Sorry for the late late update.
Please blame them on my fading muses and unwieldy fingers (and the fact that CC was currently addicted to PoT!)
Ed managed to secure the room next to him for his not-so-little brother.
Much as he wanted to stare at his brother all day, trying to gauge the differences and wondering whether he'd grow up to be as tall as Al, it was too much of a risk and nuisance. He didn't want to risk Al being attacked by some miscellaneous, weak, lower demons who thought they could gain an upper hand advantage if they attacked during the night, thereby proving themselves dumber than dumb since foxes are nocturnal. It was also a nuisance because Ed had no doubt that the jeering ningens downstairs would be all too willing to throw themselves at Al and him after their supposed night tryst in Ed's bedroom.
Ed didn't want to trouble Al, so he squashed down his urge to stare all night as his brother's sleeping face and opted for the 'next door' option.
At the very least, Ed would be able to hear if anyone sneaked into Al's room.
That just goes to show that sometimes even the most cautious, paranoid demon could be wrong.
Ed spent the whole night wide-awake, listening to see if any youkai (or perverts) dared enter Al's room. None did. And they should be thankful.
Hell have no fury like a pissed, older brother.
Hell also have no fury like a sleep-deprived, nocturnal kitsune in the morning.
Unfortunately, Ed was just that the next morning. Despite of the quick bath he'd taken to freshen up, the bags under his eyes threatened to smack his head on the dirty bar's table and start snoring.
That was what Al found when he finally woke up and crawled down to look for breakfast and a certain missing golden-haired teenager. The bar in the morning wasn't nearly as full as it was when Ed came back with him in toll. There were still a few sly-looking loiterers, grubby looking men flashing gold teeth and fake silver at them. Al couldn't help but feel a little discomforted by all the attention.
All the attention directed to a happily, oblivious, sleepy teenager, who was in danger of wearing his breakfast.
Some unspeakable force, that Al later decided was protectiveness and definitely NOT infatuation, lead the tall man to force his way towards the smaller blond, gently push the grubby, dirty old man to the next seat over and claim the only seat next to the dozing blond. He poked the shorter blond carefully.
Ed fell out of his light doze and greeted Al excitedly. "Al! Morning!" Al blinked at the suddenness alertness of the one next to him. "Oi! One more breakfast special here!" The last part was directed at the bar owner. The seedy man growled some reply, stalked off into the kitchen and proceeded to make Al even more uncomfortable by delivering a 'special' which was easily the biggest breakfast he'd ever seen. That included breakfast at Winry's and those were big breakfasts made for three people.
Al faintly wondered if the small teenager had eaten the same thing while he was waiting for him.
"Eat up Al! Finish it all." Ed pushed a fork and spoon in his brother's direction. "And don't leave the table until everything is cleared. Oh…and drink this too." Ed shoved his mug of milk towards his brother. After all those years, the kitsune still couldn't stand drinking something excreted like that from any animal.
The taller blond obediently took the mug and drained it before realizing that he was obeying someone he had meet less than 8 hours ago. It feels natural being so unnaturally trusting. Completely confused, Al placed the mug down and began poking at his fried eggs on toast.
"If you don't want it, I'll eat it for you." A pale hand reached out for a strip of bacon. Al smacked away on reflex, then felt completely ashamed.
"S-sorry." Al flushed as his voice stuttered and broke. He hit a child. A defenseless child who bought him breakfast and he had hit him. Was he a child-abuser?
Ed chuckled. Even if Al didn't recognize him, it felt good to be treated as family again.
"I'm going with you." Ed told him in an impassive tone, as though his statement didn't mean immediate imprisonment from the military.
Al, who was in a post-breakfast food coma, was quickly shocked back into reality. "Y-yo – Edo!" Al stuttered. "You can't just go into the Central's headquarters without a pass! Even if you are with me. Civilians are not allowed inside. You have to wait for me outside. There's a nice café down the street…" Al's voice faded off as he realized that the last thing both of them need was more food. It was a miracle he could still move after the breakfast special.
Edo's amber eyes glowed with determination. "I'm not leaving you behind." He stated.
The blond man sighed, somehow this stubbornness and disregard to rules felt very familiar but he couldn't seem to place a finger on it. What was the teenager going on about not 'leaving him behind?' Shouldn't it be the other way around?
