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: 2640
Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
The release of the chimera in such a dramatic manner was a nice trick, but all it achieved was to set a single beast against the two of them, and this time they were on safer footing. Syaoran hadn’t yet had the opportunity to find out how well or even whether Ed could fight (beyond getting the general impression he was the sort of person who could handle himself) but now that Ed was over the initial shock of feeling the reaction backfire and back on his feet, he was staring that chimera down as thought he could handle half a dozen of them before breakfast. When it leapt at him in the fairly predictable manner of its kind, it collided with a solid metal fist coming the other way. The chimera flew almost all the way back to the array it had come from and didn’t move again.
“You’re the one who’s been behind all these chimeras, aren’t you?” said Ed, addressing the mysterious alchemist boy at the centre of the amplifier. “I’d have a lot of questions about how you managed it all, but I don’t think this is the time. Who are you?”
“Why won’t you come back?” said the boy, eyes turned longingly upwards, as if he could see something there no-one else saw. His voice was soft and yet carried unnervingly well; he certainly did not seem to be addressing either of the intruders. “If you came back, we could bring him back too. We could all be together again.”
“Whoever he is, I don’t think he’s listening to us,” said Syaoran. “I wonder who he thinks he’s talking to.”
“I don’t think we’re going to find out,” Ed replied, frowning. “It’s like he’s forgotten we’re here. I hate the crazy ones.”
“He’s just a kid,” Syaoran felt obligated to point out.
“Take it from me,” said Ed, with feeling, “even kids who get into alchemy can reach dangerous territory fast if no-one keeps an eye on them.”
Still not looking at them, the boy laid a hand gently on another of the small circles that surrounded him. An array not far from the intruders reshaped and crackled in answer, and the wall Ed had built around the chimera pack dissolved into thin air, revealing seven angry looking beasts.
“Cheh,” Ed grumbled, now with a look that amended the previous one with the information that, just because he could, didn’t mean he actually wanted to deal with half a dozen of them (especially if he wasn’t going to be rewarded with breakfast afterwards). “So much for taking care of those without violence. Looks like we’ll have to deal with them the old fashioned way.”
Syaoran nodded and drew his sword, but since doing so did not usually involve a sound like an alchemical reaction at close quarters, he couldn’t help but glance back over his shoulder one more time before the chimeras took over his full attention.
Apparently, to Ed, ‘the old fashioned way’ meant with a spear longer than its creator was tall.
Fye was the first to speak. “We aren’t here to make you go anywhere,” he said kindly. “But if you can tell us who it is who’s trying to make you do that, we might be able to help.”
“That was alchemy you used on that chimera before,” said Kurogane, not bothering to make it a question. “The chimeras are coming from the mansion, not here, so you aren’t the one making them. You know who is, though right?”
The boy looked from one of them to the other with the bewildered expression of a beaten child meeting with friendly strangers after far too long without human contact of any kind. Fye knelt down in that way of his that looked like he’d doubled up vertically – all those lanky limbs folded up and down and inwards to produce an origami model of someone much smaller and less threatening.
“The tall dark one here can be a bit scary, but we mean it – we really can help you out if you’ll let us. Why don’t you start by telling us your name? You can come out of there too – it can’t be comfortable, and those nasty chimeras are gone now.”
The boy blinked at them slowly, then pushed on a panel in his wire sphere until it moved out of the way, far enough to give him the space to crawl out. He got to his feet a little shakily, but seemed steady enough once he got there. “I’m Ran,” he said.
“Wonderful to meet you. You can call me Fye,” Fye smiled back. “And the dark one here is…”
“Kurogane,” said ‘the dark one’ firmly. For once in his life, Fye let this pass without comment.
“The one making the chimeras is my brother,” Ran told them solemnly.
“He’s had them looking for you all along?” Kurogane suggested.
Ran answered with a small nod.
“And he wants you to come back to the mansion?” added Fye. There was another small nod in response.
“I took something he needs,” said Ran, reaching into a pocket.
