The fireworks over the river make a picturesque reflection beside my wrinkled, tired face. I grimace at the lightshow, and the cheers of excitement- why should you celebrate things that caused so much suffering, so much death?
My shouts of anger at the crowd die in the undercurrent of an explosion, leaving me to duck my head so I don't see the faces of my smiling grandchildren who think Great-Grandmother is simply batty with loneliness and age.
We weren't gods, I think, staring down into the pool of water at my feet. We were just people.
Edward was first.
In some freak accident at the academy- I warned them teaching teens alkahestry was risky, non-Xingians have extreme trouble keeping their chi in sync and not destroying things- some boy cracked the foundation of the school building, sending it crashing down around those unlucky enough to not have run quite far enough for fast enough, Edward Elric included. He died while Alphonse screamed "My brother! Get him out of there!" to military officers who tried (in vain) to uncover five school kids and the famous Fullmetal Alchemist.
He was barely sixty-five.
The funeral was probably the saddest thing I've ever witnessed. So many people cried (especially Mr. Mustang; he chanted 'He should've outlived me, he should've outlived me' until Mrs. Riza dragged him away after the casket was lowered), while his great-grandbabies sat in the cool grass oblivious to what was going on.
I think the entire world shed tears on October 3rd (how ironic is it that he died that day? Sometimes I think the world wants me to choke on its coincidences.)
My husband followed, not a year later.
I think it was Ed's death that did him in; sure, they'd been separated for years when they went to their respective countries to study alchemy- but there's a world of difference between a countrywide separation and the unkind chill of death.
I nearly caught him trying to bring his brother back. ("Roy was right, Mei," he said, staring down at Ed's old research texts, "Alchemists really are despicable creatures.") I yelled at him for a good five minutes, trying to ignore the threat of tears in the back of my eyelids. Ed's death has been hard on everyone, but..don't you remember the armor? Don't you, Alphonse? What would Ed say about that, about you trying to do the unspeakable? Did you pay attention those five years that nearly killed us all!
We buried him along with the armor at his will in a grave beside Ed's. Mustang cried that day, too, looking off into the distance with a glint in his eye that told me exactly what he was thinking of. I barely resisted slapping the man.
"It's sad; here we are, old people, and the younger ones who we owe our lives to lay in the ground while we must walk around like the world hasn't just lost two of the best people it's ever known," Riza said to me once, as she helped me babysit my great-niece and nephew. I thought long and hard about what she said, staring into the ripples of brown in my cup of tea as I drank from it, seeing golden eyes and black ones alike in the place of mine.
Were we really that great? We sure fell down a lot, the doubting part of my mind whispered, replaying the days when I saw the guilt in Ed's eyes when Alphonse delighted in the taste on a dish they'd eaten as kids or at Winry's gentle touch. (I think I'll always hate myself for stealing his childhood, Mei.) Or the times I saw the killer emerge from Mister Scar as he looked at a perfectly innocent man clad in blue. (Those bastards never watched their brother and mother explode, now did they?)
But we always got back up again, didn't we? The eyes in the ripples mouth back at me, words full of hope and determination strongly reminiscent of the times before the Promised Day, the best days of my life.
Upon remarking this to LanFan, she snorted and adjusted her mask over her face with her automail arm. "What, did you miss the numerous times we almost died?" She asked, reverting back into Xingese like she was wont to do when confused.
"But I've never felt so helpful," I told her earnestly, hoisting Xiao May higher up in my arms. "I've never done something good for so many."
Perhaps we were good because we only tried to be human and nothing more.
Being the 'last survivor' doesn't bode well with me.
Oh, I'm sure President Mustang's godniece is still around, but Elysia was only six at the time of The Promised Day- She doesn't remember the gold and metal and black that decorated the years surrounding her father's death, the years that made and broke a country and its citizens.
They erected statues of Ed and Alphonse in Central's military gardens. I went to see them out of sheer curiosity once, and was revolted by what I saw.
They're artistic and beautiful, no doubt about that- Alphonse's statue is a suit of armor with a smiling boy crawling out of the top- but they don't capture the life, the mistakes of the boys they honor.
"Fullmetal would hate this," Roy confided in me once when I went to visit Riza on Alchemists' Day. "They paint him as a demigod. He was just a kid with an unbreakable spirit and a penchant for trouble…"
I swear I've been to more funerals in the past five years than any human ought to, taxed my body with work and tears to avoid the present. No one that I knew from those days, the days of weak 11 year Xingese girl with a panda-cat lives. They're all buried under six feet of dirt, mouths quiet when people ask for their story.
I laugh at the history textbooks, laugh at the people who wish to celebrate the things that plague this country's history. What about the people who died for us to get here? What about them?, I want to scream at the people shooting off fireworks right now, at my family in the crowd as people recount tales of Edward Elric and his suit of armor brother. The Alchemist Of The People's deathday, what a beautiful holiday to celebrate.
"Rena, please," I'd begged with her, standing in her and little Mia's way as they traipsed down the pathway to town square. "Your father wouldn't want this; he's not some holy man-"
"Aunt Mei," she whispered coolly, staring into my eyes with something akin to pity. "Go inside and rest. It's been a hard couple years for you, I know." She maneuvered deftly around me, scooping Mia into her arms as the soles of their shoes kicked up dust around me.
She basically told me that I didn't understand; just some senile old widow trying to ruin a national holiday. I DO understand! I want to yell at her as she dances under the lanterns dotting the night sky. I was there! The last person that knows!
I wonder what the world will be like when I join the rest of them in their eternal slumber beneath the earth.
Will there be another Ishval?
Will there be another Promised Day?
These thoughts frighten me somewhere inside my core and I stand up, popping some bones in the process and make my way by the light of the moon to a seemingly overcrowded cemetery. First time Alphonse brought me here on Mother's Day there were scarcely 10 stones, lined up by family name and decorated with flowers and love. Now, in the shining moonlight, there stand perhaps 17, littered with dead flowers and the smell of wet earth. Behind me, to the west, more fireworks explode in rapid succession and the shouts of happiness nearly deafen me in the stony silence of the graveyard.
I stare at the three newest graves, all marked with the surname Elric, and feel the ache of loneliness reach up and seize something inside an old woman's chest.
Amestris failed you, didn't she, boys? I think, running my hand over the smooth marble of the first two. Your lives were an example of moving on, using your legs in the face of suffering- and we've made it into a day for festivities.
I'm just a person, made of 35 liters of water, 20 kg's of carbon, and other elements you can buy on a small child's allowance at Resembool's market.
Sometimes the world makes it difficult for me to remember.