Apr 21 2005, 02:40 PM
Dream a Dream
The sky was dark, clouded over with impending rain, though the morning had just broken over the horizon. There would be no sun today.
Edward threw his head back, shaking the dew from his knotted hair. He sighed, breathing in the crisp, cold morning air, his eyelids lowering slightly, drinking in the sight of what was to be a dreary day.
“Well, don’t hold up on my account.” he muttered, standing. “Bring on the rain.”
Edward pulled a band from his wrist and pulled his hair into its regular braid, the pieces falling into the same strands from years of conformity. He threw his jacket over his shoulder, and checked the automail of his arm. Fully functional.
As he started walking, feeling the leaves of the tree (under which he had fallen asleep) from the low branches, brush his forehead. A breeze blew his bangs before his eyes; he let another sigh escape his lips. He stopped in his tracks and pulled his pocket watch from his jeans. Flipping it open, Ed smiled sadly as his eyes washed over the engraving.
“Four years, Al.” he whispered, running his hands over the words. “Four years since that day.” ‘October 3rd, 1110', glimmered back at him as if in silent reply. Ed closed his eyes and abruptly snapped the watch closed.
“All right.” he said aloud, surprised at the sound of his own voice. “Time to get moving.” Pulling an arm through the crimson sleeve, he set out down the old dirt road, eyes sharp and determined.
‘We can do this, Brother. Don’t worry’
‘I know, Al.’ Ed thought, pace slowing at the thought. ‘I know.’ He closed his eyes and walked on, to the silence of the rain.
Chapter 1: A Meeting with Mustang
Ed could feel his stomach grumble; he groaned with the thought of food. He’d been three days without anything halfway decent in his stomach and it was painfully reminding him.
“I’m gonna die if I don’t get to Central soon..” he muttered, squinting at the hill before him. Lugging himself up, an arm clutching his roaring stomach, he saw the glimmering of the Central Train Station on the other side.
“YES!” Ed hurdled over the hill as fast as his legs could carry him, the platform growing nearer and nearer until...
Ed stopped short; his breath caught in his throat. ‘The station whistle! No, that’s my train!’ With a yelp of surprise, Ed started up at a run again, shouting, “STOP! STOP, THAT’S MY TRAIN!”
“Sorry, small fry, but ya just missed it.” An attendant nearby piped up. Ed whirled on him, eyes blazing.
“Who you callin’ small fry? Too small to be seen without a microscope? Used as a step stool?”
“Whoa, kiddo, calm down.”
“DON’T CALL ME KIDDO!” Ed roared. He took a deep breath. If Al could have seen that, Ed knew he would have been mortified. He sighed sheepishly. “I’m Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric. I need to get on the next available train to Central for a meeting with Colonel Mustang. When will the next train leave?”
“Not for another hour, Mr. Fullmetal, sir.” the attendant said accordingly, noting the name. Ed sighed loudly.
“Oh, Edward, sir!” A cry broke through the bustle of people. Ed felt his stomach drop even farther.
‘Not him.’ he thought brokenly. ‘Tell me Roy sent anyone but him...’
Sparkles floating gaily around his structured face, and a single lock of platinum blonde hair protruding from a large, gleaming forehead, the gigantic form of Major Alex Armstrong, bounding along toward him.
“This is gonna be a long day.” Ed muttered.
From afar, Armstrong appeareed his normal, carfree self, but Ed noted the strain lines that etched his face.
“Hey, Major, you okay?” Ed asked almost good-naturedly. Armstrong sighed, and replied in his deep voice:
“We don’t have time to wait for the next train.” This threw Ed off guard. Nothing could be that important, could it?
“Something wrong?” Ed asked as Armstrong began to steer away, in large, brisk strides. Ed had to run to keep in pace with the man.
“You need to see Colonel Mustang, Edward.” Armstrong replied. “It’s about Alphonse.” Ed’s heart stopped cold in his chest.
“Al!” he whispered. “What’s the..!”
“We have to get to Colonel Mustang, Edward.” Armstrong said shortly. “Now.”
Apr 21 2005, 02:44 PM
(don't worry this is all I have)
Chapter 2: The Omega
“Armstrong, you’re not telling me the whole story.” Ed shouted from the back seat of the coach. Armstrong remained silent and kept a stony face on the road, pale blue eyes narrowed to slits. “Tell me what’s going on with Al!”
Silence. Edward’s eyes flashed white fury. Standing on his seat, he gripped the flaps of Armstrong’s jacket and thrust him forward, until they were eye to eye.
“Tell me what’s wrong with Al.” he breathed, voice barely audible. “Tell me now.”
“All I can honestly say, Edward, is that it’s not what you want to hear.” Armstrong said softly. Ed let a sickened gasp escape his throat, his hands loosened on the flaps of his jacket and fell to his sides.
“Fine. Don’t tell me what’s up with the only family I almost destroyed.” Ed muttered.
“Edward,” he began.
“No, Major. Surely you know how it feels.” he turned away, voice curt and low. The ride went on in silence; furious quiet radiated from Ed’s every nerve, while shock seemed evident upon Major Armstrong.
In about three hours time, (still sitting in this unending silence), the coach arrived at Central. Armstrong rose and exited slowly, while Ed flung himself over the side of the vehicle. Not even throwing a brief salute to the guards at the entrance of Central’s State Alchemist Head Quarters, he raced inside. The receptionist, who’s face shone all-too-familiarly, was Scieszka.
“Edward!” she sang out brightly, extending an arm. “Welcome back to--”
“Hey, Scieszka, gotta get to Mustang, nice ta see ya.” Ed said in a rush, blowing by as though being chased by a chimera. Papers flew through the air off the unorganized desk and fell in a rhythm around the disgruntled Scieszka.
“Nice to see you too.” she muttered angrily.
Ed careened around corners, trying to avoid running people into walls. Diving narrowly out of the way of Lieutenant Bloch, and curving sharply around Lieutenant Ross, Ed managed to get to Roy’s office. Forgetting his place, he threw the door open.
“Where’s Al! Is he--” He demanded, and stopped short. The room was empty. Feeling a surge of anger rush through his skin, he tried to remain calm.
“We’re doing the best we can.”
Ed whirled around to see Colonel Roy Mustang, leaning against the doorframe, the condescending smirk he knew too well playing at his lips. Ed narrowed his eyes.
“Well, is he okay?” he asked softly.
“What you did took a lot out of him, Fullmetal. Yes, you got his body back like you planned, and he payed the price for your foolish actions.” he said, voice hard, the lines on his face forming a distinct glare. Ed dropped his gaze to the ground, nodding guiltily.
“All I wanted to do was...”
“I know.” he interrupted abruptly. Ed sighed quietly as Roy’s face softened. “I know all you wanted was to help Al. But you messed up, Fullmetal; I know it, you know it, and he doesn’t.” Ed looked up, perplexed.
“What do you mean..?” he breathed. Roy’s ebony colored eyes locked onto his own, the dead truth glued to his features.
“He doesn’t remember anything.”
“What happened. What you did. How he got injured.” Roy said slowly. Ed waited expectantly for more. “And he doesn’t remember me, any of the staff...” Ed’s heart shattered in his chest; his eyes screamed for what wasn’t, couldn’t be true.
“You don’t mean...”
“Fullmetal,” Roy began, voice hard.
“You’re lying to me.” Ed growled, anger taking over what he knew was the truth. “Let me see Al. Al will remember me. He’s my brother, Colonel. My brother!”
“Edward, I know!” Roy snapped back, for once forgetting the ‘Fullmetal’. “And we’ve been getting memories of you through to him, slowly. That’s not the only reason I called you down here.”
“So you have more news?” Ed said sarcastically. “First you tell me my brother doesn’t know who I am, and it gets worse?”
“Yes.” Ed looked down moodily at the Colonel’s curt and blunt response.
“Well, go on already.”
“It’s very difficult to keep Al stable.” Roy continued. “He’s had frequent relapses since his injury.” Ed nodded somberly.
“Do you know what this means?” Roy asked.
“That Al’s hurt and it’s my fault.”
“Yes. Since Al isn’t a suit anymore, he can bleed, and he can break.” Ed looked up, horror radiating in his eyes.
“How bad is it?”
“Broken wrists, full arm, ankles, and internal bleeding. A few cracked ribs, most likely.” Roy replied. “It’s bad, Ed. Very bad.”
Ed fell into the chair that faced the Colonel’s desk., numb with shock. The purpose of what he had done was to help Al, but it looked as though he had killed him. Ed’s face dropped into his hands, a wave of emotion washing over him.
“I killed him..” he whispered. “I killed my own brother.”
“Suck it up, Fullmetal, no you didn’t.” Roy glared. “You’ve made bigger mistakes before.” Ed couldn’t help but glare at that; he leaped from his seat.
“You said it yourself, Colonel, I messed up! It’s BAD, remember?” Ed shouted back. “I can’t cure his wounds or his soul with Alchemy!”
“As we are both aware.” Roy replied. “But there is something you can do.” Ed stopped short.
“Th.. there is?” Roy nodded gravely.
“But it’s dangerous, Fullmetal. And it involves the Omega.” Ed’s eyes widened; the Omega? Colonel couldn’t be serious.
“The Omega? How could that help Al?” Roy smiled thinly.
“Sit down and find out.”
Apr 22 2005, 06:02 PM
OMYGOODGOLLYGOSH!!! That was really good!!!! I LOVE IT! It is really good, so you better update or else.....
Apr 22 2005, 06:14 PM
aww thank you. ^.^
Apr 23 2005, 03:05 AM
I love it !! I Love it!!! PLEASE update!!!!! Please please please please do update!!!!!
Apr 23 2005, 08:05 AM
Working rapidly on ch. 3 ^^; thank you.
May 13 2005, 03:41 PM
Here we go; it's short but I updated just the same, ne? Working on ch. 4 as we speak. ;Dhttp://www.fanfiction.net/s/2358347/3/
May 27 2005, 03:22 PM
You've done a wonderful job so far, Ymsg. It's fantastic. I just finished up Ch 5, and it nearly made me cry. It was so sweet. When I read “You woulda been proud of her, you know.” I got teary eyed... it was just so sad and sweet at the same time. Bravo on your hard work! It's wonderful. I can't wait to read the next chapter.
Jun 3 2005, 02:09 PM
Thank you. I think that was my favorite line in chapter 5.
