He Who Searches For Himself
Hermes called me the Sun and the Moon. Riplaeus called me the green lion. Our author called me hermaphrodite, but I pay no attention to that. It makes no difference. Nor does it matter what the sophists call me, for they learn nothing for all their trouble except: (1) I am One Substance, not two; (2) In me is Bernard's little fountain; (3) I am dry water, subtle pure; (4) I am raised up by the power of Mars, as commanded by Philaleth, the famous Adept who coagulates my esoteric nature with Mercury.
Chapter 61 - The Hermaphrodite Child of the God of Boundaries
"Ah!" Ed's hand reached up to snatch back the note pad his father had taken from him, "what do you think you are doing?"
Sitting down at the end of the couch, Hohenheim's eyes scanned Edward's scrawling, "You haven't done this work at home lately."
"Not like I'm going anywhere, give that back," from his usual perch upon the floor, one and a half legs outstretched beneath the coffee table, and a pile of papers tossed about on the table; Ed tried to reclaim the note pad from his father.
"c(I-k)dm equals (M-m)dv plus (R plus g(M-m))dt; where M is rocket initial mass; m is the mass that has been ejected up to time t; v is the velocity of the rocket up to time t; c is the velocity of ejection of the mass expelled; R is the force, in absolute units, due to air resistance; g is the acceleration of gravity; dm is the mass expelled at time dt; k is the constant fraction of the mass dm that consists of casing K, expelled with zero velocity relative to the remainder of the rocket; and finally dv is the increment of velocity given the remaining mass of the rocket," Hohenheim's glasses slid down his nose as he took a deep breath, "Hermann is going to disown you for reading Goddard's report."
Ed snatched the pad of paper away from his father, "I'm comparing notes."
The questioning look on Hohenheim's face grew as he eyed Edward, "That is cause for trouble; it is not notes. And that formula can be simplified, a great deal."
"I know that," Ed's flat voice drawled out unimpressed, "I have it broken down because I'm looking for something."
Hohenheim shook his head at that with a grin; he loosened the tie around his neck, enjoying the relaxing feeling of the final class for the week being finished and knowing his weekend was more or less free. He relaxed back in the couch, closing his eyes for a moment.
"You know," Ed tapped his pencil on the pad of paper, "if I had known even half of this information six or seven years ago, I could have done so much more with my alchemy. Concepts of acceleration, gravity, air displacement… everything that keeps an airplane in the air and will make this rocket go up."
Not opening his eyes, Hohenheim simply put the mental image of his living room into his mind; "A lot of that information is dangerous because you're playing with gaseous elements. Alchemists don't normally tinker with intangible elements like molecules in the air, we prefer to transmute a substance into something we can hold and display. Solids and liquids."
"When I first met with Lyra, she manipulated the air; that stupid Colonel played with the oxygen concentration in the air too," Edward wrinkled his nose a bit at a few memories.
"And they both had destructive effects and nothing tangible to show for it, correct?"
"I suppose," Ed turned back to his table of work.
"Which Colonel played with oxygen?"
In a mirror image of dumbfounded facial reactions, both Ed and Hohenheim startled in their places and shot their attention out of the room at the intrusive little voice in the hall.
"How do you play with oxygen anyways?" Brigitte waved her left arm wildly in the air, "I don't see anything happening."
Both father and son held a look of dismay on their faces, it was Edward who spoke up first; his eye twitching, "Do you just walk into everyone's house without knocking? How did you get in?"
Brigitte pointed to the door down the hall, "It was unlocked."
Hohenheim brought his hand slowly to his chin; an innocent look hid a guilty conscience, "Did I leave the door unlocked?" He quickly found a fluttering of papers in his face as Edward tossed his pad of notes at the man.
"You yelled at me for that last week!"
Marching her way around the men, Brigitte sat herself down on the floor across the table from Ed, "Can I see it?"
Ed pointed to the patch still over his left eye, "This?" Upon receiving the affirmative response, Ed pulled the patch off his eye to reveal the purple & blue, swollen, and stitched up eyebrow and upper cheek.
"Eww," Brigitte's eyes widened, "does it hurt?"
Ed snorted at that, "Yes."
"Can you see?" she leaned across the table, peering up into his face.
"Yes, I can see," Ed returned the patch to it's place, "I have to keep the patch on or, according to Hermann, I'll strain the eye and with all that swelling it will give me a never ending headache. The patch stays on until the swelling and bruising is not so bad."
Placing her hands neatly folded on the table, and coming to sit on her knees, Brigitte straightened her back to a proper posture, "And you're going to teach me alchemy in the meantime, right?"
"What?" Edward's face fell as his father started to laugh. Narrowing his expression, Ed leaned across the table, "how long were you standing in the hall?"
"A long time!" Brigitte bounced in her place, "so now it's time for you to convince me this house isn't full of raving lunatics."
Hohenheim couldn't help his laughter at the situation and stood up, "Speaking of alchemy, Edward, I need you to come talk to me once you're done with this tutorial. There's something I need to discuss with you."
"Huh? Discuss something?" Ed's expression fell flat, "I ain't doin' a tutorial!"
Waving a hand to dismiss potential concern, Hohenheim's voice spoke up at the initial ring of the telephone, "We can discuss it later. It can wait," he turned out of the room to answer the phone.
"What is this?" Brigitte exclaimed through a squeal in her voice, "you're building a rocket ship!?" She held one of Edward's design schemes up in the air.
Ed threw his arms into the air, "What are you doing!? Don't touch this stuff; you're more nosey than that stupid old man!"
Brigitte let the paper layout float down from her hands back onto the table, "When you go to the moon, can I come too?"
"I have no intention of going to the moon," Ed began to file his paperwork away, "I have a far better place in the sky to be."
"The only other place in the sky is heaven," giving him a skeptical look, Brigitte narrowed her eyes, "You want to fly to heaven?"
"Not quite like that either," Ed snapped an elastic around his folder of papers.
Tilting her head in thought, Brigitte tapped her fingernails on the table, "Okay, if you say so. But in the meantime you can tell me all sorts of things about alchemy."
Edward's left hand came over his forehead as he slumped in his place, "Why do you care? It's just convoluted theory, you wouldn't underst-"
"Edward!" Hohenheim's voice came out in a rush; "I'll be back," the door slammed shut the moment his words were out.
Ed sat up higher, trying to peer down the hall from beyond the back of the couch, "What was that?"
Standing up on her feet, Brigitte gazed down the hall to the main door, "Your father just left."
Side by side on the Hughes' family sofa, sitting with their heads shamefully bowed as if they were to be scolded like puppies, Winry and Al sat silent. Gracia's folded arms and unimpressed expression postured in front of them. Elysia at her Mother's side, an empty roll of paper towel in hand.
