Being dead was really emotionally draining.
Fu was right in the sense that it was smarter not to cry in the middle of the Great Desert, where water was scarce, and losing her bodily fluids any faster could be dangerous, even deadly, but Maria Ross can't help but think that doesn't exactly make things easier. It just means she's stopped crying. Instead, for the past few days in the desert, her jaw has ached with the tell tale cringe that came about whenever she held back tears as a child. There's sand blowing everywhere, and her eyes are red and iritated, but she doesn't weep because weeping would be pointless at the moment. She'd never been one to do something emotional or impractical. Her eyes just aren't used to the reflective glare of the sands, and she keeps her gaze low to her camel, cursing just about everything that's happened so far in her life.
The caravan isn't much for a lot of small talk during the day time, as it's too hot and too exhausting to carry on conversations, but Maria's fine with it. She has to figure she's not very good company, and it's not just because she's supposed to be dead, or because she feels bitter about being blamed for Hughes' death. It's just that she's not feeling very cheery at the moment, and sullen is probably the best way to describe how she's reacting to the misery of having sand grit between her teeth, and her clothes, and in her short, cropped hair. The desert doesn't exactly agree with her, and she's begun to resemble a peeling tomato wherever skin is left exposed for too long.
Being out in the middle of nowhere and being dead did make for some excellent contemplations however. She figured that this must be one of those signs the universe gives you that maybe you should take a step back and reevaluate your whole life for a little while, because there's really nothing better to do than complain about how sore, or hot, or tired she is. She tried not to dwell on whether or not people cried at her funeral too much. Most people hope scads of men and women - family, and friends, and maybe a few lovers - would be left behind heartbroken and desolate at the loss, but Maria figured that her parents are devastated, and everyone else thinks she murdered the nicest family man on the planet.
She heaved a sigh on her camel.
Sergeant Denny Brosh probably cried. He was a good partner, and a little clueless at times, but unlike Armstrong, didn't get to find out what happened to her. She regretted it, but there was nothing to be done about it.
So she contemplated other things: If she liked her job as much as she thought she did, if she regretted telling her parents about her personal tastes, if she should've never broken up with the last person she dated, if she was just in the wrong line of business because really, there was something screwed up about a country willing to condemn her without a real trial. (Yes, No, Yes, and probably, but it was a little late for her to just now to be worried about the Government's corruption issues.) She began to wonder if she should've taken her week's vacation time earlier that year, if she should've spent more time cooking because it was fun, and if she should have read the newspaper more. (Yes to all of the above, but she knew she'd only skim the headlines.)
When the heat started to affect her mind, she got a little more existentialist, and even she knew that bringing it up would make for terrible company. So the former Lieutenant Ross shoved away her philosophical wonderings when night came, and campfires were made, and instead tried to be in better humor for dinner.
She started to ask about Xing.
Not philosophical questions, but real ones. Ones that would determine the rest of her life as a not-so dead woman. She had dark hair, but none of the same features as anyone Xingese - would she be eyed at strangely? Did people speak Amestrian, or was that just Fu and his men? How hard was Xingese to learn, anyways, because she'd given up on learning ancient Xerxian as a schoolgirl. (Forget trying to become an alchemist, it just wasn't her thing, and she was pretty sure dead languages were less difficult than living ones.) What was she going to do there? She'd liked her job in the military, loved investigations and internal affairs with Lieutenant Colonel Hughes and Major Armstrong, and Xing probably didn't need any of those things; she didn't even know if anyone stopped fighting with each other long enough to keep a unified military.
Besides, everyone seemed to be stealthy and in tune with the planet, and a lot of other mystical things Ross hadn't quite gotten the handle on. She was confidant in her fighting abilities, but she carried a pistol and was a quick shot - that didn't mean she was at all sneaky. She didn't know how to be 'one with the wind' and she had the distinct feeling that no one wanted someone who was used to being upfront and direct when the whole world operated in the shadows.
Somewhere on the last leg of their journey, as Ross fought the urge to mentally complain about the mess she'd wound up in, she turned to Fu, and asked: "What are we going to tell the Emperor? I mean, you can't exactly bow down and casually mention you've brought along a fugitive who's wanted for murder."
Fu, being Fu, quirked a dignified brow at her.
"I am sure that you will find the right words when we get there, Miss Ross."
Maria Ross slumped on her camel.
Being dead was more than emotionally draining, it was starting to become a real pain.