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07 February 2015 @ 02:04 pm
HALF LIVES 3: OUR LIVES CH 45: "THE JEWEL IN HIS CROWN"  
HALF LIVES 3: OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 45: “THE JEWEL IN HIS CROWN”
By binaryalchemist
Rating: This chapter rated PG 13 for language -short chapters due to LJ.
Pairing: Roy/Ed, Havoc/Hawkeye, past Hughes/Roy, references to Ed and Winry’s divorce and Winry’s remarriage
Spoilers and Warnings: Post-Manga verse, Star of Milos, the FMA Novels and Prince of the Dawn game. Yaoi romance/angst/humor
Plot:  Roy and Ed have been together for 15 years now—Roy prepares to fulfill his 520-cenz promise to make Amestris a democracy, but just before Roy’s 50th birthday and his wedding to Edward a tell-all biography about Mustang is published  that sets the country on its ear---because the ‘truth’ about the Promised Day is about to come out, with Roy miscast as the evil genius behind it all…
Chapter Summary: Roy Mustang has faced the Amestrian Parliament in a closed session to reveal at last the events of The Promised Day—and the last word will be Ling Yao’s, as Parliament learns of the final Philosopher’s Stone-and what became of it…
A/N: Feedback greatly appreciated---“Half Lives”, “Whole Lives” and other fics hosted at fanfiction.net at http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1651220/BinaryTales and also at  my new host  at AO3. Thanks for reading!!!
OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 45: THE JEWEL IN HIS CROWN
By The Binary Alchemist, 2015

              
                “Am I going to die?”
                The earnestness of that simple question cut as deeply into Edward’s kindly heart as a slash from Lust’s claws.  There was no trace of Pride in this young man, only the odd round scar on his brow where that monster had fed power into him—and probably had feasted on him as well. It was the sickest goddamn thing Ed could imagine and the sooner Selim Bradley could put this horror behind him, the better.
                “I didn’t kill you then, and I’m not gonna let anybody kill you now.  You’re not a monster, and now you’re nobody’s puppet. And if it means I have to get you into hiding somewhere out of the country, then by hell I’ll do it. And,” he added quickly, “your mother too.  But I don’t think it’s gonna come to that.” He clapped his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Between the President and the Prime Minister and Parliament, we’ll find a way. I fought too damn hard to save you from that thing that took you over. I’ll be double goddamned if I let you be lost now.”
#####
                “I’m still not sure…”
                His Celestial Excellency Emperor Ling Yao offered his reflection a critical eye. “Western clothing is so…restrictive. These trousers. Too tight in the crotch.” He glanced over his shoulder at Sheng Yao and frowned. “Could have a negative effect on my ability to father sons.”
                “Father…at this point I have so many siblings that I have to send out New Year’s greetings cards addressed as ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ I don’t know even half of them now. You’ve sired nearly as many offspring as my august grandfather.  At any rate, wearing Western attire in the courtroom will make you less alien…more approachable.  Some Westerners, I have observed, are uncomfortable in the presence of the unfamiliar. This is not a moment to intimidate them.”
                “I’m the Celestial Emperor, damn it. I’m supposed to intimidate my subjects!”
                Prince Sheng adjusted his rimless spectacles and met his father’s petulance with impatience. “The only subjects in the chambers today will be your own retinue, Ran Fan and myself—and you ceased to intimidate me the day you married a film star and were photographed drinking champagne from her shoe.”
                Ling’s jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide in astonishment.  “What did you say? I could have you beheaded for insolence,” he grumbled, smiling ruefully and playfully ruffling his son’s dark hair. “That’s what you get for hanging around with Western women.” Ling adjusted his tie and peered back into the mirror.  “Speaking of which, I’m assuming you’ll be announcing your intentions soon.”
                “You assume incorrectly. I have no intentions to announce.”
                Ling snorted in disgust. “You’re a prince, damn it! You don’t ask. You command.”
                The alchemist nodded. “And she is lady, whom I honor and respect.  There will be no ‘intentions’ announced unless it is absolutely clear that the lady has ‘intentions’ herself. And that may never come to pass.”
                “You mean you’d be fool enough to let her go?”
                “If it meant keeping her friendship? Yes.”
                “If she knew the full scope of your inheritance, she’d be interested,” Ling gave his son a knowing look.               
Sheng Yao sighed, and touched the protective amulet his father had given him, bidding the prince to wear it at all times since leaving his native land. “I suppose we’ll see the truth of it in time then, Father.”

