Beneath the Dragoneye Moons - Chapter 364
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Chapter 364: Operation: The Improved Elaine I
I knocked on Marcelle’s closed door and waited.
“Please wait.” Her voice came from the office.
Blah. Waiting… at least there wasn’t one of the dreaded lines.
It was a shame Artemis and the rest had to leave. At the same time, they had their own lives. While they were currently living in Rolland, it didn’t sound like they had particular attachments to the place, and had even complained about quite a few cultural issues. Like needing to treat royalty like they were something special, and not just people with a fancy title.
There were stories there, and the awkward looks Julius had given Artemis suggested there might be a few shallow graves involved, a noble or two who’d gotten into a ‘hunting accident’.
After what felt like an eternity – three, maybe four minutes – the door opened, and an upset student left Marcelle’s office.
“Elaine. Come on in.” The professor sounded tired, and I entered, sitting on the chair. Her collection of modified animals was smaller than usual, and the paperwork on her desk was piled higher. She didn’t offer me the customary glass of wine, but I wasn’t going to complain.
“What can I do for you?”
I swallowed a tiny nervous lump. I didn’t need Marcelle’s approval, but I realized in the moment that I wanted it just a bit.
“I’m hoping to take no classes next quarter, and I’m hoping you’ll sign off on it.” I succinctly explained.
Her right eyebrow went up.
“Indeed? What do you plan to do with all that time? The max length you’re allowed to stay at the School doesn’t change, even if you do nothing with some of your quarters.”
I gave her a nod.
“I understand. I’ve been wanting to do a full biomancy workup on myself, and I believe I’m ready. I want to use the quarter to carefully go over my plans, draw out the diagrams and references, do my research, then give myself a few days at the end of the quarter to adapt to my new changes.”
“Pencil in at least two weeks, if not more, to adapt to whatever large scale changes you want. You absolutely have my permission. A full-bodied system change is one of the final exams for the biomancy track, and it’s common for students to take an entire quarter to work on their graduation project. I trust you’re not leaving us anytime soon…?” She asked.
I shook my head.
“No. I don’t believe that biomancy is right for me in the long term. I do want to make modifications to myself though, while having enough time to practice my third class.”
“Ah, what a shame. You’ve gotten brilliant remarks on all your classes, and I believe you’d be one of our finest.”
I licked my lips, not wanting to draw attention to the problem, but feeling a sense of obligation.
“Are you still alright with me taking the quarter off if I’m dropping biomancy after?”
Marcelle waved her hand.
“Yeah. It’s no problem. You can attempt to get certified for a bronze grade in the biomancy track in the end anyways, and trust me, the more certifications you have, even unused, the better off your future prospects will be. Who’d you want to hire? The gold healer, or the gold healer with an additional bronze biomancy?”
The question was clearly rhetorical.
“Now, if there’s nothing else, I have a pile of work.” Marcelle picked up a quill and one of the papers, and I recognized a dismissal when I saw one.
The first step was to find a study zone, and prepare my supplies. Just because I hadn’t signed up for any classes this quarter didn’t mean I had nothing to do. The School’s combat team still had its regular meetup every day at the same time, and it wasn’t something I could skip. Similarly, I wanted to keep my job at the library, although I did change which hours I was working. I made them end of the day, enforcing a mental break. They did provide nice bookends to my day, activities to help regulate me. Otherwise, I’d probably start pulling all nighters, then collapsing for a few hours, then starting all over again. My internal cycles would get screwy, and I knew where that ended up.
No, better to keep to a schedule. It would also keep me seeing Iona and Auri, and not turn into some sort of hermit.
I bought four new notebooks, and a dozen new quills just for this. It was a bit wasteful, but this felt significant, and acquiring supplies just for this felt right somehow. Plus, I could afford to indulge a bit. I also had a significant collection of old notes from various biomancy and medicine classes, along with all of my scribblings over time. All my musings on Operation: The Improved Elaine.
Heck, I’d even kept most of my old homework assignments!
The library was next!
The demonic librarian grunted at me.
“I’m looking for a copy of the complete set of the Medical Manuscripts that I can borrow for the quarter. I’m also looking for Metallurgy and Meat by Jin Pinyin, Carving Your Enemy’s Bones into Runes and Power by Amina Tagreb, Advanced Octagony by Lotus Alder, A Short Guide of Jiwa Runes by Tithos Realmshaper, and A Collection of Useless Organs and Muscles, and Proposed Forms and Functions by Theodwin Heathertoes. I’m also looking for a dozen creature anatomy books, starting with Dinosaurs of Dairalt by Inkarr Herder…”
Martin eyed me.
“A Collection is by Gilbert Labingi. Theodwin tried to steal credit for the book, and if you’ve found any by his name in my library, I would ask that you draw my attention to it so I can correct the issue.”
