A/N: I have to admit that I enjoyed writing this chapter more than the others, though chapter three was also written with enthusiasm. Perhaps this is so because I am a strange individual; then again, the concept of normalcy is always changing with society.
I also wanted to experiment a little with this chapter. Interestingly, I found this song while I was editing the chapter, and I have to say that I found a connection between the two. I suggest that the reader go through the chapter once, and if time and desire are available, the reader can go through a certain section while playing the song in the background. Specifically, I recommend that the song be started at the paragraph that begins as "There was only a dull throb…"
Also, there is an English translation for the ones who want to know what is being said. To get to the song, simply go to YouTube and paste watch?v=eRIgNBoQgo4 after the backslash. I have also put the address in my profile.
I only give a suggestion; whether the reader follows my words is the reader's decision. However, I hope that the reader will still enjoy the chapter.
nobodysirius: Hughes was one of my favorite characters, so I am glad that you enjoyed my depiction of him. As for Mustang's clap transmutation, I am certain that the group would not be aware of his ability, though it is very likely that Ed and Al knew. And I do not mind ramblings, as they can lead to longer conversations.
You seem to be a knowledgeable individual. A challenge that leads to new heights; I assure you that I am aiming for the moon so I can at least reach a star. I hope that your life will be blessed as a reward for your kindness.
It had gotten dark so quickly, so unexpectedly. The open forest gave one a feeling of mysterious serenity, the shadows shifting along with the trees. Away from the city, away from people; there was only the quiet stillness, though an occasional rustle indicated a roaming beast. Even if it was for a short time, one could believe that there was peace in this place.
Having walked for hours, Riza managed to discover an area where the canopy was not as clustered as the other places. She looked through the zigzagging branches and noticed that only half of the celestial orb was visible; it almost looked as if the sky had consumed the other half, the blackness cutting through the middle. Yet, the moon continued to reflect light onto the earth and provided light in the forest.
She was leaning against the tree, trying to soothe her tired mind. Had she cooled her head? Definitely. Did she come to any conclusions? Definitely not. Nothing had changed since she had entered the forest; her thoughts were just as scattered, just as vague, as the shadows in front of her.
She had not lied. She really did not know anything about Mustang; she had merely summoned him because she was a coward who desired to keep her life. He was the one who answered her summon, and though he has proved his capability of guarding her life, he had not proved to be capable of trust. What did he know? What did he hide from her? Why did he never reveal too much about himself? Why did he ask her to trust him?
Then again, she was not exactly being fair. She did not share her own story with him, keeping her past quiet. How can she ask him to open up when she locks her own secrets away? But for all she knew, he could already be aware of the events of her life. Magic, symbols, incantations; they all held unpredictable power. Who could say that they cannot be used to dig into one's past?
It was normal for her to be wary around individuals such as Mustang. She had regarded him with suspicion ever since he first appeared to her, yet she felt as if he is closer to her than any other being. Was this a consequence of the summoning?
Riza took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. There was no need for self-pity; rather, it would be more reasonable to go back and rest. Perhaps it will be easier to work her mind when her body is refreshed. Or perhaps time will clear her thoughts if she gave it permission. But for now, it did not seem as if she would get the answers she desired.
Pushing herself off the trunk, Riza was about to start back when she heard a light rustling in the undergrowth. When she turned in the general direction of the sound, she saw a small figure emerge from the darkened brush. The figure paused for a moment, though Riza relaxed when a child's voice entered her ears.
"Excuse me. Do you know the way to the city?"
"What are you doing in the forest? It can get dangerous at night if you're here by yourself."
"I was looking for someone, but I got lost and then it got really dark, so I couldn't see."
"Well, if you come with me I'll take you back to the city."
"Thank you very much! Um…Miss…"
"You can call me Hawkeye. Now come on. Let's head back before something decides to attack us."
