Chapter 1: Prologue
Important: Please read this before continuing to the chapter! This is an Avatar the Last Airbender / Fullmetal Alchemist crossover. If you don't know either of these titles, I strongly suggest you either watch the series or at the very least look it up, otherwise you'll be massively confused.
In the A:TLA universe, this story takes place directly after the The Eclipse episode and at the start of the Western Air Temple episode. Also, the days until Sozin's Comet arrival have been extended, so I'm disregarding that canon. The comet should arrive, instead, in a week or two. It will be more defined as the story progresses, as will other, if any, canon distortions.
In the FMA universe, this takes place just before the manga begins; near the end of the three year gap of when Edward joined the military, just to put him in the same age group as the gAang (So, about 14 years old).
This story contains no pairings or romantic subplots. You are free to interpret any characters' interactions however you want, but there will be no actual romance happening. I understand that Aang/Katara is the end game of the series, but it will not be the focus of this story, and will probably only be discussed for canon reasons. Other than that, don't expect any romance here (another excuse: I can't write it).
The K+ rating is leaning heavily on a T rating; there will be some cursing (cussing? swearing?) in this story. In the FMA manga, Ed does curse a lot, but in the A:TLA, for obvious reasons, there is none. I tried to balance it out, but be prepared to encounter some, ah, adult words.
Final note: this story is a take on an FMA character in the A:TLA universe.
Part I - 1
/ " To want to understand is an attempt to recapture something we have lost. " /
It was all Mustang's fault. That bastard.
The library was only a few yards away. Not even a few yards. Maybe less – it was close. It was so close that Edward could smell the books that were housed inside – their ancient to glossy new pages, their dusty to reflection clean covers. Research was there, just waiting for him to read them, discover them, learn them. So close.
But then Colonel Shit had to come along and ruin everything. Naturally.
The jerk had intercepted them on their way crossing the street in his stupid car. It was such a surprise that Ed would have almost collided with it if it weren't for Al stopping him from taking another step. Ed had to wonder who the idiot was that granted Mustang the privilege to drive.
"Ah, Fullmetal." The driver's window was rolled down. Mustang's stupid head was leaning out of it and he was smirking with that stupid smirk of his. "Perfect timing."
"That's it? Aren't you going to say sorry for almost hitting me with your car, you damn lunatic?"
The Colonel frowned. "Oh? I guess I must not have noticed you from," he paused, extending his neck. "All the way down there."
And then Ed was off; screaming his lungs out as Al held him back from punching his superior officer in the face while Mustang simply sat looking very smug and amused. Then Hawkeye, who sat besides the Colonel in the passenger seat, gave Mustang a disapproving look, and he sighed.
"Get in, Fullmetal. I've got work for you."
"Work?" Ed was livid. "I just came back from –"
"Inside, Fullmetal. Now."
Ed hated that tone, and he hated how effective it was.
In the backseat of the car, Ed was silent, but made sure his face expressed just how enraged he was.
Mustang had no right to just pluck him out of the street without any prior notice. More importantly, today was his self-given day off. Ed didn't give himself that many days off, if any, but he had recently arrived back from a wild goose chase of a mission the day before, and felt entitled to this day of relaxation. Just him, Al, the stiff chair in the library, and a galore of books.
But, no. Not on Mustang's watch. Nope. There was no relaxing while Mustang was around. God forbid.
His scowl deepened when he caught Mustang's eye in the rearview mirror. It was pure instinct to be upset whenever he saw that man. He always harbored catastrophe. He was the living symbolism of foreshadowed disaster.
They drove in relative silence, which annoyed Ed to no end. Mustang had yet to even tell him why the hell he was in this car to begin with, and Edward's patience was wearing thin.
Mustang slowed at an intersection and Ed couldn't take it any longer. "If this is your idea of wasting time in the most idiotic way possible, you're doing a pretty good job at it," Ed suddenly snapped.
Mustang looked at him from the mirror with a raised eyebrow. "Wasting time? On the contrary, I'm benefiting your time, Fullmetal. You should be grateful."
The conceited tone made Ed roll his eyes. "Researching in the library with Al is benefiting my time; sitting in this stupid car with you is anything but!"
A sigh. "You only say that because you don't know what the assignment is."
