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The Colours of the World

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“Hello, Mr. Alchemist.”

Roy froze. Even though he had prepared himself for it, had known this was coming, it didn’t stop his blood from freezing upon hearing that voice. It had been terrifying the first time he had been here, with the enormous Gate looming before him, the grinning white figure standing in front of it and his mind weighed down by the certain knowledge that something was going to happen, something Roy was powerless to avoid, just like everyone else before him.

Now, with his sight gone, it was even worse. He couldn’t see the Gate, that was true, but the voice echoed all around him, and there bloomed an entirely new layer of helplessness with the realization that he couldn’t even tell where Truth stood. Not that it mattered, but human instinct was a silly thing sometimes.

“Are you here to retrieve your sight?” Truth asked, an underlying current of amusement to its voice hinting that it was aware of Roy’s minor panic attack.

Roy breathed deeply (part of him wondered if here, in whatever this place was, it was necessary to breathe, if there even was any oxygen or if it was all just a construct in his mind to process the experience) and raised the hand clasped around Marcoh’s Philosopher’s Stone.

“Yes,” he replied, his voice miraculously steady.

Truth hummed, and Roy had the uncomfortable sensation of being studied while Truth remained silent.

“There is just one problem,” Truth said finally, and Roy closed his eyes. Not that it made a difference on the utter darkness that had surrounded him since his last time here, but the gesture was unconscious after so many years of doing it.

“You won’t return it,” Roy guessed, falling short of the dry voice he had been aiming for.

It had been a possibility, Roy had known.

Right before she left Central after the Promised Day, Izumi Curtis had approached him and explained that not even Van Hohenheim, despite being a Philosopher’s Stone himself, had been able to restore what the Gate had taken from her. Roy had understood what she hadn’t voiced: even with the Stone, he might never be able to see again. He had thanked her, and she had been right that Marcoh hadn’t been able to restore Roy’s eyesight using the Stone the same way he did for injuries and illnesses. Coming here had been a last ditch effort.

Edward had managed to retrieve Alphonse, though, of course, not exchanging a Stone. Maybe… Roy had to go back. He needed his sight to accomplish his goals: to restore Ishval, to become Führer, to change Amestris. That was Roy’s goal, not the Flame Alchemist’s, and maybe putting the Flame Alchemist to rest was the first step to atonement.

“Hey, slow down, Mr. Alchemist,” Truth said, breaking Roy’s train of thought. Somehow, Roy wasn’t surprised it had known what he was thinking. “That wouldn’t be equivalent exchange. Your sight has not the same price as Alphonse Elric.”

“And yet the Stone is not enough. Why?”

“Because that,” Truth paused for a short moment, and Roy thought it might be pointing at the Stone, “is nearly out of energy.”

“Then?” Roy asked, resisting the urge to cross his arms. He was still here, which he hoped and dreaded meant Truth had something in mind. Maybe exchange his sight for a couple limbs? Roy could manage automail, and the delay the recovery time would require was still better than retiring from the military the way he would have to do if he remained blind. He even had access to some good mechanics through Edward.

“Will you stop thinking and listen?” Truth asked, and it sounded amused again. That was definitely better than angry.

Roy forced himself to clear his mind.

“I was thinking we could make a deal. A little unorthodox, but then the original circumstances that brought you here were unorthodox to begin with.”

Roy didn’t need the reminder. He had been told, once the battle was over, that Pride had taken the brunt of the toll, that he lost most of his energy as a consequence of forcing Roy to open the Gate, and Roy didn’t want to know what the knowledge he had gained his first time through the Gate would have cost him had he done human transmutation willingly.

“Do you mean… you are going easy on me?”

“You’re not one of the fools in need of a lesson I usually meet.” Roy remembered what Edward and Alphonse had shared of their experiences at the Gate.

“What are you offering?” Roy asked.

“There are always idiots playing at being gods. I usually leave them alone, unless they step over certain boundaries, as you well know. Right now, there is someone who has stepped over a few of those boundaries. Unfortunately, he managed to block my access to his Gate, while still keeping his access to it. He is… annoying. I want that fixed. You can figure out how to undo what he did, though killing him would get the job done just fine.”