Jun 3 2005, 02:11 PM
Chapter Four: This pain is everything
Edward’s hand was curled into a trembling fist, shaking painfully against the doorframe. Roy could find no words of consolation for Fullmetal, despite his want to. His face stayed firm, placid even, as Edward listened to the screaming that echoed through the thin, stilted frame.
“Are you going to go in, Fullmetal, or hang around all day?” Roy asked softly, lessening the bite in his tone. The shouting from beyond the door had quieted now; the silence was just as heart wrenching as the screams had been. Edward froze, his hand slowly uncurling from its tensed position. He took a tentative step forward, his hand trembling slightly as it hovered above the doorknob. Inhaling deeply, he turned the knob.
Edward was greeted by a stone faced 1st Lieutenant, Riza Hawkeye. She nodded once, firmly, her hand rising to her forehead in a salute, golden bangs curling over her fingers. Edward managed a weak smile, but she made no move to return one. Roy kept his ebony gaze glued to her russet eyes.
“A moment, Lieutenant.” Roy said curtly, voice hard. She nodded once more, her hand returning again to her side. She cast Edward a sympathetic glance, and followed her superior out the door. Hand resting on the faded doorknob, Roy said softly, “Just a few minutes, Fullmetal.” Edward nodded, turning to face his brother; the door closed firmly behind him, the click of the old, metal lock sliding into place. He felt his face flush and his eyes burn as he took in the sight of what he had done.
Alphonse lay with his back to Edward, bandages covering his every surface; arms encased in cocoons of gauze, ankles bound and ribs encased, scars and bruises lining his pale skin. Edward choked back a horrified sob, maintaining composure for now.
“Al… Alphonse?” he breathed, voice catching in his throat. He saw Alphonse’s ears perk at the sound of another voice. With the slightest yelp of pain, the boy’s head turned. Not a day older than ten, gleaming blue eyes glared ferociously at his brother, dried tearstains evident upon satin cheeks.
“Al… do you remember me, Al?” he said softly. Alphonse continued to glower at the figure that stood meekly before him, as timid as warring tribes making a peace offering. “Alphonse, come on. It’s me, Edward. Ed, your brother.” Alphonse’s face softened for a moment, then returned to its suspicious stare.
“Br-brother?” Alphonse managed, pushing the words past his lips as though spitting out poison. “I have… I have no brother.” Edward took a horrified step back, breath escaping him. Sweat dripped down his face, mingling with the slow tears that had begun leaking from his eyes.
“Al, come on, it’s me!” Edward half-shouted, “please, Al, it’s me! Remember, remember how you and me and Winry used to play back home? Four years ago, Al? We used to make Winry little toys from transmutation circles, and show them to Mom?”
“Mom?” Alphonse’s voice cracked with confusion. “Winry?”
“Don’t tell me you don’t remember Mom, Al,” Edward tried to say lightly, as though kidding around. “You adored her; we both did. She was our hero. You always bragged about how beautiful and perfect she was… can’t you remember, Al?” His voice split sharply upon the expression in Alphonse’s eyes; his own locked onto his brother’s, drinking in the confusion, anger… and fear.
“Who… who are you!” Alphonse shrieked, rolling over, backing rapidly against the wall in a hurried attempt to get away. Edward took a step forward, extending a quivering hand.
“It’s me, Al.” he whispered, voice quaking. “It’s me.” Alphonse clenched cerulean eyes closed, a screech escaping through parched lips.
“KEEP AWAY FROM ME!” he screamed, thrusting bandaged arms toward Edward’s approaching form. Edward could take this pain no longer. A horrified shout erupted from his throat; he raced forward, putting gloved hands upon his shoulders.
“AL! It’s ME! IT’S EDWARD!” he screamed, shaking Alphonse back and forth, tears welling in golden eyes. “Your brother! YOUR BROTHER!”
The door flew open with a clang against the hollowed wall. Roy strode in rapidly, wrenching Edward from his brother. Riza followed suit, keeping cool and composed, gently taking the shrieking Alphonse into her arms. Her lips moved, but made no sound.
“Fullmetal, what are you trying to do!” Roy shouted, infuriated. “What were you doing!” Edward fought against Roy’s arms as hard as he could, trying with all the power in him just to escape his grasp. Just to get to Alphonse; he had to, somehow, get through to Alphonse.
“Al! AL, PLEASE!” He screamed. Alphonse had to understand. He couldn’t forget; he couldn’t. “No, let go of me, Colonel! Damn it, DAMN IT, LET ME GO!”
“FULLMETAL! We’re LEAVING!” Roy dragged Edward out the door, slamming it firmly behind them; with a burst of infuriated flame, the golden knob snapped off in his hand. He dropped it, singed and broken to the ground, tossing Edward with it.
“What…” he panted, his gaze gleaming with rage. Leaning against the wall, his eyes slid closed, exhausted. “What were you trying to prove in there, Ed? Didn’t I tell you that Al didn’t remember anything yet?” There was no reply from the form upon the floor. After a pause, Roy opened his eyes again, casting a stare at Edward.
“Fullmetal?” Edward slammed a clenched fist against the door, his head falling sharply against his chest. His breath came in slow, shallow gulps; sweat trickling like spattered ink blots from a pen down his pallid face.
“He… h-he didn’t r-remember me…” he whispered. Roy straightened up, listening closely. “He said he didn’t… didn’t have a brother… he was afraid of me. Colonel… my brother was afraid of me…” His voice trailed off into a stifled whisper. Behind golden bangs, tears dripped off the teen’s face.
“I’ve dealt with so much… lost so much.” Roy stopped, confused by Edward’s tone. His voice raised slightly, to a feeble tenor. “I lost my mother, to a sickness, Nina… to the hands of someone I once respected, Brigadier… General Hughes… to a twisted homunculus,” Edward winced as he felt Roy stiffen, as he himself choked on every name. “And I lost Al’s body because of my own stupid mistake… but none of that pain was anything compared to this…” Roy’s face softened. He kneeled down next to Edward and put a gloved hand on his shoulder. Words couldn’t say what they should; silence lingered between them for a moment.
“I always told myself, ‘this pain means nothing’… because that was just it. It was nothing compared to the thought of losing my best friend, my brother.” Edward’s voice fell to a whisper once more, tears burned ferociously in translucent eyes. “And now… it feels like I have.” His eyes clenched closed once more.
“…and this pain is everything.”
Drowsy eyes pushing open, Edward sat up from the hard wooden desk, the engraved lines from years of age were imprinted on the side of his face. Sciezka chuckled, indicating it. Edward rolled his eyes.
“Did I dose off?”
The night had passed uneventfully. Roy put Edward up in a hotel outside of Central’s headquarters and had informed Riza that Ed was not permitted to see Alphonse.
“Colonel, I don’t know if…” Riza began; her voice was tentative and thin. Roy shook his head, silencing her.
“After what I heard from Ed after we kicked him out of there last night,” he replied softly. “I know for sure that he can’t see Al again. Not until we restore his memory.”
“I don’t know.” Roy interrupted, voice caustic, throwing Riza off balance. His tone softened upon seeing her spurned reaction. “I don’t know. But we’re alchemists. Surely we must serve some purpose.”
Edward had returned to Central’s headquarters the next morning, having Sciezka make copies of all papers regarding Dovries, Omegas Glyph, and the Omega itself. He decided not to read over the papers until he had gotten on his way.
“Finished!” she exclaimed brightly, handing Edward the last stack of papers, which he slipped into a knapsack.
“Thank you, Sciezka.” He said softly, rising. Sciezka’s face lost some of its cheerful splendor. Edward turned to leave.
“Ed?” she asked, confusion evident in her eyes. Edward cast a glance over his shoulder. “It doesn’t take glasses for me to see something’s wrong.” She said softly. Edward managed a feeble smile.
“Just wish me luck. I’ll be fine.” She nodded, worried. Edward walked slowly out the door, his hand resting on the knob. “Oh, and Sciezka?”
“Yes?” Edward paused, then asked softly,
“Would you look after Alphonse?” She looked taken aback, but she smiled brightly, nodding.
“Now get outta here.” He grinned, and set off down the hall. He just had to stop in and check with Roy, and then he was on his way to Dovries.
“Yo, Flame Alchemist.” Ed said disrespectfully, plopping down into a chair. Roy cast him a glare that left Edward unperturbed. He tried to mask annoyance unsuccessfully.
“You’re headed to Dovries. You can get many of the required materials from the list Sciezka gave you once you arrive there. You may also want to check out Rush Valley, to see who knew Glyph and add some stuff up about how he died. It’d solve another one of our case files.” Roy said voice hard. Edward nodded, face firm. “You’ve got food, money and a train ticket. Get going.” Edward stood and cast a solid salute. Roy returned it with a wan smile.
“Good luck, Fullmetal.” Edward smiled softly.
Edward turned to head out the door, slinging his bag over his shoulder. Behind him, the phone on Roy’s office desk rang. He heard Roy distantly answer it, and then say his name. He stopped, attention captured, turning to face Roy again. Roy set the phone on his desk, confusion and melancholy holding a faraway glow in blackened eyes.
“It’s for you.” He said quietly. Edward looked perplexed.
“Who is it?” Roy extended the phone, eyes glancing down at the wooden floorboards. Edward approached and took it into his hand.
“Hello?” he said slowly, trying not to appear at a loss.
“Yes?” He heard a small sigh of relief on the other line. The tone was familiar, but quieter than he remembered.
“Good to talk to you again, Ed.” Came the voice. “This is Gracia. Gracia Hughes.
Jun 3 2005, 02:13 PM
Chapter 5: Ghosts of the Past
“Hello, Edward; this is Gracia Hughes.” Edward was taken aback; why was the late Brigadier General’s wife calling him?
“Ms. Hughes, hi…” he said, respectfully. “It’s good to hear from you.” He heard a soft chuckle from her end of the line.
“It’s good to hear from you too.” Although talking to her again was nice, Edward knew that she had other reasons for calling. Why speak to Edward rather than the Colonel?
“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked politely. Another light laugh came from the other end of the line.
“Actually, I want to help you.” She replied. “I just received a phone call from Sciezka. She told me that you were headed to Dovries upon sparse notes regarding Omegas Glyph, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Edward replied, intrigued. “Why would Sciezka call?”
