The Truth Within the Truth: A Fullmetal Alchemist RP

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"Seems you know a lot of people here, soldier. Just that sort of friendly town, eh?"

"Friendly enough, for a town full of salesmen, sir," Elias replied. "But the more you're a part of them, the more friendly they are, just like anywhere else." Its status as his hometown and his four limbs made him very welcome in Rush Valley, and some residents were jealous that he had so much automail. Not jealous enough to hack off their own perfectly good limbs, as they heard all the time about how many with automail wished for their original parts back.

"Is there really that much difference between one set of automail and the next? Seems like a market that wouldn't require so many different crafters."

"It's as much a trade as it is an art. Automail can be built as simple, extravagant, or weaponized as you like. Along with all the different makers, you've got folks who fix it, put gold on to engrave, and make different munitions. A buyer with enough money, can get anything and everything they want." Elias stopped outside a particular home, which had a sign out front that simply stated "Elias Automail." It did the job without anything fancy, just like the family's work. He knocked on the door, and seconds later he heard the doorknob shake, but it soon stopped.

"Mom, wait," he could hear a woman whisper. "You can't make it seem like we were just waiting for him. Give it a few seconds."

"Kim, I can hear you, and I've got a client and some company. Open the door."

"Oh, crap, I forgot!" The door flung open to reveal two women. The first, who held the door open, had short black hair and blue eyes, and looked to be a few years younger than Elias. The second had her black hair tied back in a ponytail, with several gray hairs mixed in. She looked at the group with her own blue eyes and smiled warmly.

"Brandon! Welcome home, dear," she began as the two shared a hug. "Oh, we've missed you. I'm glad you're here in one piece."

"For once, right?" he joked, which got a disapproving look from his mother and a giggle from his sister.

"And yet you still need work. Hello everyone, I'm Michelle Elias. You've met my son Brandon, and this is my daughter Kim. Jonathan's finishing up some work, but he shouldn't be much longer. Please, come in and have a seat." Elias moved to the left to let the visitors in first, and he quickly winked with his left eye as Faith began to walk in. "It's good to finally meet you in person, ma'am."

"You may call me Faith, and the pleasure is mine," Faith replied, playing along perfectly. "I spoke with Brandon on the train, and I must say you've raised a good man." Before adding the last bit, she turned to face him. "He's a credit to the uniform."

"Did I do good, Indigo?"

The crime boss waltzed in after his henchman, admiring the carnage with a low whistle. Slim Abel was practically ready to howl with pleasure. "Son of a--yer tellin' me we got a bust maker in this deal? I'm likin' this personal alchemist deal more'n'more."

Indigo only had one word for the scene, uttered with a subdued grin: "Poifect."

"HEY!"

Indigo and crew looked back towards the room the man in black had been guarding. A simple warehouse storage area, packed high with all manner of crates presumably stuffed with munitions. A man in a familiar black coat--to Leo, a fellow member of the military--was surrounded by a dozen subordinates. All of them had rifles drawn, and trained on the six newcomers. The officer stepped forward, speaking in a commanding tone.

"What the hell, Zero?! Just think you can barge in here and--oh, damn it."

Indigo, with an elaborate brandish, drew his pistol and aimed it square at the officer's face. The soldier responded in kind, moving just as fast but with a more efficient motion. Slim Abel and crew drew their shotguns and tommies, taking aim directly at the troops advancing towards them, outnumbering them three to one.

"Who the hell are you?" asked the officer.

"Dey call me 'Indigo'." the boss responded with a devilish grin. "An' who da hell're you?"

The dark-haired officer snarled. "Captain Frank Archer. Where's my buyer?"

"Same place as yer boys, in about five seconds. Do it."

A raging fountain of bullets were spat out, filling the room with lead. Casper's shotgun blew a soldier's torso wide open, and three more were nothing but red hunks of flesh when the others unloaded their salvos.

Then, the quartet charged.

Slim Abel moved the fastest, pulling a pair of knives from his pocket ad shoving them into a soldier's abdomen. The unlucky man coughed up some blood, falling over as Slim removed one blade to slash across the throat of the one directly in front of him. Another, immediately to Slim's left, took aim with a rifle. A resounding bang cracked through the room, as Darrel's pistol effortlessly shoved a slug through the unlucky boy's temple.

Darrel leaned back, avoiding the stock of another trooper's waving rifle, and let Zeke get in close to drub him with a metal-tipped cane. The blows made the man recoil, and he retreated with the big-eyed gangster in hot pursuit.

Casper was the most efficient killer by far, as well as the most brutal. Leo hadn't even seen what was happening to him, but by the time he looked the big man's black suit was stained red in a hundred spots, and he was busy throttling the life out of the last remaining soldier. The blubbering young man's eyes rolled back into his skull, and the meaty hands gripping his throat loosened. The corpse hit the floor besides three others, just like it.

Archer frantically eyed his dead men, occasionally glancing back at the man taking aim at him. "W-what do you want, you son of a bitch?"

"Ain't it obvious?" Indigo asked, mocking him with every sarcastic word dripping from his mouth. "Yer weapons. Yer goods. Yer ammunishin. Everythin' ya brought."

The tension in the room was palpable as Archer weighed his options. After what seemed like an eternity, Frank gingerly started to lower his weapon.

BANG

A bullet passed between his eyes, and the Captain's body hit the floor with a muted thud. Indigo suppressed a bit of laughter. "Idiot shoulda known never t' bargain wit' criminals."

Zeke took Leo by his drunken hand, and led him to the circle forming in the warehouse. Indigo was looking around, seeming wholly pleased with himself. "Not bad boys, not bad at all. Ya made me proud here today. Darrel, dis shipment legit?"

"Oh, it's legitimate all right." the tall man called from the other room. He brandished a submachine gun freshly drawn from a crate to prove his point.

"Poifect." Indigo reiterated. "Y'all did swell, real swell; go carry dese crates out t' our ride, an' I'll made sure ya all get yer cu--"

KABOOM

The wall opposite came crashing down as a battering ram (tipped with a face, of all things), slammed through it. Not two seconds later, it was followed by a gigantic man, rippling with muscles beneath his white button-up shirt and brown sweater.

"RAPSCALLIONS!" cried Major Armstrong. "I COULD HEAR YOUR VIOLENCE AND SMELL YOUR GUILT FROM A MILE AWAY! YOU'RE ALL UNDER ARREST!"


The train took off, leaving East City behind. Roland, Marlin, Tasha and Victor were situated together in a four-seater booth, watching the countryside pass by as they began their journey westward.

"Now Victor, I'm sure you have many questions about the automail now that your out of the hospital. So please ask away, we have plenty of time before Dublith."

Victor immediately blushed, and hid his hand within his jacket pocket. "Oh! Um... OK. I s-suppose if it's all right, I had a few... questions I'd gotten from r-reading."

Suddenly, his hand withdrew from the pocket, holding a slip of paper within it. Victor unfolded it, revealing a list some--good lord that's a long list.

"First, I guess, would be, is there any specific metal I should be getting? Or an alloy, maybe? Would a basic arm be the best choice, or are there other models you'd recommend? Is there anything special I should have done to my automail if I need to go to the desert? What would you say's a good price for what I need? Would I want a warranty?.."