She watched as the child drew closer. The few spots of moonlight revealed that it was a boy, small in stature with room to grow. Short black hair remained in a messy array around the youthful innocence of his face. She realized that there was a purple tint in his irises, though it was only noticeable when the light clearly hit his face. And then, there was an unexplainable sensation of unease around the boy, exemplified by the black cloak covering his body. It reminded her of…
"Miss Hawkeye, I'm glad to finally meet you."
A contemptuous smile came onto his face the same time his irises emitted a violet glow. Instinct told Riza to swing to her right; a wise choice, for a black substance cut through the place she had last stood. When the substance pulled back, her eyes followed the movement, and a cold sweat ran down her back. Realization hit her when the substance reformed under the child's feet, reshaping itself into his shadow. He continued to smile at her, never moving his eyes from her. She returned the smile with a sneer. She was not one to be fooled.
"What do you want, demon?"
"You truly are worthy of your name. To think that you caught on so quickly…"
"I've had practice. Now answer my question. What business do you have with me?"
"Quick to the chase, too. Well, Miss Hawkeye, let's just say that I want to talk to you."
Riza narrowed her eyes. Rather than getting her to drop her guard, his words had the opposite effect. She became suspicious of his intentions.
"What do you want to talk about?"
"Just some trivialities. Oh?" He frowned and scanned the surroundings before bringing his eyes to Riza. "It looks like the commander is not with you."
"Why would the commander be with me? He is busy at the main center."
"I apologize for my use of words. Perhaps you know him as Mustang?"
She held his gaze and kept her voice clear. "It is as you say. He is not here at the moment because I asked to be alone while I took a walk."
"So he actually left your side. Such a strange summon, abandoning his master."
"I see it more as following the master's command. He actually wanted to come with me…"
"And now you are defending him." Amused by her surprised gaze, he smiled again. "It seems as if you are closer to him than I imagined."
"Do not be mistaken, demon. I am only giving my observation of his behavior."
"I see. Well, excuse my rudeness. But his absence is only a small setback, and I am sure that I can work around this unexpected hindrance."
The events of East City came back into her mind. "Are you here to take him back?"
"Very commendable, Miss Hawkeye. You have made excellent deductions tonight. It is a shame, for we consider such skills to be valuable in a demon," his shadow rose into the air again, "and extremely bothersome in a human."
Riza did not wait for him to attack. Taking out her bow gun, she fired at the demon's head. Yet, even as the missile came at him, he remained in his position. Instead, the shadow opened an enlarged eye before rushing at the bolt; it cleaved through the wood before the arrow went anywhere near his body, the broken pieces falling harmlessly onto the ground. She returned the weapon into her cloak and began to remove her bow, but the sharpened ends of the shadows came at her. One managed to nick her hand, causing her to drop her bow. She reached for the fallen weapon, but her attention was drawn to the demon. And she had to halt her movements.
The child-like face twisted into a derisive expression, and a multitude of eyes exploded into existence around the darkness until it looked as if the entire forest was staring at her; every single one of the red irises were trained onto her. Then, curved mouths with full sets of teeth joined the eyes, though the placement on the shadows made some look like sneers and others like scowls.
It was understandable that she was frozen for a few seconds, yet Riza found that she could not move her body an inch. She tore her eyes away from the horrifying demon and looked below to see the same eyes on her own shadow. It took all of her willpower control herself, though the scream still resounded inside her mind. His steps caught her attention, and she brought her eyes back as he started to speak.
"I believe that I should give an explanation of my power. You see, I am able to change the form of my shadow. It can become a weapon or a shield, all depending on my will. Also, I can invade other people's shadows and render them immobile. Such a useful ability, no?"
She realized that she could still speak, but she could not hide the slight tremble in her voice. "Of course it is a useful ability, but I would not say that it is evenhanded."
"When did humans ever care about fairness? They only consider survival to be important. Is that not the reason you summoned Mustang?"
Silence was the reply. Riza found that she could not answer the demon's questions, and the demon knew that Riza could not answer his questions. Because of that, he gave her that scornful sneer as he addressed her.
