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Return to the Underworld By Pauline Marshall Completed: n/a
Synopsis: Trapped and lost in this world, Ed is stripped of alchemy; or so he thought. From Crop Circles to the Pyramids of Giza, Ed travels to the ruins of the world for clues to get home. But he isn't alone, and a painful decision has to be made. Fan fiction based on the popular series ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ by Hiromu Arakawa.
Chapter 1 It is well known law in alchemy; that nobody can gain anything without sacrificing something of equal value. Alchemy is equivalent exchange, a series of trade with elements and materials. The more you want, the more you have to give up. To some, if an object is coveted to such a large extent, a crippling loss is deemed acceptable. The smell of blood, his own blood, still saturated the damp air. Edward Elric, his golden eyes glazed over with a mixture of grief and determination, etched symbols all over parts of his body, his arms folding into his chest as he made his own flesh a transmutation circle. His blond hair was loose, strands lightly swaying in artificial winds, blue light tingeing it green from a much larger circle below his feet. All around him, Ed was surrounded in a prison of blue columns of light. “For Al...” He closed his eyes. At the corners some tears began to gather, both from fear and from an overwhelming feeling of guilt. His muscles tensed around his shoulders, and the young man felt his whole body shaking. Edward Elric was shaking in fear. He was genuinely scared, for he was about to do something he knew others would not like. But either way, no one would like the news of Alphonse Elric’s death anyway. Ed and Al’s adventures together were fuelled by one single motive; to return the bodies they have both lost to a selfish act. And the philosopher’s stone was the key to that aim, but they both found out the hard way that the stone was most certainly not a shortcut to success. And due to the duo pursuing the stone, they have both lost more than they have thought possible. Ed finally learned the truth. In fact, he knew it the whole time, the truth to resurrecting life. He failed to recognise that the bare essence of alchemy was equivalent exchange, and through the hard way he finally recognised it in the end. You didn’t need to recreate the human body, to expect the body be automatically bound with its soul and mind once created, because at the end of the day that is what you would get in the end, an empty husk of flesh and bone. The formula was simple; equivalent exchange – a life for a life. With the failed attempt of bringing their mother back to life in the past, Ed now has a chance to learn from the mistakes he has made. He has to bring back Al. It is crucial that no more mistakes are to be made. He has many parts of his body that he could carelessly expend, but his life is something he cannot toss aside. Ed’s life for Al’s.
The light was now overbearing, and the circle around Ed blinded him. He felt a sudden tug of pain from his insides, as if he was collapsing within himself. The effects were taking place. Ed watched Al’s body form in front of him; while at the same time he felt his own disintegrate, until there was finally nothing left to give. There is a saying; he thought to himself, that an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind. And blind he was, as everything suddenly went black. --A large cargo ship was finally anchored and secured to the docks, workers scrambling around to help with unloading the large freighter. One of the workers was in charge of one particular company cargo, the metal exterior painted red, and a company symbol sprayed rather haphazardly on the doors of each cargo. He went up to the cargo, pressing his ear against the cold surface of the large metal box, listening to the wary sounds of whispering within. The man panicked slightly, tapping a rhythm of knocks on the box. The coded rapping silenced the whispering inside, and the man sighed in relief. He looked around, spotting his co-worker handling a crane before he beckoned him to load up, and once his attention was caught he began to help secure the box to the crane with the connection of chains. The crate rose in the air, lifted over the edge of the ship, and lowered onto the back of a cargo truck. The truck driver gave a discreet nod to the two workers above before driving off, turning the lorry into the motorway. Inside the driving car, the driver wiped his brow with a shaky hand, his brown eyes darting across the road as he suspiciously eyed every police car that drove by. He turned on the radio, a blast of club music resounded, and the undulating beat of the music calmed his nerves slightly. The drive was long, and making a turn off the motorway he arrived at his destination. The driver parked the lorry in front of a seemingly abandoned newspaper factory, and he made a call on his mobile phone soon after doing so. His voice jittered slightly as he announced his arrival. “Look, I’ve got the cargo,” he hissed through the phone. His large fingers tapped onto the steering wheel nervously, like how a drug addict would act without his daily fix. “I’m waiting here. Hurry up! I don’t want us to be caught doing this shit.” At first there was no reply, but a short chuckle finally answered the driver across the phone. “Don’t worry,” she said, her voice calm and collected. “We won’t be long.”
Out of the corner of the driver’s eye he spotted a woman run out of the factory. He jumped out of the lorry, sprinting to the back of the truck. The woman; tall, Hispanic and clad in black, helped the driver with opening the cargo box at the back. With the metal doors finally unlocked she climbed inside. The woman jumped back out, a line of people following behind her, and she handed the driver a thick wad of money. “There,” she said, nodding to the pound notes in his hands. “Your payment for your trouble. Thanks for everything.” The driver took the notes, counting it as he walked back to his drivers’ seat. He drove off, the lorry disappearing from sight. The woman watched the red tail lights dissolve into the darkness, and when it did she turned to face the small group of people behind her. “C’mon, let’s get inside.” She beckoned the group to follow her, their hands clutching small bags or travel packs. The factory was dusty, but the group, including the Spanish woman, did not care to sit on the dirty floor. Once settled, the Spaniard lit up a cigarette, its orange embers illuminating her face slightly. Numerous pairs of eyes glittered in the dark interior of the building, the group staring at the woman with interest. She stood up, trails of smoke escaping her nostrils like twisting snakes. “My name is Raquel,” she droned, her voice low and monotonous as if she has said this numerous times. “I am your helper. If you are ever in trouble, you come to me. Only I can help you. Only I care. Because if you go to someone else you will be turned away. You are illegal immigrants. You are people who are not wanted in your country. You are people who are not wanted in this country. But I have given you a chance to belong somewhere again. I have helped you escape.” She took a puff of her cigarette, blowing out the smoke slowly as the group mulled over her words. Raquel carried on. “From now own you will have a new identity. You will work in this country. You will live in this country. You will now have freedom. But you will not have complete freedom. You have to keep your profile low, because if you are caught then you will be sent back. Once you have been identified, then I cannot help you.” She scanned over the group, her brown eyes half lidded, yet still held a fiercely intelligent look to them. “You will stay here for the night. You may leave once you have been issued with your papers. My partner, David, will tell you what to do from there.” As if on cue, a large man with a beer belly entered the building. There were documents tucked under his thick arms, ready for the asylum seekers to start their life with. Raquel smiled at David, puffing a cloud of smoke out of her nostrils before dropping the cigarette on the floor. She looked at the group and jerked her head to David, indicating that they should not see to her burly partner.
The group stood up again, their eyelids drooping with exhaustion, before huddling around David, requesting for their papers and documents. One of the group members walked out of the huddle, grimacing as he went to stamp out the cigarette on the floor, which was still burning due to Raquel’s carelessness. Raquel watched the young man return to the huddle of people. “Hey, you.” She called out. The young man stopped in his tracks, his shoulders suddenly drooping. “Turn around.” He turned around, so Raquel could properly see the young man. He was short, blond, and his wiry body was stocked with well defined muscles. The young man also had striking golden eyes, half lidded with fatigue. Raquel walked up to him, her strides long and confident. “You know, I don’t remember sending you here,” she muttered as she inspected him further. “A stowaway among the stowaways, huh?” He flashed a weak and nervous smile, his shoulders rose to a shrug. “I guess you caught me.” He laughed. Raquel raised a brow, searching his eyes intently. “What’s your name?” she asked, her eagle eyes not leaving his. “Edward Elric.” He replied simply. “Edward,” she said. “Why are you here?” Ed sighed; his golden eyes tore away from hers as he tried to formulate a reasonable answer. “I’m here because I have a debt to repay. I guess I didn’t repay it fully, so that’s why I’m here.” “Unpaid debts?” she scoffed. “Must have been a lot to repay. How old are you?” “Sixteen.” Raquel’s eyes widened. “Sixteen?” she repeated. Edward nodded. “Sixteen? Jesus Christ, what the hell am I going to do with you?” Ed’s eyebrows knitted together in confusion as he stared intently at Raquel, her reaction to his age puzzling. “Is there something wrong with that?” he asked. “Wrong?” she sighed. “Edward, I help immigrants get into this country. I also help them make a living so they can live here. You’re far too young to do that with the rest of the group. You belong in school, how are you going to support yourself?” “Where I come from, I’m perfectly able to-” “Kid, come with me.” She interrupted, dragging him by the arm. Ed yelled in protest as she dragged him to another room in the factory. Once inside she slammed the door shut before turning to face Edward, her expression livid. “What are you going to do? What am I going to do? What do you think you are doing here?” It was Ed’s turn to be angry. “Look, Miss, I found myself stranded in a weird place. I have no home there. I am literally dumped there, with
nowhere to go. I‘ve been told that you help those who are stranded, so I came to you. So here I am. Isn’t this part of your job?” “Yes, this is my job!” she shouted back at him. Here brown eyes where narrowed, like slits, reminding Ed of a snake. “But my job is to help adults. Not kids like you.” Ed muttered a string of curses under his breath, not caring if Raquel heard any of his insults. Raquel paid him no mind as she thought over the situation. She looked up at him. “Are you sure you can’t go back to where you came from?” she asked, to which Edward replied with an irritable nod to the head. Raquel took in a deep breath. “It can’t be helped. You’re coming with me. You are going to finish an education here so you can get a decent job and leave.” Edwards golden eyes lit up, the fatigue that seemed to glaze over them faded, and he felt relieved that there is now at least a piece of hope that has been rekindled within him. “Thank you Miss.” He said, giving her a cheeky one sided smile. He gave her a hand to shake, which she unwillingly accepted. “Welcome to England, Edward Elric.” She muttered.
Chapter 2 Edward Elric had trouble adjusting to his bizarre environment. There were lights everywhere, his world now covered in blinking colours. Everything, everywhere, was dominated with electricity, and he was left speechless with how everything seemed advanced. He couldn’t help but stop and stare at Raquel’s car as soon as he spotted it. Raquel was confused with his reactions, his weird response to everything worried her, and she began to regret taking him with her. Whilst driving she noticed that Ed’s face was constantly pressed to the window, his eyes wide as he watched everything go by. He seemed fascinated by everything, from the planes in the sky to the CD’s in her car, and his greedy eyes darted everywhere, trying to look at everything at once. Raquel hit his shoulder lightly when they stopped at a red light. “Hey,” she barked. “Kid, you on drugs?” Ed looked at her with a confused expression. “Huh?” was all that escaped from his mouth before he clamped his jaw shut. His brows were knitted together in a mix of irritation and puzzlement. There was a pause between them. The car behind them beeped, and Raquel realised that the traffic lights had turned green when she wasn’t aware. She sped on once she returned to her senses. “Look,” she started. “I can tell that you are a foreigner. You’re accent, the way you take in your sights around you, your manners... You’re different, too different, so different that you’re weirding me out. I don’t want you to stick out. Because if you stick out, then I’ll stick out.” Raquel turned the car into a more suburban area, and their speed gradually slowed down as they drove down the empty roads. Ed spotted a fox scamper across the road, its presence making Raquel mutter incoherently under her breath. Eventually they slowed to a stop as she parked the car into a roofed parking space. The house next to the partial garage was illuminated in orange from the electronic streetlamps in front of it. “C’mon then,” she huffed impatiently as she stepped out of the car. “Little tourist...” “Who you calling little?” Edward shouted at her remark, his face a shade redder than usual. Raquel replied to his outburst by giving him a stern glare. He slammed the car door with a little more force than needed when he stepped out, clearly disliking this Spanish woman.
The Spaniard shook her head as she proceeded towards the front of the house. She opened the front door with care, and she gave Ed a gesture to be quiet once they went inside the house. “My husband is sleeping,” she whispered, explaining the situation to make sure he understood. “My daughter and son are asleep too. They have school tomorrow. You’re already interrupting our lives, don’t hinder us anymore. This is my house, and you listen to what I say.” Ed nodded in understanding. He was in unknown territory, and in an unknown land. He has no choice but to listen to her, most especially because she has given him a roof over his head. Raquel took him upstairs, pushing him slightly into one of her spare bedrooms. There was a square window on the far wall, the street lamps outside lighting up the small room in orange. On one side was a chest of drawers. On the other side was a single guest bed. The gap between the furniture could only barely fit one person to squeeze through, even for Ed’s size. Ed sat on the bed, the mattress uncomfortable and hard. Raquel disappeared for a moment before she tiptoed back into the room. There was a stack of clothes in her arms when she returned, which Ed took gladly. “You can borrow my son’s clothes for the meantime.” She murmured in the darkness. “It’s best if you go to sleep now. I’ll show you how to work the showers and everything else around the house tomorrow in the morning.” Before Ed could thank her for the gesture she closed the door. He sighed, clutching the clothes in his hands a little tighter, the cotton fabric crinkling in the process. The smell of camomile wafted from the fabric softener, a scent he recognised when he was younger. It was the very same smell that his clothes smelled like when it was freshly cleaned by his own mother. Ed decided to change into one of the loose jumpers; the jogging bottoms were far too big and too long for Ed’s legs, but he changed into them nevertheless. He rolled up the sleeves, looking at his arms. Both of them. He got his body back, and he admired the flesh arm that he had sought after for a long time. The feeling of touch returned to him, like his blood had just freshly flowed into a foot they had sat on for too long. If this was level of happiness Ed received for his missing limbs, then what were Al’s feelings when he was returned his whole body? Ed couldn’t even imagine how Al would have felt, among other things he could have experienced. But Ed didn’t want to think it over again, as his face would involuntarily scrunch up as he tried to choke back hiccupping emotions. Instead, he wanted to fall asleep. Yes, that was it, sleep. Ed could finally trust himself to fall asleep, let his guard down, in this strange world he has stranded himself in.
--The next morning, Ed was woken up with a start by Raquel. She believed that it was best to sleep and be awake the same time as everyone else to fight the jet lag, and that meant waking up with everyone else. Ed welcomed the shower, once he managed to figure out how to get it working, and it managed to help with waking him up a little more. He decided to change into the smaller clothes that were given to him, since he didn’t want his trousers to randomly fall to his ankles everywhere he went. His hair was still damp, but he put it into a loose plait anyway before he went downstairs. Raquel was in the kitchen, talking to two others next to her. The oldest man was presumably her husband, and he walked out of the house soon after receiving a goodbye kiss from Raquel. The younger man was busily making himself breakfast, and he looked older than Ed. Possibly in his early twenties, or late teens. Ed guessed that this young man was Raquel’s son. “Raimundo,” Raquel said to her son, who was spreading jam onto his toast. “Can you go and get Charice? She’s going to be late for school.” Raimundo nodded, his curly brown hair bouncing as he walked past Ed to go up the stairs. Raquel noticed Ed’s presence and she beckoned him towards her. Ed had the toast that Raimundo made given to him, which he took, before Raquel shoved a glass of milk into his hand, which he hesitantly took. “Rai made you breakfast. Go sit at the table and eat, quickly,” she said as she nodded towards a table in the kitchen. “We have a long day today.” Ed complied. Raquel seriously reminded Ed of his teacher, Izumi, back home. Her stern mannerisms could only mean that she also had harsh punishment if anyone disobeyed her, and Ed did not want to test that theory. “Mum,” there called a voice from the hallway. “I’m going to be going now. Mark is outside to pick me up.” Raquel shouted a goodbye to Raimundo before the front door slammed shut. She resumed to making a packed lunch for her remaining child in the house. “Where do you come from then?” she said as she was preparing a sandwich. “Have you escaped from America or something?” Ed chewed his toast thoughtfully. “I came from Amestris,” he said as he gulped down his food. “From a town called Risembool.” Raquel kept quiet, wrapping up the sandwich in cling film. She put the sandwich in a Tupperware box, amongst other things that Edward didn’t recognise, before putting on the lid. “Never heard of it.” She said.
Raquel looked at her watch, frowning at the time. “What is taking that stupid girl so long?” As if on cue there were some thumping noises as hasty feet made their way down the stairs. A teenage girl, taller than Edward, yet seemingly looking the same age as him, entered the kitchen. Raquel huffed irritably at her, pulling her skirt a little lower down her waist. “Mum, what are you doing?” the girl complained as she pulled her skirt back up to its original position, only to be pulled back down again by her mother. “Mum! Stop making me look like a nun!” “Charice, I’m not letting you go outside in public looking like a prostitute!” Raquel’s motherly instinct took over. “Preserve some of your dignity. We have a guest.” Charice’s eyes widened slightly. “Guest?” she scoffed. “Since when did we have a guest?” She turned around, looking at Ed eating his breakfast at the table. He gave her a wave, which she replied with more or less a gawking expression. “Hi.” He said simply. “Mum!” Charice ignored his greeting as she faced her mother. “You brought one of your immigrants to the house?” Ed frowned at the girl, shaking his head at her rude hospitality. Raquel did the same and gave her a small slap upside the back of her head. Charice protested at the gesture as she fixed her brown hair, feeling slightly embarrassed when she noticed Ed snickering to himself. She walked out of the room, grabbing her lunch box. “Don’t be late. Your teacher has complained about your lateness too many times to me. And pull your skirt down.” Raquel called out to her. Charice nodded and walked out of the house, leaving Ed and Raquel alone in the house. “You’ll have to excuse her, Edward. The silly girl is always miserable regarding my work, which reminds me. You are to never mention my job or activities. Understood?” Edward nodded. Raquel observed his features before she put a folder in front of him. Edward began browsing through it, reading the documents and certificates inside it. “That folder is your new identity. I am your legal guardian. You’re from Los Angeles, California. Your mother died of cancer, and we were very close friends. I have taken you under my wing as stated in her will. You have just transferred here.” She explained his fabricated past. “You have no other living relatives. You are to attend my son’s school next week. Your birth certificate is in there, stating when and where you were born, just in case you need it.” Edward absorbed the information, taking in his new identity and history. Raquel placed a prospectus in front of him, along with a pen and a
piece of paper. He looked at her expectantly, waiting for, yet, another explanation for her actions. “The prospectus has all of the subjects in there to study. Choose five that interests you.” She said. “I’ll be back at three o’clock. Make sure you lock the doors if you decide to go out. Key’s are on the table.” She took the coat that was placed on the chair Ed was sitting on. She walked out of the room casually, sighing from what was possibly stress from her added responsibilities. “And drink you’re milk!” she barked. --Al awoke with a start. He was in a white room; the smell of bleach tainted the sterilised air. It was incredibly bright, and Al had to rub his eyes to help blink away the blurriness. He stopped; his hands paused on his eyelids. He could feel something moist trickle down his cheeks, the sensation giving goose bumps. Al didn’t know whether he was dreaming or not, so he kept his hands over his eyes, keeping him in darkness. But Al didn’t need his sight to determine what he was experiencing at that moment. What he was feeling at that moment. He could feel. He felt the flow of moisture become heavier, almost soaking the sides of his face. He could feel some of it pattering on the skin of his chest, and it carried on dripping across his collar bone. It made his skin tingle, and a shiver rippled up his spine. Al started shaking, his aching throat felt thick, hindering his breathing. He hiccupped slightly, feeling the bottom of his stomach jolt, causing the top of his chest to hurt a little. Slowly, ever so slowly, he lowered his hands, letting his fingers lightly drag down his cheeks, the corners of his lips, his jaw, his neck... He opened his eyes, his vision slightly blurred, and when he blinked his vision became clearer. Tears kept falling as he looked at the relief of his bed sheets. Al wriggled his toes, the soft cotton tickling his skin, and he watched the bed sheets wrinkle and crinkle every time he moved his feet. He reached out, touching his knees, his shins, back to his knees, his thighs, his stomach, his chest. He placed his right hand over the left side of his chest, pressing his palm against soft flesh and muscle. There it was. His heartbeat. It fluttered, its rhythm gradually quickening in excitement. Without warning he rolled out of the hospital bed, holding his arms out as he
balanced himself, the blood rushing out of his head and into his body, the sensation dizzying him. Al laughed as he wobbled slightly, tears of joy still streaming across his face, his mouth stretched into the biggest smile he could manage. He placed his right foot in front of him, then his left, then his right... He was walking, the cold floor chilling his bare feet. It was an uncomfortable feeling, but Al welcomed it. “M-my body...” he croaked, his voice making his throat vibrate slightly. “I got my body back...” Al jumped up and down, not caring if he looked like a crazy person, and he began throwing a few punches into the air as he yelled to no-one in particular, announcing to the world that he finally got his body back. “I-I have to go tell Ed!” he said to himself, wiping away the tears of joy with the back of his hand. His hospital room door opened abruptly, Winry running towards the dancing boy as she threw her arms roughly around Al. Alphonse laughed, embracing her back. He could smell her hair, lavender mixed with metal polisher, and he could feel the warmth seep from her flesh into his. “Winry!” he cheered. “I got my body back! I-I got it back! I got my body back, Winry!” Winry started crying, hugging him tighter, and her tears dripped onto Al’s shoulder. “You’re alive, Al,” she cried. “You’re back. Oh God! You’re back.” A nurse walked in, watching the two embrace. She stood in the background as she observed them with a smile. “Winry,” Al said, controlling his voice so he wasn’t shouting again. “Where’s Ed? I need to show him I got my body back!” Winry stayed silent this time, and only hugged Al tighter. His heart stopped, expecting the worse from her reactions. She sniffed a little, and rested her chin on his shoulder so she didn’t have to look at his face. “Al,” she sighed, her voice shaking. “Al, Ed is gone. He’s gone.” She felt his breathing stop for a moment, and when he finally did breathe it hitched in his throat. Al’s arms tensed and Winry felt his shoulders become hard under her chin. He bowed his head, her hair tickling his cheek. “I remember the moment I came back,” he whispered. “He sacrificed himself to bring me back. I remember him dissolve away.” Winry let a sob escape. “He really is gone...”
