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25 October 2009 @ 23:33
Arc II: Debut, Chapter 06 Part A  
Title: Catalysis (Full details, here. Also available on Fanfiction.Net.)
Words: For this chapter (both parts A and B), ~13000
Rating(s): PG-13 for this chapter.
Warning(s): Language.
Chapter Summary: Ed has his share of scholastic misadventures and solves a murder. Kind of.

Catalysis



II : Debut
06
Part A
Part B →

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to always and forever be explaining things to them.
( Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince )





Nothing.

Edward came up with nothing relevant from the newspapers, apart from the bare facts he already expected to find and could have gotten by asking his neighbours. If this was indeed Mustang’s subordinates’ work, they were a painfully thorough bunch. Then again, this was Mustang. Mustang would have nothing less than the best of people for himself, just as he had his way with everything else. From what he’d heard from Gracia, Mustang was plenty influential within the military ranks, despite his young age and lack of rank. Lack of experience was something nobody could accuse Mustang of; the man was a veteran from the Ishbal War, and a more-than-adequate politician from how he had worked his way up so rapidly through the military.

But such was not his point.

The tight security protecting the information was maddening. He had, by nature, a curious soul, and he itched to know about those murders Mustang insisted on keeping from him. He did not blame the man for doing so, not at all—only, he thought that the man was a little bit too overprotective at times.

Alright, that was an understatement. The man was a fucking paranoid Bastard.


He gave a momentous sigh and stretched his limbs, sprawling all over his couch. The table was laden with his usual books, the flask, his references, and his notes; but over them, newspapers dating from February of the same year were spread in a systematic fashion. So far, he had nothing more than what he would bet the military had, probably even less. He did not have nearly the same amount of abundant resources the military had. He only had one library and very unreliable newspapers on hand.

What was he thinking, trying to poke his nose into Mustang’s business? The man was not playing a game.


The phone rang loud in his afternoon stupor, echoing against the walls. He swung up from the couch and grabbed the phone, following Mustang’s instructions to never say anything and let the other side speak first.

“Ed, it’s me,” Mustang’s voice filtered through.

“Oh, hey, Bastard,” Ed relaxed back into the couch. “You’re going to be late tonight, then?”

“About an hour or two, if you can wait. If not, go to Gracia’s house. Maes should be talking to her right now,” there was cacophony in the background, unusual for wherever Mustang worked. Perhaps he was not in his office? Ed did not even know if the man had one. (He probably did.) “We just have a little bit of extra work to deal with.”

“I can wait,” and Ed spent the next few minutes reassuring Mustang that no, he was not going out of the house, yes, the doors were locked, yes, he could wait, and no, he had not talked to anyone from outside. When they finally hung up, Ed was at the verge of giving into an intense impulse to rebel against Mustang’s now somewhat suffocating rules. Seeing the newspapers, however, was enough to discourage any rash action his deviant little brain could cook up.

He languished about, feeling unjustifiably useless and generally incompetent. Mustang would come home tonight tired, no doubt, again with that hollow, drained shadow in his eyes. Ed did not like those alien eyes; he liked the intense and fiery Bastard. But how was he to help relieve the burden if he was trapped here like a caged pet, unable to do what he was good at? These murders, from what the paper clippings said, seemed to have some sort of alchemical component involved; he could crack that, surely. And Mustang knew this, yet here he was, being kept away from the investigation. It was all sorts of infuriating, frustrating, and touching.


His eyes instinctively glanced over at the clock; it was nearing four in the afternoon. Today was a wasted day with no progress on his research—on the Xerxian book, or on the murders. He sighed again; he hated the lack of visible progress.

Mustang had said that he would come home an hour or two late—not very late, but late enough that the man would probably have no time to prepare a proper dinner for the two of them. Ed did not want to stress Mustang any further by demanding food, but he did not want to impose too much on Gracia either…

I could cook for him.

Ed paused at the thought.

Cooking was something he had never really tried his hand with, much less study. Mustang had been giving him pointers for the past few weeks, but pointers were really nothing compared to the real thing.

But isn’t experimentation what I do best?

He felt rather awkward about experimenting in Mustang’s immaculate kitchen.

I could easily clean up any mess I might make, and repair any damage I might incur…

Ed’s eyes idly wandered towards the far bookshelf near the back stairs, where there was a section for the culinary crafts. It was small, smaller than the other sections, but sizable enough for the basic and intermediate lessons. He gathered Mustang learned the advanced techniques from experimenting and improving upon the basic techniques.

