?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Tsubasa/FMA fic: Part 4

Chapter 4, and the Elric brothers return at last!

Title: Catalyst
Series: Tsubasa/Fullmetal Alchemist
Part: 4/11
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.
Rating: PG
Word count: 2345
Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3



The advantage of a small town was that there were only so many places outsiders would be likely to be hiding. So barely half an hour later, at one of the few such establishments the town boasted, an innkeeper looked up from his ledger to find Fye leaning over the counter.

“Looking for a room?” he asked uncertainly.

“Not exactly, we were hoping you could help find a couple of guests you might have here,” Fye told the innkeeper pleasantly. “There’s a tall one who wears a suit of armour, and a short one who…”

“WHO ARE YOU CALLING SO SMALL YOU CAN’T FIND HIM IN A TOWN THE SIZE OF A THIMBLE?!”

“…ah, nevermind, we seem to have found them,” Fye amended, without missing a beat.

He turned to be greeted by the sight of Kurogane holding a raging Edward Elric by the collar, at arm’s length so as to stay out of reach of his flailing fists. Syaoran, trapped by an accident of positioning between them and a corner, was having to flatten himself against the wall to stay barely out of range. Sakura was watching with a look of wide eyed, uncomprehending awe.

Life around the Elric brothers was clearly going to be every bit as exciting as their first meeting had suggested.

“I hit a nerve again,” Fye said guiltily, to no-one in particular, and wandered over to the calmer of the two brothers. “Alphonse Elric, wasn’t it? Fancy meeting you here.”

Alphonse was left in the unenviable position of urgently needing to find a way to calm down his brother before anything got broken without being rude to the man talking to him.

“But… ah… nii-san is…” he stammered. Over in his corner, Syaoran was babbling something about how Fye really hadn’t meant anything by the ‘short’ thing, and how the town really wasn’t all that small, in a helpless sort of manner. Ed showed no signs he was hearing any of it.

Kurogane rubbed the side of his head distractedly, and dropped the struggling boy back on the floor, hard enough to give them time to get a sentence or two in before he could make it back to his feet again. “Lay off, we’re only here to talk.”

“We’re sorry to bother you, but we need your advice,” Syaoran said quickly. “We found some of the chimeras.”

“Wait, you what?” Ed gasped, rage evaporating.

“Well, we think we did,” said Fye, conversationally. “We could really use some professional help identifying them.”

“Genuine chimeras?” said Ed, not bothering to hid his enthusiasm, while Alphonse looked back and forth between his brother and the travellers with far more visible interest than any suit of armour should have been able to muster. “How? Where?”

“Just outside a sheep farm near the town,” Syaoran explained. “A farmer we heard about in town was attacked by one of them there a week ago,”

“You had better luck than we did then,” Ed grumbled. “You can find the chimeras again?”

“As long as a dead one is good enough,” said Syaoran.

“It’ll do.” Edward grinned. “Lead the way!”

***

Dragging a chimera carcass around the town would have been neither fun nor tactful, particularly when that town was still in the midst of so much fun debating what or even if there was anything out there, so they’d left it back on the farm under a tarpaulin with hastily written note explaining its continued presence in case the owner came back and took offence. There was no sign of her when they got there, but they trusted she’d excuse one more intrusion.

When Kurogane pulled the tarpaulin off it, Ed’s expression was something between blank and mild disappointment.

“Is it not a real chimera after all?” worried Syaoran, getting just about to the end of the sentence before Alphonse cut him off excitedly.

“It doesn’t have horns after all! Or legs like a spider. And it’s much smaller than an elephant!” he exclaimed, sounding terribly relieved. “Isn’t that wonderful, nii-san?”

“We knew it wasn’t going to have any of that! What kind of crazy person makes chimeras with any of that stuff!” Ed snapped back, although he sounded as though he may have been spending rather a lot of time since they’d arrived trying to forget just how many crazy people he’d already met in his short life. “It’s a chimera, no doubt about it,” he added, to Syaoran. “There’s no animal that could turn into something like that any other way.”

“So there’s definitely an alchemist out here making these things?” Syaoran asked.

“Not just any old alchemist,” said Ed. “A beginner couldn’t do something like this. Transmuting animals is one of the hardest kinds of alchemy there is. Living things are a lot more complicated than anything else we work with. Even a tiny mistake can kill whatever you’re working on. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t get a chimera at all – you just get a mess.” A strange bitterness found its way into his voice as he got to that last part. “And even a lot of the ones that do survive go nuts and turn feral.”

