The Flower Princess and the Alchemist @bloodpokemon101
Bluebird Illusion

(A/N: Here's chapter eighteen! This chapter would focus on Nina. Enjoy!

risedragon0009: Thanks for the review! Yeah, people should never try to force someone to tell them one of the biggest tragedies in their live. But people in both real life and fiction just don't get that. But sometimes, it's understandable. We all have some sense of immaturity or tactlessness in us, whether we admit it or not. It takes someone extremely mature and/or patient to resist asking the question 'why are you like that?' or 'what happened to make you like that?', you know? Which is the point I was getting in the last author's note. Which shows just how perceptive and insightful and mature Orihime is under her ditzy exterior.

Inquisitor: Thanks for the review! I love making Edward/Orihime moments! The romantic tension between them would become more and more obvious as the story goes on. I'm not sad about Winry not getting anyone. It's not that I don't want her to end up alone because I hate her, which is not true. I have said over and over how much I like her. It's just that I feel Winry doesn't need a man to feel complete because she's already complete, at least to me. The only reason I could see Winry needing a man is if she wants kids to continue her automail legacy. But you don't need a man to have kids. Adoption is an option. Or just simply impregnate herself with a sperm donor, but I'm not sure if they have that yet in the 1900s. Sorry, I don't know when sperm donation became a thing. Or another option is to take on an apprentice to keep her legacy going. But someone has suggested a Winry/Ling pairing to me. And honestly, I won't say I haven't thought about it once or twice, nor is it a bad idea. I just don't know how to start a romance between the two. Plus, I like Ling/Lan Fan better. Oh, and about Orihime telling them her secret because Ed told her theirs... I won't say she hasn't thought about it. But the closer she feels towards Ed and Al, the more she doesn't want to, in fear of ruining their already semi-normal life and goal. They already got the stress of trying to get their bodies back, don't want to pile on more problems that have nothing to do with it or any connection with it, so she thinks. Which, of course, ends up biting her in the ass later, but we'll get to that when get to it.

treyalexander63917: Thanks for reviewing! I'm glad I got you hooked. Thanks! Oh, and about Nina being stronger than Edward... I was speaking theoretically. She won't be as strong now. But she would be twice as strong than Edward is at his current age. You know, the age that he is in the story now. But there's not going to be a five to seven year timeskip in this story, obviously. So, this is more like an eventual thing or distant future thing. I would say, Nina would become one of the most powerful humans (FMA standards) that exists in her world when she gets older. If that makes sense.

ShinyKyu: Thanks for the review! Um, there's not going to be any Ichigo/Rukia. It's just what Orihime thinks because the both of them are super close. And it also plays apart her sense of low self-esteem and unworthiness of him, giving all that has happened to her and her experiences during the Hueco Mundo arc. Hence, part of the reason why she wants to get stronger, so she'll feel worthy of both him and his love. After all, the guy did almost die trying to save her. He was closer to death trying to rescue her than when he was rescuing Rukia. Orihime has got to have an extremely immense amount of guilt witnessing Ichigo die and coming back alive as a Hollow, going through any means necessary to save and protect her, not to mention the psychological issues this pertains. And not to mention all the abuse, shown and implied, she went through during her kidnapping prior to the incident. Psychological, mental, physical, you name it. I found it sad Kubo didn't explore the aftereffects just a little bit. It's no wonder the poor girl completely broke down when she thought Ichigo was dead, yet people like to criticize her, saying how useless she is and that she's not worth saving because she's 'weak', which, in harsh hindsight, is victim blaming. Blaming a victim for the awful situation they are put in, which they have NO control over. And there's a moment, which some people consider it one of the most 'annoying' Orihime moments, is when she repeated Ichigo's name over and over when Ichigo 'died', at least in the sub version. The dub doesn't do that. But the people don't understand the meaning behind it. And to those people, they have no understanding of abuse at all, and are really immature and/or cruel. Orihime repeating Ichigo's name over and over has no meaning behind it. What I mean, it shows the extremity of her immense mental breakdown at that moment. All the abuse she went through piled on and on until she just has a total breakdown. And that's what abuse does. It piles on and on and on until the victim has a mental/emotional breakdown sending them into total depression and despair. Plus, Aizen psychologically tortured her into believing she joined the Arrancars, actively betraying Ichigo, her friends, and the Soul Reapers. So, in a sense, Orihime thinks she killed Ichigo, indirectly. Yeah, so don't people shouldn't fucking blame the poor girl for breaking down like did because the clearly have no understanding of her situation at all. *sigh* Anyway, in short, Orihime may have had a few self-worth issues, but the whole incident probably made her sense of self worth practically worse or completely nonexistent by then end of it until she got better during the timeskip, which once again I'm disappointed they didn't explore it. But continuing on... Right now, she feels the one worthy to stand by Ichigo's side is Rukia, not her for obvious reasons, like I mentioned. But this isn't going to be a Ichigo/Orihime [still my favorite Bleach pairing], and if people want to think Ichigo/Rukia is going to happen, they can go ahead and imagine it. Bleach pairings aren't going to be explored, other than Orihime's since they are only making a minor appearance at then end of the story. Besides the little Bleach world snippets I do. And yeah, 'Eddie' did sound weird to me, too, seeing as it's too cute of a nickname for Edward [giving how he is]. But this is Orihime we're talking about. Most of the things she says is weird, yet oddly cute and adorable in a way.

