Ahaha, so you've probably all forgotten about me…Yes, I can understand why, seeing as I haven't updated since…Well…Let's not think about it.
Hello everybody, how are you all! I'm sorry it's taken so long, but I have now, for your consideration, the first part of a two part chapter. The second part is already half complete, but I split it into two so that I could actually update.
I hope that you enjoy, despite the massive delay.
Disclaimer – I do not own FMA, or any of it's characters. All OC's are mine though. You may use them, but seek me out for permission first…not that you would want to use them…Hmm….
Warning – Violence, unbeta'ed, blah. Enjoy.
Sandy gave out a nervous chuckle as he looked between the eager eyes of both Edward and Roy who were staring to him, grinning like a pair of maniacs.
"…I think I have something that needs my attention several hundred miles away from you two – please excuse me-" He attempted to turn, but Edward caught hold of the back his collar before he even had a chance to step out of the doorway of Mustang's apartment.
"Oh no you don't." The other said in a sing song voice, dragging the man back into the household. Roy smirked as Sandy whimpered, darting his eyes to him in a helpless plea for release. But it really was pointless, both Colonel and major were looking to the third alchemist like they were quite prepared to eat him, and Sandy was beginning to wonder if coming had been a good idea at all.
"I'm only skin and bone, there really isn't anything good going to come of you cooking me!" He warned and Edward laughed.
"Have mercy, please Captain!"
"Stop calling me Captain!" Edward bellowed and Roy closed the door after the pair, following them into the sitting room where the book was already laid out in place.
"Settle down children." He said calmly and both glared to him before Sandy gave out a sigh and folded his arms, glaring between the two.
"Anyway, what did you two want? I was in the middle of work, and you said it was important." He grumbled.
"We need your expertise." Roy confessed, "Edward figured out that the form of Alchemy you used during the assessments was Xing'an. Is that correct?"
Sandy suddenly became a little uneasy, and he rubbed his hand across his chest to where his tattoo was hidden behind his uniform.
"Uh…Yeah, that's true." He admitted.
"I wasn't aware that you studied Xing'an alchemy." Roy admitted, and Sandy darted his eyes away, clearing his throat slightly.
"I don't – I mean…Well I didn't. But then someone offered to teach me a little, so I thought- hey, why not? They were a guest at my parents inn so I…Well, you know, it was convenient. We gave him free accommodation in return."
"Yeah…it was." Sandy cleared his throat again, "But I'm not the thief, I swear it."
"We never suspected you were." Ed replied, and Sandy visibly relaxed somewhat, wiping his brow.
"If that's the case, why is it important? What did you need me to look at?"
"This book." Edward held it up and Sandy came around peering down to it. He raised his eyebrows.
"Just because I know a little about the forms, doesn't mean that I can read Xing'an itself." He uttered softly and Roy gave a smug smile.
"You don't need to, I can." He replied, grinning. Sandy's expression was nothing short of wary at this news, and very slowly he slipped down into a seated position on the sofa, next to Edward.
"Well…I'm sure you'll be disappointed but…Well, I can try." He offered, "What exactly did you want me to look at? The whole book – I'm not sure I have time for that."
"No. Just a couple of the arrays." Ed replied, and suddenly he didn't look to sure either. They hadn't actually thought through exactly what they wanted Sandy to look at.
Sliding the book open Ed flickered through the pages, looking out for any arrays which looked particularly prominent, or important.
The book was split into chapters, starting off with what Ed presumed were the basics of the whole theory, before delving into the complexity of the later theories.
Getting to the last few pages he stopped, and stared to a singe array which was stretched out over two pages. He brushed his hand to it, staring at the intercut design and combinations. As his hands brushed against it he suddenly knew, without a single doubt in the world, that this was the array. This was the array that the Thief was after.
"This one." He breathed and put it against the table again, directly infront of Sandy. "Can you tell us anything about it?"
"How do you know it's that one?" Roy asked from the side and the blonde simply shook his head.
