Part 3: The Truth
A long time had passed. He had guessed it had been over a year by now. He had pretty much lost all hope of seeing that light ever again, then was surprised when a sudden brightness came from the sealed corridors.
The figure holding the lantern did not speak, but continued in a quiet stride until they stood a few inches away from him.
Illuminated by the light, was an old woman Al had never seen before.
"Al-nii-san… it's been a long time…" The withered face stared meekly at him.
He blinked a few times, unnerved by the woman's charismatic expression. "… w-who are you?" He shifted uncomfortably. What was that feeling in his stomach?
She opened her eyes and gently smiled down to where he was sitting on the ground. "You don't remember me?" She asked sadly. Her celadon eyes shimmered slightly and Al felt the need to swallow hard. "You really should, you know…" She chuckled playfully. "After all, if it wasn't for you and Ed-nii being there for my mother, my birth might have been riddled with complications… it's me, Al… Elysia Hughes."
His eyes widened beyond capacity. "W-what?! ELYSIA?!" To say that Al was baffled would be an understatement. He was so surprised he dropped the fruit he had been planning to eat.
"No…" He slid back an inch and ended up knocking over his water bottle, spilling its contents over the concrete flooring. "It can't be… how can it?" He backed away a few more inches. Away from what had to be a cruel joke, away from the old woman who now had her hand worriedly outstretched towards him, and away from the lantern which seemed to have shed a different type of light on his world. "WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!" His voice echoed through the cold space.
She looked at him sympathetically and dropped her hand back down to her side. "I don't know how to tell you this, but…" She let out a sigh and returned her gaze to him, the serious expression in her eyes as well as years of wisdom within her pale eyes seemed to burn a fire inside of him.
"Al-nii, it's been ninety years since you've been imprisoned…"
Not even the Guardian of Truth could have determined how long Al sat there, mouth agape, staring up at the old woman who called herself Elysia and claimed to be ninety-six years old. Although his mind brutally protested, he listened to what else she had to tell him.
With her next sentence, her eyes saddened so much he was forced to look away, unbeknownst of what her next words would do to him.
"Win-nee… she… passed away thirty years ago…"
Never before had his head hurt more in his entire life. He never spoke, and the only thing that saw the moment his very person broke was the cement of which had been his sanctity. It had to be a nightmare… it had to. The ground said that it was all an illusion, with the way the image blurred and melted under his gaze.
"That's not all though…" She spoke up once more.
"It can't be…" He finally lifted his head, and she was forced to take a step back at the image of the broken boy- no, man, before her. "It just can't… ninety years?… it's impossible… it still hasn't quite been ten years… right?" Al was desperately racking though his memories. She had to be joking…
When was it?
When had it started spiralling out of control?
It has only been a year since she last came to see him… right?
Unconsciously, Al found himself checking his own body with his hands. He traced his face, combed through his messy hair, and checked every single part of his body, all the while he was longing for a mirror. Indeed, ever since he was imprisoned since he was thirteen years old, he had changed. He was no longer that little slip of a child, he was a man now. He had lost every ounce of baby fat, and he could feel his cheek bones giving off the curve of his face. Other than that, not one part of him showed that he had aged significantly.
Then his mind finally started working properly and a thought crossed his mind. "Everyone else…"
A vague statement of thought, but she was able to pick it up. "Everyone is gone… everyone else you probably knew well." She replied solemnly. "Uncle Roy- well, Fuhrer Mustang, Aunt Riza, and everyone who worked with them and my late father…" She trailed off, but realistically, he could've finished it off for her.
His mind feverously rushed for an answer to what had caused all of this, but it came up blank. How could this have happened? It didn't make any sense. Winry, Rose, Auntie Pinako and Den, all of the military personnel who had helped him and his brother along their journey- wait!
What was that?
His eyes widened. A journey? What journey?! In the next moment, he felt as if someone had split his mind, an array of images projected themselves through his head. He remembered being cold; cold and empty without any senses. Then whenever he looked down he would see someone, clad in the shade of the night, grinning cockily up at him.
Why did he seem so familiar? Why did he look so much like the small boy who was his one and only big brother…?
"And this is him when he turned sixteen…"
Her blue eyes closed after she looked at the picture for a moment before flipping it around to show him.
Carefully, Al took it from her hands and examined the teenage boy in the photo. "Nii-san… in some ways, he hasn't really changed that much…" He chuckled lightly.
Winry smiled in return. "No, I guess not." Then she sighed.
He looked up, giving her a weak smile. "Don't worry, Winry." He beamed. "They can't keep me down here forever, right? And when I get out, I'll bring him back home."