But before we move onto the chapter, I feel like everyone should know my stance on Ichigo/Rukia and Ichigo/Orihime. Onto Ichigo/Rukia... First, I'm not a fan of Ichigo/Rukia. I don't hate the pairing and I don't mind people who like it [except when they bash Orihime, calling her weak, useless, etc.]. I just don't see it. It's more of a brother/sister relationship to me, just like Edward/Winry, which Kubo has said that's the type of relationship Ichigo and Rukia are supposed to have. And the fact, the pairing practically died after the Soul Society arc. Yes, Rukia gives Ichigo that push he needs because, let's face it, he's an idiot at times and someone has to set him straight. And I have read the manga, twice in fact, which I normally don't do, but someone suggested I read because I'm missing manga-only information, and seeing as I'm working on this story... Yeah, I needed all the information I could get to have a better understanding of Orihime and the other Bleach characters. And yes, Ichigo/Rukia most definitely died after the Soul Society arc. All the Ichigo/Rukia you see in the anime, never happened in the manga. They are filler. I don't know if the animators were Ichigo/Rukia lovers, or if they just like trolling us, so they added all those Ichigo/Rukia moments that, once again, didn't happen in the manga. Even going as far as to take out a lot of Ichigo/Orihime moments to further support Ichigo/Rukia. Honestly, the only thing Rukia does after the SS arc is tell Ichigo to get his act together and apologize to Orihime and telling him Orihime not just his friend, she's hers, too. Which is kind of equivalent of a big sister harshly scolding her naive and foolish little brother.

