I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist the manga nor the anime.
"Well… Every reason differs for each one of you. I don't think we can spend so much time with me explaining to you individually—" Ed was cut off when Winry grabbed his arm and dragged him off towards a side room connected to the main one everyone else was in.
Winry shut the door firmly behind them, steering Ed as far away from the door as the room allowed.
"If you don't have time to answer every single one of us, then just answer me. Why. Did. You. Lie. To. Me?!" Winry frowned at Ed for a moment longer before breaking down into a sobbing fit. "You don't want me anymore, do you?! I'm just a hassle to you! No matter how much I try, you'll always overlook me!"
Winry ranted tearfully, "The only reason I had tried so hard on automail was because of you! I wanted to be good enough for you! You were always moving forward. I was afraid I would fall behind! I didn't want that!"
Still wailing, Winry barely heard Ed's next words, "Winry, moving forward is easy, it's what I leave behind that makes it so difficult. That's why I didn't and never will take even a step forward unless I've got everything I can have with me."
Sniffing but calmer now, Winry tried to joke her way out of her embarrassing outburst. "So, what? I'm just luggage to you?"
Not catching the intended joke, Ed sighed with frustration. And people called him dense! Ed, a man wanting to prove himself, did something that could've been either a great step onward or a huge leapt backwards. He kissed his best friend.
After an indefinite moment, Ed pulled himself back as if Winry's lips had burned him. "Sorry!" he yelled.
Winry was bawling even more now.
"Urgh! Winry, don't cry! I'm sorry. I won't do it again, I promise! We can just forget—" Ed was rather rudely interrupted by Winry, who practically threw herself at him, shoving her lips to his, forcing her way into his mouth.
Her scream was barely comprehendible as her words strived to get out from in between their mouths, "I waited seven damn years for that, you idiot! Don't apologize, and for Pete's sake, don't stop doing it!"
"I wonder what they're doing." asked Al, rather alarmed at the shouts that had been resounding from the other side of the door a moment ago. He was thrown into even deeper confusion as Mustang and Havoc began snickering like kids.
Falman cleared his throat uncomfortably, pretending to be arranging files.
Fuery blushed and turned away as if he was witnessing something private.
Breda was mumbling, "Kid is scoring big…"
Sig grunted, which was as close to expressing amusement as he could get.
Izumi, Riza, and even Rose smirked knowingly.
"It's about time," the wise Izumi muttered.
Unbeknownst to her, Truth agreed.
When Ed and Winry emerged from their private conversation, every person capable of alchemy tackled him with questions, completely pulverizing the wonderful mood Winry had put him in.
Taking a seat, Ed was utterly surrounded by his peers, all intent on getting answers, even if it meant beating it out of him.
"I had thought that human transmutation was bad news," Mustang inquired. "Why are you a success?"
"Brother, please explain how you were revived. What did Truth have to sacrifice for you? Even he has to follow equivalent exchange, right?" Al looked at Ed with pleading eyes.
"Alright, alright. I'll do my best to explain." Ed averted his gaze to the floor.
"Um… How should I put this? Well… It's like this…" Ed cleared his throat, shifting in his chair.
"Out with it, idiot apprentice!" growled Izumi.
"… Uh… There is no such thing as equivalent exchange," Ed stated in a heartbeat.
Ed's announcement was so unlikely that no one even bothered to consider it seriously. "That can't be right. 'To obtain, something of equal value must be lost'!" quoted Al.
"That's just it, Al!" yelled Ed, surprising everyone out of their skins. "That's just it…" Ed sighed again before explaining further. "You know the saying, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'?"
The wheels began turning in the heads of those who were rich in the knowledge of alchemy, but others with meager experience remained confused. For the sake of persons still baffled, Ed went on, "No two persons can share the same estimation of importance someone or something has. To a rich man, a sack of gold is nothing. To a man of poverty, it's probably worth more than life itself. So it's impossible to determine equivalent exchange. That's why equivalent exchange doesn't truly exist. Do you understand?"
Ed had the feeling that he was going too fast, too bluntly. And by Izumi's snort, he was right.
"Ed, quit yanking our chains and tell the truth! No pupil of mine shall ever lie!" the woman bellowed.
"I'm being honest!" protested Ed, though to little progression.
"Fullmetal, you're a little too old to be playing pranks. Lying to your commanding officer is not a wise move," threatened Mustang.
"What?! No! I'm not lying!"
"But, Brother," Al inquired, "If there's no such thing as equivalent exchange, then what are transmutation circles for?"