Faun politics. I didn’t want to get anywhere near them, I just wanted to get the blasted reference book.
“Understood. I’ll let you know if I see any. Until then…?”
“It’s a large number of books you want to check out, over the limit. You know this.” Martin reminded me.
“I’m hoping to keep them all in the library for the entire quarter. In the room on the sixth floor, seventh corridor, the one almost tucked behind a bookcase that you need to squeeze past to get into. They’ll never leave the library.”
“Books lost in the library in an unknown location are as surely lost as they’d be if you lit fire to them.” Martin reminded me.
“Yup. That’s why I’m telling you where they’ll be!” I replied with a cheeky grin.
I got another side eye from Martin.
“What happens when you are gone, and another student decides to rearrange your study space?”
“I plan on being there most of the quarter, with occasional breaks to work and eat.”
“Alright. You have been an exemplary worker. Simply know that you must return the books at the end of the quarter, and you will need to track down where the books have gone if you fail to return any. On your own time.”
“I understand Martin.”
“Medical Manuscripts. Grab a copy from the second floor medical section, not the first floor. Those are the reference copies. Metallurgy and Meat is in the first basement level…”
Armed with a list, I went book hunting. I knew most of the content, had it memorized with [Immortal Recollections]. When a mistake could literally kill me? When I’d skimmed some of the texts? When I’d never read Metallurgy and Meat?
Getting a pile of reference books was the ticket. Plus, as I wrote out my notes and plans, I could find the page reference in a book I knew the location of, and add that note in. That way if I asked anyone to look over my notes, I’d be able to tell them that, say, human nerves were in volume 4, page 76 of the Medical Manuscripts, and have a copy to show them, as opposed to my personal recollection of the Medical Manuscripts, which I never read the page numbers on, and could have nerves on page 68, due to a font size difference or the like.
I hauled it all to my study room, one I’d found in my endless rounds of the library and that never seemed to have someone in it. A room, forgotten by the student body at large but not the librarians or staff. We didn’t advertise its presence.
The perfect mini office for me, one that I didn’t need to spend a single arcanite coin to rent for the quarter.
Empty notebooks to my bottom left. Reference books on the top right and center. Old notes on the top left. A clean area to my right.
I put the first notebook in front of me, and opened it up to the first, clean page.
[Drawing] was a skill, one I didn’t have. I’d needed to sketch plenty of diagrams for class, but I wasn’t a master like Iona was.
This was important enough, and I wasn’t a huge fan of [Spotless]. On my first page I started drawing some crude figures with my black quill, hoping to get a skill.
[*ding!* You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Drawing]! Would you like to replace a skill with it? Y/N]
[*ding!* You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Drafting]! Would you like to replace a skill with it? Y/N]
[*ding!* You’ve unlocked the General Skill [Anatomical Design]! Would you like to replace a skill with it? Y/N]
There we go! That skill looked narrow enough, and hence strong enough at low levels, for my purposes.
I replaced [Spotless] with the skill. I then tore out the first page of the notebook – the one with the bad ‘just draw something to get the skill’ – crumpled it up, and threw it over my shoulder.
The first issue? Skeleton design. It was the fundamental underpinning to how I’d look. It was the structure that everything would need to hang off of. It was the optimal starting point for this project, although I’d need to go back to it a dozen times, a hundred times, and make small changes and adjustments as various changes cascaded through my designs.
I wanted to look mostly human at the end, so I started with my own human skeleton, carefully drawing bone after bone. [Elvenoid Visualization] helped, giving me a perfect mental image of how I currently looked to start.
Every once in a while I felt my fingers shift slightly, correcting a minor mistake I didn’t even know I was about to make – but I’d sure know about it once my quill was done with the stroke!
[*ding!* [Anatomical Design] leveled up! 1->2]
I was making changes almost immediately. First off, my teeth. I’d been lucky with my wisdom teeth, but my teeth weren’t exactly perfectly straight. Practically nobody had perfectly straight teeth.
Well, that was going to change. A tilt here, a tilt there, a minor twist on my second molar, and a quick ‘make my teeth lock perfectly’ later, and my teeth were fixed. On the initial pass.
I didn’t need to make layers of teeth to regrow when the first ones broke, like a shark. It was a fun design, but I’d just heal anything I broke. With that said, humans didn’t exactly have the hardest, toughest teeth around. I took mixed inspiration from snow leopards and tyrannosaurus rex to make my teeth harder and tougher – although the shape stayed the same!
The coccyx was mostly vestigial, but too many muscles anchored to it. I’d been debating removing it, but I’d wait and see if I could anchor the needed muscles somewhere else instead.
I’d also looked at getting a tail, but that was more for fun and experimentation than any real desire to have a tail. It’d utterly ruin the ‘trying to look human’ look.