"That's because you haven't told me it, you lazy bastard!"
"As always, your patience is as short as you are."
Ed fumed at the word, flailing his limbs around as he screamed profanities at the top of his lungs. His automail foot slammed into the back of Roy's seat, making the man start, accidentally swerving the car. He regained control of the vehicle with a grunt. "Real mature."
"Sir, please concentrate on the road." Hawkeye said shortly. "And stop antagonizing Edward."
"Of course you take his side," Mustang muttered, ignoring Ed's exclamation of "yeah, learn to drive, asshole," from the back. He rolled his shoulders and shot a glance at Ed before looking back to the road.
"I received a call earlier today about a case that I thought might interest you, Fullmetal."
"Couldn't it have waited until tomorrow?" Ed grumbled. "I'm still sore from yesterday's stupid mission you assigned me to."
"No. There's a statute of limitations on this particular case."
"Then quit stalling and tell me what it is already!"
It was Hawkeye who answered. "A woman by the name of Lucille Finnegan had been making frequent calls to the police the past few days, complaining about her tenant, a Mr. Gavin Artfield, age twenty-two."
"What, are his parties too loud for the hag? I still don't see what this has to do with me, and why Al isn't with me."
"Patience, Fullmetal." Mustang said. "Continue, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir. Over the last few days, the calls Mrs. Finnegan had been making revolved around Mr. Artfield, who she claimed was doing something suspicious in his apartment room. Whenever she would try to speak with him, he would mumble incoherent words and ignore her protests. She fears he may be mentally deranged."
"Alright, so he's insane. Why doesn't she just kick him out?"
Mustang answered him, "Ah, now this is where we get to the fun part. Mrs. Finnegan did try to kick him out, today actually, when we got the call. She says that when she walked into his room to discuss the arrangements of his eviction, the room was completely empty except for a large drawing on the ground. She described it as one of his 'alchemy nonsense'."
"A transmutation circle," Ed breathed. He sat up, his attention quickly in their grasps. "Is it a human transmutation circle?"
"We're on our way to the apartment now to confirm that," Mustang said. "There's a high possibility that it might be, regarding his mental issues. No offense."
Ed didn't care. "So then why do you need me? Don't you know that a human transmutation looks like?"
"Trust me, I know," Mustang murmured, sharing a subtle grim look with Hawkeye. Ed didn't miss it. "I just thought you might be interested in this. Mrs. Finnegan's description of the circle fit none of the ones I've ever heard of, so this new circle might be something that can aide you and your brother." He shrugged carelessly, "Like I said before, benefiting your time – Al does research in the library while you do yours at an insane man's home."
Ed thought it over as he sat back in the seat. What could this deranged man possibly be up to? Perhaps he was trying to bring somebody back from the dead. If that were the case, then Ed was just wasting his time.
But what if it wasn't? What if it was a whole new transmutation circle that Ed had never seen before? This lunatic might have some knowledge that Ed was lacking. He could have answers.
Ed wished Al was with him, but Mustang made it clear that Alphonse's presence would be too conspicuous, but more importantly that it wasn't necessary for him to come because the task didn't require anymore hands.
Regardless, Ed would have preferred it if his brother came along. Ed always took comfort in Al's staggering presence. It put him at ease, whereas Mustang's presence put him on edge.
When they walked up to the apartment door, Ed felt his stomach curve in on itself. An ominous feeling spread around him. Something was off. He could practically sense it. It was as if a large blanket of looming dread wrapped itself around him as he walked in. He felt the uneasiness claw at his throat, and without Al by his side, he felt vulnerable.
Mustang walked in front of Hawkeye, and Ed climbed the stairs behind them. When he reached the first floor, a woman with horrid, curly, red hair hurled herself out of one of the doors.
"Oh, I'm so glad you soldiers came!" She half sighed in relief, half shrieked in impatience. "It's Gavin – he wouldn't let me in! – The boy's gone insane, I tell you!"
"Calm down, Mrs. Finnegan," Mustang began. "I'm Colonel Mustang, this is Lieu –"
She pulled at his hands frantically, "Hurry – please! The boy's going to kill himself! He's not right – he's been screaming and yelling! He's going to hurt himself – he's – he's –"
"Then stop screaming and tell us where she is," Ed said irritably, rubbing his ears from her high-pitched cries.