"There is a good possibility that the death of the master will void the summoning contract, meaning that Mustang will return with me. Now I implied that I am aware of your pact with Mustang. However, I hope you do not mind if I find the evidence of the implication. Please do not try to struggle, for you will find that I have completely robbed you of movement."
Before she could contemplate the meaning of his words, the black substance came at her again, though not with the intention of physical harm. It ripped through the fabric of her cloak and proceeded to shred the layers of her upper clothing. The ruined material fell to the ground until she only had her undershirt and her pants. She could only glare at the demon, a deep loathing growing along with the humility of her situation. The demon only smirked in return.
"I did not expect you to be wearing so much, Miss Hawkeye. Not to mention that you chose men's clothes over women's…"
"They are genderless, traveling clothes. And I do not appreciate being stripped in the middle of a forest, demon."
"I offer you my apologies. However, I have to be certain that you are the one who summoned Mustang."
"Are you afraid of killing the wrong human?"
"Such humor. I only want to know if I have to find another human in case you are the wrong one."
There was only one more to cut through; it was quick work for the demon's shadow. The only time Riza had felt so exposed was when the symbol was first burned into her back. Now, in the shifting moonlight, her humility reached the peak. The cool breeze made contact with her bare skin, and she shivered unconsciously from the open elements. She felt the demon's eyes run across her body, though she knew that it was not with the same intention of a man. Still, the uncomforting feeling of the situation crashed onto her.
Not finding what he wanted, the demon leapt into the air and landed behind her. And she was powerless to follow him with her eyes. Riza heard a small chuckle before she felt the cold fingers on her skin. It lacked the warmth of a human; rather, it felt like an icy chill pressing onto her back. The touch began to move, following the design of the symbol. She could feel it, diagonally, vertically, horizontally, tracing the lines, arcs, turns. It sickened her, to be so vulnerable, to be touched in such a manner. Yet, relief spread through her body as the fingers were removed from her back. But it was only for a brief moment, for the demon's voice reached her ears again.
"Thank you for dispelling my doubts. But I am afraid that you have come to the end of your life. It was nice meeting you, Miss Hawkeye."
The sweat ran down her face now, her body still unable to move. As she waited for the shadow to run through her back, she wondered how the ethereal substance could actually cut through flesh. Apparently it was possible, for it had stopped her attack by cutting the arrow into two pieces.
But was she satisfied with dying in such a manner? She already knew the answer to the question. There was still much to do. The people were still under the demon's rule. She could not die yet. Death should not be the only option for her. And death will not be an option for her yet.
A flash of light came from behind, and the demon moved back to his original position. As she gained control over her body once more, something was thrown over her shoulders. She realized that it was a black cloak; a scent similar to burnt charcoal came from the clothing. She felt a strong hand grasp her upper arm to support her. Riza looked up to see the familiar face of her summon, his sharp eyes fixed on the demon.
"Are you alright, Hawkeye?"
"I'm fine…thank you for the cloak."
"Hold onto it until you get proper clothing to cover yourself."
Though she was grateful for Mustang's arrival, she could not help herself. "I thought I told you that I wanted to be alone."
"And I thought I made it clear that I will disobey your orders whenever you are in danger."
"You really are a fool." Yet, Riza could not help but smile to herself. Mustang was irritating, but he truly was loyal.
"I'll take care of this one, so go back to the city."
"Do you realize who you're ordering? I am your master, and I choose to stay and fight."
Mustang chuckled at her words, though he never let the demon out of his sight. "How will you fight without a weapon?"
"I want you to buy me some time while I retrieve my bow. I will assist you afterwards."
"I hope you realize that physical attacks do not work against him."
"I am aware of that. I will work something out, so you focus on attacking him."
"Please be careful." With those words, Mustang turned his full attention to the threat. He did not give a warning; his hand remained at his side when his finger snapped.