The notion slowly dawned on Tasha that she wasn't quite realizing what she'd agreed to when she offered to answer Victor's questions.


James and Hohenheim stepped in after Elias and Faith, the former smiling and nodding at the Sergeant's family. "It's a pleasure to meet you both. Just call me James," he said, extending a hand. "I'm a comrade of Brandon, and I can definitely back up Faith on her claim."

Hohenheim seemed more curious than anything else, offering a polite but short greeting to the homeowners before looking around. He seemed entranced, almost, and very quickly found himself standing front of a cabinet, looking at a few family photos. James was immediately confused by this, but tried to ignore as he tried striking up a conversation.

"So," the officer said as he sat. "do you receive guests often? I don't mean to be intruding; my friend and I could go if you'd like some time with your son."

The skirmish had ended even before Leo realized he had to go and help the crew. The four men who Indigo was carrying around seemed to be a bunch of bafoons when Leo first met them, but the intensity of their kills frightened him. It looked like they had so much practice with breaking bones and cutting flesh that they appeared to be more butchers than actual soldiers... but Leo then remembered who he allied himself with.

A bunch of gangsters.

Leo wanted to question the commander, the one who seemed to have stolen military hardware and sold it to the underworld Indigo was a respected resident in, but the boss had already got him in between the eyes, instantaneously killing off Leo's dream of finishing this bad trip with a proper award.

The rest seemed to be out of place as well - There were soldiers in uniform coming with the commander, actual soldiers of the army... What seemed to be like the actions of a corrupt official turned more and more to the workings of the military's dark operations? The spicy smell of blood reached Leo's nose, but the man didn't flinch. He had seen enough of it in Ishaval. He had grown tired of killing people... but it seemed like the Indigo team hadn't.

A blonde hulk burst through the end of the warehouse and revealed himself to be someone Leo vaguely recognized. It seemed like another state alchemist he was familiar with, one that had served in the Ishaval conflict as well. The man announced in a great shout that Indigo's crew and Leo were under arrest, a notion that only clicked in Leo's head a few moments of silence after the hulk's grand entrance.

The liquor was really doing its work, and Leo had regretted he returned to his old ways. He did regret it... the same way he regreted killing all of those people in Ishaval. The same way he saw them get torn to bits, and he didn't stop his comrades.

They're just meat, not people.

They're animals.

It hit him without notice. His eyes bounced from the group of dozen poor soldiers and his supposed blood covered comrades. It was the same... it was carnage all over again. No negotiations, no talks... no attempt to stop the violence. Just watching who will be the last to fall on the group and bleed to death.

Armstrong was his name, Leo was certain of it now. His hands were shaking at the shock he received and it seemed like the veneer of apathy that the alcohol provided was smashed to bits after Armstrong revealed himself. He was helping criminals, and for what?

Leo reached for his pocket watch and held it up in the air so Armstrong could see it in full view. "S-state Alchemist, Leopold Mensti. Secret Ops... I was following them new weapons who posed a menace in East City's underground...", Leo waddled to the side and stared back at the Indigo crew. The great range of possibilities ran in his mind, and he decided to do the right thing.

"These are my co-workers, I've picked them up in the city. They were gracious enough to help me track this here thief... now deceased, apparently-", Leo awkwardly pointed at the dead commander on the top of soldier's corpses, "-and now... now we meet you, about to ambush us. What the hell is going on here, Armstrong?".

Leo looked back at the indigo crew and let a small hint of a smile creep through.

"Stay still, boys. I'll sort this out".

The Dublith train station was, quite understandably, almost entirely deserted at this time of night, occupied only by a skeleton crew of porters and a handful of straggling civilians. The bustling crowds that had once filled the depot with their discordant cacophony had vanished alongside the sun, leaving behind a day's worth of grease-stained wrappers, discarded tickets, and misplaced baggage to greet the evening's final arrival.

The loudspeakers, motivated solely by regulation and procedure, squeaked to life one last time, the crackly, clearly exhausted voice on the other end echoing around the deserted building. Not that there was anyone to hear it. Number 107, East City to Dublith, arriving at Platform 6.

A brief pause.

Attention, all passengers and visitors: that's the last train for tonight. Please gather your belongings and proceed to the exits, located at the north, south, and east sides of the station. Thanks, and have a safe night folks.

The announcer, his duties finally done, allowed his stiff body to recline backwards, yawning in satisfaction as his arms stretched towards the ceiling. Some of the other poor saps could handle cleanup tonight; right now there was a warm, inviting bed with his name on it, and he had no intention of making it wait any longer. Giving his desk a cursory glance to ensure he hadn't left anything behind, the middle aged man gathered up his belongings, flicked off the sole lamp illuminating the room, and began making his own way to the station's exits. Resisting the urge to yawn again, the announcer clomped down a few flights of stairs, nodding (Only somewhat smugly) at his fellow employees along the way. "Tom, Claire. Good luck boys; see you tomorrow."

Ignoring his coworkers' muttered responses, the announcer strode out into the lobby, his step quickening as his destination neared. The glass double doors, and the sweet, sweet freedom that lay just beyond, were so close that he barely paid any attention to the few civilians that walked beside him. He had no time nor energy to deal with the family of three struggling with no fewer than eight suitcases (People these days clearly did not understand the concept of packing light) or the bandaged and bespectacled man in military garb as he awkwardly lugged around a trio of bags.

However, by the time he had made it to the doorway, the announcer couldn't help but notice the man who trailed behind him, so close that the railway employee could hear every one of his panting breaths.

Truth be told, the announcer would have loved nothing more than to barrel through the doors and hurry home, but social norms are a powerful thing. No matter his exhaustion, he was obligated to hold the door, a duty he accepted only with great reluctance. Turning around to face the man, the announcer uttered a few words of courtesy, "there we are sir; have a nice..."

The rest of the sentence stuck in the announcer's throat, as he caught a glimpse of the visage that lay beneath that man's wide-brimmed hat. A pair of ice-blue eyes that danced with hints of brilliant insanity, bloodlust, and other emotions too otherworldly to define. Blood-red lips set into a face as white as snow, spread into a perverse grin of manic glee. Teeth that seemed much, much longer and sharper than normal, almost as if they were...

And then the vision of horror and madness was gone, the man stepping through the now open aperture and out into Dublith's darkened streets, leaving behind no trace but his footstep's final echoes and a terrified victim.


"...So I just walk up to his room and knock on his door? That's it?"

"Yeah, you got it. Come on, I know you're new, but even you should be able to handle a job that easy."

"It's not that boss, it's just... Why this guy? I mean, does it have to be an alchemist like him? If that info's right, then he could probably-"

"What did I ask you to do?"

"B-boss?"

"Did I ask to question my orders? Did I ask you to try and argue with me, to try and tell me that I'm wrong?"

"N-no; I wasn't trying to-"

"What. Did I ask you to do?"

"T-to go k-knock on his door."

"So what're you gonna do?"

"I'm... I'm gonna go knock on his door?"

"There, now was that so hard? Now go on; go be a good little errand boy. And one more thing."

"Huh?"

"If you screw this up, well... do I really need to spell it out for you?"


A series of rushed, panicked knocks suddenly slammed into Kallu's door, rousing the alchemist from his slumber.

