Ch.6: Enemy Eyes
When she left Rizen Pool the next afternoon, her head swimming with revelation, she boarded the train as usual, her hands gripping her suitcase harder than usual. The Elrics – loved, respected, feared. She could only wonder what kind of person would hate them. Vaguely she mused that that was probably the way to go.
She barely knew that she had asked to sit down next to some gentleman, stumbling down. Only when there came a soft chuckle accompanying the affirmation did she look up, and then at the sight of the Fuhrer's face, she stumbled back up and saluted clumsily, stammering apologies. The Fuhrer – and suddenly she wondered what kind of connection the Elrics had with their commanding officer? – patted the seat beside him lightly. She sat down again, stiffer than last time, but twenty minutes into the train ride back to Central, she was snoozing, blue cap pulled low over her eyes to shut out the afternoon sun. The Fuhrer looked out the window over the sunlit fields, now ripe for harvest, and remembered it was around this time that Fullmetal had died, though far from any peaceful fields.
Alicia wasn't surprised when they stopped for the night in a hotel that the Fuhrer had already order two single rooms for. She took the order to turn in for the night with gratitude, saw the comfy room that had been assigned to her and mentally noted to make the best of it and forget to ask the Fuhrer the price of it in the morning. She didn't think she'd have the salary.
The next day, they jumped on a late morning train (apparently the Fuhrer was a late riser), and arrived in Central in the night after an entire day of sitting. By now, Alicia's butt was sore, but the Fuhrer seemed remarkably unperturbed, preferring to stare out of the window the entire time, as if he was not really in the train at all. Alicia had a feeling that was probably the case – she even had a sneaking suspicion what the Fuhrer was thinking about given the date, but she wasn't going to jump to conclusions yet. She had her father's intuition, but this was still the Fuhrer, and he was still way above her. Her mind echoed a few strains of Fullmetal's intricately worded reports, full of wariness, and she heeded them.
As she descended the train, a grip at her wrist stopped her. The Fuhrer was there, looking down at her, but his eyes still showed the mist of memories that he had been sifting through earlier. "We're leaving tomorrow at eight o'clock. Don't be late." And then he brushed past her, seemingly listless but urgent all at once, frentic for something he wasn't quite sure of. She frowned a little, watching his form stride through the doors, before lugging her suitcase all the way back to her house.
Her mother and father were happy to see him, but when she told her father that the Fuhrer was back, his smiled drooped at the corners, and he donned his jacket quickly to rush to headquarters. Before he did, he did something curious; he stopped abruptly right in front of the mantelpiece, and woodenly turned to look at the pictures there. Alicia wasn't sure how she knew, but she knew he was looking at the brothers – knew he was imprinting their images in his mind.
The next day, the Fuhrer was there along with her father. With a nod, he said goodbye to the Fuhrer, and then proceeded to give her the entire hug-and-kiss routine that she outgrew when she was five. The Fuhrer sat stiffly at attention, staring straight ahead at the wooden back of the seat in front of him, but when the train started to move, he relaxed, and even smiled a little when her father waved at them from the platform. As he settled down to stare out of the window again, the smile lingered in his eyes, and she got the feeling he had come to terms with something during the night.
They disembarked in a small city, and walked a bit past known civilization. All around them, the browning sun had bleached the sandrock formations dry and crumbly, small patches of sand swirling in lazy circles where they stepped. The path was narrow but well-used. Finally they turned a corner, and she saw where they'd been headed.
A veritable city of identical tan tents, clustered around the base of the sandstone cliff, with people bustling in and out. From her vantage point, she could tell they weren't speaking Common; it was Isbarian. Suddenly she gave a little gasp, and looked to the Fuhrer, blushing a little when she realized he had been judging her reaction.
"You've asked everyone except for someone who hates Fullmetal. There is one of those people here." He started walking down, and Alicia hurried to follow him. "He'll tell you whatever you want to know about Fullmetal."
At the very edge of the camp, he stopped, but did not turn. "And after this, you will give me your reason for doing this when Fullmetal is many years dead."
* * *
My right arm, the one that my brother attached to me, this one that you see is missing now – I used it for a lot of things when I still had it, things that all led to my invariable goal of one day killing all the State Alchemists. Hate drove me, and revenge – but also compassion. I believed that even though I had forsaken Ishbara, I should still spread His word and do His work. Peaceful civilians, living in their secular communities, didn't need the army to look after their every step, they could handle their own affairs. I'd like to think if I'd been calm enough to think out the situation I was in (a fugitive on the run after committing murder), I'd have enough sense to cut off that arm of mine earlier. . .but that is over with. Maybe it'd been with me for so long that it'd already had such a convoluted hold on my beliefs that I couldn't think straight, and that's why I went on for so long doing what I did. There was just nothing else for me at the time. I was desperate for a goal.