Roy wasn’t too keen on killing people, not after Ishval, and he was relieved that Truth had added the first option. Still, that didn’t mean he knew how to take the offer. A life had no price; wasn’t killing someone, the way Truth had so casually suggested, just as unequal as comparing his sight to Alphonse had been?

“Not really,” Truth replied. “Under normal circumstances it would be, but this being is so damaged that normal rules don’t apply to him.”

That only confused Roy further. He couldn’t think of anything that would ‘damage’ a being too much to be seen so poorly by Truth, not when the souls held in a Philosopher's Stone didn’t lose their value, just the same that had happened with Alphonse; even if his soul, for some reason, had been worth just an arm when Edward had retrieved it the first time.

“How much would the Stone be able to restore?”

“Most of your sight,” Truth admitted. “I could return your sight, sans some colour perception, if you’d prefer. But I thought with your ambition you’d much rather not have that handicap.”

Which… was true. Missing colour perception could also be seen as too much of a disability by the military, in which case Roy would be discharged anyway and all of this would be for nothing in the long run. Truth had said it was possible to undo whatever this being had done to his Gate without killing him, though, and maybe that was worth a try if it returned his sight whole.

“It could take months,” Roy pointed out, because the last think his team needed on top of everything else was the panic his disappearance would cause, “and I won’t be much use while blind.”

“I’ll give you back the sight that the Stone in your hand is worth. As for the time, I am in no hurry. And, given that we are talking about an entirely different world and this arrangement still overbalances somewhat on my favour, I can return you to the moment you activated the array, it’s no effort. That way we will be even again,” Truth added, though Roy was too stuck on the ‘different world’ line to pay much attention to the rest past processing it had been said. “Well then, what’s your response, Mr. Alchemist?”

Roy took a deep breath and put himself back together. He didn’t have much of a choice here, did he?

“Who is the being?”

“Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

Suddenly, the darkness was gone and Roy was face to face with Truth’s grinning white form, the Gate looming behind it. It was the last thing Roy had seen, before, a scene that had haunted his nightmares ever since. Roy never thought seeing it again could bring him relief.

Then the Gate opened.

 


 

 

Roy stood in the middle of a dingy dark alleyway. A wonderful, dingy dark alleyway with a wet smelly corner, two dumpsters to one side and windows lined up in what might be the second floor of the buildings cramped around. A dingy dark alley that Roy could see.

He spared a moment just to look around, take in the cracked bricks, vandalized walls and empty crates piled opposite the dumpsters while he acclimated to his surroundings, convinced himself that he was really seeing. Not dreaming —not even his worst nightmares could have fabricated that meeting with Truth, they limited themselves to bringing back the one Pride and Bradley had forced on him the first time around— but really, truly seeing. Roy leant his head back, taking in the clouded over sky above the tops of the buildings.

Roy blinked and looked down at himself, shaking his head. He couldn’t stop to stare at everything; he wasn’t in a position to waste so much time. Roy was in an unknown place —a different world, Truth had called it, helpfully not providing any other information— and unknown locations were, short of openly hostile areas, the worst possible places where to lower one’s guard. Besides, Roy admitted somewhat ruefully to himself, he doubted any amount of staring around would ever erase the wonder of seeing.

Sight was something he would never again take for granted.

Roy checked himself over. He had a moment to feel grateful that he was wearing inconspicuous civilian clothes instead of his uniform —black slacks, his black long coat and a white shirt— before the thought crossed his mind that he didn’t know anything about where he was. For all that Roy knew the fashion here was to walk around naked. That would be interesting, actually.

He had his gloves on, he hadn’t felt comfortable taking them off since the Promised Day (he had only agreed to do so at night because he had the unfortunate habit of snapping his fingers when he had a nightmare). He snapped his fingers to reassure himself that his alchemy worked just fine. After a moment of consideration, Roy clapped his hands, envisioned the array he wanted and pressed his palms to the closest wall, observing in fascination as the alchemy acted with as much ease as his flame alchemy always did. Roy may have used this method frequently over the last week (being stuck in a hospital room was bound to bore anyone, and sharing said room with Alphonse and Edward by extension had resulted in them talking a lot about alchemy because Roy and Edward had reached the silent compromise not to argue while Alphonse was still so weak), but this was his first time seeing how he did it. Shaking his head before he could lose himself to staring again, Roy took a step back and felt a petty surge of satisfaction over the ‘Bradley was an asshole’ message the name previously painted on the wall had transformed into. Roy blamed that on Edward’s influence, but couldn’t bring himself to care.

