I saw it.
I got to see what was beyond the Gate.
I saw the world, the country, the people, their knowledge, their lives, and their deaths. I saw everything that there was to see at that moment on January 25, 1922 – a date five and a half years into somebody else's future. I could have looked all sorts of ways, forwards or backwards through time, I knew I had those options, all I had to do was think of what I wanted... but I couldn't have told you how I knew I could do it.
My starting point was this date for a reason, this was the date I answered the only call that had made it home. So, I went to the starting and ending point of this world and I saw my brother, and I saw Winry who shouldn't have been there at all. It was her life and her blood that had triggered the crimson leak through the Gate – what I'd stood in was the shoreline of all the blood spilt by the dead souls used from the other world for our transmutations. I don't know why I knew that. I know the explanation for why and how that works and to me it makes sense, but it would be really hard to put into words to tell someone else. It was part of the knowledge I had for a brief period of time.
Even though they couldn't hear me unless I actually stepped through the Gate, I told Winry and my brother I'd help get them home.
I activated the transmutation circle.
Then the Gate told me I had to leave its space – it told me without words yet somehow it made sure I knew. I told it no, I wanted to see my family come home, but the Gate told me I couldn't. It overwhelmed me while I tried to hold on, forcing me to sleep, and sent me away to Dante's ballroom. The Gate was able to do that to me because my arms were still inside of it.
I still managed to bring my brother closer to home than he'd ever been before. I made sure the journey was as safe as it could be. I brought my brother and Winry to the other side of the Gate and watched as the rebound forced the Gate to reconstruct them before I had to go.
I'm not afraid that I've lost anything because Gate wouldn't allow my family to leave with me. I trust and believe whole-heartedly that, after everything that's happened to us, if my brother has managed to come this far, he'll find a way to make a path all the way home.
Part XL – Chapter 91 – The Crimson Charm, Part 3 (of 3)
The side of the Gate where Alphonse had unwillingly frequented, where Izumi feared going, and where Dante wanted to play God was a world submerged in light. It was a place with endless light and a bright vastness that stretched on forever without depth, width, or height. Yet this seemingly peaceful white space had a nightmare at its centre, and it was almost impossible to get to.
The opposite was true of the reverse side of the Gate. It was a world submerged in darkness that went on forever – a dark pool of dead souls waiting to be used by alchemists as fuel for transmutations. Yet, this other side had something bright and desirable at its centre, and it was a place that every soul in the other world would journey to once their life had ended.
As far as Ed was concerned, the light that came from the other side of the open Gate was as good as any glorified after-life. Home was not utopia, was not a perfect place to be, and was not even all that great sometimes, but it was exactly what Ed wanted. He'd recognized the light of the Gate in his first journey home years ago, but for this second trip the light had vanished before he'd arrived.
Whoever had run the terrifying transmutation to bring them this far had not been able to hold the doors open any longer.
When Edward finally opened his eyes again there was as little to see as there was to hear; the world was pitch black. Ed lay on his side, body sore, and he slowly realized he felt sick to his stomach. Edward tried to move and his body responded erratically, so he lay on the ground silently like everything else around him.
There was some poor resemblance of a memory in Ed's mind that looked like himself and Winry standing on the Thule hall floor when the circle activated. The current had hit him with more ferocity than his pounding heart could manage and Ed had thought his body might burst. His mind had begged for it to stop, but he'd passed out shortly after it started and thanked everything in the world that he had.
Ed tried again to pick himself up from the ground and nausea hit him the moment he moved; Ed's hand came to his chest to force it down. With a deep, exhausted breath, Ed put his hands to the surface he lay on, ordered his muscles to function, and pushed himself to his hands and knees.
Edward's heart stopped. Wait. Wait.
"WHAT?" the rip of his shrill voice was swallowed instantly by the darkness.
Wide golden eyes stared disbelievingly down at two hands and two arms holding his chest off the ground, jaw quivering as words struggled to find his voice.
"Wh-what the hell is this?"
A sudden wave of dizziness struck him from nowhere and Ed was forced back to the dark surface; the muscles in his forearms and shoulders quaked so hard they were useless. Ed's forehead pushed into the black surface he was on, trying to shake the nausea. He clenched his hands as he tried to figure things out and then Edward stretched his left leg.
What was this all about? Why? The limbs were numb and felt no sensation of any kind; he likened it to AutoMail but without the weight of metal.
This ridiculous game the Gate played with his body depending on if he was 'coming' or 'going' was getting frustrating – why in the world would he once again wake up after some insane transmutation and be whole again? The rebound would have broken him down and half-heartedly sent his deconstructed remains to the Gate – there was no catch in that to put him back together like this. In fact, it was the Gate that was responsible for putting him back together, because his remains needed to be extracted from the energy stream and there was no way this vicious monstrosity would voluntarily give him back his limbs.
Ed forced himself to think – something must have happened with the re-transmutation the Gate had performed, but what? Both he and Winry would have…
A sudden realization caused Ed to shelve the questions for his limbs – some thing else became far more important. A flurry of golden hair flew out and wide golden eyes slashed through darkness; the trembling assault from Ed's body was ignored.
Panic turned Ed over his shoulder in search of colour amongst the black. A body lay behind him, back towards him, curled up like an infant, blonde hair scattered everywhere. On unsteady hands and knees Ed stumbled to Winry, putting a hand to her shoulder and another to the back of her head as he nervously rolled the curled figure onto her back. Winry didn't respond to the movement and lay motionless in the dark. Edward's hand went to her neck and another rested on her chest, frantically searching for signs of life. When he found Winry's pulse and Ed realized that she was breathing, he sagged a little in relief.
The eldest Elric brother had to say he absolutely detested the alchemy Gate by this point in his life, because while Edward sat on two knees and moved Winry with two hands, the bullet wounds marring Winry's leg were still there. Ed eyed the scarf that had unwound from around Winry's leg and it took his unsettled nerves a few minutes to re-do it.
Ed glanced to the pile of supplies and things that had been on the transmutation circle and had followed them through the Gate before drawing up onto hands and knees. Ed leaned over Winry, putting a hand down on her cheek, tapping it lightly to see if she'd wake, "Hey… hey come on. I need you to wake up."
It wasn't Winry that Edward woke.
Slowly, one by one, sets of eyes began to appear in the black void; leering, lecherous, devious, hungry, purple sets of eyes.