“Mm, that’s why it’s one of the most highly regulated branches of alchemy there is,” Alphonse put in. “Even state Alchemists need special permission to work on chimeras.”

Ed’s reaction to the idea of alchemy being used on humans back when they’d first met was starting to make a lot of sense. Syaoran imagined something like that being tested on a human and felt sick to the stomach. No wonder it was a taboo subject. “Then whoever made these must be unusually skilled even for an alchemist, right?”

“Maybe, but they’re still amateurs.” Ed prodded at the carcass with a stick. “Chimeras aren’t my speciality, but whoever made this one didn’t do a very neat job of it. All the proportions are messed up. It’s a wonder it could move at all.”

Syaoran found himself remembering the strange way the creatures had moved in a new light. “They could move well enough to attack us. And they tore one of the sheep here to pieces.”

“They’d have to. Look,” Ed pushed the chimera’s top lip backwards with his stick. “The teeth are all over the place. They don’t even interlock properly. I bet it could hardly even digest anything it ate, either.”

Syaoran considered for a moment. “There’s something I was wondering about, when we first met, you mentioned something called the philosopher’s stone…”

“Oh, that? It’s another rumour. The Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance that amplifies any kind of alchemy,” Ed explained. “You can make chimeras without it, but it’s not easy to make even one, and people have been seeing a lot more than just that. The mayor told us the closest thing they ever had to a real alchemist in these parts is a hobbyist who no-one sees much – there isn’t anyone with the skills to start turning out even really bad chimeras like these en mass. But with assistance like the philosopher’s stone, it’s possible even someone with no alchemical knowledge could make creatures like these.”

“It sounds like it could be very dangerous,” Syaoran hazarded.

“Sounds like it’s not the sort of item the government would want just anyone getting their hands on,” said Kurogane darkly.

“Not if this is what they’re doing with it,” Ed agreed, making no effort to deny his connections. “But whether the stone’s involved or not, if there’s someone around here making dangerous chimeras, we’ve got to check it out,” he finished dutifully.

“Do you think it has to be someone in the mansion, nii-san?” asked Al.

“It’s the one place we know no-one from the town has looked. But the mayor still thinks the mansion is too close to falling apart to be usable. And it isn’t like we can tell him we know for sure yet,” Ed admitted grudgingly. “We still need to figure out who’s making them. How and where as well.”

“There aren’t any clues on the chimera?” asked Syaoran.

“It’s not like they left a signature on it or anything,” Ed grumbled. “But considering how much help the people around here have been, we’re going to have to work with what we’ve got. You’d better start by showing us where you ran into them in the first place.”

***

The walk was not especially long compared to the trip from the town to the farm in the first place, but it did take some time. About halfway there, Sakura, who had so far been doing unusually well since their arrival in this world, stopped and fell gently over sideways, fast asleep. It happened so suddenly that it was almost more than Syaoran could manage to catch her before she hit the ground. They explained the situation to the Elric brothers as a symptom of an illness she was suffering, which also worked out as quite a neat excuse for why they’d have so much interest in unusual forms of alchemy and the like – a search for a cure for a mysterious illness was a much better cover story for their journey than the ‘hunters’ version would have been in this context. A small part of Syoaran was even quietly grateful – the scene of the place where he and Kurogane had fought those chimeras wasn’t something she should have to see.

***

On getting his first sight of the mess that was left where the battle had taken place, Ed stared, wide eyed, then turned to stare at them with the same look. “You did this?”

“Kuro-sama gets a bit carried away when he gets angry,” said Fye, patting ‘Kuro-sama’ on the arm, and was grudgingly allowed to get away with it.

“What am I supposed to do when I get attacked by wild animals?” Kurogane complained.

“You could’ve left a few more bits whole if you wanted them identified,” Ed grumbled, making a face.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to stop and think after they attacked,” Syaoran admitted.

The fight really hadn’t been as bad as the remains made it look, but Kurogane’s method of dealing with the chimeras had been more efficient than it was tidy. In their absence, the bodies had already started to attract more of those crows, which was doing nothing to improve the ambience of the scene.

“They were all the same kind of chimera though, weren’t they?” asked Al.

Syaoran exchanged a glance with Kurogane. “They all looked the same to us.”

“Did you have enough time to notice which way they came from?” Ed asked.

