andrea weiling


chapter 3.

Exhausted, she stepped off the train. The copy of Fullmetal's report of his first trip to Euswell was still in her pocket; in her suitcase was a much more boring report about HER own trip to Euswell. She wasn't sure how Fullmetal managed to make his reports fun to read, but somehow he did. As she passed the gate, her eyebrows went up as she realized there was a woman in uniform there, saluting her. Medium height and middle-aged, a little plump but still pretty, brown hair almost to her shoulder, blue eyes with a mole close to the left eye. Alicia didn't quite drop her suitcase, but she did frown a little. She did NOT need an escort, she was a State Alchemist, there weren't any potential dangers that she knew of in the city at the moment, and it wasn't like she was a twelve-year-old like Fullmetal when he first started out!

"Lieutenant Maria Ross, welcome back to Eastern Headquarters."

She murmured "Good job" in return, and questioned if there was a car ready.

No, the woman answered, there was not one prepared, as it was only a short walk there, it wasn't like it was in Central where everything was sprawled over the largest tract of land for a city that she'd ever seen. Alicia looked sharply at the other woman at that. Usually escorts weren't quite this lively. For a moment, she considered—and then made up her mind.

She began the longest roundabout route to Eastern Headquarters that she'd ever done. "Lieutenant Ross, was it? Were you in the Second Eastern War?"

The other woman was a little surprised at the speed in which Alicia warmed up to her, as most people she escorted weren't exactly the best conversationalists, and many were simply rude to her or ignored her. "Yes", she answered, a little confused. "I was stationed in Riore, the 275 battalion."

Alicia frowned a little. She did not know which battalion Fullmetal had been assigned to during the war. "Were you in the same company as the Fullmetal Alchemist?"

The woman's eyes widened, and Alicia turned completely around in the road and stopped, feeling as if she'd hit gold. "Why ? why yes, I knew him, I had to escort him once, must have been seventeen or eighteen years now. Later I met up with him again in the war, though we had very different jobs.

Our company was devastated after he died; they broke us up, you know, and made all the other companies larger, Fullmetal had done so much work in our company that the other State Alchemists couldn't take over the load of work that he'd been doing. So, they split us up afterwards. But that was so long ago—you were probably only five or six when the war started, why ever do you ask?"

Again, she hesitated, and then popped open her State Alchemist watch. The train hadn't arrived early, but certainly Hawkeye the Taisa wouldn't mind too much if she gave her report later. With a quick scan over the street and not recognizing much, she frowned again and asked, "Know any good coffee shops?"

I guess it was completely different than what I expected, the Fullmetal Alchemist. Everything is different when you meet someone especially famous—but he was famous for a reason, and it wasn't just because he was a child.

He really did do extraordinary things for the people, and the way he stuck to his dream to achieve the Philosopher's Stone gives inspiration to the rest of us, even fifteen years after his death. I wasn't the only one to see his true worth.

The first time I met him, he was rude and childish, and I wondered how this could be the same person that helped the common people. Now, I have a gift for judging people—I've had it since I was young, and I'm rather proud of it, until I met him. I thought I had him down as a rude child who went around the countryside promoting himself; I'd heard lots of stories about him from credible sources, but when I actually met him, he wasn't anything like I'd imagined.

I thought that he was helping the people strictly because he wanted to become famous (a childish aspiration, and as he looked like a child, I assumed that was his goal—stupid of me), but he wasn't. There was just something generous in his nature that made him help people.

However, I didn't see the "helping side" of him until later, during the war—I and another were assigned to escort him and his brother from place to place, even though we technically wouldn't be doing the fighting, we'd just be the ones yelling for help. I never doubted his power, or his genius—I only doubted his goal. And when I saw how arrogant and secular his little self-conceived world was, I couldn't help but scorn him. Only later did I find out he, again, wasn't doing this for himself, but for his brother.

There are some fundamentally good people out there, who cannot do wrong, or if they do it, they repay it several times over and never forgive themselves completely for it. Edward-san had a funny way of showing his appreciation for the rest of the world, but the bold manner and the get-out-of-my-business attitude he took with everyone who hadn't saved him or was his superior, he's only trying to protect others.

