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26 July 2009 @ 09:35
Arc II: Debut, Chapter 04  
Title: Catalysis (Full details, here. Also available on Fanfiction.Net.)
Words: For this chapter, ~10700
Rating(s): PG-13 for this chapter.
Warning(s): Language.
Chapter Summary: As Edward settles in with Roy Mustang in Central, the first trickles of fate enter his new life.

Catalysis


II : Debut
04


Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community of thought, and a rivalry of aim.
( Henry Adams )





“—ward.”

Jolting in surprise, Ed blinked into awareness. The haze of words had consumed his attention so wholly he had not even noticed the passing of time. He found Mustang standing over him, still in the blue jacket but with the buttons undone. The man was obviously just home from work.

“Oh,” he marked his page and closed the book. “Err, welcome home?”

Mustang looked immensely amused. “I arrived ten minutes ago and you didn’t even hear me. Do make sure to lock the doors if you’re going to be floating into your own world like that.”

Ed rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mommy.”

“I’m serious, Edward.” Walking back towards the study island, Mustang removed the standard issue blue military jacket and undid the top two buttons of his white undershirt. “Central is a far cry from Resembool. There are troubled souls here who are not above breaking and entering.”

“Let ‘em come,” Ed shrugged. “Not like I can’t defend myself.”

“Yes, but I do prefer my house in tact, thank you.”

Ed could not find anything to say against that. Indeed the house was glorious. Mustang had given him a tour on his first day, and suffice to say, he had fallen in love with the place—especially the artefacts. They were mindboggling in their rarity and preciousness, almost all of them priceless, in particular that tapestry from Xerxes downstairs in the great hall. It would be a severe crime to damage the property in any way. Ed reminded himself to reinforce the walls and windows of the house—bulletproof, preferably, if they were not already. (Mustang had an admirable amount of paranoia.)

“I don’t like this couch,” rather childishly, Ed flailed his legs over the edge of said couch by the library’s massive central fireplace. “It’s curved.”

Mustang raised an eyebrow.

“I can’t lie down on it for an entire day. It makes my back ache.”

“Then go use the window seat.”

“Not enough space. Too many books piled on it.”

A snort. “Sit here, then.”

Ed inspected the study island’s squishy long couches and nodded. “Good idea.” He stood and moved his small pile of reference books along with the one he was currently decoding. He chose a spot (the one which would usually be Mustang’s spot, but whatever) and made himself comfortable. “You know, this book has some rather interesting theories.” Settling himself across Mustang (who was depositing a small stack of paperwork on the already-laden desk) he spread the heavy gold-gilded tome on the table and pointed to a diagram. “It talks about sub-atomic theory.”

“Hmm.” Mustang paused. “This is a… Persian book? Or Xingese?”

“Persian, I think,” Ed ran a finger down the edge of an image. “Golds and greens.” Furrowing his brows and looking up at Mustang with bewilderment, he said, “Where in the world do you find these books?”

What he got in return was a smirk and a smug statement: “I have contacts.”

“Introduce me,” Ed demanded.

“One day,” Mustang gave him an indulging little smile, before turning to the book and inspecting its texts. “I don’t have education in the old Persian language, but this looks faintly similar to Xingese.”

“You can read Xingese?”

Mustang nodded.

“Teach me,” Ed demanded again.

“It’s better done with a Xingese book, preferably an old one. We’ll make time for it.”

They were, at this point, well within building a solid daily routine. In the mornings, Roy would wake first and prepare breakfast, and the wafting aroma of food would be Ed’s never-failing alarm clock. Over breakfast they would have a light lesson over politics and strategy, sometimes even a quick game of chess (in which Ed was an amateur as well) before Mustang left for his duties. Ed would then spend the entire day holed up in the library poring over tomes and tomes of endless information and forget altogether about food, until Mustang returned in the afternoon and prepared from them dinner.

Which reminded Ed: he was hungry.

“I’ll tell you about the book over dinner?” he proposed, prompting an amused chuckle from Mustang at the eager expectance in his voice.

“Let me change,” Mustang said, “and you go ahead and prepare the ingredients. Cannelloni and chicken with greens.”

With a surprisingly quiet obedience, Ed put down his book and made his way down to the kitchen. Mustang insisted upon culinary education as well. Ed really just wanted the food, though of course his brain absorbed all the details and intricacies of the lessons anyway. Mustang preferred their food rather classily and tastefully; as such, the preparation took longer and at times became more tedious. Ed could lodge not one complaint, however, because the reward of extraordinarily tasty dinners was more than enough to pacify his impatience.

Thankfully, it did not take long before Mustang came down to help him about. Ed had no idea what cannelloni was, though he did retrieve the chicken from the cooler. Mustang promptly began explaining tonight’s dinner to one attentive student, and thus Ed lost himself in the flurry of preparations and instruction.



When they were finally seated at the table, again with wine (a different kind), Mustang interjected: “By the way, I’m visiting a friend tomorrow. You’re coming with me.”

Ed blinked. “Why?”

“Because I want you to learn,” was the usual explanation. Ed thought Mustang was getting a little far too comfortable with that excuse. Did the man expect him to accept that kind of explanation all the time? But he let this one go, and instead asked:

“Don’t you have work tomorrow? It’s a weekday.”

“I only have half a day tomorrow, providing Hawkeye isn’t able to find me extra paperwork,” the last part was grumbled with a dreading grimace. He’d heard quite a bit about this faceless Hawkeye; whoever this person was, they had Ed’s admiration. To be able to bend the Roy Mustang into work was one very impressive achievement any living being on earth had the right to be immensely proud of. “I’ll call you before I leave the office so you can get ready. It might take a while, but you aren’t going anywhere, yes?”

Shrugging, Ed conceded. It would not be a bad idea to see the city. It was rather idiotic of him to know nothing about where he was living. Such information would certainly be useful in cases of emergency. Besides, he wanted to see where the Central Libraries were. From what he had seen on Mustang’s wall map in the library’s study island, there were five state libraries, four of them open for public access. According to Mustang, there were sections reserved only for State Alchemists, Generals, and the Fuhrer—any lower and one would be denied access. Whenever he thought of this, he could feel his spine tingle in wonder and want of what information was locked within those walls.

Ed gently forked a tender piece of chicken and deposited it into his mouth, marvelling at the taste and the apparent lack of char. Part of the reason why they did not take as long to cook tonight was because Mustang roasted the chicken using his alchemy. He had goggled incredulously at the sheer precision of Mustang’s control. The meat was perfection.

“So if your gloves get wet,” Ed asked out of the blue, “what do you do?”

Mustang paused, staring at him across the table with a raised eyebrow.

Ed continued, “You need an initial spark to set off the fire, right? That’s why you use that cloth. But what if they get wet? I’m just asking.” He added a nonchalant shrug to offset Mustang’s suspicion.

Of course, against the master of pretention, it did not work. Mustang smiled. “A smoother and altogether better attempt at subversion, Edward, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Don’t hope to beat me at this game anytime soon.”

Scowl. “Answer the question, Bastard.”

“Spares,” the man chuckled. “I have spares on hand. In a waterproof case.”

Ed realized there were still flaws in this backup, but there was not much to be done if Mustang relied on fire. The most one could do was to prevent the gloves from getting wet at all and refrain from using them when in watery situations. Or…

“Can I see your circles?”

Mustang raised an eyebrow, but handed one over anyhow. Ed inspected the deceitfully simplistic dual-glyph circle with a critical eye, and found next to no flaw in it. The one thing that was missing of it that would be useful was the ability to alchemically dry the gloves should they get wet.

“Have you ever thought of adding a drying component in the circle?” he suggested. “It would be really easy to add, since you already have the molecular manipulation part down.”

“Hmm. Good idea,” the man did not even ask how Ed knew of the workings of the technique. For Ed’s genius, it was not too hard to postulate the theory behind an array at one glance. The two glyphs were glaringly obvious (at least to those who could read them, which would include only a scarce few): volume and precision, the two components of molecular control. “I’ll consider it,” Mustang said, pocketing the glove again.