“She thought that I could be of some assistance. Edward, don’t forget that Maes was head of the investigation committee.” He tried to ignore the wistful sigh in her tone. “We have a whole room full of leftover case files. I haven’t moved a thing since…” there was a pause. Edward’s eyes slid closed; Gracia cleared her throat slightly. “I haven’t moved a thing. They’re yours for the taking.” She finished evenly. Edward nodded, eyes narrowing with awareness.
“Yeah, I’d like to check it out.” He said, interested. “May I stop by now?” he asked courteously.
“Thank you, Ms. Hughes.”
“My pleasure, Ed.”
Edward pulled the phone from his ear, holding it in his hand for a moment. A slight sigh escaped his lips, caught by the ever precise ears of Roy. Edward turned, handing him the phone. To Edward’s surprise, Roy didn’t inquire as to what the call entailed. His face was stony, and firm, eyes still cast about the ground. Ed’s lips pressed into a thin, sympathetic smile; his hand rose once more in a last salute.
“See you when I get back, Colonel.” Roy’s gaze swiveled to Edward’s; he returned the salute.
“Hey Fullmetal,” he called, as Ed strode toward the door. Edward turned, poking his head over his shoulder.
“If you’re looking for a way to die, this is it.” Edward was taken aback; his face grew startled. The edges of Roy’s lips twitched with a smile. “But it won't help Al.” Ed’s face grew placid again, catching his meaning. He nodded and closed the door firmly behind him, slinging his bag over his shoulder. He cast a glance at the wooden door down the hall. Dim silence greeted him, the new doorknob sparkling in the foyer light.
‘I promise, Alphonse.’ Ed thought, determinedly. ‘I will fix what I have broken. One more time.’
“Ms. Hughes? Hello!” Edward called, banging impatiently on the door. He was eager to get started toward Dovries; he hadn't even looked over the list of things he would need to compile to create the Omega. Actually, the Omega had strayed from his thoughts; he had managed to become preoccupied with other things. Now, however, the Omega was the primary thought on his mind.
“Coming!” he heard a distant voice from inside. Hollow footsteps echoed through the hall, growing louder as they approached the front door. After a moment, the door was pulled back, Gracia emerging from behind. A tired smile upon her face, she seemed older, yet still the same woman that Ed had known for years.
“Good to see you, Edward.” She said cheerfully, coming fully from behind the doorframe. Edward froze in his reply, eyes widening considerably.
“Your stomach’s a melon!” he exclaimed without thinking. He realized that that was exactly what he had said when she had been pregnant with Elysia. Gracia chuckled softly, her hand running over her stomach.
“Yes. You haven’t been around for six months or so… I found out shortly after Maes passed away.” She said softly. Edward’s face grew serious; he nodded regretfully.
“I never stopped in to tell you how sorry I was…” he said quietly. “I apologize.” She smiled, closing her eyes.
“There’s no need for that, Ed. Come on in.” She pulled the door back, leaning against it. Edward stepped inside, drinking in the homey feel of the place. He had always felt so comfortable here, as though he too was part of the perfect family that had been the Hughes. Pictures of Elysia, Gracia, and Maes, in group shots lined the walls, some silly, others simply beautiful; genuine and glowing smiles gleamed down at him from the halls. Edward could feel his eyes brim, but he blinked back persistent tears.
“Where’s Elysia?” he asked, noting that he hadn't seen the little girl. Gracia indicated the hallway.
“Probably in her bedroom, drawing again. She’s got a real knack for it. Feel free to say hello; the case files are in the room across from hers.” Gracia started off toward the kitchen. “I’ll fix some tea.” Edward couldn’t help but laugh; the last time Gracia had served him tea, she had gone into labor. Gracia grinned, remembering as well.
“Elysia?” Edward knocked softly on her door. A little voice bade his entrance; he pushed the door open gently. A gasp escaped his throat at the sight of the child’s room.
Thin, white sheets of paper lined the walls, all drawings of a smiling man in glasses, laughing, jumping, and crying. A child’s scrawl of color was scribbled for hair and uniform, straying from the lines here and there. Elysia had depicted the many faces of her father, embedded in her memory forever. It took Edward’s breath away.
She sat at a little desk near her bed, in a little pink chair, hard at work on another drawing. Edward approached her almost tentatively, placing a small hand on the back of the swivel seat.
“Hey, you.” He said, smiling. Elysia turned her head, blonde ponytails whirling. Her little face broke into a smile, arms reaching around Ed’s neck.
“Edward!” she squealed excitedly. “Mommy told me you were coming.” She informed him pleasantly. Edward feigned surprise.
“Did she now?” he asked. Elysia giggled and nodded happily. Ed was glad to see the four year old happy; she reminded him so of Nina. Despite the sadness and the pain, the little girl held a bright, beautiful smile that always managed to put a grin on his face as well.
“Elysia, I have to go look at some papers now. Go help your mom, okay?” he said, standing and ruffling her hair. Elysia nodded vigorously, and raced out the door, calling her mother’s name the whole way. Ed smiled, glancing around in wonder once more before leaving the child’s room.
“You woulda been proud of her, you know.” He whispered, pulling the door closed behind him.
Striding across the hallway, Edward pushed the opposite door open. To his surprise, the room was organized; Brigadier General Hughes was notorious for being a slob; never shirking from work, but eluding precision. The papers were neatly organized on bookshelves or in filing cabinets that lined the walls, labeled alphabetically one by one, A-Z. Edward walked over to a dusty bookshelf, running a gloved finger down the ridge, noting the grime that rubbed off onto it. Gracia hadn’t touched even the doorknob to this room, he was certain. He sighed, moving toward the O section.
Pages turned rapidly; Edward tore through book after book, flipping page after starched page, drinking in the vast orb of information that surrounded the Omega. Stacks of books raised around his head as time passed, the ever distant sound of his pocket watch; a barely audible reminder that life existed outside this room.
Facts, figures, names, numbers, dates, times, places… Edward scribbled furiously in the margins of Sciezka’s neat, primly written notes. An hour or so later, Gracia knocked softly on the door.
“Edward?” she called. Hearing no reply, she tentatively turned the knob, poking her head inside. Sitting upon a stack of books, Edward’s nose was buried in a thin guide book that mentioned the Omega and its near creation by Glyph. Gracia smiled gently, watching golden eyes thirsty for knowledge skim over the words, as a bee hovering from rose to rose.
“Ed, I’ve made the tea.” She said with a grin. Edward looked up, startled. He smiled tiredly.
Ed sat at the kitchen table, sipping the tea with a little smile, remembering his 12th birthday, the last time he had sat there. Gracia sat opposite him, while Elysia played on the floor.
“Find everything you needed?” she asked casually. Edward nodded, swallowing.
“Everything the military knows and then some. There are, of course, a few things that are left unclassified, but I’m sure Hughes knew that.” He said simply. “Everything I needed was there, and I’m set to haul about a hundred pounds of this crap all over creation.” He chuckled lightly.
“Thank you, for letting me use his stuff.” She nodded, smiling.
“It’s what Maes would have done.” She said lightly. Edward cast an apprehensive stare, looking over the woman he had come to know in four years. Her face was tired, older. Her stomach was, of course, much larger than he remembered it. But her eyes, like Elysia’s, were still alive, gleaming as they always had. Edward smiled; Gracia was strong; she, her daughter, and her unborn child were going to be just fine.
After lunch, Ed made his leave. At the door, he gave Gracia a brief hug, and swung Elysia in a circle before gently plopping her on the ground once more. He smiled, and turned to leave.
“Ed, wait!” he heard from behind. Elysia raced up behind him, a piece of paper flailing between little fingers. “I… I drew this for you.” Edward took the picture into his hand, staring at it affectionately. It was a simple drawing, colored over in a child’s hand, of Maes, Gracia, Elysia, Alphonse and Edward, all smiling and happy. She had written in wobbly letters at the bottom, “My family”. Edward could only stare, smile quivering. He bent down on one knee and took the child into his arms.
“Thank you.” He said softly. Elysia smiled and giggled into his shoulder. Ed straightened up once more, turning to Gracia.
“Yes?” she asked, catching his glance at her stomach.
“Boy or girl?” he asked quietly. She smiled gently.
“Boy.” She whispered. “I can tell. The new member of the family will be a boy.” His kind gaze gleamed.
“And I wish Maes Jr. all the luck in the world. He’s gonna be just as goofy and obsessed as his dad.” He said quietly. “In other words… he’ll be a hero too.” Gracia smiled, her eyes filmed over with tears, nodding.
“And I’m sure he thanks you.” She whispered. “As I do.”
Edward heard the hollowed door close behind him; he stepped down the stairs with a new feeling of determination. Golden eyes flashing, his face was set indomitably, his old reckless grin latched onto his face.
“All right.” He said aloud. “Next stop, Dovries.”
Jun 10 2005, 02:59 PM
3 cheers for another good chapter! Bravo Ymsg, Ch 6 was awesome!
Omg, I cannot wait for Ch 7! I really like how you described Edward's emotions in this chapter, it was very detailed.
Plus the chain of events thus far has been very interesting. I Love it and can't wait to read more! Good job, Ymsg!
Jun 11 2005, 01:37 PM
Can you keep your story in one thread? It's part of the rules.
Jun 11 2005, 02:58 PM
threads merged. like coffee said, please post the chapters of your fic in just one thread, please.
Jul 1 2005, 09:47 AM
Chapter 6- Road Block
Edward moved rapidly down the old dirt road, a million thoughts racing through his mind. Visions flashed like pictures on an old reel of film, playing back memories of the past at high speed across golden eyes; his face was glazed over in reflection.
The mocking and yet strange, sudden sympathy in Roy's tone, the stoniness of Riza's face, the horror struck, pained look carved into Alphonse's quivering, tear filled eyes, spread like wild fire through his head. His eyes burned; an inner war was raging within him, a strong hatred toward himself brewed, staining his heart, blurring his thoughts. He vaguely wondered how Elysia could call him family, but at the thought of the word, a smile escaped past tight lips. Family.
He rubbed his eyes absent mindedly, thought shifting to the Omega. From Hughess notes, he had deducted that Glyph had lost his left leg in an automail accident, to Edwards surprise and humor. He was attempting to create a whole automail body, equipped with weapons for a soldier, paralyzed from the spine down. However, the project failed; while installing a saw, Glyph was startled, by what, no one knew. He dropped it on his left leg, damaging the nerves beyond medical repair. He never finished the soldiers uniform and didnt create automail weaponry from that day on.
