Pilgrim's quarters, huh, thought Ed. He tested the bed. Yep. Hard as rock. Why the heck did all these religions seem to think that God wanted their suffering. If Ed were god, he'd want his pilgrims sleeping on soft, comfortable beds The last thing he'd want them to do would be to listen to some prophet of his drone on monotonously for... how long had it been? Hours it felt like.
At least Al was having some fun. Ed looked out the window, wishing he'd insisted on following his Armored brother after Rose. Al had been adamant. "You were rude to her, and you made fun of her religious beliefs" he'd said. "She's not going to want to talk to you."
Ed had shrugged. "Just giving her some perspective..."
Al had left Ed to listen to Cornello drone endlessly on. Supposedly he was listening for clues, but if there was anything there, Ed hadn't heard it, and after a while the words just turned into a long "blah blah blah."
And then, almost abruptly, the sermon was over and music started up. What a waste of time, thought Ed. He lay back on the uncomfortable bed and considered a nap.
Ed woke when the doorknob rattled. "Learn anything Al?" asked Ed without bothering to open his eyes.
"Ah, you aren't asleep." The somewhat familiar voice jerked Ed to full wakefulness. He sat up in bed and looked at Cornello entering the room.
"Er... what do I owe the ... er... honor," said Ed.
"I didn't have a chance to talk with you and your brother before. It is good to see a new face in town. A new believer."
Ed sized the guy up. There was something about the smarmy insincere smile that didn't sit well with him. Best to let the guy know where he stood right off. "I'm not actually a believer."
"But you came here to see me."
Ed nodded. "True. But I don't give a fuck about your hokey religion. I just wanted to see you do your tricks."
Cornello sighed. "They aren't tricks, my dear boy. They are miracles." He walked further into the room and sat down at the foot of Ed's bed. "But it is good that you came, even though you are a non-believer. I take personal pride in bringing the lost to the light." He patted Ed's shoe in a kindly way.
Ed frowned. "Are you usually the type to come visit your pilgrims in their quarters?"
"I've been known to take a particular interest in some of my pilgrims, yes. Rose said your name was Edward."
"And where is your brother." He looked around the room. There was something phony about the way the man did even that. Like he already knew that Al wasn't there.
"He's talking to Rose."
"Do you know for how long?"
What the heck was this man's game? thought Ed. "No clue."
"Ah well, give me a moment then." He stood up and went back to the door, speaking quickly with someone who was standing just outside. He returned quickly, and this time found a seat, not at Ed's feet, but closer to his hip.
For the first time Ed felt a strange quiver in his stomach. It wasn't that Cornello was being overtly threatening, but something about his sheer SIZE was somewhat intimidating. Cornello was almost the same size as Al, and for all his smiling eyes and upturned lips, there was just something menacing about him. My personal space is being violated, Ed thought.
Ed moved to swing his feet around and get up, but one of Cornello's large hands found his knee and squeezed it, effectively pinning it to the hard mattress. "No need to get up. Make yourself comfortable."
I was trying to, thought Ed. He looked at the hand on his knee. Cornello didn't show any sign of planning to move it. Only the off chance that Ed could suss out information about the Philosopher's stone held him back from punching the man in that oily smile. "Er... what can I help you with," Ed said.
"I told you that I take particular interest in some of my pilgrims. You caught my eye, lucky boy. Leto must have blessed you from birth to give you such beautiful hair and eyes. Such a rare coloration in these parts."
"Uh... thanks, I guess." Oh, great, another pervert. Ed tried to move his leg but Cornello just held hit in a firmer grip. The larger man shifted about to sit more fully on the bed, turning on his hip so that he was facing Ed.
"Leto wouldn't want you to fall from his path, my child. It is my responsibility to bring you closer to him."
There was nothing to do for it but to put it bluntly. "Can you move your hand?"
"I don't think so, son." Cornello's smile widened. "It is my RESPONSIBILITY to bring you closer to the church. Please don't fight me." At the same time Cornello's free hand stroked up Ed's leather clad thigh and sank into the crevice at his crotch.
Ok, this was too far. Stone or no stone, there was no way Ed was going to let this lecher feel him up. Ed kicked him solidly in the hip.
Cornello's mask broke. A fierce snarl replaced the bland smile, and then all 250 pounds of him landed firmly on Ed.
Ed gasped as the air was forced out of his lungs by the body slam. A moment later Cornello sat up again, but only long enough to connect his fist with Ed's jaw. Ed's head snapped sideways and for a moment the world did, too. While Ed blinked himself back into full consciousness he felt the other's rough fingers clawing at his clothes, pulling his shirt up from the pants, scrabbling at the buckle.
Cornello had SO picked the wrong guy for this. What the heck was it about Ed that made these types think he would be weak, easy prey? No matter, it was time to prove how OH so wrong that idea was.
Ed squirmed trying to get his hands together, but found the bulk of Cornello's body making it difficult. Meanwhile, the creep had his hand under Ed's shirt and was, oh gross, pinching and stroking his nipple.
"Does this feel good?" Cornello breathed in his ear.
"Almost as good having my fingers slammed in a book."
"You like it rough then," Cornello chuckled.
Good gods, what was with it with these horny older men? Were they stupid or just massively delusional?
The prophet's mouth was making a disgustingly wet trail down the side of Ed's face. Ed struggled harder to get his hands out from under the man's massive weight. And then Cornello decided to make life easier. He rose up to straddle Ed's thighs. Cornello caught first one wrist then the other and pull them up over Ed's head. He then transferred Ed's wrists to one oversized hand, and attempted to slip the other under the waistband of Ed's pants.
It was time to show this creep his little trick. Ed twisted his wrists and brought his palms together. Suddenly, the room was lit by a flash of light. The smell of burnt flesh and ozone made Ed smile.
Cornello cried out in pain and anger, throwing himself back from Ed. "You used Alchemy!"
"Yeah," said Ed, smirking. "Forgot to say I was an Alchemist."
Cornello backed away towards the door. His eyes were narrowing. "You dared strike God's voice with your cursed trick? You will regret this."
"I REALLY don't think so."
Cornello backed up until he reached the door. "You will be shown the light Alchemist. I have plans for you."
Almost at the same moment Ed heard Al's voice from outside. "Let me THROUGH!"
Cornello smiled his slick smile. "Until later then." He opened the door and Ed saw an acolyte attempting to bar Al. Cornello simply nodded his head at his man and they both moved off, leaving Al free to walk into the room.
"What was going on here?" Al said. "That man wouldn't let me get past him."
Ed looked up into his brother's fierce, glowing, innocent eyes. This was one aspect of human life that his brother didn't need to know about. "Nothing." He sat up and clapped his hands expectantly against his lap. "So, what did you find out from Rose?"
While Al talked, Ed straightened his clothes and tried to shrug off the memory of Cornello's touch. The Prophet would go down soon, Ed vowed. And he when he did, Ed was going to enjoy every second of it.