Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, and probably will not own it within the scope of any logical reasoning.
FYI: Originally, I wrote this about half-a-year ago. Now, upon reinstatement and re-reading, I have decided that this fanfiction should definitely be rewritten to raise the level of literacy and writing. I'm ashamed of the state it was in before, and now, I hope to amend it. The storyline will be tweaked slightly, and I will take greater liberties with the characters as I see fit. Thank you for your patience.
So far, Chapter One has been re-written, and I'm working on the other chapters.
This takes place after the series ends, but is an AU to the Conqueror of Shambala Movie. This story begins with Ed and Hohenheim in Germany, thirteen-year old Al and the rest of the FMA cast in Amestris, and events left as the last episode of FMA implies. Spoilers for those who have not finished the series yet
Now, may I present –
Final Alchemy: Saigo no Renkenjutsu
Chapter 1: Returning Home
"And nothing I can say will dissuade you? You know the stakes, and you're still set on following through with this?" Oberth gnawed furiously on his lips, pacing before his fellow friend in mechanics, who was sitting behind a polished, oak desk in rather crowded, messy room of sketched schematics and various electrical designs.
His friend, a young man into his early twenties with his golden hair tied back in an efficient ponytail, set his lips in a grim line and replied, "When I say something, I follow through. Either way, Father already sacrificed his life to provide the energy we need to get through the Gate. Thule has been practicing their procedures long enough."
Oberth opened his mouth as if to protest further, but his friend's stern gaze froze his argument in his throat. Oberth settled for an exasperated sigh. "Very well, I'll give up," he resigned. The mechanic paused for a while before adding, "I can't believe you're going to do this, but…I guess this is goodbye then, Edward-san. It's been good knowing you, and I wish you Godspeed. If… you ever come back, drop by. Your genius will always be appreciated around here. You'll be missed."
Edward Elric looked up from the papers he was reviewing to acknowledge his erstwhile friend's parting speech. He managed a rare smile and nodded, but said nothing. He would miss this place, Earth, once he left. In half an hour. Just another thirty minutes, and he was going to leave this 'Earth' forever. Five years, from sixteen to twenty-one, he had worked tirelessly to this point, and now, all of his labors were coming to fruit. Ed paused in his reading, and his brief smile changed into a frown. No, it wasn't just his efforts. Hohenheim, or rather, his father, had put in every bit as much effort as he did. While Ed's grudge against the man wasn't forgotten, he had owed the man a form of reluctant respect. In the end, the old man had surprised him, offering his own life energy as the sacrifice to power Ed's travel through the Gate. While it was true that Hohenheim had little life left, considering the state of his temporary body, Ed never thought he would end his life in an altruistic sacrifice. Really, he could never understand the man.
Setting the papers down in a neat pile again, Ed flipped open his pocket watch and watched the second hand tick by merrily, and he waited for the thirty minutes to elapse. Thirty minutes, then he'd risk everything on a gamble to heaven or to hell.
Strange chants and incantations saturated the musky air as the members of the Thule society stood around the huge alchemy circle and summoned the Gate. Ed stood at the center, as relaxed as he could get himself to be, feeling slightly ironic that he, a former State Alchemist, was now completely at the mercy of amateurs.
Suddenly, a flare of blue light jerked Ed from his thoughts, and he shielded his golden eyes from the steadily increasing brightness. The members of the Thule Society stepped back and watched, half triumphant that they had succeeded, and half fearful that they had done something wrong. Now, everything was beyond their control, and they could only hope for the best.
Ed froze on the spot, and the ground dropped away beneath his feet without warning. His surroundings dissolved and the underground cellar he was in faded away in a swirl of whiteness. His head was pounding as loud as his heart, and when his vision cleared, he found himself somewhere all too familiar.
He was in front of the Gate.
