I'd like to thank my readers for all your support and patience. Without you, I probably wouldn't be writing this sequel. To any new readers, this is a sequel to my fanfiction Curiosity Killed the Cat, so I would recommend reading that first. I can't really force you to though, so if you'd just like to jump into the sequel, be my guest. (It's bound to be a bit more well-written than the early chapters in CKC, after all...)
A special thanks to Makkaka for the fantastic suggestions, several of which I will be using in this fic-including the problem that will really kick-start the plot. You're amazing! Thank you!
Due to the amount of demand, I'll be adding in a few canon pairings like Ed/Winry, Lin/Lanfan, and Al/May, and the non-canon pairing that you guys have been asking for since CKC-romantic Greed/Selena. :) I'm looking forward to writing the development between them as more than family.
I have a schedule set for myself, so hopefully I'll be able to post a new chapter every week or two. I appreciate your continued support!
I have several virtues, but patience is not one of them. That would be the reason that while anxiously awaiting a friend's arrival at the border of Xing, when a young man started hitting on me, it quickly escalated into a fight. At least I think he was hitting on me. He was speaking in Xingese, so I can't be certain exactly what it was he wanted. But when I tried to walk away he put a hand on my shoulder, and since I wasn't in the best of moods, I did the logical thing and punched him. It would be my luck that he had a couple buddies standing by who were just as hotheaded as I am.
My foot cracked against one guy's chin, sending him tumbling into the dusty street. Memories of a certain bar tickled the back of my brain as the other two hesitated and then charged me, and I quickly ducked and somersaulted between them. As they turned, bewildered by the sudden change in direction, I launched a kick at one of them and caught him in the solar plexus. I couldn't help but wince as he overturned a fruit stand.
"Oops," I muttered. "Sorry about that."
A crowd of curious onlookers had begun to gather. This didn't seem to bother the three men I was brawling with, but I didn't feel like being lectured by Lin for disrupting the peace. Rumors of a teenage chimera aren't hard to pinpoint. I could probably have just run away, but that would have felt like losing, so I reluctantly reached into my pocket for my gloves to finish them off quickly.
I glanced to my left, startled, as a blonde-headed young man picked his way through the crowd, his boyish features covered in sweat and dust. My opponents frowned in confusion as Alphonse Elric jogged up to me, obviously tired but grinning from ear to ear.
"I thought I'd never get here." His breaths were coming fast and heavy. "The desert is really something."
"I warned you, didn't I?" I beamed back. He laughed, and I threw my arms around him in a big hug. "Welcome to Xing, Al."
The guy who had been hitting on me barked something in Xingese, tapping Al on the shoulder, and I rolled my eyes and prepared to beat him into next week. However, Al surprised me by responding in the same language. I blinked dumbly as the two exchanged words, seemed to come to terms, and then the man and his friends left with a grudging nod my way. Al let out a whoosh of air.
"Well," he said, turning to me with a smile, "shall we go?"
"Since when do you speak Xingese?" I demanded.
"It's just a little," Al shrugged. "I've been studying it since you left Amestris. It looks like you haven't changed at all since then."
I had to agree. I was the same violent, smart-mouthed Selena Halling no matter what country I was in. Alphonse hadn't changed much either though, real body or not. I could tell he was a lot healthier than he had been when I had last seen him—back then I could still see the shadow of his cheekbones—but the polite demeanor that had contrasted with his armor body was still with him.
"By the way," I began as I lead him back towards the palace, "why are you by yourself? Weren't Zanpano and Jelso coming with you?"
"There were a couple of Lin's servants waiting for us at the border patrol. Since Jelso was dehydrated, they took our luggage and went ahead for water while I came to get you," Al explained. I nodded sympathetically. Being a frog chimera, Jelso probably couldn't handle the journey across the desert as well as the rest of us did. "Is May still visiting her clan?"
"Yeah. She said she'd be back in a few days. That was a few days ago, though, so she'll be here any day now."
"I see. She must have missed her family."
"Yup. Oh yeah—I have some surprise news for you," I giggled, and Al furrowed his brows.
"What is it?"