The knocks at the door awoke Kallu from his hard crash. He rolled out of the bed, his bag and untied vest falling underneath the bed as he walked to the door, he quickly awoke though, alert as ever. He opened the door.

"Yeah?"

Tasha's moth almost fell open. She knew Victor would have a lot of question's, but a list that long. She mentally sighed [i]Well, at least I'll have something to keep me awake.

"First, I guess, would be, is there any specific metal I should be getting? Or an alloy, maybe? Would a basic arm be the best choice, or are there other models you'd recommend? Is there anything special I should have done to my automail if I need to go to the desert? What would you say's a good price for what I need? Would I want a warranty?"

"Woah, woah, woah, easy Victor. One at a time now. To answer you first two, chances are it's gonna be a steel alloy, durable, strong, pretty basic. For the model, chances are you'll be outfitted with a basic model, at least till you get used to using it. After that you'll probably want something along the line's of what Elias has, a military model. Though weather or not it has his attachments is up to you. Nothing special, you just need to keep up on maintenance, You need to keep it properly oiled at all times. Which means that anytime you would stop, even for a few minutes, you would have to oil it, or part's of it anyway. Price wise, it's not gonna be cheap. However it'll will cost much less than what one would cost if you already had automail. As for a warranty, there is no such thing for automail. Your left with simple maintenance, getting it destroyed compleatly will require a trip back to your mechanic, the one who set's you up with automail in the first place, who will then fix and replace the busted limb." Tasha explained to Victor, if these were just his first questions there was still plenty more to cover.

"So," the officer said as he sat. "do you receive guests often? I don't mean to be intruding; my friend and I could go if you'd like some time with your son."

"Don't be ridiculous," Michelle replied warmly. "We'd be happy to have you all here." While she played the good host, Faith noticed Hohenheim's focus and turned her attention to the cabinet, as well.

As the two looked at the pictures in the cabinet, they could see that the pictures were a clear timeline of the family's life. Early pictures showed the children as a typical older-brother-younger-sister pair, but it was Kim who appeared in more pictures with automail and in their workshop. After Brandon's first picture in uniform, he appeared in less of them, until one in particular where his left arm was replaced by metal. After that, the family seemed much closer than it had been since he first enlisted.

The beginning of the Ishval Civil War was marked by a family portrait, in which every Elias struggled to hide a feeling of dread behind their smiles. They all knew that he might not come back, but luckily he continued to appear in the pictures. In one in particular, a younger female soldier made an appearance. For just a moment, Faith appeared stunned to see this woman, but only Hohenheim was in any position to see it.

There wasn't another distance anywhere near the first, but there was another surge in family ties after a picture down the line that depicted Brandon in a pair of shorts, where both legs transitioned to automail at the knees. Curiously, the woman that had appeared earlier was present for this picture, as well. For having a career soldier in the midst, the Elias family members stayed very close to each other over the years, well aware that he was still on the front lines in the war.

The last picture of Brandon's automail was distinctly different from the rest. Instead of a family picture, it contained him and the familiar female soldier sitting on a couch that was still in their living room. She sat to his right, interlocking the fingers of her left hand between those of the automail that had replaced his right arm, and the two sat stoic as they looked at his fourth and final automail limb.

Brandon spotted the two looking at the pictures, but he quickly looked away from the images of Erica that sat in their midst. Instead, he turned to the kitchen, where there was a back door that led out to the workshop.

"...so Kim will show you all the guest rooms, and I'll finish up on dinner," Michelle finished. "Brandon, could you help them move their things?"

"Sorry, I...need to talk to Dad," he quietly replied, turning back to the guests. "Please excuse me." Even though the entire family was close, there were a few things that stayed in the father-son and mother-daughter relationships.

"Of course, honey. Dinner can wait another minute, then, if you'll follow us." Michelle and Kim grabbed what bags they could while Brandon moved to the workshop. Opening the door, he spotted his father at a workbench that was covered in automail plating.

"Once we get all this on," Jonathan began, "your footsteps won't be as distinctive." The metalworker wasn't overly muscular, but he had more than enough to endure the hours it took at the forge to craft his automail. His hair roughly a 50/50 split between black and gray, but very little of it had begun to fall out for his age. "What's up?" The following silence prompted the man to stop his work and turn to his son.

"She's dead," Brandon finally muttered as he stared at the ground. "They're all dead. My whole platoon. We got ambushed, and I killed them all, but I was too slow." He heard a cabinet open and close, so he looked up to see a bottle of liquor and two glasses on the workstation.

"Was it quick?" Jonathan asked as he filled both cups. Brandon walked over, and they each held one up.

"No. Hit her throat, she bled out in my arms."

"At least she got to be with you when she went." The two toasted, then downed their drinks as quickly as they could. "More at dinner, kiddo. Got anyone here with you?"

"Yeah, my CO, his buddy, and... a friend, she's posing as a client."

"Client? What is she, an Ishvalan?" Brandon set his glass down, letting the silence speak for itself. "Do I even need to say it?" Jonathan also set his down as he sighed.

"You really don't." Shaking his head, the older man took a drink straight from the bottle. "Look, it's not a just a war anymore, it's a slaughter. They're making us kill everyone."

"Are they?" Brandon almost blurted out a "yes," but he stopped himself as he realized the real answer.

"No. They're ordering us to, and we're doing it." Jonathan filled his son's glass halfway.

"Personal responsibility's the mark of a true man. All these years, you've talked about how this is 'your job,' but now you finally get it. And this," he topped off Brandon's glass, "is for saying no." He toasted his son's glass with the bottle, and the two shared another drink. "Now, get on out there and see to our guests. I got work to do." Brandon left the glass and walked out of the workshop, shaking his head to try and shake off the intoxication before it hit him too hard. "Lightweight."

"I got less blood, old man!"

Isaac barely repressed a yawn as he stumbled out into Dublith's darkened streets. He had never been able to sleep in cars or trains; something about the constant movement always kept him awake, no matter how hard he tried to doze off.

Bleakly gazing around the almost deserted city, the alchemist scouted around for any sign of a hotel or inn where he could put up for the night. It wasn't like he had anything urgent that he had to deal with immediately, and sleep was always nice. Besides, Frieda and Rei wouldn't be arriving for at least another day. Setting up a base of operations, no matter how temporary, would be a good idea.

A few minutes of searching later, and Isaac managed to stumble upon a small, out of the way building, a "VACANCY" sign hung in its sole window. Half out of resignation and exhaustion, half because it was fairly subtle, the soldier made his way through the door and to the front desk. Dropping his bags to the floor with a clatter, Isaac offered an apologetic smile to the aged woman behind the desk. "Er, excuse me. How much for a room for one?"

"-and now... now we meet you, about to ambush us. What the hell is going on here, Armstrong?"

The Major's nostril's flared as he huffed in indignation. "WHAT?" he asked in his strange, gruff voice.

"I am in Dublith on vacation, Barefoot Alchemist! I came running when I heard the sounds of combat, for I feared that fellow soldiers or innocent bystanders might be in danger!"

He pointed an accusatory finger at the carnage. "And here I find THIS! An entire squad of soldiers, dead, and a State Alchemist claiming responsibility!"