The demon heard the sound and pulled back just in time. Flames burned in front of him, the flickering light illuminating his purple irises. Raising a shadow, the demon sent his own attack at the summon.
Mustang responded by sidestepping and avoided being skewered by the black substance. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he brought up both of his arms. Both hands snapped simultaneously; one snap sent a stream of fire at the demon and one snap raised a wall of flames that threatened to fall on the demon.
Unable to move away this time, the demon called onto the shadows. The eyes turned to him before the darkness surrounded him, creating a temporary barrier against the blazing onslaught. The forest grew bright as the flames licked at their target without any effect. However, it was enough of an advantage for Mustang. He clapped his hands and thrust them to the ground; in response, a wall of earth rose so that it was just above his head.
Riza watched as the loamy soil separated her from Mustang, yet she understood his actions. She now had a clear path to her bow, which was a few feet away. She was not within the demon's vision, so she could grab her weapon, draw an arrow, and aim without worrying about getting attacked. The advantages of remaining under cover…she wondered how Mustang was so well-versed in the technicalities of battle.
He heard her move from behind the wall as he watched the flames. They had begun to die down, but the demon did not wait for them to disappear. The shadows expanded in area and broke into fiery pieces that flew in random directions. It did not take long for the broken scraps to disintegrate along with the flames. Mustang smirked and let out a laugh.
"To think that he would send you. He's getting desperate."
"The others were occupied with different matters. And he believed that I was the right choice because you are one of the most troublesome individuals."
"The same could be said about you, Pride."
"I assure you that I will not fail in bringing you back."
"Lust said the same thing and yet here I am."
"My power goes beyond Lust's. Do not compare me to her, for I am the first Sin."
"Ah yes, your name says it all. Pride, the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins. Out of you the other Sins are born."
"You seem to know much, Commander."
Mustang evaded the tiny hands that slithered near his shadow; he was not becoming immobilized by Pride. Fire burned the thin tendrils, causing them to draw back to the demon. He sent another attack, but Pride ran forward and avoided the fiery tomb.
One shadow did not work, so why not twenty? A group of sharpened black rushed at Mustang, the open eyes blinking at their target. With a frustrated growl the summon ran to the side, but he knew that the shadows were following him. A quick turn, and his fingers snapped. His attack hit the mark, but he knew better than to stop. There were too many shadows; one was bound to escape the flames.
Just as he predicted, Pride continued to direct the shadows at him. The ones that survived his fire merged into a single spire, thick and razor-sharp. He heard it coming, the blade-like black cutting through the air. Yet, another sound entered his ears; the sound of a bowstring.
Pride looked at the last second to see the end of an arrow bury into his forehead. His mouth opened in surprise, and the shadows fell from the air. The purple eyes stared at Riza, who was sitting at the top of the wall Mustang had created. Her hands were already busy drawing back another arrow, this time aimed at the demon's chest. Gritting his teeth, Pride jumped back as the second arrow burrowed into the ground. But he was not prepared for the inferno that engulfed him from behind.
As soon as the demon was surrounded by his flames, Mustang ran towards Riza. She had managed to properly don the cloak, though one could see that is was too large for her body. Still, it was the best she had at the moment; as long as she was covered. He stopped next to her and looked up.
"Are you injured, Hawkeye?"
"I'm fine, Mustang. Don't waste time worrying about my condition and focus on our enemy."
"Did I hear right when you called that demon 'Pride'?"
"I must say that you have excellent auditory senses. Did you really catch what I said while you were behind the wall?"
"I have trained myself to survive, Mustang, and my hearing is one of the senses I have focused on improving."
"That's good to know."
