Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Fullmetal Alchemist, which has made no other manga in the world good enough for me now, is owned by Hiromu Arakawa.
This takes place after the fight with Pride, wherein he consumed Gluttony. It never sat well with me, how Ling disappeared after that fight. But then again, it never sat well with me how every person from Xing didn't get their own exclusive featurettes and story-arcs. *shrugs* I fully admit that I'm biased!
Trees flew by in a blur of blacks and greens, and for once Ling lent Greed his strength without demanding the exchange of control over his body. Extra speed, keener agility, greater reflexes and more – all focused on getting Greed wherever he was going faster, so long as the direction was away from Ed and the others.
"Woah, tiger," the homunculus called out with a smirk when he noticed the additional boost. "What's the hurry, all of a sudden? Those are your friends we left behind there, weren't they?"
A maelstrom of emotions swelled within Ling – guilt, fury, and longing to name a few – and he quickly seized one and pushed it nearest to the surface of the monster's awareness.
"Well well," Greed condescended, laughing. "Fear, huh? Not that I blame you, of course. Pride is one heck of a monster."
"The further away from that beast we can get, the better," Ling agreed, and then did his best to deflect. "It swallowed Gluttony like it was nothing. Exactly how many other siblings of yours are there?"
But Greed would not be distracted. "Yeah, Pride's a scary guy. But still, I'd never pegged you as a coward, Mr. Future-Emperor. Weren't you the one who stuck his arm down Gluttony's mouth, willingly? And you were all raring to go back there, taking him down like it was nothing, before Pride made a meal out of him. 'Course," Ling felt the homunculus slant his mouth in a lazy smirk. "You wouldn't have gotten too far without that smoking bodyguard of yours. What was her name again?
"Lan Fan, wasn't it?"
The steady beat of fear which Ling had been pushing at Greed suddenly spiked, before quickly stoppering up. Surprised, Greed halted their progress. Perched atop a thick branch of pine, he eased into a shaky crouch. No, Ling thought. No, keep going. Run. Run away. Get out of here – go!
"Yeah, I get it," Greed said, watching his legs tremble with the barely-repressed command to flee. "We're running." His voice lowered into a sly drawl. "But what exactly is it we're running from?"
Ling answered quickly. "The homunculs Pride, of course. We can't handle him right now, so we need to – "
"Ah ah ah," Greed lifted his finger to tut at the sky. "Come on buddy. I don't lie, and this is my body. Let's keep it sincere around here, shall we?"
Eyes closed, Greed turned his awareness within himself, finding Ling sitting cross-legged in the red-and-black sea of avaricious souls. Grinning, he taunted. "You're not fooling me, Mr. Future-King. It's not what we're running from – it's whom, isn't it?"
Glaring, Ling looked steadily back into the homunculus' blood-red face, and held his silence.
"It's the girl, right? Lan Fan," Greed sang the name tauntingly, and Ling only clenched his jaw all the tighter. "You think you're being clever, princeling, but I can see right through you. Scared of me taking interest, are we? What is she to you anyway, a bodyguard? Or perhaps something more?
"I'm right, aren't I! Don't lie; you're trying to keep me away from that tender piece! Nice try." Greed's laughter echoed in the confines of his churning soul, growing steadily in volume. "Did you forget? I'm Greed; everything in this world is mine! I just haven't gotten to all of it yet. Money, women, power - someday, I'll take them all.
"This Lan Fan girl won't be an exception. You really think I was too busy not to notice all that strength, all that honor?" Greed leered. "All that…flexibility? Running away from her won't keep her away from me, little soul. I'm going to own her, all of her. Tell me, is she just as much of a warrior in between the sheets, or is she the kind who 'lives to serve'? Does she scream? I'll bet she - "
"Shut the hell up."
On instinct, self-preservation more likely, the homunculus obeyed.
The Xingese prince sat with his eyes opened to the smallest of slits, anger pulsing off him in rippling waves. Greed was surprised – he hadn't seen that much intensity in Ling's face since the boy had demanded the homunculus overtake his body. Now, as then, Greed felt inclined to listen.
"You will not touch her," Ling commanded. "You will not even think of it. If you force yourself on Lan Fan, I will personally destroy every one of these souls trapped within me. And then I will kill you, Greed. Slowly. I swear it."
Greed couldn't help it. His snickers grew into chuckles, which eventually burst into booms of maniacal laughter. "Listen to yourself! If you're trying to turn away my interest, you're doing a sorry job of it. She must be a real treasure indeed! Besides, I don't fight women."
"And, you know," Greed added suggestively. "Women don't fight me. Don't worry, I'll take very good care of her. By the time I'm done warming up, your little guard dog will be begging me to – "
"I told you to shut up!"
Countenance darkening, Greed leaned his head forward and hissed softly. "Or you'll what? Kill me? That's not going to happen, so get over it. Sorry pal, but whatever you own, I own. Whatever you got, I get."
"Fine then! It's a deal!"
Once again, Ling acted opposite of Greed's expectations. "Huh?"
Hand on his chest, Ling drew himself up to his full (and meager, in this hell-hole) height. "I'll willingly agree! What's mine is yours. Lan Fan is mine to protect! You can have everything I've ever had from her – and I never touched her!"
Greed tilted his head, considering, as the young prince went on. "If I ever had anything from Lan Fan, it was her loyalty and support. You will have that as well, I can promise you. But my body is meant to defend my people, who are your people now as well! If you take Lan Fan, take her into your protection only!
"You want everything in the world? Fine! A Lan Fan who would… who would couple with me does not exist in this world. The only Lan Fan that exists is my vassal, and so you will take a vassal, not a lover! Do you hear me?"
The only noise came from the muffled shrieks of the tortured souls. Ling glared into the face of Greed, and the homunculus stared evenly back. Eventually, he spoke.
"I do hear you, little prince," Greed answered seriously. "And now it is your turn to hear me. I am Greed the Avaricious. I happen to like this body and, as it turns out, you're not the worst of companions either. I'm well aware that your compliance is the reason these souls haven't devoured each other, and that allows us to regenerate in a way that Wrath cannot. That would be a pain, so I may be what you humans call grateful. So we'll take a little leap of logic and assume that I owe you one."
The face of the demon seemed to swell, doubling in size as Greed spoke. "But never forget whom you're dealing with, Ling Yao. This is my body now. I will do with it as I see fit."
Two souls clashed amidst the wails of the Philosopher Stone, and for a split second Greed feared that Ling would truly take over, and regain control. But the moment passed. Ling cut off his ire abruptly and sat down again. Sternly, he folded his arms over his chest.
"If you owe me one, then pay me back with this. And I want your word. Deal?"
Greed calmed, and smirked, fading back into the awareness of Ling's body. He opened his eyes to see that the sun had risen, sending tendrils of red and gold running across the forest. "Fine. I won't seduce your precious little vassal. I wonder though – you say that there isn't a Lan Fan who exists in this world who would not be your lover. But tell me; if I ask nicely, can you be absolutely certain that she will say no?"
The prince did not answer, and Greed took again to his path with a grin, boosted by a surge of frantic, panicked speed.