Fear hit the bottom of Edward's stomach like a boulder crashing into a canyon. For what he could manage with so many wayward nerves, Ed's shoulders stiffened and he held his ground over Winry. Air was forced through Ed's nose as he watched interested purple eyes endlessly appear, littering every angle of this monstrous black space with malicious gazes. Slowly, Ed slipped one arm behind Winry's shoulders and the other behind her head to he sit her up – golden eyes ordering all of the purple gazes to stay back as he put Winry's forehead down on his shoulder.
More sets of intrusive eyes appeared, prying in from above, below, behind… in all the places Ed was not looking.
"What the hell are you assholes staring at!" Edward suddenly yelled, fraying quickly around his edges at the invasive presence. It was very obvious these eyes were visually dissecting them both and few things in any world frightened Edward Elric like the eyes of the Gate did. He clenched his hands to fight the mounting tension.
Winry gasped – a sound that came from seemingly nowhere. It wasn't a normal sound for a gasp for air, it sounded more like a man's final gulp before drowning.
"I can't breathe!" she choked, eyes flying wide and pupils at pinpoints, breaking out of Ed's grasp as her hands reached for her neck, "I can't breathe!"
Ed scrambled to settle the nerves Winry's outburst had frayed and he quickly took Winry's fingers away from where they had begun to claw at her neck, "It's okay, you're breathing just fine."
"But there—" the panic-stricken girl took a breath that told her she was wrong. She took a second breath that confirmed it. Reality sunk in and Winry slowly sat back onto her knees, her jaw loose, trying to piece together her chaotic thoughts, wide eyes drawing in the scene around her of a black space loaded with invasive purple eyes, "… Wha… what?"
Ed's hands landed at her ears, settling high on her jaw, pulling her focus forwards to him, "You're okay."
There were no words in the world that anyone could have spoken to express how thankful Ed was for that. He'd revel in the feeling if there wasn't a whole new set of problems literally looking at him.
"What is this?" Winry's exhausted question contained more air than sound, the terrified look in her eyes painfully obvious, "where are we?"
"We're at the Gate," Ed answered, an uncharacteristic tremor to his voice. He didn't know who had done it and he didn't care.
The world sat on pause as the situation sunk in, nothing beyond air breathed and heartbeats spent gave any indication that sound existed in this space. Ed watched while Winry's eyes slowly widened again and she abruptly stopped throwing her attention around the space at the Gate. The girl's focus captured Ed and his left hand felt all the tension in her jaw vanish. Gold eyes witnessed the flabbergasted emotions in the blue gaze staring back at him begin to swell as Winry's hands rose up, gripping the two wrists at her face and pulling them away.
Of all the times and places Winry could have chosen to give Edward such an astounded look and it had to be this one, at the Gate, and it made him smile.
"It's numb," Ed said of the right wrist Winry turned over in her hand, flexing his fingers for her, "I can't feel anything in it."
Edward was usually the one stricken with tongue-tied responses, so it was somewhat relieving to watch Winry struggle to bring her voice out, "But… but how did you…?"
"Um…" Ed paused, wondering how to give an easy interim answer until he did actually theorize a reason for why. Ed didn't know why the Gate had taken his limbs in the first place, since the offer for Alphonse's transmutation was an all-or-nothing transaction. The consolation answer beyond the Gate had boiled down to something unscientific simple like: the Gate simply didn't like him and had taken back what Al had given him out of spite.
"I, uh, think I caused the Gate to malfunction."
An answer that became his most unscientific response to date.
"Oh," Winry did nothing more than sit and stare at the hand she held, her thumb running through Ed's palm slowly, watching how the pressure she placed moved each finger, "about time it screwed up in your favour."
Amidst Central City's late afternoon sun, Brigadier General Mustang stood back and admired the new accommodations Havoc and Hawkeye had commandeered. It was actually a hotel – Mustang was quite impressed. The last building they'd set up shop in had been a half-occupied office and the commanding officer was more than happy to have a proper bed to sleep in again. When they'd first walked through the front doors, Mustang figured out quite quickly that Havoc must have charmed his way in to see the manager or the owner through the two lovely 20-somethings standing at the check-in. He took a mental note to talk with them later.
The change of scenery was a welcome sight after an earthquake had struck Central that morning and driven everyone from their last place of operation when the building had threatened to crumble down on them. Mustang had never experienced the earth shake beneath his feet before – no one in Central had. It was a strangely powerful occurrence that made everyone utterly powerless for the minute or two that it had lasted. On the whole, the city had held up pretty well structurally against the earthquake, though he couldn't say the same for the mindset of the people. It was unfortunate that Mustang's last point of conquest was in the eastern quarter, because that was the oldest part of the city and it took some of the worst damage – mostly emphasized by the mess Old Central had been turned into. The historical district had the unfortunate fate of being in the farthest reaches of the damaged eastern quarter.
Mustang wouldn't acknowledge the fact that they'd lost track of Wrath in the chaos, but frankly he didn't care. Maybe the annoying little twerp was trapped beneath some fallen building – Mustang was okay with that thought. For the brief time he'd had Izumi around, the forthright woman had given him just enough information to be useful before Mustang had lost her again; she'd ran off into the city to help people dig out from the wreckage. Mustang figured that just meant he didn't have to let her berate him about losing the little homunculus.
In the new hotel, the first knowledgeable person Mustang encountered was kind enough to point him towards a room on the third floor. What Mustang found up there was a plain room, nothing fancy or even remotely close to the kind of place officers of his rank were normally given – though it beat living in an office hands down. It had a single queen bed, a night stand, a dresser, a lamp that was lit, two chairs, and a table. Mustang ignored the call of the bed, flipped the deadbolt on his door, and took a long shower instead.
Some point in time after the shower had ended and Roy had passed out on the lovely, lovely bed wearing only a towel, a knock came to his door. Since the commanding officer was too deep in slumber to hear it, a key was inserted and rattled around noisily, as though to make sure any prying ears were aware that no one was breaking in.
Roy didn't hear Riza's voice. He didn't hear a whole lot of anything until Riza threw his damp dress shirt over his chest – the man had been wearing it for days and it got washed in the shower along with everything else. Roy shivered and was unwillingly taken away from his sleep.
"You have a phone call," she sounded far more gentle than she normally did.
"Take a message," Roy grabbed one of the pillows his head wasn't on and stuck it over his face, wrapping his arms around it to hold it down.
"Mr Tlingum sounds a little desperate to talk to you."
The last time Russell had called with information the twerp had tried to tell Mustang he had to pay for it. Roy swore to everything he believed in that if what this kid had to say wasn't incredible enough to win him the entire city of Central he would personally march in on Xenotime just to ring Russell Tlingum's neck.
