A present given to a guest or stranger, or to a foreign ambassador.
The Xingian capital was boiling hot. At times it was almost enough to send him back to Ishbal, but then – no, then the emperor would say something and Roy would be snapped back into place, forced to remind himself that he wasn't back in Ishbal, he was in Xing, and he was there as a guest of honor, the Fuhrer of Amestris himself making a gesture of peace to a fellow nation.
He was hot, though, and he was bored, and he was rapidly losing patience with Emperor Ling and his hovering alchemists – an entirely necessary evil, to keep the monster inside of him under control. Ling was teasing him, and Roy knew it. They both knew the reason Roy was there – and they both knew that the gesture of peace that everyone was talking about was merely a bonus in this situation.
If he were to be honest with himself, he was mostly chasing rumors at this point. "Emperor Ling," he ventured, staring down into his cup of tea, and wishing he could ask for sweetener for it. "I've heard that you've had a small influx of Amestrian alchemists who are curious about your own brand of alchemy. I hope they haven't given you or your people too much trouble." If what he'd heard was true, then there was no way it could have been avoided.
Ling, however, just kept smiling at him. "I've embraced your people as my own," he said cheerfully. "It's been no trouble at all, though I sometimes have to wonder not only what they're seeking here but what they've left in Amestris."
Which was exactly what Roy wanted to know as well. The disappearance of the People's Alchemist was one of Central's most enduring wartime mysteries. There'd been reports of sightings everywhere from Briggs to Dublith; this one, however, was the first one Roy had actually given any weight to.
So while there was exactly one specific alchemist Roy wanted to ask Ling about – one specific person who'd driven Roy all these miles, through all these handshakes and polite small talk and unfunny banter – he couldn't do it in front of everybody. The alchemists never left, but Roy had his own entourage on top of the Xingian princes and princesses and advisors who'd all settled in to dine with them. It was too sensitive a subject.
That didn't change the fact that Ling knew they were both talking about the same person. "Have no worries, Fuhrer Mustang. Your alchemists have been a source of great enjoyment for me. They amuse me more than anything."
Roy gritted his teeth, wondered the most polite response to make, though he was saved from having to do so when the emperor abruptly stood up and bowed. "You've made a long journey, Fuhrer Mustang. We should retire now."
He was exhausted, it could not be denied. Roy sighed, stood up, and almost missed entirely when Ling added, "I didn't want to draw the evening out any longer, Fuhrer, but do not think I've forgotten the traditional gift between nations."
His thoughts were chasing each other around in his head as a couple of Ling's guards led him to his room, members of his party peeling away as they were showed to their own rooms. When it was only him, the guards both nodded and bowed – Roy waved them away wearily – and left him alone to enter the room.
The emperor's palace was a thing of beauty, and it was clear that much care and thought had gone into designing the rooms. There was a little sitting room in the front, where Roy threw down his jacket, and he continued on into the bedroom only to find:
Edward Elric, sitting up in bed with a writing desk on his lap, working so feverishly that he hadn't even looked up when someone had entered the room.
All Roy could do was gape before finally calling in a low, hoarse voice: "Ed?"
His head snapped up, those golden eyes widened, and from the look of blooming panic on his face Roy knew that he had no plan of escape.
Ed bolted, and as Roy lunged after him he wondered where Ling had developed his definition of a traditional gift.