He had expected her face to light up or wish for his brother's well-being, but she did neither. Instead, she just stared solemnly at him, not in his general direction, but straight at him…
Yes… yes, they can…
His eyes opened slowly as the final traces of the memory subsided, he looked up at the old woman, his eyes now more of a dull silver. Then what about… what about his…
The old woman in front of him shifted uneasily. "Winry-chan had asked for one more favour of Uncle Roy while he still had some influence. The entrance to this place was sealed seventy years ago with a steel barricade, making it look like a dead end. It was also the day when Fuhrer Mustang retired. I was then instructed by Winry-chan to come here when the time was right."
A steel barricade? Mustang retiring? Right time? Gods, what has been happening while he had been in here? His whole life had seemed like one long state of hibernation.
This was too much.
"What happened?" He rasped, leaning forward, hands firmly planted on the ground in desperation.
She looked at him for a moment, sympathy shimmering in her aged, celadon eyes. She finally sighed and knelt down to his level. "I can't really say, Al-nii, I was still very young when it all started… so long ago…" Her eyes held a distant glaze to them. "I don't want you to see it, Al… it would kill you. The world you once knew is no more… all I remember is sand, white smoke and blood…"
He stared up at her, mouth agape. Slowly, he closed his mouth and swallowed the lump in his throat, nodding at her to continue.
"Winry-chan…" The same sadness welled up in her eyes. "When she got older, she succumbed to countless anxiety attacks… the doctor said that it might have been caused by trauma and… trauma causes pain. She had a nervous breakdown when she was thirty years old…"
He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to the chase. "I don't know what caused it…" She stated. "And she never showed it around you, Al-nii. When it came to you, it was like she forgot everything else and completely focused on any happiness and light she could shed on you…" Her jaw tightened as she gripped onto the fabric of her long shirt. "All I know is that when she would sleep, she would cry and mutter, I'm sorry, Ed…"
Al dipped his head down. She always seemed fine to him, as fine as to be expected. Why did she always have to be so unselfish? She could always talk to him… always!
"You should see how fast the world moves now, Al-nii. It's difficult to keep up…" She stated solemnly. "The world you once knew is no more… everyone is up to date with technology…"
The elderly woman cautiously approached him and took out a small notebook from her robes and handed it to him. "This is Winry-chan's diary. From the day you were imprisoned until the day she passed away when she was seventy years old. Her memories of that fifty-two years are all written in here. In her will, there were instructions for the last survivor of the person Al knew before he was confined to be the one to give this to him."
He stared at the notebook.
He stared and continued to stare. His eyes were no longer morbid, but a bit blank in nature.
The old woman turned around. "I have to go now. Hopefully, I can come again… see you later, Al… Nii-san." With that, the woman disappeared within the confines of the sealed corridors, never to be seen again.
Never had Al been more frightened of the outside world than today.
His hands were shaking as he stared at the notebook he clenched tightly in his hands for the longest time.
He didn't want to look. But, he HAD to look. But if he looked, he would know the truth to everything. If he did… if he didn't… if… if…?
There was no other answer.
Swallowing one last time, he turned to the first page.
Transitional year. September 5th.
18 years old.
Today, Al will be imprisoned despite him only being guilty by association. The least Mustang could do was change the location of his imprisonment to the underground tunnels below Central HQ, instead of being banished outside of the state altogether. He ordered the construction of an underground dungeon, the place where Al will be forced to spend the rest of his life. Before he was imprisoned, he was given one wish; to select just one visitor who would be given permission to see him. He had chosen me. At first I was startled, but I knew how important that request was for him, so I accepted.
I gave him a few books for him to read, and he seemed to take interest in the one Granny gave to me: about gardening.
I have decided that in my Diary, I will write my daily visits to Al's cell.
He ran the tips of his fingers over the crisp surface of the page, before tracing a few handwritten letters.
Gripping lightly onto the first entry of the small book, he flipped the page.
Reign of the Amendment Party, first year. October 5th.
19 years old.
It's been a month already.
There are still some people who ask me what had happened to Al, even though his records and his existence had been wiped out according to the official records. He seems to be accommodating to his new life in the dungeons and now he's growing plants. He seems to be using some sort of alchemical reactions to grow them.
It's all gibberish to me.
That reminds me, Riza-sama told me that Mustang returned from the North a few days ago. I never knew that he had given up the title as Brigadier General in exchange for a simple officer…
That boy who caused both of them so much trouble… Wrath was it? When I took Al's flowers and mine to their Sensei's grave, I found him there. He seemed so lost, and when he looked up into my eyes, I knew that he recognized me, but I didn't see the little psycho who brutally attacked Ed and Al back on Yock Island… and I caved. That will be my downfall one day. Shortly after I fixed him up, he left again. He is quite the little wanderer.