Rising from his seat, Ed made his way to the kitchen. He had about three hours. That was more than enough.

~


By the time Ed heard the opening of the front door and the quiet noise of the military car leaving the driveway, he was finished with the final preparations. His meal was simple, a combination of two different dishes he had seen Mustang cook before. It was a simple salad, with a serving large enough to be a light dinner, with freshly baked bread. (Baking turned out to be easier than cooking—never mind that he had clapped.)

“Edward?” Mustang was removing his jacket when he stepped into the kitchen. Ed turned from where he was preparing the olive oil and spices (to dip the bread in); the salads were already laid out neatly on the table. Mustang gave a slow blink and once-over of the kitchen—free of mess and relatively orderly—before turning back to Ed. “What are you doing?”

“I clapped us some food,” Ed said proudly with a grin.

“…clapped.”

“Well,” Ed shrugged and explained (not whined), “your oven doesn’t seem to work for some reason, and the stove hates me. I managed to fry the chicken alright, but the breading was hell. I don’t know how you do it. So I just clapped. Oh, and I made the bread too.” He gave Mustang another grin.

“…are you sure it’s not, you know, poisonous?” Mustang motioned toward the table, apprehensive as if facing a rearing tiger.

Ed scowled. “I trust you enough to eat what you cook; it’s only fair that you trust me enough to eat my cooking!”

“Edward,” Mustang deadpanned. “Clapping isn’t cooking.”

“Yes, it is!”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it so is!” Edward petulantly stomped his foot. “The Gate says that as long as you accomplish a certain temperature, it is so cooking!”

“I thought you didn’t like the Gate,” an eyebrow lifted in surprise, Mustang set down his jacket and slid into a seat, facing the food.

Ed prepared them three loaves of freshly baked (err, clapped?) bread, still steaming and soft, with extra-virgin olive oil with spices to dip them in. The salad was simple: spinach, roma tomatoes, red onion strips, fried onion rings, strips of fried bacon, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, with basic vinaigrette. On top was a chicken breast deep-fried with spices to seal in the taste, and then breaded (crusted with pecan sprinkles, Ed’s personal touch) and baked (err, clapped) into perfection. Then Ed cut it up in strips to make the eating easier. His meal was not as elaborate as Mustang’s meals, but he thought it was rather impressive for an amateur like him.

“I don’t like the Gate,” frowned Ed. “But my opinion or perception of it doesn’t affect in any way its accuracy.”

Mustang merely smiled, as if he had expected that. Ed wondered if he really was that easy to predict.

“I don’t know what wine goes well with this,” Ed confessed after a moment of silence. Mustang appeared to like the bread, enough to savour it slowly and carefully in his mouth. Ed sprinkled a little bit more of the spices into the olive oil dip saucer between the two of them.

“Mm,” Mustang stood and stepped over to the island, where his hand hovered over bottles until he seized one and carefully pulled it out of its little slot. With practiced ease, he opened it for them, letting Ed set out the two glasses and filling it halfway. “Chardonnay. Buttery taste. Perfect for cutting into the gorgonzola chalkiness.”

Ed swirled the wine in his mouth, grimaced when he found it was not chill enough, and clapped for their glasses and the bottle so that the wine would cool. Mustang observed his alchemy carefully; the man had expressed intense interest and fascination with it. Ed did not fault Mustang; he himself was very intrigued.

“How was work?” Ed asked now that they were settled into their food. He knew that it was futile to try and direct the conversation towards the direction he wanted, but that did not stop him from trying. And he was actually genuinely curious about Mustang’s workplace; he was slowly beginning to realize a want to see the outer world, a world beyond this house, and he wanted to see how Mustang was beyond this house. He knew Mustang’s softer, more personal faces, but that was not all of him. Ed was curious; Ed wanted to know all of him. It was only fair; Mustang knew nearly everything about him, after all.

“You’re not going to get involved with the investigation, Edward, if that’s what you’re hinting at,” Mustang wryly smiled over the rim of his wineglass, and then continued, “We were rather busy, as you might have already guessed. Hawkeye was as bossy and overpowering as usual. Things are just a little bit more… ahh, how should I say this—populous.”

“You don’t like it when other people step into your team,” that was so typical of Mustang.

