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Looking Inside

By Neyamo

Fantasy / Romance

An unexpected event

The train slipped through the valleys of lush green grass and blossoming trees. Children on red brick bridges waved eagerly as the polished carriages sped below them in a gush of wind. The blue sky was the only element able to keep up with the flowing train; the white clouds sailed lazily in the gleaming golden sunshine.

The occupants of the cabins relaxed on red, well kept seats. A business man dressed in a smartly tailored black suit shook his paper out whilst trying to avoid staring at the person, or thing, in front of him. He wiped his forehead briefly. The day was abnormally warm for spring.

He tried once more to focus on his paper but, as always, his eyes drifted up to stare at the silver suit of armor in the booth in front of him. Was it a man or a woman? He didn’t know. Every now and again a single, tinkling voice slipped out of the armour to scold or question his companion – a short, long haired blonde youth with a surly attitude, the man noted. He thought he heard the armor call the boy ‘nii-san(older brother)’, but he must have been mistaken. If they were brothers, the armor boy would have to be twice the youth’s age in order to fit into such a cumbersome thing. And in this weather!
The man sighed and wiped his sweaty forehead again. The young today were becoming more and more eccentric with each passing generation. He blamed the parents. Out of control parents led to out of control children – as was evident from these two louts. He muttered incoherently and shook his paper irritably, trying once more to focus on the printed words.

Alphonse Elric, oblivious to the man’s inward mutterings, sat tidily on the seat with his metallic hands neatly folded on his silver lap. He watched the passing villages with interest and had waved with a slight chuckle to the small children on the bridges, remembering when he and his brother had once done the same. He looked over at his brother across from him and thought that some things had never changed. His brother still slept with his belly exposed, leaving him prone to getting ill, and he still snored with his mouth wide open. Al sighed as Edward Elric’s blonde head drooped down to his chest, causing him to drool over his black jacket.

A woman pushing a trolley with small delicacies and refreshments passed them. “Would you like anything to drink, sir?” She asked pleasantly while wondering curiously why anyone would wear heavy armor on a warm spring day.

“Oh, no thank you!” Al said in his tinkling voice and bowed slightly.

“Would your friend like something…?”

Al glanced at Ed, who’s metallic hand had started twitching. Getting Ed to wake up was like courting death. The blonde was not a happy bunny when forced to leave dreamland. Al preferred the option of living. “No,” he finally replied. “He’s fine, thank you.”

The woman nodded, bowed and pushed her trolley onwards.

Al turned his attention back to the window and contemplated on the road he and his brother had taken. A small part of him still wondered whether or not they had made the right decision of burning down their house and leaving Risembool. He was not so stupid as to assume that the transmutation of their mother had been the right thing to do – he regretted it completely. But transmuting their mother and burning down their house were completely separate decisions. Nevertheless, the decision was carried through and Al knew all too well that you can never go back. Yet a part of him wished that he could – he would have, for once, liked to have had a home to go back to. Somewhere to retreat to when the world proved too much.

The scenery outside of the window changed. More houses replaced the rolling hills and roads with cars sprang up where there should have been rows of trees. The buildings gradually became taller, fatter and darker as they reached the center of the city.
Al shifted in his seat nervously, feeling once more the trepidation he always felt when coming to Central. He had never lost the feeling he got when he first entered Central. It had been amazing for Al, a small country boy, to suddenly arrive in a bustling, noisy city so far away from his own quiet hometown. It was only the beginning of his adventures but he had felt he had arrived in the most extraordinary place. Looking back, Al knew that he was very naïve – he had traveled to places far more amazing, and arguably more mysterious, than Central. Despite his knowledge of that, he still couldn’t shake off the feeling of nervousness he always felt when entering the city.

A voice crackled over the intercom of the train, sounding bored and aloof as it reported, “Central Station, Central Station. Now approaching Central Station.”

Ed snapped awake immediately, jerking from his deep slumber and sitting upright. He glared at his brother with his golden eyes, “What did I miss?”

Al wasn’t startled by his brother’s violent awakening. It was a regular occurrence. “We just arrived in Central, nii-san.” He replied calmly.

“Any sight of that damn Colonel?” Ed growled and crackled his knuckles mischievously.

Al sighed. “No, nii-san.” He didn’t mention that he could hardly see any people due to buildings surrounding both sides of the train.

Ed continued to mutter to himself. “He won’t catch me off guard this time. That damn bastard, I’ll show him who’s better at alchemy…”

“Nii-san! Don’t go causing any trouble!”

“Who?” He turned his glinting eyes on his younger brother and grinned wickedly. “Me?”

Al sighed again, already predicting what the future held in store and not looking forward to it at all. He wished that his older brother was still asleep.

