A/N: Here we go, chapter five! Very cute little moment at the end, I think. :P
The next day, while Alphonse and May were pouring over dusty volumes in the library, their came a slightly timid knock at the door and Ling stepped inside quickly, unescorted.
"Good Morning, Ling!"
"Ah, Alphonse!" he clapped his hand enthusiastically, "Might... might I have a word with you for a moment?" he kept glancing back at the door. "Before... before somebody finds me..."
Al glanced at May, who just shrugged her shoulders and looked back in confusion. "Of course..."
"Excellent!" he leapt towards them, grabbed his arm, and ran off pulling Alphonse behind him into one of the private library chambers, stopping only once they were safely inside.
"Alphonse... I would like your help with something."
"Sure... what is it?"
"It's um, a political matter."
"Yes, it's, um, delicate."
Al was quite sure, that, inexplicably, Ling was nervous, an emotion that he had never seen on him and really didn't suit.
"Well, what is it?"
"As you know, it is the custom in Xing, and has been for many centuries, for the Emperor to take the daughter of the Chief of each one of the fifty clans as his concubine."
"Well, it's coming up to my eighteenth birthday soon, and the officials are very keen to, um, starting the official proceedings. Regarding my taking of the royal-"
"I get it."
"But I don't want to do that. I don't want to have fifty consorts, and I certainly don't want to have fifty children, all fighting each other for the throne. I want... I just want to have one legal wife, one family. Watch my children grow up together..."
Al couldn't help smiling at his friend as he muddled through what seemed like such a simple, straight forward request. "Well, do it!"
Ling sighed. "It's not that easy. It's an ancient-old tradition, people won't be happy to see it go. It will need to be approved by the council-"
"Won't they be happy to stop seeing heirs and clans fight each other?"
"The general idea is that the best person for the job is chosen. You see the logic, but that's not always the case. The most ambitious leader is not necessarily the best- the most diplomatic or just."
"Have you talked to Lan Fan about this?"
"What? No! Why?"
"I just thought you'd want her opinion on this. She understands the importance of tradition more than I do."
"No... no, I don't want to tell her about this. She might... might not approve."
"OK..." said Alphonse suspiciously. "So, what is it exactly that you want me to do?"
"You're highly respected, Alphonse. Both in Amestris and Xing. Just to having your backing could mean a lot... but I'll need to do my research, prepare a good argument and counter-argument. I'm... I'm not very good at that sort of thing. You know. With books. And paperwork."
"Oh, will you! Fantastic! Now, I know you're spending a lot of time learning Alkahestry and I'm a very busy man too, during the day! Shall we meet back here after dinner?"
"Excellent! Thank you, Alphonse! Oh, and one more thing- would you mind keeping this to yourself for the time being? Wouldn't do to have it spread just yet. Well then, until later! Goodbye!"
He marched off before Al could get another word in edgeways, leaving him to return to his seat with a very bemused look of his face.
"What was all that about?" asked May.
"Oh, Ling wants my help with something. It's not that important. Where were we?"
Al wasn't quite sure how serious Ling was about changing the law until he arrived in the library after dinner to find the place stacked high with books and scrolls, with Ling already piling through them. He had no idea what would be useful at what wouldn't, so Al found himself going through every single one of the texts and setting aside anything of merit. Ling was very thorough once the pile was whittled down, and the two of them worked well into the night.
A soft bell rang out every so often on the hour, but the two had stopped paying attention until they sat, exhausted, and a single chime rang out into the night. Alphonse nearly leapt out of his seat.
"Is that... is that the time?"
Ling looked up wearily. "Guess it is. I'm sorry, Alphonse. I didn't mean to keep you this long."
"Damn. I was meant to meet May and midnight for some special midnight Alkahestry..."
"You can't do it tomorrow?"
"It's best during a full moon... why didn't she come and find me? I'm sorry Ling, I've got to go."
"It's no problem. Sorry I kept you so long."
Al grabbed his jacket and rushed off. He checked in the gardens, where they'd been due to meet, and wasn't surprised to find she wasn't there any more. He headed for her room, hoping to find her still awake, but she didn't answer the door when he knocked and he decided she'd probably gone to sleep. Annoyed with himself, he finally went back to his room.
Only to find her, curled up and fast asleep, on top of his bed covers with a book beneath her curled hands. She must have nodded off waiting for him.
"Oh, May," Al extended a hand and stroked back a lock of hair. It was so soft under his fingers, smooth as silk.
He wondered if he should wake her up to apologise, or if he should just move her back to her own room- it seemed criminal to wake someone sleeping so peacefully. But then, there was always the danger that someone might spot him carrying her through the corridors and that was not a story he wanted to explain. Perhaps it would be better to leave her where she was and sleep on the chaise.
Deciding that was the best idea, he pulled the book out from under her and placed it on his bedside table. He was just pulling up one of the bed sheets when she murmured something under her breath.
"Alphonse..." for a second, he thought she was still asleep and the idea of her mumbling his name while she was unconscious excited him for some reason, but when he turned to look at her, he saw that her eyes were half-open and she was staring up at him.
"Hey. I'm so sorry I forgot May, I just lost track of the time..."
"It's all right, we can do it next month. Means you get to stay longer."
"I think I'm a fair way off mastering Alkahestry, May."
"You're actually getting pretty good..." she yawned. "Oh dear, I'm sorry I fell asleep. Guess I should be moving... oh! I found at interesting chapter on advanced Healing Alkahestry... I marked the page because it said something... interesting... that sounded like... it bypassed the laws... of equivalency..."
"You're way too sleepy to be moving!"
"No, I'm not..." she reached out and took Alphonse's hand and wove her fingers into his. A bolt of warmth shot right through him, a feeling quite unlike anything he'd ever felt before. "I really like your smile, Alphonse." she whispered, her eyes closing again. "Of all the smiles... in all the world... I like yours best of all."
Al stroked her cheek as she fell asleep, and found strange new feelings rising inside of him, strange words falling out of his mouth. "That's odd," he told her sleeping form. "Because I think that about yours."
Shortly after he said it, he shrugged it off, wondering what on Earth he meant, and went to pick up the book, flipping to the section she'd dog-eared. A few choice words piqued his interest and he sat down on the end of the bed to read it. He only meant to sit there for a minute while he finished the chapter, but he carried on through the rest of the book, engrossed, until slowly, ever so eventually, sleep began to creep up on him as well and he lay down his head next to May's and nodded off.
A/N: What is Ling's motivation for changing the law? Can it be accomplished? Has Alphonse stumbled upon a lead in his quest to overturn the law of Equivalent Exchange? Find out in the next chapter of His Princess, Her Alchemist! (Maybe ;P)
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