Now, onto Ichigo/Orihime... Oh, my god... I don't know where to start. There's just so much...! First off, this was my first pairing I ever supported, not only in Bleach, but in anime in general. I just love it to pieces! Okay, let's start with Orihime. Dammit, I love the girl! I don't care how 'useless' and 'weak' people presume she is, I love her! But for time's sake, I'm going to focus on the reason why Orihime fell in love with Ichigo. Simple, he gave her a reason to live and a purpose in life and a reason to smile. And I'll elaborate on what I mean by going on her pre-timeskip vs her post-timeskip self. After seeing everything went through and exploring it, I feel like all of Orihime's smiles pre-timeskip were fakes. Well, not all of them, but most of them. She'd only smiled to please other people because that's what's expected of her. In her mind, if she doesn't please other people, then she's considered a selfish individual and Orihime hates to being seen as a selfish person in any way, even if it is within reason. Orihime is a selfless girl, too selfless if you ask me. And she's also shows the negative implications of being too selfless, especially during the Arrancar and Hueco Mundo arcs. Orihime is the type to put the happiness of others above her own, no matter what and to do otherwise would be considered 'selfish', in her opinion. Orihime shows the flaw of being selfless. A girl that goes out of her way to please others and make them happy in the expense of her own happiness. And what you get by the end of that is a somewhat broken girl who is willing to live in a miserable hellhole if it that what it takes to ensure other people's happiness because doing so otherwise would be 'selfish'. I think Orihime represents the fatal flaw of selflessness. Which is part of the reason I think Aizen targeted her. Knowing him, he probably say through this flaw and the negative consequences of it, which is why she was such an easy target before she even realize the flaw of selflessness herself. And it's understandable why she tries so hard to be selfless and a people-pleaser. Think about it, the first twelve, maybe thirteen years of her life Orihime had no friends. Yeah, it was much of a shock to you as it is to me. This ditzy girl who, in universe, everyone absolutely loved and adored had no friends? Yeah, right. But hold up and listen for a moment... Orihime has said time and time again that Tatsuki was the first friend that she ever made, and that was a year after her older brother, Sora, died. And again, she was twelve by the time of his death, so what does that tell you? To add to that, it was said that Orihime had a drunk father and a prostitute of a mother who would very often abuse their children. Orihime may have not remembered any of the abuse because she was so little at the time, but the abuse probably had a lasting subconscious effect on her. And most of those people who claim to 'like' her, they don't like her for her or her personality. They merely like her because she's pretty and has big boobs, which merely makes her an object of lust and not a person. And this adds to her already lonely nature. Orihime has even stated that after Sora's death and before she befriended Tatsuki, she was an incredibly lonely and depressed girl, who would often skip school and not talk or interact with anyone. And the constant bullying before and after Sora's death didn't help the already depressed and mourning girl either. It most likely made it worse. Taking her situation at the moment in her life to its most logical extremes, there's a high chance she would've committed suicide, if Tatsuki didn't befriend her. Which is why Orihime cherishes her friendship with Tatsuki so much. She saved her from her loneliness. And now onto, Ichigo... Ichigo is the guy who gave Orihime a reason to smile, like I mentioned before. A true, genuine reason to smile. As I said before, Orihime is a selfless person who likes to make others happy in the expense of her own. I think the Bleach opening 6 song 'Alones' can some up Orihime's character and emotions pretty nicely, especially the line about 'it's okay to smile for yourself'. That line fits Orihime's post-timeskip self perfectly. She learns that it's okay to smile for herself, that it's okay to be a little selfish, and that it's okay to find happiness for herself and doing so isn't wrong at all, and it's all thanks to Ichigo. Which also goes into her new ability 'Shiten Koshun', which goes to show how much she developed as a character as she finds being a little bit selfish is not a bad thing. The part where Orihime confesses to Riruka that she likes Ichigo because he 'saved' her gets me every time. She's not just saying he rescued her, but he gave her a reason to continue living and a 'true' reason to smile. So, the next time you go around saying Orihime didn't change at all during the timeskip, think about what you are saying. Is she really happy behind all those smiles or is she depressed? And now Ichigo, for those curious about the 'Ichigo' part of the Ichigo/Orihime pairing. Orihime is Ichigo's sun. Haven't you guys noticed that Orihime is always portrayed as 'the sun', especially when it pertains to Ichigo? Isshin even explained that Masaki was 'his sun'. What does that say about Ichigo? Lots of things. He is more alike with his father than he likes/willing to believe. They both have similar taste in women, giving that Masaki personality is, surprisingly, similar to Orihime's. The only difference is that Masaki isn't a pacifist like Orihime, other than that they are very similar. Haven't you noticed a little encouragement from Orihime and few choice words from her is all Ichigo needs to keep going? The only time it doesn't work is when Ichigo felt guilty over her injuries when she was attacked by Yammy and couldn't protect her. I think Ichigo's third and final battle with Grimmjow sums it up quite nicely. Time and time again, Ichigo couldn't beat this guy, not even Rukia's words were enough to enable Ichigo to beat Grimmjow. And it looked like Ichigo was about to lose his third go around, but a few words and tears from Orihime and to mention 'the sun' symbolism, and Ichigo regains his inner strength and resolve and beats Grimmjow. Through all those tiny implications, I think it's implied that Ichigo has some feelings for Orihime, but being the type of guy he is who is completely oblivious to love in a romantic sense, don't know what those feelings are. Orihime is his princess and Ichigo's her knight.

Okay, the downside to all this makes doing Edward/Orihime really hard. But dang it, I'm going to try! I already have lots of Edward/Orihime moments planned, and change it into an Ichigo/Orihime now would ruin/discard those plans and change some of the story. However, it would provide some of the main conflict between Edward/Orihime. Mainly, Orihime dealing with her love for Ichigo vs. her newfound love for Edward. And this isn't a reverse harem nor is it going to turn into one, so she can't have both men. And Edward's struggles of feeling like 'second best'. Because, really? What can he do that Ichigo already hasn't done for Orihime and more? But... I like conflict and this is a challenge I'm willing to take.

Alright, I think this author's note took up one-fifth of the chapter. I'm sorry, I said I wouldn't make a long ass author's note, but I feel like I should make an exception just once, just to set some ground rules. It's not like you have to read the entire thing anyway.