She looked at Ed oddly for a moment and then to the hall, "He's down there. The last room – 3B."
Hawkeye pulled out her gun while Mustang slipped on his gloves. They stormed down the hall, Ed following in tow. The woman watched them leave, then returned to her room with a dramatic exclamation that they all ignored.
Mustang banged on the door, hard. "Mr. Artfield, open this door."
There was no answer. Mustang tried looking through the peephole but pulled his head back when he realized how futile it was. He banged again, "Open this door, immediately!"
Hawkeye swiftly stepped between the door and the Colonel and shot at the key hole two – three times. The doorknob fell out and was replaced with three holes. Mustang shot his lieutenant a wary look and pushed the door open.
They were met with an orange room. A lamp at the corner of the room desperately tried to fill the space with light.
A man stood at the middle of the room, staring at them. Ed shuddered.
Mustang narrowed his eyes at the man, "Gavin Artfield, I presume?"
Artfield muttered under his breath, his hands shaking and his mouth moving at inhuman speed. Ed swallowed. That man did not look right.
Even with the weak light, Ed was still able to see the large, transmutation circle that lay on the floor directly in front of them, neatly drawn in black paint. Ed was captivated by it's mysteriousness. He had never seen a circle like this before. Symbols were drawn precisely inside the circles, and the ancient letters framed the shapes. But upon closer inspection, his eyes widened.
"What the hell is this!?" He hissed at Artfield, pointing to the circle. "This thing has elements of human transmutation! Are you out of your mind? What are you trying to do?"
Artfield's mumbles became more distinguishable as he clawed at his hair feverishly. "Hate it – hate it ...disgusting world – I hate it – leave … need to leave … leave. I hate it – hate it … I hate this life – leave –"
Mustang's eyes narrowed at Ed's proclamation, "Mr. Artfield, human transmutation is illegal, as I'm sure you are aware. I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you away for –"
"NO!" The man yelled hysterically, making Ed jump. "N-no! I'm leaving – leaving! – I need to leave! Can't stay. I won't stay. Disgusting – hideous – ugly world. I need to go to a new one – new. New life – not here. I need to leave."
Artfield fell to his knees, staring at his hands in dreadful fascination. His ranting quieted a bit, making it nothing more than a string of rapid whispers that made the hairs on Ed's neck stand. The man choked on his own sob. He looked like he was about to burst.
Then Ed's eyes lingered on the man's hands; Artfield's hands shook even more violently, almost like they were vibrating. His bulging gaze fixated on the circle beneath his feet intensely.
Ed's eyes widened and he mentally cursed.
"He's going to activate it!" He was able to strangle out as he darted to the crumbled man. I have to stop him – I have to stop him! He's going to kill himself!
He heard Mustang call for him loudly, but his focus was on Artfield because he needed to stop this man and to stop him from making the same mistake as he did because there was no way anyone should go through that and Ed did not want to see that happen again and –
– But it was too late.
The man's hands were already on the ground and the room had turned a mortifying shade of red. Ed felt his stomach churn at the familiarity. No... he thought dreadfully. Not again.
Mustang was yelling at him from behind while Artfield was laughing in front of him. A large eye opened up underneath his feet and looked as if it was staring directly at Ed.
Ed couldn't help but stare back.
Artfield's laughs grew louder and more hysterical.
It was truly frightening.
Tiny swarms of black hands erupted from the ground like a swarm of snakes. He watched as they picked apart at Artfield as the man yelled a chorus of "Take me away! Take me away! Take me aw–" until his whole body was taken away.
The static and power of the alchemy was loud and overwhelming and drowned out the sound of Mustang's calls for him. Ed wondered why Mustang would be shouting for him until he realized that his own body was being pulled up, piece by piece.
He was standing on the circle.
A frantic sense of fear overpowered his mind as he tried – tried – tried to escape but couldn't. He struggled at the grasps, but it was futile. The last thing he saw before his vision was taken was a gloved hand reaching out for him but never touching.
"Welcome back, Mister Al-che-mist."
Ed couldn't feel anything.
He couldn't breath.
He couldn't see.
He felt so jumbled and disoriented.
Dread swam in his stomach.
