The Immortal Alchemist
"The Beginning of a Journey"
Dedication: The very first review was left by my good friend and long-time reader; Caitlyn. Thanks dear, I appreciate it!
Three days had passed since Edward activated the Nine Point Array, and the State Military had surrounded the empty city of Hissegart and investigated top to bottom, but even the top State Alchemists did not recognize the symbol etched into the floor of the hidden room in the sewers of the city. While the military slept, and there were minimal guards, two people walked through the white tiled room with the alchemic array, speaking to one other.
The first person was a woman. She was tall, with dark hair that flowed down her back, and covered part of her face, keeping her eyes shadowed by the long bangs in front. She wore a black dress that showed off a lot of cleavage, and she had a red tattoo of a strange serpent like creature on her chest. One of her gloved hands was tucking a stand of hair behind her ear while he companion spoke to her.
The companion, a man, was tall with an aged face and short black hair, neatly trimmed. He wore an black eye patch over his left eye, and was dressed in a full military uniform -- blue, the color of officers. He had stripes on his shoulder, two thin gold one on either side of a thick gold one. That was the sign only of the highest ranks, and because of the one-of-a-kind four stars that sat on top of the center gold stripe, it identified this man as the Fuhrer of the Military; the absolute leader. The Fuhrer had a sword around his waist, and unknown to any who looked at him; he also had four more swords strapped on his back, two on either side.
"What happened Lust?" Fuhrer Bradley asked as he looked at the white tiled floor with the gold transmutation circle engraved on it.
"That damn Ishbalian showed up." Lust replied, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall near the spot Scar had destroyed with his arm. "So did the Fullmetal boy."
Fuhrer Bradley, who was in fact the unique Homunculus Pride, turned to Lust instead of looking at the transmutation array. "Any sign of Mustang or Elric?" He asked.
"No, and I haven't seen Scar either. To be honest, I didn't even know about the nine point array -- it was something those alchemists were making on their own." Lust informed the other Homunculus.
"Hmm ... so we have no idea what happened to any of them?" Pride replied, rubbing his chin as he looked around the room.
"No. Any word from our Master on what to do?" Lust asked, uncrossing her arms and looking down at the Nine Point Array.
"All our Master had to say to me was 'make sure you find out what happened to the stone'." Bradley replied. "The Philosopher's Stone has always been our primary concern."
Lust's eyes continued to graze the alchemic array on the floor, and questions soared through her mind. However, for now she had to address Pride's latest inquiry. "I don't know where the stone is. I checked all of the alchemists bodies . . . the only explanation I can think of is that the younger Elric has it."
Pride gave this issue some thought. Of course, Pride was the President of the State, the Fuhrer of the Military and the only Homunculus who could age like a normal human. Because of this, he was their master's chief lieutenant, for unlike the other Homunculi, he could not be replaced without much hassle and aggravation on their master's part. This gave him unique authority.
"Well, then, we had better find him and take it." Pride decided; but at that moment, a voice spoke from behind them.
"No. Wait for him to come to you."
Fuhrer Bradley and Lust both turned around, and standing in the shadows was their master; the one who had created Pride and Greed, and who had made sure all of the others were servants as well; and the alchemist who claimed to be able to turn them human with the stone.
"Oh?" Pride raised an eyebrow.
"Alphonse will want to research that transmutation circle he saw swallow his brother and Roy Mustang. He'll need State information -- I believe that he will apply to be a State Alchemist." Their Master said.
"And I assume you want me to grant his request?" Bradley asked.
"Yes," His master responded. "Make him a State Alchemist, and ensure he has resources at his disposal. He'll turn to the Philosopher's Stone to find Edward, and that is when we shall strike."
"Hold on." Lust objected, remembering all of this from before. "You said nearly the same thing when Ed applied to be a State Alchemist, and that didn't work so well."
"It only failed because you allowed that stupid alchemic cult to make this place. Do you question my orders, Lust?"
Lust knew better than that. She had not been made back in the days when Greed, one of the homunculi personally created by their master, rebelled. Greed betrayed their master and went solo . . . and was sealed up for years. She shook her head 'no' and was relieved when her master walked away.
"So then, we wait." Lust said to Pride.
"Indeed." Fuhrer Bradley replied. "We'll just have to wait until he comes to us."
