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Tsubasa/FMA fic: Part 5

Title: Catalyst
Series: Tsubasa/Fullmetal Alchemist
Part: 5/11
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: 2530
Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4



From outside, sounds of the two boys moving along the tunnel quickly faded with distance, until there was nothing left to be heard.

“I hope they’ll be alright,” said Al anxiously.

“They’ll be fine,” Fye told him pleasantly. “But as long as there’s nothing much left for us tall folk to do out here, we may as well head back to the town to wait.”

Kurogane eyed Sakura’s sleeping form. It would be nice to say she looked peaceful, but when episodes like this hit her, she slept too much like a dead thing. “We should get the princess back to somewhere more comfortable too.”

Fye glanced back at Al, and caught the unusual sight of a suit of armour looking faintly awkward.

“Alphonse, why don’t you join us?” he offered. “Until they get back.”

“S-sure!”

With one last apprehensive glance at the tunnel mouth, Al gladly followed them away.

***

The tunnel was dry and sandy, sloping gently upwards as it travelled into the hillside. It wasn’t long before the dim aura of light that had been coming in from the entrance behind them faded completely, leaving Syaoran with nothing but what little of the torchlight was visible from behind the bulk of Ed’s body to see by. The tunnel was regular enough in shape and direction that they didn’t really need the light to find their way, but faced with the alternative of being cramped in here alone, Syaoran was increasingly grateful enough for both the light and the company. Ed’s various faults and mysteries were already starting to seem a lot less important.

“Hey,” said Ed’s voice, breaking him out of his reverie.

“Yeah?” said Syaoran. They’d both been quiet thus far, focused on the task of crawling, but it was getting tedious enough that one of them had been bound to break the silence before long.

“That Sakura,” said Ed. “Who is she really?” The tunnel muffled his voice slightly, the dirt walls too soft to sustain an echo, but not so much that understanding him was any trouble.

“She’s the princess of the country I come from.” They didn’t really have a better cover story, and Syaoran doubted anything he could have come up with on the spot would have been convincing enough that Ed could be taken in by it. It wouldn’t hurt to tell the truth.

“Heh… a genuine princess?” Ed sounded impressed, and surprisingly unskeptical.

Syaoran nodded automatically before he remembered Ed couldn’t see him from his angle, and felt faintly sheepish. “We’re journeying to find something of hers.”

“The feathers, right?”

Syaoran bumped his head sharply against a low point of the roof which he should have seen coming. From the tone of Ed’s response, he’d not only heard this happen, but had no trouble guessing exactly why.

“I did hear what you were saying before. They can’t be just regular feathers though, right?”

“Right,” said Syaoran, finding he did still have some instinct for caution left. “But it’s hard to explain.”

“Too hard or too secret?” said Ed, but didn’t pause long enough for Syaoran to answer. “Whatever, not my business, I know. If you’re not going to tell me don’t tell me, but if it’s something that could come out and bite us later, I’d like to know in advance.”

It was all quite embarrassingly reasonable, as those kinds of questions went. Syaoran took a breath. “The feathers… have a mysterious power. I don’t understand how it works well enough to explain it, but in the places we’ve been before we’ve seen them become responsible for a lot of strange things. If it isn’t the Philosopher’s Stone that’s being used to make those chimeras, then there might be a possibility one of the feathers is involved.”

Ed made a ‘hm’ sort of noise. He had to have more questions, but he seemed willing to let the subject go for now, for which Syaoran was grateful. Well, as long as they were asking difficult questions…

“Elric-san…” he started

“Ah, just ‘Ed’ is fine,” Ed cut in, “everyone else uses it.”

“…about Alphonse…”

“What?”

“His armour is empty, isn’t it?”

Ed’s head whipped around as far as the cramped tunnel allowed. “You – how…?”

“I’m sorry,” said Syaoran, with nothing but sincerity, “We didn’t mean to pry, but Kurogane has good instincts for those things.”

Ed hesitated. “Then he knew right from the start?”

“Yeah.”

“Huh, no helping it then. Guess it’s not going to kill us if you know about it.” Ed started moving down the tunnel again.

