Chapter XVI "Blind"
Riza felt drained. Her mind was a blank as she stared at her hands that laid on top of the chalk covered floor. Despite the awfully cold draught in the room her shirt was soaked with sweat.
What have I just done, Riza thought. One moment she was glad to avenge Roy, the next she felt empty of any aspirations, then she's convinced by Shou Tucker to finish making a Philosopher's Stone, and now she was regretting it.
As she shook her head Shou Tucker climbed to his feet with his daughter's empty body in his arms. Completely forgetting about Riza, he stepped next to the glowing stone and smiled wickedly at it. The stone had a more definite shape compared to the last one he saw.
Placing Nina's body on the ground, Tucker eagerly grabbed the glowing stone. A small chuckle escaped his lips. Just by holding the stone he felt empowered and invincible. With the stone he could even turn his body back to normal. Yes that was a good plan. Then he and Nina could live like nothing ever happened.
"Nina." Tucker whispered to the empty body beside him. "Don't worry. Daddy will take care of you now."
He grabbed a piece of chalk from the others that littered the floor and quickly drew a transmutation circle. He didn't need one, but he did it anyway to be on the safe side. He wanted nothing wrong to happen. With Nina and himself in the middle of the circle, Tucker pressed the red stone on Nina's forehead and closed his eyes. Mentally he called for his daughter's soul.
Riza pulled out of her shocked trance by the nearly blinding red light that erupted from the Philosopher's Stone. She shielded her eyes with her arms and waited for the light to fade. She didn't pull her arms away until she heard a little girl's voice.
Looking up Riza witnessed a miracle. The lifeless body of the little girl was now moving. She rubbed her eyes with her tiny hands as if she just got up in the morning and tried to rub the sleepiness away.
"Nina." Tucker whispered. By the wild look on his face Riza assumed he was trying to shout, but with the abnormal stretch of his throat only a mere whisper escaped from his mouth.
The little girl gasped and sat up. Everything finally dawned on the child. She didn't recognize the room, she was cold and naked, and a monster was hovering over her.
Nina screamed and crawled away from Tucker. Despite just returning to a new body she didn't appear to be stiff.
"Nina!" Tucker whispered louder. His face still carried the wicked grin and his eyes looked frantic. He stretched his arms out to grab his daughter but she only screamed and scrambled away.
"Wh-who are you?!" Nina shrilled. Her eyes were large and teary. She hadn't noticed Riza in the darker area of the room yet.
Tucker's face softened for a moment. How could his own daughter not recognize him? "Nina, it's me, Daddy."
The little girl closed her eyes, tears rolled down her cheeks and she shook her head. "No! You're not daddy!"
Tucker approached her but she kept putting distance between them. She couldn't recognize her father, but it couldn't be helped. Her father looked no different than the other monsters she saw in the room he took her in before she "went to sleep".
"Daddy, help me!" She cried. More tears rolled down her cold cheeks as she continued to crawl away.
"Nina!" Tucker was beginning to panic. He walked faster and grabbed the shaking girl. The girl screamed and started kicking. He was getting angry now. "Nina! It's me!"
Nina couldn't hear him. His whispers were muffled by her screams and sobs. Tucker grabbed her and held her close; he managed to keep her arms and legs from swinging. He placed his face close to hers and smiled. The wild look in his eyes was spreading throughout his face. His grin was wide enough to show teeth.
Being so close Nina screamed again and shut her eyes. She called for "daddy" again, but when no one came she simply kept still and cried.
"Leave her alone!"
Nina stopped crying and opened her eyes. At first she thought it was her real dad, but when she saw a woman step out of the shadows she was glad regardless to see another person.
"Help!" She cried.
Riza's eyes narrowed. "Tucker, leave her alone. She doesn't recognize you."
Tucker held Nina closer and shoved her face on his chest. "She does! She knows I'm her daddy."
When Nina replied with another scream, Tucker tried to hum her favorite lullaby, but she couldn't hear it due to his weak voice.
"You're scaring her!" Riza shouted. She stepped closer.
