Some more information and text in here. Final word count (according to 62078.

Forged in Ice 2

1. Vacation


2. Revelation

<insert B>

"Also, homunculi have a Philosopher's Stone as their core. And since Envy is a homunculus, it has numerous souls of humans inside it, fuelling its existence. Envy dies if the Stone inside it is destroyed."

Colour escaped from Shrike's face and he had to think quietly for a short moment before he spoke again. "Th-th-that's w-what it meant..." he mumbled.

Armstrong feared the worst, whatever that would be. "Shrike?"

"U-uh, shortly after we met, I asked Envy what its true form looked like."

Armstrong remembered the image of the eldritch abomination that was Envy's true form and spontaneously looked marginally terrified.

Shrike actually noticed that Armstrong's expression changed, which made him extremely anxious. "I-it said th-that... 'red and oval, the size of my fist.' I-it must have meant th-the Philosopher's Stone, maybe... I think it's usually described as red..."

Now Armstrong cleared her throat rather ungraciously and became her usual self. "Really?" she asked, obviously not expecting a reply. Shrike had no idea what had just happened. "Anyway,

<insert C>

Envy watched Shrike fuse the patch and had an urge to tell him about its own alchemy skills. Shrike would probably be able to help it with its problems and explain things to it in a way that was not as horribly boring as reading a book. It sighed.

"Hm?" said Shrike.

"Eh, I just wish I could do that too," it said absent-mindedly.

"Umm. Well, are you completely sure about that you're unable to perform alchemy? Maybe you could try and see."

"I'm sure."

"Oh. Well, I... I can't help with that."

Envy glared at Shrike and wished that the man would be able to keep a secret, but that was hopeless. He would tell everything to Armstrong, if not right now without her having to even ask, then later when she asked the right way. Envy was fairly sure that even threatening him with death would not make him keep its secret. Even if he would not talk, Armstrong would notice that that he would not answer some questions and figure out that something was amiss eventually.

Shrike looked a little intimidated and headed out of the maintenance shaft. Envy followed him, cranky.


Envy continued with its small-scale alchemy experiments in the Fort and continued being cautious so as to not be found out. It read a couple more of Shrike's alchemy books while on its vacation. As a result of that, it of course had to explain to both Shrike and Armstrong that it only did that because reading about alchemy was not all that boring and it got ideas from the books for improving its body because its abilities worked somewhat similarly to alchemy. Nevertheless, Armstrong told it to stop reading them and read novels instead. Envy argued back, saying that they only had nothing but stupid human drama. It eventually gave in, worried that Armstrong would flip out and try to kill it.

Naturally, Armstrong became more suspicious of Envy's reading of alchemy books even though she was still sure what Envy was unable to perform alchemy. She had the Fort searched ...

<insert A>

Envy did not want to screw up its chance to learn alchemy, so it was rather wary about Armstrong and did its best to not draw her attention by doing anything very rash with its alchemical experiments. Studying alchemy was interesting enough even without unnecessary risks, for now.

Some weeks passed. At the end of October, Armstrong finally gave Envy permission to go walk by itself during its vacation, though other soldiers still accompanied it to the forest. Envy immediately used that to its advantage. Even though its private time in the forest during the vacation was rather restricted as well, it made good use of that time. It searched the thick woods for a suitable place and eventually found what it was looking for: a long since abandoned farm. The farm had previously been a part of a tiny village only a couple of kilometres away, but as far as Envy knew, the village was dwindling as well, its inhabitants moving off in search of better land and living conditions. The farm looked like it had before, though the fields around the farm were not really fields any longer but thickets with a variety of young trees, bushes and undergrowth. The two remaining buildings that were still relatively intact were shaded by taller trees and covered by climbing plants. One of the buildings was the main building and the other a barn built mostly with stone.

Envy inspected every spot of the area. It found no traces of humans, but it did find a family of three lynxes in the attic of the main building. The animals were terrified of it and would not stop growling, so Envy ate them. It wondered how its improved digestive system would handle the hard parts of their bodies: the bones, teeth and claws.

Once it had made sure that the place was secure, Envy promptly got to work and did some larger-scale alchemy tests. It cleaned up the interior of the barn, changed the building's layout back and forth and finally figured out that it might be a good idea to create a basement where it could do pretty much anything. It created a tiny network of tunnels and small rooms under the farm and pondered about things it could not do yet.

For one, Envy noticed that while it had been able to clean the barn's interior by moving and reshaping the stone material, it could not affect the plants themselves at all. It thought that maybe transmuting organic material had a some kind of special trick to it that it did not yet know fully even though it was able to shapeshift and thus effectively apply alchemy to itself, and it was pretty darned sure it was living and organic. It could, however, transmute dead and dried or rotten leaves slightly.

It continued practising alchemy whenever it could.

3. Secrets

Shrike wrote his father a letter in which he asked whether he could meet with him at some point. Four weeks later, he got a reply in which his father said that a meeting was okay and they could meet at the flat during his next vacation. Shrike's vacation times were more flexible, so he simply requested a short vacation during that time and got it.

Shrike did not quite know what he was even doing. He did not think that he should be meeting his father just because Linke had told him to, but on the other hand, he thought that Linke's advice was reasonable. Therefore, he decided to go through with the idea.

At the beginning of November, on a Friday night, Shrike took a ride on a supply truck to North City. It was simple to go along and it would be just as simple to return with it or another truck Sunday night. The truck dropped him on a suitable spot and he walked the three kilometres to his father's old flat. He visited the same store he had often been to as a child and bought a bit of food and drink.

Unsurprisingly, the building was still there. It was a four-story block of flats next to five others just like it. They just a short distance off from the main road, and the side road made a U-turn, circling the front of each of the six buildings. They were over 40 years old now and built from reddish grey bricks that had faded in colour over time.

Shrike walked on the side road and did not bother to look around. The only things he noticed were that since the last time that he had been there, the children's park had been moved, a large tree had been cut down and a new batch of bushes were decorating the sides of the front door of the entrance A of the third block of flats. He opened the entrance door and climbed the stairs up to the third floor. Once there, he walked straight to the door of flat number 34, dug his keys from his pocket and opened the door.

The flat's small entrance closet contained only an empty rack and a broken umbrella on the floor. Shrike hung his overcoat on the rack and untied his shoes and left them next to the umbrella.

The flat was not very big, only about 46 square metres in area. It had two rooms, a closet, a bathroom and a kitchen. The place was just like it had been since the last time he had been there. From where he stood, he could see the closed door of the cleaning closet to the right of the opposite wall. He paid no attention to it. That door was rarely opened. On the wall was a shelf that contained some tools, magazines and miscellaneous things that Shrike and his father had not bothered to throw away.

To the left of the shelf was the half-open door to his father's room. Shrike glanced in and that room too looked just like it had last looked. A bookshelf with books on the left, a window on the opposite wall, a double bed whose right side was completely unused, a pile of undefined items in the lower right corner and an armchair right to the right of the door.

Next to the door to his father's room was the door to Shrike's room, and next to that door was another bookshelf, this one also with books and also some photos. One photo pictured Shrike and his parents not very long after he had been born. Another photo was of Shrike's father just after he had been admitted into the military, and a third was of Shrike in the same exact situation. A fourth photo was of Shrike and his father at the ending party of upper comprehensive school. Shrike dropped his bag in front of the shelf.

The bathroom was to the left of the entrance closet, and the door to it was opposite to Shrike's and his father's rooms' doors. Beyond the bathroom was the kitchen. It had a kitchen table, four chairs, many closets and cupboards, a small refrigerator that was turned off, a small freezer similarly turned off, a stove and sinks. The refrigerator had nothing in it and was not even plugged in, so Shrike did not even bother to look inside.

The door to Shrike's room was ajar. He pushed it open and saw that the room was also as it had been. There was a bed just in front of the door, a window to the left of it, another window on the left wall, a desk in front of the left window and a bookshelf to the right of the door.

The whole place was slightly dusty, but Shrike saw no reason to clean anything, since it was just dust. The flat was rather chilly because its heating was turned on minimal settings – there was no point in keeping the flat properly warmed if no one lived in it. In fact, the landlord had wanted to rent the flat to others, but since Shrike's father had bought it a long time ago and he did not cause any disturbance, misbehave or otherwise do anything bothersome, the landlord had no right to take the flat away or the means to acquire it through a court case.

Shrike did not even turn up the heat, because there was no point in that either. He and his father would be gone in two days. What he did do was reach into the control box of the flat that was located in the wall between the bathroom and the kitchen. He flipped on the switches without even looking: he turned on the water as well as the power to the lights and stove.

Then all he did was warm up his food on the stove and eat it before going to bed.

Shrike woke up in the morning and spent a couple of hours eating and performing his morning routine and then reading some of his old books. He discovered an old alchemy book that he had forgotten that he had and put it into his bag so that he could read it with Envy in the Fort later. He chose another of his old alchemy books and sat down at the kitchen table to read it.

Eventually his father also came home. Like Shrike, he came in mostly silently. He was 49 years old and like his son, had worn glasses when he was younger, but by now his eyesight had become more long-sighted, so he no longer wore them. He had short hair and no beard or moustache, but he did not care about his appearance enough to shave or cut his hair very often. His hair was slightly lighter than Shrike's. He was also a few centimetres taller and slightly more powerfully built, but otherwise quite a lot like Shrike. And like Shrike, he was wearing an Amestrian uniform with the marks of a captain, not having bothered to change into casual clothing. His full name was Shannon Shrike.

The junior Shrike, then again, had dressed into regular clothing this morning, and was wearing wool socks, a wool sweater and trousers normally worn outside.

Shrike's father dropped his bag next to his son's.

"Hello, Kaine," he said.

"Hey, dad."

"Wow... it's been a pretty long time. You look a lot more grown up than five years ago."

"Well I guess that happens," replied Shrike with half a smile.

"Heh, yeah."

"Did that wound in your stomach heal okay?"

"Yeah, after the first six months it was like nothing had happened." Shannon Shrike sat down on another kitchen chair. "Hm..." He seemed like he was thinking of what to say. "Oh, you got promoted, right? I saw your officer's overcoat in the rack. Are you a warrant officer now?"


"Good, good."

"And you're a captain... You were a first lieutenant five years ago, right?"

"Yeah. Hm, you've advanced more quickly than I did..."

Shrike thought his father's tone of voice was odd; it sounded very slightly resentful but also congratulatory. He did not really want to get stuck on that and thought that maybe he would feel the same way. "Well, I pretty much jumped straight from corporal to warrant officer when I got to be one of the ventilation specialists in Briggs."

"Ah, yeah. I see."

"Major General Armstrong hinted a few months ago that she would promote me to be the ventilation expert once our old expert retires. I guess that would make me a second lieutenant, but then that position doesn't really require a specific military rank..."

Shannon Shrike was silent for a moment. "Do you like working there?"

"Uh... yeah, it's not bad."

"Oh... good. I just wondered that maybe you would've wanted to do something else."

Shrike did not understand that his father might have hinted that he was offering another kind of job to him. "Briggs is okay. Of course there are some problems but I guess there always will be no matter what the place is."

"And you're content with that?"

"Uh, I guess. Oh, I just managed to change my responsibilities a little. I wouldn't have thought that I could lose some of my close combat training just by asking about it... Now that I think about it, it feels silly but I still remember that I didn't ask because I didn't want to get rejected."

Shannon Shrike looked a little inquisitive. "Less close combat training?"

"Well, I always hated that. Now I can study alchemy instead."

"Oh. Well, that sounds useful, I guess." Another short silence followed. "What can you do with alchemy?"

"Well, just a while ago I mostly just fixed pipes and screws, but I started studying more some weeks ago. I think I could fix buildings now, and I can transmute things that are more complex than just a few basic elements."

"Ah. Well I don't know much about that." They were quiet for a moment again. "So, you said in your letter that you wanted to meet and maybe do something... What would you like to do?"

"Uh, I don't know really... Just... I thought it might be nice if could meet a bit more often. I don't know why, I... well, one of my colleagues just suggested it. He said it's good to be in touch with family."

"Oh." Shannon Shrike had no particular thoughts toward the issue. "Well, I guess I'm okay with that. And... it is good to know that you do want to see me. I wasn't quite sure you did..."

Shrike chortled a little. "Uh, I thought the same thing about you."

Shannon Shrike twisted his mouth in a sort of smile for a moment. "Yeah..."

"So... do you... do anything when you have free time? Like a hobby?"

"Hmm. Oh, hm, I guess it could count as a hobby. I go to different restaurants and eat different dishes, rate them and compare them. Some of my colleagues ask me which restaurant is good in some given area."

Shrike raised his eyebrow at this sudden revelation.

"Sometimes I go to the theatre."

"I read novels... Outwardly that's a pretty boring, I guess, but most books are really interesting."

"Yeah, I remember you doing that when you were younger, too."

After another moment of silence, Shrike continued talking. "Well... we could go eat, I guess. At least that's very easy to do, heh heh."

Shannon Shrike smirked a little. "Yeah, it is. Do you know any of the restaurants here?"

"No... I still do my cooking by buying sausages and rice from the market and heating it up on the stove."

"...Uuh. Though, if I didn't always eat at restaurants, I guess that is what I would do as well. Well... Do you have a favourite food?"

"Hmm... I guess fish sticks would have to be one, at least."

Shannon Shrike gave his son a look but figured soon that if the only thing the kid had actually eaten during his life was food cooked in school or in the military mess, he really would not know of any better.

Shrike looked thoughtful for a short moment. "But... I'm not that picky with food. I mean, I drink the coffee in Briggs and sort of like it," he added.

"Oh. That... I've had that a few times. It's... it's really bad."

Shrike grinned a bit.

"Well, I guess I should choose the restaurant then. Hm... There's a nice small diner called the 'Butch's Ship' about three kilometres away."

"That's okay by me."

"Hm... Do you want to leave right away?"

"Well, I ate in the morning but if we walk there, I'll be hungry again at that time. So, I'm ready to go now."

"All right."

The two men got up, put on their shoes, hats, gloves and overcoats and left the building. They started walking toward North City's centre. The block of flats was located rather far from the centre.

They walked rather silently for some time, but Shannon Shrike broke the silence. "Um... I'm sorry if this is a too forward question... but I suppose it's one that parents usually ask. Have you given any thought to making a family of your own?"

"Uh." Shrike was taken by surprise and had to think a little. At least now what Linke had said about parents pestering their children about getting married sounded more plausible. "I... not really. Well, I've thought about it a little but not at all seriously. I don't know," he mumbled.

"Oh... That's okay. But... if you do get a family, I would like to meet them if that's okay."

"I'm pretty sure it would be."

"...Just, don't feel pressured to make your own family if you're not ready. I think I was a bit too young when we had you and... well... I like to think I could do some things differently now."

"Oh..." Shrike thought for a moment. "Well, you could still try, I mean, to get another child. It's not like you'd be too old for that."

"Oh, uh... I just never could find another woman I'd have liked enough."

"Oh. Well, that is difficult. And I guess you'd still be away from home a lot. Military is like that. I was last at home in summer last year. And I don't even travel."

Shannon Shrike did not say anything to that. He was, after all, rather regretful about the fact that he had not been there with his son during his childhood and youth. He could have requested a position with much less travelling, but he had never done that and he could not even explain the reasons to himself.

Shrike, then again, had no idea whatsoever if he should or even could explain anything about Envy who he was probably dating in some meaning of the word. He decided he was unable to explain the issue, and left it unsaid.

The two walked on and reached a more concentrated spot of shops and restaurants. The streets were rather narrow and long, with the gardens of the blocks of flats having unproportionally more area than the streets. Shannon Shrike led the way into the small restaurant.

"Butch's Ship" was a riverboat-themed diner. It was not very big for there were only six tables in the main room. The kitchen was at the back. There was a young couple eating on the left at the table closest to the front windows. Shrike and his father walked to the counter in front of the kitchen. The cook, a middle-aged blonde woman of a medium build, was there to greet them.

"Good day! Say, isn't it Shrike? First Lieutenant Shrike? No, that's a different mark now... Captain?"

"Good morning, Butch. You're right," he responded to her queries about his rank. He spoke a little restrainedly but smiled a little.

Butch turned at the younger Shrike. "And you're... his son? You look so alike!" Shrike nodded. "But I don't think I've seen you before. Nice to meet you. And you're a... I'm sorry, I can't remember that rank."

"Um, nice to meet you too. And that's okay. I'm a warrant officer." It only took a moment until Shrike understood that he should introduce himself. "Oh, yes, I'm Kaine Shrike." He shook Butch's hand and smiled to her.

"So, I have a feeling that you've come here to eat! Isn't that right? Here you go, an empty table and a couple of menus. Let me know once you've decided on your dish. I'll bring you a bit of bread in the meantime."

The Shrikes took off their coats, hung them on a clothes rack and sat down at the table. Shrike read the short list through while Butch brought the bread and a jug of water along with two glasses. Shannon Shrike asked something about a particular dish while Shrike did not really have a clue what the few options really were like past the obvious ingredients.

"I don't really know what to order," Shrike said after a while.

"Well... try the char and bread with corn, that's somewhat similar to fish sticks."

"All right."

The two placed their orders and waited while Butch prepared the food. Shannon Shrike used the time to list the places where he had been going to during his work travels and what he had approximately been doing there. Most of it was secret and even he did not know all the details, but both he and his son knew how it was with the special travelling units and military secrecy.

"But lately even my missions have become a bit more open. I suppose it's got to do with that conspiracy getting revealed in Central and the ruling body becoming less corrupted. I hope I didn't unknowingly do anything too bad while under their orders."

"Mhm... That reminded me... Armstrong suggested that I could become a state alchemist, but even if I found out a good research topic, I'm not sure if I should, since they can get called to war like in Ishval."

"Yeah, that might... not be a good idea. Did you hear that last year there was this shady character in Central and elsewhere killing state alchemists? And he managed to murder quite a lot of them."

"Yeah... But maybe I'd be safe in Briggs."

"That's possible..."

"Or I could research something that's utterly useless in combat or war in general."

Shannon Shrike twisted his mouth into a small grin. "That's an option too."

"Still, it's pretty academic at this point," said Shrike with a shrug. "I have no idea what to research..."

At that time, Butch arrived with their food and set down their plates as well as Shannon Shrike's glass of wine and Shrike's glass of milk. Shannon Shrike did not even think to ask why his son did not drink wine, perhaps because he still thought of his son as a child.

Nonetheless, the two started eating right away and did not speak much while eating since talking while eating was not very good manners in their opinion. Shrike ate his plateful quite quickly and obviously liked the food even though he did not slow down enough to appropriately enjoy it.

"Wow, that was... that was pretty awesome," said Shrike when he was done. "I've never had food like that." His father smiled a bit.

Butch walked next to Shrike after he had finished and was rather happy about the compliments. "Thank you, Shrike junior! If there's still room, you can help yourself to more bread. Or would you like dessert? There's a small dessert menu as well."

"Oh. I guess I could get dessert as well..." He looked at the small list and came to a decision quickly. "I'd like to have a piece of chocolate cake."

"Certainly, just a moment." Butch took Shrike's plate away and returned shortly after with a piece of cake. "There you go."

"Thank you." Shrike started eating the cake and was done with it just before his father finished his food.

Butch came to collect the plates quite soon after Shannon Shrike had finished.

"The cake was delicious," commented Shrike.

"Thank you!" Butch set the dishes on her arms and turned toward the senior Shrike. "How about you? How did you find the meal?"

"I was very good. It's been a while since I had cod and lamb. The only off thing I noticed that the sauce may have had too much of that spice... what is it called, it tasted similar to... hmm..."

"Oh, that spice?"

"Yes. It was pretty dominating."

"I see, I've wondered about it myself. I like its taste very much myself, but everyone is not like me!" She gave a small chuckle. "Now, how would you like some dessert?"

"No thank you this time. I had a week's worth of sweet food two days ago."

"I see, well that is true once age starts to kick in. There is only so much sweet food one can eat. But I'm glad you enjoyed it! Now, let me take these back to the kitchen..."

Shrike and his father got up and started putting on their overcoats.

"I can pay for the food. It's not a big deal," said Shannon Shrike. His son nodded.

Butch came back and Shannon Shrike gave her the money. "Thank you, dears! I hope you will come back later, though knowing you military types, it might take a couple of years."

The three said goodbye and Shrike left with his father.

"Wow, I didn't know food could taste like that," said Shrike once they were walking down the street again.

Shannon Shrike smiled a little. "Yes, I never had the patience to cook for myself, so going to restaurants was a natural choice. The only problem with this kind of arrangement is that when I go to eat in the mess, the food often pales by comparison."

"Oh, I see. That might be a some kind of inconvenience."

"One good thing about travelling around the place is that I get to eat more often at restaurants than in messes."

Shrike smirked.

They walked silently for a moment before his father started speaking again. "Say... Would it be a good idea to take a photo of us? The ones we have at home are rather old."


"I don't know of any photography establishments in here though."

"Neither do I."

"Well, let's walk around. Maybe we'll find one or can ask someone."

The two men walked around for two hours before they located a small shop that offered photography services.

They entered the shop and got the photo taken without any hassle. In it, they stood side by side in their overcoats, with the rank marks showing, and smiled faintly at the camera. They got two copies of it, one for each of them.

They did not do anything remarkable during the rest of the day. At night, they went to sleep at the flat, and the next day, at noon, they walked in the town again and went to eat at another restaurant. After that, they both went to North City headquarters, Shrike to wait for a ride back to Briggs and his father to receive the next mission.

Shrike got a chance to meet his father's small team shortly. Besides Shannon Shrike, the team had in it a first lieutenant, one warrant officer, one sergeant major and two corporals. All of them were at least five years older than Shrike if not more. They were polite and did not pry into any of his business, which was probably a trait of a travelling unit. The things their colleagues in the military did were not their business and the less they knew about it, the better.

"I didn't know you had a son," said one of the corporals, a little surprised. "I didn't think that you were a person who'd have kids, sir."

Shrike made a small smirk.

"Uh... I'm probably not," said Shannon Shrike, marginally embarrassed.

"So, you are also married then, sir?" the corporal continued.

"I was..." Shannon Shrike trailed off and spoke no more.

"My mother died when I was very small," said Shrike with a shrug. He was not good at talking about the issue, but it was obvious his father was even worse at it.

Some of Shannon Shrike's soldiers looked slightly taken aback and apologetic.

"Oh... sorry, sir, I didn't know," said the corporal.

They changed the topic and spoke instead about Shrike's duties in Fort Briggs, since the travelling unit had little experience of working in one place for several years or more at a time.

Eventually Shannon Shrike was called into a briefing along with his team, and a little later Shrike's target truck arrived.

The truck arrived at Briggs late at night, and Shrike went to bed shortly after.

4. Advanced Trickery

During its close combat training sessions, Envy most often sparred against its unit leader Captain Blohm since he was one of the few people who knew what it was and did not care much at all that he ended up losing against it. Envy's fighting technique had not developed much over the years, but now it was finally learning something new, and for once it did not mind that too much. Before, its tactics had mostly been to shapeshift and incapacitate its targets instantly, either by overpowering or confusing them, or to let a debilitating blow through so that it could take the attacker by surprise right after. However, now Blohm had managed to teach it to conceal its supernatural qualities. Now, instead of taking the blow, Envy blocked it rather aggressively and retaliated then, which did not reveal its true nature nearly so easily, even if its fighting skills still left a lot to be desired.

Blohm often muttered something about how people with great offensive capabilities never bothered to learn to defend properly. Such people were what he called glass cannons. Envy of course did not consider that to apply to itself because it was nearly immortal. While Envy did learn some things, it still had little patience to endure the human training rituals and trouble accepting that humans could be better combatants than it. Before last year, it had never actually fought against a human that would not fall to its tricks, so it was therefore unused to the whole idea.

There was also another soldier in Blohm's squad who was a fairly good partner for Envy. He was Lance Corporal Danton, a large and muscular man with more brawn than brain, though even he was not very daft. He had a temper similar to that of Envy. He was a more skilled fighter than Envy, but could obviously not do anything about Envy's mass or its other small abilities like extreme double-jointedness, which was easy to simulate with very minimal shapeshifting.

During their first few fights months ago, the other soldiers had been surprised that Envy could beat Blohm and Danton. Some had congratulated Envy, but as it later became clear that it was normal for Envy to win, they started taking it for granted. Of course Envy felt satisfied about its wins, but it was more surprised at the way the soldiers reacted. They did not laugh at Blohm and Danton for losing. Instead, they gave tips to both them and Envy as much as they could. That was how the soldiers tried to improve their skills.

Envy had difficulties accepting advice from the humans, but what helped it was seeing how Danton reacted to it winning him every time. Because he always lost, he was often bitter and angry at Envy. He called it out on cheating or pretty much anything, blaming everything else for his failure except himself. Envy did not even bother mocking him since he made a good job of it himself. Instead, it was more surprised at the others' actions, not only because they did not laugh, but because they encouragingly told him to get better.

When Danton once managed to beat Envy so that it could not get out of the situation without very obviously revealing its abilities, it was first furious and resented Danton and his smug face, quite ready to take him out all the more violently on the next round of fighting. A few people congratulated Danton, but more people offered Envy tips on how to avoid a similar situation. One even said that it was good to know that everybody, even Envy, had room for improvement. It did not know what to think of the situation and was confused about it for some time, but eventually just let the events go by. Envy finally understood that it was just training and that it was okay to lose, even if Envy did not like losing even during training.

Envy also sometimes stayed in the large gym hall to practise acrobatic feats and other means of controlling its body without shapeshifting. It had discovered quickly that if it screwed up, for some reason the other people in the hall did not laugh at it even though it had been certain that they would. It had laughed at the others a few times, but stopped once it noticed that no one else did that. The biggest reactions were that the people asked whether it was okay if it had fallen in a bad-looking manner.

One more thing Envy found annoying was that it had to be very careful with the premises. Even though parts of the gym hall floor were concrete or even bedrock, they were covered with slightly less durable material and Envy had to make sure its weight would not create suspicious cracks or cause other structural damage to the floor or the equipment it sometimes liked to abuse. If only it would not have to care about that and it could just fix the damage with alchemy, but no. Then it wondered why there was not even one halfway decent alchemist in Briggs, but of course it could not know the reason.

A couple of days after Shrike had returned from his small vacation during which he had met his father, he had one of his sparse close combat training sessions. He came into the hall with his commanding officer First Lieutenant Massena and the rest of her unit. For a change, Envy was there practising miscellaneous things, even though it should have been in the library reading at that time. It had just ended a long jump approximately in the middle of the hall.

"Warrant officer Envy? What are you doing here?"

"Spending my time," it said with a shrug.

"I see. We have a training session, so stay out of the way. Or take part if you like."

"Eh, not interested. I'll go over there." Envy walked to one side of the large hall to practise with other equipment and perform some less conspicuous jumps. It once again wondered how it would be like to jump on the trampoline but reminded itself that the poor piece of equipment would just break.

At this point, Envy noticed that Shrike was with the group. He looked at it a little oddly and it smirked at him.

<insert D>

5. Flashback gym chapter!

Envy finds out people don't laugh at it.

6. Future

Linke frowned. He had just realized that he was hearing a tiny buzzing sound from the back of the jeep where Envy was sitting. He turned his head at Envy. "What is that sound?"

Envy lifted its eyes from its hand and gave him a small glare without moving its head. "I'm changing the structure of my skin." In reality, it was designing transmutation circles by changing its complexion.

"Okay..." It took him a small moment to realise that he still did not know what the sound was. "But how about the sound?"

"Alchemical reactions usually make that sound. And so it happens also when I shapeshift." Envy shapeshifted its arm to have multiple joints so that it could pat Linke on the head from the front of the car, and the changes made small crackling sounds.

Linke was a little surprised. "Oh."

Envy shapeshifted its arm back to normal and continued fiddling with its hand, making the same little buzzing sound as it kept changing.

"Oh, I see. Sorry I bothered you."

Envy kept its face neutral and said nothing derisive since he had apologised. It went back to thinking about the little circles and then wondered how small it could make them.

Linke, then again, decided to talk to Shrike. Shrike was driving the jeep down the mountain road.

"Did you meet your father yet?"


"How did it go?"

"Pretty well, I guess."

"Did you find out if he has a hobby or something like that?"

"Yeah... He told me he likes to go to restaurants and eat different foods. And that he sometimes goes to the theatre. He took me to eat at a nice diner that had this most awesome char, bread and corn I ever had."

Linke almost smiled. "That's splendid."

"And I guess understand better now that parents have a tendency to ask their children about them getting a family. He asked me, but he was really non-assertive about it. Said I should only think about having a family when I'm ready. He said that he probably wasn't when he had me."

"Oh. Well, perhaps that was a correct assessment if he failed to be there with you when you were growing up."

"I sort of turned the question around at him and suggested he could get another child too."

"Hah! That's... That would be really insensitive if I said that to MY parents, since my mother is too old to have any more children. I guess it is much less insensitive in your case."

"Hm, he seemed a little shaken by that though."

"He did? I suppose he had a hard time getting over your mother and has difficulty finding another woman."

"Maybe... Anyway, he didn't really grill me about getting a family."

"I'm jealous." For understandable reasons, that got Envy's attention and it started following the two men's conversation now. "My father just called me a few days ago and gave me a long talk on how I should act around women. Apparently this sermon was triggered by Charlene – that's the woman from North City I was seeing – saying she didn't want to have to always wait for me to come back, and so she had told my family that she was leaving me." Envy sniggered. "I do not think that's very funny."

"Think what you want," said Envy and grinned at him widely.

Linke tried to ignore Envy and continued. "Then he said something about wanting grandchildren and spoiling them rotten, and I told him I was on duty and had to go, even though I wasn't."

"Well, now you can go for Northrop. She hasn't started with anyone new as far as I know," said Envy. "Hmh... Linke, do you even want kids? If you don't, you should say that bluntly to your daddy's face. That ought to make him stop bothering you."

For a moment, Linke was speechless. "Huh. No one ever even asked me whether I WOULD want any children. My parents and sisters just assumed that I should and would without a second thought. But I guess that wouldn't matter so much since I'd still be working in Briggs and my hypothetical wife would be at home taking care of the children."

Shrike gave Linke a glare. "If you do get married and have children, please don't do that, sir," he said.

"What? You do know I'd have to earn a living for them, correct?"

"You should request a transfer to North City then. Just... don't have your children grow up virtually fatherless if you can avoid it. Seriously, sir."

Linke frowned at Shrike and continued after a short pause. "Oh... I see your point. Still, I'd get vacation every six weeks like everyone else so I could go home to them pretty often."

"It's still a long time, especially for a child."

"Hm. Maybe. Well, I'll see if it ever happens." Linke shrugged. "I guess I do want to have children at some point. I don't want to disappoint my parents."

Envy rolled its eyes at Linke and his playing by his parents' will. "How about you, Shrike? Do you want to get a family at some point?" came its comment from the back.

Shrike's hands tightened around the steering wheel and he went a little pale. "W-what? With you?"

Linke looked surprised and somewhat disturbed.

"Ha ha ha! Ahaha! No, stupid! I meant in general."

"O-oh... um, well, no. I mean... not now at least! I'm just not ready for that kind of stuff, at all. I'd have no idea..."

"But eventually you would like a family?"

"I... I really can't say right now."

"I can already see it... Little annoying miniature Shrikes running around and climbing into the ventilation pipes and getting stuck there, heh heh!"

Linke laughed a little and Shrike felt very embarrassed. "How about you then, Envy? Do you want to get a family?" Shrike asked, trying to turn the question around.

"WHAT?" said Envy amazingly incredulously and proceeded to laugh. It did not stop any time soon, and in fact laughed so long that Shrike and Linke had time to start wondering why it was laughing so much.

"Is that normal?" asked Linke. Shrike looked quite stunned and could not reply anything. "Do you have any idea why he found that so funny?"

"No... really, no," mumbled Shrike.

After laughing at the absurdity of Shrike's idea for another moment, Envy suddenly amused itself with the ridiculous idea and imagined having children. How would it even be possible? It was impossible! Envy chuckled a bit more before the thought dawned on it that while homunculi could not breed like humans, they could be created with alchemy.

Envy could perform alchemy.

Therefore, Envy could create new homunculi.

It suddenly sat back up and stared at the back of the front seats of the jeep extremely intently.

Shrike and Linke noticed that it stopped laughing, and Linke turned to look at it.

"Envy?" he asked. "What was so funny? Envy?"

Envy was not willing to acknowledge the existence of any kind of interference at the moment.


"Linke... stop," whispered Shrike. "Be quiet."

"What is he doing?"

Shrike glanced at Linke and whispered "shh" again. Linke looked irritated but sat quietly.

Envy continued thinking about its new sudden realisation. It had some kind of knowledge about the way it was created and thus it could see that it was possible to create a new homunculus somehow using alchemy. It had no idea how its Father had been created, but even creating a homunculus out of nothing had been possible, so it should have an easier time since it itself was already existing. While no human in Amestris had ever succeeded in creating a homunculus, it might only be because it was both forbidden and Father had not let that particular piece of information get out at all.

Creating a body was no problem. Any kind of human or even animal body would do, and one could easily break the body down to its basic elements and then create a new one relatively easily. What Envy was lacking was a Philosopher's Stone. A homunculus needed one to be truly a homunculus. Beyond that, the creation would be mostly alchemical formulae which Envy tried its best to recall right now. How had the transmutation circle that Ed had used inside Gluttony really worked and how would it differ if a similar circle was used to create a homunculus? What had been in its mind during the very first moments in its life? What was it that was needed to create a homunculus that had a mind of its own? How had Father created the lesser homunculi and in what way had their creation been different from the six proper homunculi? What kind of shapes and runes had the circles had?

Envy spent the whole trip thinking about the issue with nearly inhuman concentration, though it had to reprimand Shrike when he drove too carelessly and made the car bump too forcefully. It did not care at all when the men started talking again.

