Iris series' artificial mana, is indeed rather cosmic horror (although Lita's no Lina), Vayne's quite the opposite… And that needs something done with it as well.

Dialogue light, but at least there's a little?

Disclaimer: I don't own, please don't sue. Gust and so on own it and make money off me.

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Nikki had, they all had expected Flay to be the one to protest it. It was injust, outrageous. Even evil, Nikki said, grasping for words. The sort of thing they'd assumed he would crusade against.

But he didn't, and that knocked the wind out of their sails.

He didn't like it. But instead of making a big scene, instead of being Flay it made him draw inward. He was quiet on the topic, and that was terrifying on several levels.

Muppy simply didn't want to get involved, that was understandable, or as understandable as Muppy got. Pamela was a ghost who seemed to have lost the ability to care about anyone or anything beyond a surface cheer. She cheerfully told them what was going to be done. No memorial, no obituary, and if they wanted any keepsakes they should go get them before his room was cleaned out. Before long all traces of Vayne's presence would be gone, not even a ghost like her, she giggled. She'd seen this before.

She'd seen this before. This wasn't rare, not at all.

It made sense, really, horrible sense when they thought about it.

Jess had been sent here in lieu of prison. Flay was erratic to the point of madness, or so it often seemed. Mana selected very strange people on occasion. This wasn't the first time the academy had deemed a student too dangerous to send back out into the world.

But Vayne hadn't been an ordinary student, had he.

"But he wasn't a bad person, he was our friend!" Nikki's words fell on deaf ears, but this wasn't like always. This was worse than that creepy creep Muppy. This was murder!

Anna had been raised from a young age with the knowledge that occasionally it was necessary to kill people. She didn't like this, she hadn't liked Vayne, but all the teachers seemed to think this was necessary.

Vayne had been the one really tying her to the workshop. When she drifted away, stopped seriously studying alchemy, stopped coming to the workshop when she didn't need to use the cauldron Flay didn't pursue her.

Jess had been upset on Vayne's behalf, but her lack of grief seemed so very wrong that it scared Nikki. Or perhaps it was grief that made her retreat back into her synthesis, forgetting to eat or take basic precautions until even Melanie gave her a lecture on how many times she'd had to be revived in the infirmary after another explosion.

As for Roxis, he'd hated Vayne. He didn't derive any satisfaction from the cold-blooded murder of the one he'd wanted to defeat, but as much as Vayne had tried they had never been friends. Like Flay, he withdrew into silence on the matter, going back to his studies and sometimes observing them from behind a flask, behind the wall of his glasses.

Before very long Nikki began to feel like Vayne's ghost was haunting the workshop, a presence everyone refused to notice but her. An absence no one was going to do anything about.

Vayne, quiet and helpful as he had been, had always been the one who rallied them, Flay the one who pulled them along, and without them how could she mount a crusade?

Even if she had, what was the point of Ms. Isolde apologizing or being executed, even? It wouldn't bring Vayne back.

Nikki found that when she tried to sing the words stuck in her throat. Her grades slid, because how could she want to be an alchemist when this was the true nature of alchemy?

She felt like she had to do something, but what was she supposed to do? Even her friends wouldn't listen to her.

Sometimes it seemed like they weren't her friends anymore.

Had Pamela always been so sadistic? Had Jess always been so uncaring about what happened to herself and other people? Had Flay always been so scary? Anna so paranoid and homicidal? There would be bodies for the infirmary next time, she just knew it.

At least Muppy was still Muppy, and it was scary that this was reassuring compared to everyone else. Muttering about how he'd missed out on acquiring a valuable WMD, whatever that was.

She still went to the workshop, told herself she was still going to at least try, even if no one else was. It was hard, to keep looking down to make sure she wasn't going to trip over Sulpher and go oh, that was right, Sulpher was dead.

He'd exhausted himself trying to protect Vayne, sacrificed himself for him. Things like that were supposed to matter.

Maybe in the world Flay kept trying to turn this one into, a noble sacrifice would make things okay. In this world, Vayne had dropped to his knees next to his best friend's cooling body. Pleaded for him to wake up, falling apart before their eyes until he fell apart literally. A cry and a flash of silver-white light. Not even a body left of their friend, and Isolde crying out to the sky about how Vayne's father should be glad and…

Flay looked thoughtful sometimes, in the way Roxis did, and Flay wasn't supposed to look thoughtful. Flay grabbed and went full steam ahead. A Flay who looked at where the buttons and levers were?

Flay trading mana with Roxis should have made her fur and tail stand on end, ignite a "Wait, is that even possible?" panic and felt like the end of the world, those two teaming up. At the very least, it should have felt like the other shoe had dropped. But no, it felt like it made sense on some level, that things were progressing in some way, and the shoe was still up there, too high to make out, large enough to block out the sun, just waiting.

It felt hard to notice that the sun was shining and her fur was warm without seeing Sulpher there, basking in it, Vayne sitting down beside him to study or just bask in the sun and the familiar presences of everyone.

Nikki had also grown up alone in a forest. More alone, Vayne had Sulpher. They'd just looked at each other and known the feeling.

That spot was always empty now. It was a good spot, and she'd borrowed it before, but she couldn't take it now.

She saw Roxis at the cauldron and realized she had no idea what he was working on. Before, someone, often Vayne, would have asked, and wanted to help, and checked if they were running low on anything and updated the board if they needed someone to make or gather something.