Chapter 3 “Science?” Raquel looked at the sheet of paper in her hand, a cigarette hanging loosely on her lips. Ed nodded at her comment, folding his arms as he did so, a gesture indicating that he was serious. The Spaniard shook her head, some of the ashes from her fag dropping on the floor. “All of these are science subjects.” She said. “Are you sure you want to do the Advanced level on all five of your choices? I heard that Chemistry and Human Biology is getting harder and these days.” Ed shrugged, sighing in the process. “I guess it’s just another challenge for me.” He smirked. “I’m pretty interested in these sorts of things anyway.” “Science your favourite subject?” Raquel asked. “Pretty much the only thing I’m interested in.” He confirmed. Raquel observed him before sighing. “Well,” she concluded. “So long as you enjoy it. But if you start failing at it I’m not going to fund any tutors for you. “Understood.” Ed replied. He was excited, both at the fact he was going to learn more about the world and the science he has loved so much. He might as well make the most of it, and try to find a way back home. Ed knew that the people inhabiting this world were not aware of the world Ed came from, so trying to explain where he came from would be useless, since the people here would automatically dismiss him and label Ed as crazy. But Edward didn’t mind being called crazy. In fact, back in Amestris he was called crazy anyway, so he was pretty much used to it. However, what did affect Ed the most was the fact that he couldn’t use any alchemy in this world. It was like everything he has worked towards was suddenly stripped from him, like a world famous opera singer suddenly becoming a mute. Ed’s very essence is gone, and he suddenly felt like his safety net was taken away from him once discovering this fact. Alchemy doesn’t exist in this world. Ed is going to have to find another way to get back home, to open the door once again that has led him there. “Raquel?” he asked. “Is there a library around here?” Raquel laughed. “Kids your age going to the library?” she took another drag from her cigarette. “Your kind ought to be outside, kicking bins over, pressing your faces against windows whilst drunk.”
There was a pause between them. Ed raised a brow, giving her a sceptical look. He cleared his throat slightly. Raquel sighed; smoke escaping from her mouth and nostrils. “Jesus, you’re serious aren’t you?” she muttered under her breath. “Okay, I’ll get Charice to take you there. She’ll help you with becoming a member.” Edward nodded, looking at the clock as he wondered when she would return. Raquel suddenly shoved her bag into his arms, making him hold it while she rummaged inside. She pulled out her purse, taking out a few bank notes, before putting it in front of his face. She took the bag away from his arms and placed the money in his hands. “That’s three hundred pounds so you can go and buy yourself some clothes, toiletries, towels and all of that stuff while you’re out. Charice will help you,” she instructed. “You owe me that money, so don’t expect that you are staying here for free.” Her eyes narrowed, giving her the serpent image once again. He really didn’t like it when she gave him such a look, a look that seems so accusing and patronising, as if Edward has just caused her a huge hindrance. Ed didn’t want to linger on the subject any longer. “When is Charice coming anyway?” he asked, looking at the clock once again. Raquel shrugged, bending her head back as she stared at the ceiling, puffing her cigarette with satisfaction. Ed heaved a sigh, walking off towards the hallway. The front door opened suddenly, slamming into Ed as he walked past. He rebounded into the wall, making the hanging calendar slip and fall. He rubbed his head, sore from the impact, before yelling in protest. Charice walked in, her hand over her mouth at what she had just done. “Oh God, sorry!” she said, grabbing his hand to help him stand up. “I didn’t know you were there.” Ed grumbled something in reply, seething as she stood there meekly. “Its fine,” he lied. “You really got me there, though.” She bit her bottom lip lightly, embarrassed that she has, once again, made a fool of herself. “No you’re not,” she walked up to him, touching his forehead lightly. “At least it’s not bruised. Thank god for that. You must have a pretty big headache though...” He laughed to himself, putting on his shoes. He stepped back from her, keeping his distance. “It’s fine, really.” She wasn’t convinced. Instead, Charice rolled her eyes as she huffed into the living room. Raquel called after her, curious about the commotion. Ed shook his head at her once again, cringing that she has boldly gotten so close to him on their second meeting. He stood up, pulled up his loose jeans a little higher, and looked in the hallway mirror to check if there
really wasn’t a bruise. It felt like there was one, but none had come up, and only a light pink mark was left from the impact. Though he did have a pretty big headache, he had to admit. Charice came stomping back to the hallway, her green eyes narrowed. Her olive skin on her face was tinged red, due to a mixture of frustration and embarrassment. Ed suppressed a snicker, finding that Charice didn’t make any effort to try and hide her annoyance. She didn’t seem the type to hide her emotions anyway, he concluded. “C’mon, we have to go to the library.” She sighed, pulling him out of the door by the sleeve of his jumper. It was only a ten minute walk to the library, and it was simple to get there. At the entrance Charice grounded to a halt, her face suddenly becoming redder. She reeled around to face Ed, her hands suddenly raking through her hair to try and add a little more volume. Ed gawked at her sudden compulsive grooming, and he could give her an unbelieving stare as she started smoothing her clothes down. Charice stood straighter, her shoulders back, stomach in, chest out. “What are you doing?” Ed asked. Charice only rolled her eyes at him. “Do I look good?” she asked, her expression serious. Ed looked straight at her, deadpan. “You look no different than before,” he whispered. “And why are you standing funny?” She made an exasperated sigh, throwing her hands in the air in defeat. “Oh god, you are so useless...” she slouched forward, sticking out her lower jaw in annoyance. “Look, there is this guy who works in here, and he is gorgeous. And I’m being serious here, I love him!” Ed burst out laughing, shaking his head as he pushed past her into the building. She followed him hesitantly, hiding in his shadow everywhere he went. He heard her gasp, and Ed turned around to face the trembling teenager. Her eyes were wide, and she bit her bottom lip nervously. She pointed to the library information counter, where someone was stamping some books, his back turned to them. “That the guy?” Ed asked, pointing at him. Charice nodded. Ed smirked as he went up to the counter, Charice suddenly panicking as she frantically tried to stop Ed from approaching him. Ed kept a firm grip on her wrist to make sure she would not run off, and with his free hand he tapped the service counter bell. “Hey, I’m interested in joining the library.” The young man turned around, giving Ed a smile. Ed tried to stop his jaw from dropping all the way to the floor. He was tall, with black hair, pale skin and obsidian eyes. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,” the man said. “Mind repeating?”
“Roy Mustang?” Ed practically blurted. Charice made a tiny noise in her throat, hoping that no one heard it, and gave a stern look towards Edward. “Roy? W-what are you doing here? I thought you were still in Central!” Roy looked at Edward, slightly taken aback. “I’m sorry, have we met?” Roy asked, racking his brains as to why this complete stranger knew his name. Maybe they were old friends when they were young. Maybe they met when he was too drunk to remember. Edward stared at him suspiciously, uncertain why the Colonel did not recognise him. “Ah, never mind,” he said, his voice low. “I thought you were someone else then.” Roy laughed, ruffling the back of his raven hair. “It’s okay, it’s happened to me before,” he chuckled to himself. “I guess I really do have a common look. Anyway, how can I help you?” Ed sighed dejectedly. With the help of Charice concerning addresses and telephone numbers, Ed eventually got his library pass from Roy, allowing him to take out the library books. This should help with the extra information Ed would need, to hopefully find any clues as to how to get home. Once they were outside the Library, Charice hit Ed on the arm lightly. “What was that all about?” She complained, her voice high pitched and distraught. “What was that for?” he snapped back, indicating to his arm that she had just hit. “And what did I do?” She groaned, burying her blushing face in her hands. “Oh god! He must think that I hang around with weirdoes!” Ed gave her a death glare. “Who you callin’ a weirdo?” She shook her head at him, waving him off. She made a little lovesick sigh as she started daydreaming about her ‘Roy-dearest’. Ed didn’t quite know how to react and he wondered why she called him a weirdo, when in his opinion she should look at herself in the mirror as well. “Roy is never going to notice me,” she sighed, her lower jaw sticking out in rejection. “He’s so good looking too.” Ed laughed again, not caring what she was thinking of his behaviour. “Roy?” he scoffed. “Isn’t he in his thirties anyway? How old are you? Isn’t it creepy?” Charice folded her arms. “I’m sixteen.” She pouted. “And in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t fall for little boys. I fall for men. With jobs, cars and money.” He walked ahead, no longer wanting to be involved with such an embarrassing conversation. “Oh, you’re falling alright.” He snickered, loud enough so she could hear. Her reply was another slap on his arm.
--It was raining in Central, and the morgue never looked anymore depressing. It was raining so hard as if the tears of the mourners weren’t enough. Winry was crying the most out of everyone there, and she held onto Al’s hand so tightly she didn’t think she could ever let go. Al now has a body to cry with, and he cried for his brother. He cried for the loss, and there was this deep disbelief inside him where he couldn’t believe that Ed really was gone. Ed would never return to him. Edward Elric will never return to greet everyone with a stupid grin on his face. The gravestone was black marble, highly polished, and Al could see himself and everyone around him in the reflection. The raindrops distorted the reflection, and if Al wasn’t looking too closely, he could see Ed’s face on his own. The blond hair. The golden eyes. Roy Mustang placed a golden pocket watch onto the gravestone, the chain clinking against the marble; the dull pitter patter of the raindrops ran down the intricate metal carvings before it dripped to the grass. The rain became heavier. The rain cried on behalf of those that have been affected by the great Edward Elric: The Fullmetal Alchemist.
Chapter 4 Six months has passed. At last, the tension between Ed and Raquel has diminished, or at least toned down by a large degree, and he was welcomed into the family that has supposedly ‘fostered’ him. He grew more comfortable with himself since he didn’t have to rely on alchemy anymore, and just like what Izumi had told him his use of his hands helped to strengthen and shape the way he thinks. He was enthusiastic and always on top with his scientific studies at school, and his teachers noticed just how brilliantly minded Edward was. Maybe because the main reason they were so surprised by Edward was because of the childish exterior he seems to constantly show. No one would think that a cocky, stubborn and playful boy would be one of the smartest geniuses they have ever come across. But there was one thing that constantly made Ed feel uneasy. It was his story of his ‘true life’, in Amestris with Al and Winry. He tried to tell the truth to Raquel, but she thought he was drunk at the time. He also tried to bring it up to Charice, but she thought it was just a story he made up from his overly active imagination. “But it’s true,” he protested. “There is such thing as alchemy, chimeras and homunculus. I can perform alchemy-“ “Ed,” Charice sighed, her arms flopping down her sides as she stood in a lazy stance. “Look, these stories are getting old now.” Ed groaned, suppressing a loud scream of despair from escaping his mouth. Instead he clenched his jaw tight. He balled up his fist and shook it at no one in particular. He stopped what he was doing before he took in a deep breath. “I’ll prove it.” He challenged. Charice blinked. “What?” she said under her breath. “You’re going to prove that you can do alchemy?” Ed pointed at her, nodding his head as he did so. “Yes!” he cheered. “Yes, I am, Charice. I’m gonna prove that I come from another world!” She smirked, crossing her arms at this strange but amusing gesture. “What, is this a bet or something?” she jeered, her tone playful yet aggressive. Ed shook his head, much to Charice’s dismay. “Well, how are you going to prove it then?” He curled his lip, his expression dumbfounded and lost. “No idea...” he trailed off. “But I will! You’ll see!” She shook her head, walking down to the library with the hope of attracting Roy’s attention. Ed suddenly realised something, and he ran up to her. She gave him an annoyed look as she gave him a tilted stare. “What now?” she said, deadpan.
“I got it.” He pointed a finger to the library. “I don’t know the Roy Mustang in this world, but I know the Roy in my world. In my world he is very close friends with a blonde woman called Riza Hawkeye. I bet you that he will also have that friend who looks exactly like Riza.” Charice crossed her arms. “You’re more off the rocker than my Nan,” she commented dryly. “What if you’re wrong?” They walked into the library together, Charice tailing behind Edward. They were both at the information counter where Roy was situated. He was filling in forms about overdue books; his eyes slightly squinted in concentration. His eyes widened when he noticed Ed and Charice approaching him, the determined look in Ed’s eyes slightly intimidating. “Ah, Mr. Elric.” Roy greeted. “What can I do for you today?” “Roy, do you know someone called Riza Hawkeye?” he pressed, getting straight to the point. Charice observed both of them carefully. Roy nodded. “Yes, she’s a close friend of mine.” Roy smiled to himself, but still slightly suspicious with this strange and sudden behaviour. “Do you know her?” Ed shook his head. “No, just wondering. I could just recognise her,” he sighed, trying to appear casual and cool. “She looks like someone I once knew.” Charice’s eyes widened, gobsmacked at the possibility of an alternate world existing parallel to them could very well be true. A smirk etched itself into Ed’s face when he noticed her expression. He could stop here, but Ed thought otherwise and carried on. “Do you also know someone called Maes Hughes?” Edward said nonchalantly, an unreadable expression on his face. “How is he?” Roy, once again, pondered as to how Ed knew the existence of people he would have not met. He scratched his chin. “He’s fine as well,” he paused. “You know him as well?” “Nope,” the blond yawned. “Just, he kinda reminds me of someone I used to know.” The young man looked over at the half Spaniard behind him, happy and content that Charice is finally starting to believe him. She shot him a smile, encouraging him to carry on. Ed obliged, smiling to himself. “Roy,” Ed muttered, low enough so only the three of them could hear his words. “Hughes got his wife pregnant yet?” Roy glared at him suspiciously, studying the youth’s features a little closer. Mustang nodded, curious where this conversation would go. “Yeah, nine months. Anytime now, the baby will be born.” Ed wiggled his eyebrows. “I bet you that the baby is going to be a girl. She’s going to be eight pounds.” Ed paused for a second. “Hey, what’s the date?”
“Fifth of December, why?” Roy asked, leaning closer so he could hear well. Charice inched closer as well, absorbing all of the words that escape from Ed’s mouth. The young Elric snickered, his face scrunched together in a sort of twisted satisfaction. “She’s gonna be born tomorrow,” Ed stated. “Her name is going to be Elisia.” Roy blinked before he gave the young teen a laugh. He shook his head, tapping Ed’s shoulder, and simply dismissed it as a sort of joke. “You really had me going there, kid.” He mused, his mouth still twisted into an amused smile. “So, are trying to be a psychic then?” Ed smiled. “Nope.” He said, popping his lips at the word. “I once knew someone like them. They just remind me of them. That’s all.” And with that, Edward walked off. Charice gave Roy a shy wave before she followed Ed outside. She hit him lightly on the shoulder, smiling gleefully. He soaked up the glory and compliments that radiated from Charice, and she suddenly started bombarding Edward with numerous questions. Now that caught her attention. --Edward was reading a book in his room, the pages tinted orange from the outside streetlamp. He had two blankets wrapped around him in an attempt to warm him up. His hair was down as well so his neck would be warmer. Winter is nearing, and the change of seasons only reminded Ed that time is passing in this world. He needed to get back somehow, but he couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve alchemy. There was a knock to his door. Ed grunted as he rolled off his bed, opening his room door slowly so we wouldn’t hit anyone outside. Charice was standing in the corridor sheepishly, dressed head to toe in thick pyjamas, with a large blue dressing gown to help bulge her out a little more. She grinned. “Ed, it got me thinking,” she began. “What happened earlier today, I-I’m sorry I doubted you. I thought you were pulling my leg at first, but although what you say sounds like a load of imaginary fantasy stuff, well, Y’know... It’s-“ Ed coughed, his head slightly tilted to the side as he crossed his arms, and he tapped his fingers on his biceps as he waited for her to get to the point. She rolled her eyes, deciding to skip the formalities and just ask him. “Can you tell me more stuff about your, uh, country?” she worded the question a little carefully. She sighed in relief when he opened his door wider, indicating that she could go inside. She made a small
whooping noise as she walked in, excited to hear more about a world that is impossibly possible. He began with his hometown, Risembool, and described all that he knew there. She was fully immersed, listening intently to every word he said. Ed decided to tell her that he lost his limbs to a car accident instead of the truth, his failed human transmutation, and proceeded with describing automail prosthetics. “Did you get automail then?” she asked, curious like a child. Ed nodded. “Yeah, I still have the scars though. It was painful to get it done.” He explained, yawning slightly. She frowned, her nose wrinkled at the thought. “Ew,” she grumbled. “Hate the sight of scars. Makes me feel uneasy.” Ed felt slightly discouraged by her thoughts, as his body was full of scars from old wounds, including the pale rippling flesh that stretched over his right shoulder and chest. His left thigh was also heavily scarred, with many more cuts and lines where opponents have barely missed his vitals. It wasn’t like he wanted to show his battle scars, but he didn’t exactly wanted to be seen as something that was grimaced upon. Charice yawned as she stood back up. “I’m tired now,” she announced. “G’night.” The weary girl promptly left his room, leaving Ed on his own. He rolled his eyes at her abrupt manners, and reached out to grab the book he was reading earlier. The words seemed to dance across the page, giving him a headache, and he soon gave up. “Maybe I should sleep too...” --The next day Charice and Ed visited Roy again in the library, with the news of Hughes baby girl a very hot topic of discussion as every single one of Ed’s predictions were correct. Once again Charice praised Ed, who accepted his compliments smugly. “Are you sure I haven’t met you before?” Roy spoke out the question that has bothered him so. Ed shook his head, his mouth stretched into a thin line. The man sighed, returning to stamping a pile of books to his side. “It’s just that I can’t think of a logical explanation of how a total stranger can pull out something like that.” There was a moment of silence between them, and Charice squirmed uncomfortably at how awkward it felt. She heard Edward sigh next to her, and he shrugged. The teen turned around, walking off as he left the library wordlessly.