For the second day in a row, the pair had returned to the Hughes' household, and things had not gone according to schedule. Al had expressed concerns to Gracia about certain things that Winry would disapprove of, and Gracia had found out that there were certain things Winry had neglected to inform Alphonse about that she was afraid would make matters worse. Gracia had individually told them that open communication would improve both their situations, yet as the day wore on, both played an oblivious game with the other. Having had enough of watching this progress, Gracia devised a solution.
Giving a sigh, the mother glanced to her daughter, "Winry first."
Marching up to Winry, Elysia handed her the empty roll.
With a demoralizing sigh, Winry took the roll from Elysia, "Okay, so when I got to Central I met Sheska at the library. Lieutenant Havoc was there and he took us shopping. When we were done he took us to visit with some of the military personnel and I ran away when Sheska scared me and I thought I would be pressured into talking about you and Ed. I found out when I went to the police station to ask about you that someone had issued an arrest warrant for me, I have no idea what that's about but I can take an educated guess about who issued it. The next day, I was searching the hospital trying to find someone who would 'share' some information with me, when I accidentally spotted some more military officers I recognized, so I ran away again and bumped into you."
"Why didn't you-"
"Alphonse!" Elysia's commanding little voice interrupted him, "you do not have the roll. Do not speak unless you have the roll."
Winry's cheek twitched as did Al's eye, both of them staring back at Elysia's fierce childish expression; their shoulders fell at a loss, knowing Gracia stood right behind her daughter. They exchanged glances before straightening up in their seats.
Gracia, firm in her position, looked sternly upon Winry, "Is that all?"
"Um…" Winry looked up in thought, "I'm going to stay with Ms. Hughes from now on, I don't like the Mitchell house. Maybe you should ask to leave too," scratching her cheek in thought, she glanced up to Gracia, "I think that's it."
"Please pass the roll to Alphonse."
Taking the roll into his hand, Al scowled at Winry, "Why didn't you tell-"
"Alphonse!" Elysia's voice cut in again, "this is sharing time, not be mean to Winry time."
Once again, the dumbfounded looks found their way across the pair's faces. After a moment of sitting frozen in place, trying to understand how they ended up in this mess, both finally sat back into the couch with matching sighs.
Al put the roll in both his hands across his lap, "Again, I'm sorry I told Mrs. Hughes the 'secret', but I thought it was important to talk with her about it. Tomorrow she's going to take me to Central's military headquarters and I'm going to ask for some help finding Sensei," he took a deep breath.
"Al, I don't know if-"
"Winry!" Elysia's hands placed firm on her hips, "you do not have the roll. You cannot speak…"
"… unless I have the roll, sorry," her hand reached out and snatched an end of the roll from Al, his hand still gripping and end tightly, "why are we being treated like 5 year olds?"
"Because you're acting like 5 year olds. Five year olds know that lying is wrong and honesty is the best policy, taking things that don't belong to them is wrong and that it's polite to wait your turn. Do you want to stand in the corner for taking the roll that wasn't given to you and speaking out of turn?" Gracia's sweet yet firm tone never wavered as she lectured.
With the uncontrollable twitch of her eye, Winry's hand quickly let go of the roll she put her hands firmly into her lap. An unexplainable blush of embarrassment came across her face from the childish scolding.
"Alphonse, do you have any more?"
Al nodded affirmatively, "Mrs. Hughes makes me think that the military people might do a better job than the police are doing finding Sensei, especially if I ask. I want to find Sensei and get my brother back. I'm going to go see the military people and ask them for help with that. If they ask what's gone on with me and my brother, I'm going to tell them. And I'll tell them you're not a criminal."
"WINRY!" Both Gracia and Elysia's voices chimed together. Winry shrieked at the call of her name again and sunk into the couch cushions, her hands covering her face as she whined to herself.
Al sweatdropped with coinciding embarrassment to Winry's reaction, "You can come if you want," he extended the roll to her.
A hand swiftly snatching the tube away, Winry's face soured as she looked at him, "Of course I'm going," the hallow pop of the roll sparked into the room as she swatted Al upside the head, "you're not going to do all these things on your own."
Al jumped to his knees in the seat and reached up, taking the roll away from her, "And when we're there you're not going to tell me what to do, or what to say, or how to-"
Snatching an end back from him, the two of them pulled the roll in limbo between themselves. Winry narrowed his eyes, tightening her grip, "I don't tell you what to do!"
"Yes you do! You even try to tell me how to dress!"
"I do not do that!"
"You do! You picked out this shirt!"
"I 'suggested' it because it looked good!"
"See, you do so!"
Elysia's hand came to tug on her mother's skirt, "Mummy, they're fighting and they both have the roll."
Gracia tilted her head, a half smile coming across her face, "I'm impressed it lasted this long," her voice rose above once again, "If you're going to fight, I have a sand box outside!"
Winry and Al stopped; fists, feet, legs and arms entangled with each other, the roll still locked in their hands.
"You abused the roll," Gracia announced, the feign of displeasure crossing her face again as she stepped up and snatched it away, "no one can speak unless I say so. You'll stand in the corner if you don't do as you're told."
The two fell back into their seats, once again morally trodden upon; Gracia treated them no better than her daughter would have been. Straightening themselves, they eyed her suspiciously.
"Now then, today's lesson was 'honesty'. You shouldn't be afraid to talk honestly with your friends because they are supposed to understand and support you. That's what good friends do," Gracia watched the pairs of eyes drift away as she addressed them like kindergarteners, "and since you two are so close, I don't see why this should be a problem again. Okay you two?"
"Yes ma'am," they spoke together; hands in their laps, downcast in their spots.
Elysia's voice chimed in, "Hug and say sorry!"
The two slouched in their seats at the depressing situation they drifted deeper into.
"Yes, that's a good idea. Hug and say sorry," Gracia's sweet smile emerged on her face as she looked down to the pair on her sofa.
Al's eyes looked up at her with a pathetic gaze, "Ms. Hughes, could we just-"
There was something frighteningly serious in the tone of her voice that did not allow either one of them to argue with Ms. Hughes, "I have lots of corners for you two to stand in if you don't do as you're told."
"It is of no consequence. Ottoberg did not get to speak, I'm quite satisfied to sit in this cell as reward for it," Adolf crossed his arms as he sat upon the wooden bench of his holding cell.
"Nothing I could offer them was sufficient for bail. I regret that terribly. We are, however, working on the judge who'll hand out your sentence," Hess leaned up against the cold metal bars separating him from the man he followed with blind loyalty, "I think we've pulled the assault charge down to one month."
"You continue to amaze me," A smirk came across Adolf's face at the thought. Though finally sighing, almost in content, Adolf changed the direction of the conversation, "and your friend, who has yet to entertain me with his voice," his hand motioned to Hohenheim, obscured in the dim light of the holding area; leaning up against the cold brick wall behind Hess, "he got his son's leg back I see."