"It's a secret until we get back to meet Lin."
Getting into the palace was a pain as usual. There were three levels of security to get past, and it took forever for them to allow Alphonse inside since they wanted to get verbal confirmation from Lin first and his servants were with Zanpano and Jelso. The guards had some issue with people who didn't wear traditional Xingese clothes—I could remember the first couple days when I arrived here. Finally, Lin's confirmation arrived in the form of Lanfan. After sending the guards a glare, I trotted after her and Al towards Lin's quarters.
Lanfan spoke up before Al could greet her as we made our way through the halls. "Master Lin may not be able to see you within the hour. He will be presenting the philosopher's stone to the emperor's advisers today."
"He hasn't shown them the stone yet?" Al asked. "I thought he had already been chosen as the successor."
"He has," I told him. "It's just that they have to go through this whole political process even though he already showed the stone to the emperor."
"It's a precaution to assure that the emperor isn't tricked. The advisers approve the emperor's decision in front of the heads of the clans," Lanfan added, staring straight ahead.
"Then the clans have some sort of say in the emperor's succession? " Al put in.
"Something like that," Lanfan replied shortly. "We're here."
I raised a brow, bemused by her unusually sharp tone. Lanfan was always a bit stiff, but right now she seemed to be in a bad mood for some reason. I eyed her thoughtfully as she knocked and then held the door open for us.
Lin looked up from the window he was peering through and broke into a grin. "It's been so long, Alphonse! Come, come, sit down!"
"Hi, Lin," Al smiled back as Lanfan closed the door behind us. "I hear you're presenting the stone today. Congratulations on your success."
"Oh, that's just formal business. I don't like it very much," Lin replied bluntly. "But thank you."
"I'm guessing that's traditional royal clothing. I've never seen you wear anything like that."
Lin nodded, glancing down at the colorful robes that cascaded over his figure. "Yes. I haven't become emperor quite yet, but I'm being treated like one. It's awfully stuffy. Selena knows what I mean."
"Yep," I agreed, plopping down onto one of the seat cushions on the floor. "He's always got servants following him around and officials telling him to act with more dignity. I got a little taste of that when I was introduced as 'the future emperor's companion.' They couldn't wait to get me changed into Xingese clothes," I added with a gesture at my loose-sleeved shirt and slip-on shoes.
Lin laughed. "I'm still surprised they let you wear men's clothing. It was quite the scandal."
"Well, I wasn't wearing that big long robe they wanted me in."
Shaking his head in amusement, Al interrupted, "Selena said you had some surprise news for me. What is it?"
I jumped up eagerly. "Oh yeah! I forgot about that!"
"Surprise news?" Lin queried. "Are you talking about…?"
A knock on the door interrupted us, and Lanfan opened it to a pair of servants in yellow robes, who said something to Lin in Xingese. I waited impatiently as he responded, nodding, and then turned to Al and I.
"I'm afraid I must be off," Lin apologized. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Lanfan, come with me."
I groaned, disappointed. "Already? Oh well. See you, then."
"Bye, Lin," Al waved, and Lin trailed through the door with Lanfan in tow. As the door clacked shut, Al turned to me with a questioning look. "What was the news?"
Sighing, I replied, "I wanted Lin to be here when I told you, but I can't wait that long…"
"So what was it?"
Biting back a smile, I said simply, "Greed's alive."
Al's eyebrows shot upwards like rockets. "He's alive? How? Where is he?"
"He's still inside Lin," I giggled, bubbling with excitement. "Apparently he left behind one soul when Father absorbed him. I don't really understand it myself, but the greedy bastard's still okay and that's all that matters."
Alphonse let out a breathy laugh, dropping back against a wall and running a hand over his hair. "I can't believe it. Everyone still thinks he died. Why didn't you say something when I called you?"
"Lin didn't tell me until afterwards! I thought he was dead until—actually, until right after we hung up! I tried to call later, but you had already left to cross the desert."
"Bad timing at its finest, huh?" Al chuckled. "I still can't believe it. After everything that happened, there are still a few surprises left out there."
"You're telling me," I snorted. "When I found out, I just about hugged Lin to death. Lanfan had to detach me from him."