Once reassured that his alchemy still worked, Roy rummaged though his pockets to see what he had on himself. He came up with his house and car keys, his pocket watch, his painkillers, his wallet (Roy seriously doubted anything in there would be of use to him here) and his notebook and pen. Seeing those, he decided he would be best served writing down the name Truth had given him in the very unlikely case he forgot. As well as the little information Truth had provided.

He opened the notebook to the first blank page and wrote ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ on top, followed by ‘blocked Gate’, ‘circumstances make him worth less than an average life to Truth’, ‘passed various boundaries’, ‘possible to undo’.  Then, after a moment of consideration, added ‘library’ at the bottom of the page, because someone who had managed to block Truth was likely to be a renowned alchemist. Or had done it accidentally while working on something else. If it was the first option, he might be able to find information about him in a library.

Before he went looking for a library, Roy decided scouting the area he was in would be a good idea. He needed to figure out a way to obtain currency or he wouldn’t manage to move around, and for that he could either ask some very awkward questions of strangers that would make him seem to be a few screws loose, or he could observe. Roy was good at observing people and places without appearing to be doing so.

His first objective decided, Roy pulled his coat closer around himself, just now paying enough attention to his surroundings to realize it was a little too cold for the clothes he had on, and walked to the open end of the alley.

The fashion in this place wasn’t to go around naked, as it turned out, and the clothes he could see on the few people present at the wider street he stepped into were, in fact, familiar enough that Roy didn’t think he stood out, even if there was a little more colour than he was used to seeing on civilians. A woman hurrying down the street wore a bright red coat reminiscing of Edward’s in colour with matching red high-heeled boots.

Roy stepped onto the wider street, affecting an air of casual familiarity as he looked surreptitiously around. There were a few open stores and eateries on sight, from a florist to a bookshop where Roy was sorely tempted to step into and browse around a little. He didn’t, and instead kept walking, taking in the prices announced on shop windows to try to develop a sense for the value of the money here. From the general appearance of the streets he was walking through, Roy would guess he was in a working class area, which would mean the stores he was passing by weren’t on the expensive end of the scale. He had no idea what the symbol for the currency meant, but it didn’t take him long to guess that value was divided into fractions of one hundred. The currency was worth more than the cenz, then.

He had been walking for maybe an hour, making use of his reasonable sense of direction to ensure he didn’t pass through the same street twice and risk drawing attention, and was considering finding a protected corner to cover from the cold for a while when he spotted a very interesting sign on a storefront.

We buy gold’.

Roy nearly grinned. That meant gold was valuable in this world as well, and Roy had just found a way to acquire funds. He looked around and located the closest side street, headed there and walked to the back of a building. The narrow street, which also happened to be a cul-de-sac, was deserted, and a quick scan proved that all the windows with a view to it were closed. Roy looked around to locate a few loose bricks, broke them off the wall entirely to pile them on the ground, hoped nobody here had the skill to discern transmuted gold, clapped his hands together and pressed them to the bricks.

He couldn’t transmute a large ingot of gold, no matter how quickly that would solve his money issues, because that would be too conspicuous. Instead, Roy created a small pile of thin gold chains with tiny gold pendants, another one of simple rings and a few bracelets, fully intending to sell a few of those in each shop he came across with that announcement.

He paused when he removed his hands from the pile of jewellery. He hadn’t noticed, back when he had glanced over the store window, but now it was glaringly obvious. The gold was white. Part of him, a sceptical and dubious one, suggested that he might have transmuted platinum, which was ridiculous because the arrays necessary to transmute gold and platinum were different. A quick check of the composition proved it was indeed gold. Gold that didn’t look like it.

Then Truth’s words came back to him.

“I could return your sight, sans some colour perception.”