"Al! Where are you? It's time for dinner, so hurry up and get inside!" Winry stood on the porch and called out to the thirteen-year-old Alphonse, who was upstairs in his room, pouring over a book nearly as thick as it was wide.
"Just a minute!" the young alchemist called back, and, checking to make sure his crude bookmark was in placed, slammed the heavy alchemy book and switched off the desk light. Going downstairs, the homely glow of yellow lamplight, and aroma of fresh bread greeted him in a gust of warm air.
Inside, Auntie Pinako, Izumi-sensei, Sig-san, Winry, Rose, and her baby were seated around the dinner table. However, as Al made his way to the table, he noticed that today, they had a guest that he vaguely remembered, but couldn't quite place. Al racked his brain for answers but no name came to mind, so he just nodded politely at the guest in a military uniform.
Once everyone was seated, Auntie Pinako addressed the stranger with his proper name.
"Well, General Mustang, why is such an important man like you visiting this humble countryside? Not that we mind, but nothing much happens around here."
Roy Mustang had jet-black hair, one eye with a black iris, and an eye patch covering half of his face to conceal the scars across the right side of his head. He cleared his throat and responded with an air of authority and composure that seemed to charm most girls he came across.
"Straight to business then. Mostly, I'm here because the rumors of Mr. Alphonse Elric's talent for alchemy are starting to spread. Obviously, the military heard, and I am here on an envoy to offer Alphonse Elric the possibility of becoming a State Alchemist. Normally, at his age, it is impossible to take the test, but we are making an exception...and I personally threw in a word or two. And I thought it'd be nicer if I told you in person, rather than send a letter. So, basically," Roy concluded, "I'm here to offer Alphonse a shot at the next State Alchemist Exams."
There was a brief pause as Al considered the offer with a sincere earnestness. He knew Izumi-sensei still mildly disapproved of State Alchemists, and that he would be competing with a lot of people triple, or even quadruple his age, but the military would definitely help him find Ed, and whatever memories he had lost. Al looked around the room at everyone's expressions. Winry was looking at him intently, seemingly neutral, while Pinako looked thoughtful. Mustang-san looked expectant, Rose gave him a small smile of reassurance, and Izumi projected an air of reluctant permission. Al leaned forward, out of his chair, and looked General Mustang in the eye.
"I'll do it, even if it's just to bring Ed back. I'll do it." Al set his mouth in a determined line, and Izumi heaved a sigh of exasperation. Al looked over at his teacher, and mildly added, "Unless Izumi-sensei's against it, I guess."
Izumi only shook her head. "I can't say no to eyes like that. Just…go."
General Roy Mustang smiled slightly and retorted, "It's set then. Well, Alphonse, I'm sure you won't regret it. You'll be revisiting some of places for the first time, again. I hope you do manage to bring Fullmetal back, and even if you don't remember who I am right now, you still have my full support."
Even as Mustang voiced these words in distant Rizenpool, Edward Elric was riding a train to Central in hopes of finding people who could help him with his task.
"Go over and talk to him!"
"No, are you kidding! Why don't you give him the letter?"
"Oh come on! You're the one who thought he was hot!"
"And you agreed!"
"Doesn't matter! I dare you to go over and say hi!"
Edward Elric sat silently in a cheap restaurant, listening to the girls in the adjacent table bicker over him, of all people. It was a rather irritating experience, as Ed chewed on the straw to his orange juice with a certain level of annoyance. While he was glad that no one had called him short since he had gained a foot or two of height on Earth, he was never able to understand how Colonel Mustang enjoyed flirting with girls. Which, speaking of the person in question, was no longer a Colonel, but a General. Ed had been surprised when he looked over the vast collection of newspapers he had amassed to make up for the time when he was gone.