Much regarding Glyph was unclear after that. Edward assumed that Glyphs thought process was like that of all scientists; if you have the power to do something...
"...it's hard not to try, right, Edward?"
Edward clamped gloved hands over his ears instinctively, blocking out the memory of Shou Tuckers childlike voice. It was that philosophy alone that took innocent lives, and Tucker was proof of that. Edward took a deep breath, refocusing his thoughts upon the Omega and Glyph.
Tucker shared the all too twisted dream of thousands of alchemists; take things as they were handed to you, or try to change them, preferably with science. Edward figured that Glyph wanted to get back what he had lost, unsatisfied with his own mechanic work with the automail. Edward sighed; another tragic tale of science gone wrong, about which he could care less. He cared only about the Omega, which was the science gone awry part of the deal.According to Sciezkas notes, the Omega was compiled of many strange things. Edward could derive most of them himself; a lot of metal, copper, iron ore, nitrogen, sodium, flame, water, earth and more. What perplexed Edward were the vast quantities of the vitamins and minerals. They included:
1750 liters- water
1000 kg- carbon,
200 liters- ammonia
200 kg- lime
150g- miscellaneous elements.
The other requirements that included fire, earth and etc were in much smaller quantities. Could Sciezka have reproduced the numbers wrong?
Somehow, Edward doubted that she had; he knew she produced exact verbatim of her instruction, down to the last punctuation mark, perfectly arranged as usual. He shrugged it off; he would get that amount somehow.
At nightfall, Edward stopped in a meadow, feeling just about as wretched as a living being could. Guilt ate away at him; emotions protruded the walls of his mind, tore down the fortresses that guarded his heart. Laying in three foot tall grass that swayed slightly in gentle green strands over him, the stars blocked by violet clouds, a sigh darted between dry lips. Edward's golden eyes grew heavy, and at long last, the blessing of sleep fell upon him. How quickly his blessing became a curse.
I have no brother!
You messed up, Fullmetal...
Who are you!
What were you thinking? What are you trying to pull!
This pain is everything...
If you're looking for a way to die, this is it...
GET AWAY FROM ME!
Golden eyes snapping open, a frightened shout echoed across the empty meadow.
"AL!" Edward caught his breath slowly; sweat poured down his pallid face. "Al..." he whispered, shaking visions from his head; the confusion in Alphonse's tears, the anger in Roy's tone, and the pain in his own voice echoed in his mind, the effects of the nightmare scaring him out of fatigue. He would have to keep moving. He stood, visibly annoyed; he wasnt going to get a good nights sleep now, that was for sure.
Pulling a thin guide book out of his bag, he walked slowly toward the ravine path south of the meadow as gleaming eyes devoid of weariness scanned the list of required materials for the Omega. As he muttered obscenities upon the outrageous proportions, he saw a faraway light, twinkling in the distance. Edward's eyes narrowed; that couldnt be Rush Valley. That was still a two days walk away.
Edward's stomach growled loudly; he groaned aloud. It looked as though he would be making a pit stop, to refuel.
After a walk that seemed interminable, he made it. There was no proclamation of the name of the place; no greeting, or sign displaying the title of the town. The houses were small, made of thin, stilted slabs, and to Edward's chagrin, there wasnt a public restaurant or even an outhouse in sight.
Lights gleamed at the end of the cobbled street way. Edward kept his guard up, but he could feel the painful growling of his stomach slowly taking over his brain.
An elderly man with snow white hair was approaching what appeared to be a well at the end of the road. Edward approached cautiously, keeping wary of the situation. The man seemed to be having trouble working the well. At length, he managed to lower the bucket; ancient arms trembled as they pulled it up again. His wrinkled face creased forlornly to find the bucket empty, the well gone dry.
Edward sighed, as though following a routine; he clapped his hands together, creating a spark. The man cast narrowed eyes toward the sudden light. Edward placed his hands upon the sides of the well. A splash was heard; the man peered within the well, amazed to see it filled to the brim with water. Edward thrust the bucket inside, filling it, an egotistical grin plastered to his face. His eyes widened upon realizing how heavy the bucket was; he toppled over, the bucket slamming against his chest, yet somehow managing to keep the water inside.
"Ow..."he yelped weakly. The man was dumbfounded; he stared at Edward bug-eyed, his mouth hanging agape. Edward shot him a glare. "Ya know it'd be nice to get this off of me after I got you your precious water." He growled. The man nodded vigorously, heaving the bucket off of Edward's chest.
"How did you do that?" he asked in a hushed tone, voice husky. Edward shrugged, a conceited grin playing upon his face.
"I just separated the moisture from the dirt and reconstructed it into a purified form." He bragged, as though it was nothing. The man looked truly amazed.
"Please, allow me to give you a meal." The man offered. Edward's gaze turned greedy, a smirk evident upon his face.
"Well, if you insist..."
"So, you're a state alchemist?" the man asked. Edward nodded once, his face hidden by a bowl, chopsticks flaring, heaving food into his mouth. "Based in Central, under Colonel Mustang?"
"Fullmetal alchemist, soldier for the people?"
Yet another nod. Very big, conceited nod.
"Its an honor to have you in our home." The man smiled, the corners of his face wrinkling. "I am Kosuke. This is my estate that I share with my daughter."
"Daugshang?" he murmured, mouth full of food. Kosuke nodded, smiling.
"Yes, my daughter. Her name is Amara. She too is trying to learn alchemy." He said lightly. Edward, although seemingly completely preoccupied with his food, took note of this. Kosuke's vision grew clouded with perplexity. "But... wasnt there another that was said to travel with you?" he asked. He noted that the alchemist stiffened upon this statement; the chopsticks fell with a light clink into the empty bowl.
"Thanks for the food." He replied softly. There was a slight silence. The old man studied the boy's face. Although he was young, he had seen the world in all of its gore, and understood its bloodstained past. He was no stranger to fear, loss, or pain. Kosuke's pale cobalt eyes scanned the childs features. How could someone so young have lost so much?
"Hey." The boy spoke. Kosuke came to attention again.
"Where am I?" Kosuke looked confused. Edward rolled his eyes. "What is this place? There's no entrance marker and it's not on the map I have." Kosuke looked slightly taken aback.
"Your..." he started, faltering. Edward's eyes narrowed slightly, noting his startled reaction. "Your map must be incorrect." He finished weakly. Edward knew for sure now; the man was lying. An innocent grin eased over his features.
"I dont think so." He said lightly, finger combing his chin as though pondering. "This was crafted by a professional librarian at Centrals main headquarters. She's the best of the best, take my word for it." The man gulped loudly.
"This town is without name." his face grew hard, as did his tone.
'Then why tell me my map was wrong in the first place?' Edward thought with a smug grin. He took his cue to stop pressing.
"I have one other question." Edward leaned back in his chair, propping the back leg off the ground, copping a casual hand before him. "You wouldnt happen to know anything about a guy named Omegas Glyph..." Edwards hands clamped upon the table, the chair falling hard upon four legs with a bang.
"...wouldja?" Edward couldnt help but let a smirk escape his lips upon the look he was given.
"I'm afraid your curiosity has overstepped your authority." Kosukes voice was curt and low. "I hope you enjoyed your meal, but you will have to leave." Edward wasnt the least bit surprised, but he feigned it well.
"Well, if you insist." He tried to look hurt by this, but his ploy was barely hidden. "I'll just be go..." he began, opening the man's door. He was met by a girl, far taller than he, to his chagrin, with fair hair and dark eyes. Her gaze was tight, eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"I always wanted to take on a real state alchemist." She breathed, holding up a hand. A ring with a transmutation symbol was around her middle finger; he noted the air symbols that overshadowed one water symbol. Edward grinned slightly, some of the thrill of his past coming back.
"Yeah? Well, I've never lost a match to a girl, and it's not gonna start now. On the thought, I've never lost to anyone." He smarted back at her, dodging around her, knocking over a table in his haste. The match led outside, her hand glowing fiercely, shooting beams of red light toward him.
"You wouldnt hurt a lady now would you, Fullmetal pipsqueak?" she demanded, shooting another jolt at him.
"DONT CALL ME PIPSQUEAK!" he shouted, clapping his hands together. He grinned. "And dont tempt me." His hands met the ground; an explosion of blue light sent rock and dirt flying. People throughout the town poked their heads out doors, peering through cracks in curtains at the brewing fight.
"Amara, isnt it?" he asked, as she was showered in rubble. He let her soak in the sight; a cannon of rock built before her. "And I dont go easy on anyone, lady or not."
"Yeah? Edward was taken aback; she was laughing! "And neither do I, midget or not." Her ring glowed, shooting a waterspout into the air.
"Dodge this, Fullmetal!" she shouted as it progressed toward him. Edward fired his cannon, but the blast was intercepted by the waterspout. Edwards face faulted; this was not good. Not good at all.
Amara smirked, noting that the cannon had fallen. Dust rose into the air, the night sky clouded. Fullmetal was easy to beat, that was for certain. And they called him a prodigy.
"Don't... call me midget." A voice came hard. Amara's pale eyes widened with surprise.
"Hey, Amara." He called. The smoke cleared, exposing him; his gloved hand was clenched around his red coat, the flares blowing in the breeze from the waterspout that gradually moved behind him. His eyes were golden and gleaming, hard as stone. "Whats in it for you?" he asked.
"Why are you fighting me?" he asked blithely. "Whats in it for you?" Amara was appalled by his words. He spoke as though he already knew why she fought him.
"Everything is equivalent exchange. By beating me, what would you gain?" Edward's face was set, eyes scanning over her face. Despite his stony appearance, he was annoyed.
"Why is she so damn tall!" he thought irritably. He watched her closely, despite the bother of her height. Why was she fighting him? To protect the Omega?
"You want to know about Glyph." She spat, her words caustic. Edward was slightly taken aback by this outburst.
"Wouldja believe me if I said school report?" he asked, mockingly. Roys egotistical contemptuousness had come to wear off on him, to his exasperation. She glared heatedly, her ring beginning to glow.
"Eat this, small fry!" she screeched, throwing forward a bullet of lightning. He knew what to expect; he pulled all the moisture out of the air and formed it into a thin block of ice. Pressing it against the ground, he clapped his hands together once more, creating an icy fortress. The lightning struck the wall, sending hail flying.