The human spine was a bit of a disaster, but almost every fix I’d found involved becoming a quadruped. A scrawling mess of a design involved completely redoing the entire concept of the spine from the ground up, doing something like having flexible internal scale armor with a cushioning layer of something absorbent, along with multiple strands that…
I stopped after losing almost half a day trying to redesign the spine from the ground up, and returned to well-tread basics and fundamentals.
The elven spine design was optimal, and I once again mentally cursed how advantaged they seemed to be.
I could just select ‘elf’ for everything I wanted to do. Elven skeleton. Muscles. Heart. Nerves. The whole nine miles, and the System would recognize that I was now an ‘elf’. Possibly after a class up, although the ‘hop’ was small enough that it might not be needed.
I’d get the grand feat stats, and moving forward, I’d also get the racial stats, along with their curse. I’d get their leveling speed. In nearly every way, I’d be an elf, although I’d also select what kind of horns I wanted.
I would lack the cultural and familial ties though, along with the mindset of being raised an elf. Practically, biologically speaking though, I’d be an elf.
I had no small amount of hubris. I believed I could do better than an elf. I had a few advantages I could lean on, primarily my constant self-healing which would let me make some sacrifices for improved performance.
A similar story existed for becoming a dragon. I could try to replace every part of my body with the draconic equivalent, and turn into a human-shaped dragon. The comparative anatomy mostly supported it.
I’d also turn into some sort of freak, and it was entirely possible that I’d become a dragonling instead of a dragon, or a true dragon would take offense to what I’d become. Given that one seemed to live at the School, and I frankly felt no desire to become a scaled abomination, I was sticking with ‘mostly human’.
Breathing fire did sound cool.
I could skip the ‘human-shaped’ dragon, and just go full dragon. I suspected the body dysmorphia would be rough, and I liked the benefits of being able to live in an elvenoid society.
And, stupid as it sounded, kisses. I liked kissing Iona. Dragons didn’t kiss.
Knees were a second point of poor design. Hitting a knee from the side was a great way of breaking it, and there was an argument to making it a ball-and-socket joint, not a hinge joint.
I’d lose dramatically on performance for a reduced chance of breaking the joint, and it was the first place where my magic was tying into my design choices. I could, with a thought, simply fix a broken knee. I didn’t need to make a sacrifice to prevent injuries when my ability to cure injuries was amazing.
The human pelvis sucked for childbirth. It was just too narrow, and our skulls were too large. Having no desire to ever have kids of my own though, it was easy enough to ignore that design ‘flaw’. Instead, I looked at it critically, seeing if there was any way to improve strength and performance, while sacrificing the birth canal.
Granted, that was committing to never ever having kids in an Immortal lifespan, which was something of a tough call to make. I knew I didn’t want to have kids… today. Was I sure I would never change my mind?
I was leaning yes-ish. I didn’t see a reason to make sacrifices on a ‘maybe one day i’ll change my mind.’ If I did change my mind, I’d need a powerful biomancer with access to a ton of mana to make the changes, but… I’d be Immortal, I’d have the time to acquire that much arcanite and find a willing biomancer. I wonder if other biomancers saw the same flaws with the human body that I did?
It was like I was making patch notes for the human body. ‘We’ve found that wisdom teeth aren’t needed anymore, and we’ve removed them. Fixed the issue of teeth not always being straight. Fixed the issue of the knee being too breakable. Fixed…’
My feet had big circles around them. I’d drawn them as they were now, but I was going to fix them. I was unsure which design I was going to use. All I knew was the human foot had way too many bones and moving parts, half of which weren’t used at all. A design for climbing trees, but we didn’t climb anymore.
Horses, cheetahs, and ostriches were high up on my list for initial design choices. A few dinosaurs made the list, and I added in deinonychus for its terrible claw.
With a few modifications, it would easily be hidden in a shoe, while permanently granting me access to a knife.
I was less sure on which creature to model my feet and legs after. There was an argument for webbed feet helping me swim. Maybe if I could manage it without compromising my ability to run – or wear shoes! The rest I had a few more ideas for.
My neck took inspiration from owls. Humans have two socket pivots, while owls only have one. That would let me look directly behind me, or even further! Plus, breaking my neck by twisting it would be a pain in the neck.
It did overall weaken the area in some respects, but the ability to look behind me was worth it, even if I’d look like a monster while it happened. I wanted to mostly look human, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice incredible practicality that wasn’t immediately obvious.
I yawned and stretched, then froze.
“Unpicked mangos, what time is it!?” I jumped up, out of my chair, and dashed through the door. I spotted a clock, and cursed again.
I was late to work. I’d spent too much time relying on [Timekeeping] to tell me when I needed to do something.
Good thing I was already in my workplace!