In a flourish of entirely undesired motion, Armstrong's sweater and shirt were ripped away, revealing his bare and outrageous muscles as he slammed his fists together, sporting his alchemizing gauntlets retrieved from his waist. Electricity crackled as he drew his knuckles apart. "Whatever these men did does not justify murder! You're hereby under arrest, Major. I'll be taking you in."

"Not a chance, big guy."

Indigo stepped in front of Leo, brandishing a simple revolver as he leveled it at the bigger men. Slim Abel and his men flanked their boss, sporting melee weapons of several varieties, snarling at the military man. This stand-off choked the room, until Armstrong's eyes narrowed. "So be it."

The man charged, dirt and pebbles kicking up behind him as he barreled down like a charging bull at Leo and the men arranged in front of him.


Kim led James, Hohenheim and Faith away from the main entertaining rooms of the house, and back towards the bedrooms. She opened the first door, gesturing inside and explaining they were a bit short on space, so the military man and his traveling companion would be sharing a room. Neither seemed to protest, and quickly lugged their bags inside.

Faith was led to the next room down the hall, which would be hers. She quickly thanked her host, and closed the door behind her. Taking great care to lock the door, and pull the window blinds shut, she at last was able to pull down her hood and take a few calm breaths.

That was when a quick jolt of electricity transmuted away the lock to the door. It swung open, and Hohenheim quietly stepped in, closing the door behind him. He looked at her, Ishvalan features no longer able to be hidden. His face was oddly stoic, as if the sight did not interest him in the slightest.

"You could have ran whenever you wished." he stated. "Why did you stay?"


Victor smiled gratefully as Tasha answered his questions. He had a pen and pad of paper, and was scribbling down notes as quickly as he could about all of this. "O-OK, thanks! I guess, next, I should ask about the adjustment period..."

Roland tried his best to tune out the technical conversations, as question after question was lobbed Tasha's way through the whole of the train ride. Things went in this pattern for so long, they fell into a rhythm, the alchemist answering the young soldier's questions, only to be met with a few more. Victor had been very thorough in his research.

They could scarcely believe it when a whistle blew, and a conductor announced they'd stopped at Dublith. The trio of alchemists and the one soldier departed their train happily, though only one, Marlin saw the other man at the far rear of the train getting off as well, and immediately marching off into the streets. His face was concealed, but the stride of a soldier was hard to mistake.


"Er, excuse me. How much for a room for one?"

"Hm... call it an even twenty and we'll be good."

As Isaac fished out the money required of him, the old woman looked him up and down. "Hm... you a soldier, son? You look the type, and we've been seein' a lot of you fellas around lately." she made a dismissive wave and followed up with "Oh, never mind what this old woman's saying. Cooped up in this old rat town too long, thinking the world's endin'... here ya go."

She handed him his key and took his cash, and pointed upstairs.

"Your room'll be the first on the right."

The soldier began to drag his luggage upstairs, and the moment before he reached the top of the stairs a great clatter, and shouting could be heard. He rushed up, to see the room just beyond his with its door wide open.

This just happened to be the room of Kallu. The moment the door had been opened, he was greeted by a small man wrapped tightly in the cloak, who darted past him into the room, grabbing his bag and leaping out the window, shouting back "Catch me if you can, alchemist!"

He darted off into the night; Kallu would need to move fast to catch him...


Night had fallen over the already dark alleyways of Dublith, as a hunched figure slowly made its way to an abandoned factory on the outskirts of the southern town.

"Damn it... damn it... KOFF-KOFF Sssso closssse... Got to get back... regroup. KOFF Jusssst need... to regroup and..."

The snake chimera called Milliard was weakly slithering into the confines of the factory. He knew exactly where he was going, looking for the remaining forces of his group of "freedom fighters". After a few twists and turns Milliard finally reached a processing room of some sort. Two other chimeras were there, waiting, the remaining loyal followers of his dwindling army. He was hunched over, staring in disbelief.

"...Only two of you are left?" he asked, in a pathetic, quiet voice.

The two hybrids eyed each other briefly before one of them spoke up.

"Sorry boss... Ain't nothing we could've done. Military raid blew us outta Central right after the hits got botched. Me and Helder are lucky to even be-"

"Jussst. Sssstop. TALKING!" The chimera hissed, before tumbling over in a terrible fit of coughing. Blood seeped from his throat. "My condition is getting worsssse... unsssstable. I need a doctor... At this rate, I might not make it..."

"Now that would be a damn shame now wouldn't it?"

From the other side of the room a somewhat jovial voice echoed alongside some footsteps. As the figure slowly made its way towards the beastly trio, Milliard instantly recognized the uninvited guest.

"YOU! YOU SSSSTAY AWAY FROM ME! HAVEN'T YOU DONE ENOUGH ALREADY!? YOU SSSSICK BASSSSTARD!"

"Eeeeh? Is that any way to greet an old friend Millie-boy? You know I'm terribly sensitive, don't you? Honestly... That just makes me angry, ya know?"

Stopping under a skylight, the moonlight revealed the jolly visitor. A tanned man in military uniform, with eyes that managed to be more snake-like than the actual snake chimera's and a disconcerting slit of a smile on his face.
Milliard let out a snarl.

"Anton... Master'ssss old bitch."

"Ah yes, yes, that's me! You really outdid yourself Millie-boy! Attacking an entire military headquarters? Attempted murder on a dozen or so State Alchemists? You've really made it far since you left the nest, huh?"

"I didn't come thissss far... to be critissssized by a toady! Kill him, quickly!"

The two bruisers made a move towards Anton as he took out his clawed Automail from his pockets.

"Zero stance."

Right as the two chimera made their move, Anton became a blur, appearing right in front of Milliard's face. Behind Anton, the two assailants lurched forward as massive wounds ripped open on their bodies. Milliard could hardly utter a word. Both of his remaining followers. Dead in seconds.

"Heheheh... They weren't much to write home about now were they. Ah! Now I remember. You tried to blow me up too! With my mechanic's woman, no less!"

Milliard tried to utter a coherent sentence of some sort.

"Y-you bastard. Just do it... J-jusssst k-kill me and go tell Masssster what a good puppy you are. Go lick hissss boots, you bastard. He'll get hissss. That G-BHAGHR!"

The chimera's sentence was cut short by an arm being thrust deep into his abdomen.

"Shhhh. Don't say another word Millie-boy. You had your chance, but now the boss wants you back in line. Be that alive..."

Anton took out his arm from Milliard's body. Blood spilled everywhere as the dead body started to collapse, only to be grabbed at the head.

"Or in pieces."

*SCRUNCH*


Half an hour later, at a back-alley bar called "Devil's Nest", Anton made his way down to the establishment's cellar. Inside one of the storage rooms he found himself face to face with a man sitting on a couch. The man had a very distinctive face, even as it was cloaked in shadow. Women were wrapped within either of his arms. Sharp features and a smile that made Anton's look downright amicable.

"So, the prodigal son returns. You enjoy your vacation, Wilson?"

Anton shrugged as he spoke up.

"Ain't been much of a vacation, to be honest. That Führer of ours is quite the handful, ya know? In any case, I did bring you a souvenir..."

