AUTHOR'S NOTES: I nicked the lyrics of the Requiem from Wikipedia. Type in "requiem" and it should take you there.
Anyhow, if you have seen the tattoo (I won't elaborate in case I accidentally spoil anyone) in chapter 57 close-up, or if you've been reading in-depth articles on the subject, you'll instantly see the importance of the Requiem lyrics.
Victoria opened the door to his room a crack before swinging it wide open with a soft yet abrupt creak and adding with a bit of a giggle, "Dinner's ready…don't starve yourself or else I'll force-feed you!"
Roy's bedroom was spacious and had pretty much everything an eleven-year-old son of a wealthy family could ask for – two wardrobes and a full bookshelf occupying a single wall, a four-poster canopy bed with navy sheets and placed beside the two blue-curtained windows, a large desk that was currently deluged in papers with varying alchemic arrays drawn on them, open and closed books, different writing materials, a chair upon which a black hooded jacket had been draped, and tucked in one corner was a closed but unlocked chest, presumably full of the toys he had outgrown, his violin case leaning against it. The other three walls were sprinkled with family photos, various awards and merits, and crude pencil drawings of transmutation circles.
And as for the boy himself, he was seated on the wooden floor, creating another circle with a stub of chalk. When that was done, he put a strange assortment of random items in the middle – a few shiny pebbles and some small marbles – and placed his hands on the markings.
Victoria squinted as everything was deluged in gold, and it was as if night had not come yet. As everything cleared, she couldn't help taking several steps closer to see what her youngest sibling had produced.
"What's that? Oh, wait…"
Roy smiled, picking up whatever had come from the transmutation, something half a foot high. He held it up for her to see, and she took it curiously.
It was a miniature version of the young alchemist, a tiny statuette with a strange but beautiful sheen that reflected the light coming from the light overhead. The figure, clutching a stick of chalk – at least, that was what Victoria thought he was holding – in one hand and with his violin tucked under his other arm, stood on a thin pedestal that was patterned to look like the floorboards in the real Roy's bedroom. An array was engraved into the pedestal, several interlocking triangles inside the smaller of two concentric circles, and beside it was a small stack of books.
"Looks just like you," Victoria remarked, nodding in approval as she gave Roy back his creation. "So, that makes everyone in the family, right?"
He grinned and stood up, brushing his knee-length shorts clean. Victoria followed him as he placed the figure onto a small shelf, which was already getting pretty crowded with the rest of his family-inspired alchemic creations.
There was a major general in his complete military uniform, standing ramrod-straight, saluting and holding a rifle in his other hand; their father had always been partial to the rifle. Beside him was a woman with hair pulled back into a bun, wearing an apron over her blouse and skirt and mixing something in her little bowl, smiling widely as she did so. Next was a piano, where Regine sat leafing through minuscule musical scores and her mouth was open in song. Elizabeth was perched on a stack of books and wrote in her tiny diary with a long quill, but her eyes were directed towards a girl who looked exactly like her, wearing a long ball gown and with arms extended into thin air, as though dancing with an invisible man. Now the model of Roy joined the rest of the Mustangs, taking the spot beside Victoria.
"I forget just how beautiful the statuette of me is…more beautiful than me," said the real Victoria, patting her statuette's flowing hair. "Wow…and now it's complete, right?"
"Not just yet," was the sly reply.
"Oh…but everyone's here. Mom…Dad…Ginny…me and Lizzie and you…are you going to add a young man into my arms or something, so I won't be dancing alone?"
Roy grinned. "That sounds like a good idea…but not exactly what I had in mind." For a moment he thought of that crystalline statue he had transmuted back at the Hawkeyes'. He blinked a couple of times, and he was back in his bedroom, talking to one of his sisters. "Maybe when you get someone, I'll make a statue of him so you'll finally have a dance partner."
Victoria beamed. "Wow…that's so nice of you. But…that won't be for a while. After all, I am only sixteen going on seventeen…"
"Hopefully by that time, I'll be a much better alchemist," said Roy, suddenly realizing how slightly lopsided his miniature violin case and stack of books were and sighing wistfully. Only less than two years to go…
"You will, I know it. Now come on, before they get all the good stuff! Mom's made your favorite tonight…"
"Okay!" He let his older sibling drag him out of his bedroom and down the stairs, where the rest of the Mustangs awaited their return.