Now, onto the chapter! Enjoy!)

Bluebird Illusion

"Good morning, big brother Ed!" Nina chirped, cheerfully as she watched Edward tiredly wobbled into the living room.

"Morning, Nina," Edward yawned, stretching his arm, letting the muscles pop.

After a few minutes, Orihime bounced into the room happily dressed in her Karakura uniform. "Good morning!" Gray eyes glanced over to see Ed, sitting on the couch, struggling to tie his hair into its usual braid. With one arm, it must be difficult, if near impossible. "Do you need help?" she asked as she approached him.

"No, I got this," he denied, stubbornly.

Orihime laughed lightly, snatched the hair tie from him despite his protests, and urged him to turn around so his back was facing her.

"I could've done it myself," Edward grumbled under his breath, begrudgingly turning around to give her better access to his hair.

"Oh, it's not that bad to ask for help every once in a while, Eddie," she advised, gently, combing his hair with her fingers.

"You really going to stick with that nickname, aren't you."

"Why? You don't like it?" He could practically feel her pouting.

"No… No, it's fine."

"Okay!" she beamed. He could feel the happiness radiating off her.

Ed could feel his face heat up slightly as she continued to fix his hair. Her touch was so soft and gentle. It felt really nice and relaxing. He let out a breathless sigh as unwound under her soothing ministrations.

"I'm going outside to play with Alexander!" Nina announced.

The ginger haired girl tilted her head to smile at the girl. "Alright, but don't go too far, Nina, and be back for breakfast."

"Okay!" The little seven year old left, closing the door behind.

Nina played with Alexander and Den on the front porch.

"Alexander! Stop it! That tickles!" Nina cried in between fits of laughter as she was mercilessly straddled by the large, white dog, his long tongue tickling her to death.

Den padded over, gently nudging Alexander with her snout, egging him to climb off the young girl before he literally tickles her to death.

Nina wheezes, letting the laughter die down, so she could catch her breath. As she was slowly regaining her breath, she spotted someone in the distance, sitting under a large tree.

Being extremely curious like any other child her age would, she walked over to the person with the two dogs following closely.

"Hello!" Nina called out. The sound of her voice must've startled the other person as they almost literally jumped out of their skin.

Upon closer inspection, the person was revealed to be a girl, a child no less about a year or two older Nina. She had short, bob cut, pale blonde hair that framed her face and light brown eyes. She wore a long sleeved pink shirt with a yellow dress draped over it, and her feet were covered in white, ankle length socks and brown shoes.

"Hello!" Nina said again, smiling when she got the girl's attention.

The blonde child stared at her in confusion. She tilted her head every which way, making sure they were only two people around, besides the dog of course.

"A-are you talking to me?" the girl asked, unsure, pointing to herself.

"Yeah!" the brown haired girl chirped, not bothered by the girl's timidness. "My name is Nina Tucker! What's yours?"

The blonde girl smiled, timidly. "I'm Sarah. I-it's nice to meet you."

"Do you want to play?"


Sarah could barely offer a response, she was dragged by the younger girl. Den had her head tilted in confusion while trotting after an eagerly barking Alexander.

"Close your eyes!" the brown haired girl instructed, eagerly.

"Why?" the blonde young girl asked, nervously.

"We're playing hide n' seek, and you're it!"

Sarah tentatively did as she was told, covering her brown eyes with her hands.

"Now, count to twenty and don't open your eyes until you're finished, or else that's cheating."

The was a small pause at first before she started counting slowly. Satisfied, Nina let out a childish giggle before racing off to find a hiding spot.

Alphonse sat outside the house, watching the birds soar across the sky. He's been sitting out here since last night just enjoying the beauty of nature laid out before him. Usually, he'd spend his nights reading various alchemy books to pass the time since he was tragically in a body that can't sleep, eat, or even feel.

But he couldn't do that either since half his body was destroyed. The only thing he could do was watch the crescent moon fall and give birth to the rising sun.

It was a slow and artistically abstract process. The whistles of the crickets were replaced by the chirping of the birds. The stars clearing away in turn of a blue, cloudless sky. The whole process was simplistic yet beautiful. It makes one remember that nature has its simple pleasures.

Al spotted someone coming up from the distance. It must be Nina, Den, and Alexander as he saw them run off to play earlier. It was proven right when loud, energetic barking could be head and a blob of brown, pigtailed hair made their appearance. Pretty quickly, too.