The lieutenant did a throwing motion, and sure enough, Milliard's severed head rolled up to the sitting man's feet. The mysterious man reached down with a hand adorned by a tattoo, a great serpent devouring its own tail, and plucked up the head to examine it more closely. A vicious smile tugged his lips apart.

"So, what's next... boss?"

The man on the couch leaned forward, and he said

"Oh, that's easy. We move up in the world."

END CHAPTER ONE

"And here I find THIS! An entire squad of soldiers, dead, and a State Alchemist claiming responsibility!"

It was fucking real. A dozen bodies laid there to his right, and Armstrong was standing in front of him - ready to pounce. His drunken state dulled his instincts, and without even realizing it he let his company eliminate every single one of the soldiers.

"Whatever these men did does not justify murder! You're hereby under arrest, Major. I'll be taking you in."

Murder.

Leo stood petrified. His eyes darted away from Armstrong towards the pile of dead to his right and then back. He was a murderer... 'NO, They are murderers!. Leo's attention turned to his company, his... comrades. They were like him, they were murderers. He only did so under the heel of the Fuhrer in Ishaval and Indigo's crew killed those they wanted to kill. Leo was sure the evidence would save him from an execution, the crates of experimental guns laying there in the corner, but he had to convince Armstrong to stand down first.

"Not a chance, big guy."

The Indigo crew stepped forward, and it seemed like it was happening all over again.

'no...', Leo had to stop it. He wasn't going to fight another State Alchemist, he wasn't about to kill another person he knew. Leo's legs worked quickly, pulling up walls to stop the Indigo crew in their tracks. They looked at Leo, puzzled, but a grin was the only thing that was looking back at them. Armstrong hit hard, and Leo was pushed back towards the other end of the warehouse. The pain was great, but he was sure it would all go away in a few minutes, right after he would clear this whole mistake. That was it... It was all a mistake... not murder.

"Armstrong, they were fucking traitors!", Leo shouted at the behemoth of a man as he laud on a pile of rubble. The Indigo crew stared at the two and stood their ground. Leo spit a little bit of blood on the dusty floor and looked back up.

"I'm not fighting you, comrade. You know what happens to traitors, do you? Did Ishaval not teach you enough, Armstrong?", Leo's words were harsh, but he knew he would understand. Leo tried to pull himself up from the rubble and hoped that the same attack won't happen again. He staggered forward and watched as the Indigo crew slowly walked away from the scene.

"They were thieves, murderers! They stole these weapons to line their pockets... They gave them to street thugs for heaven's sake's! Think of how many would have died in the street of Amestris if they got their hands on these!", Leo tried his best to sound convincing. "I will surrender myself, Strong Arm, but first test me! Look at the crates, see what these vile vermin had done! They don't deserve to wear these uniforms, and their blood in unfitting to besmirch their ranks!".

Leo raised both of his hands up and watched as Armstrong walked towards him.

"Let the others go. They were my lead here, and without them I wouldn't have found these vermin. They preferred filthy money over the safety and lives of the people they swore to protect, and I stopped them!. They could have killed my sister with these weapons, or our friends!".

"Catch me if you can, alchemist!"

Kallu growled and jumped after him, grabbing the cloak and ripping it off, the small man continuing to run off into the night. Nothing else was in the room that was his, so he didn't bother with slamming the door shut before following, balling up the cloak in his fist.

He jumped out and landed on a roof, boots pounding the ground as he chased after the small man in the dark. Slowly but surely, Kallu's incredible endurance began to win out over the speed and agility of his target and he began closing the small bit of distance keeping them apart.

He was silent the entire time, the only sound his easy breathing and the pounding of leather against tile, clay, wood, and even some steel. He was not going to stop, and the moonlight that shown gave him ample light to see, preventing this strange man from hiding in the shadows.

About twenty paces from the edge of one roof, he threw out the cloak ahead of his prey, the force behind it and the slight breeze causing it to flutter out out to its full size, blotting out the sky from this little man.

One question kept going through his mind as he gave chase though.

How did they know already? Our enemies must have much more extensive intelligence agencies than we give them credit for. Or else they followed me here, in which case no one is safe.

The door creaked open behind Hohenheim, James standing in the doorway, gun in hand pointing at Hohenheim.

"You should always use caution when dealing with strangers. You never know who might break into a young women's room with strange intentions," James' eyes looked over Faith, her Ishvalan features obvious for all to see. Pulling his other gun out from behind his back he targeted Faith. "And you never know when you might have to deal with orders. Especially ones that deal with the extermination of an entire race."

"Catch me if you can, alchemist!"

Isaac wasn't sure what surprised him more: the fact that, out of all the rundown hotels in Dublith, he'd somehow stumbled onto the one one of his squad-mates was using, or that, once more, the Stone Alchemist was being targeted by some shadowy person. Common crooks didn't just go breaking into soldier's belongings for the hell of it, after all.

In a matter of instants, it was over. The cloaked man had escaped outside, with a growling Kallu hot on his tail. Isaac doubted that his comrade had even seen him.

Sighing to himself, the bespectacled solider took stock of his situation. Here he was, still recovering, absolutely exhausted, and yearning for the cheap, probably bug-infested mattress that awaited him upstairs. Then again, it was kind of his duty to aid a fellow alchemist, even if said fellow couldn't even be bothered to mutter a few words of greeting.

Well, as much as he hated to do it...

Snapping open one of his suitcases, Isaac pulled out his backpack and slung it over his shoulders. As the rest of his luggage clattered to the ground, the man turned and hurried back out the front door, shouting at the woman working the desk to watch his bags. If she didn't mind, of course. Charging back into the moonlit streets, Isaac gritted his teeth and did his best to ignore the pain that danced around his wounds. It was probably going to be a long night; he'd need to keep himself moving and conscious.

His mind set, the soldier took off in the approximate direction his quarry had gone, deeper and deeper into the labyrinth that was Dublith's alleyways...

"And you're sure you couldn't have just put me under?" Brandon asked as he sat in the workshop, with his father and sister on either side of him. Replacing parts on existing automail was a short process compared to actually replacing an automail limb, but if done properly there wasn't near as much pain involved. Jonathan was clearly an expert, but the almost constant shocks of pain told him that Kim was far from her father's skill level.

"We could've, but why waste the meds?" Kim asked as she undid yet another screw. "Can the big, strong soldier not take the itty bitty pain?"

"This soldier's had enough pain for a lifetime." Many clients had been operated on in this chair, but Brandon would always remember it as the place where his family gave him more second chances. They'd sacrificed contracts to get him in it sooner, and sacrificed bits of their hearts when they watched him return to the battlefield.

"Obviously not," Jonathan commented. "You're gonna be hurting a few more years, son. Almost got that pension you've spent half your life and most your limbs working for. You know all this automail's been running up a tab, right? And stop tapping your damn foot, we know this is taking too long." The old man looked up from his work and down at the floor. "And take it easy, you don't have to use as much force now."

"Sorry." They'd already finished their work replacing the plating on his legs, so they weren't strapped down anymore, but his arms were restrained while the two worked. "I just can't wait to get out this chair and into my own bed for once."

"Well, we're not the ones telling you not to come home," Kim piped in, right before hitting another wrong part in his arm. "Sorry!"

