The Game of Three Generals
by Lady Norbert
A/N: Hello and welcome to the final third of what I have decided to call the Elemental Chess Trilogy! The first part was Flowers of Antimony and the second was Brilliancy, so if you haven't read those, you might want to do that before you read this.
Those of you who have read the two previous parts will remember that Antimony had an alchemy theme, and Brilliancy had a chess theme. Three Generals continues the trend in that its title, and all of its chapter titles, are terms from shogi - Japanese chess. You may recall Breda playing shogi in the FMA manga. As with the previous parts, I will of course be providing the definitions for the terms. (A "General" is a particular shogi piece.)
The Game of Three Generals: A variant of shogi in which each player has three Generals, which command different sections of the 'army.'
On a final note...guys, I'm warning you now. This plot is very possibly the single biggest roller coaster I have ever tried to write. I can't even begin to prepare you because it would completely ruin the surprise. All I ask is that no matter what happens - or appears to happen - you keep trusting me to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. And if you can, keep the reviews coming...to give me the courage to continue!
Chapter One: Climbing Silver
Climbing Silver: A common opening attack which involves advancing a silver piece, ideally a Pawn, along a file protected by a Rook.
Sunlight loves Winry Elric.
At least, that's her husband's opinion. It seems to cling to her - winding itself in her hair, curling around her shoulders. Her every movement is haloed.
Of course, Ed would never say this because, well, it sounds a little weird. But he thinks it often, huddling the notion jealously in his mind, something to take with him whenever he has to leave Resembool. He's thinking it now, as she's hanging out the washing in the front yard. She hasn't spotted him yet, and he's tempted to sneak up behind her, but he knows better than to think she's wrenchless.
Instead he waits for Den, who is always quick to catch his scent on the wind. Sure enough, the dog rouses from a sound sleep and starts barking, then runs to greet him, and he laughs and bends to distribute the requested scritches. Winry turns, and he looks up in time to see her face light up.
If he could only come home for five minutes, that sight alone would be worth the trip.
Her arms are as warm as he remembers, and he lingers in them, inhaling the smell of her throat. "I can't believe it's warm enough to hang laundry out," he teases.
"First warm day," she replies. "It was a cold winter, so I'm glad to get some fresh air in the linen. Why didn't you tell me you were coming home? I could have had a pie waiting."
"I thought it would be a nice surprise, me showing up unannounced and not needing automail repairs."
"You make a good point."
"Where's my boy?" It has been almost six weeks since Ed's seen his son, and roughly a month since he's seen Winry.
"Napping, thank goodness. He's started teething, so he hasn't been getting a lot of sleep." She pulls back from the embrace, finally, and gives him a searching look. "What's been happening? Have you been in Central all this time?"
"Pretty much. Let's finish hanging this up and I'll tell you about it over lunch - I haven't eaten."
Winry makes him a sandwich, and while he eats she sits and listens to him explain everything that's been happening since she reluctantly came back to Resembool.
"Hawkeye's now got a security detail," he says. "Grumman's orders. He said he should have had one on her all along - she is the First Granddaughter - but since she's military and under the constant protection of the Flame Alchemist, he figured it wasn't entirely necessary."
"I bet she didn't like that."
"That's putting it mildly! And then he said he'd been very careful in his selection of the guard, which had her just about furious - until he told her it was Havoc, Breda, Fuery, and Catalina. Once she knew it was those guys, she calmed down."
"No, because he's still part of the Briggs unit and he's got a wife and kids back in the north. Havoc and Breda were actually part of Grumman's own security detail until everything happened in Ishval, and from what I understand he really kind of likes them. But he knew that she'd only be happy being guarded by her friends, so he transferred them to her."
"How is Roy taking this?"
"Decently. I think he's a little disappointed that Grumman doesn't think he's enough on his own to protect her, but we've already seen that this is the case. I'm even willing to admit that's not his fault, and they can't be together constantly - they sure do try, though. And he says if he's got to let anybody else take responsibility for her safety, then he's relieved it's them because he knows he can trust them." Ed shrugs. "I guess I can see that. It'd be like me entrusting your safety to Al."
"Are they all still in Central?"
"They were there for about two weeks. Grumman finally let them go back to Ishval, with the group intact. I went with them and stayed for another week - that's where I was the last time I called home - and then I went back to Central before coming here." He finishes his sandwich with a sigh. "I missed your bread."
"Has there been any...news?" Winry asks warily. She doesn't like to mention Acheron's name, he notes.
"No, and that's what Grumman's worried about. We're thinking that Acheron still believes Hawkeye to be dead - he might even think that General Flamethrower is too, after the way he blew up the building in the desert." Ed shakes his head. Some part of him still can't believe that the idiot did something so flashy, and that they'd all bought into the ruse. "But regardless of what he believes, he hasn't made a move in weeks."
