“It’s my portal of truth, so I get to decide how it’s used.”
Ed wasn’t expecting Truth to just freeze like that, his expression blank. It was unnerving to see Truth without his megalomaniac grin.
“Just take my gate already. I know it will cover Al’s debt. It’s eternal truth, or the All if you will. That’s more than plenty to cover a human being. I want to get Al home. I can live without alchemy. It’s not like I’m addicted to it or anything.”
“You’re too late.”
Ed’s eyes widened, his hands trembling.
“Wh-what do you mean ‘too late’?”
Ed cursed the tremor in his voice.
“I mean, that was the right answer up until a few minutes ago.”
“But-!” Ed started frantically.
“HOWEVER, that does not mean your problem is not solved.”
Ed was shaking at this point, as was Al, just out of sight behind Truth. The older Elric froze, not even twitching, when he saw the peaceful, genuine smile on Truth’s face.
“What solved your problem, young Hohenheim, is you.”
“No, Ed! Don’t do it!” Al cried; his voice hoarse from disuse.
Ed hung his head, his fringe shielding his eyes from his brother.
Ed flinched, while Truth started laughing, that same maniacal laugh that had haunted them both for the past six years.
“Relax, alchemist. I don’t mean I’m going to take your brother.”
Both boys paused at that, tension not yet leaving, but panic kept at bay by those words, hope stuttering back alive after its sudden demise moments before.
“Then what do you mean?” Edward finally asked.
“Simple,” Truth stated, “You have done something that no one else has done before. This would be the fourth time you have opened the gate, of your own volition, when no one else has opened it more than twice, and have given the proper answer after so long, as well as fulfilling your quest.”
“What quest? Then, what is the toll to get Al back?”
Truth giggled, a delighted little noise, “You’ve already paid it.”
Ed frantically scanned himself to see what was missing, but to his surprise, he was intact, both legs and all.
“Wh-what?” he shakily managed to ask.
Truth cackled again, “For a genius, you’re rather slow on the uptake, aren’t you? You learned your lesson, alchemist! You did the impossible! You stopped Father! You did what I could not, beating him on the ground with your bare fists! You should get a little reward at least.” Truth’s smile lost its manic edge as his cackling ceased, “Besides, I still need you on the ground. Someone else is begging to knock on my door, and I need you down there to stop it yet again.” Ed could practically see the nonexistent eyes roll.
Both doors opened, as black, fingered tendrils grabbed both boys, pulling them through their own gates.
“Wait!” Ed cried, “What do you mean you need me? What am I supposed to stop? Is Father coming back?! Wait!”
Truth sat, staring at the closed gate in front of him.
“You will find out in time, Mr. Alchemist. I wish you luck.”
He can’t believe he did that!
He was NOT planning on doing that!
Why did he go and open his big, dumb mouth?
“YOU GIVE ME HALF OF YOUR LIFE, AND I’LL GIVE YOU HALF OF MINE!”
But then, she didn’t say no…
“How ‘bout I just give you my whole life?”
Edward grinned as he remembered her flustered and frantic calculations before settling on 85%. He could live with that. 85% was a good number, after all. He chuckled to himself before freezing.
But what did that mean?
Does he now give 85% of his life to her? What even is 85%? Should he not have left? Should he have taken her with him? Are they… are they engaged now?
“GAAAHH!!” he shrieked, clutching both sides of his head.
‘This is too nerve wracking!’
“Mommy, is he okay?” a little girl asked her mother across the aisle from the researcher.
The girl reminded him of Elicia, and a pang of regret stung him enough to calm him down a bit. That was one mistake he could never fix, but he was glad the little girl had so many people in her life to support her.
“I’m okay, kid. I’m just a little worried is all,” he tried explaining, shaking away his depressing thoughts.
“Worried about what?” the girl asked, cocking her head to the side like an overgrown puppy.
Ed chuckled nervously, “Well, I kinda just proposed to this girl right before the train left?”
His answer sounded more like a question than a statement, but Ed now had the attention of many people on the train.
“Oh! How exciting!”
“What did she say?”
Ed nervously told the story to the half of the car that was leaning forward expectantly. When he finished, most of them were shaking their heads in sympathy for this girl.
“You’ll have to get her a ring and propose again properly,” someone commented.
Ed nodded dumbly; his mind set to planning. At least he knew he had time. He wouldn’t be seeing her for another year anyway.
Ed carefully set the watch on General Mustang’s desk. His new, massive office going quiet, the whole team waiting to see what would happen.
“I’m not Fullmetal anymore, Colonel, er, General. I’m just Ed,” he spoke softly, his head bowed, a slight smile on his face.