After a person loses their home, they become dispossessed. Now, in this camp of fellow Isbarians, I can feel a ghost of how our people used to be. This place is thriving, especially after the Fuhrer banned all interference – that is him standing outside, isn't it? – and I am both grateful and relieved that I have been allowed to stay here, even if my movements are strictly monitored. In the process of murdering State Alchemists, I also forsook my freedom to move around. I was constantly in hiding, stealing food and livelihood necessities because no one in their right mind would offer a criminal a job. And frankly, I wasn't sure if I wanted a job in this place, the West, where Isbarians traditionally hate. I didn't know what I would do with sympathy from a Western civilian.
I knew that the State Alchemists were, in fact, very much like me, constantly on the move from – but they all had anchors, they all had someplace to call home. That just made me want to kill them even more, as if killing them would silence the doubts in my mind.
Fullmetal was the closest thing to a truly dispossessed State Alchemist. Yes, he did have a home, that was clear for all to see: the space he occupied beside his brother. When I look back on the past, I realize I gave in too easy to the workings of that arm. My brother wanted revenge; I did too. But not to that extent. I could have censored it to just fighters during the Ishbar conflict. I could even have censored it to just State Alchemists, and not to their families. At the time, I was angry though I wasn't going mad; I felt calm and sane the entire four years I went on my rampage. I felt that I was doing something right, even though what remained of my asceticism constantly screamed for me to stop. It could be said that meeting Fullmetal, even that early in the stages of my revenge, harbored my eventual reawakening and my capture. Upon meeting him, learning of his circumstances, I gradually realized I feared him above all the others. He was a person just like me, a home gone, dependent on no one but himself and his brother, letting the violence in his life block out the emptiness of his heart. Somehow, though, the Fates had twisted it so that we were enemies.
I feared what I could see was myself in his eyes. He had a driven-ness that preceded all else, even his deepest loyalty to his brother; I daresay sometimes the search for the Philosopher's Stone was not as much for his brother as for himself. I remember giving the strangest jolt when he stopped me on the Central Library steps the first time we met – there was a sense of meeting an equal in strength of character. Maturity-wise, he still had a long way to go before he became as bitter as I was about life, but there was some indomitable spirit inside of him that I found myself shrinking from. However, I was curious to see how a boy of his age would be thrown into the military; upon learning his circumstances, especially that of his younger brother, I understood. In my own past, the bond between my older brother and I broke as he gradually passed into the foreign land of alchemy. I wanted to see what Fullmetal would do to keep that bond intact; I wanted to see what bound the brothers together. If I knew what that bond was, I felt I could start to forgive myself for my own mistakes in the past.
People in the West tend to pity Isbarians because we don't have technology, we don't have the luxuries they take for granted. The only reason for this is because we choose to be so. If we are not hindered by technology, we can more clearly see and experience what makes us human. Material things should be gained for necessity and through work, not for the sake of having it, or for convenience. We believe experiences of life should all include work of some sort, some straining of mind or muscle. We saw Alchemy as technology – and it is furthering human civilization, and not always for good, especially when you take into account how the State Alchemists are used in wars. Privately, alchemy is good, because it only benefits who the alchemist wants it to benefit – but State Alchemists are sent out so other people can use the benefit of their technology. That was the rationalization I used for those four years I had my arm. Fullmetal did not see this larger picture, but thought only I had this belief; as it is, all Isbarians are raised to believe this. There was one instance where he was ready to lay down his life to be killed by me if it would save his brother. It was one of the few instances that I was not able to see him as a State Alchemist, but as a person, like one of the family members that insisted on being killed along with their loved ones.
Fullmetal became a completely different level of his own after I found out more about his situation. In a strange sense, he had been exploiting the military just as they had been exploiting his abilities. Selfish in his reason for becoming a State Alchemist, that did not change even after he started going around the country helping people. He did, however, like to help people, just as long as they didn't get in the way of his larger picture of finding the Philosopher's Stone. I was one; his mercy and his sympathy towards Isbarians allowed him enough rationalization to cut off my arm instead of cutting off my head. In his mind, there'd only been wrong or right when it came to the Philosopher's Stone.
That was the main point of contention between us. But mutually, we respected each other. And when he finally cut off my arm, I realized I'd been waiting for it to happen for the last four years. After that, there's not much else to say – just a war happened, and he didn't come out of it. In a strange way, he remains in my head; just a nagging feeling I get when I hear someone say something about my arm, or mention alchemy in passing. It's an oversimplification to say that he was an enemy that I respected – there are more layers of connection between two people than can be summed in a thousand sentences – and I still respect him for it. Where he has gone, there is a tangibility of living that remains.