--For the next two weeks Ed’s mood seemed to have declined. He found himself become frustrated, and even annoyed at Charice, if she was near him. He avoided going to the library completely, not wanting to see the face he has recognised before as his commanding officer. Charice and Raquel noticed this, but it only annoyed Edward further. “Seriously,” she sighed, tying her hair in a ponytail. “Mum and I think that you’re depressed. Is it because you’re finding it hard to cope around here-” “Shut up,” he snapped, not letting her finish her sentence. “I’m not depressed. I’ve just- no, I’m a little angry with myself.” She slammed her hairbrush on the table noisily, not bothering to even hide her temper. “Don’t tell me to shut up, ever.” Her voice was low and threatening. “And being angry doesn’t bloody give you an excuse to take any of it out on me.” Ed clenched his fists into a tight ball before her slumped into the sofa, dusting rising into the air from his movements. “You’re right, I’m sorry,” he trailed off. “I just don’t know how to get home. I’m looking at all of these different theories, and I still can’t find anything relevant to returning to where I came from.” Charice sighed. Silence hung in the air from then on, not speaking to each other until Edward decided to go to bed. She felt disappointed with him, and not to mention bitter, at the fact that he has to call this current place home for the meantime. From the way he described Amestris, it sounded like a beautiful place, but also incredibly dangerous to be in. Earth also has its own fair share of pleasantries, but unlike his world, here seemed much safer. Here, Edward has no need to get himself into dangerous or life threatening situations. --“Hey.” Charice could feel someone squeezing her shoulders, large hands shaking her awake. She groaned, grabbing her mobile from her bedside counter so she could see the time. She shined the light from the phone at the person shaking her, seeing Edward Elric hovering above her. “For God’s sake, Ed,” she snarled. “It’s two in the morning. What do you want?” Ed smiled, and Charice thought that if he grinned any wider then perhaps half of his face would fall off.
“I’ve had an epiphany!” He nudged her lightly so she would wake up a little more. “I think I’ve found a way to get home!”
Chapter 5 It was far too early in the morning for Charice’s liking. Ed seemed like he wasn’t affected by the early hours, and he rambled enthusiastically about scientific methods, which Charice couldn’t properly process due to a mixture of being half asleep and not caring about the matter. “... and then it hit me! The Universe is constantly expanding,” he jittered, illustrating his point by waving around his hands. “And if the Universe expands then space itself stretches out, like a rubber band, then space and time might snap from the pressure. Once space and time snaps then in theory something must fill it up the hole that was created. But what can you fill a hole in space with? Then it clicked. Segments of space from the past, or maybe from my universe, must fill in that space. If I can find or create a hole then it might open a vortex then I might be able to-” Charice held up her hand to silence him. His voice was beginning to give her a headache, and she was annoyed that he woke her up. Charice yawned, clearly in need of sleep. “What is this crap you are spouting, Ed?” she growled. “Crap?” he scoffed. “I don’t think you realise what is going on here-” “I don’t think you realise what you are saying either,” she snapped. “God, you are just daft. Even if it might work, how are you going to stretch space?” Ed’s jaw was clenched. His lips were set in a firm line, his brow creased lower. “I’ll figure it out,” he seethed. “I just want to get out of this shitty place.” Charice sighed, burying her face in her hands. “Look,” she breathed. “I’m sorry. That was selfish of me. What do you have in mind?” He furrowed his brows in turn, shaking his head disapprovingly. “What do you mean by that?” he asked. What is it so hard to talk to this girl? “What are you going to do?” she repeated. “Got any theories of how to bend or stretch time?” He shook his hand dismissively, straitening up so he so could walk out her room. “Yeah,” he sighed. “But they include alchemy. I can’t do alchemy in this world, so I guess that makes them void.” “Alchemy does exist.” He paused in the doorway, one hand clasped tightly on the door handle. Ed twisted his head round to face Charice as she sat up on her bed. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, yawning slightly. “Well, used to anyway,” she continued. “My history teacher told me that during the medieval time, which was nearly a thousand years ago by the way, alchemy was a very common practice.”
Ed could feel his heart do a small back flip. “Alchemy was used in the past?” he breathed. Charice nodded, raising a brow at how quickly Ed seemed to change his moods. “Do you have any records of them? Like, books or anything?” She shrugged. “We don’t.” She said nonchalantly. “You could always try the library. I’ll ask my history teacher for you if you want. He’s really fascinated with alchemy and stuff like that.” His eyes widened. “Can I meet him?” he blurted, unintentionally his voice became louder. Realising the sudden rise of volume he cleared his throat before continuing. “Uh, you know, I’m going to need all the information I could get.” Charice coughed, hiding her laugh, and smirked. “I suppose there’s no harm in asking...” she trailed off. “Actually, I think it’ll be a good idea that you two meet. You both seem incredibly similar, I mean, you both like alchemy, you’re both bat shit crazy-” “Hey!” he protested. Charice ignored him and carried on nevertheless. “- and you both seem like you’re not from this world.” Ed pondered over this. “Do you think he also came through the gate into this world?” he asked, his excitement rising. Maybe he wasn’t alone! Maybe others also came through the gate! “Nope.” Oh. “Mr. Hopkins has definitely lived here since birth. He’s been working at my school all his life,” she scratched the back of her head lazily, ruffling her hair. “He even studied in my school, since year seven. Though if I was stuck in the same place from age eleven to my late forties then I would be driven nuts. ” “Well, there goes that idea,” he seethed. “Dammit...” Charice perked up at his mumblings. “What idea?” “Nothing.” He grumbled and left. --Edward felt incredibly uncomfortable. “What’s wrong?” a concerned Charice asked, nervous at how miserable Edward was looking at the moment. He had an irritated scowl, his brows furrowed quite violently together. “Please don’t scowl like that. You look like a bloody caveman.” Ed shot her an angry glare, opening his mouth to insult her, but thought better of it and clenched his jaw shut. As they were walking through Charice’s school corridor he bumped into a stray school girl, and
they both made a flustered stumble as they recovered. Charice looked back, shaking her head at Edward. “Jeez,” he cursed as he caught up with her. “Why is everyone staring at me? That girl was looking at me so intently she walked into me.” Charice snorted, shaking her head at how he was acting. “Don’t you enjoy the attention?” she scoffed. “I thought guys practically love it when girls constantly ogle them.” It was Ed’s turn to shake his head at her. “What?” he gasped. “The hell... just take me to your history teacher.” They both stopped outside a door in the history department. A cleaner was vacuuming a nearby classroom; the high pitched whine it gave off was giving Ed a headache. He found himself frequently getting migraines in the world, and he discovered that maybe his health and immune system might have been affected as well as having his alchemical powers stripped from him. Charice knocked on a classroom door. A grunt answered from the other side, indicating an invitation. She looked at Ed, whispering to him to stay put. She disappeared into the room, leaving him outside. As he stood there, crossing his arms and shifting his weight from foot to foot, the uncanny feeling of being watched returned. He looked to his right, noticing a young girl gawking at him. As their gazes met she exclaimed and hurriedly hid her head behind her locker door, frantically rummaging through her locker. He rolled his eyes, feeling uncomfortable again, before a hand grabbed him by the shoulder. He yelped as Charice dragged him the classroom, shutting the door behind them. “Mr. Hopkins,” she said politely. “This is my friend, Edward, which I have been talking about. He’s, uh, doing a research project about the history of alchemy so I thought I could bring him to you, since you’re so interested in such a subject.” Mr. Hopkins smiled at her behind his desk, a pen in his hand while the other pushed up his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. “It is a pleasure to meet you Edward,” he chuckled as he stood up, extending out a hand for him to shake. “I’m glad to meet someone else who is also fascinated with the art forms of alchemy.” Mr. Hopkins’s hand hovered slightly in the air, waiting for Edward’s response. Charice looked over to Ed. Ed just stood there, his eyes wide as he stared at her teacher, and she could see that his shoulders were tensed. His fists were also balled, set firmly by his sides. He looked like a statue, completely still and tense, except from the slight shaking in his knees.
She nudged him with her elbow, snapping him out of his trance. He blinked, returning to reality, and shook his hand. “A-a pleasure to meet you too,” his voice shook nervously. “I just want to learn some facts, that’s all.” They sat down before his desk, and started discussing about alchemy. Charice handed Ed a notebook from her bag so he could take some notes. She also gave him one of her pens to write with. Ed looked at it and cringed. The pen was bright pink, topped with a bloom of pink feathers, and had a large love heart bobbing from the spring it was mounted on. “Take it or leave it...” she growled menacingly and he reluctantly accepted it. A pen was a pen, and that’s all that mattered. Though whenever he was writing the bobbing heart lit up, and Ed was pleasantly surprised with the feature. Not allowing himself to be distracted he carried on focusing with what Mr. Hopkins had to say. Charice was playing with her phone, oblivious to the conversation between the other two, as the discussion was starting to bore her. --They were in the classroom for a full hour, informing Ed about their world’s alchemy. Charice was greatly relieved when it was over. Never before in her life had she been so bored. Edward, however, seemed slightly more content, happy that he has managed to find some familiarity in this world with his home. “So,” she mused as they were walking down a street. It was night time, and it was quickly getting cold. “Got the information you wanted?” Ed grinned. “Nope,” he declared. “Nothing new is learned.” She furrowed her brows at this, wondering if she had heard him wrong. “But you were taking so much notes,” she reasoned. “So that was a waste of time, then...” “No,” he butted in, his grin steadily getting wider. “It wasn’t a waste of time. It turns out that your type of alchemy is just theories. These theories are kinda similar to the most excruciating basics of alchemy in my world though. At first I thought they didn’t seem to make any sense, but then I realised that they were just imperfect. Once I corrected the theories then it started to make sense, and I could recognise it.” Charice nodded her head at this. “So you weren’t taking notes at all, were you?” she pondered. “You were just working them out as you corrected them.” He nodded, thankful that she could understand what he was saying. “That’s right,” he confirmed.
“So what did you discover then?” she asked, confusion starting to take over. “I found out that I can do alchemy in this world after all,” he said calmly, but inside he was internally cheering. Heck, he might as well be dancing like a lunatic at the current mood he was in. “Because I overlooked something crucial.” She perked up, glancing over at him. “What was that crucial thing you missed, then?” They stopped walking. Charice stared silently at Ed as he looked up into the sky. She followed his gaze, watching faint points of lights glinting in the night sky. The stars looked really pretty that night, but it was quite hard to see them in contrast to the bright street lamps and the full moon. He pointed at each star, tracing an imaginary constellation in the sky. “I completely missed the fact that I’m in a different world. The stars are different here, and I can’t find a single constellation that I could recognise.” His voice was low, but loud enough for Charice to still hear. “In my world we use something called transmutation circles. These circles are a sort of code, to unlock the elements, so that we alchemists can knead and manipulate them. Transmutation circles are based on the forms around us, including some constellations, and they are meant to symbolise what an alchemist wants to do. It’s kind of like an instruction manual for the cosmos, and we can do anything with the world around us as long as it follows the natural scientific laws.” He looked over at Charice to see if she was following. There was a blank look on her face, her lips slightly parted, and her shoulder slumped forward in an exhausted manner. “Huh?” was all that escaped from her mouth. This was the point where she had no idea what he was talking about. Ed pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed exasperatedly. This seemed harder that he had thought. “What I mean is,” he grumbled. “The instruction manuals in my world won’t work here, because it’s foreign, and this world doesn’t understand it. All this time I couldn’t do alchemy because I’ve been applying the knowledge from my world into this world. It’s like I’m using the wrong key, and my methods don’t fit here. So I’m going to need to make a new key, one that fits, so I can use alchemy again.” This is what Charice could understand. “I see,” she squealed, smiling. “So you’re going to take all of the old theories and correct them, but correct them so it follows the rules of this universe instead of yours.” He nodded. They began to start walking again, but quicker this time. Ed wanted to get started as soon as possible. Charice wanted to get home quickly because she was starting to get unbearably cold. The chill was
beginning to already make the glass on the cars nearby to cloud over with condensation. “Good thing it’s the Christmas holidays then,” she breathed through chattering teeth. “You’ll have loads of time to do your work. By the way, what happened back there?” “What do you mean?” he enquired. “Back where?” She sniffed slightly, hugging her coat tighter. “When you met Mr. Hopkins you suddenly spaced out,” she mumbled slightly. “Do you recognise him? Like you did with Roy?” She blushed when she said the name, but at least it warmed up her cheeks. She looked over to see Ed suddenly storm ahead of her. She decided to let him go ahead, knowing that she has probably stepped into a sensitive subject. Maybe he’d tell her in time, she concluded. Maybe he feels homesick. --The holiday’s arrived. The house was adorned with numerous Christmas decorations; a small plastic tree was being propped up by Raquel in the conservatory. Charice was hauling a box out of the garage lazily, complaining about her arms aching, and dragged it into the living room. Her father and brother had left for a skiing trip, a father and son bonding session, and will be back at the end of the holidays. Charice wasn’t happy about this, she wanted to spend this Christmas with the whole family, and she selfishly wished that their flight had been cancelled so they had no choice but to stay. “Charice,” called Raquel. “Where are those baubles I asked you to get?” The young girl sighed. She was growling slightly as she carried the box into the conservatory, where her mother was waiting for her. “Here mum,” she huffed as she placed the box down. “Can I go upstairs now? My arms hurt.” Raquel barked a laugh, a cigarette resting between her lips. “Already?” she scoffed. “But you didn’t do anything, you lazy girl.” Her daughter rolled her eyes. Charice turned around to retreat into her room, her snow boots squeaked on the laminate floors. She kicked them off at the bottom of the stairs, aiming in no particular direction, and then proceeding upstairs. “Ouch...” She whirled around, seeing Ed rub his shin. One of her boots was by his feet. “Ah, sorry!” She apologised quickly. “I didn’t see you.”
Ed muttered something unintelligible and dismissed it with a wave of his hand. A couple of books were tucked under his arm, each one thick and heavy looking. “It’s okay,” he said as he walked past her. “Remind me to return these later.” “You went to the library again?” she griped. “You do know that there is a fine if any of those books are late.” He grunted in reply, disappearing into his room. Charice heaved a sigh and followed him. She knocked on his door. Impatient for any reply she barged in anyway. Charice nearly tripped over a book on the floor. Books seemed to be everywhere, on the floor, on the bed, on the chest drawers; some were even inside the drawers. Ed was on the bed, writing in one of the notebooks he has borrowed off Charice, a couple of text books were open by his side. He looked up, blowing aside a strand of hair from his face. “Ever heard of knocking?” he sighed. “I did,” she retorted. “You were just too slow to answer.” He shook his head, closing the notebook in his hands. “What do you want?” “You’re always in here,” she said. Charice didn’t bother trying to dodge the books on the floor, stepping on them instead, as she made her way to the bed. She sat on it with a small huff. “Don’t you ever take a break?” “No.” He replied. “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really do need to work. I need to get to Alphonse as soon as possible.” She shot a glance at him, shifting her weight on the bed. “Who’s Alphonse?” she piped curiously. “You made a new friend at the Library?” “No,” he said curtly. “He’s my brother. I need to know if he is okay.” There was a small pause between them. Charice was playing with the drawstrings on her hoodies, tying them into bows. “I didn’t know you have a brother.” She finally said. Ed nodded. “How old is he?” “Fifteen.” He replied simply. “I don’t even know if he is still alive.” Another pause. Charice could sense Ed becoming tense, so she didn’t press on the matter further. Instead, she stood up and made her way to the door, avoiding the books this time. “You want anything to drink?” she asked him. “Tea? Coffee?” Ed was immersed in his work again, drawing a series of geometric shapes on the paper. “Coffee please,” he muttered. “Black. No sugar. Strong.” She nodded. Suddenly she reeled around, cupping her hands around her mouth. “Mum!” she yelled. “Ed wants black coffee!” Ed winced, his pen straying from the page slightly at her sudden outburst. “A-aren’t you going to make it yourself?” he stammered. Charice shrugged. “I don’t know how to use the kettle.”
Chapter 6 Ed was in his room again, pouring away with his notes. Raquel forced him to return a huge load of library books to lower the risk of forgetting the deadlines, since she does not want to have a fine sent from the library. He was strictly told by Raquel that from now on he is to only have ten books at a time. There was a knock to his door. Edward sighed, annoyed that he is yet again about to be interrupted. “Come in,” he cried out. Charice poked her head through the gap of the door, her face split in half with a wide grin. “Hi,” she piped. “Can I ask you something?” Ed was doodling on the corner of the notebook. “What is it?” She fidgeted slightly, still half hidden behind his door. “Do you know what day it is tomorrow?” “Thursday.” He replied, deadpan. “Twenty fifth of December.” Charice made an exasperated sigh. “Jeez, I forgot you’re not from around here,” she muttered to herself before returning to Ed. “its Christmas tomorrow, Ed.” There was a small moment of silence between the two. “I know,” he sighed. “We don’t have that tradition where I come from. So celebrate without me. You don’t have to include me, if that’s what you’re thinking.” She blinked. “How do you know what I was thinking?” she breathed suspiciously. “And also, no, we are not going to exclude you from Christmas!” The pen he was using was running out, and Ed couldn’t doodle anymore on the page. He dropped the pen in the small bin next to his bed. “Christmas is a religious tradition here,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “I’m not religious. Sorry.” “Nor are we,” Charice reasoned out. “But we still celebrate it. It’s a time of year where we appreciate those who are close to us.” He laughed to himself at this, and he closed the notebook with a little more force than needed. “In case you haven’t noticed,” he explained. “I don’t have anyone close me here. This is why I’m trying to figure out a way home.” She looked at the floor for a while before she glanced back up at him. “Well,” she stalled. She fully walked into the room now. Behind her back she was holding two packages, each wrapped in festive paper. “I don’t care if you want to be included or not, because you are anyway. Here.” She threw him one of the packages, and he caught it with accuracy. “Huh?” he blurted, his face set in a confused expression.