Exactly two years had passed since Perenelle Hawkeye passed away. She was buried in a cemetery a hop, skip and a jump away from Grail Lane, and today, her widower and their daughter paid their respects to her, standing before the headstone with bouquets of different kinds of flowers in varying colors, all of them Perenelle's favorites. The morning was cool, and the moon was still up in the sky.
"I can't believe…it's been this long…"
Mr. Hawkeye gripped Riza's little hand tightly and tremulously. Both of them were clad in black, and Mr. Hawkeye had even pulled his overlong hair back into a loose ponytail that was draped over his shoulders. Riza, on the other hand, wore the hairclip Roy had made for her on his eleventh birthday, and he briefly crossed her mind. Her mother would have loved to meet the boy, and not just because he was a budding musician…
Riza's father sniffed, drawing an off-white handkerchief from his pocket and wiping his watering eyes and nose. She didn't cry, but her expression was stoic, devoid of all emotion, Mr. Hawkeye's exact opposite.
"Your mother always…always loved my alchemy. She was very interested, probably because she lived much of her life in Amestris instead of in Ishbal. I remember…the first thing I made out of alchemy for her…"
He crouched down onto the grass, reached out for a fallen twig, and scratched a transmutation circle into the soil beside the grave after cradling the flowers he held in his left arm. All the flowers were brought down into the middle of the circle, and he beckoned Riza to do the same. Then he slowly touched the array, and watched the familiar golden glow of alchemy enveloping every last blossom. When it was done, Mr. Hawkeye lifted the wreath of flowers onto his wife's grave.
Drawing a couple of candles from his jacket pocket, the alchemist lit one and melted the bottom of the other. He then did the same until both candles burned brightly, one on either side of the wreath.
"Fire…her favorite element," he said, more to himself than to his daughter. But Riza heard him and understood.
"She loved watching the fire in the fireplace whenever we would light it when it gets really cold," she answered, watching the dancing twin flames. "But of course, she was careful not to get burned."
"I know," said Mr. Hawkeye. He felt Riza take his hand into both of hers, and he sighed, a small, sad smile forming on his lips.
"'Over the years, alchemists have learned how to harness the four basic elements. The fifth, which is spirit or soul, can never be mastered by human hands and has forever remained out of reach. The consequences waiting for those who even try are dire, and often never spoken of even amongst alchemists themselves.'"
"I'm guessing…that's human transmutation, right?"
"That's right. Anyway, many people have discovered that they can have complete control over earth, which is the most often utilized element in alchemy, water, and even air. We can create an entire cornucopia of items from earth and the minerals and substances buried within it. Water can be shaped and bent to our will, divided into streams or united into great waves. We can even determine the flow and speed of wind, and the composition of the air. As alchemy progressed, its possibilities greatly increased."
"I know…it's just that many of my relatives believe that it is against Ishbala's will that we shape things to our own liking. The fact that people outside Ishbal still practice the Grand Arcanum – I mean, alchemy – must mean something, especially as those people haven't been destroyed by fire and brimstone as of late."
"Oh, Nick, Ishbala would never destroy good people. He has a sense of justice."
"And you think I'm a good man, Perenelle?"
"Don't waste your breath and just call me Nellie. Haven't I told you that? And I don't think…I know you're a good man."
"Really? Your mother and pretty much everyone on her side seem to think differently."
"That's because they see things differently. Don't let them get to you. Maybe it's just because they haven't gotten used to how we do things here. Even my mother, she insists that you be punished for what you've done in her home village. She tolerates alchemy…sort of…when we're here in Amestris, but when it's done around Ishbal, that's a different story."
"'Tolerates'? That's not as comforting as I'd like to hear."
"I guess it's because she says that when the time comes, all of Amestris will be cast into hell for their transgressions, and she doesn't care what they do, so long as they don't corrupt the Ishbalans."
"What about you, Nellie? Do you believe in hell?"
"Frankly…if Ishbala is such a loving god, why would there be hell? I imagine that anyone who has committed sins against him would have to pay the price, but after that they can join him in heaven. I can't think of permanent damnation…"
"Sorry, it's just that I'm not religious; Amestrians are not religious by nature."
