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ArWen the Eternally Surprised
Author: Ria Time: 2007/11/22
Arwen encounters a strange monk and gains a little extra time.
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Shamballa - Part 4 - Full Circle
Submitter: Date: 2010/7/11 Views: 183
Summary: Last part of the series. Everything falls into place.

An Unexpected Arrival
Scieszka blinked once, then blinked again so as to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. And yet there was no denying it. The conductor had declared the name of the place only too clearly. Not to mention that Winry said only minutes ago that they were “finally home”.

“So… this is Resembool?” the bespectacled girl asked. Her gaze drifted to every direction, where she could only see fields upon fields stretching for miles. “It’s really… open.”

Winry let out a small huff of indignation. “Well, excuse me for living all my life in the countryside,” she said. She straightened her pack behind her back, then grabbed Scieszka by the arm. “Come on, my house is over this…”

The teenage girl stopped mid-sentence, because it was then that she saw something she didn’t like at all. She quickly turned her gaze the other way, practically hiding behind Scieszka.

“What’s the matter?” Scieszka asked, not really understanding what the problem was.

“Look to your right. Subtly,” was all Winry said, still trying to make herself as small as possible.

Scieszka complied, deciding to indulge her friend. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, however; just a tall man with glasses, possibly in his mid-forties. He had long, blond hair, which he tied back to a ponytail, and a neat beard that gave the man a wizened look. Apparently, he had been doing much travelling, too, for his suitcase was battered and discoloured. And even though his clothes were old, they were ironed and in pretty good shape otherwise.

“Well, I’m looking at him,” Scieszka said. “He’s not that bad, but isn’t he too old for you?”

“Are you crazy?!” Winry exclaimed in a hiss. “I didn’t show him to you for that!

Scieszka frowned. “Then what’s the problem?”


“The problem is that he was on the same train with us,” Winry explained. “And he hadn’t taken his eyes off me the whole trip!”

“Oh!” Scieszka regarded the man curiously again, something that mortified Winry even further.

“I told you to be subtle!”

“It doesn’t matter anyway.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s coming over,” Scieszka said nervously. Indeed, the man noticed the two girls and he was now walking in their direction, keeping his eyes locked on Winry.

“Excuse me,” he said, his tone calm and friendly. “Are you related to Sara? You seem like her.”

“Uh…” Scieszka started, but Winry proved a lot faster.

“No, I’m not! Now excuse us, but we have to go! Goodbye!” And with that, she grabbed Scieszka by the arm and both girls ran off as fast as their feet could carry them. Neither of the girls bothered to look back as the man watched them go, a quite perplexed expression on his features. They simply ran until the train station was out of sight and then ducked under the cover of some bushes by the edge of the road.

Scieszka was the first of the two to finally speak, still panting hard after that sprint.

“You don’t think… the Führer sent him to spy on us, do you?” she asked. “Mr. Hughes said that no one knows what we’ve been up to.”

“That doesn’t mean we should have stuck around to find out,” Winry answered, wiping a film of sweat off her brow. She paused at that moment, her eyes reflecting her puzzlement. “Wait a minute…”

“What?” Scieszka said.

“He asked if I was related to Sara. At first, I thought he meant Mrs Abbot, but… Sara was also my mother’s name.”

Scieszka blinked. “That’s weird. You said you don’t know him.”

“I don’t,” Winry insisted. She heaved a sigh of defeat. “I guess I’ll have to ask my grandmother about it when we go home.”

“And if she doesn’t know him?” Scieszka asked, unable to hide the worry from her voice.

Winry swallowed hard. “Then we’re in trouble.”




Except for that scare at the train station, Winry and Scieszka’s trip to Pinako’s house was uneventful. They didn’t see any sign of the strange man, and Pinako was certainly glad to see her granddaughter after so long. She invited the girls in, shook hands with Scieszka – quite forcefully, too – and started preparing tea. As she reasoned, the girls needed it after such a long journey.

So, five minutes later, Winry, Scieszka and Pinako were sitting around the small coffee table, drinking the hot liquid in companionable silence. Even so, Winry knew that it wouldn’t be long before her grandmother would ask about her journey. And when that happened, the young girl wouldn’t be able to lie.