Linke spoke again after an hour of concentrated silence. "Envy?" He got no reply. "Shrike, what is going on with him?"

"I don't know... Envy gets like that sometimes when it comes up with something or is angry. Then it's really better to just let it be."

"I should hope he isn't angry."

"Probably not."

When they arrived in the forest where Envy usually had its vacations, they got out of the jeep and Envy seemed quite normal again.

"Um, Envy? What was with all that laughing and silence?" asked Shrike.

Envy looked at him a little irritatedly. "The idea of me breeding is just ludicrous. Not not mention yucky. It's downright revolting! Then I happened to think of something else and had a really great idea but it turned out that it's impossible." It shrugged. "Then I was quiet for two hours because I felt like it." It grinned and walked off to eat some plants.

Shrike and Linke accepted the explanation without hesitation.

Envy, then again, continued thinking about its idea. Creating a homunculus was not impossible. It was doable. Envy still did not quite know how it would go about the creation, but at least it started to figure out what kind of knowledge it would need to find out.

Envy made its way back to the abandoned farm and wrote down what it remembered. It drew the circles, recalled some runes and tried to remember what all it needed to find out. Once it was time for it to go back to the camp, it erased everything and made a mental note for itself to check for tracks first the next time it came around the farm.


Envy spent about a week gathering what it remembered and figuring out what kind of information it still lacked. Then it thought about how it would get the information and became instantly very annoyed. How would it get all what it needed?

It then realised that it had not thought about how its surroundings would react to it creating another homunculus. Of course its first and only idea was to not tell anyone about it. Armstrong would flip out, definitely. Envy still did not quite understand why she had not vehemently objected to it learning alchemy in the first place. Perhaps she could not understand the implications, but even she had to gather something of the danger. Nevertheless, this time Envy was absolutely certain that it would not tell Armstrong. It could not take such a risk. For the same reason, it chose to not tell Shrike. The man still could not keep a secret, which irked Envy to no end, since it could have used his help.

Therefore, Envy would have to hide everything it would do.

The first easy problem that it solved was that it needed a place where it could create the homunculus. It quickly decided that the abandoned farm would be a good enough spot, though it was worried that humans might discover it at some point. It thought that perhaps it should just pick a random place in the forest, but then it might have trouble finding back.

Envy figured that even though the materials for a body would be easy to acquire in a market, it would be much less suspicious and easier for it to catch some animals and break down their bodies into proper amounts of each element. It did not consider breaking a body down to its basic elements difficult since it occasionally did similar things when it shapeshifted.

The required Philosopher's Stone it would have to take off its own Stone since it could not think of a way to suddenly create Philosopher's Stone without anyone finding out. It was not sure how much of the Stone it would have to give, but it was willing to split it in half if need be. It knew that half and even less was still enough to sustain its current body.

One thing that Envy was very unsure of was whether creating a homunculus would count as true human transmutation. A homunculus was not a human, but it had to admit there were similarities. It knew Father had not been taken in front of the Gate just to create it and its siblings, but was that just because he had perfect control over alchemy or because creating homunculi was not really human transmutation?

If creating homunculi was human transmutation and it needed to pay something for it, would it have enough Philosopher's Stone to both create the homunculus and pay however much the toll would be? Envy did not know and had no way to find out. Its uncertainty discouraged it.

Envy soon lost the initial enthusiasm for its grand idea once it realised that it might not have enough Philosopher's Stone. After that, it proceeded in its alchemy studies in a much calmer manner. That helped it come up with ways to get the information it needed.

Days and weeks went by as Envy tried to learn what it could about human transmutation. It did not have any suitable information on hand and could not even read all the books that Shrike brought in. Pretty much the only books it could read properly were the few alchemy books in the library and a few more that Harbin acquired because Shrike asked him to. Even then it had to be careful so that no one would think that particularly wanted to read alchemy books.

While Envy did not tell Shrike about its endeavours, it designed some complex questions and innocent-seeming remarks that did not reveal the actual subject or reason behind them but that still helped it advance its own research when Shrike explained the issues to it or did research in its stead.

Eventually Envy ran into a wall. There was no way it could figure out what it needed no matter what it did. It needed information from several different areas of alchemy and really needed to ask Shrike about some things that it just could not understand for whatever reason, a fact that it resented incredibly, even if it knew that there were things about alchemy it and no one else in the world knew.

Envy went over its options again. It had to tell Shrike about its alchemy skills to get any useful help, but it had to also make sure that he would not tell Armstrong anything. It pondered what was the best way to achieve that. It could either threaten his life, claim that Armstrong would kill it if he told her or just ask him seriously to keep his mouth shut. It came to the conclusion that all options were effective and risky in their own ways. Shrike would be certainly quiet if Envy threatened him, but he would be stressed and very nervous when dealing with Armstrong, which would make it more likely that Armstrong would draw her own conclusions and start bothering Envy or just force Shrike to speak. If Envy claimed that Armstrong would kill it if she learned of its abilities, Envy guessed that Shrike would be incredibly torn between his silly love for it and his loyalty to Fort Briggs, since he would understand that the issue was very important, so much so that even he would figure out that Envy was up to something. If Envy merely asked him to keep it secret, he would not be stressed and probably would not think that Envy's alchemy skills were that important an issue, but then he would be more likely to tell it to Armstrong casually if she asked about it.

In the end, Envy decided to just ask Shrike to keep quiet and perhaps imply that Armstrong would get her panties in an imposing tangle if she found out about its alchemy skills before it had managed to make it clear that it was not going to kill everyone with them.


It was the beginning of February, and Envy once again watched boredly how Shrike prepared to fuse a patch on a broken pipe.

"Wait," it said.

"Hmm? What?" asked Shrike.

Envy grinned rather widely and shapeshifted its hand so that its palm depicted the same kind of transmutation circle that Shrike always used to fuse the patches on the pipes. "Look at this." It then pressed its hand on the pipe and melded the patch to the pipe exactly in the same manner as Shrike.

Shrike started at the pipe and seemed rather confused. "But... didn't you tell me that you were sure you couldn't do alchemy?"

"Well, it turned out that I was wrong. I have no idea how this is possible, but here we are."


"Anyway, listen. I really, really want you to not tell about this to Armstrong. I'm worried she might lose it and tell me to not study alchemy at all or do something even worse. So can you PLEASE try to keep this a secret?" it asked, managing to sound both pleading and frustrated as it spoke.

"Ummh..." Shrike seemed shifty. "But... It's... I think she would be just interested. I mean, she was when I told her that I could perform alchemy, at least sort of. And if you want to study more, she would probably allow you to spend more time on it too."

Envy stared at Shrike and saw that he obviously did not understand the threat of it knowing alchemy. "It's not about that kind of stuff. She'd get her panties in a knot because she would think that I was going to do something really dangerous with the alchemy. You know alchemy can be really dangerous, right?"

"Well... yes, but couldn't you do that even without alchemy? You can shapeshift into a horrible beast and do pretty much anything. And seriously, even a regular person could kill large amounts of people just like that. All they need is a machine gun or a large car in a crowd."

"Oh. Yeah, sure," said Envy agreeably, not challenging what Shrike had said. "I suppose, but she'd still act irrationally about it because of what I am and what I've done before. I just want to study alchemy and I'm sure she'll at the least prohibit me from studying it at all if she learns that I can perform alchemy."

"Um... But... I can't keep this a secret if she asks me."

"Of course you can! Seriously, Shrike, the only thing you need to say is 'What? No.' That's all! The shorter you keep it and the more clueless you look, the better. You're fairly decent at looking clueless."


"And if she doesn't ask, just don't bring it up. It isn't so hard."

"Uh. Well, maybe I can try it... But... what if she finds it out anyway and finds out also that I've been keeping this a secret from her? I don't want to – –"

"Come on, she wouldn't do anything to you. You're loyal and harmless. It's not that big a thing. Well, maybe you'd get some extra laundry duty or whatever but don't tell me you'd reveal everything to her just to possibly be spared from a few laundry shifts."

"Eh... Yeah, I guess you're right."

"So you'll do your best to keep this a secret?"


Envy made a considerably less creepy grin. "Okay, great. Anyway, I pretty much wanted to tell you this because I've been studying alchemy for a while on my own but I'm stuck now because there are just some things I don't get. So, can you help me?"

"Ah, sure. Um, was that why you wanted to read my alchemy books during the vacations?"

"Well, not at first. First it was exactly what I told you back then, it wasn't so boring to read and I got some shapeshifting ideas from then," it said with a shrug.

"Oh. Well, I can teach you some things but I don't really know all that much either..."

"But you can get some books from North City, unlike I."

"Yeah. Um, where could we study? I mean, if we're supposed to keep this secret, we'd need to hide or something."

"Don't you have that study room where you do alchemy experiments?"

"Well, yeah, but it might be suspicious if you started coming in there too."

Envy was irritated. "Darn it. Well, at least you can smuggle me the books so I can read them on my own and we can talk about stuff while we do this."

"Hmm, yeah."

<insert A>

Envy surmised that since Armstrong's reaction had been to not completely freak out or try to kill it, it would be safe. Of course it thought only later that she might have only pretended that her reaction was not to freak out just so she would have time to bring Mustang in, but by that time it had been so long that the Brigadier General would have already arrived. Envy was not pleased with itself at forgetting an option like that.


Days, weeks and months went by as Envy tried to learn what it could of human transmutation without making anyone suspicious of what it was doing. At the same time, it ate a lot and tried to transform as much energy into Philosopher's Stone as it could. It spent so much time thinking about creating a new homunculus that it did not even sleep any longer except an hour or few during its short vacations.

This time of studying was one rare period in Envy's life because it could not just blindly jump in and do what it wanted. It knew that if it did not have enough Philosopher's Stone, it would probably just die. Or worse, its transmutation would fail altogether and it would be reduced back to its pitiful true form.

Shrike brought some more alchemy books from North City and studied them with Envy. Most often it was he who read them thoroughly and then he explained the subjects to Envy, which improved his knowledge quite dramatically.

Envy wondered why the example transmutation circles were so different to what it remembered from the material the homunculi had most often seen, but it figured out rather soon that it was because the homunculi had mostly concerned themselves with human transmutation issues or the creating of Philosopher's Stone, and the readily available library books naturally did not touch the subjects. After a few arguments with Shrike about the shape and content of the circles, Envy kept its knowledge of human transmutation circles to itself.

Shrike did not know why Envy became so concentrated on alchemy, but since that was obviously beneficial to him as well, he did not complain. He mentioned it to Armstrong and she was suspicious. She could not figure out whether Envy was doing anything that was out of the line because this time Envy had covered its tracks with unusual care. She had its journals re-analysed but that brought no clearer results than the last time. Envy was actively bitter about it for the whole of two weeks. He studied alchemy alongside Envy and put more effort in it since he wanted to and had to stay ahead of Envy, mostly because its patience wore very thin very quickly if he did not explain alchemy to it in a concise way.


Shrike gradually grew to accepting the idea that maybe it would be possible for him to become a state alchemist after all. He started getting more interested in thermodynamics and wondered how alchemy would be able to affect it. Once Shrike had reread the theories of thermodynamics and finally understood the basics of the subject, he saw how alchemy could be easily used to manipulate the thermal energies involved. Heat was the presence of movement and vibration in matter, and alchemy manipulated energy in a way that would be possible to apply to thermal theories. Shrike figured out that to apply alchemy to thermodynamics, matter would not even have to be deconstructed and re-constructed.

Figuring out what kind of transmutation circle the manipulation of thermal energy would require turned out to be a lot trickier to find out and Shrike grew very frustrated with it. He battled with his ideas for a week. Eventually he just snapped at Envy and heatedly explained the whole of his problem to it. Doing that took him nearly an hour.

They were studying in Shrike's study room, where Envy occasionally went even though that could be seen as suspicious. It only made sure that it had a good reason to be there and did not do it too often. While Shrike explained his issues, Envy just stared at him and listened quietly to his ranting. It did not interrupt him or even try to ignore him by continuing with the book it had been reading before the ranting had started.

Once Shrike had calmed down and realised what he had done, we could not believe that Envy had said absolutely nothing, had listened to him and apparently had also understood what his problem was.

"I don't know why you think there's something so difficult with your issue," said Envy once Shrike had calmed down enough to understand what it was saying. "Even though you just spent an hour explaining your troubles! I kept waiting for you to explain why you couldn't figure it out and you didn't even tell," it continued indignantly. "The solution, in case you're wondering, is obvious. The transmutation circle focuses alchemy properly. The runes and other shapes direct the deconstruction and reconstruction of matter. The circular shapes control the flow of energy. Just draw a transmutation circle that only has circles! Use an eccentric ellipse if you want to be really bold. It can't be that hard. If that doesn't work, draw a simple line through it, that ought to direct the energy wherever you think you want it."

"...Wha-what..." Shrike stared at Envy and could not believe what he had just heard. Now that he heard it and had a few quick thoughts about it, it made perfect sense to him as well. But why had he not thought about it himself, if it was that simple? And if it was not that simple, how did Envy know of it at all?

Envy just frowned at Shrike and wondered if he was getting it.

"How can you know something like that?" he asked finally.

"How can you not know it? That was obvious to me even before I started studying alchemy!"

Shrike stared at Envy for yet a moment, but then he started for his working desk and spent a moment drawing some circles. Envy went back to its book and did not really pay attention to him until it heard the sound of something catching on fire and Shrike shouting something about success.

"I did it! I transferred energy from this piece of paper into that, and now this is extremely cold and the other just combusted!" Shrike tried to grab the cold piece of paper into his hand but it disintegrated because of its frailty. "Oops..."

"Uh-huh, cool," mumbled Envy and continued reading its book.

Shrike made some notes and wanted to tell about his achievement to Armstrong and offer to make something of his discovery so that it could benefit the whole Fort. However, he started dwelling deeper into the implications of beginning to use alchemy in the Fort and spent a few more days organising his thoughts before he was ready to talk to Armstrong.

Shrike sought out the Major General and met her and her secretary Major Rodney in one of Fort Briggs's corridors.

"Sir, do you have a minute?"

"Depends on what your issue is."

"It's about an alchemical idea I came up with... and about using alchemy here in the Fort."

"Hm. Go ahead."

"I discovered that it's possible and rather easy to transfer thermal energy in order to chill or warm objects. I suspect that isn't a very new discovery, but it isn't mentioned in any of my books in the exact manner as I do it. Using the technique I came up with, I don't need to transform the material at all, only manipulate the energy. There is a possibility I could use that to warm or thaw or chill places that are difficult to get into here."

"Congratulations on explaining your issue understandably. However, we can already warm up or chill the Fort adequately. Why would we need alchemy for that?"

"That is related to the other issue I was thinking about, sir. If I come up with an idea of utilising alchemy that would be very beneficial for Briggs, would we then become dependent on alchemy? I think it's important that whatever we do here should also be achievable without alchemy. Because if something depends only on it... then it would depend only on me. Or... um... on Envy... I really shouldn't become that irreplaceable. Placing so much responsibility on one person feels... well... irresponsible, sir."

Armstrong stared at Shrike for a moment. "You're right. Nonetheless, I have another point of view to consider. If we find a flaw of some sort in the Fort, a hole in security, and the only way to fix it is with alchemy, then should we not use alchemy before we are compromised?"

"Y-yes, sir... of course we should. But I just don't think alchemy should be the first solution even if it seemed obvious."

"Yes. Perhaps the trouble is figuring out when is the last chance to not use alchemy and when it must be used."

"Yes, sir."

"Your idea of the transfer of thermal energy sounds useful. If you need to train for that, go out and practise until you're sure enough that nothing can go wrong if you do it at a critical time in the Fort."

"Yes, sir."

"Can Envy also do what you described?"

"I don't think so... it... It automatically knew what kind of transmutation circle I should use for that kind of transmutation, even though I had no idea. I was really confused about the usage of the circle. Once I managed to get the transmutation to work, I asked it to try the transmutation too and it did, but it couldn't do it the first two times and then it said it was boring. It's a really simple transmutation circle now that I think about it and a really easy procedure but maybe it's just that one needs to really understand thermodynamic theory to truly make it work." Shrike rambled a bit, not knowing what exactly he should be saying.

Armstrong frowned. "Why does Envy know that kind of things? I thought you said that it had not studied alchemy before this."

"Yes... that's what it told me and most of the time it seems like that. And I really don't think it would have the patience to pretend to not know that much alchemy when it's so impatient with reading the more complex alchemy books. It's just, sometimes it either knows something that it thinks is obvious when it isn't, at least in my opinion, and sometimes it asks really complex questions that I can't really answer. It feels odd."

Armstrong looked rather displeased. "Has it asked anything suspicious? Anything that could refer to the making of Philosopher's Stone or... or human transmutation?"

Shrike looked slightly worried. "Uh, n-no, sir... But of course I wouldn't know anything about that. And I still have a hard time believing that Philosopher's Stone could be real..."

"Nonetheless, I find that you are in a very difficult position right now. I need you to be able to recognise whether Envy is interested in creating Philosopher's Stone, and the only way you can do that is if you become knowledgeable in the subject." Armstrong sounded even sterner. "And that is NOT something I want anyone to learn."

Shrike was a little afraid now. "Um... I could try to write down its questions, sir."

"Hm. That is not as efficient as I would like, but I suppose it is much more preferable than you learning about the Philosopher's Stone. Do that, but don't let Envy know you're monitoring it like that. Well, unless it asks you as if it knows already. Then you can tell it everything if you like."

"Yes, sir."

Shrike stood quietly for a short moment. "Uh, that was all."

"Fine, you can go."

7. I Cross the Ice Now

Months went by. Even if it was only barely noticeable in Briggs, winter turned to spring, spring to summer and summer to fall again. Shrike's birthday in spring went by largely unnoticed, though he received from his father a card that was only two weeks late. He learned to perform the transferring of thermal energy confidently and used it on a few occasions in the Fort. For some reason, even though it also tried thermal transmutation more seriously, Envy could not get it to work. Shrike was rather certain that the only thing Envy was missing was detailed knowledge about thermodynamics, but it could not be bothered to study something like that since it saw no use in it.

At the start of November in 1916, Envy was finished with its own secret research. It had planned the transmutation and made sure it knew everything it could about the subject. It had prepared a suitable spot in the abandoned farm, in the stone barn. It had also fixed the barn's missing roof. It had collected the material to make a body. Based on its escape from Gluttony's stomach, it had assessed that it did have enough Philosopher's Stone to both create the homunculus and pay a toll if it had to.

Like before, Envy had arrived in the forest with Shrike and Linke in a jeep. They had left Briggs on Friday night. Now, on a Saturday morning, Envy stood in front of the transmutation circle it had just carved on the cleaned floor of the stone barn. The materials for the body it had just de-constructed from a wolverine, a young wolf, two hares, two badgers, some rodents and all birds it had found and managed to catch while on its way through the forest.

Envy thought it had everything it needed. In fact, the only thing that it could not possibly know for sure in advance was how it could give the new homunculus specific information that it could access right away since that was something it could not know itself. After all, it had not had any kind of knowledge before Father had given it all the information it needed.

Envy was done mulling over the procedure. Whatever happened, it thought it had prepared accordingly. It was ready. It pressed its hands on the transmutation circle, concentrating on its task.

The circle began to glow. The white-blue light glowed in the grooves and Envy could feel everything organising according to its plan.

The instant the glow of the circle changed into dark violet, Envy knew that it would not end as well as it had hoped. It knew it would be drawn to God's realm, but it accepted that. There was nothing it could do to stop it at that point.

Even though it had prepared for the pull and had accepted it, the journey through the Gate was rough. It was much rougher than Envy expected. Events from its long life filled its consciousness, existing all at the same time and making its head feel like it would burst. It did not help at all that in addition to its own memories, its head was getting filled with additional knowledge of alchemy. It could not make much sense of it yet, but it had the awful feeling that it had made a bad mistake with its transmutation. Envy could only yell at nothing to make the flow of information stop, but it was in vain.

Envy found itself on ground that was not real ground. Its surroundings were white. There was nothing. It could not know what to expect; it had briefly heard about the experiences of being in God's realm from Edward Elric but it could not have truly known what it was like.

Envy looked behind it. There it stood, a massive black gate that resembled a stone monolith. On this Gate, Envy's Gate, was an image of the Gate itself. That was how Envy understood alchemy and it did not think further of it.

It turned back and saw a rather disturbing figure. It was a ghostly form of an amalgam of three of Envy's own forms: its large true form passive in the back, its current human form in the front and its small true form inside the human form's head. In the background it could see or feel several souls, the souls in its Philosopher's Stone, wallowing around inanely.

The figure had no eyes or other features, just a large mouth mimicking Envy's own. The figure grinned at Envy in much the similar manner as it occasionally grinned at people.

Envy did not feel like grinning. Frowning and a little afraid, it spoke. "What is this? Who – – Are you... God?"

"Perhaps. Perhaps I am... You. Or the Other. Or All. Or One. Or Truth." The figure continued grinning its creepy smirk.

Envy would have been sweating if it could not control that reaction with its powers. And even though it could do that, right now it felt that controlling its outward reactions was futile when it could not truly control its internal reactions. "Why am I here?"

"Why, because you failed! Trying to play god, seriously? That isn't how the world works."

Envy grimaced. "What did I do wrong? Tell me!"

"That also isn't how the world works."

"Don't play tricks on me!"

"Well boohoo, cry me a river, would you. If there's a trick, it's yours and it isn't even a very good one. Say bye to a part of your Philosopher's Stone, homunculus." Envy saw some of the souls in the background disappear and it could only watch helplessly, its face twisted with useless exasperation. Behind it, its Gate opened and shadowy tendrils reached for it.

Envy was angry. "Why could Father create homunculi? Why can I not?! I made a body, I can give it half of my Stone, I can bind them together!" The tendrils grabbed Envy, pulling it toward the Gate, and its strength did nothing to make them stop or slow down.

Truth only grinned at it.

Envy seethed, feverishly thinking what was it that had went wrong. What was missing?

Something was missing.

Envy knew something was missing.

"Wait!" it shouted and struggled to keep the tendrils from pulling it. "I know what I need! I need a soul! I need a soul for the new homunculus!"

"You don't have one!"

Envy was struck silent. The souls in its Philosopher's Stone were in no condition to do anything except be consumed as energy. Even if some were still suitable to take control, Envy was pretty sure nothing good would come out of that. It could only start arguing back. "The humans can make new souls by BREEDING! Those filthy maggots!" shouted Envy in disgust. "There has to be a way!"

"Bye bye, homunculus."

The words stung and the tendrils pulled Envy through the Gate. However, with the last crack of light from the almost closed Gate, Envy shapeshifted its arm to hold it open just a while longer and screamed in desperation. "WAIT! I have one soul! I have one! MY soul! Give it half of my soul!"

Envy saw Truth's mouth still grinning when the Gate closed. The excess information still hurt its brain and it could feel itself dropping.

It came to terrible pain from all over its body, but mainly its chest. Screaming, Envy turned around only to fumble very badly because the lower half of its body was completely missing. The blood from its upper half flowed out and disintegrated.

"Aaaah! Aaahaaaa! Truth! Ghk-gk bastard!" it cried and tried to concentrate to make its body whole again without fully regenerating. The pain would stop once its body figured that it was whole and not missing any parts, even if its mass was lacking. It managed to reform its body in a moment and the pain stopped soon. Envy felt odd, not quite whole, but it knew that the feeling was normal when it was missing mass from its minimum weight.

After a short moment of catching its breath, Envy turned around again and lifted its head up to see what had come out of its not quite successful transmutation attempt.

A figure lay on the ground but it clearly was not human. It lay still, but Envy could see that it was breathing. Envy could not yet say whether that was a good or bad thing.

Somewhat dreading what it would see, Envy nevertheless pulled itself closer and examined the newly created homunculus. Upon closer inspection, it vaguely resembled Envy's true form, but instead of having mostly lizard-like features, it had features belonging to a mammalian animal. Envy could not help but think whether it was because it had extracted the material for the body mostly from mammalian animals. Its skin was very dark brown in colour and it had a black mane of some sort that ran from the back of its neck down to its backside. It also had hair on its head, likewise black in colour, and it was similar in style to Envy and Sloth's hair. Like Envy's true form, it had four arms and four legs that, while they were mostly human, somewhat resembled animal legs. It had a tail like that of a rat; long, thin and hairless. Its face resembled that of an owl, though it was featherless and thus even creepier than an owl's face on such a body would normally be. Its eyes were large and otherwise apparently a similar shape as Envy's eyes. It had no nose, only nostril slits in the middle of its face. Its mouth was almost closed, but a few sharp, pointy and animal-like teeth were just visible between its thin lips.

While Envy had not planned for the homunculus to look like it had turned out to be, one thing that Envy had not wanted it to have was indeed missing: the multitude of souls did not manifest on its body like they did on Envy's. It also had two interconnected nodes on its head.

The new homunculus opened its eyes. They had violet irises and slitted pupils. It looked at the barn's ceiling, then at a wall and then at Envy, from whom it did not turn its gaze away.

Envy looked keen. "Do you understand me?" It did not know whether it had managed in giving the new one appropriate information.

The homunculus stared at Envy for a while, apparently concentrating and thinking. "...Yes," it replied. "You created me."

"Hah!" Envy let out an exclamation of success and relief. "Yeah, I did." It sat up next to its creation and smiled truthfully at it. "Wow. That was some experience..."

The new homunculus looked around for a short moment and then crawled upright, sitting up next to Envy. It spent a while examining its own body.

"I didn't exactly mean for you to look like that, but it turns out the transmutation didn't go as much according to plan as I'd have liked, so... But anyway, that shouldn't be a problem. Not that you'd look bad, but sometimes it's more useful to look like a human. I tried to give you my own ability, that is, shapeshifting. You should try that."

When Envy stopped talking, the new homunculus looked focusedly at the floor and concentrated. For a short moment, nothing happened.

Envy continued its explanation. "You have a Philosopher's Stone at your core, okay? You should find that, be aware of it. Got it? Then you can just manipulate it, or more like everything that's connected to it, and that's your body. Come on, try to look like me." Envy stood up and continued smiling.

It took still a moment, but soon enough the new homunculus got a hang of itself and started changing. It first changed slowly and not just a little awkwardly, not quite knowing what it was doing, but as the moments passed, it changed better and eventually looked quite a lot like Envy.

"Hey, that's pretty good!" said Envy. "Not quite the same but you'll get there eventually."

The new homunculus smiled with half a mouth and stood up from the floor. Envy could see that it had an ouroboros tattoo on its right thigh – Envy had not tried to duplicate that, but the thing was apparently unavoidable. The nodes on its head were also still there, and now that the fur on its monstrous body was not blocking the view, Envy could see that it also had a pattern of four nodes going around it shoulders.

"Hmm, okay... Listen, I tried to give you most of the knowledge I had but I'm not sure how well that worked. You know, I hadn't done anything like this before. I almost made a big mistake too but I guess I just barely found a way around that in time. So, can you tell me what you know? Like, approximately."

"I'm a homunculus, you're Envy and Father created you and six other homunculi. I know what the others are like, somewhat, but they are all dead now. Father's plan to know everything failed. I can speak this language and Xerxian. I know what humans and animals and plants are alike. You're now working in Briggs."

"Good, good. You probably know more, right?" The homunculus nodded. "Yeah, that's great. But you don't have all of my memories, do you?"

"It doesn't feel like I do, but I don't think I can know that."

"Okay... Well, you don't know what I did with Pride in that large maintenance tunnel two hundred metres to the north from Father's chamber around 1780, right?"

The homunculus looked baffled and spent a moment thinking. "No..."

"Awesome. That was pretty private so it's better if you don't know about it or other stuff of that nature."

"I understand that." It spent another moment pondering something. "What is my name?"

"Name? Your... huh. Ha ha, I didn't even think about that!" Envy was a little surprised. "I don't know. I think you should come up with a name for yourself. Father named me and the other six homunculi after what humans describe as sins but if you ask me, that was kind of unnecessarily labelling. I just figured that out a while ago. So yeah, make up your own." The homunculus stood silently for a moment. "Well, if you really want me to come up with a name for you, I can. But I'd rather if you named yourself. At least then you know the name fits you." Envy waited for a while longer. "So, have you come up with anything?"

"Not yet."

"Oh. Well, take your time. It's not like you're in a hurry." Envy looked around a bit. "Well, I better clean this up." It shapeshifted an appropriate transmutation circle on its hand and pressed it against the floor. The new homunculus also stepped out of the circle on the floor so as to not be in the way.

Nothing happened.

Envy frowned deeply and examined its transmutation circle. It changed the pattern a little and tried again, but still nothing happened. It became quite worried. "I should be able to... why isn't it working?" Envy stood up and looked at the new homunculus who looked back at it expressionlessly, and Envy figured out what was wrong. Its soul was no longer whole. It had given half of it to the new homunculus it had created. Envy turned to look at the transmutation circle on the floor again and grimaced at it. "Darn it!" it swore.


"I can't perform alchemy. It's because in order to create you, I had to give you half of my soul, and apparently half of what I had isn't enough to grasp alchemy," Envy explained bitterly. It sighed and continued. "Oh well. That's not your fault. But I have to destroy this somehow... Why did I have to carve it on the floor like that? I couldn't just draw it with chalk or something, noooo..." Envy mumbled as it kicked some leaves around.

After a while Envy fetched a large stone from outside and used it to smash the circle broken so that there was no way to tell what kind of circle there had been. However, it was still rather obvious that there had been a circle and that it had been crudely broken. While Envy happened to not think of that, the new homunculus did.

"Should the floor be broken even more, so that no one could tell that there had ever been even a circle?"

"Huh? Hm, you know what, that's a good point. Grab a stone and help me, would you?" asked Envy and continued smashing. The new homunculus did so and they spent quite a while smashing at the floor. Eventually the floor was mostly rubble.

"That's better." Envy looked at the new homunculus and noticed that it was a little short of breath. "You can control that, by the way. You can increase your air intake and make it more efficient so you don't get out of breath."


"And that's a pretty small stone now that I think about it. Why didn't you take a larger one?"

"This was what I could lift easily enough."

"Huh? You couldn't lift...? Oh, it might be because you don't weigh very much. I made your minimum weight to be about 80 kilograms because having a minimum weight of 400 kilos like I have is pretty inconvenient sometimes, even if there are good sides too. You can increase your mass the same way as shapeshifting."

The new homunculus went ahead and concentrated to increase its mass. However, it did not seem like anything was happening. "It isn't working."

"It isn't?" asked Envy worriedly. "But... let me check..." Envy focused and increased its own mass just enough to know that it did still work, since it did not want to go all the way up to 400 kg right now.

Simultaneously, the new homunculus tried decreasing its mass. "It works the other way," it said as it continued decreasing its mass. It also made itself smaller since it felt uncomfortable with its decreased density.

Envy just stared at it, baffled. Eventually the new homunculus was just the size of a mouse. "Oh crap! I thought I was setting your minimum weight with those materials but I actually set your maximum weight."

"Is that bad?" asked its now tiny voice. It shapeshifted to look like an actual mouse.

"Well, I guess not. I think it would've been better if 80 kilos was your minimum and not maximum, but that works too." It smirked. "And small size has its uses too. You're going to have a really easy time hiding. How much do you weigh at your minimum?"

"Eight kilograms, I think."

Envy picked the mousy homunculus up. "Seems like it. That's pretty cute! Still, that's a lot of mass for a mouse so make sure you don't get stuck in the ground. I hate it when that happens to me."

Envy explained a few more practical things to the newly created homunculus, particularly that since Envy was working in Briggs and could only come to it during vacation time, it would have to spend time alone, and it should stay away from human settlements and avoid humans if any came around for any reason. Envy instructed it to eat as much as it thought it would get away with without making a huge impact on the ecosystem – even humans noticed if large amounts of plants or animals disappeared from a certain area.

Envy very much disliked that it had to leave the new homunculus alone, but it did not know what else it could do. Of course it could leave Briggs and just disappear with the new homunculus, but it still suspected that the army would send hunters after it. It had also wondered what it would do on its own since so much of its time in general had been spent just watching humans do stupid things and laughing at them. Envy did not think it would have the patience to study alchemy on its own, though at the moment it felt like it did not need to, since it knew now how to create a homunculus. Of course the transmutation circle it had used was missing a way to split its soul as far as it knew, but it thought it could figure that out if it needed to think about it. But before it could even think of making another new homunculus, it needed much more Philosopher's Stone than it currently had, and had to replenish its soul as well. Based on how much it had lost, it thought that it would not be able to perform alchemy in years and it would take decades to grow its Philosopher's Stone enough. It also considered that a homunculus probably did not need as much Philosopher's Stone as it and the new one had right now, but of course more was better.

Envy came to refer to the new homunculus as "the child", mostly because it wanted to call the homunculus something, but the child took a lot of time thinking up a name for itself.

Back at Fort Briggs, Envy pretended to still be interested in alchemy and managed pretty well at that since some parts of the subject actually were still interesting. It managed to hide the fact that it could not perform alchemy for six weeks, after which Shrike became so suspicious that it admitted that it could not do that any longer.

"...What? Why?" asked Shrike.

"I'm not even sure," said Envy irritatedly as it lied. "I noticed it two days after the last vacation."

"But that was almost two weeks ago... Why didn't you tell about it?"

Envy gave Shrike a mean eye. "Like that's something I'd want to tell to people."

"Uh... But how is it possible to just lose the ability to perform alchemy? Don't you have any idea why that might have happened?"

Envy stared at Shrike and was very annoyed at having to think up some kind of plausible reason or speculation. Eventually it went with a very trimmed-down part of the truth, wrapped in a convenient cover story. "I cut off a part of myself on the last vacation. I have no idea how that could affect my ability to do alchemy but that's the only thing I remember that could have done it."

"You... WHAT?"

Envy started at Shrike as if he was a moron, but then it just grinned at him. "Oh, right. I guess I never told you this, but I regenerate. I don't get sick and if a part of me is destroyed, it just grows back."