              
              
               
#####
                “Where’s Kingy? I don’t see him!”  Fashionably attired in a suit of cream silk and a pale pink blouse, Gladys Turlough strolled into the Chambers of Parliament on Al’s arm, blue eyes wide and taking in everything.
                “Probably planning some grand friggin’ entrance on the back of an elephant.” Ed frowned. He considered Ling a friend but found royal protocol pretentious and useless.  “He farts when he eats beans, same as any guy. And he’s got people on the payroll that actually wash his dick for him? Incredible!”
                “Ed.” A sharp glance from Mustang. “He has to play the same games as any other heads of state. Lay off.”
                “Huh!” Settling into his seat, Ed folded his arms and looked annoyed. “I don’t see anybody around Rose Hill washing your dick.”
                “No. But I do have someone who kisses it goodnight.”
                Ed snorted. “I’m not on the payroll. If you’re gonna play that game, I should get at least as much as the Imperial Dick Washer—“
                “Can it, Dad!” A sharp elbow caught Ed in the ribcage as Maes caught sight of Ran Fan and Hawkeye flanking a tall, slim figure in a sharply tailored Western suit being escorted to a seat in front of the assembly.  “Here we go….”
#####

                An aide approached Major General Armstrong and passed her a note.  She read it. She nodded and reached for her coffee. “Get me Falman.”
                He had been called to serve as Roy’s attaché to Briggs ever since the Promised Day and it had suited Vato Falman well indeed. It hadn’t been easy.  Negotiating with the Ice Queen was often like gently grasping the reins of a madly charging horse and trying to stop it by softly whispering  ‘whoa, Nelly!’ when what one wanted to do was to yank with all one’s strength at the bridle and scream ‘STOP, GODDAMN IT!’ She was brilliant. She was ruthless, and sometimes it seemed that she was half a heartbeat away from seceding from Amestris and making her own rebel nation in her frozen mountains.  But, at the heart of it, she was a woman of honor and courage. For all her seeming disdain for the President and her threats of saber rattling, Falman knew she could be trusted as fully as he trusted Roy Mustang.
                Entering her quarters, he snapped to a sharp salute. “Ma’am!”
                Silently, she passed him the message. Falman scanned the words and passed it back to her.  “This is the last hand, Falman,” she told him sternly. The cards have been dealt. They are going to find out about the last Philosopher’s Stone. Mustang is going to have to answer for how he let it slip through his fingers and into the hands of the Emperor.  This is when we see if this gambit has paid off—to see if that lazy, lascivious son of a bitch can be the better man in the end.  You’d better be right about this, Falman. Otherwise I’ll have wasted a small fortune on this scheme and if I’ve miscalculated because of your misplaced loyalty to that greenhorn upstart, I’m going to take it out of your ass. “
#####
                “No gongs. No fanfare. No kissing the carpet at your feet.  Quiet. Dignified and factual.” Ling signed inwardly. Sheng Yao could be so bloody serious sometimes.  The Emperor had no idea how the kid had turned out to be such a killjoy.  The nerve of that little jerk telling him what to do!  But a promise was a promise and for all his faults Ling always managed to keep his word, even if it annoyed the hell out of him to do it.
                He allowed himself one standard bearer and wore only the simplest of crowns—the tiny box-like affair in antique gold bound in red brocade, held in place by a single large golden pin. Looked smart with his dark silk suit and kept his topknot neatly tucked away. His nails were buffed, his western leather shoes polished to a high sheen. Not even a speck of dandruff dared to touch his imperial shoulders.
                Unlike Roy Mustang, he did not announce his title at the beginning of his testimony. If there was anybody in the Parliament chambers who didn’t know who the hell he was, then their opinions were of no real consequence….
#####
                “Are you all right?” Nina glanced over at the prince, who seemed paler than usual. There was a grim set to his face and his eyes never swerved from his father’s face.
                “These are hard words for your people to hear.  The Fuhrer of Amestris, attacking the future Emperor with two swords—“
                “And omitting specific details about his true identity—“
                “—as well as my father’s.”
                She leaned in closer. “And whose idea was that?”
                For an instant, he turned his eyes to hers. “In the end…would it have accomplished any real purpose to identify his affiliation with The Ultimate Shield?”
                “You asked him to lie?”
                As if asking for silent strength from the gods of his ancestors, Sheng touched his amulet again. “I advised him to evade, even as President Mustang managed to evade sharing the affiliation between King Bradley and The Ultimate Eye—and as he advised Bradley’s son not to name the name of the Prideful One. Would there be any real good come of revealing these truths, weighed against the harm it would cause?”
                To his surprise, she clasped his hand tightly. “No,” she sighed. “You’re right. And nobody would believe it.”
#####
                There was one point, however, that the Emperor could not avoid or talk around: The Philosopher’s Stone.  And while Roy had made it clear to all the horrors of its making, he couldn’t quite dispel the belief that it had been, at least to some degree, effective.
                He was questioned directly—and the Prime Minister was not smiling.
                “They have a limited lifespan? These stones are not self sustaining?”
                “No.  They wear out or are depleted.  I believe this is based on the number of people who were resourced to make them.”
                “Resourced?”
                “Sacrificed. Murdered, if you wish to be technical.” He nodded, and a retainer offered him a sip of tea from a delicate porcelain cup. “People were murdered to create a …well, to use a modern term, a battery. An amplifier for alchemic power.  But it has a very short lifespan of usefulness, and the cost in human lives is...well….not equal to what is produced in the end.  It’s a waste and a cruelty, chasing a dream that could be achieved just as well by hard work.”
                “But,” the Prime Minister pressed, “weren’t the stones used for healing?  I understand that the stone Dr. Marcoh obtained was used to heal the President’s eye injuries and to help Jean Havoc recover from his spinal injuries.”
                Rising, Roy nodded. “That is true, Ma’am. And while I am deeply grateful for the return of my vision, I am in no way forgetful of the cost of the cure.  If there had been a way to return those souls to their bodies, I would have refused in a heartbeat. But,” his voice became emphatic, “life only flows in one direction.  The souls had no bodies to return to—and the testimony about the mannequin army is more than enough proof that creating artificial bodies to house the souls trapped in the stone would have been an even greater disaster. At that time…the decision was made that the two surviving stones be used up or disposed of.  Dr. Marcoh used the remaining power of his stone to heal the sick. As for the other stone…” Roy turned and nodded towards the Emperor. “It left the country in the possession of the Emperor.”
                No one stirred in the chamber.
 After a stunned silence, the Prime Minister cleared her throat and choosing her next words with great precision, as if she truly did not want to hear the answer to the question she offered to the Celestial Emperor of Xing:
“And where is the last stone now?”
Ling brightened, and for a brief instant Edward could have sworn he saw an echo of ‘GreedLing’ in his old friend’s expression.
“It’s in the safest place I could think of. In the one place I knew for absolute fact it would never be abused.
“You want the last Philosopher’s Stone?” Smiling broadly now, Ling rose and he pointed directly at Sheng Yao. “He’s got it.”