Well, at least now Roy had proof that his sight wasn’t back to what it had been prior to first crossing the Gate. He hadn’t stopped to think about it, too caught up in the wonders of sight and the knowledge that he had to learn to move through another world, but he resolved to pay attention and discover what other colours he was missing the capacity to discern.

He returned his attention to the gold, hiding it spread amongst all his available pockets, and stood up.

Now, Roy might not be an expert in jewellery values, his knowledge just enough to be able to tell higher quality apart, but he was an expert at reading people, and that allowed him to know the shopkeeper’s first intention had been to swindle him. Roy managed to have him raise the price twice, and while he suspected it was still far from fair, he decided it was not worth the argument. He could just transmute more gold whenever he needed it, and so he agreed to the third offer.

 


 

 

Roy spent his first day exchanging gold for money —pounds, he learnt the currency was called, and the fractions were pennies— and walking around. He had to stop to eat twice, and it wasn’t until he sat down the first time and looked at the café’s menu that he realized a very important detail: he shouldn’t be able to understand the language. The writing on the menu wasn’t Amestrian, and yet his brain processed it with almost as much ease as it did his mother tongue. Truth’s doing, he guessed, and he had to fight the impulse to check he wasn’t missing any body part. He could walk, he had two arms, had stopped by the bathroom with no problem upon entering the café, and the lack of coughing fits accompanied by blood suggested he probably wasn’t missing any inner organs.

He decided not to question Truth’s reasoning, least he go mad in the attempt.

Roy had his next encounter with a missing colour when his food arrived. Either that, or lettuce here was blue, something he doubted after a quick scan and a taste test that proved it was normal lettuce. So far, Roy was missing green and yellow, and he realized he might need to find a better way than just wait and see what didn’t match to test which other colours were gone if he was to be able to work around the issue. That would be a problem, because he was effectively an illegal immigrant here —maybe he should have asked Ling Yao about his experience when he had the chance— and for all that he knew this place was as nice to illegals as Amestris was.

No visits to a doctor, then.

 


 

 

It was growing dark and Roy had reached an area of town he would label middle class when he decided he should find somewhere to spend the night. Because he had no idea of how much that might cost, he had avoided buying anything other than his meals, and finally approached a hotel that didn’t appear excessively expensive.

A tenth of his illicitly procured money went to pay for his night stay, including dinner and breakfast in the morning, and he chatted the receptionist up —a pretty girl by the name of Emma in her early twenties who was clearly interested in getting to know him intimately— with a story of how his luggage had been stolen and now he was left trying to replace everything. She provided him with a map of the city (the map read ‘London’) and a timetable for something called the Tube (Roy didn’t ask what that was, because he got the impression that it was common knowledge and appearing odd now wouldn’t be a smart move), she suggested a few nearby affordable stores, most of them in something she called a ‘mall’, to replace his supposedly stolen belongings, and gave him directions to the closest library when Roy had asked about it.

Roy checked the clock behind the front desk, fortunately displaying the same system for measuring time that he was familiar with, and set the time of his pocket watch as soon as he was on his way to the dining room. Under different circumstances he would have accepted Emma’s very obvious hints and offered to take her out as soon as her shift was over, but he was tired, overwhelmed by the entire situation and suspected his various scars would rouse a series of questions he didn’t feel like lying his way through.

Roy had feared that he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, his mind too busy mulling over everything that had happened today, but when he crawled into bed after removing his clothes, he was out so quickly he wouldn’t even remember getting into bed the next morning.

 


 

 

Roy’s inner clock had him awake earlier than he was used to wake up to go to work, because it was two hours earlier than in Amestris here but his body didn’t care about technicalities like that.

He didn’t have the luxury of a moment of confusion in which he didn’t remember where he was and what had happened, because his brain had been working on his situation the entire night, his dreams warped up versions of yesterday; from the conversation with Truth to his wandering around the streets and his expectations for the foreseeable future.

He blinked around the room, taking in everything the dim morning sun filtering through the buildings and the uncovered window illuminated. There wasn’t much aside from the bed: a nightstand to his right, a narrow desk with an accompanying chair on top of which Roy had dropped his clothes last night, a side table supporting a square box made of a mix of metal, wood and a crystal surface on the side facing the bed of which Roy didn’t know the purpose, a closet, two small paintings on the wall and a closed door that Roy guessed led to the bathroom. He hadn’t looked last night.