Turning over his shoulder to Hohenheim, Hess gave an affirmative nod, "He even paid the fee. I would have cut off their hands if they'd demanded money from me after what they'd done, seems Professor Hohenheim is lenient today."
Hohenheim did not react to Hess' statements, choosing to remain as frozen over as the walls were within the dungeon of a jail room.
A smug tone carried in his voice as Adolf spoke again, "Does your friend realize how much of an inconvenience upon society his son could be?"
It was Hess, not Hohenheim, who reacted to the statement, "I was impressed. He's quite agile and holds his own very well. I thought he defended himself better than many of our men considering he did not provoke what he found himself involved with. It was the police, not the absence of his leg, that caused him problems in the hall."
Giving a slight shrug of his shoulders, Adolf redirected his lines of speech away from Hess; "I would be honoured if you and your son would entertain me with your presence more often, Professor Hohenheim. I certainly enjoy watching a well-respected man like yourself look at me with such intense eyes."
"Once again, Sir…" it was the first thing Hohenheim had spoken since arriving with Hess, "…I respectfully decline your offer at this point in time."
Scoffing at the comment, Adolf recollected the frigid aura around himself, "That is a shame."
"I still have a few engagements left in my day, so I need to get going. I'll bring your mail next time I come," Hess gave a nod to his Fuhrer who simply looked on in return. Glancing over his shoulder to Hohenheim, Hess indicated his departure and signaled for the man to follow as he walked down the hall.
Slow to respond, as if to spite the last 72 hours he'd been run in circles, Hohenheim stepped away from the wall; picking up the burlap bag he had put Edward's leg in from the ground. The remaining silence between Hohenheim and the man beyond the barricade was broken at the closing of the door from Hess' exodus.
Stopping at the call of his name, Hohenheim turned his attention over to the darkened jail cell. The look hardening in his eyes at the sight of malicious intent, poorly masked by the intertwined hands in front of Adolf's face.
"I am truly disappointed by you."
Hohenheim's expression remained unchanging.
"Your friends, your peers; they all praise you, speak highly of you and never once have I heard them speak down upon you. I hope it's not that frightening gaze you bestow upon me that has them all where you'd like them," slowly rising from his seat, Adolf straightened his baggy cotton pants, "I do not understand how you command their respect. I'm certain you're far dirtier than how you appear in other people's eyes. If you were not, then you would be a part of my regime by now."
Silent for a moment, Hohenheim finally bowed his head at the statement, "It is a shame you see me that way."
"I wish you would allow me the chance to get close enough to understand what it is that your colleagues see," Adolf's cold gaze moved into harmony with the chilled holding cell, "I've never been able to understand it."
Hohenheim brushed the ends of his ponytail from his shoulder, finally straightening the glasses upon his nose; his tone and aura remained unreadable, "I believe my position now, as a Thule Society member, supports your cause enough that I do not need to pay dues to your party."
Standing at the center of his cage, Adolf stared, devoid of emotion, through the metal barriers to the challenging counterpart, "One should keep their friends close, and enemies closer."
"Do you view me as an enemy?"
"You give me no reason to see you as a comrade."
"So be it." It came as somewhat of a relief to Hohenheim, to be able to tell the man who had corrupted the minds of so many of the people he had developed relationships with in Munich that he was not interested in being part of this scheme.
Turning and finally walking away from the scene, Hohenheim's shoes echoed louder than the sound of the slippers Adolf wore as he came to the bars of his cell.
"Your son's eyes are very strong; I met them at that meeting. He carries them in a similar fashion as you; you've been told this I assume?" The moment Adolf realized his words had altered the flow of Hohenheim's steps, he proceeded further – his voice echoing off the cement walls, "I am impressed that he has gone to such lengths to better himself, he has determination far beyond any man faced with a similar situation," the praise vanished without transition, "But without those attachments he's a disfigurement, with them he's an eyesore of humanity; that boy tries to exist as a flake of dead skin which should be removed from the pure body of Germany."
"As does every crippled man, diseased individual and corrupt Jew," Adolf flicked his finger at every niche of mankind he mentioned, "Germany, the world as a whole, is ugly with these existences."
Setting the bag he carried down, Hohenheim slid his hands into his trench coat pockets. A calm exterior shrouded him as he walked back to Adolf's cell; a vacant expression carried on his face.
Leaning up against the bars of his jail cell, Adolf watched the reaction to his words with a half grin, "I did say 'should be', not 'will be' or 'shall be'."
"Is there a purpose to this tirade?" Hohenheim stood to face him from beyond the jail bars, "or do you enjoy hearing the sound of your own voice?"
"You hide your displeasure of me so well," Adolf ran a hand through his hair before propping himself up against the cold metal bars of his cage, "Professor, if there is nothing I can do to sway you, to convince you, to show you, that with our interests we can coincide in harmonic matrimony; may I have your son instead?"
"You may not," there was no room for debate in Hohenheim's tone.
"Will you provide me with a reason?" Adolf leaned back from his metal barrier, "I think he'd make a fine substitution for the role I see fit for you in this picture I have painted for my Germany."
"I will not play this game with you," shaking his head with obvious disapproval of the conversation, Hohenheim would have turned away if the man's voice had not picked up again.
"I poised a question to you, Professor, and you did not answer it," Adolf could read it, that look Hohenheim had on his face; he knew the answer had been given. But it was the elder man's use of situational presence Adolf disapproved of; he preferred the manipulative verbal argument to the contest of wills. Hohenheim's refusal to join the war of words aggravated him.
"Would you rather I leave him ruined on the ground instead?"
In an unprepared moment, Hohenheim's arm ripped through the bars of the enclosing cell; his hand seizing the front of Adolf's white shirt as he ripped the man forward from where he stood and into the unforgiving metal barrier.
"Do not touch him."
Adolf's hand gripped onto Hohenheim's merciless wrist that pinned him against the bars, "It's reassuring to know that I still frighten you this much, Professor."
Hohenheim's eyebrow twitched in response to the comment. Sharply taking the firm hand away from his challenger, he stepped back from the barred enclosure to prevent another knee-jerk reaction.
"I am doing you a courtesy. I did not have to give you this warning; I could have let you figure it out on your own," Adolf's tone was detestable, yet disturbing enough that Hohenheim could not allow himself to walk away, "I either want you, or I will have your son; if I do not get one or the other I will seize everything from you until the last thing left for you see is me."
Unwilling to provide a dignifying response, Hohenheim simply turned away and moved silently down the hall; picking up the bag with Edward's leg in it. The thickness of the air within the room had become suffocating. Gripping the door handle to exit, the pair of angered and disgruntled eyes turned over his shoulder at the final intrusion of a sickening voice.
"You never had a choice in playing this 'game'. Don't embrace that flawed illusion; it was you who started this."
