“Well the short kid outside told me Roy Mustang was a cocky, arrogant bastard, but judging from the way you’re slumping there I must have the wrong room.”
No longer lost in thought, Roy lifted his head at the unfamiliar voice – gruff, loud, and undeniably female. Judging by a rough estimate of the distance between them, he made the guess that its owner must have been standing in the doorway, but from the sound of thumping footsteps growing closer, it seemed as though his visitor was drawing nearer to his bedside.
It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his guards outside to keep him safe as he healed, but years of serving in the military hadn’t taught him to be suspicious of everyone for nothing.
“You have the right room,” he said wearily. “I’m indeed Roy Mustang, but I wasn’t expecting visitors tonight. May I ask what you’re here for, Miss – ?”
“That’s interesting,” she interrupted, ignoring him, and he heard the sounds of a chair being pulled out and dragged to the left side of his bedside. “You hear so many stories about this great Flame colonel guy and it turns out he doesn’t even have half the presence of a real firebending master.”
He frowned. Just because he didn’t understand half of her last sentence didn’t mean he couldn’t recognize rudeness when it came. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m currently recovering from my injuries, as you can see, so if this is Fullmetal’s idea of a joke – ”
“This was my idea,” the girl said dismissively, and he felt the thumps of two small feet plopping themselves up onto the bed sheets, softly bumping against his legs. “But I didn’t come here to insult you. I’m here because I heard you turned down that doctor’s offer for him to heal your eyes. Apparently it could’ve cured your blindness, but you said no. Was just, you know, wondering about your reasoning behind that.”
Roy told himself to be patient. She sounded young, after all – probably just some nosy kid that had wandered away from her parents. She didn’t mean to be insensitive, she just didn’t understand what he was going through at the moment. Right.
He idly fiddled with the corner of the cotton blanket spread over his lap, rubbing his fingers over the familiar texture. “Miss,” he said, trying to keep his voice level and polite, “that’s personal business. I declined Dr. Marcoh’s offer for a variety of reasons, none of which I find appropriate to share with someone I’m unfamiliar with.”
“So you didn’t listen to all your friends and loved ones telling you how much better off you’d be with your sight, how less helpless you’d be with it, and all that? You just ignored them and decided to do your own thing?”
I’m going to have to ask you to leave was on the tip of his tongue, but she continued talking before he could get a single word out.
“Good,” she went on, “that sounds great. You’re already ten steps farther than Twinkletoes was when he first started learning. Obviously your condition has pushed you up a few notches, so the first stage is almost done already. I need a strong pupil to set an example for those other lily-livers – I think you’ll do just fine. We can get started now, then.”
Roy’s mind was whirling, trying to keep up, but the more that he turned her words over in his mind, the less they made sense. “Excuse me?”
“The kid – Fullmetal, did you call him? – didn’t think this was a good idea, said you were still recovering, blah, blah, blah.” The girl snorted. Roy imagined a sarcastic hand flapping in the air accompanying her words. “I told him to shove it. If you’re a good enough firebender as that Lieutenant lady says, I don’t care if you’re sitting here like a lump, I still think you’ve got potential. You don’t get called a hero for nothing.”
Roy still had no idea what was going on, but she had mentioned one thing he did recognize. “If you’re referring to the common nickname ‘the Hero of Ishval,’” he said quietly, “I’m afraid that’s not a title I’d like to continue being called by, if you don’t mind.”
“Not sure what Ishval is,” the girl said easily, “but I was talking about the buzz on the street. Word has it you saved a bunch of lives and kicked some serious butt last week, even after you lost your sight. I liked the sound of that; I wanted to come meet you myself. So if the rumors are true and you’re still aiming to be the leader of this country, I don’t think firebending is gonna cut it anymore, no matter how great it is, not when you can’t see. I’d like to teach you some earthbending, and maybe metal, too, if you’re good enough. It sounds like you could have a real knack for it.”
“Look, it was very nice meeting you,” Roy said, fumbling around to grasp her feet; they were rough in his palms, calloused, and he gently but firmly lowered them off of the bed. “But again, I am still recovering, and I’m not sure I can entertain you for much longer. But yes, if this is what you’re meaning to ask, I am still interested in becoming Fuhrer of Amestris, very much so. Thank you for your concern, but I don’t need any more assitance to reach that position than I already have. I’m not planning on letting any physical limitations stop me.”
“Good on you,” she said, sounding pleased – and oddly enough, rather proud. “That’ll show ‘em.”
“If you’re speaking out of sarcasm or condescension – ”
“Of course it’s not,” she scoffed. “I told you I’m genuinely interested in taking you on, didn’t I? I think you could do some great things, honestly. But the firebending isn’t going to cut it if you can’t see what you’re aiming for, which is why I’m here. You need to learn how to fight without having to rely on those useless things on either side of your nose.”
“With all due respect,” Roy said tiredly, exhausted from his attempts to keep civil, “I’m rather doubtful that, by some miracle, there is a discipline of fighting that I’ve never heard of in all my years of studying alchemy that would allow an individual to effectively learn how to defend himself and disarm his opponents sightless.” He rubbed his temples. “If such a magic thing did exist, then you’d have my utmost attention, but until that day comes, I’m more than content with staying in this hospital to heal until I’m ready to continue my political campaign. And to be quite frank,” he said heavily, trying his best to face his head in the direction that her voice had been coming from, “I don’t quite believe that a total stranger – whose name apparently does not seem important enough for its owner to bother enough to introduce me to – could ever be in a position to teach a blind man how to fight from complete scratch.”
“I guess you’d better start believing it, Mustang, ‘cause I’m blind, too, and there’s not a man alive that can take me down,” the girl’s voice came, sounding rather amused. “Your miraculous solution isn’t ‘magic,’ by the way, it’s earthbending. And I’m Toph, if you must know, but don’t get used to saying it because you’ll be calling me Sifu anyway. Now hop out of bed. Those are two perfectly good legs you’ve got – put ‘em to use and let’s get started.”