Roy stared around for what might well have been a full couple of minutes before shaking himself back to the present. Staring wouldn’t bring him any closer to his goal, no matter how good it felt.

He rolled out of bed and walked to his clothes, going for the left front pocket of his trousers where he kept his watch.

Six ohthree, far too early for the time he had seen yesterday most shops opened —nine was the average opening hour, according to the timetables stuck to many doors. He set his watch down, made a half-hearted attempt to straighten his clothes a little, which didn’t work because they had spent the night crumpled, and headed for the bathroom, decided to see what he could do about his appearance.

It was a nice surprise to discover the hotel provided a toothbrush and small tube of paste —for which Roy may or may not have lunged— as well as a small sponge in a plastic bag, a set of tiny bottles with basic bath products and a small bar of soap. Hotels in Amestris didn’t usually provide toiletries unless they were high end ones.

There were no shaving utensils, though, and Roy decided he would have to buy some.

After an unusually long and relaxing shower, Roy wrapped a towel around his hips and draped another over his shoulders before leaving the bathroom, the heating in the room set at a nice enough temperature that he didn’t need to dress immediately. He checked the time again —still too early— and moved his clothes to the unmade bed before taking out his notebook and pen. He settled on the chair and started on a list of things he would need to buy, and then ordered them by priority, because he needed to be able to carry them around easily. He didn’t know if his quest would allow him to settle down anytime soon, if at all.

It wasn’t until he was debating with himself what would be an acceptable size for his suitcase that it occurred to him he was going to be an alchemist living off a suitcase. A State Alchemist living off a suitcase.

He was turning into Edward Elric.

 


 

 

After a copious breakfast during which Roy had taken full advantage of the buffet and downed half a carafe of coffee, he headed for the front desk and returned the key to the man now sitting behind it before he walked back out into the street.

Following Emma’s directions, he weaved through the streets, busier now than when he had arrived at the hotel yesterday, until he reached the shopping mall where she had said most of the shops she had told him about yesterday were located. It wasn’t what he had been expecting.

The building was nowhere near the largest one Roy had seen, but he was used to shops being along the streets, and while he had seen plenty of those as he walked, this place was a giant three-storey building that housed nearly exclusively shops selling clothes, shoes, personal care items and jewellery. There was much more variety than Roy was used to.

 


 

 

Denim, Roy decided after his two hour shopping trip, was popular.

As it turned out, clothing in Amestris and wherever this London was wasn’t as similar as Roy had originally believed, but there was enough in common between one and the other that he had managed to find things to his taste. His taste which, in comparison to what he had observed was usually worn here, was formal and conservative enough that at one point a shop assistant had asked if he was looking for clothes for work. Roy, seeing a chance to find some help to navigate the overwhelming amount of clothes from where to choose, had confirmed it, smiling his most charming smile, and asked if she could help him find something. Which she did, even offering to give an opinion of the clothes he tried on despite the fact that there were more customers in the shop. He had agreed; his self-confidence could always use a brush-up.

Now Roy owned two new pairs of trousers and long-sleeved shirts, two sweater vests that he had discreetly checked to ensure they were indeed one brown and the other red and not just his eyes messing with him, and a scarf of mixed greys, plus an amount of underwear he had estimated would be enough and a pair of pyjamas. He had debated on whether or not to buy a warmer coat, but had decided against it when the shop assistant had suggested if he wouldn’t like to look at their new summer collection. He guessed that meant it was spring here, just like in Amestris.

After he was done with the clothes, everything else was much easier, and the mall had just started to really fill with people by the time Roy walked out with his handful of shopping bags, dragging behind a suitcase. One with wheels.

(Maybe Roy should consider inventing the suitcase with wheels when he returned to Amestris. It could make him rich, and money was always useful.)

He was halfway to the library when he realized he would have been better off if he had put everything in the suitcase before leaving the mall.