"Fine," the pillow was thrown aside, the damp shirt was snatched up, and Riza exited the room to let her superior officer get dressed in his damp attire with some dignity.
When Mustang had emerged from the room, he did so with a yawn and followed Hawkeye blindly down the stairs. They didn't take to the rotunda or the main floor of hotel room doors. Instead, they slipped down a corridor behind the staircase and into a quaint little hall that had five rooms with A1 through A5 marked on the doors.
The door to A3 burst open almost immediately, startling both officers.
"Sir!" Feury called, "I'm so glad you're here, I was worried I'd have to tell them to call back again."
Mustang kind of wished Feury had, "Thank you, Sergeant."
Stepping into the room, Mustang came to realize that this was not a hotel room – it was a conference room.
The white room with beige patterned curtains had a square table with eight chairs, two to each side, a desk with a wheeled chair, and a steno, dip pen, and a pile of paper stacked thick enough that he wouldn't be able to one-hand it out the window. Mustang cringed; he hated paperwork – how did a plague of paperwork manage to follow him around even in a government overthrow? There were wires and cords that snaked through a hole drilled into the neighbouring room; the hole was fresh because the dust was still caught in the baseboards. A telephone sat on the desk, the receiver on off the cradle and resting on the wooden veneer.
With a deep breath and a tired scowl, Mustang marched over and snatched up the phone up.
"What do you want?" he gave his greeting.
"It's about time you answered me!" Russell chirped into the phone, "I was worried the earthquake scrambled your brains out there a bit too much."
Mustang was a few poorly chosen words away from hanging up on the teenager, "You have ten seconds to make this conversation worth my while."
"Have you checked on Old Central yet?"
That was not what Mustang was expecting to hear –Russell Tlingum was a fountain of information on red water, red stones, and other bullshit that came out of Xenotime.
"We need you to check on Old Central and make sure it's not damaged at all."
Mustang's tired thoughts continued to be stuck on 'why' – he glanced to the clock to find out it was almost 10pm. Even if the officer felt like it, he was not going into Old Central after dark, "Old Central took the quake the hardest. There's a lot of damage in there Mr Tlingum, so I don't need to go gallivanting out there to tell you that whatever you want from there is probably damaged."
The mouthpiece came away from Russell,'s mouth though Mustang could still hear bits of the conversation. The teenager told whoever was listening that Old Central was damaged, and then asked what they should do. A female voice answered, but it was too faint and distorted for Mustang to hear clearly. He pushed the earpiece tight against his ear, trying to pick up the entirety of the conversation, then had to pull it away quickly when Russell's voice came back loudly to the phone.
"We're going to give you directions to a building in Old Central – you need to make sure it's not damaged and seal it off if it is."
Oh, Mustang dearly wished this boy was standing in front of him so he could strangle the 'why' out of him, "Why, Mr Tlingum? And who's 'we'?"
"Me and Roze."
There was that name of the woman from Lior again; Roze'd given them all nightmares from the story she'd told of a woman who tried to seduce her with alchemy and then followed that up with stories of a city that once existed. He wasn't sure if 'Roze' fascinated or frightened him.
"There's a um… church Roze paid homage to in Old Central when she was still the Holy Mother of Lior. It's in the heart of the district, just off the main road. It's the oldest thing there, it towers over everything and all the windows are stained glass designs – you can't miss it. It's sacred and important. It has something that nobody should want… we need you to make sure that it's still intact."
"And if it's not?" Mustang asked.
A long pause came before Russell gave an answer, "Burn it down and bury it in dirt before you leave."
"Why?" the brigadier general would not let that go.
"You're gonna have to trust us on this one, you don't want to know why. But it needs to be done."
Mustang's good eye twitched - even the defective one beneath the eye patch twitched. Maybe he'd break the phone instead since Russell wasn't handy to strangle, "You're going to have to do better than that."
"Show a little faith in us out here Mister Brigadier General and we'll talk about it more later."
The phone line went dead. Mustang had a nearly uncontrollable urge to just rage on the poor telephone. He hated how cryptic everyone was with him about 'important' things he knew nothing about. It made him feel like a pawn and Roy Mustang was so sick of being people's pawn – it was on the list of reasons why he was taking over Central City. He threw the phone down in disgust and stormed out of the room.
"This is the other side of the Gate…?" Winry sat back and looked around once more, "I don't see a gate." She didn't see anything other than the prying eyes and their collection of things.
"I don't know what's wrong," even if Ed couldn't exactly remember it, he knew he'd been here before and there had been Gate doors to push through.
Ed questioned his knowledge of the Gate – something wasn't right, there had to be some reason the doors wouldn't appear. Something had to be different from before. Edward's brow slowly stitched together; the last time he'd been here, albeit briefly, his host body beyond the Gate had died and his actual mind and body had waited for him at the doors, detached from the journey his soul had taken. Ed's soul connected with his remains and he'd pushed his way back into Dante's ballroom. This time around, the whole of Edward Elric had been sent beyond the Gate with nothing left at the doors, and now he was attempting to return.
The seam through Ed's forehead was cut and his brow rose, "I'm gonna have to make the doors appear."
"What?" Winry found it difficult to distract herself from all the prying eyes visually suffocating them, "how?"
Ed's face twisted with a thought and he looked to Winry, a grin flooding life back into his face, "Heh."
"What?" under any other circumstance Winry wouldn't have been as concerned as she was for the look he gave her right then and there.
The grin didn't leave but Ed still gave a disgruntled shrug of his shoulders and a thoughtful 'hmph' while his hands came up and unbuttoned the top four buttons of his dress shirt. Ed flared it open with a swift tug on the collar.
"What are you doing…?" a deep alarm began to ring in Winry's voice.
Ed glanced to the pile of things that had come with them in the rebound, "You took that foot off with cutters, right?"
Ed rose to his feet and stepped away from Winry, moving swiftly through the darkness. He easily uncovered Winry's cutters amongst the mess and Ed snatched the tool up emphatically, catching it in his left hand. Golden Elric eyes looked between the two hands he had available, the worn left hand that had helped him on his own for so long and the new right one that still gave Ed no feedback that it even existed. For all he knew it was a loaner and he wouldn't get to keep it when he finally got home.
So… since there was no feeling in it…
Ed flipped open the cutters and placed the sharp tip of the tool down into his right palm, clamped his hand around the tool and swiftly tore it out of his own grasp, slicing his hand open.
"ED," Winry squawked, "what are you doing?"