"I'm back, big brother Al!" Nina greeted him with a big, cheerful smile.

"Welcome back, Nina!" Al said. "You better hide inside. I think breakfast would be ready soon.

"Okay! I can show big brother Ed and big sister Ori my new friend!"


"Yeah, I made a friend today," the brown haired girl stated, happily. "Her name is Sarah." She turned to her right where Sarah was clutching her shirt. "Sarah, this is big brother Al."

"Uh? Nina?" Alphonse couldn't understand who Nina was talking to. There was no one there. His glowing red eyes scanned every which way to see if maybe the person might be obscured from his view. But no matter how much he tried, all he could see were Nina and the two dogs.

Nina just looked like she was talking to thin air.

"I'll greet you to big brother Ed and big sister Ori now, Sarah."

With a quick wave to Alphonse, Nina ran inside the house while Den and Alexander decided to stay outside to keep Al company.

Orihime sat on the sofa, drinking a glass of milk. She placed the cup down on the small table next to her, and continued working on sewing the scarf. All she's been all morning was sewing the midnight blue scarf.

"Urgh! How can you drink that disgusting stuff?!"

Gray eyes shot up to face a disgusted looking Edward as hands stopped their stitching.

She raised a confused eyebrow. "You don't like milk?"

Ed inwardly blech. "Hell no!"

"And you wonder why you're so short," Winry said, snarkily, coming into the room.

The blond alchemist turned and glared furiously at his childhood friend. "I'm not short!"

Winry ignored him. "Breakfast is ready."

"You make cows sad," Orihime spoke up, softly, her big, gray eyes wide and doe eyed.

Golden eyes stared her, confusingly. "How do I make cows sad?"

"You don't drink their milk," she pouted. "They worked really hard on it, too."

"It's not my fault their milk makes me puke," Edward responded, disgruntled.

The ginger haired girl smiled. "Then why not experiment?"

He raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Experiment? With milk?" he questioned, slowly, making sure he heard her right.

"Yeah," she said, enthusiastically. "There are lots of people who don't like certain foods or drinks, so they change the flavor to fit their liking. Whether it's putting seasoning on chicken or butter on potatoes. You might not milk by itself, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment with the drink until it compensates to your taste buds."

Ed pondered this for a bit, his frown slowly turning into a small approving smirk. "That's actually really smart, Orihime. You're the first person who suggested that to me. Most people just expect to drink milk as is, and then scold me if I don't."

Orihime laughed lightly as she settled down on the dining chair.

"I'm back, everyone!"

The auburn haired girl turned and smiled at the approaching brown haired girl. "Welcome back, Nina! Did you have fun?"

The girl nodded, happily. "Yep! I made a new friend. Her name is Sarah. She's right behind me. I wanted to show her to you guys."

Orihime spotted the blonde haired young girl hiding shyly behind Nina. However, as her gray eyes, glanced at the other occupants in the room, looks of confusion can be seen all around.

"Nina, I thought you said Sarah was right next to you?" Winry asked, confused.

"Yeah! She's right here!" Nina pointing at the spot next to her.

Orihime knew that the others couldn't see Sarah because she was spirit. But now, she was beginning to panic. Nina's spiritual energy was increasing faster than she thought. When she was fighting that Hollow that day, she remembered that the little brown haired girl could hear the Hollow's roar and vaguely make out its outline. She didn't have to time to worry about it that time, trying to stop the Hollow from killing more people and all. But now… she was feeling antsy.

Nina could clearly see and interact with ghosts and that's not a good sign!

The ginger haired kept her anxiety at bay. She smiled sweetly at the blonde ghost girl.

"Hi, Sarah!" She waved at the girl. "It's nice to meet you!"

She noticed Edward and Winry looking at her like she was crazy. 'Just play along,' she mouthed, forcing a smile.

Edward shivered slightly at that smile. It was unlike her usual pleasant ones. It seemed...unnatural and creepy looking. And it contrasted with the gentleness surrounding the girl's expression, which made even more creepy.

He immediately decided not to argue with the auburn haired girl and go along with the new 'Nina has an imaginary friend' bit. Anything to stop Orihime from smiling at him like that.

He'd take on Winry's wrench than that eerily disturbing smile any day!

"U-uh, hi, Sarah," Ed said, awkwardly. Oh, god! He felt so embarrassed talking to thin air.