 


 

 

Roy’s first observation of the library was that it was a public one, as the sign at the entrance claimed. The second, that it was relatively large. The bathroom was off to the right side of the entrance, and it was Roy’s first stop once he arrived, where he relocated all of his new belongings to the suitcase (it wasn’t nearly the close fit he had estimated, which meant he would be able to buy some extra things if he needed to). When that was done, Roy returned to the centre of the building, where there was another sign opposite the front desk showing the general distribution of the sections. According to it, the ground floor held fiction and children’s and teen literature, while the first floor held humanities and the second, science.

He hefted his suitcase up and headed for the stairs, climbing straight for the second floor. There weren’t any clear directions on sight, which left Roy with the option of walking by every aisle and reading the plates there. Biology sections, chemistry (Roy really couldn’t afford a detour if he wanted to complete the mission in a timely fashion), medicine, physics, mathematics…

When he finished his tour, he hadn’t seen a single aisle on alchemy.

That was unexpected, and he took a second round around to look more closely, this time walking into every aisle and checking the smaller signs that marked each of the subsections.

Nothing.

Nonplussed, Roy decided to look downstairs. Alchemy had no business with humanities’ disciplines as far as he was concerned, but there was some polemic with those who believed either that there should be a more theoretical approach to it, or who refused to acknowledge some of the greatest discoveries as true simply because they didn’t fit their limited vision of the world.

Roy had run into more than one bookstore and library that had alchemy shoved in a dark corner, and had listened to a fair share of tirades —mostly courtesy of one Edward Elric— on the stupidity of people who belittled alchemy out of sheer narrow-mindedness.

If the alchemy section was downstairs, that diminished Roy’s hopes of finding something of use, but basic or outdated books would still be better than the absolute lack of knowledge he currently had about the alchemy of this world.

He climbed down the stairs and walked through the sections of geography and history (which he really should check, if only to gain some basic knowledge of where he was), philosophy, linguistics, a door between two shelves labelled ‘magic’, foreign languages…

Roy came to a halt and backpedalled three shelves.

Yes, magic, he had read that right.

The door was narrow, non-descript, and was placed at a strategically horrible place, out of view from the stairs, the elevators, and most of the room. It was open, and the tables Roy could see inside were empty except for a woman of around sixty with grey frizzy hair surrounded by giant, old-looking tomes and bent over a paper. She was writing with a quill.

Shaking his head, his faith in finding something useful in this library dwindled considerably after stumbling over such a ridiculous section, Roy continued his search.

He didn’t find a section on alchemy, not even a shelf labelled as such, and he turned around to leave.

He was walking through the ground floor when he noticed the stand of newspapers and stopped.

Bizarre magic section and lack of alchemy or not, there was a reasonably sized history section that he had thought to read through. He took one of the newspapers —mostly to have a reference of the date, but also to get a feel for the society and maybe the political situation he was in— and returned to the first floor. There, after checking the date Tuesday, April 3rd, 1995— he went in search of a few books on recent history.

 


 

 

It was mid-afternoon when Roy’s stomach managed to be obnoxious enough to draw his attention away from the first volume of the encyclopaedia he had been engrossed in for the last three hours.

Reading about historical events, it hadn’t taken long for Roy to realize that this place was technologically more advanced than Amestris —airplanes, Roy really needed to ride one of those— and what had started with him looking up unfamiliar terms as he read on the history of the second half of the twentieth century had evolved into him pushing the history book aside and devouring the contents of the much more concise encyclopaedia. Roy was no slouch when it came to reading, years of meticulous and abundant study under Master Hawkeye had seen his speed greatly improved, and he had a good portion of the book read by the time he stopped. He checked the page he was at and wrote it down on his notebook, along with the title of this book and the one he had put aside, before returning the small pile of books he had gathered to the ‘read books’ cart and leaving for the day.

Despite the lack of information on alchemy, Roy had decided to return tomorrow, and so approached the librarian at the front desk to ask for the closest hotel.

He bought a few snacks at a large store on the way (he had missed lunch, after all), and it wasn’t until he had paid for the night that Roy realized he would have to transmute more gold, because he only had money left to pay for one more night.