The eldest of two impulsive brothers dropped the cutters, held his numb right hand out like a cup, and let the blood from the cut pool in his hand. Ed gave a nod to the blood forming, glad to know that his right arm was attached to his circulatory system at least. With the thick red liquid available, Ed dipped his left pinky finger into his right palm and took the finger to his chest.
"EDWARD ELRIC, what the hell are you doing!" Winry scrambled forwards on her hands and knees, "STOP. STOP RIGHT NOW."
The drawing on his chest was finished before Winry arrived and Ed knelt down to meet her – spilling his hand and wiping off his palm on his pants before grabbing Winry's wrists as she reached out to beat the image off of him.
"Let go of me! What are you doing?" The panic in her voice tightened the tension in Ed's shoulders but didn't cause him to let go.
"Win… remember I told you once…" his thoughts caused his eyes to glance away while he wondered how to word this, "that a transmutation circle has no direction; as in it has no top, no bottom, no start and no end, because it's constantly flowing with energy. It can never be upside down or right side up. It picks up the material provided and flows within the natural energy of the world," he eyeballed Winry who looked like she was going to tackle him if he didn't let go, "but, when you put a transmutation circle on a life form that already has a flowing circuit, like a circulatory system, it's properties can change, depending on what you want to do and how you draw it. You can establish that up and down, because you can move with or against a natural flow."
Winry gave him a heavy, wary eye, ready do everything in her power to attempt to overwhelm Ed if whatever he was getting at gave her no choice but to stop him.
"An encircled, five-point star, when presented with a single point upwards, can be used to represent symmetry of the human body. Head up top, two arms at the side, two legs at the bottom – never ending and constantly flowing. But, when you turn it and have the two points 'upwards', you invert the connection to the body's systems, go against the flow, and the transmutation's properties change to something else entirely."
Ed watched as Winry stared wordlessly at the symbol drawn on his chest; he'd drawn the same symbol on himself that Dante had drawn on Diana: the encircled 'upside down' pentagram – exactly as he'd just described.
"It connects the 'here to there' and the 'there to here'."
"No, no… no…" Winry gave a sharp yank on her arms but it was a futile effort – Ed would not let go, "what does that circle do?"
"Alchemy," Ed narrowed an eye in thought, "when I clap my hands. The Gate had to stitch us back together to bring us here, so I should be able to open the Gate from this side, since this is where all the power is stored."
"Yeah right," Winry glared at him, "what happens to you when you do that?"
"We go home."
"Bullshit," she snapped, not liking that he was so calm and collected over this. Winry again fought to get Ed to release her wrists to no avail, "you have a chronic problem of doing inherently stupid things with alchemy, so you are going to tell me what will happen to you."
"Winry, it's not important," Ed protested, his tone hardening as he held Winry at bay, "I need you to trust me on this one."
Ed was surprised to find she actually did calm once he'd spoken, but he quickly came to realize her relaxed body and fallen shoulders didn't come from calm, they came from resignation. Ed peered in uncertainly, watching Winry's head sag forwards as he gingerly began to return her wrists. He took a breath to speak but Winry shut Ed's voice down when her arms were abruptly snatched from his grasp.
"The last time I trusted you and Al to do the right things for yourselves with alchemy, you did something that meant you would never come back. If the Gate didn't think you were fun to play with, if it just didn't happen to be this way, you'd be dead. We wouldn't be having this conversation."
The weight of the other world's incarceration chains crashed down over Edward's shoulders and they pinned him to the side of the Gate where he sat. How strange it was for Ed to be reminded that he had done that, because when he'd woken up alive on the other side he'd been able to negate responsibility for his actions. It had been a long time since he'd had to look at the frame of mind he'd been in that day.
She looked up at him abruptly.
"You didn't sacrifice yourself for your brother knowing you'd end up in this alternate world and be able to fight to get home. You sacrificed yourself; you did what you did for Al knowing you would die. You decided your life would be over. There'd be no more. You wouldn't come home. Ever. Regardless of who or what it was for, you were okay with being dead and not living anymore."
There wasn't a set of purple eyes in the darkness that could look at Ed and reach in so far, grab hold so hard, and twist so angrily like these blue ones did. The feeling was like a clenched fist that had been lodged in his throat; Ed felt himself choke on it.
"That's great for you, if you're dead you don't have to deal with not having you around anymore! Yeah, what you did gave us Al back and that's a miracle in itself and I cannot… I cannot wish that you hadn't done that, because if I did then Al would be dead instead. I can't pick your life over Al's or Al's over yours… so I just think what you two did was wrong." Winry's words paused for a moment, the look in her eye imprisoning Edward's ability to put any of his thoughts into the spaces within her statement. "What I see from you isn't always that you think so much of everyone else around you, but that you think so little of yourself in the process. You're the only one who doesn't seem to think you have any value to the people around you and you make yourself dispensable."
There wasn't anything in the world Ed could have done against painful words spoken by a moderately trembling voice that fought on, beyond listen to what they had to say.
"I trust you with a lot of things Edward Elric, but I don't trust you to always make the right decisions for yourself when it comes to alchemy… and that's your fault."
Winry left the verbally crushed feeling as a jagged piece of shrapnel in Ed's throat when her voice let go and he was forced to swallow down no matter how badly it hurt. Uncertain golden eyes fell to the wayside, shoulders collapsing, head bowing, sitting on his knees. Like a weary soldier slumped at the bottom of his biggest hill to climb, Ed looked into the two flesh hands that he opened, palms up, comparing the clean but journey-worn left hand to the bloodied opposing palm.
"I don't regret what I did for Al. I've never looked back and wondered what my other options would have been and I'm not going to. That's my decision and I have to live with that, so I can't ask you to trust me with this," The thing Edward had found about talking with Winry was that, unlike himself, she rarely looked down or away to shield what she was feeling. Winry always looked right at him when she spoke and that somehow managed to make it impossible to doubt her. Ed swallowed hard and picked his head up to look at Winry, "but I don't have any way of telling you how badly I want to go home, be at home, live at home, do everything I do and don't at home, and do all of the things in life that I haven't let myself do because I wasn't home. Right now I know what I can do to get us home like I'd promised – both of us – and I've tried for a long time to get there… so I just… want to go home. Whatever you're afraid of isn't going to happen. Really."
A hesitant pause preceded Winry's quiet voice for her last concern, "Will you be alright?"
Winry's lower lip slipped into her teeth, "Okay then."
Ed pursed his lips and exhaled slowly, rebuilding his posture as he straightened himself, feeling a little short of breath while he spoke, "Your leg doesn't hurt that much here, does it?"
