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…Lepidoptraetheia. Tiny nuisances to be destroyed. Eat up aether around your experiments. Easily dispatched with the fulminous aether…

-Excerpt, Alchemical Creatures, K. Ledenoff, 1213

Ruslav Diaghilev looked down at the scrap of paper in his hands. He'd scrawled something on it the other night in his sleep, but couldn't easily make out what it said. His divination had worked perfectly, his penmanship, not so much. "Kir…kir……..I cannot even read my own handwriting anymore." He grumbled as he walked silently down the hallway. His flowing robes earned him no lack of stares, as he walked through Site 19, unfamiliar with the layout.

Behind him, Arturo Genuomo struggled to keep up, weighed down with a large backpack full of clinking glassware, and topped with a cast iron cage. The young man's much brighter robes were cut short, almost in the style of a labcoat, and his sandy blonde hair was perpetually disheveled as he tried to keep up with the Elder Alchemist. "Master, you did write it in your sleep. You can't exactly expect perfect accuracy. I've told you about keeping your pens inked up, your pen was basically dry when you wrote this. It's why you couldn't finish the note." The cage appeared empty to those not trained to be sensitive to the Aether flows. Inside, there were dozens of tiny creatures, but they'd run in to a bit of a snag, and it was time to consult an expert.

"Excuse me." Ruslav held up a hand, stopping a nearby labcoated doctor. "Is there a researcher Kir…" his voiced rumbled out again. "Is there a research lab with a butterfly expert here?"

The man in front of him blinked a few times, taking in the flowing bottle-green robes and bright purple shoes on his feet. "I…are you lost?" The doctor reached towards his belt, to the small pager located there.

"I am not lost. Nor am I a security threat." He indicated towards the badge on his chest, which helpfully stated 'R. Diaghilev. Director, Alchemy Division. Level 4/ASCLEPIUS.' "I am, however, looking for someone."

"I…oh. I'm so sorry." He held his hand out awkwardly. "Dr. Zartion, but you can call me Christopher if you prefer. Apologies for the mix-up director. I'm not sure if you're referring to a specific researcher or not?"

Ruslav nodded his head, shaking Dr. Zartion's with his right, the heavy knuckles of his left hand holding up the scrap of paper. "I divined that there is a researcher here, who understands butterflies. They work in some specialty lab. I cannot read the handwriting."

He looked down at the scrap of paper, with the badly scrawled 'S19. R. K I R' with a trailing few letters. "I know that feeling, getting old sucks." Behind the Doctor, Arturo passed one hand over his head, and made a quiet 'woosh' sound.

Ruslav smiled slightly in amusement, as the Doctor tapped his temple with one finger, "I think Kiryu labs has a researcher who's interested in butterflies. I hope that helps. Excuse me, Director." He smiled, and walked down a hallway towards some other section of the facility.

Ruslav nodded with a ponderous motion of his head. "We must find this Kiryu labs, apparently."

The pair of alchemists set off with silent steps, the only sounds of their passage being the clinking of glass, and rattling of cast iron.

…Are to be immediately recalled, as they present a harmful picture of Alchemical Creatures to all involved. Any copies turned in are subject to compensation in the amount of 17 thaler per copy…

-Excerpt, College of Alchemists literature review, 1751

A few more odd stares, and some directions from a security officer who thankfully respected Ruslav's position more than his own curiosity left the Elder alchemist at a door in a small attached wing to Site 19. He swiped the magnetic badge through the access panel, and held the tiny NFC chip for verification. The door slid back with a soft woosh, to reveal a series of rooms and offices surrounded by large windows. The light from between the nearby trees flowed in naturally, and lit the offices with a soft green glow.

The two alchemists strode in to Kiryu labs, and Ruslav couldn't help but smile. Most of the Foundation's alchemical flows were minimal, as most places were after the Seal. Even still, the clinical and detached nature of the Foundation caused the currents to seep slowly through the cracks in the doors, and along the floors.

Kiryu labs was different. The terronous aether sang in the air, along with the Aeronous. There was something…more here. Something he hadn't felt in a long time. "Ahh…Adebeyo, you would have appreciated this…"

Arturo stepped up, attempting to be helpful, "Master…?" He held a small notebook along with a very old pen that Ruslav had given him a few months ago. The apprentice alchemist had taken to using it for everything.