“I do not like it when information is not ferried through me before action is taken. I should be the one to dictate action, but there are some people who perceive themselves competent when in truth they are not,” the stiff, condescending tone Mustang was using suggested intense dislike; perhaps a superior officer poking a nose within Mustang’s jurisdiction. Ed hated those too, the belligerent and quarrelsome idiots.

“So what do you do when you encounter people like that?” and Ed was surprised at how easy it was to make conversation with Mustang—because usually it was Mustang sparking their conversations—such that he did not even have to think too much about what he was going to say or ask. The words simply flowed.

Watching as the tension bled out of the set of Mustang’s shoulders, Ed relaxed against his seat and kept the conversation going. Talking was Mustang’s way of distraction tonight, a way of relieving his brain of the stress of work and murder cases. Ed figured that if he could not help solve the case directly by being a part of the investigation team, then he could at least help the team leader unwind at home, so that the night would be occupied by a nice, deep sleep, and the next day would surface fresh and ready.

~


Mustang was impressed with his cooking, though disapproving of his ‘shortcut’ methodology. Ed discarded the very word; alchemy was not shortcut. It required the same amount of work, only Ed was better at alchemy, therefore faster and more efficient. (Mustang said these were all excuses; Ed refused to listen.)

Every night, whenever Mustang came home a little bit late, Ed would cook for them, varying his dishes according to what he was reading or what he had seen Mustang cook. At times he would stop over at Gracia’s place, and Gracia would teach him different techniques, show him different dishes. Sometimes, he would even get a taste.

It was Gracia who initially gave Ed the idea of distraction. On Monday noon, before Ed had picked up that newspaper and found out about the sixth body, Gracia had told Ed about the Ishbal War and how Hughes and Mustang met. Gracia had mentioned feeling inadequate in the beginning of her relationship with Hughes; Hughes and Mustang were such close friends that it seemed to the rest of the world that they needed no one else. Hughes and Mustang were each others’ support systems. Gracia was essentially a third wheel.

But eventually, she told Ed, she found her place and her purpose in Hughes’ life. She was able to distract him from the war, and while Mustang remained the one friend Hughes sought to talk about work, she was able to teach Hughes how to begin to live life again, especially after the war.

Which of course led Ed to think: if Gracia helped Hughes, then who helped Mustang?

No one.

Mustang had no one, Ed quickly realized. This house was a beautiful house, but it was an empty house, and no doubt Mustang would have felt the stagnant loneliness pooling within these tall walls whenever he was alone at night, without anyone to talk to about the war. Sure, there would have been other friends he could have sat with, but from the looks of it, it was only Hughes who truly came close to understanding whatever Mustang went through.

Ed felt incredibly uncomfortable thinking about such things. He was unused to the practice of considering other human beings’ feelings this much, especially someone like Mustang, who was still a half-stranger to him. Barely three weeks in Central and he was already so immersed that he was worrying this much about Mustang’s wellbeing. Perhaps it was guilt, or some sort of manifestation of obligation, he did not know—but not helping Mustang in some way bothered him to his very core.

And he saw that at the very roots of this, there was his selfishness as well. It would never go away; Ed knew that it was in his blood. Just like Hohenheim, he was selfish enough to leave behind his family and pursue his dreams; today, Ed knew that he was being selfish by wanting to help Mustang. He wanted to keep Mustang healthy and happy, because by now, he considered Mustang a valuable mentor.

Granted, he could be underestimating Mustang’s resilience under stress, but every man had his limits. Even he had his limit, and he had come very close to it. (He had Mustang to thank for keeping him from that disaster, too.)


He voiced this to Gracia, and she did not even need to hear all of it before she said, “Just do what feels right, Ed. Trust your heart.”

Ed wanted to tell her that the seat of instincts and emotion was in the limbic system in the brain and nowhere near the chest, but refrained. He understood what she was saying, and found it incredibly amusing—and revealing—that since Resembool, he had yet to act in a purely instinctive manner. Everything seemed to be all about thinking ever since he came to Central. Perhaps it was Mustang, who discouraged impulse. Or perhaps it was simply the suddenness and shock of it that he was being overly cautious, as Gracia insisted. He did not know; he was not sure. But something had changed; he began to think too much.

Maybe Gracia is right. Maybe I should just follow what feels right this time around. Emotions are felt, after all. And that made perfectly logical sense, surprisingly enough.





Somewhere along the way of conversation, they got talking about the military generals, people Mustang particularly disliked, except for those few competent and sane ones. Mustang was in the process of deriding a certain general’s uneducated tastes in art; Edward was in the process of snickering his head off.