Tucker ignored her. He just wanted to sing to Nina until she fell asleep.
Riza grabbed Tucker's shoulder, but then she was sliding a foot away. Tucker was instantly on his feet and his face was no loner wild. It was plain terrifying. Riza could see the madness in his eyes.
A small choke escaped from Nina. Riza's eyes widened when she saw the girl. Tucker was crushing her.
"She can't breathe!" The blond took a step closer again, but Tucker just stepped back and crushed Nina tighter against himself.
"No, I'm her father!"
Nina's face was turning blue. Riza quickly grabbed Tuckers arms and tried to pry them apart, but he was too strong. With one arm he reached and scratched Riza's neck. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were unfocused.
Cursing under her breath, Riza reached into her pocket and pulled out Roy's glove. "Let go of her, she can't breathe!"
Tucker shook his head wildly. Now that Nina was quiet he begun singing to her again.
He's lost it, Riza thought. She snapped her fingers, but was suddenly being violently thrown across the room and smacked into the wall.
A moment passed and Riza coughed. She opened her eyes and saw the Philosopher's Stone blinking slightly. Did it have a reaction to her alchemy?
Standing, Riza found Tucker on the floor by the opposite wall. His eyes were closed and his arms were no longer squashing Nina. Riza quickly ran over and pulled the little girl away. Nina coughed and opened her eyes. Upon seeing the older woman her eyes watered and she hugged Riza tightly.
"Shh. It's okay now."
Riza couldn't tell if Tucker was still alive or simply unconscious. She inched closer to his body, with Nina attached to her leg, and looked at his face. Tucker's eyes were wide open, his glasses broken and a grin was still plastered on his face. There was a small pool of blood that surrounded his head.
Sighing in relief, Riza turned to Nina to introduce herself. Suddenly the little girl screamed and Riza felt something around her neck. Turning her eyes she saw Tucker's upside down face.
Nina ran to the farthest corner of the room and Riza kicked Tucker off of her. But he only chased her with his arms stretched out to choke her again.
"No one's taking Nina away from me!" He shouted, much louder this time. The scream was no longer a whisper.
Riza was about to snap her fingers, but her back ache reminded her that alchemy would be too dangerous. Instead she pulled out a gun from her back holster and aimed at Tuckers heart and pulled the trigger.
The bang echoed in the room, followed by a heavy thud. Nina could be heard whimpering in a corner.
Physically and emotionally drained, Riza went to Nina and collapsed on the ground. The little girl was instantly hugging her arm. Smiling weakly, Riza pulled her into a tight embrace. The last thing she wanted to do was traumatize the poor child.
Exhausted, Riza rested while Nina's cries softened. Soon the little girl fell asleep. How long Riza laid there, she didn't really know or care. In her current condition, tie was the last thing on her mind.
After Riza felt somewhat suitable to stand again she gently lifted Nina and took her into the next room. There were no beds on the top floor, and Riza couldn't bear to take her in the lower floors and leave her alone, in case she awoke. The office would have to do.
The floor was littered with papers, which provided some protection against the filthy floor. After Riza laid Nina on the floor, wrapped with a coat, Riza returned to the hidden room where the stone eagerly awaited. Or rather, Riza eagerly waited to use it. She was mere moments from seeing Roy again.
Her chest felt inflated from the mixed emotions she was experiencing, she was nearly shaking. Ignoring Tucker's unmoving body, Riza stepped over it and rushed to pick up the stone. She glanced around the room as if expecting someone else to walk in. Sighing, Riza shook her head and mentally slapped herself. There was no one else around but herself and Nina.
The stone glowed brightly through her skin, causing Riza to stare at its beauty. She found it difficult to believe that such a gorgeous stone cost thousands of people's lives. Nearly smiling, Riza stepped onto the middle of the room, sat down and closed her eyes.
She didn't know how to exactly use the stone and she wasn't paying any attention to Tucker when he used it. All she knew was that with the stone she wouldn't need a transmutation circle, and the even better part, she wouldn't need a sacrifice.