"Again with the small jokes?" he growled. "I ask a simple question and an old man decides to sic his girl on me like shes a watchdog. You obey well. You should join the military." An idea wheedled its way into Edward's mind; this was perfect.
"What was that!" she shouted, infuriated.
"You heard me." he grinned. "You'd make a great dog of the state. Wanna sell your soul to the Colonel, rather than this old guy?" He was taunting her now; she was irate, her thoughts brewing rash.
"You... you..." she seethed; her face was blotching with obvious streaks of anger. Edward smirked. Almost there.
"Come here, Amara." He crooned obnoxiously. "Thats a good... lapdog."
"THAT'S IT!" she screamed. Throwing her hands into the air, the transmutation array glowed wildly. Clouds boomed overhead, sending down hard droplets of rain. Hands twitching with rage, she thrust them forward, the drops changing course and twisting into hail.
"Perfect." Edward breathed, pressing his hands together. After a glow of blue light, the transmuted bladestaff appeared on his forearm. Edward ducked under the rain of hail that had been shot in a straight, even line; he had a clear shot at her. The tip of the bladestaff clipped her hand, sending her ring flying. He held the tip to her chin.
"Now," he said softly. "Where were we?" He heard Amara gulp heavily upon noting the blade at her throat.
"Ah, yes. You were about to tell me about Omegas Glyph." He said sharply, voice turning hard. "Where was he last seen?"
"You want me to kill you?" he asked. "I havent killed anyone good lately." He was baiting her.
"Kill me." she replied weakly, staring at the blade. Edward inched it closer, appearing dead serious.
"Okay then. No skin off my..."
The two shifted their gazes to the voice. The old man, Kosuke was standing to the side, having watched the whole battle.
"Father!" Amara exclaimed, upon seeing him.
"Glyph was last seen in Dovries." The man said in a rush. "He moved off toward the fields where a cave was said to be. It was used as an old alchemic lab. It was said he died there."
"Father, dont tell this shrimp...!"
"Why did you cover it up?" Edward demanded. When greeted by silence, he made it appear as though he was going to thrust the blade at any moment. Amara struggled in his grasp. "Tell me!"
"Because... because he was a black sheep." He said softly. "This town was the original Rush Valley." Edward was thrown off guard. This rat hole had been Rush Valley?
"It was a small automail producing town, Glyph being our best mechanic. One day we were offered the best chance of our lives; free publicity. No costs, no strings attached. Business would boom, and we would live in the lap of luxury. Or so we thought." The man sighed, an ancient figure. "There was a catch. We had to move a two days journey away, where everything would have to be rebuilt. The new location was near a trade route by Dovries, which would also attract customers, as this place is in the middle of nowhere. But packing up and moving our families and valuables just to start over would be too much strain.
"So Glyph, having no attachments here, felt as though we were tying him down by declining the offer. He spat upon us and left, taking some of the best techniques and tools with him." The man sighed. "He was our greatest source of income, and had been a good friend. We were angry, thus I withheld it from you.
Edward transmuted his arm back to its original form, loosening his grip upon Amara. He nodded; it made sense.
"Thanks, Kosuke. For the info and food." He turned to Amara. "You fight well. But as someone once told me, all war is deception. Use your enemys weakness and it becomes your strength. Remember that."
Edward made his leave from the town as dawn broke over the horizon, dew dripping freshly off long blades of grass. He had gotten what he needed for now, and could only imagine what else lay in wait on his journey ahead.
Maybe now, he could get a goodnights sleep...
Jul 1 2005, 09:55 AM
Chapter 7- Rush Valley
The sky was dark; thunder rumbled warningly overhead. Flashes of lightning gleamed in the distance. Edward glared at the imminent clouds and shook his head.
‘I used to think that the rain may make me feel better, 'cause it was worse off than I was.’ He thought with a melancholy sigh. ‘Now if even one drop hits my face I feel like my heart’s gonna bust…’
Edward pushed the rain out of his mind and thought back upon his encounter with Amara. Her alchemic tactics had been great, which he admitted with much chagrin. The way she pulled water from the atmosphere to crystallize it reminded him of Dr. Tim Marcoh, the one who had gotten farthest on the investigation of the Philosopher’s Stone. He smiled; he had a deep respect for the man. A deserter from the army, and perhaps the wisest of the soldiers, as Roy once said. Edward was disgusted; he was agreeing with the Colonel too much. Sickening.
Amara’s skill had been difficult to beat, even for someone with as much alchemic talent and experience as he. He wondered vaguely if she intended to join the army, despite his mocking of her obedience skills. She would be a good soldier; that was a fact.
However, the pure hatred in her eyes as he held the blade to her throat was evident. She was viler toward him than fearful of death for a reason he couldn’t place. The old man had claimed that the reason for withholding information was merely out of embarrassment, but her tone had screamed reason when he began to tell.
“Father, don’t tell this shrimp…!”
Edward wondered why she would be so coarse in her attitude; he hadn't really done anything to cause a great enemy in her. He had even complimented her fighting ability, which was more than he would usually muster. What did she hold against him after only learning his name?
He pushed the thought out of his mind, refocusing upon the Omega. His next stop was Rush Valley, now half a day’s walk away. The mechanics there would surely be familiar with Glyph, and he could find more information regarding the equipment he had created before he disappeared. Maybe he would find out more about this cave that Kosuke had mentioned earlier.
“Gah…” Edward said aloud, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I gotta tell the Colonel about the real Rush Valley.” He pulled Sciezka’s notes from his bag and scribbled in the margin:
Rush Valley; 3 days west of current Rush Valley.
Something in another margin caught Edward’s eye as he moved to put the notes back. It was a side note that Sciezka had copied down in Central, her prim handwriting scrawled near the list of required materials. Edward scrutinized the words, not making sense of her logic, which vexed him to every extent. The postscript read:
“Fifty?” Edward breathed aloud. “Fifty what?”
He moved to the side of the old dirt road and sat down, pulling all the notes from his bag. He flipped through each page, scanning it rapidly for the word, and coming up blank. He went over the notes two, three times; nothing. Edward sighed; he was visibly annoyed as he stuffed the notes sloppily back into his knapsack. He sat there for a moment, staring at the dust encrusted upon his boots, gloved hand toying with a blade of grass.
“I wonder how Alphonse is doing…” he whispered to himself, plucking the grass free from the earth. As if in reply, a drop fell from the clouds, landing in his outstretched palm. His eyes locked onto that tiny drop that lay in his hand, eyes blazing angrily. He clenched his hand into a trembling fist.
“Ah, forget it!” he shouted. “I’m going to Rush Valley, and nothing is going to slow me…!”
BANG. Edward had stood and walked straight into a tree. His head pressed painfully against the grassy earth, his bright red face twitching with anger.
“… down.” He finished feebly, legs flailing in the air. He jumped up and glared at the tree. “YOU DAMN THING! WHAT ARE YOU GOOD FOR ANYWAY!” He shouted, and stormed off down the old dirt road, dust clouds kicking up behind him. His stride remained constant, a new determination riding in his heart, despite the gentle falling of the rain.
“At last!” Edward exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air. “Rush Valley!” He strode proudly in, grinning from ear to ear as he passed under the welcome sign.
Rush Valley hadn't changed since the last time he had been there. Winry and Alphonse had come with him once before, a year or so ago. There were little shops lining the streets, vendors in the middle of roads, all the people puttering along with stars in their eyes as they stared at the extravagant pieces of automail, crafted into jewelry or prosthetic limbs alike, they always captivated the tourist’s hearts.
Edward’s eyes scanned the side streets; he caught sight of the alley he was looking for and grinned. He took a right alley to a back road automail shop, and pulled his watch from his pocket. Edward sniggered and banged rudely on the door. He heard footsteps inside, and smiled as the door was pulled open to reveal a girl about his age, who was taller than he, with dark skin and russet eyes. At the obnoxious knocking, her face was set in a defensive glare as she met Edward at the door.
“’Member me?” he said conceitedly, holding up his watch.
“Hey, shortstop, long time no see.” She grinned, pulling the door open. The girl’s name was Paninya; she had befriended Ed and Winry on their first visit there. She had challenged Ed to a race after stealing his pocket watch, and was beaten, but not by much.
“Don’t call me short!”
“Come on in.” she smiled brightly. “So, where’s Winry?” she asked, sitting down at the table in the back of the room. Edward plopped down in a chair next to her, draping his backpack over the chair top.
“Back in Rizenbul.” He replied, copping his hand and crossing his leg. “She can’t stop learning new techniques. That Dominique guy really inspired her. Especially after she found out he knew Pinako.” He said complimentary, referring to her mechanic. Dominique was like a father to Paninya; he had created her limbs and taught her to live once more after she was the victim of a tragic accident.
“Ahh, I see.” She grinned heartily. “And Al?” She was taken aback to see Edward’s normally perturbed face fall. Silence hung in the air.
“I… I messed up, Paninya.” He breathed. She was thrown off guard; she took that as her stopping point and pressed no further. She nodded sympathetically and toyed absently with her hair. She managed to grin again.
“It’s good to see you, Ed.” She said with a smile. “It’s been a long time.” He nodded, looking down at her automail legs.
“Hey,” he said softly, voice taking on a serious edge. “I need your help.” Paninya sat up straight, interested.
“Yeah, sure. With what?”
“I need you to tell me everything you, or Dominique, knows about a cave near here, and a guy called Omegas Glyph.” Edward began, preparing to explain.
Edward and Paninya looked at the man hovering in the doorway. The intimidating form of Dominique, who was kindly despite his grave appearance, was truly a spectacle to behold. His voice held a scornful growl as he spat the name, as though it was a bad taste in his mouth.
“Yeah, hey, Dominique.” Edward gave a halfhearted salute. “Do you know him?”
“Know him?” Dominique scoffed, rolling his eyes. “He was the gem of Rush Valley, so to speak.” At those words, Paninya’s eyes took on a hateful glaze.