When what he produced was one of Sakura’s feathers, neither of them were particularly surprised.
“It was buried under the mansion,” Ran explained. “We found out that all the reactions we tried worked better in the cellar. They got easier the further down we dug. At the bottom, this is what we found.”
“Ah. Then it’s been acting as a… what would you call it – a catalyst, perhaps?” suggested Fye.
“Some of the circles we made with it did far more than that,” said Ran. “They’d form by themselves, and they’d do things the books told us we shouldn’t have been able to do. We broke rules no-one should have been able to break.” He looked down, away from them.
Fye put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Don’t feel ashamed. Anyone would be scared by that. There’s more to the reason you ran away though, right?”
There was another small nod.
“What about your parents? They’re not around?”
“We don’t have any parents,” said Ran. “A man called Ben was the one who took care of us.”
“Is he the one who taught you and your brother alchemy? And helped you into the mansion?”
“People didn’t like it when we practiced alchemy in the town,” said Ran. “They were always scared we’d do something wrong. So Ben found us a way to get into the mansion.
No-one bothered us there.”
“Where’s this ‘Ben’ now?” asked Kurogane.
Ran looked straight down at the floor, shoulders hunching inwards. “My brother – Aiden – he didn’t mean for it to happen. The reaction went wrong, and when…”
Fye gave his shoulder a light pat. “We get the idea. You don’t have to tell us everything if you don’t want to. It’s alright.”
Ran shook his head. “It’s not alright. Aiden thinks that with the feather, he can bring Ben back again. The books all say that making humans is the one thing you must never do, but he thinks that with the feather, it will work. That’s why I had to get it away.
“Everything works differently when you use it. Some of the circles only worked when it was close by. I tried to destroy it – I thought if I could, the circles Aiden is using to make the chimeras might not work anymore and everything would go back to the way it was supposed to be, but transmutation doesn’t work on it.” He fell silent.
“Now there,” said Fye, “I think we can help you out.”
By the time the last chimera fell, the great circle that had made them was shining with energy once again. Syaoran’s body tingled in a way that meant he’d be feeling all this exertion just as soon as he had time for it, and he would have to watch how much weight he put on his left ankle – there were teeth marks in it, fortunately not deep, though the chance to find out first hand how right Ed had been about the inefficiency of those teeth was not one he’d savoured. Ed himself had no new damage since being thrown into the wall, unless his automail had a minor scratch or two. Blocking the worst blows with his artificial limbs was a skill he’d mastered beautifully.
The chimeras were far more annoying than deadly, but Syaoran had no desire to deal with any more. As soon as the last one feel, he cleared the distance between himself and the array in two quick steps and slashed his weapon through it, slicing off a good portion of the bottom half. As soon as it fell the wire above started moving, the circle trying to repair itself, but the result was something even the inexperienced eye could tell within a glance had only a fraction of the complexity of the original – barely even managed symmetry. The best reaction the remade circle could achieve was a faint, sad puff of smoke.
Ed grinned at his companion’s handiwork, and they both turned back to the centre of the room.
The boy removed his hand from the circle it had rested on and frowned. Absently, he transferred it to another.
Ed just barely got a shielding wall up before the sharp ends of a few hundred strands of deceptively fine wire would have hit them. He gave a small sigh of not-very-relieved relief as they both heard the metallic crunching noises coming from the other side of the wall finish, and started to rise back to his feet, too slowly.
“Ed, above you!” yelled Syaoran urgently.
Ed looked up, saw the new mass of wire coming over the top of the wall, gave up on any kind of dignified retreat and just managed to roll out of the way before a lot of pointy metal stabbed downwards into the empty floor. Foiled a second time, the wire started drawing back again…
..and several strands snagged on Ed’s left arm and wrapped around it, making him shriek in pain as he was dragged upwards…
…and Syaoran drew his sword again and sliced through the attacking wires just above their captive, forcing them to return over the shield empty-handed. But if this pattern of attack continued, neither boy could fail to realize they’d be back again in seconds.
