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Wicked Paths

Chapter Text

The unpleasant silence lingered on during the train ride back to Amestris.

Ed would've been happy going back home but felt drained after what happened earlier that day He had found something that could help him in deciphering the documents and looked forward to making more progress on that. However, the news of Anna with Mr. Russo's journal pages changed that; Ed told Winry the truth when he said he didn't expect that despite his suspicions.

Anna would've snatched the alchemy notes too after I finish decoding it. That thought didn't sit well with him at all.

"Anna knew the documents are related to valuable gemstones," he said, the first to speak since they left Alley City. "That’s why she wants them."

"So that's it," Daria said. "Gemstones are common sought out artifacts, especially jewelry."

"Will you keep figuring out the code?" Henry asked, looking up to his father.

"I'm still going to do it. I might be able to make some progress before we reach Amestris, but I need to double check some things."

"That's good," Winry said. "I wouldn’t want you to stop because of Anna."

Ed frowned. That could've been the case, but he was never the one to give up that easily.

"Ed, if you want I can let you read the rest of my father's notes,” Daria said.

"How about you? Aren't you curious about what your father discovered?"

"I am, but you'll benefit from them more than me."

Considering Daria's offer, he scratched his chin. Reading the rest of the pages should help him with decoding the notes. Another resource that he could use.

"If that's what you think, then sure."

With a small smile, Daria pulled the notes from her bag and stretched over to give them to Ed. He skimmed through the pages to see if there were any mentions of gemstones in them and managed to find one.

"Hohenheim also thought gemstones after almost halfway through decoding it."

"Anything else?" Esther asked, very curious.

Ed studied more of the pages. Stumbling upon something, he said, "There is one part where he was able to transmute several small gemstones but those weren't what he wanted."

"He had been experimenting with trial and error, then," Winry said.

There was a specific gemstone Hohenheim wanted to transmute, and Ed didn't need to read further to figure out which one. A triumph smirk pulled on the corner of his mouth.

"Of course, diamonds. That's what Ettero had been researching."

Daria stared at him, as if something just crossed her mind. "Your father wanted the same thing, also?"

"I can't see Hohenheim being that greedy. As Winry pointed out, just experimenting.” When Ed went back to reading, there were a few paragraphs that described Hohenheim able to transmute diamonds but didn’t give any hints as to how. Later on he insisted the alchemy notes were put back in the cave so that a non-alchemist doesn’t find it. The very last page had them doing just that. “Just as I thought, the notes were put back in the cave after he decoded them."

“Looks like that’s all, then.”

Ed smiled a little. A few days ago he thought he wouldn’t be able to find out how Hohenheim and Mr. Russo’s journey ended. He just read the ending now and it left him satisfied that his father didn’t use the notes for something bad.

“Is there a mention on why your father created those diamonds?” Winry asked.

“Just that he’s curious what the main ingredient is, and I’m going to find out.” Ed picked the leather bag that he had left on the floor, taking out his journal, a pen, and Ettero's notes. Just how diamonds could be transmuted he wanted to know more about.

+++

 

When Daria first set out this trip, she thought it would be a fun one. It was for the most part, as she visited different cities and got to go to a castle, cave, and a villa. Winry and her family had been a huge help, so she was very grateful for them. Anna was great to be with, too, before it was revealed she had her father’s notes. She still couldn’t believe that had happened.

Ed had been decoding the alchemy notes during most of the train ride and was almost done with it. She was impressed how fast he got through them—he should be able to solve it in no time. The ripped pages of her father’s journal had also been returned to her when Ed finished with them.

It took a few days for the train to reach South City. After everyone stepped into the platform, Daria made a phone call to Norm, asking him to pick her up. The train ride to Rush Valley wasn’t going to leave for another half hour, so the family kept her company while she waited for Norm outside the train station.

“Will you be telling your husband what happened?” Ed asked.

“I’ve been thinking how I’ll explain everything to him.” She smiled softly. “As long as I’m safe, it doesn’t matter.”

At that moment, a car parked at the curb and Daria recognized it to be her husband’s. Norm climbed out of the car and shot her a warm smile. Overwhelmed in seeing Norm again, she threw her arms around him for a long embrace. Her head rested comfortably on his shoulder.

“I’ve missed you so much,” she whispered.

They let go of their hug, Daria taking a step back, and Norm chuckled. “I’m happy that you’re all right. So, how was the trip?”

“Overall, it was great! Winry, Ed, and their kids had been a tremendous help. We got the notes that I wanted to see and Ed has them for now so that he can decipher the code.”

“That’s wonderful!” Turning around, he tossed everyone a pleased grin. “I really appreciate all of you helping her out.”

“Not a problem at all,” she returned with a grin of her own.

“Did you bring our toys and books?” Esther asked.

“I have them at the backseat.” Norm opened the backdoor and the children rushed to grab their things from the car.

As she watched, an idea popped up inside her head. Daria spun around to face Ed and Winry.

“South City has a library you can use for your research, Ed.”

“That’s all right,” he said. The children, each one carrying a bag with their things inside, returned to their parents’ side. “I have some texts on gemstone transmutation back at Rush Valley. It’s time to head back home, anyways.”

“Well, all of you are always welcome to visit us anytime,” Norm said.

“Call me when you manage to decode the notes.”

“I will for sure!”

