The Crimson Countess

Chapter 6 ‘ Returning from the Underground’

“I blame you for all this fiasco, Fullmental!”

“Why is it automatically my fault?!”

“Well, you’re always getting into this kind of trouble. This horrible luck can only be coming from you!”

“Ugh! Stop wasting your breath on complains and use it to keep running, you sorry excuse of a Colonel!”

It wasn’t rare for Ed to find himself running from something every now and then. It wasn’t even rare for him to have that something wanting to kill him. It was a rare sight however having to share that same predicament with his superior, one of his military teammates, and a pair of civilians.

"Falman, which way is the way out?"

"If we continue down this passageway, we'll get to one of the stairs to the catwalk on top of us."

"Very well, you heard the man! Keep moving!"

Ed took a chance to look behind them and check if they were still being followed. And yep! There they were. The missing students in the flesh, looking at them as if they were a piece of meat.

After uncovering the identity of the old school’s Principal, it was decided for Hughes to check on the Principal’s background while Ed went and check back with Falman the next day to find more information regarding the Institute he was currently enrolled in. Of course, Ed really didn't expect to be in such a ridiculous situation when he went back to the library that evening after school...

“Here are some records of what this place used to be before the Institute was founded,” Falman had informed as he passed a few folders to Ed. “The history records do seem to have a shady background.”

“An old Asylum for the mentally ill?” Ed asked in surprised as he read the files. “So it all went downhill when the place was accused of mistreating their patients, but it wasn’t until some of them went missing that it was shut down.”

Falman nodded. “The place stood abandoned for seven years before it was reconstructed and turned into a school.”

“And what happened with the missing people?” Ed asked curiously.

“The authorities never found them,” a new voice joined the conversation making them both jump on their places. Turning around, Ed found Hoffman and Simon nearing their table; Hoffman being the one talking. “There were no leads. So eventually the case went cold.”

“Y-Yeah, that’s basically what happened,” assured Falman as Ed turned to him for confirmation.

“That’s when the rumors of the countess started,” continued Simon. “Everyone attributed the disappearances to a female vampire that supposedly resided in here since back then.”

“Apparently some of the patients witnessed the abductions, but due to their conditions, they were never taken seriously,” Hoffman provided.

Ed folded his arms and frowned in thought. These rumors were going even farther back than he thought.

“You are well informed,” Falman complemented with something like approval.

“Hoffman is striving for the History Scholar career, so he does a lot of research for school work,” Simon explained. “I just listen when his babbling what he found.”

“I do not babble,” Hoffman murmured sounding offended.

“That sounds just like Falman here,” Ed commented with a laugh, making Falman cringe.

"You're a new staff member, right? We've been getting a lot lately."

"Oh, right! These are Hoffman and Simon," Ed finally introduced them. "Simon was roommates with one of the disappeared students, and I met Hoffman on my first day during lunch, right after a little… incident with a group of bullies."

Falman faltered for a bit. "Ed... Please tell me you didn't do anything to them."

Ed huffed before murmuring in irritation. “May be I should have teached them not to judge people by their height…”

“They- ...what? ...They have no missing limbs, right?”

Apparently that was not the reaction Hoffman and Simon were expecting, since they shared looks of confusion at their exchange. Something Ed missed since he was too busy appeasing Falman, seeing as he had turned a bit green.

"Relax! Hoffman came and took charge before anything could happen. Being a senior seems to have its perks..."

Falman’s shoulders slumped to a relax position and he sighed with relief.

“Well then, I guess you should thank Mr. Hoffman here, for saving you from the trouble of earning a suspension, Edward,” yet another voice joined the conversation. The condescending tone so familiar to Ed, he could only grit his teeth in annoyance. “...Or pressed charges. You do seem to have a very short temper after all. It must not be easy to control…”

Ed wondered right then if strangling a teacher fell within the ‘do not try unless you want to merit a suspension’ category. Instead, he settled for just glaring daggers at his superior who had decided that was a perfect moment to arrive.

