It was early morning and here and there a person was seen going about their business. Edward walked with Richard through the quiet country lanes of Resembool toward the train station. Neither father nor son were in any hurry to get to their intended destination; both enjoying the company of the other for the last few minutes that they had together.
The family had said their good byes earlier and elected to stay behind, allowing these last few moments for Edward to spend time with his son before he was off training at Eastern Headquarters for the next several months.
Richard had been a favorite with his cousins and little sister. He had the near endless energy like the younger kids and kept them occupied for hours by playing tag or hide and seek with them, rough housing with the boys and taking the girls for piggy back rides and stepping in when the boys got too rough with the girls. They were all sad to see him go. Little Ed, who was almost fifteen, had formed an instant bond with Richard.
Watching the two of them together, Edward was reminded of himself and Al, with Richard looking so much like him and Little Ed the very image of his father. But they were a happier, less traumatized version of Edward and Al, something that made Edward ache for his lost childhood but grateful at the same time that his son and nephew had not known the pain, guilt and difficulty that had haunted his and Al's childhood.
When they reached the station, the train was there waiting, hissing and breathing steam; anxious to get moving. He had a sudden dislike for this particular train's impatience; he wasn't looking forward to the damn thing taking his son away so soon.
Richard checked in his baggage and before heading onto his assigned car to take his seat, he turned to Edward.
"I really wish we had more time together," he said guiltily, voicing out loud exactly what Edward was thinking. "I know it's my own fault; not wanting to wait any longer. But I'm ready to face the world on my own. And you said that we are to be Guardians of the Gate. I'm not an alchemist but I can help protect the Gate in my own way. Besides, now that you've resigned from the military, someone needs to keep an eye on the Fuhrer," he added with a wry smile.
"My thoughts exactly," Edward grinned proud that his son had been listening all summer that the Fuhrer was not to be trusted... AT ALL! He was also proud that that Richard's traumatizing experience hadn't left its mark; that he wasn't afraid to be on his own and have his own life.
Then the light mood turned serious when Richard asked, "Do you hate her?"
Edward blinked. "Hate who? Your mother?"
"No," Edward said truthfully. "What she did hurt me deeply though."
"But she kept us apart for so long…" Richard began vehemently.
"I know," Edward said calmly. He didn't want Richard to resent Erika, no matter how wrong her actions were. "I'm not happy about what she did and it was inexcusable. I resented my father for a long time for leaving Al and I. But you can't hold someone's mistakes against them forever. It's not worth it. When you get older you'll find you're just as capable of making mistakes too; and wanting forgiveness for those mistakes. If you want to be forgiven you have to do the same as well."
The cycle of anger had to stop and he could see his words taking effect as Richard's anger subsided but there was doubt reflected in his eyes. "So you're not upset with me for not trying to seek you out sooner?"
"No, not at all," Edward reassured him. "I'm just glad I know about you now."
"You say that but I still feel like I could have done something about it sooner if I hadn't been so scared…"
"Here," Edward said cutting him off as he handed his pocket watch over to Richard, pressing it firmly in his hand.
Richard looked down at the shining silver timepiece in awe, watching the smooth areas mist over with the steam from the train engine. "I can't take this," he insisted, trying to hand the watch back to Edward. "You're still a State Alchemist."
"I'm only a State Alchemist once a year," Edward corrected, not moving to take the watch back. "Besides, I don't need it to tell me who I am anymore. But I want you to have it. You have Al's temperament but you are still my son; carrying around a guilty conscience runs on my side of the family," he said with a smirk. "I think this will be a useful reminder."
"A reminder of what?"
Richard flipped open the lid and read the inscription:
3. Oct. 11
"What does it mean?" He asked, looking up, confused by the cryptic message and date.
"That's the day Al and I burned our house down," Edward explained. "It was a reminder to me that there was no turning back from the goal I set before myself; there wasn't an option to give up since I had no home to return to. What I want you to remember is that no matter how bad things seem, there's always a home to go back to and there's a family waiting that will help shoulder your burdens no matter how much you feel you don't deserve their support."
"Thank you," Richard said looking back down at the watch, tears glistening in his eyes.
Father and son embraced, holding each other tight. Then, reluctantly they parted.
Edward watched Richard through the window of the train car until he could no longer see his son's face. He remained on the platform, watching the train until it disappeared from view, even waiting for the smoke from the engine to clear before he left.