After I realized that the search that I was helping him with wasn't for him, but for his brother, I couldn't help but laugh at myself. How could I have underestimated the human spirit of generosity? How could I have forgotten what it was to give something and ask for nothing in return, because all that really matters is the glow of goodness that remains in your mind for a long time afterwards?

For Edward-san, there were two separate mindsets: one, where there was only the physical searching for the Stone, that dream in which he constantly looked for, and the other one which encompassed what he felt. To him, both were important, but he also understood that you could not live in the physical world alone and not feel anything. That takes the meaning out of everything in life.

However, I didn't see that. All there was for me was the military, the rules, the protocol, my disappointing job that didn't seem to bring anything but constant escorting of important people from here to there. I hadn't enjoyed myself in a long time. In watching Edward, though, I realized he was somehow not doing his job at all; he was enjoying the challenge presented to him.

I couldn't understand how that could be, that a child could understand better than I what living was all about. How could a conceited child like him, thinking he was at the top of the world, be happier than me? It wasn't money; physical worth meant nothing to him, and when he gave that librarian girl that entire sum of money from his accounts, he meant the physical necessities were only necessities for him. In his youth, he had transcended what was normal and regular to dedicate his life to the search of some obscure Stone that no one ever found before.

And I realized that what Sergeant Hughes was talking about; there was no one in the world that could do the job but them, the two brothers were the only ones clever and coordinated enough with each other to do the impossible. Perhaps they were still children; certainly, there were traces of that every time I looked at them, but they were already adult enough to understand what they were undertaking. And I was shaken by the resolve they took to solve complications that no one had ever thought of before.

I won't describe it as a some miraculous ray of comprehension ? it wasn't, as you probably understand. It was just an awakening, a sudden curious thought in my head: do I have that sort of determination?

I thought the military was enough for me, what I was doing was satisfying me ? it was, but only halfway. I had to start caring about something, that was what I was missing. But I didn't choose the Elric brothers to look out for. I just felt that as mature as they were, they were still children. They still needed the help of adults, because they weren't respected enough to solve everything by themselves. Simply, I wanted to be there to help, and therefore prove to myself and to them that I could care about something without asking something in return. I wanted feeling back in my body, to feel something extremely shocking or extremely surprising, something that would make me cry or laugh or despair.

And when it finally did, I stood up and faced it—I saw him standing there, this vortex of power around him, and he was hurting, and I knew it was time for me to help him. My head and my heart were pounding so hard when I pulled him close and tried to tell him somehow that he didn't have to do everything by himself, that I was there to help him.

I've never been really sure what he thought of that, I've never asked him because I didn't really set eyes on him again until the war, and those were hardly circumstances to demand answers. And I got what I set out to do ? I never forgot ever again that I helped someone just because I wanted to, because I was doing it for their well-being and for the feeding of my own spirit. Sometimes I laugh to think that maybe this sympathy for the rest of the world has affected promoting to me to anything higher than Lieutenant—I mean, I even got demoted when they transported me to Eastern Headquarters—but then I think maybe this is the place destined for me anyway.

I guess you could say, then, he has something about him that produces changes in the world around us. Even from the very beginning, he was different, passing the State Alchemist Exam so young ? but even afterwards, his youth let him take care of things a different way, there was still a rebelliousness inside of him that anyone past twenty-five has long lost.

That has made him famous, his disregard for all the limits because he didn't believe in them at all—how could he believe in limits when his dream was to find the Philosopher's Stone? And he showed it all the time, showed that personal dramatic flair whenever he went out on his missions. People saw that, and they respected him for being exactly who he wanted to be. It's been so long since he died, but the people remember him. One day, he'll become the stuff of legends. Certainly, he's worth it.

I'm sorry—here, let me pay for the coffee, I went on such a long ramble for such a simple question! No, no, I insist, yes I know exactly how much a State Alchemist is paid and that two cups of coffee wouldn't even make the smallest of scratches, but I must insist—oh, fine. Do you wish to go anywhere else, Alicia-dono? Let me throw away the cups at least...