Series: Tsubasa/Fullmetal Alchemist
Summary: It's nearly always safe to assume that whatever trouble the Tsubasa crew wind up in, there's going to be a feather involved somewhere in the middle of things. And it's probably even safer to assume that where the Elric brothers are involved, it's never going to be the Philosopher's Stone.
Word count: 1290
Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2
Mokona clung to Kurogane’s shoulder in the bizarre hug only a rabbit-sized creature with arms an inch long would ever need to invent.
“You stupid…! Were you just planning to stand there and get eaten?” the ninja complained angrily.
“But Mokona knew Kurogane would come to the rescue!” The ease with which Mokona had just cleared the distance from the ground to Kurogane’s shoulder should really have been proof enough that mistaking it for a helpless prey animal would not have been an intelligent move on the chimera’s part, but Mokona was hardly about to let a minor technicality like that lose it a chance to show one if its companions some well-deserved affection. “And Mokona worked so hard to find the big wolf-monster for Kurogane! Mokona was even willing to use Mokona’s own self as bait just to lure it out, because…”
“Shut. Up. And give me my sword before I have to pull it out myself.”
Descriptions of the chimeras as dog-like or wolf-like were broadly accurate, but this creature was clearly no ordinary dog, wild or tame. It stood about as high as a wolf, but the proportions were different – the body thinner and the face too long, as if it had been stretched a few extra inches to allow for another row of too large, crooked teeth. Around its neck and shoulders was a mane of thick, feathery hair, and there was an odd, serpentine quality to the way it was built and how it moved. The eyes, far too pale to be natural, watched them with a mad, blank look.
“Kurogane,” Syaoran warned, “There’s more of them.”
As the first regained its feet another three appeared from the forest ahead. The two swords flew from Mokona’s mouth to their owner’s hands, none too soon.
Syaoran griped Hien by the hilt and tried, with as much concentration as he dared waste, to figure out what sort of sword-work would work against creatures like these. The chimeras had a bizarre way of moving, like something that wanted to be able to slither and found that legs only got in the way. The noises they made as they circled sounded wrong too, somewhere between a hiss and a yelp, and alien enough that even a deep-throated growl would have been less unsettling.
“Remember, they’re animals,” he heard Kurogane say. “Don’t hesitate.”
This wasn’t a time to lash out too hastily, Syaoran decided, not when there were two of them against four, and staying back to back with Kurogane was the closest thing to cover he had. Better to wait and let the animals make the first move.
When the attack came, two beasts sprang at them from opposite sides, no more than a split second apart. But before Syaoran could so much as draw, the chimera which had been leaping for his throat had the hilt of Kurogane’s sword slamming into the side of its head. There was a flash of cold blue as he brought the blade around to slice straight through the chimera in mid air, then swung it smoothly back through the second beast in the same movement.
There was no time to waste being impressed though – the third chimera launched itself at Syaoran only another breath behind. Trained reflexes ingrained far longer than his new sword skills made him drop and lash out upwards with a foot, catching the chimera under the jaw right where it would have reached the apex of its leap. The manoeuvre worked, more than well enough to throw the creature off balance and give Syaoran the chance to draw his sword. The chimera went down with a blade through its neck.
Behind him, there was a swish, an unpleasant wet noise, and finally a thump which meant Kurogane had dealt with the last one. The whole attack had taken only seconds.
Kurogane gave the bodies a distasteful look, and began to clean his sword. He glanced at Syaoran. “Something you want to say?”
There was. “Kurogane, thankyou for your help, but… I could have handled it.”
Kurogane eyed the chimera Syaoran had dispatched. “You proved that,” he agreed with obvious distaste. “But these were no challenge. Not even worth a practice exercise.”
Syaoran could hardly argue, but he could just as easily see that for an unarmed farmer meeting creatures like this out here alone, it could be a very different matter.
They found Fye and Sakura again back at the farmhouse, where Fye had apparently talked the hurried farmer’s wife into making them some tea and sitting down for a chat, while Sakura did her part of the cover story some credit by making friends with the dog.
“Ah, Syaoran-kun, good hunting today?” Fye greeted him cheerfully, as the boy stuck his head around the door.
“Yeah,” Syraoran replied, seriously. “We found something both of you should see.”
Outside, Kurogane dumped the carcass of the chimera which had remained the closest to intact to the ground unceremoniously. Mrs Thompson stared at it with the reluctant disbelief of the sceptic faced with evidence they’ve no way to refute. “Well, as I live and breathe. It has a few less eyes than he had me expecting.”
“There was a pack – four of them,” Syaoran explained. “We don’t know whether there are any more yet, but they’ve got to be what people have been seeing. We needed to ask a local whether they could be a kind of animal that’s been seen in these parts before.”
“What, four? Not ten? Not twenty?” Mrs Thompson suggested sourly, but she was now looking at Kurogane and Syaoran with a new kind of respect. “I can assure you, there’s nothing like this been seen by anyone who’s lived to tell the tale before. There hasn’t even been a wolf in these parts in a generation or more. I’ve never heard of any breed of dog of that shape either.”
“We heard they might be chimeras,” Syraoran offered. “Animals made using alchemy.”
“More than I’d know if it is,” said the woman stiffly. “What that sort gets up to is well beyond simple farmers like us. More than I’m going to have time to worry about either, if there’s beasts like this out there worrying the sheep.”
“Too late. There’s a break in your fence in the far west field,” Kurogane reported, “and one dead sheep, if not more.”
It was evident based on the volume of the woman’s reply that they’d gotten everything in entirely the wrong order, and news of minor problems like people transmuting animals into monsters were nothing compared to the disaster that was a dead sheep and a fence with a hole in it. She bustled away, leaving the ‘hunters’ to decide what should be done with their catch, now that the point had been proven and it wasn’t going anywhere.
“I wonder whether we should invite our friend from the doctor’s here to see it,” Fye mused, looking over the bizarre creature in a lazy sort of way. “On one hand, his mystery beast definitely existed, on the other, he might find it a bit disappointing.”
“They’re no natural wild dogs,” said Kurogane. “The rumour these alchemist kids were following was the closest version we’ve heard to the truth.”
“But we still don’t have any idea whether there’s a feather involved in this at all yet,” said Syaoran. “For all we know, making creatures like these might be something any ordinary alchemist could do.”
“Aren’t we lucky there are some experts in town,” said Fye with a grin.
“That’s assuming we can get through a conversation without making them mad at us again,” muttered Kurogane darkly, and deliberately avoided noticing the look Fye gave him for it.
On to Part 4