"No," Winry admitted, eyeballing the wrapped damage on her left limb, "it feels kinda gross, and it does hurt, but not like it did."
"That's the Gate – being here is like a blip in time," Ed pulled to his feet, ignoring the intrusive eyes that continued to watch them. He reached down and pulled Winry up to her feet, "It's gonna hurt when we're back."
Winry gave a slow nod as she worked her balance onto the one good leg, holding onto Ed's shoulders as he turned and offered his back for her to climb on to.
"And you'll be pretty nauseous," Ed gave Winry a bounce on his back to settle her in place once she'd wrapped her arms around his neck again, "this isn't going to feel good when we get back… at all. It's probably going to feel like how we're supposed to feel after going through the rebound."
Even though he had two hands this time around, both of them were needed, so Winry wiggled around uncomfortably until her legs wrapped around Ed's waist as best she could, "But we'll be home, right?"
"Yup," Ed nodded.
Winry's arms tightened around his neck and she put her chin down, "Then I'll be fine."
Both weary travellers journeying between this world and that looked around, staring back at the countless sets of eyes that bore down on them. Winry's scowl at their lecherous invasion was tainted with nervous concern but was protected by Edward's glare assaulting whatever dared stand in his way. The hungry eyes hardened at his challenge and Ed chose to offer a cocky, triumphant smirk in return, inviting them to watch and see what he had in store.
This time Ed stood on two good legs with Winry on his back, the idea of running in fear no longer part of the equation. Giving a few sharp shakes of his head to clear it, Ed shifted with Winry on his back, slapped his palms over his thighs, straightened himself up, and threw his hands out to his sides amidst the pitch. His chest expanded with a deep breath and Edward Elric let the prying purple eyes eat his provocative sneer.
"This side of the Gate can KISS MY ASS."
Ed clapped his hands.
Mustang stood beneath the clear sky and 9am sun, arms folded, brow lowered, and gaze as cross as ever while trying to stare down a church in shambles at the heart of Old Central. He'd found a mess like he'd expected; the church steeple had fallen off, the windows had shattered leaving glass everywhere, and part of the west wall had crumbled down bringing half of the roof with it.
"It's busted," Mustang announced flatly.
"Maybe we should look inside before burning it down and burying it?" Havoc offered, like the idea of desecrating one of the oldest buildings in Central was a little beneath the three of them, "someone might have been inside."
Mustang sighed and relented to the suggestion, though he remained beyond unimpressed with why they'd bothered venturing out in the first place. If something in Russell Tlingum's words hadn't continued to tickle Mustang's curiosity all night long they wouldn't have shown up.
The trio entered through the collapsed side of the building, since the steeple blocked the front doorway, and the three officers stepped around broken glass, fallen chunks of stone and debris as they made their way carefully through the mess. The collapse had taken out half of the wooden seating, a good portion of the front stage, and had buried the centre alter.
"Yeah, this is busted," Havoc conceded.
Hawkeye's hands took hold of one of the pews and with all the strength she had to give, she shoved it aside to open a path down what had once been the centre aisle, "Mr Tlingum didn't give you any reason for this?"
Mustang walked along the aisle beyond the far reaches of undamaged pews, each step he took crunching down on broken glass, his voice as sharp as the shards he walked on, "He just said 'trust me'."
It was a shame that the Tlingum brothers hadn't really given them any reason not to trust them since being drawn into the fray, otherwise Mustang wouldn't have bothered with this journey.
The senior officer made his way up onto the front for the building as Riza pushed aside another pew, stepping around a mangled pile of debris that had once been the front podium.
"Guess we oughtta prep her for the cooker," Havoc gnawed lightly on the end of his unlit cigarette.
When Havoc turned to see if his superior officers had a response for him, he stopped to watch as Mustang crouched down to the floor and peered under the planks of fallen roof.
"Is someone one under there?" Havoc asked.
"No," Mustang grabbed hold of some debris and pulled it out from beneath the layers of roofing, "there's a draft coming out from here."
Both Havoc and Hawkeye exchanged a glance.
"A draft?" Hawkeye questioned – there was no wind today.
"Help me dig," Mustang ordered.
With what little they had to aid their bare hands, improvising with planks of wood to break other planks down, the trio worked diligently over the following half hour in a day that slowly grew hotter the higher the sun rose and the longer they worked. Shirts were loosened and un-tucked, jackets were discarded on the floor, and Havoc even went so far as to pluck his pants out from his boots and roll them up to his knees. With an emphatic grunt, Mustang stood on a stubborn collection of wooden planks, jumping up and snapping it in half beneath his body weight. A portion of the debris shifted, allowing Hawkeye and Havoc to throw it aside while Mustang came down to his hands and knees – finally finding the source of his draft.
There was a vent blowing cool air out from beneath the debris of the collapsed podium that had once been front and centre in the church. Grabbing one of the planks of wood that they'd discarded , the senior officer jammed it into the hole on the floor, jarring it around to widen the vent. Havoc and Hawkeye dusted their hands off and watched the hole crumble open until Mustang made it a good foot-size wide.
All three officers were soon on their hands and knees trying to peer in.
"Where the hell does this go?" Mustang frowned.
"Basement?" Havoc offered.
"I don't think it's normal to get a draft coming up from a basement like this," Hawkeye qualified.
"Okay," Mustang stood up abruptly, searching for the sturdiest plank of wood he could find, "let's force it open as wide as it'll go."
A wooden clatter escaped into the hot day as debris was taken into three sets of hands. The exercise of widening the hole was pretty much a display of how much brute force could be put into their poor digging materials – no one had shown up with anything close to a shovel. The wooden planks were rammed against the edges of the hole, weakening and breaking it down. What was more astonishing than the black hole they were opening was that it was not made of any type of construction material – the hole they opened was made of dirt. All three of them worked at the gaping hole for another twenty minutes, watching in astonishment as the hole continued to widen, exposing the top rung of shallow steps that appeared in the final five minutes of work. When Mustang finally called for an end to their efforts, the officers looked into a dark cavern that they'd opened up wide enough to fit a body through.
They all stood back and stared silently at it, glancing around occasionally to see if anyone had come to investigate their noise.
"I'm going down," Mustang announced – the bubble of excitement in his stomach told him this was what Russell Tlingum had sent them here for and he wanted to know the secret. Suddenly the trip had become worth the effort.