Syaoran followed. Ed hadn’t sounded like he was ending the subject, so he risked another question. “Then – Alphonse’s body – is that another kind of alchemy?”

“Yeah. It’s not too standard, but. Soul transmutation,” said Ed. “Al’s real body is gone, but this way he still lives in that armour.”

“But why would you…”

“Look, there weren’t a lot of other options, okay? If I hadn’t…” Ed paused. “You hear that?”

A second distant yelp echoed down the tunnel.

“I hear it,” Syaoran confirmed. “More chimeras?”

“Yeah, but there’s no room to fight them in here.”

From Syaoran’s angle, it was difficult to make out what Ed did after that declaration, except that it resulted in him ramming an elbow into a wall and a dull, metallic, thunk, though Ed barely flinched. He growled and shifted his weight further back so that he could hold is arms at an angle, giving him enough space to form a circle with his palms pressed together. Ed slammed his hands down to the tunnel floor, and there was a flicker of an alchemic reaction as a section of the floor rushed up to create a wall, blocking the way ahead just as the first chimera emerged from the gloom. The yelping silenced itself sharply.

“That should hold them,” He declared.

“Now what?” Syaoran had to ask, since although the chimeras were definitely not coming any closer, they’d just as definitely cut off their own journey as well.

Ed grinned back. “Leave that to me. We must be under the mansion by now.”

One more transmutation later, the boys were climbing upwards into a room old and large enough to make Ed’s guess sound very plausible indeed.

***

Al sat in one of those never-quite-large-enough chairs of the sort provided by cheap hotel rooms and felt awkward. Fye’s invitation hadn’t done much to put him at ease. His brother had said they needed to keep an eye on these people, which Al would have objected to on principle after they’d already been so much help, but he had to admit they were rather strange. The upshot was that now every time he noticed anything else that was ‘strange’ about them, he felt guilty about it.

And the man in the black clothes was making Al nervous.

Al was used to being stared at, it was one of those things that came with being a six foot metal man in a time centuries after plate-armour had gone out of fashion, but the way this man stared at him was something else. It was like he already knew all of Al’s secrets and was just waiting for confirmation or a few remaining details. It was the kind of stare that made you feel naked, and when, like Al, you were acutely aware there wasn’t anything there to be naked under your clothes, this was a severely disconcerting experience. Worse, the man’s companion had called him so many different things in the last few minutes that Al couldn’t remember how he’d been introduced anymore.

Someone patted Al on the shoulder, and made him jump so badly that several joints clattered embarrassingly loudly on landing. He looked around to see Fye’s smiling face.

“Don’t let Kuro-tan scare you, Al-kun,” said Fye, with what to Al at the time seemed like startlingly good insight. “He may look scary, but he’s just a big puppy, really.”

He should really take the man’s advice, Al decided. Surely if they could just find a safe topic to talk about the awkwardness would die down. “Um… Kuro-tan…”

The look on the man’s face as his head whipped around made all the glares Al had gotten so far that day pale in comparison. “Do not call me that! It’s Kurogane, alright?”

Al panicked. “I’m sorry! I just… I forgot… I mean… I didn’t realise no-one else was allowed to call you that! I won’t do it again!”

As the expression on Kuro-whatever’s face shifted yet again, Al realised too late that he’d made entirely the wrong assumption.

“Aw, Kuro-tan, don’t worry,” said Fye, before Al could com up with a new apology. “I won’t get jealous if you let someone else call you Kuro-tan as well.”

It seemed safe to say, based on the – the only possible word for it was ‘eruption’ – that followed, that Kurogane did not precisely agree. Al was left wishing, not for the first time since that day, that he was still small enough to crawl under a table and hide.

***

The escape tunnel Ed had made had to go up a long way before it encountered open air, but the alchemist had the foresight to make a rough ladder out of the walls as well, so that climbing it was not difficult. Syaoran stuck he head out to find himself in a large room, lit from somewhere above, features swimming into proper focus gradually as his eyes adjusted to the light.