“During this festive tradition we give each other presents,” she began as she began to describe what this season was all about. “It’s custom to show that we care. And that present in your hand symbolises that I care for you. You’ve been an interesting friend, Ed. A grumpy one, but interesting nonetheless.” Ed stared at her, dumbfounded. Suddenly he felt guilty for denying her offer. “B-but I haven’t gotten you anything,” he stumbled over his words. Charice suddenly grinned wider. “I knew you would say that.” She exclaimed. She handed him the other present. It was much bigger than the first one. “I knew you wouldn’t know what Crimbo is about. So I bought one for you to give to me.” He held onto the bigger parcel awkwardly, staring at it, and then stared at Charice. She held out her hands, her eyes closed, and Ed could suddenly feel the mattress move as she bounced on the other side of the bed happily. He laughed at how ridiculous the situation was. Ed placed the package in Charice’s outstretched arms. Once she felt the weight of it in her hands she opened her eyes in mock surprise. “Oh,” she gleefully cheered. “For me? Oh you shouldn’t have! You’re such a dear, you.” Ed could only laugh some more at her strangeness. She smirked back at him, setting the present aside, and gave him a quick hug. Ed stiffened slightly, unsure of what to do, and realised that he stopped breathing when she let go. Charice grabbed her present and walked out of his room, humming to herself happily. --Christmas was most certainly an interesting experience for Ed. It was different. The songs that played on the radio annoyed him to no end though, and he often found himself tripping over the decorations, but it didn’t get to him much. Although this was supposed to be more of a family season, Ed still found himself feeling that he was included with the group. He didn’t feel like he was intruding with Raquel and Charice’s lives, but he felt like he belonged there. And that was what really hurt him. “Open the present I gave you, Ed!” Charice cheered. He tore off the wrapping paper, revealing a geometry set. “I didn’t know what to get you, so I got you that, since I figured that you’re a bit of a geeky nerd.” Ed looked at the set, amused by her reasoning. “Thanks, Charice.” He laughed as he inspected it. “I also thought that you would need that to draw your circles,” she added. “You know, to speed up progress. Because the sooner you finish
your work, the more free time you will have, since you work so much and all.” He glanced back at her. During the six months that he has stayed with them he had confidently established that Charice was rude, lazy and a bit selfish. But, he didn’t know that she was also so thoughtful. Her concern reminded him of someone. It was just like how Al would encourage him to take it easy, and to not work himself to exhaustion. Charice opened the present that Ed has supposedly given her, revealing an expensive pampering set. He figured that she kept most of the money to buy Ed his present for her own, but Ed didn’t mind. No, he didn’t mind at all. It’s the thought that counts. --It didn’t work out as how Charice had hoped. Ed was still constantly working, scribbling away in his room with the geometry set she gave him. And if he wasn’t in his room he was either in the library or out in a field in the middle of the night, tracking or studying the stars for both research and inspiration. She noticed dark circles beginning to form under his eyes, due to lack of sleep, and she began to worry. The Christmas break was nearly over, forcing Charice to complete any outstanding school assignments for the last few days. The other homework tasks she can do. On the contrary, the math homework made her slightly suicidal. Only slightly. She leaned back in her chair, looking at her clock as she tapped the end of her pencil on her notebook. It was nearly midnight. Ed would normally get up at this time and go outside, notebook and pen in hand, only to return at around two in the morning. She dismissed him from her thoughts when she found herself getting annoyed. He always annoyed her. He was also so grumpy and miserable, like being here was some form of punishment. It also seemed like this place wasn’t good enough for him. Her pencil snapped in her hand. She was surprised at the sudden way her hand had clenched. She opened and closed her hand, feeling a small sting. Damn, there’s a splinter. Her hand was close to her face as she inspected it. The splinter was shallow so she could easily brush it off. “Stupid cheap pencils...” she grumbled under her breath. The pencil pieces were quickly swept into her bin before she tried to find another pencil to work with. She must have used the last one, none were anywhere in her desk. Then she remembered that there was another
pencil in the living room, on the table where her mother usually did her crosswords. She slowly made her way downstairs, careful that she didn’t make any noise. It was a challenge to not make the floor boards creak on the stairs, and she cringed whenever it whined in protest. The living room was dark, and she used the light in her mobile phone to help her find her way. The pencil was on the table ahead of her, and she grabbed it. Charice gasped when she saw something move on the sofa. She calmed down when she realised that it was just Ed, and she heaved a sigh of relief. “Jeez, you scared me out of my bloody skin,” she whispered. She was about to speak again until she realised that he was still. She raised her mobile phone, shining the light onto him. Ed’s head was on the arm rest of the sofa, his arms almost cradling it. His blond bangs flopped over his eyes. She couldn’t help but smile at the sight, at how vulnerable he just looked. She could see that he had just come back as his keys and shoes were still on him. His notebook was on the seat next him. “You must be completely exhausted,” she muttered, crossing her arms as she felt herself become annoyed again. “Idiot...” Tucking the pencil behind her ear, her mobile in her mouth to guide her with its light, she knelt down and took off his shoes. The notebook was placed onto the coffee table, freeing up the space next to him, and she swung Ed’s legs fully onto the sofa. He stirred slightly, but he didn’t wake up. Charice didn’t bother with taking off his jacket, so she headed off upstairs instead to grab his duvet. When she returned she flung it over him, gently, so he wouldn’t catch a cold. Charice was proud of her handy work as she took off his hair tie, letting his hair fall freely. She felt slightly jealous of how smooth it felt, and she wished that her hair was also like that. She smirked, feeling slightly embarrassed that a guy has nicer hair than her. She returned upstairs to her room, dreading her math homework that was waiting for her. --More time has passed. Ed seems to have become more and more frustrated with his own alchemy project, and he hardly ever spoke to Charice or Raquel. Charice gave up on trying to draw him out of working too hard, and she only found herself getting irritated by how stubborn he seemed with it. The only time he would talk to her is if he stuck for ideas. “I don’t know much of this place to base any of these transmutation circles on,” he groaned to Charice. She snorted a laugh, almost
sadistically, and she carried on sorting out her hair. “I’m going to need to learn more of this place’s history.” “Why don’t you ask Google?” she suggested, a hair pin was being held between her teeth. Ed only frowned. “Who’s Google?” he asked. Charice felt like her brain was going to melt. She chose not to answer him back. When her hair was up in a neat ponytail she peered over his shoulders, staring at the notebook he was working in. “Can I see your work?” she asked. She was curious for a while now. He handed her the notebook, and she flicked through the pages with awe. On each page there were intricate geometrical shapes, and many were drawn within a circle. There were also symbols, like lizards and birds, and she could even recognise one as a sun. “Wow,” she cooed. “They’re really pretty. Do any of them work?” He nodded as he yawned slightly. “Only a few of them,” he mumbled nonchalantly. “But they are really basic. Not to mention useless.” Her eyes widened at this. “You mean to say that you can do alchemy now,” she yelled. “And you haven’t told me anything? Don’t you realise what you’ve just done?” He tilted his head at her, his hair lolling across his face. “Why?” he said. “Is alchemy illegal or something?” Charice smacked the back of his head. “You idiot!” she scolded. “You’ve just made history! Alchemy doesn’t work in this world until now! You’ve just made a huge leap for mankind here, you do know that? This could be as big as the first man on the moon!” Ed’s eyes widened in awe. “People can travel to the moon?” he gasped, shocked. Charice ignored him and ran to her room. She returned with a large sheet of paper and a marker pen, shoving both of them into his hands. Charice plopped herself onto the floor, crossing her legs. “Show me,” she ordered. She pointed at the paper in his hands. “Do alchemy. I really want to see what it’s like.” There was a small pause before Ed reacted. He drew a simple transmutation circle with care, making sure that there were no mistakes so that there would be no rebounds. Ed looked up at Charice; a determined look was on his face. He took a glass of water from the table and placed it in the middle of the array. “Hey, Charice,” he chuckled. “You say that operating your own kettle is hard. Well, how about this for boiling your water?” He placed his hands on the sides of the circle, and almost instantaneously the array flashed in a blue light. There were sparks exploding from the glass of water, reminding Charice of lightning bolts. Then, as quickly as it arrived, the sparks were gone, and the light from the
transmutation circle dimmed. The glass of water was still there, seemingly unchanged, but when Charice looked closer she could see white wisps of steam escaping the glass. “Fuck a duck...” she muttered, staring at the glass of water disbelievingly. “It’s actually boiled!” Ed nodded, a sense of pride welled up inside him. “It took me a while to figure that one out,” he explained. “I had to change the alignment of that triangle and the inner circle so that it matched the proportion of this solar system. Plus the flow of energy is different to what I’m used to. It’s like trying to write backwards.” Charice didn’t know what any of that meant, but she didn’t care, Ed managed to boil water! Even she couldn’t do that with a kettle!
Chapter 7 It was taking him a few weeks, but one by one, Ed has been completing and translating transmutation circles, and each one that he completes he shows Charice. He does it for two reasons, the first is so that she wouldn’t be pestering him about working too hard, and the second reason is because Charice constantly orders him to transmute the circles he has finished. They both decided to keep the alchemy as a secret for the meantime, just in case. Charice kept on pestering Ed, asking him to teach her how to transmute with alchemy, but he kept declining, claiming that he has no time. “Please, Ed?” she whined, her hands held tightly on the hem of Ed’s sleeve. He yanked his sleeve away; a bored expression was on his face. “Ed, I promise I’ll learn it really quickly-” “No,” he sighed. “I told you time and time again, I’m too busy. I need to dedicate most of my time to getting back to Al.” She stood there, a sour expression on her face. “Your loss,” she grumbled. “You’re just scared that I’ll be a better alchemist than you.” He shook his head at her, trying to hold back his laugh. “Sure, whatever you say,” he tried to sound like he didn’t care, but his voice came out slightly squeezed from his suppressed laughter. “I’ll be back at dinner.” With that he left, leaving Charice in the house, bored as ever. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a small journal on the coffee table. It was new, since Ed’s old notebook was now filled up, and she picked it up as she flicked through the pages. There were some new sketches inside, along with calculations and theories. Charice cringed at how untidy his hand writing was, and she had to squint her eyes to try and read it. She gave up, snapping the book shut, and went to watch television. There wasn’t anything interesting to watch, and she flicked through the channels aimlessly. “Do you have a problem with bald spots-” Next. “-Manuel, I’m pregnant. And you’re not the father-” Nope. “-And if the masculine display was enough to impress, then the female elephant would submit to the male, letting him mount her as they start mating-” Ew.
“-in today’s news, a mysterious crop circle has appeared in the fields of Aldershire overnight. Experts are currently investigating whether or not this phenomenon is real or a hoax-” Geek speak. “-Oi! Davey Jones! I got a jar of dirt and guess wot’s inside it!” Seen it. “Hang on...” Aldershire is the next village over from here, Charice thought. She switched back to the news, seeing an aerial shot of the said crop circle. It looked familiar. Charice’s eyes widened. She bolted to the door, grabbing her phone and keys, and then she was running like she never ran before. --“I’m home,” Ed called as he entered the house. It was dark out, and he was thankful for the warmth of the house as he stepped inside. Raquel poked her head into the hallway, her face smudged with flour. “About time you two come home. I was beginning to think you got ran over,” she chided as she waved her ladle at him. “Hurry up, dinner is ready.” Ed could smell the food wafting from the kitchen. It was probably another one of her Spanish dishes, which he didn’t mind. Raquel reappeared into the hallway, as if in realisation. “Where’s Charice?” Ed was slightly taken aback at this. “Isn’t she here?” he asked. “No,” the Spaniard shook her head. “I just assumed she went with you. Maybe she did get ran over, the stupid girl...” She trailed off as she walked back into the kitchen, muttering under her breath in Spanish. Ed ignored her, and wondered where Charice had gone as he took off his coat. Maybe she went shopping, or frolicking in some flowers, or whatever girls around here do... WHAM! The back of his head suddenly heated up in pain, and he yelped as he was suddenly jolted forwards. He stumbled in recovery, rubbing his sore head with his hands. Charice was at the front door, out of breath as she slumped against the doorframe. “Sorry, Ed,” she puffed. “Didn’t see you there.” “Jeez,” he exclaimed. “That is definitely going to bruise. Why the hell won’t you open that door like a normal person?” Charice made an exasperated wheeze as she threw her arms into the air. “Can’t you tell that I was pegging it like a bitch?” she panted. “I had a good momentum there, until you decided to stick your fat head into the way!”
“Oh sure,” his voice was thick with sarcasm. “Of course, your momentum, how can I selfishly think about my aching head when I have your momentum to care about?” Charice pushed past him, the conversation already irked her. “Are you calling me selfish?” she snapped, kicking her boots off, this time purposefully aiming one of them towards him. “God, you’re worse than Raimundo.” She disappeared into her room, slamming the door with force. The impact made the stair banister rattle. Ed could hear her shout a string of curses, followed by her rambling in Spanish. He chose to ignore it and went to join Raquel in the kitchen, helping out by setting the table. “Charice came back then,” Raquel sniggered. Ed grunted sadistically under his breath. “Did you two have a tiff?” “Something like that,” he shrugged. Raquel crossed her arms, her face becoming serious. “Did you tell her that she’s selfish?” she asked. Ed suddenly felt a little anxious. “Uh,” he stalled. “Yeah.” “Good.” She sniffed. “That girl should start thinking about others instead of herself. I’m glad you told her, maybe she’ll learn.” Raquel pointed at the ceiling with her ladle. “She’s probably having a little cry,” she continued, laughing a little at the petty action. Ed’s foul mood declined slightly into concern and guilt. He felt Raquel give him a small pat on the back, noticing his frame of mind changing. “Don’t feel bad about it. I would rather let her have a cry for five minutes than let her sulk around the house for the rest of the evening.” They were both silent for a moment, and the only sounds they could hear were the clinking of plates and the food sizzling on the stove. “Ed,” Raquel started. “Be a dear and get Charice down for dinner, please.” “Sure,” he replied, sighing through his nose as he trudged upstairs. He knew he had a temper, and usually his insults can easily flow out of his mouth if he was in the mood, but if the other person cried then his conscience gets the better of him, whether they actually deserved it or not. Ed paused outside her door to take a deep breath. Be calm, he told himself. He rapped on her door. It swung open almost instantaneously, Charice’s head showing through the gap. Her expression was that of someone unimpressed, and she leaned to the side as she stood. “What?” she grumbled. “Want some aspirin or something?” He ignored her comment. “Sorry if I offended you,” he mumbled. “I was just being a jerk if I made you cry.”
Her expression suddenly changed from aggravated to bewildered. “Cry?” she blurted. “What the heck, I wasn’t crying you poo bag. What makes you think that I was crying?” Well, he thought, she seems legit. “You weren’t?” he replied. “Me and your mom thought that you were pretty upset when you stormed off.” Charice laughed, flicking her head to clear her fringe from her face. “Oh, mum,” she moaned. “She always thinks that I’m crying. If someone sneezes she’ll think they’re having a seizure. Anyway, sorry for slamming the door on your head. I only came up here so I can print off some pictures that I took on my phone.” “Pictures?” he repeated. Charice opened her door wider so he could step inside. There was a small pile of paper on the printer tray, face down and slightly wrinkled from the ink. Charice picked them up and handed them to Ed. They still felt warm. When he turned them over there were pictures of a field, with patches where some of the wheat were flattened. These patches formed shapes and symbols, each interconnecting with each other in a much larger circle. Ed looked up at her. “Where did you get these?” “There are some crop circles that have just popped up in a farm nearby,” she responded. “We’ll talk about it after dinner. I’ve been running like a loon today, and I’m starving.” --It was, yet again, cold. The rain wasn’t helping either, and it pattered noisily on their umbrellas. The cold winds made the wheat field ripple and wave, like a grassy sea, while the patches of flattened wheat were still and unmoving, like a string lonely islands. Ed was walking among these islands, inspecting them with a flashlight. Charice stayed put in the middle of the crop circle, battling against the wind with her umbrella. “Why can’t we just go in the morning, when there is sunlight?” she yelled over the wind. Ed ignored her and carried on inspecting the crop circle. His mouth was moving as he trudged among the wheat, muttering to himself as he examined the circle. Occasionally he would stop, shaking his head as he scrutinised a certain area, claiming that it is incorrect or impartial, and then scribbled some notes into his journal before moving on. “Edward,” she called. “It’s freezing. It’s raining. It’s dark. I want to go home.” A strong gust turned her umbrella inside out, and she swore loudly as she tried to fix it. She sighed contently when she repaired it. There was another blast of air, only this time it completely blew the umbrella out of her grip. Charice groaned before she chased after it.
Ed heard her shriek as the wind suddenly changed direction, the umbrella colliding with her head on. She growled as she rubbed the sore spot on her head, and she shot Ed a menacing glance, as if the incident was his entire fault. He only laughed. “What you looking at?” she barked. She stood straighter, retaining whatever dignity she has left. However, the rain suddenly poured harder, and Charice was beginning to get soaked. Ed’s shoulders slumped as he looked at her; the umbrella she owned was blown away, exposing her to the elements. “Charice,” he called. She glanced reluctantly at him, a ‘what-do-youwant-now’ expression set on her face. He beckoned her over; holding his own umbrella to the side so there would be space for her. She ran to him, huddling into the space. Charice took care that she wasn’t too close to Ed, but not so far that was still under the umbrellas protection. “Thanks,” she mumbled, shivering slightly. “We should go home now,” he sighed, tucking his journal into a jacket pocket. “I think karma has done its job for the night.” “Pssh,” she hissed under her breath. “You better have learned something from this late night trip.” --“Hello?” an old man wheezed as he answered the phone. His record player was playing an old piano piece, the speaker popped and crackled from the imperfections in the vinyl. “Church speaking.” Church was well into his late seventies; his wizened features were lined like the rings of a tree. His office room reflected the owner; the furniture old and antique; the vintage wallpaper stained a deep crimson. “Church,” said a female on the other side.”I got a tip about a youth doing some, uh, research. He could be of use to us.” The old man smiled at this, more wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes and mouth. “Ah, good.” He chuckled. “Do you know his whereabouts?” “Yes, sir.” She replied. “He currently resides in a small village near Aldershire, the midlands of England.” Church nodded as he digested this information. “Can you contact this person?” he asked. “I wish for a meeting to be arranged with him.” “Yes, sir. I’ll see to it.”