"I know. But do I care?"
"If you did, you probably wouldn't have given a damn when I left your village after getting beaten up for an alchemic demonstration and receiving treatment in your saving hands. But no, I never knew that after that, we would meet again…fair, kindhearted Perenelle."
"Oh please, Nick. Anyway, I just thought of something while we were talking about hell…"
"You mentioned alchemists eventually learning how to master earth, wind and water. Then talking about hell reminded me that you forgot one element – fire. What about fire? Can alchemy also control fire? It's such a fascinating thing…so beautiful, and we can't live without it, and yet it is also capable of destruction. It has always been something of interest to me."
"Well…technically, yes. Unfortunately, it is a very hard job; you need perseverance, patience, and most of all, the will. You need a strong, hard will to exert all your control, because fire is probably the wildest, most unpredictable element among the four – five if you count spirit. Fire is very useful; yet it can mow down many lives. Alchemists who have tried this kind of alchemy never escape without burns and scratches, and some…well, have met a fiery end."
"I know. It's very tricky…but someday, science will find a way for us to finally tame this element. Then we will have control of all the elements – except spirit, of course. After all, it would be such a boring life if we could actually manipulate anything and everything."
"I can imagine. Anyway…it would be good if we did know how to control fire. I mean, so it won't be as dangerous as we know it to be."
"But the problem is, when we figure that out, there would be no doubt that many people will want that power…to destroy, to dominate, to pillage, plunder and kill. The military will seize it and use it to their advantage, to mow down countless people and force the country to bow to them…"
"Then surely the wielder of this power must be kindhearted and just. He or she must know the boundaries of such…be thou for the people, like you've always told me alchemists were…"
"Like you, Nick."
"I think you can handle that kind of power, since you're such a skilled alchemist, and you're a selfless one too. I mean, if you think about it, it was selfless of you to go out of your way to perform alchemy for the Ishbalans with nothing but good intentions, even putting yourself at great risk."
"You think I can…create that kind of alchemy?"
"Of course you can."
"You're just saying that."
"You know I'm not just saying that."
"You know something else?"
"You're really something special, Nellie."
He draped his black jacket onto his chair and plopped down morosely into his chair, staring at his desk, which was almost deluged in stacks and stacks of papers, notebooks, books and other miscellaneous things. Mr. Hawkeye reached out for a framed photograph that was almost hidden behind a couple of thick encyclopedias, and stared at it for a long while, not minding the peeling silver paint and the crack that was running through the glass that protected the photo inside.
It had been taken not too long after they had their talk about fire alchemy. The two of them were seated at the sofa at Perenelle's parents' house, smiling for the camera, with their arms around each other's shoulders.
Mr. Hawkeye knew, as he replaced the picture somewhere where he could look at it more clearly, that she never really expected him to actually create fire alchemy – after all, after that conversation, Perenelle barely mentioned it to him, especially not when Riza was born.
But still, because she had mentioned it, and because of the many possibilities that lay before him, seemingly taunting him, he was spurred to try, and he only became more determined after her untimely death. Now his fingers hovered over a small, yellowing sheet of paper that looked as though it had been torn from somewhere. He snatched it up and read it, bringing it an inch away from his face to understand the minute, slightly blurry script.
Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda, quando coeli movendi sunt et terra, dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. Tremens factus sum ego et timeo, dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira. Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis, et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
"What am I doing wrong?" he asked himself, slamming the paper down onto his desk and rattling many of the things precariously perched on the surface. "Why…"
He sighed. There were so few articles and documents on alchemic fire, all the references to fire he could find haven't been helpful so far, and it had been so long since anyone had tried such alchemy; every single prominent authority on the little information on fire alchemy was long dead. What did they do wrong? Was there something more? I know it can happen, it's possible…possible to control fire and use it for the greater good…
What are we doing wrong?
Burying his head in his hands and digging his fingernails into his now-free mane of hair and his scalp, Mr. Hawkeye racked his brain for answers. Perenelle's second death anniversary was not only a reminder to him that she would never come back, but that he remained so far away from the goal he hoped to achieve. He could still hear her encouraging, believing words…see her excited smile…feel her warm hands on his…smell the infusion of lavender and chamomile…
The alchemist snapped himself out of it.
