Days of Reckoning
A/N: We're pretending Chris adopted Roy from Xing when Roy was... still in single digits, but not terribly young.
Today's the day.
Roy sighed. For all that he was confident in his mastery of basic alchemic principles, he was still very nervous. He had heard time and again that this test had broken some of the most promising alchemists Amestris had ever seen. A few had even dropped alchemy completely and went to live as hermits, forever shamed by their failure.
Then, Chris would tell him things like that to scare him into studying like a madman. Even a few months prior, she had sent him a letter at the Hawkeyes' house.
I know you've probably kept all this secret from Mr. Hawkeye, and that's your choice, but someone has got to tell you how to prepare, even if it's just me. If you're really serious about becoming a State Alchemist, you'd better be prepared to face everything from age discrimination to impossibly difficult tests. You know that these things are designed to separate the men from the boys, but it's hard to keep that in mind when they're asking you something you've never learned.
If you have a general idea, go with what your instinct tells you. Maybe you won't be completely right, but you've got a good head on your shoulders when you put your mind to a task. If you just don't know, cut your losses and come back to it later. If you don't finish, oh well. You know as well as I do that the world isn't fair.
Also, be on time, try to impress with manners and respect, and don't you dare even think of cheating. I've taken great care to keep all of us out of trouble, and there is no way I will vouch for you if you are stupid enough to do something illegal.
That said, I'm rooting for you. I might support your decision, or I might not, but I know what you're working towards in the end of it all. Be ready to get your hands dirty, even soaked in blood for your cause. It's sad, but that seems to be the only way to rise up in this world.
All my best—
At least she hadn't tried to sugar-coat it. Tensions were rising everywhere, and Roy knew that if he passed, he would likely be called out to a front for training.
His hands shook at the thought. Coming from Xing, he had vague memories of a pretty poor, rough-and-tumble neighborhood. He'd seen people left in the streets to die. Even here, there was obvious injustice.
He was going to change all that.
Still, a little more practice wouldn't hurt.
Grabbing a glass and a piece of chalk, Roy drew a basic transmutation circle on the bottom and pressed his fingertips to it. A soft glow filled the room as the glass took on a different shape.
Stepping back to inspect his work, Roy nodded. A perfect sphere.
Unfortunately, perfect spheres are known to roll when on an unstable surface, and the ball slid from the slightly tilted table to the floor, shattering.
Cursing and muttering what a pain this was in Xingese, Roy gathered the shards into another circle he had drawn and pressed his hands to it. This time, the result was a small glass swan. It looked all right, if a bit disproportionate, but Roy was more of a big-picture person when it came to alchemy. He got away with as few details as he could, knowing that it might cost him.
He left the swan on the table and went over to the stack of books by his bed in the hotel room, grabbing the first one about basic alchemic theory. Time to give the details one last glance.
Forget being told he looked green, Roy felt green. He could barely focus, and all he was doing at the moment was listening for his group number!
"Come on, buddy—they just called us." A man a bit older than Roy nudged Roy's shoulder. "I'm not gonna pretend that either of us is gonna pass, but good luck. They need some young blood in there, huh?"
Roy nodded weakly and licked his lips. Now or never.
If there's a God, He's laughing at me right now.
Roy tapped his pencil on the paper, absolutely stumped. How was he supposed to know the answer to this?
Think basic principles. It always comes back to that.
That was the general advice Riza had given him whenever he had complained of being stuck. She had picked up a few basic ideas of alchemy, so she couldn't help him much, but she was usually right about which basic ideas a more complicated problem could come back to. And then everything had happened… but he couldn't let that distract him now!
Basic principles, huh? Roy started going through every broad idea he had been taught until he found one that applied. Oh, Riza, I'll never forget this! Roy had to suppress a frown as he began to write.
He hadn't finished all of the problems, but most of what he had finished, Roy was fairly confident about. As absent as Mr. Hawkeye could be sometimes, he had taught Roy well, and there were so many references at the Hawkeye house that Roy had been able to teach himself certain aspects when Mr. Hawkeye was too busy to give a proper lesson.
At least he had gotten through it. Half-way through, a man about Roy's age had ripped his test to shreds, thrown his pencil across the room, and had been escorted out by MPs.
"Hey." The man who had talked to Roy before the test took a seat next to him.
"How'd it go?" Roy asked.
The man shook his head. "Dunno. Some of it seemed pretty pointless. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. You're rarely disappointed that way."
"If you're not going to invest yourself in this, you probably shouldn't have taken this test in the first place." Okay, now the possibly-existent God was possibly-definitely laughing at him; he sounded like Mr. Hawkeye!