In Eastern Headquarters, Mustang's team was sitting around the office, none of them too happy. Apparently, the news had spread fast -- two famous State Alchemist had vanished into thin air after a transmutation went wrong. Havoc, Breda, Falman, Furey and Hawkeye were gathered around the office, Mustang's desk was empty. They had received an official notice from Central that the new Head of Eastern HQ was on his way.
"Who do you suppose it is?" Sergeant Major Kain Furey asked, scratching Black Hayate's ear sadly. Furey was obviously trying to make conversation, but it was not so easy. They were all thinking the same thing.
"There's no tellin'." Lieutenant Jean Havoc replied. He was sucking down a cigarette, and trying to forget that his friend was gone now. Believed dead by the entire State Military.
"What I don't get is why they're sending someone to replace the Colonel." Falman said, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. His thin slit eyes were staring at the desk previously occupied by Mustang, and he shook his head. "Why not promote from within?"
"There's no proof that he's even dead." Furey said, determined to hold out even the slightest chance of hope.
"That's true." Hawkeye said, but her voice was anything but hopeful. "But there's even less proof that he's alive."
Havoc raised an orange eyebrow. "Out of all of us, I figured you'd be the one hoping the most."
". . . Even if he is alive, he is not here." Hawkeye replied, looking out the window at the gray sky that had covered East City. "There's no telling where he is, or what condition he's in if he is alive. I do promise you all, as I do him, that if any information comes through I will see to it that we go through every possible channel to find the Colonel. However, we cannot dwell on this. We have a job to do."
"How can you be that way, Lieutenant?" Falman asked.
"I learned from the Colonel. No matter how much he wanted to go running off after Hughes' killer, he didn't." Hawkeye replied. This statement made no sense, since they all knew that Mustang had investigated the murder of Maes Hughes with all due diligence.
That is when Hawkeye held up a sheet of paper; it had a few words written on it in large handwriting. 'Not Safe To Speak Here.' After everyone else in the room had read it, and realized Hawkeye's meaning, they all nodded, and then she tore off the sheet from the notebook and put it in her pocket.
"Geez ... first Hughes, now Mustang... I'm thinking about getting out of the military." Breda sighed, scratching his head.
"How can you say that? Would you really quit our Majestic Military?" A booming voice spoke; suddenly everyone in the room became quiet and turned to the door, where a gigantic man with a single strand of blonde hair was standing in the doorway, sparkles gleaming around him.
"M-Major Armstrong." Havoc had a horrible fear in his voice. "Y-You're not our new Colonel, are you?"
Armstrong's face broke into a large grin, and as he usually did at moments like this, he ripped the shirt from his back and posed. "Indeed! I have been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and shall now be posted as second-in-command of Eastern Headquarters. Though I am deeply saddened that this promotion has only come because of Roy's misfortune, but I shall fulfill my duty as always!"
Havoc looked as if he might start sobbing. Hawkeye, however, raised an eyebrow.
"Second-in-command? So you're here to replace me, not the Colonel." She said matter-of-factly.
"Not replace, Miss Hawkeye, you've merely moved down the ladder." A voice spoke from behind Armstrong's gigantic body mass. "Lieutenant Colonel put your shirt back on and keep it on. I won't tell you again, the next time you take it off you're getting a demerit."
Armstrong turned around, and behind him stood Frank Archer, the pale-faced, dark-haired man with no sense of humor who had replaced Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes. Archer had once been a Lieutenant Colonel, but now he had Colonel stars on his shoulders. Archer walked over to Mustang's desk, with no regard as to how this might make the others feel, and he sat down.
"I, Colonel Frank Archer, am now in complete command from now on for the entire Eastern Headquarters." Archer informed them, he had a very sinister smirk on his face and his dark eyes looked at all of them. No one had warm looks to return to him, and Hawkeye had the coldest of all.
"Now you may all have had it easy while this place was under less-than-adequate leadership, but that is over starting today. Things will change. This office will start running a tight ship." Archer had nerve. He mocked Mustang's memory in front of all of them, and there was no doubt in Archer's mind that if he burst into fire, they wouldn't even give him a bucket of spit.
"If you'll excuse me, I need to speak with the gate guards. It's too easy to get in here." Archer said, standing up and leaving the room. Everyone saluted him, for they had no choice, but as soon as he left, everyone glared at the door. Armstrong looked downright offended by his orders to keep his shirt on.
"Now I really want to quit the military." Breda sighed, putting his head in his hands.