Shrike looked pale. "O-oh... Is... is that because you... you have a Philosopher's Stone?"

"You know about the Philosopher's Stone now? You didn't seem to the last time when we talked about it." Envy stared introspectively at the ceiling. "Huh. That was almost a year and a half ago..."

"Um... Armstrong told me last winter that you have one... at your core, or something. And that it's made of living people."

Envy made half a smirk. "Yeah, that's pretty much it."

"So, you can regenerate because of the Philosopher's Stone?"


"That must be awesome. Not having have to worry about getting hurt or anything."

"Eh, it doesn't work quite like that. The regeneration isn't instantaneous and it hurts like hell."

"Why would you cut off a part of yourself then?"

Envy gave Shrike another dirty look. "I was lifting a big rock, okay? It slipped from my hands and squished most of my body."

"Oh... That must've sucked."

Envy rolled its eyes a bit at the obvious comment.

"Do you think you'll ever be able to perform alchemy again?"

"I don't know. Maybe. I've gotten parts of myself cut off before, so it'll probably come back to me at some point, if it's because of that thing." Envy made itself sound resentful.

Naturally, Shrike told about Envy's loss of alchemy to Armstrong as well, which really irked Envy and it treated him badly because of it for about a week. Armstrong grilled it for the reasons and guesses of whether its alchemy skills would return, and of course questioned whether the whole thing was true at all. She believed that the best reason for Envy's "loss" of its abilities was just because it was lying about that. Envy got angry at her too and refused to see her when she wanted to talk to it, though it still did its duties in the Fort.


Author's note: Points to anyone who knows where the title of this chapter is from!

8. Hidden

At the end of January 1917, Armstrong called Shrike to discuss with her. This time Rodney was not with her, but waited outside the room in which they met. The room was located near the heat exhaust pipes of the mining site. The ventilation machinery hummed behind the room's walls.

As per her style, Armstrong got right to the point. "Do you know of an abandoned farm somewhat close to the place where you go when Envy has its vacation?"

Shrike looked a little confused since he could not guess why Armstrong was asking something like that. "Um, no, sir." Armstrong stared at him. "U-um... Should we look for one, sir? We can, if you'd like."

"There's no need, it's already been found. Have you created a homunculus, another creature like Envy?"

Now Shrike's jaw dropped and he stared at Armstrong, becoming a little pale. "What? N-no, sir."

"Is it possible for you to do that?"

"Wh– – I don't know how, sir. I-I've never seen anything like that in the books..."

"Envy presumably knows something of the subject. Either way, Major General Mustang claims to have found a previously unknown homunculus in an abandoned farm near the vacation spot. If you did not create it, do you know of anyone who could have?"

"..." Shrike seemed somewhat frightened. He did not yet make full sense of the situation. "I don't... what?"

Armstrong gave a small sigh of frustration. "Envy is a homunculus. Mustang found another homunculus near the vacation spot. Homunculi are artificial humans created through alchemy. Envy may know something essential to aid in creating another homunculus. Is there anyone else that you know of who could perform such a feat? Or anyone who could perform alchemy at all?"

Shrike stood with his mouth open and could feel all blood draining from his face. The blood packed up in his brain as his mind tried to wrap itself around the situation. He would have to say that he knew that Envy could perform alchemy, but it had asked him not to disclose that fact, and thus his thoughts were locked in conflict. How could he lie to Armstrong? He had previously imagined himself capable of it, even if only barely, but now that the situation pressed on him, he just could not bring himself to lie.

Of course, Shrike also did not want to let Envy down, so he just stood silently while the conflicts were flaring up furiously.

"Okay, that expression tells me that you DO know of someone who could do it. Who is it?" asked Armstrong.

Shrike's voice trembled and he struggled to get anything out of his mouth. "I-I p-promised I wouldn't say."

Now Armstrong looked marginally surprised. "You promised? Really? Well, this is a matter of Briggs security, military security and perhaps the security of the whole damn world, so you better tell me before it's too late."

Shrike thought whether it was appropriate for her to exaggerate like that, since it sounded like an excessive hyperbole to him. Still, it was incredibly hard to not take her seriously. "...T-the world?"

"Yes, Shrike! I'm not playing around with you."

"B-but h-how c– –"

"You don't need to concern yourself with that now. Who is it?"

Shrike was still silent for a long moment before he managed to say it. "E-E-uh, Envy, sir."


Shrike felt as if his heart had just tried to flee right through his spine. He took a step back from Armstrong.

"So Envy created another homunculus?!" she shouted.

Shrike just stared wide-eyedly at her and could not get a word out of his mouth. He had never seen Armstrong as displeased as she was right now.

"It shouldn't be even able to perform alchemy!" Since Shrike could not speak any longer, she started issuing commands. "Shrike, I need you to get inside this room's walls and draw whatever transmutation circles you need to in order to make this half of the room and everything in it extremely cold, as cold as you can." Shrike was still frozen. Armstrong took a couple of steps at him and stood right before him. "Stop thinking! Concern yourself only with this job now! Can you make this room and everything in it extremely cold?"

"Y-yes, sir."

"Then get into the walls immediately and draw the circles so that they are not visible from this room."

"Where will I direct the heat?"

"To the outer wall of the Fort, it's right beyond the corridor over there," she said and pointed past Shrike. "Can you keep your mind on this task and not think about anything else?"

"Yes, sir."

"How many transmutation circles do you need around this room?"

"Just one, sir. Preferably in the ceiling."

"Good, do it."

"And the room should be sealed, then it's much easier to concentrate on this room only."

"That can be done."

"I also need a some sort of conductive path to the outer wall."

"There is none as far as I know, but you can create one. Make sure it breaks nothing and that you can remove it later. Can you activate the circle at a distance?"

"No, that's impossible, sir. Though, I heard some report– –"

"Irrelevant. How far away can you position yourself and still activate the circle so that it works?"

"Hm... If I can transfer the energy through a more complex route, then I can activate the circle system at any point on that route."

"Then create a suitable route from this room to the next room on the east side and from there to the outer wall."

"Yes, sir."

"How soon can you have all that done?"

"I guess in half an hour, sir."

"Do it."

"Yes, sir." Shrike drew out a ladder that was attached to the wall, climbed to the ceiling and opened the hatch that was there. Armstrong assigned two soldiers to assist and watch him.

Half an hour later Shrike was finished. Armstrong then called Envy to discuss with her and started repeating the interrogation she had just conducted to Shrike.

"Major General Mustang's people say that they found a homunculus from an abandoned farm relatively close to the place where you go on your vacations. Is this true?"

When Armstrong had said the word "homunculus", Envy's expression had twitched from the shock and it could not say whether it had been a revealing or surprised twitch. A million questions flooded its brain, but its self-preservation came on top for now and it tried to deny its knowledge.

"W-WHAT? There's another homunculus?!" it exclaimed, trying its best to not express fear or worry of having been exposed, but enthusiasm for having learned of the existence of another homunculus.

Armstrong stared sternly at it. "So you don't know anything about this new homunculus?"

"No! Where is it? What's it like?" it demanded.

"And you don't know of an abandoned farm near the place of your vacations?"

"No! Why are you asking that? I don't care about any farms! Do you know where that homunculus came from?"

"Why are you so sure this homunculus even exists?"

"...Were you lying to me about it?" Envy stared somewhat offensively at Armstrong and sounded disappointed.

"I said that Mustang said that he found something." She frowned. "If you knew enough about alchemy, would it be possible for you to create a homunculus on your own?"

"What?" Envy pretended to be baffled at her direct questions. It left it at that and waited for Armstrong to speak.

"Shrike told me you can perform alchemy."

"WHAT? And you believed him?" it asked, looking at her like she was being nonsensical.

"I believe him over you in either way."

Envy frowned. "So you think I can perform alchemy and that I created some homunculus in some farm?"

"Yes. Now, is that true or not?"

"Of course not! If I had to guess, it's Mustang who lied to you and forced Shrike to lie to you as well, but you're not going to believe me, are you?"

"I... don't know. Would you allow me to make one?"


Envy could not believe what it was hearing. "Don't lie to me!" it exclaimed.

"I don't lie. Do you even want to make one?"


"Well then, I ask again: Did you create the one that Mustang claims to have found?"

Envy glared at Armstrong with a mix of offensiveness and confusion and had no idea what it should say to direct her perceptions. She was indeed not a liar, so Envy decided that it was true that she would allow it to create a homunculus if it wanted, even though it could not believe why she would do that. And after all, she had approved of its alchemy studies even though Envy could not believe that either. "...Yes."

Armstrong's eyes widened and she looked keen. "I didn't believe Mustang. Now I do."

"No. It's such a shame!" she shouted very disappointedly. At the same time as she said that, she grabbed her sword and used it to hit a panel in the wall. The panel slammed open and a jet of extremely cold air engulfed Envy. Almost immediately afterwards, another panel opened in the opposite wall and a directed stream of rapidly evaporating liquid came at it.

"Aaaah!" Envy screamed as it felt its body began to freeze and then crack and break as it moved and started to shapeshift defensively. Its clothing froze, cracked, broke and fell off. "You filthy honourless bastard!"

"You betrayed my trust!" said Armstrong as she leaped at the wall and slammed a switch with her hand, causing the heavy sliding doors that would separate the halves of the room to start closing. She stared at Envy, not at all coolly since the freezing trick did not seem to be working on it as well as it had worked on Sloth.

Since the streams of liquid and air came approximately from Armstrong's direction, Envy would risk its appendages if it tried to reach for her. Its next automatic response was to shapeshift towards its large true form, but even at this stressing moment it managed to remember that shapeshifting uncontrollably in a too small space next to dangerous machines was not a good idea. It grew only to fill the room as its regenerative powers fixed its broken body parts. For once there was some use in its large form since it kept the streams of cold air and liquid separate and thus the freezing effect was lessened.

Envy turned its head toward Armstrong and just barely saw her trying to hide behind the heavy sliding doors. It stretched its arm at her quickly and would have been able to catch her, but its arm would have been caught between the sliding doors, so it decided to save its arm and spew an ultimatum at her. "I won't kill you if you let me get out of here!" it shouted at her. At the last moment before the large sliding doors closed, it saw her leaping for the smaller door at the other end of the room.

Envy turned around and pressed its now rather large body against the streams of liquid and air to keep them from affecting anything more than a small part of its body. It had to escape. It knew that it was rather near to the outer wall of Fort Briggs, and behind it should only be a small corridor before the outer wall. It was a fortified wall and a fortified corridor, but Envy thought that it would be able to force its way through.

At that moment, Envy felt itself and the room start to get extremely cold, even without the interaction of the liquid and cold air. It screamed in agony as its body froze and crystallised. It kept on shapeshifting into anything, just to keep its body in some sort of motion. Of course, doing that shattered its frozen parts thoroughly.

Envy grew in size as it shapeshifted and managed to break and tear the walls next to it just enough to stop the annoying streams of air and liquid, and to its great relief, even the coldness that had been caused by Shrike's transmutation lessened considerably because Envy bent the ceiling and thus modified the transmutation circle that was hidden within it. Envy then tried to ram right through the back wall of the room. That turned out to be much harder than it had anticipated, but it managed to make the wall give in after a few attempts and some broken skin and bones and body parts that had shattered due to the cold. The instant it stuffed its body out of the room and into the corridor, it was shot.

From a tank.

With an explosive missile.

Since Envy was approximately the size of the corridor, there was no way it could evade and no way for the tank to miss. The force of the explosion tore its body apart and reduced it to literally nothing but its Philosopher's Stone. With the few non-exploded remains of its body disintegrating all around the explosion site, the tank drivers apparently did not see where the Stone had flown because they fired another explosive right down the corridor.

The Philosopher's Stone that was Envy bounced back into the room where the freezing attempt had occurred. It started regenerating right away but could not scream because it had no organs for that yet. As soon as it was even vaguely aware of what kind of body parts it had, it made its best to concentrate, stop regenerating and instead just reform its body. It succeeded, but by then it was promptly shot from a small slit in the large closed sliding door – and of course this shot had to be explosive too. It blew away Envy's right arm and half of its upper torso.

At least the heat draining had stopped.

Envy wanted a way out, right away. The rapidly evaporating liquid still dribbled from the wall where Envy had smashed and torn it, so it dived straight into the hole and past the pipe that was spewing the liquid. It tore its body and almost lost its feet on the sharp and broken edges but managed to get in so that it was relatively safe, or at least out of anyone's sight. Grimacing in terrible pain, it reformed its body without fully regenerating again, shapeshifted immediately into a small and wiry humanoid-seeming animal and started off inside the wall and along the pipes. It passed a couple of soldiers who were apparently operating the liquid pipe, but managed to escape them by fleeing deeper into the insides of the wall.

It ran for a long time, the first few moments nearly blinded by the awful pain it had just endured. At least its powers still worked and the pain stopped soon. It felt extremely off because of its very reduced mass and it had trouble controlling its body, also because of the odd form it had taken. Despite all the inconveniences, the small and light form was what Envy thought was best for moving inside the walls.

It soon started hearing instructions on the Fort's public announcement system. "Code 5. There is a hostile enemy inside the Fort. The enemy is a shapeshifter and can therefore take the form of anything or anyone. All personnel are ordered to stay and move in groups of two or more at all times, no exceptions. Three minutes from now, everyone who is alone will be shot first and interrogated later. The enemy is most likely inside the walls of section E1. Second Lieutenant Schofield and team, report to Major Rodney in entrance E1-north-K1."

Even though it was still fleeing and should have been thinking about how to solve its situation, Envy could not help but think what had happened to its homunculus child. Even if Armstrong had seemed like she had been suspicious of Mustang's claims, Envy assumed that it was true that Mustang had found the child. But what had he done to it? Envy had instructed the child to stay away from humans and not kill them unless its own existence was in danger. Since the information about the child had made it to Armstrong, the child had either been captured or killed. Perhaps it was also possible that it had fled. Envy did not think that Mustang's people would have bothered to capture it, but after a while it remembered that humans had the tendency to be extremely wishy-washy. Even Mustang could be like that. Therefore, it had hope.

After a while, Envy noticed that the soldiers started opening parts of the wall. It wondered what was going on before it remembered that Briggs's wall sections were separate from each other. Envy could not get to every place in the Fort just by moving inside the walls. It would have to come out of the wall or go into the right pipe if it wanted to get out of the current section.

Envy considered going into the ventilation shafts. Its biggest problem would be navigating in the piping. Inside the wall, there were just enough cracks to let a barely sufficient amount of light in, and now that the soldiers were opening the wall panels, even more light came in. In the piping, there would be no light at all, and even enhanced vision would not work without any light. In addition, even if Envy could see inside the pipes, there was no way for it to know where it was exactly. Even Shrike could not remember the pipes' routes by heart, and Envy much less so since it was not really interested in ventilation like Shrike was. It also had no idea where each pipe went. The pipe route maps were really hard to get to see at all because they were a considerable security risk. It could follow the air flow to the source, but it knew that along the way, there would be filters and at the end it would just come to a large and relatively dangerous ventilation machine.

Its next idea was even worse. It decided right away that it would not seek out a toilet and flush itself into the plumbing. That would be disgusting and it had no idea what waited it at the end of the plumbing.

Envy also discarded its idea of just attacking the soldiers and killing them until it had carved a way out through their corpses. It could feel that it did not have very much Philosopher's Stone and it had no idea how many times it could die before running out. It was still many, but if the soldiers were shooting at it with tanks and explosive bullets, even many would probably not be enough.

It sat down inside the wall and pondered its options. After a while, it noticed that the soldiers were taking more of the walls down. It made the decision that it had to do something quickly. It happened to think that while it was hard to know where a ventilation pipe exited, it was obvious where it came from. At the beginning of each pipe was a ventilation machine, and Envy knew where the main machine for this section was. It was somewhat stunned that its work on things related to ventilation were actually useful.

Envy shapeshifted its arm into a sharp saw-like knife, opened one ventilation pipe by cutting it and slid its body inside. It was dark, but there were no notable obstructions in the pipe and the only thing it had to do was follow where the air was coming from. It turned into a snake and slithered away, breaking all the filters it came across. At least moving as a snake was similar regardless of how little it now weighed.

It did not take long for the pipe to merge into a larger ventilation shaft. After that, Envy soon came to the large ventilation machine. Some faint light emanated from the machine and Envy could see again. The air flow was not so powerful that it would have particularly hindered Envy, but it would have been nicer without it. Envy could see the fan blades rotating at a high speed and it wondered how it would get out. It could of course grow again and burst out of the pipe, but that would create a lot of noise and it did not want to be noticed if it could avoid it.

After observing the fan blades for a moment, it recalled that the fan was not quite attached to the pipe; it could break the filter and then slide a part of itself into the ventilation machine and outside of it into the room to see whether the coast was clear. It transformed again so that it had a sharp blade for a hand and broke the filter, cutting a piece out of it. Having done that, it started extending a finger-like appendage with an eye on its end into the machine. It soon found a grate through which it saw into the room.

The room was not unfamiliar to Envy since it had been there before: the machines and three others like it were in a hall right next to each other. It saw only two people in the room: Shrike's acquaintance Mil and another member of the ventilation team whose name it did not remember. They would be easy to take down.

Envy withdrew its appendage and decided to cut through the pipe on the side of the wall so that the two men could not see it. The machines made so much noise that they would drown out the sound of the cutting if Envy was careful. It transformed an appendage into a blade again and started cutting. Since it could not get much leverage in the small shaft and in its small form, it took a while until it managed to cut a large enough hole to squeeze through.

Envy was still the wrong size and it was not entirely sure if it could shapeshift quickly enough to take the men by surprise. The form was easy to change, but it also needed more mass, and changing that was not quick. It settled for increasing its mass as much as it could without growing too large for its hiding place, and then jumped.

It managed to take Mil and his partner by surprise. Mil managed to hit Envy with his fist, but Envy was not damaged by it. Envy, then again, smashed their faces right in. Then it came to it that it could have knocked out just one of them, shapeshifted into the fallen one and forced the other one to walk with it so that the soldiers would not shoot it because it was alone.

Then Envy thought that they probably would not have cooperated even if it would have killed them. Briggs soldiers and their loyalty! Envy could not deny it that while it had been a part of them, it had sort of liked the trust they had in it, even if it did not exactly return that. Now it was them against it once again and it hated that.

Envy made a few angry faces and pondered what to do next. Since this ventilation centre was a circulator for clean indoor air, it was not right next to the outer wall, but it was somewhat close. It tried its best to recall the route to the closest loading area. It could not be quite sure, but at least it knew the direction approximately.

Then it only had to get there.

Envy considered just running through the corridors and taking any damage they threw at it, but the thought of getting blown up stopped it and it thought another time. It looked at the soldiers' bodies and had another idea. It could not sneak out alone, but it could hide one of them and pretend to be trashed out along with the other one. That ought to make them think it was who it presented as.

Since it knew Mil's name and had even talked to him before at some point, it hid his body in a closet and grabbed the other one. Having done that, it checked that the door to the room was closed but not locked or fortified. Then it transformed one of its arms much larger, ready to thrash two of the ventilation machines.

Envy crushed the machines, transformed its arm back and jumped right through the door, holding the body of Mil's friend.

"Aaah!" it shouted in act as it crashed in to the wall beyond the door. It glanced into the direction where it was supposed to go and saw a trio of soldiers taking aim at them, startled at the sound of breaking machinery. "Aagh! It's in there!" it shouted and started stumbling upright and pulling the other soldier's body with it. By now it knew that Briggs soldiers tried to save each other unless it was utterly hopeless. It made its way toward the trio who came at it and were now pointing their weapons past it. Two other soldiers came around the corner, ready with their weapons. One of them shouted down the corridor that they had found the enemy, and Envy heard some acknowledgements.

"What happened to him?" asked the other of the two soldiers.

"It... something broke the ventilation machines and him hit and made us crash through the door. It hit him in the... he's... is he..." Envy mumbled like a stupid human and checked that the soldier it was holding had a bleeding but not serious would on his head and he was unconscious. "I should take him to the hospital wing. Would... can you come with me?" it asked from the two other soldiers.

At that moment, even more soldiers came in, among them First Lieutenant Massena and Shrike. Shrike looked incredibly serious.

"I'll go," said one of the two soldiers. He handed his gun to Envy and picked up the unconscious soldier. He and Envy started heading down the corridor and passed the other soldiers, Shrike among them. Envy could not help giving Shrike a mean glare.

Shrike continued on his way, but stopped after a moment as Massena started speaking commands to the soldiers. He frowned deeply and looked after Envy and the other soldier as they disappeared behind a corner. He looked back at Massena and then at the empty corner.

"Uh... sir..."

"What, Shrike?"

"I um... I think that Mil... the soldier who just left... that he was Envy?"


"I think Mil was Envy."

"What do you mean?

"Um..." Shrike had no idea why Massena was not getting what he was saying. "I'm sorry, sir... Ah, wait! I uh, I forgot... Um, the shapeshifter we're looking for is Envy. Envy is the shapeshifter."


"Uh... uh... I mean... I think Mil was the shapeshifter."

"And Mil was...?"

"The soldier who just left, sir..."

"..." Massena was speechless. "You! Is the room empty? Check it!" she shouted at the trio of soldiers.

They advanced carefully and took a quick look into the room and then a longer one. "Seems so!" shouted one of them.

"Check it thoroughly!" Massena turned at her troupe. "Shrike, you four, with me. The rest, help them." Having said that, she started running after Envy, the soldiers following her. "Shrike, explain this to me better now! What are we doing?" she barked, obviously frustrated.

"S-sorry – –"

"Stop apologising and answer me!"

The words caught in Shrike's throat. "U-uh... The soldier, Mil... the one with long hair... was the shapeshifter."

"How do you know that?"

"...I-I know Mil, and I thought he acted oddly."

"Okay. Are you sure about that?"


"I didn't want to hear that. Okay, when you see him, don't shoot to kill."

Shrike's stomach stung and he felt hopeless.

Envy came to a fork in the corridor where they would have to go on a different route if they were going to go to the hospital wing. Luckily the soldier who was carrying the unconscious one was of lower rank than Mil, so Envy just issued commands.

"Where are you going? Follow me!"

"But... sir, the lift is that way."

"No it isn't. Are you new here? Come on." Envy smirked widely as the soldier obeyed it and followed. They ran past two small groups of soldiers. They both asked where they were going, and the first group accepted their destination without argument, but the second one, which was close to the loading area, noticed that something was off.

"The lift is that way!" said the highest ranking officer, a sergeant major, to Envy.

"No, it isn't, sir. It's right behind here."

"I tried to tell that t– –" started the private who was carrying Mil's partner's body.

"That way is the loading area."

"No... Really? It is? Oh... darn it," mumbled Envy. "I... I really thought it was here. I must have a concussion. I-I feel dizzy." Envy started staggering toward the door to the observation room of the loading area.

"Hm." The sergeant major frowned. He looked at one of his soldiers. "Okay, go with the private to take the injured one to the hospital wing." He turned to another soldier. "You, go check whether he's okay and try to get him into the hospital wing as well."

"Yes, sir." The second private went after Envy. "Sir, are you okay?"

"I... I think I just need to sit down for a moment." It opened the door to the loading area observation room and went in, the private following it.

There were two soldiers in the observation room. They looked inquiringly at Envy and the private when they came in.

"What are you doing here?" asked one of them.

"I'm dizzy, I think I have a concussion," said Envy and closed the door.

"You should head to the hospital wing."

"Yeah... Yeah, I guess, but I don't think I should walk right now, so unless you'd like to carry me, I think I'll just sit here for a moment."

"Okay. Well, I can call for someone to bring a stretcher, they can take you."

Envy definitely did not want the soldier to call anyone. At least the previous group seemed like it was not following Envy past putting the one private to look after it. Therefore, Envy attacked both the soldier who was about to call and the private standing by the door and knocked them down forcefully. Both of them were either knocked unconscious with the one blow or killed straight, and Envy turned to the third person who was sitting at the control panel and now looked very confusedly at Envy. While he was taken by surprise, he managed to pull out his pistol and shoot Envy. He hit it in the shoulder, and then Envy promptly smacked him senseless as well.

Envy thought that the gunshot must have been heard outside as well, so it shapeshifted its body larger to block the door that it hoped was fortified in case the soldiers tried to shoot through it. It then went to look at the control panel and quickly found the emergency door opening mechanism. It knew the doors would open quickly, so it instead started securing a clear way to the exit. It would somehow need to go through the glass window of the observation room, and of course the glass was fortified. Still, Envy had no choice but to try, so it grabbed the portable machine gun that the first soldier in the observation room had had and started shooting at the window. The bullets made cracks and dents, but the glass did not break and the bullets did not go through. Envy made a rough circle with its firing before the ammo ran out. After that, it grabbed a heavy semi-automatic rifle sitting in the corner of the observation room and shot at the glass again. The rifle managed to actually make a hole in the now weakened glass, but the window did not shatter. Envy fired five more rounds until the rifle was out of ammo as well.

The window still was not broken.

Envy could see soldiers in the loading area. They had noticed its doings a while ago and taken firing positions and one was calling for backup. Furious, it grabbed a chair and threw it at the window. The chair broke into splinters. After two more seconds of thinking, Envy picked up a piece of control machinery that it did not know what would do, tearing it right out of its place. It weighed quite a lot and Envy was not in an ideal shape, position or weight to handle it. Despite the troubles it had with handling the machine, it managed to hurl the machine at the window, and this time the window cracked noticeably, though it still did not break.

Envy had had it with the window. It slammed the emergency door opening button, quickly shapeshifted into a convenient humanoid form and charged right at the window. It managed to get enough momentum behind its leap so that the window finally broke. Of course, it was immediately shot at by the soldiers in the loading area. Luckily for it, most of the shots missed, and when it landed, it dropped partially on a truck's roof, breaking some of the rack structures and then slid down its side so that it was flanked by two trucks. It heard the door still opening, and since it was so close to its goal now, it decided to just rush through.

Envy darted toward the doors. It was immediately shot again, but it moved quickly and shapeshifted and regenerated erratically, which also helped it avoid some shots. The door started closing again when Envy was very close to it, but by then it was too late. Envy managed to get outside into the snow. Once there, it noticed that it was very cold – the temperature in the mountains was consistently below -40 degrees if the sun was not shining. It immediately shapeshifted into a furry horse and ran off as fast as it could.

Just then it heard a weapon launching something, and the sound was very worrisome. It turned its head to see that something relatively big was coming right at it at high speed. It could still alter its movement a little and tried to jump out of the way, but it was still caught in the large explosion from the bazooka's missile.

The force of the explosion obliterated its body.

9. Past

Shrike ran into the loading area after Massena and just barely saw Envy shapeshifting into a horse and starting to run away. He felt surreal and shocked. As he watched it get completely blown up by the bazooka explosive, his jaw dropped and tears flowed right down his face. He coughed forcefully to hide his reaction and instantly walked to the side, sat down between two trucks and buried his face in his arms. Shrike did not quite know why he felt so awful. Maybe he had loved Envy in some odd way, but surely he should not be feeling like this? Yet, he could only cry for now.

Massena started ordering her soldiers around, telling them to gear up and go check the explosion site outside to make sure the enemy was not there and to look for any remains. She called Shrike by name several times, but when Shrike did not respond, she had to give orders to the rest of the soldiers first.

When Massena was done, she walked to Shrike angrily with some other soldier in tow. "Warrant Officer Kaine Shrike, what the HELL do you think you're doing? We have a situation here and you're doing what?" she shouted.

Shrike just shivered and showed a hand sign that meant he was hurt but not requiring immediate attention.

"You are NOT hurt! You were with me the whole time and I'm certain that you did not even stub your toe. Is this insubordination?"

"No!" screamed Shrike suddenly. "I don't – I don't know what's wrong! I'm not ph-phy-physically hurt!"

Massena looked at him very oddly. It took her a short moment before she finally understood what Shrike had been saying. "Envy was the shapeshifter! That's what you tried to say, but it didn't make any sense to me. Okay, Envy was the shapeshifter, and you were very close to her, and we just blew her into thin air, so you're feeling... what, emotional loss?" Her tone changed into a very condescending one and she even seemed slightly disgusted toward the end. "Seriously, Shrike? You just got evidence of your girlfriend being something that isn't even HUMAN and you're still incredibly upset about her getting blown up?"

"Sir, maybe it's because of that exactly," said the other soldier. "I mean, because it shocked him to learn that his girlfriend wasn't human."

"Hmh. Well, whatever the case, get a grip, Shrike. If this were an actual war or fight, you'd be hopelessly dead."

Shrike just stared at his commanding officer. "H-how do I turn this off, then?!" he exclaimed, breaking his voice at the end.

"By forcing it! I'm not saying it's easy or that it should be easy, but you need to do it. Preferably right now!" she said sternly.

Shrike stared at her. "I-I just feel like fainting..."

"I can't believe this!" she barked. "What kind of sissy are you? You're short, weak, effeminate, suck at close combat and now this. My little sister handled it better when we had to move away because of the bombings during the Ishval Civil War! You're crying over a GIRLFRIEND who was a MONSTER."

Now Shrike could not believe what he was hearing. He felt like throwing up and his chest hurt considerably just from the insults that he felt were utterly and objectively unjustified and useless. What Massena had said was completely out of line, unnecessary and unfair and most of all, she was being a gigantic jerk. He considered throwing himself on the ground like an animal that wanted to die and see whether Massena would kick him, but instead he decided to get up. He could not bear to look at her face, so he stared intently at her collar. It did not help his image with Massena, but it was all he could do at the moment.

"You're disgusting, sir," he whispered.

Massena had expected Shrike to try to hit her or cry his eyes off, but certainly not something like this. She did not speak.

Shrike continued with his idea now that he had managed to say it. "You made me physically ill, so I request permission to go to the hospital wing, sir," he continued whispering.

Massena stared at Shrike angrily. "FINE. Go with him," she said to the soldier standing next to her. She walked away.

Shrike leaned on a truck and tried to keep his stomach and its contents from crawling up his throat. Some more tears fell down his face, but he actually felt better now that Massena had left and he had a permission to go to the hospital wing. The lance corporal next to him just looked at him and said nothing.

When Shrike felt well enough to walk, he headed for a lift. The lance corporal, Tirpitz, followed him.

Once they had gotten into the lift, Tirpitz started talking. "Er, sir, don't you think you're overreacting a bit?"

"...Please just shut up. I don't know what the hell is wrong with me but telling me that DOES NOT help. Once I understand it myself, I can do something about it, but not before."

Tirpitz was rather taken since what Shrike had just said made sense to him. He stayed quiet and thought about Shrike's words. Shrike just sniffled and avoided looking at anyone.

They made it to the hospital wing. There were four soldiers standing guard, and besides the three cases of flu and one close combat training accident, there were only the five patients who Envy had hit. Two of them, Mil and his partner, were currently lying on their beds unattended and seemed to be mostly okay. Two others were lying peacefully on their beds but were still unconscious and had been patched up only temporarily. One soldier was fussing over the head trauma on one of the people who Envy had taken down in the observation room of the loading area. The doctor and two more soldiers were with the last patient in another room and Shrike heard their voices talking heatedly about something. Shrike was not interested enough to listen to them.

Shrike looked at Mil questioningly, but his nausea started getting the best of him even if he did not feel all that bad now. "Okay, Tirpitz, you can go. I'll stay here but first I'm just going to go over there and throw up," he said monotonously and not really paying attention to anyone.

"...Yes, sir," said Tirpitz and left with one of the guarding soldiers.

Shrike walked into the toilet and did just what he had set out do to. He then spent a moment cleaning up his face and returned to the main room. He went to an empty bed next to Mil and lay down.

"Are you okay, sir?" asked one of the guards.

"No... But I'll manage. I'm not bleeding or otherwise injured like that," replied Shrike without looking at the guard.

Shrike went through a whole set of questions while he lay on the bed. His first concern was for Envy: was it dead? It had said that it could regenerate, but surely no one could survive from getting blown up. But did the Philosopher's Stone somehow save it from that as well? And what on earth had it done to get Armstrong to try to kill it? Now it also dawned on him that HE must have tried to kill Envy as well with the freezing attempt. His shock just grew.

Shrike could not come to any reasonable conclusions with his lacking knowledge, so he eventually just made himself accept what had happened. Envy had done something that was so wrong that Armstrong had decided to get rid of it. It had been frozen and blown up and could be dead or not. He was feeling very upset about that. He did not want Envy to be dead – despite its usually unfriendly way of treating him, it had still accepted him and Shrike thought that Envy would have called him its friend too. They had been otherwise close as well. Even though Envy was intimidating and had nearly assaulted Shrike a few times, he had felt mostly safe with it around, since it kept other people away. That realisation felt odd to even Shrike himself, but the issue did not make him feel bad so he did not think more of it now.

After mulling on his thoughts and shedding some more tears, he came to the conclusion that apparently he had loved Envy and was feeling so bad because it would not be a part of his life from now on. Figuring it out did not make him feel better, which irked him, but at least he started feeling like he was not incapacitated any longer.


Approximately an hour had passed since the attack on Envy. Armstrong, Rodney and Massena were inspecting the damage in the room where they had tried to freeze Envy. The tank had caused more damage than anything Envy had done. A team of plumbers had arrived to replace the damaged piping and take out some of the extra modifications they had done in order to attempt freezing Envy.

"What is the situation with the water pipes?" asked Armstrong.

"That thing only broke the ones here and a few there, and they are a little bent along the way. They just told me that they'll replace first the broken and obviously bent ones, but they'll try to bend the less bent ones back into shape," replied Massena.

"And the ventilation shafts?"

"They seem to be more torn here, but I think they're repairable too, sir. Most of the ventilation people are in the ventilation centre of this section since that thing trashed two of the machines there."

"How did it get there in the first place?"