Apparently, two days ago on Wednesday night, an auction was held at one of the military-owned public museums. There was a general named Hakuro, who, despite obviously not having enough money to fight for a certain art piece, still went ahead and spent an extravagant amount of money on something entirely worthless. Edward listened as Mustang regaled about Hakuro’s pathetic attempts at showing the bourgeoisie just how ‘enlightened’ he was, while occasionally sipping cold tea spiked with raspberry flavour.

“But you said he’s a general,” Ed stepped into Mustang’s little rant. “How come he can’t afford the art piece?”

“Well, the… art piece—if you can call that piece of imitative junk a work of art—was going for roughly fifteen thousand marks—“ Ed choked, “—and there is just no way he can afford that much on military salary. Not with a wife and two children to support, and a house to pay for. That is three-fifths his monthly salary, and double mine.”

The calculations were quick in Ed’s head. Slowly, he blinked at Mustang and narrowed his eyes.

“So your monthly pay is eight thousand marks as a Lieutenant Colonel?” Mustang nods, and Ed continues, “But you paid more than two thousand for those clothes you bought me, nearly three hundred for food and stuff enough to last us two weeks—and I’m willing to bet the flask and the Xerxian book didn’t come cheap. Where the hell did you learn your budgeting?”

“Every month I gain more than double my salary from the park restaurant alone, Ed,” Mustang had that conniving little smile again. “The businesses I sponsor are more than enough to support me luxuriously, in truth. I stay in the military purely because of my ambitions, though of course, not many people are aware of that. To many, the military’s monetary benefit is already quite grand—and it is, by normal terms.”

“Ah, of course,” the slow drag of Ed’s tone is exasperated but amused at the same time. “Roy Mustang is far too great to be defined by normal terms.”

“Why, thank you.”

Ed scowled.

There was a stretch of comfortable silence, and then Ed piped up again, “What do you mean when you said that not many people knew about you staying in the military purely because of ambition? Doesn’t the military collect information about their employees’ properties and assets and whatnot?”

“They know I own a house and a car, but other than that, not much else.” Mustang gestured to the grand library surrounding them, towards the hall where rare and authentic paintings hung framed on the walls. “All of this is private property; I am not obliged to list it down. I am also not obliged to list private sources of income—businesses and such. They might track my movements—what I buy and where I go—but as for sponsoring the businesses, all of it is grassroots, done through personal connections. They don’t search that deep. All of them think that my financial standing is just like any upper-middle class citizen, living on a decent and marginally luxurious wage.”

“They don’t know you’re obscenely rich, is what you’re saying,” Ed had to roll his eyes. “So where does this all go if you die or something?” and for good measure, added, “Not that I’m saying you’ll die soon or anything; I’m just curious.”

Mustang chuckled. “If it were any other person, Edward, I would seriously doubt that excuse. But since you’re you, I trust your curiosity.” Ed scowled, though feeling strangely flattered. “My will has Hughes and Hughes’ family as the primary beneficiary. A few close friends also have their parts.”

Ed had expected that. Cheekily, he quipped, “Are you sure you don’t want to adopt me?” adding a little charm by giving a beatific smile. It had Mustang laughing for a straight three minutes. Ed figured this whole going-with-what-felt-right thing was not all that bad of an idea, after all.


An hour later and Ed found himself still immersed in conversation. He listened attentively to Mustang’s line-up of up and coming events for Central’s arts, letters, and history districts for the approaching autumn season. He had mentioned a while ago that he wanted to see more of the city, and Mustang thought it was a good idea to take him to shows and events around the place. Ed found himself eager for it.

“The annual alchemy symposium is also coming up,” Mustang said, and Ed perked in his seat. “We’ll go to that one. I think you’ll find the variety of topics the guest speakers talk of highly intriguing and educational. They’ll probably host it in one of the public halls again, but I’ve heard talk of hosting it at a preparatory school, which might be a good idea. The students—curious young men and ladies, I’m sure—will benefit from it greatly.”

That made sense, Ed thought. They desperately needed more competent researchers, ones that were genuinely interested in the science and not just the monetary or statistic benefit. The young ones were the easiest and best to pick up.
“So have you ever spoken at one of those symposiums?”

Mustang shook his head no. “I rather prefer the smaller, more intimate discussions, than the big halls. I like enabling critics to speak up against me, and consequently arguing my points with them. Besides, there are plenty of other State Alchemists eager to fill that stage.”

