Memories, she thought, were much like chocolate. If you let it sit there on your tongue, and then close your eyes, it would stop everything around you until there was only a sense of just floating in nothingness, and slowly you would be falling backwards in slow motion, sinking to rest on the comfortable couch of memory. After all, memory was something that could not be changed, and therefore something that humans were completely at ease with.
With the memory of experience, there was something sweetly but sadly nostalgic that humans loved about themselves. Though they did not understand the full implications of being alive, of being human, they did see how to live, what was good living and what they did not enjoy doing. They knew that living, feeling was good – making good memories was good, but making bad ones would become memories too, and would be beneficial sometime in the future in some similar case that required the same judgment.
She had a good memory, but that was not unexpected. Young people were supposed to have good memory span, and she was only eighteen. She had many first memories, all tumbling one over another, and none of them she remembered very clearly.
Perhaps, if she tried, she would remember when she was three, a short but serious child along with a suit of armor watched over her as she drew on paper with crayons, and remember she thought the armor one was weird, but cool because he was very helpful and polite to her. The other one, if she could remember correctly from all the times they visited afterwards, was constantly reading – always thick tomes of 5,000 pages or more, full of diagrams of circles.
A more prominent memory would rise up in her mind at that thought, the time on her birthday when she snuck off to copy a circle-diagram off one of the thick books that the stranger brought, and made blue electricity come out of the paper. She remembered how it exploded in her face, cutting into her cheeks and hands because she didn't know what it was, what it could do – pandemonium afterwards, with the blonde stranger asking her over and over, "Are you alright?" in a slightly accented voice from the countryside. The armored one had patted her head afterwards and told her not to do it again with a soft and kindly voice of a child.
There had been a watch chain hanging out of the blonde stranger's pocket, that she remembered. There had been one hanging out of her commanding officer's pocket as well – but she didn't know that man, Roy Mustang the Daisotou, would become her superior until she passed the State Alchemist exam at age fifteen, only beaten by one other, some obscure "Edward Elric". She had not been particularly surprised she had been beaten, but she had been surprised that she had been beaten by a twelve year old.
Her father had consoled her afterwards, saying that it was alright, that he knew the boy personally and he'd been a real genius, but he'd also grown up too fast, and he didn't want that for his daughter. Now, there was a silver watch hanging out of her pocket as well, and as she traveled around the country, it would flash where the light would hit it, and people would look at her with both surprise and awe.
Something was strange about her father when he said that, putting his hand on her shoulder, green eyes darkening into memory behind glasses. And somehow, she knew, even though he had explained it to her in present tense as if the boy was still alive, Edward Elric was really dead.
She did not connect the name with the face until three years after. It had happened over a dinner, where her mother had casually mentioned the time that the Daisotou had taken dinner with them, and almost lost his head from being so drunk. "It hadn't even been alcohol," her mother said gravely. "He'd only been drinking tea."
But after that, her father seemed to stiffen and relax all at once, a sign that he didn't like the way the conversation was going, and her mother had quietly gone back to her soup. She didn't know why back then, but suddenly there came a rush of young memories, hazy from long neglect, shaking out their cobwebbed limbs to greet her once again. Suddenly she was five, peeking from behind the kitchen door, watching the dining table scene. Her father had been there, her mother had been in the living room sewing, hands anxiously weaving in and out of the fabric. And Roy Mustang the Daisotou had been there too.
Her father had said something, green eyes hard with challenge, and suddenly Mustang had thrown down the tea cup so hard it shattered against the table, and he had swept all the pictures off the living room mantelpiece, all the while clutching a silver State Alchemist watch in his hand. She could remember his voice, husky with tortured emotion, screaming a name, the name "Edward Elric," and more words that seemed to choke themselves out of his throat, dismayed and regretful.
The pictures had burst against the door she was hiding behind, and she had screamed, but as her father patted her down frantically, checking for any cuts (the only one being a tiny one on her hand that healed soon afterwards), she spotted one of the pictures that had been too high on the mantelpiece for her to see: four people, Mustang and her father, and the very short blonde stranger, and the man in the suit of armor. In that picture, clearly everyone was relaxed, if not happy. The backdrop was the Eastern Headquarters, with a pretty blonde secretary (whom she now recognized as Hawkeye the Taisa) looking chagrined as the picture was snapped. After that night, the picture disappeared into the masses of picture albums that mostly featured her and her mother. She'd seen it once or twice, but never paid any more attention to it.
And when she had time enough to stop and think about it, the name Edward Elric and that of his younger brother, Alphonse Elric, were both thrown around quite frequently.