Nina’s blood turned to ice.  She was about to be sick. Her head jerked to the right, just in time to see her father’s eyes go wild with fury, Mae’s intercepting his father before Ed could get his hands on the young prince.
Before Ed could open his mouth, Roy’s hand gripped his shoulder like iron. “Not now.”
“You little BASTARD!! What did you do to me??“
“SHUT…UP.” Roy’s eyes were cold and furious. “Not the time. Not the place. Later.”

With quiet dignity, Prince Sheng Yao rose and bowed to the assembly.  Moving swiftly through the crowd, he approached the Prime Minister.  Reaching behind his head, he unfastened the clasp of the chain around his neck and held up his amulet. “This is a ghau.  Every Xingese wears one, most often concealed and worn over the heart. They are prepared at birth and invested when a child is ten years of age.  Traditionally, they contain a bit of the umbilicus, small scriptures—sutras from the writings of the Great Sages, along with some small memento from one’s parents, as a sign that binds parent and child together. A lock of hair, perhaps—a note of blessing.
“Mine, in particular, carries a memento from my Celestial sire—what he refers to as my ‘inheritance’. He had chosen me to succeed him when he goes to the gods. I respectfully declined, choosing to become a doctor and alchemist instead.  But when he invested me with my ghau, he gave me his ‘crown jewel’ to keep in spite of my refusal.” He offered the talisman to the Prime Minister. “Would you like to see what so many millions have died for?”
It was smaller than Ed remembered, and darker in color. More opaque than translucent, it looked as if much of its power had been spent.  He could barely contain his anger and Roy had not released his fierce grip on Ed’s shoulder.  “You used it.”
“In a time of plague. The people of Nihon were dying—and I am of their blood. It was a thing I could stop—and in stopping it I could prevent a terrible death not only in Xing but in Koriyo and Seim as well. From there it would have spread to Tonkin and Anam.  Xing and the Five Jewels would have been decimated—and in time, the infection would have spread across the desert to Ishbal and Amestris.”
“A pandemic?” the Prime Minister wanted to know.
“Very likely.”
“My son was only twelve but he was studying with Master Mai Chang and Master Alphonse.  When the first cases of the plague began to cross our northern border, he heard them discussing it with my ministers.  When the death toll began to rise, my son became very worried about his kindred on his mother’s side. Unfortunately, they did not survive.”
“I told my masters that there was nothing I wouldn’t do to save more from dying,” the prince continued. “ They laughed. They said I was merely a child and did not take me seriously.  And—“
“Nobody was listening to him. Nobody but me and Master Chang.” Alphonse interrupted as he rose to his feet. “And I told Sheng what his father was keeping—and why. And what it could do if used with conscience.” He glanced apologetically at his brother and Mustang. “Be thou for the people. Isn’t that what we were taught as alchemists, Ed?  And if your soul was trapped inside that thing, wouldn’t you want to give your life for something—anything—that might save others?”
The Prime Minister was stunned. “And you told the Emperor to give the Philosopher’s Stone to a twelve year old boy?”
“Yes, I did. Because,” Alphonse’ voice began to crack, “I remember another twelve year old boy who wouldn’t stop at anything to help his brother. Who was willing to give everything he had—everything he was—to save someone else. I was that person. I have a debut of gratitude I can never pay…but here was a chance to prevent a pandemic…and here was a twelve year old boy with the same heart and determination as my brother Edward.
“I asked Ling to give Sheng the stone. What else could I do?”
Hot tears coursed down Nina’s cheeks. Edward buried his face in his hands with a groan.  Roy lifted his hand for attention. “The pandemic was stopped?”
