Culminations

Chapter One – Salutations

Note: This story is set in the mangaverse, and is in keeping with the Japanese releases. This means that this will have major spoilers for up to and including Chapter 70. This means, if you do not know that is Pride, back away now! Links to scanlations of the entire series are available in my profile if you need to catch up/read the manga.


"Just what is the deal with trains?" Ron ranted, his voice barely audible over the clattering wheels of the steam engine. "I mean there's the Hogwarts Express, trains across Britain, trains across Europe, the Transdimensional Railway, and look…! We're on yet another train!"

"It's not that bad," Harry contradicted, fighting to hide the grin prompted by his friend's moans and groans. "At least this one has cushioned seats in first class. The Transdimensional one didn't even have a proper number of seats."

"That's because it's used so rarely, the Transdimensional Railway only expects to receive a few passengers, so it only prepares enough seats for that amount. Anyway, I'm more concerned about where this train is headed than about the number we've ridden on in recent years," Hermione pointed out.

The three 20-year old aurors were seated on a fast-moving steam train headed for North City, Amestris. Seated in first class, they received gilt compartments reminiscent of those on the Hogwarts Express.

"Yeah," Harry agreed. "I can't believe Fuehrer President Bradley just brushed us off like that. Are we, ambassadors seeking aid in war, really that unimportant?"

"Instead of bringing us into his war council and discussing a possible alliance that we were sent to form, he shoves us off onto some Major up north, and says that the guy will 'show us around,'" Hermione continued for her friend.

"Who is this 'Major Elric' person we're supposed to meet, anyway?" Ron asked. "Do you know, Hermione?"

"Well," she began, tugging a brochure out of the folds of her cloak, "According to this pamphlet, he's a state alchemist, the youngest one ever to pass the certification exam."

"Eeh? Pretty impressive."

"Yup. Apparently he's a bit of a prodigy. In fact, I think he's a little like Harry," Hermione confessed thoughtfully.

"..but, I'm not a prodigy!" Harry protested. It was true; if their year had possessed a prodigy, it probably would have been Hermione.

"Of course not!" she laughed, waving his comment off. Harry was a bit hurt; did she really think him that dumb? "I didn't mean it like that. What I meant was that even at a very young age, Harry was admired and called 'The Chosen One'. The same appears to be true for Major Elric: the citizens love him and call him the 'Alchemist of the People.'"

"Oh?" Harry and Ron said in unison.

"Wait!" Harry said suddenly, being struck by a realization from all that Hermione had said. "How old is this 'Major Elric', anyway?" he asked.

"…" Hermione read over the pamphlet, eyes crossing the page at a furious rate as she searched for an age. "…fifteen," she announced at last.

"Oh no!" Ron moaned, shaking his head dispiritedly. "This kid is five years younger than us!"

"Surely he won't be too incompetent. After all, the state alchemist position is selected by audition, so I'm sure that they wouldn't let anyone without the proper qualifications take the job," Hermione attempted to reason.

"Come off it, Hermione," Harry groaned. "This is the government that we're talking about here. And tell me, when have governments ever shown any sense?"

"Next to never!" Ron finished in agreement.

Hermione sighed. "I suppose you're right. Let's just hope for the best, shall we?"

The sun had long since started slipping below the horizon when their train pulled into the station at North City. A thin layer of snow was starting to gather upon the ground from the light sprinkle that was fluttering from the darkening sky above.

As the engine squealed to a stop, Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood to gather their luggage from the racks above their seats, using the opportunity to stretch their infrequently used legs. Down the corridor, a conductor's faint call of, "North City Station, last stop, everyone off!" could be heard.

The trio disembarked with a small smattering of other passengers, most of which were in military uniform.

"I'm already starting to get sick of those outfits," Ron commented, "and we haven't even been here a month."

The trio dragged their luggage through the snow over to the warm, welcoming stationhouse, now grateful for the warmth provided by their heavy auror cloaks.

"Nice to know these things came in handy at some point," Harry said, tugging his cloak more tightly around his body.

