Greed has determined that he does not like camping.
He is, of course, deeply invested in quantity, but the element of quality is far from irrelevant in the ongoing, unflagging quest to acquire as much of everything as inhumanly possible. Now that they’ve embarked on this weird forest-bound trek/mission/escapade/form of torment, he is swiftly discovering that the woods offer up a grand total of zero of the finer things in life.
He is also discovering that he still has a little bit of trouble distinguishing when people are trying to talk to Ling, a.k.a. Idiot Prince Boy, versus when they’re trying to talk to him (a.k.a. Assuredly-Not-an-Idiot Should-Be-Emperor Not-Exactly Man, but that’s too long to articulate every time even in internal monologue).
“Hey,” the blond brat, whom Greed’s crap excuse for a progenitor is obsessed with and should just put in a jar, cuts in. It wouldn’t even have to be a very big jar. Wouldn’t that be easier?
Greed eyes him. “What?”
“Not you,” Ed says, despite the obvious fact that he is clearly himself. “I want to talk to Ling.”
“Well, tough noogies,” Greed says.
Ed shoots a glance over at their faithful-or-something chimera companions, like he’s worried that they’re going to get ideas. As if anyone here isn’t perfectly aware that the first person to try to give Edward Elric a noogie will get their fingers bitten off, and will then immediately become the object of a lifelong and probably overly complicated revenge plot.
The chimera dudes are all right. Greed sort of thinks of them as a two-piece unit, and they’re mostly quiet, other than occasional sardonic commentary, which isn’t too bad a price to pay for having a pair of impressive-looking followers. It sort of makes Greed feel at-home, and since their only noticeable character flaw is that they fail to understand the fundamental extremity of existence and therefore don’t appreciate a good bit of melodrama, he figures maybe he’ll keep them around.
“Jeez,” Ed says. “You’d think you’re an only child or something. What’s so wrong with sharing?”
There are a lot of things wrong with it, including but not limited to sharing being stupid; and also that Greed is already having a hell of a time compartmentalizing his thoughts and hazy memories to keep them separate from Ling’s. When he’s not careful, their mental images kind of… flash into each other’s awarenesses or something, and sharing thoughts is even worse than sharing a body. He doesn’t really understand how it works, which seems fair, since he’s not sure that corporeal-form-splitting in this particular configuration has ever been done before.
But he doesn’t expect Blondie to get that.
“I thought you were supposed to be some kind of genius,” Greed says. “The name’s Greed, not Giving-Away-Cool-Stuff-I-Only-Just-Got.”
“I guess I’m glad that you think I’m cool,” Ling says.
“That is not even close to what I said,” Greed tells him.
“Is so,” Ling says.
“Shut up,” Greed says.
“Ground control to Greed,” Ed says. “Are you talking to yourself again?”
“I’m talking to Ling,” Greed says.
“That’s what I said,” Ed says.
“Question for you, smartass,” Greed says. “Why are you so chill about this wandering-through-the-forest crap? This is the worst idea ever.”
“It’s not that bad,” Ed says. “It’s way better than the island.”
Greed hates playing Ed’s stupid games, but it’s not like there’s a whole lot of parcheesi tournaments around here. “The what?”
“When Al’n I were kids,” Ed says, “our Teacher wanted to make sure we were up to snuff before she taught us any alchemy. Hey, do you remember her? The woman who kicked your sorry ass without breaking a sweat back at the Devil’s Nest?”
An image flickers unbidden into Greed’s mind, and he can’t get a grasp on the edges of it before it flickers over to Ling’s side of their hazily-partitioned brain, too. “Unfortunately.”
“She kicked your ass?” Ling asks. He’s utterly fascinated, the little jerk. “She sounds amazing! I’d love to meet her!”
An image of that Lan Fan girl sparks on Ling’s side. Greed rolls his eyes, both physically and inside-brain-ally. “You’ve got a problem, kid.”
“I have a lot of problems,” Ling says serenely. “I like the challenge.”
“Bullshit,” Greed says.
Ling laughs. “I think I might even have more problems than you do! Are you jealous?”