For some unseen reason, Ed could not shake the feeling that Mustang was omitting something. He frowned and began to turn over the circle in his head for the second time. He sorely hated missing things.

Glancing aside, his eyes were caught by the now-turned-off black iron oven by the far wall of the kitchen. This was yet another interesting piece of alchemical technology right here. He knew that by the arched shape of the wall, the central circular fireplace (which formed a narrowing cone as it went from the first floor to the second) was right behind the oven. Apparently, the fire in the fireplace (visible in the formal dining and great hall) supplied the necessary heat for the oven to work. Instead of installing an electric oven as was the custom in affluent houses in Central, Mustang had engraved a thermal manipulation array on the oven; effectively cutting down the house’s electric spending by half.

If anything, Mustang the Bastard was ingenious when it came to the practical applications of alchemy. Ed could give him that.

He grimaced. With the mention of fireplaces, he could not help but recall their little unfortunate experience two days past in the library one afternoon, after Mustang had returned from work more than just a little tired and eager for some good food and scintillating conversation. By habit the man had snapped his fingers to ignite the dormant fireplace—and CRACKLESPIT it went, spurting and roaring wildly until a stunned Mustang, after five seconds of confused struggle, had managed to get it under control.

Hair singed from having sat close by the fireplace, Ed had spluttered in surprise. There had been leftover energy from when Ed had earlier that day rid the entire house of dust by alchemy. Mustang’s alchemy had picked up that extra energy, thus the uncontrolled spitfire. Initially it had been funny, seeing Mustang’s flustered countenance, but when Mustang reminded him of the suffering they would both have to go through if the fire caught on the books and burned precious history, he had blanched in terror. He had cleared the surrounding of the fireplace of books and anything flammable with meticulous efficiency after that.


“You were talking about the Persian book earlier,” Mustang abruptly quipped, jerking Ed out of his thoughts. “Sub-atomic theory.”

“Ah, yeah,” Ed nodded. “From what I could decode of the texts—I used some of your reference books—it talks about ‘dividing the smallest unit of matter.’ That would be the atom.”

“Interesting. And this is… what, early fifth century? Are you sure they’re talking about sub-atomic theory?”

“Oh, I don’t know about atomic theory—they don’t mention the concept of an atom at all, as far as I’ve read. But they are talking of something smaller than a molecule, so,” Ed shrugged, “they were on to something.”

“I’m not aware of any prevalent Persian alchemy today,” Mustang said. “From what I’ve heard, the Persian alchemists were castigated and through the ages extinguished in the population by multiple invasions from Western countries. They were said to practice a strange and foreign alchemy the Westerners—mostly the colonial coast countries—could not comprehend.”

“Well, Amestris has always been ahead of everyone else in alchemy and mechanics. Maybe if we were the ones there, we could have figured it out.”

“True,” nodded Mustang. “But they were wiped out nonetheless. As I’ve told you, the very base of human nature does not change even through the ages. What people fail to understand, they fear. Persian alchemy, according to the classics, was also particularly powerful in battle, though how specifically I don’t know. That would only be more of a reason to hunt and kill all the alchemists.”

Face crumpling in distaste, Ed reclined in his chair. “So effectively they wiped out an entire science developed over centuries of hard work and research just for power.”

“Land and resources.”

Power,” Ed reiterated.

Mustang was quiet again, for longer this time. And then, “If Persian alchemists exist today, they would be rare and hard to find. They would be in hiding. And I doubt they would have knowledge of the science stretching that far back. Information was probably lost through the ages.”

“Still, though. I think it’s worth a look. They were talking of something we discovered only recently—half a century ago?—a good thirteen-hundred years before we even developed the technology to know these things. You said their alchemy was powerful—maybe they discovered something innovative ahead of us that we’ve never realized. After all, we’re still new to the idea of an atom.”

“Most don’t even accept it fully yet, and even if they do, they don’t think anything can be done about it at all,” which was a good point, Ed thought. Mustang probably knew some State Alchemists who disregarded atomic theory in favour of combat alchemy, which was all too conventional and easy. It was no wonder Mustang was a highly lauded alchemist; his flame manipulation was about three to four notches higher (and therefore harder) than conventional alchemy, depending on the scale of the reaction.

Ed scoffed. “There are tons of things you can do with atoms; you just have to think!”

“Most people don’t like thinking, Ed. It’s painful. It hurts the brain.”

“It’s a good kind of hurt.”

“Why, Edward, I wasn’t aware you were so…” Mustang tipped his near-empty wineglass with a sly smile, “...masochistic.”

“Shu’up,” Ed mumbled into his own glass, forehead creasing in annoyance. The Bastard was a Bastard and would remain a Bastard forever, never mind the good food.

They sat there for about five minutes of companionable and thoughtful silence, until Mustang stood and began to gather the dishes. “Come on, let’s clean this up. We can talk upstairs.”

Draining his wine, Ed rose and followed, still deep in thought.

Their discussion about atomic theory had rekindled that sense of subversion in Mustang’s voice, that feeling that there was something more to Mustang’s flame theory than atomic manipulation.


Now if only Mustang would give him more clues… Ed sighed. It was useless. Mustang was a master pretender. He would not at all be surprised if Mustang slept with his masks on. It would only be most appropriate for his paranoia. Which meant that Ed would just have to figure the theory out by himself.

Well, Ed thought to himself, a good challenge is never to be turned down. This was what he was taught by his teacher, a prideful and wise woman who would no doubt butcher him to hell and back if she ever heard of him refusing a perfectly nice and mentally exhausting challenge. That was exactly what Roy Mustang was to him right now: a severely mentally exhausting challenge.

He was not going to lose.





True enough, the following day early in the afternoon, the phone rang from right beside Ed where it sat on the study island’s table. Grumbling at the incredibly rude manner he was jolted from his reading, he picked it up. Mustang promptly informed Ed (over a somewhat commanding female voice in the background) that he was coming home in a few minutes.

Ed sighed and regretfully closed his book, rising and heading towards his room. He picked out his cleanest, best set of casual clothing and washed his face, having already showered earlier. Once in the clean set of clothes—simple khaki pants with a dark long sleeved shirt—he removed the knot at the base of his neck and combed his hair. It was longer than what he was used to, maybe too long; he wondered if Mustang knew a competent barber.

“Ed?” a voice from the library echoed.

“In the bath, give me a minute,” Ed called back, holding his hair up and redoing the knot, this time neater and up high at the back of his head. Footsteps thudded quietly against the wooden floor, towards Mustang’s own bath. The man was probably going to change into civilian clothing. Mustang despised going out in uniform unless on duty, which was understandable; the uniform set him apart from people, which he did not want, if he was going to charm them into submission.

Mentally scoffing at the Bastard’s Bastardliness, Ed trudged out of his bath, crossed the library, and rapped on Mustang’s door. “Are you done yet?” He could see the exasperation that would be on the Bastard’s face just about now.

A sigh. “Give me a minute, Edward. I’ll tell you when I’m done.”

“Are you done yet?”

Another sigh. “Hang on, Edward, I haven’t powdered my nose yet.”

“Are you done yet?” Ed was having too much fun to stop.

This time, Mustang’s bath door (the one that led straight into the library like his transmuted one did) creaked open the faintest of a fraction. “Would you rather watch me undress, Edward, so you wouldn’t have to ask me every other second if I’m done?”

Ed froze. “Never mind, take your time.” He walked away, scuffling down to the kitchen and valiantly ignoring both the creeping heat below his collar and the blatant chuckle coming from the bath. Why did the Bastard have to be such a Bastard all the time? A very perverted one, too.

It took a good fifteen minutes before Mustang stepped down into the kitchen, where Ed was idling about munching on an apple. The Bastard looked stunning in light brown slacks and a white collared shirt. A matching jacket was slung on his arm, but that was not what caught Ed’s attention. His eyes immediately zeroed upon the gun slung at Roy’s side, to be hidden by the jacket.

“You’re armed,” Ed noted faintly.

“Always,” Mustang said, “which reminds me: I should have Hawkeye teach you how to shoot.”

