Again, I'm sorry that I've been struggling with creativity lately. Ishval had been fanfic'd to death (yes, I did just make a noun into a verb), and I apologize for continuing to fanfic it into deeper and deeper circles of hell (Dante's Inferno ftw?). Enjoy it anyway! :) Disclaimer applies.


Is hell made of fire? Riza idly wondered to herself as she lay, sleepless as usual, in her tent in Ishval. She laughed humorlessly at her own musings: of course hell was made of fire; she had watched the fire burn openly in the dry desert air of her own personal hell herself. Mustang's flames had rendered entire districts to ash—the flames that she had given him in her hopes for a brighter future. She had wanted a world that burned with passion for peace and love, but only destructive fire had come about. Her vision had been rendered unattainable by the very flames she had chosen to trust. While it is true that fire can bring about life, it is more common that it spins out of control and brings naught but destruction. For believing that such an uncertain force could build a stable foundation for an entire country, she was a fool.

But there was no point in lingering on that now. What was done was done, and nothing she did could erase her past actions, try though she might. All she could do at the moment was wait for the war to end. Riza did not allow herself to imagine her future. With her luck, if she got her hopes up about leaving the battlefield in the same way that she had about the future of flame alchemy, she would probably end up dead. For now, it was best to stay in the present moment.

To the other soldiers' credits, they had been mostly respectful (and somewhat protective) of her. Whenever she would sit by a campfire after her shift ended, a few of them would join her, bringing with them her rations of food and drink. They would then escort her to the shower house and stand guard outside until she emerged after a quick scrub in the dark. Afterwards, they would drop her off at her tent and bid her good night. Riza would tie her tent flap down securely, ensuring that no one could enter without making enough noise to wake her. These soldiers usually didn't speak to her or to one another; the purpose of their presence seemed to be to discourage the odd soldier who thought a woman's place was in his bed instead of on the battlefield. Riza wasn't sure why these men went out of their way to make sure she was safe—it might have had to do with the fact that she was smaller than most and had an innocent face, or because she was one of the only females on the front (and the infamous Hawk's Eye, no less), or maybe they were hoping for a date sometime, or they could just be acting under orders (as much as the higher-ups didn't care about her, she was more useful to them alive and able to fight)—but nonetheless, she was grateful for their actions. They gave her a little bit of security in her fragile, burning world.

When she found Roy and started hanging around him and Maes, her mysterious bodyguards disappeared. She reasoned that perhaps they were afraid of the flame alchemist (most people were; it seemed that the only ones who weren't were the members of his squad), or maybe they—or those in command—figured that she was sufficiently protected with Roy around. She was sad to see her silent protectors go. By now, she could almost consider them friends, albeit rather odd ones. It seemed that the cursed flames of this hell could also keep her isolated, for she had never felt so alone in a crowd of soldiers than when she stood by the flame alchemist's side.

Hell may burn for no other reason than complete and utter annihilation, but Riza learned over time that fire has more than one face: where once it brings life, soon it brings naught but destruction. But after the fire ravages the land, new growth begins, and the forest that springs up is stronger than the one that perished before it. So, too, did Riza grow again after being burned, working side-by-side with the man who would nourish her recovery and witness her transformation into a beautiful new being, long though he might for the return of her innocence.

(He would never tell her, for she already knew, that she did just as much to help him as he did her—and it was with such a symbiotic relationship that they were bound together for life, sentenced willingly to bring forth a fire of redemption to the land and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. They may have lost their faith as they witnessed the fires of hell, but now, they could watch the righteous flames of heaven take root—and what a beautiful sight they were to behold.)