Which he would do the next morning, because he spent most of his time until he went to bed tinkering with the television. Fuery would have loved it, Roy thought with a hint of wistfulness, and wondered if he would be allowed to keep whatever knowledge of the technology of this world he gained during his stay.

He wasn’t suicidal enough to attempt to take anything back with him, not even a book.

 


 

 

Information was essential in any situation.

After the second day of reading, Roy had reached the conclusion that familiarizing himself with this world as much as possible was his first priority (above finding Tom Marvolo Riddle, for now) if he wanted to succeed. It hadn’t taken long for him to realize that it wasn’t just the library that lacked an alchemy section, but the science itself wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Not in general recent history books, or in those focused on scientific advancements of any kind. Frustrated at one point, when he hadn’t spotted a single mention of alchemy in a fairly thick book focused on the many approaches all the parties involved in a conflict known as the Second World War (some of its aspects so gruesome they had reminded Roy he was just human as much as the homunculi had) when they attempted to surpass one another, Roy had considered the possibility that alchemy here might be seen as something less important, and that was the first time he had glanced in the direction of the ridiculous magic section.

What if it hadn’t been as developed here as it was in Amestris? Or it could be that it was simply called something different. Some people, mostly those lacking any knowledge of the subject, were unable to identify alchemy when they were exposed to it, and confused it with something else. Wasn’t that how the priest in Liore, the one Edward and Alphonse had defeated, had convinced so many people to follow his fake religion? By making them believe he was doing miracles when in truth he had a Philosopher’s Stone?

Maybe alchemy simply wasn’t common knowledge here, and people mistakenly thought of it as something else.

Then a man stepped out around the bookcase where Roy knew the entrance to that particular section was, dressed in a flowery blouse and a bright pink skirt.

Roy grimaced and closed his eyes, opening them again when the image remained.

He reached for the book of important figures of the twentieth century, hoping for a lighter read after the horrific accounts from the war, too reminiscent of Ishval; Roy couldn’t let himself think about them.

 


 

 

In retrospect, Roy was an idiot. That in itself was nothing new, anyone familiar with Roy Mustang could give a list of reasons as to why ‘idiot’ was an apt description for him, but this time the reason had nothing to do with excessive procrastination, womanizing or receiving calls unrelated to work at the office. Not even showing off, which Roy liked to do from time to time.

This time Roy had committed a very serious oversight: he was nearly out of painkillers.

While Roy, upon making his deal with Marcoh in the aftermath of the Promised Day, had agreed to have the bones in his hands healed (otherwise the recovery period might have take years and he would have been unlikely to ever be able to use his hands properly again) he had refused for his skin to be repaired the same way, only agreeing to let Marcoh fix the muscles to avoid permanent damage. Dr. Knox had called him an idiot and rattled off a very long list of reasons why that was one of the stupidest ideas he had ever heard, even enlisting Marcoh’s help to try to convince Roy to just get rid of the wounds altogether (he had tried with Edward and Alphonse, but they had just said it was Roy’s choice). However, the only person who might have been able to sway him was Riza, and she hadn’t tried. They may not have been able to exchange any looks, but when she had been finally allowed out of the ICU and Dr. Knox had dragged her to the room Roy shared with Alphonse, she had only been silent a moment before announcing that it wasn’t her place to intervene.

Because she understood.

Roy had nearly lost himself to the rage of revenge, Riza, Edward and Scar had barely managed to stop him, and that couldn’t happen again. Roy needed a reminder that he couldn’t lose himself to rage, and there was nothing better than the wounds inflicted by the embodiment of wrath to prevent it. With his bones restored, his dexterity would be barely impaired (it was getting better already, Dr. Knox had knocked down Roy’s dosage of painkillers the day before he did the transmutation to go to the Gate), but whenever he felt the skin pull, whenever he saw the scars, Roy was reminded of the Promised Day, and of everything he wished to protect.

His problem now was that during his initial inventory of the items he had arrived with, and he would blame this on the stress of the moment, Roy hadn’t kept in mind that he would need to restock his painkillers, because while his wounds were better they weren’t still well enough that he could entirely forgo medication. His experience with the burn on his side, while different, told him that in his current state he still had a few weeks to go.