A humorless laugh caught of both of their attentions, and their conversation halted for the moment. Pride walked out of the flames, his body covered with the burning essence. His mouth was twisted into a sneer; the fact that he was on fire did not deter him from moving towards his opponents. Riza's arrow had disintegrated in the flames, yet blood did not flow from the open wound. A flicker of red light streaked past the demon's forehead, and, to her amazement, the hole closed in a matter of seconds. The shadows surrounded Pride and cut the oxygen supply around the flames; when they moved away from his body, there was no evidence of Mustang's attack. He continued to sneer at them, his eyes filled with contempt, his voice filled with condescension.
"I will admit that your attacks did sting a little. But I am afraid that the games must end now."
The forest provided plenty of shade, plenty of shadows for him to manipulate; no longer was Pride relying on just the ones under his feet. Bursting into life, the mass of darkness headed for the two targets. Before Riza could react, Mustang grabbed her feet and pushed her off the wall; she landed ungracefully on the other side and swore to get revenge once their ordeal was over.
He had managed to get her behind the barrier, but he knew that his action came with a price. The time he spent to save her was the time required to dodge the oncoming attack. Yet, he knew this even before Pride had initiated the shadows. All for her sake…
The accumulation of shadows separated into a crowd of sharpened points that aimed at him. There was a quick pause, then every single piece thrust into his body. Relentlessly battering his entire being, there was no end to onslaught. His body collided with the earthen wall, jolting with each shadow that plunged into his body. Yet, all he could do was grind his teeth together and take the full force of each attack. As each spasm of pain registered in his receptors, he vaguely became aware that the wall was crumbling.
Riza heard the attack, the sound of a million hands pounding against the barrier. Before she had a chance to reach the top of the wall, the earth began to crumble next to her. A multitude of shadows rammed through the weakened section; it moved at a high speed, but her eyes caught the figure at the end of the shadows. The black substance did not stop until it smashed into a tree, the force causing the wood to splinter. Only then did it pull back through the open hole in the wall. And only then did she see the result of the attack.
Mustang was slumped on the ground, his sweat-covered bangs hanging over his eyes. His shirt had become bloody tatters, and she saw more of his body than she had ever seen before. Fresh blood dripped from the large collection of wounds on his upper body, the scarlet trails running to the ground. One of his gloves was missing, and though the other remained, it was completely shredded. The sight of his injuries caused her eyes to widen and her voice to cry out.
"Mustang! Can you get up! Say something!"
He lifted his head at her voice, and she had to admit that he looked frightening with the cuts around his face. She was almost relieved when she saw that his eyes were still clear, unwavering. But why did it seem as if there was a red glow in his dark irises?
"Don't stay there Hawkeye! Move out of the way!"
She saw the shadow; it was much thinner than the previous ones, yet it was able to slice through the remains of the broken barrier. Before long, gravity pulled the pieces to the ground and left behind a smooth line where the cut was done. Pride was coming, and she did not wish to stay in the open. Yet, when she attempted to move away from her spot, she realized that she was surrounded by a black ring, the red iris of each eye staring at her.
Mustang also saw the shadows around Riza; with a groan, he pulled himself off the ground and prepared to get her out of the demon's grasp. Only Pride's voice managed to stop him.
"Take one more step, Commander, and I swear that she will be a corpse when you reach her."
"You touch her and I swear that I will burn this entire forest to make you experience hell."
"Hell does not frighten me. Now remain still for a moment…not that you have the strength to move."
His body was swaying, but Mustang was not willing to abandon the fight. "I have enough strength to kill you, Pride."
"You really are a stubborn fool." Pride's sneer softened into a smile, though the contempt never left his eyes. "I am sure you are aware that force is not the only method to bring someone back."
Leaving Mustang to think about his words, Pride turned to Riza. His smile widened when he saw that she was glaring at him; her look had much killing intent, for a human. But he knew that she was powerless to act while his shadows kept her in check. For now, he decided not to control her movements.
"You continue to surprise me, Miss Hawkeye. You are one of the few people who managed to strike my physical body. I believe you deserve a reward."
Her eyes narrowed at his smile. "I do not wish to receive anything from you, demon."
"I assure you that you will want what I have to offer."
