Disclaimer: Insert witty remark pertaining to me not owning FMA here
Karia: And now, the much anticipated…drum roll…Chapter Nine! Come one and come all! Tickets cost a review each!
Dante: My, what do we have here?
Karia: GAH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE! Aren't you supposed to be somewhere in Xing?
Dante: And aren't you supposed to be writing the story already?
Karia: You're right!
Fullmetal Alchemist: Hagane no Renkenjutsushi
Chapter 9: Goodbye, Amestris
Dante smiled evilly and fired.
"No," Ed found himself swearing under breath, and, through instinct, leapt into the path of fire before his brain had ample time to weigh all of the consequences of such an act. The only thing that ran through his mind was 'protect Winry', and he shut his eyes tightly and waited for contact.
It never came. When Ed reopened his eyes, he found himself staring into blackness. Am I dead? His eyes refocused and Ed realized that it was definitely Aria's cloak. No, I'm not dead. Then his thoughts were interrupted by Aria's voice, which was colder and seemingly more urgent than ever.
"Take the girl and your brother. Get out of here. Now." She ordered, not even bothering to turn around and look at him. Her view was completely focused on Dante, who was standing in front of her with a smoking gun. Aria, in turn, was grasping a badly bleeding arm with a bullet lodged straight through the bone. Ancient teacher and ancient student were apparently having a staring contest, one with a smirk and one with a grimace.
Aria dug the bullet out of her arm with her fingers and dropped it to the ground, and the sound of the bullet striking against the cold stone floor resounded throughout the dungeon.
"Dante…you've misused the knowledge I gave you…I'll be taking it back now."
While Aria stalled Dante, Ed jolted out of his mental shock and cleared the thoughts of confusion and shock from his mind. Then he followed Aria's sensible advice.
Ed picked Winry up from the floor behind him and carried her over his shoulder while running over to Al. Carefully balancing the unconscious girl slung over his back; Ed clapped his hands and freed Al from the chains, but couldn't figure out what was blocking Al's vocal cords – other than sorcery. Unfortunately, Ed couldn't perform sorcery yet, so he shook his head apologetically when Al motioned towards his throat.
Then everything else was a blur of climbing dark stairs and avoiding guards. Ed ignored the blood seeping unstoppably from his shoulder and struggled to carry Winry and support Al at the same time. Ed shook his head furiously; trying to clear his fogging thoughts and get them safely out. He felt nauseous, weak, and extremely sick for some unknown reason. The loss of blood was making him light-headed, but Ed gritted his teeth and ploughed onwards.
They had encountered three groups of guards so far, and managed to avoid two. However, the third party was lying completely decimated and mostly unconscious in the corridor behind them, thanks largely to Ed and Al's alchemy. Ed had trusted his instincts and chose corridors other than the one he had come from, knowing that they would only lead back to the officers' chambers and the mess hall. The decreasing amount of moss and lichen on the walls, the significantly lower humidity, and the warmer temperature were good signs that they were getting closer to the exit.
Ed had started carrying Winry bridal style again, due to his extremely sore shoulders. He turned a corner with Al following closely behind him and found the exit…
Only, a line of insurgents, all pointing loaded rifles straight at them, blocked it.
Dante smiled cruelly. "Your little friends won't get away, Sensei."
Aria's eyes narrowed. "And why is that?"
"Well, it wouldn't really make a difference to someone who's about to die, but I'll be generous and explain – there are guards posted at every last entrance," Dante smiled, "and if I remember correctly, Edward was wounded slightly when Ms. Winry attacked him."
Aria's eyes glinted dangerously. "You poisoned the blade."
Dante laughed with a nasty glee, signaling her answer. "Edward should be feeling the effects of it now. Oh, it is a pity you will not be able to see it – severe sickness and dizziness, internal heart rupture, and no known antidote. Of course, you let me poison you as well and see for yourself first hand, if you really want to know."
"You do not understand what you are interfering with, Dante. I believe I told you that alchemists should never tamper with concepts they have not mastered. Those that play with fire are burned."
Dante nonchalantly cocked her gun again, and pointed it at Aria's head. "Oh, I understand what I'm dealing with – more than you ever will. The Talisman is an interesting item, is it not? The final barrier between life and death? Well, then I'll be sending you through it."
Aria's eyes flickered oddly, and her voice lost its calm edge. "Foolish student, do you honestly understand that? Hohenheim didn't even understand, and he had far more talent than any normal person."
"Well, from what I know, he's dead and I'm alive. Dearest teacher, I knew from the start what I wanted; you were the fool for teaching me exactly what I needed to know."
"…You're right, I was foolish, and I made grave mistakes. But I believe Edward has said this before – we alchemists must correct our mistakes."
"You won't have a chance to."
Dante fired, and then activated an alchemy array on the side of her gun. Both the bullet and the gun shone with the blue light of transmutation. The bullet dissipated into fine dust, but the dust merely rearranged itself into an alchemy array.
Aria's eyes widened slightly, and she immediately leapt aside, dodging the projectile and clapping her hands together at the same time.