“Say, Ed,” Hoffman reclaimed his attention. “Why are you so interested in the Institute’s history?”

“U-Um… C-class assignment!” there was a reason why he had never tried for an acting career...

"Oh, I just found the blueprints of the school buildings you asked for," Falman interrupted.

"Great! Let's see them."

"What exactly are you hoping to find?"

"I was just thinking about the disappearances,” he answered Falman forgetting all about subtleties; his focus going entirely on the mission. “There have been too many on the same place for the culprit to be taking them elsewhere."

"Are you saying the missing students could still be within the school grounds?" Simon asked incredulously.

"That would be the most logical explanation," Ed confirmed as he grabbed the library’s plans.

"Hidden in plain sight," Mustang mused.

"Right here," Ed signal the blueprint. "The library is supposed to have just two floors right?"

"Yeah," Hoffman confirmed.

"But the prints show a third floor, is it wrong?" Simon asked in confusion.

"No, that just means there's an underground basement," clarified Mustang as he caught up with Ed's trail of thoughts, who nodded in agreement.

"And it expands around the whole set of buildings through long tunnels," Falman continued as he signal the sections of the prints that showed it.

"The only question is... Where is the entrance that leads underground?" Ed murmured as he searched for it on the piece of paper.

“Falman, are there any blueprints of what this place used to be?” Mustang asked.

“Yes, they are just copies, but they are still clear,” he answered as he placed the black and white prints on the table.

Ed didn’t waste time scanning through it and his eyes went wide when he saw the building located just where the library now stood.

“This seemed to be a dining area before. But why is it crossed over?” he asked signaling the map, where a big ‘X’ seemed to have been drawn over the original blueprints.

“I read an article about it from back then,” Hoffman said as he concentrated to remember. “It said something about a gas leak on the old boiler room, which almost caused the whole place to be shutdown due to negligence.”

“So the boiler room could have been somewhere below the kitchen area, right?” Ed asked him, with an idea already forming in his head. Hoffman nodded in affirmation.

“Apparently, they solved the problem by cutting the gas supply and putting the whole building off-limits,” Hoffman continued as he signaled a different place on the map. “After that, they constructed a new dining area inside the third building instead.”

“Off-limits, huh? Sounds like a convenient place to hide a secret passageway,” Ed thought to himself. “After all, who would want to get near a building with health hazard warnings?”

“I can think of someone who would do it anyway,” Mustang mused with enough casualness to hide the annoyance underneath. Ed just ignored him.

“Could it still be there after the reconstruction for the institute?” Simon wondered, completely enthralled by the new development.

“One way to find out,” was Ed’s only answer, grabbing the library’s plans from the table and starting to analyze them as he walked through the bookshelves.

Twenty minutes later, they found a door hidden between two bookshelves in the farthest corner of the building. Upon opening it, they found a staircase leading underground.

“Wanna bet the boiler room is down there?” Ed commented as he placed his hands on his hips.

“Okay, this is enough finding for one day,” Mustang suddenly said, standing between the doorway and the rest of the group. “You should head back to your rooms.”

“What? But we are so close from uncovering the truth behind the disappearances!” strange enough Ed wasn’t the one to complain first; it was Simon.

“And who knows what we’ll find there. You better leave this to the adults,” Mustang resolve didn’t waver.

Ed’s quick glance at the two seniors’ faces was enough to make him step up.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” Ed asked his superior with a disinterest facade. Seeing Mustang’s confused expression, Ed turned his face the other way and placed his hands over the back of his head before elaborating. “You know how we teenager are. You forbid us from doing something, and we’ll just come back later and check it out ourselves… unsupervised.”

He said that last as he turned back.

Mustang didn’t look happy with the implications but he still sighed in resignation. “I rather not have you, checking the place unsupervised,” the fear of more property damage was implied. “We’ll proceed.”

The teens shared a small grin of victory at that before Mustang continued.