“Why?” forehead creasing, Ed finished his apple and deposited the remains into the trash. “It’s not like I’m in any particular danger.”

“Would you rather be caught in a situation first before learning?” Mustang gave him a stern gaze, and again for the nth time that week, Ed felt as if he was a son being reprimanded by a father. It was not exactly a teacher-student relationship between them anymore; Izumi was his teacher, and she was rather irreplaceable. Mustang was different.

He averted his eyes and tilted his head. “Prepare for the worst,” he murmured under his breath: one of his first and foremost lessons from Mustang. Constantly, it was being shoved into his head: a paranoia that would be debilitating for most people, a paranoia that defined Mustang’s success. He sighed as they made their way out of the kitchen and down the hall. “I don’t mean to go against your principles, but sometimes, you can be a little bit too paranoid.”

Mustang laughed. “Yes, I might seem so. But there is no such thing, Edward. My ambitions are well-known within the military, and though I have taken measures to make it extremely hard and costly for people to go against me, there are some who will not be deterred. I must always be on my guard if I want to keep breathing—and so should you, once people know of your association with me.”

“Rather tiring,” Ed remarked. Mustang was now leading him through the front yard and towards an outhouse—a garage, he belatedly realized as they stepped in. He wondered how he had missed this.

“Yes, but necessary.” Mustang lifted the tarpaulin cover from the hulking shape parked in the middle of the detached garage. There sat a well-kept shiny black car.

“You have your own car,” and he could not keep the wonder out of his voice. Just how bloody rich was Roy Mustang? Was there even a limit to the man’s money? Edward was surprised that Mustang did not have a more ostentatious house. Not that the current one was lacking, not at all, but with this much money, surely…? But Mustang did not seem that kind of man. The neighbourhood, a quiet and modest upper-middle class place, spoke for him.

“Yes, I do,” Mustang gestured for Ed to slip into the passenger seat, which he did, awkwardly.

“B-But that man—your subordinate—doesn’t he drive you around all the time?”

“Yes,” again Mustang affirmed.

“So why waste your own gasoline?”

Mustang brought the engine to life and carefully backed out of the garage. “Havoc is currently on a date,” Mustang shrugged as they drove on a dirt path that led to the main road outside, past a gate that was hidden by the foliage of the hedgerows. “And besides, would you really have him impeach upon our quality time?”

Ed spluttered in indignation but was robbed of the opportunity to bark his retort when Mustang brought the car to a halt in front of the house and got off to close the gate. He watched as Mustang walked up to the hidden gate in the hedgerows to lock it before heading back towards the car.

“Bastard,” he spat when Mustang slid back into the driver’s seat.

Mustang merely gave him a beatific smile.





Arriving at their destination took shorter than Ed expected, though perhaps it was only because he was too busy ogling his new city, so urban and so foreign. Mustang parked the car before a medium-sized establishment: a clothing shop. Ed debarked and quietly followed Mustang inside.

“Ah! Master Roy!”

Ed gurgled a laugh in the back of his throat.

“Welcome, welcome! What can I do for you today?” immediately the other shopkeepers ushered aside the couple who came before them. Mustang’s presence now received the full attention of the proprietor, and, if Ed’s guesses were correct, the master tailor. “Is the Master in need of formal wear? A new suit, perhaps?”

Now this person was far too obviously kissing Mustang’s ass. Ed made a face. He could not see what he was here for. There was nothing to learn! He stomped his foot. The Bastard had tricked him.

“Actually, it won’t be for me today,” Mustang stepped aside to reveal Ed. “This young man here needs a complete wardrobe overhaul.”

Ed stared up at Mustang rather stupidly. “What.”

“You need clothes.”

“No, I don’t! My clothes are just fine! What’s wrong with them?” indignantly, he backed away.

“Edward, nothing’s wrong with them apart from the fact that they’re old and worn.” The tailor clucked disapprovingly behind Mustang.

“Well, it’s not like I need grand clothing like you do. I don’t go out that much.”

“I won’t have my charge going about wearing scruffy clothing—yes, even only inside the house.” With firm hands on shoulders, Mustang took Ed and steered him towards the tailor, to whom the Bastard said, “He’s all yours.”

Spluttering, Ed was dragged away, towards a stool whereupon he was made to stand still while his measurements were taken. All the while, Mustang was reciting to the tailor’s assistant: “He needs three sets of formal suits, five slacks—casual, six to ten collared shirts, three to five waistcoats, two summer blazers, a leather jacket, a summer jacket… a few cardigans. Did I miss anything?”

“For a basic wardrobe, that’s just perfect,” the tailor replied, absentminded, as he flitted about Ed, meticulously checking and rechecking various measurements. “You will have to come back for the winter set.”

“Of course.” Mustang made sure the assistant had them all down correctly before prompting, “I would like to see your available hair ties.”

“Bring Master Roy our best sets, Vivianne.” The tailor gestured for Ed to raise his arm, and then clucked again in annoyance. “I cannot say I am getting your correct measurements with confidence, Young Master Edward.” Ed choked on his own spit. “Perhaps it would be best if you removed your shirt?”

Eyes tightening, Ed turned to Mustang. He did not want to, but if he had to, was this tailor to be trusted? Mustang nodded his assent. “Go ahead, Ed.”

Giving a sigh, Ed did as he was told. The tailor’s eyes widened a fraction upon sight of the gleaming metal automail, and the returning assistant was graceless enough to gasp out loud, but the tailor did not say a word. Instead, the elder man simply continued his work in quiet. He was also made to strip his pants off, leaving him standing in his boxers, while Mustang perused the rather extensive (and expensive) collection of hair ties.

The soonest he was allowed to shuck back into his clothing, he did so, and hurriedly stepped off the stool. The tailor checked over the list of clothing as he struggled into his shirt. “What colours would be preferable for the slacks?”

“An assortment of navy blues, greys, and browns. I’ll leave the specifics to you,” Mustang gave The Charmer Smile. Ed rolled his eyes, grumbling under his breath. “For the formal wear, all of them black, please.” Then Mustang beckoned him closer, turning him around.

“Hold still,” the Bastard said, and from the corner of his eye, Ed could see Mustang pick out a silken tie, slate grey and almost silver in colour. With gentle fingers, Mustang removed his old worn tie and let his hair fall. And then, with utmost care, he gathered the hair again, pulling it up and knotting the expensive slip of silk around the golden strands. “There. It looks good.”

Ed sidled to the mirror. He looked at himself sideways, touching the silk tie and tightening it. It felt nice against his hair, and the loose ends did not tangle. He had to admit: it looked very good—but still excessive. “I don’t think the hair ties are necessary. I was actually thinking of cutting my hair.”

Mustang—and the tailor (who drew a gasp)—looked absolutely horrified. “Why? It’s good the way it is!”

“But—isn’t it too long already?” Ed fingered the ends of tie.

“You’re just not used to it,” the tailor bustled. “It looks wonderful, child, very aristocratic. Don’t cut it; it’s such a waste! Women dream of hair like yours; it’s beautiful. You’re very fortunate. Your mother must have such beautiful hair.”

Faintly, Ed smiled. “Well, yes, but actually, I have my father’s hair. Which reminds me: I don’t want to look like him. I want to cut it,” he whined.

“No, you don’t,” Mustang firmly insisted. “And you aren’t exactly looking like your father. You don’t have glasses, and Herr Hohenheim didn’t have your fringes.” As if to emphasize his point, Mustang brushed one aside to reveal Ed’s petulant scowl. “Tell you what: if you beat me in chess, I’ll take you to a barber then. Only then.”

And Ed, being Ed, could not back away from a challenge. “You’re on.”

Mustang smiled in satisfaction, before turning to the assistant. “We’ll be taking three of the grey ones, three of the black, one of the navy blue, two of the light brown, and one of the Persian green.”

“What of shoes? The Young Master will need shoes to go with his attire.”

“Ah, yes—”

Before Mustang could even complete his sentence, the tailor jumped into action. Quickly stepping out of the store, the tailor went and rapped on the neighbouring shop’s door. In a loud voice, the tailor yelled, “Andrew! I need you to fit me some matching shoes for Master Roy’s charge!”

