“We have reached our stop at Rush Valley. We will begin traveling to Dublith in an hour. Thank you for riding with us.”
I opened my eyes and looked out the windows. The train had stopped at the station. I checked inside my backpack. Nya, the tiny black kitten that I had found in an alley in Central City, looked up at me. She had been sleeping. I smiled at her.
“We’re here.” I said as I closed the backpack carefully. I yawned, grabbed my bags, and stood up. The train ride from Central City had certainly worn me out. I mean, seriously. How can you stand to stay on a train for five hours straight without falling asleep?
I walked off of the train into the station. Well, the train didn’t leave for another hour. I might as well kill some time. Besides, this was Rush Valley. The automail capital of the world. I laughed. Good thing I was wearing a long sleeved shirt.
I wandered around for quite a bit of time, enjoying the sights of the city, and got some chicken for both Nya and me. I looked at my pocket watch. The train left in twenty minutes. Better get back to it. I quickly headed back over to the station and walked over towards the train. I heard a shout and turned around. Bad idea. Something collided with me from behind and knocked me over. Nya meowed loudly as I face planted into the cobblestone.
“Ow…” I moaned.
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry!” I heard a voice. My backpack was taken off of me and I was rolled over onto my back.
“Huh? Yeah, I’m fine…” I sat up and rubbed my head. Everything was blurry.
“I didn’t see you there.” The voice continued. My vision cleared slowly, and in front of me I saw someone wearing an armor suit kneeling down close to me.
“Wow… Cool armor.” I said. Before the armor wearing person could react, my backpack meowed again. The armor perked up.
“Al, I thought I told you to stop hiding cats in your armor. We can’t care for them right now.” A voice said behind the armor. The armor moved to reveal a very cute boy that looked to be about my age. His braided golden hair matched his eyes, and he was wearing a mysterious red cloak. I could feel my heart speed up.
“I don’t have a cat in my armor!” The armor, who I assumed was Al, said.
“Then what was that?” The boy asked.
“That was my cat.” I intervened, opening my backpack to reveal Nya.
“Aww!” Al said, peering into the bag. I giggled.
“I’m Alex.” I said, standing up.
“I’m Alphonse Elric, and this is my brother, Edward Elric.” Al said. I shook hands with the both of them.
“Where are you two headed to?” I asked, closing Nya’s bag.
“We’re going to Resembool. How about you?” Alphonse asked. I smiled.
“Same here!” I said happily, picking up my father’s alchemy book that had fallen out of my suitcase. Edward saw it.
“You know alchemy?” He asked me, looking at the book with great interest. I nodded, handing it to him.
“A little bit.” I said. “Do you?”
Edward nodded. “Both me and my brother.” He responded. My eyes sparkled.
“Hey, Alex, do you want to sit with us on the train?” Alphonse asked me. I nodded.
“That’d be great!” I answered, slipping on my backpack and grabbing my bags.
“Cool.” Edward said as we headed toward the train. We got on and found a nice little booth to sit in. I took out a baby bottle filled with milk, poured a bit of white powder into the glass, and put the lid back on. Edward and Alphonse watched curiously as I let Nya, hidden away in the backpack, drink from the bottle.
“What’s that powder?” Al asked as I carefully closed the bag and put away the bottle.
“It’s a drug. It makes her fall asleep so she won’t make any noise and get discovered. Animals aren’t allowed on the train, you know.” I said, putting my backpack on my lap. Al’s armor smirked.
“Don’t get any ideas, Al.” Edward rolled his eyes as the train pulled out of the station.
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
“You’re always hiding cats in there. If it weren’t for their meowing, I wouldn’t discover them. You’d probably have millions in there.”
“You know me too well.”
I laughed. I could already tell that I was going to be good friends with the brothers by the time this train ride was over.
“So, Alex, how did you learn alchemy?” Edward asked as the train pulled out of the station.
“My father was an alchemist, so he taught me a little bit. But when he died, I mainly taught myself. It was kind of a way to keep his memory alive.” I responded.
“That book you had earlier… Was it your father’s?”
“Yes.” I said, pulling it out. “Want to see it?”
“Sure.” Edward nodded as I handed the book to him. He took it carefully and flipped through the pages. “Wow, Alex. This is advanced.” He said, showing the book to Alphonse.
“When did you find out you had an interest in alchemy?” Al asked as he watched Ed skim the book. I shrugged.
“Well, I was four when he started teaching me…”
“You were FOUR!?!” Ed’s eyes widened.
“I guess. I mean, he didn’t know that I had an interest in alchemy until I transmuted a stone for him.” I said, pulling a wooden box out of my suitcase. I opened it and took out a little stone cat.
