andrea weiling


chapter 2.

Euswell, she decided, is the typical mining town.

It was the middle of the morning when she arrived, but already she could tell the miners had been working for a while already by the determination in their faces. Her hand tightened on her suitcase, and in her pocket she gripped the copy of the Fullmetal report that Hawkeye the Taisa had given to her. She had no idea what kind of reception Fullmetal had left for her to enjoy in this town that he apparently visited often (at least as often as his job allowed) ? the report had sounded positive (yeah, positively full of sarcasm), but she had no idea how things might have changed over the years. Still, the town was pretty, nestled in the foothills, the morning sun brightening the chugging carts of coal that ran up and down the mountain. A woman swept the front porch of a store, and looked up curiously at her when she walked by. Inwardly she squirmed a little at the piercing look.

At a nearby well, she spied two other women, and a child that clung to her mother when she stopped to ask a question. "Can you tell me where the 'Inn called Restaurant' is?"

They stared blankly at her, and she had a sinking suspicion that perhaps Fullmetal had gotten the name of the inn wrong. Then suddenly, one of the women burst out laughing. "Ah, another State Alchemist? Don't have to hide yourself behind civilian clothes while you're here, your welcome will be warm enough. We can all see you've got the watch, though it's not showing. Well, you'll be going to 'The Restaurant' on Fullmetal's suggestion, eh? Come this way." Still chuckling a bit, she led Alicia to the wooden building of the store she saw before, where the woman was still sweeping the floor. As the two of them approached, she gave them the same curious look.

Alicia opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, she was almost bowled over by some twenty miners, home for lunch. Choking a little on the dust cloud that came up, she looked up after the stampede had finally passed, and saw the lady on the porch grinning a little at her.

"Come up here, darling, you'll be the State Alchemist we got mail about? We're not too educated here, but we knew you were coming." She held the door open for her. Still dazed, the teenager stepped inside.

What? WHAT?? Lady, ya gonna have to speak louder than that. Can't you see the room's full right now? Oh, I see, you're the State Alchemist ? I get it, I got the message yesterday, alright? Now STOP waving that watch around like you own the world or something. Here, siddown. Something to drink? A room here isn't going to be cheap—we're only poor miners, and we need whatever extra revenue we can get. Euswell's a pretty bare place; no one ever comes here to visit unless they're here for business.

Eh? Well. . .I guess. Heh, didn't know this was a recommended inn. My wife's usually the one who manages all that. The name of it must've stuck in that Fullmetal's head eighteen years ago. Pretty dynamic fella, he was. Had style AND flair of his own. No one gets the job done quite as bust-and-bam as he does. After he died, there's been no one like him in the ranks, at least from what I've heard. He's still pretty famous in Central, then?

Why'd ya wanna know? I mean, can't you find his information in Central? Ah, I see. Well, he did break an awful lot of rules, but even though he was a rebel, he followed the motto more stringently than anyone else. "Alchemy for the Public". . .maybe he only did it because he felt like it, because it was in his nature to do so. Even so, everyone's grateful he did it. Such a pity he died so young.

We can always see the mine later, lady. To tell you the truth, it's better you see it later, because right now it'll be steaming hot, and even though it's worse lighting at night than in the daytime, it's lots cooler. Seems you're interested in Fullmetal, so I can talk about him for a bit if you want.

There's a whole ream of rumors about him, if you get what I mean. When he was alive, not so many ? the military controls those things, you know? ? but after he died, many of the litter things he did have come out, and they've been stretched and yarned to the point you don't know the truth anymore. However, the principle is always the same ? he helps the people.

Certainly, the military now has a standard to set for their officers, and it's better now than it was before ? we had this bastard Yoki in charge of the mine before Fullmetal threw him out ? but now it's all good, and the government's interested in the mines, but they keep their hands off of it and let us do the work as long as we give them all the right figures. That's good. We don't like being forced. We've been here for so long, in charge of ourselves, that we're hard-pressed to give up what little freedom we've experienced for so many generations.

That Fullmetal, he used to travel around with that armored guy, when you see pictures they're always together. Later we heard they were brothers, and the armored one was the younger. Haha, Fullmetal hated being called short, especially compared to his younger brother. Certainly, I can tell you a whole lot about that.

After he threw Yoki out, the Eastern Headquarters will Fullmetal's commanding officer in charge ? what was his name? a Mustang? Heard he got promoted to Daisotou? ? sent this dude out to take care of business. We were civil with him, mostly out of respect for Fullmetal (and because after him, we realized not all the military sort were bad), but if it'd _BEEN_ Fullmetal, we would have welcomed him with open arms. That's cuz he helped us. Usually we're not so fond of strangers in this town. We don't want to end up under a Yoki-character again.