“Andrew is his brother,” Mustang supplied helpfully. “They’re both good friends of mine.”

Loud clattering and an answering shout came. Moments later, Andrew the shoemaker was shuffling into the tailor shop with tools in hand. Ed blinked in surprise; the tailor and the shoemaker were identical twins. There was a distinct difference, though, in that Andrew had a more fleshed out build. The tailor was narrower and roughly an inch taller.

“Master Roy, good afternoon,” Andrew greeted in the same happily enthusiastic manner as his twin. “Will it be formal shoes for today?”

“Two of those, leather, black, for this young man here,” Mustang pushed Ed forward again for measurements. “Two pairs of walking shoes, one with lace and one without. Two pairs of loafers, one black and one brown. One pair of ankle boots, black—“

“I want high leather boots,” demanded Ed, because if they were going to be spending exorbitant amounts of money anyway, they might as well spend it on worthy things. “They’re good for rugged terrain and travelling.”

“And that,” the Bastard conceded, inclining his head with an indulgent little smile.

Content, Ed patiently sat and allowed Andrew the shoemaker to collect his measurements. When smiled upon like that, even though it was from the Bastard, Ed felt free to be a child again, felt free to ask for what he wanted and be given it (though of course still within reason). It was almost as if Mustang was doting on him. He wondered absently if this was how it felt like to be taken care of by a loving father.





It was a long while after when they finally stepped out of the store and back into the car. Mustang lingered behind, graciously accepting the twin brothers’ gratitude. Ed was polite enough to wait until they were pulling away from the store before barking:

“Why did you give so much money?! We could have gotten all of that for a much lesser price at another store! You know, generic clothing!” he just could not believe how much money Mustang spent on that little trip. That much was enough to build a nice and comfortable house!

“Please don’t tell me you really are thinking of wearing trash for clothing,” sighed Mustang, ever the elitist Bastard. “And besides, it’s not a waste at all. The money will come back to me anyway.”

“What?”

“I invest in them, Edward,” skilfully, Mustang navigated the busy roads with ease, even while busy talking. “Andrew’s shoe shop and Anthony’s tailor shop, both of them began their business with help from my funding. You didn’t think all my money came from the work I do for the military, did you?”

Uneasily, Ed shifted in his seat. He did think so.

Mustang chuckled. “Money doesn’t grow that way. One needs to invest if one wants to gain. Yes, the military gives me a steady salary, and yes, I have bonuses and allowances due to my status as a war veteran and a State Alchemist. But that’s nowhere near enough to establish a home such as mine. I invest in businesses I see profitable, which is why they accommodate me so congenially.”

“Yeah,” Ed grunted. “I thought it was rather strange how they seemed to fall over themselves for you.” He could recall the expression on the twins’ faces when they had seen the handsome sum of money Mustang wrote on the note. It was no doubt more than what was necessary; Anthony the tailor had blurted out a worshipful, “Oh, bless your soul, Master Roy!” upon receiving the note. They had, of course, tried to refuse it, but Mustang would not listen. This was a truly ingenious way of securing their affection, loyalty, and excellent craftsmanship.

“They are good men with talent,” Mustang explained by way of saying. “They deserve a steady business with which to support themselves and their families.”


They sat in relative silence after that, until Mustang pulled over by a grocer. Ed noted in passing that they were once again within their neighbourhood. He followed after Mustang into the shop, observing the mill of people within the rather expansive place. There were aisles in the back for the non-perishable produce and canned goods, while the front section of the grocer was occupied by small stalls of fruits, fresh meat, seafood, and dairy handed to the customers by a small army of helpers.

Mustang took one of the trolleys and beckoned Ed along, going first through the aisles and pointing out what they needed. It took them near twenty minutes to scour the aisles for whatever else they needed for the pantry and the rest of the house. Whenever Ed saw something he wanted, he asked tentatively, and he was given. He was not used to such treatment; Trisha had always been on a budget whenever going to Resembool’s relatively small grocer.

They finished the non-perishable aisles—then came the bane of Edward’s existence.

“Ten bottles, please,” said Mustang to the helper behind the counter. The helper nodded and began hauling out ten large glass bottles of fresh milk.

Ed blanched. “Ten?! What do you need ten for?!”

Raising an eyebrow, Mustang began to place the milk bottles within the trolley, making just enough extra space for fruits and some meat. “Well, some dishes require milk in them, Edward. Especially desserts. And there’s the milk for drinking—“

“But I don’t like milk.” Stubborn as a mule, Edward began hauling the milk out of the trolley and back onto the counter, from behind which the helper stood in confusion.

“Regardless, you need you calcium, and you should know this, child genius that you are.” Mustang hauled the bottles back in. “You don’t want to be this small forever, do you?”

Who the fuck are you calling so minuscule he wouldn’t be visible under a microscope?!”

The lady next to them gasped. “Language, young man!”

Mustang wore a disparaging face for the lady and nodded apologetically. “Do excuse him; he’s yet to be trained.”

Who the hell are you calling a dog that needs training, Bastard?!”

“Now, Edward, I’m not forcing you to drink the milk at all,” the Bastard soothed, placing all of the milk bottles in the trolley (finally) and ushering his indignant charge towards the fruit stalls. Mustang gave one last apologetic smile to the very much affronted lady following after them. “If you don’t want the milk, that’s fine, you don’t have to drink it.”

“Yeah, because I won’t,” grumbled the child, all crossed arms and stomping feet. Mustang merely gave a chuckle that was dangerously bordering on (dare Ed say it?) affectionate. Never did Ed see the lingering little devious smile on the edges of Mustang’s lips as they walked away from the dairy.


They picked a few vegetables to carry along with them (Mustang appeared to adore tomatoes) and then made their way towards the fruit section. Once every now and then Ed threw a dirty look at the bottles of milk clacking about in the trolley, but said nothing further about it. Instead, he listened attentively as Mustang explained how to choose the right fruits, the seasons different fruits came in, and when and how it was appropriate to have them. Mustang tended to be dead meticulous about matching dishes, desserts, and whatever else accompanied their meal on the table whenever they ate.

Ed expected to be taken to the meat section afterwards, but Mustang took him towards the clerks instead.

“We won’t get meat?”

“We get meat directly from the butcher,” Mustang explained. “Fresher and much cleaner slices. It takes an immense amount of training to get the slices right; not everyone can do it.”

“But—won’t that be expensive?”

Wrong question, Ed belatedly realized.

“Good food, Edward, is worth good money. That you must remember,” declared the Bastard.

Ed rolled his eyes. “Along with every other creed you give me, of course.”

“You’re learning,” and the smile on Mustang’s face was again a fond and amused thing. The man gave him a light pat on the shoulder and pushed the trolley forward. The clerk began counting.


Idling about, Ed stood behind Mustang, people-watching. This was the one thing Mustang did not have to teach him: people-watching had always been a hobby of his since he was a child. People were fascinating in their tiny and near-unnoticeable quirks and idiosyncrasies. They could never escape his seeking eyes, though; his gift of observation and deduction extended far beyond books and laboratories. Contrary to popular belief, he was just as incisively sharp at gauging people as Alphonse. Only, unlike Al, he was not as conscientious and did not care for their emotions as much. Politesse was something he understood and could practice but was too lazy to. Unfortunately for him, Mustang was not giving him much of a choice.

A couple of chattering ladies in line for the counter next to theirs caught his eye. They looked older than his mother, probably around middle age, and much plumper, which was no surprise. Convenience was in fashion in Central; they probably never had to do the same amount of energy-burning work Trisha had to do around the house. They, however, had the similar motherly aura about them; these women, Edward realized, probably had children about his own age.

But this was not what piqued his attention. It was the way their eyes darted about, the way they clustered together, the way their poise seemed guarded and recluse. As if they were expecting an attacker, even in midday.

“…murders were just grisly, did you see?” one of them was saying in a hushed voice. Ed kept his eyes low but his ears tuned; he did not want them to stop talking until he had what he wanted from them.

“Yes, just awful,” they all murmured uneasily, with different degrees of shock, disgust, and thinly veiled fear.