“I’ll go first. You two right behind me,” he signaled the older teens. “Edward and Falman, cover the back.”

Ed nodded in understanding and Falman saluted out of habit, but the stern tone in which Mustang had given the orders made it look like a normal way of reacting.

Ed was right, there was a very old and unused boiler room waiting for them as they descended the stairs. With the help of the prints it wasn’t hard to find the secret tunnel that connected to the rest of the underground basement. They walked through the long tunnel, reaching a section full of different doors. Most of them were closed tight, and the few that were opened didn’t seem to have any significant clue as to what was happening down there.

“This sure is anti-climatic…” Ed commented as he picked up a piece of paper that was too dirty to discern its’ contents.

“Did you mean ‘disappointing’?” Simon commented back as he walked towards the only furniture still standing in the room the two of them were currently inspecting.

“Yeah, that to-”

A loud clank coming from the wooden bureau put them on high alert.

“What was-?”


Ed approached the piece of furniture with caution, signaling Simon to stay behind. As he opened one of its doors, they were frozen in place by a pair of yellowish eyes staring back at them from the inside. A sudden screech coming from the apparition made them both jump and scream in surprise, causing their companions to come running to their aid.

As Mustang entered the room first, he was witness to what most likely was the strangest thing he had seen in a while. Simon had fallen on his butt, looking pale and close to hyperventilating, with a hand on his forehead, while Ed was sprawled on the ground, back down, with a grey cat stuck on his face; the only visible display of his irritation was the constant twitching of his body.

“What? Scared of cats now, Edward?” Mustang asked with a smug look on his face.

Ed grunted as he pulled the startled feline off his face. “You would be too, if you had it jump at you out of nowhere.”

“What’s a cat doing down here anyway?” Hoffman asked in puzzlement, watching the cat flee out of sight.

“Maybe there are other ways in by ducts and ventilations,” suggested Ed, dusting himself off.

“Let’s keep moving. If we don’t find anything relevant in ten minutes, we’ll head back,” Mustang announced as they exited the room.

Meanwhile, in the outside world and unknown to them, Ed’s little brother, Alphonse, was having his own encounter with a cat as he accompanied Winry for groceries.

“What is it, Al?” Winry asked him when she noticed he had bent down just outside and alley.

Al turned to her, letting her see a small kitten curled on his hands.

“It looks hungry.”

Winry huffed with an amused smile at the familiar display of the younger Elric. “We’ve got some milk, would that be fine for it?”

Al hummed his agreement with a nod of the head. As Winry searched for the bottle in the few bags they were carrying along, Al’s attention went back to the kitten, petting it with extreme carefulness.

“Something’s on your mind?” Winry asked him as she crouched down next to him.

“I was just thinking how Brother would scold me if he found out I’ve pick up another cat,” he answered with a soft laughter.

A look of understanding crossed Winry’s face at the mention of the older brother.

“Are you worried about him?” she asked.

Al paused for a second before deciding to be truthful and nodded again.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Winry reassured him. “He is reckless, but with Mr. Hughes, Mayor Armstrong, and the East branch joining, he has some great backup watching his back.”

“Yeah, you’re right… I shouldn’t be worried,” Al laughed feeling a bit embarrassed at being worried for what probably was nothing. Yet he still didn’t feel very convinced.

“Hey, Al?”


“What do you say we pay him a visit?” Winry suggested with a sly smile.

“Huh?” Al looked at her abruptly; his action helping to show his surprise.

“I was just thinking we could take the groceries to Mr. Hughes’ house and go to the Institute after that.”

“Isn’t it a bit late for that?” he pointed out, seeing as the sun had set some time back.

“We could always go tomorrow, then,” the more she said, the more enthusiastic she seemed about it.

“Winry, I’m not sure they’ll let us in,” Al shook his head, already dismissing the idea. “It won’t only be suspicious if I go, but you are a girl, they won’t let you in an all-boys institute.”

“Well, that’s just it!” Winry remarked in excitement, raising her index finger for reinforcement. “They don’t have to know we are there.”