"I heard someone say that it must have moved through the ventilation shafts. There was some kind of hole in one of the shafts that didn't look like it had been done violently, but rather by cutting."

"How the hell did it even fit there?"

"Well, I guess it just changed its shape, sir."

"Yes, but it shouldn't be able to become that small!"

Massena could not reply anything to that, so she stayed quiet.

"Where is Shrike?" asked Armstrong after a moment. "Is he also working in the ventilation centre? He should come here to both fix these ventilation shafts and remove the modification he made to the structures. I suspect he could also use his alchemy to utilise the rubble so that we don't have to use so many new parts to rebuild all this."

Massena sighed. "He had some kind of emotional collapse when he saw that monster get blown up, sir. He should be in the hospital wing."

"What?" asked Armstrong in an incredulous tone.

"Apparently that shapeshifter was Envy, and Shrike was together with her. I have never seen such unprofessional conduct from a soldier!"

"I can't believe how unsurprised I am to hear this." Armstrong turned at one soldier who was currently standing guard. "Call the hospital wing and say that I ordered Warrant Officer Kaine Shrike to get in this room to fix the ventilation system." The soldier obeyed.

"I'll probably demote him once I get back to my papers," said Massena, mostly to herself.

"Wait until he seems stable enough and ask him to explain himself first," commented Armstrong.

"Hmh. Yes, sir." She was quiet for a moment. "Sometimes I do wonder why you chose to hire him. He just isn't fit to be a soldier."

"He's trustable and good enough at his job, like everyone else."

"But then why promote him at all? He could take care of the ventilation machinery while being a private."

"The added responsibility of having a higher rank makes him want to improve more." I only resent the fact that he's so slow at it."

"But what good is it having such a... well, milksop, excuse my vocabulary, have a high rank?"

"Well, this far he's earned his promotions and I saw no reason not to promote him even despite his character. I know he hates fighting. What I do appreciate in him is his willingness to solve things without combat or war. The rest of us know how to war, so I'm hoping he will grow strong enough to tell us when not to war.

"I fear you'll have to wait too long, sir," said Massena. "I'm not going to be extra lenient with him just because he isn't a good soldier."

"Hm. What do you think about using alchemy in the Fort?"

"I don't like alchemy. It creates more problems than it solves, and the whole practise creates too power-hungry people who don't care for others."

"Would you describe Shrike as too power-hungry?"

Massena scoffed. "No. I have to admit that he's one person for whom alchemy actually fits. It lets him cheat his way out of proper practise and work and lets him do something that he's even marginally good at. It might end up being his metier. His personality is suitable for alchemy since he's realistic and altruistic enough to not use it for things other than the common good."


Massena left soon to handle something else, but Armstrong waited for Shrike to get into the room. It took a while, since he had had the sense to go get his tools and two other ventilation shaft maintainers. Shrike looked beaten and not entirely focused.

"Shrike, I expect you to be able to focus on your work here. Once this is fixed or your shift ends, come find me," said Armstrong and left.

Shrike got to work and even though he was not as efficient as he could have been, focusing on something else made him feel a little better. He even managed to fix some of the difficult spots with alchemy and reuse the rubble to make replacement parts.

He got the structures in proper working order and told the next team to start working in the next room. After that, he took his tools back to the maintenance office of mandatory machinery and set out to look for Armstrong. Since she was still prowling around the Fort, Shrike went to get something to eat. Soon after, he received information on Armstrong's whereabouts and went to meet her.

Armstrong was still with Rodney, but the Major left to let Shrike and Armstrong speak privately.

"So, do you have anything to add now that we've exposed Envy's betrayal and it's no longer a threat?"

"Threat? Uh, no, sir. I... I don't even understand any of this... Why did you kill it?"

"It learned alchemy and created another homunculus. The threat in that is that if it knows alchemy, it can create Philosopher's Stone on its own. As I told you, Philosopher's Stone is made of living people and requires human sacrifices for blood seals, and Envy would definitely kill people to get more Stone. And if it can create one homunculus, it can create an indefinite number of them, and so we will soon have an army of homunculi in our hands. I do not want to one day wake up to an army of homunculi slaughtering us by the millions, and I'm pretty certain you and everyone else do not either."

Shrike looked concerned and scared. "How could it have done that? It just lost its ability to perform alchemy..."


"Uh... Well, I knew it could do alchemy, but it lost that ability a bit over a month ago."

"What? Are you sure it didn't just lie to you?"

"I-I don't see why it would have lied, sir... It wasn't exactly happy about it and tried to hide it. It didn't tell me about it until I asked about it."

"Why did it assumedly lose its alchemy?"

"It said that it had to cut a part of its body off because it got squished under a rock and that that was the only thing it could think of that could have caused it."

"Hm. How long have you known that Envy could do alchemy?"

"Um... It told me about it in last February, sir."

"LAST FEBRUARY? How could it keep it a secret?! Why didn't you tell anything to me?!"

Shrike was frightened. "U-uh, so-sorry, sir... I didn't know it was that important. I-I'm sorry, sir."

"How could you NOT know it was important? You're an alchemist yourself! You KNOW how dangerous alchemy can be!"

Shrike was quiet for a moment before he could speak again. "Envy was dangerous by itself, and so is anyone with a tank, sir..."

Armstrong stared at Shrike but had to admit that Shrike had a point. "That's... Okay, you have a point, but alchemy is dangerous in a different way. As I said, it can create Philosopher's Stone and other homunculi now."

"S-sir... Why do you think Envy would have created an army or made Philosopher's Stone?"

Armstrong considered just sending Shrike away since he was not in a position to question her, but she figured that it was probably better to explain things to Shrike so that he would actually understand what was going on – otherwise he would likely dwell on it too long just by himself. "Because it hated humans. That's obvious! It only wished to torment and enslave us."

Shrike frowned. "But why... why did you even bring it here then, sir?"

"Because I thought it was unable to perform alchemy and because its abilities would have been very useful.

"Wh-what if it only made another homunculus to keep it company and nothing else?"

"You are being very naïve and annoyingly pedantic. And I wouldn't believe that for a second." Shrike stared sadly at Armstrong and then looked down. A couple of tears fell down his face. "U-uh... if that's all, I'd just like to leave and..."

Armstrong glared at Shrike and felt frustrated. "Didn't you ever notice anything odd about its questions or alchemy skills?"

"What, like something about Philosopher's Stone or something? No, sir, nothing," he said absent-mindedly and did not bother to start explaining its very difficult questions that he could not believe a beginner would know to ask.

"You're obviously upset because you saw it blow up. Didn't I tell you to not get too attached to it?"

"Uh... I just... didn't expect it to die, sir."

"It's unlikely that it really is dead."

"W-what? How can it – –"

"It regenerates and needs to be killed several times before it dies."

Shrike looked at Armstrong again and hope lighted up in his eyes. "S-so Envy is still alive?!"

Armstrong stared slightly worriedly at Shrike. "Probably. Does that concern you in any manner?"

Shrike frowned deeply and turned his eyes away again. "...I see."

"Do you think I should let it live?"

"Well, yes, sir."


"I don't... I mean, all it did was create one homunculus, if that's really even true. Maybe someone framed it? And besides, it can't perform alchemy now so it can't make another one, right? Why can't it have one homunculus friend? Maybe it would eventually grow to not hate us, too. I-I even asked it once whether it liked me, and it said that of all humans, it disliked me the least. Th-that, uh, well, that wasn't what I wanted it to say but I think it was the truth."

"Stop hallucinating! It betrayed my trust, did dangerous things and attacked my soldiers. It needs to be eliminated."

"It didn't even kill anyone, sir!" shouted Shrike.

"Ramillies is in a coma and Pelayo is probably paralysed for the rest of his life! Maybe it didn't kill them, but I can't fault it for the lack of attempt!"

Shrike looked distressed. "Because you attacked it! Do we have to respond always with increased violence, sir? Will we just go round and round forever in this stupid vicious circle? And if it specifically wanted to kill them, it woul– –"

"Silence! You're dismissed. The next time we speak, show me proper respect," she said in such a threatening manner that anyone could have heard the words "or else" added to the end.

"Y-yes, sir." Shrike was frightened and walked past Armstrong on rather wobbly feet.

Armstrong looked after Shrike and sighed. The only good thing about the situation seemed to be that Shrike had actually managed to speak back at her. She considered whether Shrike would defy her and try to somehow help Envy, but trusted his loyalty despite his feelings and his unsure and not-black-and-white way of thinking.

Armstrong faced a very irritating decision. If she told Mustang that she had let Envy get away, he might be angry and determined enough to get her replaced, perhaps not immediately but at the least when he got himself promoted again.

She resented the man for cutting off in front of her as the next leader of the state. Of course, the future of the whole country had been more important, but still, Mustang had also been in the middle of it and had been spared from all the blame. Nevertheless, the position of führer had been eliminated as well and the highest power was now in the control of some clueless civilians. That had been something that Armstrong had opposed from the beginning, but none of the other high-ranks had not.

She still had the Fort, and she would not give it up.

Armstrong's next option was to say that she had killed Envy. That would be believable enough, but it would cause her trouble to no end once the others found out that Envy was still alive.

The third option was that she could inform that she had set Envy free. She did not even know herself why she would say that at first, and it took her some time to think of reasons, each of which was more or less ridiculous. She had sent Envy to assassinate Mustang? Yeah, no. Then everyone would know there was something wrong, because if she really had done that, she would definitely not have said that. What if she had told Envy to leave, never come back and do what it wanted with its life? That sounded better already, but even she could not help rolling her eyes at that. Mustang would still label her as unable to perform her duties.

Eventually she decided to just tell Mustang that she had killed Envy. That at the least was believable since the homunculi left no body behind and it would be very difficult if not completely impossible to verify. Even her subordinates had seen it get blown up into nothingness. Of course, there was the possibility that Envy truly was dead. Even if its assumed tiny lizard form had been still alive when it blew up, it would not survive the extreme cold. Such a tiny creature would immediately freeze and never melt in the Briggs Mountains.

Armstrong made the call on the same day. Naturally, Mustang had difficulty believing her, but eventually conceded since he could not prove anything to the contrary and he thought that Armstrong did not have a reason to lie.

Thus, Armstrong's immediate problem was solved, but now she really needed a some kind of plan to find out whether Envy was alive, some kind of way to deal with it if it was and some kind of way to keep the whole deal hidden when it would come to that.

Armstrong cursed herself under her breath for letting Envy get away and went to her office to ponder the options with Major Rodney.

The easiest option was of course to wait until Envy acted again, but the consequences of that might be catastrophic. If Envy had somehow grown patience – and its studying of alchemy suggested that – it could go under the radar for a very long time and amass an army of homunculi. Of course, if Armstrong was the only one who would be able to defend the country, the tables would likely turn to her favour. However, in that case, many people would end up losing their lives, and even Armstrong was not so ambitious as to disregard the lives of the common people just like that. More of an issue was that Envy might actually wait until she and all who had known it would be dead.

The best way would be if she had some kind of way of following it, but tracking a shapeshifting creature would be next to impossible. The only thing that was always special about Envy was its weight, and it knew how to handle that carefully enough so as to not clue people in on that very easily.

Another way would be to draw it out into the open somehow, but she had no clue how to do that. Perhaps it would have been possible if the homunculi had become public knowledge after the Promised Day and she could inform the media about it, but since the leaders had decided to hide the facts, it would be next to impossible.

Armstrong thought about Shrike and wondered if Envy was interested in what happened to him. Then she got the idea that she could send a team of soldiers as bait and see if Envy would attack them, but that would risk the soldiers' lives in a rather unnecessary manner, and she was not even sure that it would work. However, she felt just Shrike might be worth risking, and he was most likely to draw Envy out. But if Shrike did manage to connect with Envy, what could he do? Alone, he could do nothing to it. As the most, he could be able to lead it into a trap. And even that would probably succeed only if Shrike was not told about the intent to lure Envy into a trap.

Armstrong did not yet decide anything. Among other things, she wanted Shrike to have at least some knowledge of the attempt to draw Envy out, and she needed to figure out how much she could tell him without him being able to unknowingly warn Envy.


Two days later, Shrike had just gotten the last cup of coffee from a coffeemaker, had started brewing a new pot and was now watching the machine as it bubbled. Massena came into the lounge and walked up behind him. She poured herself a mugful from another coffeemaker and then turned at Shrike.

"Shrike, over here."

Shrike startled slightly and turned to see Massena starting walk away. He got up and for a short moment, felt anxious about having to delegate the coffee-making to someone else. "Can someone watch the coffee for me, please?" he said at the closest group of soldiers who were playing a card game.

"Sure," said one of them.

"Thanks," replied Shrike, took his coffee mug and went after Massena. He followed her to her room.

Massena sat on a chair in front of her workdesk. "Sit down," she said and waved at the second chair in her room.

Shrike closed the door and sat down. "Er... You want to talk about what happened the day before yesterday, right, sir? I-I'm sorry that I said that... that I was so impolite."

"You better be. But thank you. The important thing is that you care about your inexcusable behaviour yourself. Either way, what I want to talk about is why you suddenly collapsed and became unfit to perform your duties. How is that even possible? I do understand that it's a big deal to lose a loved one, but it shouldn't render you incapable of doing anything."

"I... I've thought about that but I can't really give a good explanation. I'm sorry, sir. I just couldn't have imagined something like that ever happening... But I calmed down in the hospital wing and afterwards I went to fix that room next to the outdoor air processing room."

"You couldn't imagine something like that happening?" asked Massena confusedly. "Almost everybody in this nation has lost a family member or someone in a war. 25 of us died in Central. Do you really claim that you didn't know any of them? Two of them were from my unit, you must have known them!"

"Well, yes... but... They just... went there and didn't come back. My father does that kind of stuff all the time, though he hasn't managed to get himself killed yet. And I, well, I've never actually lost anyone. I was too young to remember it when my mother died. And... I mean, I hadn't even dated anyone before this, sir."

"WHAT? Are you serious?" Massena stared at Shrike as if he were a fifteen-year-old rebelling against his parents.

Shrike, then again, seemed very serious but also confused. He stared back at Massena with wide, child-like eyes. "Did I say something wrong, sir?" he asked cautiously.

"Exactly how old were you again? 24?"

"...28 now, sir. 29 in a couple of months."

Massena just stared at him with her mouth open. If Shrike had not felt so incredibly inconvenienced, he would have been amused at her expression. "And you've... never dated... anyone?"


Massena had an extremely peculiar expression on her face and Shrike wished he could interpret it somehow, but since he was unable to, he just stared at her sullenly. "And your first girlfriend turned out to be some kind of monster." Shrike looked away. "Okay, sorry. I understand now. That collapse of yours was utterly unprofessional and you can be lucky we only had to fight against that one enemy or you might have died. Still, I'm not so heartless as to punish or demote you because of the first time you make that kind of mistake, especially since you didn't endanger anyone else with that little display. Just make sure that the next time something like that happens, you're prepared enough to keep doing your duties, all right?"

"...I, um, yes, sir. I'll try, sir..."

"Good." Massena seemed more relaxed and sipped her coffee. "Well, as long as you're here, do you have anything else to talk about?" She brought the mug to her lips again and then stared at it.

Shrike also sipped his coffee that was not quite warm any longer. He nearly considered asking how he could ask women to date him, but he felt that was completely inappropriate. "No, sir, I can't think of any now at least."

"Well, if you do, come talk then. I know some men say talking about your problems is useless or unnecessarily extraneous, but generally, if you actually think about things, then it's a good idea to talk about them too. And I can see you benefit from talking, even if it was inconvenient."

"Yes, sir."

Massena smiled a little at Shrike before he left.


Yet another two days later, Armstrong had come up with a good enough plan to draw Envy out and lure it into a trap. She summoned Shrike to hear her plan.

"You know we've let everyone know that we managed to kill Envy, but I'm still suspicious of that. Therefore, I want to try to lure it out, and you're probably the best way to do that at the moment. You need to go to North City and make yourself known somehow, that should draw its attention to you and when it finds you, you can talk to it. If that doesn't work, repeat the same first in Central and then in East City, since those are the most likely places Envy would be in. I believe it would try to find the other homunculus, and Mustang is probably holding it in Central or East if he didn't just destroy it."

Shrike stared at Armstrong. Armstrong waited until Shrike had managed to absorb the information. "Make myself known, sir?"

"I don't care how you do that, but I recommend you don't do anything illegal."

"B-but how would I...?"

"I don't know. Try your alchemy, I would guess that is the easiest way. Put out a burning building or something. I'm sure you know that they still have problems with faulty heating systems that start fires. Or maybe you can melt the dock area."

"O-oh..." Shrike seemed very contemplative for a moment. "Um, if Envy contacts me, what then?"

"Then you will at some point lead it to a specific alley where we can capture it. After that, we can talk with it."

"Talk, sir? But you tried to kill it. I don't think it would fall for that..."

"Then don't tell about that to it. Figure out some other way to get it there. Come up with that way on your own. Of course you need to also be able to inform us when that is going to happen, approximately. We can't wait there every day."

"What do I do in North City once I get there? I don't think I can be around in public practising goodwill all the time, sir."

"Hm... I'll arrange it so that you'll be temporarily transferred to North City for lighter duties so that you could study alchemy."

"Ah, that sounds good..."

"Do you have a place of residence in North City?"

"Yes, sir, but it's on the other side of the City than headquarters."

"Well, travelling that distance often ought to give you opportunities for some gratuitous displays of alchemy."

"Um, maybe... But then I'd rather not have everyone know where I live. If I make myself known like that, some people are bound to follow me around and bother me, and that might even prevent Envy from contacting me..."

"Stay at headquarters then."

"So... I'll go to North City, do something with alchemy so that people will notice me..."

"Try to get on the radio and in the newspapers."

Shrike felt light-headed. "Oh shoot."

"I can guess you aren't one who would enjoy publicity, but once you're done with this, you can just come back to Briggs and nobody will bother you."

"Yes, sir... And then, once Envy finds me, I'll try to meet it in that alley... and then you can capture it. How long should I wait?"

"Hm... a month."

"Yes, sir."

"Here is the information you'll need." Armstrong gave Shrike a sheet of paper that listed the phone numbers and addresses Shrike might need. "When will you be ready to leave?"

"Um, I can leave now, but tomorrow would be better because I still have a three-hour shift in the evening, sir."

"Fine, leave tomorrow when the supply truck is leaving. Dismissed. Telephone if you run into trouble."

"Yes, sir."

The next day, Shrike packed most of his things and books and left on a supply truck.

"First of all, the reason I tried to eliminate Envy was because it created another homunculus unbeknownst to me. Did you know of that?"

"...What? Um, no, sir." He looked confused.

"Not more than what I told you last year, sir."

"You were apparently heartbroken when " Shrike looked away. "Is... is that really the only reason you had it killed, sir? I mean, just because it created another artificial human?"

Armstrong frowned. "If Envy can create one homunculus, it can create an indefinite number of them. "

"With what alchemy? And what's the point anyway? It's dead now, isn't it?"

"And does anyone know why it created one in the first place?"

"I never believed that claim that it lost its ability to perform alchemy. I can't say I asked why it created the homunculus, but since it did that in secret, there was a reason for secrecy. Being secretive is the first sign of illegal activity, so I safely assume it was up to no good when it did that."

"...Maybe it just didn't want you to say no, sir."

10. Alone and Not

Envy found itself in a crevasse in the walls of the mountain pass that Fort Briggs blocked.

Wanting to cry in pain but not being able to, Envy regenerated just enough to reform its body. Once it no longer hurt, it shapeshifted into a bear and crawled deeper into the crevasse, away from Fort Briggs. It walked toward southeast and kept itself warm by cursing Armstrong and her subordinates to extraordinarily hellish cesspools. The mid-winter weather was very cold and it had to remind itself to keep moving or it would freeze where it stood. It was angry at not having read anything more about how animals kept themselves warm in these kind of environments since it was sure it could have done something better to preserve its heat.

Envy also finally understood what had happened to it in the room where it was first attacked. The extreme coldness had been because of Shrike's alchemy! Envy felt even angrier, but it also remembered the way Shrike had looked at it when it had passed him while impersonating Mil. He had been more than a little scared and even more clueless than usual. He probably had not even known what he was doing.

Envy kept moving and thought about what it should do now. It wanted to rescue the homunculus child, but it did not even know if it was alive. It figured that it would go check out the abandoned farm and their secondary meeting place, but first it wanted to get some food and protective equipment.

If the child was alive, how could Envy rescue it? Should it rescue it? Envy thought that going straight into Mustang's playing field must have been the worst idea ever, but it had to admit to itself that it detested the idea of leaving the homunculus for him to burn through after all the trouble it had went through to create it – and after its inability to avenge Lust's death. Maybe it could kill two birds with one stone and both rescue the homunculus and kill Mustang. That idea appealed to Envy. The only thing it thought it really needed to do was to somehow counter Mustang's alchemy just long enough for it to kill him. And it would kill him instantly, right away, without gloating so that he would not have time to burn it even once. His idiotic friends would be devastated because of his death and thus Envy's revenge would be manyfold! With just one person's death, perhaps as many as a couple of dozen people would cry their eyes out. His little platonic girlfriend might even commit suicide. Then Envy would just disappear, satisfied and not alone, and leave them wallowing in their stupid misery.

Mustang would most likely be keeping the child in Central or East City. Of course Envy could not know where exactly, but it definitely knew a lot about the secret army hideouts, so if need be, it would just comb through all of them one by one. If Mustang had not killed the homunculus child right away, he would probably not kill it later either, and Envy would have time to look. It only needed to be careful so that no one would ever discover it until it was too late. And that was rather easy because of its abilities. But what if the humans had learned? What if they now had secret handshakes or some other silly way of identification now? Envy sighed and decided that it would investigate that first before it would dive into the army headquarters to look for things.

One thing Envy dreaded was the fact that Mustang and his people would definitely be waiting for it. If they had captured the homunculus, they had to know that Envy would be coming to get it, and they could prepare for that. Envy considered leaving them in constant anticipation and wait for a few years, but then it thought that they might kill the homunculus child once they were sure enough that it would not be coming.

Envy walked around for three days and made sure to occasionally dig through the snow and cross some impassable areas just so no human could reasonably follow it. It ate the animals and a few young trees that came across it.

Then it arrived at the edges of a small town it had probably never been in. It almost attacked a small group of skiers on vacation until it remembered that if those people never returned home, their deaths would draw an investigation, and if Envy stole their clothes, even they could probably be tracked. It cursed its hideous luck and left the humans alone. It found their truck and stole their money.

It took a winding route to the town's main road, changed into a large and friendly-looking man and made its way to the centre of the town. Once there, it discreetly stole some more money and bought clothes and other winter equipment. Normally Envy would have just stolen the things it needed instead of bothering with money, but it had figured out that money was much more impersonal. Money was the same pieces of paper as always. People could not tell one note apart from another. If it instead had stolen a set of winter clothes, that would be more likely to be noticed and then everyone would know what it had taken.

Now no one knew.

Envy took its skis and other equipment and headed back into the forest. It spent two days looking for the abandoned farm and eventually found it. It was careful in approaching it, but eventually concluded that the place was deserted. More snow had come down and there were not much tracks remaining, but it could still see that some skiers had been there. Inside the stony barn, it could see the boot-prints of at least two soldiers. Inside the main building it could see nothing, since it did not know how to recognise tracks that were something else than plain footprints. Nonetheless, it could not find signs of violence anywhere, and those it at least knew to look for.

Since Envy found nothing, it left and headed for the secondary meeting place. The trip there took a bit over half a day. The place was untouched.

Envy left toward southwest. Eventually it crossed the main road that led from North City to Fort Briggs, but it did not want to travel by it since it would be seen and somebody might get suspicious. Also because it could just travel through the forest without any trouble, it did so.

For the first time in its life, Envy actually paid attention to the surroundings around it. It could travel in peace, since if it did not run across animals itself, the animals stayed the hell away from it. There were nothing but forest, snow, mountains and the sky. The forest, snow and mountains were okay. They were pretty easy to look at and certainly looked better than certain humans, and humans could not easily follow it where it moved, crossing impossible ledges, skiing up steep hills and jumping down from great heights, only to land in soft snow from where it then dug a tunnel and exited in some quite different a place. The sky Envy found, against all odds, pretty. Humans had not polluted it. They had nothing at all to do with the sky. The sky it could look at and not be reminded of anything human. It took it as a habit to look at the sky with its enhanced vision and ponder about what all the stars, fogs, light clusters and colours were.

Nine days after Armstrong had driven it from Fort Briggs, Envy arrived at a small town that was near to North City. It figured it could steal and eat some animal and also buy some good-tasting food for a change, since raw animal meat and frozen trees were not exactly very tasty.

When it was buying the food, it noticed a newspaper on the table and the newspaper had a very interesting article. Envy felt like laughing, but it controlled itself and instead read the article.

It was mostly about Shrike. He had ended up in North City and had generously saved the dock area that had been blockaded by ice. The city's icebreaker was broken and the ice had been threatening to break the dock structures, but Shrike had saved them by melting most of the ice. The article claimed that he had been in Fort Briggs but was now in North City, studying to become a state alchemist.

Envy wondered what the real reason was. Maybe Armstrong had fired him since he had not managed to freeze it? Maybe he was acting as bait for it? Maybe he had resigned after he had realised that he had tried to kill Envy himself? Envy grinned and wondered if it should do something about him. Even though he had tried to kill it, Envy was not particularly angry about that any longer. Maybe it should ask him whether that had really been his intent. He would not be able to lie to it either way, and then it could kill him if he really had tried to kill it. Then Envy wondered if he would be somehow useful to it. Having some alchemical backup was of course good, even if the backup was a pacifist coward like Shrike. It could ask him to come with it, or force him if he did not want to come. The bad side would be that he would also hinder it – he needed to sleep regularly and eat proper food, could not disguise himself and could not lie to save his life. Of course, Envy could take Shrike along and leave him on the way if he became too much of a burden.

It could not resist its curiosity. It ate its food, bought a chocolate cake to go and ate it once it had gotten out of people's sights. It then took its skis and headed for North City on yet another interestingly winding route.

While it travelled, Envy tried to recall whether Shrike had ever told it where he lived. It figured that he had not, but it could remember seeing an envelope with the address on it. Envy tried to recall the street's name but could not be sure of it, so once it arrived in North City, it spent some time going through a telephone directory in a phone booth, looking for his name and address. Envy found some Shannon Shrike and assumed that was his father. The directory listed the phone number as being disconnected, but the address seemed valid. Envy remembered the address on Shrike's envelope seeming similar.

Envy made its way toward the place where Shrike's home should be. Once it arrived in the general area, it thought that maybe it should be more careful and not walk right up to his front door, just in case it was being lured into a trap. It decided to wait outside, watch the stars and practise making its eyes work like a telescope, which was much harder than it had thought.

People started moving about in the morning, but it was still dark at that time. Envy waited for Shrike to come out. Eventually, he exited the building in which his flat was located. Envy stalked him as he walked through the city. He fixed a dent on a car along his way and received many thanks from the car's owner.

Shrike went into North City's military headquarters but did not stay there any longer than a few hours. He then walked around and played a good little Samaritan, using his alchemy to help people in small ways. Envy had no idea why he did that and followed him with mild curiosity. He then went back to the headquarters, then to the library and then back again. In the evening, he surprisingly did not leave for his home.

Envy waited and stalked him the next day too, and it seemed like he was not going to go back to his flat. Apparently he had only spent the weekend there and was otherwise staying in the headquarters.

Another day later, it decided to talk to him. It did that as simply as grabbing his arm while he was walking on a street and pulling him into a side alley. Of course, it was disguised as something else entirely, so Shrike was very confused.

"Um... Excuse me?"

"Darn, Shrike, it's me." Envy stared at him and changed its eyes to its normal violet and slitted ones for a short moment.

"Envy!" whispered Shrike. "I... I thought you were dead!"

"That was exaggeration."

"I-I was so worried."

"Yeah, yeah – – Really? Worried? Heh." Envy looked somewhat amused. "Well, I guess that's a good thing." Envy looked at Shrike's expression and wondered what all it displayed, since it was definitely interesting now. "I suppose then that you didn't plan to kill me despite that hideous alchemy trick?" it asked in a more serious tone.

"E-eh... I was... I didn't even know what I was doing first, Armstrong just told me to do it and I didn't have time to think because she, well, she made me upset before that and... If I had known what I would be doing, I'd have said no. But she probably would have made me do it then. I don't know, it's, I mean, soldiers shouldn't think too much but just do what their commanding officers do but I've been told that it's also good to think for yourself, so I really don't know what they're trying to do with that."

"Shrike, ramble ramble."

"Uh, sorry."

"So you wouldn't have done it if you had known why you were doing it?"

"Right... I couldn't have, I'd have been so upset."

"Well, that sounded sincere enough."

"And when I saw you get blown up when you were running... th-that was so awful. I actually just collapsed and cried and Massena yelled at me so I had to go to the hospital wing. It was awful."

"You collapsed and cried?"

"Well Armstrong had just chased you and apparently killed you and you know I liked, I mean, like you a lot..."


"Massena and Armstrong were all over me because of that, it was really awful too. Massena finally said she understood me and wouldn't demote me when she realised that nothing comparable had ever happened to me."

"Hm. Listen, let's get away from here. Some place with less people."

"U-uh, okay."

"I know a place, come on."

Envy started walking and Shrike followed it. They did not go very far, less than two kilometres. They talked about the weather while walking.

They eventually arrived at a slightly better hideout.

"Does Armstrong know that I'm alive?" asked Envy once they were comfortably alone.

"Well, she couldn't know but she assumed so."

"Why are you even here?"

"I, uh... Well, I'm on a sort of lighter duty period so I can study alchemy."

"Really? You're not acting as bait to get to me?" Shrike looked shocked enough that Envy guessed that it had hit the truth. "Yeah, it was that obvious. So, what does Armstrong want with me?"

Shrike had to wait for a moment for his shock to wear off. Once it did, he did not try to deny that he had been supposed to draw Envy's interest. "She just wants to talk with you. If you could meet he– –"

"What kind of moron is she anyway? She tried to kill me! I am not talking to her until she apologises for trying to kill me, tries to make up for it and actually does something that benefits me, like killing off that horrible prick Mustang."

"...Major General Mustang?"

"What? Was he promoted again already?" asked Envy, annoyed.

"Well, General Grumman has decided he will be his follower."

"Ugh! All the more reason for Armstrong to kill him!"

"Um... Why do you hate him so much?"

"Why?! Surely you're kidding! Eh, I probably didn't tell you. Well then, here it is: he killed me several times. Just burned me, like that." Envy snapped its fingers at Shrike. "Do you have any idea what it feels like when your whole body is burning?!"

Shrike apparently had a very vivid imagination because he suddenly became very pale and just stared at Envy for a moment, unable to say anything. "N-no..."

"Well, hope you never will. Then again, you would die instantly if it happened to you. I've seen humans pass out because of pain with far less injuries and die because of pain from a single burned arm." Shrike was still shaken. "Well, you can't get me to meet her just like that. What next? Will you try to get me into a trap so she can try to kill me?"

"No! I wouldn't do that..."

"What then?"

"I-I don't know."

"What do you think I'll do?"

"Um, I... no. I don't know."

"Armstrong probably said I'd go look for the homunculus in Central, right?"

Shrike was taken by surprise again. "U-uh, yeah. Um, what's this thing about another homunculus? Did you really create one?"

Envy looked at Shrike a little contemplatively but then just shrugged. "Oh well, there's no reason not to tell. Sure, I created it. I did it last November, and that was actually the reason why I suddenly stopped being able to perform alchemy. I also lost half of my body and didn't regenerate my mass back, so if you noticed that I weighed less, it was because of that. I had to give the homunculus half of my Philosopher's Stone and half of my soul since I had no idea how much would be enough."

Shrike stared wide-eyedly at Envy. "H-how does that work?"

"Why, do you want to create a homunculus too?"

"A-ah, no, I don't think so..."

"I don't know how you could solve the soul problem though, unless humans can just spontaneously create souls, like when you breed."

"Um... Will you be able to perform alchemy again?"

"I sure hope so. I guess I have to get my soul back the way it was before I made the homunculus somehow, but who knows how long that would take. It could be years."

Shrike was oddly expressionless. "Will you make more homunculi then?"

Envy scoffed. "Do you know how much that takes? I have so little Philosopher's Stone that I can't probably create another homunculus for a century unless I actually make Philosopher's Stone with alchemy, and that's not easy. I'd have to get away with killing a lot of people and I'd have to find out how that bloody circle looked." Envy sighed. "Why did that circle have to be so complex? I understand the circle I used to make the homunculus a lot better. And even if I made Philosopher's Stone, I'd have to give the new homunculi a real soul of some kind, and since I only have my own, that limits it a lot."

"Armstrong was afraid that you'd create an army of homunculi..."

"Ha!" Envy laughed and looked somewhat derisively at Shrike. "Well, if I had enough Philosopher's Stone, I could probably make some mannequin soldiers. But they're totally boring. They don't even talk really."

"But... If you don't know how to make Philosopher's Stone, where do you get more of it in the first place?"

Envy looked at Shrike somewhat pensively again. "Ah well. When I gain weight by eating, I can shapeshift that mass away and it's then stored as energy in my Philosopher's Stone. If you remember, that's what I meant when I was so excited about being able to shapeshift my gained weight away."

Shrike frowned, but his expression cleared after a moment. "Oh! Wow, that's... that's convenient. Is that why you've been eating so much?"

"Yeah. Gaining Stone that way is painfully slow of course, but still better than nothing."

"But that's great! I mean, now you don't need to kill humans just to get more Philosopher's Stone, right?"

"Hmm." Envy did not look all that thrilled about it.

"You don't think it's a good thing?"

"You obviously do."

"Uh. Well, yeah."

"I still say it's better than nothing."

"But you'd rather make Philosopher's Stone out of people since you'd get more in a less amount of time...?" Envy did not reply. "Do you really hate humans that much?"