Immediately, a spike of earth sprang up directly beneath Dante, but Dante smiled and did nothing. The spear of rock merely shattered against her feet.
"Aria-sensei, these petty tricks will do nothing to me. You see…my original body rotted a long time ago." Dante lifted the hem of her long dress, showing a length of metal. "I am…completely automail – and essentially immortal. You can not win."
Dante lifted the gun and fired successively three times, each bullet alchemizing into a transmutation circle.
"What's wrong, sensei? Not going to dodge?"
Aria raised a hand, and the projectiles stopped dead in midair before falling to the ground. "I don't have time to play with you. Your mistakes will correct themselves. I have more important things to do."
Aria disappeared in a flash of violet light. Dante cursed.
"She ran…That complicates matters a lot."
"BROTHER!" Al shouted over the noise of roaring machine guns. "WHAT'S WRONG?"
Ed put a hand over him mouth to stifle the coughing, and when he drew it away, there was blood staining his white gloves. He felt extremely sick, barely able to move…something was seriously wrong with him.
"Al, don't move." Ed clapped his hands together, and another boulder hurtled towards the line of guards, scattering them like nine pins. However, the reprieve lasted for only a moment, before the insurgents regrouped and started firing again. The wall of earth Ed raised would only hold for so long.
Winry was currently sitting in his lap, waking up to the sound of firing guns. Ed winced – this was not good, not good at all. But, if he could, he needed to explain and comfort her as well as he could.
"Winry…" Ed stroked her cheek gently. "I don't know what Dante told you, but it's not true. I…I'd rather die than hurt you."
The pounding of ammunition against the wall of earth he alchemized attracted his attention again. Ed grimaced from the pain that was now seeping into every corner of his body. Something was seriously wrong with him, but he couldn't figure out what…until, suddenly, his vision blurred and the ground slanted crazily underneath him.
Al saw Ed fall, and was at his side in the blink of an eye. "Brother! What's wrong!"
Ed forced himself to sit up, his head throbbing excruciatingly and his vision quickly fading to black. "No…idea, I –" He was interrupted by a mouthful of blood, which he coughed up. Ed brought his gloved hand to cover his mouth, drawing it away to find it dyed a brilliant crimson.
Blood. His blood. Then everything clicked – Ed realized, with a horrible dropping in his stomach. He was dying…dying from poison.
But at that exact moment, the wall of earth gave way, and before Al could even draw an array, the soldiers began firing at them again. Summoning the last of his strength, Ed clenched his teeth tightly and clapped his hands together, letting his hands fall to the floor to cause the ground beneath the soldiers to collapse, sending them tumbling downwards into the tunnel directly below.
But not before the damage had been done. Ed saw the crimson bleeding from Al's shoulder, and he nearly cried out in shock, but a dull pain in his chest and Al's distant, frantic cries brought his attention to something else.
Only then did Ed notice the crimson blossoming through the torso of his shirt, and the warm, sticky substance pooling beneath him. He had had this feeling before…and that time had been the time Envy killed him...
Then everything went black. Ed only had time for one more thought before his mind fogged over completely.
"BROTHER!" Al watched Ed's still open eyes dull, then cloud over. Ed was losing blood, too much of it. He didn't know any CPR, nor did he have any technique that would heal…other than…
Al's desperate mind fought to recall the formulas. Brother wasn't dead yet, his soul wasn't departed – Al decided that he could alchemically heal Ed, re-transmuting all the blood Brother had lost.
Al frantically patted his pockets for chalk, withdrawing a crushed stump that Dante had missed when he was searched. Al furiously scratched against the floor – every second counted – until a hand reached out and restrained his wrist.
"Alphonse, what are you doing?"
Al looked up and saw Aria's crimson eyes. "Ms…Ms. Shadowen! Brother, he –"
"You mean Edward?" Aria's eyes sparked when she spotted Ed's bloodied form lying a mere two feet away. Her eyes slightly, and then returned to normal.
"Alphonse, give me the chalk. We don't have much time." Al dumbly handed the chalk over. Aria took it and immediately began drawing over Al's clumsily constructed arrays, adding various symbols and lines that Al could not recognize. However, before he could question her motives, Aria clapped her hands together and pressed them to the floor, reciting softly.
Al strained his ears, but he could not understand Aria's words. Were they…Xerxes? The more he listened, the surer he was, for he could catch one or two words occasionally. Yet…they made no sense – something about an Eternal Talisman?
The incantation ended, and the area around Ed glowed brightly. The blood he had lost immediately disappeared, the wounds on his chest closed themselves, and the color returned to his face. Al nearly cried in joy when Ed's gold eyes fluttered open again, but Aria made it to him first.
"Edward." Aria's expression was serious. "Edward, you died in this world, and I do not have the power to keep you here long. I am sending you through the Gates…but your return is your own responsibility – I cannot help you. You will…not land in a pleasant time. The suffering you undergo will be equivalent to the life you regain."
Al couldn't understand what was going on. Brother…died? But then – what was going on right now?
Aria again clapped her hands together and pressed two fingers to Ed's forehead. "Go, but come back…and farewell."