Mustang let out a laugh. "Do you think you can sway her, Pride? She is not one to be deceived."
"That is correct, Mustang. She is not one to be deceived." The purple irises held her amber eyes. "Would you like to know something, Miss Hawkeye? The commander, Mustang, had to sacrifice something to gain his power."
Riza stared at the demon, unable to comprehend his words. "Are you referring to his fire?"
"No, no. A power that is different from his flames. And did you know that his sacrifice involved his master?"
"You speak strange words. I only met him a week ago. How could his sacrifice have anything to do with me?"
"Do you not believe that there is a possibility that he gave his sacrifice before you met him?" Pride watched as the words left her mouth, leaving her speechless. "It really is not fair, is it Miss Hawkeye, to know that you lost something. What right does he have to take something from you without your permission?"
"Don't listen to him Hawkeye! The Deadly Sins are known to manipulate the human mind!"
"And why should you listen to Mustang? After all, he has not been entirely truthful with you either."
And there it was. The doubt she had managed to bury resurfaced with Pride's words. She had suspected that her summon kept secrets, but to think that those secrets involved her, to think that he had known her even before the summon. Riza caught Mustang's eyes, their gaze remaining unbroken as time passed by. She searched into those dark irises for confirmation, and the guilt she found swimming in those orbs was enough. Yet, his eyes also pleaded for her understanding, for her trust. But before she could decide between condemnation and absolution, the exchange was broken by Pride.
"Did you know that you can reclaim what you lost?" Pride knew that the bait has been sighted; Riza broke her gaze with Mustang and turned back to the demon. "You can find out what you lost because of him. If you desire, you can get everything back."
"How can I be certain that you are not deceiving me?"
"Use your own judgment, Miss Hawkeye."
She looked from Pride to Mustang, Mustang to Pride. She found that she did not like the aura surrounding the demon, but she also found that she was not exactly satisfied with her summon's actions. If he really did take something from her, why did he not tell her? Then again, Mustang was not a fool; there must have been a reason he kept the facts from her. But did she not have the right to know?
Pride could see that she was close. "So, what is your answer?"
"…I want to know."
It was done. The bait was taken. A triumphant sneer was on the demon's face now, his purple irises glowing ominously in the dark. "I am no longer accountable for what happens."
Before she could grasp the meaning of his words, a flash of violet light drew her attention to her feet. While she was goaded by the demon, the shadows had shifted; thin black lines crisscrossed inside the vicinity of the circular ring to form an unrecognizable symbol. The eyes had disappeared, and the shadows were glowing along with the demon's eyes.
Then, the pain seared across her back. Her symbol burned around her skin, as if it was opposing the presence of the symbol on the ground. A battle of magic, one attempting to dominate the other. But in the end, the demonic blackness claimed the victory.
There was only a dull throb on her back now, but the experience left her forehead drenched in sweat. She watched Pride to see if anything else would happen, but he merely sneered back and stepped to the side so she would have a full view of her summon. The moonlight aided her vision, but she wished that it would disappear, for she did not like what she saw.
Wide eyes stared at her, and she was looking not at black irises but two orbs the color of blood, like dark rubies. His back was arched, the position of his body suggesting that he was in agony, so much that he could not cry out. She realized her mistake, but before she could call out, a wave of pain crashed down on her mind. She grabbed her head instinctively as unknown scenes began to take over her thoughts; unknown, yet familiar.
She managed to look back at Mustang. He too grasped his head, but that was not what concerned her. His injured body trembled as a number of black lines appeared on his skin; her eyes moved to Pride, but he was not the cause of the strange appearance. As she looked back, the lines began to twist and pull against themselves until they were broken into smaller pieces. These pieces also twisted until they looked like inscriptions, runes, wrapping around his body. They ran across his arms, his legs, his torso, his face; it almost looked as if someone had grabbed a pen and used Mustang's skin as paper.