"I just know." He replied, "The whole book works up to this final array – it's the most complex, and therefore the most powerful. You wouldn't go through all of this trouble for something simple." He looked to Sandy, about to repeat his request when he noticed that the others face and drained of all colour and he was staring at horror to the page. "Sandy?"
"I…Sorry." Sandy stood and back away, "I…I can't help you, not with that. That array…" He put a hand to his throat and chocked, "I…I wish you had never showed it to me!"
"What is it?" Ed had sprung up from where he was seated and was staring to the other man who had backed up into the wall. "At least tell us that – we're not asking you activate it or anything."
"What have you done…" Sandy ignored his question and shook his head, looking close to a cardiac arrest. He was pale and shaking, and his breathing was beginning to hitch. "Bringing that array into open light! What…What have you done!"
"What is it!" Ed bellowed but Sandy gave out a single whimper and covered his eyes with his hands, shaking his head desperately.
"Why have you done this?" He sobbed, "Why?"
"For the love of God, Major Sanders – get a grip!" Roy ordered, standing up as tall as possible, and brining the other's official rank and name into the equation. "Tell us what this array means, it's alright – we're not going to let it be used."
"You can read it yourself." Sandy replied quietly. "Look at what it's called."
There was a beat and Roy glanced over to the page, taking in the characters lining the top of the page. He raised his eyebrows.
"Kami no Rentanjustushi – Fumetsu no seishin." He read, and Ed glanced to him, tearing his eyes away from the terrified Sandy for a moment.
"What does it mean?" He asked, and stared to Roy who was looking a little pale himself, his eyebrows raised high into his hair line, and eyes wide with surprise.
"…God's Alchemy - Immortal soul." He replied.
"You understand now…right?" Sandy said, and he sounded breathless as he pulled his head from his hands, staring at them seriously. "I didn't know that when you called me here you were going to ask me to look at the successfully way to perform…human transmutation."
"Is that what it is?" Ed gasped and Sandy nodded, and then shook his head, rubbing his hands across his eyes.
"I can't know for sure." He replied, moving forward and taking up the book. "The only way I could say is if you allowed me to study it…by doing so though I…" He gulped, "It will be unable to stop myself processing the information within this book. This is taboo."
"I'm sorry Sandy, I had no idea." Mustang said after a moment, and Sandy shook his head, rubbing his hand across his eyes. Ed noticed that he as he pulled away the Major's skin was wet, as if he'd been brushing away tears.
"It's fine, I've seen it now." He replied, a little huskily, before putting a hand to the book. "This array works by transmuting ones soul into another being."
"Is that all?" Ed asked and Sandy caught his eyes. "Why would the Thief want that though? He can already do that, we saw – the old woman to the young boy."
"But it wasn't a success, was it? The soul was rejected." Sandy replied, before brushing his finger longs some of the sweeping lines of the array. "This ensures that the soul is accepted by changing the flow of the body." He paused, "In other words…-"
"-A completely successful soul transmutation." Ed's eyes widened, "One that would never reject the soul."
"But…But what about the gate – the price to do that would have to be heavy!"
"I'm sure it will explain it all." Sandy looked back to the array and gave out a long sigh. "But if this is what I think it is…It could mean that should the Alchemy Thief get hold of this, he could find a way to make himself immortal."
"No it's not…not if you use this type of Alchemy."
"There's a price for everything! Equivalent exchange!" Ed argued, and Sandy caught his eyes.
"Yes, equivalent exchange." He replied slowly. "So for the Thief to stay alive, you already know what it would it cost, don't you?"
"No…Someone else's life." Ed murmured, and all the blood drained from his face. "He would be able to live for as long as he wanted…"
"Yes, and for every time his body technically 'dies', he would transmute his soul, and someone else would be killed instead." Sandy gave a sudden loud groan and stood, backing away. "Look, I can't do this…If I look at this to long, if I…Started to figure out how it worked I…I might be…Tempted." He swallowed and caught eyes with Mustang. "You understand right? This is a complete theory…I…I can't."