Greed isn’t even going to dignify that with an answer. Ed has been watching his expression more perceptively than he likes, anyway, and has now taken up shrugging aggressively to get his attention.
“Anyway,” Ed says, “she dropped us off on an island for a couple days and basically just left us to figure out how to survive. So this is pretty easy in comparison to that.”
“Anybody ever tell you that you had a jacked-up childhood?” Greed asks.
“Yes,” Ed says.
“Okay,” Greed says. “For the record, you had a jacked-up childhood.”
“Bite me,” Ed says calmly. “You can start with the right boot this time.”
Greed blinks a couple times, but Ling starts laughing again.
“What the hell is he on about?” Greed says.
“You don’t want to know,” Ling says.
“I want to know everything,” Greed says. “It’s part of the gig.”
“Trust me,” Ling says. “You don’t want to know this.”
Greed attempts to give him a psychic version of the evil eye.
“When you’re done making faces while you argue in your own head,” Ed says, “let me talk to Ling.”
“No,” Greed says.
“Why?” Ed says.
“Whyyyyyyyy?” Ling says.
“Because I don’t like you,” Greed says, and that’s to both of them. “What the hell do you have to say to him that’s so important, anyway?”
“It’s none of your business,” Ed says.
“I’m going to hear it anyway,” Greed says. “And he’s going to hear it, so unless it’s some big secret about—”
“Hey, Ling,” Ed says. “If you don’t have to sleep when he does, see if you can get control when he’s unconscious.”
Greed stares at him.
“I’m gonna amend my previous statement,” Greed says. “You’re an asshole who had a jacked-up childhood.”
“And proud of it,” Ed says.
“I thought forests were supposed to be idyllic,” Greed says. “Turns out I can’t get a single minute of peace and quiet out here.”
“Cry me a river,” Ed says.
Greed looks at him.
Ed looks back.
“Nice,” Greed says. “Great job taking that hint. Totally flawless. You’re incredible.”
Ed laughs brightly, gives Greed the finger—the metal one—and then shoves both hands into his pockets and slows down so that he’ll fall into step with the chimeras instead. At least you can apparently get through his skull with a sledgehammer after a while if you work at it.
“Hey, Idiot Prince,” Greed says. “You’re not getting any ideas, are you?”
“Of course not,” Ling says. “I have never had a single, solitary idea in my life. Why would I start now? It would be a terrible shame to ruin such a good streak of idealessness.”
“You’re not funny,” Greed says.
“I am sorry about your poor taste,” Ling says.
Greed just barely manages to avoid clapping a hand to his chest, gasping, and stammering helplessly. That’s definitely the worst thing that anyone’s said to him this week, and he’s mostly been talking to the blond epitome of tactlessness.
“You’re merciless,” Greed says. “It’s starting to make sense now that you came all this way to try to steal the secret of immortality.”
“What do you mean, ‘try’?” Ling says. “I’ve succeeded, haven’t I?”
“Don’t count your chickens, Fancy Pants,” Greed says.
“I am delighted that you find them fancy,” Ling says.
“I thought I had poor taste,” Greed says.
“It is a miracle,” Ling says. “It seems that you can be taught.”
Greed looks ahead down the sad excuse for a path, which is lined with brambles and vines and thickets and whatever else the words are for obnoxious woodlandy obstructions.
“What do you want?” he asks.
“I just told you,” Ling says. “Immortality. I’m one for one on that so far. Well. Sort of.”
“What do you really want?” Greed asks. “Not because you’re supposed to. Not because you’re trying to get a leg up on somebody back home, or because somebody told you what to do, or whatever. Everybody wants something—something for themselves. What do you want?”
Ling stays quiet for long enough that, if Greed couldn’t weirdly sort of sense-see his expression and realize that he’s thinking, it would seem like he was doing some sort of existential cold-shoulder thing.
“I want my clan to be safe,” Ling says. “I want us to be at the top. I want them to have nothing to fear, and nothing to worry about. And I want…” Sun streams down through the gaps in the canopy like something out of a watercolor painting. It’s kind of nice. Maybe if Greed survives all this crap, he can start collecting those. “I want to be the one who gives that to them. I want to be powerful enough to protect them. I want to… what do they say in this country? ‘Call the shots’?”