Ed frowned as some tension bled into the man’s countenance. Mustang seemed to greatly dislike mingling with his fellow State Alchemists, for reasons Edward can somewhat understand. Mustang was one of a kind, unique within his league; the other alchemists were probably just dogs to use for the war or slaves for some classified experimental military project. (Now if there were four words that should never appear in one sentence together, they would be those four.)

Smoothly diverting the conversation to lighter matters, Edward jested lightly, “Shouldn’t you be sending me to school, then?”

Slowly, Mustang’s eyebrow rose. “Why?” the tone was very flat. “It’s not like you need it.”

Ed shrugged. “But isn’t that what good fathers do? Send their children to school?”

Mustang gave him a level stare, and for the longest while kept quiet. And then there was a shrug, “Alright, if you so want it.” The man craned towards the desk to reach for the slim leather contact log the size of a thin portrait notebook.

“I don’t want it,” Ed refuted. “Children are immature.” That earned him an amused look. “I’m just saying!”

But Mustang was already lifting the phone to call someone. Ed glanced at the clock.

“Hey, are you serious? It’s nearly midnight; I think schools are closed now,” and nervously, he added, “And I was just joking, you know.”

“I’m calling an acquaintance and leaving a message, Edward; I don’t plan to wake up early tomorrow morning to do this call,” Mustang was dialling. “And I think it might actually be a good idea for you to go to school. It might help you with your social skills.”

“But I already talk to you so much. Isn’t that enough socialisation?” Ed was getting really anxious now; Mustang was being serious. He damned his stupid gut; he was only joking! He should have known Mustang would take it seriously.

“Well, yes, and I would like for our conversations to remain the same, but obviously I can’t be with you at all times,” Mustang gave him a doting little smile. “It must get a little boring here when you’re all by yourself, no?”

Cursing to himself, Ed watched in horror as Mustang talked to the acquaintance on the other side. (Apparently, for the other person, eleven o’clock was still early enough.) He tried to calm his spinning mind by trying to convince himself that school would not be so awful. After all, it would not be his first time attending one with other children. (He then grimaced at that thought. The day school in Resembool had been depressingly lacking for both him and Al. Hopefully, this school Mustang knew would provide better education. They were in Central, after all.)

When Mustang was finished, Ed barked vindictively at him: “Putting me in school makes you my father. I expect to be on your last will and testament as the sole heir—sole heir—to these books, you hear me?”

This time, he had Mustang laughing for ten minutes straight.

“And the map! Don’t forget the map! And the tapestry! And the flask!”

Mustang laughed some more.





What he woke up to on Monday morning should have been enough to warn him of the awfully harassing day he would have. Mustang gently nudged him into awareness, and waking to the aroma of breakfast and Mustang’s admittedly melodic voice would have been pleasant, except Mustang just had to say:

“You don’t want to be late on the first day of school, Edward; come, get up and get ready.”

Pitifully, Ed groaned into his pillow. He was not dealing with immature little children this early in the morning. But ugh! Mustang isn’t giving me a choice, is he, the bloody officious twit! So he began to prepare for the day.

The ride to the school took a lot less time than Ed thought it would, but that was probably because he was anxious. He hoped it did not show too much.

“On your best behaviour, Edward,” Mustang warned as they stepped up to a large red Victorian structure. “Try not to terrorise the children on the first day.”

Ed rolled his eyes, deigning not to reply. He observed their surroundings as they walked up the stairs to the front doors of the subtly opulent private institution. There were four floors, and the building was wide. Behind it, Ed surmised, was a garden, and if he craned his head to look to the far ends of the wide building, he could see other structures behind it. This was a huge school, more than likely catering to children from the ages of six and seven to young lads and ladies aged sixteen.

They went straight to the headmaster’s office, where the paperwork was taken care of very easily. The headmaster’s name totally escaped Edward’s memory, but he figured he would not be seeing much of the very ordinary-looking man anyway. He accepted his schedule and ran a curious and admittedly critical eye over it, and soon after that, he and Mustang were stepping out of the office. He was finally left to his own devices when Mustang had to leave for work.

“You know where to call me if you need anything, Edward. I’ll send Havoc to pick you up at three.”

And so he was left alone.


The schedule for his particular academic level was broken up into two by an hour long lunch break stretching from twelve noon until one. Six hours, Ed steeled himself. Only six hours for today and he would be free. (He tried his damnedest not to think about tomorrow.)

