Beyond This Life

This was the morning in Ishvar that Hughes was called to an early meeting for some of the higher-ranking intelligence staff, and she, Riza Hawkeye had been sent with the task of delivering Major Mustang the daily manifesto filled with orders from the higher-ups. Riza, having been given the title of adjutant by the Major somewhere over the past six months, saw it fit to look through today's orders and found that it was the usual scenario; go to an area of random coordinates and identification number, eradicate the Ishvarites, return to ashen faces and to slumber.

Hughes had bestowed upon her this advice; "Just try to reassure him. No-one here is happy so you might as well give him the strength to stand on his own two feet." She knew Roy Mustang better than this, and she was sure Hughes did too; he was an astute man and had the uncanny ability to read even those people who he was unfamiliar with. And now, it was her job to stand before him and try to tell him that there was some method behind the madness of this war. According to Hughes, Major Mustang was close to promotion and as his subordinate, it was her prerogative to try and help him to reach the next rung of the ladder.

Hawkeye reached her commanding officer's tent, and called out softly in order to alert him of her presence. When she received no reply, she stepped into the tent to find Mustang sitting on his camp bed, face in hands and eyes shielded from the stifling sunlight of the desert morning.


"Huh?" It was only now that he seemed to become aware of her being there at all. "Aah, Hawkeye..."

"Sir, I have been sent by Captain Hughes with the orders for today. District Thirteen was confirmed for extermination today, and I have been told to inform you that Captain Hughes believes that you are close to promotion."

"He said that last week, too. I'm still not close enough for my liking."

"What do you mean, Sir?"

"If I'm not standing there, receiving my extra stars I'm not close enough," a bitter smile came across his lips. "While I'm still out there..." a wild gesticulation with his right hand accompanied his words, "Killing families and children, I feel a mile away from myself."

"Sir, you won't get to the top if you sit here and feel sorry for yourself. Everyone here has seen unjust death... and I have put my faith in you so that you can change this country."

"Faith..." he mumbled. The mattress springs groaned under his weight. "I was told by a Ishvarite yesterday that I'd be punished in Hell," he said this as though the fact had just occurred to him. Compared to the alert and powerful man she knew from the battlefield, this person seemed like a mere shadow. "You're not like them, are you Hawkeye?"

"No, Sir. And you're not either," she murmured, and he nodded in response.

"I suppose not. But I'm inclined to believe there is something beyond this life, this place... because if life is like this, then there must be something better ahead of this, Second Lieutenant."

Riza nodded, and her commanding officer gave an exhausted smile.

"Give me a minute to prepare myself Lieutenant... just a minute. Then I promise I'll come out and take the role of the soldier."

Hawkeye left the tent without a word, and stood outside waiting for him, while she trembled inside at the side of this man that she had just been introduced to. When he exited the tent he was the man she had always known on the battlefield.

"What District number were we assigned to again, Lieutenant?" Something in his eyes has changed; they had no longer looked tired, but simply blank, void of emotion like the deep fissures in the rockier parts of Ishvar.

"Thirteen, Sir," she said awkwardly, unsure how to look at him after she witnessed such an obviously private side of him.

"A sign, to be sure," he replied gruffly. "Come, Lieutenant; it is time for war."

She, as a subordinate, had no choice but to follow in his footsteps.