Ken responded to Kallu's question with 'sinking it into the ground will seal off the entrance, as well as any other entrances and exits in and out of the monastery' ken paused for a moment 'the question is what should I do with all the stone I move away? it has to go somewhere'
Elias gained a new respect for Tasha, as she'd been the only other person to vocally oppose the killing of civilians. He clenched his teeth as he walked, thinking back to the old saw about old dogs and new tricks.
I've been in this war the whole time, lost more than they could ever imagine, and they still willingly go along with 3066 before I do.
Elias did a quick patdown of his ammo pouches to ensure no belts had fallen out.
We are warriors, meant to fight against other warriors, not butcher the defenseless.
He quickly checked to make sure the loaded belt wasn't too short.
Kill thousands, save one. Not quite how it's supposed to work, but it's something.
Feeling the anger build up in him, he rechecked his machine gun itself, performing a function check to make sure it'd fire when he needed it.
If I survive this war, I'm burning this uniform.
"Leave the stone to me, I'll pull it out as you sink it. The least we can do is quickly end the suffering of any civilians that weren't able to get out." Kallu said, his normally expressionless face marked with regret and again sighed before returning to his normal stoic expression.
Marlin's musings were interrupted when he met up with the rest of the group. After listening quietly to the discussion of their next objective, Marlin came to realize just how little he knew his fellow alchemists. Though he had never interacted with them much, it shocked him to see them all so bloodthirsty. Is the State Alchemist motto not 'be thou for the people'? Have we lost sight of that so easily? I suppose I'm no better. My research will ensure that no one goes thirsty again, but I must end this war to get the funding I need. What a predicament...
After spacing out for a moment, Marlin snapped out of it and realized he had been asked something. "Oh yes... I suppose I could flood the monastery. It would take time to gather a large enough amount of water in this climate though, but it's possible..." Marlin replied to James' question towards him and started to calculate just how much time it would take to gather that much water. He quickly shook his head, remembering that he had something more important to worry about and spoke up again. "Must we kill all the civilians? It seems so.... Unnecessary. And cruel...."
"And that's our burden here Marlin. For the nigh unlimited funding, power, resources, and the position, we have to obey every command we're issued. Weather it's to stop a homicidal maniac, or to destroy a town of innocents. Believe me Marlin, I wish the wasn't the case, and if I didn't think my research was important enough I'd turn in my watch. Tasha said as she looked sadly towards Marlin.
"Okay, sir," Elias began as he turned to James, emboldened by the growing dissent, "we can clearly seal off the exits, and I doubt it'd be much trouble to make an entrance near the top. It's the spot that'd offer the most resistance to any attackers, so we can bet the target's up there. We could seal off the whole temple, enter somewhere in the middle to keep the target from blending with the crowd, and push him up to the roof." Taking a deep breath, he ran his glove-covered automail hand through his hair.
"If that doesn't work, then we can, I don't know, get out and collapse the temple on everyone. But just because we can kill them all, doesn't mean it should be plan A. Sir."
"The problem with that...," Kallu paused as he searched the man's uniform, "...Sergeant, is that we have our orders to eliminate the resistance. As much as you,Tash, and I'm sure the rest of us have, dislike them, not following them will get even more people killed. The best we can do is save the few we can, if we can, when we can, and just hope for the best the rest of the time. The greater good of Amestris is to allow some to die... to allow many more to live."
"We may have to follow orders, but that doesn't mean we completely ignore the rules of warfare. Surrender brings life, resistance, death. It's that simple, so get over it. Would I trade my life for the good of Ishval? Yes, but only because it would serve the interests of my home and make it that much easier to bring our people closer together quicker."
" Can we cease all the incessant moral procrastination and get this thing over with? Some of us want to get home."
"How can any of you talk about the 'Greater Good of Amestris'? We're all blindly following orders, you're all a bunch of human weapons; you knew what you signed up for, and you all know what can be required from you, regardless of how it affects the future of the damn country"
Kallu smiled a bit at the Lightning Alchemist, though it was short-lived. After hearing his flippant remark over the greater good of Amestris, his carved face returned to its normal expression. He started off once again towards the temple, hoping that the civilians near it had had enough time to evacuate, but should they decide to stay, so be it. Passing the Lightning Alchemist, he lightly pushed past him, "Then follow your own advice, kid, and let's get moving."