"Edo – it's just a meeting with the Lieutenant Colonel and Russ. It's not going to take too long, but it's definitely longer than waiting for you to get a pass." A pass took 3-4 days to process since the military personnel had to run a background and security check and validate that the person has a valid excuse to go there. Edo has no valid reason to go there, other than accompany him. Al doubted anyone would give him a pass even if Edo did look harmless.
But that serial killer might be after Edo. The teen wouldn't be safe if nobody was watching over him. But then again, Edo couldn't go into the headquarters with him…it's just not standard procedure! Even Fletcher needs a pass to visit his brother!
There was a bit more muted grumbling from the smaller blond before Ed finally conceded. "Fine. You go ahead and I'll wait for you out here." Ed grouched, lips turned down in a familiar pout.
Al smiled back happily at him before he caught himself. Why was he feeling so elated that he turned down a child? Why was he feeling so happy he hurt the child? He briefly wondered what was wrong with him today – for a usually nice, polite young man turning into a child-abuser. Perhaps it was the breakfast special that caused all logic to fly out of the window when it concerned the happy-go-lucky, and not-so-lucky, young witness striding next to him.
"I won't be long." Al smiled, patting the smaller blond on the shoulder before he walked through the front gates of Central's military headquarters.
The kitsune watched and waved until Al disappeared from view. It was a minor setback not being able to follow Al into the headquarters. Back in those days, Al could just wait in the corridor or waltz into the military library and nobody batted an eyelid.
Ed heaved a sigh and headed towards Central's library. He had predicted the outcome correctly. Kurama's strategy lessons are quite handy and very memorable in a way that a mistake is often deadly or completely humiliating. Kurama called it 'practical experience'; Hiei called it 'kitten training'; Yusuke called it 'bonding time.' (ie. from James Bond - from the way Kurama had set up the obstacle course, you need James Bond abilities and more to complete. Yusuke made horrible puns sometimes.)
Practical experience paid off.
Ed was glad his brother was not allergic to the poison ivy seed he'd planted during breakfast.
Security could be a lot better in Ed's opinion. The Central library, accessible only for military personnel, was as easy to break into as a 2nd hand thrift store on the verge of bankruptcy. The guards were busy comparing self-images and girlfriends a few feet away from the main doors of the library. There were nobody and nothing worth noting in the back, which made it easy for Ed to slip past the unlocked backdoor.
In fact, it was too easy, which made Ed's skin prickle. (Kurama tended to save the 'highlights' of a mock break-in at the end. The ease to obtain the goal is directly disproportional to the ease of getting out. Hiei also liked to take part in the 'highlights' by flinging fireballs at him. On the good days, Ed could emerge only slightly roasted with the remainder of his clothes covering him indecently, and the 'objective' relatively intact but very scratched.)
Ed silently toed the door closed and moved soundlessly, thankful, once more, for wearing silk shoes. The wooden floor was polished, obviously the architects hadn't learned from the past. This type of wood was particularly flammable, Ed mused.
It was more organized than Reikai's ever-expanding library. Directions were clearly written in large, gaudy signs with florid script. They proudly proclaimed that the first floor contained books accessible to all officers, which included basic law books, history books, strategy books etc. The second floor, where the kitsune was headed, is the restricted information about alchemy, forbidden research papers and military personnel. Each section was located in a different wing with large locked wooden doors to prevent nosy busy-bodies.
Ed didn't meet with anyone inside the library, which wasn't that odd. In the past, people rarely went there without a purpose, which made for a quick visit. Ed doubted it changed that much. He waited outside the West Wing on the second floor, listening for any human breathing. There was none.
Ed smirked, unpicked the lock with a cacti needle and went in.
"Oh. It's a kit. How disappointing."
Ed cursed to himself under his breath. How could he forget about checking for youki? Maybe his lack of sleep was finally catching up with him. He turned slowly to greet the intruder, using time to pull himself out of shock.
"Sorry to disappoint. Koenma knew that low-class youkai rarely needs attention from spirit detectives, since they conveniently kill themselves anyway." Ed eyed his opponent readily. The youkai looked to be a lower B-class, and some mix of a fire demon. It had gravity-defying dark hair like Hiei, though much taller and muscular, with one less eye. Hiei was decidedly more handsome than this smirking fire youkai in front of him. At least Hiei's face looked symmetrical, even with the odd eyeball. This one had 5 horns sticking out of his head in an erratic fashion.