Roy currently had five days’ worth of pills left and not many options for obtaining more. He couldn’t exactly waltz into a doctor’s office, an illegal immigrant with stab wounds on both hands but perfect bones and muscles below the surface demanding a medicament that he didn’t even know for sure existed here.

He could settle for a substitute, of course, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of how to buy it. Black market, perhaps, if Roy was willing to risk whatever a dealer assured was the product Roy needed.

Or…

Roy looked down at his gloved hands and grinned crookedly. He was already transmuting gold, so why not add drugs to the list? This way, at least, he would know for sure that the medication he had was the one he needed.

Roy reached for his bag of painkillers and took one out to examine and write down the composition. He would have to hunt the components down separately, in as inconspicuous a way as possible.

Roy Mustang, the drug manufacturer.

He wasn’t telling anyone about this when he returned home. He would never live it down.

 


 

 

It had occurred to Roy at some point that walking around with gloves that had a transmutation array stitched to them might not be such a good idea when he didn’t know the standing of alchemy in this country. He could have simply taken then off, but his scars would draw attention as well, maybe even more than the gloves, and finally Roy had settled for an intermediate option. Finding a pair of gloves he liked proved to be difficult, wool was far too common for them here and it was a horrible material for his ignition gloves. He had resorted to buying the fabric and transmuting the gloves himself, adding the necessary elements to turn them into ignition gloves without transmutation arrays on the back. This way he would have to clap to activate them, which would slow him down slightly, but using flame alchemy itself wouldn’t be more complicated than usual.

Paranoia and too many experiences in which his gloves had been a direct target of his enemies convinced him to buy two lighters and store them in different pockets, just in case he ever needed them.

Roy may have improved his skills in other fields of alchemy, having passed through the Gate, but resorting to flame alchemy was still his first reaction in a battle.

 


 

 

Two weeks was as long as Roy could resist.

There was no mention of a Tom Marvolo Riddle in any book of important personalities in any field that Roy had managed to get his hands on in the library. He had a large list of technological wonders that didn’t exist in Amestris folded and tucked into his notebook, to study it periodically, remind himself that they actually existed and thus try to avoid reacting strangely when he came across them (it had been a surprise, amongst other things, to discover that the oddly-shaped cars he had seen around were much faster than the ones he was used to) and he had a reasonable timeline of the events of the last century formed in his head.

He had also seen a number of odd characters walk in and out of the magic section once he had started paying attention to it, and his curiosity was piqued. While it was true that these people received the occasional strange look from other visitors at the library, Roy had soon noticed that nobody paid a second thought to the ridiculous section they came in and out of. In fact, there had been a few instances when he could have sworn someone hadn’t noticed the section at all. One of them was when a teenage girl had practically pressed herself against a wall to avoid the pervert in the skirt (who always wore one whenever Roy saw him) and looked the way he had come from. Her eyes had passed over the entrance to the section without giving any indication that she had noticed it.

Besides, as much as he had wanted to brush the idea off, now and then he had a sporadic thought that maybe, just maybe, the alchemy section might be there.

Today he had intended to browse the chemistry section, see if maybe this Tom Marvolo Riddle appeared mentioned somewhere there (chemistry was, of all the sections available, the one closest to alchemy) but he stopped on a whim at the first floor landing and headed for the magic section instead.

It was early, the library had just opened, and the floor was still empty. Just inside the section, Roy didn’t bother to hold back a snort at the first sign he came across. ‘Potions. Someone, many people given the amount of books filed under the sign, should have their heads checked. Transfiguration came next, which might have sounded interesting if it wasn’t in such a bizarre place, followed by herbology (wasn’t there a subsection of botany upstairs, in the biology one?), astronomy (again, upstairs, physics?), divination... And then, when Roy was about to turn around, walk out and pretend he had never entered this section, he found it.

Alchemy.

Two entire bookcases of leather-bound books, comfortably settled at the back of the room next to one of the reading tables.

Roy didn’t even look around, nor did he consider leaving based on the absurdity of the place: he walked up to the bookcases and started looking for the first comprehensive guide on the subject. Knowing how advanced alchemy was here was the first step to finally finding a starting point for his investigation.