Sure enough, Pinako placed her cup on the small plate and regarded Winry with a small smile.

“Well, Winry? How was your trip? Did you have a good time?”

Winry fidgeted slightly. “Rush Valley was okay. Al got me a screwdriver with a wooden handle, like the one I broke.”

“That was nice of him,” Pinako said, her smile broadening. “Did you stay long there?”

“No, not really,” Winry admitted. “We only stayed there for a day, because we had to go to Dublith. And then we had to return to Central to take care of some business there.”

Pinako took a puff from her pipe, her expression becoming thoughtful. “I see. And what exactly happened in Central that has you on the run?”

Winry winced. “What gave me away?”

“You? Nothing,” Pinako said. She took the pipe out of her mouth and pointed at Scieszka with one end. “But your friend’s been acting as though she expects someone to lunge at her.”

Scieszka straightened her glasses, chuckling in an embarrassed manner. But Pinako was far from over as she faced Winry again.

“Now… How about you tell the story from the beginning, young lady?”

Winry sighed. Whenever Pinako used that tone, there was no point in denying anything. That was why she put the cup of tea down and looked at Pinako, quite serious.

“There’s trouble in the military and Scieszka has proof of it. Mr. Hughes – the Lieutenant Colonel I’ve told you about – said we should go somewhere safe before any of the Führer’s men spot us. This is the safe place.”

Pinako nodded her understanding. “And the boys? Where are they now?”

“They… were sent at the front lines in Liore,” Winry replied softly. “That’s the last thing I’ve heard of them.”

The old woman took another puff of her pipe and crossed her arms. “Are they on their own?”

“No. Beregond is with them,” Winry said.

“Beregond?” Pinako’s brows furrowed as she tried to recall the name. “Oh, yes. That sergeant,” she finally declared, her eyes brightening. “Ed and Al trust him, don’t they?”

“I trust him too,” Winry said, nodding emphatically. “He’s a good man, Granny.”

Pinako smiled once again and stood up. “That’s enough reassurance for me,” she declared and turned to Scieszka. “Well, dear, I have a spare bed that you can use. “It’s old, but--”

She never completed her sentence. Den, who was sitting by his mistress’ feet throughout the conversation, suddenly sat up in alarm and started barking furiously at the door.

Pinako and the girls exchanged a look. Something wasn’t right; they could feel it. Even so, Pinako decided to take their chances and opened the door.

Den growled, baring his fangs menacingly. On the other hand, the girls gasped when they saw that the same man who tried to talk to them at the station was now standing on the doorstep, looking utterly confused and lost.

“Pinako, I can’t find my house.”

Pinako stepped back, looking at the man with eyes wide-open.

“Hohenheim… you’re back!”

Winry pricked up her ears at those words.

“Granny? Do you know him?”

Pinako stared back at her granddaughter in disbelief, but then shook her head. “Of course… you were too young to remember him.” She motioned her hand towards the bespectacled man, introducing him properly this time.

“Winry, meet Hohenheim… Ed and Al’s father.”




The sun burned brightly over the desert that stretched for miles west of Liore. Scorching heat filled the atmosphere, and there was hardly anything stirring. Anything, that is, except for a young sixteen-year-old alchemist and a suit of armour that called the teen ‘brother’.

“Damn it, Al! Do you have to be so tireless?” Ed exclaimed. Though he was running as fast as his feet could carry him, he was panting hard and within good reason. His mithril arm and leg were light, but they were still metallic, and the sun practically set them ablaze.

“Sorry! You know I can’t get tired in this body!” Al said, slowing his pace. He was a good couple of feet ahead of Ed, running with a speed that belied his armoured appearance. He looked at his brother curiously, noticing the strained expression. “Do you want us to take a break?”

“No,” Ed said, still running. “We can’t afford to stop now.” His amber-coloured eyes darkened, and his jaw clenched tightly. “We have to get to Resembool… so we can correct our mistake.”