"Yeah, you're disgusting."

"I... Why? I mean, even I think the bulk of humans are annoying and not worth my attention and Linke probably truly hates a lot of humans, but we don't want to kill everyone because of that."

"That's just you being overly sentimental and inefficient."

"But don't you think it'd be pretty boring without any humans?"

"Hm, I suppose, but I wouldn't kill off all of them, of course. Just enough to make them so scared that they'd never defy me."


"Don't worry, I wouldn't kill you."

"Yes but... it just wouldn't be... Couldn't you prove your superiority in some way that didn't kill so many people? I mean, if you kill people, the others might fear you but they'd never trust you and they'd rebel eventually... I-I think it might be better if you did something really awesome that humans couldn't do."

Envy made a spontaneous smirk as it noticed that what Shrike said reminded it very much of its early ideas when it was trying to come up with something to motivate it to not kill people or gloat to them. "Yeah yeah, sure. I thought of that a long time ago but it's a bit hard when people like Armstrong snap at the first sign of breakthrough on my part. Like being the first ever successful creator of a homunculus after the one who created me."

Shrike was immediately interested in Envy's new topic. "Who created you?"

"Another homunculus. Actually... I'm the third successful creator since some ancient humans managed to create my creator a long time ago. But they're no longer alive so who cares." Envy shrugged.

"What does one need to create a homunculus?"

Envy smirked. "So now you are interested?"

"Well... theoretically..."

"There are a few nice catches to it, which is probably why Amestrians have never succeeded in it. But I can't just tell it like that! Why don't you help me with my problem and then I'll tell?"

"With your problem?"

"Yeah, I need to save that homunculus I created. Of course I'm not entirely sure it's still alive, so the first thing is to find out is whether it is alive. So, how about it?"

"O-oh... um, I'm not sure."

"Yeah, you probably need to ask Armstrong whether that's okay with her or something," said Envy casually, attempting to mock Shrike's difficulties in making his own decisions.


"Eh, it's fine. If she assumes I'm alive, she'd assume I'd try to find the homunculus anyway. Knowing that won't help her."


"Well, I'm all done. You can go now."

"But, uh, how will I contact you when I want to talk to you again?"

"You don't. I'll find you one day so just keep on doing whatever it is you're doing and I'll come pull you aside. And tell Armstrong to not have any more soldiers watching you. I won't talk to you if you're being stalked."

"I'm being stalked?"

"No, not yet."


"Well, go along then." Envy shooed him and Shrike left, slightly confused.

Shrike decided to not go to headquarters right away. Instead, he walked around a little and fixed some child's broken kicksled. He thought about what he would say to Armstrong as well.

Once he got back to North City's military headquarters, he spent nearly two hours on the phone, waiting for a technician to make sure the line was secure and waiting until Armstrong was available for talking to him.

"What is it?" she asked when she finally came on.

"Ah, sir, I met Envy today," replied Shrike. "I didn't even manage to suggest to it to meet me at any other place or time than what it could decide... It was very adamant about that."


"It did say that it could meet you if you did something that obviously benefited it, like uh... killing Major General Mustang."

"Good grief."

"But it also told me all kinds of things. It said that it had created the homunculus, but doing that had apparently cost half of its Philosopher's Stone and its own soul and that was why it suddenly couldn't do alchemy any longer. It said that it wouldn't be able to make another homunculus for... for decades, I think."

"Hm. That would be a small relief, but can you be in any way certain that it was not lying?"

"Probably not, but I don't see a reason why it would have lied, sir."

"To make us think that it was not that dangerous?"

"O-oh... yes, sir. But it didn't seem to care about not seeming dangerous when it went on about hating humans."

Armstrong sighed at the phone. "Why is that thing so incomprehensible?"

"Er... It then said that it was going to try to rescue the new homunculus it created. It asked me to come with it."

"What did you reply?"

"Nothing yet, sir."

"You'll meet it again then at some point?"

"Yes, sir. But it specifically said that it would find me so I have no idea when or where it's going to happen."

"At times like these, I wish it was as dim as it usually appears. All right, if you don't go with it, it will go alone and we have no way of tracking it in any way. If you go with it, we can track you, since you're recognisable. Also, there is a possibility you can report to us of its doings. Therefore, it is better if you go with it."

"Y-yes, sir."

"Do you know what are the duties and responsibilities of a secret field intelligence officer?"

"Yes, to gather intelligence by any means necessary but without alerting anybody to their actions. They can kill enemies without repercussions and suspected traitors with minimal repercussions. They have to keep themselves secret even if lives were in danger, especially if their discovering would ruin their work."

"Yes. You can act as a secret field intelligence agent now. Don't kill anyone, though Envy you can kill if you get the chance. I recommend not doing anything illegal. If people's lives are in danger, you can reveal both yourself and Envy. And if Envy finds out you're spying on it, promise it not to do that so you can travel with it, if possible. Even if you couldn't send any information, you're better there watching and controlling it."

Shrike really did not know how he could possibly control Envy, but the mission itself seemed so impossible that he was only thinking of how he could even survive. "Y-yes, sir. How can I contact you?"

"Do you know the military message code?"

"Yes... but I doubt it will help with Envy, since it also knows the military message code. And even if I could write with it not seeing, how could I get the messages sent without it getting suspicious?"

"The code would act against the common people, but you're right that you would also need to hide your doings carefully from Envy."

"Hm..." Shrike thought quietly for a moment, and apparently so did Armstrong, since she also said nothing. "Sir, my best idea is that I'll just be as helpful and non-suspicious for as long as it takes for Envy to not care that much about what I do. I guess then I would be able to send letters more freely."

"Hm, I agree."

"Where do I send the letters?"

"Are you the only person who has access to your place of residence?"

"No, my father also lives there a few days per year. But he's in a travelling military unit, he'll understand the need to keep a secret."

"Good. What is your father's name?"

"Shannon Shrike, sir."

"Do you send any letters to your father normally?"

"Um... very rarely until lately, but yes."

"Good. Send your information in letters addressed to your father. One of my people will intercept and read them. I'll have Major Rodney telephone you tomorrow morning to give the codewords. After you've received the codewords, give the key of your place of residence to First Lieutenant Toldi along with any technical instructions concerning it."

"Yes, sir."

"That's all. Do you have anything else?"

"No sir."

"Good luck, then."

"Thank you."

Shrike hung up the phone and spent a moment gathering his thoughts. He thought that he still needed his key, so he thought it would be best to make a copy of it. He considered using the military's workshops, but they were in another area than the headquarters, so he just decided to look for a piece of metal and duplicate the key by using alchemy. He went and salvaged a small clod of metal off of a broken chair he found in the furniture trash. He spent quite some time getting the key right; it was surprisingly difficult to mould the key to be exactly like the original. Even then, Shrike could not be entirely sure if he had succeeded.

In the morning, Shrike received a call from Rodney who gave him the codewords. After that, he took his original key to Toldi and kept the one he had made with alchemy. He gave Toldi instructions to not turn on the power or the heating in the flat.

He then spent the whole day going over the couple of alchemy books he had borrowed and returned them to the library toward the evening. He walked around looking for issues that he could solve with alchemy since he thought it was good practice even if he did not need to find Envy any longer. He saw no trace of Envy.

The next day, Shrike spent some time in military exercises in the headquarters and then went to the library to read. Again, he caught no glimpse of Envy.

One more day later, Shrike walked around the city, planning to go to his flat to sleep for the next night. Since he effectively had nothing to do, he ended up looking for people to help and managed to melt some more snow and fix some more dented vehicles.

Then Envy finally appeared and pulled him to the side again. It looked like a different person now, but had mostly the same clothing.

"So, you're going to come with me, right?"


"Good. You can leave right now, can't you?"

"Right now? But I should take this bag back home first..."

"Why? What's in it?"

"Well, an alchemy book and some personal hygiene stuff... you know, maybe I don't need to take it back."

"Yeah. Well, let's go. I got you some equipment and extra clothes and stuff. I even got some food because you can't just eat trees."

"Um, that's uh, great. Wait... How could you buy stuff for me?"

"You humans use this arbitrary concept of money to exchange items of value..."

"Er, I meant, how did you know what fits me?"

"Shrike! I'm a shapeshifter and I know EXACTLY how you look like. And even if I for some inexplicable reason got something wrong, you can make the clothes fit by modifying them with your alchemy."

"O-oh, right."

"Let's go then." Envy started walking and Shrike followed it.

They walked for a long time, mostly in silence. They passed the city centre, took a deroute to another side of the city, walked along a deserted road toward the western forests and eventually just walked into the forest. Not too far away, Envy dug up a small stash of stuff from the snow.

"Okay, let's start skiing."


"That's how we're going to go to Central."

"What? Not by train?"

"No! Why would we do that? I admit I'll be frustrated with your pace but it's just better this way. No one will see us and no one will see you. Don't worry, you can sleep enough and I even got a tent and everything." It showed a "portable" stove that probably was not meant to be portable, but since Envy could lift it, it was portable enough. "I don't have firewood but you can transmute that from these trees, right?"

"Errr... Yes, I think so."

"You can even transmute some warm washing water for yourself from all this snow. That's how your special little thermal energy transmutation works, right?"

"Um, yes."

"Good. So, do you have any other troubles or shall we go?"

"Uhh... No, I don't think so..."

"Finally! Here you go." Envy gave Shrike a pair of skis and ski poles. "Can you carry this?" It gave him a somewhat large travelling backpack. It did not weigh very much.

"I think so."

"Good. Carry that and give me that bag of yours." Envy took Shrike's bag and placed it with the rest of the equipment it had in a pulk that it would pull. "Let's go. We'll stop when you need to stop, and that's all."

They skied in silence until the night fell.

"Can we stop now?" asked Shrike.

"Sure, if you're tired."

"Well... it's dark."

"That's not an issue. If you're not hurting or don't need to eat, sleep or pee or something, there's no reason to stop. I can see well enough in the dark and you can just follow me."

"Oh... Well, I'll just pee then." Shrike went a bit further and once he was done, he had another question. "But what about the wild animals? I think there are some in these parts."

"They are also not an issue. Animals stay away from me."

"They do? How come?"

Envy started skiing again. "I don't know. They just don't like homunculi."

"Huh. Well, that's pretty convenient."

"Yeah, except when I run into them. Watch out, there's a lynx behind you."

"What?!" Shrike turned around quickly, but of course he saw nothing in the darkness.

"Relax, I'll catch it." Envy stretched its arm out of its clothing, separated it into two large arms and used them to catch and kill the lynx. Shrike looked at the killing wide-eyedly and was rather horrified. Once Envy had killed the lynx, it dragged the body toward itself and started eating it. Envy was being very neat about it but only because it did not like being messy with blood and entrails and because it needed to compress the carcass inside its body in a similar manner as its own body. Shrike just watched and did not know whether to feel very nauseated or slightly impressed. He eventually settled for nausea.

"Are you done staring?" asked Envy once it was done with eating and had cleaned up some blood stains and collected the few things it had dropped to catch the lynx.

"E-er... yes... That was uh... disturbing."

Envy just tilted its head at Shrike and started skiing again.

As the night progressed, Shrike eventually became too tired to continue. Envy set up the tent while Shrike transmuted some firewood for it. Envy set up the portable stove and Shrike settled to sleep. While he slept, Envy kept the fire on and read Shrike's alchemy book.

11. Investigation

Once Shrike started waking up, Envy dug out some new clothes for him to wear.

Shrike looked at them in confusion. "These are women's clothes."

"Yep. You can't shapeshift, so you need to disguise. I don't want people to know where I am and therefore I don't know people to know where you are, and changing your presented sex is by far the easiest way to do that for whatever odd human reason. You know, I wouldn't have even noticed that if I hadn't followed some human infiltrators once."

"But... we're in the middle of a forest so no one will see us either way."

"That's why I'm giving you the clothes now so you can get used to them."

"I won't get used to them!"

"You totally will."

"How can you say that?"

"I got used to CLOTHES. Even if I still don't like wearing them all that much."

"But they're women's clothes!"

"So what! I present myself as an androgyne and you apparently still love me and that didn't cause problems to your obviously masculine image even when some people in Briggs started thinking that you were a homosexual. Wait, does the problem have something to do with your image or something? Are you afraid wearing women's clothes would make you less masculine? Or that you might like it or something?"


"All of the above?"


"Shrike, seriously. They're not clothes that you picked. I picked them. They don't change your identity. They don't magically change you into a woman! And even if they did, you'd then magically change into a man when you wore men's clothes again! Geez!"

"But how could I even pass for a woman?"

"It's really not that hard. I've said this before, but Massena is more masculine than you and she's still clearly enough a woman. The only real problem is your voice, but if you speak rarely and quietly, no one will pay attention to that either."

"But – –"

"Shrike, shut up! I'm a shapeshifter and I've been bored enough to test this kind of stupid stuff! It will work well enough and I assure you that your precious little masculine psyche is safe. Wearing women's clothes will affect you only if you want it to. They're just bloody clothes that you didn't even choose."


Envy stared angrily at Shrike until he gave in and put on the clothes. He was obviously mentally uncomfortable, but physically not too much.

"That wasn't so bad, was it? You look nice enough."

Shrike was rather blushed. "I have a hard time believing that," he said with a small voice.

"Hey, that even sounded like a woman! Good job!"

Shrike sighed in frustration. "I don't even have breasts... well, false breasts, that is."

"You'll apparently be surprised to find out how little that matters. Do you remember how many people started thinking that I was a woman? And the ONLY thing that gave them a clue was that I stared being with you! My own form looks more masculine than you now."

"You're not making me feel any better about this."

"So? Anyway, you're rather thin and that won't change even if you present yourself as a woman instead of a man. Thin women don't tend to have much breasts. Your pectoral muscles make do just fine."


"And remember to shave well and whatever. But apparently you don't really have a problem with that. I don't remember seeing any stubble on you."

"Er, yeah."

"Okay. Hungry?" Envy dug out some dried food for Shrike who then transmuted some snow into water and ate. Envy ate a little as well.

They started skiing again. During the day, Envy came to find that it was positively surprised, even if only a little, because Shrike could ski for a longer time than it had thought, even if his speed was still quite slow. Shrike seemed small and weak and while he was a very bad fighter, he had endurance to keep moving. Envy also knew that he was a very decent shooter, but that was not particularly exceptional for someone in the army.

As Envy had said, Shrike indeed grew used to wearing women's clothes, and after a week, he did not even complain about them any longer.


It took Envy and Shrike two weeks to make their way into Central's vicinity because of their winding route. They visited one small town between North City and Central, but did not really do much anything in there. Envy merely stole some money without even telling Shrike about it.

Envy had a some sort of plan for moving about Central and finding out whether the homunculus child was still alive, but it was rather vague since it thought that it needed to change the plan according to what it ran across.

Envy gave Shrike some money and told him to not use any of his own money, but only what it gave him. It then told him to sit at a café near the recently rebuilt Central military headquarters and mark down the appearance and times of coming and going of any military personnel he could identify. It left him on his own and went to comb through the hiding places under Central that the homunculi had used.

Shrike soon found out that he passed for a woman just fine, like Envy had said. Even his voice did not rouse questions, though he of course tried his best to talk quietly and with a slightly higher pitch. He wrote a letter to Briggs and sent it to his father. In it, he only explained what he and Envy had done and what Envy was doing now.

Once, when Envy was walking on a street in Central, it suddenly came across a Xingese person, and on that instant it remembered that the Xingese could sense its Philosopher's Stone and tell it apart from other people. It froze and stared at the Xingese person in shock, but eventually the middle-aged Xingese man just walked by it as if there was nothing wrong.

Envy was very confused and wondered why he had not noticed it. It first thought that perhaps its Stone was too depleted, but after some examination, it concluded once again that it did still have enough souls to seem suspicious, at least as far as it knew. Then it figured out that it was possible that not all Xingese people would be able to sense its uniqueness. While that alleviated it for now, it had no idea which Xingese could tell it apart and which could not, and that frustrated it.

Shrike kept following the military people as they went by. He switched cafés sometimes and occasionally sat inside the café and occasionally outside, especially when it was warmer.

He was halfway writing another person's description when he started thinking that there was something familiar about the figure. He looked more closely, and as the soldier turned, Shrike met his eyes and saw that it was his father.

Shrike just saw his father's expression turning more confused before he blushed terribly, turned his eyes away and tried to hide his face in the notebook he had been writing in. What if his father had recognised him? He had no idea how to explain any of what was going on and most of all, why he was wearing women's clothes.

Shrike kept his face very close to the notebook, but he could tell that his father soon arrived next to him.

Shannon Shrike just stood there for a moment, but then he bent down. "Um, Kaine?" he whispered quietly.

"U-uh-uh..." mumbled Shrike and still did not look at him.

"Er... Why are you wearing women's clothing? Why are you here?"

"I'm... I'm uh... s-s-no... I'm, um, in disguise," he mumbled very quietly.

"Oh... oh. I understand. I've um, done something like that myself. So... sorry, carry on," he said and walked away.

Shrike blushed even more as he could not help imagining his father wearing women's clothing now. It took him a long while until he got his brain organised enough to continue watching people, and even then he kept losing his concentration because there was not that much for him to concentrate on.

Some men occasionally tried to talk to Shrike, but he did not talk back at them or barely answered with one word which was usually "no". However, one morning as he came to his usual table, he saw a little note on it. It was addressed "to the cute grey-haired lady with glasses". Shrike blushed but naturally had to read the rest of the note. It said:

"I would very much like to meet you. Please be here tomorrow at five in the evening!"

Shrike grew very anxious. He certainly did not want to be there to meet whoever it was who wanted to meet him.

Shrike complained about it to Envy once they met the next morning, somewhat close to the hotel where Shrike was staying.

"I can't believe this. I got some stupid note from some awful stalker who wants to meet me. Look at this." Shrike waved the note at Envy.

Envy took the note and read it. "See, you shouldn't have even worried about passing as a woman." It gave the note back.

"What? What's that got to with... ugh! What am I going to do? I don't want to meet him! Who knows what he wants?"

"Then don't meet him! Though... is he with the military?"

"How should I know?"

"Well meet him and find out. If he isn't, just say that you're not interested. If he is, play along for a while and ask him some questions. Say that you were last in Central during the eclipse and you'd like him to tell what happened after that and ask all about how the headquarters was rebuilt and so on, you know."

"What? I can't do that..."

"Sure you can! You're painfully obviously shy as a woman, so you can be as socially awkward as you like."

"But... I don't... I haven't even dated a woman before, or anyone! How should I know what I should do?"

"You don't! Seriously, no one is born with that kind of knowledge. If you feel so darned anxious about it, say that to HIM. He'll probably be sympathetic!"

"C-can you tell me how I should act?"

"I can, but why would I? Every human is different and the most awful scenes just occur if you try to put on a charade that doesn't fit you. You're already troubled enough playing a woman so adding even more lie to that would just make the whole thing explode on your face. You're best off being as much like yourself. Just be as unsure as ever and you'll be fine!"


"Well then, get going. I'm going to cover another empty and abandoned tunnel system over there," said Envy and left.

Somewhat disheartened, Shrike went on his way and arrived at his usual spot. He spent nearly the whole day worrying about his predicament and wishing that the man was not a soldier.

When it was finally time for Shrike's mystery man to appear, a man in a military uniform approached him and Shrike cursed at himself. He felt horrified.

"Hello! I am glad you agreed to meet me," he said. "I was a bit worried that you wouldn't, since I tried to talk to you before but you didn't reply."

Shrike thought that the man seemed quite tense and reserved himself and was just posturing as self-confident. "Yes... uh, hello."

"I'm Roger Brendan, a Sergeant Major in the military. Can I ask your name?"

"It's Maria Thell."

"Pleased to meet you. Um... Would you like a cup of tea?" Shrike nodded. "Red tea? All right, wait a moment, I'll go buy some."

The man went to the café's counter and bought two cups of tea. He gave the other one to Shrike when he returned.

Shrike managed to start his so-called interrogation. "So, uh... what do you do in the army?"

Brendan told Shrike pretty much everything Shrike wanted to know, but did not share any issues that were obviously secret, and overall everything he said sounded rather vague. Shrike thought that his uniform was slightly disheveled.

Shrike met him the next day as well.


Shrike woke up in some bed with a throbbing headache. He stared at the ceiling and it did not look familiar. He did not have his glasses on either. He realised he had no idea where he was, and the panic settled in. There was something heavy on his stomach and he soon found out that the thing on his stomach was an arm, but he was sure that it was not Envy's arm, and besides, Envy never left its body parts on him even when they had slept close to each other. He squirmed out from under it, sat up and instantly felt light-headed. The headache got worse and he had to struggle to not throw up.

He had his socks, top and opened cardigan on, but he was otherwise naked. He grew terrified. He looked at the person whose arm he has just pushed off himself. It was Brendan, and he was sleeping and also naked save for a casual shirt. He looked rather red in the face.

Blood escaped from Shrike's brain as he tried to parse together how in the world he had ended up in this situation. He did not remember much from yesterday, only that he had watched the military people like previously and that he had met Brendan.

If he was in bed with Brendan with both of them naked, did that mean they had had sex? How could they have? Shrike did not feel like he had had sex in any way, but he could not be sure of it. And if he was now naked, Brendan must have found out that he had just been dressed as a woman. The thought of that made Shrike incredibly ashamed. He felt nauseous and sore all over, but he did not remember drinking or eating anything suspicious even though that was the only thing that would explain his physical state. And that would mean the Brendan had drugged him.

Terrified, Shrike crawled out of the bed and looked around. The room seemed to be a hotel room. The rest of his clothes were on the floor, and the first thing he did was to pick up his underpants and pull them on. While he did that, he became so nauseated that he had to give up and run straight for the toilet to throw up. It made him even sicker since there was actually nothing in his stomach that he could get rid of.

He panted in the bathroom for a while and managed to stop retching. He started feeling considerably better after he had cleaned his mouth. When he stopped, the horrible realisation dawned on him that Brendan might have woken up because of all the noise he had been making.

Shrike could hear some breathing from the bathroom's doorway. He quickly turned his completely pale face at Brendan but remembered that he was still almost naked from waist down and managed to not turn his body toward the other man. Brendan had pulled his military uniform trousers up, but they were in disarray and looked odd. Now Shrike noticed that the shirt Brendan had was not a standard military shirt.

"Are you clear now? Huh?!" he asked. Shrike could not reply. "What kind of joke is this? Why were you dressed as a woman? Why did you trick me?!"

Shrike could not believe what he was hearing. Brendan was blaming him for trickery while Brendan had been the one to drug him. Shrike did not want to listen. He wanted out of the situation right now, but Brendan was in the doorway. Shrike turned his eyes away from Brendan and started talking back at him. "What?! You... it's all your fault! I don't remember anything about yesterday! Did you drug me or what?"

"Why did you trick me?" he shouted.

"It's your fault! I didn't want to meet you!"

"Why didn't you tell me to go away then?"

"I didn't want you to... Just go away!"

"I'm going to beat you up!" Shrike was frightened, but he could easily evade the man's lousy attempt at hitting. Brendan stumbled forward and fell down, only barely managing to grab a hold of the toilet seat and not smash his head against it. Shrike ran out of the bathroom and back into the hotel room. He started digging through his bag and managed to spot his underpants and put them on before Brendan appeared from the bathroom.

Shrike found his pistol just in time and pointed it at Brendan when he came out from the bathroom.

"What?!" Brendan was obviously alarmed, but he also looked like he could not believe his eyes. "What kind of freak of a cross-dresser has a gun? That must be a fake! You can't even use it!"

Shrike pulled the bullet chamber off for a second, put it back and then took the safety off of the gun.

"What did you do?!"

Shrike looked at him in a confused manner. He could not believe that the man did not seem to know what he had just done with the pistol. "I showed you that I can use this pistol, that I have ammunition and that the safety is off."

"You're lying!"

"You're a liar! You're not a soldier! Now stay where you are!" Shrike glared at the man who did not dare to move at the moment. He then glanced at the floor and started slowly gathering his clothes and other items on the bed.

"Why were you dressed as a woman?" repeated Brendan.

"Why did you drug me?" shouted Shrike angrily. "That's wrong and illegal! I could just shoot you now without another thought and no one would care because it would be self defence!"

"Yeah but why are you wearing women's clothes?!"

"Shut! Up! Screw you!" Shrike spotted a pen on the desk of the hotel room. "Go into the bathroom!"

"But – –"

"Shut up! Into the bathroom!"

"But – –"

"IN!" Shrike fake-darted at Brendan while waving his pistol at the man. He also grabbed the pen.

Brendan went into the bathroom and was obviously very unwilling to do so, but he seemed to be afraid of the gun.

Shrike grabbed the bathroom's door and pushed it closed. He then started drawing a transmutation circle on the wall right next to it, but Brendan slammed the door open, hitting Shrike's shoulder with it.

"You're not locking me in here!" shouted Brendan and came at Shrike. He obviously tried to do some violence, but even Shrike could see what he was doing. Shrike stepped to the side and Brendan ran straight into a closet door and could not even stop his awkward lunge with his hands. He smashed his head on it and then stumbled backwards. "Agh!"

Shrike used the opportunity and smashed the man's jaw with the bottom of his pistol. Brendan took the hit and fell down on the bathroom floor, hitting his cheek on the sink. He then stayed on the floor.

Shrike was still agitated, but after a short moment, he grew worried enough to wonder whether Brendan was still alive. He poked Brendan with his foot and when the man did not stir, Shrike knelt down to check that he had not died. Brendan was indeed still breathing.

Shrike left him there and went to put on his clothes. He left all of Brendan's items untouched, though he looked at the uniform jacket and noticed that it was a fake. Outwardly, it looked quite a lot like a real uniform, but the inner side was obviously different and of inferior quality.

Shrike gathered all his things and left. He was glad that the nausea had significantly decreased, even if it still was not over. He seemed to be on the third floor. He made his way down and hoped that nobody would pay attention to him, and luckily no one did.

Once outside, he noticed that he was relatively close to the hotel he was actually staying at. It was already half an hour past the time that he should have met Envy, so he quickly made his way to the spot.

"Where were you?!" asked Envy once he had found it. "And you look really bad, too. What the heck happened?"

"Uh... That... that man you wanted me to question drugged me and took me to a hotel and uh..."

Now Envy looked thunderstruck. "WHAT?" Shrike did not reply. "He... what? Drugged you and...? He must have tried to have sex with you! Did he find out you're a man?"

"Well, yes."

"Crap! Where is he?"

"Um... It was a hotel, uh, there..."

"This whole area is full of hotels! Didn't you even note down the name?"

"Um... no."

"Argh! Darnit! Eh, I guess we'll have to redisguise you. Some different style of clothing..."

"Can I stop being a woman now?"

"Nooo! Hm, ditch the glasses, those are kind of a clear giveaway."

"But I can't see too well without them."

"You can still see, right?"

"Well, yes, but not any details... I wouldn't be able to watch the soldiers coming and going."

Envy sighed. "Fine, I'll get some new glasses made for you. Go get your stuff out of that hotel of yours, you can sit around in my hideout for a day or two."

"Uh, okay."

Shrike went to his hotel, got all his things and signed out of the hotel. After that, Envy led him through the sewers into a small and rather well-hidden hideout that it had been using to store its equipment. Once they got there, Envy unloaded all of the gear it was currently carrying as well as the clothes it was wearing.

"Okay, I'll go get some glasses for you first, then I'll come back with those and some food and water and after that I'll go get you a new set of clothes. Hm, maybe I ought to plan your new style now while you still have that getup on and it's easy to compare. Well, you can't be very conspicuous, but maybe instead of that unimpressiveness, you could be snobby." Envy looked at Shrike in an assessing manner and then shapeshifted into another version of him, with a set of rather expensive clothes on.

Shrike looked disturbed. Envy changed the clothing a few more times until it settled for a fur coat, dress, very feminine boots and a somewhat ridiculous fur hat that was in fashion this winter.

"Envy... Please, no. That's... that's awful."

"You know what? I agree. But I do know that the stupid humans up there think this is a neat and fashionable getup. So this is what you're going to get. If I find something less obscene in the store, I'll buy that instead."

Shrike sighed hopelessly and leaned on the wall. "Please... Isn't the info I've gotten so far enough?"

"Hm. Well, I guess this one bit would be good enough, but you still need a new disguise. You got used to those clothes, you'll get used to the new ones too. Give me those glasses. I can get the same kind of pair with a different frame just like that, right?"

"Er, yes... But you don't need really need these either. They're regular minus two point one lenses."

"So I'll get what you need if I ask for minus two point one glasses?"


"Okay. Well, wait here. I'll be back soon."

Envy's trip to the glasses shop was very uneventful. Likewise, it did not run into trouble while getting Shrike a small stash of food and water. It then went back into the sewers and brought the items to Shrike. It then exited the sewers again, but when it was just out of the sewer and had set the lid on the hole, it noticed at two people were watching it and their body language screamed of fighting.

One of them was Xingese. He was dressed in a getup somewhat similar to what the annoying ninja girl from three years back had worn, but it was much more plain and not foreign-looking and he had some winter gear on.

"That's the one," he said quietly and with an obvious accent.

"In that case, DIE, MONSTER!" screamed the other person, an Amestrian woman with messy brown hair, a really worn face and a fit body but beaten posture. She lifted her hand, and Envy could see that there was a transmutation circle drawn on it. She slammed the hand on the ground and a row of sharp spikes emerged from the pavement.

Envy could not believe how it had gotten into a mess like this again. Another alchemist who wanted to harm it and now also to kill it? Envy only barely evaded the spikes by jumping on a fire ladder that creaked and was nearly torn off of its place by its weight. "I don't have time for this idiotic play!" it shouted at her.

The Xingese person pulled a portable machine gun from under his winter coat and started shooting at Envy. Luckily for Envy, he was clearly not very good with the weapon. Only a few bullets hit Envy, and since they were not explosive, they did not even cause all that much damage. Envy just tried to let them pass through its body as harmlessly as possible.

The alchemist tried again and this time transmuted the wall of the building, forming similar spikes as with the ground. A couple of spikes managed to perforate Envy before it could leap out of their way and at the alchemist. The alchemist suddenly stopped when she heard a suspicious crack from the brick building she had just transmuted.

Envy ran at the woman and ignored the gunfire from the Xingese man. She tried to transmute the ground again, but this time Envy just jumped upward and out of the way. Envy ran almost to the woman's arm's reach, but just before that, it stopped and shapeshifted its arm longer and struck her on the mouth with it. She tried to evade and managed to sidestep most of the force, but she still fell down, stunned and bleeding.

The Xingese man kept trying to fire at Envy, but he was failing delightfully. "It doesn't shoot!" he shouted.

"Eject the empty cartridge!" said the alchemist from the ground.

Envy tried to smack the Xingese person senseless as well, but it was obvious he was much better at close combat than firing a gun. He blocked Envy's hitting attempt easily, using the gun to deflect the blow. Envy wanted to try hitting him again but it was too slow. He started instead hitting it with quick and relentless strikes.

"Screw you and your stupid country!" shouted Envy at him and shapeshifted its arm so large that there was no way he could evade it when it pushed and slapped him against the wall.

However, during that time, the alchemist had gotten up and how slapped her other hand on Envy. Envy screamed in pain as a part of its body disintegrated, and it took a few steps back while waving at the woman with its large arm to keep her away.

"Who the hell are you?!" it shouted as it withdrew its hand so as to not let her touch it and disintegrate it as well.

"You don't know?!" she shouted back, apparently extremely hurt. She was staying still momentarily since she she was too close to transmute without Envy managing to intercept. Similarly, Envy was at an awkward position where both attacking and fleeing would allow them to retaliate.

"No! I haven't even seen you before!"

"Colonel Sannah Ehrhardt!"


"You...! It doesn't matter! You're one of those horrible monsters who caused the trouble at Central headquarters two years ago and started the Ishval Civil War and the incident in Reole and who knows what else! I don't know how you managed to survive, but this is as far as you'll get! You killed all of my family!"

Envy could not help but grin now, though it still had no idea what the woman was talking about and how she could know that the homunculi had been behind most of the incidents around the country since Mustang and the other high-ranks had decided to hide the real state of things. "Oh yeah? Which week was that?"

The alchemist looked extremely angry. "You despicable monster! Don't belittle me!"

Envy thought that now she was practically asking for it. "You're insignificant and so is your bloody non-existent family!"


Envy scoffed at Ehrhardt and stretched its arm at the alchemist at the same time as she lunged down, ready to transmute some spikes again. The Xingese person had drawn a sword and was now preparing to strike. Envy could not get its arm past the two to harm the woman without losing the appendage, so it stopped extending its arm and instead jumped on the fire ladder again and barely managed to manoeuvre itself out of the spikes' way. The lowest part of the fire ladder came down and Envy fell on the ground.

Envy glanced behind itself and saw that a few people were watching it as well as its enemies. It did not want to stick around until even more people and soldiers would come around. It evaded the additional spikes coming its way by darting at the alchemist and Xingese person and leaped over them.

"Suwahao! The gun!" shouted Ehrhardt. The Xingese person who apparently was called Suwahao picked up the portable machine gun to shoot at Envy, but it was still out of ammo.

Envy landed close to the corner of the street, breaking the pavement under it as it landed. It darted off and just as it turned around the corner, it shapeshifted into a much smaller human than it had just a moment ago been. It also hid its broken clothing inside it and constructed a new appearance over the clothing, even though that made it feel very uncomfortable and made its movements awkward.

Envy made its way quickly through the streets and changed its appearance twice more to throw possible followers off its trail. Then it finally entered another sewer hole and once there, it got rid of its broken clothes. It took them to the deepest levels of the sewer systems and hid them in a place where no human would surely find them. It only kept the money it had stolen.

