The Tale of Roy Mustang
A/N: This story is far from complete. There isn't too much dialogue until about halfway into it right now. Rated T for allusions to sex and nudity, but nothing graphic.
Bioalchemy had never been Roy Mustang’s strength but nevertheless he thought he knew enough to make it. His training in elemental alchemy as well as a safety necessity in his specialty gave him the ability to conjure up water relatively easily. His bioalchemy skills were enough to transmute a nutritious paste out of rock and sand. It tasted terrible and felt disgusting in his mouth, but it would keep him alive.
Despite his shortcomings, he was better-rounded than most alchemists, for example, Kimblee who never had enough motivation to learn anything beyond how to destroy things or Grand and Armstrong who only specialized in metal and stone. Thus he could travel pretty light.
In the end he took only his gloves, a piece of chalk, his uniform and a spare. He was playing with fire he knew, an expression that brought a smile to his lips, dry and cracked by the desert. However, he didn’t really care anymore and part of him hoped he would forget how to transmute something he needed to survive and die in the desert.
The private who took him out into the desert was terrified of him, though he didn’t know whether or not it was his rank, his reputation or his weird nocturnal habits of late. The rank and file had always been jumpy around the combat alchemists, not just for the rank of major but the tremendous destructive power that they could conjure up like magic. Of late some of the alchemists had also started to crack and two of them had lost it out on patrol.
One of them had turned his entire squad into stone statueswhose expressionsshowed their utter terror just before they died. The other had completely obliterated an Ishbal school, causing the children to slowly die as she transmuted air bubbles in their blood causing them horrid suffering.
The camp now had the mood of terror barely held in check and the straw tucked behind the private’s ear that he would occasionally reach up and finger told Roy the man had likely drawn and lost and had this mission forced on him.
They drove out before dawn, trying to take as much advantage of the night’s coolness as they could. Roy had gotten permission to conduct his research in a ridge of low rounded hills out in the midst of the desert. They had been mountains once, but over the years were ground down until they were low and smooth, just barely sticking up out sand.
“Come back for me in five days at this hill. The landscape may look a little different but I should be here. See ya later.” Roy yelled at the man as he jogged for the cover of the hills from the sun. The private saluted with a trembling hand and turned the Jeep around to head back to camp. With a great effort, just before he raced off he stopped and called to Roy.
“Colonel Grand instructed me to warn you that he believes a band of Ishbalan rebels are using these mountains as a base. Although it’s not a mission, be on your guard and if you make contact with them, you know what to do.” Mustang nodded silently at the man who had just barely decided he wanted Roy to win over Ishbalans, turned his back and walked away.
Although he didn’t owe it to the man, something in his terrified eyes had raised Roy’s sympathy and he tried to wait until the man was safely away so that he didn’t risk hurting him or destroying his nerves. However, much sooner than Roy had expected, he snapped and obliterated a stone façade in a gigantic explosion.
Roy’s nocturnal rhythm worked to his advantage over the next several days as he spent the burning days in a cave in the rocks he had transmuted, mostly asleep with exhaustion. He’d transmuted the stone into a pool of water that allowed him to bathe each morning, allowing him to live even more comfortably than back in camp. He didn’t keep any guard, he knew if they truly wanted to hurt him and were more than just the mere savages that Central painted them, the Ishbalans would let him live with what he had done.
At night he would climb the ridges and snap his fingers over and over, pouring out all of his frustration at the war, the generals, the orders, the Ishbalans, and most of all himself at the helpless stone. He sent great plumes of fire upwards scorching himself as they filled up the sky above him and launched cascading explosions that ran down the whole length of the spine of the ridge. Stone that had weathered sandstorms and burning days alternating with freezing nights hundreds of thousands of years was obliterated with the flick of blackened gloves.
Across the desert, soldiers and Ishbalans alike gathered each night to watch the display. The soldiers figured he was showing off or celebrating his victories. The smarter or higher-ranking ones outwardly praised his dedication at trying to make himself more deadly. The Ishbalans watched this man flouting their greatest taboo with such flamboyance, figuring he had been sent out there to frighten them into submission.
As each side watched the young man finally unveiled in his full power and terrible beauty they grew to hate him more. Few of them suspected he was trying in vain to destroy his demons.
Roy knew they would react that way but he didn’t care. Those moments on the ridges when he was pouring his soul out in an orgy of destruction and his mind was occupied with trying not to kill himself was the closest he ever got to feeling normal again.