Al nodded his understanding, and he continued running, this time next to Ed. Still, there was something that troubled him and he needed an answer.

“Brother… I know that you said he would, but… do you really think Beregond will follow us?”

Ed let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I do.”

Al, however, noticed the uncertainty in Ed’s voice.

“What’s wrong?”

Ed’s features scrunched to a deep frown

“I just… want to believe that he’ll follow us alone.”




Colonel Mustang stood outside Liore, watching the soldiers at work. Most of them were busy digging, trying to free the city from the veil of sand that it was covered in, while other were tending the wounded. He shook his head.

“Is something wrong, Sir?”

Roy faced Riza. The woman was indeed next to him, and so were Beregond and Havoc. Havoc was quiet, smoking his cigarette, but the Gondorian didn’t seem to pay attention to his surroundings.

“I was thinking of Fullmetal,” he finally answered Riza. “His actions weren’t the best, but at least he saved us from much worse.”

Riza nodded her understanding. “Have you heard what will happen to Lieutenant Colonel Archer?”

“The Führer doesn’t like dogs that bite their masters’ hand,” Roy said. “Major Moser has already informed me that Lieutenant Colonel Archer will be escorted back to Central, where he will be judged for his insubordination.”

“One less trouble,” Riza commented softly.

“Yes.”

Just then, Fuery and Breda walked up to Roy and Riza and saluted as the protocol demanded. Roy just waved his hand, giving them both permission to speak.

“We’ve just uncovered Kimblee’s body,” Fuery said. “Apparently, he was killed by Scar; he was blown from the inside.”

“It also seems the civilians left the city before the sandstorm incident. We’ve found an underground passage, and we’re now following it,” Breda completed.

“This means they never planned on resisting,” Riza mused. She turned to Beregond, who had pricked up his ears to listen to Fuery and Breda’s report. “You were right.”

Beregond just sighed and remained silent.

“Colonel.”

Everyone turned when they heard Falman so close to them, but he simply stood in attention and saluted.

“The Führer wants to speak with you.”

Everyone exchanged a look. But, as the gang knew that they couldn't deny the most powerful man in Amestris, they all followed Roy to a large tent, under which Bradley stood and supervised the excavating operation with Major Armstrong standing guard beside him. Roy stood in front of the Führer, while the rest of the team waited a little farther away.

Roy stood in attention and saluted Bradley properly. “Sir.”

“At ease,” Bradley answered, a tight smile tugged on his lips. “I hear you’ve managed to retrieve Sergeant Beregond safely.”

Such concern, Roy thought dryly. Nevertheless, he nodded and replied: “Yes, Sir. He used his alchemy to take cover when the sandstorm broke out.”

“Ah, yes… the sandstorm,” Bradley said, as though it was a minor detail that he had missed. His look became sterner as he stared at Roy, almost piercing the younger man. “It’s strange how that sandstorm appeared out of nowhere and without such thing as a warning.”

Roy didn’t plan on admitting anything. He kept silent.

“On top of that, the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother are gone missing almost immediately afterwards,” Bradley continued on. “That’s a strange coincidence, don’t you think, Colonel Mustang?”

Roy’s expression remained neutral. “After all these years under your service, I’ve come to know there are no such things as coincidences.”

Armstrong frowned, albeit subtly. He was clearly concerned about Roy’s boldness.

“I see we agree,” Bradley said, certainly not seeing through Roy’s double entendre. “That is why I want you to find the boys and bring them to Central, where they will answer for their actions.”

Roy suspected what was the real reason Bradley wanted the boys in Central, of course. So, he tried to gain time.

“They could be anywhere by now, Sir.”

Bradley smiled, sending a chill to Roy’s heart. “I do believe Sergeant Beregond knows. He seems quite… attached to them.”

Damn it… “Then I’ll ask him, Sir.”

“Very well,” Bradley said. “Major Armstrong is to accompany you with some of my best men. Fullmetal is a powerful alchemist after all, and potentially dangerous. I’ll leave with my personal escort for Central at once, so I expect to have some results soon, Colonel.”

“Understood, Sir,” Roy said with a nod.