Exhaling, Riza tried to vision Roy. She imagined his body, his short, spiky black hair. She remembered how tall he was, the curves of his skin from his muscles. She remembered his voice, deep but stern, and his smile. Finally, she remembered his eyes…both of them.
Suddenly it felt as if Riza was falling. She opened her eyes and found herself standing. The room wasn't the same anymore. It was no longer dark and the smell of blood and dirt had vanished. Then Riza noticed something in front of her, a very large door with strange symbols on it.
Frowning, Riza looked down at her hand and found the Philosopher's Stone missing. What was going on?
Maybe Roy is on the other side of the door.
Heart beating faster, Riza stepped forward to touch the surface of the door when she felt a presence behind her. Turning, Riza was face to face with a shadowed figure. Its shape was human, but small like a child's.
The shadow stood staring at Riza for a moment before it spoke, "you don't have enough."
Riza frowned again. What was she short of? Was it the stone? Dread filled her, and her stomach sank.
The shadow suddenly had the stone in its hand and it analyzed it carefully, before giving a firm nod. "Yup, you don't have enough."
Riza could feel tears forming in her eyes. She had done so much in the past year, it was nauseating just to rethink of it all. Eyes closing, Riza thought of what to do next. What could she do?
Suddenly remembering the fundamental rule of alchemy, Riza felt her stomach sink even more. Even with the stone, it wasn't enough to bring back Roy. Maybe Tucker was wrong when he said the stone would be enough for both his daughter's soul, and Roy's body and soul.
The shadow continued to stand in front of Riza quietly, and the stone was suddenly absent from its palm.
Opening her eyes, Riza found the shadow turning to walk away. Was it going to leave? Panicking, Riza stepped forward. "Wait!"
The shadow stopped and turned. "You're short."
"I know." Riza whispered. She was so close to bring Roy back. It hurt to think of how badly she wanted to see Roy again. It hurt even more to want to be with him.
How far are you willing to sacrifice to see him again?
"Everything," Riza whispered more to herself than the shadow still waiting in front of her. Hands shaking, Riza balled then up into fists and nearly glared at the dark figure. "I'll give you anything. Take whatever you want to make the trade even. Please," Riza nearly choked on a sob, "I just want to see him again…even if it's one last time."
Head lifting, the shadow nodded and smiled. Despite being just a figure, its smile showed bright, perfect white teeth. Riza felt the hairs on the back of her neck standing, and she quickly brought a hand up to her mouth, but found her teeth were still in place.
Then she heard a door creaking open. Turning, she stared as the doors were shoved open by thousands of small black hands. Riza looked behind her, but the shadow was gone.
Feeling even more frightened, Riza could only remain calm as she was being pulled into the door by the small hands. Some had faces, some only showed eyes, but all were smiling. The only thing Riza hear was laughter.
Frustrated, Riza eagerly waited to see Roy. Her wish was soon granted. The hands in front of her separated to show a sleeping human figure. Smiling, and tearing, Riza stared as Roy's body moved closer to her.
She stretched out her hand, but she couldn't reach him. Tears were now rolling down her cheeks, and she coughed from a sob. Despite the evils she performed, killing thousands of people including her own friends, it was all worth it.
"Roy!" Riza sobbed.
But his body remained still, and his eyes were still closed. But he stirred. When Riza called him again, his eyelids started to lift.
As quickly as Riza saw Roy, her skull was bashed into a sheering, hot agony. What was causing her so much pain, she didn't know. Her vision was clogged by a dark abyss, and her hands felt wet. The laughter around her increased, but soon faded. The pain increased until it finally rendered her unconscious.
Roy felt cold. It also didn't help on whatever he was laying on felt even colder. Opening his eyes, he sat up, but felt lightheaded. His body felt tense as if he had been asleep for days. The room he was in did not look familiar; it was dark, cold, and smelled like iron.
Looking down, Roy found the reason of why he was cold; he was naked. Frowning, he looked around. Then it suddenly smacked him in the face. His hands reached up to touch his left eye, it was still there and he could see through it.