'To pull an Fullmetal' meant to do something for the benefit of the people even if it broke a few laws; 'Short as an Elric' meant that a person was abnormally short for their age. Taking into account just the whispers in the halls in the frequent but short visits that she was there between missions, she gathered that the Elrics had been something of a pair of genius brothers, though the younger wasn't a State Alchemist. There was some rumor that his older brother (the shorter one, she thought bemusedly) didn't want the younger brother to become one, because he felt he should be the only "dog of the military" in the family. That was thoughtful, she supposed. And that made her intrigued.
Just who was this Edward Elric?
"A History of Alchemy," revised from two years ago, stated:
Edward Elric: entered and passed State Alchemist exam at age twelve and passed, youngest to ever do so. Hometown Rizen Pool, orphaned at age ten along with his younger brother Alphonse Elric. Famous for furthering study on the Red Water and the Philosopher's Stone in particular, having a personal interest to help the public with his discoveries. Known especially for his involvement in the Riore Conflict, the Miners' Strike, and the Second Eastern War. Died age seventeen, along with his younger brother Alphonse Elric, in the Second Eastern War.
And all of the books were like that. He seemed to be a good man (or boy, especially because he never lived past seventeen years). The books glossed over his history as if he was unimportant, but she knew better. There would not be so much talk thirteen years afterwards if he had been another nobody.
As it was, he seemed to be have been young and talented and truly following the motto "Alchemy for the Public," though he did it more to ease his own conscience than to follow orders. She dug through records of old reports, but to her surprise there had been none in the Records Department. If he had been so unimportant, they would have been there. She grew even more suspicious.
There was an air of mystery that made her excited about it all. But she was careful not to mention it to the Daisotou. Everyone got quiet about the Elric brothers around him. She was smart enough to do the same, though this just made the mystery even more puzzling. It seemed to be something big, but personal – all of the old-timers in the office like Falman, Havok and Huey, Hawkeye and the Daisotou, all seemed to have some deeper connection with that name. She didn't know how she knew that, only that when they said the name, it was more reverent, and more sorrowful.
She found evidence at last in the least unexpected place: her father's old reports. She had been looking for something else, but a picture had caught her eye – one of the now-familiar face of Edward Elric, eternally young as he stared up at her levelly, giving nor taking any ground – and filed after that was a hastily handwritten report, addressed to the Taisa. She had stolen it, hoping her father wouldn't notice, and he didn't.
She was momentarily surprised when she realized the person it was addressed to was not Hawkeye the Taisa, but Mustang the Taisa of fifteen years ago. The writing itself was full of sudden jumps and jolts, giving her reason to suspect it had been written on the train ride back and never typed up, or maybe this had only been a rough draft that her father had kept for sentimental reasons. Certainly, her father was not involved with this mission, but somehow he had had it in his drawer.
She was surprised and pleased to see that the report proved the mysterious Edward Elric was certainly more than the textbook definition. The paper held a keenly sarcastic edge, starkly factual but worded in such a way that there would be no pretense to the reader that he did not like the person it was addressed to. There were several clever word puns and jokes that she got only from being in the military for three years, and she found herself smiling over it.
At the same time, she wondered if the Daisotou had smiled over it too, perhaps indulgently as she did after she finished, the dogmatically childish words still ringing in her head? But she could not imagine the Daisotou doing such a thing.
Even more curious at this child-man who wrote reports with long, complicated words but with a sense of immaturity, of dislike for what he was doing, she made her request to Hawkeye the Taisa, who was her commanding officer. But before she could say anything, Hawkeye had pinned the question for her: "Hughes, why are you looking up the Elric brothers?"
There was something strange in Hawkeye's eyes as well when she said that. And suddenly Alicia was thrown back to the same memory of three years ago, when her father had placed his hand on her shoulder and murmured that Edward Elric had been a true genius and that he didn't want his daughter to suffer that same fate. When she was fifteen, she didn't know what that look meant, but now she did – it was of respect, and defense for that respect against her, who didn't know anything about the Elric brothers at all.
Her sense of suspicion grew stronger – here was a person before her time that everyone in the Eastern Headquarters knew, but were afraid to speak about. Everyone respected him, though he was dead. From the textbook, he had done many good things for the public – but anyone could do that and still they wouldn't be anything but average. Something that this Edward Elric had done made him famous. Something about this Edward Elric had made people look twice, and take a good look, because they were seeing something spectacular.
"I'm interested in seeing who beat me in passing the State Alchemist exam at twelve years, Taisa," she answered truthfully.
Hawkeye didn't look convinced, but after she took her report and gave a good look at her determined face, continued as if nothing had been asked and then sent her away. That afternoon, she received a new mission, and surprisingly, another Edward Elric report. Pleased that her request had been accepted, she settled down on the red-eye train ride to her next mission in Euswell Mines with another warily respectful but still sarcastic report.