Crouching down on his hands and knees, Mustang slipped into the collapsed hole feet first, sliding along his stomach against the dirt and shallow run of stairs until his shoulders popped through. He shuffled back from the entrance on his hands and knees, feeling the evenly carved stairs in the dirt begin to offer a steeper decent. When the remnants of the collapse had stopped littering the steps, the officer rose to his feet. Mustang stood up straight, realizing there was enough clearance for not only his height, but his arm reach as well. He jumped, reaching above his head and feeling that the cold earth against his fingertips. Despite the uncertainty, Mustang had to admit the cool breeze coming up from below was nice on his sweaty back. The light from the entry way suddenly vanished and the senior officer looked back to see Hawkeye slip through the hole.
"Stay up there," he ordered, his voice echoing off the walls of the tunnel.
"You need back up in case there's trouble down here," Hawkeye answered, slipping her way down to a point in the tunnel where she could stand as well.
Both Mustang and Hawkeye watched as Havoc slid in last, the sounds of his rustling body echoing off the walls.
"You can't leave me behind while you go venturing off into a dark tunnel. Just who do you two spelunkers think you are?" the lieutenant stood up, dusting off his pants.
A pause came to the group while they stood in the breeze of the cavern, letting the cooling air dry the sweat from their brows and backs of their necks before shoulders finally stiffened and expressions tightened. Without a word, the sound of marching feet erupted as they made their decent. When the light of the entrance vanished, Mustang dawned his glove and snapped his fingers to light what little moss graced the walls, each time re-igniting portions of the wall when the previous light had either been lost or had burnt away. The three walked for what felt like forever in silence, and the deeper they descended the stronger the wind became. Their journey downwards became engulfed in the dark when the wind wouldn't allow Mustang to light anything any longer. The wind in the pitch-black tunnel had noise, like the sound of a howling, crying, and dying animal; it was an unruly, inhumane cry that sent chills down their spines.
At the point where the descent into the earth had begun to feel endless a faint light began to fill the tunnel from up ahead. The winds terrorized their clothes and hair, blowing dust and sediment into their faces, forcing all advancing parties to shield their eyes. When the end of the tunnel was bright and clearly seen, weapons found their way into hands. Cautiously, carefully, and slowly the trio of officers emerged from the stairs and into a new light.
The blowing winds ended, like their exit shut an invisible door behind them.
Where the light source so far down into the earth came from was anybody's guess, but the massive cavern the three officers had walked into was brightly lit and exploded open for miles before their eyes. The massive cavern sent nerves into a frenzy, hearts racing, and stomachs churning. Weapons were lowered from their readied positions, shoulders collapsed, and mouths fell open as three officers stood on the dirt ledge looking out into the underground Empty City beneath Central.
It was a magnificent, overwhelming, and terrifying sight to behold, more than enough to make the strongest knees weak. The three officers stood frozen by horror, standing at this terrifyingly high perch overlooking a kind of sin that had been so unimaginable none of them could have dreamed up the sight no matter how many times Roze's story was replayed.
This was the Empty City – the city Central had once been before it was re-established hundreds of years ago. It was intact and it was standing for all of them to see. Tens of thousands of people – possibly hundreds of thousands of people had once lived here… an entire civilization had once lived here and had vanished in a single night. Entire genealogies were wiped from existence in a selfish massacre caused by two people and their unfathomable mountain of sins.
Havoc's hand cut through his hair, "This… this is massive."
"This is a graveyard," the words tumbled out of Mustang's open mouth.
The empty underground city was the skeleton of their nation's worst catastrophe – sealed away in an underground closet and coveted by its keeper. It was a sight that was beyond overwhelming.
"Do you hear that?" Hawkeye forced her quieted voice out amidst the visual nightmare.
Voices were hushed, heartbeats were tamed, and the officers stood listening with ears as wide open as their eyes.
"There's music coming from somewhere," Mustang qualified Hawkeye's question, stating a fact of truth that felt like impossible fiction. He couldn't imagine why, or better yet, how the sound of music could be in this-
"Dante's down here," Hawkeye's sidearm was firmly gripped as she derailed her superior's thoughts.
That was the only answer and Mustang re-fitted the glove over his right hand. He hadn't shown up to Old Central with expectations of finding anything remotely close to this, so the matching glove for his other hand had remained at the hotel. Mustang's left hand carried a hand gun instead.
After the burns on her arm had been tended to in the days prior, Izumi had confirmed Dante's newest form was the tiny body of Nina – another flesh trophy for the woman to add to her collection of faces. Strangely, that left Aisa as their biggest mystery, though Dante would remain their biggest obstacle. Mustang was forced to look at his reflection in the mirror and ask himself: if he ever got the opportunity to take on the woman in the body of a child, would he be able to look beyond the physique? He told himself he'd have to. This body-snatching alchemist wasn't an immortal creature – she was a human woman who'd lived hundreds of years through the manipulation of her life and the destruction of countless others. Even as Mustang looked out into the cavern, he couldn't comprehend how one person, or even two people, could be responsible for so many deaths. And it wasn't just this city – there was Ishibal and Lior and who knows what other crimes they hadn't uncovered yet as well. Dante wasn't an alchemist, she was a mass murderer, and she could be shot and killed like any other flesh creature. Mustang glanced between the two best shots he had in the entire nation; if anyone could strike her down…
But this was her turf, not theirs – who knew what this world had in store for them. All of its secrets and mysteries were Dante's to do with as she pleased. A thought of returning to the surface and grabbing backup shot through Mustang's mind, but then who else would he bring? He wasn't going to bring a legion of supporters down into this catastrophe and expose what had been done to the entire world. This city needed to be forgotten and remain forgotten, otherwise the people of Central might never be able to move on. Brigadier General Roy Mustang reached back and snapped his firearm out from its holster.
"Let's find out where it's coming from."
Or at least, find out where in this catacomb Dante had set up her home; it might be their only chance to pin her down. Worst case scenario – they could always come back.
There were a number of things that unsettled the trio of officers about walking through this empty city, most predominantly was a lack of skeletal remains. Massacres on this scale left bodies behind – but this city had nothing. It was like a ghost town except ghost towns had run-down feelings because they become abandoned over time. This one was up-kept, but its colours had dulled and became buried beneath hundreds of year's worth of dust. Mustang found it very unsettling that his mind kept expecting to find a mountain of bones around 'the next corner' at some point. There weren't even a cob webs to be found.
The empty city beneath Central was nothing more than an underground, oversized, filthy, and forgotten dollhouse and everyone felt on edge as they ventured through it.
Then there were the remnants of a magnificent transmutation circle that looked as though it had once been carved into the cavern ceiling. At least that was something they could all avoid looking at, unlike everything else.