"Don't worry. I understand – we don't need to know anymore than this." Roy leant down and snapped the book shut, passing it to Ed. "Go and hide it." He said and the other nodded, and disappeared into Kitchen, and replacing it under the sink. Sandy watched him with an uneasy expression, twisting his hands together and wringing them. "Thank you Major Sanders, you may go now."
"…Yes sir." Sandy nodded, and then stopped, "Colonel." He said, after a moment, and the black haired man raised his eyebrows in response.
"…This is…Big." Sandy darted his eyes away, "You can use this information to your advantage…Maybe you can plant a fake book in the next library he's going to attack."
"That is a very good plan." Mustang nodded, before folding his arms. "I'm going to go and speak to my team and tell them about the changes to plan we have. I've got Havoc undercover somewhere near by the house, so I'll drop by and pick him up first. Major Sanders I need you to go ahead of me and give information of this new development to my first Lieutenant. I'm almost definitely sure that this is the book that the thief is after, and if it's this dangerous I need to know if there are copies."
"Have Falmon go into investigations and try and see if there might be another volume – if it's Xing'an than it must have been imported – or brought it illegally. The Military might have already confiscated a copy before." Edward offered, coming back into the room from the kitchen. "And ask Al to make a copy of the book – he's good with details. I'll go and see General Sickle, and find out more about where he got it from."
"Alright. Meet me at HQ as soon as you're done. Don't use the phones – I'm worried about them being tapped."
"Paranoid old bastard." Ed grinned, "Don't worry, I'll come myself."
"Good." Roy folded his arms and looked to Sandy again who was staring at Ed, a look of deep respect etched into his face.
"I'd better get going." The man suddenly snapped out of it before saluting. "I'll see you at HQ in a minute sir, with Lt. Havoc."
"Yes, I'll see you there – Go quickly. Oh, and Sandy…Thank you."
There was a long pause, in which Sandy held Roy's eyes, and then he looked down to the ground. "Yeah." A beat, "Despite the fact that I couldn't fully…figure it out,…I'm…I'm sorry." He looked up, with a sad smile, and then turning he disappeared out of the apartment.
"I think we really spooked him." Edward whispered and Mustang gave a sad sigh, and looked over to him.
"Imagine yourself uncorrupted by human transmutation, seeing only the best in Alchemy and the best in all alchemist…What would this look like to you?"
"…The Devils work."
"Exactly." Roy put his thumbs in his pockets and gave the other a fleeting smile, "but… Aside from the fact we may have just mentally scarred Sandy, I think that things may finally be looking up."
Ed beamed him a smile and came forward, wrapping his arms around the Colonel's chest. "You've got a smug expression on Colonel."
"Have I?" The man grinned.
"No – my mistake, it's just your natural face." Ed leaned up on his tip toes and kissed the other on the lips, cupping his face with his automail hand. "I'd better get moving, we've got a thief to catch – and this time I want to be prepared for the bastard."
"Mind your language Edward."
"Up yours Captain Fuck-ward."
"And same back down to you – pipsqueak." There was a glint in Roy's eye as Ed pulled away, glaring to him, before smiling.
"See you at HQ." He whispered, and then, without further ado he grabbed his red coat and ran out of the door. Roy followed him with his eyes and chuckled to himself – he figured that Ed would realise he was wearing Roy's clothes eventually. But for now, the thought greatly amused him.
Edward pulled his hands away from his clothes just as the last flashes of alchemy faded away. Of course Roy would conveniently forget to remind Edward that he was still wearing the Colonel's clothes, but then it was just tough for the bastard – Ed had changed them now, and he wasn't going to change them back!
Stepping out of the alley he looked down to himself and surveyed his outfit carefully. At least he had his coat with him – it was by far his favourite piece of clothing after all, mostly due to the fact that it distinguished him from the rest and helped 'fire him up' during battles. There was something physiological about the colour red which gave him better fire power.
'Well, I'd better get moving if I want to catch General Sickle.'
He thought before freezing at the sound of rushed footsteps scurrying up through the misty morning. Ed looked over to the direction of the sound, and instinctively stepped back into the alley way. Normally he wouldn't have bothered hiding from anyone, but something within him – call it intuition – told him to step back and not be seen.