". . . I may agree with you." Armstrong muttered, crossing his gigantic arms. "How can that ungrateful man expect me to keep cloth covering THESE mountain-like muscles I have worked so hard to build?"
"Enough." Hawkeye spoke up, standing up. "None of us are happy about this, but there's nothing we can do about it. No one here is quitting the Military."
Havoc looked over at Hawkeye, a cigarette in his mouth and a sigh on his face. "Give it up L. T., we were all loyal to Mustang, not that Archer basta-"
"I wouldn't think for a second that Archer is a good man or a good commander, but just like Colonel Mustang worked for people he disliked, distrusted and disapproved of, we will have to too." Hawkeye told them all, there was a lot of muttering and sighing, but none of them quit.
It had been a month since Ed and Roy vanished, and it had been almost a month since Archer took over as head of Eastern Headquarters. Al stood in the remains of his house, where he had tried the transmutation of his brother last night. He had assumed the transmutation failed, since the Philosopher's Stone had exploded, but until he saw with his own eyes, he could not be sure. Besides, he knew the risky side of Human Alchemy, and while he was lucky to have not died, he wanted to make sure he did not accidentally create a Homunculus.
However, when he returned to the remains of his house, there was nothing. No body, no failed transmutation, no homunculus; there was nothing at all. Al scratched the back of his neck where hair met skin, and looked at the ground. He noticed a shard of the Philosopher's Stone on the ground; Granny Pinako had already given him every piece she found, but it looked like she missed one.
That is, until Al bent down and picked up the stone. It felt different from the Philosopher's Stone. Al gasped.
"A Crimson Stone? How did this . . ." Al stopped, a horrible feeling sank into him. He had a bad feeling. Could this mean . . .? No. That was impossible. Al decided to concentrate on finding his brother, instead of worrying that he may have created something horrible.
Al sighed, took a deep breath, and decided it was time he got out of town. He would have to deal with this situation, if it even became a situation, later. Al wondered for a moment if he should tell Pinako his plan to join the Military and become a State Alchemist like his brother was, but he decided not to. She would only complain and tell him that her son, his wife, and now Al's brother had all died in the Military. However, Al knew he had to do this. It was the only way he could find his brother, and he needed that to be done.
"I'm sorry Auntie Pinako." He whispered to the wind, and he turned and walked down the dirt path that led to the train station. Alphonse Elric was determined to find out what that Nine Point Array was, and if his brother really was alive or not.
The sound of a human scream is a horrible thing, especially when it echoes through a large, mostly empty stone room. The room was made of orange sand, brick and cement; and the scream came from the throat of Roy Mustang as pain infected his body, concentrated mostly at the right cheek of his face.
Mustang was on his knees, his Military Jacket gone and blood staining his black undershirt. A dark skinned man with red eyes was holding a large, burning hot stone in his hand and pressing it against Roy's face. Roy was screaming in pain, feeling his flesh burnt. Finally, the Ishbalian man took the hot rock off Mustang's face, and the Military Colonel slumped forward, his head between his knees coughing and grunting in hideous, horrible pain.
"Do you feel the pain of having your flesh burnt off, Flame Alchemist?" The Ishbalian man asked. He had the typical dark skin and red eyes, and his dark hair was down around his waist. He wore a gold chain around his neck, with the same alchemic symbol on the end as the one on Ed's jacket. The Ishbalian dropped the stone to the ground; the flesh on his hand was burnt off.
"We found you at the Array. I recognize you, Roy Mustang. You are one of those who destroyed our city in the war years ago. I cannot forget your face, for it was in an explosion you created that claimed the life of my wife and son." The Ishbalian spat on Roy, but the Flame Alchemist only grinned.
"With a husband like you, I probably did her a favor." Mustang replied. In truth, he was ashamed of what he did in Ishbal, but he did not respond well to torture, and if he was going to die today, he was going to die insulting the man who claimed his life.
It had been one month since the alchemic accident at the Nine Point Array, and Mustang had gotten used to some horrible treatment by his captors. As it turned out, the Nine Point Array was used to transport matter over a long distance, and the three men who were trapped inside the circle when it was activated were transferred to a deep part of the Ishbalian Desert.
Almost at once, the three had been captured by a group of Ishbalians, all of whom had long hair and wore golden chains with alchemic symbols. While Roy had been locked up in a cell next to Ed for a month, only seeing their captors when they brought food (which was always a small amount so they would stay physically weak), on this day he was taken to this room and tortured by this Ishbalian man who did not speak his name.