Everyone waited for Ed to comment on Havoc’s legs, or Mustang’s one restored eye, but he never did. Clearly, he understood.
“Edward, I would like for you to reconsider leaving the military.”
Ed glanced up at his commanding officer of five years.
“I have a proposition for you,” Mustang continued before Ed could refuse him, “Stay under me and help me rebuild the relationships we have lost with our neighbors.”
Ed shook his head, “Sorry, Col-, er, General. Al and I are done. We’re going to travel, research, learn. I don’t want to be a dog anymore. I accomplished my mission,” Ed’s cocky grin made its first appearance in a while, “Besides, there are better things to do with my time than diplomacy.”
Mustang’s signature smirk matched Ed’s, their comfortable banter setting both at ease again, “You didn’t let me finish. I want you and your brother. You two would be great help in restoring the Ishvalan nation. There are a lot of cities to rebuild, and no one has more experience restoring destroyed city blocks than you two.”
Everyone chuckled at Ed’s half-hearted grumbling.
“I’ll talk to Al.”
Mustang smiled, confident that the younger Elric would be more than willing to help out.
It took more than two years to restore all the devastated cities, but they managed it, the relations between the two peoples strengthened considerably. In the cleanup, the brothers even found more Xerxes ruins, as well as a few artifacts and history. Being the last Xerxians, the finds all belonged to the brothers, and they donated everything but a few ancient texts to the Central Museum, starting a culture exhibit. From what Ed had heard, it had grown to include Ishvalan culture as well as some Xingese and Drachman artifacts.
“We cleaned up your mess, General Bastard. What excuse do you have for keeping us this time?” Ed asked, Alphonse cringing next to him, shooting the General an apologetic look for his brother’s typical attitude.
Roy wasn’t sure, but it seemed that Alphonse had always been a fairly expressive boy, just like his brother, but no one had been able to see it through the armor.
“I understand you both have plans to travel to other countries for research. Would you consider being an ambassador of sorts? Mostly in name only, but it would strengthen crumbling bonds between countries to have this kind of political move, and you and Al would still have military protection and funds for your travels.”
Ed stared, then opened his mouth to answer when he was cut off.
“This is a request I am making of both you and your brother,” Roy turned to Al, “If you need time to think it over, do so. Of course, we will probably change your title. State Alchemist doesn’t really fit you guys anymore, does it?” Roy asked with a twinkle in his eye.
The Fullmetal Alchemist glanced askance at his brother, the Lifearmor Alchemist, “And you just got your fancy title and everything.”
Al chuckled, “It does fit me rather well, doesn’t it? It will fit better once I master medical Alkahestry, though.”
Mustang’s smirk did not go unnoticed, “You will retain those titles, but the F ührer and I have discussed the possibility of changing your status from ‘State Alchemist’ to ‘State Alchemist Researcher and Ambassador.’ It’s a bit of a mouthful, but this will allow you to continue your research abroad,” Roy’s smirk grew, if that were possible, “Naturally, this comes with a promotion and subsequent raise.”
It took every ounce of willpower the man possessed not to laugh at the way Ed perked up at that.
The young man considered the offer, a silent conversation passing between the two brothers.
“You’ve got yourself a deal, future f ührer.”
A little less than a year later, and Edward was off to the west, Fullmetal State Alchemist Researcher and Ambassador, or SARA for short. Ed swore he would have pounded Roy’s face into the pavement for that nickname, if he wasn’t afraid of damaging his only working eye. After using part of the stone to fix Havoc’s legs, there was only enough power in the stone to save one of Roy’s eyes, so the man opted for a simple eyepatch. Ed had no proof, but he was pretty sure there was something off about Roy’s blind eye. He wasn’t convinced the eye was totally blind. It was a little too similar to the Ultimate Eye, and creeped the boy out a little.
Still, he liked this new job. Amestris and its neighboring countries were very isolationist, so not much travel happened between the continent of Xeno and the rest of the world.
In fact, no travel had happened at all.
Edward would be the first Xenoean to leave the continent in about five hundred years, if the history books were to be believed.
He hoped to be able to learn the language quickly. He had always had a knack for languages, along with everything else, so he had about thirteen he could translate written, including the language of his destination as he had gotten his hands on a few snippets of it, although he could only speak four languages fluently: Amestrian, Xerxian, Ishvalan, Xingese.
‘Surely, it can’t be that hard. I just hope their food isn’t weird.’
As he settled back down in his train seat, pulling out a book on his destination to occupy himself, he fervently hoped they didn’t have milk in his new home.