Uh, h-hello," Sarah said, slowly and unsure, as if she knew that they were faking it.

Orihime didn't blame the girl for thinking that. Nina was probably the first human interaction she had in years. As a spirit, she can't exactly interact with the living, unless they were spiritual aware, like Nina and herself.

The blonde girl must have been very lonely, no wonder she clung onto Nina so fast and readily.

Breakfast went on without any further delay. Idle chatter and pleasant laughter went around the room. Of course, there was the small awkwardness of Sarah, the blonde ghost girl being here.

The highlight of it all was when Orihime tried to get Edward to drink milk mixed with hot sauce. The expression on Ed's face as his golden eyes glared incredulously at the red concoction was priceless. It was a facial expression that said 'what the fuck is that? I'm not fucking drinking that!' or something similar to that effect.

But Ed didn't have the courage to say 'no', not when trying to stare down wide, gray eyes, staring at him with unrelenting innocence and pure, unintentional guilt tripping eyes. Urgh. Saying 'no' to face like that is like kicking a defenseless puppy in the face.

Reluctantly, the blonde alchemist took the red milk from the ginger haired girl's hand. He stared at the drink with a mixture of fear and disgust. Surely this was going to destroy his stomach. Very hesitantly, he took a small sip, everybody around him waiting for his reaction with bated breath.

Edward took a small, experimental sip, his face scrunching up in fear and disgust, getting ready to spit the drink out and yell out his repulsiveness. However, after the first drops of the red milk entered his mouth, his disgusted expression turned into one of thoughtful consideration, and he took another sip, concentrating on the spicy, tangy taste.

"It's... It's not bad," Edward said, not believing that he was saying milk taste okay. And for the first time in his life! "But it's a little too spicy."

Everyone's jawed dropped, flabbergasted as Orihime grinned, widely.

"Am I going deaf or did Ed just say milk taste good?" Pinako asked, disbelief written all over her expression and voice.

"No, it's not just you, granny…," Winry said, appalled at what she was seeing. "I think hell just froze over."

"Shut up, Winry!" Edward growled. "If you were smart, like Orihime, then maybe I would've found milk more tolerable."

Winry's face turned red with anger, reading to lash out at the stupid, blond boy.

Orihime clapped her hands, excitedly, interrupting her. "That's good! You could probably add a bit of lemon juice to damper the spiciness."

Edward smirked in amusement. "Is this how you come up with all your wacky and bizarre food combinations?"

She smiled. "It's good to experiment, Eddie," she giggled.

The rest of breakfast went off without a hitch, and Nina went back outside to play with her not so imaginary friend, Sarah.

"What do you want to play, Sarah?" Nina asked.

Sarah pursed her lips, pondering through her options. "Let's play some more hide n' seek," she suggested.

The brown haired girl giggled. "You really like that game, don't you? Alright. But I'm 'it' this time."

Sarah laughed, playfully as she ran hastily to find a good hiding spot as Nina counted to twenty.

"Why did you let Nina keep believing that imaginary friend of hers were real?"

Orihime glanced away from her scarf project to face a stern looking Edward. "What's wrong with Nina playing with a friend?" she asked, confused. "There's no problem with that?"

"There is a problem when the friend is not real," Ed responded, disapprovingly as he took a seat next her on the couch.

"There's no reason why Nina shouldn't play with Sarah," she said, softly as she returned to her sewing. "Whether she's real or not, she's Nina's friend. And that's what counts."

The blond alchemist frowned. "Nina shouldn't play with imaginary friends. She should-"

"Grow up?" Orihime finished for him, shocking him at how calm she was being. "And what's wrong with Nina being a kid? I think it's nice that she has a friend, even if that 'friend' is a simple figment of her imagination. There's nothing wrong with Nina enjoying her childhood for a few more years. Besides, the older she gets, the less time she gets to enjoy herself as more and more responsibilities pile up on her. Why not let Nina enjoy her freedom while she can for the time being? Plus, even if Sarah is fake, Nina's feelings are real!"

That was part of the reason. After all the mess Nina went through with her twisted father, she needed time away from all these horrid shenanigans.

And… the ginger haired girl was trying to stave off the guilt in her heart. Nina was seeing ghosts. Her spiritual energy was increasing. One day, her life is going to be intertwined with the supernatural, spiritual world, and it's going to be her fault. She just hoped, she dearly hoped that Nina wouldn't gain any spiritual powers. That she'll just stay spiritual aware, like Tatsuki and Keigo without developing powers of her own. If Nina could just stay like that then maybe her life wouldn't be in so much danger.

