Author's Note: For those who don't know, "c'est la vie" is a French phrase that translates to "that's life." Since Tamaki is half-French, and given the story's events, I thought that it was sort of relevant.
This story follows the events of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009 anime, rather than the 2003 one. In fact, this very chapter kind of serves as a makeshift alternate ending to Episode 26 of the 2009 anime,"Reunion."
"We're all lost... That's why we're sad."
"Are you sure about this?"
Edward paused, his chapped lips twitching downward at the sudden inquiry. Exhaling, he maneuvered his gaze away from the freshly drawn transmutation circle to lock eyes with Ling Yao. Even though the Xingese prince's eyes resembled slits on his face, he could tell that they were flashing with uncertainty and – although it could have just been Ed's imagination – fear. He stifled a grimace at the sight of his ally's solemn expression, and more so at the rest of his appearance. Like Edward, Ling's tanned flesh had been adorned with cuts, bruises, and various other markings from the past few days' restless events. His clothing was also drenched with the blood that they had been trudging through for countless hours, and he was standing in an odd fashion due to a few possibly fractured – or broken – bones. He had to stop himself from sighing again. They both probably resembled horrible monsters of some sort.
"Yeah – how do we know you're not full of shit?"
The blonde alchemist felt his eye twitch as he turned to give Envy a cold glare. Now there was a horrible monster. In his true unleashed from, Envy's body was mind-bogglingly large, and a grotesque dark green color that would have camouflaged with the area's darkness had torches not been littering the place. While his shaggy black hair, as well as his sadistic personality remained, he now possessed something so disturbing that the Fullmetal Alchemist found it difficult to look at the Homunculus for a prolonged period of time. Faces. Human faces and limbs protruded all over the body like struggling swimmers momentarily attempting to surface before being pulled down by others just as frantic, screaming and crying out for assistance. The people of Xerxes. Sacrifices for a Philosopher's Stone.
"Do you have any better ideas?" Edward spat at the Homunculus, already knowing the answer in his mind. To be honest, this was the only possible plan that had been concocted after hours of dwelling inside of Gluttony's stomach, an endless dark void engulfed in darkness and layered with a sea of blood. According to Envy, it served as an area between reality and Truth – a failed Portal of Truth by the Homunculi's supposed "Father." Ed's stomach churned, and he attempted to block his conspiracy theory out in order to focus on the task at hand.
When Envy fell silent, Edward averted his eyes to return back to the intricate transmutation circle he had drawn, using the sea of blood as a source of paint. He was definitely going out on a limb – especially when his life wasn't the only one at stake in this situation. No… Wait a second… If something does go wrong, the transmutation rebounds on the one that committed it – no one else. Said fact subtly eased the tension that vexed his mind and body, but he still found himself trembling lightly. As if it were a second thought, he glanced up at Ling one final time. "Alright… Ling. This might not work out for me. If so, you've got to warn people about these guys' plans."
"I'm not that concerned about Amestris. It's not my country." Ling scoffed, a smirk playing on his lips as he boldly placed his hands on his hips. The comment took Edward aback, and he heard himself do what only could be described as a gasp. That foreign son of a bitch! Just when I start to think he's alright…
"Are you serious?!" He retorted aloud, his golden eyes narrowing at the prince's snarky remark.
Realizing that he was testing the alchemist's already-short temper, Ling's expression softened as he gave the blond an earnest smile. "You've got people waiting for you, Ed. Make it back alive, and go tell them yourself."
Edward nodded understandingly, taking heed to Ling's words. Averting his gaze to the people of Xerxes that littered Envy's body, a pang of guilt settled in his chest. No matter what Envy said, Edward had a feeling that the souls crying out were still prominent, and were still seeking assistance after the hundreds of years of agony. His eyes narrowed. I'm sorry… But I have to use you.