It truly was a thing of beauty as he waved his arms in graceful arcs, snapping his fingers at the apogee and throwing his arms out to their full length, with a quick graceful snap. Each new explosion outlined his silhouette in black against the flames as he went through these movements in total control and commanding deadly forces to do his bidding effortlessly. He truly looked like a maestro, conducting Lucifer’s orchestra.
The predatory gleam in Colonel Grand’s eye showed that he either suspected the real reason for Roy’s “research leave” and wanted to expose him or he was giddy over the prospect of more efficiently murdering innocent Ishbalans with a deadlier Flame Major.
Mustang had been prepared for this. Over the years of playing around with his fire, he’d acquired a trick or two up his sleeve that he hadn’t shown anyone. They were techniques he hadn’t had the cruelty to try on an enemy even when his life was on the line; dirty underhanded methods like igniting the oxygen in an enemy’s lungs or his development of transmutation circles that sacrificed accuracy for sheer destructive power, turning the entire area around him into a little piece of hell, a blazing inferno that sprayed death everywhere. Though he’d imagined these techniques someday saving his ass, he reflected as he got ready to demonstrate them, he’d never imagined it would be this way.
He’d feigned one transmutation getting out of control. It had destroyed several tents but “by sheer luck” hadn’t injured anyone save for the ends of Grand’s mustache. Roy thought that was a nice touch. He’d been scolded by Grand for trying such things before he could handle them and wasting his time. He walked away, outwardly ashamed, inwardly relieved.
A few days later, Grand granted Mustang a week’s leave. Roy was surprised after getting yelled at by the Colonel not a week earlier. However, if Basque Grand suspected Mustang’s “research leave” was because he was beginning to crack, this may have been his way of giving the young Major a break. Though Roy had long ago decided the Iron Blood Alchemist was utterly without compassion, Basque Grand did care for his dogs well, especially his prized fighters like Mustang and wanted them in top shape for battle. Either way, Roy was ecstatic and presented his papers to the first convoy going west and hitched a ride into Ishbal City.
Ishbal City wasn’t its real name. To the Ishbalans it was some string of unpronounceable syllables in their own odd language, but no one in the military had bothered to learn it. The city had been the capitol and most holy site of their nation, and after seven years of war, it was the closest thing remaining to civilization in that desert. The other cities had largely been destroyed by the military and were deserted. What few civilians escaped had fled into Ishbal City where they had little trouble finding places to live in the many empty houses.
Much of it had been razed and was now merely rubble and it was a shadow of its former glory but the city still barely functioned, largely due to the military wanting to maintain it as the headquarters and main base of operations for this “expedition” as they called it. With soldiers everywhere, the people had been mostly pacified and conflict within the place was rare. While deployed out here it was really the only place for soldiers to go for a leave.
Mustang checked into the officer’s temp quarters when he got there, built on top of an ancient Ishbal temple that had been destroyed in the first days of the war. He stripped off his epaulettes and all other insignia from his uniform so no Ishbalan would know his importance and take him hostage. He kept his pocket watch just in case he needed to prove himself, or intimidate someone.
Though he didn’t like to carry a sidearm, the regulations required he had one with him at all times when he was around Ishbalans so he slipped it into his back holster. Finally, though there were very strict rules about when and where he could use his alchemy, he took his gloves with him just out of habit.
Even before Ishbal had become an infamous and hated name throughout Amestris and was just a small nation off in the east, the Great Ishbal Market had been famous. Sitting on the border between the two great nations of Xing and Amestris with traders from both, and showcasing Ishbal’s renowned artistry and craftsmanship, the Great Market had been unequalled anywhere in the world. A massive, bustling place taking up most of the city’s heart the area was always busy and nearly any import from Xing to Amestris or vice-versa had come through the legendary marketplace.
The market was mostly deserted now, save for a few of the biggest businesses that had managed to weather the war in their shops and some traders who were too stubborn to move. With starving gangs roaming the streets, every other trader had gathered on a couple of streets in a corner of the market place that was nearly fortified. Mustang walked through the market after he had settled into his quarters, having just been paid the week before. The prices were astronomical from the cost of importing things through a war zone and the shoppers were mostly soldiers and wealthy traders that would simply ship their purchases off and make even more money. Mustang bought a kimono made of Xingjian spider silk for his mother and an ivory hand crafted Ishbalan pipe for his father.