“Good. That will be all then. Dismissed, Flame Alchemist,” Bradley said, and he resumed watching the soldiers at work.

Roy didn’t need to be told twice. Motioning to Armstrong to follow him, he went back to his subordinates and, once they made sure they wouldn’t be listened in on, he told them of Bradley’s orders.

Havoc let out a puff of smoke in dismay. “Well, that’s bad news for Ed and Al.”

“And yet if we don’t find them, Bradley will know that we can’t be trusted,” Armstrong said. “We’re already playing a dangerous game as it is.”

Roy didn’t speak, not at once anyway. He merely turned to Beregond.

“Where are they going?”

Beregond bowed his head and didn’t reply.

No one else except Roy expected that sort of reaction. So, as everyone stared at their friend with an identical look of disbelief, Roy tentatively placed a hand on the Gondorian’s shoulder.

“Don’t make me turn this into an order,” he said quietly.

“Don’t make me hand them over to Bradley,” Beregond retorted, his tone just as quiet and even hurt.

Roy sighed. “If I don’t go after them, someone else will. And then I won’t be able to help them.”

Beregond’s hands clenched into fists, yet Roy persisted.

“You said it yourself, Beregond. We have to find them. We might as well do it under these circumstances.”

A moment passed, then two… until, finally, Beregond answered.

“I understand,” he said. However, it was obvious that he felt like he was somehow betraying the boys.

“Thank you,” Roy said. “Now tell me where they are going.”

Beregond answered. “Resembool. But not by the main road.”

-----------------

The sun started setting, bathing everything in rich colours of gold, orange and crimson. Life in Resembool was becoming quiet as most of the inhabitants retired to their homes. Even so, the man that was sitting next to a grave of a woman named Trisha Elric didn’t budge. He kept his head bowed, lost in thought.

“You spent the whole day here?”

Hohenheim looked up and saw that it was the young girl, Winry. She was standing in front of him with a curious look in her cobalt-blue eyes, while Den was next to her, regarding the man warily, ready to lunge at him if he dared make the wrong move.

“I’m sorry. My sense of time is a bit off,” he answered. He lifted his hand to straighten his glasses, but he only earned a growl, courtesy of Den.

Winry shook her head at that. “He really doesn’t like you.”

“Most animals don’t,” Hohenheim said. He sighed and looked at Winry. “Has it been long since Trisha passed away?”

Winry nodded. “Six years.”

Hohenheim bowed his head again. “I see. The boys must have been so sad…” He paused, because it was then that he noticed the bouquet of flowers in Winry’s hands. “Oh… you came to see your parents.”

“Yeah,” Winry said, fingers tracing absentmindedly the colourful petals. “I try to come here whenever I can.”

“May I ask what happened?”

“They were murdered during the war in Ishbal,” the girl answered with a sigh. “An alchemist shot them.”

Hohenheim rubbed the bridge of his nose in a tired manner. “It’s sad. Your parents were good people… and good doctors. Even if they couldn’t cure someone, they always knew how to comfort them.”

Winry’s expression reflected her regret. “That sounds like them.”

They didn’t say anything else, nor did they have to. And, as far as Pinako was concerned, she had overheard enough. Still, she couldn’t help but momentarily direct her gaze to two graves. The one that belonged to Trisha… and the one next to it.

The one where the name “William Brice” was engraved in crystal clear writing.




The train whistled, signalling its departure, and Bradley stepped inside with the proud air of the leader of Amestris, escorted by his personal bodyguards. But, as soon as they were all in the compartment, he dismissed them with a single wave of his hand. The business that the homunculus wished to attend to didn’t require any human witnesses, after all.

And so, no one saw the Führer walk to one of the last compartments of the train, or exchange glances with a round-shaped human being that was wringing his hands nervously. No one saw Envy’s violet eyes regarding Bradley in a relaxed manner, a baby cradled in his arms. No one noticed Dante’s calculating expression. And none of them paid heed to Lust’s bound form up against the steel wall as the train headed back to Central.

After the way things turned out, they had to reconsider their plans.

TBC…
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