"Alphonse Elric, don't tell me you're falling for the lies your brother is spouting!" exclaimed Izumi. She had expected Al to have more sense than his sibling.
Al looked his teacher in the eye. "Teacher, I trust my brother's judgment. If he says something and if he has a solid justification behind his reasoning, I'll be more than willing to consider it before jumping to other conclusions."
Ed was almost at a lost for words. Only Al could be so faithful.
A moment of silence passed before Izumi grudgingly grunted, "Fair enough. I'll hear you out, Ed."
Izumi also wanted to trust Ed as much as Al did, but it was hard. Under any other circumstances, in any other subject, she would've listened to Ed, but this was equivalent exchange. Her whole life, she had followed this law, and now Ed wanted to tell her that it didn't exist? She might as well have been part of a cult!
Mustang inquired slowly as he decided to play along as well, "Alphonse had a good question. If equivalent exchange doesn't exist, what's the use of transmutation circles?"
Ed smirked at the fact that he knew something Mustang didn't. "Heh, what wrong, Flame Alchemist? Why are you asking someone smaller than you for lessons?"
"He's not the only one that wants to know, Edward," Izumi added in a hostile voice, cracking her knuckles, every deafening pop seeming to pound into Ed's head.
"Alchemy doesn't exist in this world!" Ed's hasty outburst to save his life resulted in an overlapping yell of, "Wha?"
"Alchemy is sealed off in the Gate. Transmutation circles are for access to the Gates, kinda like a ticket. Every circle had a different destination, a different use of alchemy. Ironically, however, since there's nothing to transmute in the Gate, you can't use alchemy even if it's all around you."
Ed was ready to get sacked. In a sense, he basically just told every alchemist here to completely revise the philosophy they've devoted their whole life to. There was no way he'll get away with this seemingly farfetched derangement.
Not even Al would be lenient enough. Ed was seriously stretching everyone's mercy to the limit.
"…This is hard to accept," admitted Al.
Huh? Al believed him?
"Heh." Izumi allowed herself a small smile. "To think that a day would come when the teacher is taught by the student… Unbelievable… Unforgivable!" Sparks flew from Izumi's grinding teeth, only held at bay by the ever so patient Sig,
And his teacher believed him, too?
All that's left is…
"Fullmetal, to me, alchemy is just alchemy. It'll still be used in the same manner, just with different principles." Mustang shrugged nonchalantly.
To put it simply, Ed was grateful. These people actually believed him. His almost implausible revisal was accepted this quickly only because of blind faith.
"I feel left out…" Winry stated aloud to Rose.
"You, too?" Rose answered.
It was obvious what they were trying to imply.
"Maybe you lady and gentlemen can discuss this further after we've asked our questions," suggested Riza.
Without waiting for permission, Winry patted Ed's head to get his attention and asked, "How was it like to be revived? Did it feel weird?"
Ed's heart sunk. He did not need to be reminded of his…experience.
The process had been as simple as stepping through the Gate, yet at the same time, it was so much more than that. Ed carefully began his explanation, almost as if he was teaching an important and complicated lesson, "When I came out the Gate, life was restored back into me, obviously. I was returned to my body, which was in my grave. But as soon as I 'reentered' the corpse, it was also restored. It wasn't just bones anymore. Of course, I didn't actually see my body redevelop. I was knocked out for at least a few hours as my body went through the rapid change of the last five years. But that's not quite right either…"
Ed frowned, struggling to put the entire transaction into words. "It didn't actually feel like I was unconscious for only a few hours. First of all, I wasn't really unconscious. I was partially awake, and during the 'trance' I was in, it felt a lot more than hours. It felt like years. Five years, to be exact; that was how long I was dead, so I had to make up those five years."
"So…" Winry urged, completely fascinated, "What did you do in those 'five years'? Were you stuffing yourself with food? Were you being tortured with milk?"
Ed was not amused. By now, he was no longer looking at his listeners. He was staring at his open palms, recalling the terrible memory. "I spent it in darkness. And it wasn't normal darkness. I couldn't see, no matter how hard my eyes tried to adjust. And I couldn't hear. I couldn't feel. I couldn't use any of my senses. I don't think I was even breathing."
Ed grinned ruefully. "I know it doesn't sound like much, but it really was harsh. I don't think I've ever felt lonelier in my entire life and afterlife. It was lonely to the point where I was almost driven to insanity."