He didn't want to be here.
He wanted to leave.
"Oh? How naughty of you to ignore your host."
He knew that voice.
He hated it.
He couldn't be here.
He wanted out.
He had to go back to Al – he had to get out.
Why was he here?
Of all places.
Fear ate away his logic.
Anxiety disintegrated his senses.
Apprehension rendered him speechless.
Why was this happening to him again?
"It's time I send you on your way, insolent fool. For the toll you paid, however, it's just a one way ticket."
Something opened behind him – it let out gusts of disaster.
He was being pulled at.
It was the small hands again.
They were pulling him in.
He didn't want to go – he didn't want to die.
He struggled – kicked – thrashed – but the hands were relentless and they were pulling him in closer and Ed just knew that wherever they were taking him was not good and that he was definitely going to die and that this was the end for him and –
"Have a fun trip, Al-che-mist boy."
When Ed came around, he was mildly confused. He couldn't remember anything. He couldn't see anything, either.
But he didn't mind. If his brain was working and he was able to think, then that meant he was alive. Being alive was a good thing.
But what happened to him? All he could remember was some yelling, weird lightning, more yelling, whiteness –
Not even given time to further dive into his memories, or to check if all his limbs are intact, he was suddenly granted vision again, and he saw the sky.
He must have landed outside somewhere, his original thought was, which was far from true. It took him a second to realize that he was actually falling to the ground, and did some panicked, spastic movements to keep from landing on his back.
That was a mistake.
Whatever position he was in in the air ruined him on the ground. The heel of his foot touched the ground first, and much to his dismay, his flesh foot did a sort of painful popping sound. He didn't know how high up he was originally, but the damage was done regardless. Right when his foot made contact with the ground, he fell onto his back.
He groaned and rolled pathetically on the gravely earth, clutching his right ankle.
"Shit," Ed hissed bitterly. He took off his boot and grimaced. The side of his foot was an angry red, pulsing painfully. God damn, it hurt. He could just imagine how bruised up and disgusting it'll look the next day.
Oh, how wonderful his luck was.
He was really sure that the Truth hated him by now. Or at least, was annoyed with him. He'd opened up the Gate so many times at this point that the Truth was just plain sick of him. It was understandable; Ed didn't mind. In all honesty, he was sick of seeing the Truth, too.
Wherever that freaky bastard dumped him, Ed was positive it was out of spite. That white weirdo probably held a grudge on him for disturbing the peace and quiet in the Gate – well, there really was no peace there, but regardless.
Ed huffed and stood up, only to stagger and fall when he applied pressure on his right foot. The pain shot through him like a bullet of fire. He cursed – loudly.
"Stupid foot," he shouted at his ankle. "Stupid Truth – stupid Gate – stupid insane jerks – stupid Mustang –!"
He stopped himself. Mustang.
He picked up his head and looked around, but he was alone.
Where was Mustang? Where was Hawkeye? Where was he?
He realized now how absolutely hot it was. He squinted at the sun's glare. He wasn't in a desert – although it sure as hell felt like one – since there were patches of dry grass everywhere. The ground was rocky and he could spot mountains from afar.
Wait, what the hell?
He was just in the middle of East City, for crying out loud! He was in an apartment – in civilization. How the in the world did he end up in the middle of nowhere?
Where the hell was he?
Moreover, how the hell did he get here.
"It's time I send you on your way, insolent fool."
The Gate. The Truth. He – it said that. Did that white bastard send him here?
Ed cradled his head at the onslaught of all his thoughts. He couldn't concentrate at all. The pain in his foot and the immense heat of the sun was making it increasingly difficult to organize his thoughts.
He decided to take another go at trying to walk and ended up limping to a large rock. He sat himself down on the smooth surface with a huff. He closed his eyes and reviewed his thoughts.
It had to be the Gate. It definitely sent him here. If that were the case, then, what the hell kind of circle did Artfield make? That psychotic freak was probably planning this whole thing! Ed quickly picked up his head and looked around. Artfield – he should be here, too. Ed saw him get taken.
"For the toll you paid, however, it's just a one way ticket."
Ed froze at the memory.
What if … the toll was Artfield?
Ed had all his limbs still connected to his body, and it didn't feel like he was missing something from the inside. So what if Artfield, whole, was the toll?