Envy felt very irritated. Apparently it now had some Xingese person who was able to sense it and a vengeful alchemist hunting it. It did not even know why. It could not figure out how it could have pissed off any Xingese people since it had not even managed to kill the ninja girl, whatever her name had been. Envy felt bitter about not having been able to kill her. And how could that alchemist Colonel Sannah Ehrhardt have assumed that it had killed all of her family? Of course, if her whole family had been just one or two people, it would be much more likely. But Envy could not understand how she could have known that precisely it had killed her family. Of course, she could have meant that the killer was one of the other homunculi. Even then it was most likely to have been either it or Lust or Gluttony, who had often been with Envy. And they had never left alive anyone who had seen how they truly looked. The whole thing made no sense to Envy and it hated that.

Envy did not want to dwell on the issue any longer. It made its way through the sewers and secret tunnels. Some of the tunnels had been sealed, but Envy just took another route around them. It finally emerged on the other side of the city. It looked for a clothes shop and first bought new clothes for itself. It was glad of the dullness of the shop. It also bought a bag for the clothes and then went and hid the bag in the sewer close by. After that, it realised that it did not have enough money to buy the expensive clothes for Shrike that it had planned on buying. It sighed and searched an expensive looking hotel nearby. Once it found one, it waited until a rich-looking couple went in and followed them. It stalked them to get their room number, also got a room for itself and then followed the couple discreetly.

It planned on waiting until the couple would leave, and luckily they merely dropped their baggage in the room and left after that. After they had left, Envy went to the door of their room, picked the lock and entered the room. It spent a short while going through their luggage until it found some money. It glared at the amount of the stuff and settled for taking just a part of the money since it had no use for so much money and it did not believe it would require any more. It then left the room, closed the door and relocked it. It dropped the key to its own room into the trash.

Envy left the hotel, changed its shape so that it was Shrike's size but otherwise not looking like him and went to buy the expensive clothes. Once it was done, it went into the sewers again and made its way to where Shrike was.

It eventually arrived at the spot. Shrike had made a lamp of some kind and was writing something while reading his alchemy book. Envy just let the bags of clothing plop on the floor and then slid down along the wall and sighed deeply.


"Some stupid humans attacked me just outside the sewer when I left."

"What? Why?"

"I don't know, the woman said something about that I had killed her family. I couldn't even remember her.

"Uh... is it possible you killed her family?"

"Probably? There's no way I could know unless she listed the dates and places."

"But how could she even recognise you?"

"She had this annoying Xingese tag-along, Suwahao or something. Some of those stupid Xingese people can sense the Philosopher's Stone I have and tell me apart from the humans."

"What? How's that possible?"

"How should I know? I remember they said something about an aura and how they could sense more people inside me the last time I saw Xingese people."

Shrike looked confused. "I'm thinking I should learn more about Xingese alchemy..."

"I'm not stopping you. Hm, I just wonder how that woman knew about me and the others in the first place. Have you heard of a Colonel Sannah Ehrhardt?"

"Mhh... She was working in North City while I was there."


"Yeah, but I didn't really talk to her, I just saw her and her name plaque. I heard someone say she transferred to North City from Central a short while after the eclipse."

"Was she still there that day before we left?"

"Yeah, as far as I know."

"Huh. How did she know how to come here after me?"

"Maybe that Xingese person was keeping an eye on people here and let her know as soon as she noticed you?"

"Hm, I guess that's possible. Wait, Ehrhardt was in North City? Did you know she's an alchemist?"

"What?" Shrike looked very surprised.

"Apparently not. I'd have asked you what her special state alchemist title was."

"Errr... I'm pretty sure she isn't a state alchemist. Otherwise I and the others in North City would've known about it."

"Oh? That's odd. But I guess it's possible that she wasn't a state alchemist. Oh hey, if you became a state alchemist, what would your title be?"

"What? I have no idea... Wasn't the Führer the one who gave those?"

"Yeah. Do you think they stopped that naming convention when they got rid of the position of führer?"

"I have no idea..."

"Well, what kind of name do you think you'd get? Or what would you like?"

"Um..." Shrike spent some time thinking. "Thermal Alchemist?"

Envy scoffed. "That sounds pretty boring."

"Yeah, but that's pretty much what I do."

"And you're pretty boring too! Maybe that would be fitting, yeah."

"...You think I'm boring?"

"Well sure. And I also think that's a positive trait."

Again, Shrike did not quite know whether he should be a little offended or slightly flattered. He was quiet for a moment and put his papers and book away while Envy loitered on the floor.

"Oh, I got an idea!" exclaimed Envy suddenly. "Ehrhardt has gone missing from the North City headquarters, right? Or if she hasn't, at least there will be some kind of investigation going on about that incident today. After all, there was some audience around and they definitely saw her. I could go up the Central headquarters and pose as an officer from North City who has come to check her files here. Ooh, they might ask for some papers. It's better if I actually have some. If I fake them with my powers, I could only show them but I couldn't hand them over... Okay, I'm going to go get some paper and ink and pens. Wait here, I'm going to need you."

Envy went off again and made its way through the sewers. It came up, located an office supply store and bought everything it needed. It then returned to Shrike.

"Okay. Come on, let me see your military papers."

Shrike dug out his papers and showed them to Envy.

"Hmm... Right. You can make forgeries of this stuff with alchemy, right?"


"Well, of course you can. Get to it, make me a form that says I'm a soldier, a transfer paper that says I transferred from Central to North City just a day before that eclipse three years ago, and a mission assignment."

Shrike was pretty sure that doing forgeries was illegal, but he did not dare to defy Envy and at least no one would be killed if he did this. No one would probably even know that he had done the forgeries.

Envy gave Shrike all the needed information. It could fake King Bradley's signature on the transfer paper and duplicated the signature of the leader of North City's headquarters from Shrike's transfer paper. The identity it was using was one of its disguises in Central, which it thought would be the safest to use. Envy thought that the soldiers at Central's headquarters might notice that the person it was posing as had not been seen for those three years, but thanks to the transfer papers, it could say that it was not dead or missing, it had only been transferred and all the paperwork had been destroyed in the attacks. The only problem was that no one else knew about the transfer, but then again, very few people had even seen this particular disguise. Nonetheless, there were people who had seen it, so it was possible that would work in its favour.

Once the forgeries were done, Envy looked at them and was fairly satisfied. Shrike, then again, felt still a little uncertain, but figured that there was nothing he could really do about it. He looked at Envy and wished that it looked like it normally did. He had not seen its preferred form for quite some time because it too was nearly always in disguise, making sure that there was no chance people could recognise it. It did not often bother to shapeshift even when it was alone with Shrike because it did not like dressing and undressing itself.

"Envy... could you shapeshift to look like you?"

"Hm? Why?"

"I'd just want to look at you."

Envy smirked a little surprisedly at Shrike. It then put the papers away, shapeshifted out of its clothes and settled its form on the androgynous teenager again.

Shrike smiled and spent quite a while just looking at it. Envy looked at him looking at it.

"Um... could we have sex?" asked Shrike.

"Huh?" Envy raised its eyebrow and dropped its smile for a short moment. "Oh well, why not." It then smiled a bit again.

Shrike smiled even wider and walked over to Envy. He put his hands on the front of its shoulders and then slid them to its back and hugged it. Envy just held him by the waist. They spent a moment kissing each other, after which Shrike looked Envy in the eyes.

"You really don't mind that I look like this?" he asked.

"Like what? Wearing women's clothes?"


"Nope. Hm, you know what, I think the best thing you could wear is the military uniform. It's pretty classy. But I don't really care about that kind of stuff so much."


12. Information

The next day, Envy made Shrike wear the clothes it had bought him. Shrike hated them.

Envy then read in the newspaper about the little incident between it and Ehrhardt and Suwahao. Fortunately no one seemed to have gotten anything right – the writer of the story assumed that it had been a violent showdown between members of different crime organisations and that apparently one of them had been an alchemist. Envy paid no more attention to the article. It prepared and walked up to Central headquarters in the afternoon. It got in without problems by displaying its papers.

Once inside, Envy found out that the headquarters had been rebuilt mostly like it had been before. There had been some changes, but apparently nothing major.

The assignment that Envy was supposed to do according to its papers was to go through the archives to check the information on Sannah Ehrhardt because she had gone missing and the leaders in North City needed to double check the content of her files.

A private led it to the archives where a clerk took down its information. Envy was a bit worried that they would check the information and come back to question about it or even arrest it. Still, it knew that checking archives because of things like this was not anything extraordinary, so it hoped they would not be too alarmed.

Another private working in the archives helped it locate the files concerning Sannah Ehrhardt. Envy read them and mostly looked for an excuse to peruse the files on the usage of the secret facilities or anything about the homunculi or chimeras, though it started thinking that if the high-ranks had decided to keep that secret, there would be absolutely nothing about it in the archives. Envy sighed at realising that.

Nonetheless, it also took notes of the information about Ehrhardt, since she would probably try to come after it again.

Ehrhardt had been born in 1880. She had lived close to Ishval and her parents had perished in the Ishval Civil war. Her husband had died in Central on the Promised Day in mysterious circumstances. Envy could not find any clue to how she knew about the homunculi. The only thing it could come up with that she had been rather deep in the know from the beginning and that was why she had been told. She had been interested in alchemy since she had been a child and had wanted to become a state alchemist up until the Ishval Civil War. After that she had stopped all attempts to become a state alchemist, though she apparently had kept practising alchemy. Her speciality seemed to be plant-related alchemy. Envy scoffed at the uselessness of that.

Envy was almost done with Ehrhardt's files when two soldiers came to question it.

"Lieutenant Colonel Gregor Patton, is it?" asked the Second Lieutenant.

"Yes, what?" replied Envy.

"Would you care to explain how you're still alive, sir, and acting like nothing had happened?"

"What?" asked Envy, sounding insulted. "I suggest you take your slander and leave right now," it said hostilely, true to the character of the person it was imitating.

"There are no papers of you in the archives and the last note is that you went missing on the day of the eclipse three years ago."

"Your inferior bookkeeping is none of my business. Leave me be so I can finish my task."

"Do I really have to bother your superiors in North City about this?"

If the man telephoned North City, Envy would certainly be revealed as an impostor. "Don't you dare. I've always done my job immaculately and this time will be no exception. If you have no paper trail here, it is certainly because of some deficiency on your part. Were the archives damaged on the day of the eclipse? Did some errand boy of a clerk die when part of the headquarters collapsed? I understand it might be too hard to grasp for you, but if any of that happened, the paperwork has been likely lost due to that and the error is right there."

The Second Lieutenant frowned. "...I see, sir."

"Is that enough? Here are my papers, feel free to copy them for your archives if you must. I will wait here. Now will you continue disturbing me or will you leave?" Envy gave its papers to the man and went back to the file.

The Second Lieutenant took the papers and left. Envy was worried that the man might telephone North City either way. It then said to the archives clerk that it needed material on the day of the eclipse to study what Ehrhardt and her husband had been doing during that time. Like it expected, it found nothing about Ehrhardt's husband since he had not been a soldier, but it did notice from the texts that during the aftermath, some heavily guarded trucks had been driven to either prisons or locations that Envy remembered were some kind of fortified hideouts. That could only have meant very dangerous prisoners and possibly the surviving chimeras. The important thing about that finding was that it gave Envy an idea.

If Mustang had captured Envy's homunculus child, it would most likely have been transported in a similarly heavily guarded truck. It was possible Mustang had done the transportation independently of the military and thus there would not be any paper trail of it, or that the papers would not be in Central but in East City or possibly even North City, but Envy could only know that if it checked the issue. It went and looked for cargo manifests and transportation permits from the time around when Armstrong had driven it from Fort Briggs since that must have been around when Mustang's people found the homunculus.

To its great delight, Envy found two such transportations, one from North City to Central in the end of January and one from Central to East City in the middle of February. The transportations seemed extremely promising to Envy. Their content had been recorded as "experimental weaponry".

Envy put the files back and then read something about Mustang's promotions. Apparently he had been promoted to Brigadier General last summer and had just a couple of months ago made it to Major General. Envy felt quite annoyed at that. What had HE done to get promotions just like that? Armstrong had not promoted Envy even once during the two years it had been in Briggs. After a moment, it actually figured out that it was being jealous and immediately hated itself for feeling envy over such a stupid and insignificant matter.

The Second Lieutenant who had questioned Envy returned and gave its papers back to it. "The issue has been cleared, sir."

Envy took the papers very impolitely. "About time," it muttered under its breath. "I'm done wasting my time here. Good day," it said very strenuously and walked away.

Envy made its way quickly toward the train station, but just before it, entered the sewers again and travelled its winding route to where Shrike was waiting.

"Start packing. We're leaving," it said to Shrike and shapeshifted, putting on the clothes it had bought for itself a while ago.

Shrike was surprised. "Right now?"

"Yeah. Hm, we don't need this or this or these..." Envy put aside their skis, the tent, the pulk and the stove.

"Where are we going?"

"To East City."

"How will we get there?"

"By train."

"But people will see us in there."

"I don't care right now. I just want to get there quickly. I think the homunculus I created is being held there."

"Where there? It's a pretty big city."

"I don't know, but I can worry about that later. Let's go. You carry that, I'll take the rest." Envy gave Shrike a large handbag and then picked up the rest of the things. They started walking through the tunnels again. "Let's pretend to be a married couple again, okay?"

"Uh. Envy... Does this mean that all that work I did following the military people was for nothing?"

"Huh? I guess it was then. Why, do you feel bad about that?"

"Um... Well, yes, yes I do. It was a waste of time and I hated being in there getting ogled at."

"Well, too bad."

"I'm not doing it again."

"You will if I tell you to."

"No I won't."

Envy turned around and glared at Shrike. "Don't defy me!" it shouted. Shrike took a step back and seemed scared, but there was also something else in his expression that Envy could not quite place. It was probably defiance. "Was that clear enough for you?" Shrike did not reply, so Envy started moving again. Shrike followed.

"Will you kill me if I refuse?" asked Shrike after a while.

Envy did not reply. It really did not know whether it would. Shrike was pretty much the only human who liked it and killing him would feel like a tremendous waste of Envy's effort. Then Envy realised that it had not actually spent all that much effort on Shrike; the most it had done was pretty much tolerate him.

And yet Shrike still loved it, at least based on yesterday.

Envy frowned at the conflict of not caring about how some inferior human felt and not wanting to put unnecessary distance between itself and the only being it could call its friend at the moment.

"No," replied Envy eventually.

"Uh... you took quite a lot of time to come up with that..."

Envy huffed shallowly. "Well I guess the answer should be well thought out then," it muttered.


"Don't you believe me?" it asked and turned at Shrike again.

Shrike looked at the ground. "I don't know... maybe."

Envy looked at Shrike and knew what it should do now based on its experiences with humans. It should apologise and reassure Shrike that it was not lying. But by now even Shrike would know that if Envy did that, it would seem massively fake, and Envy was not sure lying to the man would be a good option. For now, the whole of their relationship was still based on truth, however unvarnished that may have been. Envy grimaced but spoke nevertheless. "Fine, Shrike, I'm sorry, okay?" it said and sounded just as reluctant to say that as it felt. "I won't kill you, really. And if you seriously hated that watching so much, well, okay. Don't do it then."

Shrike slowly looked up at Envy. He was somewhat confused.


Shrike made a small nod.

Envy turned around and continued making its way forward.

"Um, thank you," said Shrike after a while. Envy did not know what to reply.

The two exited the sewers about one and a half kilometres away from the train station, near some hotel. They walked the rest of the way. Once they arrived, Envy bought them tickets on the night train to East City. They spent the remainder of the day before departure eating at nearby restaurants.

Envy had gotten them a private booth on the train. Shrike slept through the trip, though not particularly well as the noise and movement of the train kept waking him up. Envy did not bother to try sleeping and instead just pondered what it would do in East City.

Envy was not as familiar with the layout of East City's headquarters as it was with Central's, and it did not want to try its investigation trick again. It thought of hiding in a truck going into the headquarters, but then it remembered that the sewers and tunnels under East City went remarkably close to the headquarters building. It was sure there would not be a direct route from the tunnels into the building, but Shrike could transmute a wider way in. Then it would only need to hide from the patrols, make its way to the archives and peruse them, and hopefully there would be a report corresponding to the ones in Central and Envy could figure out where the new homunculus had been taken.

The train arrived early in the morning and Envy and Shrike got off. After they and particularly Shrike had had something to eat and had bought some snack for Shrike, they made their way straight into the sewers. Envy remembered where the headquarters were approximately, so they just made their way toward the spot slowly. Occasionally, Envy reached an appendage equipped with an eye out of the sewers to check their location.

Envy shared its plan with Shrike as they travelled. Shrike did not seem happy or in any way enthusiastic, but did not refuse to cooperate either. Envy spent a long while inspecting the piping to find out where would be the best place to emerge into the headquarters.

Envy eventually found a suitable way in, and the timing was good as well as it was well past the closing time of most restaurants and other establishments that were open late in the evening. Of course, even then the East City headquarters was not empty and unguarded.

Some more time passed as Envy did some additional studying of the structures for Shrike so that he could safely transmute a way into the basement-like space. Eventually they had learned all they could. Shrike drew a transmutation circle and transmuted a tunnel upwards, slowly and carefully, making sure that he broke nothing and that he knew where all the materials were and how he would reconstruct it back just the way it had been. Envy pretty much yawned while he completed it.

After the tunnel was ready, a certain thing popped into Envy's mind. "You know, there's one thing about alchemy that I started wondering about some hundred years ago but that I don't think about very often," it said in a peculiar manner.

"Oh?" Shrike looked more curious than usual.

"Why does the transmutation circle have to glow? Stealthy transmutations would be better."

Shrike's eyes widened and he glared at Envy. "Yeah! Light requires energy to produce it. A transmutation circle directs energy from the tectonic shifts of the earth to whatever the alchemist wants to do. But the light isn't needed, so effectively transmutations just waste a part of the energy on something useless."

Envy liked Shrike's changing expression more than it cared to admit. He seemed confused first, then perplexed and finally just frowned furiously.

"Oookay!" said Envy, sounding rather debonair. "I'll just go up there and you can think about that in the meantime." Shrike definitely seemed to do just that. He sat on a large pipe and kept his deep frown.

Grinning, Envy crawled up the tunnel and into the room. Once it was there, it patted the wall of the tunnel twice to signal Shrike that he could seal the top of the tunnel temporarily. Shrike did so, leaving only a small hole, and Envy was in the dark.

It had brought a torch with it and now turned it on, though it kept the light inside itself so that only very little light emanated to the surroundings. Envy could see in very little light, so it really did not need to alert anyone by using more light than it needed.

Envy made its way to the door. It shapeshifted another eye-appendage through the keyhole and checked that there were no people around. Once it had done that, it picked the lock and entered the hallway. Envy ran across two patrols on its search for the archives, but fortunately it managed to hide on both times. Eventually it also found the archives. Once there, it sneaked around until it found the transportation logs and spent a while reading them.

In the logs was an entry that indicated that a truck carrying "experimental weaponry" had indeed arrived and its contents had been transported to the weapons department. Envy of course did not believe that the homunculus would have been taken to where the weapon were. It spent a moment wondering what could have happened next. Perhaps the homunculus had just been taken to a holding space somewhere in the headquarters, which meant that Envy would have to comb through the complex. However, it did not think that even humans would be so careless as to hold a homunculus so close to regular people. Mustang would take it to a better, safer and more secure location.

Envy thought that a prison would be a good though not entirely ideal location. There would still be other humans in there, but it would definitely be better than the holding cells in the headquarters. It then went through the recent prison transports and found two that could be what it looked. Both of the transports had went to the same prison, called Southeastend Prison. Envy remembered having heard the prison's name before but not much else.

Envy then tried to find some information on the prisoners and the staff of the prison, but it could only find a few names of the prisoners that the military had put or escorted there.

Not being able to think of anything more it could check at the moment, Envy decided to leave and not risk getting caught any longer than was necessary. It put everything back on their proper places and then left to backtrack back to the basement room. Since it now knew a straighter route, the trip took less time and it only ran across one patrol. Once it was safely in the basement room again, it gave Shrike a sign by flashing the torch down the small hole Shrike had left on the floor.

Envy did not have to wait long until it saw the light of the transmutation as Shrike opened the way again. Envy climbed down, after which Shrike started working on sealing the tunnel thoroughly.

"I couldn't think of any reason for this light we see when alchemists transmute," said Shrike once he was done. "It's silly! I have no idea how to get rid of it but I'm sure it is useless."

Envy smirked at him. "Maybe that can be your area of study when you try to become a state alchemist."

Shrike looked contemplative. "Maybe..."

"Anyway, let's leave." They started walking off. "My best guess is that they took the homunculus to Southeastend Prison, so next I have to figure out how to get there and snoop around..."

"Prison?" Shrike sounded obviously unenthusiastic.

"Yeah. If you have ideas for getting there stealthily, do share."

"Well... you could do something illegal and get caught and then they'd send you to the prison."

"That's not stealthy."

"It'd be like hiding in plain sight."

"No, it's stupid. The justice system would keep me in the city for too long and in the prison I'd be monitored too closely."

The two made their way in the sewers and eventually settled on taking over a space in the tunnels where Shrike could sleep.

Envy tried to think of some way to get into the prison. Some of its ideas were to impersonate a guard, pretend of be a new guard looking for a job or hide on a truck bound for the prison. Each of them had pros and cons to them. Getting hired as a new guard would take time. Impersonating another guard would risk being found out more easily. Overall, being a guard would restrict its movement and exploration options since it could not go to any place just like that. On the other hand, sneaking in and out of prison would be complicated and also risky, and Envy pondered that it was probably harder to hide in a prison than for example in the military headquarters since prisons at least should have been designed so that the prisoners would not be able to hide easily.

Envy spent the next day studying a truck station that was conveniently located next to the train station. It assessed how easy it would be to sneak in to read their records. It came to the conclusion that finding out about their doings would be relatively easy. The station was guarded rather superficially and the locks did not seem to be all that sophisticated. In fact, Envy worried more about the quality of their log entries.

Envy did not care what Shrike did, so it told him to stay in the hideout and only go above ground to get food. He did just that, though he also wrote a letter to the military and posted it. In it, he explained that Envy had gone through Central's and East City's archives and from them, had drawn the conclusion that the homunculus it had created had been transported from North City through Central to East City, from where the homunculus had been taken to Southeastend Prison, and Envy was now planning on going to check out the prison, probably by hiding in a truck bound for the prison.

In the evening, Envy felt annoyed because a train full of people from Central had just arrived and the people were bustling about all over the place, and even the truck station was busy loading some cargo that had come with the train.

Envy's annoyance soon turned to immense curiosity as it noticed that Major General Armstrong had arrived with it along with four other people from Briggs. A military car soon came to pick them up. Envy considered rudely commandeering a taxi, but came to the conclusion that it was obvious that Armstrong and her party were heading to East City headquarters. It then made its way there, on foot and through both streets and the sewer. Indeed, when it arrived to the building, it could see the same car in the inner court of the establishment.

Now the only problem was that Envy had no idea why she was there. It assumed she had come to see Mustang, but then what? Why would they meet? They disliked each other and were pretty much rivals, and Envy knew that Armstrong held little respect for the man.

After some moments of speculation, Envy's thoughts started revolving more around itself and it realised that it was the thing Armstrong and Mustang would have in common at the moment. Either Armstrong or Mustang somehow knew that Envy was in East City, or Armstrong had come to see its homunculus child. Envy felt irritatingly worried about the possibility that they knew it was in East City. It then pondered about the fact and came to the conclusion that there was no way they could know, because even if Shrike had phoned them the instant he learned they were going to go to East City, Armstrong would not have made it so fast from Fort Briggs. Envy was sure Shrike had made no such call, but at this very moment it realised that he could be making calls right now. Its face twisted with anger and it stomped determinedly into the nearest sewer hole and headed into their hideout.

Shrike was where Envy had left him. "Shrike!" it shouted angrily at him. Shrike startled and dropped the alchemy book he was reading. Envy walked right in front of him and stared at him. "Have you been calling Armstrong and letting her know where we are?"

Blood escaped from Shrike's face. "N-n-no..."

Envy frowned. Shrike was not lying, but his reaction was too severe. "Then how does she know I'm here?" it asked tightly.

"Er, I um... I wrote... but... she... what?"

"You wrote? You wrote what?!"

"L-l-letters..." Shrike looked almost like he was about to faint.

"The postal system isn't that effective!"

"I-I-I..." Shrike had to spend a moment just breathing to prevent himself from fainting.

Envy felt incredibly frustrated, but at the least that alleviated its impulsive anger for the moment.

"I j-just sent the letters... nothing else!" he said finally.


"Today and some time after we arrived in Central."

Envy frowned, irritated. "Then why is she here?"

"I-I don't know." Envy waited. "Um... uh, maybe she just came to see Mustang? B-but why would she do that? She doesn't like him at all."

Envy made a very small smirk and got off of Shrike's face. "Don't send those letters from now on. And don't try to communicate with the military or other people in any way that might reveal them something about what we're doing. Is that clear?!"

Shrike nodded definitively, still incredibly pale from Envy's threatening behaviour even if it had not actually spelled out a threat.

Envy felt like tormenting Shrike a bit more. "Really? That's it? You promise?" it asked, disbelieving.

"Y-yes... I-I... I'm not sure how I could prove it to you. B-but I swear, I'll do what you asked."

"Why did you even do it in the first place?!"

"Armstrong told me to."

"And only NOW you decide that what I tell you overrides whatever she said?"


Envy grew rather pissed. "Holy bloody hell, Shrike! Is that what you do? You bend to the will of anyone who makes the latest threat, is that it?! It's so stupid! It's so spineless! It's disgusting!" it exclaimed as it paced around the space.

Shrike turned his face down, closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. "I may bend but I don't break and that's why I'm alive," he thought to himself, not even dreaming of saying that aloud to Envy.

Envy stopped in front of him again, grabbed his chin determinedly and lifted his face. "Okay now, Shrike. Will you help me with rescuing the homunculus that I created?"


"And will you send any more information about our doings to anyone?"


"Will you do anything I tell you to do?"

"..." Shrike was speechless for a moment. "I can't."

"What's that?"

"I-I won't kill other people. Except, maybe, if they're trying to kill me... or... A-and I won't try to get myself killed. Um..."

"Hmh. Well, I guess that's acceptable." Envy still looked displeased but it backed away from Shrike, even if it still eyed him meanly.

Shrike wanted to apologise, but he understood that doing so would be extremely hypocritical. "Um... wh-what will we do now?"

"Do you have any idea why Armstrong would be here?"

"Uh... N-no..."

"I think Mustang called her to check out the homunculus I created."

"Oh. That would make sense, I guess."

"Hm. I'm going to rent a car. Tomorrow, we'll wait around headquarters and watch for them to come out. Then we follow them. Though they'll just probably go to the prison anyway."


"I'll go get the car. Wait right here." Envy left.

It returned topside and had to spend some time searching for a car rental place. Once it found one, it paid for a week's rental and left with the car. It drove the vehicle to a parking area and parked among many cars just like the one it had just rented. After that, it returned to the sewers.

Shrike was even sitting in the exact spot he had been in when Envy had left, though he had picked up the alchemy book.

"You better sleep. We need to wake up early tomorrow," said Envy.

"Ah. Okay..." Shrike put the alchemy book away somewhat hesitantly, ate something and went to sleep.

Like it had said, Envy woke Shrike up very early in the morning. It took him near the place where it had parked the car it had rented and then gave him the key. It told him to drive to a spot where he would be able to see the side entrance of the East City headquarters. In the meantime, Envy would be watching the main entrance. They went on their respective ways.

Envy had already gotten very bored when it finally saw what it had waited for: a car left the court of the headquarters, and inside the vehicle it could see both Armstrong and Mustang as well as a driver. The two generals seemed to be talking heatedly to each other. Envy followed them just enough to see them take one of the main roads. Then it ran to where Shrike was waiting with their rented car.

Envy got into the car quickly. "Start the car!" it said to Shrike. "I spotted them. Turn right there." Shrike did as Envy told.

They followed the military car for a while and then Envy told Shrike to turn to a side road for a moment. "They might notice they're being followed. It's such a shame we can't change this car's appearance at all."

Shrike left it unmentioned that he could have tried to change the car with alchemy. He was not sure how to do it and he did not want to ruin something that was someone else's property. Luckily Envy did not come to think of that.

They drove on the side road for just a short while before turning back on the main road. They soon found the military car again. At least the rented car looked quite similar to most of the other cars around, so it was easier to blend in.

When the military car headed out of the city and onto a country road, Envy told Shrike to stop the car again. Shrike parked it.

"Aren't we following them?"

"Yes, but if we just continue after them, they'll notice us for sure. We have to do something else. I can change into a fast-moving land animal, but you can't." Envy looked irritatedly at Shrike.

"Uh, well... if you run ahead and I follow you with the car? That way they wouldn't see me, right?"

"Eh, it'd be better if I wasn't seen at all. Some horse running after a car would be really weird too."

"Er... Maybe I could, uh, ride on you."

Envy chortled rather loudly. "Geez. I can't believe that's our best idea, but whatever. Let's go."

"Except... I can't ride in this getup," added Shrike, waving at the feminine dress and other really not very practical clothes and accessories he was wearing.

Envy sighed in frustration. "Yeah yeah, fine. Let's just go now. You can change your clothes in the forest."

They left the car and headed into the forest. Envy took some of their equipment with them. Once in the forest, Shrike changed into his military uniform as fast as he could while Envy changed into a horse-like creature; it was not entirely like a horse but rather an improved version. It also shapeshifted on itself some saddlebags where it stuffed the equipment.

"Okay, if they're driving fast, this will be a really rough ride. Pat me three times if you're going to throw up or something and I'll stop."

Shrike looked somewhat worried, but then climbed on Envy, and Envy started running. Envy's claim of the ride being rough was a definite understatement. If Shrike had eaten something in the last few hours, we would have thrown up, but for now he merely felt very nauseous. He had some difficulty holding on, but for now he had the energy. After some time he also noticed that the cold wind would cause trouble at some point.

After about twenty minutes, Shrike saw some red sparks that usually accompanied Envy's shapeshifting. They were coming from Envy's front, but Envy had not shapeshifted.

"What was that?" shouted Shrike. Envy did not reply, but it seemed like it slowed down just a little.

Twenty more minutes later, Envy finally caught up with the military car. Shrike managed to stand the ride for a little longer, but then he patted Envy and it stopped.

"What is it?" it asked exasperatedly. It sounded a bit like it was out of breath.

"I-it's too cold, my hands and legs are going numb, and I have trouble holding on. A-and I think I should pee."

"Fine, be quick about it. I'll shapeshift some more fur for your protection or something."

Shrike went to pee and afterwards also drank a bit of water. "What was that sparkling a while ago?"

"Oxygen deprivation. I had to regenerate some brains and lungs and then increased my lung size. Now get back on." Envy knelt down and Shrike got on it again. Now Shrike was considerably more protected from the elements and he even had an easier time staying on since Envy had modified the saddle-like spot.

It did not take too long for Envy to catch up with the military car. This far, it had indeed been heading straight for the Southeastend Prison, but at some point it turned onto a side road that was not the way to the prison. Envy did not like that, but followed the car nevertheless. The car was much easier to follow on the side road because the road was not in as good a condition and the driver had to go more slowly.

It did not take long for the car to reach its destination, a seemingly abandoned power plant next to a rapid in the river. The area around the building was mostly cleared of trees, but a bit further away the edge of the forest, the vegetation had started invading the cleared area. Envy could see that here were tyre tracks in the snow around the place, but it could see no guards in the premises. However, there were two tiny buildings that were apparently used as guard posts, one next to the road and one a little upstream of the river. Envy assumed that there were people inside them, watching, and kept clear of them. Instead, it kept an eye on the car from the edge of the forest.

Eight people got out of the car: Armstrong, Mustang, Armstrong's four soldiers and two more soldiers, apparently from East City. They all gathered in front of the main door of the facility. A soldier opened the door and spoke to the two generals shortly before letting them all in.

"Now what?" whispered Shrike.

"How probable would you say is that the homunculus is in there?"

"Um... quite probable. Why else would they come here?"

"Hm, we should wait until they leave and then I could go in and bust it out. It doesn't seem like this is that fortified a stronghold, if it's a stronghold in the first place."


"Except... if this is Mustang's last attempt to get something out of it before killing it... Then they could kill it right before they leave!"

"That sounds... um... Actually I don't know how that sounds."

"Too paranoid, was that what you were going to say? Heck, even I thought I'd have plenty of time but right now I really don't feel like I do! What if they are going to kill it? I need to go and follow what happens." Envy did not even consider that Shrike would come along with it, and Shrike similarly assumed that of course he would not go in.

"How will you get in?"

"Not through the door!" Envy eyed the sparse and small windows of the building and soon decided that they would be out of the question as well. The two large chimneys looked better entryways, but there would be no way to get into them without being seen unless Envy shapeshifted into a bird and flew there.

Envy knew it weighed far too much to be able to fly. At the start of its life, it had tested how large wings it would have to have to be able to fly, and had only barely managed to strenuously keep itself airborne for a few seconds with a wingspan of about 40 metres, and the amount of muscle it had needed for that had been utterly ridiculous. After that Pride had been unnecessarily dire with it.

Envy turned its eyes toward the river and the structure over it. "What's that?"

"The... Oh, I guess there are turbines and ...other things that transform the water's work into mechanical energy that can then be converted into electricity. I'm not that familiar with how that works."

"Could I get into the building through there?"

"Maybe... I don't know why there would be a way in, though. Wait, of course there should be a way so that they can perform maintenance on it. Even that can't function without maintenance."

"Hm. Okay, I'll just try to sneak in through there. You wait here. Just in case it isn't obvious, don't talk to them or let them know you're here or anything."

"But what if they find me?"

"Well don't tell them about me then!"

"Um... but I think Armstrong will figure out you're here if she sees me."

