If there was one thing she absolutely hated about her life, it was the fact she was born a girl. Don't get her wrong, there were a few things she didn't mind about being a girl, like the special times her mom and Granny spent with her that Alphonse generally didn't join in on.
But she despised the fact that very few of the adults around her really encouraged her passion, let alone approved of it like Granny or her mother did. Even her father, before he vanished off to who knew where and never returned, had been openly dismissive of her love and skill towards alchemy.
Unlike Winry however, who took great offense to the fact that the other children besides the Elric siblings considered her an unofficial boy, Edna opted to go a different route.
She embraced the idea, mostly because the adults rarely told the boys "no" when they wanted to do something adventureous. That and as much as she loved her mother, she wasn't that interested in settling down and becoming "just" a housewife that had kids and didn't do anything interesting.
(Tricia Elric despaired a little that Edna cut her hair so short to match Alphonse, but took solace in the knowledge that her daughter didn't entirely hate dressing up to the point she would only wear trousers.)
By the time Tricia Elric had passed on from some unknown ailment, most of the village had entirely forgotten that she had a son and a daughter, rather than two boys.
It wouldn't be until the fateful night that the two siblings attempted to bring their mother back that her life changed forever.
Even if it did come with an unofficial big sister who didn't try very hard to keep them out of trouble, but could always be relied upon to have the best advice to get out of whatever predicament they had landed in.
In the Gate of Truth...
Edna stared at the white 'double' of herself, and was prepared to sacrifice her dominant arm if it meant getting Alphonse's soul back.
Instead someone interrupted her.
"Question...would it be possible for someone else to pay the toll required to return Alphonse Elric back to the living?"
Edna turned...and found a young woman who felt really familiar despite the fact she had never seen her before in her life.
She had brilliant red hair the color of spilled blood, and verdant green eyes that reminded her of the little garden her mother had kept before she got too sick. It spoke of growing things, and warm smiles and those eyes strangely made her relax because she knew the owner would never let them come to harm.
The Laws of Equivalent Exchange must be upheld, said the being.
"That doesn't answer my question. Can someone else pay the toll in her place?" she repeated.
The being considered her.
So long as the offering is equivalent to the child's soul and body, the Gate will accept it. However the price for his return will be steep.
Edna felt the stirrings of hope spring in her chest.
"What about eighteen years worth of memories, leaving the knowledge and power behind?"
The being considered the woman.
You would offer your ability to return to your own world...in exchange for the child who foolishly attempted the forbidden?
Her smile was tired, but there was a hint of protectiveness in her eyes.
"My world has nothing to offer. I would rather act as their guardian spirit here and move on to the afterlife where those who actually care are waiting than return to being their puppet for a mess they created. I'm not foolish enough to believe that things will automatically get better when the main threat is dealt with...not when the people are too lazy or apathetic about their situation to get off their ass and actually do something with their lives."
Edna sensed there was a story behind that.
There was a pause, and Edna felt as though the Gate was testing the young woman for something, before the being spoke again.
The memories of your lost childhood and the connection that would allow you to return to your world are sufficient.
The Gates opened, and something passed through the woman. Then something flew out of it, which Edna quickly identified as Alphonse.
She woke up with a start, unaware of the changes her body would be going under in a few short days. And it wasn't the same ones that every child went through as they started their transition to adulthood.
(Edna was grateful someone or something had dealt with the abomination that they thought was their mother. She never wanted Alphonse to see that thing.)
A short while later, in the Rockbell house...
In retrospect, the fact it took her three days to notice the new (or was it old?) addition to her mind was pretty impressive.
Once she realized the other woman she saw in the Gate was there, she mentally struck up a conversation. It wasn't like she would be mobile until her leg healed enough to accept the actual automail Winry and Granny Pinako were making for her. And Alphonse was being rather mopey at the moment because of his near brush with death and blaming himself for not doing more.
The first thing the other presence said to Edna soothed a few worries she had about that thing in the basement.
"It wasn't her. I don't know how you thought using your blood would allow you to bring her back, but it wasn't your mother. At best it might have been a clone of her, but it was doomed to fail the second you used your own blood," said the older woman gently.
"Why?" asked Edna.
She had to know.
The older woman thought for a moment how to phrase this, before she hit upon the perfect solution.
"Have you ever wondered why you look slightly different from your brother, despite sharing the same parents?"
Edna blinked. She had never really thought about it.
"When a man and woman create a baby, it's sort of like baking a loaf of bread. However the 'recipe' for the child isn't always the same except in the case of twins or rarely triplets. So while you inherited more of your 'father', Alphonse inherited more from your 'mother'. Following me so far?"
Edna mentally nodded slowly. That was easy enough to understand.
"While both of you share half of your mother's genetic information, it is not the complete recipe, just the bits and pieces that belonged to her. At best if that attempt had succeeded all you would have created was a 'sister' that happened to have your mother's face but not her memories."
Edna wanted to be upset...but the way the other woman phrased it explained a lot. And it eased some of the burden from her heart knowing that the thing they created was never their mom in the first place. They hadn't made her suffer twice.
"What do I call you?" asked Edna silently.
"I gave up my name as well as my personal memories from before I died in order to bring Alphonse back. My knowledge of my abilities and the herbal remedies I memorized are still there, but the details of what made me who I am are gone. Not that I'm complaining overly much," she replied.