“Now we’re cookin’,” Greed says. “So when we get up into the big throne-chair and make ourselves emperor, do we get a harem? I really want a harem.”
“There is a great deal of political maneuvering that we will have to do before we can even consider a harem,” Ling says, so calmly that Greed knows it must be on the table, which—score. This whole mess is finally looking up. “I have not even thought about it.”
“Liar,” Greed says.
“There is not much point in lying to you lately,” Ling says. “So tell me—what do you want?”
Greed figures it’s only fair that he pretends to think it over for a second.
“Everything,” he says. “Obviously. But a harem’ll do real nice to start.”
Ling rolls his theoretical eyes so hard that their physical body almost follows suit. “First we will have many, many rival clans to defeat, I’m afraid.”
“We can take ’em,” Greed says. “We took on Wrath, and he’s like a clan and a half. If you bring your girlfriend and the old guy along, I bet we can handle five of them at once. Knock ’em down like dominoes and get our ass right onto that throne and get comfy. Done deal.”
“I very much hope,” Ling says, “that you are right.”
He goes quiet again for a few seconds, but before Greed can try to distract him from the boring pensiveness with another jibe—
“I want to take care of my family,” Ling says, “first and foremost. They sacrificed to make it possible for me to get this far. I suppose you have had the opposite problem, but…”
But it sure sounds nice to, y’know, like the people you’re related to. It sure sounds nice to care about them enough to want to fight for them, rather than with and against.
“All right,” Greed says. “Big family?”
“Huge,” Ling says. “Many, many cousins.”
“Great,” Greed says. “Let’s claim as many of ’em as possible.”
“Perhaps we can,” Ling says, softly now. “Perhaps if we can claim immortality, we can also claim the right to… rebuild. Restructure. The infighting between the half-siblings of the Emperor’s stock—the subterfuge and the assassinations—”
“Yeah,” Greed says. “I’ve had about enough assassinations. Done with that.”
“Likewise,” Ling says. “It is decided, then! We will best the other clans, and then we will incorporate them instead of destroying them. More family for all of us.”
Greed does not like this warm, fuzzy-ish feeling in his coopted chest. It feels like going soft once and for all and becoming eternally uncool.
Time for a graceful change of subject.
“Once we’ve got that taken care of,” he says, “we can work on the ‘getting a million girlfriends’ thing some more.”
“I don’t need a million girlfriends,” Ling says.
“I think you’re missing the point of ‘avarice’ like your loser friend over there,” Greed says, but Ling doesn’t seem to hear him despite the relevant detail that there is literally no way to avoid it when they’re having a discussion inside their shared head.
“I just want one,” Ling says. “But a meaningful one. I just want to be… appreciated.”
“You oughta be more ambitious,” Greed says. “You should go after being the most appreciated. Maybe the most appreciated person ever. Don’t undersell yourself, here.”
“I have spent my whole life being ambitious for someone else’s causes,” Ling says. “I think I would like a break.”
“Okay,” Greed says. “We can tag-team. Besides, this is good—that leaves another nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred ninety-nine girlfriends for me.”
“Is that enough?” Ling asks.
“There’s never enough,” Greed says.
“That sounds… lonely,” Ling says.
“Hell,” Greed says. “Not anymore. Now I’m stuck with your dumb ass all day, every day.”
“‘Stuck’?” Ling says. “You stole it. And it is a fine ass. I am deeply offended th—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Greed says. “It’s getting the job done. Whatever. So you got a girlfriend in mind?”
Ling goes quiet for another moment and then says, very slowly, “It could also be a boyfriend. I don’t think we should limit ourselves like that when we our general goal is to acquire as much as we can.”
“That’s the spirit,” Greed says. “You know what, kid? I think we’re gonna get along just fine.”
A cracking of twigs is the only warning they get before Ed has returned to eyeball them suspiciously some more. “Are you talking to yourself again?”
“Shut up,” Greed and Ling say at precisely the same time.