"Nothing, Arturo. Simply commenting on the flows in this area. Concentrate…" His hands swept in front of him for a moment, as he drew them in to shaper focus.

"I…oh, oh! I hadn't ever felt…something like this, in the Foundation." The young man's eyes opened wider, and his feet, shod in the same purple as his Master slipped a few inches forward.

Ruslav smiled, the light from his deepset eyes a rare treasure on his face. "Now, we find this Kiryu."

A head poked out from a nearby door. "I'm sorry, did you ask for me?" Dr. Mark Kiryu's head was half visible out of his office door. "I heard my name."

Ruslav shuffled forward on silent steps. "Da, I am looking for researcher Kiryu. I have an item I need assistance with. I was given information that you are the person to talk to."

Mark stood up from the office chair, and walked out to greet the pair of alchemists. He surreptitiously took in the badge on Ruslav's chest, and held out his hand. "Director Diaghilev. It's good to meet you, I'm Director Kiryu. This is Kiryu labs, I'll help however I can. Is the item logged as anomalous?"

Ruslav nodded, reaching back to unhook the heavy cast iron cage from Arturo's pack. "Da, all alchemic creatures are considered anomalous at this time. We came across these in Macedonia, and needed assistance."

Mark cocked his head to one side, "I…apologize, Director. I'm not familiar with Alchemy, or these…creatures? And, this may just be my own ignorance, but I don't see anything." To his credit, Dr. Kiryu kept a straight face the entire time.

Ruslav clucked his tongue, "Of course, my apologies. They are not visible to the naked eye usually. Arturo, will you please reveal them for the Director?"

Arturo nodded, and gently lowered his pack, stepping forward, and drawing his half-finished marble and ebonite crozier, "Of course, Elder. Director, if you could take a step back?"

Mark nodded, and held his chin in one hand, his eyes narrowing slightly, "Is this…"

Ruslav nodded, "Alchemy, yes," he turned to Arturo, "Take the aeronous…yes, like that, now the igneous…"

Arturo's hands slowly moved in a circle, as the crozier spun a figure eight in the air. The fourth language flowed from his lips, as he recited the proper formula. The air around the cage shimmered, and several small creatures came in to view. Smaller than a thumbnail, the tiny butterflies were made of different materials. Some were tiny crystalline things, others were made of fire or water.

"Alchemical butterflies. Lepidoptraetheia. I need assistance creating a more permanent containment vessel, and figuring out how to care for them. The alchemy I can handle, the butterflies," Ruslav's voice rumbled off, as he looked at Mark significantly.

"I think, you may have the wrong person. I'm Dr. Kiryu, but researcher Kiryu is the one with the butterfly affinity. Can you wait here a moment?" Ruslav nodded, and Mark stepped away, turning down the hallway to the left, to Room 205, and knocked. A hollow boom could be heard from the depths of the labs. Ruslav's eyebrow raised as the igneous aether swirled.

Dr. Kiryu and a young woman came around the corner. She was smoking slightly, and wearing a heavy silver colored suit of some kind of fire-resistant material. Ruslav's robes contained several of the same properties, but didn't have that industrial chic about them.

"These are the two alchemists, Zyn. I think they need your help." Dr. Kiryu waved her forward, and nodded at the two alchemists. "If you'll forgive me, I have to get back to work. You know where my office is, and Zyn is at your disposal." He gave them a curt nod, and walked back in to his office, closing the door most of the way.

The young woman in front of them was wearing a fireproof suit, and held the helmet of the suit under one arm. "Hi, I'm Zyn. Did you two need help with something…?" She couldn't help but be a little off-put by the two men in robes. She eyed Arturo especially suspiciously, holding a marble and rubber mace in his hand.

Ruslav took a step forward, and held out one heavily scarred hand. "Da, I am Ruslav Diaghilev, Director of the Alchemy Division. I was told you were the expert if I had a butterfly that needed studying."

The twinkle in Zyn's eye told him everything he needed to know.

…Elders Diaghilev and P. Flamel will be in charge of further review of Alchemic creature lore in the future. An official reprimand has been issued for Alchemist Ledenoff found at…

-Excerpt, College of Alchemists literature review, 1752

A few minutes later, Zyn, Ruslav, and Arturo stood in Room 217. "So, tell me once more, they're made up of…?"

Ruslav nodded, his hands moving in slow circles. "Aether. The fabric of the energies that make up atoms and molecules. Cut and tie everything together and apart. Mostly. Alchemists can manipulate these, but there are also several creatures in this world, and others, which can interact with them. These Lepidoptraetheia are one of them."