Leaving the station he decided to take a detour. He needed to clear his head after the emotional good bye. Looking over the build site for the new school was a welcome distraction.
The school didn't have a name yet but Edward and Al figured that once it was built, it would name itself. As he approached the site, he saw he wasn't the only one anxious to get started.
"Hello, Brother," Al said, smiling at Edward, having seen him approach. "I thought you'd come here."
"Why is that?"
"I knew you'd need something useful to do to provide a little distraction for you after seeing Richard off."
Edward smirked. "You know me too well."
"Well, let's get started," Al said stepping aside for Edward to pass. "You first."
"Okay," Edward said eagerly. Clapping his hands together, he closed his eyes and concentrated, focusing on the pure energy provided from the natural elements that surrounded them.
When he was done he stepped back to admire a partial wing of the lecture building, complete with its own entrance. He had stuck with the basic structure but added his own touches that to those with taste would consider rude and barbaric.
The front of the building rose several feet in the air and tapered off into two large spires at each end. There was a wide flight of steps that led to three entrances, each with pointed arches over them. Al looked it over skeptically.
"What do you think?" Edward asked looking on with pride at his work of art.
"Well..." Al hesitated, his brow furrowed wondering if he should tell the truth or not.
"Well, what?" Edward demanded.
Al gave up. He'd tell the truth. "Your taste has always been questionable."
"What do you mean? It looks great!" Edward exclaimed, looking mildly offended.
"But is that really necessary?" Al asked with a raised eyebrow, indicating the grotesque, demon like figure head over the middle entrance, tucked under the archway. It had three horns; its eyes were looking in two different directions with its tongue sticking out grossly, like it had been strangled.
"Well, I like it," Edward pouted as he crossed his arms.
"Besides, it won't match the rest of the buildings." Al wasn't about to follow Edward's lead architecturally.
"So," Edward huffed obviously not about to redo his work.
"Then you teach in this part of the building but don't act surprised if your students are too scared to come in."
"They should be scared. At least of me that is," Edward said with a wicked grin.
"You have a lot to learn about teaching," Al said with a mock, disapproving head shake unable to hide his smile.
They worked some more, consulting a blue print they had drafted a while back. Taking a break a couple hours later, they sat back to admire their handiwork.
"I've been wondering now that you're no longer part of the military and don't have to conform to any dress codes, have you thought about growing out your hair again. I kind of miss it. You know I still have some of the hair you cut before you left to fight in the war."
"You do? What for?" Edward asked looking slightly disgusted that his brother had kept locks of his dirty hair around all these years.
"Sentimental reasons," Al said with a shrug. "It was like a good luck charm and to have a piece of you with me."
Edward turned away and thought about it for a second. "Probably not, that was a different point in my life."
"This is a different point in your life too," Al pointed out.
"True but I'd like to mark it differently."
Edward shrugged. "I'm not sure. Each point was marked with a physical manifestation. I think this time it's all internal," he said tapping his chest over his heart and then his temple.
"Well, it's about time," Al smirked.
"Tell me about it," Edward said lighting a cigarette.
Both brothers were sat in silence, lost in their thoughts while enjoying the warm, rising sun on their faces and the refreshing breeze that stirred their hair. The smell of tobacco wafted about them, something that Al was finding he was starting to like but only in the sense that it meant Edward was close.
"Have you thought about what it will mean for us as guardians of the Gate?" Al suddenly asked.
"I'm not sure. But this," he said nodding toward the half completed wing, "is a start."
"But what about our kids?" Al asked worriedly. "Don't you think it's too much of a burden to place upon them? That it's not fair that they will have to accept this responsibility against their will?"
"I don't think it will be much of a burden to them," Edward said. "Not if we do our job right. Besides, we'll be here for a long time."
Al smiled, somewhat relieved by Edward's optimism and leaned back on his hands. "The Gate will likely be in better hands with them."
"No doubt about it," Edward said, looking out into the distance past the skeletal beginnings of their future.
Just want to say thank you to all my reviewers and readers and I hope you've enjoyed The Black Prince. Now add me to your Author Alert list because I have two different stories kicking around in my head: a possible sequel to The Black Prince and a sequel to The Drachman War. There will be some background info regarding the writing of The Black Prince on my profile page if anyone is interested.
Thanks again for reading!