"Let the others go. They were my lead here, and without them I wouldn't have found these vermin. They preferred filthy money over the safety and lives of the people they swore to protect, and I stopped them!. They could have killed my sister with these weapons, or our friends!".

Armstrong's muscles flexed alongside the one in his skull, carefully considering the defense that his fellow State Alchemist made. His eyes, twinkling with a light that would have been intimidating--if he himself weren't so ridiculous--scanned the gangsters carefully. To their credit, they did not shrink away from him, and stared back with all the intensity they could muster. Their hands gripped their weapons as tightly as they could. Alex didn't need to inspect the crates personally. Enough ad been smashed open in the chaos to show their cargo, weapons of every variety spilled loosely to the floor.

The Major snorted, and furrowed his brow even further before saying, "You make a good point, soldier..."

THWACK-KRISS

His fist slammed to the floor, and a wall of stone erected itself between him and the other conscious men. The Indigos opened fire, their bullets flaking off little chinks of the barrier. Leo could hear Armstrong yell from the other side, "BUT ASSOCIATING WITH CRIMINALS?! MURDER?! YOU HAVE SIMPLE GONE. TOO. FAR!!!"

More blue bolts crackled out of the wall, and a chunk of rock smacked Casper so hard that the little man flipped through the air. He landed on his back, groaning in pain, and let out another yelp as the rock landed on his stomach. That was when the others noticed that said rock was carved in Armstrong's precise likeness. Slim Abel only had a second to gag in disgust at the man's self-indulgence when blue light filled their vision again.

Four stony, ludicrously well-toned arms reached from below, grabbing the weapons of the Indigo Gang and crushing their barrels to the diameter of a straw. The wall opened, revealing the Strong Arm Alchemist, buffing one arm and glaring daggers at the crooks. "BRING YOUR BEST, SCOUNDRELS."

"Oh, wit' pleasure." Mr. Indigo replied. In a blur of motion, he reached inside of his jacket coat and retrieved a pistol, sending one bullet straight for the burly man's head. Armstrong duck and wove left, and the entire room froze. A trickle of blood from a graze of a wound dripped down the side of Alex Louis' head, and his pupils shrunk to dots. The clenched muscles in his legs released and propelled him across the room. His right arm connected with Indigo's stomach, knocking the wind and just about everything else out of him as smashed into--and through--the opposite wall.

The conscious members of the gang looked back at the hole with shock plainly written on their faces. Zeke got the worst of this lapse in concentration with Armstrong's elbow met his temple. He flew to the ground, rolling back to his feet and putting up his dukes in time for them to get a heaping helping of collapsing ceiling. All Armstrong had to do was hop to reach the ceiling in this cramped place. With Zeke buried, the odds were beginning to even, and not in the way that Leo's allies had hoped. Darrel spun on his heel, very quickly deserving this entire fight deserved one big "nope" on his part. He sprinted for the door, and had nearly made it when a barrage of a thousand tiny Armstrong heads battered his back. He took a couple more jittering steps before collapsing in a pained, shuddering heap. That left Slim Abel.

Slim spat a gob of saliva to the floor, and cracked his neck. Alone suited him just fine. He shook his right shoulder up and down, jostling something from within his sleeve to slip into his hand. It was a knife, but the looks of it, with multiple barbs pointed towards the grip, which held a tiny ring at its end. A significant amount of razor wire was wrapped around this ring, and attached to a smaller barbed shiv at the other end. He took one blade in each hand and drew the wire taut, before flipping the larger knife over his shoulder. Across from him, Armstrong stood tall and cracked his knuckles. He put his fists up in a fighting stances, and gestured for Slim to start. Slim ran forward, tossing the larger blade over his shoulder and back at the Major, who shifted his body to the right, twisting his torso to let the knife slip past him harmlessly.

Slim grinned, and jumped to the left, yanking on the wire and letting it slice across Armstrong's chest. A neat line of blood was drawn as the razor cut, and the Alchemist roared in surprised. The pain was not finished, however, as the yank pulled back the knife. Its barbs bit into his left shoulder and hooked themselves there, tearing up the flesh as Abel yanked, leaping and pulling himself towards the bigger man. Both of his feet connected with Alex Louis, just underneath his jaw. The Major flipped back, hitting the floor with a powerful thud. Slim jumped away, detaching his knife and bringing it with. In the air, he threw the smaller knife back and let it sink straight into the Major's stomach, yet more blood pouring out of him. Alex choked.

Slim yanked himself back, his feet smashing into Armstrong's ribs and pulverizing them. In only a few moments the fight was over, and Slim Abel was standing triumphantly over--on, actually--the body of the Strong Arm alchemist, whose eyes were quickly dulling. The made man split the blades again, holding the razor wire over Armstrong's throat while lining up the killshot. Leo stepped forward, arm stretched out towards the action.

"Slim, stop! He's down, it's over!"

"Not over yet." Slim growled back. "Not over til he's off our trail. 'Til he's dead."

Slim licked his lips, savoring the moment.

That was when Armstrong's fists slammed on the ground.

Two pillars of rock shot out from opposite directions, dislocating both of Slim's arms as they lifted him over his head. What had appeared to be the victor of the fight was now suspended helplessly in the air, kicking and cursing and barely holding back tears of agony.

Leo watched Armstrong struggle back to his feet, breathing furiously to bring oxygen to his hurting, deprived lungs. Bright blue eyes honed by adrenaline met his.

"Your fellows are incapacitated. Stand down, Leopold. I'll be taking you in."

He blanched. No time to decide, he had to act. His foot slammed to the ground, and he yelled "I don't think so!"

A wave of rock billowed from the floor at Armstrong, nearly half the foundation's worth. With his right arm--the one that still worked, Alex wound up a punch, and smashed his fist against the tide. In an instant, it rebounded, and split off to every side in a cloud of dust. His shadow darted through it and brought a headbutt into Mensti's stomach. Leo choked up blood and was bowled over, crunched up and hurting as the other Alchemist stood over him.

"Hmph. You thought your skill was the like to stand against that of the Armstrong legacy?"

BANG

Armstrong gasped, the air leaving him as a bullet tore into his back. He collapsed to his hands and knees as the shooter dragged himself through the hole in the wall. Indigo was clutching his belly like nothing but bloody jello was left inside, but he was still moving, and clutching a new pistol.

"Nevah... leave th' house... widdout a third gun."

Casper stood and walked to his boss' side, helping him up. Zeke was the next to stumble over, chuckling as he threw a swift kick to Armstrong's battered side. The trio surrounded the Alchemist, chuckling to themselves. A fresh bout of curses from Abel caught Indigo's attention, who glared at the underling.

"Shaddup, Slim, we'll git ya down in a minute. First we've gotta deal wit' dis one."

He looked at Leopold next. "Go back to yer room an' get some rest. Best for yer sake if ya weren't around to "witness" what's comin' next."

For a moment, Leo thought to protest on Armstrong's behalf. Then he remembered the headbutt. He was a necessary sacrifice. He nodded to his boss and walked away, leaving the ruined building behind as he made a straight shot for his home.

Back inside, Indigo put a gun against Armstrong's forehead, pulling back the hammer.

"Ya know, never thought we'd be killin' two alchemists in a single week. It's like it's Christmas or something... hey, waitaminnut."