The Executive Council has been constantly harassing and pressuring me, as well as Riza-sama and Mustang, trying to not let me go down to the dungeons to visit Al. They say that associating with a 'fugitive' will bring bad karma. Pfft… whenever I'm there, though, I forget all of the bothersome things and just relax carelessly. I will not leave him down there all alone. I will go visit him everyday.
A small smile tugged on the corner of his mouth.
He skipped a few entries and turned a few more pages.
Reign of the Amendment Party, second year. June 17th.
19 years old.
I feel kind of sorry for Al, whenever he has to put up with my rants about the Executive Council. I will never forgive them for stuffing him into such a miserable predicament. Bunch of idiots. I hate to admit it, but relieving my stress on him is actually pretty helpful.
In fact, Al has been pretty helpful as well. He always encourages me when I tell him about my new projects, and that I had also taken up an interest in the medical sciences. I think he understood why, but didn't say anything. One day, I'll thank him for that. He even sometimes gives me life advice. He always was the expert on those kinds of things. The garden Al is growing is coming along nicely. He is full of surprises.
I decided to tell him today that Wrath came back, that I took him in, and that I brought him to Central with me. When he first came back to Resembool, he was different. He actually smiled, a real genuine smile. I didn't think that homunculi were capable of that when I once overheard Ed refer to them as 'heartless bastards.' He actually went out of his way to converse, maybe he needed someone to talk to? He even went on to tell me a bit about the other homunculi; something I'm sure Ed would brutally protest to. He said that everyone else was gone except for him and two others who 'disappeared.' I'm guessing he means MIA.
There was one thing that bothered me about the garden though. I asked if it was too early for the flowers to blossom and he thought it was Spring. He seems to be misunderstanding time. I've talked with him a little bit more, and he seems to be off in a few places. He thinks he has only been imprisoned for half a year. Then he went on to ask me if Rose's son could form complete sentences. Of course he can, in fact, he'll be starting his first year of school in a few days. I now realize that his sense of time has been skewered. I had thought of telling him the correct time, but somehow, I couldn't.
I am worried about him.
"I remember…" He muttered to himself.
His shaking hands turned another page.
Reign of the Amendment Party, tenth year. February 20th.
28 years old. Year 10 of Imprisonment.
It was the day my suspicions turned into confirmation.
It has been 10 years now, and Al's changed quite a bit, and become quite the adult. I thought it was amazing for such growth to take place in an environment where normal humans would already have gone insane from pure isolation. For years I have been suspicious about something concerning Al, and today I decided to check it out.
I have been visiting the dungeon for years now, but I had always thought it was strange that the flowers were constantly in full-bloom, even out of season. I had thought that this was one of the reasons his sense of time is askew. I lied to Al saying that I was performing a medical check-up on him and collected some data. What I wanted to know was about Al's growth and his process of aging.
I had asked Mustang about it, but he brushed the thought aside. He actually told me a bit about their Father, Hohenheim, and how he had pulled some illegal action to gain immortality.
I don't think I had ever been so shocked.
So, for the longest time at first thinking that it had to do with his natural hereditary genes, I did the same, but something rang false to me. Even I know that the basic principle of alchemy is Equivalent Exchange. So how was their Dad able to give up enough to gain true immortality? I thought perhaps it was just something I couldn't understand, not being an Alchemist and all. Still… no matter which way I turn it I can't swallow it, and now I can't ignore it anymore.
I checked it over with Riza-sama as we studied his cells taken from his hair, and we reached a conclusion. Al's growth was indeed slower than that of a normal human being. According to these calculations, he would not age even a year when I had already died from natural causes. It didn't make any sense.
A footnote: Al thinks only a year has passed since he has been imprisoned.
I'm starting to understand the laws of alchemy now. Al's flowers seemed to hold so much more life than even a baby, and I asked him if I could have a few. Of course, he more than willingly obliged. Then I asked Mustang for a favour. I wanted him to perform a transmutation, using the properties of the flowers to keep my youthful form in exchange for me staying quiet about the discovery. He didn't think it was a good idea because there were a lot of risks involved. Then finally after awhile, he agreed. I decided I would use that tactic permanently. I did not want Al to see me age.
He remembered that day too. Winry had been checking him all over, saying it was a medical check-up.
He never realized. Already, at that time, ten years had passed…
He flipped the page and the first thing inscribed on the top made his mouth fall agape in surprise.