As he wandered among the Ishbalan shopkeepers, he felt as though he was in a zoo. Every Ishbalan he had ever seen had been in battle, and they had only been blurry glimpses as they moved fast to try to kill him or escape. He only ever got a momentary glance before his instincts took over. All that had ever stuck with him were their eyes. Especially when they were in his war zone and fires burned everywhere, their eyes had almost glowed red, full of anger, fury, and desperation. They had seemed frighteningly unreal.
It was difficult to remind himself that these too were Ishbalans in the marketplace. Their eyes were different, like those of any person he might have met back in his hometown, except perhaps full of sadness. They looked mostly at the ground and rarely made eye contact with him. They were truly different people, cowed, broken; all of their spirit and will to resist was gone.
It seemed that this was not Ishbal. These weren’t Ishbalans, not anymore. Though their enemy still lived, it was not among these poor people. Ishbal itself had been driven out into the desert and hid wherever it could in this country. Only there its spirit still survived though it died a little each day. It had left the people in this marketplace. They were Ishbalans no more.
Nightfall seemed to bring relief to the city. It cooled, though the heat of the day’s sun still radiated from the stone of the buildings pleasantly, keeping it from freezing. Darkness hid the fact most of the buildings still standing were gutted inside and empty. In the night they were merely dark like their inhabitants had gone to bed. As a security measure, the military had repaired the streetlights along the main thoroughfares which had been cleaned up. The people, Ishbalan and soldier, tended to stick to these routes which made it seem like they were in a bustling prosperous city. In the alleys, the poor were hidden in the darkness and the city seemed almost pleasant.
What had once been the rich and fashionable part of the city had been rebuilt by the military and many of the old upscale bars, clubs, and restaurants were open again although they catered now to poor and drunken soldiers on leave. Singing and dancing of soldiers drifted out of the buildings into the night and made Roy Mustang smile. This place almost felt like Gin Avenue outside the barracks in Central.
Roy flashed his pocket watch to a guard outside an officer’s club that occupied what was once an old Xingjian restaurant and grabbed a couple free drinks. Most of the other officers there seemed to be stationed in the city and Mustang got the impression that this was a nightly destination for a lot of them. Their uniforms were clean and pressed, they were well groomed and all looked (and smelled) like they had bathed that day.
Roy had set out to explore the city as soon as he was settled into his quarters and now felt self-conscious as he sat at the bar. Despite the fact he was wearing his “good” uniform, it hadn’t been washed in a couple months. It was wrinkled and covered with a fine layer of dust and sand so that you could easily see the outline of clean blue cloth where Roy had removed his epaulettes and insignia earlier that day. His face and hair was dusty and he hadn’t cut his hair recently so it was unkempt and hung down over his eyes.
The female officers were beautiful and all seemed to be taken the moment they set foot in the club. There were other women (barely) dressed in civilian clothes that flitted around the club and whose purpose there was obvious. They all had Central accents and lacked the red eyes of Ishbalans and it seemed that they had been sent out into the desert here to keep the officers company.
Roy felt a pang of bitterness and cynicism as he sat there and they ignored him. In his rumpled uniform and dirty appearance he felt like a child among men that had gotten his clothes messy from playing outside in the dirt. Eventually, as the women and other officers ignored him, the fresh-faced Major with the unkempt uniform slipped out of the club and into the night.
Though the night was really started to get exciting and the party atmosphere around him grew, Roy no longer felt like celebrating and walked further on. Eventually the clubs and bars grew fewer and fewer and the lights became intermittent. Finally, they stopped altogether at a flat expanse of ground. It had been a park once but the grass was gone and the trees were burned and bare. Mustang found an undamaged park bench just beyond the circle of illumination cast by the last streetlamp and sat down. Though the place was silent except for the far off sounds of other soldiers celebrating, Roy gradually came to notice he was surrounded by Ishbalans. They moved slowly and quietly in the darkest shadows and watched him the whole time and Mustang realized the simple presence of himself, one soldier had interrupted whatever life, conversations, and business had been taking place in that park. Though he tried not to let it show, it unnerved him that as he sat there, dozens of Ishbalans watched him from the shadows.
He had been watching a group of them sitting in the shadows out of the corner of his eyes when one of them got up and started moving slowly away from the others. At first he thought the person was simply going on their way and would soon vanish in between buildings, it quickly became apparent that they weren’t heading towards the safety of another shadow but were coming out into the open, towards him. He moved his hand what he thought was slowly, behind him to his holster but the figure stopped. It unnerved him even more to realize that the person was watching him that closely as they approached him. Curious to see what would happen, he slowly, and very subtly brought his empty hand back around and placed it and his other in front of him, open and palms outward. The figure seemed to get the message and begin moving again, this time with less trepidation.