“Now stopping at Central Station. Now stopping at Central Station.” The bored, disembodied voice sounded as though it couldn’t wait to get off the train itself and go home.

The train slid to a graceful stop. Porters dressed in navy blue uniforms opened the doors with a united thump and waited to help passengers off the train.

“All right!” Ed cheered loudly and bounded off the train enthusiastically, leaving Al to grab their brown suitcase and hurry after him.

“Wait! Nii-san!” Al called and bowed apologetically to the people they had pushed pass. “Nii-san!”
He jogged after his brother, the sound of clanking metal echoing across the station. He was used to the uncomfortable stares people shot at him and continued to follow the blonde.

They finally stopped near the exit of the station. Al strolled up to Ed and looked around. “It seems that the Colonel isn’t here yet.”

“That’s just typical.” Ed said loudly and folded his arms in annoyance. “He interrupts us during our break to order us back here and says he’ll meet us – but what does he do? He forgets! I wouldn’t be surprised if he called us as a joke! That rotten little piece of –"

A cheerful voice called out over the usual hustle and bustle of the station. “Good morning, shrimp!”

Ed froze to the spot and growled low in his throat. Al turned around to see who had called out even though he had a small idea. A tall, black haired figure strode towards them and waved.

“Good morning, Col-" Al began but was cut off by his brothers threats, who had been waiting quietly for Al’s confirmation.

“Who did you call a bean so tiny that you wouldn’t be able to pick him out in a handful of beads?!” Ed’s metallic fist clenched angrily and he turned with a look of pure murder on his face. “You damn-"

“Nii-san!” Al called out in warning but it was too late. Ed walked blindly into a brick wall. He slivered to the ground and nursed his bleeding nose, tears of frustration and reproach shining in his eyes as he muttered obscenities.

Colonel Roy Mustang simply laughed. “Maybe you should look before you leap, Fullmetal!”

“Are you alright, Edward?” First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye stepped out of Roy’s shadow and crouched next to Ed. She offered him a white handkerchief.

“I’mf thine.” Ed replied, still clutching his bleeding nose. He wiped it quickly with the tissue. “Fank fyou.”

She smiled and stepped away to return to her place by the Colonel’s side. The Colonel himself merely chuckled. “Well, Fullmetal, I suppose I should be grateful for you coming today despite it being your holiday.”

Ed simply growled, the will to fight leaving him. Al asked, “Why were we asked to come to Central, Colonel?”

The group of four slowly made their way down the steps to the main street. Cars dropping off and picking up travelers trundled down the street. Clusters of people gathered to talk small talk. Strolling street vendors shouted out their wares besides the station and across the street. More cars whirled around a large roundabout, featuring a sparkling water fountain, and children dashed across the road to anxiously calling mothers.

“As you know, the Fuhrer’s birthday is coming up…” Roy began to answer Al's question.

“That old geezer? You mean he’s still in power?” Ed shot a meaningful glance at Roy and snickered quietly. His comment was carefully toned so that only the four of them could hear it.

Roy glared at him. “Silence, Fullmetal. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted,” he glared at Ed again as they approached a parked car and opened the doors to get inside, “The Fuhrer’s birthday is approaching which also means that the military ball to celebrate it is coming up.”

“Military ball?” Al piped up in the backseat. “But with so many personnel wouldn’t it be rather crammed?”
There were so many Majors and Colonels and Generals in the military that the idea of them all being in one dance hall made him think of packed sardines in a can. If they were all going to attend then there wouldn’t be much room for dancing.

Riza Hawkeye turned on the ignition of the car and steered the vehicle into the street. “Only a select few are invited.” She told him.

The Colonel nodded beside her. “And it seems the two of you have been requested to attend.”

Al’s eyes widened with delight at the idea of a ball. He knew from pictures from his childhood books what it would be like. Handsome men in dashing tuxedos requesting beautiful, fair ladies in shimmering rainbow dresses if they would care to dance; luxurious food on pristine, white tables with shimmering silverware; the twirling, dancing couples swathed in golden light as a delicate orchestra softly played waltzes. It would be a magnificent event – and they were invited! He almost squealed with glee despite it being a very girly thing to do.

Sat beside Al, Ed was more skeptical. “You could have just told us over the phone that we had been invited.” His voice hinted at there being possibly more left unsaid.

Roy turned to face them. “Seeing as you’re both underage you will have to have guardians of a sort that evening.” He flashed them a white grin. “The First Lieutenant and I will be your escorts.”

Al’s eyes grew ever wider with happiness, but his older brother wasn’t quite so thrilled.

“What?!” He shouted and thrashed causing the car to sway violently. “No way!”

The Colonel simply laughed over the noise of Ed’s violent death threats and Al’s attempts to calm his brother down.
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