Peering out from behind the safety of the wall in the Mitchell's yard, Winry watched as the patrolling police car made it's way down the street. A hand coming to her chest, Winry sunk down to her knees.
"This isn't fair, I'm feeling guilty and I'm hiding like a criminal," she crossed her eyes in confusion before finally shaking her fist at the air, "I didn't do anything wrong! They must be getting a kick out of this."
With the firm thrust of her fists down at her sides, Winry returned to her feet and promptly marched herself in through the Mitchell's front door. The days she'd spent here had felt uncomfortably overwhelming; overwhelmed at the size of the home, overwhelmed by the misery of the family, overwhelmed by the uncomfortable feeling of the occupants, and mostly overwhelmed by the vast nothingness the house possessed. Sure there were things: paintings, rugs, lamps, vases, and who knew what else to decorate this fine house… but there was still this chilling feeling of nothingness.
She decided it was a good thing she was going to stay with Gracia, "First thing, finding that damn tool bag."
It was a natural response any person would have to a situation like hers; ask someone if they'd seen it. Who could Winry ask? No one. Again, the house and its overwhelming void seemed intimidating. There was no way she'd bring herself to ask that nurse; the less Winry saw of her the better. What there was for security wasn't much help either, but at least they didn't hit back.
Starting at one end, and moving through to the other, Winry opened room doors, closet doors, linen doors, the attic trap door, anything with a door handle, to see if some how someone had wandered by and tucked it out of the way. It took what felt like hours to cover the top two floors of the massive building, never encountering a soul as she did so. Her socked feet echoed in the hallow air; she'd sneeze from the dust created, and it sounded so loudly that she feared the windows would shatter.
Holding position at the farthest wall of the building; Winry stood, with arms folded, brow done in knots, and jaw clenched in absolute frustration, "I bet someone stole it…"
She stared bullets down the main floor hall: her final canvassing grounds. With the firm grip of her hand, Winry flung open every door that had been left unlocked. Room after room of dining, studying, conferencing, book storage, kitchen storage; the living room, family room, the library…
"There!" Winry shrieked at the sight of her tool bag, propped up against the end of a shelf of books. Like a child searching for Easter candy, Winry swept into the room and scooped up the case into the tight hold of her arms.
"Oh I missed you, I didn't want to have to replace you… you have…" she dropped the case down onto the ground, giddy as a little schoolgirl she opened it, "my favourite wrench set, my favourite bits, my favourite drill… AH!" she lay down on her side upon the fuzzy rug beneath the furniture of the room, "thank goodness I can leave now. Why didn't I see this the other fifty times I looked into the room?"
"You make a lot of noise, where are you going?"
Winry sat up abruptly, her head sharply turning to the voice in the doorway. In some state of relief, a sheepish grin ran over her face as she looked to the Mitchell's young girl, "…I'm going to visit a family friend for a while."
"You're a weird girl," entirely unfazed and unresponsive to Winry's reactions, the little girl's ponytail atop her head swayed as she approached, "you're a bad girl too. You opened doors and went in rooms without asking. That's a no-no," she sat herself in front of Winry and her tool case.
Frowning at the child's abrupt and un-composed speech, Winry moved to her knees; catching the refraction of light that bounced off the pendant around the child's neck, "I wasn't bad, I didn't open any door that was locked. Besides, I was looking for something that was mine and if it was a bad thing to look in all these rooms, no one told me that," stemming from the discovery of one of her favourite possession and the reassurance that she did not have to return to this house, the decision made to conduct a solitary investigation came down, "if it makes the situation better Nina, I'm sorry for intruding."
At the mention of the name, the girl's face slowly tightened with a deliberate look of suspicion, "Nina?" her voice steadying a flat and vacant tone.
"Isn't that your name?" it was as good a time as any to ask; the child was there, no one around to influence the girl's answer, and she would be able to find out if the girl had any idea about what the two of them had suspected.
The baby's cry from upstairs interrupted the stalled line of questioning. Before Winry had time to completely organize her train of thought, her young companion had drifted back to the door.
"Miss Winry," came the child's innocent voice, a far cry different than anything in the preceding conversation, "I'm going to be a good big sister like you said, please wait for me."
As she vanished around the door, Winry's head tipped at the sudden change in the girl's disposition. Pushing to her feet and leaving the tool bag where it lay, she moved abruptly to the door, "Hang on, you're going to need a-"
The hall's emptiness silenced Winry; the only thing resonating off the walls was the vibration of the child's cry on the floor above. Neither direction the hall extended down revealed any trace of the little girl.
Winry's unease evolved into a dash down the empty hallway, tearing a path towards the main house entrance. Coming to a stand still at the bottom of the main staircase, the only thing carrying a trace of existence in the sunlit rotunda continued to be the baby's cry. Her hand gripped the stair rail cautiously as she took the climb one step at a time.
Nerves growing, Winry became spooked by the silence and completed her ascent at a run. Turning down the hall, she kept her pace until the familiar decorative door hangings of the baby's room greeted her. Without hesitation, she pushed the door open and barged into the curtain drawn room.
She frowned instantly, looking at the tiny baby howling from beyond the crib rails, "Does no one pay any attention to this child?" Eyeing every corner for a hidden presence intent on startling her again, Winry finally huffed, "What was up with 'be a good big sister'? That twerp disappeared."
Unlike last time, the baby's crying did not cease as Winry approached the crib, though her nose picked up what was upsetting the infant, "Poor little thing, I'm sorry you feel icky in that, it must be uncomfortable. I'll get you a new diaper."
She was thankful the room was neatly laid out; a pre-organized setup of baby wipes and fresh diapers neatly lined a table near the window. Setting everything down inside the crib, Winry looked around the room to see if there was somewhere she could put the baby that didn't involve leaning over the railing. Finding nowhere suitable, Winry rose to her tiptoes and leaned into the crib.
"See, Aunty Winry's going to make it all better. Now then…" Winry rolled up the long pink nighty the child slept in.
"What are you doing!?"
This time, the assaulting voice of Nina in the doorway did not startle Winry from her task. She did not turn around, nor did she even acknowledge the noise; it was simply an echo in her thoughts. Nina had intruded too late; the soft tips of Winry's fingers brushed over the child's belly as her own heart rate began to rise, beating uncomfortably in recognition of what she saw.
"Weren't you told not to touch Diana?"
"Diana?" Winry's hand lifted as she finally lowered from her tiptoes. Eyes wide with concern for the crying child, she turned her concentration over to the disapproving Nina, "Did you draw this on Diana's tummy?"
"Draw what?" the little face frowned profusely back at Winry.
Crouching down to meet the child at eye level, Winry forced a sympathetic expression onto her face, "Lying is wrong, Nina. Someone drew a circle and a star on the baby's tummy."
