(minor) MANGA SPOILERS - you have been warned for chp, 20(something) and chp. 59/60
Italics are memories.
The young woman who sat patiently in the corner of the slowly ageing couch gazed –as if transfixed, at the varnished wooden floor. If she angled her head slightly to the left, she could almost make out hair clear brown eyes reflected in the slight sheen of the polished wood. Her thoughts wandered every now and then, to the heated conversation evidently taking place in the room behind her, muffled words escaping the (again) shiny wooden door. It was at times like these, where she had somehow briefly escaped the hectic office that she had come to know as her second home, when memories she had focused so hard on banishing flittered unbidden into her unguarded mind. Not to say, of course, that Riza Hawkeye was never on her guard. Her lips twitched into a ghost of a smile as she surreptitiously checked each of the guns she had hidden so expertly on her body, in some of the most unexpected of places.
'Here you go,' Riza looked up to see a tray of what looked to be tea brandished into her face by a young girl, barley leaving the innocence of childhood.
'Oh, thank you,' she nodded in appreciation as she took the steaming cup, and a scent reminding her blissfully of happier times with her mother wafted lazily to her. There was silence for a few awkward moments as the young blonde girl sat hesitantly beside Riza, on the edge of her seat. And after what Riza expected to be a powerful internal struggle, the girl spoke once more in a small, quiet voice.
'Um… Miss Second Lieutenant…'
'Ah, call me Riza, Riza Hawkeye,' she interjected with a smile she hoped looked encouraging, 'Nice to meet you' She held out her hand for the little girl to shake, but was greeted by a small grimace instead. Again, another awkward silence enveloped them.
'Riza…' after what seemed an age, the little girl seemed to pluck up the courage to ask the question that had troubled her so, 'have you ever shot anyone?' Riza did not expect this. So stunned by this simple enquiry was she, that the memories that had haunted her for so long used this opportunity to fully overpower her mind. Faces of the people she had shot, slowly turning cold before her eyes, flitted around her quickly spinning mind, intertwining with disturbing images that only war could bring.
'Yes… I have.' She stared subconsciously at her clenched fist, her eyes drooping slightly as she held her breath, ready for an onslaught.
The shot echoed clearly through the battle field, resonating from the scorched buildings that lay littering the blood stained streets and alleyways that were so void of life. High up here in her sniper's tower, safe from the futile efforts of the enemy, Riza could not see the light swiftly fade from her victim's eyes as he crumpled at the feet of the two stunned men who whirled stupidly around looking for their saviour. What she could see, however, was the thick red blood oozing from the bullet wound that had killed him so efficiently. Even after months of the same scene replaying over and over, in countless different scenarios, she could not quite get used to the fact that she had stolen life. A thief of the very worst kind.
'Many of them… yeah…' Her voice trailed off as this newly rekindled memory shot across her mind, wreaking havoc as it smashed aimlessly against the splintering barricades she had once put against them.
She could not shake the feeling that the man who stood hunched against the fire of the sun had the same reflex action she had witnessed countless times in her youth, the same build, the same casual stroll… Wrenching the gun from the smouldering remains of the killed Ishvalan, she pointed it hastily in the direction of the smaller of the men, looking straight through the eyepiece at the man who swore to protect her. At the man she swore to protect. At Roy Mustang.
'I don't like people from the military,' concluded the timid voice of the young girl, jerking Riza back to the present. 'Because both my mum and dad were taken to the battlefield and killed there.' For a split second, Riza had a strange desire to hug the girl that sat gazing at the polished floor, but years of suppressing rash emotions to a more acceptable one made her remain firmly in her seat. 'And on top of that, now that guy called Mustang,' (Riza's stomach gave a funny twist), 'is trying to take Ed and Al away.' The girl bent her head, hiding her face in shadow – away from the calm gaze Riza bestowed upon her. She twisted her head slightly, golden locks shielding her face further. 'I don't want them to become part of the military…' her voice stuttered slightly, 'please don't take them away,' pleading, she allowed herself to glance up slightly as she craned to hear Riza's softly spoken answer.
'The military isn't going to take them away,' she responded firmly. 'It will be their choice whether to come or not. To tell the truth, I don't like the military either.' She looked down to see the young girl gazing intently into her face, 'because at times,' she suppressed a small shudder, 'I am forced to take lives.'
'Then why are you in the military?' the enquiry was entirely innocent, but the simple words brought with it a crashing force that almost cracked her carefully placed façade. Why indeed?
The wounded, the maimed, and the murderers lined for their sustenance, which came in a gruel like substance that was sometimes passed off as food. At least it was something edible, grimaced Riza, sniffing the tasteless sludge. Her acute sense of hearing picked out the two sets of footsteps that beat uncertainly towards her on the dry, cracked earth. Slowly, so as to see better from under the large hood that obscured most of the surrounding scenery from view, she raised her head and looked slyly at the intruders.
'Yo!' The care free, almost cheerful voice did not match the depressing atmosphere that pressed in on anyone who entered this dire landscape. 'Thanks for before… you were the one who shot that, right?' she didn't recognise this man, but she knew his aquaintance, who stood slightly reluctantly beside him.