Chapter 8 “Found anything new about that crop circle, Ed?” Charice yawned as she hoisted her school bag onto her shoulder. She was in her navy blue school uniform, complete with the added feature of having her mother constantly pulling her skirt lower. “I can recognise it,” Ed sighed as he tapped his pen impatiently on his journal. “I can follow the lines to the point that I know it’s a construction transmutation circle. But there are unnecessary loops and lines, and some of the lines clash so it blocks the flow.” She sniffed in reply. “Yeah, I didn’t know what any of that meant...” she trailed off. “Anyway, see you after school.” Ed gave her a lazy wave goodbye as she left. He overheard her school friend outside, asking who he was. “Who, Ed?” Charice piped. “Oh, he’s just a geeky nerd from Los Angeles. Mum was friends with his mum, you see-” The door shut before he could hear the rest of the conversation. It was strange for him to have a fabricated past, but then again the truth is not an option, unless he wanted to be branded as a loon. He furrowed his brows. Come to think of it, Charice seemed to believe Ed from the start. Sure, she was unsure at first, but she readily accepted it. Edward then remembered another factor about Charice that could hinder her reliability. Charice isn’t exactly the smartest girl he has ever met. Maybe it was her ignorance or gullibility that allowed her to trust Ed with the truth. Not that he was complaining or anything. But he really missed those days when he had intelligent conversations, with challenging topics and witty remarks. He hasn’t held a conversation like that during the nine months he has stayed here. But Charice was finishing school now. Maybe when she joins college she will miraculously get smarter, so she can hold a decent conversation, one that they could both understand. “Edward,” called Raquel from behind him. He twisted round to face her. “I’m going to be gone for a few days. In case I’m caught out by the police and you are questioned, then just repeat your fake story. The documents I had produced for you are made to look exactly identical to authentic papers, so you won’t get caught out and sent back. If the police are questioning you, tell them that you never knew about my immigration business.” Ed didn’t know how to react. “Police?” he hissed in shock. “Whatwhere are you going?” A cloud of smoke was blown towards him, and Ed fanned it away with his hands. Raquel took in another long drag before she spoke. “Do
you not remember how you were smuggled into this country?” she guffawed at the end of her sentence. “It’s just standard procedure to remind everyone before I go to my trips. Anyway, I have to go and save my clients. Like I said, I’ll be back in a few days. Charice will be the woman of the house now, so don’t get her mad.” Charice? Woman of the house? Ed scoffed at the words. Does her own mother not realise just how lazy that girl is? --“I stand corrected,” Ed muttered under his breath. He was forced to vacuum the downstairs living room. Charice was ironing her clothes in the kitchen, humming contently to herself. “What was that?” she cried over the whine of the vacuum. “Nothing.” He called back. “Don’t worry.” He wished he was in Raimundo’s shoes right now. Charice’s older brother lived on campus at his university, and Ed longed for that opportunity, most especially during this time of spontaneous cleaning. He is the Fullmetal Alchemist, for goodness sakes! Not some bleeding housemaid! There was a knock to the door, and Ed was more than grateful for the interruption. He rushed to the front door, opening it more enthusiastically than needed. A tall woman stood there on the doorstep. She smiled at him as she waved. “Hello,” she spoke. Her voice was incredibly smooth, and it lacked staccato, making her words mesh and flow together. “Is Edward Elric here?” He straightened up. “That’s me,” he replied. Ed tried to kick the vacuum cleaner aside, away from view, before he took a side step. “Come in.” She shook her head; instead she took out an envelope from her bag and handed it to him. “I’m afraid that I have a very busy schedule today,” she explained. “So I cannot stay for long. But please, read the letter and reply to us as soon as possible. We look forward to meeting you.” She turned around, her long blonde hair swishing side to side as she walked, and disappeared into a black saloon car. The car drove off, its engine purring. “Wow...” Ed jumped at the sound. Only when he looked behind him he realised that it was only Charice. She gawked as she stared out of the front door, watching the black car disappear as it turned off to another road.
“Do you know her?” she cooed once she looked back at Ed. “She looks like a model. Jeez, I wish I was that pretty...” Edward ignored her, and hurriedly stomped up to his room. He was grateful that Charice didn’t follow. The envelope had a scored emblem on it, a shield of some kind, and his name was written in calligraphy on the front. He carefully opened it and read the letter that was inside. It was an invitation to Bridgegate University to meet up with one of the professors of the school, apparently in need of an assistant. It explained that the completion of his A levels within only a few months has sparked interest, and a student like Edward is valuable. It also mentioned that he would be elected for a scholarship, should the interview be successful. Ed had to reread the entire letter a couple of times, to check if he is seeing things. A scholarship? At a University? Edward couldn’t believe it. Perhaps it could also help him advance his scientific knowledge further, making it easier for him to translate his transmutation circles. This would speed up his progress, which in turn would mean he could go home sooner. An email address and a phone number were written at the bottom of the letter. He quickly ran downstairs, yelling over the vacuum cleaner at Charice, who was still cleaning merrily. She didn’t hear him, and Ed had to pull out the plug of the noisy machine so he could be heard. “Hey,” she whined. “You could have just tapped me on the shoulder or somethi-” “Phone.” He demanded. Charice blinked a few times, startled at how dangerously imperative he sounded. She handed him her mobile phone with some slight hesitation. Ed took it eagerly, excited at first, until his face suddenly faltered. His eyes wandered aimlessly at the smooth black object. “Uh,” he stalled. “How do I use it?” She huffed as he took the phone back off him. “You’re such a granddad sometimes.” --Energetic, excited and determined was the mindset Edward was in when he woke up. Two weeks has passed, and he slept earlier the night before so he wasn’t tired for the upcoming interview. Charice’s father had kindly offered to drive Edward to the university, and he was incredibly grateful for the kind gesture. Edward arrived early, with plenty of time to spare, filling that time by translating more transmutation circles. It was getting easier to do them, but he was still finding it incredibly difficult and time consuming as he lacked knowledge of this world.
“Edward Elric?” a woman asked the group of students. Her voice was high pitched and incredibly nasal. Ed stood up as he clumsily stuffed his journal into his jacket. He stumbled up to her, flashing a flustered smile. She didn’t return it, and instead gave him something that resembled more of a scowl. Her hand reluctantly pointed down a hallway. There was a door at the end of it, made of highly polished mahogany. Edward scuffed his shoes as he stopped at the door, and knocked on it when his breathing evened out slightly. His stomach seemed to have butterflies, and his knees quivered slightly. These feelings usually surfaced whenever he was anxious, most especially if he was about to do something he has not properly prepared for. Ed never was someone good with presenting himself with only words. He preferred more of a show and tell method. The door opened. The butterflies in his stomach spontaneously mutated into bees. “Ah, Edward,” an old man greeted. He was barely taller than Edward, and they were at each other’s eye level. The man straightened his suit blazer as he stepped aside to let Edward in. “I was looking forward to our meeting. My name is Church. Come inside.” Ed noticed that the man had a slight limp, and he hobbled awkwardly to his desk. Church pointed to the free chair in front of the desk, indicating to Ed that he could sit down. Ed skittered to the seat, annoyed at how high the chair was as his feet could no longer reach the floor, and it swung awkwardly in the air. “I heard that you have completed your Advanced level sciences with straight A’s,” the man chuckled, though his voice sounded slightly constricted and wheezy. “And in only a matter of months, I might add. Most students would struggle to get those grades, even if they study it for the full two year period. Tell me, out of the subjects that you have done, what area of science do you enjoy the most?” Ed wanted to scream “Alchemy!” but he knew that would land him with rejection. He noticed that society’s concept of alchemy was different than what it is actually considered back home. “It’s hard to choose,” Ed laughed nervously. “I like them all, but I think I enjoy chemistry the most.” Church nodded as he propped his elbows to his desk, resting his chin on his folded hands. He stared at Edward, almost intently. “Chemistry,” he rasped. “However, I heard different from a different source.” Ed was thrown off slightly. Not because of what Church had said, but because the old man’s right eye randomly wandered outwards on its own. His face almost reminded Ed of a wrinkled, decomposed fish. “Uh- a-and what source would that be?” Ed recovered.
Church sighed. His right eye then corrected itself for a while, but it soon wandered off again. “I’m sure that you are familiar with a close friend of mine, Mr. Van Hopkins?” he asked. Edward nodded, remembering their discussion about the history of alchemy. “Yes, I do.” Ed tried to bring himself to stop constantly staring at Church’s eyeball. “We met a while back.” “Oh, what was the meeting about?” The eyeball twitched, twitched. “We were talking about scientific methods of the past.” Ed said. He furrowed his brows slightly. This interview doesn’t seem like an interview at all. “Alchemy, specifically.” Church smiled, and his right eye returned to normal. Ed wondered when the eye would decide to roam around again. “Alchemy,” Church sighed, smiling like he was reminiscing with a past memory. “Tell me, just how familiar are you with alchemy, Edward?” Edward tried to suppress his laughter. If only he knew, he thought. “I guess that I dabble with it here and there,” he said, his voice unintentionally higher in pitch than normal. “I would say, adequately familiar.” The eyeball swivelled left. “Oho,” Church chortled. “I think you know much more than that. Much more.” A mixture of concern and suspicion overcame him, and numerous questions began to swim around inside Edward’s head. There was a hint of a smirk on Church’s face, his wrinkles contouring his features. The room was silent, and everything was still, except for a certain eyeball that continued to spasm. Ed cleared his throat slightly. “Let’s cut to the chase,” he suggested, abandoning all formalities. “What’s the real reason you dragged me here for?” “I like your attitude,” Church guffawed. The old man stood up and hobbled to a shelf nearby. He squinted as he read the spines of the books, brushing his bony fingers against them. His hand held firm on one book, and he paused before he pulled it out. Church browsed through each page, exclaiming in delight when he found a certain page, and handed it over to Edward. “I’m sure that you are more than familiar with those symbols.” Ed looked at the double page spread, and he shivered slightly at the familiarity of what he saw. “Transmutation circles,” Ed breathed, tracing the lines with his fingers. “Amestrian transmutation circles. W-where did you get this book from?” The old man smiled. “I’m glad you recognise it,” Church said as he sat back down. “That book was found over fifty years ago, inside a satchel next to a dead body. He had some of those symbols on his arms, chest and forehead. When they inspected the body to try and determine how he
died, they found that all of his internal organs were missing, with no dissected entry. It was as if his organs had just simply vanished.” Ed sat there silently as he listened, skimming through some of the pages. “No-one knew where the man came from,” Church carried on in his wheezy tone. “He had no means of identification, rendering him nameless. But we gave him a nickname, based off a note written on the inside cover of that book you are reading.” Ed turned to the inside cover. His breath hitched slightly when he read a messy string of words, scrawled in something that looked suspiciously like blood. “We named him the Fullmetal Alchemist,” Church announced, his voice grave. Edward said nothing, and only stared at the handwritten set of words; The Fullmetal Alchemist. Find Edward Elric.
Chapter 9 Edward stared in disbelief. The book in his hands suddenly felt heavier, and the air around him became thicker. Breathing became difficult. Church studied Edward carefully, noticing how quiet the young man had suddenly become. “Find Edward Elric,” Ed sighed, his hands smoothing over each word carefully, checking if what he is seeing is real. “That’s... no, it can’t be.” “I think it very well could,” Church suggested. “Perhaps he was trying to find you. The Fullmetal Alchemist is searching for you, and I think we found him. We found you, Edward.” It took a while before Edward could find his voice again. It felt so awkward to speak. “I think you got it all wrong,” Ed’s voice was shaking. “The Fullmetal Alchemist is my alias. That’s my other name. A name that only people back home would know.” Ed looked up, a pleading look was in his eyes, and he looked at Church for some answers. Church sighed at Edward’s sudden distress. “Your other home,” the old man rasped. “Edward, do you wish to go back to the other world?” Edward closed the book and placed it on the desk. He nodded. “I think I can help you,” he continued. “I am also searching for a way to go there, to open the door to this other world. Tell me something Edward, what do you call your home?” It didn’t sound like a question, but more or less an order, an instruction for Edward to provide an answer for. Ed shifted in his seat awkwardly, not knowing whether or not Church was a legitimate man. Edward pondered over the question, and his mind whirled with many conflicting suggestions. Church might be able to be a key link for Edward, a link to get him home, so he wanted to give as much information to him. But on the other hand, why would someone from this world want to go to his? What were his intentions? “I can’t remember,” Ed whispered, settling on the bluff card. “I suffer from a little bit of amnesia when I was transported here. It was a rough ride.” “A rough ride?” Church repeated. “How did you travel here? And why? Were you on a voyage into the unknown?” Again, Ed pondered over the question, trying to figure out an answer that would be satisfactory, yet not too revealing in nature. “No, I wasn’t in a voyage.” He started. “I was trying to save my brother’s life using alchemy, but I had to sacrifice my whole body to do so. I was unconscious for a while, and then I woke up in the middle of nowhere.”
“Sacrifice?” he questioned. “Or suicide?” Edward’s voice had never felt so thick before, and his eyes faltered slightly. “It was for my brother.” He muttered. “I never intended to come here.” The old man sighed, shifting the knot in his tie to the middle as he observed Edward. “Well, intentional or unintentional, here you are.” Church wheezed and gave Ed a wizened smile. “Become my assistant, and we can both combine our knowledge of alchemy. And together we can go to the other world. Intentionally, of course.” --“Did you get in?” Charice pounced as soon as Edward entered the house. He nodded wordlessly before he disappeared upstairs. “E-Ed? Where are you going?” He stopped at the top of the stairs; a tired expression was on his face. “Charice, can you arrange another meeting with your teacher?” “U-uh, which one?” she stammered, clutching her mobile phone uncomfortably. “Do you want it tomorrow after school?” “Tomorrow after school with Mr. Van Hopkins. I’ll wait for you in the lobby.” He replied curtly before he hurriedly went into his room. He closed the door, clearly not wanting Charice to bother him anymore. Charice clutched her phone, feeling disheartened at his sudden attitude. She sighed as she dialled a number into her phone, walking into the garden where it was quiet and sunny. --The lobby was cluttered with different art work done by the students. Some were colourful and pleasing to the eye, but some of them looked like some child has vomited a load of paint onto a canvas and decided to call it art. Edward sat in one of the lumpy guest chairs, reading one of the newspapers that were piled onto the small table in the middle of the room. The school receptionist was busily filing her nails behind her desk, oblivious to her surrounding as she listened to her headphones. Edward came in early, so he still had a while to wait for Charice to meet him. Occasional students would wait in the lobby for their friends. A couple of girls were on the arm chairs next to him, and they gossiped merrily about some of the most mundane things in life. But Edward eavesdropped anyway, since he has nothing else to do to occupy his mind. “Oh yeah, I think I remember now,” a small black girl said to the blonde girl in front of her. “Yeah, that was well out of order to call you a cow.”
“I know, right,” the blonde girl replied, crossing her arms in an exaggerated manner. “They are no good, them lot. I mean, haven’t they got anything else better to do other than be bitches themselves?” A dark skinned girl was also with them, but she looked like she was having a hard time to follow the conversation. “Wait,” she said, holding up her hand. “What bitchy group are you talking about?” The black girl raised a brow, as if what they were talking about was referring to the most obvious people possible. “You know,” she hissed under her breath. “Kelly, Lauren and Charice.” “Oh,” the dark girl exclaimed in realisation. “Those girls... yeah, I don’t like them. They are just stuck up and selfish. Kelly lost her virginity when she was fourteen!” The other two gasped. “Really?” the blonde girl whispered. “How did you find out?” She giggled. “Lauren has a big mouth,” she blurted. “She can’t keep a secret either. Tell her anything, and she’ll spread it.” The black girl tried to hold back her laughter. “Kelly and Lauren are always like that anyway, they can’t live without a boyfriend,” she sighed, waving a dismissive hand at the thought. Her eyes then widened in realisation. “Oh my gosh, did you hear about Charice though?” “What?” the other two said in unison. The black girl put her hand over her mouth to refrain from laughing too much. “She fancies this thirty year old from the library!” she snorted. They all guffawed in laughter. Edward raised a brow at this, smirking slightly. “His name is Roy, and oh my gosh she cannot stop talking about him. It’s all Roy this, Roy that, Roy here, Roy there, blah blah blah. She only likes to talk about boys and herself.” “That is too funny,” the blonde girl cried. “Are you serious? After all of that fuss over her taking the mick out of the smart girls, here she is liking a geek. She acts dumb as well so she gets attention. Charice is just shallow.” “Way shallow.” The black girl added. “She’s two faced, that’s why. When she is with Kelly and Lauren she’s nasty, but when she’s on her own she’s really nice apparently.” “Key word is apparently.” The other girl commented. “I don’t get why she’s like that though, I think she’s too scared to stand up for herself, that’s why she acts nice.” “Do you think it could be the other way round?” the dark skinned girl wondered. “Do you think she’s too scared to stand up to Kelly and Lauren, that’s why she acts nasty? Because Kelly and Lauren keep talking about her behind her back as well-“ “Shush! Here she comes!”