"Take him back to the others, let them see what we did to him before we strike at the scarred one."
In a dark room in the Ishbalian prison of sand, brick and cement, Scar was sitting in one cell on one side of a hallway. Across from his stone prison cell was a matching cell that contained Edward Elric, who was leaning against the bars of his cage with an angry scowl on his face. Scar looked over at the Fullmetal Alchemist; he had not looked to him since they were brought there, but suddenly Scar decided to.
"Fullmetal Alchemist." Scar called.
"What do you want?" Ed asked over his shoulder.
"Do you not wonder why our alchemy does nothing in this place?" Scar asked.
Ed was suddenly intrigued, and since they were in Ishbal, he turned around and looked at Scar. "You know why it hasn't worked?"
When Ed was first locked up, he clapped his hands and tried to transmute his way out of the cage. Mustang had tried snapping his fingers, and Scar tried using his arm -- all of them failed.
"Alchemy cannot be used in this Holy Place. It is an old temple, long forgotten by my people except for the 'Abandoned'." Scar replied.
Suddenly the door at the far end of the hallway swung open and two Ishbalian men, with long hair and gold chains, walked in carrying Mustang. They roughly threw him into the cell next to Ed, and then they walked away. Ed gasped when he saw Roy's face burnt, and his shirt bloodied. It was a horrible sight to see.
"What happened to you?" Ed asked, his golden eyes wide.
"They tortured me, Fullmetal." Roy replied. "They held a searing hot stone to my face, beat me with sticks, and kicked me in the ribs. And as they were dragging me out, they said something about the 'scarred one' being next." Mustang's eyes looked over at Scar, but the Ishbalian shrugged it off.
"These Ishbalians are traitors to Ishbala." Scar informed them. "They use alchemy for their own benefit. They have since our home was destroyed by State Alchemist."
Ed scoffed. "Well, that's pretty hypocritical, considering YOU use alchemy too."
Scar looked over at Edward and he shook his head. "I do Ishbal's will, that is why he gave me this cursed arm."
"No Scar, you are the traitor to Ishbal." The man with long black hair who had tortured Roy had just walked into the room, his hands behind his back and his red eyes looking at Scar with hatred.
"I am the traitor? You perform Alchemy!" Scar shouted.
"Yet you are the one who claims to be 'The Right Hand of Destruction', or 'Ishbala's Right Hand'. To give yourself such a name is a disgrace on Ishbala! You shall die for your crimes against our country and religion, but first you will be tortured as these alchemist shall be." The Ishbalian with long black hair snarled. He pushed a strand of that hair behind his ear, to reveal a long tattoo on his neck. When Scar saw it, he gasped and looked horrified.
"You, scarred man, I have changed my mind about. I will torture you last. I want to take my time and savor your pain, traitor." The tattooed man turned and exited the room, but he did not close the door of the prison hallway behind him.
"What's the deal?" Ed asked Scar, seeing the look of pure shock on his face. "Who was that guy?"
"I know not his name, Fullmetal Alchemist." Scar replied, dropping to his knees and his face still in a state of shock and awe. It was like Scar had seen a ghost. "I only know him by the name 'Dragon', due to his tattoo. He was the one who led a group of Ishbalian away from Ishbal, deeper into the desert, after our home was destroyed by the State. They swore they would learn alchemy, and how to stop it, so they could have revenge."
Mustang leaned against the wall, his burnt face giving him pain. He lifted his gloved hand and snapped; and there were no flames, though the circle on his glove was intact. He shook his head, and spoke quietly.
"Looks like they did learn how to stop it. At least, stop our alchemy."
"What do you mean?" Ed asked, turning from Scar across from him to Mustang in the cage next to him. Scar also looked at the State Alchemist Colonel.
"When Dragon burnt my face . . . the rock he picked up was cool. He used alchemy to super heat it. I'm not sure how, but he did it." Mustang informed the other two. " . . . it may have been the necklace he wore." Mustang suddenly added, as if he had just remembered something.
"What do you mean?" Ed asked.
"A long time ago, there was a State Alchemist who got his certification because he discovered an array that disrupted transmutation circles. It broke the circle of energy and made alchemist unable to perform alchemy. That same State Alchemist was said to have a secret charm so he could use alchemy when no one else could. Maybe somehow these guys found that Reverse Alchemy Array, and recreated it and the charm." Mustang theorized.