“It was, Roy.” Ling looked proudly at his son. “My boy was given a choice. Use the stone to further himself—to become the most powerful Emperor of all time—or to become a healer and possibly risk his own life trying to stop the pandemic.”
“He was just a kid!” someone shouted from the buzzing crowd inside the chamber.
“So was Edward Elric—and Roy made him a State Alchemist. He was ‘just a kid’ and he helped bring down a monster that would have destroyed all of Amestris.”
Ling nodded. “If the whole business with the Promised Day and the Philosopher’s Stone has taught us anything, Prime Minister, it’s that we should never underestimate our children—or should I say, we shouldn’t sell them short….Whoops! Sorry Ed!”
Fuck you!”
Five minutes was not enough of a recess to calm down the excitement that Ling’s testimony had generated. Even Roy could not prevent Ed from rushing at the prince, grabbing him by the front of his tunic. “What the hell did you do to me,” he snarled. Ran Fan took two warning steps closer, only to be restrained by an amused Emperor. “You used that damn stone on me to wake up my alchemy, didn’t you? Didn’t you?!?”
“No.” Sheng’s tone was resolute. “The proximity of it may have affected you, but it could not give you what you did not already possess.  It was the warmth of the sun on a dreaming seed—but the sun falls on us all. Only the seed can reach down in the dark with its roots and take hold in the earth. Your power was sleeping, Edward-sama. Your eyes are open now and it is a brand new day.  It is time you get off your stubborn ass and get going. The world needs you…and it is wider than you ever imagined.”
And with that, the prince bowed and left Edward standing there, fists balled up, panting with unspent fury and confusion.
#####
“…and in the end…a decision must be made to determine what is to be done with the Stone.  I am aware,” the Prime Minister cautioned, “that it is now in the hands of the Emperor—or rather, Prince Sheng Yao. “
“And I will gladly pass it back into the hands of President Mustang,” Sheng asserted. “I have no desire to use it again. It is, in fact, a burden to my heart to bear this thing, knowing how it was made. Since it came from Amestris,” he concluded, “let it return to Amestris. Let older and wiser alchemists decide what is to be done with it.”
The expression on Roy Mustang’s face was unreadable as the young prince placed the ghau amulet into his hands, the terrible red gem sealed up inside it once more.  And so once again it is in my hands. And I wouldn’t use it if you put a gun to my head. I’d like to think I’m strong enough not to yield to temptation…but who knows? I’m not as clever as I’ve thought. And who would trust me if they knew I had a potential weapon that could harm as much as it can heal? It’s nearly spent anyway…
Ed touched his arm. “It’s nearly done anyway. What are you gonna do? Destroy it?”
Alphonse shook his head. “There’s still good that can be done with it. You know that. Think of Doctor Marcoh and the lives he saved.”
“Yeah…but here’s the thing. It can only do so much—and who’s to say who gets healed and who doesn’t? That’s gonna cause more conflict.”
Roy stared at the amulet in his hand. “I know whose lives were made into this stone.” His voice was heavy, as if the weight of the thousands of lives who died to make each stone were burdening his heart.”These were Ishballan prisoners. I…I don’t know for sure, but it may be that the soul of Grand Cleric Logue Lowe could be in here.”  He gritted his teeth. Damn it…no matter what I decide, history is going to damn me for making the wrong choice. Fuck it.
#####
“Jaya Lowe?”
                The young Ishballan cleric rose from where he was sitting beside David Collins. “Mr. President?”
                “Take this stone.  Take these souls back to your people.  Work with Dr. Marcoh and see that he uses whatever’s left in here to heal the sick for however long it lasts.  And when it turns black and crumbles, scatter the dust on the winds and say a prayer that humanity will never show this kind of savagery again.”

…TO BE CONTINUED…..
 
 
luxquintessenceluxquintessence on February 8th, 2015 11:31 am (UTC)
Interesting to see where this is going :)