"I'm not lying," Her frown evolving into an extreme pout, the girl looked miserably back to Winry, "Mrs. Mitchell's hand drew that on Diana, these hands didn't," she held her palms for Winry to see.
Rising back to her feet, Winry brushed her hair off her shoulders and stepped back to the crib once more. Her hands reached in and pulled the pink nighty entirely off of the crying baby, "Why would she do something like that?" Her hand traced over the lines.
"I don't know that!" the child responded to Winry's rhetorical question.
Folding her arms on the top of the crib railing, Winry rested her chin while continuing her visual interrogation of the art, "What kind of alchemist was this lady," her eyes clouded over with a serious tone as she began to chew on her lip, "how could Mrs. Mitchell draw this… just like the one we found on Roze's baby."
Winry shook her head, "I'll call home later." Attempting to set aside her confusion long enough to tend to the baby, she unraveled the fresh diaper and set it next to the crying infant within the crib.
Stepping up next to Winry, the little girl looked up to her with wide, curious eyes – a harmless voice reemerging, "Who is this Roze and baby that you know?"
"No one special," Winry's wary disposition shifted to meet the untrustworthy expression held in Nina's eyes. As she undid the tape holding on the child's diaper, Winry offered a simple invitation for assistance, "would you show me you're a good big sister and throw this out for me?" she pulled the soiled diaper away from the baby.
Glancing into the crib before Winry reacted, the little girl, bearing so much resemblance to the abused memory of Nina, curled up a side of her mouth in amusement of what lay in the crib, "Sure."
"Alchemy is a science where you need to understand the structure of matter; once you have that understanding, you can break it down and rebuild it. Since it is part of science, the laws of nature apply. You can't create something out of nothings, so something must be given up in order to create whatever it is you wanted. The theory is called 'Equivalent Trade'; or I think your physics texts here refer to it as The Law of Conservation. The underlying principal is basically: you cannot turn a piece of paper into a tree, or vice versa – you need to have your ingredient's mass match your final intended mass. If you understand the procedure correctly, you can use it to turn lead into gold - which you shouldn't do because it's taboo. In order to get the process going, you need the elemental ingredients for what you're going to recompose and a properly functioning sigil to circulate the power. Depending on your type of sigil, you can do various things, but if it backfires, or you don't have the proper ingredients in your equation, the alchemy process will eat you. Make sense?"
Tightening the bag's strap across her chest, Brigitte continued her canvas of the exterior of this molding boulder and concrete built structure. She ran her fingertips along the external portion of the towering walls of an ancient building with no entrance. Again she glanced up to the stained glass windows built in far too high off the ground for her to even consider climbing through. Catching the glimpse of the sun's rising rays, Brigitte turned over her shoulder to see the bands of diluted sunlight filter around the un-kept and uncared for housing within the community. She slid her camera bag off her hip and onto her backside; she continued to walk the wide circle around this impenetrable cathedral.
Stopping to bring another building into consideration, Brigitte continued to wonder if the church in the lot beside this monument was connected in some way. For the second time, Brigitte decided to canvass the adjacent church; by now she'd memorized the circumference of the tower she could not get into. The little feeling inside her stomach told her that breaking into a church was wrong; no matter how decrepit it looked. Again she prodded at the rusting door handles and knobs to see if someone had mistakenly left it open; an open church door meant she'd be welcomed. Pacing around to the far side of the building, Brigitte's eyes again looked up to the partially open window – her fingertips skimmed along the bottom of the frame as she stood on her tiptoes.
Stepping back, she swung her hefty camera bag around to the front of her left hip. She rummaged through one of the pockets; she produced a brown skin wallet.
"Oh no, you bad little hoodlums, please don't take my wallet," Brigitte's voice carried a melodramatic drawl as she stood alone in muddy grass below the window, "Oh no, please don't throw it inside. How ever will I get it back? Oh!" with the flick of her wrist, she tossed the wallet through the window, "Oh dear me, whatever shall I do now?"
Dropping her bag from her shoulders, Brigitte placed it on its tallest end beneath the window. Wrapping the shoulder strap around her ankle, she stepped onto the bag for an extra foot and a half of height. Not small enough to fit through the space in the window, her hands gripped the bottom of the rusted pane and slowly pushed it upwards.
"Seems I must… sneak into this run down… house of God… to retrieve my wallet. Forgive me," her voice choked as she struggled with the window; nearly tumbling into the dirt once it finally popped.
Winry's hand shook unsteadily over her mouth as she took another step back - the echo of her shriek eventually subsiding. Her breathing pattern remained inconsistent with the tense feeling she could not shake, "What is that?"
Tilting her head to the side, an unimpressed look grew across the pudgy face of Nina, "That is so sad. Even I know what that is."
Trying to calm herself from the unexpected sight, Winry turned her widened eyes into the malevolent stare of the child, "Isn't… the baby supposed to be a girl?"
"It is both, Miss Winry."
Winry spun around so fast the long ponytail slapped across her face. Taking an abrupt step backwards, her behaviour waded in unease at the darkened silhouette of the nurse standing at the doorway of the baby's room.
"The child is a hermaphrodite," the bluntness of the nurse's voice shot Winry between the eyes.
"A female infant from this side, fused with a male infant from another. Similar process that would be used to create a chimera," the nurse took a step into the room, shutting the door behind herself.
"What are you talking about? This side and another…" Winry's head shook quickly as she took a distancing step backwards – only to find she had backed up against the crib where the crying and naked baby lay. Her eyes glanced over to Nina as the girl moved silently away; her soft lengths of brown hair drifting out behind. Unsettled by the girl's lack of concern, Winry's voice swept back to the nurse, "WHY would you have a baby like that?"
The answer was given without hesitation, "Because it was far more efficient, and convenient, for our purpose than previous methods," though she addressed Winry, the nurse's attention followed Nina as she moved to a corner of the room.
" The church my dad goes to has a sigil etched into the floor for ascetics. It's done with a complicated design and looks rather convoluted. If anyone were ever able to get power to circulate in it, it would hiccup and who knows what would happen."
"Can I see it? I want to take a picture of it."
"It's a private church, members only, and no girls."
"…Weeellll, where is it?"
"You'd never want to go there. It's off in the old district, beyond the university. It's just a run down old concrete structure with some stain glass windows. Even if you wanted to take a picture, it's too dark. I'll draw you some circles instead."
It was as though the people able to get into this place had vast amounts of trust placed upon them; all but a single door had been left unlocked. And it was this one locked door Brigitte and her hairpin fought with; tucked in behind one of the tattered curtains hanging in the main congregation hall. Her other hairpin had been used to clip the wall tapestry away so the rising sunlight could help her pick this lock. Something about the click she could hear in the doorknob caught her attention; bending the pin in her teeth, Brigitte shoved it back into the keyhole and finally heard the unlocking of the latch.