Ed swallowed thickly. He was standing in the middle of the circle, so maybe the Gate mistook him as the toll and Ed as the activator...
Ed grit his teeth and grimaced. It took the whole life of one man to send Edward to the middle of nowhere. That man was probably working his whole life on this theory for the circle, only to have his life taken and his work wasted on Ed.
Ed bit his lip. He really wished he wasn't here.
Well, wherever here was.
Ed closed his eyes. He had to think. No time to mull over unnecessary things; he could do that later. Right now, he had to put his brain into full use. He had to remember.
If Artfield was the toll … and the transmutation circle was to transport Ed to another destination … then, wasn't the price a little too excessive?
Sure, the Truth guy was a freaky fella and all, but he – it followed the laws of alchemy – equivalent exchange.
The life of one man did not equal the transportation of half of another.
Something didn't feel right. Ed was missing something. He had to think. He had to remember.
And then it hit him – hard.
Mustang was there, with him. When the transmutation circle activated, Ed remembered hearing the Colonel shouting for him. What if he had chased after Ed when it activated, trying to pull him back.
A memory of a white gloved hand flashed through Ed's eyes.
Ed moaned in horror and cradled his head.
What if Mustang was caught in the transmutation?
What if Mustang was also sent here?
What if Mustang was the toll to send Edward and Artfield here?
What if Mustang and Artfield were both the tolls?
Ed hit himself on the head repeatedly – stop it, stop thinking about these things.
Ed's head shot up.
There was a short girl walking towards him.
All of his previous thoughts left him as he focused his attention on the arriving girl. A person. A civilian. As much as he loathed the idea of having to interact with someone at a time as bewildering as this, he couldn't ignore the implications this girl brought with her presence – answers.
When she was a few feet away, Ed contemplated how he should approach this girl. Should he be demanding and mean, scare her into giving him answers quickly? Or should he be civil and nice, sweet-talking her into revealing some sort of information that could help him without giving anything away about himself?
Ed concluded he would be nice. With more effort than he would like to admit, Ed put on his best smile.
The girl stood in front of him, crossing her arms. Her long bangs shadowed half of her face, and with the lighting from the sun, it gave her a sort of menacing appearance.
"Who are you and how did you get here," she demanded before Ed could even let words come out of his open mouth.
Ed smile slipped right off his face and was replaced by an indignant frown. "Who are you?" He shot back with the same attitude. So much for nice.
"I asked you first."
Ed bristled. "So? I asked you second!"
"Don't play with me," she hissed. "Who are you?"
"I'll tell you right when you tell me who you are."
"I'm not answering until you tell me."
The urge to pull on his hair was incredibly strong. "You know what? Screw it; I don't care who you are anymore. Get out of here."
The girl snarled at him. She pointed a leveled finger at him. "Listen, punk. Two minutes ago there was nobody here and then all of a sudden – poof! – you magically appear." She spread her legs apart, as if ready to attack. "Did you follow us? Did the Fire Nation drop you off to capture us? Did Zuko send you?"
"Whoa, whoa!" Ed said, holding his arms out. Suddenly, the conversation wasn't so amusing. "What the hell are all these accusations for?"
"I have the right to accuse suspicious people. And you're looking pretty suspicious to me right now." She crossed her arms and frowned down at him.
"I just got here and I don't even know where here is!" Ed exclaimed. "And the first thing I get is a bunch of baseless accusations for shit I didn't even do from some puny little girl!"
"Puny?" Her frown deepened. "How about I put your head six feet in the ground and then we'll see who's the puny one here!"
Ed stood quickly, using his height to intimidate the girl, and mimicked her pointing, "What did you call m – ow, ow, ow, shit!"
Much to his embarrassment, his ankle decided not to cooperate with him. He tripped and fell face first onto the ground, his nose inches from touching the girl's feet – which, he noticed revoltingly, were barefoot.
He rolled his eyes when the girl barked with heavy laughter. "Ha, ha! You're the most pathetic guy I've ever seen! And I've seen a lot."
"Oh, shut up," Ed halfheartedly muttered. He dusted himself off gingerly. He tried to pick himself up and then decided against it, instead choosing to lean against the rock and examine his ankle. The red bruise was now showing hints of purple, and Ed was now entirely certain that he dislocated it.