There was a blinding flash, Al shielded his eyes with his arm before the light faded; his vision faded slowly to normal…Brother was nowhere in sight. Only Aria, Aria was where she had been before, two fingers now pressing into the bare earth. The backlash left a faint crater in the floor, and the dust had yet to settle.
"Ms…Shadowen? Where's Brother?" Al glanced around the cave in confusion. "Did I miss something?"
"I sent him across the Gate – to Earth. He cannot stay here until his work there is done." Aria stood and dusted herself off. Al stumbled backwards a few steps in shock.
"Y…you mean Brother's…gone to another world…AGAIN? HOW IS HE GOING TO GET BACK!" Al exclaimed. "Bring him back!"
"I cannot. Edward is dead in this world; and I am only able to bargain for his life. Returning to this dimension is his own task." Aria's eyes narrowed. "If he cannot do something as simple as this, then he is not the Guardian I am looking for."
Al opened his mouth to protest, but Aria's crimson gaze transfixed him to the spot. "Alphonse, do not question what I do. There is much more going on around your elder brother than you can comprehend. Even I do not understand fully what the Task was, and I performed it a millennia ago."
She paused, thoughtful for a moment. "Yet…if you are indeed his brother, then the same blood runs in your veins. Could it be…?" Aria's voice lowered to a whisper. "Alphonse, there is much I need to discuss with you. With that Rockbell mechanic as well."
As if on cue, Winry moaned and sat up, her eyes opening barely as she regained consciousness.
Al and Aria exchanged glances – that was one explanation neither of them wanted to give.
To make matters worse, a resounding gunshot announced the arrival of someone new, and Aria barely reacted in time to catch the smoking bullet aimed between her eyes.
Dante's eyes gleamed. "Did you honestly think sending him to another world would put him out of my reach?"
Ed felt someone jerking him roughly by the collar of his shirt.
"Here's another one! Take him away! Filthy, Jewish pig that he is." Ed's brain struggled for a moment before recognizing the language as German. Was he…in Germany?
Then full realization came rushing back. Ed groaned and tried to put a hand to his head, but it seemed to be bound to his other hand with a rough cloth. Was this what Aria meant when she warned that he wouldn't be landing in a pleasant time? What kind of time was this? Last time he was in Germany…it had been 1918…
Ed opened his eyes and found a German police officer dragging him towards a train that was packed with FAR too many people. In fact, they were pouring out of the train almost as fast as they were being pushed in. Gunshots punctuated the sweltering mid-afternoon haze and Ed spotted a red stain that looked horribly…like blood.
"Where am I?" Ed managed to mouth in German, which came out rather rusty due to the fact he neglected practice the moment he left Earth. "What's going on?"
The German police officer did not answer him, but shoved him onto the train packed full of other people. Before Ed could protest further, two other German officers slammed the compartment door shut, and Ed could hear the pounding of hammers on nails outside.
They were nailing the doors shut.
"WAIT! SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!" Ed pounded furiously on the doors and tried futilely to get them back open. "WHERE ARE WE GOING!"
The air was stifling – there were way too many people packed onto this train. Ed did a few mental calculations and retched inwardly. Three hours…three hours until the people at the back would begin dying of suffocation. This was…this was insanity.
"WHAT THE FU–" Ed began, but a dry chuckle of an older man squashed against him cut him off.
"Boy, where have you been? How can you not know?" The man smirked disgustingly, displaying rows of decaying, yellowed teeth. Ed prevented himself from recoiling.
"Where the hell am I, and why is this happening?" Ed spat out.
"You must be a new arrival they picked up – you look a lot more energetic and healthier than the rest of us." The man chuckled dryly again before answering Ed's questions.
"You're on a train – a Jewish Deportation train, if you didn't notice. Those damned Nazis are sending all of us away. No one knows what's going to happen, but it isn't going to be pretty."
Ed blinked in confusion. "Where are we going?"
"There are rumors. No one's sure, but there are rumors of a concentration camp. They're going to be exterminating us."
The words might as well have been spoken in Spanish. Ed still understood nothing.
The man took no notice and continued.
"Considering the direction we're headed, I'd say there's only one place we're going to be going."
"Auschwitz." After saying this, the man threw his head backwards and laughed insanely.
For some reason, even though the name meant nothing to him, Ed felt cold shudders run down his spine. Then he mentally berated himself. He had seen more than most people ever did, what could possibly be that bad?
The train whistled, a shrieking scream of machinery, and the locomotive carrying its wailing cargo began to move. Forward to Auschwitz, a name that Ed had yet to understand.
well, that's probably one of the shortest chapters i hav yet to write
ARGH! STUPID WRITER'S BLOCK! I HAD TO RE-WRITE THIS ENTIRE CHAPTER TWICE BEFORE FINALLY GETTING IT RIGHT THE THIRD TIME! AND IT STILL SUCKS!
TT i think i'm honestly losing it (my touch or my sanity, whichever way u choose to interpret it XD)
REVIEW! REVIEW OR THOU SHALT BE CURSED BY THE GREAT WRATH OF THE UNAPPRECIATED AUTHOR! (hell hath no fury like that of a author unreviewed) LOLZ