The first class was literature and writing, in a classroom on the third floor. He found himself a seat by the windows and observed as the children around him tittered and talked amongst themselves. They were all approximately his own age, eleven or twelve, but so much more immature, childish. No, he was not being condescending at all; he was merely stating the pure truth.

One of them, a young boy with dark reddish brown hair and bright green eyes, looked particularly eager to strike up conversation with him, but luckily, the teacher stepped in before that and calmed the motley crew of privileged spoiled brats. Ed sighed in relief; he did not think he could actually hold a conversation with these children.

He moved through the lesson with ease, despite not having taken the prerequisite courses. He knew the book that was assigned, and he remembered Mustang talking about it. Sparingly, he took notes, if only to practice his automail hand; he really did not need them. The class lasted an hour until ten, then came the next class, which was in a room down and across the hall. Natural sciences, Ed grinned.

It turned out to be a pretty basic introduction into chemistry (which by the way Ed learned all by himself when he was four): molecular and atomic theory. He listened, rather annoyed, as the teacher babbled onwards a watered-down version of what he had studied. At least, Ed told himself, he has the principles down correctly.

“…and the atom is the smallest known unit of matter.”

Ed’s chin slipped off his hand in disbelief.

Blinking at the teacher, he (rather loudly) protested, “No, it’s not!”

Heads uniformly swivelled towards him, and some of the smarter students (or at least they thought they were smart) sniggered at him. They were probably thinking that he did not know what he was saying, really, but wanted to sound smart. Ed scowled. No; they did not know what they were saying. They were the ones who wanted to sound smart. Stupid kids.

“I’m sorry, Mr….” the teacher had to look at his roll sheet for his name, “Mr. Elric. Did you have a question?”

“I said,” Ed repeated very slowly, “no, the atom is not the smallest known unit of matter.”

The teacher looked at him with a raised brow. “I understand you have some basic background on the sciences, Mr. Elric, but I must insist. This is an advanced version of the chemistry course, and there will be details here that might be contrary to what you have read in the past.” The teacher took that opportunity to turn to the class and impart another bit of knowledge: “It has been proven that the atom is the smallest unit of matter by a certain alchemist named—“

“—Robert Mahler, research report published 1863, under the wing of General Lucas Armstrong, yes, I know,” Edward sighed. “It was a major breakthrough, and as you said the atom was considered the smallest unit of matter until eleven years later, 1874, when Abel Montague offered the world’s first peek into the structure of the atom, consequently discovering the subatomic particles: neutrons, protons, electrons and such.” The entire class was quiet now. Alarm bells rang in Ed’s head—Mustang had explicitly warned him not to cause trouble in class like this—but he continued anyway, “Therefore, the atom is not the smallest unit of matter. What you said was wrong.”

Slightly red-faced but sufficiently cowed for the moment, the teacher swallowed and straightened himself. “Well, it appears Mr. Elric is rather well-versed in advanced chemistry. Subatomic theory, however, is something we need not concern ourselves with for the moment.” The teacher turned back to the board, continuing rather awkwardly, “Although the atom is not the smallest unit of matter, as we have… established, it is, however, indivisible, and therefore—“

“Actually, that’s wrong too,” he had tried to grit his teeth and prevent from speaking up at all, but he was just unable to ignore such ignoble instruction. Oh, Izumi would be railing at the very thought! “The atom can be divided using certain alchemical procedures.”

The teacher slowly turned to face him again, adjusting the ugly horn-rimmed glasses. “I am not aware of any published research confirming the division of an atom, Mr. Elric.”

“Well, of course,” Ed rolled his eyes. “At the moment, it’s only theoretical. Research is still in progress. But there’s strong evidence that subatomic alchemy has been around for as long as since the Persians, perhaps the Xerxians.”

Scoffing now, the teacher gave him a patronising smile. “Child, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The Xerxian civilisation thrived two thousand years ago!”

“And how does that disprove their capability to perform subatomic alchemy?” Ed challenged, but before he could launch into a nice, loud, long rant, the bell rang.

Reclining against his seat, Ed held the teacher’s stare, only letting go as the class began to move. He gathered his things into the one leather folio he carried (enough space for two pens and a notepad), borrowed from Mustang’s extra stock of stuff. He was making for the door when the teacher called out, “Mr. Elric, I would like to talk to you for a moment, please.”

Well, he could not say he did not expect that.