"Despite the awful color," Ron added under his breath.

"You simply don't like them because the color of your hair makes the purple look maroon," Hermione reproved.

"It does!" Ron insisted.

Two stern faced officers awaited the shivering young adults inside the station. Through the frosted window panes a car was seen waiting, belching warm exhaust into the frigid air. The two men silently led their charges out to the car, which seemed awfully old fashioned to Harry, Ron, and Hermione's senses. They handed them over to the waiting driver with a curt, "Lieutenant Fermin will drive you to the fort," and left without even an exchange of names.

The bumpy drive up to the fort in the gathering darkness was bathed in silence, save for a few half-hearted conversation attempts by the Trio, which soon faded back into nothing.

"Wonder what the fortress will be like."

"Dunno."

"According to what I've read, it's supposed to be pretty impressive, and even that is said to be nothing compared o its commander."

"Yeah…"

The sun had fully dipped out of sight by the time the car had rumbled to a stop. Dark, heavy clouds poured copious amounts of pure glistening white snow down to coat what already layered the ground. The swirling large flakes coupled with the dark sky served only to bring visibility down to the minimum extent, successfully masking the true extent of the monstrous fortress before them.

Lieutenant Fermin ushered Harry and company past the legions of guards blocking the broad, brightly lit gate. As it was hauled open, he explained, "Major General Armstrong has already received word of your arrival from the Fuehrer. She will greet you upon entry." He led them into the fortress.

"Whoa…!" Ron breathed quietly, his mouth hanging open in amazement. "This is some place!"

"Yeah," Harry agreed fervently, attempting to look all directions at once. "It's enormous!"

"The architecture is astounding," Hermione seconded, "especially taking into consideration Amestris' current level of technological advancement."

"It is important for Briggs Fortress to uphold the highest standards and most up-to-date technology," Fermin agreed as he led them down a dimly lit corridor. Was that a hint of pride that Harry detected in his tone? "We serve as the creators and protectors of Amestris' northernmost border."

He slowed to a sudden stop, causing the Trio to come to a rather bumbling halt behind him as they struggled not to stumble over each other, for they had been trotting at a rather speedy pace before.

"Major General, sir!" Lieutenant Fermin snapped to attention.

"Lieutenant Fermin, is it? I suppose that that those three are the three foreigners that are supposed to be ambassadors?"

When Harry had envisioned the fearsome Major General Armstrong, who could make her subordinates cower in fear at the very mention of her name (Voldemort, anyone?), the woman who stood before him was not exactly what came to mind. He had met her brother while they had been in Central (Major Armstrong had reminded him a bit of Hagrid, for some odd reason) and had been expecting the elder sister to be large, masculine, and sporting pink sparkles.

But this woman…was (in the words of a guy) a beauty. Unfortunately, her beauty resembled that of a tiger…it may look pretty, but the murderous aura that surrounded it screamed, "No touchie!" The two large men looming on either side of her helped to support that feeling.

"Yes sir!" Fermin replied smartly.

Armstrong narrowed her eyes, her cold gaze surveying Ron, before moving onto Hermione and coming to rest on Harry. "They don't look like much. The Fuehrer sent them, you say?"

"Yes sir!"

The Major General considered a moment, before snapping her head up and commanding, "Throw them into the prison."

Harry's eyes barely had time to widen in shock before the two brutes and a rather apologetic looking Lieutenant Fermin stepped up to clasp his and his friends' hands behind their backs.

"I'll come visit them later," Armstrong said, spinning on her heel and turning to go in the direction opposite that of the one to which Harry and company were being half pushed, half dragged. Already several meters away, she turned back around and paused before adding, "Put them in the cell next to Elric, if you don't mind."

Harry's mind barely had time to flash recognition at the name before Major General Armstrong vanished out of sight and he was dragged down the other way by one of her apparent bodyguards.

"You know how I said I was annoyed that the Fuehrer shoved us off up here?" Harry questioned in an annoyed undertone.

"Yeah?" Ron and Hermione confirmed, careful not to grab the attentions of the various guards situated around their prison.