"I can't say I'm surprised. You were the closest to him, after all."
"Yeah," I sighed, sinking into a cushion again. "I'm just so glad he's okay. Now I just have to transmute him into his own body, and everything will be perfect."
Al went suddenly quiet. Glancing at him, I furrowed my brows. "What's wrong?"
Alphonse hesitated, moistening his lips before he spoke. "Selena, I, um…I don't know if that's a good idea."
"Why not? I'm not bringing him back to life."
"I know, but…" Al cleared his throat and ran a hand over his face. "Listen, I know this is hard to hear, but you can't transmute Greed. The problem isn't creating his body—a human body is just physical components—but if you try to transmute his soul, the Portal of Truth will open and you'll have to pay the toll."
I stared blankly, struggling to come up with a counterargument. "But…But it's not human transmutation. Greed is a homunculus…"
"A homunculus is an artificial human, Selena," Al replied slowly. "I'm sorry, but I can't help you transmute a soul. It's too dangerous."
My eyes sank to the ground as I wavered between the pain of understanding and the numbness of denial. "Then…I can't…" I could feel Al's apologetic gaze on me, and I bit my lip. "I've got to go make a phone call."
Alphonse started to call my name as I crossed the room and pushed past the door, but I barely heard him, already dashing through the halls and down to the bottom floor of the palace. Brushing by the guards, I left the palace in a blur and made for the nearest phone booth. I had to redial the number twice because I kept pressing the wrong buttons in my haste, and my heart pounded as I listened to it ring.
"C'mon, pick up pick up pick up…" I muttered anxiously before I finally heard the phone being answered.
"Shorty!" I blurted. "I have something I need to ask you."
"Selena? Something wrong? You sound a little breathless. Did Al get there okay?"
"Yeah, Al's fine, he just got here a while ago," I answered in a rush. "Look, you transmuted Al's soul into the armor, right?"
"Uh, yeah…" Ed sounded confused, as well as a little perturbed. He could tell something wasn't right.
"Well, I need your help. Greed's still alive inside of Lin, and he's only got one life left—"
"Wait, Greed survived? I thought he died when—"
"Yes, he's alive, and I need to transmute him into his own body. I know you can't do alchemy anymore, but please, I need your help. You know how to do it, don't you?"
There was a short period of silence during which my hopes quickly waned, and they died out altogether in Edward's first syllable.
"Selena…" A sigh made the line crackle. "Look, I really don't want to say this, but it's not safe. Transmuting his soul would open the Portal of Truth, and I don't know what the toll would be. It's not the same as reviving a dead person, but it is human transmutation. I'm sorry, Selena. I can't help you. I hope you understand."
I didn't say anything for a long time. I could still hear Edward breathing on the other end of the line, but he kept quiet too. Eventually, I swallowed and inhaled slowly.
"So I can't have him back?"
Edward sighed again. "Selena…"
"He's still alive, but because he's stuck in someone else's body, I can't have him back? I can't see him again the way I used to?"
"Ed, Lin becomes emperor as soon as his father dies." My voice was strained. "When that happens, I won't be able to talk to Greed the same way ever again. I can't kick his ass or punch him or hug him because Lin will be the emperor and you just can't do those things to the emperor. He needs his own body, Ed. I don't care if I lose an arm or a leg or something. I don't want to have to make an appointment to see the only family I have left. I need Greed back."
It got quiet again, and for a moment I was pretty sure I had gotten through to him. Then, Edward said, "I'm sorry, Selena. I can't."
I swallowed. "Yeah. I understand, Ed. Sorry to bug you."
He started to say something more, but I hung up before I could hear what it was. For a moment I stood quietly, one hand on the receiver, and just stared at the dial pad. The thought of calling Ms. Izumi nudged at my mind, but I had enough common sense to know how that would turn out. Lifting my hand from the phone, I slowly curled my fingers into a fist.
When I walked out, the window of the phone booth had a crack in it and bruises were blossoming on my knuckles.
A quick apology for the depressing ending to the first chapter, but overall I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading! Next chappy will be up next week!