Peering out of the darkness he saw a figure dash past in-front of him, carrying a bundle in their arms. Ed couldn't contain his surprise as he recognised the person, and his eyebrows shot up high into his hair line.
'What's he doing here?'
Roy knocked again with an irritated sigh. Havoc was meant to be on red alert, yet his lack of ability to answer the door was irritatingly suspicious.
"Havoc! Open up!" Roy finally hissed through the keyhole, and after a few long, long moments the latch clicked open and a weary looking blonde appeared, cigarette hanging from mouth.
"Colonel?" He mumbled, blinking confusedly, "I though you were off work today?"
"I was – now I'm not. I need a full meeting with all of you."
"Yes Havoc, now." Roy responded dryly and the other gave out a long whine.
"But I'm nearly off work – come on Colonel, I'm tired."
"We've found out what the Alchemy thief is trying to do Havoc. He's trying to make himself immortal, and that involves several human sacrifices."
"…" Havoc stared to the other open mouthed, before finally nodding. "Let me get my coat?"
"Hurry." The man folded his arm as the blonde disappeared back into the room only to appear again a few moments later, pulling on a jacket. Together the two walked quickly to the car and got in, Mustang taking the drivers seat. "Did anything happen last night?"
"Nothing – silent as the grave for the whole time I was watching."
"You sure you didn't doze off?"
"I didn't doze off!"
Mustang smirked as he pulled out into the main street and drove down toward Central headquarters. He could see that Havoc was watching from the corner of his eyes.
"There's something weird about you today."
Roy was silent for a moment, his eyes remaining on the road before he turned quickly to the other blonde man, and raised his eyebrows. "Did I put my shirt on back-to-front again? Because I always do tha-"
"-No, no." Havoc replied hastily, "You're just…relaxed."
Roy was a little started by this, and he quickly turned back to the road. "Well, I'm not under attack – which is the first case in a while."
"I guess…" Havoc drew off, and stared forward, facial expression unsure and Mustang gave out an irritated growl.
"If you have something you want to say to me, just say it Havoc."
"You seem happy."
Mustang's eyebrows fled into his hair line at this comment, and then slowly his face relaxed and he gave a soft chuckle. "I guess." He replied with a nonchalant shrug, a smile adorning his lips.
"Wow…you're really happy." Havoc whistled, noting this behaviour. "Did you get laid last night?"
At this question Roy burst into roaring laughter, unable to stop himself as he pulled up toward Central headquarters. Havoc just stared at him, baffled.
There was something so strange about walking down the corridors of central in this new state of mind. He had no way of describing it, but it was like he was looking at everything in a new light, like there was some sort of aura seeping form the building up through his boots into his very being. He felt powerful.
Throwing open the doors of his department Mustang strode into the room with the air of a man who knew what he was doing, and this didn't go unnoticed by his staff, and Alphonse who all looked up to him in surprise.
"Colonel?" Breda blinked as he walked past, toward his desk. "I thought you were off work today – and Havoc too!"
Havoc gave a defeated shrug and flopped down at his own desk with a weary sigh just as Hawkeye got to Mustang, eyeing him up and down.
"Good to see you looking so well, sir." She stated, watching him. "Edward told me you would be unable to come in."
"I was – but things have changed." Mustang replied, turning toward his staff. "Fullmetal and I have discovered the Alchemy Thief's true objection, and as such I want a meeting with all of you."
"Where's my brother now?" The youngest Elric asked, still holding an investigations file.
"He's gone to see General Sickle about the book which the Alchemy Thief has been looking for. We need to know how many copies there are. He'll be reporting to HQ shortly." Mustang replied.
"How did you two manage find the true objective?" Falmon asked, baffled, "Did you get attacked by the Alchemy Thief himself?"