Roland strode up beside Kallu, whilst swinging his watch on it's chain to fully charge it.
"I'm older than you Stone, and I wager I have seen more in these few years than many others have in a lifetime"
He motioned towards the rest of group and beckoned them forwards.
"Time to go"
"Roland, that is your name, is it not? You do not know the first thing about me. who I have lost, what I have found, nor where I am from. Your arrogance shines more brightly than a wolf pup on his first hunt," Kallu calmly said, "And you are not my commanding officer, so end your meaningless chatter."
Kallu continued on his way to Torul, no longer caring whether or not there were repercussions this day, there was a large massacre awaiting their arrival and postponing it now was irrelevant.
Victor glared at Roland as he passed him. He didn't dare make eye contact, but he'd learned enough of the Lightning Alchemist to know he didn't like his attitude towards war. And really if he had spoken up what could really be said against him? He had seen more of the war than any of them. But ultimately, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Confrontation was not in his heart, and only a dedication to his country kept him going through this conflict.
"Everyone, er, keep your eyes open. We probably shouldn't be arguing right now. The Ishvalans are right up at that building there, and we don't know if it's a trap."
True enough, the party realized they had nearly walked up into the monastery before they even realized it. They were just now passing into the little cove that held the last bastion in the region. The Ishvalans, and more importantly Torul, were cornered. They had come expecting a showdown, only to discover that the place seemed deserted. No Ishvalans were waiting for them on the ground, and the roof appeared deserted. No sounds could be heard coming from within, either.
"M-maybe Torul is the only one left?" Victor asked, a bit more hopeful than he should have been.
Deep inside the tunnels running behind the monastery, several dozen civilians followed their monk escort toward the distant light that promised them refuge. Their leader was grim and silent in his departure, saying a silent prayer to Ishvala to deliver the soul of his surrogate master.
Torul, I pray that your soul will be safely delivered. You have earned nothing less.
Back in the monastery, Matser Torul sat waiting in the main hall just through the front doors. He was cross-legged, and listened patiently for the arrival of the Amestrians. Seeing it would be another moment, he bowed his head and made a prayer of his own.
"My god, Ishvala, these soldiers know not the truth. Grant their souls pardon for what they are about to do, and all they shall do, and light the way to their deliverance."
"M-maybe Torul is the only one left?" Victor asked.
"Seems like it," Elias replied, readying his weapon. "I couldn't get my platoon to shut the hell up, so I doubt too many refugees in there could pull it off." He began walking up to the entrance, looking down the sights of his machine gun and ready to break down any door that was in the way.
"Elias, get back here! We're about to bury and flood this place, so stop rushing into it!"
Kallu readied his transmutation to bury the temple and move the stones as it sank into the earth.
"Ready on this end, Leo, Deep Blue, Landscape, you guys ready?"
"Yeah, because it wouldn't be better to capture the target and make him a prisoner," Elias began, turning back to the group, "or better yet, execute him in front of the army to boost morale. But no," he threw his hands up as he retreated, "let's destroy a building he might not even be in and say he's dead. What if he left with everyone else?"
"Or what if sinking this building will do nothing?"
Victor nearly choked on his own spit in surprise at the voice coming from above them. Master Torul stood on the roof of the monastery, looking down on them with his eyes. The sun glared behind him, making his frame just a silhouette.
"H-how did he get up there?!" the Corporal shouted.
Torul furrowed his brow as he examined the odds. He spotted many circles. Almost all of them were Alchemists, and they looked to be skilled. The odds were not in his favor. Then again, he didn't expect them to be. And he was almost certain they would underestimate his own skills.
"Maybe I've been up here all along, child, and you simply didn't look hard enough?" Torul told him, stepping a bit closer to the edge. "You know, you really don't know what you're getting into, so--w-WHOA!"
The old man slipped on the stone, and tumbled down to the sand below. The impact sent Ishvalan sand billowing into the eyes of the Amestrians; as they coughed it out he shakily stood back up. His face red with embarrassment, he cleared his throat and tried again.