Heading for the front of the room, he stopped short before the teacher’s desk and stood quietly, until the flustered teacher began speaking again, “I see that you are very widely read, Mr. Elric, and rather imaginative at that. But I will have to ask you henceforth to refrain from spouting fantastic theories about science. This is a class, Mr. Elric, not a story book reading. Please watch your remarks from now on.”

Edward stood there, rather incredulous, and released a huff of disbelief.

“So you really do think I was making all that up?” he rocked back on his heels. “Sir, the theories clearly show that an atom can be divided!”

“I make the facts as simple as I can to prevent any confusion on the students’ parts,” the teacher said, holding up a hand. “And I do not contest as much the atomic division theory; but Xerxians! Surely they cannot possibly—”

Why not?” Ed petulantly demanded, stomping a foot. “Why is it not possible for them? They discovered alchemy for us! They developed it first, without our technology!”

Annoyed now, in no small amount, the teacher said, “Young man, until there is no proof or hard evidence of any such theory existing in pre-modern times, it cannot be taught as fact.”

But I have the evidence! Ed wanted to scream. He held his tongue; he was selfish. He wanted to keep that Xerxian book to himself. (And he could not very well tell a stranger about the Gate in his head, though the Gate was just about all the proof anybody could ever need.)

The teacher continued, “And on that thought, if the atomic division theory truly is sound, then why has there been no breakthrough, no successful experiment reported since?”

Obviously because you die if you do the alchemical reaction!” it was Ed’s turn to be exasperated. “You’re a chemistry teacher! You should know this! Equivalent exchange! Basic alchemy! The energy required to pull off such a massive stunt of physics is near-impossible to gather! The array would swallow the alchemist for sure!” He meant that in a more than metaphorical way. Inside his head, the Gate purred with a wide diabolical smile.

Rightfully, the teacher was taken aback at his boldness. It took a few seconds of tense silence before the teacher spoke again, in forcibly measured tones this time, “Even then, I cannot teach this to my class. There is too little support for the theory, no proof from experiment, and not enough details on the process. It is best if they focus on the conventional side of things and learn of the basic without the complicated subatomic theories.”

“You’re saying that it’s best for them to learn things the old way, the insufficient way, just because it’s easier,” Ed shook his head in disbelief. “You’re supposed to give them their building blocks! Just because the theories are advanced doesn’t warrant you condensing and editing them! What you’re teaching them is wrong, incompetent idiot!”

And that was how Edward found himself sitting sullenly in the headmaster’s office, no later than two hours into his first day of school. Mustang was going to be so impressed.





Upon stepping into the office, the first thing Mustang said to him was: “Edward, what did you do.”

The man’s tone was with such dread that Edward just had to bristle in indignation. “It’s not my fault! He was teaching the wrong things!” he stabbed a finger towards the science teacher. “He said that an atom is the smallest unit of matter. And after that, he said that an atom is indivisible, the misinformed old fart! Misconstrued, I tell you!”

Sighing, Mustang surrendered to Ed’s ire with a learned patience. “I told you this school was a bad idea.” The headmaster gave an appalled gasp.

Ed scowled. “I told you I didn’t actually want to go to school! I was just joking! And no; you said it was a good idea!”

“For you to socialise, not for you to learn from a school,” Mustang gave Ed a dry stare. “No preparatory school would be fit to accommodate you. You need a university.”

Yes, please!” Ed threw his hands into the air and collapsed back into his squishy chair. Sulkily, he refused to say any more.

“Really, Mr. Mustang,” the teacher appealed, casting a disparaging glance at Edward. “He needs to be disciplined. And I believe he reads too much of the wrong kind. Perhaps too many fantastical tales? There is neither valid proof for his subatomic theory, nor solid evidence for the existence of such in the first century!”

“Actually, I am in the process of researching several Xerxian artefacts which may contain strong proof towards the very thing,” Mustang provided gracefully; the teacher gaped. “You will pardon Edward’s assertiveness, I hope; it’s in his personality to always seek for accuracy and truth. I never discourage such… desirable traits.”

Ed threw Mustang a nasty glance; he just knew that one was a backhanded insult.

“And regarding Edward’s reading—well,” Mustang bowed his head. “If you truly think that through his reading he is ill-educated, then we have significant… ah, differences in our opinions of good and bad literature.” Mustang’s tone was casual, but his eyes were frosty and hostile. Ed thought the teacher deserved a few well-placed barbs; nobody was entitled to insult such a perfectly wondrous library as Mustang’s and get away with it scot-free.