“W-What?! How are we even going to pull that off?!”

Winry just laughed as she plotted her plan. “I can’t wait to see Ed’s face when he sees us…”

A few miles from them, the person in question sneezed loudly making their companions jump.

“Sorry…” Ed apologized with a sniff.

“Did you catch a cold?”

“Nah, I’m fine. It’s just the bunch of dust in this place.”

“I think we might have found something,” Falman announced from what looked like the end of the passageway.

The next room looked to Ed like some kind of experimenting area and it was by far the most spacious they had inspected yet, though the dim illumination coming from the walls was not enough to let them see beyond a few meters ahead. Beside them, a metal stand full of cages of different sizes stood against the nearest wall. The lack of sound coming from them, made the group assume they were empty, but the smell of the place was a clear give away of their recent usage. Ed couldn’t hide the horrified expression that crossed his face with the possible implications of what they just found.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Simon murmured as he visibly shuddered.

“Stay on alert,” Mustang suddenly warned them. “Something’s not right.”

Ed was the first to hear the low hissing sound coming from above them. He looked towards the sound, squinting his eyes in an attempt to catch a glimpse of what it was. As the hissing became louder he signaled the rest to stop advancing.

“There is something on top of us,” he announced.

That’s when the rest of them seemed to finally notice the noise. As they all turned upwards, a dense substance dripped down to the floor just in front of them. Even if a bit dark in color, it seemed to be shining with what little light there was. In closer inspection Falman concluded it looked like mercury. That got Ed’s thoughts to go in overdrive, but before he could reach a solid conclusion, a heavy body mass landed right in front of them.

As it rose from its crouched position, Ed found some familiar features coming to light.

“Hey! You are the same lady that got into my room last night.”

“T-That’s a lady?” Simon stammered.

“Hm? I know you’re a teenager, Edward, but I thought you were more serious than that,” Mustang mocked him.

“H-huh?! Wh-?! What are you insinuating, you bastard?!” Ed blurted out going red.

The ‘lady’ didn’t seem to take the loud exclamation kindly as she retaliated charging at them, and making them all back off to different directions.

“Everyone, retreat! We are getting out of here!” Mustang barked.

“T-There might be a problem with that order, sir,” Falman informed him as he pointed back at the door, were more unidentified individuals had joined the soon to be chaos.

“We are trapped,” stated Hoffman backing off from the entrance.

“Watch your back!” Ed warned him as he ran toward Hoffman, pulling him behind him, switching places and just barely avoiding another lady like creature that had lashed at their direction by crouching down.

Not wasting any time, he turned around with a round kick and sent her to the ground a few meters away. Ed blinked. He could have sworn he saw her wearing the Institute’s administration uniform, but before he could confirm it, the lady jumped back up and fled from the place.

“I-I see now that you didn’t need help with those bullies…” Hoffman commented in bafflement.

“Oh, he sure did! He could have been expelled if it wasn’t for you,” Mustang commented back as they regrouped.

Ed only answer was to roll his eyes.

“D-David?!” Simon’s trembling voice caught their attention.

“What?” turning to the direction the other teen was signaling at, he recognized a few familiar faces from the files he had check with Armstrong before. And indeed, a contrasting dark hair teen was among the bunch. All of them looking and growling at the small group with hostility; their faces pale with a strange grey hue.

As they kept backing up slowly, Ed noticed they were being directed deeper into the room. Mustang tsked seemingly catching up too. He stood his ground and pulled his gloves out of his pocket.

Ed’s eyes went wide. “What are you doing?!”

“Charade’s up, Fullmetal!” Mustang explained as he put the gloves on. “Everyone’s safety is more important than saving a cover!”

“I’m not talking about that, bastard! What if they are being control?!”

“Then what do you suggest we do?”

“Let me handle it.” Ed suggested as he raised his hands in a half circle. “You cannot burn them to crisps and call it a day!”