Reign of the Blue League Military, first year. April 2nd.
30 years old. Year 12 of Imprisonment.
It was over.
After all these years, the people finally got what they wanted. The dictatorship which has ruled over the State since even before my time has finally ended, and now the State has adopted the democratic system. The voting was close actually; those who believe that the military are only out to stick their noses in where they don't belong and to hurt innocent people voted for the Amendment Party, no matter how bad of a job they were doing. Then there are people who believe that the military gives them strength and not so susceptible to other nations. It makes them feel protected… or war hungry. Sometimes I'm not so sure. In the end though, the military was successful and regained control over the State.
And… Mustang-san finally achieved his goal; he's the Fuhrer of the State of Amestris now.
It seems strange, but… I'm glad. After learning of his motives, I couldn't hate him so much anymore. I guess there are advantages of getting older.
I went down to visit Al. Out of the blue, he decides to ask about the check-up I had performed on him 5 years ago. It seems his sense of time was getting slower and slower. Around this time, I decided to share meals with him. He is the only one I have left from my simpler life. I haven't been able to tell him that both Grandma and Den have passed away due to natural causes. Also, I have decided to stop giving Al correct information regarding the outside world.
The garden; Al's garden. It really is a purifying thing. Whenever I'm there, it feels like time slows down to a crawl. Surrounded by the enciphering flowers that never wither, I thought I was in the garden of the heavens for a few moments. That reminds me, Wrath once asked me where I go for such long periods of time, and I told him what had happened and about the garden. His physical appearance doesn't change, as expected, but his mind actually seems to be maturing. He once simply stated that it sounded more like a garden closest to hell. Those words coming from him threw me off, but the irony is beautiful.
"Winry… those words…"
"Every time… I come here… it… it reminds me of back then…"
A sense of nostalgia; his memories of his childhood before everything went to hell flooded back to him.
He flipped the page only once this time; to the next entry.
Reign of the Blue League Military, first year. April 10th.
30 years old. Year 12 of Imprisonment.
Lior… it was under attack recently. I was worried about Rose, so I decided to check on her. The military departed there as well because there were reports from the citizens about strange mechanical creatures appearing from nowhere. I didn't go alone though, Scieszka insisted upon coming along, but I told Wrath to stay behind. Not that he'd listen.
When we got there, the military was already present. They were defending the town from some kind of mechanical creatures I had never once seen. Apparently, they were from another world, and something had torn the gate open from someplace else.
That's also when I saw… him.
Edward… he was back. After 14 years, he had finally returned, and I didn't even know what to say.
Physically, he had changed a lot. He was no longer the boy I had once known. His features were more defined, he started budding some facial hair, and he seemed to carry with him some sort of charismatic aura with him. One that spoke of the kind of trials he had faced at… wherever he had been all this time. Heh… he'd probably blow a fuse if I told him how much he looked like his father.
I never got the chance to ask him where he had been, what surprised me is that he came to me, but before he was able to say anything, Mustang-san came up to us. Edward was needed in order to push back those creatures before they flooded the entire city.
I didn't say anything as I watched him follow the rest of the soldiers, now of course, I wish I had. He paused momentarily to look back at me, and I realized that despite the change of his appearance, I still knew him. He smiled at me briefly before turning back and continued up the path and eventually out of my sight.
If only I had known then…
After what seemed like hours, I couldn't keep still anymore and, despite Scieszka's best efforts, I pulled away and went after them. No sooner had I gone up the path to where I saw him last, when a blast sounded, before all went deathly silent.
My worst fears were justified when I continued up the path and rounded the corner.
All I remember is the clearing looming in front of me, cluttered with the ruins of buildings and metal, the world coming into dizzying focus in a whirl of colours, and the smell of death, and…
Blood. Oh, god, there was so much blood I thought I was going to throw up. The disembodied pieces of soldiers and blue cloth littered the area, as well as scraps of metal from those robotic creatures. Then, I turned by head to the right, and the image which greeted me didn't connect. Instead, it seemed to piece itself together and when the cloudiness disappeared from my vision, I froze.
It must have been caused from the blast… he lay there on the ground, a shard of glass sticking out of his stomach, impaling him. He was covered from head to toe in blood… his own blood. I don't remember how I got to him very well. I remember screaming his name until my voice cracked and I couldn't anymore, and fell down by his side.
He wasn't dead.
By the shallow rises of his chest and the slight twitching of his fingers, I knew he wasn't… but, I had wished he was. I remember him tilting his head looking up at me, a small smile creasing his mouth. He opened his mouth to say something, but instead of words, a rush of blood came flooding out. He coughed and I knew he wouldn't be able to withstand it much longer. So I gently lifted him slightly, placing his head on my lap, determined not to let him do this alone.