There was a time difference between the two worlds. While Ed knew that he spent no less than six years across the Gate, only three years had passed here. The papers immediately after his departure from Amestris had broadcasted nation-wide search parties for him, all under the orders of Brigadier General Mustang. After going through several months worth of newspaper headline stories pertaining to his own disappearance, and vast conspiracy theories, Ed had found a headline declaring him officially deceased, and a brief article about his own funeral. Shortly afterwards, there was little major news, except for a few rumors of a reawakening conspiracy, and more recently, disintegrating relations with the country of Xing.
Ed had also discovered from his reading that the State Alchemist exams took place once every two years now, and one was going to take place very soon in Central. Ed was skeptical about taking the exams again – he risked being recognized, but like before, the allure of the national research resources won him over. He had placed a request to take the State Alchemist exam under the name of Edward Hedrick and had dyed his hair black like he had done so three years ago when he was eluding the military. Ed hoped that his huge increase in height, the different hair color, and the six years he had spent on Earth (as compared to the mere three years here), had changed him enough to prevent recognition. Hopefully -
The waitress jolted Ed out of reverie when she finally came, blushing furiously as she gave him his receipt and collected his money. He nodded curtly to her and took his receipt, but the waitress shot the girls in the adjacent table a scathing look before stuffing an envelope into Ed's hands as well, then running off. Ignoring the shrill giggling of the girls, Ed opened the offending letter and scanned its contents. There was nothing worth noting in it, so Ed threw the girls a cold glare, then left the letter on the table. He grabbed his jacket that had accompanied him all the way from London and left the shop for the hotel he was currently taking residence.
On his way back to his temporary residence, Ed found him mind drifting back to what he had seen and done since the last time he had walked down these same streets. As Ed passed a store that hadn't been here when he left, he couldn't help but feel a sense of displacement, a strange feeling that he couldn't quite shake. Amestris was different then he had remembered it, but that wasn't all. He was different. Ed massaged a throbbing temple as he walked, trying not to remember everything he had gone through across the Gate. World War I would probably haunt him forever, and the people in Amestris weren't even aware it happened.
Then was the Gate itself. Ed frowned inwardly as he recalled the strange events that had preceded his return to Amestris, and the woeful lack of information there was for the topic.
The State Alchemist Examination wasn't for another two weeks, so he had to find some form of part-time job until then. He also needed to take care not to be recognized until he had finished the task the Gate had told him to complete. To complete that task, he needed to become a State Alchemist again to gain funding and access to some documents. He needed to find out what in the world the Gate wanted him to do, and being a State Alchemist was the easiest way. The last thing he wanted to do was face Winry, Al, and everyone he used to know again. Then he would have to explain things that he never wanted to remember, and risk hurting them, possibly destroying them, if he failed to…to complete whatever the Gate wanted him to do.
Ed knitted his brow to recall the exact events…
Ed found himself standing in front of the intimidating black doors, which remained firmly shut.
'Gate, let me through!'
There was a pause, and Ed was about to call out again when a low, multitude or rasping voices replied from within the Gate. 'What will you give us in exchange?'
'What do you mean, exchange? My old man traded his life in exchange, didn't he?'
'It was not equivalent to the cost. He was dying already, and what little life that remained was only enough to send you here. What else will you give us?'
Ed thought desperately, 'I'll give you my other limbs, I'll give you my life, I'll give you my soul; I don't care. Just let me through.'
There was a pause from the Gate, but the reply came, and it carried a tone of utmost gravity.
'The price is heavy; for you seek to deny the fate you were given. If you choose to pass, then from this point onwards, you belong to us until you complete your task.'
'She will find you, and she will explain. You will bring us a fragment of the Talisman.'
'Wait, Talisman? What talisman? Who is 'she'? How am I supposed find what I need, and how will I give it to you? I cannot complete a task I don't even understand.'
'She will find you, and she will explain. The Talisman of Knowledge. Attain it, and you are freed from our contract. Should you fail…then you and all that you touch perish in Chaos and Fire.'
'Wait, what do they have anything to do with this?'
'Bring us a fragment of the Talisman of Knowledge. You have been chosen, and your fate has been altered for your task.'