Once the symbols had calmed down, they emitted a scarlet glow that lit Mustang's body. The images rushed into her head again while voices whispered in her ears, preventing her from hearing anything else. Most of the images were those of Mustang, both his current self and a younger self. She could hear his remarks, her replies, his laugh, her chuckle. She heard the other members of their group, and also the voices of Ed and Al. But Mustang's voice was in all of them. Then, she heard her own voice.
"The only fact that I know for certain is that you're here to protect me, but what else? I don't know about your past…"
Realizing that she had shut her eyes, she forced them open in time to see Mustang's feet crumble; the pieces looked like shattered glass, though they disappeared quickly as they broke off the main body. The images came again; she found that it was becoming harder to distinguish between her thoughts and reality.
Firm footsteps. An unexpected knock. An open door and a greeting.
"Hello. I am here to see Master Berthold Hawkeye in order to become his apprentice."
Her vision was brought back to the present; she watched as Mustang's legs slowly fell away, each piece breaking off at a predetermined speed. The cracks reached his torso, the symbols continuing to burn that horrible red. She heard her voice again.
"I don't know about your past, your goals…"
A grunt. Stopping before the next push-up. A sheepish smile and an explanation.
"I always work out like this because, one day, I hope to join the militia. After all, both physical and magical strength will be necessary when I free the people of this country. That's what I think, but maybe I'm being a little idealistic."
He had lowered his hands, which had started to fall away with his arms. It was strange to see him hovering in the air in such a manner; she had to wonder how he was supporting himself without his lower half. The pieces of his hands disappeared with the rest, and her voice…
"I don't know about your past, your goals, your relationships, your life…"
An uncertain hold. The warmth on her hands. An awkward expression and a confession.
"My mother's hands were the last ones I held, and it was after she had passed away. I lost everything before I could form any real connections with my family. Perhaps that is the reason I do not wish to lose the people around me now."
It was then that she knew. She knew so much about him, more than she could ever have imagined. She raised her eyes and had to suppress a cry. All that remained was a top part of his head. The light in his eyes had dimmed to a faded red. They were eyes that accepted defeat, that only waited for the end to come. And then she remembered the name that had always been on the tip of her tongue, yet she had been oblivious of its presence.
For a brief moment, his eyes widened in surprise when she called out his name, the dying fire rekindling to life. Then, they turned into the same expression of kindness as the time she first summoned him. It was a look of understanding, a look of reassurance. And it was the same look like that time…
As her mind began to slip away, she perceived a strong pair of hands on her wrists and recalled that she had been restrained in order to prevent unnecessary movement. The fact that she was being released most likely meant that this ordeal was finally finished. But deep down, she knew that there is no such thing as "finish" after something like this.
She was lifted up, gathered in protective arms that avoided contact with her throbbing back; for this she was grateful. Fingers gently brushed away the bangs in her eyes, but her mind was already numb, unable to process the external environment. His voice rang in her ears, and her consciousness slipped away.
She clung to him, using him as a lifeline to her consciousness. It took her a moment to get back her voice, though it was rough when she spoke because of her dry throat. Nevertheless, she had to answer him. She could not leave him when she could feel the anguish in the very essence of his being.
"…'m okay…don't…worry so…much…Roy."
"I'm sorry. I couldn't stop him…"
"I know…it was…for…everyone…so…'s okay…"
"I promise, Riza. I promise that whenever you're in trouble, whenever you need me, I'll come to you. I promise…"
"…I'm…going to…kill…you…if you…break…your…promise…"
"If I break my promise, you are free to shoot my back. Now, don't talk anymore. Just rest…"
Her vision cleared for a second, and she saw him looking at her. She saw the remorse in his eyes for the pain she had to suffer. Yet, his eyes were clear, determined, unwavering. Eyes that promised to come to her aid. Eyes that told her that she would not have to worry. Eyes that disappeared as she finally relented to the darkness.
The last of his fragile body broke, and Roy Mustang disappeared from her life once again.