He coughed once again and tried to speak, but I told him not to, it was okay. Of course, he didn't listen. He told me that the creatures that attacked today were sent by a higher force from another world, where he had been. The leader before, a woman apparently, had tried to break through once 12 years ago, but they couldn't open the gate from this side. I didn't really understand, but I tried to memorize everything he told me. After all these years, they'd finally figured out a way to break through the gate, using the strength from something called 'the serpent,' and were now trying to push their way through in order to take over and use the military's power from this world. He was warning me, I realized, and I knew somehow that it would prove to be useful later.
His voice died out, and all I could do was watch him helplessly as he struggled to hold onto a life that had already been taken from him. He then asked me how I'd been doing, which made me feel elated on the inside. Then he asked me how Al was…
What could I have said? I just couldn't bring myself to tell him what's happened to his little brother… not while he was like this. So I lied. I told him he was as well as to be expected.
He smiled one last time, but for some reason, the look in his eyes betrayed him. He then asked me if there seemed to be anything wrong with Al… and I felt sick. I felt sick because I lied to him again, saying that he seemed fine, but Ed still seemed uneasy.
His breathing was shallow, and his pupils were unfocused. I knew that he was in so much pain, and the tears wouldn't stop flowing from me. I wanted to make it stop; to take all of his pain away. Then my eyes drifted to the piece of glass embedded inside of him. Slowly, I gripped onto the jagged surface, piercing my own skin, and I… I…
(The next few paragraphs were unreadable; the stains from some sort of water smudged the ink writing)
For the longest time, I just stared at his still form. He had told me that Al and I should live happily and to take good care of ourselves. Then he faded with two final words for me; thank you.
All I could do was cry helplessly into his chest, I knew I was covered in his blood, and my own deep wound on my hand hadn't even phased me. I felt responsible, I felt like I hadn't just extracted that shard, but his life too. I just… I just…
(There were more smudges)
I don't recall how long it had been until Riza-sama came. I didn't even know until I heard the startled gasps of Mustang-san's subordinates. When I looked up, she was the first person I saw. She was standing quietly with an unreadable expression on her face. I opened my mouth to speak, but I found that I could not, and that I sounded as if I had just gotten over a case of laryngitis. Before I realized what had happened, she reached out to me just as everything went black.
"I should've been there…" He heard his voice echo softly in the empty space. He gritted his teeth, fighting back the tears that had already begun to drip down his face. "If I had only been there, maybe I could've… Nii-san…" His brother had been okay, but then…
The journal fell from his hands, landing with a soft clatter onto the cement.
He gasped and looked at the book through blurred eyes. How had this happened? He wasn't supposed to die like that, he was supposed to come back to them one day so he could catch up on the life he missed. The feeling of bile rising up in his throat made him dizzy, and he swallowed as hard as he could. The room suddenly felt colder than it had ever been before, and he swore he saw his breath in the darkness.
His eyes settled on the pages once more, they were still open to the last entry he had read. He clenched his fist. He had to be strong, he couldn't quit like that. He needed to know what had happened, and what had befallen Winry.
His quivering hands grasped the corners of the book and placed it back into his lap. He rolled his head back, inhaling deeply though his mouth before slowly letting it out.
He looked back down and flipped the page.
Reign of the Blue League Military, tenth year. December 15th.
40 years old. Year 22 of Imprisonment.
Mustang retired as Fuhrer today. A successor hasn't been named yet surprisingly. He was a well-respected leader and never once entered a war for no reason. I now think that it was what he had been aiming for all along. I think people are waiting to see if he and Riza-sama's son will carry the mantle when he comes of age. I agreed to look after him while they went on a business trip for three months to a neighbouring country in order to sign a treaty. So it kept me away from Al.
Al thought I had been gone for only two weeks.
Our senses of time have definitely drifted apart.
At the time, I lied to him saying that I had visited Rose, but during that conversation another disturbing revelation was brought to light. Al thinks it's only been 5-6 years since he was imprisoned. I never mentioned to him that Mustang had already retired and that the Executive Council members who had imprisoned Al in the first place were already all dead. Too bad their successors shared the same views of the old ones.
It is mentally stressing. It's been really difficult for me to continue lying to Al. I still continue to lie to him, unable to look him in the eye. Also, it is getting rather difficult for Mustang to use the flowers to maintain my youthful appearance as I get older. It's getting more difficult to be able to work, and a red line keeps materializing on my hand from where I had grabbed that piece of glass out of…
(The rest of the line had been quickly scribbled out)
I also noticed that whenever I get sick, it hits me much worse than it normally should, and a common cold takes about six months to leave my system. I can tell that Wrath is worried, and he told me that I shouldn't work so hard. I can't give up though. I won't be able to rest until I know what's happened to Al.