Stepping back, she finally turned the handle and pulled the heavy door out from its socket. Brigitte was surprised to find no dust teased her nose as she opened it; every other door had exploded with a dirty cloud when she'd opened them. This door did not.
"I'm going in the right direction it seems," stepping into the moderately declining stairwell, Brigitte pulled the door shut behind herself and made her way off into the darkness.
Utilizing a fierce gaze that proved ineffective in warding off to the encroaching nurse, Winry could feel her heart rate continue to rise. Forgetting her location within the room, she stepped sharply back into the crib once more. Startled by the baby's cry from the jolt, Winry turned over her shoulder, caught off guard by the baby's noise.
The nurse caught her lapse of attention and swept forwards, "You shouldn't concern yourself with her."
Winry shrieked when the corner of her eye caught the woman's arm reaching for her; ducking from the grasp, she spun away from the crib. Scrambling to regain her balance, Winry turned deeper into the curtain-sealed room, finally repositioning herself at the opposite side of the crib; creating a makeshift barrier between herself and the aggression displayed by the woman. Glancing to the window, Winry pulled the rod off the blinds and held it out defensively in front of herself.
"What do you think you're doing?" Winry held her quivering voice as firm as the punishing tremor of her heartbeat would allow.
Disinterested in Winry's defensive posture, the voided expression of the nurse turned over to Nina; watching the child embed herself within the stuffed animals and dolls decorating the rocking chair. Nina looked back to the nurse with a casual and somewhat pleasant expression as she tucked her legs into the menagerie.
Remaining square to the situation, Winry's eyes followed to Nina as well; nothing seemed to explain why she remained oblivious to the unfolding situation.
The sound of the baby's cry was no longer heard by the occupants of the room.
"It seems that alchemy picks up characters from older European languages. I've seen Runic and Greek characters like Omega, Delta, Phi and Psi. Zhe, iotified I, and others were taken from the Cyrillic alphabet. Some of the elemental symbols are also Greek and are used to identify planets or Gods. It's really bizarre; God has nothing to do with alchemy. But these Greeks were really smart, all sorts of geometry for perfect flow; put a circle around a tetrahedron or hexagram and it's a great beginner's sigil. Hexagrams are used for showing harmony in opposites; man and woman, fire and water usually. A tetrahedron weighs one opposite more than the other. A pentagram is a bit more interesting; it represents symmetry and symmetry of the human body. If you want, you can use tin, mercury, iron, lead and copper elements as main conductors. If you indicate in your circle that the pentagram will be used 'upside down' the applications are entirely different. I met someone who wanted to use an alchemical pentagram upside down."
"How does it become different? What does it do?"
"Ummm… well, I discovered that in Greek mythology the upside down pentagram represents a gateway from 'there' to 'here' and also 'here' to 'there'. It was said that a baby was placed at this gateway in order for the worlds to initially appear and you had to cross through this gateway in order to find 'the truth' or obtain 'wisdom'. Anyone who comes in contact with this gate or ventures through it successfully comes back with tons of 'wisdom'."
"Wow…" Brigitte's eyes marveled at the colours the morning sun was creating through the stain glass windows, "Mr. Elric was right, it is too dark in here still… but it looks so pretty."
Stepping away from the outer circumference of the room, Brigitte made her way to the center of the structure; she looked up to the towering ceiling stories above where she stood, far higher than she'd witnessed from outside. She wondered if the place ever flooded; it was dug into the ground, rather than on ground level.
Her shoes echoed as she crossed the room, eyes following the decorations adoring the walls. It was nothing like the church upstairs. This place was kept and tidied. The wall hangings with pictorial descriptions she did not recognize were new and obviously maintained. There was a thin layer of dust that had begun to settle; she could see the particles rise in the room as she moved – the sunlight created speckled shadows floating in mid air.
Brigitte looked around the room; there were other doors, and she could not figure out where they led to – could the deteriorating houses on the block have access to this place? Or did they simply lead somewhere else? Were there more rooms than just this one? She wanted to go see. The train of thought was distracted as the smooth floor beneath her feet became warped. Having approached the center of the room, her toes touched upon the outer rings of this Transmutation Circle she'd heard about. Tearing her bag open, she pulled out the paper of symbols and circles Ed had done up for her the day before.
"This is it!" Setting her bag down outside the circumference of the circle, Brigitte walked around the engraving upon the floor, "it looks like a drawing for gypsies or something," she started to giggle, "I want to know how to use it!"
"Just who exactly are you?" Winry's concentration returned to the nurse who'd begun circling the crib towards her.
"That's irrelevant, do not concern yourself with it," the voice carried an obvious lack of interest for the question.
Her socks brushing against the floor with each countering step made, Winry wrinkled her nose as she continued to retreat, "You're the baby's nurse, you've seen that design, I know what it is. Are you an alchemist?"
"I have an awareness of alchemy," a mused grin came onto the nurse's expression.
"What's it doing there?" Winry's hardened voice demanded, referring to the sigil upon the infant's stomach.
The woman mused over the question for an elongated moment before replying, "It's an experiment. Care to partake?"
Her face curled with dismay for the statement, "Disgusting…" having dealt with enough abnormalities in her life, Winry narrowed her eyes with an abstract question, "are you even human?"
"Everyone starts out human," it was Nina's childless voice that answered.
Winry grit her teeth and tightened her grip around the rod in her hands; the corner of her eyes finding Nina, but soon revealing she'd backed up into a corner of the baby's room. Wiping a tear of nervous sweat from her forehead, Winry kept a vigil on Nina as she spoke again, "Is the baby human?"
"Diana is human," the nurse's carefree response intruded, "The Philosopher's Stone allowed for Diana to remain human."
"Okay, well I don't want to do that, I'm not that adventurous. But let's pretend I want something simple, and I want to make a nice vase for my mom. If I draw a circle that looks like this… do I always have to give up something in order to make the vase?"
"Well, it makes sense right? You can't make something out of nothing."
"I suppose, maybe I'm thinking of magic. But what if I don't have enough to make the vase?"
"Then the transmutation will rebound and the alchemist's body will be used to fill in what's missing."
"…Ow. No way around that?"
"Only the Philosopher's Stone can break the laws of equivalence."
"It's too dangerous to worry about. It's not something just anyone can create, it's not something just anyone can use, and it's not something anyone should ever want to use. Alchemy's principle is equivalent trade, and that thing is anything but equivalent. We'll just stick with drawing circles and rearranging structures for now."
From a little baggie, Brigitte touched up the little smear of flash powder in the dish placed upon a makeshift tripod. Snapping a match from a package in her bag, she lit the paper strand hanging from the tray and took three wide strides away.
"Okay…" her eyes watched the paper burn within the tiny thin strip of flame, "three… two…" she turned her camera forward and listened for the initial crackle that always occurred right before the magnesium ignited. She snapped her shutter as the powder lit the room once more.