As he got a closer look, he saw that the person was draped in heavy robes covered with several capes and shawls. The hood was drawn far over the face and they still moved with enough slowness and hesitancy that he couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman. Roy Mustang very slowly moved to one side of the bench, opening up the space closest to the figure to sit down on.
The person remained silent, and finally when they were only a few feet from the bench Roy was uncomfortable enough to ask “What do you want?” Though he tried to say the words quietly, in the silence of the park they seemed to threaten and fill up the whole air. The figure stopped but said nothing. Despite the heavy robes, Mustang could gradually tell the person was trembling. Relying on a gut instinct that told him it was safe, Roy said, more quietly and sweetly, “It’s OK, come and sit down. I’m not going to hurt you if you won’t hurt me.” He flashed a crooked smile and was rewarded when the frame of the person seemed to relax and moved to sit down.
Neither said anything for a couple minutes and Roy finally said, “So what’s up?” He said it with a coolness and relaxed demeanor he didn’t feel at the moment but he hoped it would open the person up.
“Would you like some company, sir?” The figure finally spoke after a couple minutes. The voice surprised Roy. It was a woman-no a girl-and compared to the tough talking broads from Central it was like day from night.
Roy relaxed further, though his instincts still kept him on edge, ready to kill the girl at a moment’s notice. “Well, you have me at a bit of a disadvantage. You’ve seen my face but I haven’t seen yours yet. How about we talk face to face?” Roy sensed the girl finally trusted him and she reached up to pull back her hood.
Roy was amazed. Her hair was uncombed, dirty and tangled with the ends split and her face was smudged with dirt. It almost seemed as if she worked hard to make herself look ugly but she failed completely. Though she tried to hide it, the girl was simply the most beautiful person Roy Mustang had ever seen. She was nearly a woman, possibly was and her features were flawless. Her red eyes were a mixture of sadness and pure naivety and her face was utterly perfect except for a small scar running along her left cheek. Even the scar, though, seemed to have been enchanted by her and forced to add to her beauty, lending an air of strength and resilience. Right there, sitting with her body concealed under heavy robes, her face scarred, her hair in ruins and her face dirty, she could still put the most beautiful models anywhere in Amestris to shame.
And she was offering herself to him. Roy felt almost guilty at the idea, that he was not deserving of someone so beautiful especially since she was an Ishbalan and he had murdered her people. Someone like her should be romanced and fallen in love with, not taken as a common whore. Still, having lived in the desert around so much ugliness and death without any pleasure at all, the urge was almost unbearable. He wasn’t sure if he made the excuse or it was real. However, he invited her to come to his room with no obligation to get her (and himself) out of the danger and to talk.
There were fairly strict rules against any sort of fraternization with Ishbalans. However, they were made by stuffed shirts in Central who only cared about avoiding a scandal and embarrassing the military. Among the rank and file, the practice was done “on Bradley’s right side,” so to speak, and the military turned a blind eye to it. However, the practice was still taboo for officers, especially those of Roy’s stature. Thus when they snuck back to his quarters he started a small fire in one of the closets on the other side of the building to distract everyone else.
The quarters were Spartan but clean, and coming in from the streets of Ishbal City they were almost luxurious. There was a much more steady water supply than out in the desert camp and so there was no water restriction.
For a moment they simply stood in the middle of the room facing each other. Roy resisted the urge to take off his jacket or move towards the bed. He was an officer in an occupying army, with a young Ishbalan girl alone in his room. He realized he was in total control and even the slightest suggestion of sex would be an order for her. Finally, without consciously realizing it, he heard himself asking the question that had been on his mind during the whole journey back from the park.
“Why did you come with me?” he whispered.
“Because you asked me to.”
“Yeah, but you came alone with a soldier you’d just met. What would you do if I tried to take advantage of you or worse?”
“I offered myself. If you tried to take advantage of me, it would only be theft, taking without paying. Besides, I’m not as helpless as I look.”
“I’m more dangerous than I look.”
“You looked alone and out of place. You walk with the stiffness of an officer but you look too young and hesitant to be comfortable.” She saw the surprised look on his face. “When your life depends on reading someone’s intentions, you get good at it. Everyone else is dead.”
