Oct 21, 2020 3:20 AM
Belmarniss in Fullmetal Alchemist
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"Our teacher's old teacher. She knows a lot, but also our teacher kept warning us off of trusting her, and she's - manipulative, and if she knows how to make philosopher's stones she's almost certainly done it before. A lot less likely to stab us, but I generally prefer people who'll try to stab me to my face over just... Maneuvering me."

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"Maneuvering you into what?"

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"She did a lot of encouraging us to try to resurrect someone when we were kids, which with alchemy is both illegal and kind of objectively stupid - how I lost my body and Em lost a leg."

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"Okay, maybe don't do anything objectively stupid this time and just ask her for information? I can make sneaking into a building easier but not risk-free and I'd like to go home someday."

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"Letting her know we know about philosopher's stones would be a - cost towards her, and it'd put the transaction in her favor in a way stealing the array wouldn't, and she's not that safe a person to owe things to."

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"...rephrase that?"

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"So - you can't get anything without sacrifice. We'd owe Dante if we got the array from her, and she'd then have blackmail on us, but she doesn't tend to make getting out of her debt at all clean or easy, and we can't really predict her well. Stealing the array from the government would be risky but we know the risks pretty well, and know how to mitigate things pretty well, and it's the type of risk I'm more comfortable with - though Em's less comfortable with direct known risks, more comfortable with indirect unknown risks."

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"...stealing the array from the government isn't getting something without sacrifice? Does the risk constitute a sacrifice? Are you sure this is true about things like espionage and not just about your magic system?"

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"The risk and effort's a sacrifice, yeah. And - " She pauses. "It's debated how far equivalent exchange goes, if it's just alchemy or everything. There's kind of evidence for both ways? Though... When we tried the resurrection, we both had this hallucination of a Gate which held all knowledge behind it, and a figure in front of it who called itself a lot of things but mostly 'truth and God and the universe.' I think the Truth mostly governs esoteric trades, but it - seems inclined to comment on things people do and make trades metaphorically. When talking to me it implied - a lot of stuff, and it traded me for a lot of knowledge, which to me added up to... My current general impression that equivalent exchange governs more than just alchemy, mostly? Or - more that equivalent exchange only governs alchemy but that everything is alchemy."

"Em thinks the Truth's evil but powerless and lying about its abilities so it can manipulate things, my impression was it's... Mercurial and sometimes cruel but generally honest, and powerful but bound by alchemy's rules and frustrated by this."

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"...I'm not bound by alchemy's rules."

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"Probably, yeah. No idea how that interacts."

"I don't think I have a really persuasive reason for avoiding asking Dante except 'I really prefer being shot at as far as risks go.' I won't sneak in without Em, and as it is now she probably won't sneak in without an edge like invisibility - so I guess it comes down to which path you feel like helping with?"

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"I think I don't really want any of these people to know I exist."

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"And we can manage that with talking to Dante more easily than we can if we get caught sneaking somewhere with weird abilities."

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"Yeah. Does having me around smooth anything over with her?"

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"Probably not, if we're not introducing you to her?"

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"I can cast spells on you guys? I don't know if any of them would help at all."

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"What sorts?"

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"I have a lot of stuff in my spellbook... uh, there's spells that make you smarter in various ways, if that'd let you maneuver around her better? If you can temporarily steal notes you want to copy, I can copy them quickly from somewhere safe and you can put the originals back."

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" - Spells that make us smarter might be better used on figuring out alchemy stuff. Quickly copying notes would be good, though."

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"I can do one of the ones that makes you smarter a lot. I don't know which kind of smart alchemy uses, there's three spells so we think of it like there's three kinds but you might not have that concept. One's like math and memorization and being quick with fluency in new systems and making conceptual leaps, one's situational awareness and self-awareness and big-picture calm thought, one's like tracking social dynamics and choosing your words well and being kinda interpersonally shiny. I can cast any of them but the one I can do today is the first kind, Fox's Cunning; the others are Owl's Wisdom and Eagle's Splendor."

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"Owl's Wisdom seems like it would help actually performing big, complicated arrays, but that most of alchemy would be impacted by Fox's Cunning, especially developing arrays - it's basically entirely math, memorization, and language with some conceptual leaps if you're working in esoteric fields."

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"Do you want to try it now?"

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"Sure - let me get my notes - " She pulls a notebook mostly full of loose scratch paper out of a stack.

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"Fox's Cunning."

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She stares off into the distance for a few seconds then starts scribbling, in a mixture of letters and numbers that's probably a code and almost certainly meaningful only to her.

...And then she pauses, flips over the city map she'd been working on to show a country map, taps a few points in pencil, stares at it, sketches a diagram over on her scratch paper, stares some more, says, "Fuck," scribbles a series of very long equations, solves them, sketches some symbols and then a very involved diagram, curses again, and then claps her hands together and turns her notes into dust.

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