The three girls instantaneously changed subjects, and started talking about diets instead. Edward gave them a sideways glance before he tilted up his head to see Charice skittering towards him. She gave him a friendly smile, and Edward returned a half hearted wave. The three other girls shifted in their seats so their backs were turned on her. “Hey Ed,” Charice piped. “Have you been waiting long?” “No,” he lied. “Where’s Mr. Hopkins’s office?” “Oh, yeah, about that...” Charice stalled as she adjusted her bag higher up her shoulder. “Mr. Hopkins has apparently gone on holiday in Mexico, so we won’t be seeing him for over two weeks. Sorry Edward.” Edward pinched the bridge of his nose, and he sighed in annoyance. Charice watched him warily, unsure of what to do. Eventually he stood up straighter, giving her a quick smile before he sauntered off, Charice in tow. The walk home was slightly awkward for Charice. She didn’t know what to do, while Edward didn’t know what to think. He didn’t take Charice to be mean or nasty, but he knew that she was definitely self centred enough to only think about herself. “Charice,” he started. She looked over to him, happier that at least he has started talking. “Do you have a hard time at school?” She changed her mind about being happy with Ed speaking. Her shoulders slumped slightly. “Yeah, it’s fine.” She said nonchalantly. Her hand played with her bag strap absentmindedly. “Kind of...” He raised a brow at this. “Kind of?” he repeated. Charice nodded, and she looked away from him. “Those girls next to you in the lobby,” she explained. “I knew they were talking about me. A lot of people talk about us these days. What did you hear?” Ed was a little surprised at how quickly she had caught on, but he was also slightly disturbed when he could hear a little bit of absolution in her voice. “I heard about someone called Kelly and Lauren,” he sighed. “These girls give you a hard time?” She snorted sadistically as she quickened her pace. “Yeah, but I deserved it. I haven’t exactly been nice to them either-“ “I meant Kelly and Lauren, not the girls in the lobby.” She kept silent; instead she looked down and watched the patio, careful that she wouldn’t step on any cracks or gaps of the pavement. “Kelly and Lauren are my friends,” she muttered. “Always have been since primary school.” “Are they nice?” he asked. Charice only shrugged. “They are as nice as me,” she scoffed. “In other words, no.” Ed could only laugh at the comment. He cleared his throat to disguise his laughter, but Charice noticed anyway. He shook his head,
sighing through his nose as they walked. “You know, if those girls were as nice as you, then you wouldn’t be unhappy at the moment,” he mused. “Because, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve been pretty kind and thoughtful towards me.” Charice mulled over his words as she fiddled with her bag strap. She kicked a stone that was on the floor, scuffing the heel of her shoe as she did so. “But that’s you,” she kicked another stone. “At school it’s different.” “That’s not an excuse,” Edward said, his tone low and serious. “Charice, friends don’t influence you or scare you. If you can’t act like yourself with them, then that just means you’re not comfortable around them. Personally, I don’t think I want to be associated with anyone who turns me into someone I don’t want to be.” He heard her sniff, and he glanced over worriedly to check if she was crying. She wasn’t. Instead, Charice looked slightly bitter, her brows furrowed together in frustration, and she had a slight frown. She shook her head, for reasons Edward couldn’t figure out, and simply walked on ahead without him. --Charice was thinking over what Ed said the day before. She pondered over it so much that she gave up and went to bed. But when she woke up in the morning she made up her mind. Charice came to a final conclusion of what she had to do. She didn’t want to be talked about in a bad way, and she didn’t really want to be harsh to anyone anymore. So Charice came to a definite decision. She wants to be herself, and that meant cutting the ties that changes her into someone she does not want to be. “You alright Charice?” A tall girl with chestnut brown hair asked. She was pretty, and she knew it as she walked with a slight strut. Her school skirt was higher up than usual, like Charice’s, accessorized with a very large waist belt. “You’ve been really quiet. You thinking of Roy again?” Charice sighed, pursing her lips slightly. “No Kelly,” she said. An Indian girl, equally as tall and pretty, perked up slightly as they walked through the school grounds. “Kelly, Lauren, I have to talk to you.” Kelly bent down slightly, wondering what Charice has to say. Lauren ignored them as she stared at another direction. She sniggered as she spotted someone, averting the attention to her instead. “Oh my gosh,” Lauren giggled. “Little Poppy is on her own, over there, let’s go talk to her. She looks all lonely.” Kelly and Lauren walked off, Charice dragged along by her wrist. Poppy was a small girl sitting on the school benches outside. She had a
few revision cards out in front of her, and she was busily listening to her music player as she sorted them out. Lauren and Kelly sat on either side of her, startling Poppy. Charice stood awkwardly at the side, clearly wanting to not do this. “Hi?” Poppy greeted with uncertainty at Kelly. Lauren took a headphone from Poppy’s ear and placed it in her own, grimacing slightly at what she’s hearing. “Is that emo music? Sound like he’s dying,” she commented. “Are you an emo now?” Poppy shifted in her seat slightly, and she stuttered incomprehensively. “You are an emo, aren’t you?” Kelly added. “Why are you on your own?” “Yeah, why are you on your own?” Lauren jeered. “Do you cut yourself? Are you giving yourself paper cuts or something?” “I’m just trying to revise,” Poppy said, completely overwhelmed. Kelly giggled with Lauren. “Is that why you cut yourself?” Lauren tittered, giving back the headphone. “It’s pretty pathetic to cut yourself because you have a test coming up. Are you trying to get attention or something?” Charice clenched her jaw as she saw Poppy growing increasingly angry. “Can you just piss off?” Poppy snapped, annoyed at the three of them. However, Poppy’s outburst seemed to only add fuel to the fire, and Kelly and Lauren cackled in hysteria. “Are you trying to be hard now?” Kelly guffawed. “Is the emo geek trying to be hard?” Lauren and Kelly carried on laughing at Poppy, who seemed near enough to tears now. Kelly nudged Poppy’s arm in amusement. “Ah shit, she’s about to cry. Careful, don’t start slitting your wrists now. Suicide is not the way, my friend.” Lauren hooted as she clutched her sides, as if what Kelly had said was the funniest thing she has ever heard. Poppy shot distasteful glances to each of them, including Charice. It hurt Charice slightly, that she also shared the hated reputation just because she was associated with them. She watched Kelly and Lauren give each other high fives with glee. Kelly stood up; extending her palm out so Charice could do the same. Charice gave a quick glance to Poppy, seeing that the tears has finally spilled, and then returned her gaze to Kelly. Charice then gave Kelly a huge grin. “That was hilarious,” Charice giggled. She returned the high five and then walked up closer to Kelly. “Funniest fucking thing I have ever seen.” Charice then suddenly slapped Kelly across her face, her expression suddenly deadpan. Lauren ceased laughing and only stared at Charice in
shock. Poppy’s eyes had practically popped out of her head, and she seemed to have completely forgotten about crying. Kelly stroked her jaw as she glared at Charice. Charice only stood there, her hands clenched tightly together, and she gave both Kelly and Lauren a harsh stare. “I’m fucking sick of you two,” Charice yelled, pointing a finger at each of them. “I can’t stand you two. You’ve both been little shits, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one that thinks that.” Lauren suddenly sneered. “Aw, look, Charice is trying to play hard as well,” she chortled. “In case you haven’t noticed, you ain’t exactly been a saint either.” Charice pointed a finger at Lauren’s chest. “Shut up,” she threatened. “Or next time I’ll use my fist.” Kelly and Lauren became quiet, and lost for words they both sauntered off, muttering insults as they walked past. Charice took in a deep breath. Spotting some of Poppy’s revision cards on the floor, she picked them up and handed it to Poppy. Poppy accepted them, giving Charice a slightly wary look. “You okay?” Charice asked, giving her a friendly smile. Poppy only stared at her incredulously. “I thought you were best friends with them?” Poppy replied as she placed the cards into her bag. Charice gave her a smirk, pulling down her skirt so it wasn’t so obscenely short. “Yeah, well,” Charice mumbled as she sat next to Poppy. “I’ve wanted a change. I’m kinda tired of being one of them. They’re not exactly the best kind of people to hang around with, if you know what I mean.” Poppy only smiled, her trust rising for the half Spaniard next to her. “I see what you mean,” she laughed. “Thank you.”
Chapter 10 “Ed, someone wants you on the phone.” Edward huffed as he put down his pen, closing his notebook so the pen could act as a lumpy bookmark. He stood up, brushed out the creases of his shirt with his hands, and ran downstairs. Charice was waiting for him in the living room, holding out her mobile phone to him. She raised a brow as he entered. “Who wants me?” Ed asked as he took the phone out of her hands. She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and walked off, muttering that he should get his own mobile and to not constantly use hers. He ignored her comment and put the mobile to his ear. “Hello? Edward Elric speaking.” “Good afternoon Edward,” a woman on the other side said, her voice smooth and low. “This is Tulisa; we’ve met over a month ago when I handed over the invitation to meet my partner, Church. We have another meeting for you.” “What kind of meeting?” Edward paced around the living room uneasily. “I’ll deliver the details tomorrow. Pack a travel bag for three days. You can bring a friend if you wish.” And then she hung up, leaving Edward listening to Charice’s annoying dial tones. He sighed, running his hand down his face in frustration. “Charice?” he called, waving around the phone in the air. “Do you have any large satchels?” --Charice was sprawled over a set of seats, leaving Edward squished at the very end. Her breathing was long and deep, indicating her sleep. Edward looked ahead of him, staring at a tall blonde woman as she organised some documents in a folder. The train jerked slightly, making the cabin walls rattle as the train rounded a bend in the English countryside. “How long is it until we arrive?” Ed asked irritably, nudging Charice’s elbow off his lap. She stirred, her face scrunching into a scowl momentarily before relaxing into a lazy smile. Tulisa looked up from her paperwork; a strand of hair fell over her face. “Fifteen minutes. It’s best if you wake your friend up.” Edward sighed as he rolled his eyes. Charice was content in her current state, and he knew that as soon as she is awoken from it she would be in a foul mood. Shrugging, he grabbed her shoulder and shook
her awake. She made a startled noise, which reminded Ed of a noise a sheep would make, and held out her arms in an awkward manner. “Jeez,” she groaned as she finally recovered her bearings. “These seats are naff...” “Slept comfortably?” Ed smirked as he watched her arch her back, making a few joints pop and click. She snorted a laugh. “About as comfortable as being stabbed, if you ask me,” she scoffed. Tulisa gave her a small smile before placing her files in her bag. Charice was eyeing that bag ever since she first saw it. It was black, with platinum studs and it bore a metal logo that indicated it was Vivienne Westwood. Tulisa had good style to go with her good looks. “Have you ever been to London before, Edward?” Tulisa asked as she flicked the blonde strand of hair away. Ed shook his head. Charice nodded hers enthusiastically, not caring if the question wasn’t directed towards her. “I have, to the O2,” Charice said with pride. “Best. Concert. Ever.” Tulisa gave Charice a patronising smile before paying her attention back to Ed. “How familiar are you with this world’s ancient histories?” “Not very.” “Then I suggest that you visit the British Museum,” she drawled as she stood up. “You can also visit the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. But first we have to go and meet Church.” --Once again Charice has found herself bored out of her brains. The meeting with Church was boring, and she found Church’s wandering eye incredibly disturbing. She often wondered if he was conscious of it moving, or if it moved based on his thoughts. If Church was intrigued the eye would swivel side to side. If he was confused the eye would jitter. If Church laughed then the eye would go into a full spasm attack. However, the meeting was over, and Charice was still bored as she whined to Edward repeatedly. “Ed...” she groaned. “This museum is so friggin boring. Can we go to Harrods? I saw this really nice bracelet in there, and it’s so pretty.” Edward ignored her as he took down some notes, inspecting an ancient Egyptian mural. He smirked occasionally, and the knowledge that seemed to flood him was more the welcoming. Charice, however, was not as enthusiastic as Ed. “We can go later,” he sighed. “When I’m done.” She sighed melodramatically, as if her presence inside a museum was a crime. He felt smug as he decided to write down his notes slower than usual, taking up more time inside the gallery. Charice felt like her
brain was on fire. Ed glanced over to her, deciding to relieve her of boredom instead of encouraging it. “You know,” he started. Charice twisted round to face him. “Alchemy in my world started out as an experiment in the kitchen. A woman was trying to concoct a mixture for her child to cure him of his headache. Her child didn’t like the mixture, so she placed the leftover glass on top of her husband’s work paper. Her husband was a philosopher and mathematician, and he passed his time by drawing geometrical shapes. The glass was directly on top of one of his geometrical shapes. In frustration of her child’s distress, she rested both of her hands on the table, and through her emotional outburst she activated the circle.” Charice was silent, and she listened intently to Edward’s words, drowning out the background noise of other visitors and tourists. “Through these extraordinary coincidental chains of events, alchemy was discovered.” He finished. He looked down at his notes, flicking through the pages aimlessly. “Alchemy was discovered around two thousand years ago, and up until today our culture has been influenced heavily by it.” He looked up behind him, staring at the large stone statue of Ramses the second’s torso. Charice folded her arms, smiling at the thought. “Shame,” she laughed. “We have physics here. Alchemy sounds so much more amazing.” Ed held up a finger, pointing at the Egyptian Pharaoh statue. “True,” he said. “But here, the concept of alchemy was thought up an extra two thousand years before ours. Yet, physics is in abundance. So, what has happened to alchemy here?” She shrugged. “Yeah, but, alchemy wasn’t actually discovered, like you have,” she muttered. “It’s more or less a religion rather than an actual science.” “Nope,” he challenged. His face twisted into a determined sneer. “Remember those crop circles we had a look at? I recognised some of the symbols that were used in this very museum. Those circles were no doubt influenced by the past. That could only mean that your ancient people must have successfully dabbled with alchemy.” Charice grimaced at the memory of that night, and how she managed to catch a cold from being soaked in the rain. “So why are those ancient symbols used in those crop circles?” she questioned, confusion taking over. “Because crop circles are pretty modern stuff...” “That could only mean one thing,” his grin widened. “The knowledge has been kept or passed down, four thousand years, until now. Why keep and pass down useless knowledge?”
Charice, now grasping the concept, grinned along with Ed. “Sheesh,” she exclaimed. “How can something be passed down for so long down the time line?” “Easy,” he said, snapping his notebook shut. “Religion. Alchemy is disguised in the forms of religion in this world. And you know how people can easily cling onto religion; it’s a perfect way to hide knowledge and pass it down at the same time.” “So, what,” she mused. “You gonna be a Bible basher and decode Jesus, or something? Because you have to respect that religion has heavily shaped our culture here, too. People are still entitled to their opinion and belief, so I think we should keep this concept quiet.” “I’m agnostic,” he said dryly. “But this is pretty good news. Why translate new transmutation circles by myself, when I can just pull out the translations that have already been made for me by your ancient ancestors?” He chuckled as he walked to the next expedition, and Charice followed. Maybe the museum wasn’t so bad after all. --Charice and Edward were given separate hotel rooms, paid for by Tulisa and Church. Charice would wait in her hotel room, watching cheesy hotel television until Edward would come back from his meetings with Church. The rest of the day would be spent exploring the rest of the museums. On the last day of their three day trip they decided to pay a visit to the Natural History Museum before they went on the train to go home. “Look at the size of that!” Charice pointed up at a life size replica model of a blue whale. “It’s massive!” Edward only crossed his arms, smiling at Charice’s reactions instead of the actual exhibition. “You get excited over a whale, but not the dinosaur in the entrance?” he laughed. “Yeah, but dinosaurs don’t exist anymore,” she waved him off in a playful manner. “Whales are still alive. That fossil in the lobby is just a big fat spine with legs.” He laughed at her way of thinking. Personally he found the dinosaur skeleton much more interesting than the whale. Charice decided to lead the way instead of Ed, browsing through the exhibits casually without the need for stopping too long. She told him that the world is more beautiful if it still has its mysteries, and exposing too much of it would lose her admiration of the Earths secrecy. Edward had never thought of that before, but his heart and soul was too committed to knowledge for him to stop now.
Charice took a leaflet from one of the public maps, and she hunched over it as she stood next to Ed. She pointed at an area of the map, where a diagram of a blue whale was. “We’re here,” she said, indicating to the whale. “But you’re not really interested with animals and stuff.” She folded the leaflet back up. Charice then grabbed Ed’s wrist as she led him through the hallways, dodging past people and tourists. She then pointed ahead, letting go. “W-what the heck, Charice?” Ed complained as he rubbed his wrists, but Charice shushed him as she looked up. “Where is this?” She strode across the hallway. Statues of majestic characters posed on each side of the room, and at the far side was an escalator, which led up to a model of the Earth. “This is the Red Zone,” she explained. “You seem to like rocks, and minerals, and volcanoes and stuff. I saw some of the books you borrowed from the library. This Zone is also about rocks and minerals, and other geeky stuff, like how the Earth was created.” Edwards jaw dropped. “They found that out?” She nodded. “Yeah, ages ago, but that’s old news now,” she walked off. “But it’s the pictures from Mars that I’m interested in. I wanna see if there are cute little aliens in the shot!” He was still rooted to the spot. “Mars?” he blurted. “What kind of people are you?” --This time it was Edward who was sprawled across the train seats. Tulisa wasn’t with them, so Charice had no-one to talk to on the ride back home. She felt him shift against her, muttering something incoherently under his breath. She bent over a little, trying to catch a glimpse of his face. “Edward?” she whispered. “You awake?” He was silent, bar his deep breathing, and he was sleeping on the seats at an odd angle. He barely fit in the seat space next to Charice, and his leg hung off the other side awkwardly. Charice took out her phone, giggling to herself as she took a picture of the sleeping lump next to her. “I’m so putting that on Facebook,” she smirked as she uploaded the picture online. Once done she placed the phone back in her pocket, and sighed contently. A while later she sighed in frustration, mainly at how bored she was. She glanced sideways, looking at Ed, and then stared out of the window as she watched sheep and cows go by. She wondered if Edward also had sheep and cows in his world. Maybe they do, but perhaps they were different from the ones here. Maybe they were bright pink, and
instead of bleating or mooing, they chirped and honked like a bicycle horn. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe the horns of a bull acted as a radio transmitter, and whenever they opened their mouths the top ten charts play. Did they even have a top ten music chart? She remembered Ed telling her that there are people from his world identical here, like a parallel universe. There could be another version of Lady Gaga or Britney Spears at his world. But she also remembered that the librarian Roy in this world was a military superior in his. Maybe Britney Spears wasn’t a singer in his world. Perhaps she’s something else, like a farmer, or a cross dresser. Hell, she could even be a dinner lady. Charice laughed at the thought, but it died down when she thought of something else. It must be awful for Ed to see alternate versions of friends he had known, and he had to put up with the fact that they weren’t his real friends, they just looked like them. Charice looked down at Ed, remembering the time he froze up when he met her history teacher, Mr. Hopkins. Ed must have recognised him too, and judging by his reaction Ed must have been really close to him. Ed shifted again, his brows knitting together uncomfortably. Charice rolled her eyes. “For goodness sake, Ed,” she sighed. “What is up with you and sleeping like a homeless person?” She took her bag off her lap and placed it between her ankles, looping a strap round her foot so it wouldn’t get stolen. She slid her arms underneath his shoulders and hoisted him up, so his head would rest on her lap. He had more space to spread out now, with an additional head rest. He sighed, muttering something else, but it was too quiet for Charice to catch. She smiled slightly as she slid her arms back out, lightly brushing her hand against his coat to tug it higher up his shoulder. As she was about to return her hand so she could cross her arms she felt something hold it. Charice looked down, surprised that Ed had a light hold of her hand. She checked to see if he was awake by poking his forehead with her other hand, but he was still asleep. “Man,” she giggled. “You must have a teddy back home if you need to sleep like that...” But Charice kept her hand there, for him to hold onto. At least until the train journey was over.
Chapter 11 Once again Ed was mostly confined to his room or at the library. The only thing that Charice had noticed changing was the fact that he doesn’t go out late at night anymore, and he slept a little more than he usually would. Her exams were finishing, so her study leave was now filled with more free time as she has less and less exams to revise for. But she was still worried. She was worried over two main things; the first was the concern that Edward might work himself into exhaustion, the second thing that was constantly playing on Charice’s mind was that her mother, Raquel, still hasn’t returned. Her immigration cargo trip usually only lasted for a week. But she’s been gone for nearly two months now. Charice sighed, upset that her mother hasn’t contacted them either. It was her seventeenth birthday soon, and she doesn’t want her mother to miss it. Charice paused, retracing her train of thought. She’s turning seventeen soon. Come to think of it, Edward hasn’t mentioned his birthday at all. She stood up from her worktable in her room, closing her revision books, and sauntered to the next bedroom over. “Ed?” she called, tapping on his door. “Ed? You in there?” The door opened slowly, and Edward poked his head through the gap. Charice noted that his hair, usually styled in a loose braid, was now tied into a ponytail. Edward, however, still had the annoyed look on his face. “What is it?” he grumbled. A pencil was also tucked behind his ear, and it jiggled slightly ever time he moved his jaw. Charice fidgeted a little as she tucked her hands inside her jumper sleeves. “You know,” she began. “You never told me when your birthday was.” “Already gone.” He replied curtly as he proceeded to close the door, but Charice held out her hand to prevent it from shutting. “What do you mean?” Charice folded her arms in displeasure. “Are you seventeen already?” He mulled over the words for a while before he replied. “Yeah,” he muttered. “I turned seventeen around a month of arriving here.” She clamped her mouth shut, and walked off without another word. Ed groaned to himself and burst out of his room, catching her by the elbow. “W-wait,” he urged. “Why are you so upset?” Charice closed her eyes as she tried to control her nerves. “Ed,” Charice tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You really have been keeping secrets. It’s near enough a year since you arrived and we’ve
accepted you into this house. Surely you would have trusted us by now. So why would you let your birthday go unnoticed?” He shrugged. “It’s not a big deal, really.” Charice ran her fingers through her fringe. “It is a big deal,” she breathed. “So, in around a few months you’ll turn eighteen? Jeez, that’s pretty soon.” Edward nodded as he scratched the back of his head nervously. Charice then noticed something else, and she arched a brow in a mixture of fascination and amusement. “Well,” Charice took a step away from him. “I remember when you first came here. You only came up to the middle of my forehead. But, you’ve hit a major growth spurt.” Edward looked down at himself in pleasant surprise. “What you mean?” he said. “You’ve just cleared the top of my head.” She laughed. “Wow, you grow quick for only a few months.” Edward then stood right up to her, making a saluting motion as he compared his height with hers. His mouth made an O shape as he did this with fascination. “Oh yeah,” he chuckled. “My eyes are near the top of your head now. That’s great!” Charice smiled. There was a slight pause, and she looked down briefly. Ed was still caught up with his growth spurt, and a he positively beamed at the thought of showing off his new height when he returned home. “Ed.” Edward looked down slightly, trying to catch her eye. He hummed in recognition. “Who does Mr. Hopkins look like?” Ed’s good mood instantaneously deflated, and he sighed. Charice feared the reaction, or the answer, that Edward might say next. However, Ed was slightly surprised by himself since he was able to keep himself so calm. “He looks like my father,” he finally whispered. Charice looked up into his golden eyes. “My father back home left us when I was younger. I haven’t seen him ever since.” Charice nibbled the corner of her lips, and she internally scolded herself for bringing up a sensitive subject. “S-sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t mean to be poking my nose into your private life.” Sensing her sudden solemn mood Ed held up his hands, waving them as if it would dispel her sad feelings. “No, no, it’s fine Charice. Don’t worry, it’s nothing.” Charice looked up at him incredulously. “Sure doesn’t seem like it,” she mumbled. “Anyway, I’m going out. I have a birthday present to buy.”