I was finally granted my wish.
Riza-sama has been helping me in my quest, but there seems to be nothing wrong with Al physically or mentally. Then one day when I was absent-mindedly watching Wrath on the floor where I was working, messily drawing on a piece of paper, some things occurred to me. I know now that a homunculus is the result of a failed human transmutation. The reason for the failure is because there is no exchange for a soul… right?
When Al had been in a suit of armour, his soul had adapted to sustaining a foreign object in order to exist. The blood seal kept it in place, but Al was still able to move around. He had truly been classified as an immortal being, flesh or not.
I often wondered where Al's body had been for all those years, and I heard myself wonder it out loud and I saw Wrath stiffen. He started shaking and rambling on about a gate. That's what Ed had mentioned when he came back… so Wrath must have seen it when Al's soul had finally been returned to his 10 year old body.
So… when Ed had attached his soul after all of those years, what had been happening to his body? Being in a place like that where the creatures who dwell there live for an eternity. Perhaps… they had tampered with his body somehow…
He had been immortal. How could he have gone back so easilty? It was not possible, the way I see it.
About the plants in the garden: Al explained to me that he combines the light from the moonlight with his own alchemy as equivalent exchange to make them grow. It seems their DNA has been altered too, so much that it shares Al's properties of longevity.
After Mustang-san retired, I asked him to use some kind of seal, like Ed had done, on the entrance in the corridors leading to Al's garden. There was no telling who would get in now that I wasn't working at the military base full-time anymore. I won't let anybody else disturb him.
It was true. He had indeed thought that she had been gone for only two weeks.
So that was why Winry had spent more time with him. She had been free from her duties as a personal assistant to Hawkeye-san and sorting through paperwork.
Slowly, the pieces started to fit together.
Reign of the Amendment Party, first year. March 4th.
50 years old. Year 32 of Imprisonment.
Sometimes I feel like I live in one of those countries that never have a true ruler.
In Mustang's absence, the new leader of that group of political know-it-alls really jumped the gun, and went on their campaign. With no Fuhrer or any other leader in sight, they easily won, and the power of the state once again shifted.
The warning that Edward gave me twenty years ago… I now understand what it meant. Those metal creatures came back, and this time, so did whoever sent them. I don't know much about what happened, all I know is that the technology that our side now possesses set against theirs…
In the end, they were defeated. However… I'm not sure if the cost was worth it. I've always hated war, and fighting, and this only justifies my feelings.
I don't want Al to see what has happened to the world he once knew.
He talks a lot about the friends I told him he made during he and his brother's journey nowadays. I know how hard he's trying to remember, and I really admire him for that.
He then asked about Dominic and Paninya and if Mustang and Riza-sama had gotten married. I felt really sad then and reacted in a way I shouldn't have, because out of all of my friends, I was the only who was still yet to have a family of sorts, although I'm already too old for that. After all, I have already taken on automail apprentices of my own. My students, as well as Al, Mustang-san and Riza-sama, Rose, Elysia, and even Wrath are the only things closest to a family that I'll ever have. Then I realized it. I had been handed the opportunity before, but I never wanted to take it. I just can't move on and leave Al behind.
After I calmed down, I also told him that Pinako was fine, but Den was slowing down. When the truth was, they had both already passed away, Rose's son was taking his oaths after his mother had, and Elysia's attending college finally after all her hard work. I'm so proud of her. As for Wrath…
He had been acting strange lately, and I tried to get him to talk to me. He told me that he had been having a weird twitching in his stomach lately. The poor boy still doesn't know what an emotion is. I took it as anxiety, and told him to relax, that there's nothing that can hurt him anymore. He still seems plagued by whatever he had been forced to do under his old master's control. I always had the feeling that he had been abused on more than one occasion…
It bothered me though, he shook his head, telling me that it wasn't completely over. Before I knew it, he had buried his face into my robes and was crying buckets… CRYING. I didn't think that homunculi were capable of that. I remember him thanking me over and over again, but I didn't understand why…
The next morning, he wasn't in the place I shared with him. And there were a pile of red stones on the counter. He had left… and gone after something, but for some reason, I knew that I would never see him again.
He felt guilty.
The way she described Wrath… he seemed to have really liked her and, despite him being a homunculus, she had treated him with the same kindness she would towards any human.