“They pretty much appeared out of nowhere. The first one we saw was over there,” Syaoran pointed with a finger. Everyone looked. The undergrowth and a few scraggly trees hid a lot, but not so much further on, the ground began sloping upwards sharply enough to be declared a part of a low cliff face by the time it had risen more than about a man’s height off the ground. As one, all those present (and conscious and not currently pretending to be inanimate) looked up.

There, at the top of the cliff, stood a structure which could only have been the back wall of the mansion.

“Figures,” Ed grumbled. “Damn that mayor.”

***

The tunnel leading into the hill was a feature they might well have missed altogether if they hadn’t been looking for it. It was low to the ground – the roof high enough to let something about the size of those chimeras pass through it, but scarcely higher, and the natural assumption under other circumstances would have been that it didn’t go back very far. A torch shone in through the entry quickly let them rule out that theory, though anything more than a few metres in was lost in gloom. The entrance smelt faintly of animal.

“Do you think it goes all the way to the mansion, nii-san?” asked Al.

“Where else would there be the there be the space for a chimera factory in a town like this?” Ed sighed. “I knew there had to be another way in.”

“For those chimeras, maybe,” said Fye. “It’s not much of a way in for anything human sized.”

There was a short, unpleasant silence.

Syaoran had the sudden urge to step a little further away from Ed, in case a blood vessel was about to burst in a messy fashion.

“Argh! Alright! I get the picture, I’m going!”

Ed stuck a hand out towards his brother. “Hand me that torch, Al.” There was a sizzling noise as a few pieces of innocent greenery were transmuted into a harness that would let Ed carry that torch without giving up any hands.

“I’m going too,” Syaoran announced, then lowering his voice and speaking to his companions, added, “If it’s really not just alchemy, then Sakura’s feather is probably in there.”

“Oi,” said Kurogane, and pulled him aside for a moment. They stopped a short distance away.

“They’re not looking for that stone as a curiousity. Not so they can lock it up somewhere safe either,” Kurogane told him. “Be careful.”

Syaoran found his eyes drifting back to the imposing bulk that was Alphonse, the conversation from the restaurant coming back to him. He shook himself.

“I will be. But I think we can trust them. We don’t know their reasons but I don’t think their intentions are bad.”

“You can expect more of those chimeras too,” Kurogane pointed out.

Syoaran nodded, and checked that Hien was secured safely to his side.

Ed was waiting for him at the tunnel mouth. The not-quite-frown on his face suggested he might have gone through the same reasoning regarding this exercise and the company he was going to keep. “Ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s get this over with.”

They had to crawl to get into the tunnel, but at least the floor was more sandy than rocky, and not too uncomfortable to move over. The light from Ed’s torch shone faintly over the walls ahead.




On to Part 5

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
cairaguas
Jun. 4th, 2007 07:02 am (UTC)
I like your classic Ed characterization. Keep up the story! :D
rallamajoop
Jun. 4th, 2007 10:28 am (UTC)
Thanks! Right now I'm aiming to get new parts up at least once a week (my beta reader and I have a sort of a schedule going at the moment), but if I get the next couple of parts done faster than that - which I won't promise but it's looking possible - then they'll be up sooner.
ontogenesis
Jun. 4th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
Very interesting. Your characterizations of both the FMA and TRC characters are good, and I like how you flesh out aspects of them with your guesses (Syaoran falling back on his kicking, Mokona's ability to drop them in convenient places, etc.)

rallamajoop
Jun. 4th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
Your characterizations of both the FMA and TRC characters are good,

Always something I like to hear, particularly considering how little I've written for any of the characters in either series before. They all picked up quite clear voices for me early on in the process of writing this, which helped a lot. It's nice to know readers like what I'm doing with them too. ^_^
vikki
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
I remember seeing the first chapter of this story some time ago, so when I checked back I was really pleased and excited to see this story was finished! The beginning was kind of awkward (after all, exposition is almost always impossible to work in with any kind of grace), but you did your best and when I put myself in the position of Ed and Al I saw that it was entirely reasonable for them to demonstrate Alchemy to people from another country with such pride.

Regarding this chapter, I loved the difference in perspective on the chimeras between Syaoran and Ed. Syaoran saw terrifying creatures; Ed sees failed, poorly-done alchemy. This story is a real delight to read.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

Tags

Latest Month

June 2019
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Keri Maijala