Envy sighed angrily. "Geez, just go a bit further down there and they won't find you. Oh, hm... Listen, you can make a some sort of distraction, right? Alchemical explosions or other stuff like that."

"Er... I don't know how to make explosives..."

Envy was frustrated. "Anything? How about if you heat a tree or something, will it catch fire?"

"Um... yes."

"Okay then, do that if I give you the signal. If you can, light up a tree as close to the building as possible."

"But won't that endanger the people?"

"No, the building is far away enough."

"But what if the forest catches on fire?"

"Shrike! It's winter! Also, you can freeze them and divide the heat to such a wide area that it won't be a problem, right?! Even I know that much about that thing you do!"

Shrike just stared obediently at Envy.

"Okay? Now, the signal... well, do it if I let out a yell like this... Groauh! Or if I make this bird call. Eeeee-eee-eeeee! Got it?"

"Er, yeah. But, why two calls?"

"The first one happens if I'm fighting against them and they know I'm there. The second one happens if I'm still hiding."

"Oh, okay. Um... how long are you planning on being there?"

"I'll get back as soon as I can. Of course I have no way to know if that means ten minutes or ten days."

"Um... Well, I can stay here for a long time if it doesn't get colder. Actually, then I could probably dig a cave with alchemy, so."

"Hm. Well, wait for that ten days. After that, do whatever."


Envy turned and moved away silently, not saying a word.

Shrike could not help but think of the day when Armstrong had driven Envy from Briggs and how he had seen it run away and get blown up. There was the possibility that it would die along the way and Shrike would never see it again. He wanted to run to it and hug it, but he nonetheless stayed where he was.

13. Start

It was the end of January 1917. The homunculus child that Envy had created decided that it would be a good day to find out what it felt like to be a tree. It shapeshifted into a small animal and ran out of the abandoned farm house it spent its time in when it was cold.

The child dug through the snow and searched for a good-looking spot. It did not spend much time looking, but took root in a nice-looking place next to a big spruce and a waist-high boulder. It spent some hours there and felt like sleeping, so it slept and like a tree, it did not care much for its environment, which it should have done.

The child woke up when it heard the sound of skiing. It opened one well hidden eye on its trunk and looked for the source of the sound. It soon saw a patrol of six soldiers who were heading its way. It was worried, but it looked perfectly like a tree. It would not be noticed, so there was no reason to worry.

The first soldier passed between it and the large spruce. For some reason, the soldier fell right at it and almost knocked it over. Even while being a tree, it was flexible enough to not break. The soldier's face hit its trunk.

"Whoa! There was a hole of some kind here," said the soldier as he started getting up. "The snow looks like it's... melted a bit?" He then looked straight at the child. Now the child was definitively worried. "Wait... this tree... it was warm."

"Warm, sir?" asked another.

"Yeah. Hang on." The first soldier removed his glove and grabbed the child's trunk. "It's definitely warm. How can a tree be warm in this temperature?"

"It can't, sir. I'm sure you just think that way because your hand is cold," said a third soldier.

"My hands are not cold. This tree is warm."

The sceptical soldier came next to the first one, took off his glove and also fingered the child. His expression was perplexed. "What? This isn't possible!"

"Yet there it is. Hm. I guess I'll break off a branch, see if there's something odd inside it or something." He grabbed a branch and began bending it. Of course, the child did not let the branch be broken, but instead allowed it to bend as much as the soldier twisted it. "What the heck? Okay..." He then dug a knife from his belt and pressed it against the branch.

The child did not want to get cut. For all its tree-like outer appearance, it still had organs and blood and would bleed if the soldier cut it. It would be revealed either way, so it shapeshifted.

The soldiers all gasped or yelled in surprise. The child looked like a human now, a soldier just like them, but with its own face and body, even if its "own" face and body had this far been different each time it shapeshifted, because it still had not come up with an appearance of its own. It had started out looking like Envy, but was trying to come up with something more original.

The soldiers promptly pulled out their firearms and aimed at the child. It immediately lifted its hands up. "Wait, no!" it said.

"What are you?!" asked the soldier who had fallen at it.

The child did not reply.


"I can't."

"What? Why?" The soldier waited but got no reply. "Does that mean even you don't know? What's your name?" When he still got no reply, he frowned and turned to the others. "Okay, let's take him with us and report back."

"No. I want to stay here," said the child.

"That is unacceptable. We have to take you with us."


"That's none of your business."

"...This is obviously pretty clearly my business since it concerns me. I will not come with you."

"You will."


The soldier pointed his gun at the child. "You will." The child glared at the gun, frowning and obviously displeased. "Are we clear?" The child did not protest now. Another soldier had started studying a map. "Where is the closest settlement where we can get access to a phone?"

"At our destination. Let's just keep heading the same way, sir."

The soldiers positioned the child so that it was travelling as the third person in their line. It did not have skis so it just walked on the tracks of the first two soldiers, but it was able to do so fairly effortlessly since it did not weigh all that much at the moment. The thing that bothered it more was that the weather was cold and it did not have much protection.

The group reached the abandoned farm. The leader of the soldiers looked at it in an assessing manner. "Hey, do you know anything of this place?" he asked from the child.

"It's an abandoned farm."

"Have you been there?"

"I sometimes sleep in a room over there," it said and pointed at the window of the attic."

"Hm. Okay, Roland, Arado, Fouga, go check the place out." Three of the soldiers left to investigate the farm. "What should I call you?" he asked from the child. "It's really inconvenient to say 'hey you' at you."

"I don't know."

The leader sighed. "Okay, you're going to be 'the kid' from now on. You look sort of young." The child did not reply. "How is it possible that you were a tree?" Again, no reply. "Why don't you answer me?"

"I have nothing to say."

"Nothing to say? Normal people don't turn into trees!"

"I have never seen 'normal' people."

The leader of the soldiers scoffed and scratched his head. "You're one strange case, you know that?"

The child did not reply. Some time passed as they waited for the three soldiers to be done with their investigation.

"I feel cold," said the child.

"Cold? How? That getup is very warm. And now that I remember it, where did you even get that?"

"...I have no clothes."

"Don't be ridiculous."

The child shapeshifted its clothes away so that it only had a very simple black swimsuit-looking outfit.

"Uh... fine. We have one extra uniform, right, Jaime?"

"Yeah," said the other soldier. "It's too big for him, though." The child then grew in size slightly. "Um... or maybe it isn't."

"Well, dig it out."

It did not take long for Jaime to find the extra uniform. The child put it on and shapeshifted so that the uniform fit it perfectly.

"How can you do that?" asked the leader again. "Is that some kind of alchemy?"

"I don't know."

"Ehh. You're very frustrating, you know that?"

Eventually the three soldiers came back. "We found a makeshift bed and these animal skins," said Lance Corporal Arado, holding up three furry skins of animals. "There were footprints of a few animals and humans inside the house, though most of the floor had been swiped so that it was hard to tell. But there were no tracks outside at all."

"How's that possible?" asked the leader.

"Well, the kid could have changed into a lot of animals and then walked around, sir," said Jaime, the soldier who had been waiting.

"Oh yeah. Well, just to let you know, the kid here is a shapeshifter of some kind. He's wearing our spare uniform now," the leader said to the three soldiers. "You didn't find anything else?"

"No. Nothing more around the buildings either."

"All right. Let's head out then. Kid, can you keep on running or walking?"

The child wondered what they would do if it said no. It hoped that they would leave it behind. "No."

"Okay, then you're going to sit in the pulk. Whose turn is it to pull it?" Fouga took the pulk and positioned himself as the second one in their line and tied the pulk's pulling rope to his equipment.

The child was displeased. It would rather have walked, but it decided to hold on to its lie for now. It moved the equipment on the pulk and sat between two bags.

Once the soldiers were ready, they started skiing again. It was obvious Fouga had trouble pulling the pulk with the child on it, so another soldier took a turn pulling it rather soon and they switched pullers rather often after that.

After it had gotten so dark that they could not see without lights, the soldiers put up a tent and set up night watch shifts. Because of the night watch, there was one free sleeping bag, so the child got to sleep in one.

Before they settled to sleep, the soldiers ate rations. One of them handed them out to the others who thanked and started eating. Lastly, the soldier also offered the child a portion. The child looked at the food a little curiously, but took it, thanked and ate it since that was what the others had done.

The leader of the soldier group was Lorraine. He kept asking the child questions about its origins and what it had been doing, but like Envy had instructed, the child told nothing.

"Come on!" said Lorraine. "Why aren't you replying to any of my questions? It can't really be that hard to say what you did yesterday. Are you trying to keep us from learning of some atrocities you've done?"

"No." By now, even the child was rather irritated at the repetitiveness of the questions. "Please shut up," it said, not pleading but stern and defiant. "You almost cut me, threatened to shoot me and forced me to leave that place where I wanted to remain. I do not want to nor will I answer your questions, even if I had something to say." It spoke relatively politely since it thought that would make them comply easier.

Lorraine was obviously displeased, but he decided to not push the child any further. "Fine."

The child looked at him and wondered if it should turn the questions around. "Why did you have to take me with you?" The soldiers did not reply. The child scoffed and was quiet.

The child did not sleep much during the night, though it pretended to, just to avoid the otherwise inevitable questions about it. When the light levels started increasing again, the soldiers got up and ate again. Roland did not eat, but he had eaten approximately twice as much as the others before they had went to sleep.

Lorraine asked the child whether it was ready to walk now, and it said yes. It then ran with the soldiers and did not slow them down, so they arrived at an occupied farm house by afternoon. Lorraine went to ask for directions, after which they continued moving for another hour and reached what was the small centre of a small village. They searched for and found the local post office that also housed the local authorities.

The group of five soldiers and the child entered the smallish wooden house. The space on the left had two tables with chairs and no one at them. The space to their right had a small collection of office and postal supplies. To the front of them was a counter where the workers were, and at the moment there was only one person there, a curious woman in her early thirties, dressed in a police uniform.

"Why hello! We haven't had soldiers around here for quite some time. What would you like?"

"Pleased to meet you, and sorry to intrude," said Lorraine and took off his hat and gloves. "Well, my first order of business would be to make a phone call."

"Certainly. The phone is here in the kitchen." The woman led Lorraine to the kitchen. "If you need privacy, I'll just go over to the tables. The room through here is a cleaning closet, and as you can see, there's no one in there. Do you want to see the room on the other side as well?"

"Yes, please."

The woman led Lorraine to the room next to the kitchen. "I'm Gwen Fragherty, by the way."

"Sergeant Major Fred Lorraine."

"This is our items storage, also empty. The small room here is our a files archive." Fragherty showed the places diligently, leaving no doubt about them being empty.

"Thanks, that was very thorough! Hopefully I'll manage to make this call quickly."

Fragherty led him back to the kitchen. "Oh, I better offer the others some cookies. Don't worry, we'll save some for you for when you're done," she said as she grabbed a bag of cookies from the kitchen and left Lorraine in peace. He picked up the phone, dialled the number and after speaking shortly with the person on the other end, started waiting for the line to be confirmed secure.

Fragherty took the cookies in a bowl to the rest of the soldiers who had settled around a table. "Here are some cookies. I'd offer something more but it'll obviously have to wait until your sergeant major is done with the phone call."

"Well, thank you, Miss!" said Arado. All soldiers but Jaime took cookies. The child took some as well.

"Please, call me Gwen. So, what brings you here? Or, maybe that's not a good question, your mission is probably secret."

"Oh, we were just patrolling, but yeah, you're right," replied Jaime.

"Well, where did you come from? That's not secret, right?"

"Nah. We're from East City."

"Oh? You're pretty far from home."

"Yeah, that happens... But how about you, do you run this place by yourself?"

"Not quite, there's another one too. Old Mick is the senior officer. He lives on the other side of this building. We're both police officers and postal workers. We have to do both jobs since there isn't enough work for either profession separately!" explained Fragherty.

"Ah, I see. Well, that sounds like it's a working arrangement in these small villages."

Meanwhile, Lorraine waited for the secure line and eventually got it.

"Hello?" said the voice over the phone.

"Sergeant Major Fred Lorraine here."

"Captain Vato Falman. Why are you calling?"

"I and my team found something special in Hillforest just west of this village, Cornfer, which is east of... Well, actually this is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, sir. It's a long way northeast of North City."

"Yes, I can see it on the map. What exactly did you find?"

"Something really weird. You know how you listed some of the special things we should look out for? I'm pretty sure we found a shapeshifter. When we first saw him, he was a tree, and then he changed into a soldier right in front of us."

"A shapeshifter?! Are you sure? Are you sure it wasn't just regular alchemy, or some kind of camouflage?"

"Well, doesn't alchemy require that circle thing? There were no circles there. And the tree was like... it was small and bendy and warm. Now that I think about it, I guess it was kind of like a human body, except not, obviously. And when he changed, there were these red sparkles all over his body."

"What did you do then?"

"We made him come with us. He's waiting with my squad in the main room."

"You what? Impressive. What did the shapeshifter say his name was?"

"He didn't give us one at all. He seems kind of out of it. I think he was being a tad moody about having to have to come with us for some reason. I can't understand why he'd have rather stayed there. It seems like he was staying at a long abandoned farm a day's skiing trip from this village, with nothing but a few animal skins for protection."

Falman was speechless at the other end of the line. "Er... how did you make him come with you?"

"Well, I first said we'll be taking him, then he said no, then I said yes, then he said no again and then I pointed my gun at him and he obeyed."

"Just like that?"

"Yeah. Sir. Er, you sound like you're pretty amazed about this. Wasn't this what you expected?"

"Honestly speaking, no. But good job out there! So, do you know how the shapeshifter really looks like?"

"Really? Um... Now that I think about it, I don't think so. First he was just like a tree and then he pretty much copied our appearance. He has a face of his own, though, young and round and with shoulder-length black hair."

"Were there any tattoos on him?"

"Tattoos?" Lorraine sounded perplexed. "Not that I saw. But why would a shapeshifter have tattoos?"

"Never mind. What is your impression of him? Is he perhaps hateful or violent or something else?"

"Um... I think he's mostly just so-so. A little sullen too. I think he was annoyed when I kept asking him questions and he didn't want to answer. But otherwise he's actually been kind of polite."

"Polite?" asked Falman somewhat disbelievingly.

"Well, yeah. Sir. Besides that one time, he hasn't complained about having to come with us and he says thanks and please and everything."

"That... sounds quite peculiar."

"Really? Do you know this shapeshifter we found?"

"I really can't say," replied Falman, with all the meanings of the phrase.

"What should we do?"

"Do the authorities there have a car you can borrow? You should get to North City as soon as possible."

"Well, she could probably give us a ride toward south and then we could get on a train..."

"No, you need to keep that shapeshifter as secret as possible. The less people see him, the better. Has anyone other than you and your team seen him?"

"Just the policewoman who's keeping up the house here. Gwen Fragerty is her name. Though... I think she thinks that the shapeshifter is actually a part of my team since it looks just like a soldier now. Unless my team has said otherwise but I don't think they have."

"Hm, good. Ask Fragerty if she has a car you can borrow."

"Yes, sir, just a moment." Lorraine left the telephone on the table and went back into the common room. "Excuse me, Miss Fragherty? You you happen to have a vehicle we can borrow?"

"Well, there is the police car. But it only fits five."

"But there are – – Wait, you're right..."

"That is our only vehicle but if you really need it, we can make do without it for a while."

"All right, thank you very much!" Lorraine returned to the phone. "She has just one car, but we can borrow it. But not all of my team will be able to come along, I'll have to leave one of them here."

"I see. Well, take the car and head to North City. Leave one of your team there, we'll send someone to pick him up later. Is any one of you familiar with the map or locations of North City?"

"Yes, Lance Corporal Arado is."

"Good. I want you to head for a warehouse by the number 13 in the old military area in the northeastern area at the edge of the city. It's a couple of kilometres south of the intersection of roads N72 and NE21. You'll meet another team there and they will give you further instructions. They should show you their papers and you should meet either First Lieutenant Pareil or Second Lieutenant Suffren."

"Okay, got it."

"You should be able to get there in five hours, correct?"

"In ideal circumstances, yes, but it's winter now. I suspect it will take almost six hours."

"All right. Don't let the shapeshifter out of your eyes. Do you have any more questions?"

"Nope, sir."

"Good. Good luck! Falman out."

"Thanks!" Lorraine hung up the phone and felt rather curious about the sudden rush with getting the shapeshifter to North City. Nonetheless, it was not his place to question those orders. He came out of the kitchen again. "Sorry to tell you this, but we gotta go. The boss wants us to leave right away."

"Oh, that's a shame," commented Fragherty. "But do have some cookies before you leave! I wish I could offer you a couple of cups of coffee but I don't have any ready."

"Thank you. Oh, since we all don't fit in the car, one of us needs to stay here."

"Ah, sir, I would like to stay," said Jaime. "My legs have been hurting oddly today so if I get a chance like this, I'd like to let them rest a bit."

"All right. Someone will come get you later then. Well, Miss Fragherty, would you kindly lend us your car?"

"Just hang on while I get the key," she said with a smile. Lorraine visited the loo and then Fragherty showed the soldiers to the vehicle, which was a jeep-like car with a heavier hull. It was loaded with winter gear and had chains on the tyres. "There's a spare container of fuel in the back. Once you get to the main road to North City, take the chains off. That road is travelled often enough that you won't need them if you're careful."

"All right. Thanks for the cookies!"

The soldiers loaded their equipment on and in the car and then packed themselves into it. Lorraine asked his soldiers whether they had mentioned that the child was not one of them, and when they said that they had not, he told Jaime to keep it that way. The soldiers placed the child in the middle of the back seat.

The trip to North City was very uneventful. They stopped four times to switch the driver and to take off the chains. It was already night when they arrived at the warehouse area.

After some inconvenient bureaucracy, the soldiers ordered the child into a crate and it was loaded into a truck that left for Central right away. It then spent most of its time in the crate and was only left out for very short periods of time at break times. Its requests for better seating and something to do were ignored. It started feeling rather bitter about the whole issue and eventually just sat in the box, sulking.


In Central, the box was loaded into another truck. That truck took it to East City where it was loaded into a smaller truck. It was then taken out of the city, but only to an area somewhat nearby.

The child did not know and at the moment, did not care how much time had passed. It guessed about two days. It had lost its peace and privacy and had not been able to sleep for a while. Like Envy, it did not need to sleep, but it liked doing that nevertheless.

Some soldiers unloaded the child's box and then led it through a couple of corridors into a lift that took it down, probably about seven metres. The soldiers took it to a rather bare room that had a cold fluorescent tube in the metal ceiling and concrete walls that had been painted white. There was a small grate high in one corner of the room. The room was furnished with a simple table with a drinking glass sitting on it, two chairs, a very simple bunk, a sink and a toilet, but nothing else. The door of the room was fortified. It noticed that the wall on which the door was was made of metal instead of concrete and it had a somewhat large fortified window on it. In the corner opposite to the toilet was a mirror that looked to be of a rather bad quality and was likewise fortified.

The soldiers closed and locked the door behind the child.

The child definitely did not like the looks of the situation. However, at the least it was alone and in peace now, and there was a bed in front of it. It took off its shoes, left them next to the door, used the toilet and then promptly crawled into the bed and slept.

It woke up some hours later but was slow in getting up since it had no idea what it would do. It started feeling hungry and looked around the room, wondering how it could get food. It saw that there was a soldier in the corridor on the other side of the window. The soldier was watching it. It walked to the window.

"Hey!" it shouted.

The soldier showed a hand sign and another person opened a small hatch on the door. "What is it?"

"Can I get some food?"

"At eight."

"At eight? When is that?"

"In about seven hours."

The child frowned. "Am I supposed to just sit here and do nothing?"

Apparently the soldier had a hard time answering. "I suppose so." When the child did not reply for a short moment, the soldier closed the hatch.

Displeased once again, the child paced around the room a few times. Then it filled the glass with water and drank it. After that, it spent about ten minutes thinking of something it could do and eventually decided to perform some body control exercises. As a shapeshifter, controlling its body came very easily to it, but it also needed that ability in a much greater extent to shapeshift properly and effortlessly, and that was something that came mostly with practice. For the next six hours, the child performed very odd and controlled movements and positions. It did not like that the soldier guards outside kept watching it, but at least they only seemed sort of curious, and since it could not do anything to them, it just tried to ignore them. For the last hour, it practised shapeshifting and tried to come up with an appearance of its own.

When the seven hours had passed, a soldier brought it a tray of food. It thanked for the food, which confused the soldier. When it was done eating, it gave the tray back and asked when it would next get food. The soldier told that in six hours.

However, six hours did not pass until the child was disturbed again. In the middle of its physical control exercise, the door to the room was opened and two higher-ranking soldiers came in. The child stood upright and looked at them. Both of them were clearly wary. The shorter one had a rather round face, black hair and the rank marks of a major general. The taller one had squinty eyes, angular face and the rank marks of a captain. From the information Envy had given the child, it recognised that the round-faced one was Roy Mustang and the other was Vato Falman. It also knew what Mustang had done, so it looked at him somewhat intently.

"Who are you?" asked Mustang.

The child replied after a short moment of silence. "I don't know."

"How can you not know who you are?"

"How can you know?"

Mustang frowned at the child. "You're a homunculus, an artificial human. Who created you?"

Now the child realised that while it had been shapeshifting, it had occasionally looked somewhat like Envy, so it could not deny knowing it and lying would probably anger the humans. "Envy did."

"WHAT?" shouted Mustang. "How is that possible?!"

The child glared at him. "I don't know."

"When did he create you? How old are you?" The child did not reply. "Answer me!"

"When will I get out of here?"

Mustang scoffed. "I'll ask the questions. How old are you?"

"...Three months."

Mustang looked quite angry. "I can't believe how she could have missed something like this," he muttered to himself. "What is your purpose?" The child did not reply. "Answer me!"


"Why don't you answer my questions?"

"Why are you asking me questions?"

"To find out if you're dangerous."

"Why don't you then ask me whether I am dangerous?"

"Would you answer truthfully?"

"If you don't think I will answer truthfully, why are you asking any questions at all?"

"You will answer me or I will burn you." He lifted his hand and Falman backed away slightly.

The child grew instantly more concerned and lifted its hands up. "No, wait."

"You seem to know what I can do. I assume Envy told you." The child continued glaring at him, displeased. He lowered his hand. "Now tell me, what is your purpose?"

"I don't know."

"Not good enough." He lifted his hand again.

"Wait, wait!" the child shouted. "I am not lying! I just don't know. Maybe I don't have a purpose."

Mustang lowered his hand. "Then why did Envy create you?"

"...I don't know! I can't read its mind. Why are you asking me that?"

"You know what I think? I think you're lying. I certainly doubt Envy would create you without any purpose. You're probably the first of many more homunculi who Envy will create. Or one of many he has already created. And eventually it will try to use those homunculi as an army to attack Amestris. That is, if he ever grows enough brains to organise something like that. I don't think he will, but even a disorganised attack is something I do not tolerate."

"...What?" As the child remembered the mannequin soldiers and what the other homunculi had done, it began to frown and eventually looked quite inconvenienced.

"How many more homunculi has Envy created?"

"I don't – – None."

"And why should I believe you?"

"Envy lost its ability to perform alchemy right after it had created me. And I was the first one it created."

"Do you seriously think I would believe that?"

Now the child stared at Mustang defiantly before turning away and crossing its arms on its chest.

"Miffed because I figured out your plan so easily?"

"You are making up ridiculous things!" the child shouted at the wall. "You are wrong."

"I have every reason to believe you're lying."


"How daft are you? Or do you seriously claim to not know about what your kind has done?"

"I am not them."

"You are one of them."

"I have done nothing to you or anyone else."

"Only because we caught you because you could. Now, one more chance, homunculus. How big is your army? And who are you?"

"I have no name, and there is no army!" Mustang lifted his hand again. "No, wait! Wait! WAIT!" The child brought its hands up again as protection and looked rather frightful. Mustang waited for a short moment, but when the child said nothing, the air around him crackled, and he snapped his fingers.

The front of the clothes the child was wearing burned away instantly, and the rest charred and fell off. The child's hands, skin and face burned off and its excruciation was incredible. Before this, it had not hurt itself once and had felt the pain of neither injury nor regeneration. It fell down like a rag doll, writhing and shrieking and not being able to control its regeneration in any way. It kept its size, humanoid shape and four limbs, but its skin and face regenerated back as somewhat bestial and slightly furry, as its true form had been.

The room was filled with smoke, but the ventilation system began to blow out the fumes very soon. The child, however, kept screaming. It tried to stumble upright but could only bring itself on its hands and knees, still shaking and writhing. Both Mustang and Falman were a little confused.

After the child had regenerated, it looked up with teary, hateful and desperate eyes and jumped at Mustang instantly. Mustang had seen it coming and stepped aside, burning the child's arms and face again, though not as thoroughly this time since he needed to control the burst enough to not hit Falman.

The child crashed into the frame of the fortified door and squirmed on the floor again as it screamed and regenerated. Very painfully, it pushed itself up into a sitting position against the door and looked toward the other end of the room with eyes that could not see yet, though plenty of tears fell down from the regenerating sockets. It then spoke while it was still weeping and regenerating. "Stop! Ah! Please stop! It hurts so much! Aah! I'll say whatever you want me to say!"

Mustang honestly could not say anything to that. Could that have been an act?

"Please stop! It hurts! Please stop..." It continued crying, even after it had fully regenerated again.

"...Move away from the door," said Mustang.

The child immediately scampered on its knees and stumbled further from the door, getting on its feet while it did so. It went into the corner with the mirror, as far away from the two men as possible. It first stared at them completely frightened, tears still running down its face. Then it caught a glimpse of itself in the mirror and startled. It eyed itself very peripherally from the mirror, not wanting to turn its eyes away from Mustang. It frowned and shapeshifted its feral qualities away, becoming a relatively normal-looking human again, though now instead of an Amestrian uniform, it had a black bodysuit like the other homunculi had had.

Mustang and Falman moved back to the door, and simultaneously the child moved along the wall further from the door until it reached the next corner, the one furthest from the door. It then slid down along the wall and hid behind the bed. It then gasped and sobbed.

"Get up," said Mustang. The child obeyed. "Sit at the table." The child so. It still shook. "Now, what is your name?"

"I-I donnnnn– – I-it's... it's... um... H– – no, Ma– – no, K-K-uh, no... It's..." After a very short moment of panicking, it just shook its head from side to side and fidgeted. "I can't, I'm sorry, please don't burn me! I don't have a name, I couldn't come up with one and even Envy was frustrated with that but I still couldn't come up with one! Please don't burn me!" It buried its head in its arms, curled up on the chair and sobbed.

Mustang still did not know what to think of the situation, but he was now quite sure that the child had not been lying about there not being any more homunculi. "How big is your army?"

"...Um... um... uh, ten? No, I mean twenty..."

"Twenty homunculi like you?"

"Um... yes?"

"Were you serious when you said Envy couldn't do alchemy after it created you?"


"How could it then have created more homunculi?"

The child just opened and closed its mouth a few times. It could not come up with anything that would suddenly fix the discrepancies of its claims.

"When will you attack, and where?"

"Um... um... in... in a year? At, uh, Central..."

"All right. Now quit it with those ridiculous lies and tell me the actual truth."

The child was speechless. "B-but... You just..."

"Shut it. So, you have no name?"


"Envy couldn't come up with one for you?"

"It... said I should name myself."

"And you couldn't come up with one for yourself?"

"Uh, not this far..."

"And there is no army of homunculi?"


"You and Envy are the only ones?"


"And Envy lost its ability to perform alchemy after it made you?"


"Where did he get your Philosopher's Stone?"

"U-uh... Envy gave me half of its."

"How could he split it?"

"Uh... uh... I d-don't know."

"Can you perform alchemy?"


"Have you tried?"


Mustang frowned. "How many people have you killed?"

The child frowned as well. "What? N-none."

"Why not?"

"...What? Why would I?"

"You homunculi hate humans. So why haven't you killed anyone?"

"...What? What? I-I know Envy hates humans, but I don't, particularly."

"That sounds like a lie."

"Wh-wh– – But I... I, um... Well... uh... Well, I um, I hate you, sort of."

"Oh really?"

"O-or... or think you're an, uh, idiot, but... um..."

"And why's that?"

"W-what? Because you burned me!"

"Why do you think I burned you?"

"B-because you're stupid and can't tell that I'm not lying."

"Really. And not because your kind, say, killed probably hundreds of humans and indirectly caused the deaths of perhaps millions?"

"That was not me!" the child shouted. Mustang held up his hand again. The child got up so abruptly that the chair flew to the back wall and the table almost tipped over. "NO! NO! PLEASE NO!" it cried as it took cover behind the table.

Mustang was confused again. "Why do you fear this so much? It isn't like you would die for good even if I did it a few more times."

"It hurts! IT HURTS SO MUCH!" The child turned the table over for its protection and started sobbing again.

Mustang huffed. "This is a waste of time." He and Falman left the room and the door was locked again.

The child shook behind the table for two more minutes until it managed to peek around it and then stumbled over to the bed. It then dug itself under the cover and the sheets and cried. Even though it had known from the information that Envy had given it that humans could be incredibly mean and irrational, it had thought that that was mostly because of how Envy felt about humans. It could not have imagined getting burned just because it existed and it certainly had not thought it would hurt so terribly.

In about twenty minutes, the memory of the pain faded enough so that it could think about its situation rationally again. It dug itself out of the bed and walked just slightly shakily to the sink to drink. At least it had left the glass on the sink rather than on the table. After it had drunk, it turned the table upright again, placed the chair next to it and then kicked the remains of its clothes closer to the door. It then sat on the bed and stared in a tired manner at the soldier who was watching it from the other side of the window.

The child needed to be really careful with the humans and especially this Mustang. It started feeling that its uncontrolled crying and shouting about being hurt had been really humiliating. It decided that it would not act that way again, no matter how much it hurt. It had no idea if it was capable of that but it still decided to at least try. Screaming like an overreacting child and squirming like a helpless worm was not how it wanted to be seen.

It also wondered if it really was that awful to get hurt or if that had only been because it had been burned. It decided to test that and thus shapeshifted its nail into a very sharp one and used it to make a tiny cut on its finger. It certainly hurt a little and the regeneration slightly more, but it was far from unbearable. In fact, it was not awful at all, even though obviously the child did not like even the small bit of pain. Apparently it was worse to get burned, or then the pain had been hideous because every single bit of its skin had been hurting. It really did not want to test that any more than it had.

The child thought about whether it should hate humans and still came to the conclusion that it should not. The information from Envy was biased and it knew that, even if there were definite facts in the mix as well. The child thought humans were inferior – how could they not have been when they could die so easily and could not shapeshift or regenerate? Still, it did not hate them for that. It only found them slightly less significant than itself, but it thought that humans most likely felt that way about other humans as well. It knew that even Envy considered itself more significant than the other homunculi, perhaps with the exception of Father.

The child started practising its behaviour. It imagined Mustang's questions and threats and its responses to them.

After about an hour, Mustang and Falman came back. The child was alarmed and stood up from the bed. Mustang looked rather sour.

"I'll give an order to have Envy killed. How do you feel about that?" asked Mustang.

The child tried to put on the demeanour it had just practised, but it was not very good at it yet. Its face twitched with concern. "I feel that you are a sadistic and illogical person. Why did you tell me that? Are you just trying to make me cry again?"

"That depends. Do you feel like crying?"

Whatever the child felt, it managed to hide its emotions for now and just looked sternly at Mustang. "Stop bullying me, human."

Mustang's expression tightened. "Do you really want to get so smart-arsed with me? What if I burn you again?"

The child clearly twitched. "Then you will burn me and I will suffer."

"But I would guess you wouldn't want that."

"Of course I don't! I couldn't even imagine agony like that existed! But whatever I say or do will obviously not prevent you from burning me again. If you want to burn me because of a moment's desire, then you will do so, and if you want to burn me because you think I say something wrong, then you will do so! Very little what I say or do seems to make a difference," said the child harshly.

"Oh? You're quite wrong."

"Am I? If what I say does make a difference, do tell me what I should say, because I don't understand what you want."

"The truth."

"I have been telling you the truth."

"And I have no way of finding out whether what you say really is true. Do you see the problem now?" said Mustang irritatedly.

The child frowned and seemed a little angry before it managed to make its face level again. "So... you will just torture me until I say something that you happen to find believable enough?"

Mustang glared at the child in a disbelieving manner. "I won't torture you."

"Oh really? Your people abducted me from my home, put me in a little box and brought here in this room to be burned! That is torture. What have I done to you or to anyone to deserve this?" Mustang did not reply, at least right away. "...So you apparently did it just for fun. Why, why do you think this is fun?

"I certainly don't."

"Why do you think this is something that you should do?"

"Because you're potentially dangerous."

"You are OBVIOUSLY dangerous, and yet you are not confined anywhere."

Mustang scoffed. "Fine, I may be dangerous, but I do not use my abilities dangerously and I take responsibility for my actions."

"And you think I don't?"

"Envy certainly doesn't."

"...Do you think that I am Envy? Seriously?"

"No, but you've obviously been created by him, and that is quite enough to put you under suspicion of anything."

Now the child just stared at Mustang. It had nothing to say. At the same time, it could not believe that it was being judged for the actions of its creator, but based on its memories, it could see why Mustang and the humans in general would be so wary. Rather depressed, it sighed, looked down and spoke quietly. "I am not Envy and you should not hold me responsible for what it has done even though it created me. If you kill Envy, what then? Will you just kill me too? If so, why wait? Why tell about it to me?"

"Stop blathering. We're done here." Mustang and Falman left again.

The child looked after them, frustrated. It then went to sit at the table and wondered what it had been pushed into.

At least it still got its food on time. It soon figured out the schedule of its meals: it always received food at 8, 14 and 20.


Two days after the child's rather unfortunate meeting with Mustang, a private brought it a tray of food and surprisingly remained in its room. The private was a friendly-looking man in his thirties and had rather handsome features for a human.