At this point, he was at a loss for words.
He flipped through a few more pages.
Reign of the Blue League Military, first year. November 21st.
60 years old. Year 42 of Imprisonment.
I should be getting used to the constant shifting.
Mustang and Riza-sama's son has taken over the military now. It was easy for voters this time. He really does have the leadership skills and intelligence of his father and mother. He learned alchemy, but he doesn't use it that much. He prefers the tactical skills like his mother.
He doesn't know Al, yet he tried to override the sentence the old Executive Council put on him, although their hold is starting to weaken. However, I fear that it would take several more decades before some future Fuhrer can veto the Council's decisions and ultimately free Al, but definitely not during my lifetime. Perhaps the children from future generations can.
On a related note, I'm starting to feel the full blunt of the effects from the alchemical spell performed on me 30 years ago, and have already been hospitalized a few times from collapsing. The wound from the glass could have potentially caused blood poisoning, but the doctors were able to stop it in time. Combined with my duties of looking after Elysia in Gracia's stead and the treatments I've been getting from my nurse, it has been years since I've gone to see Al. The circle can now barely maintain my youthful form and I predict I can withhold this state for only one more year and now I know why.
The transmutation Mustang used is a form of immortality, and although Al's flowers hold that property, it cannot sustain another life force. In turn, it has had an effect on my health and has been draining my immune system. That is why I am still affected by the small infection I had from my case of blood poisoning. Equivalent Exchange really does hold a profound effect.
The way I appear to Al now. We are the same age, though he doesn't seem to realize it. I can't change the transmutation Mustang used on me, so he can't change the age I appear as.
I constantly fiddle with the red stones Wrath left behind. According to the records, the homunculi used them as sustenance. If they can sustain those bunch, couldn't they be used for other things?
I wanted to go to his garden.
So I started developing the drug I have been planning on making.
He had always assumed that age would have no effect on her and that she would always be beautiful.
He blinked a few times in confusion, fully aware of the sinking feeling in his stomach as the final words registered. "A… drug?"
He flipped to the next page.
Reign of the Blue League Military, ninth year. July 7th.
69 years old. Year 51 of Imprisonment.
It seems the people have finally made a decision, and that the military will maintain its control over the State.
So far I am proud of my decision to give up automail and the medical sciences completely. I would say I definitely had a good run. I had been thinking about it for awhile, and then finally made the decision 5 years ago, though I still miss it greatly. I had done this because I could no longer stand to be around my aids in my withered old appearance, and I wanted more time to myself in order to spend some time on the drug I have been developing. 13 years and almost no progress, but I think I might have finally found a solution.
I wasn't planning on developing a drug that permanently retained a youthful body. Even temporarily would've been just as good, but the side-effects of the experimental drug I have developed caused vomiting and not just a little. With further analysis, I found that when the stones are in close contact with high shocks of energy, and probably certain advanced kinds of alchemy, a chemical reaction will ensue, which is what caused me to regurgitate the solution I had created. I wonder if those homunculi ran into these problems…
I am, however, already 69 years old. I have done all I can as just one person in the world. I'm sure Al… and Ed would be proud of me. Just this once, I wanted to do things my way.
I still need some time before I can reach my final decision. I do need to say my goodbyes, after all.
Of course he and his brother were proud, they always had been.
He hesitantly flipped the page once more.
The next entry was her last one.
Reign of the Blue League Military, tenth year. April 30th.
70 years old. Year 52 of Imprisonment.
I turned 70 today. It wasn't really a cause for a celebration, in my mind anyway, but my students and old friends still threw a party for me nonetheless. Their sons and daughters; even their grandchildren all came and celebrated the birthday with me. It was one of the most recent happy days in my life.
Everyone, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
After I saw them off, I made my way towards the Central Headquarters with the small, red pill in my pocket. It has been over twenty years since I entered the sealed corridors, and it will be the last time.
I took the drug, and it worked beautifully, I was the same 25-year-old woman I once was.
Al was still the same. The flowers were still a breathtaking sight. He questioned why I was staring at them so intently. I couldn't tell him because it was the last time I would ever see them again. He even saw through my unease and asked if I was feeling unwell. I told him not to worry.
Now that my death was near, I was faced with a decision that had plagued me for over half a century: To tell him the truth, or not.
As I looked upon the sunflowers I realized that, despite all of the hardships and the tragedies we had seen, I came to the conclusion that the world truly is a beautiful place. Then for Amestris and its neighbouring countries, Al and his garden of heaven was a forgotten entity, a beauty never to be enjoyed and never appreciated. As for Al… would he be able to live happily with the knowledge that he will be forever cursed to see his loved ones die around him while he aged ever so painfully slow?