The other man smirked. "Sure you're not just taking this to prove that you can? Nobody's gonna be your friend if you make it, kid."
Roy shrugged. "I don't really care. I'm going to be a State Alchemist, and I'm going to change the way this country works."
"Wow! And on the steps of Central Headquarters itself!" the man laughed. "You've got guts, boy. For now, anyway. Don't go crying to Mommy when the first thing goes wrong, though." He got up and walked off. "Good luck, kid!"
Chris wouldn't have sympathy if I came crying to her, anyway, Roy thought. She raised me better than that. She'd just tell me that things didn't work out the way I'd originally planned and that I'd have two choices: let it get me down and out, or move on. And then she'd pare it down to the second one somehow. He shook his head.
It was time to move on, regardless of his results. It'd be one way or the other, and he would have to tell Mr. Hawkeye at some point. He'd never be welcomed back to the Hawkeyes' after that, but that wasn't going to stop him from changing Amestris. One way or another, he'd do it.
Roy carefully slit the envelope and unfolded the letter.
He stared at the paper in disbelief.
He'd passed! He'd done it!
Well, not quite.
My practical is… tomorrow? I thought for sure I'd have more time to… No time to think about that. I've got to come up with something impressive and useful. That's the only way I'm going to get in now.
Roy sank onto the bed. He'd heard that most State Alchemists had passed with large displays of power, but there were a few who had favored ingenuity. There were even stories of a female alchemist from the south who didn't need to draw an array to use alchemy, but who had flat-out refused to become a State Alchemist.
The idea for Flame Alchemy, he had. The ability… he was still working on. He needed something to make a spark and contact the array at the same time. So far, nothing had really worked.
Come on… there's got to be something!
Roy snapped his fingers, searching for ideas. Nothing, nothing, noth—wait a minute!
Tearing open his suitcase, Roy searched for an old pair of gloves he had shoved in while packing to grab the train. He needed to buy some flint and steel, grind it to an exact size using alchemy, attach it to the gloves, probably by alchemy again so the fusion would be complete and not flimsy, and draw the array on (or, if he had the time, stitch it to) the backs of the gloves.
I must be crazy, but maybe, just maybe, this will work.
Roy couldn't help but notice that everyone was older than he was. Then again, what had he expected? He was almost nineteen, and most State Alchemists studied through their twenties and well into their thirties to just barely make the cut. Maybe his answer to a question about his intended practical had gotten the military's attention. They had been known to take special cases.
"Well, now. You look a bit young. Lost or something?"
The condescending, oily voice sent a shiver up Roy's spine. "No. I'm here for the State Alchemist practical test."
The man who had spoken looked thoughtful. "To watch?"
"To participate." Roy was getting angry. He was young, but talented, if he did say so himself. His idea had worked out quite well last night, with a few minor alterations to the original design.
"I see. What might you be doing?"
"I guess you'll just have to wait and see like the rest of them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm next." Roy turned from the ponytailed man and walked over to the man who had called his name.
"Roy Mustang, eighteen, from Central," the guard announced.
Roy saw eyes widen in surprise, but knew he had to stay as he was.
"Very well." At least the Führer seemed calm. "Let's see what you can do."
Roy slid his gloves on, took a crumpled ball of paper from his pocket, threw it in the air, concentrated, and snapped.
BOOM! The paper went up with a bit more force than Roy had expected. Some of the older men in the stands staggered for a moment, but the Führer remained unshaken, and was even smiling just a little.
"I believe we have a new State Alchemist. You will be given further instructions later. Go home and rest."
Roy turned and left the room, a big grin on his face.
"So, you got in. Pretty impressive." That man again! "I thought I was going to be the only new one this year. I just hope we get to the front soon. And with your ability, I hope I'll see you there and in action." Of all things, he ruffled Roy's hair! "Good job, boy." He walked off.
As angry as Roy was, something in his gut told him that he didn't want to mess with that man, nor did he ever want to see him again.
But that same feeling told him that, unfortunately, he probably would.
Roy shuddered and continued walking. Time to go tell Chris, then time to pack.
He had a country to change.
A/N: Whew! Done! Mercy me, that was long—almost 1900 words! It came from an idea sparked by a discussion in the Royai thread on fullmetal-alchemist(dot)com about not knowing what the State Alchemist exam was like for Roy, since we never get to see him use any other kind of alchemy. I took a few liberties with Roy's age, though he was probably quite young, and I might have fudged the exam facts a little, but I had a pretty good time with this!
Also, Roy's pretty excited about the possibility of being a State Alchemist, so he doesn't focus much on what happened before he took the exam. It's not that he doesn't care, but he's got his dream on the brain.
Well, let me know how I did! I think it needs a bit of work, but it was fun to do!