"Perfect! Now for the other side," snatching up the tripod and tray in one hand, camera in the other, and bag over her shoulder; Brigitte hauled her setup across the room. Occupied by the traveling struggle she found herself with, she never picked up on the intrusive sound that came from the opening of one of the doors providing entrance into the hall.
"There's no way," Winry's voice challenged the statement; an anxious vibration tightened her shoulders, "No way… Al used all of that stone for Ed. There was nothing left!"
"That statement is incorrect. Other's played with that power," the nurse tilted her head in thought, "some still do."
Nina finally directed her attention to Winry; she did not have to see the girl's eyes fall upon her to feel the merciless gaze cutting her down, "An embarrassment known as Shou Tucker."
"A dead shell of a body once known as Mrs. Lyra Mitchell," the nurse's behaviour followed suit.
Winry's arms slowly fell from their defensive position; she ran the names repeatedly through her mind. She recognized them, "…Shou? …Lyra?"
"Perhaps…" sitting forward from her perch, Nina leaned out from the comfort she'd surrounded herself with, "… perhaps your friend Roze has forgotten a detail somewhere along the way? Though, I don't think you'll be able to call her and ask."
Winry's eyes widened, the feign of pity from the voice sent a shiver down her spine; why was Roze implied like that? It did nothing but confirm her distrust in the illusion the child formed around herself. Yet, the demeanor was enthralling and inescapable; swept up in its veil, Winry mistakenly lost track of the nurse's position.
"How did you find all this out? With alchemy and Greek mythology?"
"I spent a lot of time in the libraries in London, I've been fascinated with this long before you were born. Dad took me to Greece for a bit a few years back, which was where I found a fair bit more information. The ancient Greeks have far more knowledge that I could have wished for; I bet they could have understood and used alchemy. I would have loved to have understood some of this information five or six years ago."
"Why back then?"
"That's a long story, don't worry about it."
"What the hell are you doing?"
Brigitte shrieked, spilling her powder on the floor at the startling deep voice. Emerging from one of the doors around the room, the lumbering balding man associated with the sound appeared, shrouded in the mystery of this colour-lit room.
"I'm leaving!" Brigitte announced sharply as if the answer had been preprogrammed.
"What WERE you doing?" the voice challenged her. It had waited for her to set up all this equipment before speaking out, curious to find out what this young intruder was up to.
"Um, I was told of a charm on this floor and I wanted to take a picture of it for my art class at school," swiftly Brigitte dumped her camera back into the bag and rushed to disassemble the tripod where her powder once rested.
"This area is restricted, did you break in?" the man approached her swiftly; having mastered the art of silent approach, his feet were never heard making contact with the ground.
Sweeping the powder back into the tray with her hands, Brigitte stumbled through her words, "I wanted to come into the church, but it was locked. Some boys teased me because I was going to cry and threw my wallet in through the window. I had to climb in to get it back; I saw an open door and wandered down the hall. I came out here, I'm sorry I was only cur—AH!" her voice pierced out, echoing within the room; the man's firm grip of her shirt hauled her off her knees. His other hand snatched her face, holding her out in front of himself.
"Bullshit. That door is locked."
"Let me go," Brigitte's eyes swelled with tears at his bruising grip, "I swear it wasn't."
With a slap across her face, the man threw her to the ground amidst the photography powder. His cold eyes cut shards out of her, "You're lying in a place of worship, God does not look favourably upon you today."
Brigitte's hands came to her face where his hand once dug in. Shaken upon the ground, she watched the man turn and walk back into the darkened exit from which he'd initially emerged.
Before ever realizing she'd reacted to it, Winry had fallen out of the way of the nurse's reaching arm once more. Scrambling to her feet, she'd not advanced more than two steps before the grip of the woman's hand came to her side. With unexplainable force, Winry was swept from her feet into the crib siding, crumpling down in a heap. The contents of the crib, baby and all, spilled out across the floor as it toppled over.
"That was careless."
Nina's little voice barely registered in Winry's mind as she felt the suffocating, finger nailed grasp of the nurse's hand close down around her neck; a thumb pressing down into the clef where her collarbones met. Clawing at the crushing grip, Winry found herself on her back upon the floor. Desperately kicking, she turned herself enough to get a foot into the nurse's face; though, no matter how hard she thrashed, the hold refused to relent. Her head began to throb from the inability to breathe; she could do nothing but panic and
fight with a merciless hand.
"This isn't very fun," came Nina's whining voice into the struggling noises within the room. Her gaze drifting over to the baby crying out from the floor, "so careless…"
"Are you too young to see a dead body?" the nurse glanced up from her project with a musing smirk; it was the roll of Nina's eyes which dismissed the question.
The distraction Nina provided had allowed Winry an opening; putting her heel into the nurse's chin with all the force she had left, the grip finally relented. With a second kick to push her back, Winry scrambled away upon her hands and knees, gasping for air. Unable to overcome the dizzying stars and light headed feeling, she could not rise to her feet; trembling under her own weight. Winry watched as the nurse simply rubbed her chin.
As if given time to collect herself, Winry's hand came to her neck while she continued to pant; her eyes shaking with the terrified gaze she handed out to the two other occupants of the room.
"If it's just like that, how come no one can make alchemy work?"
"Because no one really understands the structure of matter and the flow of nature. I can tell you all about the ingredients, you can have all the knowledge and formulas in the world, but unless you're able to understand how nature intertwines them, it doesn't do you any good."
"Isn't that what scientists try to do?"
"An alchemist is different from a research scientist. An alchemist needs to understand structure of matter and process of nature at the basic level of existence. One is all, all is one. Your soul communicates with nature to understand it's composition because you are essentially part of nature's flow; your soul feeds that information to your mind for you to understand and interpret, and your body becomes the vessel used to carry that information - feeding the knowledge-power it to the circle to initiate the transmutation. It's sort of like the idea behind quintessence. And that's only the first step; you need to repeat similar processes for decomposition and reconstruction. The process is breached at the mutual understanding your soul has with nature and the feedback your mind receives to understand all that information. Since no one's able to properly do this, alchemy isn't possible."
"Do you realize… how ludicrous you sound?"
"Shit shit shit," Brigitte scrambled to close her bag; the photography equipment jammed into it a as best she could. Panic ran through her body as she scrambled to collect her things before the man came back, "I'm in so much trouble." Her hands trembled and fumbled uneasily as she locked the clasp on her bag and threw it over her shoulder. The sun had risen high enough by now that the coloured windows shed their light down upon her position at the center of the room.
"That's far enough for you."
The deep voice of the man sent a tremor through her body; she wished to curl up like a young child hoping to disappear, "I'm sorry, I'm leaving, I'll never come back. I'll pay the fine for trespassing." Her eyes turned shaken over her shoulder as the man stood between beams of light in what was still the darkness.