As the silent moment passed, Edward suddenly had to stifle a wild and deranged urge to shoot himself. Not only had he completely destroyed his reputation by being so sappy, he had also revealed his weak side. As slight as the hint may have been, Ed had still unintentionally admitted that he was afraid of being alone. He had shown that the Fullmetal Alchemist wasn't invincible. He still needed others to keep him company.
Ed grimaced inwardly as he looked up, gauging whether or not the others had picked up on his slip-up. With horror, he realized something much worse. Everyone was staring at him with sympathy. They felt sorry for him. "Don't look at me like that!" Ed hollered, leaping out of his seat and into the air. "I don't need your pity! I don't want your pity!"
Ed left his small audience to ponder on his words, thundering out of the office and down the hall.
Riza recover first. "I'll go talk to him; you guys can stay here," she told/ordered everyone else.
It was easy to follow Ed's trampling footsteps. He wasn't trying to hide his thumping, metal foot anymore.
However, despite growing a few inches, Ed was still short, no match for Riza's long strides.
Catching her prey by the shoulder, Riza hauled Ed into an empty file room.
"Edward, it's rude to yell at people and then leave. You're 22 now, right? You should know better," Riza scolded Ed like a mother.
"Hawkeye, is this necessary?" Ed rolled his eyes.
In response to that, Riza did what she normally did. She pulled out her gun. "Look at people when they're talking to you."
For anyone else, Riza's gun might have had the wanted affect, but for Ed, it scared him beyond that of rationality.
Riza seemed to have noticed Ed's frigid stop. "Edward?"
"Riza, please put away your gun."
Obliging, Riza asked again, "Is something wrong?"
"I'm not that fond of guns," was the still shaky reply.
Now Riza recalled "Vic's" reaction at the train station when she had first handled her gun in his face.
"Edward, why are you afraid of a gun? You didn't used to be."
"Yeah? Well, back then, I didn't know what it was like to be shot and killed by a gun, did I?" Ed replied with heavy sarcasm and blame, which he immediately regretted.
But Riza wasn't one to be fazed by harsh words. "Edward, it's time to get over that fear."
"That's none of your business, Hawkeye."
"It is if you want to stay in the military. I don't want to have to take care of you once we get into actual battles, Edward. We don't have tolerance for burdens around here." Riza frowned. "I don't know how you managed to fight against the rebels. Just now, you were frozen with fear even though I hadn't even loaded my gun yet."
"Yeah, well, I actually had a purpose in fights. I don't like holding other people back. So don't worry, I won't be a burden." Ed glared at Hawkeye, though still keeping a wary eye on her lethal weapon.
Truth be told, the only reason he hadn't snapped so far was because Truth was holding his fear at bay. Yeah, he can do that. Though of course, Truth could only meddle with Ed's life when it was required. It was like his moral or something…
Riza easily saw through Ed's defiant mask. "Edward, we're gonna settle this once and for all. You have to get over this phobia of yours."
Ed pointedly looked away.
"Edward, guns don't kill people—people do." Riza rubbed Ed's head.
Riza continued when Ed didn't interrupt. "A gun itself is harmless. Two things make it dangerous. The first thing it needs is a bullet. Without that, it's useless. The second thing it needs is a person to handle it. And even then, the danger still depends on who that person is. If it's a well-trained ally, then you should feel relieved. If it's an inexperienced enemy, then you should really be ducking for your life."
Ed snorted, though Riza noticed that his stance was less tense. Oh, well. She couldn't expect Ed to recover from his phobia too fast.
She'll just have to shoot him; after all, you have to face your fears to get over them.
Sighing, she pulled out her gun again with expert speed, loading and aiming it at Ed's—
Ed was bolting with lightning speed out the door and down the hallway. No way in hell was he gonna let Hawkeye catch him this time. He needed someone to protect him; he needed a shield. A hostage, maybe.
After navigating through a few corridors, he bumped into none other than Führer Hinreich himself. Taking the president as a hostage might be going too far, but desperate times call for desperate measures…
"Edward Elric!" the large man thundered in his usually cheerful tone. But Ed could see the shadows of fatigue beneath the kind eyes, and the lines of weariness were unmistakable on the commander's exhausted face.
And that's when Ed's resolve to kidnap the Führer went down the drain. The last thing his President needed was to be abducted…
"Good morning, Sir," Ed greeted with as much respect as he can muster. Hawkeye would be here soon; he's wasting precious getaway time.
But, wait. Maybe there's more use for the President than just kidnapping him. Not even Riza would dare attack a fellow soldier right in front of the Führer.