"No." The dark haired man replied, putting a hand to his chin. "We've been in possession of a book which we believed might be the very one that the Thief was looking for. Today we had an expert look at some of the arrays, and with our combined efforts we discovered an array which is both valuable and very,…very forbidden." Mustang paused, "There is no definitive proof that it is this array that the Thief is after, but in light of recent events, and some of the Thief's most recent actions it is more that very likely…and regardless, it is most definitely an array which would be thoroughly investigated on it's own."
"What is the array?" Alphonse put his file down, "Is it from that Xing'an book that the Lt. Colonel lent to us?"
"That's correct…To think Hughes would have had something so disgusting in his home." Mustang leant back against his desk, and folded his arms. "The array is an effective way to do soul transmutation." His tone was dark and he watched as Alphonse froze up at this statement. The youngest Elric stared toward him, and although there was no obvious way of reading his emotions, everything about him seeped only one. Horror.
"S-soul…transmutation." He whispered, "But…But equivalent exchange…You'd have to go through the gate…"
"Exactly. But this array is different from the one your bother used Alphonse – it's perfect. Meaning there will be no soul rejection, and the soul can be placed into a human body with ease. Meaning that if you so wished, you could be immortal, jumping from body to body with no difficulty."
"But the price?" Al's body was shaking, and he wasn't the only one. Everyone in the room had gone completely quiet. "What's the price for immortality?"
"Multiple human sacrifice."
A shocked silence filled the room, broken only by the trembling of Al's armour. Mustang bowed his head for a moment, and then looked up to them all.
"From here on in we know what we're dealing with. We know the thief's intention, and we cannot let him have it. With this information the whole army will be ready to stop this man, the entire country on red alert. We finally have the upper hand, he's slipped past us these last few times, but no more. This ends now."
The whole room nodded in solemn approval, even Havoc looking somewhat more revived. Mustang opened his mouth to speak again, but the phone cut him off. Pausing he glanced to it curiously, as if he had forgotten it was there, and watched as Hawkeye answered.
"Hello?" She listened in and then looking toward Roy, passing the phone. "It's Edward, Sir."
Roy nodded and acknowledgement and picked up the phone. "Fullmetal?"
"Colonel we have a problem!" were Edward's immediate words, and Roy's eyebrows raised.
"What's going on? Are you with General Sickle?"
"Didn't make it that far – the books been stolen."
"I've got to keep going – or I'll lose sight of the target. We're down in the South-west warehouse district, you've got to hurry. I think this is going to get messy."
"Alright – Don't do anything stupid Fullmetal!"
"Aw, you're concerned for me. Don't worry; I'll just beat up the bastard."
"Edward I mean it – oh you little shit." Roy growled as the line went dead, and he quickly looked around to his men. "Change of plans." Was all he said, as way of an explanation, and Alphonse sighed.
Edward gave a sidelong glance down the alley, his breathing stilled. He couldn't tell Mustang who he had seen take the book, Roy was paranoid enough when it came to conversations over the phone, but there was one thing for certain -
"-Mustang's not going to like this." He whispered before darting down after his target. All he had to do was corner the idiot and steal the book back – the man clearly wasn't in his right mind, stealing a book like that. But Edward had to avoid attracting attention, if there was even any hint to the fact that they had the book then everything would be ruined.
Edward leapt up and clambered up onto a low wall running after his target who took a sharp left and continued into the darkness. "Where are you going?" Fullmetal whispered, before jumping down silently and following him into the opening of a warehouse.
Quietly the blonde crept in, eyes trying to adjust to the change in light as he used the wall to guide his progress. He couldn't see anything.
Growling he put his hands together, hoping to create a hole in the roof when suddenly, from nowhere, a hand shot out of the darkness and struck him hard in the stomach.
Doubling over, Ed raised his defence just as another hook came in toward his head. He went to defend, but found that suddenly all of his movements where forced into a snail's pace. Eyes wide he was thrown backward hard into the wall and with a gasp slid to the floor. The lights went up.
"Edward…" A voice whimpered and he looked up through narrowed eyes, breathing hard and winded. "I'm sorry….I'm sorry." His attacker sobbed and Ed blinked allowing his eyes to adjust just as the other man turned and ran toward a figure stood a few feet away.