"This is unfortunate," the man's voice hinted at remorse, but not enough to negate his actions.
Brigitte's scream echoed in the ceilings of the hall; she curled to her knees at the center of the piece of work she'd come to admire, hands gripped over her head as she'd been taught to do for an air raid. The echo of the first of six bullets from within the gun barrel unloaded in the hall overtook her voice. The shattering sound of the gun rang out until the empty click of a non-existent seventh bullet snapped in the room.
It was an unnecessary empty shot; Brigitte had fallen silent after three.
"Aren't you going to run?" the nurse asked nonchalantly.
Winry did not respond, though it made the urge just that much greater. She wiped a trail of sweat from her forehead before her hand returned to cradling the sore spots on her neck, continuing to regain her breath.
"A wise man would run to his freedom."
"Shut up!" Winry screamed in response; her eyes clenched shut as she shifted her weight to her knees – her arms trembling too much to support her any longer. Cracking open her eyes, the line of sight shifted to Nina once more; the malevolent smile of amusement the child carried had grown. Winry watched it through the swelling of tears in her eyes; it felt as though she could do nothing to subdue this fear overtaking her body. Her attention focused temporarily on the baby squawking on the floor, between herself and the exit.
"I wonder…" the frightening female voice grabbed Winry's ear, "who'll help that remaining Elric child… if you continue to sit there afraid?"
It was the implication of Al that pulled Winry to her feet finally; like a sprinter moving from starting blocks, she burst forward to the door. Disregarding the eyes within the room that watched her, Winry gave up concern for the baby on the floor and jumped over it as she ran.
"Miss. Winry Rockbell…"
Her pulse pounded in her ears; the beads of sweat bounced off her temples as she stumbled into the closed door.
"It's not going to be you."
Her left hand clasping around the doorknob, Winry's watering eyes shot wide at the familiar sound of a handclap echoing within the room.
To Be Continued...
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Whoops. Don't worry, everything that just made you go "wtf… o.o;" will get answered, will be explained, and should make sense eventually (I wouldn't have put it in if I didn't have answers).
Oh! Copyright/source notices:
- Opening quote taken from "Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon". Copyright Mike Brenner 1997.
- Edward's convoluted calculation of getting a rocket into space taken from "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" by Robert H. Goddard 1919.
I was pleased to accidentally find Goddard's report in a PDF on the Internet -purr-
The Greeks were smart… Ed is smart… they're both a whole lot smarter than me -roar-. And, oh yes, that explanation Ed gave about the upside down pentagram IS part of Greek mythology. Fu fu fu…
Pentagram – your standard 5-point star.
Hexagram – looks just like the Jewish Star of David. The triangular centerpiece for the Ouroborus symbol and many other alchemy things you've seen.
Tetrahedron – It's what a 3D symmetrical triangle looks like when it's unfolded flat in 2D. Like a big triangle with a little triangle inside.
Sigil – Ed refers to the transmutation circle as a sigil for Brigitte, sort of like trying to relay it in layman's terms for her to understand. 'Transmutation circle' would be a really foreign word for her.
Ottoberg – the name of the dude who got rushed on the stage by Hitler.
Speaking of Hitler… Hoho-papa VS Hitler… yikes 6.6;
Dante had a good thing going for her, may as wellmanipulateit.
Ed is in his element talking about alchemy.
Chapter 59 Feedback
Lots of feedback LMAO.
lady elithraniel - This chapter answered all your questions, ne? :3. Gave new ones too, ya?
kimmycat – No, you didn't miss what disease Edward had. It wasn't mentioned, but I will mention it eventually… but not yet :3;;;
SxStrngSamurai13 - Don't worry about the late review, it was nice to see in my email box n.n;;. I hope this chapter classifies as 'interesting' :D;;
chibi-sherri – I like the idea of an FMA movie... I love FMA... but I am currently suffering from the gut feeling that says "... injustice will be done..." -le sigh-. Cummon BONES, prove me wrong. I will keep this fic going (and complete it! I've done the 'not completed' thing before) regardless of what goes on in the movie.
Queen of Vegetasei – Poor Nina, she's the abused tool (that everyone loves) of the FMA world. I feel so bad for her. Hitler may have been scary beyond comprehension, but he was also smart and manipulative… which sucks for Hoho-papa and Ed 6.6;;;. As for Hoho-papa and the good dad thing; I forget who corrupted me to that idea XD I think I swore after epi 50 I'd hate him forever… but obviously that didn't happen. Ed is problem child of his time. And ENVY! lol, that comes back, don't worry – what fun would it be if I didn't let that stew for a bit?
SidhePrincessAislinn – Good question. I'm honestly not sure, and I'd almost be tempted to say his rotting has either stopped, or slowed to a crawl. Since Hohenheim's rotting is caused by an alchemical process, I'd like to say defiantly the rotting has stopped… but then you'd be able to argue quite a few plot hole points about Ed and Hoho's existence on the AU side of the gate. It's a grey area. For the purpose of this fic, the fact Hoho could die from the rotting body will be a non-issue, it's either stopped or slowed to a crawl. I've given Hoho FAR more to worry about than his rotting body -smiles innocently-
Baka Neko and the Y group – How many chapters… um… -scratches head- let's say that this fic will be 25 chapters (an entire season). Don't hold me to that, there's just SO much on Al's side he has to wade through – BONES would need an entire new season to get Ed back, if not more (IMHO anyways). Knowing me I'll be like "OH! Have to include that, and that, and a little bit of that, take that out, oh Al needs to learn this, have to do this right" and this'll end up being a lot longer than originally forecasted. Someone's going to come along at the end of this fic, see this gawd awful word count of one bazillion or some stupid number and not read it LMAO 6.6;;;;;
Ouatic7 – You are right, Ed's side is not progressing like Al's side. On Ed's side, it's FAR harder for him to progress like Al is – the key element Ed is missing on his side to progress anywhere is alchemy; which is what Al has going for him on his side. Al has the resources, people and knowledge available to him to potentially progress (even if a bunch of them keep disappearing on him) – there's just Ed and Hohenheim on the other side of the gate with no idea what to use as their starting point. Ed is working on the idea of the rocket (which is why he hangs around with Oberth still) but he also realizes that he could be well into his 50's before the stupid thing gets off the ground. I don't want to do a disservice to history and have Ed suddenly build a rocket that'll take him into space – which we all know won't work anyways. What I can see happening with Ed is a 'backtrack' – sort of like the mental processes he's gone through and other ideas he's had to get home (I haven't worked that out yet tho). I want Ed to have enough to do with history that he experiences it, but not enough for him to show up our Social Studies or science textbooks :D;;. I'm going to run Ed through the history ringer and see how that challenges his personality – if he gets back, I want there to be some sort of noticeable personality change (for the better or for the worse) that shows he's "been thru hell, survived and come back". Just like those ancient Greeks :3