Mustang then turned to Ed and motioned, “Come along, Edward. We’re leaving.”

“You said I needed socialisation?” but Ed was already rising from his chair.

“I can provide you with all the socialisation you should ever need,” and the matter was dismissed with an idle wave of a hand. Mustang returned to the men and bid them, “Please do excuse myself and my charge. We shall be leaving you to your classes, as I’m sure you need to attend to them.”

Confused now, the headmaster said, “Ah, but—Mr. Elric has afternoon classes, sir—“

“I am withdrawing Edward from the school. I see no point in letting him continue to take classes that are obviously far below him. As I had initially surmised, individual instruction will be for the best.”

The headmaster looked sufficiently devastated at the sudden loss of a patron. Scrambling to pull up the falling pieces, the man added, “Perhaps you would like to hire one of our private tutors, then? We do provide one-on-one instruction for the, ah, special cases.” Ed scowled; that made him sound like a retarded invalid!

“That won’t be necessary. I shall instruct him myself.”

Disbelievingly, the teacher looked at Mustang. “Not to mean any disrespect, Lieutenant Colonel, but while working with the military? Surely, your schedule—“

“—is well-managed and spacious enough to afford Edward daily lessons over a wide variety of topics and genres, as we have been doing for the past few weeks,” Ed avoided that pointed stare. “Rest assured I will give him the best education possible. Edward is also plenty capable of learning by himself. Now, if you will excuse us; my lieutenant is waiting out front.”

“Sir—I must insist,” the teacher pushed, totally unwilling to let Ed go, the bloody cow! “There is only so much a child can learn individually.”

Ed hissed in severe offence. “I learned everything I know today by myself, you know!”

Mustang sighed. “Professor, Edward is an alchemist. Self-taught, self-styled. He is more prolific than any alchemist I know, myself included—a genius hardly worthy of being trapped within conventional education. He can take care of his studies with minimal assistance. He conducts research and experimentation on his own.”

The shatter of china on wood startled all of them into silence. The headmaster had been pouring tea for himself, but had let slip the teacup after hearing Mustang’s statement.

Ed supposed it might come as a shock that somebody his age would be doing individual alchemical research. He saw the open disbelief in the two men’s faces, so he sighed and brought his hands together in a clap, using the convenient situation to demonstrate. Touching a broken fragment of the china on the floor, he watched as the crackle of light easily pieced the parts back together—and the teacup was whole again.

The headmaster was left dumbfounded, the teacher gawping. Ed happily tucked his portfolio under his arm, following after Mustang, who strolled out of the office then.


“I told you this was a bad idea,” Ed grinned. At this rate, they were going to play the blaming game for days, maybe weeks, but Ed was going to relish every moment of it. After all, such an abundance of opportunities to tell Mustang, “I told you so,” was not so easy to come upon.

“That doesn’t justify shaming the teacher in front of his students, Ed.” They stepped out into sunlight, Mustang guiding him towards the car. “Consider people’s pride a little bit, will you?”

“Be thankful that I even consider yours,” grumbling, Ed quieted down as Mustang instructed their chauffeur to some restaurant nearby for lunch.

After finishing with Havoc, Mustang returned to Ed and said: “Why, thank you, Edward. I’m glad to know that I’m that important to you.”

“Bastard,” Ed spit, wrinkling his nose. “Besides, you only said I couldn’t terrorise the children; you didn’t say anything about terrorising the adults,” his cheeky grin said it all.


Part APart B →

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Current Mood: chipper*kinda drunk*
Current Music: Yo-Yo Ma - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon OST - Farewell
 
 
 
ankoku_tenshiankoku_tenshi on 26th October 2009 05:15 (UTC)
Before I actually review this part, your link on fma_yaoi is a little off. It links to Chapter 4 rather than 6.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Tiny :oiluxia on 26th October 2009 05:27 (UTC)
:"O
I didn't notice that.
Thank you~ ♥
icedcandy on 15th November 2009 10:47 (UTC)
AHH BECAUSE OF MY HIATUS I MISSED THIS UPDATE.

Luckily, for some reason, I randomly thought to check the updates. And I'm glad I did! As I've told you many, many times, I am absolutely in LOVE with the way Roy and Edward ~socialize~ XDD

I also enjoy Ed's "bad" attitude, haha♥
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Banzaiiluxia on 15th November 2009 14:55 (UTC)
I did think it was strange that you weren't around, haha~ ♥ I'm glad you liked it. A petulant little Ed is lovely to write.