"Is it okay if I stay here and keep you company?" he asked.

The child was confused, but saw no reason to not allow him to stay. And that was assuming that it even had a choice. At least the private had formulated his question as if it did have a choice. "Um, sure." It kept eating but was polite and always finished its mouthfuls before saying anything.

"Thanks." He smiled and sat down at the table. "I thought the dessert was particularly tasty today."


"Listen, I want to tell you that... not all humans are like Major General Mustang. I thought what he did was... well, he shouldn't have done it. It doesn't matter much that you regenerate, I could see you were in terrible pain and that was awful."

"Oh..." The child was confused. It did not know what to respond and right now it also could not help but think about whether the man was trying to somehow deceive it or not.

"Anyway, I'm Private Martin Matilda."

The child just nodded at him since it still had not come up with a name.

"Hm? No jokes about my name?"


"Almost everyone at the least smiles at my name."

"Oh..." The child made a small smile that was insincere but no in any way exaggerated.

Matilda chuckled. "No, I didn't mean that... It's that my family name is a woman's name and it sounds funny."

The child looked curious. "Why is that funny? You don't have much of a choice with regard to your family name, isn't that right?"

"Right, but that doesn't stop people from finding it funny that a guy has a woman's name, even as a family name."

The child made a tiny perplexed smile. "I don't understand, that's silly."

"Isn't it just? I gathered that you don't have a name yet. How come?"

"My creator didn't want to name me because it thought it's better that I name myself so I know the name fits. But I haven't come up with anything."

"...Your 'creator'?"

The child frowned at Matilda and wondered whether it should explain anything to him. However, since other people already knew what kind of creature it was, it saw little reason to not tell. "I'm a homunculus, an artificial human. Therefore I have a creator, someone who made me."

"Oh, with alchemy? But I thought doing that was forbidden... and impossible."

"I can see why you would say that, but here I am, and you obviously know I'm not a human like you."

"I guess so then! So, how about coming up with a name for you? I can make some suggestions and you can think about them and see if any of them fit."

"That would probably beat the purpose of me coming up with a name myself."

"Well, you can just take an impression. Like, if I say John, you could change that and be, um... Johnny, or something."

The child rolled its eyes a bit. "Well... I guess there is no harm in that."

"Neat." Matilda then began slowly listing names that he came up with. "Here goes: Morty, Jack, Trey, Bertram, Stephan, Kimball, Sydney, Willy, Wolfram, Artemis, Frederick, Cameron..."

"Hmh... Aren't those all men's names?"

"Well, obviously. Wait, um... are you a woman?" asked Matilda in astonishment.

"I'm a shapeshifter."

"Oh, er, right. But... You must have some kind of true form, right?"

"...In a manner of speaking, maybe."

"Well, which sex is that?"


"What do you mean none?"

"...I mean that my so-called true form has no sex. It's neuter."

"Oh... that's a little sad..."

The child frowned. "What? Why? If I wanted to, I could shapeshift into one sex or another or a mix. But I don't really see a reason for that unless I was going to have sex in some specific way."

Matilda stared at the child, rather confused and somewhat taken aback by its direct way of expressing itself. "But... Then you don't... Or you wouldn't... I mean... Well, which sex you prefer?"

"None, I suppose. I think a simple form with nothing extraneous added is a better option."

Matilda stared at the child. "But... Why do you have long hair, then? Isn't that sort of unnecessary too?"

The child raised an eyebrow and considered the man's claim. He was right, long hair did not really serve a purpose. It then shapeshifted its hair away entirely.



"That... looks rather, um, odd."

"Well, the hair is unnecessary. Though it does feel colder now, so maybe it does have a function. Maybe a little hair would be better." It then shapeshifted a short haircut for itself.

"That looks better."

"Looks better..." The child made its way to the corner with the mirror and changed its hair style and length several times.

Matilda felt like telling that the mirror was in truth a one-way window, but since that was supposed to be kept a secret from the child, he did not mention anything about it.

The child made its way back from the mirror with somewhat long hair again, though it was not as long as what it had started with. "That is why my hair is longer. It looks better." It sat back at the table and continued with its food.

"Mm, yeah. I guess you do look better with longer hair." Matilda held a short pause. "I bet you'd also look better if you picked a sex. Or... at least more normal."

The child frowned again. "Mhm. Why should I look more 'normal'?"

"Well... that way people wouldn't pay that much attention to you."

"Oh? Even you just assumed I was a man until I brought it up. And I might not have noticed that you were only listing men's names if you had not brought my attention to your name and the reason why other humans think it's funny."

Matilda made a rather sly grin. "I still think you should just pick a sex. That's how humans are."

The child looked down at its food. Matilda was pretty clearly forcing his own view on it and it did not like that. "I am not a human. I don't care for having a sex."

"Oh, fine then. Would you like some women's names then too?"

The child was glad that the man discarded the topic that easily and it did not have try to explain anything more. "Sure, go ahead."

"Well then... Lindsey, Marie, Gwendolyn, Daria, Lily, Violet, Minnie, Jenny, Sarianne... hm... Curt, Richard, Donovan, Wren..."

"Hey... Is it common for people to have a common noun as a name? Like Wren?"

"Sure. I think it's mostly women and flowers. Wren is a bird though."

"I like those kind of names more."

"Is that so? Well, let's see if I can come up with more of those... I think Moss is a name. Heather, Star, Victor, King..."

Matilda kept on listing the names even though the child did not pick any of them at the end, at least yet.

The child still did not know what to think of the private since it could not understand why he was being nice in such a specific way and wanted to talk to it. It understood basic politeness and the way that reduced the risk of violence or other unpleasantries, but beyond that it was rather clueless, most likely because Envy had not given it any information regarding that because Envy had never considered such a thing. Envy had only been concerned with very superficial politeness and did not think there was much use in being polite. The child wondered whether Envy had been polite with it and eventually concluded that it had not been, though Envy had also not been impolite toward it.

It decided that human communication was really complex and wished it was simpler.


The next day, Mustang and Falman visited the child again. It was sitting at the table, shapeshifting different kinds of footwear on its feet. When the two men entered, it looked at them in a displeased manner.

"Envy is dead," said Mustang.

The child frowned deeply before making its face level again. It looked down at the empty table. "Really."

"You don't believe me?"

"Why would I?"

"Do you think I have some reason to lie?"

"Do you think I have some reason to believe you?"

"I haven't lied to you."

"How can I know that?"

Mustang looked irritated.

"Are you going to kill me?" continued the child since Mustang did not reply too soon.

"Not now."

"When then?"

"I hope never, but we shall see."

The child scoffed.

"You still don't believe me?"

"You are obviously hostile toward me, so excuse me for not taking your statement for granted. But I'll entertain you for a while by pretending to believe you. What then? Will you keep me here forever?"

"Well, that will depend on you. Are you able to function as a reasonable member of the human society?"

That shut the child up very effectively. Its eyes wide and mouth open, it lifted its gaze from the table an looked at Mustang.

"And are you able to prove to us that you will?"

The child had no idea what to reply. How cruel a joke was this? If it went with Mustang and started to believe what he was saying, how long would it live in the belief that it would get out of this place until they told it that it would not, or until they killed it? And if it merely ignored the vague offer and did not even try to work with them, would they eventually give up and kill it just to be rid of it even though they had been ready to accept it?

"Give me some kind of answer right now. I haven't got all day."

"Uh... If... if you really were serious... then being a reasonable member of the society sounds better than staying here forever or being killed," it said a little uncertainly.

"Would you be able to live in peace with humans, knowing that we killed your creator?"

The child looked angrily at Mustang. "That was YOU. Don't try to manipulate me by claiming that all of you humans killed Envy together. That just sound like a really poor attempt at alleviating the burden of murder by spreading it on all other humans," it said with a hint of disgust.

Mustang seemed a little surprised. "That didn't seem to be a problem for Envy. He happily blamed every single human for all of our flaws."

"When will you believe that I am not Envy?! Envy has its reasons for feeling like it does, and I have my own."

"Oh? What do you think was the reason why Envy felt like that?"

The child's face twitched as it started believing that it was possible that Envy was dead. "I will not answer. If you were telling the truth about its death, then my answer would be just meaningless."

"Well, then I'll tell you. Did you know how envious he was of humans? He envied the way we forge truly loyal friendships and how our friends help us in the face of trouble, no matter how impossible those troubles are to solve. He hated us for that."

The child frowned at Mustang and stared at the table again for a while. It had not directly known that piece of information about Envy since that was both private and irrelevant to their relationship since neither of them was a human. Still, what Mustang had said made so much sense that the child did not question the revelation's truthfulness despite the fact that Mustang was the one who had said that to it. "That would explain a lot of things and I can see that could be a reason why it created me."

"Wait... why would that be a reason for your creation?"

"Envy wanted a non-human friend or relative who would be there for it. That is probably my purpose..." Now it stared at the table longingly. Had Mustang really had Envy killed because it had wanted a family and a friend? Surprisingly enough, it only felt a little angry. The emotion that dominated inside its mind right now was massive disappointment at Mustang, his incompetence and his pitiful inability to research things properly and rushing to incorrect conclusions. The child turned its eyes at Mustang again and glared at him icily. "Mustang. Would you have had Envy killed if you had known this before you gave the command?" it asked, its tone as cold as its looks.

Mustang stared at the child silently for a short moment. "Probably not." At least the man had the nerve to question his decisions and correct himself.

The child turned back at the table and felt sad and alone.

"Are you planning on taking revenge on me?" asked Mustang in a surprisingly neutral tone.

"Why would I do that? None of you idiotic humans will learn anything from that. Another human would just seek revenge on me and in the end I would be dead and probably so would be you and some of your friends. What in the world would be the point in THAT?! Now you can live and learn from your mistake that I hope will haunt you to your grave. That is my revenge."

"That is just – –" Mustang started arguing back, but Falman took a hold of his shoulder and the Major General stopped.

"Please just go, and next time send someone else to talk to me," said the child and crossed its arms on the table and leaned its head on its arms.

Both Mustang and Falman stared at it for a short moment, but then exited the room without saying anything.

The child was sad and thought that it probably felt like crying, but it decided not to. Instead, it just lay still where it was for several hours. When its food was brought to it, it did not eat at all first. However, after the food had been in front of it for an hour, it reached over and started eating, not much caring that everything was cold already. As it ate, it felt so much like crying that it could not stop itself any longer. It wept and after it had stopped, it ate again, and then it wept again. It repeated the pattern until its food was gone. It then went to sleep again.

When its next meal came, it did not weep again. It was over the feeling of loss. Envy might be dead or it might not be, and the child did not really have a way to know that right now.


Private Matilda came to see the child again the next day. He was slightly sombre when he entered the room. The child was sitting on the bed.

"I heard about what you and Major General Mustang talked about yesterday. I really don't know what else I could say so I'll just say I'm sorry and that I hope you'll get over it some day."

The child did not know what to say back to that. It looked at the cover on the bed.

"So, I brought something else that's more fun! Have you ever played cards?"

The child looked at Matilda tiredly but a little curiously. "No..."

"Really? Well then, come on here, I'll teach you some games!" he said as he sat at the table.

The child felt apathetic and indifferent but joined him at the table nevertheless.

Weeks passed, and like the child had asked, Mustang did not come to speak to it. Instead, it spoke mostly to Matilda who said that he was now expected to keep it company but he was not required to ask it any questions.

In addition, some other soldier came to ask the child some questions about the military that it pretended not to know – Envy had given it most of its knowledge concerning the military, but no one besides it needed to know that. The interrogator also kept asking it questions about alchemy, which it found very annoying because Envy had told it about the basics of alchemy and it would have wanted to know more, but was stuck explaining the very simple basics to others instead, with no way to go forward and no way to practise.

At least the interrogator was more polite than Mustang. He also seemed to be as inconvenienced as the child since he had to keep asking questions that he pretty much knew he would not get an answer to.


One day Mustang came back and brought with him Major General Olivier Armstrong. Even the child could tell that the two had obvious disagreement with each other for some reason. It looked very displeasedly at Mustang. Mustang looked somewhat defiantly at it, but seemed otherwise quite a lot more neutral than the first two times he had visited it.

The child was sitting on the table when the two came in.

"That is the homunculus?" asked Armstrong.

"Yes," answered Mustang.

"Am I supposed to just believe you or will you show me some kind of evidence?"

Mustang turned to look at the child. "Would you mind shapeshifting?" he asked. "Please," he added.

The child had to admit it was a little surprised to hear Mustang say please, but that was what made it comply. It shapeshifted into Vato Falman, though the form was off and it clearly did not quite look like him. It then shapeshifted back to how it had been a moment ago.

Armstrong seemed a little curious. "You are also a shapeshifter?" she said, not really asking since the fact was obvious – she had just been taken somewhat by surprise.

"Yes," replied the child.

"And Envy created you?"


"With alchemy?"


"How is that possible?"

"...I don't know. And I truly hope you are not going to ask me all these questions that I have been answering here for a month now."

"Hmph. Well, what now?" she asked, turning at Mustang again.

"Well, I don't know what to do with him. Since you were so keen on taking Envy for yourself, I thought maybe you would want this one, too," he said in an oddly casual manner.

"After how disastrously that turned out?"

"I told you that killing it over this was maybe a bit of a mistake. Apparently Envy created another homunculus to be his friend and didn't plan to create an army."

"I still can't believe that YOU believe that."

"You weren't here when we talked about that. I explained all that to you and I think it's rather clear."

"So, do you now think that I should not have had Envy killed? That I should just have lectured it about the importance of openness and said that if it wanted to create another homunculus, it should have just asked for permission, and then I would just have given it the go-ahead?"

Mustang stared at Armstrong. "In that case, I don't think he should have been given permission to do something like this."

"Then it would have done that secretly, like it did now. However, now the thing that I wonder about is whether you really want to deny it the right to reproduce, since that is obviously what it has done here. As far as I understand, Envy gave that thing half of its Philosopher's Stone and half of its own soul. Envy may hate humans, but if what you told me is true, then this one doesn't. Doesn't that mean that they have the right to exist and should have pretty much the same rights as humans?"

"Wait a minute. 'Half of its own soul'?" He did not seem to notice that Armstrong spoke of Envy in the present tense, but the child did. However, it thought that the tense slip was only a slip.

"Yes, apparently it now has a soul of its own. It came to declare that to me loudly one night a year and a half ago. Does that mean something to you?"

Mustang looked very contemplative.

"I know everyone has a soul but I don't see what particular relevance that would have with anything."

"Hm... hm." Mustang just changed the topic. "How would you prevent them from making more Philosopher's Stone?"

"I don't know, do you?"

"Can I say something?" asked the child.

"No," came the unanimous answer from both of the Major Generals.

"I would not let them study alchemy," continued Mustang.

"That is a rather big prohibition. From what I understand, Envy was surprisingly good at alchemy because of the knowledge it possessed, and we have pretty definitive proof right here, since it was able to create a new homunculus with the very restricted amount of information it learned in Briggs and from Shrike. This new one could probably learn all Envy knew. So, is it a good idea to deny it the possibility of becoming a good alchemist? And since homunculi can apparently only reproduce by alchemy, prohibiting alchemy from them would prevent them from reproducing."

"They don't need to reproduce any more! Don't you think tw– – uh, one is enough?"

"Basically, I think that even on is too much, but does it?" The child looked irritatedly at Armstrong. It did not like that the Major Generals talked about it as if it was not even there and then asked questions from each other that they should have been asking from it. "As long as it will not make Philosopher's Stones or amass an army to attack us, who really cares how many of them there are?"

"Can we ever truly trust in them?"

"Can we even trust in other humans? I am quite sure you know that I will never trust the Drachmans. I may trust my soldiers completely, but I know there are people who would not trust their mothers."



Mustang lifted his hand and snapped his fingers. At the same time, Shrike jumped partially in front of Envy and lifted his hands, transmuting the heat of the flames and directing it upwards. Or, he would have, if he had been successful. Instead, Mustang looked at Shrike in horror and tried to alter the course of his flames, but that turned out to be much harder. Shrike's energy transfer did not work as well as he would have liked, and the flames engulfed his right side.

He let out a horrible scream, one that Mustang had heard several times before. Shrike fell down on the ground, and the snow put out his burning hair and clothes.

The expression on Envy's face turned very strange. Even Envy itself could not have been sure what it expressed, but anger, worry, surprise and relief were definitely involved. It dived at the screaming Shrike and turned him around. The cloth on his right arm and side were partially burned and melted. Envy tore off what cloth it could get off of the burn sites, but there was nothing else it could do.

Armstrong glared at Mustang whose face was very pale. "Envy!" she shouted. "Get up and step away! Mustang, you can save his life with alchemy, can't you? Do it!"

Envy obeyed. Mustang did not. "I don't... I'm not familiar with – –"

"IRRELEVANT! You're the only one who can. DO IT!"

Shrike stopped screaming. He was unconscious.

"With what circle?" asked Mustang.

Now Envy clued in on what was happening. "You can make one by clapping! You know what elements the human skin contains! Don't break the cells!" it shouted. "Adipose layer, blood vessels, dermal layer, touch sensors, sweat glands, temperature receivers, epidermal layer!"

Mustang stared at Envy. It looked intense and expecting. When he still did not seem to be doing anything, Envy shapeshifted the appropriate transmutation circle on the front of its skirt-like piece of clothing and displayed it to him.

"Mustang! Save him!" commanded Armstrong again.

Mustang darted at Shrike and held his arm. He did not think he would be able to fix it. Too much skin had been burned off and too much muscle had been damaged. What he could do was remove the source of the pain, and then Shrike could survive. He clapped his hands together and laid them on Shrike's side and shoulder. The slightly burned skin on his torso got a little better. Shrike screamed again and thrashed about, so Mustang kept him still by pressing his chest with his knee. Mustang then clapped his hands again and grabbed Shrike's burned upper arm a little below where it connected to the shoulder. He deconstructed the remaining skin, muscle and bone. Shrike screamed and then stopped. Mustang reconstructed just enough skin to seal the stump so that Shrike would not bleed out.

Both Envy and Armstrong stared at him, both of them angrily.

"THAT was NOT what I meant when I told you to save him," said Armstrong with very bitter surprise.

"That was all I could do to save him," replied Mustang as he stood up and stared at Armstrong. Armstrong's expression was more accepting now. "Why... Why did he do that?"

"He loved Envy."

Mustang's eyes and mouth opened wide. "WHAT?"

If Envy had not been stumped because of what Mustang had just done to Shrike, it would have enjoyed his expression.

"Well, since you 'saved' him, you'll be able to ask him about it later," replied Armstrong coldly.



"Envy, if we'll spare this homunculus child, are you willing to accept the sentence of death for your past crimes?" asked Armstrong?

Envy thought about it furiously. It did not want to die, least of all in the hands of Mustang. Still, it saw little other option out of the situation and as the humans had just admitted, its child was still innocent and would be given a fair chance in the world. Or so they had said. Envy did not quite believe them, but for some reason it had started thinking that humans apparently were that optimistic.

Envy made its decision. It shapeshifted its Philosopher's Stone out of its head and held it in its hand. Armstrong immediately took aim with her gun.

"Stop!" it commanded her. The least it could do at the moment was to make Mustang murder it. While it hated the idea of being killed by him of all people, it also saw that he would have wanted to not commit one more murder due to his silly soft morals. Envy pointed at him. "This is YOUR fault. So take responsibility and kill me yourself. That's what you wanted, right? You really need one more death to haunt you to the grave."

"Killing YOU won't make me feel anything at all," he said sourly and lifted his hand.

"Liar." Envy's tone sounded resolute. It looked at Mustang and finally looked like it was fine with whatever had ever happened to it in its life. "And do try to destroy the whole thing with one shot this time." Envy took one last look at the child. The child was still nearly expressionless, but Envy could see some sadness on its face. "You can make another homunculus one day. You know how."

Envy watched the conflict on Mustang's face for ten more seconds until the air around him cracked a little with the sound of alchemy and he snapped his fingers. The flames hit Envy's Philosopher's Stone and its body and burned it once more. Envy screamed.

Envy did not die. It fell to its knees and regenerated while it shook in pain. "WHAT THE HELL, MUSTANG?!" it shouted and looked up at Mustang when its eyes worked again. "Can't you do anything right?! Was that your idea of killing? You stupid human!"

"Just shut up!" he screamed back. "I couldn't do it! You were literally willing to sacrifice yourself for someone else. I don't understand." He started at Envy and Envy stared back at him. Envy could not say anything. It thought he was weak, soft and stupid, and yet it was sort of glad he had not killed it after all.

14. Special Gutter in the Brain Chapter (Explicit sex warning! Don't read if you really don't want to.)

Envy pressed its shoulders against Armstrong's breasts and looked up at her, smiling suspiciously sweetly, though its eyes told her quite clearly that it was not being at all serious. She kept her mildly annoyed expression. Envy kissed her again and they spent a while doing nothing but kissing, rubbing their bodies against each other and stroking each others' backs.

Even though the deep hugging was stimulating, Armstrong started getting bored. "Are you actually ever going to do anything but kiss and grope me?"

"Why, should I? I'll always be fine with whatever you're fine with if this keeps up," it stated oddly monotonously.

"Should I ask you what you think sex even is?"

"Sex is whatever you consider as sex. This can be sex."

"This is foreplay for pre-adolescents."

"Fine, fine." Envy pressed its face against Armstrong's breasts and groped her butt. She responded similarly but had had it with the rather ineffectual foreplay. She pushed Envy further, opened the front of its jacket and pulled the clothing off from its torso, revealing the tank top it usually had shapeshifted on its upper torso. "Huh."

Envy grabbed Armstrong by the waist and spent a moment grinding its crotch against hers. After that, it reached its hands under her jacket and stroked her breasts. Armstrong was surprised that it did not just rough-handedly grope her. In fact, what it was doing with her actually felt good. Envy twirled its fingers around her sizeable breasts and avoided touching the nipples for whatever reason. After a moment it opened her jacket from the inside and pulled it off of her, revealing her black long-sleeved form-fitting undershirt. It then stroked her breasts again, but this time it swiped her nipples after a while, and Armstrong actually shivered at how good it felt then.

Envy's face lit up with delight as it looked at her, though it said nothing. While Envy was focusing its attention of Armstrong's breasts, she had been stroking its butt and sides.

Armstrong started taking off Envy's tank top, but understandably that was not quite as easy, since it was part of Envy's body.

"Yeah, that isn't going to work," said Envy and then shapeshifted away the tank top, revealing its bare chest. Of course, it did not look very different to when it had had the tank top since the pretend clothing had been exactly form-fitting, but Armstrong was nevertheless staring at its chest now.

"Are those breasts?"

"Sure, if you want to classify them as such."

"Do you mean for them to be breasts?"

"What I mean is probably totally irrelevant to you. I make myself as I want to be and you will see whatever the hell it is that you want to see. And the answer to your next question is that yes, I do like it if you touch them."

"I wouldn't have asked that."

"You totally should've."

Envy started lifting Armstrong's undershirt over her head, but stopped once it had revealed her chest. She had a very supportive brassiere to keep her large breasts in place. Envy poked at the bra and her breasts a couple of times in a rather ungraceful manner, and Armstrong probably would have told it to stop if it had not done just that after only the few times. Envy flitted at her nipples through the bra before pulling down the part of the bra that was just over her nipples and revealing her chest, making her breasts fall out of the bra. As soon as it had done that, it flicked her nipples again with its fingers and Armstrong made a small sound.

"You know, I'm sort of surprised that you like this," it said.

"What, really?" she asked, having just slightly more trouble at controlling her tone. "I can admit it feels good. Why would you think that I specifically wouldn't enjoy it?"

"Because of your posturing when we started. It was like you had decided to not feel anything about this."

"Apparently you were wrong then."

"Don't turn this around, you. It was you who changed your mind about it halfway through."

"So what?"

"Nothing, I guess! You're just not one to change minds so suddenly as far as I know."

Armstrong said nothing to that. Envy went ahead and sucked her right nipple since it was at a fairly convenient height. Her nipples had already been hard, but after Envy had sucked both of them, they were hard all along the areolae as well.

Armstrong did not play much with Envy's chest, but that was mostly because it was awkward for her to do since her hands were at the wrong height for that. Instead, she continued stroking its butt, back and shoulders.

After Envy had made Armstrong's nipples as hard as they were going to get, it kissed her again and they spent some time fondling and rubbing their naked upper torsos.

When Armstrong stopped, Envy leaned its upper body back and held onto Armstrong's buttocks, pressing her crotch against its. It smiled with an unusually small grin and even its eyes looked surprisingly non-deceptive at the moment. Armstrong gave it an odd look but then just shrugged mentally and put her hands on its little breast-resembling pectorals. Envy closed its eyes and as far as Armstrong could tell, it did enjoy itself while she stroked its light skin and sensitive-looking nipples.

Armstrong stopped when she felt something new poking at her crotch though her and Envy's clothing. Envy smirked at her and opened its eyes. "Do you have a bed around here?"

"Of course not."

"Okay..." Envy looked around the room. "Will we use your desk, some kind of makeshift chair apparatus or go at it on the floor?"

Armstrong could not decide whether to frown, be irritated or be amused. "The floor is enough," she said.

Envy grinned and stepped out of its boots. After it had kicked them aside, it opened Armstrong's belt, took off the uniform's tail and pulled down her trousers and undergarments. "Aw crap, you can't get rid of your shoes so easily." It straightened itself and hugged her again, pressing itself against her naked hips.

Armstrong pulled off Envy's belt and pulled its trousers downward, though she could not pull them quite down because she was taller than Envy. Envy took off its pants the rest of the way and once free of its pants, Envy poked with its member between Armstrong's thighs and squeezed her with its hugging. It then let go of her, grinned at her and stepped a bit further. It took her and its discarded uniform parts, piled them on the floor to serve as a really crude bed substitute and then lay on them.

Meanwhile, Armstrong took off her shoes and discarded her trousers. She turned to look at Envy who lay on the uniform pile with its legs spread wide. She glared at it and its crotch. "What the hell? What the heck is that?" she asked and pointed at the mix of female and male genitals in Envy's crotch.

Envy made a sound that was something between a snort and a chortle and then chuckled. "Too much?"

Armstrong still stared in disbelief but otherwise chose not to express her feelings. She could have been disgusted, but that would not have helped anything. Envy most likely would not change its shape just because she said she was uncomfortable with the very odd way it was choosing to present its body. Even then, the biggest obstacle had still been that Envy looked and sounded like a teenager and not an ageless creature nearly two hundred years old.

Armstrong said nothing. She sat next to Envy and waited for it to get up.

"What's the matter? Are you having second thoughts just because of this?"

"No, I'm waiting for you to get up."

"Why, am I lying the wrong way or what?" When she did not reply right away, Envy twisted its leg around her and pulled her on top of itself.

Armstrong looked somewhat surprised. "YOU don't want to be on top?"

"Maybe I could try that... But I thought you didn't want to get flattened under me."

"...Right," said Armstrong once she remembered that Envy really weighed a lot more than it looked.

When Armstrong lifted herself so as to support her upper torso with her hands, Envy immediately started brushing her nipples with its hands, only barely touching the skin. It did that for a short moment and then started again stroking the body of her breasts with circular motion of its hands, not grabbing or groping them but just stroking. Armstrong had to admit that she really liked it. Envy reached behind her back and opened the hook of her bra, which finally released her breasts completely.

Envy moved its hips around a bit so that it could rub its penis along the midline of Armstrong's crotch. Once it had managed to do that, it hummed satisfiedly and closed its eyes.

Armstrong lowered herself and supported herself only on her elbows, which left her breasts lying on Envy's chest. Envy then moved on to stroke Armstrong's back and buttocks.

"No, this isn't good," said Armstrong after a while.

Envy was wondering what was up, since she had seemed to enjoy what it was doing and in fact seemed a little flustered by now.

She sat up and bent her back. "The floor is too uncomfortable."

"Oh. Well then, chairs or desk?"

Armstrong looked at her desk and pushed a few items on it to one end of it. "The desk is empty enough." Envy got up. Armstrong picked up the tailpieces of their uniforms, placed them on the desk and sat on them. Envy came to stand in front of her and grinned at her. It slipped itself between her legs and leaned on her crotch while it continued fingering her breasts.

Once Envy had manipulated Armstrong's nipples so long that they merely stayed puffy but not hard, it stopped, took a hold of her hips and back and rubbed its penis against her vulva again. Since Envy was now effectively holding her up, Armstrong stopped leaning on her hands and instead used them to stroke Envy's upper body. This time Envy did not bother to hide that it enjoyed the stimulation as well. It kept its eyes closed and occasionally let out small sighs of satisfaction.

After Envy had sucked her nipples again, she started getting a little frustrated again. "Are you ever going to stop teasing me?" she asked while Envy was somehow managing to rub its own vulva against hers.

Envy opened one eye and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you didn't want it like that?"

"...What do you THINK I wanted?" she asked somewhat incredulously.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe like this." Envy suddenly made a much rougher movement that made its parts slide forcefully on Armstrong.


"But sure, I can do this too." Envy then poked its member past Armstrong's external genitals and slid it all the way into her. Their private parts were just fitting since Envy did not bother to posture by make its genitals anything else but exactly compatible, size-wise.


"And actually I can do them both at the same time!" Envy shapeshifted something that Armstrong did not see at the moment, and when it next moved its hips, she felt something pressing and sliding very pleasurably both inside and outside of her. Envy continued moving its privates in that manner and holding Armstrong's back, stroking her skin. Armstrong rubbed Envy's little breasts with her hands and since Envy was holding her rather close, her breasts brushed against its torso or her own hands occasionally.

At some point, Envy grinned widely and opened its eyes for a moment. "Are you the kind of person who would enjoy it if I called out your rank while we do this?" Armstrong just glared at it tiredly and Envy chuckled.

Envy gradually increased the intensity of its movement, and at some point Armstrong had to lie down on the table. Envy reached over her and continued rubbing her breasts.

Finally Envy started seeming very shaky. It withdrew its hands to itself and leaned on the table. Even though Armstrong was nearly finished as well, she definitely wanted to see the homunculus get an orgasm. She propped herself up on her elbows and watched Envy through slightly blurry eyes.

Envy shook and grimaced as it moved its bits quite forcefully, and at one moment it threw its head back. "Ah!" It continued shaking and grimacing terribly and brought its head back down. For a short moment, it ground Armstrong's insides very quickly and intensely. Armstrong could see the muscles of its shapeshifting body convulsing quite oddly, even though Envy's forms were usually very stable. It then stopped grinding and convulsing and seemed to relax its body much more than usual. "Uhhh..."

It looked up again and eyed Armstrong. "You didn't come, huh? Well, here you go." Envy made its ambiguous genitals stiff again and reached with its hands to rub Armstrong's nipples again. Now Envy moved so forcefully that Armstrong had no chance of controlling herself. She almost shouted out, but managed to keep quiet by grimacing extremely tensely and pressing against her face with her hands. Envy just kept on rubbing and pressing her in just the right places and it took surprisingly long until she just had to stop or else she would start actually hurting. She was glad that Envy had the sense to stop nearly exactly at the right moment.

She breathed heavily for a moment and barely paid attention to Envy who leaned on the desk with its knees and laid its head and chest on Armstrong's stomach. She could feel the homunculus's weight pressing on her, even though it obviously supported most of its mass on its own hands. Envy lay very still and breathed peacefully.

When her breathing as level again, Armstrong grabbed Envy by the shoulders and pushed it off of herself. Envy got off but as she stood up before it, it held onto Armstrong's ribcage for a moment so as to hug her. Armstrong let her arms hang by her sides.

Envy opened its eyes a little and smiled a little non-creepy smile that Armstrong thought was not sincere, but she could not be certain right now and Envy's expression looked unusually unexaggerated. Envy had at no point handled her too roughly and had certainly touched her more gracefully than men in general did, and now that Envy was much more relaxed, its touch was so uncharacteristically gentle that Armstrong just looked at it in confusion.

"So, did you get what you wanted?" asked Envy.

Armstrong closed her eyes and sighed. "Probably." Armstrong pushed Envy a bit further, but it only let go of her after it had closed the hooks in her bra. Armstrong had no idea why it did that. While she continued putting on her clothes, Envy looked at a chair as if planning to sit on it, but eventually just lay on the floor since it had already broken a similar chair by sitting on one before.

After Armstrong had finished putting all of her clothes on, Envy was still lying mostly naked on the floor. Armstrong eyed it and thought that it almost looked like it was sleeping. She picked up her sword and poked Envy in the arm with the scabbard. "Get up and dress yourself."

"Five more minutes, mom," said Envy and liked the defiant expression it got from Armstrong. It grinned, got up and slipped into its clothes much faster than Armstrong, mostly because it could just shapeshift its feet into its boots. Even after having dressed, it still leaned on Armstrong's desk, looking like it was not going to go anywhere.

However, the way Envy bore itself suggested more that it was not actually defying Armstrong but instead wanted to just be in peace.

"Why are you so calm all of a sudden?" asked Armstrong.

"Oh? I guess that just happens after sex," it said with a shrug. "It's a sort of nice feeling." It was just looking a little lazily at Armstrong and not grinning or making any other faces, which confused Armstrong.

"You can go feel nice somewhere else. I need to take a shower." She stood authoritatively, close to the middle of the room, and waited for Envy to start walking.

Envy sighed, but only very shallowly, and walked to the door without protest. It opened the door and walked off, leaving the door open.

Armstrong looked after it and had a hard time making sense of the whole thing. How much of Envy's behaviour had been an act and how much had not been? She could not tell. At least there was one thing that Armstrong was now almost certain of: Envy had not raped Sukhaja. It had been so uneager to get to the point that Armstrong could not imagine it forcing a human to sexual interaction.

Armstrong left her office and headed for the showers. While she admitted to herself that she had enjoyed having sex with Envy, the whole thing had still made her uneasy, to put it mildly.