Wincing, Ed clapped his hands and pressed the right one against the newly made wall, directing a portion near the top to reshape itself to spread over their heads, changing texture as it did so. The returning wire hit it with a wet noise, some strands penetrating far enough through to appear a few inches past the other side, then stuck fast as the material hardened around it like setting glue.
Ed gritted his teeth and rubbed his injured arm. “That’ll hold it for a bit. But I still can’t transmute that wire he’s using – the counter-reaction must be too strong.”
Syaoran watched him pull loose bits of severed wire of his arm, and glanced around the edge of their protective shelter to where the lower half of the array he’d broken lay on the floor. “It seems like he loses control of it once it breaks off from the main device, but it’d take us forever to take it all apart like that.”
“Yeah. But those aren’t the only ways to put a toy like that out of action,” Ed replied, and clapped his hands again.
A second later, there was a rumble from somewhere near the roof, and Syaoran found himself fervently hoping the elder Elric brother knew what he was doing. In a ring on the ceiling high above the wire creation, cracks started to appear, the rumbling got louder. It suddenly seemed like a very good idea to Syaoran to duck back behind the comparative shelter of the shield Ed had made and cover his head and ears with his hands; and from then until the dust started to clear, all he knew of what was going on outside were the groans of earth creaking and shifting, the hiss of moving sand and the distorted musical twanging of metal moving against metal down below.
Ed coughed once and swore loudly, and Syaoran finally looked up to see what state the room was now in.
It was, in fact, in a new shape entirely. Parts of the ceiling had made a valiant attempt at collapsing but been stopped before they could descend so far as to damage any more than the tops of the largest circles. The amplifier had rebuilt itself once again so that a new wire circle was turned towards each of the walls, transforming them into raw material that had swarmed upwards to reinforce the roof. It looked like someone had flattened the room from above.
“Won’t let me do that either, huh?” Ed growled.
The boy in the centre of the room had turned his eyes upwards – surveying his handiwork, they assumed at first, but then when he didn’t look down they had to start to wonder whether that was really the case, or whether he was seeing someone who wasn’t there again. Neither of them saw him move his hand to the next circle.
The ground cracked underneath them a moment before the first wires came shooting through from below, giving them both just enough warning to throw themselves sideways before a lot of sharp metal would have skewered through their feet. The wire burst upwards then twisted and spread outwards, getting as far as to wrap a few tendrils around Hien and Ed’s metal arm; held out in front of the boys defensively, even as Ed twisted to get his hands together again. The bulk of it finally stilled inside another block of Ed’s transmuted glue.
Both of them panted on the ground for a few seconds, staring around the mess of remaining wire to try to spot where the next attack would come from. It didn’t come right away.
“Ran, why did you have to leave?” said the boy, sadly. “I can transmute living animals now, I showed you the chimera I made. As long as I have the feather, I could make a human too. I could bring Ben back, and we’d all be together the way we used to be.”
“Making humans?” Ed burst out.
“The feather?” spluttered Syaoran.
For the first time since this began, it seemed the boy might have actually noticed/heard them.
“Any reaction you can do with alchemy you can reverse,” said the boy. “The books taught us that. Even if it was an accident, why would humans be any different? All I need is for you to bring it back to me. If you hadn’t taken it, it would all be done by now.”
Syaoran started to ask just where this feather had gone, but Ed drowned his question out.
“You’re insane!” he yelled. “You think a human transmutation is like any other reaction? Even the Philosopher’s Stone can’t bring back the dead! There’s nothing in the world equivalent to a human life that you could trade for it. Why do you think it’s forbidden?”
The boy looked at Ed, or maybe at something past him, from the way his eyes were defocused. “But we have the feather. With that, we can do anything – the rules don’t matter. I can bring Ben back, and things can go back to how they’re meant to be, with the three of us here together.
And with a look that made them wonder whether not having his attention up until now had really been a bad thing, he concluded, “That’s doesn’t work if you’re here.”
With a movement of his hands, wire spun itself into a thicker strand than any so far, and lashed out towards them like a whip.
On to Part 10