In the end, I ran away. I couldn't tell him. So I was still the helpless little girl Ed and Al once knew after all.
I had considered just going to sleep next to him and letting the effects of the drug take over as it robbed me of my last breath. But I couldn't do that. In desperation, I had confessed my feelings; the love I felt for him. He seemed confused, and I doubt if he understood. It was so like him. Al was still the overly innocent, but very sweet blonde haired, almond-eyed kid I fell in love with sometime along the way.
So I left the garden of heaven, with promises that I will return someday.
As I write these last words, I realize that I do not have much time left. When I close my eyes, I know it will be the last. I changed my will to include specific instructions to give this diary to Al when the last survivor of the person he knew before he was confined to his sanctuary expects when his or her death is near.
Again, thank you everyone.
And thank you, Al.
I will always wish for your happiness.
- Winry Rockbell
1899 - 1969
The diary ended. Her long, fifty-two year diary ended.
And nothing but silence came from it, except for a small chattering.
He gritted his teeth together, but the effort was in vain as he closed the journal and held it tightly against his chest. He didn't want to lose it, but he felt it coming and there was nothing he could do about it. He felt himself falling apart with every tear that dripped down his face and onto the hand covering the book.
How could this have happened?
Winry… and his brother…
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
It had been the sensation from a different world, the one before the human transmutation, since tears rolled freely across Alphonse Elric's cheeks, and now he couldn't stop. It had been bottled up the whole time, from when he was in the suit of armour to the ninety years after he had gotten his body back.
He finally threw his head back and let out that wail of grief which had lay dormant for so long.
All this time… all this time…
Head in his hands, his mind was full of turmoil.
What should he do now?
The memories of his past years since he and his brother's own attempt at forbidden alchemy came once more, smoothly settling into place as if they had never even left. The many different people and friends they had met, and the many losses they had to cope with. He remembered them all.
He had acquired it, hadn't he? What almost any human covets the most… immortality. Only… he didn't want it, he had never wanted it. He could now recall the time when Greed had wanted it from him so badly…
… … why?
How could anyone live like that? To be forced to watch as time slowly pushes on without you while everyone else you once knew left you behind, even if it was without meaning to. The homunculi had been given that too… now even they were all gone. What about his father and Dante? They also had their own way of achieving immortality, but they failed as well. Now they too were dead…
Only he had achieved it, and he didn't even want it.
A flicker of light caught his eye and he lifted his head, eyes still flooding over.
There was a light shining in through the small window high up on the wall…
How could that be?
"… I've always felt… that I belonged here. No matter what happens, I'll be back, okay?"
Did Winry come back here?
Was it even possible?
Did she come back to the garden of heaven that could have also been called the garden closest to hell?
When Winry was here, the garden was indeed a heaven.
But now, he wasn't so sure.
Was it a peaceful paradise?
Or was it a baneful prison?
Was it merely a place that had taken one world from long ago and split it into three?
He hugged the diary close to his chest as he felt his eyes grow heavy, and a wave of fatigue wash over him. As his eyes closed, he realized he wasn't alone and that he seeing only one world.
There was a boy with his small hands on his hips, his golden hair and matching eyes set to put the sun to shame, standing before him. His shorts and other loose clothing flapped lightly in the breeze as he grinned widely at him. He carried with him a promising glow along with a strong posture; a clear sign of what he would once achieve and the heritage he had unknowingly come from.
His mouth curved upwards.
By his side, there was a girl with a serene smile across her sweet face. Her pale blonde hair flowing out gently around it, framing it perfectly. Her small body was moving, as if to unheard music, and her sundress followed in the same rhythm as the boy next to her. She held an intoxicating innocence about her that seemed to sweep away any doubts one might have. She was like coming home.
His hands squeezed the journal tighter.
"Come on, slowpoke! We'll race you!"
He felt the final tear make its descent.
"It'll be fun! We're going up to the lake!"
He chuckled and gazed back up at the light.
So, she had come back after all, and perhaps…
His brother had come with her.
There was nothing more to fear, so he lay down on his side and went to sleep, with a smile on his face.
Garden of Eden
What did I just do?
Sorry, but it even made me sad towards the end, and I'm supposed to be the author! Once again, I never actually thought that I would write anything for AlWin, but I just couldn't help myself when I started getting a few ideas. It will probably be the only AlWin fic I ever do, but never say never, I suppose.
On another note, sorry for the delay to the final part, but there was something strange going on with the server.
I hope this was enjoyable, and I give my sincere appreciation to all of you.