Well, this dude's name was Kavin-something, and he wasn't a State Alchemist, just part of the governmental bureaucracy somewhere. Well, two months in, Fullmetal pops back in to see how we're coming along, and by this time he's gotten a little famous for being the only dog of the military that really helps the people and doesn't care about personal gain. But this Kavin's got something against him, probably because a lot of us compared him with Fullmetal.

Well, Fullmetal comes to visit, and Kavin gets all surprised that such a short kid is the famous Fullmetal. I can tell you, that got a tantrum out of Fullmetal, but afterwards, that "chibi kid" proved better than Kavin in everything else. He ended up staying two weeks and taking care of all the linguistics, and turned in Kavin's report for him three weeks early.

There are a lot of stories about Fullmetal like that, where he gets the job done quicker than expected. His way of thinking is just somehow quicker and more practical than anyone else's. And he wouldn't've been doing it for the Taisa, as that Mustang fella was back then ? he had something against his commanding officer. Yeah, they had a long time rivalry going.

Heh. That shouldn't really be a surprise, lady. It wasn't a regular type of rivalry going. I don't know all the details meself, but I've heard that even though they were opposites, they had respect for each other. You could see it when Fullmetal talked about him, kind of a wariness about that man's caliber. I can tell you Mustang wasn't very happy either when he got out of the war alive, and the younger Fullmetal and his brother were dead. As I've said, there's never quite been anyone like Fullmetal ever since the war.

He visited us a fair few times. And then fifteen years ago, the second Eastern conflict in the south came up, and the State Alchemists were all called out. So he had to go too. But before he left, he told us that the army needed recruits, and that drafting wouldn't start happening until the volunteer pool dried up. He told us that this war might be even longer than the last one, and that maybe every young man in this village would be drafted anyway, but the army still preferred volunteers before the draft.

I remember that scene very well ? everyone got silent at that, and my wife asked if it was really that bad, and he answered Yes, it was. People were still angry about the first Eastern Conflict that happened when he was a kid—I fought in that one myself, but the draft only included me towards the very end, so I didn't see much action.

And he looked so ashamed when he said it, because he's been helping us since he first appeared eighteen years ago, and to even think of putting once of us in danger was killing himself inside. My own son Kael ended up going. He died in that war...but I don't blame it on Fullmetal. It was his own decision, and I'm glad my son got to see something of the world outside this town before he died.

Still, there are people in this town and all the other mining towns that the news spread to that don't like Fullmetal. Yes, he helped us, but when the younger generation dies before the older ones, we tend to become bitter.

It's just not right that we have to attend our own children's funerals. Some people blame it on the military for stirring up trouble in the first place, but taking into account the opinions of the southern easterners, I don't think there was much the military could do about it anyway.

There HAVE been too many conflicts in the last fifty years, and perhaps some of them could have been avoided, but perhaps that would have called for more blood elsewhere. There's no certainty that any better path could have been taken. Fullmetal was only doing what he was told to do, and he was sorry for it from the bottom of his heart. And the draft came later anyway, so all of our sons had to go in the end.

Now, I'm getting old, but I've seen a lot of people, and still no one's ever matched Fullmetal in spirit or determination. Didja know that the younger brother of his actually died at age ten, and that the armor he was walking around actually had no body in it?

Fullmetal bound his brother's soul to that armor by Alchemy of some sort. Yeah, quite a feat even almost twenty years later. Heard that he had to give up his right arm for that, but I've also heard him say that he would have given up everything he had and all of his limbs if his brother could get his body back. Must run in his blood to be generous ? any other person would have hesitated, but he sticks with his decisions.

Maybe that's what makes others envious of him ? he always knows exactly what he's doing, and stands firm on what ground he holds. He would have made a good miner. We've' a tradition of standing on this ground for generations and generations as well. We could have used a strong lad like that, even if he was a bit lacking in the height department.

Heh. I remember after he threw out Yoki, he said he finally remembered what it was like to have a permanent home to go back to. Said that he'd taken for granted all of his life that he had a home, and when he finally lost it, he moved on and forgot about that sort of feeling. He'd been dispossessed. After he helped us, he warned us never to forget that this town can only stand if we want to protect it, and that we should never do things half-heartedly. Just like him, really. Still a bit of a kid even when he went off to war, though.

Yeah, yeah, pretty dynamic guy. Broke all the rules and had fun doing it all the while. Rebel teenager all the way. Well, you want to get going to the mine now? Good, let's go! Now first here, you see, we bring the carts right up here...