"Children of Amestria. I understand why you are here. To take my life. But before you try, may I ask why?"
Realizing he'd be fairly useless in a fight for the next few minutes, Elias slung his machine gun as he tried to get the dust out of his eyes with metal hands wrapped in dust-covered gloves.
"Well, we're *cough* under orders from the *cough* Fuhrer himself," he struggled, coughing out the last bit of dust he'd inhaled. "How's someone so old survive a fall like that?"
"Under Order 3066, the Monk Torul is to be captured or killed, whichever is easiest, those are our orders. But, I have to ask, why did you just trip off this temple? I've been through here before the war started, years ago, and any monk as clumsy as you at least pretend to be should never have passed the initiation. Much less rise to such grand heights as a war leader." Kallu stood from his kneeling position he had been in moments before, and slowly walked his way towards the Ishvalan, "Perhaps you are simply being as the stone before a rockslide, silent in intention, but quite loud i-*grunt*"
Kallu had tripped on his way towards the monk, attempting to make it look accidental, but as his hand touched the ground, he let forth a transmutation, sending small particles of sand from every possible surface in his range to attempt to blind,cut,and injure the monk.
Torul yelped in shock, flailing the gnarled staff he carried with him wildly as he stumbled about in the sand. His yelps could be heard within the cloud, but his actions were invisible for the most part. The cutting dry rain lasted nearly a minute before it finally died off. As the dust passed him by, Torul gave a great heaving sigh and leaned back against his staff. He hadn't been cut once, and his clothes were little more than scuffed. He gave a goofy smile far too unfitting for a master monk. But it certainly seemed to fit the persona he was putting up.
"Or maybe I've just learned that a little luck and the will of God is a wondrous thing.
Master Torul first responded to Elias, as he had spoken first. "Fuhrer King Bradley? I remember seeing photos of him as a lad, not a day older than any of you. Heh, looking back on bygone years is a sad thing, isn't it?" Before anyone could stop him, he was monologueing. "Tell me, my children, have you ever thought about why we should remember the past? It's so hurtful. To see the man that once fought as a savior of all Amestrians could grow into a man cold enough to order the demise of his own people."
He drew little lines in the sand with his stick, making patterns only he recognized as he was lost in his thoughts. "But, you know, maybe it's for the best. There are lessons that we all must be taught, and they could be learned from any number of teachers. Take the sand, for instance. It's always shifting, changing, trying to forget old shapes and events. But it never quite forgets all the way. Underneath it all there are little bits and pieces of memories, bygone eras that have forever changed the sand's form in minute, perhaps even imperceptible ways."
He looked up at them and smiled. "Maybe, if this old man is lucky enough, he'll even teach you one last lesson before he passes on."
Victor stared at him wide-eyed disbelief. "What do you mean, teach us a lesson? Aren't we enemies?"
Torul looked at him, puzzled. "Are we? What IS an enemy, anyhow? Someone who opposes your goals, right? That is how conflict works, two goals clash, and the stronger one crushes the other underneath its foot. But there's another way. Compromise. Peace. If we can take lessons to learn from each other, we both become greater persons for it. So!"
He pointed at all of the Amestrians arrayed before him. "I ask you, not as a Master, but as a humble old man, let me try and teach you my last lesson to teach. What you take from it is up to you. If you try to kill me, then try, so long as you listen to my words. Will you accept this old man's final offer?"
James pulled out his gun and loaded it with his piercing bullets, and leveled it at Torul.
"Very well. We will respect your final wish. I am not so cruel as to deny you that. Everyone, stand at the ready. When he is done his blood will be on my hands but be prepared for ay tricks he may have," James looked at lines in the sand. They looked suspicious and he was not going to be caught off guard. The old monk was craftier then we was letting on.
After hearing that the squad consensus seemed to go along with massacring everyone inside the temple, Marlin was quite pleased to see that the temple appeared to be deserted. He had been trying to come up with a way to save those he could while making it look like an accident, but now those plans would no longer be needed it seemed. Instead, he would need to find a way to capture the Master Torul who now stood before them.