"I can't believe the Fire Nation let someone like you into their force! They must be really desperate."
Ed rolled his eyes. "Fire Nation? What kind of kid talk is that?" He eyed the girl with a glare. Judging by those weird green garments she had on, he must be in some foreign land. Probably Xing. She was probably talking about one their many clans – Ed never seemed to remember any of them; there were a lot.
Surprisingly, the girl stopped laughing almost instantly. She stumbled on her words. "You're…not from the Fire Nation?"
"Obviously. I'm from Amestris."
It was the girl's turn to look confused. "Ame...stris? Where's that? I've never heard of it."
Ed sputtered. "How could you not know where Amestris is? It's huge, with a powerful military and extremely functional economy, and pretty damn famous, as a matter of fact." He picked his chin up, "What kind of backwards place are you from that you don't know where Amestris is?"
The girl hesitated for a second but answered regardless, "I'm from Gaoling."
"It's a big town in the Earth Kingdom," she elaborated.
It didn't help, though. "Earth Kingdom? Where's that?"
"Don't play dumb with me!" She suddenly barked at him.
Ed jumped at her sudden shout. "I'm not! Jeez, what's with you?"
"What's with you? Asking stupid questions like 'Where's the Earth Kingdom?"
"Hey! I don't sound like that! And it's a legitimate question! You're the one who's asking stupid questions like 'Amestris? Where's that?'"
"I don't sound like that!" She yelled back. Ed wondered if she also thought their argument was extremely childish and heading nowhere. She must have, because slowly she exhaled through her nose and murmured, "Something's not right." Ed waited for her to continue, but she remained silent.
A bird flew overheard, cawing loudly. A vulture, Ed thought. He shifted uncomfortably from where he sat, trying to ignore the searing heat of the day. The girl wasn't saying anything, probably contemplating what she wanted to say next. It made Ed nervous, having her stand over him in silence.
When the vulture cawed a second time, the girl finally spoke. "You really don't know where the Earth Kingdom is?" she asked levelly.
"No. I don't, "Ed replied with matching calmness.
"You're lying." she said, defiantly.
He sneered. "I'm not lying!"
He watched as she faltered and her face took on a shocked one. "You're … not lying?"
"I'm not! I'm telling the truth!"
She was silent again. He watched as her face remained postured and unmoving. Her stance seemed to stiffen and from his vantage point. He notiched her feet suddenly tense, her toes clawing into the ground. Then, "Oh."
Ed blinked. "Oh?"
Her demeanor relaxed and her voice softened. "So, you don't know where the Earth Kingdom is?"
"No," he said exasperatedly, running a hand down his face.
"Are you from the Fire Nation?"
"So you aren't with the Fire Nation? You're not one of their soldiers?"
"No! What the hell – are you interrogating me or something?"
"Yes," she huffed. "So unless you don't want me to smash a boulder in your gut, you'll answer my questions without interrupting me."
Ed growled under his breath. He had to remind himself that he needed this girl; if he put up with her childish antics, he'll get his own answers. He ran his hand across his forehead, wiping the sweat off. His automail ports were overheating from the sun's heavy glare, but the girl was providing enough of a distraction that he was able to ignore it.
The girl continued with arms crossed. "Do you know where you are, then?"
"Do you know where you're from?"
"Yes – I just told you. I'm from Amestris."
"Never heard of it," she dismissed. Then before Ed could speak up, she continued, "So why are you here?"
"The hell should I know. I just got dumped here."
"Dumped here? By what, the stork?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "It's like you said before, two minutes ago, nobody was here, then – poof – here I am."
She put her hands on her hips thoughtfully. "So you're not here to capture us..."
"Why would I capture you? I don't even know you!"
"So either you're amnesiac or an idiot."
"I'm not amnesiac. I know my name and everything."
She sighed, "I guess you're an idiot, idiot."
"I'm not an idiot!" Ed fumed.
She snorted. "Right, because smart people don't know about the elemental nations."
"You're the idiot who doesn't know where Amestris is!"
The girl threw her hands right. "You're hopeless. Also, quit sitting on the floor? It's pathetic."