He looked around, confused, and pointed at the others. "Any'a youse seen Darrel?"

THUMP

The sound of a body hitting the floor in the doorway caught their attention. The man in question was on the floor, skin as pale as the moon and face gaunt as a ghost. His eyes were milky white, the life sucked out of them. His neck was eviscerated, only a few ligaments still attaching his head to the rest of him, and what little blood he had left was spilling out and staining his suit. The man who dropped him was dressed in a heavy coat, and his mad eyes glinted in the darkness. A red-stained grin was breathing heavily, letting out puffs of hot mist into the air. He spoke in a hushed, barely restrained tone.

"I smell him... his blood... he's been here."

He locked eyes with Indigo, and opened his mouth into a mortifying fanged grin.

"WHERE. IS. THE BAREFOOT ALCHEMIST?"


The little cloaked man hesitated for just a moment as the cloak spread wide before him. It seemed his only options were to leap straight into it and let himself be bundled up, or hold still and let the charging man behind him catch up.

Instead, he went over. In a writhing, twisting mass of motion, the man leaped up and over the cloak entirely What was worse, Kallu's cloak now stopped him from seeing where he had gone. But, he did see one thing. Something slipping from beneath the man's cloak as he hopped into obscurity. Was that... a tail?

He had no way to know at the moment, and was forced to grind himself to a halt. As he caught his breath, he noticed someone was following him. Isaac, of all people, came floundering up and collapsed to the ground as soon as he'd reached his teammate. The stress of sprinting on his tattered body was about to rip him to shreds if he pushed much further.

Below them, they could see the alleyway was a dead end, with only a manhole to give them a possible route. Out in the street, the quiet night air was not shared by a single soul--only a splintered old sign for a bar called the Devil's Nest.


"And you never know when you might have to deal with orders. Especially ones that deal with the extermination of an entire race."

Faith immediately began to move, reaching by instinct for something. Even if no guns were around, she would not be helpless. But in such a casual manner to suggest he was unaware he even did it, Hohenheim's hand grabbed hers and stopped it mid-motion. His face made the smallest adjustment in expression, to account for the gun in his face like it was some kind of gnat he hadn't noticed until now.

"James, put the gun away. We're guests in a home, no need to cause such a mess. You have orders... but you also have your own mind. Your own hands to take to task. No one's going to know or care if you miss one girl. Tell me, do you think your comrade somehow failed to notice what she was? And yet she's here, in his home."

"Ho-hold on Kallu!" Isaac managed to pant as he finally caught up the short man, his words coming out in half-choked gasps. "I'm... I'm almost... Oh God I think I'm gonna puke."

Stopping a few paces away from his squadmate, the winded alchemist all but fell to the ground, bracing his arms against his knees as he desperately attempted to regain his lost breath. His lungs and throat were burning, his arms and legs ached, his vision was going in and out of focus, and it felt like Rai's dagger was still stuck in his side. Closing his eyes, Isaac raised up a hand apologetically, wordlessly asking Kallu to wait for a few seconds.

"Okay... I'm okay..."

After a few seconds of hard, steady breathing, Isaac looked up with renewed strength in his eyes. His panting reduced to an almost inaudible level, the soldier gazed around the surroundings, noting both the shabby scenery and the lack of Kallu's diminutive assailant. "What happened, did you lose the little bastard?"

As he spoke, Isaac reached a hand into his backpack, pulling out a pair of gloves and a small steel ingot after a few seconds of rummaging. If they were under attack by more of those assassins, he thought as he pulled the gloves on, then there was no way he was going to be caught off guard again.

Kallu silently cursed as his plan was avoided, the small man jumped over his coat and down, revealing...a tail, of all things. That was all he saw before the plan to capture the man flew into his face. He stood there a moment, at the start of where he began breathing slightly heavily.

"Okay... I'm okay..."

"I'm sure,"Kallu said neutrally, as the man beside him doubled over on the rooftop and slipped on his gloves. Kallu's own had been in that bag the man had stolen.

"It seems my attempt at being here undetected was for nothing. When did you arrive, and how long have you been running?"

"It seems my attempt at being here undetected was for nothing. When did you arrive, and how long have you been running?"

"Well, hello to you too," Isaac muttered under his breath as he straightened back up. Maybe coming here was a mistake, but he had no choice but to go along with it for now. Kallu didn't strike him as a bad man, but there was no way he could trust him or any other member of the military, not anymore.

Pushing away his worries for the moment, the alchemist responded with a steady voice. "I just got in a couple of hours ago, actually. Came here to get a bit of a break, to take some time off and recover." He gestured to the few bandages he still wore to punctuate his point. "So there I am, trying to check into my hotel room, when what do I see? The Stone Alchemist chasing after what I can only assume to be a thief."

Tilting his neck to the side, Isaac sighed in relief as his joints popped audibly. "Anyway, old instincts took over, so here I am chasing after you chasing after your thief. Though maybe I should have just ignored it and fallen asleep, eh? All this running can't be good for me," he finished, offering Kallu an apologetic grin.

"Hey, wait." Isaac's eyes narrowed in confusion as he processed Kallu's words. "Undetected? Are you hiding from somebody?"

"Undetected? Are you hiding from somebody?"

"Two men throwing bombs and masks attacked us yesterday during the festival, after questioning the one that was in better shape, I found out they were hired by a man operating out of Dublith, I arrived this morning and woke up to a knocking on the door not too long ago. Some....thing, ran in and grabbed my bag, leading me to believe we either have a serious leak in Intelligence, or this was expected, neither I find comforting in the slightest. The former is my guess, as I left almost as soon as I found out the news." He kept the part about the man having a tail out, judging it as himself still waking up, or a cultural abnormality. Maybe the man had been from Xing, he'd only ever seen or met less than half a dozen of them in his years traveling.

"In any case, I need to keep looking for him, he has my Circles, he's disappeared, so I'm guessing either the sewers or that Devil's Nest."

Kallu walked to the edge of the rooftop and leaned down, grabbing the side before swinging down and holding onto it as he aimed for a pile of boxes close to his position. Letting go, he hit the boxes and jumped off of them onto the street below.

"In any case, I need to keep looking for him, he has my Circles, he's disappeared, so I'm guessing either the sewers or that Devil's Nest."

Choosing to ignore the temporal inconsistencies between Kallu's story and his own recollections, Isaac followed the Stone Alchemist down into the alleyway, wincing as he gingerly descended. He really, really, did not want to tear open his injuries again.

Striding over to the open manhole, the soldier peered into the murky tunnel below him. The moon and starlight did little to illuminate the sewers, however, and Isaac found his attempts at scouting thwarted quite effectively. "The one day I didn't bring a flashlight," he muttered under his breath.

"Well," he said, turning his gaze back to his compatriot, "what do you want to do about it? Something tells me that heading down there, especially at this time of night, is not a good idea."

"what do you want to do about it? Something tells me that heading down there, especially at this time of night, is not a good idea."

"No, but neither is letting the man get away with my equipment. And heading back to East City isn't an option right now. I refuse to lose this trail just as I'm on the verge of uncovering it."

Kallu looked around at the night, his eyes comfortable in the darkness, unable to see any sign of where the tailed man went, he turned back to look at Isaac, an arm covering his side over the hole in the earth.