He reached his hand out, and a small butterfly composed of ice, and tiny drifts of snow alighted on his finger. "They collect excess aether from plants and animals for sustenance. Their bodies are less…physical, and more manifestations of what they eat. This one, is not literally ice, for example. It is made of a combination of Aeronous and Aequeous aethers. Your eyes and mind simply interpret these as 'ice'."

Zyn leaned in, and stared at the tiny creature. "Amazing. I had no idea this all even existed." She turned her hand over, a slow smile creeping across her face as the tiny creature which appeared to be made up of slightly dusty winds swirling around her fingertip crawled to her palm, and lifted off to the side of the cage in silent flight.

Ruslav nodded, "That is by intention, researcher. It goes without saying that the things you work on with us, are confidential." He closed his hands, and the flow of air around the three of them slowly tightened until they were in a personal soundproof bubble of air.

"Of course," she nodded, reaching out with a match to feed a tiny butterfly made of dancing flames. "So, how can I help you all?" The tiny butterfly alighted on the match, and the bright flame at the end petered out as the butterfly sucked away the aether of the miniature fire.

Ruslav's hands returned to the cage, the two dozen or so butterflies circling the area inside. "We are…unaware of how to care for these creatures, long term. Several have been dying, and others keep appearing, and we cannot determine why. We've tried all of the alchemic means at our disposal." He looked across at Zyn, and smiled very slightly, "So we naturally assumed it must be something more basic. Adebeyo and I have no idea how to care for butterflies, and Arturo prefers cats."

Arturo leaned back against a nearby table, idly trying to gather enough aether together to ruffle the linen skirt on a nearby lab table. "Cats are the best. Fish are second best."

Ruslav waved a hand idly at Arturo, a familiar gesture of concession. Zyn leaned back and looked at the ceiling, before returning to look down at the cage, a thought striking. "How long have you had them?"

Ruslav rotated the cage a few times, summoning the tenebrous aether to feed some of the butterflies made of shadows and negative space. "Six weeks. Some more, some less."

"That'd do it. Butterflies only live about two weeks. What do they look like as caterpillars?" she replied, idly reaching in to the cage. The two alchemists were uncharacteristically quiet as Zyn raised an eyebrow at the two of them.

Arturo and Ruslav exchanged a sheepish glance. "We…had not considered this. I had never encountered Lepidoptraetheia as anything other than this form." Ruslav's voice rumbled in embarrassment.

Zyn waved a hand, "So, the key is to find the eggs and the caterpillars." She reached forward, and closed the cage door, lifting the bottom up slightly. "I don't know where they'd keep them. They don't exist in our dimension right?"

Ruslav waved a hand non-committedly, "Without going through significant training and instruction, yes. I do not really…hrm…"

Arturo stepped forward, and raised his hands. He spoke quietly in the fifth language, and his hands exuded a soft glow, as the tenebrous aethers were washed away by the luxorous aether. Several small caterpillars could be seen among the tiny rocks and twigs at the bottom of the cage.

Ruslav's voice rumbled out in a pleased noise, "Of course. They were hiding in the tenebrous. Arturo, that was very good thinking. They live off of the luxorous aether, until they're adults. I wonder how they determine which aether they'll subsist on as adults…" The light winked out as the tiny caterpillars eagerly gathered up the energies.

Zyn smiled at the two alchemists, "This was fascinating. I'm glad I could help." She crossed her arms in front of her, and looked up at the clock, not realizing how quickly time had passed with the two strange men in robes.

Ruslav raised an eyebrow, feeling an opportunity at hand, "Miss Kiryu, are you interested in being involved in the containment project for these creatures?"

…Lepidoptraetheia. These creatures present as small butterflies to the third eye. They are non-harmful, and consume small bits of extraneous aether. They are useful as cleaning aids after excess aether flows, and can be found…

-Excerpt, Alchemical Creatures, R. Diaghilev, 1774 (Revised)

"I get the theory, but I'm not getting the practice. What exactly should I be doing?" The three weeks of training Researcher Kiryu had passed quickly, and she'd been insistent on learning everything needed to care for the Lepidoptraetheia.