Edward pursed his lips slightly as he stepped aside, letting Charice pass. “Birthday present?” he repeated. She turned around to face him again, planting her hands on her hips with a scowl. “Yes, a birthday present.” She scolded. “For you, you nutcase.” --Edward had gone back to his work. During the three day trip he had to go to several meetings with Church and Tulisa, discussing complicated matters regarding alchemical processes. As Edward and Church spoke, Tulisa would write down notes furiously into her notebook. Ed would write into his journal occasionally, but it was hard to write and keep up with the conversation at the same time. Ed wasn’t as good at multitasking as much as Tulisa. So instead Edward listened intently to what Church had to say, absorbing as much as he can into his mind so he could write them in his journal later. He was fascinated the culture that has revolved around alchemical conspiracies, how alchemy and religion has seemingly combined into a single medium, forming something so unique to what he was used to back home. Church also informed him that there are disguised portals or alchemical worlds in religion. He was told that Ancient Egypt believed that there was an underworld, where the living would transition to this realm if they are dead, and they would be judged by weighing the heart. Edward could almost recognise something from it. “The gate,” he said. Tulisa and Church looked up to face him. “If you try to bring back a human life through alchemy you pass through to the gate. Inside the gate you kind of get judged, but they take away a part of you in exchange for a huge amount of alchemical knowledge.” They both watched Edward with gleaming eyes, or just the one eye in Church’s case, as his right one was darting into his nose. “I recall you saying,” Church wheezed. “That alchemy and human life is the ultimate taboo. Yet, you’ve performed it. And you have ended up here as a result. Could we perhaps trespass into that forbidden boundary, transmute ourselves and go through to the other side?” Edward shook his head. “No, it won’t work like that.” He drew a simple circle on a blank page in his journal. “Alchemy works as a one way system. We know that because if we transmute something we distribute the flow of energy evenly in one direction around the circle. To reverse the transmutation we cannot just simply direct the flow in the opposite way, because the transmutation circle used is not designed for that purpose. It’s one of the laws. One transmutation circle for every type of
transmutation. My transportation through the gate is one way, and simply repeating the method to go back will not work.” There was silence in the room, and only the sound of the clock on the wall and driving of cars from outside were present. Eventually Church sighed, ideas and theories escaping him momentarily. “So, what you are saying is, we have to come up with a completely new method?” he rasped, his voice grittier than normal. Edward nodded, and then shook his head slightly. “Not necessarily.” Edward pondered, resting his chin in his folded hands. “I think your ancient knowledge is still viable as a possible option. We just need to figure out how to open up a reversal gate to go through. And figure out what religious symbol relates to which alchemical symbol.” Church nodded as he digested his words. “Perhaps we should arrange a field trip abroad,” he whispered thoughtfully. “Edward, how does a trip to Egypt sound?” --Charice returned home from school, and as soon as she closed the front door she cheered. Pumping her fists into the air as she sang, she danced her way to the living room. She threw off her bag, where it landed on one of the sofas, and ran into the kitchen. Edward peered into the living room as he walked past, curious about Charice’s sudden outburst. She returned with a spoon in one hand and a tub of ice cream in the other. “Summer has begun officially,” she shouted. “No more exams, no more school, and more time to party!” She scooped a heap of ice cream into her mouth, keeping the spoon there so she could turn on the television. Edward walked in, puzzled. “Why are you so happy?” he questioned, watching her fold her legs as she made herself comfortable on the sofa. Charice swallowed her ice cream, enjoying the taste with relish as her head tilted back. She pointed her spoon to the other sofa, indicating that he should sit down. He obeyed, though still confused. “Did my last exam today,” she laughed as she scooped up some ice cream into her spoon. “I am now free from work, revision and exams for a few months, until I start my foundation photography course next year.” Edward arched a brow. “Photography course?” “Yeah,” she heaped the ice cream into her mouth again. The she stood up and walked up to the table, picking up a large black plastic book. Except when she opened it sideways Ed realised that it wasn’t a book at all. Charice tapped the seat next to her, so Ed could sit there, and he once again migrated over. The inside lit up, and there were letters and numbers
on the bottom side, reminding him of a typewriter. “I like to take photographs, and I really want to be a photographer in the future.” The screen flashed in all sorts of colours. Windows, boxes and texts sprang up seemingly at random, and Charice typed occasionally for password authentications. She grinned when a certain window popped up. “This here,” she explained, circling a folder with her cursor. “That’s where I store all of the photos I’ve taken. There are over two thousand photographs on here, so I’ll only show you the most recent ones.” She opened up the folder and let the slideshow roll. Ed stared at the screen in awe, both at how the screen transitioned from one picture to the next, and at the pictures themselves. Most of them were of landscapes, some of them were close ups of some of the simplest things like coloured thread, tropical flowers, exotic bugs and a variety of fruit. There were also photos of people. Some of the people were posing purposefully, some were dancing, and some of them wore outrageous costumes. But what startled Edward the most were the photographs of tall, mysterious and majestic temples. His favourite one so far was of a giant, black stepped pyramid, the sun shining behind it as it cast a ring of light around it. There was a statue at the bottom of it, carved out of grey corroded rock in the form of a coiled serpent. “I can tell you like them,” Charice giggled through the silence. “You’ve never been so quiet before.” “Uh, yeah,” he said, his voice croaked slightly. “These look great. I can see why you wanted to do photography.” She smiled as she exited the slideshow. Charice browsed through another folder. “These ones are hilarious though,” she sniggered as she put up the slideshow. Edward tried to stifle his laugh. These photographs were different from the other one she had showed her. They weren’t as good quality as the others as well, but Ed couldn’t help but stare intently at the screen. “I take them on my phone every time it happens.” “Oh really,” he chuckled. Lo and behold, in every single photograph was him, asleep in many awkward positions and places. “I look good.” Charice punched his arm playfully. “You’re always asleep,” she folded her arms at this. “It’s because you hardly ever take any breaks, and you constantly zonk off out of exhaustion. Look, in this photo your face is pressed up against the window!” They both laughed at every picture of a sleeping Ed, mostly because of his sleeping positions and the expressions that was on his face. Then a thought dawned on him, and he looked at the photographs questionably. “Charice,” he began. “Why are you taking pictures of me asleep?” She tittered. “I don’t mean to sound creepy or anything,” Charice double clicked off the window so it returned to her desktop. “I took a picture of you asleep when I was bored on the train from London. Then I
uploaded it online so all of my friends could see. Now everyone wants me to take sleeping pictures of you.” He held up a hand. “You’re showing pictures of me asleep to your friends?” “Yeah, pretty much.” He laughed at the notion. “You are the strangest girl I have ever met.” Charice closed the laptop, shutting it like a clam. “Well, that should teach you for working like a maniac.” She griped. “You’ll only drain your energy faster. You should pace yourself, take a few breaks, chill out every now and then.” He grunted in reply and stood up, leaving for his room. “Don’t start that again, Charice,” he sighed. “I told you, I have to get out of here. I need to get home. I don’t feel at all comfortable here. I just don’t... fit in.” She sat on the sofa silently, pondering over something in her thoughts. The forgotten ice cream next to her was melting. “I think you fit in perfectly,” she spoke softly, her words somehow conveying more than what was actually said. “You’ve influenced me quite a lot since you came. So please don’t make it out as if being here is a waste of time and effort.” Ed was paused in the doorway, and his hand rested on the door handle lazily. The television was playing rather unfitting music, its happy melody clashing with the atmosphere between Charice and Edward. His shoulders slumped slightly when he decided to lean against the doorway. “I’m going to Egypt tomorrow with Church,” he murmured. “I’ll be gone for a few days. I’m sorry.” And he left. Charice sighed, turning off the television. She could hear his footsteps upstairs, thumping across the wooden floors above. The thumping stopped, and a faint murmur of his voice resounded as he muttered to himself incoherently. Charice reached out for her bag as she listened to his ramblings. Her hand rummaged inside before she produced a small rectangular box, decorated in coloured paper. She gave the package a forlorn look, turning it between her fingers as she inspected it. Charice set it out onto the coffee table in front of her, and she sat back down on the sofa as she stared at it. “Happy late birthday, Ed...”
Chapter 12 Charice’s father handed Edward his fake passport the night before so he could travel abroad to Egypt. He left in the early hours of the morning, before Charice or her father was awake. Edward was undeniably nervous about the mode of transport. It was a flying machine, called a jumbo jet, and it soared many kilometres into the air. The airport was packed full of people, and they all seemed to walk from one area to another with purpose and direction. Edward, however, trailed behind Tulisa uncertainly, towing a small red suitcase behind him. “Are you okay?” Tulisa asked. Her voice was soothing, and it calmed him, though only slightly. “You look nervous.” Edward tugged at his collar absentmindedly. “Y-yeah,” he stammered. “I just, you know, I’m not too keen on being, well, so high up in the air.” Tulisa laughed, almost musically, and she placed a comforting hand onto his shoulder. “Is this your first time flying?” she squeezed his shoulder lightly before letting go. His shoulder was tense, and it was shaking. He nodded, almost shamefully. Tulisa noticed that his forehead looked shinier than usual as tiny beads of sweat began to form. “I don’t really like the idea of flying.” He grumbled. Tulisa giggled as she rummaged in her pocket, taking out a stylish mobile phone and then handed it to him. “Do you want to call your parents?” she suggested compassionately. He scowled in reply, but Tulisa laughed it off instead. “You know, I was scared on my first flight-“ “I’m not scared.” He interrupted. But Tulisa ignored him and continued. “-and right before I boarded I called my dad. The sound of his voice made me feel much calmer, and after the call I felt better. The plane journey wasn’t so bad after that.” Ed shifted in his jacket slightly, and his grip on his suitcase tightened. “I don’t have any parents to call. And the people that I live with are asleep.” Tulisa blinked. “What about your friend, uh, Reece?” “Charice,” Edward corrected. “She’s one of the people I live with, so she’ll be knocked out at this time.” She shrugged. “I’m sure she doesn’t mind,” Tulisa proposed. “We have her number anyway, so give her a call. It’s dialled already.” She handed the phone to him, with a little bit of force, and he took it reluctantly. Edward sighed as he placed it against his ear. He could hear the line beeping as the number was dialled, before the call tone
resounded. He heard it click, followed by hasty ruffling noises from the other side. “Hello?” the voice belonged to Charice, and she sounded tired. “If you want Ed then he isn’t here.” “Charice?” he answered, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. His anxiety rose when he realised that he didn’t know what to say. “Sorry that it’s so early. Uh, how are you feeling?” There was a pause, leaving Ed to wonder momentarily if she had hung up. “Ed?” she finally replied. “Are you by any chance drunk?” “W-what? No!” Edward defended. He felt his face scrunch up into a small scowl. “I’m just calling you to tell you I’m about to go on the plane.” There was giggling on the other side. “I see now. Are you nervous?” “No.” He lied. Charice wasn’t as stupid as he had thought. “You are nervous, aren’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be calling.” Edward found his temper rising, and he gritted his teeth. “Only a little,” he mumbled. “But I’m just informing you, so don’t get too bigheaded.” A heartfelt laugh rang through the phone. “It’s okay, Ed. I’m not teasing you. You’ll be fine on the plane, trust me.” Edward grumbled something unintelligibly. “I have to go now-” “Oh, Ed, no, wait!” He kept on the line. “What?” “Sit next to a window, okay?” “I-I don’t think I want to-“ “Please, Ed.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Fine,” Edward submitted. “But I have to go now. Bye.” He hung up before she could reply, and hastily handed the phone back to Tulisa. She arched a brow at his actions. “That was quick,” she commented with surprise. Edward huffed as he walked ahead of her, dragging his suitcase behind him. Tulisa smiled at him as she caught up, noticing that his pace was quicker, and his strides were longer. She placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it affectionately, and then let go. At least his shaking stopped. --Edward did follow Charice’s advice, and he grudgingly sat next to the window. He hated it when the plane went through the take off procedure, and he refuse to look outside until the plane had levelled out.
But once it did, and when he finally plucked up the courage to peek outside, he was unduly disappointed. It was nothing but black, except for the blinking lights at the end of the plane wing. He felt his stomach lurch when he couldn’t see the ground, as it was lost in a thick shroud of shadow. Ed turned away from the window, looking utterly miserable as he pressed himself into his seat. His hand fumbled with his seat belt, tightening it as much as he could. The high pitched whine of the engines disorientated him, and when the cabin pressure was adjusting it made Ed’s ears pop. He momentarily panicked at that moment, thinking that he was turning deaf. Tulisa nudged him slightly, noticing that Edward’s eyes had been shut tight. “Are you okay?” she asked with concern. He hastily shook his head. “Don’t like the window.” He mumbled. “Stupid Charice’s fault.” She laughed quietly, pointing outside. “But look, it’s nearly sunrise.” She sighed in wonder. “How can you not like the window seat?” He cracked an eye open, peeping sideways at the window. It wasn’t completely black, but more of a wide spectrum of indigo and purple. Bravely he shifted closer, opening his eyes more, and stared at an empty horizon. Or so he thought. There were hazy shapes out in the distance, its form shifting and twirling. When the sun peeked through a gap between these shapes the horizon instantly changed. The sky around him was tinged a light purple, and overhead the dark void had lightened into a more recognisable sky blue. But the horizon was divided, cut in half with harsh jagged lines. But the mountainous region was softened as climbing columns of cloud hovered over them, like cotton balls resting on shattered obsidian shards. There are regions where the cloud has not cleared, and instead there was an ever falling white sheet, protecting the bare surface of the Earth from the sun, like a white cotton blanket being dragged across the delicate skin of a child when they slept. As the sun rose higher, the clouds lose their blush, purifying their forms into the most delicate of whites. Eventually the sun has claimed its throne in the higher heavens, glaring down at him like he was trespassing into its celestial kingdom, and Edward had to look lower to escape the intense light, bowing his head in a manner of respect, and in a certain sense, worship. The clouds closed up, separating the plane from the sight of the earth, and the craggy outlines of the wrinkled mountains disappeared. There was only a sea of white against the viciously bright sky, illuminated by the purest beams of light from the sun. Edward’s vision became blurred, and he had to blink furiously from the effects of the glare. When he returned his gaze to the inside of the cabin it seemed like he was in a dark and cold cave. Although the cabin
was crammed with people, in contrast to what Edward had just witnessed outside, the plane suddenly looked lifeless. “You finally decided to return to reality?” Tulisa said playfully as she sipped a glass of wine. Edward smiled, recollecting his thoughts as he tried to remember how to speak. “How long have we got left of the journey?” he asked, his voice unusually restricted. Edward readjusted his seat belt, loosening it so he could relax properly into his seat. Tulisa only giggled. “Still a few hours,” she replied. “You’ve been staring outside that window for nearly an hour, though.” “I have?” he exclaimed before switching his attention between Tulisa and the view outside. “It only seemed like ten minutes.” Tulisa hummed in amusement, sipping her wine with more relish than usual. She paused when she grinned in realisation. “I have been meaning to ask you something,” she said in her melodic tone. “Earlier on you were blaming your discomfort on Charice. Why was that?” Edward blinked at the question before he laughed nervously, mostly from embarrassment. “Yeah,” he sighed. “It was her idea that I should get a window seat.” Tulisa smiled as she tucked a strand of her blonde her behind her ear. “She seems to know how to calm you down. You were a nervous wreck earlier on.” “Pssh...” he ridiculed the idea. “She doesn’t know me. I try to keep myself to myself.” “Hum,” she pondered over the comment. “She seems to know enough already, if you ask me.” There was awkward silence between them; the whirring of the jet engines seemed to elevate the intensity of the quiet gap. Eventually Edward sank further into his chair, releasing a forced sigh. Tulisa observed him carefully, her blue eyes inspecting his every move. “I try not to get too attached to this place,” he muttered. “If I do, then it would almost seem impossible to leave.” “What has attached you to this world so far?” Tulisa encouraged him to speak out more. Edward shrugged, shaking his head for reasons he could not fathom. “I don’t know,” his voice wavered slightly. “There are just so many things that I can learn from this place. I mean, technology here is far superior to the machines in my world. No one has ever dreamt of travelling to the moon, and your phones can do a variety of things that even I couldn’t have imagined.” “There must be more than that,” she implored. “What about Charice?”
Edward’s eyes flickered back to the window, seeing only a grey fog as the plane flew through a cloud. “No, Charice isn’t one of them.” Edward stared intently at the hazy mass outside, searching for anything to look at which was not just another shade of grey. “She’s just a friend.” Tulisa curled her lip, clearly unsatisfied with his answer. “Just a friend?” she repeated. Edward rested his head on the cold glass, peering out into nothingness. “Just a friend...” --Charice was groggy that morning, mainly due to the rude awakening she had received from Edward. But she didn’t mind that much. She knew he needed a sense of comfort, as his voice seemed slightly jittered. It also had heavy staccato, which was the manner Edward adopted whenever he was frustrated with his work. But Charice knew that he was in need, and she was happy to help, no matter as to how mundane and simple it may be. But Charice had also noticed something else, and it worried her to no end. It wasn’t Ed that worried her, it was her reaction to Edward afterwards. Charice would find herself obsessively checking her phone, as if she would receive a call from him any second. And when her phone did ring she lunged towards it, and she answered it with gusto. But her excitement was only short lived, as entirely different voices greeted her instead. Later on in the evening she grew tired of being dejected by her mobile, and she took out the batteries so she wouldn’t receive anymore calls. To pass her time she took out her camera, rearranged some twigs and leaves in her garden, and took close up photographs of them. Charice smiled as she looked at her latest photographs, loving how she has managed to capture the intricate detail of each leaf in the orange tinge of the setting sun. She pressed her browse button once too many, going back an extra picture than she has intended, and her smile faltered when a picture of a sleeping Edward flicked onto the screen. He was on the sofa, his journal open in his lap, an ink stained hand curled around a pen, and the other arm cradling his head on the arm rest. Charice flicked to the next picture quickly, realising that she had been staring at the picture for a while now. “He’s just a friend.” She sighed. But she didn’t sound like she was convinced by the prospect. Her hand hovered over the mouse, gathering photos and files from her computer and mass selecting them all. “Nothing less, nothing more.”