"You should head back to the hotel, you're obviously not in fighting form,"He said as he looked down the pipe and sighed, sewers again. He abhorred them, dirty, smelly, and loud. Two of which he could easily overlook, but the third was another matter. Too much like caves without half of the benefits.

"If I'm not back by morning, you know what to do, protocol is there for a reason. I'm not as good without my gauntlets, but I can manage," He said as he raised his hands and arms, his older circles branded and cut into his flesh. The Stone Alchemist then leaned down and began his descent into the sewers.

"If I'm not back by morning, you know what to do, protocol is there for a reason. I'm not as good without my gauntlets, but I can manage."

Kallu hadn't made it far before a splash rang out behind him. Isaac had descended into the sewers as well, staring down at the filthy water with a look of disgust. "Yeah, protocol is fairly important. And, as I recall, there are several about soldiers not going off on their own. Where they can be picked off easily by anyone with a shred of patience and the brains to set a trap."

Striding forward, the Steel-Web Alchemist trailed behind his comrade, his eyes peering into their darkened surroundings. "I'd be remiss in my duties if I let you wander off to your death all on your own. Come on, let's go find your little burglar and get the hell out of here."

Roland was laxly walking down the platform with Tash and Victor, his hands behind his head. The pair (mainly Victor) were still chatting away about various automail parts and terminologies that he hadn't the faintest idea of. Dissatisfied with having Tash's attention diverted temporarily, he instead meandered over to Marlin, having not talked to the soldier that thoroughly in the past. It was then that he saw that his eyes had caught sight of someone disembarking the train. There was something about him, something not quite local, he knew that Marlin must have seen it as well, it was the gait and steady stride of a military man.

The hairs on the back of Roland's neck stood on end as he caught the faint whiff of that all too pervading copper odour. The blood on that man's hands was unmistakable.

Who could it be? That Scarred man? Kimblee?

Intrigued by the appearance of this enigmatic character, Roland motioned over to Tash, who still hand her hands busy with Victor's never ending inquisitiveness.

"I'm feeling a little bit parched. I would invite you to come with me, but I'd hate to break you two apart, you make such a cute couple" he said as he gave smirk to Victor, who shifted uncomfortably at the prospect.

"Anywho, I'll meet up with the pair of you later, we can go over those techniques later too Tash."

Roland gave her a wink, before placing a stack of bills in her hand to pay for the inn.

"Don't wait up for me kids"

He bid the pair on their merry way, before making his way back over to Marlin, who seemed preoccupied with studying the transmutation circles etched into his container. A small cough caught his attention, as his dreary eyes slowly raised to meet Roland's.

"Don't worry about what you saw mate, I'm going to look into it personally. You just make your way with Tash and Victor, and make sure they're safe okay?"

The Deep Blue Alchemist gave a slow nod, it gave him a little reassurance at least. The day was already beginning to fade as Roland followed the lingering scent of copper and the faint footsteps of the mysterious man.
The onset of night made the tailing even harder, as the fading light and bustle of the streets threatened to obscure the trail.

The footsteps stopped.

Roland couldn't hear or smell a thing, the man had simply vanished. But how?

Crashing rock. Gunshots. Screams of pain. The sounds of conflict and bloodshed. Was it that man that was causing them?

Roland took off in a sprint, bolting for the source of the disturbance. Cracks lined the walls of an alleyway, the ground showing signs of being transmuted, fragments of rubble peppered the area, he must be getting close. The alleway branched off, eventually leading to the front of a large warehouse showing the all too common signs of recent alchemy.

Upon entering, Roland became aware of the group of figures gathered around a solitary hulking individual.

Major...Armstrong?

"Major Armstrong!"

The leader of the group raised his gun hand as he turned to face the stranger screaming out the State Alchemist's name, who was now running at him, whip in hand.

"WHERE. IS. THE BAREFOOT ALCHEMIST?"

The ringleader had stopped in his tracks, his eyes now fixated on the shadowy figure who was at the doorway. Roland too stopped, turning to see a mangled, blood covered body slumped on the floor in front of the Vampire Alchemist.

"...Vlad. What the FUCK, do YOU think you're doing?!"

Where they can be picked off easily by anyone with a shred of patience and the brains to set a trap."

"Fine then,"Kallu said before continuing onwards into the fetid dark,"But stay behind me, so you can see where you're going down here. And get out of here if we do walk into a trap, you're- Stop,"He held a hand out behind him as he assumed the Steel-Web Alchemist had followed him, something didn't sound right down the tunnel to their right.

After a cursory inspection and realizing that it must've been an animal, he kept walking through the dark, his nose wrinkling at the myriad of stenches wafting around the space. It was then that he reached a hand up to assure himself that the Alchemy Notes he had found in the library were still there. A slight crinkle emanated from the pocket in his vest as he checked, now content that his little secret he had shared with only one individual - and a non-Alchemist at that - was still safe.

"I'm feeling a little bit parched. I would invite you to come with me, but I'd hate to break you two apart, you make such a cute couple" Tasha couldn't help but chuckle at Rolands ribbing. She knew she and Victor had barely said a word to the other two after getting on the train, but automail was one of the few things that could hold Tasha's attention forever. She slipped the bills roland gaave her into the pocket of her skirt.

"Anywho, I'll meet up with the pair of you later, we can go over those techniques later too Tash." Tasha just laughed at this. "Looking forward to it Roland. See ya." he said with a wave has the Lightning Alchemist walked off. She turned her attention back to victor. "I think that about covers it Victor. Anything else you wanna know?" She said with a smile.

Armstrong fought hard against the gangsters, but at the end they subdued him. Leo couldn't stand to watch his comrade fight against his newly acquired contacts in the east city but his contribution to stopping the skirmish was met with contempt. The boss ordered Leo to retreat and not see what will be done with Armstrong, an offer Leonard accepted begrudgingly.

The drunk tribal had enough for the day - he stumbled through the stone streets of Dublith back to his hotel, hoping he could find another bottle of booze to help him sleep. The once cheerful all-mighty alchemist fell down in the middle of an alleyway leading to the street where his hotel was at and didn't bother standing up. He leaned against the cold stone and hid his face in shame. What just happened wasn't a dream, it was pure reality - so strong it beat him in the form of a blonde renowned state-alchemist.

The floodgates opened soon after that. He couldn't stop himself from crying in that dark corner of the world where no person could see him. The images came back, all of those people he had killed under orders... and then there were others. Archer. The soldiers at the warehouse. The questions as to why he would go through with their plans couldn't be answered. Instead he just wanted another swig of brandy. Just one more.

"all my fault", he muttered under his breath in between short and shallow breaths, "all my fucking fault".

"You have till dawn to leave," James lowered his gun, "if you are still here when I wake up I will shoot you where you stand." James turned to Hohenheim.

"Of course I have a mind of my own. But I'm also a soldiers. If we start disobeying orders then the whole army falls apart. And right now it would be more merciful to just kill all Ishvalens then to let them live, hunted, persecuted, full of hate towards the government and disrupting the future peace. She is going to have to hide from place to place, persecuted wherever she goes in this country,with no home to go back to. It is better she dies now then suffer that fate," James said as he left the room.

ignore zis post please.

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