Daria made a small farewell wave at everyone. Norm let her go inside the car first so that she could slide into the passenger seat. He moved in right after, closed the door, and started the engine. The windows opened, she could hear Winry and Ed saying goodbye.

Norm pulled out of the curb and drove into the streets. Daria fixed her gaze outside, thinking to herself that she still needed to tell her husband the truth. It was best to get this over with.

“There was something else we found also,” she said, straightening herself back in her seat.

“Oh, what is it?” Norm glimpsed at her a second before turning his eyes back on the road.

Daria swallowed to herself. “My father’s missing journal pages.”

“Also fantastic!”

“No, it’s not. You see, there was this woman we met at Padrid City. I thought she was nice and allowed her to join us. When we were ready to leave, I find out she had those pages the whole time.”

Still paying attention to the road, he frowned. “Were you able to talk to her?”

“She ran away before we could.”

“That’s a shame. I’m sorry to hear that,” Norm said, sounding disappointed. He looked uncertain what to say next.

Daria sighed and her eyes dropped. All she wanted was a nice hot bath, some tea, and to forget about Anna for a while.

+++

Once they returned home, Ed immediately went inside his study room to continue working on solving the documents.

He read through the notes he had written during the train ride back to Amestris several times. As he tapped his pen on the desk, Ed felt there was something missing but wasn't sure what. The answer to the code was just within his fingertips and yet he hit an obstacle. He took a quick glance at the book on his left, Gemstones in Creta.

The few books he had about gemstones were from back when he had traveled to the countries in the West. There were a few recorded accounts of alchemists able to transmute a variety of gemstones several centuries ago, but it was believed many more notes had been lost. Ed believed there were some research on diamonds back then.

He was interrupted when Winry and Joseph stepped inside his study room together. Earlier Winry had a call from her apprentice mentioning he made it to the train station and she had left to pick him up.

"Hello, Mr. Elric." Joseph said, a delighted expression crossing his features. Ed offered him a smile, also.

"Hey, Joseph. How was your visit with your family?"

"It was great! I had a lot of fun with them. I'm glad the both of you suggested that."

Closing her eyes, Winry made a pleased smile. "That's great to hear."

A short silence followed. Joseph's face changed and he cleared his throat.

"So, all of you found notes that needs to be decoded," he said.

Ed glanced at Winry, who was making a small frown. No surprise she told Joseph some of the details of the trip. Before answering, he leaned back and gently rubbed his forehead.

"I already figured out what was researched but unsure how it was done. I'm getting close to cracking the code, though."

"That's good." Joseph suddenly yawned, his hand covering his mouth. "I'm heading to bed now."

"Good night, Joseph," Winry said.

Joseph gave the both of them a slight nod before stepping out of the room. Taking a deep breath, Ed had his hand on the chin while he rested his elbow on the desk. He could see, from the corner of his eye, Winry looking at him in concern.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing. I'm just glad we're finally home."

"Yeah. The journey through Aerugo was longer than expected." Winry lowered her voice when she next said, "I'm sure my clients aren't happy the shop was closed this long."

Feeling bad, Ed frowned and his heart sank. "It's my fault I dragged the whole family into this."

Winry shook her head. "I was the one that decided to go with you. Besides, thanks to Henry and Esther we're able to find the alchemy notes."

She moved closer to the front of the desk, grabbed Ed's hand, and caressed it. Ed always loved the smooth touches of her fingers on his skin. Looking up to see Winry's face, he smiled at her.

"You're right."

As Ed shared a brief kiss with Winry, the phone ringing from the workshop was heard. They tensed and looked straight into each other’s eyes.

"Who could be calling at this hour?" Ed asked. He didn't remember his wife accepting visitors this late at night.

They left the room together, heading straight to the workshop. Ed stood still while Winry answered the phone, which was on the worktable.

“Rockbell Automail Studio.” Winry stopped to listen and her eyes grew wide. “Anna? How you get this number?” Another pause. Covering the receiver with her hand, she looked at Ed with a disturbed expression on her face. “She wants to talk to you.”

Hearing Anna’s name made Ed’s stomach twist. He didn’t think she would contact them. Nonetheless, he grabbed the receiver from Winry.

“What is it?”

“If you want an explanation over everything, visit Dublith this Sunday. Meet me at Sweet Delights Cafe, seven o’clock at night. Bring the documents with you.”

She immediately hung up before Ed had his chance to speak. Frustrated, he slammed the receiver on the phone and scratched his back of his head.

“What did she say?”

“Anna wants me to meet her at Dublith Sunday night and to bring the alchemy notes.” That was two days away, but Ed could catch a late morning train and be able to make it. He had a heavy suspicion Anna wanted him alone even though she didn’t say it straight out.

“It’s obvious she still wants the notes. I’m coming with you.”

“No, you’re staying here. You need to watch over your shop.”

Winry made a heavy sigh, rather apparent she wasn’t in favor of this. “All right, but be careful.”

It was doubtful he was in any serious danger, but Ed still made a mental note to take precautions. Daria then crossed his mind—did she receive the same message, too?

“I think Anna wants Daria to visit Dublith also since she had her father’s notes. At least she gets to know everything.”

“I believe so, too. It wouldn’t make sense, otherwise.”

Two days until he had to meet Anna. Most likely Ed would be able to solve the code tomorrow because he made a lot of progress during the train ride. This might be his only chance to get some answers from her.