Torul was old and appeared to be clumsy, but Marlin knew better than to underestimate him based on that after his last battle with an Ishvalan monk. That Torul emerged unharmed from Kallu's attack confirmed Marlin's suspicions. No amount of luck could have saved a normal man from that. Marlin quickly set his jar down and touched the circle to fill it with water, preparing for what seemed like it would be a fierce battle.
But it seemed that Torul wasn't going to fight them. He wanted to talk instead. As much as Marlin wanted to find a compromise, he remembered the look on the Fuhrers face when he ordered Torul's elimination and knew that there was no way the Fuhrer would accept any other result. Marlin could not spare this man, but he could at least hear this lesson.
Thankfully, James seemed to feel the same as Marlin. Marlin kept his hands on the jar and his eyes on Torul. ".... I will listen." He said. "I'm afraid I cannot spare you... But I will listen."
At the re-emergence of the monk, Kallu had all the answer he needed, this man was much more dangerous than he let on. Nobody sat through a sandstorm and emerged as unscathed as this man did. His respect for the man increased substantially, along with his caution.
Master Torul smiled, a warmth in his face that showed a deep gratitude for the patience of even his foes. He had wholly expected to speak as he fought them. To have a lesson to relax, and preach as he had in the days before the war was a gift he could not express gratitude for in words. All he could do was speak, and hope that in some way his words would affect them.
"Science, and religion. Two ideologies with no reconcilable factors, true? There is so much different within them, and yet... they are so beautifully the same, in the end. For no matter the words you coat your beliefs in, it has always been about one thing: the truth. What is the truth to all things, and how do we find it? Scientists say through careful research and examination of the world around us. A man like me might be tempted to say it is only through faith and gracious obedience to our God. But in the end, we're all looking for the same thing, that ultimate comfort of knowledge. But truth is... a complicated thing."
He began to draw in the sand again. They looked familiar. There were key differences, but they almost seemed like alchemy circles.
"In our own ways, we find truth every day. How long it takes us to walk from our home to our work, how many pints of blood are in the human body, how many years a man may live... but beneath these observable, physical truths, there is something greater. A knowledge of the metaphorical sense, less precise and yet so much greater in every applicable manner. The truth hidden within the truth. Though we may find truth in our everyday life, it is the truth within the truth that we seek. But this sort of truth is a mystery, an enigma that challenges you to seek its answers if you dare. My children, this can be applied to all things."
He waved his hands around, motioning for them to look at the burning village below.
"Even here in the Ishvalan War, there are both surface truths and hidden truths. On the surface, this is about unruly civilians needing to be put down. But, if you will not agree with me then at least hear me out when I say: would just any rebellion be met by an order for genocide? This is not the worst war Amestris has faced within its borders, nor shall it be the last I believe. And yet, to be met with such harshness makes a man think. So, as my final wish, Alchemists, I ask you to do this poor old man one favor after you have killed him: fulfill your duty and your creed, and never stop searching for knowledge. Find the truth within the truth, and see the reality behind this massacre."
Torul took a breath, and seemed to loosen his entire body at once. No one had noticed him tense up with an inner fervor, only spotting it once it was released. He looked at them calmly, perhaps a bit somber.
"That is all I have to tell you. I cannot order you to do as I say, like your Fuhrer, but I do hope you will consider it. Now then, your orders are to kill me, yes? I would suggest you come and try now, before our sunlight is used up."
It was as he spoke, the setting sun was nearly ready to peek behind the rock cliffs all around them, which would leave them in near utter darkness. If they wanted to end this fight easily, they had to move fast.
"The problem in your logic sir, is that this is no ordinary rebellion, and was not caused by any ordinary means,"Kallu again started as he stood once more,"The Amestrian responsible for the death of the child has been punished, and his debt to your people paid with his commission and life. Why continue to fight a war you have no chance of winning and no reason to continue to fight?You are the one refusing to search for the truth, Torul."
Torul smiled at Kallu, and nodded in genuine attention as he spoke.
"Young Alchemist, therein lies the mystery. Your point is valid, but what if I told you the Ishvalans had pushed for peace quite some time ago? And that not only was the war continued, but our diplomat and head of our entire people disappeared and never returned to us."