This girl was seriously getting on his nerves. "As you can clearly see, I messed up my foot so I'm pretty content on the ground." For emphasis, he gestured wildly at his foot.
Her expression became amused, as if she was waiting for him to say something along those lines. "Actually, no, I can't see, idiot." She waved a hand in front of her face. "Hello! I'm blind."
That gave Ed pause. He cocked his head in confusion and looked at her face contently. Then he noticed that behind those strings of bangs were her eyes, dull and hazy and unfocused. "Oh – Oh shit! You're blind!"
"Of course I'm blind, you idiot! Do you think everyone's eyes look like this?"
"Sorry! Your bangs were covering them, I couldn't see them!" Ed defended. "And besides, you're blind. How would you know what your eyes look like?" Ed paused and then suddenly spoke up louder, "And wait! How did you know I was here? And how did you know I was sitting down? You're not blind, you liar!"
"I'm not lying! Who the hell would lie about being blind?" She said. "For your information, idiot, I can feel the vibrations by smacking my foot on the ground, which helps me 'see'."
"You can feel…" Ed's eyes widened. "Really?" He asked in awe. "Like echolocation? That's…pretty amazing."
She smirked, lifting her chin. She shrugged nonchalantly, "yeah, I know."
If his voice didn't give away how fascinated he was, his face definitely did. "So you can feel the vibrations of everything around you? Can you tell its size and shape, too? That's incredible! You're like a bat – no, even cooler than a bat! No wonder you're not wearing any shoes; being barefoot helps you feel the vibrations better, right? Incredible!"
She chuckled, but unlike her previous laughs, it wasn't patronizing at all. It sounded genuinely amused. Her shoulders relaxed and the threatening atmosphere she procured before seemed to vanish. "So you're really not with the Fire Nation?"
"For the last time, no."
She frowned. Then, sheepishly, she scratched the back of her head and looked away. "Oh. Well, uh, sorry then, for, you know, getting on your case and all. I'm just paranoid and stuff."
Ed's shoulders sagged, tension easing out of his body. If this girl was letting her guard down, he might as well do so, too. The wariness he felt about her remained, however, considering how easily she seemed to take his word and how effortlessly she jumped from mistrust to trust.
Regardless, he waved off her apology. "Nah, it's fine." He sighed loudly and looked around with a thoughtful frown. "So, where am I, exactly?"
"You really don't know, huh?"
Ed gave her a look that read, sarcastically, "really?" but quickly remembered that she was blind so he just asked it out loud.
"You're in the Air Nomad territory," she answered slowly.
"Don't know where that is."
"The Western Air Temple." She clarified.
"It's between the East Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation."
"On the planet Earth!" She groaned irritably, "Seriously, how do you not know!"
Ed opened his mouth to retaliate with the same argument he used less than a minute ago but then quickly shut it in realization. He looked at the girl with wide eyes. "Okay, back up. So you really don't know where Amestris is?"
"Oh, so now you're interrogating me?"
She scrunched her nose. "No, I've never heard of it."
"How about Xing?"
Ed held his head in his hands. "...you don't know any of the countries I know and I don't know any of the countries you know" he mumbled.
This wasn't making any sense. The only logical explanation was that one of them was completely out of their mind and were making up countries to feed their ravaging imagination – and there was absolutely no way it was him.
"What's wrong? Why are you quiet? Don't ignore me, idiot!"
He ignored her.
If he's in a land he'd never heard of then … was that what the Truth was planning? When it said it was going to 'send him on his way'? But where exactly did it send him, if he's not in Amestris, or in a country he's ever heard of?
This is Artfield's circle! Ed almost chocked on the realization.
"I'm leaving – leaving! – I need to leave! Can't stay. I won't stay. Disgusting – hideous – ugly world. I need to go to a new one – new. New life – not here. I need to leave."
That's what he was saying. That he was leaving. New life. New world.
But – no, that's not possible.
"Hey! Listen to me."
Unless it was…?
Ed swallowed thickly. He could almost laugh at his predicament. "I think..." he rasped, covering his face with his hand. "I think I'm a long way from home."
Then he did chuckle, because the next thing that popped into his mind was Mustang's smug face and all he could think of was that it was all Mustang's fault.
Author's note: Edited (October 4th, 2013)
Author's note II: Edited (March 16, 2016)