For a friend of mine who gave me a Hagaren poster, I wrote this 1000 word fic. It's a sad excuse for meta, and it makes no sense, and it refers far too much to King Lear, and it proves that even though I'm a dubbie I'm also a Japanese phrasing freak, but that's okay. Title links to FFN, if you'd rather comment that way.
Title: "Prices Paid / Forgotten"
Author: Kawaii Dragoness
Notes: Blame Ginger. She gave me a Hagaren poster, and (in the spirit of touka koukan, even if we're not alchemists) I write back 1000 words of Hagaren fic. Hee! I was actually talking to one of the facutly members at our school about touka koukan (describing it as "whatever you recieve, you must give") and why a Hagaren poster implies that I owe her something in return, and then the idea tumbled through my head until it turned into this. Also blame my physics class, oh and King Lear. Physics helped me define touka koukan and King Lear helped me on the theme of the idea of service and the proper way to serve; I also thought that it was an appropriate play for Alphonse to read while his brother researches.
Words: 1000 (exact, excluding notes and title). It's the number of words a picture is worth, after all. Touka koukan!
Warnings: A poor unbetaread imitation of meta, King Lear and introductory physics references, angst, backstory spoilers (kinda...but if you don't get the backstory why are you reading Hagaren fanfic?)
Disclaimer: Hah, you kid, right? I only saw 13 episodes when I started this, so you kid, you really kid. Do you honestly think I have those sort of skills!
What is the price for a human soul?
It was the one question Edward Elric had forgotten to consider, the one flaw the alchemist had. At his age, he had understood the process of the sinful art-human transmutation--he understood that array, the medium it needed. But that first law--the only one that really mattered, the one that applied to the world outside of alchemy-was the one he had forgotten.
They called it touka koukan or equivalent trade; outside of the alchemists' universe it is the conservation of matter, of energy, of momentum, of charge. "Whatever you receive, you must also give." It was the first law of alchemy, the first discussed in any book. No other rule could be applied outside of the alchemists' universe. No other law really mattered-and really, the study of alchemy was the study of what you had to give in order to receive. It was the first rule of life ingrained into the Elrics' memories, the rule they lived by.
Alphonse Elric had not forgotten about touka koukan; far from it. He had always done that--remembered what his nii-san had forgotten, filled in the gaps his nii-san made. He had, however, forgotten something equally important.
It was one of the morals Shakespeare had tried to teach his world. It was the definition of service. In order to truly serve, you had to question the one you served when you knew they were doing the wrong thing.
Edward had done the wrong thing; he had forgotten how much he would have to give, and how much it would shatter his universe to give so much. Alphonse had done the wrong thing; he had forgotten how much that fact would hurt his brother, and he had forgotten how to speak.
Edward had given his arm and leg, and possibly a good amount of his lifespan; Alphonse had sacrificed his entire body. And yet it was not enough to bring their mother back.
It was not touka koukan. The trade had not been equal.
There is no price for a human soul.
It made Alphonse wonder what Edward then gave to put his body into the suit of armor his soul now inhabited as a poor replacement for a body. What had Edward sacrificed? What was the touka koukan? Nii-san had never told him the price, what he had to give in order to receive.
Alphonse sat across from his nii-san in the National Library, watching him, able to think but not to feel. His brother's eyes were flitting wildly over yet another alchemy book, absorbing information as quickly as they humanly could. Nowadays, Edward's mind was singularly focused-on the Philosopher's Stone, on that precious rarest of objects, what would bring him back to his body, what would make Mother return.
Everything else--cats, Roy Mustang, being a dog of the military, all of it--was merely a part of it. Edward was merely tolerating his status in the military, tolerating his superior officer, not tolerating Alphonse's love for animals since they were in the way.
Alphonse remembered when Edward loved cats too; when it was their mother in the way between the brothers and the cat's care. The idea turned in his head for a minute, before returning to the first scene in King Lear, his favorite play. It was complex but he liked it because it always reminded him of what justice was, what service was, and what the price is for failing your duties. He wished nii-san understood how he served...it was chivalric. It was service. It was like the earl of Kent, who did anything for the one he had always believed worthy.
"To plainness honour's bound / When majesty falls to folly...in thy best consideration check / This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement..." [King Lear I.i.149-152]
If Alphonse had a heart, he knew it would ache every time he read those lines-every single time. Kent did the one thing he had not done, and Alphonse regretted it immensely. Kent had questioned. His honor had made him tell nothing but the truth when his master became a fool; he had sworn his life on his belief; he had done the right thing.
Kent had been punished for what he did right; but that was because this was Shakespearean tragedy, and that was because his master was becoming mad.
Alphonse had been punished for what he hadn't done; and this is the realm of alchemy...his brother, he realized, was becoming mad too.
Nii-san had lost his humanity. To give his brother some semblance of humanity, he had given up all of his own. To receive a helping hand, a loving figure, a friend, a confidante, more-Edward had given everything.
This is why human transmutation is considered the worst sin. No one can attempt it and end up human, no matter how brilliant or how powerful.
Touka koukan was written in unusually even handwriting on the top of the top page of a pile of notes that came to Edward's knee.
It's the first thing you learn, it's the thing you must remember no matter what, it is true in life as well as in alchemy, you must give in order to receive.
Edward had forgotten; Edward paid the price.
Service was written in unusually messy handwriting on the top of the title page of Alphonse's copy of King Lear.
It's the most major thing you learn, it's the thing you must remember no matter which of Shakespeare's historical tragedies you are reading, it is true in life as well as in art, you must question in order to serve.
Alphonse had forgotten, Alphonse paid the price.
The brothers had to earn the sacrifice to try again. They had to earn the materials, the brainpower, the knowledge, the Philosopher's Stone.
This time they would not forget, this time they would pay the proper price.
They would have each other as reminders, consciously or not.