"Bring your hands in front of you. Do not visualize the flows. Feel the flows. They are all around us. They are not visible, but tangible. Do you feel them?" Ruslav's voice flowed in a familiar cadence of teaching a novice the basics of Alchemy. They had gone over them for three weeks now, but isolating Luxorous aether flows was difficult, and took intense concentration.

"I feel them, but what do I do? How do I get the one I want?" Zyn's hands shook slightly, as she concentrated, small beads of sweat forming on her forhead, as the Aether flows sluggishly responded to her will.

"Yes. Like that. It is not…a mechanical thing. It is a matter of will, and focus. You have the ability within you, now pull the flows apart, and let the luxorous flow through your hands. It's lighter than the others. Less…weighty." Ruslav stood behind the young researcher, his arms folded, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

Several minutes passed, and the room grew several degrees colder, but nothing happened between Zyn's hands.

Arturo glanced over at Ruslav with a questioning look from the corner. Sensing his attention, Ruslav nodded ever so slightly to the young Alchemist. Arturo concentrated, and nudged a stream of aether closer to Zyn, picking it apart slightly. Light gathered in her hands, like a blob of particularly viscous jelly.

Her eyes went wide, as the flows gathered stronger, and poured out from her outstretched hands, in a soft white beam of light. The caterpillars at the bottom of the cage drew towards her, and eagerly ate up the flows of energy she poured through the fine mesh.

"I- this isn't…I have no idea how I'm doing this, but I'm doing it!" She laughed under her breath, unable to believe the frankly impossible sight in her own hands. "This feels like magic."

Ruslav took a step forward, and cupped his hand, making a quick circular motion with his wrist. A small globe of water happily sloshed around between his fingertips. "Alchemists have always had a flair for the dramatic, but it is science, I assure you, Miss Kiryu. Repetition and experimentation."

The light faded out from her hands, as she leaned back, exhausted. "Well, whatever this is, it's pretty crazy. I didn't expect to be able to turn my hands in to a flashlight."

Ruslav smiled, and collapsed the small ball of water, returning it to its component Aethers. "You would have been far more impressed several centuries ago. Alchemy was…different then. Alas, needs must, and times change." Ruslav held out his hand towards Arturo.

Arturo rose from the chair, and crossed the room, handing Ruslav his cold iron crozier. "Researcher, your help these last few weeks have been invaluable. I'm sorry to say that we've been called back to Site-82 for another project."

Zyn slumped slightly, frowning, "That's unfortunate. I really enjoyed watching these little guys mature. The metamorphosis process for these creatures is fascinating. I hope my research notes helped."

Ruslav smiled at her, and his heavy-lidded eyes bored in to hers, "They did, I have more than enough to update the texts. On a slightly more important note, you have the required aptitudes to come assist us at Site-82 if you wish. Those with the necessary alchemic aptitude are rare to say the least. I could speak with your Director for transfer to the Alchemy department. Should you desire it."

The air hung heavy with expectation, as a sad smile spread over Zyn's face, "I really appreciate that, Director, but my place is here. Everything you've taught me has been fascinating, but the work goes on so to speak. If I have time, I'll be sure to pop over to Site-82 to visit when I get the chance."

Ruslav smiled slightly, and nodded. "I assumed as much, however, it does not hurt to try. You are a brilliant young researcher. Do not give up that curiosity, and if you ever have questions about Alchemy, or change your mind, you know where to find us."

The alchemists gathered their belongings, and clipped the heavy cage back to Arturo's pack. A final sweep of the lab confirmed they had everything, and Ruslav ducked in to the Director's office to say his farewells. As they headed through the door, Arturo turned to wave goodbye to Zyn one last time before ducking through the door.

Zyn smiled, and returned to the research lab, to tidy up her notes, and get back to work on the latest containment project. She gathered together the loose sheets, slapped them in a manila with a quick jot of a label, and filed them in her little cabinet in the corner.

Just before she pulled out the next set of files, she stopped, and stared down at her hands. She closed her eyes, and concentrated, feeling the flows of the Aethers around her. As she opened her eyes, a small spark of light winked in to existence on her fingertip, for just a moment. She grinned to herself, and pulled out the next set of files.

…Lepidoptraetheia. (Lepidopterus Alchemica zyneria) These creatures present as small butterflies to the third eye, and as small caterpillars in the larval stage. The luxorous aether can be used to reveal this form……

-Excerpt, Alchemical Creatures, R. Diaghilev; Zyn Kiryu (Credited Co-Author), 2017 (Revised Second Edition)

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