A slight pain triggered in his skull. Shutting his eyes tightly, Roy remembered the events of what led to his…death. He remembered the water, and the last person he saw, Riza, his wife.
Standing, Roy scanned his surroundings and immediately recognized the human figure laying on the ground a couple of inches away from him. The single light bulb that shown dimly in the center of the ceiling provided enough light for Roy to see Riza laying face down in a puddle of blood.
Roy sat rocking in a chair deep in thought. After he scooped Riza in his arms, he surveyed the abandoned building and found a small infirmary. He patched Riza up, and watched her and the little girl rest. Roy played the last half hour back in his mind.
When he started searching around the building, he came across a little girl asleep on the floor. Despite his loud entrance, she remained undisturbed. When Roy found the infirmary and took care of Riza, he went back to fetch the girl and laid her on the bed next to his wife. Strangely, he found dozens of blood stained clothing on the floor on every level of the building, but ignored them, despite his coldness. He lucked out when he found a locker with some clothes that fit a little bit too large, but they were better than the clothes that reeked of blood.
Back to the present, Roy tried to figure out what was going on. Did he dream about everything he think happened? Why was Riza hurt, who was the little girl, and where was he? The building was very large, too large to be abandoned with only dirty clothing littering the floors.
Riza stirred. Roy jumped out of his chair and was instantly by her side.
"Riza?" He asked softly.
The blonde woman immediately reacted to Roy's voice and jumped into a seating position. She tried to face the source of his voice, but her hands quickly touched her eyes. Or rather, she touched where her eyes used to be. Her fingers met gauze, her whole head was wrapped in gauze.
Responding to her name, Riza ignored her face and tried to search for Roy by stretching out her arms.
Roy grabbed her arms and guided them so they would touch his chest. Riza's face lit up as she rubbed her hands on his chest and to his arms, then up to his face. Roy stopped her hands when they rested on his cheeks. Riza could feel something wet touch her fingers.
Roy was crying. He finally figured everything out. Where they were, why Shou Tucker's corpse laid in a room covered with transmutation circles, why his daughter was still alive and sleeping in the same room, why there were maps and journals kept by the rebel alchemists, why Roy awoke naked and with his left eye intact, and why Riza's own eyes were gone.
"You shouldn't have done this!" The yell was weakened by a sob. Roy knew Riza performed human transmutation. He also knew what she must have been able to create the Philosopher's Stone in order to survive with only her eyeballs missing.
Riza wanted to cry, to apologize for everything, but no tears came. She felt her face suddenly pressing against something. It was warm, stern, and she could hear a heart beat. Smiling, she wrapped her arms around Roy's waist.
Long moments passed when Roy finally broke the hug. Tears still stained his cheeks, but he dried them with a sleeve. He reached to kiss Riza on the forehead. She felt feverish.
Riza broke down and told him everything. The night he was killed in front of her, to her training and study of alchemy, which resulted in the miscarriage of their child, to her becoming a State Alchemist and ridding of the rebel alchemists to the meeting of Shou Tucker and the offer Riza couldn't refuse.
"You shouldn't have done this." Roy repeated.
"I had to." Riza confessed. "I'm sorry."
Sighing deeply, Roy just hugged her tightly. "What about the girl?" He asked after what felt like an hour.
Riza looked around in vain, she couldn't see anything and she did not know where Nina was.
"Tucker used the stone to get her soul back. He was insane before he was human, and as a chimera, he was even crazier. He was out of control and it couldn't be helped." Riza explained.
Roy nodded. He and Riza would take care of Nina. Another long moment passed when all Roy and Riza could do was hold onto each other, as if they expected to be taken apart again.
After some time, Roy convinced his wife to rest. She was still feverish and he was worried. Riza agreed and went back to sleep, with some difficulty. It was weird to sleep with no eyes to close.
Roy quietly went into the restroom, blew his nose, and washed his face. As he dried himself, his skin crawled and his hair stood up when he glanced at his reflection. His right eye was its normal black color, but his left eye was not. It was a reddish color, almost identically the same color Riza's eyes were. In fact, the eye was not the same shape or size as his own. It was Riza's eye.