“Oh… him.” She murmured, voice low, curt. Edward was surprised at the rise the name had gotten out of the two of them; he must have been a truly excellent mechanic, though it was something he’d never say in their presence. Paninya’s expression clearly depicted that she had heard every tall tale and hateful lore that involved this man, and that she believed every word of the slander she had heard. “The one who cheated every decent auto-mechanic out of the money that they rightfully…”
“Paninya.” The hard tone of Dominique’s voice stopped her mid-sentence. She growled and looked away, face set in a glower. “Omegas Glyph came here a few years ago from what was once Rush Valley.” Edward nodded; Dominique looked surprised, and cleared his throat.
“Wait.” Paninya sounded interested again. She spun around on her chair, her legs wrapped around the back legs, eyes perplexed. “This is Rush Valley. How could he come from what’s already here?”
“A town a few days north of here was the original Rush Valley.” he explained quickly. Noting the eagerness on Edward’s face, she didn’t press for details, but Paninya looked blown away.
“Learn something new every day…” she muttered, amazed.
“Glyph was their best mechanic too.” Dominique snapped abruptly. “He came here, to what eventually became Rush Valley, shortly before the other mechanics and I did. He brought in the most customers because of his complex designs for years, until recently.”
“Define recently.” Edward said shortly. The gruff appearance loosened; the man’s eyes wrinkled into a sardonic expression.
“Not recently on your terms.” Dominique smiled wryly. “It was soon after I found that one.” he pointed at Paninya.
“So about 10-12 years ago?”
“Around there, yeah.” Dominique replied. “He just stopped showing up. The crowds lessened and the customers branched out to the other mechanics, a blessing for much of Rush Valley.”
“Any idea where he went?”
“Not a one.”
“Why he left?”
Edward sighed, exasperated. True, he had learned a thing or two, but not much that he couldn’t have deducted himself. He put a tired hand to his forehead; this was a dead end. The only one with the information didn’t have enough, so it seemed.
“Hey, kid.” Dominique’s voice came quiet. Edward looked up, hand falling lightly to the table, the automail hitting it with a clink.
“What do you wanna know about Glyph for?” he asked curtly, tone curling slightly with interest. Edward smiled weakly. He searched for the right words to explain; how could explicate that he had nearly killed his brother and was now after something that may not exist, that could have been created by a mechanic that was hated by everyone in the automail business?
“He messed up.”
Edward’s head whipped around. Paninya had stood, pushing her chair gently beneath the wooden table. Her face was blank, her eyes understanding. Dominique looked slightly confused, but realization dawned over his features.
“He messed up.” She repeated softly. There was no need to say anything more. Edward cast her a thankful smile. He stood, pushing his own chair in.
“Thanks for the help, you two, it’s appreciated.” He said lightly, heading for the door. “But I have to be on my way.” Dominique nodded, as did Paninya. Edward’s hand rested on the doorknob as he heard a gruff voice from behind.
“Hey, kid.” He looked over his shoulder at Dominique, his strong arms crossed firmly across his chest.
“There’s a cave north of here that you may wanna check out.” Dominique said lightly. “I heard you ask about them earlier. It’s about an hour’s walk north, half a mile down the Rush Valley ravine; it’s right before you make it out of town. If you’re suspecting that Glyph wandered off to a cave, that’d be the one.” Edward’s face broke into a smile.
“Thanks, Dominique. I’ll head over now.” Edward turned once more to leave; he was more than satisfied with the information he had received.
“Pipsqueak!” He cringed visibly, eyes narrowing into angry slits, his hand trembling on the doorknob.
“WHAT!” he barked, whirling around.
“Forgetting something?” Paninya grinned; his watch was clenched firmly in her hand.
Edward’s mouth dropped, his eyes widening with shock. ‘How the hell…!’ he thought, searching his pockets futilely to find the watch truly gone. Instead of shouting and chasing her to get it back, he closed his eyes and laughed.
“You’ve raised some thief here, Dominique.” His voice teasing. Dominique rolled his eyes and smiled thinly. Paninya tossed the watch in the air, flinging it toward Edward, who caught it simply with one hand. He slipped it in his pocket and smiled.
“Thanks again, guys.” He pulled the door open, striding out of the alley with the echoing of goodbyes ringing in his ears.
Edward looked up at the sky, preparing for the next leg of the trip. His eyes slid closed; warmth rested upon the soft features of his face. Edward smiled as the sun gleamed vibrantly; the rain had disappeared.
Jul 1 2005, 09:56 AM
Chapter 8- Life's Toll
Roy tentatively pushed the door open, barely twisting the golden knob in his hand. He peered through the stilted crack, searching for her form. Riza smiled, standing quietly.
“Don’t worry; Al’s asleep.” She said softly. Roy sighed, visibly relieved. He beckoned with his hand for her to follow; she glided across the floor without making a sound, sliding out the door and closing it inaudibly, without a flicker of notice from Alphonse.
“How’s he doing?” Roy asked solemnly, voice turning hard. Riza’s russet eyes strayed from her superior’s face, drifting to the floor. Her lips were poised to speak what Roy wanted to hear; that Alphonse was fine, recovering, remembering things steadily. It would look neat and clean, black and white; a happy ending on a military report. Her lips were down turned in a thoughtful look; it would be a beautiful lie.
Roy noted the tautness of her slender face, and the worry that was evident in her eyes despite her attempt to shut it out. He felt the strangest urge to tell her that things would be all right, that she was doing everything perfectly and that all would be fine in the end. But he would be giving her only a temporary succor; it would be a rash promise that he could not support, and it could hurt her in the end. As much as he wanted to be the solace she needed, his job came first, and he would not riddle her with what could be a lie.
“Lieutenant.” His voice softened. She looked up at him, her answer ready. He shook his head once, shoulders slumping slightly. “We’re dogs of the military. Lies do not become of us.” Her auburn eyes widened slightly, her slim features registering the slightest aspects of surprise. He wanted the truth, although he wasn’t going to like it. His face was concealing, a blank, hard front facing her. Riza’s eyes locked upon his; she caught the slightest thread of concern weaved into the blackness of his gaze, and cleared her throat.
“His condition is worsening.” She said softly, her voice suppressed into a routine, businesslike monotone. “Two days ago he knew who I was, and now he can’t recall ever seeing me before. It’s the same for Lieutenant Maria Ross, who has been helping me.” Though her voice was steady, her face betrayed the pain behind her words.
“So he isn’t retaining anything that he learns.”
“Exactly. He…” Riza swallowed, putting a casual hand to her forehead, her brow furrowing. She cleared her throat once more. “He keeps mentioning something though, every time I see him. Repeating himself.”
“What is it?” Roy asked, intrigued.
“He can’t place a name for it.” she replied; her voice grew stronger after the prime focus of the conversation seemed to move off of Alphonse’s condition. “After he gets over the initial shock of meeting me all over again, and I’ve explained why he’s there, he starts talking about a creature he saw once. He said that it was small, with coarse, matted hair, thin, covered in blood. He said that it screamed for a long time, sending shivers down his spine, prickling his skin, and setting his heart afire with fear, before finally dying. A scream that was so tortured, it couldn’t be human.” She paused, mulling over what she had just said and waiting for the Colonel to digest it. Her words were straight, honest, and frightening, and sounding macabre repeating them from the lips of a child.
“He said that there was a look in its eyes that was so full of pain that it physically hurt to look at it. A look so sorrowful that it broke your heart with just a glance; that its eyes glowed red as blood. He said that if looking upon it was so painful, feeling it must have been so horrible that it had to play a factor in its death.” She continued, trying to remember exactly what he had said. “He was horrified that he had killed it, and he started getting violent. That was all he could remember, and he says the same thing, in the same words every day.”
There was a long moment of silence. Roy was thinking, despite his futile attempt to quell the thoughts spurred by the words that Riza had spoken. He had stiffened; his back was as straight as a board, his face taut and more ashen than it typically was. He put a hand to his forehead, resting his fingers between his eyes, brow furrowing.
Roy’s face had taken on a look that she had never seen before. A strange gleam had spattered across his eyes, like red paint being thrust at a black canvas, spraying it with impressionistic drops. It was a look that was so very vulnerable, as though it was a weakness, a slight flaw in a security system; the point of entry for a clever thief. The thief in Roy’s eyes was pain, clever and intense. From even a glance, Riza knew that Roy had lived the pain Alphonse had spoken of; a pain that he had learned to suppress over the passage of time. His gaze was like a wound reopened, bleeding freely for the first in a long time.
“Lieutenant.” His voice was like a whisper, sounding strained, abrupt. She saw him swallow hard; she focused upon his face despite how ill at ease it felt to do so.
“Yes, sir?” she responded habitually.
“Do you know what that thing Alphonse spoke of was?”
The question was one that she had expected, but had no reply for. Scouring her brain for a worthy answer, she found none. All that rested in her mind was empty space, riddled over with confusion and doubt. She closed her eyes and shook her head slowly.
“No, sir.” Roy’s lips twitched into an aggrieved smile, his eyes lowering to a close. She stared at him, unsure how to react to his demeanor. His deep voice came as a whisper, soft as the wind, but with the force of a storm:
“I wish I didn’t, either.”
Edward had walked for about an hour, munching greedily on an apple, spitting seeds at the side of the road as he flipped pages in his thin guide book. He had thought long and hard about the information he’d been given and had drawn his own conclusions regarding Glyph.
‘Everyone who knew this guy says he just up and disappeared one day, whereas the military claims that he retired and moved to Dovries where he died forging this thing.’ Edward thought, turning a page with a roll of golden eyes, annoyance evident. ‘You can count on the military for a bullshit happy ending.’
Judging from how long he had walked, he figured that he would reach this cave soon. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find there; research, a leftover alchemic lab, or just empty space? Perhaps the mere satisfaction of coming so far by arriving at a final destination? Or the thrill that he was almost there, just baby-steps from finding the answer, from saving his brother, from at last fixing what he had broken.
Edward’s face was determined, set in an upturned expression, trying to stay as upbeat as he could, for somehow, he felt that the hardest part of the journey was at the end. A constant thought bothered him, though, poking ever so slightly at the back of his mind. The quantities of the items that he needed. There was no way he could get that much carbon from anything. Or sodium, ammonia, lime… water, maybe. But otherwise, it would be very difficult to obtain them. Edward’s face grew tight; another piece of the puzzle didn’t fit quite right.