And yet his goal had so many risks. For all he knew, others may be searching for something powerful, like his quarry, or lying in wait to take whatever he would come up with – assuming he did come up with something. Plus, what if he died? What if his research – even parts of it – ended up in the wrong hands? He shuddered.
Mr. Hawkeye dug through a folder stuffed with several papers and pulled out a slightly crumpled sheet, mouthing the first three words to himself.
A strange, rumbling noise interrupted his thoughts before he could even properly focus on them. He perked up and listened for the source of the sound, which seemed louder when he tried to look for it.
Apparently, he had been mulling over his fire alchemy research for too long, and his stomach was complaining.
He shoved his work aside and stomped out of his study, and in no time at all he stood in the dining room and kitchen, where his daughter was just about finished setting the table. No longer in a lacy black dress, Riza was in her usual shirt and shorts, but her hair was still pulled back from her face by the same marbled hairclip. Mr. Hawkeye wondered if the Mustang boy creating the clip had anything to do with her sudden change in hairstyle.
"Father, what's wrong?"
Realizing his face was still screwed up in concentration and frustration, he quickly rearranged it to a more presentable expression. "Oh…nothing, it's just that…well, I still haven't gotten close to…what I want. I mean…what I'm researching."
Riza nodded. "You mean that new kind of alchemy you want to create?"
"Yes…now, what do you want for dinner tonight? Perhaps we can have something your mother loved…would you like to help me?"
"I know you'll find what you're looking for," she reassured him. "And yes, I'll help you."
The flames crackled and danced merrily in the fireplace, as though enticing anyone who saw them to dance along. The soft popping noises were almost lost in the deep, mysterious legato of a bow skimming across cello strings.
"We've been having some pretty cold nights, haven't we?" asked Victoria, pausing to turn the page of the book propped up on a stand in front of her.
"I agree," Elizabeth sighed, sinking deeper into her armchair as she turned the page of the book on Liorite history she was reading. "You know, Vicky, Ginny once told me that she wants the three of us to play during her wedding…and she still hasn't even found a boyfriend yet. Talk about planning ahead. And she even wants us to play Andante Amestria, her most favorite piece."
"That's one hell of a complicated song," her twin replied, squinting at the notes on the page she was looking at. "Hopefully by that time I'll be able to play it; it's a beautiful piece, really."
Victoria blinked and glanced down on the carpet, where their brother was seated with an alchemy book and a sketchpad.
"You've been really quiet for a long while," she remarked. "And you've been doing nothing besides stare at the fire. Is there anything wrong?"
"Hmm…no, I'm fine," he mumbled.
"Well, I can't blame Roy for wanting to stare at the fire," said Elizabeth matter-of-factly, peering over her book. "It's a pretty sight, to be honest, even relaxing. And the discovery of fire was one of the biggest milestones of human history. If that hadn't happened…"
"Yeah, yeah, we all know that," said Victoria, rolling her eyes. "Anyway, I'll just keep on practicing." She started on her cello again. Elizabeth shrugged and went back to reading.
But while his sisters were busy, Roy continued gazing fondly at the flames…how they moved, how they crackled, how they kept him and everyone else warm. And yet, something of so much use could still be a dangerous force capable of taking lives as well as enriching them. He thought of that…he thought of that for a considerable length of time.
Unfortunately, the fact remained that in all of the alchemy books he had read, there wasn't anything significant about alchemy and fire.
Guess alchemy does have its limitations…
Plus, he wasn't a very skilled alchemist, not like Mr. Hawkeye. Fire was a very volatile thing, and didn't easily bend to a person's will – and he had seen much evidence of this; his mother's hands scalded from handling hot dishes, a match in his father's hand burning quickly even after he had lit candles, even the sound of Regine screaming as she tried to cook for the first time…
Not for the first time did Roy wish he could make time go faster, so he could start his alchemy lessons.
With a sigh, and finally shoving all his thoughts about fire into the very back of his head, he opened a book he had gotten on his eleventh birthday – Why Transmutation Circles are More than Just Chalk Drawings – and followed the dog-ear fold to where he had left off.