...Of the many early alliances made by Mustang during his years in the East Area, his association with the Elric brothers must be considered one of the most influential. It remains unknown why the military took an interest in the Elrics at such a young age, but in successfully coaching Edward Elric, later known as 'the Fullmetal Alchemist', to pass the State Alchemy exam, Mustang gained two crucial allies.
Winry Rockbell, celebrated engineer and later wife of Edward Elric, recorded her own impressions of their first meeting in the first volume of her memoir, Gears (Rush Valley: Backhouse Books, 1957):
We had none of us ever thought highly of the military at that time and their [Mustang and Hawkeye's] arrival in the midst of the tragedy seemed only to rub salt into the wound, but as things turned out it was truly quite fortunate ... I waited in the hall with Lieutenant Hawkeye while the Colonel spoke to Ed and Al, and although at the time I had no idea what they talked about, the impression it made on Ed was immediately clear... (p. 97)
Ms Rockbell's recollections also serve to further underline the ubiquitous presence of Riza Hawkeye during this stage of Mustang's career. While, as noted above, very little is known about the true nature of their relationship from the aftermath of the Ishval Massacre to their marriage in 1918, it is clear that he considered her assistance invaluable even in fairly minor matters.
Although like all civilian State Alchemists Edward Elric had no specific position within the military chain of command, his first three years after certification appear to have been spent primarily in the East Area, which brought him under Mustang's general supervision. It was during this period that the brothers developed something of a folk reputation, particularly in the smaller Eastern towns; while some of the stories are so fantastical as to stretch credulity a more balanced selection may be found in Khayal Halling's Eastern Folktales (Youswell: Homberg Press, 1948).
A point on which all sources agree is the somewhat volatile nature of Mustang's relationship with Edward Elric during this period. While Elric willingly undertook state certification his early dissatisfaction with the militarisation of alchemy was frequently made clear, an attitude most probably stemming from his and Alphonse's apprenticeship under notable anti-certification agitator Izumi Curtis1. As has been observed, Mustang himself developed similar sentiments during his deployment in Ishval, but his position as a military officer presumably made him an easy target for Edward's ire.
Considerably less is known of Mustang's early relationship with the younger Elric brother; although undoubtedly his contact with Mustang's circle at such an impressionable age was a major influence on his later career in Parliament, Alphonse was at this time something of an eccentric, and the majority of sources focus on his peculiar fondness for wearing full-body armour, even indoors2. He was, however, remembered fondly by many of Mustang's associates, as demonstrated in Vato Falman's The Roots of Democracy: Diaries 1910-14 (Central: Cagliostro Press, 1929):
Wednesday 15th August, 1912
...On entering the mess I discovered Lts. Breda and Havoc engaged in a game of poker with a younger sergeant and Alphonse Elric; they were apparently teaching the latter the finer points of the game, and judging by the pile of matchsticks that Alphonse had already accumulated he was having no difficulties. He greeted me very warmly, though warned me not to go up to Col. Mustang's office as his brother was there currently and the two of them were arguing again. He also offered me a seat at the table, but I had long since learned not to play against Lt. Breda and Alphonse looked to be just as bad... (p. 34)
Regardless of their differences, however, the Elrics provided valuable assistance to Mustang on a number of matters; acting under his orders they successfully thwarted the infamous 1914 hijack of the New Optain Express by the terrorist cell known as 'Blue Squad', and shortly afterwards successfully uncovered the true nature of the nightmarish experiments being conducted by Shou Tucker, the so-called 'Life-Sewing Alchemist', which lead Mustang into his earliest confrontation with the Ishvalan terrorist known only as 'Scar'3.
While usually as taciturn on the subject as they were on many others, Mustang and his wife offered a few anecdotes of their own concerning the Elrics In a rare personal interview on Edward's appointment to the Flamel Chair of Alchemy at Central University in 1933:
..."Fullmetal still owes me money," Mustang said. "I am assuming that the university stipend will give him scope to catch up on his outstanding debts."
In fact the Elrics' association with the famous reformer started when they were only ten and eleven years old, and some have called them his protégés, or even a kind of adoptive family. At the suggestion, however, Mustang was overcome by a coughing fit. "I would hardly-"
"Actually they were both very independent," his wife broke in smoothly, "even when we first met them, and understandably wary of the military."
A wariness that must surely have been tempered as their association developed.
"In time it did become apparent that their agenda and ours were parallel in many ways." Mustang paused. "Alphonse even involved himself directly in one of our early operations in Central City, which I am still thankful for..."
He began fiddling with his teacup and Hawkeye touched the back of his hand lightly. "We found ourselves underestimating them less the longer we knew them," she said. "They were remarkable boys."
"Honestly you could say it's surprising that it took Ed so long to attain the position at Central," Mustang added, "though spending three years AWOL in Xing probably put a dent in his academic career. I am going to regret saying this, but he is a brilliant alchemist."
(L. McDougal (1933) 'The Riesembul Alchemist: a Portrait of Edward Elric', The Times 19th September, pp. 8-9)
During the period of the Scar murders the Elric brothers made a brief stay in Central City, which served to further cement their connection to Mustang through their friendship with Maes Hughes, then serving as a staff officer in the military's Investigations Division, and Alex Louis Armstrong, then a State Alchemist4. The exact events that lead up to Hughes's tragic murder during this time continue to be an area of great academic debate. Although most accept that his ongoing involvement in Mustang's plans, as documented in Chapter 6 above, was a major motivating factor, theories concerning an elaborate alchemical conspiracy constructed by the Bradley administration for some sinister end continue in popularity despite all evidence to the contrary...
1 For a full overview of the lives of the Curtis couple see A.L. Armstrong, Greater Strength (Central: Backhouse Books, 1932).
2 While some, eg. Lucy Brosh, The Quest for Immortality (Central: Central University Press, 1990), have argued that in fact the armour functioned as Alphonse's body during this time, due to some alchemical accident, this view is now largely discredited.
3 See Rosé Thomas, The Shadow of Ishval: Unrest in the East Area 1909-19 (New Optain: East University Press, 1934), pp. 123-37
4 Armstrong is of course considerably better known for his classic early Republic romance novels, although his work on alchemical sculpture from the pre-revolutionary period remains highly respected.