"Get ready!" With great hesitation, and after swallowing anxiety several times, he finally managed to clasp his hands together, his next step in committing the transmutation. Almost immediately afterwards, he placed them on the transmutation circle to avoid any seconds thought that would prevent him from completing the task at hand. Almost immediately, circle was engulfed in a bright cyan light that lit the surrounding area. The blond squinted, his heard pounding as eerie black arm-like organisms slinked out of the light, reaching for all of those standing within the circle's perimeter. Long time, no see… Too bad this isn't why I planned on opening you again…
"Ling! Jump in it!" The alchemist commanded, attempting to be heard over the wails of anguish erupting from the people of Xerxes.
The Xingese prince felt hesitation vex him, but he squelched any worries and placed a shaky foot atop the transmutation circle. The foot immediately began dissolving upon impact. "You better know what you're doing, Ed! I'm trusting you!"
He remained silent as he watched the transmutation continue to take form, waiting patiently to encounter the terrifying creature known as the Truth a second time – as well as to be face with the Gate. A feeling he knew all too well consumed his body as he felt himself being pulled towards the portal of Truth, having to stifle squeezing his eyes shut as he went. However, out of the corner of his eyes, he thought that he just barely saw the blurred image of an elderly man slowly beginning to dissolve. His eyes may have been narrowed, and his hair may have been grayed, but Ed had a hunch that the man was of Xerxesian ancestry.
"Now, what's this? You're not even trying to get your body back. Are you, Edward Elric?"
When Edward's eyes finally flashed open, the area immersed with darkness and a sea of blood was replaced with a seemingly endless, blindingly white void. The only thing occupying the space seemed to be two large stone tablets with elaborate carvings, patterns, and various words in multiple languages, used as the Gate of Truth. The thing that sent chills running up and down Edward's spine was the presence a creature sitting casually in front of it. It only possessed the outline of an almost featureless human being – a male adolescent. However, it possessed three distinct traits: A malicious grin, a flesh-colored right arm, and a left arm in the same condition. Edward bit his lip. Those were his limbs.
Having landed lying on his side, Edward hurried to his feet in order to get a good analysis of the Truth, and gave it what he considered to be a menacing look. The grin remained plastered on its face. Ed frowned in return, and asked in a flat tone, "What's the toll?"
"Oh? Straight to the point? Excited, are we?" Truth snickered, earning a narrowed-eye glance from the alchemist. "But look at your leg! You're shaking quite a lot for someone so fearless. Tell me, alchemist, are you trying to fool the Truth with this brave facade?"
Upon hearing the being's mocking words, Ed looked downward to see his legs – including his automail one – were trembling violently. Shit. Never had he been so fearful (or was it anxious?) in someone else's presence. To be frank, it hurt his pride. And that frustrated him to no end. "Quit giving me the run-around! I don't have time for this, you bastard!"
As soon as he cursed the deity, he immediately felt regret. Instead of frowning, or erupting in rage, the ageless being's grin nearly doubled in size as he brought himself to his feet (Ed couldn't help but mentally point out that it was his leg upon which the Truth stood). "Such a foolish alchemist. You have barely grown at all, Edward Elric. You don't think you can save Amestris – much less your brother's body – with that ignorance, do you?"
The alchemist opened his mouth to reply, only to be interrupted by the opening of the Gate. He felt his face pale and his eyes widen as the Eye of God revealed itself, opening wide behind the Gate of Truth's stone doors. A series of tentacle-esque hands immediately began slinking out of the entryway and into the pristine void, latching onto Edward's limbs and torso. As if on impulse, he began struggling to break himself free of the arms' grasps, shouting obscenities and crying out in confusion. What was the toll? Everything remained – what was Truth planning on taking from him? What did he mean by "growing"?
"I expect you to have grown by the next time we meet, Edward Elric, and that you acknowledge your hubris," Truth continued, as he bid the alchemist farewell. "Until then, consider this your toll for committing the taboo and crossing into God's territory a second time, you foolish boy."