“It makes one wonder just what the military is doing.”

“They say the last one was the fifth victim, and that the military’s been hiding it from the public, but there was a leak.” Ed’s forehead crumpled in thought. Surreptitiously, he snuck a glance at Mustang, who was still conversing with the clerk. He wondered if the man knew anything about this. The lady continued: “They say it might be a cult.”

“I still think the papers should have published their content with much more propriety and consideration for younger readers. Such detail! And the images! Oh, I had to burn my copy after my husband and I saw it yesterday morning; what if my daughter saw that atrocity?”

“Wouldn’t it be better for them to know, though? It would keep them off the streets late at night.”

“True…”

The conversation petered out from there as the ladies began to check their items out. Impatient now, Ed waited as Mustang handed the clerk the right amount of money and accepted his change. Together, they exited the modest establishment and made a beeline for the car. The sun was near its setting, rather early for a summer day; it was the signalling of the beginning of autumn.

Quietly, he helped unload the groceries from the trolley and into the car’s compartment. A helper offered to take the trolley back, and soon, they were pulling away from the store and back down towards their street. Ed recognized the route easily.

After a moment’s deliberation, he decided to cut through the dillydally: “I overhead some of the ladies talking about a series of murders earlier,” he began.

Mustang’s grip on the steering wheel tightened the tiniest of a fraction.

“Do not concern yourself with it; it isn’t for you to worry about.” They made a careful turn. Ed could now see within a block’s distance their house. As if to add, Mustang continued: “Do not go out at night, or even in the late evenings, alone. Ever. Stay inside and be sure to lock the doors, especially if I’m not home yet.”

Ed shrugged. “It’s not like I have anywhere to go anyway. You know that there’s nothing anyone can offer me that will make me leave the library.”

Even still,” Mustang’s voice was firm and allowed for no argument. “I want you to be careful. I want you to stay inside and be safe. I don’t want you hurt.”

Sighing, Ed conceded. “Yes, Mommy.”

“I’m serious.”

“I know,” Ed fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “I’ll be fine. You worry too much.”

“I have good reason to.”

Ed’s forehead creased. The tone of Mustang’s voice suggested knowledge of the murder cases. Ed knew, however, that no matter how much he badgered Mustang about it, the man would not tell. He could tell that the case was confidential from the finality of Mustang’s words; perhaps it was Mustang himself who was taking care of the case, which would certainly explain why the Bastard was so incredibly paranoid about security and safety.

While he was here, in Central, he had no choice but to trust Mustang. He had no one else. Bastard though the man was, Mustang was a good person, and was genuinely concerned for his wellbeing. Ed could not fault him for being paranoid at all, especially if he was dealing with the murder cases.

Mustang parked the car in front of the house and slid out of his seat. “Come; help me get the groceries into the kitchen.”

Restraining his curiosity, Ed asked no more about the case. He simply consoled himself with the thought that if it was Mustang taking care of the case, it would surely get solved soon.





Watching the nice dust of orange fade as the sun set slowly and the moon rose over Central, Ed sat in one of the sprawling grand parks near the house. After they had come home earlier from the grocer and fixed their shopping items into the pantry and wherever else they went in the kitchen and the house, Mustang had declared that he was feeling too lazy to cook their dinner, and so resolved that they would, for a change of pace, go out to eat.

Edward could not shake the feeling that this was some sort of date—the place was certainly romantic enough for one. They were sat outside, under the generous branches of one soaring and wide oak tree, probably more than a hundred years old. The restaurant was built into a small clearing in the park and was surrounded by trees and winding paths that took visitors—mostly lovers—into the woods if they wanted to walk about.

Relaxed and idle, Mustang reclined in his eat, until a chef—the chef—rushed out of the restaurant house and made towards them with a great smile on his face. “Master Roy, what a pleasure!”

Incredulous, Ed watched as Roy rose to give his polite greetings and was seized for a (very manly) hug. Again there was that constipated look on Roy’s face, but quick as silver, it was masked with a polite little smile. The man was a master at deception.

“Thank you for the excellent ambiance and excellent service as always, Giovanni.” Mustang turned to Ed. “Edward, this is Chef Giovanni, a good friend of mine.”

“Ah, you flatter, Master Roy,” the chef smiled, and though the smile was bright, the bald head blinded Ed more. “I should be thanking you for your continued patronage. And you’ve brought us a new customer too, a most charming young man.” Edward stood and shook the chef’s hand with a polite smile. Mustang seemed approving and amused at the same time; Ed assumed he was doing well. The chef continued, “What would you like for tonight, hmm? We just had a shipment of fine Chianti—I do know that Master Roy is quite fond of his wines, yes? Perhaps you would like red meat to go with that.”

“Well, first we shall have a platter of antipasti—bocconcini, green and black olives, roasted garlic, calabrese salami, genoa, and the rest of them you know of course.” Giovanni nodded, listening closely. The chef was not taking notes at all—but then, Ed figured, if he was doing this for a living, surely he would already know all of it by heart. Mustang seemed to be a frequent patron as well… continuing, Mustang said: “We’ll have one flank—no, actually,” Mustang cut himself in midsentence with a sideways glance at Ed, “make that a Porterhouse, please, to go with your wine. Pasta on the side, I’ll leave the details to you.”

“And how would you like your steak done?”

“Medium rare—oh, and would you add the crumbled cheese on top with herbs, as last time?”

“Of course, of course, anything for you.” Giovanni flashed another smile and excused himself to ready the food, giving sharp orders to one of the older and more reliable-looking waiters.

Ed turned back to his companion as they sat. “Do you own this town or something?” his tone was flat out serious.
“No, I don’t,” Mustang gave a tiny delighted laugh, as if pleased by Ed’s assumption. “I just have acquaintances and good relations with the people, Edward. This much is natural, don’t you think? I do live here. Surely you knew most of the people in your hometown as well.”

Shrugging, Ed noncommittally grunted. He was still disbelieving. These were not just pleasant acquaintances. Such grand accommodations meant that they were somehow indebted to Mustang. This restaurant, just like the tailor shop and shoe shop, was a business Mustang had substantial investment in. That much was certain.

They only had to wait for a few minutes in comfortable warmth under the summer night sky before the waiter came with their platter of antipasta topped with olive oil—extra virgin, Ed was willing to bet. Their wine was brought by another waitress seconds later, but Ed barely recognized it. The bottle was unusual.

“Traditional wine bottles are like this, with large rounded bottoms and a narrow neck,” Mustang promptly explained at his wondering look. “This is Chianti, a kind of red wine. We’ve never had red wine at home before, since we’ve only had chicken this past week, and white goes well with that, but red wine will be perfect for the red meat. It’ll be lighter than Bordeaux, which is what I would have had normally, but I don’t want you tottering drunk after we’re done.”

“It’s not like we have anywhere else to go after dinner,” scowled Ed, before pausing mid-sip, “do we?”

“The antique shop,” and Mustang offered no further explanation, lifting a fork and starting on the antipasti. “Appetizers. Olives, cheeses, salami, garlic, funghi, genoa, torched aubergines, I think, and torched peppers.”

Torched peppers?”

“The heat bubbles the skin off. Try it.”

Ed did, and after a tentative chew, he made a face.

“You don’t like it?”

“Yours are better,” and they were. Mustang was a great cook.

The smug Bastard only gave a smug little smile.

Quickly, they made their way through their plate of antipasti, and soon it was clean. The waiter promptly took the plate, poured more wine into their half-empty glasses, left, and came back with their steak and pasta. There was only one steak on the table (they were to share), but it was huge and certainly more than enough for the both of them. Atop it were crumbles of cheese and a dusting of herbs. The pasta was immaculately prepared, with whole roasted cloves of garlic and small tomatoes Mustang called pomodorino tomatoes.

Eager to compare the pasta with Mustang’s homemade ones, Ed lifted his fork and spoon and made to twirl—but Mustang stopped his hands with a firm touch.

“No spoon, just the fork. Spaghetti is made to be eaten with a fork only,” the man’s voice broached no argument.