"Then I would say that you either are adept at telling lies, or you are given much more information than we are. Either is just as plausible as the other. I know that your people are a peaceful one, but I also know that you are just as fanatical and stubborn in your beliefs as a stone is to the elements. Unwavering,unshakable, and if pushed far enough, unmoving,"Kallu began walking towards the man he believed was Torul, though there was no proof, careful to stay out of the firing arc of James,
"You continue to tell us to find the truth, but what if what you claim to be true, is nothing more than a ploy to buy time for us to be killed by soldiers? What if you are nothing more than a liar trying to fragment the already unbalanced government of Amestris? Tell us, Monk, what is it you are trying to do?"
Torul did not back away from Kallu as he approached. He only continued to maintain that smile of his.
"I am only trying to do what I have told you: teach. You will find no other Ishvalans here, just a tired old man who would rather spend his last moments for peace than push for everlasting war and decimation of the innocent. If you wish to heed my words, do your research on your own, do not take all I say as fact. And if you do not, then strike me now and end this is you can.
Kallu's respect for the man continued to grow through his conversation. During the peacetime, he had always held a deep and profound respect for Ishvalans in general, but this man easily lifted the bar by which he measured others. He continued to walk towards the monk, stopping five feet away from him, looking up at him from his small, but powerful frame, smiled, and began to circle the man, continuing to stay out of James' arc of fire.
"You, my friend, are obviously set in your beliefs, but that is just as much a weakness as it is a strength. You may preach to us, but you also tell us that what you know may just as easily be false. You stand strong against insurmountable odds and yet, you know what to say, and when to say it."
Kallu took three more steps forward and offered the monk his hand.
"You are a man worthy of the final embrace of the Stone."
"My truth is my orders. Nothing more, nothing less. That is my duty and my life. That is my pride. My truth is crystal clear. You have had your last words. We have given you time to prepare. May whatever comes after for you be kinder to you then this life," James fired his piercing shots three times at the old monk.
Torul looked up at the Stone Alchemist standing in front of him, hand extended. The monk looked ready to return the gesture, but was interrupted by the clacking of a loaded pistol. James rejected his preaching, and fired three shots. What happened next was almost too fast for the alchemists to make out.
Torul twirled his staff the precise moment the sidearm fired. The gnarled pommel flew in front of his face, shattering into a hundred pieces as the first bullet impacted. He dove to the ground before the second and third even fired, and spun in a circle on the ground. Sand and dust flew into the dry air and formed an obscuring cloud around him. His hand grabbed Stone by the ankle. As Kallu suspected, he was far stronger than he let on.
"I am sorry, young Alchemist. This is the path chosen. May your path one day lead you to peace."
Torul pulled hard, and Kallu was flipped head over heels to the waiting sand. He was left there disoriented as Torul charged from the cloud, aiming a swift strike at James's gut.
Tasha laughed as Kallu was thrown to the ground, some one of his nature, so careful being caught off guard was funny. She understood what the old man was trying to teach. She now hated this war even more, costing the world a man like this seemed far worse fate than most of what she could imagine.
She watched stunned for a moment and the old seemed to vanish in the sand and deliver the blow to James. He was fast, and relied and hand-to-hand combat. Truly a master as they had been warned. She laughed again. "I'm sorry old monk, this war is costing us much. Listening to you, I almost wish it had been an Ishvalen monk I met on the road a few years back instead of an Alchemist. But my path is chosen, there's no turning back." She touched her coat, sending as much of her bodies energy as she could into the wires along it. Sparks begin to course up and down the coat. She assumed a fighting stance. "Come old monk, allow me the privilege of fighting you before we are forced to rid the world of such a kind soul." She said with a smile.
Kallu smiled as he was tossed into the air, head over heels, he had met few that could accomplish such a thing. But now was not the time for smiling, and he became the Stone. He watched as the monk disappeared out of the cloud of sand and followed suit, getting out of the small sandstorm created by the monk's speed just as he became to level a blow for the Lt. gut.
He slammed his hand down into the ground and transmuted. The sand between the two men compacted and sprung up, blocking the staff, failing that then catching it in the grasp of the sand. He wasn't sure who was the faster, he or the monk. He charged as soon as the transmutation was complete, using his small stature to his advantage, attempting to take the monk out by the knees.