by Tari Gwaemir
That was the year when it was fashionable to dabble in alchemy, and Roy Mustang, even at the precocious age of thirteen, was very preoccupied with fashion. "Watch this," he said to a crowd of adoring girls and sketched out a simple array to transform sand into a glittering string of glass beads.
"Child's play!" interrupted a voice from behind. "A mere application of heat, a few lines to ensure the form. You copied the array from a book, didn't you?"
Her name and face would later fade from memory, but her words remained, and that evening, he stayed up all night reading what thick dusty tomes on transmutation theory he could obtain from his father's library. By the next month, he drew another array, etching it lightly on a circle of glass, and designed a self-focusing lens, one that adjusted its curvature to the object under observation. It shattered in the first half-hour of testing, but he only clutched his hair and went to research glassblowing and internal stresses.
In a matter of months, he had gone from glass and lenses to the study of combustion. At the end of the year, when he applied to enter the National Alchemical Academy--at this point, his experiments had ceased to be a hobby--he had already drawn the first drafts of the array that would become his signature mark.
"Ingenious work," said the chief examiner. "What creativity!"
"You flatter me, sir," he answered demurely. "I hope to accomplish much more under your tutelage. This, after all, is merely child's play."