The youkai carelessly flung a fireball behind him. Ed tried not to gasp as the culprit from last night's fire loftily gave evidence for his trial and prosecution. Dark flames spread rapidly, more so than the commonly known orange flames, for black flames do not require oxygen to burn. It only requires the will and youki, which was what made it so difficult to put out.
He's definitely a fire youkai like Hiei.
"Tell Koenma to send his dogs – not a stupid pup next time."
Ed's temper rose with the flames surrounding him. "Who are YOU calling useless, piddling puppy who cowers from hamsters?!" He roared, stepping right into the middle of the room to give the fire youkai a taste of his leaf blade and poison needles. Adrenaline eradicating pain from unhealed wounds in previous fights.
Another dark fireball was tossed towards the kitsune. Ed stepped aside quickly, easily evading it. "You're…an amusing pup." The fire youkai snorted with a hint of laughter. Obviously, he had been aiming to miss, like Ed wasn't even worth his dirtying his hands. "I've never seen someone insult themselves that way before." He leaned to the side, avoiding Ed's vicious kick to his head and caught Ed's other flying foot with his right hand. A quick twist of wrist sent Ed flying in the air.
The kitsune landed painfully onto a smoldering pile of bookshelves. Ed jumped up immediately to avoid his tail from singeing. Hissing a little as he felt his half-mended ribs fracture again.
"Respect your elders, puppy." The fire youkai gave a shout, Ed guessed only for effect since Hiei didn't need to make any sound when he calls upon his ultimate technique. Dark flames spewed out all around the kitsune, books burst into darkened cinders, doors melted, walls scorched thinner and thinner until it finally crumbled. The expensive carpet burst Ed stood on couldn't take the heat either and erupted into flames.
Ed let out an undignified yelp and jumped backwards, ignoring the sharp sting from his chest and left ankle as he landed oddly. He'd have to save a little youki for pain-numbing plants for later, much later. Dashing around throwing punches and kicks wasn't going to work, the fire youkai has an advantage in speed. The kitsune would have to use strategy and plants – his last resort since his youki hasn't recovered from his last ordeal.
Black flames melted glass windows into hot goop. The fire youkai laughed. "Stupid pup. You think you can stop me? You're a few hundred years too early."
"I'm NOT a dog!" Being called likened to dogs – kitsunes' eternally; warring specie rubbed Ed the wrong way. "Damn it! I'm not a DOG!" Ed pulled out his cacti needles from his hair-ties and threw them. Flaming fists deflected them accompanied with a smirk.
"Not a dog. A puppy. A brainless, drooling puppy." The youkai vanished from sight, reappearing behind and gave the kitsune a high kick. The burnt wooden door gave way as Ed crashed right through, sailing past the railings. Ed reflexively drew his poison ivy whip and swung it back towards the fire youkai. If he's going down, Ed would make sure that the other would follow.
The kitsune flipped gracefully over a bookshelf onto the polished wooden floor, careful to land on his good ankle, then twisted his wrist. Above him, the fire demon fell, cursing to the ground, setting alight Ed's whip and several bookshelves. Ed shrunk his whip back to seed form, its job finished. If he was lucky, the fire youkai would get a poison ivy rash that wouldn't disappear for a few weeks.
Ed went on defensive as the angry fire youkai blasted fireball after fireball. The kitsune nimbly leapt from bookcase to bookcase, setting a trail of fire after him, also inadvertently setting ablaze his trail to find out about Brigadier Watsons. Kurama wasn't there to call him careless, so Ed focused on getting away.
He couldn't help but find it quite amusing that this would be the second time he's involved with torching libraries.
"What are you laughing at, puppy?!" Ed felt the back of his coat hiss with smoke. Spinning around he used his good foot to kick a heavy armchair towards the fire youkai. Ed grinned as the youkai jumped. He fed his youki into the seeds he had planted earlier on the armchair. Bamboo shot up from the ground, nicking the fire youkai on his left arm and ear.
"At how slow you are. You really should invest in some brains." Ed taunted, flicking his poison ivy whip into position. He slashed downward, adding youki to his attack to grow the plant just as the youkai jumped backwards, falling into Ed's trap.