“You really like cats, don’t you?” Alphonse asked me, eyes sparkling. I giggled.
“Yeah. Here.” I gently placed the stone in his hand. He inspected it.
“It’s super detailed, brother. Look.” Al handed the stone to Edward.
“So what did your father teach you?” Ed asked, fingering the stone cat’s intricate designs.
“The first thing he taught me was that everything in the universe was connected. ‘All is one, and one is all’ was the phrase he’d use. After I got that down, I learned the basics: The balancing of chemical equations, the law of conservation of matter, that kind of stuff. Then he taught me to draw the transmutation circles.” I said, looking down. “He had just taught me the dangers of human transmutation when he died.”
Alphonse and Edward looked a bit uneasy. “Yeah, it’s not a great idea.” Ed said, biting his lip. I nodded.
“I agree. All sorts of things could go wrong.” I said, trying to bring the conversation to a close. I didn’t really feel like talking about the effects of human transmutation right now. Instead, I looked out the window and watched the scenery change. The beautiful green meadow that was rushing by outside our train made me feel a bit drowsy. I rested my head on my suitcase and closed my eyes.
“Brother, I think Alex fell asleep.” Alphonse said after several minutes had passed.
“You’re probably right. She seemed tired.” I heard a book close, which I assumed was Ed setting down my alchemy book.
“Can she stay with us?”
“We barely know her, Al!”
“I think she’s a runaway. Or orphan.”
“I doubt it, Al. She probably lives with her mother.”
“I don’t think so. She seems like she travels a lot.”
“What makes you say that?”
“She has a kitten with her, brother. You’re always telling me that we can’t keep cats because we can’t care for them.”
“Why would she keep her cat with her if she had a home?”
Ed was silent for a minute. “I don’t know, Al. She probably has a reason.”
“How should I know?”
The two brothers were quiet for a bit.
“Maybe her house burned down.” Edward broke the silence.
“Her mother would be with her.” Alphonse responded cleverly.
“So maybe she did run away. But even if we did offer to take her in, she probably would say no. She doesn’t know us that well.”
“It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
By the time the boys’ discussion had reached this point, I had officially given up on the idea of taking a nap. For some reason, I couldn’t fall asleep. I “woke up” a few minutes later, as not to give the brothers the idea that I had been (accidentally, mind you) eavesdropping on their conversation. When I opened my eyes, I discovered that Ed, too, had decided to get some sleep. His chest rose and fell rhythmically as the sun shone down on his golden hair. I turned a bit pink.
“Hi, Alex. Have a nice nap?” Alphonse greeted me. I nodded.
“Yeah. How you doing?” I replied, rubbing my eyes.
“Good, thanks for asking.” We were quiet for a few seconds.
“So, Alex, why are you going to Resembool?” Al asked. Before I could reply, the train turned slightly, causing Edward’s head to crash on into Al’s armor. He woke up with a start.
“Ow! Dang it…” He said, wincing. I giggled quickly.
“Are you okay?” I asked, resisting the urge to put my hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine…” He said, rubbing his head.
“Oh. Okay. So, Alphonse, I used to live in Resembool. I’m just giving my old friend Piper a surprise visit. I’m gonna get a hotel room in town and stay for a few days.” I said.
“Would you three like anything to drink?” A young woman, who I assumed was a crew member, stopped by our little booth.
“Yeah. Do you have tea?” I asked. The lady nodded and looked at Edward.
“Oh. Anything but milk, I guess. Water?” Ed was caught a bit off guard. The lady nodded again and turned towards Alphonse.
“Oh, no thanks. I’m fine.” The lady smiled and walked away.
I looked at Ed. “A fellow milk hater?” I asked, smiling. He nodded and smirked.
“Finally. Someone who sees the stuff for what it really is.” He said.
“That’s the reason you’re so short, brother. You don’t drink it.” Al decided to insert his opinion. Edward stared daggers at his younger brother. I laughed.
“He’s not short. I’m five four and fifteen. He’s taller than I am.” I said, shrugging. Ed’s eyes sparkled.
“Hear that, Al? She said I’m tall!” He said happily.
“Did you move to Rush Valley?” Al asked me, pretending not to notice his brother’s comment.
“No, I just like exploring. I started traveling after my mom died.” I said, then covered my mouth. Why was I so trusting with them? I had just met the boys. I hadn’t even known them an hour, and they already knew that I was an orphan. Still, it kind of felt nice, getting my burdens off of my chest.
“Oh.” Edward said, looking at Al.
“She’s an orphan.”
“She knows alchemy.”
“She likes cats.”
“She hates milk.”
“She likes traveling.”
“She thinks I’m tall.”
The brothers nodded and turned to look at me.
“Would you like to stay with us?” They asked simultaneously.