“What did I tell you?” said Ed’s voice proudly, coming from somewhere out of Syaoran’s sight. “Right under the old mansion. Careful where you step – the mayor wasn’t kidding when he said this place was past it’s prime.”

Although those days must have been a very long time ago, it wasn’t difficult to believe that it’s ‘prime’ must have been very good indeed. From the size of the room alone – to say nothing of the rest of the complex – anyone who’d ever had the means to maintain this place must have been very rich. The light Syaoran had seen came from a wall of giant windows looking out into the western sky, although little glass survived in any of them now. The room itself was in such a state that it would be difficult to hazard more than a guess as to what it had ever been used for. Parts of the roof had fallen in at places (though nothing creaked enough to suggest they had any intention of continuing this process today, to Syaoran’s relief), and the floor was scattered with so much debris as to give the impression that the last owner must have taken to any remaining furniture with a sledge hammer before he left. The hole they’d made in the floor was also not a unique feature.

Syaoran pulled himself the rest of the way up the ladder and picked somewhere to put his feet with care.

“It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here recently,” he ventured.

“Maybe, but I’ll bet there’s plenty of space in here for whatever you’d want to do without anyone needing to use this room.” Ed started picking his way gingerly across the floor. “And I wouldn’t blame them for leaving it. I hope the whole house isn’t going to be as much of a mess as this.”

Syaoran didn’t follow him immediately. He took another long look around and came to an unexpected conclusion. “Hey, this place wasn’t… attacked or caught in a freak storm or something just after it was abandoned, was it?”

“Not that I know of,” Ed replied, wincing as a foot crunched through something wooden that had looked reasonably solid up to a moment ago. “Sounds like the sort of thing the mayor would have mentioned if it had. Why?”

“There’s something wrong about this place. There’s too much damage. It can’t have been abandoned for more than fifty years, and houses like this are built to last much longer than that. Unless it was poorly made to begin with, for it to be this bad, some of the damage must be deliberate. My father was an archaeologist,” he added, when Ed gave him a curious look. “I’ve been seeing old and ruined buildings since I was a kid.”

“You think so?” Ed looked around, seeing the room in a new light. “If someone really was hiding up here,” he said thoughtfully, “making this place seem unsafe would definitely be a way to keep people out. It’d be a hell of a lot of work to go through to make it this convincing though.”

“Yeah,” Syaoran agreed. Ed continued to study the room until his eye caught on something by the doorway. He grinned.

“Hah. Wait there a minute, I’ve got a hunch,” he said, and made his way over the remainder of the floor between himself and the doorway without only a few minor mishaps, in the form of a slip on some leaves, a foot skidding just barely over the edge of a concealed hole, and a few unpleasant crunching noises. Leaning against one of the walls by the door was remains of what might once have been an ornate cabinet, which Ed leant his weight against until he’d shoved it a little to the side.

Ed gave the exposed patch of wall another grin and put a hand on something Syaoran couldn’t see. A moment later, the crackle of an alchemical reaction swept across the floor, making Syoaran perform the undignified stumble of someone trying to leap out of the way only to discover there’s nowhere any safer for him to land. It ended with him sprawled uncomfortably on the floor.

“Oi, calm down, I was transmuting the floor, not you.” Ed called to him. Syaoran winced, pulled himself together and looked around, and only then realised how much the room had changed. The uneven floor had been repaired to near perfectly smooth, the broken furniture resolved into two tables, three bookshelves, a cabinet and a grand piano, all showing their age, but otherwise in fairly good condition given the length of their abandonment. A neat pile in the middle of the room was made up of miscellaneous wreckage, mostly things that must have blown in through the broken windows from outside – mostly leaves and the like.

“There’s an alchemist living here alright,” said Ed, stepping out of the way of what he’d discovered on the wall. Syaoran squinted and made out a complex circular shape, apparently carved into the wall.

“Is that a transmutation circle?” he asked.