"Sir, how have you been?" Ed asked nonchalantly. From the corner of his vision, he saw Hawkeye pause around a corner. Heh. She probably realized how futile it'll be to come at him now.
Sighing, Riza backed away. Now was not a wise moment to teach Ed his lesson, but there's always later…
"To be truthful, not very well," the President answered Ed, letting his jolly façade drop. "The mayhem after the rebels' first attack still hasn't been put to order, and already, the second onslaught had come to add more labor."
"I don't suppose I'll be of any help," muttered Ed, a little more serious now. He felt somewhat responsible for the whole chaos, even though he didn't participate in attacking the military, a homunculus of him did.
"Well," the Führer considered sincerely, "we could use all the hands we can get to rebuild arsenals and repair buildings." He raised a friendly eyebrow suggestively.
Ed smirked, "You're not ordering me to do so?"
For the first time in a long while, the President smiled a genuine grin. "If you've done any research on me at all, you'll find that I've never before drafted a citizen, not even once. I only take volunteers, why? Because if you force someone into something, they only obey half-heartedly. But if this person wants to help of their own free will, then they'll be the most devoted and loyal men a leader can have. That's why I…"
The President strode down the hall, boasting about his principles and philosophy. Ed followed with a smile, deciding that Mustang may have been right about the military. It wasn't corrupted or as bad as Ed had implied it on that fateful day on the train.
Before he knew it, Ed had followed his Führer out into the sun where dutiful men worked on rebuilding damages inflicted in the past few days.
"Where should I begin?" asked Ed rhetorically. The place looked worse than the aftermath of chaos his and Al's State Alchemy Exam had left.
"Is that the Fullmetal Alchemist?" whispered a soldier, distracted by his own curiosity.
"I thought he was dead," whispered another.
Soon, Ed was fairly self-conscious, aware that many eyes were on him, scrutinizing him for any possible abnormality. He should probably start getting used to this. It's not gonna stop for some time. People would want answers. Only formality and manners held their curiosity at bay.
Also conscious of the uncomfortable change in the air, the President whistled casually. Finally, he cleared his throat with over exaggerated noise.
Several seemed to have noticed Ed's discomfort and caught themselves before poring over him like an auction item any further.
Calming as others gradually returned to their duties, Ed focused on the task at hand. He walked over to a portion of the arena no one has gotten to yet, and shifted the overturned earth back into place with a clap of his hands.
Murmurs arose again, but this time, they were of thanks, not nosiness. A few sighed with relief at Ed's handiness and gave hesitant but friendly waves.
The President's grin widened to the point where his face is almost dominated by it. "That's right! The Fullmetal Alchemist is back!"
So this was like, what? Five weeks overdue? I lost track a long time ago. …Sorry. To be honest, I didn't try hard enough for speed or for fulfillment. This is not a matter of opinion; it's a fact. I didn't put my heart into this, so I wasn't quite as satisfied with my concluding chappy. I'm sorry that I gave this to you anyways even though I considered it to be incompetent.
I already know I was pushing my luck back there by completely reevaluating the concept of FMA. I'm perfectly aware that there are loopholes in my theory, but since I didn't know how to fix it, I'm just going to beg of you to ignore my mistakes. (One day soon, I might actually stop relying on the mercy of my readers.) Don't yell at me about my traitorous actions please. I would also appreciate it if my perception isn't reused.
My pre-readers finally helped me with one thing. They showed me a tiny part of this chapter that needed desperate clarification. That part is when Winry yelled, "I waited seven damn years for that, you idiot! Don't apologize, and for Pete's sake don't stop doing it!"
No, they weren't actually doing it. They were just sharing the smooch of the century. No biggie. I hope no one got confused. My pre-readers did, but, luckily, that was what compelled me to write this explanation.
Oh, yeah. I actually do know that I'm hiding Truth in the dark. I really have no idea how on earth Ed was going to explain that one. And Truth would want his existence as a 'god' to be kept a secret, right? Well, he's my character, so of course I know what's best for him. Not your character, mine. So don't you dare contradict me. XD
This is the final chappy, but I still have a thank you gift / note for my reviewers. I've already started working on it, so please have patience! Dang, I'm so excited about my idea for this. Yeah, I know I'm making this sound like a big deal that'll blow your socks off, but it might not be. I mean, all writers think their work is brilliant, right? Even when they suck, they'll still keep going. So this gift probably isn't as great as I'm making it sound.
XD My last chapter has got the epic author's note. I mean, just look at how long this sucker is.