"I'm assuming there's a plan?"
"There's a plan," he confirms. "I'm not sure how much sense it makes, but there's a plan. Grumman's going to try to draw Acheron out. Two weeks from Saturday, there's going to be a ball - he never had an inaugural ball because of everything that was going on, so this is going to be sort of a combination of that and a celebration of a bunch of promotions, several of which he says are overdue anyway. Everybody who helped with the whole Ishval thing is getting ranked up. Majors Miles and Armstrong will become Lieutenant Colonels, Falman makes Major, Fuery makes First Lieutenant, and Havoc, Breda, Catalina, Brosh, Ross, and Douglas all become Captains. Douglas is getting a special commendation for his role in apprehending Sikorsky, too."
"That's a lot of promotions." Winry pauses. "Wait. The Lieutenants are becoming Captains?"
"But wasn't Riza a Lieutenant before the Promised Day? Why did she jump up to being a Colonel?"
"You know, I asked about that myself, because it didn't make any sense to me. She got triple - no, quadruple promoted when most anyone else would have only gotten promoted once." Ed shrugs. "Apparently they considered her overdue, too - she put her career on hold quite a bit in order to stay under Mustang, because if she became a Major she'd be assigned her own unit. So she had refused promotions in the past. Between that, her efforts while stuck working for Bradley, and the whole matter of the Promised Day, they just threw everything into one lump rank-up and made her a Colonel. She only accepted because they said she could keep working under Mustang in Ishval."
"That's really pretty sweet, if you think about it."
"I try not to." Deep down he agrees with her, but that doesn't mean he has to admit it.
"So are you home for good?" Winry looks as though she knows better than to think this might really be true.
"I wish. But I have some good news for you." He grins. "When I leave, you get to come with me - because we've been invited to the ball."
"We helped in Ishval too, y'know! Grumman's got some kind of civilian thing lined up for us. Not a medal, but some fancy certificate or something."
"But Ed, what am I going to wear to a ball?"
"Well, that's why we go to Central a couple days early and you can find something you like. I'm sure Hawkeye and Catalina will help you shop, Hawkeye's a lot girlier than people tend to think."
"I'm excited." She gives him a happy smile, which is all too swiftly disrupted by the sound of a wail coming from upstairs. "Your son is awake."
"I'll go up to him. You look tired too, Win, he's been keeping you up a lot."
"Why don't you go take a nap?" he suggests, getting up from the table. "I'll take care of the kiddo, you need some rest." He bends to kiss her cheek and whispers, "Besides, then you'll have more energy later." Grinning, he dodges her swat and ducks out of the kitchen, but he can hear her laughing as he heads for the stairs.
Lucas is so surprised by the appearance of his father that he stops crying, and Ed takes advantage of this to scoop him up. "What's going on, little man? Teeth coming in, huh?" He tries to remember when Al was teething, and how their mother had handled the situation. Some kind of herb, he thinks, but he's not sure what. Maybe there's something in one of the books downstairs.
He studies his son, eyes soft. "We're going to take care of this whole mess, Luke," he promises quietly. "We're going to get rid of this jackass and make this country what it needs to be. When you grow up, we're going to hand you a whole new world."
"Something like that." He bounces the boy in his arms, and laughs. "And by then Mustang will have made this a democracy, and you can vote him out of office." The idea amuses him entirely too much. "And whatever mess is still left, you'll fix - you'll be just like your mother, and be able to fix anything."
"That's sweet of you, Ed." Winry is in the hall, having paused on her way to the bedroom to nap. "But he's already showing signs of being exactly like you, which means his skill set will more likely include the ability to break anything."
He sputters. "W-well - hey! You know what somebody in your line of work ought to consider that?"
Later that night, Ed is almost asleep, reflecting on the fact that moonlight is also apparently rather fond of his wife. She nudges him lightly. "Do you think it's going to be all right?"
"Oh." He sighs. "I hope so. I feel like we've all been through enough for one lifetime."
"Yes. Just...promise me something?"
"Whatever happens...make sure you come home."
He turns over and wraps an arm around her, pressing a kiss to her shoulder. "I've already been through hell," he reminds her, "and that didn't stop me from coming home. I don't think a guy with a weird accent could keep me from coming back to you."
"I just have a bad feeling."
Ed frowns. He hates when Winry has a bad feeling, because it's usually justified - like her tears when her parents left for Ishval. "I don't know what's coming," he admits. "But our extended family, as you insist on calling them, is more than a match for this Acheron guy. We won't let him win."
"It's not that I'm afraid of him winning. I'm afraid of what we might lose in the process."
He wants to tell her not to be afraid, that everything will be fine, but he can't. He knows better. So he pulls her close, and tells her the one thing he always knows is true. "I love you. And we'll get through this."