Edward was left completely wide eyed and speechless. "I… I never thought of it like that." He crossed his arms. "I still don't like it though, but I would respect Nina's wishes."

They stayed quiet for a while, neither of them knowing how to continuing the conversation. Orihime went back to sewing the scarf she was making.


Gray eyes averted their attention back to the currently one armed alchemist.

"You never told us what happened that day we met Dr. Marcoh," Edward said.

Orihime's smile immediately turned into a small frown, an expression that didn't go unnoticed by the observed alchemist.

"Orihime, tell me what happened. Now," Edward demanded, his tone leaving no room for argument. They both know that she has been avoiding this conversation for a while now. She hasn't spoken word about the incident even when Al and him tried to probe the information, even Major Armstrong and Dr. Marcoh couldn't get her to talk. Something was always getting in the way. Now, there was nothing stopping her from spilling the beans.

Orihime swallowed the lump in her throat, her lips suddenly becoming dry. She knew that this dreaded conversation was inevitable. However, she still wasn't prepared to tell him or Alphonse. Should she lie or tell the truth? The truth that soul sucking, invisible monsters exist and it was after the counterfeit Philosopher's Stone in Dr. Marcoh's possession. But would Edward even believe her incredibly unbelievable yet truthful story? After all, he couldn't see nor sense the Hollow.

She licked her dry lips, her thoughts racing a million miles a minute. The intensity of Ed' golden gaze didn't help to ease her anxiety.

"Well?" Ed egged on. She could hear the impatience in his voice.

She gritted her teeth for a split second. Lying it is then.

The auburn haired hair told him what she saw keeping it the details as vague as possible.

"Please don't hate me for this," Orihime said, mentally, a twinge of guilt gripping her heart as she told her half truth tale.

Both young girls laid down under a shaded tree, exhausted from their long day play, a large smile on both of their faces.

"I haven't had that much fun in a long time," Sarah commented, the happiness echoing out of her tone despite how tired she was. "Today was really fun, Nina! Best day ever!"

"We should probably go home now or our family would be mad at us," Nina suggested. And it was true that it was getting late. The sun was starting to set over the horizon, a mixture of orange and red coloring the sky.

"What's your family like?" the brown haired girl asked Sarah. "My mom moved away two years," she continued, not giving the blonde haired girl time to talk, which she was inwardly grateful for. "She went back to live with her parents' house. At least that's what my daddy said."

"What about your dad?" Sarah asked, curiously.

Nina frowned a bit, feeling a little sad. "Big brother Ed said he went on a business trip and that he won't be back for a while."

There was a few moments of silence between the two girls.

"Do you want to check out my house?" Sarah asked.

Nina hesitated. "It's getting really late though. Maybe tomorrow?"

The blonde haired girl pulled on her dress. "Please?" she pouted. "It's only for a little bit, and it's not that far."

The younger girl relented. "Okay."

Sarah cheered, grabbing Nina's wrist, she dragged her towards the direction of her house.

It was true. Sarah's house was only a five minute walk away. It was in semi secluded area surrounded by a small forest. It looks like the greenery hasn't been cut in quite some time. It was so disorderly and unruly. Vines covered the yellow walls of the one story house, and the bushes were so tall they blocked some of the windows. Not to mention how tall the grass was, reaching about a foot or two off the ground.

"This is your house, Sarah?" Nina asked, amazed. "The grass is so tall!"

"The grass hasn't been trimmed in a while," Sarah explained. "My mom and dad don't live here anymore." She walked inside the house with the younger girl following after her.

Nina stuck close to Sarah, excitement and anxiety growing inside her. The inside of the house was kind of dusty, there were dirty stains on quite few places, and it smelled a little musky. Overall, the house hasn't been cleaned in quite some time, like Sarah said. It's almost like it was abandoned.

"It's a little dirty, I know," Sarah said, seeming to know what was racing through Nina's thoughts. "Nobody lives here anymore."

The blonde haired girl led her inside a room. The room seemed pretty empty with a bed and a nearly empty bookshelf. The only thing worth mentioning was a black piano perched in the corner across the bed.

"Whoa!" Nina's blue eyes twinkled with excitement as she went over to inspect the piano. It was a bit dusty, but other than that it seemed to be in good condition. "Nice piano!" she commented, marveling at the large, black musical instrument. "Do you play?"