Their journey towards the music pulled them through the dusty city, luring them to somewhere near the centre of town, to a building Mustang could only refer to as 'magnificent' once they'd reached it. It was a gorgeous, ancient building with hand crafted pillars, heavy etched doors to each room, marble flooring everywhere, crystal candlelit chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, and draperies hanging from the walls. Hundreds of years ago, anyone who was anybody must have come here in their finest gowns. Portraits of people who'd been expunged from their history books hung in the halls amongst the fabric art. This monumental building was the only place they'd encountered that had been maintained, which caused heart rates and tensions to rise. Then there was the faint odour to the building that did not exist anywhere else in the city – it was like perfume, only it didn't seem all that pleasant.
Mustang wished for the dust to return, because it dampened the sounds of their feet on the floor and now every step they took had to be more cautious and carefully placed than the last. He also wished for the music to end – it was the same four-minute piece playing over and over and over…
Eyes spoke to each other without the need for words, heads motioned in directions when arms couldn't, and feet slid along the marble surface that waited desperately for one of the officers to miss a step and announce their presence. The entrance to the grand ballroom was obvious; it was etched in gold upon a plaque attached to the door. Rather than force the heavy doors open, the three officers slowly made their way up a wide, winding staircase, taking themselves up to the balcony level of the grand centrepiece. The hall was long, curving around the ballroom, each balcony jetting out over the dance floor from behind a heavy, purple velvet curtain. The officers walked to the end of the hall where the lighting was the dimmest, hoping they'd be able to duck under the curtain and not have anyone notice its movement. Mustang crouched down and made the cautious slip onto the corner balcony.
The music was coming from somewhere in the ballroom, but where exactly was unclear. Keeping himself as low to the floor as possible, the officer's good eye cautiously allowed more and more of the wide ballroom floor beyond the balcony rails into his sights. It became more than apparent to Mustang that there was nobody in this ballroom for them to see – no voices and no movement; just the endless music grinding on his nerves.
Mustang squinted, trying to examine a curious sight on the ballroom floor. There was a black transmutation circle that had been drawn, something Mustang had seen maybe once or twice before in Ishibal – he'd never bothered to take note of it. There was a red 'splat' mark at the centre of the room and it smeared along the floor unevenly and eventually vanished into an archway adjacent to the entryway doors and beneath an overhang. All of Mustang's experiences told him that it looked like a bloodied body had been dragged or thrown along the floor by a person not willing, not strong enough, or not big enough to actually pick up their victim. Mustang swallowed and slowly ducked back behind the curtain.
The officers came down from the balcony level without a sound, trying unsuccessfully to tune out the music that wore on them, and headed for the ballroom entrance doors. With gloves on and weapons poised, heartbeats flying and adrenaline pumping, Mustang carefully pushed down on the left door handle, opening up the expansive room to their eyes and flooding their ears with the sound of unwanted music. Without a sound each officer entered the ballroom, weapons readied and eyes flying about, seeing nothing and no one within the ancient hall. They did not emerge from the entrance area, choosing instead to admire the grand hall from a distance and allowing their eyes to follow the smear of dried blood into the archway, watching it vanish into the unlit hallway on their left. None of them knew where that hallway lead and the darkness dissuaded them from finding out.
Havoc caught his senior officers' attention and mouthed 'we should go' clearly, receiving nods in response. Both Havoc and Hawkeye began to back out before Mustang, the senior officer's head sharply looking left and right to let his good eye absorb all there was to see of the room, burning the image of a bloodstained trail into his mind. Surely Dante wouldn't drag her own victims and leave such a mess, would she? She must have numerous people to do that work for her.
It was a preposterous idea, but Mustang's next step did not go backwards, it went sideways, and the man inched himself towards the hall on his blindside, curiosity eating at him so badly from the crimson trail that vanished without answer into the darkness. He would only stray along the blood's path as far as the light would allow him to see and no farther; if there was nothing to be found, no further lit path to take, no pile of Dante's sacrificial bodies to examine, then he would retreat.
Mustang had to wave away Hawkeye, whose glare could have killed him under any other circumstance. The officer continued to inch himself along, his right fingers poised for a snap, his left hand poised to fire, and his nerves wishing he could ignite the machine causing all the music.
The point where the light from the hall became useless was meant to be the point where Mustang turned back, but it was also the point where the hallway opened up on his left and broke off into another unlit hall on his right. The officer figured this had been where the ballroom hosts poured their drinks, readied their food, and prepared themselves for their onslaught of guests. Mustang's attention veered curiously into the opening space at his left, taking a step into the darkened expanse.
A 'click' sounded at Mustang's left ear – he froze. The sound had been right at his ear and his stomach sank like a lead anchor had been dropped in, quickly feeling it heave into his throat. There was a gun pointed at his head on his blind side and Mustang didn't know what he was supposed to do next beyond curse himself for taking on this dark hall in the first place. He would have to terrorize the man who coined the phrase 'curiosity killed the cat' in his afterlife. The weapon holder was too tall to be Dante, which made his subjugator either Aisa or any one of the manipulated pawns Izumi had described Dante working with. Wouldn't it be ironic if he turned around and saw Prime Minister Mitchell, Mustang mused. The person holding him motionless gave no orders or commands for what he should do, did not give instructions for him to drop his weapon, remove his glove, or lower his arms… nothing was said to even validate someone's existence behind him beyond the cold tap Mustang felt of the weapon's tip behind his ear.
The man's mouth was too dry to swallow, "Are you going to shoot?" he asked harshly.
No answer was given.
"Or are you just going to fucking stand there like a zombie?"
Apparently that's what was going to happen, because all Mustang got for an answer was silence. It wasn't just any silence; it was endless, nervous silence. The officer stood frozen for minutes that lasted forever, locked motionless by the oppressive sensation of a weapon against his head. But the longer it went on, the more Mustang didn't understand why the situation did not progress. In a ballsy show of frustration and defiance, he allowed himself to move, completely lowering his arms, and Mustang turning around over his left shoulder, hearing the definitive sound of a single footstep adjust as his captor moved.
He was permitted to turn around far enough that his good right eye began to take in the scene.
A solid arm pointed a weapon at his head. Mustang blanched, feeling his blood chill at the sight; its wielder was pale and looked sleepless, had eyes that appeared sunken, bloodshot, and heavy – they couldn't hold their focus. Lips that were brittle, dry and dehydrated were licked, swallowing for nothing.
Roy's mouth fell open, finding it almost impossible to pull the air from his lungs that he needed to speak, "Ed…?"