The Gates began to open, pulling Ed through
The rest was a hurricane of information regarding almost every possible topic in science and history crammed into his head. It seemed that, every time he saw that blinding, gold light, his brain would reach the limits of information reception. Ed was sure that some of the information the Gate had given him this time was probably more advanced than what Amestris had learned yet.
There was still a part of the information missing, though, and he needed that part most: information regarding the Talisman of Knowledge. After the storm of disorganized information settled in his mind, Ed had found himself waking up in a deserted warehouse, slightly disoriented and plagued by a massive headache, but still entirely uninformed of how to obtain the Talisman.
'She will find you, and she will explain.'
Ed jolted out his flashback, partly because the words had come to his mind so suddenly, and partly because a speeding car whizzed past just inches away from flattening his foot. His non-automail one. Recomposing himself, Ed crossed the street this time with alert attention, reprimanding himself for the slip in attention. He had let his guard down again, and he learned the hard way that being careless had serious consequences.
Ed was nearly to his hotel room when he spotted a military cemetery across the street. Glancing around to make sure no one was paying attention to him, Ed slipped across the street and hopped over the short fence marking off the cemetery grounds. He hadn't visited Hugh's grave in six years, and he was curious if maybe…just maybe, it would be here.
And indeed it was. A little bit further inwards than Hughes' grave, the former Fullmetal Alchemist stumbled across a simple, gray slab of stone with words engraved elegantly across it. Ed smiled wryly and read them aloud, and his soft words echoed about the deserted cemetery.
"Lieutenant Colonel, Edward Elric, killed in action against a military conspiracy, body never recovered," read the supposed occupant of the grave. "We remember him with mourning and regret his death, and give him the title Fullmetal Alchemist, youngest State Alchemist in all of history."
Roy just had to remind him that he was a dog of the military, even after death. Ed shook his head at the irony, readjusted his overcoat, and left for his hotel room.
Well, at least Mustang had given him a promotion.
Al, despite being calm and logical by nature, found himself rather nervous and excited at once during the train ride to Central. Of all people, he was sitting in the same compartment as Roy Mustang, who was allegedly one of the most important men in the country. Al knew from what Winry and Izumi told him that General Mustang had been on good terms with him before he had lost him memories, but that didn't stop the thirteen-year-old from feeling rather outclassed as he sat in the private train compartment complete with twin beds and a personal waiter. Mustang was staring silently out of the window and sipping his coffee. Al found himself shifting in his seat uncomfortably, and finally mustered enough courage to ask what had been on his mind.
"General Mustang...what did you know about Brother?"
Roy put down his cup of coffee slowly and turned to look at the kid sitting behind him. "You mean Fullmetal?" Al nodded. "Well, if I remember right, he was a loud-mouthed, insubordinate, and disrespecting hothead who had a temper about as short as he was. But you know that already. I'll give him some credit though, he did make several breakthroughs in Alchemy. For one, he was the one who defined the quantum theory, he helped discover several new organic compounds, and he was one of the best alchemists the military had when it came to practical combat, despite his lack of experience. But," Roy paused, "you're probably more interested in his work with the Philosopher's Stone."
Al looked down. "No one seems to know anything about it, or they won't tell me no matter how much I ask."
Roy looked out the window again. "For a good reason too. Some things are better off left unsaid."
"But I'll never be able to bring Brother back if I don't even know what happened to him!"
"…When we found you, you were unconscious and lying in an enormous transmutation circle like nothing we had ever seen before. Fullmetal was nowhere in sight, but the residual alchemical energy signature was definitely his."
Al was utterly lost. "Wait, why would I be unconscious? And where did Brother go? What kind of transmutation circle was it?"
Roy was silent.