Ed sighed and readied himself for yet another etiquette lesson. He relinquished his spoon and held the fork in hand, watching as Mustang first twirled some pasta and then copying the motions.

“Don’t overload the fork—take just enough. It’s not exactly charming to be seen shoving a ball of pasta into your mouth,” obediently, Edward un-twirled and repeated, this time with less pasta. “No slurping—it’s messy and boorish. Be careful with the sauce. Rather disastrous on clothes.”

After that, Mustang began slicing for the both of them the meat, and bid him to observe closely. There was a proper way to slice and eat meat, Mustang said, and one must always observe the rules. Edward was quiet as they ate; only watching and occasionally lifting his fork to bring food to his mouth.

The longer the day progressed, the more he felt like a child being coddled and gently taught. Mustang was always conscientious of his background, generous with knowledge, and strict in observance. Challenges were never taboo, and there were no holds on any question he needed an answer to. The sheer amount of things he learned in one day under the man’s care was more than what he used to learn at Izumi’s house in one week. Then again, Izumi was not much concerned with etiquette and propriety; she was a down-to-earth woman with a down-to-earth house, unlike Mustang who lived in polite society. There was a wide gap. Apples and oranges, Mustang might say.

“Why do you care so much?” and it just came blurting out through Edward’s lips, startling Mustang’s hands into stillness.

The knife and fork were still lodged within the scrumptious and juicy-tender strip loin meat. Mustang was gazing at him with deep, dark eyes; the throw of candlelight danced against the darkness. Ed suddenly felt like he was back in his operation room in Resembool, and Mustang was at his bedside, looking at him with those same dark eyes. It was as if they knew him, knew Edward and all he had to offer. He felt all sorts of naked, awkward, and vulnerable under that stare.

Just as suddenly as it came, the intense gaze was gone and Mustang was back to the steak. Very meticulously, the knife slid against the meat, releasing juices that mingled with the generous topping of olive oil.

“I guess your suspicion is justified,” Mustang smiled wryly, “since I am yet a stranger who took you in without questions.”

“Yes,” Ed barrelled into the conversation with determination, though he felt a twinge of apprehension. This was a dangerous trek, and he had already revealed much to Mustang. Not all, not yet, but he had already laid out a lot. If there was anyone who had enough on him to successfully manipulate him into submission, it was Mustang—and certainly, the Bastard was conniving enough to do so. But as always, Edward needed the truth. Even if it blinded him. “Don’t give me some crap about Hohenheim,” he said. “My father had many friends, but I doubt they would have take me in like you did.”

Mustang chuckled, relinquishing the fork and knife. There were ready bite-sized cuts of meat on the plate, but the man reclined in seat and looked at Ed with fond eyes. “Actually, I think your father’s friends would have taken you in if you’d come to them. Your father was a wise man who knew how to pick his friends.” A sip of wine. “But my reasons—well, there are three, and you’ve already pointed out one of them. Herr Hohenheim is a valuable mentor to me, and it seems a right way to mentor his son in exchange for the invaluable things he’s taught me when I was your age, learning alchemy.”

Edward hated Mustang’s blatant infatuation with Hohenheim.

“The second reason: because you’re an investment,” and Mustang was looking at him over the rim of his wineglass, with shrewd eyes belonging to none else but the most skilled statesmen. Well. At least the man was being honest with him. “Not one soul who has encountered you can deny your genius. What you’ve achieved, that groundbreaking thing: that only compounds it—but I’m not so wicked to use that against you. Apart from violating Herr Hohenheim’s son, I would be breaking my own principles. But because you’re a genius, I don’t need to do anything apart from giving you your freedom, all the while educating you. Eventually, inevitably, you’ll become a star, one of the top intellectuals of the country—then all my efforts will not have been in vain. After all, as Fuhrer, I want nothing more than the prosperity of the state.”

Scoffing, Ed forked a piece of meat and brought it to his mouth. “Of course you do.”

The pompous Bastard looked like he was going to argue, but then decided against it and let the sarcasm in Ed’s voice slide. Mustang continued, “The third reason would be because I’ve taken a liking to you.”

Ed choked.

“What?!”

“I said,” Mustang’s eyes were dancing with withheld laughter, “I’ve taken a liking to you.”

Speechlessness was all Ed had to give.

“Don’t worry; I’m not going to molest you in your sleep or anything of the sort. It would be terribly unbecoming. I only take willing participants to bed,” the Bastard—fucking perverted pompous pedophile! Ed’s brain screamed—laid the wineglass down and took a small portion of pasta. After a short silence of chewing and swallowing (and on Ed’s part, dislodging the strangled piece of food in his throat), Mustang began again: “I meant it in a platonic way, Edward. You remind me of myself when I was younger, and what can I say? I love myself.”

This time, Ed choked and gurgled on his wine. He ended up in a coughing fit, to which a nearby waiter was alerted. He was brought a glass of chilled water.

“There you have my reasons for housing you, feeding you, granting you free access to everything in my house, clothing you, and indulging you,” Mustang’s list was rather accurate, except Ed felt the “indulging” part looked far too tiny to stand for what it really did. When the Bastard indulged on someone, he smothered them with everything a man could give. Ed knew this now. To Mustang, it did not matter how expensive things were—he only afforded the best. On top of that, material things were the lowest on Mustang’s hierarchy of needs, which was uncommon for most rich people. The man valued comfort, safety, and happiness above all else. Perhaps the man thought Ed failed to notice, but for the past few days he had been staying in Central, Mustang had made sure everything was in order—and all he had to do was lay back, read, and indulge his brain. Everything else was taken care of. It was downright amazing.

“Amazing,” Ed muttered, stunned, under his breath. He dabbed minutely at the corners of his mouth, where the wine had stained them red.

“Am I? Wait—yes, I am.”

He had not intended for the man to hear that.

“Oh, shut your trap,” exasperated, Ed steered the conversation away with improving skill (which, of course, elicited an approving smile from the Bastard). For the rest of the evening, Ed skirted this topic, and this was fine with him, because his questions had been answered truthfully—that was all he really needed.

He was glad that his new mentor, at least, knew what he needed and was gracious enough to grant them. He refused to think of his mother, now removed, alone in Resembool.





Warm and the tiniest bit giddy from the generous wine, Edward quietly followed after Mustang as they made their way back to the car. It was dark now; nearly three-quarters past eight, but the roads and shops were still brightly lit. In fact, it seemed as if the people were only beginning to mill. It was a Friday night, Mustang explained, and people were always out and about for a good time on their weekend offs.

They drove through the streets bathed in the soft yellow glow of lamplight. Ed happily watched young men and women walk about, sometimes alone, sometimes with a group, most of the time in pairs. They looked like they were enjoying themselves. Ed had to wonder, if but in passing, what normal kids his age would do on weekends.

The car parked in front of a sizable antique shop standing beside a large café. The café sat by a street intersection, and had chairs and tables rolled out and occupied for the pleasant summer night. Inside was brightly lit and comfortable-looking, but in sharp contrast to this bright atmosphere, the antique shop was gloomy with its wide but darkened double-doors and faint lamplight filtering through the show windows from the inside.

For a moment, Ed thought it was closed, but Mustang confidently walked in and rang the bell at the book-laden and dusty front desk. “This is one of my most trusted places,” the Bastard explained. That meant that this, too, was an investment.

Ed was severely tempted to poke his nose around and peruse the heavy and sagging shelves. The entire place was cramped, despite the five long aisles extending to the back and the walls that seemed to be made of shelves, ceiling to floor. Every space was taken up with either books or some sort of artefact. If he had been a normal person, he would have found the place anciently freaky—but as it so happens, his curiosity overrode any sort of apprehension or fear.

“Anya!” Mustang suddenly hollered in impatience, making Ed jump out of his skin. The sound echoed loudly—Ed feared something fragile would break.

“Coming, damnit! Ow!” said a voice from the back. Multiple crashes resounded from upstairs, perhaps the living space, until a lady poked her head through the dusty curtains separating the store from the stocking rooms. “Oh, it’s you. Yo.”