"Well, I'm even more annoyed that the oh-so-nice lady in charge of this dump threw us into these cages before we even had a chance to introduce ourselves!" he growled angrily.

"Amen," Ron agreed, nodding his head.

"Well, Major General Armstrong is known for making snap judgments and for being highly distrustful."

"Huh?!" Harry glanced around frantically for the source of the sheepish sounding voice. It had seemed far too young to belong to any of the guards outside, who fortunately appeared to be paying the prisoners no attention.

"It's me, in the cell next to you," the disembodied voice replied, now sounding more distinct nearer to one wall.

"Oh!" Ron exclaimed. "You mean that you're that guy in the giant suit of armor? Shouldn't you sound older?"

Harry remembered now; in all the confusion of being locked up, he had caught a glimpse of a large man in armor in one of the nearby cells.

"Yeah, that's me, and you aren't the first person to have said that," their neighbor said, sounding rather embarrassed. "I must stick out a lot for you to remember me like that."

"Nah," Ron reassured, "it's just that you don't see armor like that every day."

Suddenly, Harry remembered Armstrong's words from earlier: 'Put them in the cell next to Elric, if you don't mind.' Did that mean this boy was…? "Are you called 'Elric', by any chance?" he asked. The voice sounded about the right age.

"Yeah…" came the reply. "Why do you ask?"

"Would you happen to have any relation to Major Edward Elric?" Harry demanded, ignoring the confused looks that Ron and Hermione were sending him.

"I'm his younger brother, Alphonse Elric, actually," Alphonse replied. "What do you want with Niisan?"

Hermione took over. "We were sent to meet him by Fuehrer President Bradley," she explained. "Do you have any idea where your brother is?"

"By the Fuehrer, huh?" Alphonse's voice muttered darkly. "Actually, I have no idea where Niisan is, though he must be in Briggs somewhere. He used to be locked up with me, but Major Kimblee let him out yesterday so that Winry could make him some Northern-use automail, and I haven't seen him since."

"Too bad, that," Harry sighed. Now, if only they had some way of contacting Edward. Their wands were not an option, for the Trio had been relieved of all pointy and potentially lethal objects (long wooden sticks included) before being tossed into their cell.

A loud commotion outside the prison door broke short the conversation with Alphonse.

"Let me in to see my brother!" an angry voice demanded, clearly floating through the thick door.

"I'm sorry, sir," one of the poor guards attempted to reason, "but we were given orders to not let anyone see the prisoners—"

"Look, Kimblee told me that I was allowed to visit my brother. Do you want me to drag him here and tell you himself? I doubt that he'll be very happy."

"No sir, but you must understand—"

"Oi, if you don't let me in, I can just transmute a door for myself!"

"Ah, that's not necessary! We'll let you in!"

"Good!"

The door burst open, followed by a flustered guard and a very annoyed—very short—boy in a long red coat, blonde braid bouncing behind him.

"Speak of the devil," Alphonse could be heard muttering under his breath. Louder, with a hint of an exaggerated sigh in his tone he asked, "Niisan, did you really have to put up such a fuss?"

"Niisan…?" Harry realized what this implied.

"They refused to let me see you!" the boy defended. Through the bars of his cell, Harry could see him accompany the comment with a glare directed towards the neighboring cell. The boy then turned to face Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

"Al… Who are these people?" Edward Elric demanded.


A/N:

-Timeline…One day after Chapter 70. People at Briggs should find out about Pride as soon as I can get Riza to spread the news, lol.
-Obviously, the HP-tachi is 20 (with Hermione at 21) and Aurors. Voldie-chan is still undefeated.
-Only Japanese in this fic will be "niisan" and "sensei". Why? Amestrians speak English, as is very obvious in the Japanese manga, if you care to look at it. This means that they will most certainly not be speaking random pieces of Japanese. However, "big brother" and "teacher" used in place of names when talking is not commonly done in English, so the Japanese alternatives sound a great deal better. Again, I'm only doing this for the flow of the story.
-Please review and tell me your opinion!!