The older man turned to look at Al, and Al was surprised by the seriousness in Mustang's gaze. Roy lowered his voice so that no one outside could possibly hear, and repeated, "Some things are better left unsaid. You'll have to be content knowing only that there was an enormous military conspiracy, and your brother got involved. We all were. I lost my eye, Hughes lost his life, and your brother…"
Al waited expectantly for an answer.
"…vanished off the face of the earth." Mustang concluded. Al blinked in confusion, processing the information, until something clicked.
"Vanished? Not, 'dead', but vanished?"
Mustang nodded curtly. "Ah. If I knew Fullmetal at all, he's too stubborn to die. If anything, you shouldn't be worrying about bringing him back."
Roy looked out the window again, this time, upwards at the clouds.
"No, if anything, he'll come back on his own. He'll find a way."
Al followed the direction of General Mustang's gaze out the window, into the semi-cloudy skies above.
Mustang was right, in a roundabout way. He could believe in Brother, and Brother would come home. Al could feel it in his bones. Ed would find a way, no matter where, no matter when.
But until then, he would do everything he could to help. He wouldn't stop until Brother was back in flesh and blood. So now, Al concluded determinedly, he had to pass. Then he would become a State Alchemist, and he could learn everything he knew before.
The train stopped and Al looked out the window, and saw the busy station of Central bustling before his eyes. Squaring his shoulders, Al took a deep breath, and prepared to get off the train.
Now, his first test began.
Ed dried his hair as he stepped out of the shower, wincing as the water that had leaked into his automail threatened to short-circuit the entire device. He had build his own arm and leg back in Germany when he had outgrown his previous set, and had only managed to make a functioning limb by taking Winry's apart and copying her design.
While his artificial limbs would function perfectly under daily activities, it would be a liability during any fighting he would do during the State Alchemist exams. And ever since he had gotten back to Amestris, the circuits had been degenerating and stalling more than ever. If this kept up, he might lose functionality of his mechanical limbs. Winry's help would certainly come in handy right now.
Ed's eyes softened as he thought of Winry again. He wondered how much she had changed over the past six, no three years that he had been away. And how she would react when she found out he was taller than she was.
No, wait. Ed growled in frustration. She would never find out, because he wasn't going to tell her he was back. 'Should you fail, you and all that you touch will perish in Chaos and Fire.'
Ed shuddered at the thought. Al, Winry, Izumi-sensei, Rose…even Mustang, Hawkeye, Havoc, and everyone else, like Gloria and Elicia, would suffer that fate if he failed. So he wouldn't risk it. They couldn't know. And they wouldn't know.
But he still couldn't seem to beat his heart. And as Ed pulled his clothes back on, he felt the tickets for his train ride in his pocket.
He had bought a ticket back to Rizenpool. Ed didn't know why he hadn't stopped himself, or what he had been thinking, but it was an almost subconscious longing that he couldn't suppress. So now, in his pocket, were tickets for a train ride tomorrow morning, straight to Rizenpool. He couldn't bring himself to tear it up or even through it away.
He wanted to see Al, to see Winry, to see everyone that he had left behind. Ed, though he tried to deny it to its very roots, wanted to make sure they were all okay, before he stepped out of their lives forever. He made excuses with himself, how he was sure he was disguised well enough for them to not recognize him, and that he needed his automail fixed in the month before the State Alchemist exams…but…
Really, Ed missed being home.
So the tickets stayed in his pocket.
I haven't updated Final Alchemy for a long, long time, and first of all, I'd like to thank everyone who didn't give up on this story. Secondly, I'll have to apologize for everyone expecting a new chapter that no, this isn't it. As I stated above, I'm rewriting this, because when I looked back on this, I found horrendous grammar mistakes, plot holes, and Aria was a complete Mary Sue. So I'm reforming this, and I hope you'll enjoy the revised version better than the old one. Don't worry, the plot has been changed a bit, so I hope rereading will still be refreshing.
Thank you, and please tell me what you think in a review!
Best of Wishes, your humble authoress