Fandom: FullMetal Alchemist
Summary: Ed and Al's search for the Philosopher's Stone, as seen through the perspective of Roy Mustang. Spoilers for most of the anime.
And here's the earlier chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4
The next time Roy saw the Elric brothers was in the great testing hall for the State Alchemist candidates. It wasn’t precisely packed and there were enough tables that each candidate had their own space but the two brothers, as expected, were seated next to each other. Roy stood at attention in his position to the right of the Fuhrer and watched the candidates carefully.
Every year, the exams for the State Alchemist positions comprised of a writing portion, an interview and finally a display of practical skills. It was also the best way for the military to weed out those who had skills that they could use. Most candidates attempting the trial were eliminated at the written exam. That the test was difficult was an understatement. Many alchemists spent years studying and trying to understand the intricacies of the science behind alchemy. The exam tested basic knowledge and grounding, as well as a candidate’s dedication to the pursuit of alchemy. Roy wondered if the boys could meet this starting challenge.
He tried not to show his anxiety as he watched them write furiously. Once again, he was struck by the alarming thought that Ed was really cute as he gnawed on his pencil while struggling with his answers. Roy was actually relieved when the time ran out and the papers were handed in.
He returned to his office with the hefty stack. Once again, as low man on the totem pole, he was tasked with correcting them. It was both a good thing and a bad one that he was one of the few State Alchemists in the military of a high enough rank trusted to take care of them. Most of the others were involved in pure research. Basque Grand was higher ranking of course, but he had a prison to look after and was always happy to foist/order Roy to do any tedious work. Asking General Hakuro to mark papers would be laughable—he was only involved because he liked to have his fingers in every pie that the Fuhrer was interested. Besides, he wasn’t an alchemist—only one could understand the answers anyway.
It took Roy several days to plough through them. At the end of which, he leaned back, a troubled frown on his face.
“What’s wrong, Lieutenant-Colonel?” Hawkeye asked. She’d been very kind in sparing him other paperwork during this period, though it was piling up awaiting Roy’s attention the moment he finished, he was sure.
Roy pushed one thick stack of answers forward on his desk. “I never expected the younger brother to do so well. His score is perfect. I couldn’t find anything wrong in any of the answers.”
“That’s not good?” Hawkeye asked, not quite sure why that was. For some reason, she understood that he was talking about Alphonse. Everyone in the office already knew Roy was concerned for the boys, even if he didn’t advertise the fact.
“Not at all,” Roy replied. “I guess I’ll have to go see them.”
Not wanting to put off delivering the bad news, he stood up and went off in search of them. He spotted them on a snowy bank near Tucker’s house. Soberly he told Alphonse he had no option but to bow out.
The resulting outburst was expected. “I can’t agree to that! Why? Why I shouldn’t take the interview?” Alphonse demanded, his voice rising in agitation.
“If you wish to hide your past and move forward to your goal, this is the only way,” Roy said as firmly as he could. He didn’t want to have to state the obvious, that if Al underwent the physical examination during the interview portion of the test, his secret would be out. At that point, being shipped off to a research facility would be all he could expect.
Al didn’t seem to understand. He continued to protest. “But I have the same goals! I can’t leave my brother…”
Roy shot a desperate glance at Edward, wondering if he could understand the importance of what Roy was asking of Alphonse. Ed met his eyes and a sudden clarity filled those golden irises.
Ed reached out a hand to steady his brother. “It’s all right, Al. Didn’t Aunty Pinako say State Alchemists get called to duty when a war breaks out? And they have to kill people using alchemy, which is supposed to be used for the good of the people. If you pass, it means you become a dog of the military,” Ed said. He tried to sound cheerful but Roy detected an underlying tone of bitterness.
“Only I should have to endure the shame of becoming a state alchemist. So I’ll become one and make your wish come true.”
Roy heaved a silent sigh of relief when Alphonse quieted down in surrender. It seemed that the elder brother had the ultimate influence upon the younger. He made a mental note that Edward was at least, quick on the uptake.
“Edward, prepare yourself for the interview. You’ll be asked why you wish to be a State Alchemist. Think about your answer carefully,” Roy warned. He refused to think that he was showing favoritism by warning him. He really didn’t want Ed to spring any surprises upon the board with his answer.
He left the boys with the time and place for Ed’s interview and returned to headquarters.
The next he saw Edward Elric was at the interview. Ed bravely met the Fuhrer’s challenge and sat upon the odd chair, unafraid. Then the Fuhrer asked the question that Roy was afraid of.
“Why do you want to be a State Alchemist?”
Roy almost held his breath, waiting for the answer. If the youth even spoke about human transmutation…
“Because I promised my only family member I would become a state alchemist!” Ed declared. There was a fire burning bright in his determined eyes.
Roy bowed his head to hide his smile. He was glad Edward hadn’t disappointed him.
Finally, it was the day of the physical skills test. This was probably the most difficult part of the exam. Alchemists had an option when they got to this portion. They could either submit reports on an experiment that they’d conducted or attend the field test and transmute something on the spot. It was at this point that most people failed.
Roy and his group of underlings had spent many a tedious hour dragging together all the materials to this arena for the test. There was a large mountain of earth that an overnight snowfall had turned into a picturesque snow-covered hill. A small pond of water lay in the middle, previously frozen in the cold weather and hastily liquefied by Roy with a snap of his fingers. Several large conifers were propped about.
With a word from Fuhrer Bradley, the wannabe alchemists surged forward. One swiftly drew an array around a pile of dirt and transmuted it into a somewhat crooked obelisk. Roy thought it was a little ostentatious and impractical but General Hakuro was exclaiming with pleasure to see the showy display.
“Excellent, but losing strength at the end, that’s not good,” Hakuro commented with a confiding air to the Fuhrer. He was obviously sucking up, big time.
A second alchemist rushed into the arena unwilling to let the first guy bask in the limelight too long. He drew a large array and began dragging his materials into it. Slapping his hands down upon it, the array lit up and with a flash, the raw materials were transmuted into a large balloon. It rose steadily up into the sky.
The murmurs of approval from the gathered examiners soon turned into snorts of disgust when the balloon burst a hole. Roy was among the first to get alarmed when he saw it shoot towards the distended obelisk. Before he could do anything, the tip had punctured the object. The obelisk broke apart and began to crumble down--right on top of its prone creator.
“This is not good!” Roy exclaimed, starting forward. By reflex, he pulled his gloves on, fingers at the ready to snap. Then he realized that he couldn’t do anything. The second Alchemist had obviously used hydrogen to power his inflatable into the sky. If Roy introduced any fire to the volatile mixture, the resulting explosion would probably take out everyone in the arena.
He gasped with shock when he saw Edward suddenly rush full tilt forward. The youth clapped his hands together and then stretched out his hands towards the crumbling mass of destruction. All of a sudden, the light of alchemy flared and the air was filled with a shower of pink flower petals.
“So he doesn’t need a transmutation array,” Roy said aloud in amazement. Edward Elric impressed him beyond his expectation. If he was such a prodigy at age 12, Roy didn’t even dare to think about what he’d be like in a few more years. Perhaps he could achieve his goal and restore his brother after all. Roy was so proud of him, as if Edward was his own discovery, except now he had to share.
Unanimously, all the examiners agreed—Edward Elric had passed the qualification exams for State Alchemist.