Ed stared. The lady was small, but lithe and trod on bouncy feet. She grinned playfully and without pretentions asked, “Where’d you get the brat, Mustang?”

Turning his nose up, Mustang indignantly sniffed. “For your information, it was him who came to me.”

Hackles raised, Ed frothed, “Who the hell are you calling a brat, Bastard?!”

“You’ve got some guts, calling Roy Mustang a Bastard to his face!” Anya threw her head back and laughed. “I like you already, brat!” She tried to ruffle his hair; Ed dodged away.

“Well, this month’s shipment was delayed, so I have nothing for you at the moment,” she easily rolled her shoulders in what Ed supposed was a shrug. Mustang raised an eyebrow. “It’ll come in Sunday; I’ll call you then if I see something I think you might like.”

“Ah, well. I hope you don’t mind if we still look around. Edward wanted to see my source for antiques.”

She stepped back and wordlessly swept her arm in a grand gesture of welcome.

Like a hound set loose, Ed promptly zigzagged through the aisle sections and gravitated to the Persian section. The book he was reading was still niggling his consciousness. He needed some sort of translation reference to be able to decode it faster, and if they had one…


(Xerxes Xerxes is the origin the beginning)


Ed froze.

For some time now, the piece of the Gate had been quiet inside his head. It had done nothing but flash him images and information whenever he needed it, mostly as supplements to his reading. The knowledge, after all, was in reality all his, unless the Gate explicitly forbade it, and that was rare. The Gate acknowledged his rights to the knowledge; he had survived after seeing it, therefore it was his. That did not mean, of course, that the Gate helped him solve his calculations, or anything of the sort. The most it did was give him clues if it was being nice, or taunt him if it wasn’t.

He figured it was being nice, now.


(Xerxes find must find life read void Xerxes must must must)


His eyes shot to the bottom of the Persian shelf before he even had a chance to comprehend what the Gate was saying. It was as if someone else had been controlling his muscles, forcing him to look down

(Catalysis)

the whispers were growing faint. It was going back to sleep.


Catalysis.


He knelt and lifted the flask his eyes were fixed upon. It was a mossy green colour, old and made of some sort of metal. Bronze, he figured—only bronze would turn this colour. It was shaped like an old wine flask, similar to the Chianti bottle they emptied at the restaurant: wide bottom flattening out and a long narrow neck. Obviously made to contain some sort of liquid or gas… it was not translucent, though, which was strange. It was something one would find in a laboratory, but what was the use of a flask if one could not observe its contents?

“Did you find something, Edward?”

Startled, Ed whirled about wildly and almost toppled to the floor. Mustang caught him.

“Are you alright?”

“Y-Yeah, you surprised me. Sorry.” He lifted the flask and showed it to Anya. “Hey, do you know how old this is?”

One look, and she said (through her turkey sandwich), “Oh, that. One of my contacts found it in the Great Desert, a little bit south of the Xerxes ruins. Roughly around two thousand years old, maybe even more. Well-preserved, isn’t it?”

Slightly winded but with his mind racing ten miles a minute, he asked, “Why is it in the Persian shelf?”

Anya blinked. “…because it’s Persian?”

“No it’s not,” Ed blinked back. “It’s from Xerxes.”

Silence.

Anya put down her plate and walked over, dusting her hands on her pants and putting on soft and worn kid leather gloves. She took the flask from Ed and pointed at the greenness of it. “See that ink? It’s traditional Persian green.”

Ed blinked, slowly. “No, that’s the bronze aging. It was probably somewhere near water, someplace damp. An aquifer or a well.” He pointed at the bottom markings. “Those are very similar to ancient Amestrian glyphs, but they’re not. They’re Xerxian—“


He stilled.


“Edward?” nearly hesitant, Mustang prompted after a couple of heartbeats of silence. Mustang recognized an epiphany when he saw one. “What is it?”

Ed looked up to Mustang with a stunned and breathless expression on his face.

“It’s Xerxian,” he stood there and blinked to himself in astonishment. “That Persian book at home—that theory—it’s all Xerxian!”





tbc
arc II chapter 04 ver.2-01
first draft: 2009.07.22
last edited: 2009.07.22



Extra (thanks to knighterrific; artist: MIUTO):

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ruumba on 26th July 2009 17:41 (UTC)
*________* SO MUCH I LOVED ABOUT THIS CHAPTER. MORE ROY~! ♥ Adjksj AND more Roy being like- well, ROY. XDD

It's just like him to talk and flirt and be generally so- so- well, like him. This is so good, so good, so goood, why did the chapter get over? I like all the little details, they're so amazing, how they're somehow getting along and living together and cooking and reading and how Roy seems to own the town even before he's Fuhrer, though he did seem a little uncomfortable about it...

The whole deal with Xerxes and Persia is very interesting too. And I'm not familiar with any of that |D BUT I'm still looking forward to it! /goesbacktore-read
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Ganesh (Annoyed at This and Thatiluxia on 28th July 2009 23:55 (UTC)
Well, the chapter got over BECAUSE LJ WOULDN'T LET ME POST MORE WITHOUT CUTTING. LOL actually I don't have anything beyond that written, and it was a good place to cut it. Don't worry. The next one's going to be as generous and detailed, if not more. Hughes, after all. *cough*

Actually, even I would be uncomfortable about that much public affection from fellow men. Roy's not exactly used to intimacy like that. Now, of course, in bed, it's a different story. *cough* But we're not in bed. So.

Xerxes and Persia, more coming up. And this is going to be ridiculously hilarious, because Ed, the genius, totally misses the point. askllskajdlakj *EBILGRIN*
ankoku_tenshiankoku_tenshi on 27th July 2009 05:08 (UTC)
THE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE. *_*

I really love all the alchemy "geekery" going on here. This fic hits all the right spots! You've obviously been doing some research. :DDDD Really liked the character relationship development in this chapter too.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Tiny :oiluxia on 28th July 2009 23:57 (UTC)


Uhh, wao. You seem to be terribly infatuated with the Gate.
Now that is just a very wrong image.

Ah, yes, alchemy geekery indeed. *guilty as charged*
ankoku_tenshiankoku_tenshi on 29th July 2009 15:06 (UTC)
I'm only obsessed with the Gate because I feel like there is an incredible amount of stuff you can do with it in terms of plot (and not just using it as a magical plot hole fixer). So I'm always happy when I see a fic that does not 'misuse' the Gate.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Evil Geniusiluxia on 30th July 2009 05:23 (UTC)
Indeed. I (and my co-plotter/editor aventria) adore the Gate and its insanity. We just can't bear punting it over to chance and as a plothole fixer. In fact, we think the plot should revolve around it, or at the very least it should be a major part of the plot. We wouldn't be doing it justice otherwise.
ankoku_tenshiankoku_tenshi on 30th July 2009 14:57 (UTC)
That's basically it, yeah. The Gate has so much potential, but it seems like it's hard to place it into a good plot because involving the Gate usually involves lots of research.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Evil Geniusiluxia on 31st July 2009 06:43 (UTC)
Might sound so mean-spirited, but it is laughable how few writers out there research for their fics. Research should be a standard rubric of the process; even if the Gate isn't there, adequate research should be done. A little bit more extra for the Gate shouldn't matter much. I love research; it's very satisfying to see how history and nature both support Roy/Ed and FMA. 8DDD Or to see that at the very least, Arakawa is affording some time to basic research.
deadndieingdeadndieing on 23rd December 2012 01:17 (UTC)
Yay
I always feel like a geek when I spend more time researching for what I'm writing instead of, well...writing. I have two new story ideas I'm juggling and I've written maybe 10 pages and put in at least 6 months of research... But the Gate is insane and therefore awesome so I agree that it deserves a great deal more attention that what it gets.
夢路 : dreamscape: KHR: 59 :o (nerd!glasses)iluxia on 29th December 2012 14:56 (UTC)
Re: Yay
Geeking out on your own work is awesome because it's a sign that you're enjoying it and are serious enough to dedicate time and thought to its successful fruition. But this can also be a dangerous trap to fall into; too much writing about writing (meta-writing) or planning about writing only serve to inhibit the actual writing process. This is where a good editor comes in: she will take the burden of cross-checking facts off your back, so you can keep writing after the initial outlining & info-gathering. Two brains put together may not always be better than one, but it certainly makes that one brain's work so much easier!