‘Fifty what?’ he thought. He sighed, exasperated. ‘Note to self: Make Sciezka explain everything twice, so the first time I sleep through it, I get it the second time.’ This really was his own fault for not paying attention, but he would be the last to admit it. He wondered vaguely how Alphonse was doing; his face broke into a smile. Under Riza’s care, he was fine, and probably improving, he told himself positively. Seeing Alphonse remember him, see his face and smile, was something to look forward to if anything.
In the distance, Edward could see a ravine approaching steadily as he walked. He noted with pleasure the city limits, exactly where Dominique told him. He started off down the ravine, footing steady and sure, soles of his shoes gripping the rocky terrain as he slung his bag over his shoulder. Edward bent his legs and slid down the ravine edge, grinning as his hair whipped back. At the bottom of the valley, he saw a deep hole in the walls of rock; exactly what he was looking for.
Edward flung from the side of the wall that he had slid down on, flipping over and landing on his feet like a cat directly in front of the cave entrance. It was your typical cave; dark, spooky, probably bat infested, with his luck. He swallowed hard and entered gingerly, keeping his head cool and collected.
His eyes scanned the walls, searching rapidly for any sign of alchemic arrays, but he wasn’t able to make out much in the dim light. Edward clapped his hands together and pressed them against the walls of the cave; small, lime green lights ran along the edge of the cave, similar to those he had once seen in Laboratory 5 back in Central. The memory of the place sent a chill down his spine, but he walked on.
Edward had begun to go deep into the cave, finding that his lights weren’t necessary as he moved back, to his surprise. Startlingly, a light source seemed to radiate from a dead end. Edward stepped back, jaw dropping unexpectedly.
The walls were lined with arrays, all drawn rapidly, hurriedly, in a dark crimson mark by rough hands, stains running down the walls from before the material had dried. Roy had been right; the arrays were intricate and confusing, but only one truly interested him. In the center of the cave, there was a light; a pure, white, light that gleamed lucidly in the shape of a small stone. At its base, there was a giant array, drawn sloppily in the same red tincture, the design large and complex.
Edward made a dash for it; he raced to the base of the stone and reached out a trembling hand, the automail in his fingers rattling as they quaked against one another. From the second his hand touched the stone, the automail rattled warningly, the white light shocking him and blasting his hand away.
‘The catch is, the stone can only be used by the alchemist who forges it’
The Colonel’s smug voice rang in Edward’s head; his face was set in a perturbed scowl.
‘Damn Mustang.’ He thought, annoyed. ‘Fine. I’ll just do it myself.’ But it was easier said than done. The proportions were still ghastly, and he had no way of collecting them all. The way of which they were arranged was very familiar; all of these properties found a home in one source, but Edward couldn’t remember from where, or how he could produce so much from it.
“Having some trouble?”
Edward spun around, clapping his hands together instinctively, the transmuted bladestaff appearing. He waved it threateningly at the darkness behind him; the Omega’s light cast shadows upon the intruder.
“Who are you?” Edward demanded, trying to mask the fear in his tone. A low chuckle was his reply.
“It must be hard to get all the required materials, isn’t it?” the voice said lightly, dismissing his question. “But then, you’re just a child.”
“If I was just a child, why would I set myself on a wild goose chase to forge the single most powerful thing in all of alchemy besides the Philosopher’s stone?” Edward snapped back, holding his arm steady. Who was this freak?
“Ahh… so the child has a mind.” He breathed, voice coming as a whisper. “I impressed. I can tell you, you know.”
“Tell me what.” It was a statement more so than a question. Edward’s voice was hard, level, despite the fear that threatened to tilt it. Another low chuckle from the shadowed silhouette.
“I can tell you how to get that amount of materials. And you need not give me a thing.” Golden eyes widened with a snap.
“Tell me!” he lost control of his tone, eagerness overflowing in his haste to know, arm losing aim on its target. Alphonse’s face flashed like fire through his mind.
“Think of this.” The man breathed. “If you notice, these numbers are drastically smaller than the ones required to forge the Omega. What one source contains: thirty five liters of water, twenty kilograms of carbon, four liters of ammonia, one point five kilograms of lime, eight hundred grams of phosphorus, two hundred fifty grams of salt, one hundred grams of saltpeter, eighty grams of sulfur, seven point five grams of fluorine, five grams of iron, three grams of silicon and 15 other elements in small quantities?”
Edward was confused; this was no answer, it was just another question. A particularly simple on at that.
“That number of elements is found in one average, adult human body.” Edward replied, standoffishly. “What kind of cheap ploy are you pulling on me?” he snapped.
“That one source holds all of those materials, right?” The man replied, again disregarding his question. Edward stared at him with the purest of contempt.
“Yeah. So what!”
“How many more humans would you need to suit that quantity?” the man croaked, a chilling laugh sending shivers down Edward’s spine. He thought over the numbers in his head before replying.
“Around…” Golden eyes constricted rapidly; sweat slid down his face like rain down a windowpane; he suddenly felt very cold, his breath coming in short, painful gasps.
“Around what, Fullmetal Alchemist?” came the voice, tantalizingly taunting him. Edward choked on air, his chest tightening with fear, and sudden, bitter realization. His voice came as a strained, hoarse whisper:
Jul 1 2005, 09:58 AM
And this is all I have so far -fwef-
Chapter 9- Equivalent Exchange
“Fifty… to get the materials required to forge the Omega, I would have to sacrifice…” Edward’s face was slick with sweat, his eyes radiating pure, sickened horror. This was the last thing that he had expected, and it had thrown him more than a little off guard.
“You would have to kill fifty people to have an equivalent offer for the stone.” The voice replied, a sly chuckle curling his deep, throaty voice, putting a strong emphasis upon the word ‘kill’, smirking as Edward visibly cringed. “And for what?”
“F-for what…?” Edward repeating, glaring at the shadowed figure. The little he could see of him wasn’t pleasant, to say the least. Long, dark hair was entwined sloppily at the nape of his neck; he was tall and slender, his face accentuated as deeply as a stump of wood carved by a knife, jagged lines cutting chunks out of his appearance. His eyes were guarded by shadow, his silhouette a figment of darkness. His lips were upturned in a twisted smile. Edward felt his skin prick with fear. “For reasons that don’t have anything to do with you. Who are you, and how do you know who I am?” he spat, trying to keep his voice even despite the growing panic that was shattering his mind.
“Everyone knows you, Fullmetal Alchemist, soldier of the people.” The man said softly, words drifting off of his lips lightly, like flower petals from a branch shaking in the wind. Edward knew he was famous, but he doubted that was how he knew who he was.
“That and a loyal follower led me right to you.” From beside him, a tall figure stepped out of the shadows, light from the Omega casting a beam at her face. Edward’s breath caught in his throat, the sweat on his face dripping off of his chin. Golden eyes widened with shock as he looked upon the form before him.
“Amara!” her name exploded from his throat, anger straining his tone. He had known she didn’t like him, but to be working against him the entire time? But who was it she was working for?
“Hey, Fullmetal Pipsqueak.” She said softly, laughing upon seeing his expression. “Surprised to see me?”
“Does your father know what his little girl is up to at this hour?” he growled, eyes narrowing as he aimed the bladestaff at her. The girl rolled her eyes, a thin, smart grin plastered to her structured face.
“Poor old daddy passed away.” She said with a smirk, indicating the end of the cave. Edward’s face froze in a look of horror; he followed her finger with his eyes until it rested upon a body, bound in a corner, eyes rolled back into its head. Ancient arms tied, his hands hung limply at the wrists, fingers pressed against the floor. His face was pale, eyes gaping at nothing, mouth twisted in a frightened gasp.
“You… you killed your own father…” Edward breathed, eyes glued to Kosuke’s hunched corpse. Amara nodded, flipping her hair casually. “The very person to bring you into this world… and you killed him…”
“Daddy was a bit of a nuisance… he did tell you all the things I was there to protect.” She explained, as though it was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Edward stared, mouth hanging agape at what she had just said.
“You killed your own father because he saved your life?” he shouted, taking an infuriated step toward her.
“Judging from your behavior right now, I know that you wouldn’t have killed me back then.” She returned coolly. Edward was too enraged to even combat her reply.
“Then tell me. What did you have to gain from killing him? Who are you working for? I spent years, risking everything I had trying to bring my mother back from the dead and yet you kill your own father in cold blood!” Edward screamed. “WHAT DO YOU GAIN!”
Her face was frosty, ice blue eyes dark, stained with anger. Her hands were clenched in deep fists that rested at her sides, shoulders squared as she glared at him, wondering why it mattered to him.
“I’m in it for the stone.” Her voice came in a whisper, low and curt, her face masking her perplexity towards him. “I need the stone.”
“And you’re willing to sacrifice fifty innocent people to get it, including your father, is that it? That has to be the greediest thing I’ve ever heard.” Edward whispered, voice shaking tremulously, eyes brimming with petrified tears. “You killed your own father just so you could gain something?”
“You hit the nail on the head, pipsqueak.” She breathed, keeping note of his trembling tone. She was amazed at the emotion that was evident on his face; he cared that much for life that he was grieving for a loss that wasn’t even his own?
“Then tell me what you would gain from forging the Omega.” He spat, brow furrowed, eyes twitching with anger, fear and distress. The little temper he had managed to hold back was ebbing away, provoked by her silence. “Tell me, dammit!”
Her voice came hard, eyes flashing as she spoke. Edward grinded his teeth, clenching his jaw, and glared at her with the fiercest of glowers. Sweat mingled with tears as he aimed the bladestaff directly at her chest. He was about to speak, when a thought struck him horribly. He slowly swiveled his gaze behind him to where Kosuke lay, and his thoughts were confirmed.
Like Kosuke, around forty bodies were stacked in the back of the cave, the glare of the Omega casting them in shadow. Edward felt his breathing slow to a stop, losing consciousness of his senses, the visions before him filling his mind, everything else coming up as a blank in his head.
All these people, murdered for one common cause. Greed. Edward was sickened, his face ashen, pallid as he stared at the bodies of old men, middle aged women, and tiny, innocent children, faces peaceful as though sleeping, eyes lowered to a close.
‘Even kids… she killed little kids just for this…’ Edward thought, infuriated and horrified. The faces of Nina and Elysia screamed like wildfire through his mind.
“Hey, pipsqueak.” Amara’s voice came blurrily through his head, a hazy reminder that life ticked on as he stood, dazed. He didn’t move; quivering eyes were fixed upon the group of people huddled in the back of the cave, his mouth still hanging slightly agape. “Pipsqueak!”