Sarah seemed a little unsure. "I-I used to," she answered, hesitantly. "My m-mom taught me, but I haven't play in a wh-while. I'm not s-sure if I'm any good."

"C'mon, play something for me!" the brown haired girl pleaded as she dragged the older girl over to the piano.

The brown eyed girl wanted to refuse, but the look of enthusiasm on Nina's face made a small smile spread across her face and her cheeks dust a light shade of pink.


"Yay!" Nina cheered.

Sarah sat down on the seat of the piano, getting ready to play as Nina waited to hear her music with growing child like excitement.

Orihime had just finished helping Pinako prepare dinner, and everything gathered around the table, getting ready to eat the meatloaf and mashed potato dinner.

"Hey! Has anyone seen Nina?" Winry asked, noticing the little girl's absence.

"Huh?" Edward's face scrunched up in worry. "She's still not back yet." His golden eyes drifted towards Orihime. "Orihime, didn't you tell Nina to be back by dinner time?"

Orihime silently nodded her head too wrapped up in her thoughts to say anything. An unpleasant feeling settling in the pit of her stomach.

"Do you think she got lost, brother?" Alphonse asked, his voice filled with concern.

"I'm going to go look for her," Ed announced as he got ready to leave, only to be stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder.

"No, I'll go look for her," Orihime vocalized, solemnly. She ran out the door before anyone could protest.

Dinner went on fairly quiet with Orihime and Nina gone.

"Orihime hasn't found Nina yet?" Winry questioned, worriedly. "And it's getting pretty dark." Her blue eyes glanced out the window to see that the sky had darkened. It was hard to make out anything except the stars that shone brightly in the sky.

"I knew I shouldn't let Orihime go alone," Edward growled under his breath. "It's easy for a newcomer to get loss in Resembool."

"Shall we go look for them, Edward Elric?" Major Armstrong asked.

Ed nodded his head, getting ready to head out with Armstrong behind him.

However, when the blond alchemist opened the door he was met with a distraught Orihime and an unconscious Nina on her back. Edward immediately noticed the makeshift bandage wrapped around the little girl's left ankle.

"Orihime, what the hell happened to Nina?" Ed asked, his tone filled with anger and worry.

Sorrow and guilt immediately spread across the ginger haired girl's face for half a second before she masked it, her usual smile gracing her lips. But this one seemed a little strained.

"It's nothing serious, Eddie. Nina just scraped her ankle, that's all," Orihime explained. "I'm going to go put her to bed."

Both men watched her go.

"Do you believe she's telling the truth?" Armstrong asked Ed.

"I don't know," Edward answered, truthfully. "Orihime has never lied to me and Al before."

It was true. Orihime has been nothing but friendly and honest with him and Alphonse. She has never done anything to deceive them.

However, he couldn't help the feeling that she was hiding something. Ever since their run in with Dr. Marcoh, she's been a little distant and secretive. But he managed to pry the information out of here. Seems like there's more homunculi besides Lust and Gluttony out there.

Speaking of which, Edward was going to need to report the incident to the Colonel once he gets back on his feet. A homunculus that could mask its presence and turn invisible is going to be a huge problem.

But getting back to the topic on head. It seemed like Orihime was partially telling him the truth, but she couldn't even look him in the eye, and that's what bothered him. She had that same guilt ridden expression her face as when they were attacked by that invisible homunculus. It was just for a second, but it was definitely there.

Edward clenched his fist tightly.

Orihime couldn't look him in the eye as she spoke.

She couldn't look him in the eye.

(A/N: That's the end of chapter eighteen. Nothing much to say. I'm going to leave what happened to Nina ambiguous because I don't feel comfortable explaining the horrors of what the little girl just witnessed. What you think happened is up for grabs.

Oh, I've figured I messed up Nina's age. I'm sorry. It's just that in the 2003 version Nina is depicted as four years old while Ed and Al was staying at her and her father's house while Edward was preparing for the State Alchemist Exam. And we all know Ed got his license when he was twelve. I just added three years and made Nina seven in this story. I never read the FMA manga, so I don't know what's more accurate? The 2003 version or Brotherhood? For the sake of this story, Nina is seven years old because I don't feel like changing her age from seven to four. And I think fits seven more. It'll show how lucky or unlucky Nina would become later on.

Well, that's it. Leave any comments, suggestions, or questions in a review and see you next chapter!)

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