During that few seconds of encounter, Ed had feed his youki into the bamboo. As the fire youkai leapt, bamboo blasted upwards, impaling the youkai right through his right shoulder. Ed tried not to gloat but didn't succeed. It wasn't often Ed used a planned strategy that actually worked. (Having Kurama as his strategy mentor really puts a damper in Ed's self-esteem.)
"Not bad for a pup." The fire youkai spat out blood and grinned. "If you come back with me, I can give you more power." His left hand rose and touched the impaled plant. The bamboo disintegrated in a cloud of ashes.
More bamboo erupted from the floorboards. The fire youkai took a step forward and vanished, reappearing behind Ed to punch him in the back.
Ed crashed into a side table by a window, breaking a cheap imitation of a vase. He winced as he felt his coat burn a flame-fist sized hole. Yusuke wouldn't be happy to know that his birthday present was ruined.
His ears perked up at the sound of alchemic transmutation taking place and panicked shouts coming from the window. The military must have arrived to put out the fire, which obviously didn't work. More shouting ensured, then a heavy thundering of human feet that came closer and closer to the main door. Front-line military officers really aren't that bright if they were going to storm the place to save any books that weren't burnt.
"Stupid ningens." A burst of dark flames hit the ceiling. There was an agonizing few seconds as the rafters creaked and groaned but seemed to hold on its own. The fire youkai, clutching his right shoulder, vanished onto the burning the rafters. With a smirk, he stomped hard onto the wooden rafter and escaped through the roof.
Ed watched in slow motion, as the ceiling gave in, and the rafter broke into two, just as the main door burst open and first blue-uniformed officer stampeded into the blazing library.
Perhaps ningens are stupid afterall. Ed thought, with the exception of his brother. Al's got to get his good genes from somewhere.
"Run, you idiot!" The kitsune scrambled to his feet, wincing a little as he set his weight on his twisted ankle. He'd have to deal with that later. Mustering the last dredges of his youki, Ed sprinted across the floorboards in youkai speed. Nobody noticed him until a golden and gray blur knocked over two shocked officers arcing past the main door, above stunned officers who stood in the doorway, and landed with a thump at the bottom of the stairs.
He was glad that he had two idiots cushioning his fall. Behind him, the library collapsed in a final cry of raining ash and splinters. Followed shortly by gasps, cries and coughs, from officers standing too close to the blazing inferno.
Ed could recognize Al's voice anywhere. Sure enough not a moment later, Al pushed himself through, past scowling majors and lieutenants, concern pouring in waves over a singed looking teenager, sitting on two men.
Brown eyes widened at the smaller blond's condition. "Are you okay?" Seeing the burnt hole at the back of Ed's coat, Al immediately entered into a motherly mood. "You're burned badly! I'm taking you to the hospital! Can you move? Does it hurt?" Al's hands wring desperately as if he's feeling the burns more than Ed.
Warmth spread inside Ed. Seeing his little brother worried over him, and only him (Al seemed to have forgotten the 2 squashed officers he was still sitting on) felt good. Amber eyes brightened, sleepiness, weariness and pain gone; the kitsune gave his brother a dazzling smile.
"I'm fine Al. I'll fix everything up later."
"You're going to the hospital! Don't be stubborn!"
"I'm fine Al! Stop being a fuss-button!" Ed attempted to get off his human cushions, cringing a little as his twisted ankle protested against his weight.
"Why do you have to be so stubborn? You're making it worse!"
"I'm not being stubborn!"
"Yes you are!"
CC suddenly realized this is the first attempt in writing a fight scene. CC hopes it's not that bad.
If anyone recognized the last bit, it is a modified version of Al and Ed's conversation in the Episode called 'With the River's Flow'.
Can someone think up of a good name to call the fire youkai? CC is tired of calling him 'fire youkai' but couldn't come up with anything.
Why is Ed angry being called a dog? Kistunes are known to be clever. Dog youkai are not as bright. So basically, he's calling Ed dumb. (but the fire youkai is also dumb since he couldn't extinguish between the two.)
Where's Roy? He's coming! Can't have a story without that womanizer!
Will Ed get his alchemy back? No. He lost his alchemy once he passed through the gate. So, no more flashy, clapping, cannon-making from Ed. It will be replaced by flashy youkai moves instead.