“He’s going to do what?!”

“Did he just call you Fullmetal?”

“Yeah, I go by that too,” Ed answered with a sharky grin.

“Wait a second, you mean The Fullmetal alchemist?!”

“So your name is not Blecher?”

“That’s just the Fuhrer's idea of a funny joke,” Ed dismissed it. “The real name’s Elric.”

The two seniors sent him bewildered looks at the new revelation as if their brains were having a hard time processing it.

“Fullmetal, anytime now!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t ruffle your feathers now.”

With a quick clap of the hands, Ed kneeled on one leg and pressed his hands on the ground, letting the lights of the alchemic reaction illuminate the whole room. Soon after, huge hands made out of concrete from the floor rose all around them and went straight to the group of hostiles, trapping them against the walls or the ground as they went. Within seconds, all of the aggressors were submitted.

As Ed turned around, he was met with a pair of shocked expressions; mouths hanging and eyes bulging out. This caused him to grin widely in amusement.

“That should hold them,” he commented in satisfaction.

“Great, now you blocked our exit,” Mustang said with his mouth full of sarcasm.

“There has to be other ways around that one,” Ed hopeful tone was turn towards Falman.

“The prints did show constructions of some catwalks over the ground as a second basement floor,” he mentioned. “They connect through all the sections of the basement. Including some rooms that are not accessible otherwise.”

“We’ll go with that, get moving!” Mustang ordered as he gestured Falman to lead the way.

And as it turned out, the missing students they confronted first were not the only ones around. Ed noticed with chagrin, how some of those people didn’t even seem to be students from the Institute, making him assume there were more disappearances related to this than they initially thought. So now they were running for their lives as they tried to reach the exit.

“This place is like a freaking labyrinth!” Ed shouted. “I feel like we’ve been running for hours.”

“Maybe it’s because we have,” Hoffman agreed in between huffs.

“The stairs are right over here!” Falman indicated.

“I’m not a superstitious person, but I’m starting to believe on these countess stories,” Hoffman commented in something akin to panic.

“That’s not it,” Ed reassured him, as they climb up. “With what we have uncovered, I got a pretty clear idea of what’s been going on here.”

“Care to elaborate?” Mustang asked him.

“Have you notice how some of this females seem to have animalistic natures?” Ed asked him instead. “Also, they clearly move out of instinct while still conserving a bit of intelligent reasoning on their reactions.”

“Humans with animal traits...?” Mustang asked incredulously. “You mean humanoid chimeras?!”

“I didn’t want to jump to conclusion on that, but the laboratory we found back there was a dead give away,” Ed continued just as they reached the top. “Thought I have yet to figure out how the mercury is involved in all this…”

“What about our classmates?!” asked Simon. “What happened to them?”

“They still look pretty human to me,” Mustang noted.

“If my reasoning is correct, the chimeras were used to capture them; hence the bites that were found on their bodies,” Ed said. “But I don’t know for what purpose...”

It took them quite some time to retrace their steps through the second floor, and by the time they reached the entrance to the boiler room, they had gained a bit of distance between their persecutors, but it didn’t seem it would last long.

“How do we go down from here?” asked Hoffman as he looked down at the ground below.

“If there’s no way down, we’ll make one,” Ed simply said as he clapped.

He created a set of gothically design stairs, functional enough to let them reach the ground and cross the doorway to the boiler room. With the door closed tight behind them, they barely had a second to relax before a low growl alert them of more company. Looking ahead of them, they found another bunch of the missing students standing right by the stairs.

“D-Don’t tell me they followed us here,” Simon stammered.

“It seems to me they found their way here on their own,” Ed commented.

Just at that moment, one of the mindless people came stumbling down the stairs with a cry of pain and landed on top of a few others.

“Good thing I got Hawkeye guarding the top door,” Mustang mused.

Well, that explained.

“So, we fight our way through?” Ed asked already in a defensive position.

“That seems to be the only way up,” Mustang agreed as he positioned himself.
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