So much for a beastman's heightened senses. She hadn't even heard him come in, sitting on the couch in the loft and feeling sorry for herself. No, sorry for Vayne. Mana were people too! Hadn't Isolde herself said that it had been a bad thing that those ancient people had killed that poor mana?

Roxis was muttering to himself, the sort of aggrieved undertone that Vayne had often caused, a rant that he didn't want anyone else to hear, since it was really more at the universe than Vayne.

Why had Roxis, who actually wanted to be an alchemist, barely been able to make it here? She'd seen the exam, at least. Apparently, people could have their mana with them when they took it, and mana? Knew all the answers.

Had they been trying to discourage Roxis? Roxis was really, really talented, it really wasn't fair.

Maybe they had been trying to discourage him. Maybe they hadn't wanted another Theofratus. A real genius, not just someone a mana liked.

"…Honestly, that impossible-to-please…" Her ears perked up when Roxis' rant became more intelligible, the kind he wanted people to hear instead of the kind he wanted them to ignore. "Try this for me."

Wait, was he talking to her? Nikki straightened up but no, Roxis was still ignoring her, reaching into an inner coat pocket to draw out a little white thing and holding it up to the synthesis he'd just completed. Was that supposed to be food?

A cat? A kitten? Pets weren't allowed at Al Revis, but there were some stray cats running around.

Yes, that was a cat, and it mewed up at Roxis after tasting the food.

"I know it's good, kings rarely eat that well. But will his majesty find it acceptable?" Roxis responded, and it was kind of like Vayne, huh. Kind of funny. Although Vayne hadn't gone melty over Sulpher, stroking his little head with a finger while keeping up a protective grumble to keep from cooing. "I know Sulpher misses your cooking, but it's simply not safe."

Wait. "Sulpher?"

Roxis whirled, grabbing the kitten and jamming it into a pocket as he whipped his deck out. "Nikki."

"You said Sulpher," she insisted, jumping down easily, taking advantage of her appearance to stalk up to him.

"I think you need your ears checked."

She pulled on them. "Nope, working fine."

There was movement on the inside of Roxis' coat and a muffled noise before he finally put away his deck and stopped looking like he was trying to remember the recipe for Water of Lethe. "According to Isolde, Vayne possessed the power of wishes, correct?"

"Yeah?" Her ears perked up again, this time with hope.

"After Sulpher's death left him vulnerable, Isolde took advantage of this by wishing for him to join Sulpher in death." Was there just a slight bit more stress on the 'in death' part? "Theoretically, if Vayne had been able to wish Sulpher back to life, Sulpher would have wished for him to survive, after looking after him for so long. Would have wanted to be able to escape with Vayne."

"Wait, like… how Sulpher could turn into a weapon?"

"Cats think in terms of claws, he wanted to give Vayne some. Cats also carry kittens to safety by the scruffs of their necks, on occasion." Roxis released his deck, using that hand to keep his coat closed. "If Vayne were still alive, Isolde would want him dead. As would everyone else, now that his nature has been confirmed. Even with… our members," madmen, "our workshop couldn't fight off the entire school."

"So as long as Vayne stays dead no one's going to look for him. Who else knows?" Why didn't you tell me?

Roxis half-glared at her. "It's not really safe to talk here, but too late, I suppose. Sulpher brought him to me because he knew I was fond of cats. My mana told me that Vayne was no ordinary kitten. Flay found out, of course," that was Flay, "And Vayne insisted on helping Jess with something to do with his father."

So Jess hadn't just stopped caring.

"I wish he hadn't, celebrating has made her even more reckless, but at least it passes for grief." Roxis defaulted to anger, she was used to that by now. She could even sort of start to like it. Maybe. "And no matter what, Pamela mustn't find out, she'll tell the whole school."

"She's not that bad," Nikki protested. Pamela just rubbed Roxis the wrong way for some reason.

"If you cheer up suddenly, your fanclub will want to know why." Roxis sighed. "And Flay seems to have recruited Anna for something he won't tell me anything about."

"At least I'm not the last to kno-Wait, what about Muppy?"

Roxis gave her his 'are you insane or having a Vayne Moment' look. He was the one who had sort of believed her that something was very wrong with Muppy, although he hadn't gone against the rest of the workshop. Like Nikki hadn't the courage to go against the rest of the school without the workshop.

Well, that answered her question. She had another one, though. "Can I hold him?" He'd looked so cute!

Roxis' protective stance, clasping his coat to his body, answered that question.

Nikki's fanclub blamed the sudden improvement in Nikki's mood on her having fallen in love with yet another unworthy soul. What kind of man would run away from Nikki when she was chasing them trying to tear their clothes off?

-

There are a lot of fics where some sort of transformation occurs that brings people closer together (often enabling pairings). People being turned into children/chibis, Freaky Friday body-swapping, gender-swapping, catbois/girls (a staple of the Atelier series and its spinoffs in general) people turning into adorable kittens or puppies…

Al Revis seems like a place where that sort of thing would happen rather easily, or at least a writer could justify it easily. And writers already have used those plot devices – Mauyn Eign's Time and Time Again's chapter four, for example. She hit most of the high notes of this genre… Also, Execharmonius of livejournal (which has a small Mana Khemia fanfic group) did one. So it's been done (not that there's anything wrong with doing it again)… Except the people turning into kittens thing.

I realized this had to be remedied.

Nope, no need to worry about Vayne, not when Flay and the Mana of Light are co-authoring an Evil Plan.