Edward scrunched up his face in discomfort, squeezing his already-shut eyes tighter as if to express his unhappiness. From what he could tell from simply lying there – as he felt great reluctance to actually open his eyes and analyze his surroundings and own well-being – he was lying face-down, with his limbs sprawled out on a harsh surface. Water… Thousands of water droplets were impacting his body, effectively soaking his clothing, hair, and marred flesh. Rain… It was raining… His head throbbed, and he shuttered at the remembrance of the truth being forced into his mind.
A hard object sharply collided with his right side, making his golden eyes fly open and wince slightly at the abrupt pain. Still suffering from disorientation and blurred vision, it took him more time than usual to scramble upwards to catch a glimpse of his alleged attacker. He squinted as a blindingly bright light shone directly into his eyes, using his non-automail arm as a makeshift visor. It wasn't just a bright light illuminating the entire area. The entire area appeared to be engulfed in darkness, with many flecks of light adorning the atmosphere. One fleck in particular just happened to be unhealthily close to the alchemist's face.
"I've got an injured person on the sidewalk of Mita Dōri." Edward was taken aback by a deep voice that sounded extremely close to him. Whipping around, his eyes widened when his gaze fell on an older man that was kneeling down next to him, clad in a blue uniform. "Looks to be a male youth… Blonde hair, unusual golden eye color, bloodstained clothing… Yes sir, he just regained consciousness… Yes sir. I will report back momentarily."
Did… Did the transmutation work…? Edward pondered, analyzing his surroundings with more focus. He was immediately stricken with confusion. It seemed as if he had been transported to a street in Central, although he found it more complicated to see, with the light rain and midnight darkness. His head continued to throb as he attempted to piece together what was happening around him.
"Hey, kid," the man started, effectively snatching Edward's attention away from his surroundings. He gave the alchemist a compassionate smile, but his expression was solemn. "What happened to you? You look pretty beaten up."
Edward found himself blinking at the man for a moment, before finally maneuvering to sit up and get an even more improved view of things. As he moved his body, waves of pain shot through his body – feeling as if they were sourced at his chest and resonated throughout his limbs. He grimaced, bringing a hand to his chest. He inhaled and exhaled deeply, hoping the breathing technique would stifle the excruciating pain. However, his attempts were futile, as the pain seemed to intensify at his actions.
"I… I was in a really rough fight…" He murmured, after minutes of struggling to regain his composure. He knew that the man was referring to his bloodstained apparel, tarnished skin, and broken arm (which he had earlier placed in a provisional splint). He almost felt bad about lying – but even in his shaken state, he knew that telling anyone about the tenacious Homunculi would end with negative consequences. As if to make himself feel better, he tried to remind himself that it wasn't a complete lie, in the first place. He had taken a pretty harsh beating after Envy revealed its unleashed form.
The man nodded, as if he had already guessed for that to be the answer. With the few rays of light shining about, Edward was able to tell that the man possessed inky black hair that would have otherwise blended in with the night. Like Edward, his clothing appeared soaked – or was at the very least, adorned with dozens of raindrops. He wasn't wearing a military uniform, but seemed to be wearing attire that roughly resembled it. "I see… Can you tell me your name?"
"Edward Elric. I'm a Sta-!" His introduction, with the inclusion that he was a State-Certified Alchemist, was cut off by the pain in his chest worsening. He groaned in between clenched teeth as he felt himself nearly double over in reaction with the aches. He didn't remember being in such agonizing pain whilst dwelling in Gluttony's belly. Had the Truth taken some of his organs, like his Teacher before him? Edward found himself scowling at the thought.
An odd, static-esque noise erupted from the man's uniform's pocket, making Ed jump. Sliding a strange box out of the pocket, the man punched a button on it. More static, but Edward could also barely make out the sound of a voice. He could tell that it was a man with a raspy voice, but had difficulty deciphering what was being said.