Mustang looked at the floor. The whole moment seemed surreal, standing in a room alone with an Ishbalan girl after he’d murdered her kin not 2 weeks ago. She completely taken control of the conversation and had wisdom he couldn’t see himself ever acquiring anytime soon. He was helpless.
“What’s your name?”
“Roy, Roy Mustang. What about you?”
“Kalina.” They stared at each other quietly. Roy was still transfixed by her beauty and with a soul that seemed far more complex than anyone he’d spoken to in a long while, he was enchanted. “Before we do this, is it alright if I take a shower. I don’t think I’ve showered with clean water since the war began.”
Roy stared at her, mouth open at his own selfishness. She seemed to take it as outrage at her brazenness. “You can deduct it from my fee if you want.”
“Shower, please, you need it.” He gasped and covered his mouth. “Wait, I mean, I don’t mean you don’t not need it. I mean, wait that came out wrong.” She giggled at him and he felt himself blushing like two school kids. He tried to recover his composure and put some depth in his voice. “Please,” he said with a fake depth that made her giggle even more and him blush even more. “I, I’ll go try to find some clean clothes for you.” He started towards the door when he noticed her trepidation. He took his gun out of the holster and handed it to her, handle first. “Just in case.”
Roy Mustang chuckled as he rooted around in the laundry looking for a set of bra and panties. He realized that he didn’t feel the slightest bit ashamed or guilty as he was going on a panty raid. Perhaps it was because compared to how much Kalina already made him feel like a pervert, this was nothing.
After the nation had been sacked, plundered and ruined, Kalina was the very last treasure remaining in Ishbal. Grace, innocence, intelligence and a radiant beauty all stunned Mustang. He sure as hell didn’t deserve her. He wondered where she came from, what her story was. If she had come from the eastern cities, it was likely he had killed someone she’d known.
He was grateful he still didn’t have to ask anything of her as he gathered some clothing for her. At least at the moment he was doing something for her. However, after a couple hours and two or three close calls to being discovered, Roy decided to face her.
He opened the door gingerly and called out “It’s me!” in the hopes he wouldn’t be shot. When he heard nothing, he opened the door to his room, went in and locked it behind himself.
Even though he’d been away from her for several hours, the change was still stunning. Pieces of dirt and scabs that he’d assumed were there to stay had disappeared. Only the scar on her cheek remained, but it was only a thin white line. Her hair was completely untangled, brushed and fell about her shoulders.
She lay on his bed, naked. Her figure was as surprising as her face had been the moment she’d first thrown back her hood. The bulky robes and dirty rags she had covered herself with had done a perfect job of hiding a gorgeous, trim, figure.
One of the bags of clothing he had carried in loosened in his grip and fell to the floor breaking him out of his trance. He shook his head after he realized he’d been staring.
“You…are the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.”
She giggled and blushed and her reddened cheeks highlighted that scar. This time Roy cursed the scar. He’d almost been able to let himself believe he was with a cute, innocent girl back in school in Central. The blemish dragged him back to reality.
They stared at each other again. Roy in the doorway and her on his bed. Finally, in unison something seemed to snap and they rushed into each other’s arms.
They made passionate love that night. It seemed like their bodies turned all their anger, frustration, confusion and powerlessness into heat and sweat. When they were done, Roy opened the door out onto their balcony where two sand-blasted chairs sat on either side of it. She, wrapped in the sheet from the bed and he in his uniform trousers sat out there.
The warmth from the bricks Roy had felt earlier was starting to fade and up above the streets, they got a blast of wind from out in the desert, where it ran over the flat ground hundreds of miles. In the aftermath of their lovemaking it felt good.
Out beyond the city limits, lights flashed in the sky, while a couple seconds after each flash there would be a low rumble. “I love thunderstorms,” Kalina finally said after letting the rumbling carry the conversation for several minutes.
“But we’re in the desert, there’s no thund—“ Roy was about to explain it was actually the flashes and rumble of artillery but realized the silliness of explaining that to someone who’d lived in the desert her whole life. He looked over and a flash of light illuminated the tears in her eyes. She obviously didn’t need to be told.
“Yeah, yeah I do too.” He reached over to her and held her hand and they pretended they were someplace else.
Roy Mustang had regretted waking up next to plenty of women in his life. However, this time the regret was less a drunken miscalculation than a biting guilt that he knew he’d carry for a long while.
He rose early and went down to the Officer’s mess, a converted Ishbalan restaurant that maintained some of its original elegance for the sake of the high brass that frequented the temp quarters.