The name had come from his mouth and Mustang couldn't believe he'd said it. Was this even possible? This person, standing taller than Mustang, didn't respond to the name; it was like he hadn't heard it. Was it even Ed?
Ed had been trapped beyond the Gate; Mustang had known that much about the older Elric brother's plight and Brigitte had all but confirmed it… so when had thishappened? How had this happened?
What in the world had gone on in this underground city that had brought Edward home?
"Edward…" Roy found his voice again, bringing up his right gloved hand and placing it atop the gun, putting his pinky finger between the hammer and the chamber so no bullet could be fired, "Ed, it's me."
This person was a tall boy sweating buckets with mangled golden hair falling everywhere, escaping wildly from the tie on the back of his head. His shirt was unbuttoned and Roy could see how heavily Ed breathed behind it. The rotation of Roy's world was suddenly spinning in the opposite direction and he began to add pressure to the rigid left arm that Ed was using to hold him back, soon forcing Ed to lower his guard. The gun in Roy's left hand was hastily holstered and once the revolver Ed held was peeled from Ed's grasp, one finger at a time, it was slipped into the Roy's belt as well.
The only way Roy could process what he saw, or didn't see, in Edward was to describe him as being overwhelmed – like everything and anything had tried to crush him and he'd managed to crawl out of the rubble.
"Ed, you need to sit down," Roy looked him over once more; there were a million questions to ask and even more answers to be had, but for this moment Roy more concerned about making sure Ed didn't pass out on him, "come on."
The older man's hands reached out and came down onto Ed's shoulders, an action that derailed all of Roy Mustang's impending actions. The officer's hands clenched the eldest Elric brother for a moment before Roy frantically had the open shirt thrown off of Ed's shoulders. The man's jaw teetered around wordlessly, the good eye devouring what little could be seen in the depths of the building, unable to come up with something to say at the sight of Ed wearing both flesh shoulders. Roy abruptly grabbed the soft right arm and hauled it out from the shirt sleeve. This was it, with flesh, blood, and bone; it was really here – Edward Elric's flesh right arm. He couldn't believe it. The man's dark eye narrowed at the sight of a nasty raw and open wound in the palm of the right hand. Throughout Roy's abrupt examination the golden blonde spoke no words, put up no fight or protest, and moved like a ragged doll. The right arm had been limp as it was admired. Before the part of Roy's mind kicked him for not picking up on any signs, Ed collapsed.
"Woah," Roy caught him, dropping down to one knee and snagging Ed under his arm before Ed hit the ground completely, "easy… easy." All of the alarm bells in the officer's head were going off telling him that something was seriously wrong and a million worst-case scenarios began playing out. Ed was warm to the touch and when Roy checked for a pulse, he found one that rocketed along. The officer had no idea what exactly it was that was wrong and didn't want to imagine what could be wrong with Ed inside Dante's stronghold.
"Come on, we need to get you out of here…"
"No," the refusal sounded like it had been strangled out of his lungs.
Looking around the darkened room, holding the fallen Elric gingerly against his shoulder, Roy's right arm flew out and he set a momentary flame alive in the palm of his hand. Movement erupted in the far corner of the room, and before the light vanished Roy heard a girl's voice squeak and saw a body curl away.
"Borrowing this," Roy relieved Ed of his shirt entirely, tossing it emphatically into the centre of the floor and setting it ablaze with the snap of his fingers.
In the flame-lit room, Mustang's eyes widened, the trail of blood ended in the corner of the room, and the officer watched – no, he heard – the panic in Winry's breaths, watching her arms wrap tightly around the unmoving, blood-soaked body of Alphonse Elric cradled in her lap. Her face, her complexion, everything gave off the same sickened, sunken, exhausted look that Edward had before he'd collapsed, but the sight of Al bloodied, limp, and cradled in Winry's care changed everything.
"What in the…" Roy gasped, releasing Ed as he tried to climb past the defensive elder brother. The man made it nowhere, falling to the floor when Ed's left hand flew out and grabbed hold of the front of Roy's shirt – the two of them hit the ground with a thud. Frantically Roy picked his head up, watching the Elric brother move like a fish out of water, trying to balance on the elbow of his right arm and finding no success in the task. The dark eyes of the officer shot to Ed's grip.
"Ed, you need to let go."
That just made it worse, and Ed's knuckles began to turn white.
"Let go, FullMetal," Roy deepened his voice, watching Ed's brow twitch as he tried to see if an authoritarian officer's command would do the trick, "I'm going to help, but you need to let me."
The subsequent few seconds caused Mustang to hold his breath. Amidst the devouring sound of the flame eating the sweat-soaked shirt Ed had worn and illuminated by the flickering light that was created from it, the older brother's fingers loosened and fell down from Roy's shirt, echoing with a light slap when it hit the ground.
"You t'take care of'm f'me."
The response locked Roy's existence down and left him seated stunned on the floor. It was an audible request that barely sounded human. Whatever was wrong, Edward was fighting through it, and Roy watched both the new and old flesh hands move, digging through the pale face while Ed growled at who knows what.
"I'll take care of them, trust me."
Roy Mustang had no idea what was wrong with these three that he needed to take care of, but he would find a way to do it.
To Be Continued…
- So sorry this took so long. Constructive concrit made sure this wasn't a botch job. Give AmunRa lots of thanks for making sure I didn't give you a dud to read! I think this version of the chapter can be called version 2.5 lol! Any remaining errors are my fault (and you can PM me if you find them!)
- So, strange thing from last chapter – apparently, at some point shortly after I posted, FFN disabled ALL of my options (review notifications, pm notifs, pms all together… everything). I think I caught on about a week later and I re-enabled my pms... except I did not realize that didn't re-enable my review notifs… so yeah, I think now I have everything functioning properly.
- Ed will figure out why he got his arm and leg back later.
- I don't believe Ed has ever regretted what he did for Al. He may have wished for other things, but Ed has always taken the decisions he's made and lived with them, whether he liked it or not.
- The gun Hitler had left behind for Ed and Winry had came through the Gate with them – Ed had kept hold of it, rather than ditching it after he'd used the two bullets in case it came in handy. His plan had been to escape, so rather than ditching it so that Hitler could pick it up again, reload it, and use it, Ed held on to it.
- I've had a couple comments passed my way about the spelling of Russell and Fletcher's last name. So, in case anyone's wondering (because the info is really old now) the spelling I've used for Tlingum is the official English spelling Bones used way back when. You can find Russell's name plate (or Nash's) that Bones used if you google 'Tlingum'.