What was that object? The blonde had never seen a radio so small, unless it may have been a newly-added tool in the military for means of communication. Come to think of it, the entire street looked to lack a likeness to those built in Central. The roads seemed cleaner – more polished, and the same could be said for the sidewalk. Even the buildings, Edward began to notice, seemed to have been constructed in an altered style. The thing that stood out the most in the alchemist's mind was the fact that, no matter where he looked, he couldn't see the shining Central Command in the distance. Normally, it could easily be seen by any street in the capitol city, as no taller buildings obscured it from view. However, the majestic building seemed to be nowhere in sight. The man cleared his throat quietly, making Edward tune his ears into his conversation. He appeared to be talking into the black box, as if it were a telephone.
"Yes sir. He seems disoriented, but appears capable of responding… I suppose that he is foreign, given his name. European, maybe… He called himself 'Edward Elric.' Said he was in a fight… No sir, I haven't… Yes sir… I will get right on that!"
Edward listened to the exchange with his eyes narrowed. The rain had caused for his draping blonde bangs to cling to his bandaged forehead, and he wistfully pulled them off of the just as damp bandages and skin, only for the strands to almost immediately replace themselves back in their former resting spots. "W-Where am I?"
Despite his attempts to speak in a clearer, more authorized tone, his voice still sounded like sleepy drawl. His question didn't seem to take the man aback. In fact, he nodded, as if he were expecting the question. "You're on a street in Tokyo… Can you remember anything else besides your name and what happened, Edward? Where are you from?"
Tokyo? The city didn't sound familiar at all. It sounded foreign – meaning that he was probably outside of Amestris entirely, unless it was a bordering city. He had already guessed in his mind that he wasn't even in Central, but he still found out that the confirmation of his suspicions took him aback. He hoped he continued to maintain what he considered to be a calm visage, and tried to answer the man's questions. "Amestris… I'm from the country of Amestris."
There was a moment of silence, in which Edward could see the man's face scrunch up with puzzlement evident in his eyes. "Uh, kid... There isn't any country – or any city, for that matter – named 'Amestris' in existence."
The entire world around Edward seemed to dissolve like the Xerxesian man did during the transmutation. It were as if he returned to an empty void, with the dull, muffled drone of the man's voice continuing to go in the distance. His head automatically began swimming in thoughts, as even the pain vexing his body went unnoticed. His face drained of color, his mouth dropped, and his eyes grew to the size equivalent of saucers. Amestris… It didn't exist? How was that possible? Where the hell was he? Was it some sort of sick joke?
His golden eyes grew even wider when realization struck him like a brick. The Truth. That was the only solution. This was the toll that finally made its vague warning sound sensible in Ed's foggy mind. It had to have transporting him somewhere - but where? All he could guess was that he was extremely distant from his homeland.
"You're in a different world," a voice echoing in his mind seemed to inform him of his location. He covered his ears with his palms in an attempt to muffle the voice that seemed to blare against his eardrums. "Scratch that. You're in a different universe. You sought to return home, and you were transported to the farthest place from it. This was your toll, Edward Elric, and you will have to endure it just as you did the loss of your brother's body, and the dismemberment of your limbs. Welcome to a new city, in a new country, in a new universe - complete with a new time period! Get used to it, alchemist. You're going to be here a while."
The blonde's stomach churned as he doubled over, and regurgitated out the contents of his stomach onto the asphalt beside him.
The reason why Edward seemed even more OOC towards the end is because I figured that he'd still be shaken up by seeing the Truth, as well as dwelling on its vague warning (he kind of appears disoriented the first few minutes of Episode 28). I guess that somewhat-justifies his OOC-ness, right? Also, the "voice" talking to him at the end of the chapter is implied to be the Truth. Since it is described as an omnipresent, all-knowing being, I figured it wouldn't hurt to add "telepathic" to it's list of abilities!
I'm also partially-unintentionally taking on a new writing style as I work on this… Although, I can't tell if I like it yet or not.
Enough of my whining. Please write a review and tell me what you think. Our favorite little pipsqueak will be enrolling into Ouran Academy by next chapter!
Shout-out to The Anime Loving Alchemist and jakefan for reviewing last chapter (er, prologue?)!