For Catalysis, most of the chapters require about six to twelve hours of research. It helps that we have learned (through schooling, university, and reading) about nearly all of the information we use in the course of the story. A solid plot and clear direction of where the overall story is heading helps a lot; adequate planning cuts down research by half. Really, what takes more time is deciding which information to use instead of trying to find that information! This story is just way too much fun for us. xD

Edited at 2012-12-29 14:56 (UTC)
sinnatioussinnatious on 27th July 2009 10:38 (UTC)
Oh Ed, so demanding! <3

I really like the little touches of alchemy applied in day-to-day living, with the cooling array on the fridge and the array on the oven and whatnot. It’s these sorts of details that really sell a setting for me, and it’s my favourite thing about Harry Potter, for example – how they have magic charms for silly things and household chores instead of just lighting fires and fighting monsters. It's rare enough that I feel the need to comment on it.

LOL at Mustang’s narcissism. Taking a liking to Ed because he reminds him of himself! XD The shopping scenes were love also.

The last scene in the antique shop, however, stole my breath away. Not a cliffhanger, exactly, but I so badly want to understand what it all means! It's so wonderful seeing those moments of genius shine through in Ed. And the Gate's little interjections are amazing and creepy and ominous...

Speaking of ominous, the murders were nicely slipped in there. Looking forward to seeing where that's going.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Banzaiiluxia on 29th July 2009 00:03 (UTC)
Of course Ed is demanding. It's Ed.

SEE. Tria and I were emphasizing upon this. At times it might drag the pace down, but for me, the perfection is in the details. And so is the devil, but the devil is kin anyway, so that's fine. We have more for you, Sinn-san. Wait until we get to the flesh of the alchemy, omg. @.@ My head spun researching for that, but it all worked out. They all fit in, miraculously enough. THE UNIVERSE SUPPORTS FMA, EQUIVALENT EXCHANGE, AND ROY/ED SMECKS. \o/ BANZAI. (We actually did a layout of Roy's house. I'm contemplating if I should post that or not. ^^;;)

Roy is just shameless, proud, and shamelessly proud. That's just what he is. Otherwise, he's an entirely different species.

LOL when I was writing the last part, I couldn't help but wonder: since when did Catalysis become horror? The Gate truly is freaky -- and it's all downhill from here, in terms of freakiness. Tria does not know how to restrain herself, and unfortunately, neither do I. =|
Ponti2minds1brain on 27th July 2009 14:56 (UTC)
I love you. This is absolutely adorable and Edward is so well played :3 And Mustang's playing of games with people, it's absolutely wonderful! I always thought Roy's coniving side should be showed more.

and I'm excited to know more about the Xerxes business and if it all fits in with Hohenheim... and the murders--does our Edward get into all sorts of trouble with some scary guy with a lust for disembowling people? So exciting! Can't wait for the next chapter!!!
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 29th July 2009 00:09 (UTC)
Well, I can't really tell you anything but this: it's all downhill from here. Fun times~ ♥

Thanks for reading!
(Deleted comment)
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Roy & Birds (Instead of Work)iluxia on 30th July 2009 05:47 (UTC)
Eventually, yes. All masks have to fall away at some point, if Roy wants Ed to trust him.
Thanks for reading; we do appreciate it.
icedcandy on 30th July 2009 09:50 (UTC)
Oh man, when Ed became breathless at that Xerxian revelation, I did, too! And ahhhh, the Gate is "awake" again. I just love getting a sneak-peek into the workings of Edward's mind. It's always thrilling to see the title of something uttered for the first time in its own story ♥

Also, despite Ed's strong dislike for dairy, it's easy to forget that he's still a child. Especially with how smart he is and "mature" his language seems to be (LOL). So, the little moments you mentioned Ed wanting something and asking Roy to get it for him (like at the tailor's and especially at the grocer's), I really loved those parts. I felt a little heartbroken while they drove through town and Edward briefly wondered what other children - because he still is a child - do in their free time. I guess, even in fanfiction, Edward just isn't the type to have a "normal" life. But, hey, he's much to good for aynthing "normal" anyway.

And, I noticed in other fiction, when one leaves home because of his parents, like Edward here, they're usually forgotten and never mentioned again. But the way his thoughts sometimes reluctantly wander to Trisha and Hohenheim, I don't know, but it just continues adding to the "reality" of it all. Whether it was on purpose or not, I'm really digging the emphasis on Edward's being a child.

I cannot wait for the more obvious Roy/Ed loving (as if Roy could get any more obvious). But I'm enjoying all the moments leading up to it just as much ♥ Waiting for the next chapter and hoping it comes out soon ♥ Just don't overwork yourself and remember to get proper rest, food, and anything else your body might need to remain healthy (:
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed - Call me shrimp again and.iluxia on 30th July 2009 10:00 (UTC)
Don't let him hear you calling him a child, or you'll need yourself jaw replacement surgery. He doesn't want to accept the fact that he's a child yet, and truly, there are certain parts of his personality where he can't be called a child any longer. However, the true soul of his age still shows whenever he lets his guard down, mainly within Roy's company, because at the moment, Roy is the one figure he can trust -- and he can't go without anyone to trust. Nobody can.

Trisha will forever be haunting Ed's memory and conscience, that much is inevitable. He has admitted to himself that she was an experiment; that brings heavy implications. Hohenheim is the one hazy figure Edward does not really know what to make of, but he is intrigued, so Hohenheim cannot be dispelled from his mind, even more than Trisha. Hohenheim, to Ed, is the first beacon of alchemy in his life. Every time Ed opens an alchemy book, or uses the old Amestrian glyphs he's so fond of, or look into his old and worn journals, Hohenheim is there, just over his shoulder. He's learned Hohenheim's science, and now he's building his own over it.

I'll be fine, darling, I get my sustenance. Fanfiction is good stress relief, too. ♥ Thanks for stopping by, and for the concern~! See you next installment (which will be.... well, huge).
Cherryknottingcherryknotting on 4th August 2009 03:54 (UTC)
Ohhhhhh Roy- our manipulative, handsome, narcissistic bastard.I love your Roy to bits. HE IS JUST SO. So. grand. (Lol, nevermind the language- I have no other word to describe him)

I want to see [i]the daddy of our beloved elicia[/i]. he'll appear, no? :P

夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Evil Geniusiluxia on 4th August 2009 04:33 (UTC)
He appears next chapter, in fact. Hughes will be love to write.
Thanks for reading! ♥
patterson1219patterson1219 on 10th August 2009 02:01 (UTC)
Wonderful update! I absolutely love your Mustang... he's so decidedly manipulative in this story! And Edward's learning all the tricks of the trade, though I loved how you hashed out the whole deal in this chapter - why Roy's doing all this for Edward. Best part of this chapter? Obviously the milk scene in the grocer. I swear, I was laughing out loud at Edward's stubborn antics. Now, these murders that you dangled before us... of course you're gonna have Ed get involved, yes? I mean, what's the fun of him staying out of trouble while Roy is his mentor? C'mon, calm and sophisticated Mustang needs some spazz in his life.. who better to provide then the ever curious Edward Elric? Eagerly waiting for the next update... hopefully I'll get around to reading it a bit sooner, but with school starting... *sigh* Oh the agony! Thank you for sharing your wonderful talents with us! XOXO
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Roy & Birds (Instead of Work)iluxia on 10th August 2009 02:49 (UTC)
Late review, lol. You're a surprise.
The milk scene was love, yes. I could practically hear his screech in my ears when I was writing that.

As for the murders and everything else, next chapter, darling. Next chapter.
iedwardelriciedwardelric on 29th May 2011 21:48 (UTC)
This story is amazing!
I can't wait for Ed to grow into the teen we all know and love.
And for the flirting to commence!
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed spazziluxia on 29th December 2012 14:57 (UTC)
Indeed, but there is no need to rush!
We can take our sweet, slow time and have the funtiems.