“The fuzzy crystal?” Saffron said. “I’ve never heard it called such a thing.”

“Well, well, I suppose it’ll come as new to you that what mice haven’t heard can fill a library, hmm?” Vermilion said.

He scurried across his lab on all fours, leaving the uranium glass where it lay. Saffron craned to see what he was doing, but couldn’t quite see around the rat’s bulk. When he turned back around, he held a small crystal that was a vibrant purple. It rested on a bit of old newspaper and was, for lack of a better word, fuzzy. Little threads came off of it at both ends, like an unraveling piece of cloth.

“I suppose it is fuzzy,” Saffron said.

“Yes, and dangerous too,” Vermilion said. “The raw materials are fatal enough that they can kill even a human in small quantities. But it is relatively safe and stable thanks to my emulsion.”

“Will it really do as they say?” Saffron whispered, her eyes reflecting the intense indigo glow. “Let one of us go among the humans without fear of death?”

“If you want empty promises, go speak to a salesman,” said Vermilion. “It should work, but the mechanism of action has varied quite a bit in my experience. It might make you invisible. A mouse vapor, completely insubstantial. Could make you hyper large, even. I’ve seen them all happen, which is why you’re not to do anything with the crystal in this laboratory, you hear?”

“Y-yes,” said Saffron. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“Likely a great deal, as you’re probably as ignorant as all your kind,” Vermilion said. “But about the crystal, particularly? I’ve noticed an unusual side effect in all my tests. The eyes always stay the same. So whether you’re a puff of mousevapor or whatever, those lovely red albino eyes of yours will be ready to give you away. I’d be prepared for that.”

“All right,” Saffron said. She took the crystal from Vermilion, wrapping it in the newspaper carefully and heeding his warnings not to touch it in his laboratory. He wrung his paws in glee when Saffron told him about the antique store rubbish bin, and barely seemed to notice when she thanked him and turned to leave.

Then, just as she was almost out into the tunnel to the surface: “Out of morbid curiosity, why do you need to pass undetected among humans?” Vermilion asked. “Surely you know that they value your kind, albinos, and if the mood strikes them they will keep you in food and luxury for all of your days.”

“That is what happened to my dear love,” Saffron replied. “I am going to rescue him.”

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