She hit backspace, watching photographs of Edward Elric disappear, each of them deleted, one by one. --“Ah, Edward,” Church greeted him at the arrival terminal. The old man hobbled over, his strides less awkward with the help of his brass cane. “How was your journey?” Edward smirked as he gave Church a handshake. “It was interesting.” He decided to give Church the modest opinion. Church wheezed out a laugh. “Come, come, come, we have much to talk about. You may leave your luggage in the car.” He hobbled off, with Tulisa and Edward in tow. “I have a fascinating find to show you.” --The weather was almost unbearably hot. Edward anticipated the warmer temperatures, and he enjoyed the welcoming change as he was growing tired of the colder weather in England, but now that the temperature has risen slightly he hated being so uncomfortably hot. There was sand and stone buildings all around him, and his calves ached as he power walked through the sand. He darted ahead of Tulisa and Church, aiming for the shade that was cast from an overhang in a stone wall. He slumped to the floor, resting his back on the wall, and tried to fan himself with his hand. “Jeez,” he flustered. “I’ve never been so hot in my life.” Church hobbled over, seemingly unaffected by the heat. Tulisa wasn’t as resilient as Edward, and she flushed a bright red as she held her portable electric fan to her face. Edward stood back up, his breathing was heavy. “This building behind you is the temple we came to see,” Church wheezed. “Archaeologists have discovered these hidden temples buried under the sand, and I have been told that some scriptures inside are, indeed, quite fascinating.” Church led the way as he entered the temple from the side. It was dark, dry and dusty, and their footsteps echoes as they walked down tunnel to tunnel. There were stairs, leading down, and Tulisa handed Church a torch. Edward was given one too, but he stared at it for a while as he tried to figure out how it worked. A white beam emitted from the bulb when Edward discovered the switch, and he used it to light up his way. The tunnel was narrow, and Edward felt a sense of claustrophobia until the passage opened up, revealing a wide and empty hall. Dust,
cobwebs and sand leaked from the cracks in the stone walls, and their torches cast distorted shadows upon each surface, like a disfigured shadow puppet performance accompanied by rumbling silence. “Ah,” Church sighed, pointing his torch on one of the walls. There was a set of hieroglyphs etched into stone surface, and above it were a set of curved lines. “Edward, I require your assistance.” Ed stepped up to him, waving a cobweb away, and shone his light as he followed the lines. “A transmutation circle?” The old man nodded, moving his light with his line of sight. “This is a door. The alchemy circle acts as a lock, as stated in the hieroglyphs below, and you, Edward, are the key.” He finished, stepping aside so Ed could walk up to it. “You are, out of all of us, much more advanced and experienced when it comes to alchemical circles.” His sweaty, clammy palms were a contrast to the cold and dry walls, and Edward ran his fingers into each engraved line and symbol. Tulisa was holding Edwards torch for him, and she shone it, including hers, to the transmutation circle. His breathing was shallow, and his brows furrowed together in firm concentration. “What’s on the other side?” Edward questioned with a quivering breath. “Hopefully, your home.” Church shifted his weight on his cane. “According to scriptures on the walls, this temple is a gateway to the underworld.” Edward nodded. He noticed that his hands were trembling, and his heart was quickening as his stomach tied itself into a knot. Edward pressed both of his palms onto the hard stone surface, and he sighed. Church and Tulisa watched him from behind, observing him as he rested his forehead on the wall. “I-I...” Edward’s voice was thick. He couldn’t say a word as his throat closed up, blocked and jammed with so many things to say. Edward took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts and piecing back his resolve. “I’m going to need some time to think.” Church watched him as Edward pushed himself away from the wall. His footsteps seemed heavy, but he still walked with an air of authority, looking at the symbols on the walls, striding to the exit like a general inspecting his soldiers. Church sighed and put more weight upon his cane, before smiling at Edward. “Of course, you must be tired from your journey.” The old man chuckled. “Well, we’ll see you outside. Tulisa and I would like to inspect this alchemy circle a little while.” Edward nodded, yawning slightly to add to the effect, and walked back through the passageway that they had entered from. Tulisa waited
until she couldn’t hear Edwards echoing footsteps anymore. She leaned over, her mouth near Church’s ear. “He’s faltering.” She whispered. Church sighed, recognising a notion from her tone. “I’ve noticed,” he rasped gravely. “Perhaps we might have to resort to our other plans.” Tulisa nodded, tucking strands of her hair behind her ear. “Who are we going to use if it does come to that?” The old man gripped his hand tighter around his cane, his bony knuckles protruding outwards in awkward angles. “Do you have someone in mind?” The hall echoed in melodic laughter, and Tulisa put a hand over her mouth to stifle it. Church grinned at her, wrinkles deepening around his face. “Yes,” she chuckled. “I do.” --Edward was relieved when he plopped onto the bed. There was a large fan on the ceiling, and it cooled him down by a large degree. He has travelled to hot places before, and he has walked across a desert with Alphonse once, but no way was it as hot as Egypt. Edward was sweating, and he was panting like a dog trying to keep cool. “Jeez...” he cursed as he stood back up. He sighed as he took off his shirt, which clung to his damp skin. He grimaced as he tossed it to the floor and made his way to the bathroom. There wasn’t a bath tub inside, only a sink, a toilet and a standing shower. “Cold shower it is.” He nearly jumped out of his skin when he first jumped in, but it helped relieve his feverish temperature. Refreshed, clean, and cool, he went up to his suitcase to pick out some fresh clothes. Black shirts and black trousers. All black. He rolled his eyes, regretting his taste of colours, and pulled them on. There was something green in his suitcase, and he spotted it from the corner of his eye. He fished it out from the rest of his black clothes, and he inspected it. It was a small box, covered in green wrapping paper, with his name scrawled on top with a thick black marker. He tore off the paper, letting it drop to the floor, to reveal a wooden lacquer box. The box was highly polished, the varnish reflecting his stunned face. A tag was attached to it, hanging from the clasp at the side, and he turned it over to read what was written. “To Ed,” he read it out loud. “Happy Birthday. Sorry it was late, even if it’s your fault, but I hope you like it.”
The corner of his lips tugged into a smile, and he sat onto the bed, his hair dripping down his shoulders. “From, Charice.” He lifted up the clasp, opening the box. There was a silver chain inside, and a silver pendant was on the chain. Edward took it out, inspecting the pendant. It was rectangular, the edges and corners smoothed to make it more rounded. A dog tag, he remembered that soldiers in this world wear them. The dog tag had engravings on it. On one side was the transmutation circle he used to boil water in front of her. On the other side was his name. He stroked the cold metal with his thumb, unsure of what to make of it, staring at it with golden eyes. Smiling, he put the chain around his neck, the cold metal dangling across his chest.
Chapter 13 Edward still had the rest of the evening to expend. Using the rest of the money Raquel had given him to buy clothes; he bought a cheap wind up camera. He also bought two rolls of film, just in case he needed to take more photographs afterwards. After an hour of figuring out how to use it he began to walk around the market place, photographing the trinkets for sale. He also marvelled the clothes, the fabric and multicoloured patterned rugs that seemed to line every shaded area of the street. The sun was starting to set, turning the yellow country into a deeper tone of orange, and it provided relief from the heat of the sun, not to mention beautiful lighting for Edward’s pictures. A couple of times he asked some of the locals – the ones that spoke English, at least – to take the photo for him, so he could be in the shot. Of course in those photographs he stood on an elevated object, often a large rock, to make him appear taller than he actually is and requested the person taking the photo to not include his feet. By night fall it was dark, and the two rolls of film had been used up. Edward requested that his negatives are to be developed so he could collect them the very next morning. When he went back to the hotel he instantaneously fell asleep as soon as his head was laid on his pillow. --“I saw you around the market place yesterday,” Tulisa commented the next morning. “Is that where you got your new necklace from?” Edward shone his torch to the pendant on his chest before he tucked it back underneath his shirt. “Yeah, I was there,” he laughed. “But I got this as a gift. A friend of mine had sneaked it into my suitcase. I was at the marketplace to take pictures.” Tulisa’s laugh echoed down the long stone passageway. “Is it a last minute souvenir of this world before you return?” she brushed a cobweb off her shoulder. Edward smirked as he tried to peer through the darkness, as his torch was beginning to fade. “No, not a souvenir,” he sighed. “More or less a farewell present, before I leave for home.” The passage opened up into the large, familiar hall. “Oh?” Tulisa made a noise. “For who?” “For Charice, her mom Raquel, her dad Clive and her older brother Raimundo.” Edward walked up to the large wall, the giant transmutation circle carved into its stony surface. “She should get them by mail in a few days.”
Tulisa nodded behind him, shining her torch to the wall so Edward could see what he was doing. He muttered under his breath, pointing out lines and symbols, smiling to himself when he could recognise a constellation in the corners of the array. But when he came across some of the hieroglyphs, Edward frowned heavily. “What’s wrong?” she asked, shining the torch to his face. He shrugged, scuffing his boots on the floor, kicking up small clouds of dust. “I don’t know what those symbols mean, or represent.” He grumbled, frustration taking over. “When is Church going to get here? I need him to translate.” “Are you in need of my assistance?” echoed a wheeze from behind them, followed by a series of clicks from his cane and thumps from his limp. Church hobbled alongside Edward, out of breath from his walk. However, while Edward was dressed in a light shirt and thin trousers, Church was wearing thick slacks and a long jumper. “Aren’t you hot?” the blond asked bluntly. Church chuckled, ruffling the ends of his sleeves. “When you get to my age, you never quite escape the feeling of cold bones.” He wheezed, his eye swivelling in delight. “Now, point to me which symbol you would like me to decode.” Edward grinned in determination. He turned around, explaining what he already knew about the circle, with Church filling in any of the blanks that Edward has requested. Tulisa stood by, listening in closely, writing furiously into her notebook as she was lighting up the pages with a torch in her mouth. “-and this line ends by joining to an acute angle. If it was right angled then it would indicate that this rock would be made of granite, but because this angle is smaller than that then it means that there are crystalline elements into the wall.” Edward lectured as he pointed to each line, illustrating his theory. “The third curved line from the bottom represents the bonding of the atoms in this rock, which is similar to the properties of gypsum.” “Ah, your interpretation is astounding,” Church wheezed in awe and admiration. Edward grinned with pride, and then squatted down to the bottom of the wall, beckoning the old man to come closer. Church knelt slowly to peer at the section of the wall to which Edward was pointing. “You see these small rectangular imprints?” Edward whispered, tracing the rectangular bumps with a finger. “These markings are often residual to transmutations, which mean that this wall is alchemically made.” Edward stood up, taking a step back. Church stood back with him, listening to Edward’s monologue.
“This wall was originally pure granite, but it has been combined with large amounts of gypsum,” the blond carried on. “This transmutation circle wants to separate the gypsum and the granite. And if my theory is correct, then once they are separated the wall should form a hole.” “Good boy,” Church clapped with delight. “Well, let’s hope you are right. Would you like to try it out?” Edward barked a laugh, half from excitement and the other with nerves. “I just can’t wait to get home.” He said with anticipation. “You might want to step back. It’s going to get incredibly dusty.” Tulisa and Church did as Edward told, and retreated to the passageway entrance. Edward braced himself, clapping his palms to the rock. Tulisa and Church’s eyes widened as the transmutation circle glowed, illuminating the hall in electric blue. Sparks flash across the room, and some of them zapped Edward, but he seemed completely unaffected by them, so Church and Tulisa assumed the sparks were harmless. Immediately, Church was reminded of the god of thunder, Zeus. Edward held the essence of a thousand hurricanes in the palm of his hands, immortal and untouchable from the lightning he created, levelling the wall in front of him with willpower, with crackling energy swirling around him. Edward was the golden eye of the storm, and everything orbited around him. He was a God. The whole room shook as giant slabs of stone fell, some barely missing Edward by a hair, and landed on the floor with a deafening crash. Edward then retreated, the alchemical light diminished, the storm over, and all that was left was a giant cloud of stinging dust. Edward made a few weary gasps, followed by choking coughs as he breathed in the dusty air, but once he cleared his breathing he stood tall, peering into the black void that replaced the wall. Church and Tulisa emerged from the dust cloud, staring into the hole as they tried to distinguish anything in the shadows. Black. It was just an inky black hole. “Could this be a portal?” Tulisa marvelled in awe. Experimentally, she grabbed a piece of rubble and tossed it into the black space. To her horror, and dismay, the chunk of rubble bounced off with a small chink. With the dust now settling, she can now clearly tell that there was a huge black slab of glass filling the hole. “Obsidian,” Edward laughed, rapping the cold surface with his knuckles. “Volcanic glass. The product of this transmutation. Very clever, very clever...” Tulisa tilted her head to Edward’s direction, confusion twisting her perfect features. “Did something go wrong?” Edward only chuckled at her comment, his laid back attitude indicating that there is nothing to worry about. “No, no,” he grinned. “The
first transmutation door went perfectly. But I wasn’t expecting a second door to be created in the process.” Church, however, was alarmed. “W-well, how do we open it?” he spluttered. He was so thrown back that he nearly slipped off his cane. “I need to go to that world-” Tulisa hushed him harshly, nudging him lightly with her elbow. Edward didn’t seem to notice as he was far too engrossed by the black slab of glass in front of him. “I’m going to have to figure out how to open this one, though,” the blond smirked as he gave the glass surface a few more taps. He took out a permanent marker from his pocket and drew a circle of his own, the pen squeaking noisily on the smooth obsidian wall. Once done he placed his hands on the array, but he was nervous. “If I scream of anything, ignore me.” Edward released a guttural roar before Tulisa and Church could respond. --It has been a few hours now. Tulisa and Church returned to the temple, to find Edward still at the obsidian wall. Every time he activated his transmutation, Edward would make a battle cry, for reasons Tulisa and Church could not understand. But despite the sparks and light is emitted from the transmutation circle, nothing seemed to be happening, and when the light died down it left Edward panting and exhausted. “What are you trying to do?” Tulisa said as she handed him a water bottle. He took it and drank it eagerly, some water dripping from the corners of his mouth. “Jeez,” he gasped as he replaced the lid to the bottle. “I’m trying to get this glass to shatter. Break apart the molecules to weaken it, and then stress it alchemically to shatter it.” Edward panted, wiping sweat from his brow. “But it keeps rebounding.” “What do you mean by rebounding?” “There is something else inside the obsidian glass,” he explained. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s keeping the structure rigid, stopping me from breaking it. Shatter proof, that’s it. So the stress is relaying back to me.” Tulisa took hold of Edward’s arm, rolling up the sleeve and removing the glove. There were bruises developing at the joints, and Edward winced when she prodded one of them. “You’re hurting yourself,” she groused. “Why do you keep doing it?”
He sighed as he snatched away his arm, putting his gloves back on. “I’m testing it. See what works better, and which method doesn’t hurt too much.” He seethed. “I want to go home.” Edward began to stand up, about to do another alchemical reaction, but Tulisa grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him back down. “You’ll break your arms,” she said threateningly. “Rest. Think over things before you do it again.” There was scuffling behind them. A quick glance from Tulisa was enough to see that Church had nearly tripped on some rubble from the floor. She rolled her eyes at the old man before reverting her attention back to Edward. He was slumped against the cold glass, toying with the silver dog tag as he tried to reflect the light from the torch. “What’s on the dog tag?” Tulisa asked, pointing at the transmutation circle that was etched on the metal surface. He raised brow, tucking the dog tag back into his shirt. “Is that an alchemy circle?” Edward nodded. He re opened his water bottle and downed the last of the liquid inside. “Yeah, it’s a transmutation circle,” he mumbled when finished. “It was the first transmutation I’ve shown to Charice.” “Oh,” she said, amused. “What does it do?” “I boiled some water,” he chuckled. “This circle makes atoms and molecules vibrate, have more energy, and heat up-” Edward paused, his eyes wide in sudden realisation. Then he spontaneously laughed as he slapped a palm to his forehead. “Oh, Charice, you’re a miracle sometimes,” he chuckled as he stood up. He went up to a clean patch on the obsidian and drew a simple circle with his marker. He took a step back, inspecting it as he shook his head with a grin. “That girl, sometimes...” “Oh, she gave you an idea, did she?” Tulisa giggled as she hoisted herself up, brushing dust off her clothes with her hands. “You could say that,” Edward shrugged at the comment. “She knows nothing about alchemy, but she somehow always helps me with it. Mr. Hopkins, the museums, the crop circles...” “Crop circles?” Tulisa said, her voice low and suspicious. “What about them?” “She found one that looks like a transmutation circle,” he said nonchalantly. “But it’s all wrong. It’s trying to construct something, but it’s all messed up. The person activating it would get a serious rebound from it. But anyway, that doesn’t matter. I think you should stay clear. You don’t want to burn yourself.” But out of sheer determination and impatience, Edward started the alchemical reaction anyway before Tulisa could go away at a safe distance. Church was alarmed and hobbled over to Tulisa, clutching at his cane with worry. The hall was once again ignited with lightning, the light
emitted from Ed’s simple circle. However, Edward was silent, and the obsidian wall before him suddenly turned into a glowing orange mass. Edward pulled back his hands, hissing as he fanned his hands in an attempt to cool them down, and then stumbled away from the wall as the melted glass began to collapse on itself, pouring its gloopy mass on the floor. The obsidian crackled slightly as it cooled back into its inky black hue. “That was hot,” Edward muttered to himself. “Does anyone have any petroleum jelly? I burned myself.” But the other two ignored him as they stepped into the hole that was made. There was another chamber inside, with some stairs leading up. Edward followed them irritably, hot footing over the cooler sections of the glass, and tripped into the chamber after them. All three of them looked up, seeing a pedestal situated at the top of the stairs. Church and Edward stood rooted to the spot, watching Tulisa as she walked up those stairs. At the pedestal she seemed to inspect some unseen object, laughing to herself as she did so, and with excited hands she grabbed whatever that object may be. Judging by the sudden way she moved with wide arcs, and the way she walked with loud stomps, the object must have been heavy. Edward had to squint in the darkness to try and identify what the object was. But it appeared to be around the size and thickness of a large book, made entirely of black stone or marble. There were more alien symbols on the black surface, with a red gem embedded in the centre. “Why that’s,” Church gasped in disbelief and awe as he recognised the symbols. “That can’t be!” Edward, however, wasn’t interested in the hieroglyphs. He was staring intently at the red stone. “The Philosophers Stone…”
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