He didn't seem to have recognised her yet, but this wouldn't last for long. Carefully placing the plate beside her, Riza stood to face the man she had saved earlier, looking him straight in the eye.
'It's been a while, Mr. Mustang...' Her voice, barely a whisper, cracked slightly from under use. Recognition overpowered his facial features as Roy Mustang gazed unblinkingly into the eyes of a murderer. 'No, perhaps I should call you Major Mustang, now.' A small smile played at her chapped lips, as she registered each of the emotions darting across his open face. 'Have you begun to remember?' He didn't reply, just gazed blankly at her defeated face, already bearing scars no knife could make.
'…How could I forget?'
'I was… afraid of my father,' muttered Riza, so only Roy could hear her words. 'Because the sight of him absorbed in his research was as if he was possessed by something. Yet still, I believed in my fathers words that this great power would bring happiness to many people.' She stopped, scared she was giving too much of her inner feelings away – doing exactly what they trained her not, they trained her to be a killing machine – void of emotion, of empathy. Riza stared without seeing at her open hands, '…I believed that. Alchemy would give dreams and hope, and the military would protect this country's future…' looking directly up into Mustang's face, Riza breathed the very question that played on every soldiers mind as they killed, and killed, and killed: 'Please tell me Major,' Roy looked at her crestfallen face, smudged with grime, 'why are soldiers, who ought to protect citizens, killing them instead?' her eyes flashed as she locked eyes with him, daring him to look away from the truth. 'Why is Alchemy, which ought to bring happiness to the people, being used for murder?'
The answer to the little girl's question came ready made to Riza's lips, and she uttered these words without a moment's hesitation. 'There is someone I need to protect.' Memories she was certain she had forgotten, them being so long ago, before the obscurities of war hid them from her view with more disturbing images of slaughter, fluttered to the front of her mind. She remembered clearly, as if in the years since she last visited this memory, the time had made them sharper – pronounced.
'I'm sorry, Mr Mustang.' The lone figures stood still amongst the howling winds of this dreary cemetery, staring fixedly at the newly erected tombstone baring the name of the newly deceased, a wreath of flowers decorating the shining marble. 'Having you take care of everything, even up to my father's funeral…'
'You don't have to worry about it.' He smiled to her general direction. 'As an apprentice, I'll do anything I can for my teacher.' They were silent. Looking at the stone, which glinted mesmerisingly in the evening rays of dying sunshine. '…don't you have any other family or relatives?' she shook her head no, still staring at the tombstone, even though she could feel his gaze boring into the side of her face.
'My mother has been long dead,' she motioned to the grave beside her father's. 'Both my mother and father seem to have been estranged from their families, so I've never heard them talk of any relatives.'
'What will you do now?'
'I'll think about it.' Still, she focused on the grey marble. 'Fortunately, my father at least made me go to school properly… I think I'll be able to live on my own somehow.' Roy was silent, watching for any signs of suppressed grief. She hid it well.
'…I see,' he whipped a card out from seemingly nowhere, managing to attract her attention. 'If anything happens, you can visit the military authorities anytime. I'll probably be in the military for life.' She took the card, reading it, absorbing the information.
'...Please don't die!' Riza stared imploringly into his eyes, her voice shook a little.
'…don't say such ominous things,' her sudden outbreak of emotion had unnerved him. 'I can't guarantee it. Because in this occupation, someday I might just die on the side of the road, like a piece of trash.' He wrenched his gaze away from her dancing eyes, and on to the fresh gravestone. 'Even so, if I could become one of this country's foundation stones and be able to protect everyone with these hands… I think I'll be happy. That's the reason why I learned alchemy. In the end, I wasn't able to be taught master's secrets.' The reference to his late teacher seemed to pull Roy back to reality; he seemed embarrassed for discussing such private matters in front of so many watching souls. '…sorry, I ended up speaking of my naïve dream-'
'No.' Riza smiled, still staring at the spot where her parents lay. 'I think it's a wonderful dream… The secrets my father left behind…' she hesitated, testing her daring, 'he said they were written in a code no average alchemist would be able to decipher.' Mustang stared, fully awake from his dream of the future.
'So master left behind his manuscripts after all –'
'No.' she interrupted, again with the same almost impatient vigour. 'They're not manuscripts.' Her voice, a whisper. 'He said it would be a problem if his life's research disappeared or was taken by an outsider…'
'How did he leave them behind-?'
'Mr Mustang,' she paused, 'that dream… Can I trust my back to it? Is it all right to believe in a future where everyone can live in happiness?'
Riza closed her eyes, reliving the memory again, and again, making sure what she was about to say was true. 'It was not because I was force by anyone, but it was my own free will. It is my own choice to pull the trigger, for the person I must protect. Until the day the person accomplishes his goal… I will pull the trigger without a doubt.'
I'm not sure I really like this that much – I don't think I made it powerful enough.
Thanks to my reviewers - I don't dislike it as much s before.
Disclaimer - Everything you recognsed (all of the speech, the settings) was Hiromu Arakawa. She's super.