“Yeah, in fact, there’s two of them,” Ed tapped a finger on a second which sat below the first, “Reverse reactions – one to mess the room up, the other to fix it again in case whoever’s living here needs to get through, I guess. Pretty nice trick. It’s still a lot simpler than making chimeras would be, but it’s not beginner’s stuff either. I’ll bet there’s circles like these in every room of this place.”

Syaoran nodded. “Whoever’s been here doesn’t want to be found.”

“Doesn’t want to be kicked out for squatting, at any rate,” said Ed. “C’mon, let’s see what else we can find.”




On to Part 6

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
tommyrotter
Jun. 12th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)
This is such a good crossover fic--so good that I hemmed and hawed over commenting on how good it is (I'm a lurker I'm afraid).

But the thing that got me over the edge was the Kuro-tan part o-omg I died.

Please continue this, because it is absolutely wonderful! :)
rallamajoop
Jun. 12th, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)
Hah, yeah, I know the problem. *has some bad lurker habits herself*

But the thing that got me over the edge was the Kuro-tan part o-omg I died.

*grin* I was hoping people would like that part - it's one of my personal favourites from this fic so far.

Please continue this, because it is absolutely wonderful! :)

You just try and stop me! Parts six and seven are with my beta reader now, and eight is coming along nicely too. And thank you for breaking out of lurker-dom long enough to comment - feedback's been a bit sparse on this fic, and it really is a great encouragement. ^_^
aetherae
Jun. 12th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
OHBOYOHBOYOHBOY! :DDD

This crossover is turning out quite nicely. :3 I really like it so far!
rallamajoop
Jun. 12th, 2007 12:47 am (UTC)
Glad to hear it. ^_^ I'm pretty happy with how it's shaping up so far, and it's always a boost to hear people are enjoying the result - thanks!
ontogenesis
Jun. 13th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Curiouser and curiouser. I'm really interested about what is going on in that mansion...
rallamajoop
Jun. 13th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
Well, that's the idea, y'know. ^_~ All shall be revealed in time!
vikki
Jul. 12th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
YES. *dies*

Worse, the man’s companion had called him so many different things in the last few minutes that Al couldn’t remember how he’d been introduced anymore.

*howls with laughter* Poor Alphonse! And the later explosion ... it figures he'd be terribly uncomfortable about it around a stranger! With Ed, when it's just the two of them, he seems pretty cool about it, but when a stranger does the same sort of thing it must be incredibly disconcerting. XD;;

I adore your voice for Edward, but especially Syaoran. Although I'd have to say he's my favorite character of all time, a lot of how he ticks is a total mystery to me; I can barely write him. You've done such a great job with him - I'm very impressed!

I loved the part at the end of this chapter, when Syaoran analyzes the mansion from the perspective of an archeologist, and again when he sprawls on the floor in startled reaction to the transmutation. =D
rallamajoop
Jul. 13th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
*howls with laughter* Poor Alphonse! And the later explosion ... it figures he'd be terribly uncomfortable about it around a stranger!

^^; Y'know, I went into this fic thinking 'Ed and Syaoran would be great together - and hey, maybe I can do something with Al and Sakura too. Perfect!' Took me a while longer to realise what effect Fye and Kurogane would have on Al - but oh, did I have fun with them once I did.

I adore your voice for Edward, but especially Syaoran. Although I'd have to say he's my favorite character of all time, a lot of how he ticks is a total mystery to me; I can barely write him. You've done such a great job with him - I'm very impressed!

He really is one of those bizarre characters - especially in Tsubasa. He's such an intense kid so much of the time, but he still has those complete moments of comic helplessness when he's drunk or being dressed up like a girl or whatever else they're putting him through. And yet he doesn't feel anything like most other characters with that kind of mix of characteristics. I'm probably lucky I managed to find a voice for him so easily writing this, I can't imagine I ever would have been up to it a year or two ago.

Just want to say here that I'm not sure whether I'll get to answering all your comments, but thanks so much for so much nice feedback, it really brightened my morning. ^_^

(Random: I'm sure I remember reading some of your fic way back when I first got into FMA years ago. I probably wouldn't have commented - I was awful with feedback in those days - but I do seem to recall enjoying it.)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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