"Great, so we're trapped here, unable to use alchemy while our enemies can, and we're going to be tortured? Sounds fun." Ed's sarcasm was boiling over, as was his temper. Eh, at least the captors had yet to make any remark about his height, which was always a good thing for Ed.
However, if it was his choice between graphic torture and being called the world's smallest infant bean; he'd probably choose the latter of the two.
Then, through the open door came two more Ishbalians. These two approached Ed's cage, and then looked down at him with emotionless faces and blank stares. Ed gulped, and realized now was the time for his torture. As they opened his cell door and walked in towards him, Ed darted forward and rammed his metal knee into one of the Ishbalian men's groin, sending him falling like a cut tree. The other man reached for Ed head, but Ed socked him in the face with his automail arm, knocking him back into the bars.
Ed kneeled down next to the unconscious Ishbalian and started feeling around his body for a key to the cells, so he could unlock Mustang and flee from this place. However, as he did so, another set of footsteps startled him. Ed turned around to see a young woman, around his age, glaring at him. She wore a brown dress that came down to her knees and had an Ishbalian skin tone. However, only one of her eyes was red; the other was blue, and her hair was red, not black or brown, as most Ishbalian's are.
"Who the hell are you?" Ed asked, looking at the strange mystery girl.
"I am the Dragon's Daughter. If you want to escape, you'll need to go through me." She said in a cold voice. Ed, well, Ed was Ed.
"Please, I don't exactly like beating up on little girls, so do me a favor and get outta here, okay?" Ed asked. The Dragon's Daughter was hardly amused.
Instead, the alchemic necklace around her neck began to glow, and she pressed her hands into the ground. The stone floor in front of Ed moved like a tidal wave, pushing him back into his cell and crashing him against the wall. Then she used the same alchemic technique to retrieve the guards from Ed's cell before she moved forward and slammed the door shut, locking it with her alchemy.
"Don't try to escape, shrimp." She spat at Ed, and then she turned and walked away, ignoring Ed's many colorful curses he yelled at her for calling him a shrimp.
Alphonse was sitting on a train, bound for East City.
It was the midnight train, as he left late in the night, exactly one month and one day after Ed vanished before his eyes. Al sat in a seat by himself, looking at the night sky as the train pulled away from Resembool, his beloved hometown. He did love Resembool, and he loved Granny Pinako. However, his brotherly love for the elder Elric was stronger than any other bond he had. He would find the secret of the Nine Point Array, and he would get his brother back if it was possible.
Al felt a sharp pain course through his arm, from the elbow joint down. Where he had been struck with the shard of the Philosopher's Stone. Alphonse sighed, his arm had been flaring up at random times, and it was awful. He did not know if it was from the extensive nerve damage Granny Pinako told him about, or because she had missed a shard of the stone and it was still embedded inside him, or maybe it was just a psychological pain of guilt for letting his brother vanish. Al did not know, and he did not care.
To him the pain was needed. It was a reminder that he had tried something foolish. Mere weeks after getting his body back, he risked it again by trying to perform Human Alchemy -- and the most taboo of all human alchemy; bringing back the dead. Al needed that pain to remind him that no matter what, even if Ed was dead, he could never try a Human Transmutation again.
Alphonse had no idea that on the other side of this train ride was the beginning of his greatest adventure. An adventure involving Homunculi, Alchemy, a Great War, and many loves lost and gained. Al was afraid of what the future would hold -- mostly afraid that he would fail.
However, that never stopped him before, and it would not stop him now. With the Philosopher's Stone shards tucked into his satchel along with his alchemic papers and his pen, Al was ready to attempt the State Alchemy Exam.
Alphonse Elric, fourteen years old, was about to embark on a journey that would last for the next four years of his life. It would bring him joy and sadness, love and loss, heartbreak and healing. He did not know all of the things that lied ahead in his way, but even if he did, he would not have changed a thing.
To Obtain, Something of Greater or Equal Value must first be lost.
That is Alchemy's Prime rule of Equal Exchange.
When I left Resembool, I planned to sacrifice whatever I need to,
If it would reunite me with the brother, I lost.
Author's Notes: As you saw, this chapter finally revealed the fate of three of our stars. We will see more of Ed and the others in Ishbal, in time. The third chapter will expand on Archer's rule in East City, and explain what happened to Al's transmutation of his brother. It'll show a bit more into the lives of Ed, Roy and Scar, and the State Alchemy Exam. So make sure you come back, y'all!