"Wait! Stop!" Ed called, raising his arms just as a sudden force slammed into him, making him feel like every part of his body was being crushed. "Ah!" He choked and then fell limp.
"Good work boy, you've done well." A voice like ice whispered and Ed felt himself shiver as he glared up furiously. The Alchemy Thief, clad in his dark robes, folded his arms over the book and smiled. "You've brought me exactly what I needed."
"You bastard…." Growled the Elric furiously, before his eyes fell upon the man's accomplice. "How could you!" He demanded, "I thought we were friends! Aren't you loyal to us! Aren't you and the Colonel practically family!" He screamed and the other drooped, his shoulders shaking with shame. Ed lost his temper. "Answer me Sandy!"
Sandy looked up with a look of complete terror and met Ed's eyes. "I'm sorry…I didn't have a choice…My family! He…He said…He…" He broke off with a sob. "Why did you have to show me the book! If you hadn't I would…I wouldn't have had to betray you…Why did you have to bring me into it! I didn't...-I didn't want this!"
Ed turned furiously to the Alchemy Thief. "So it was you…I get it now, Sandy said someone had taught him Xing'an Alchemy, a guest in his family's inn. That's why Sandy was so nervous when he talked about it."
"I taught the child well, and he paid his end of the bargain with loyalty." The Thief replied, "Now Edward Elric the time has come for me to finish what I started a long time ago. Your father has done everything in his power to stop me, so you might agree that there is such a wonderful irony in the fact that you will be the final key to me gaining my immortality."
"Go to hell!" Ed shouted, straining against the invisible bound that kept him pinned against the wall.
"I have no intention to." The man replied, "Now, Major Sanders – if you would be so inclined – hold the book open for me whilst I begin the process."
With shaking hands Sandy took the forbidden book and opened it, his eyes averted as Ed struggled and shouted.
"Don't do it! Sandy! I thought we were friends! We worked together didn't we! Sandy, I know what he's done to you – he's installed you with fear! He gets under your skin, but you've got to break out of it! He did the same thing to me – this isn't you! Don't do it Sandy! Stop!"
Sandy's eyes caught with Ed's as the Alchemy Thief found his page and approached, holding up a knife which he played with between his fingers. "Don't struggle Elric, if I get this wrong it will only hurt more."
"I won't let you win! There are reinforcements coming as we speak, you won't get away with this!"
"Oh, don't worry about the reinforcements – I expected them. I have someone waiting, more than willingly, to dispatch your lovely, meddling Colonel and his crew. A little pay back for all the trouble they put me through."
Ed's eyes widened – he'd led the others into a trap! He turned to Sandy once more, "Sandy, you have to stop this! People are going to die! Please, do something!"
"He will not disobey me." The Thief took the knife and, lifting Ed's white shirt, he began to carve an array into the boy's stomach. Ed tried to kick and lash out, but he could only shout in agony as he struggled with all his might, pain licking through him.
"Stop!" He shouted, "Stop it! Stop!"
"Now now, no need to be so defensive." The Thief finished with a flourish as, once more, the smell of rotting filled Edward's nostrils. From beneath his mask a pair of dangerous eyes glinted. Edward gagged, sagging as he struggled to maintain himself, his body riding with emotions and pain so that his head span. "So it ends, Fullmetal Alchemist." The man drew back and prepared to activate the array, "You will be my new body!"
"Sandy!" Edward screamed as the Thief threw forward his hand, ready to finish the boy. But just as he did the pressure pushing Ed into the wall dropped and next moment the Thief had been thrown to the side as Sandy, with a roar, hit him across the head with the book. Ed fell panting to the floor only to be grabbed by the collar and have the book shoved roughly into his arms.
"Run!" Sandy ordered, "Run Edward! Run!"
"Arg!" The Thief sat up with rage just as the two boys took off, one after the others, toward the opening of the Warehouse. "You can run as far as you like Elric, but I've marked you – You can never hide!"
Look out for the next instalment soon! Please review – for old times sakes!