“My name…” he whispered. “Is Edward Elric.” Amara’s laugh sent shivers down his spine; he blanched visibly.
“Fine, Edward Elric.” She said softly, letting the last of her laughter die out. “Aren’t you doing the same thing I am?”
“Aren’t you going for the stone too?” she asked. “Because you’d have to kill just as many people to get to your goal. At the end of the day, you’re the same as I am.” Edward laughed outright, facing her entirely now.
“Isn't that rich.” He said sharply. “I get the same thing every time, from every alchemist I meet.”
“What’s so funny, punk?” she demanded, anger blotching her features, composure lost.
“Every twisted alchemist I run into wants to tell me how much like them I am.” Edward said simply, copping an annoyed hand. “Well get this. I’m nothing like you. I won't kill innocent people to claim my own goal. It’s not how I work.”
“Then how do you work, Mr. Noble Alchemist?” she asked mockingly. “Who are you to act like you’re better than everyone else, as though we’re the scum of the earth, huh?”
“You are the scum of the earth now.” he replied plainly. “Your hands were once great, Amara.” His words threw her off guard.
“What?” she asked, taken aback, tone questioning rather than scornful. Edward looked penitent, regret clear in his eyes.
“Your hands once created great things. I know, believe me. I knew you had talent when you first fought me.” he returned coolly. “I saw the things that you shaped; they were amazing. Beyond anything that I was used to fighting, and I really don’t take pleasure in saying all this too often. I was impressed, to say the least.”
“Your point being?” she snapped, impatiently. Edward’s face was firm, his eyes flashing.
“What once created can only destroy now.” he said softly, his voice slightly above a whisper. “Hands that used to make great things are now stained with blood. Hands that could have changed lives and created beauty can only destroy and kill now. Your hands, which should have done wonders, are blemished by death, forever tainted with decay.”
“Yeah?” she sparred back. “If you’re so aghast that I’m killing for the Omega, then how do you plan on getting it?”
“What?” he spat back, anger now flushing his face.
“If you’re too magnanimous to kill,” she said with a visible smirk, “then how do you plan on forging one?”
“Other means.” Edward snapped back instantly. She grinned, tossing her hair, taking a slow step toward him, casting even more shadow upon the tall frame that stood in her wake.
“Such as?” she inquired innocently, artlessly cocking her head to one side, her hair flipping slightly, flickering the light of the stone upon her face clearly; Amara’s eyes cast an ice blue glare at the boy who’s face quivered with rage.
“I’ll figure it out.” He growled. Amara shook her head and wagged a scolding finger.
“Now, now. That’s no way to act.” She said simply, eyes smiling down at him wickedly.
“Why make the stone if there’s one right there?” Edward demanded. “Isn't that yours?” She shook her head, face clouding over in a perturbed expression.
“That’s merely his prototype. Not a completed stone. That thing’s of no use to anyone.” She indicated the form behind her. “He promised to help me if I brought in the people. He promised to help me forge one. Promised to give me the array as long as I gave him part of the result in return.”
“Why him?” Edward asked, face inquisitive. “What could he know about the Omega? The only one who knew about the Omega is dead, and he was…”
The man that stood tall behind Amara stepped out of the shadows, light illuminating upon the jagged appearance. Edward’s breath caught in his throat, his face chalky, pallid with sudden realization. Amara’s face was smug with pride, arrogant with satisfaction at his shock.
“It can’t be…” his voice came shaky, strain and fear evident in his tone. You’re… you’re…” The man’s face was twisted, an insane smile glued to his face. He nodded once, dark eyes carved deep into his head, skin so thin it was plastered to his skull. His voice came deep and raspy, laughter evident behind words that couldn’t be true:
Roy’s head snapped up instinctively at the sound of Riza’s voice. Had she caught him slacking off again? Damn, he hoped not.
“I’m working!” he called back, pulling some papers onto his desk to make it appear that he had been.
“Colonel, come here, please!” the urgency, alarming pain in her voice startled him. She wouldn’t overstep her authority to command him unless it was vitally important, that he knew for sure.
He leaped to his feet and turned rapidly down the hall, following the sound of her voice to Alphonse’s room. His heart turned to ice in his chest, eyes narrowed. His hand rested upon the knob as banging and shrieking echoed from before him.
“COLONEL!” her voice screamed from behind the door. Panic stained her tone, a tenor he had heard only once before. “Colonel, PLEASE!” Roy thrust the door open with such a force that it banged against the wall, his eyes scanning the room, face taut.
“What…” he began, but fell silent immediately upon the sight before him, ebony eyes constricted with shock. Riza fought frantically against the struggling form in her arms, taking blow after blow against her face and chest, hands drenched in blood. Second Lieutenant Maria Ross had set to work on forming bandages from the cloth laid out before them, reapplying them to Alphonse to the best of her ability with the flailing of his arms, her face strained with fear, sharp cobalt eyes welling with tears.
“Colonel, please help!” Riza begged, trying to keep her voice neutral and failing.
“What happened!” He demanded, lunging forward, powerful arms pinning Alphonse’s shoulders to the thin mattress. “Get away from him, Lieutenant.” He ordered, his voice mordant with anxiety. She stumbled away from the screaming child almost in fear, regaining her composure slowly.
“He started telling me about the creature,” she breathed, voice strained, staring at Roy’s hunched form that fastened Alphonse down. “When he started screaming and hitting me… he spat up blood and shouted that he had killed it.”
“Did he tell you what it was?” Roy shouted over Alphonse. Riza’s eyes brimmed with fearful tears; she nodded.
“He screamed ‘Mother’.” Roy turned and gave her a comforting stare; one firm nod was his reply. “You knew?” she breathed.
“Yeah.” He said softly, his words drowned in Alphonse’s shrieking. “Yeah.” He focused again on the child pinned in his grasp.
“ALPHONSE!” his voice rang loud, echoing throughout the room. Alphonse stopped shouting, dark cerulean eyes locking upon Roy’s. “You did not kill your mother.” He said loudly, voice hard.
“You did not kill her. She died of an illness. Trisha Elric was your mother and she died of a disease when you and your older brother, Edward, were young children. That was nearly five years ago.” Roy went on calmly, though his voice remained deafening. Riza’s face was fearful, tight and pallid, eyes glued to the Colonel. She and Maria had frozen, as though time had stopped around them. “You had nothing to do with it.” Roy finished, tone harsh. Alphonse’s eyes overflowed with tears, his face still bloodstained. He coughed violently, more blood coming up onto his chest.
“I didn’t… kill her…” he panted, gasping for air between coughs. “I didn’t do it…”
“That’s right.” Roy replied, indicating Riza with a toss of his head. He looked toward the towels clenched in Maria’s hand. Riza nodded and rushed over, taking them from her hand and dismissing her quickly. Maria saluted hurriedly, and raced to get more help.
“Riza.” Her name fell from his lips like an empty shell from a shotgun after fire. “He isn’t going to make it.”
“What?” she breathed, tears visible in russet eyes. She shook her head, disbelieving. “That can’t happen… he was stable just a moment…”
“That was a moment ago.” He interrupted her angrily. “Look at him.” Alphonse’s face was ashen, thin red streaks dripping from his chin. He was coughing violently still, his body convulsing in pain with each breath. At long last, though, his face had reached some sort of calm, like the eye of a hurricane before the worst was to come.
“We adored her,” he breathed, blood sliding down the side of his lips. “She was everything to us…” Breath came in slow, shallow gasps.
“…but equivalent exchange…” he coughed, lips turning dark from lack of air. “…it wasn’t real… it was never real…”
“What?” Roy asked softly, releasing his grip upon Alphonse’s shoulders. Riza stepped forward tentatively, standing at his side, peering down upon the boy whose gaze was transfixed on the ceiling, as if the answer to the universe was scrawled across it.
“It was never real after all.” Alphonse said softly, voice growing thin, strained. “There is no such thing as equivalent exchange.” Roy’s face lost its firm look, pain growing unmistakably in ebony eyes. Riza fell to her knees and gripped Alphonse’s hand, eyes beginning to pool with hot tears once more. Roy felt her hand clutch his own; his grasp tightened around hers.
“Al, hang on…” she choked, squeezing the child’s hand. “Alphonse…”
“There is no… equivalent exchange…” The boy’s eyelids began to flutter, and began slowly drifting closed…
“Glyph, eh?” Edward’s voice had regained its egotistical scoffing tone. “Well, I’ll admit it’s a surprise, but I really don’t care.”
“You should, Edward Elric.” The man stated plainly. “Because it is you who will be my last sacrifice.”
“You only have about forty people, and I’m not letting you kill any more.” Edward growled threateningly, aiming the bladestaff directly between the man’s eyes, preparing to lunge.
“Oh?” the man questioned blatantly. He kneeled in the dirt and pressed his hands to an array that had been drawn previously. Waves of electricity sparked along the floor, shocking anything touching it, including the base to the podium displaying the Omega’s unfinished form. Edward flung himself off the ground backwards, flipping upside down and landing precariously upon the stone’s dais. His eyes convulsed, appalled at the sight before his eyes. Hair standing on end, Amara’s eyes rolled violently back into her head, arms snapping straight out to her sides, the transmutation symbol etched into her ring shattering. The electric shock about the floor faded; Amara’s twisted form fell to the ground with a resounding thud.
“I thought you weren’t letting me kill anyone else.” Glyph breathed, eyes flickering tauntingly, challengingly. Edward gaped at Amara’s unmoving figure on the dusty, clouded ground. He leaped from the plinth, hands clapping together, the bladestaff disappearing.
“What are you doing?” Glyph demanded, taken by surprise.
“No rock could require fifty human lives as equivalent exchange.” Edward snapped, voice firm. “That’s not equivalent, and yet that’s what it takes. That can't be right. That can't be real.”
“That’s the way things work in this world, kid.” Glyph growled angrily. “Life isn’t fair and things aren’t equivalent. But as it stands, you can’t form the stone without sacrificing those materials.” Edward’s eyes gleamed, lids lowering slowly. The cave around him seemed to disappear as his mind cleared. He clapped his hands together, and pressed them to the ground. Sapphire spheres of gleaming light eradicated from the bloodstained ground; Edward’s eyes snapped open with a shimmering, explosion of gold, lips upturned in an indomitable smile.