Edna wanted to feel guilty, but the older girl mentally waved her unease off.
"I made the choice. Besides, I am much happier being reincarnated as you instead of being used like a shiny toy that gets thrown on the ground whenever I do something my 'owner' disapproves of, regardless of my personal preferences," she said dismissively.
"What was your name though?"
"Tell you what...why don't you come up with one and I'll use that?" she suggested.
Edna mulled over that for a moment, before the perfect name hit her. There was really only one thing she could think of that would fit the older woman.
"Angel...because only a Guardian Angel would sacrifice their old life for someone they've never had actual contact with," said Edna.
Edna felt the mental equivalent of a warm hug that felt so much like her mother's it almost made her cry.
She might not have her mother anymore...but she had the sneaking suspicion she just gained an awesome older sister who could at least act as a sounding board. Being the big sister and having to take care of both of them was hard, since she was still just a kid.
Mustang was slightly terrifying, but Angel assured her that it was out of honest concern. For all he hid behind a mask of false bravado, deep down he honestly cared.
It was the eyes, she claimed. It was almost impossible to hide someone's true intent from their eyes.
(Edna silently agreed once she bothered to actually look.)
She made no mention of the extra voice in her head, and silently asked Angel her opinion of the State Alchemist idea.
"Under normal circumstances, I would disagree. However you would be bored if you were an ordinary alchemist and this method at least provides funding, training, and access to research otherwise restricted. Though you might want to ask what State Alchemists actually do before you jump into the idea."
Edna already knew some of it...most people cursed State Alchemists for being the dogs of the military and for the notoriety they gained in Ishbal.
Mustang was openly surprised (and secretly pleased) she thought to ask first.
"Most people when they join the State Alchemist program are in it for the government funding, however they have to submit useable research or a practical demonstration once a year as an assessment of whether they are worth keeping employed. There are three exams to go through, the written, the psychological and the practical...though some just submit a thesis that has to be deemed viable instead. As for what we do, most of the more active ones go through basic which restricts them to the same military protocol as everyone else. There's also the researchers, though most don't bother becoming 'dogs of the military' because it means having to leave their labs, as well as investigators who go in and take a look at things that only an alchemist can properly understand."
"Investigative?" said Alphonse, perking up.
"Basically we send those people in to look up suspicious activity such as illegal research, odd 'miracles' that might be alchemy based, and sometimes to see if a new or old array might be useful for military use. I know for a fact that the Youswell mine gets a yearly assessment by a certified State Alchemist to check that the mines are still viable, considering it supplies most of our domestic coal," said Mustang. "Most people don't really know about that side of us because they generally only enter the program for the funding, the access to research, or for the notoriety."
Mustang had a sneaking suspicion he was about to get two full-time "investigative" State Alchemists, rather than the usual kind. It would make it easier for him to keep the two brothers together at any rate, and away from any war zones.
Granny gave them a look of disapproval, but had to concede the same line of thinking Angel had come to when the option of becoming State Alchemists came onto the table.
Edna would have been bored in any other job and with her skills and temper it would have been inevitable that she would be drawn to the military at some point. Whether by necessity or force, because there was no way she would give up alchemy. And where she went, Alphonse would always follow.
Did not mean they had to like it.
Which was why Pinako was pleasantly surprised when Edna started asking questions about basic first aid.
Considering how close she had come to bleeding out, and being stuck on bed rest anyway, it made a little sense that the girl would ask on how to keep herself alive if no other help was available. And Alphonse, being the kind child he was, joined in on those lessons.
It wouldn't help much if her new automail broke down, but at least they would have knowledge of field medicine when they really needed it.
(Edna's genius proved to extend to basic medical knowledge...she soaked up everything like a sponge, but had the hardest time remember the difference between a spanner and a socket wrench, to Winry's dismay.)
By the time Edna had healed enough that she was off bed-rest, the first thing she did was spar with Alphonse, to the open annoyance of Winry.
"I didn't make that automail for you to break it so quickly, Edna!" she chided.
Edna stuck out her tongue and continued to try and kick Alphonse's teeth in.
It wouldn't be until a week later Alphonse came to her with a rather panicked look in his eyes saying he had somehow caused a book to hit him in the head. And no, none of the others were in the room and the book in question happened to be out of his reach and he had been trying to get it for the past fifteen minutes.
Edna could feel Angel's wince.
Then came the rather fantastical explanation of what happened.
When Angel intervened on Edna and Alphonse's behalf, Truth decided to be a "little shite" in her words and gave them both magic.
While there was alchemy in a magical sense, it meant they would both have to be trained. Thankfully technology in this particular universe hadn't caught up to the standards she was used to, since it meant there was less chance of Edna or Alphonse causing it to short out. Then again alchemy was fairly common, so it was possible the materials in question was already insulated against it.
Case in point, Edna's automail was still functioning just fine even after a few tests revealed she had inherited magic from the odd passenger in her head as well, just more than Alphonse had.
Which made sense...after all, Edna was carrying their 'teacher' around in her soul, whereas Alphonse just got clipped with the magical gene due to her interference.
(Angel foresaw a lot of quiet amusement at Edna's expense...magic simply didn't follow logic and Edna was very scientifically oriented.)