The Flower Princess and the Alchemist @bloodpokemon101
Naive No More

(A/N: Here's chapter forty five! Enjoy!

sacke110: Thanks for reviewing! No, Zero is not a FMA character. He's another OC. He would gradually become more important as time goes on. He was the one Nina saw on the train ride from Neshire to Central a couple of chapters ago. It was only small cameo appearance, so it was easily forgettable. Yep! You could say that Ed is somewhat aware of the existence of Hollows, but he can't fully see them yet. Though, he can sort of hear their cries and roars as demonstrated in the time when they went to apologize to Gracia for getting Hughes involved and, subsequently, killed for trying to help them. The monstrous roar Ed heard was definitely a Hollow's. The same Hollow that attacked ghost Hughes. He just chalked it up to his imagination and his mind going crazy from grief because Al couldn't hear it. It's a slow process, but he's getting there.

TheEmeraldMage: Thanks for the review! So glad you are enjoying the story so far, and all the Edward/Orihime moments! It makes me so happy because I do put a lot of effort into the pairing. Making them all awkward and cute together while keeping both of them perfectly in character. Or nearly perfect. By the way, Liza isn't a mod soul. What she is... Well, you'll find out in the sequel series. Don't want to spoil it. And yeah, the beginnings of the chapter were all flash foward sequences for what's to come in this final arc of the story. They are going to gradually and dramatically change the characters dynamic. The final arc would sort of foreshadow for what's to come in the sequel.

Speaking of sequels, I can't, for the life of me, think of a name for the sequel to this. The sequel is already in the trail stages. All it needs is a name. Does anyone have a name for a sequel to 'The Flower Princess and the Alchemist'? C'mon! I'm opened to suggestions. Though, it'll be a while for a sequel is posted [possibly another half a year or so], it doesn't hurt to write down some ideas.)


Naive No More

Nina mindlessly stared at the mysterious boy in wide eyed shock. It is the same boy she saw on the train the other day. The same who was glaring at her and her friends with a bitterly resentful and icy antipathetic expression on his face.

When the boy perked up as if sensing someone watching him, the little girl instinctively turned her head away to avoid being caught staring. All of a sudden, she felt extremely anxious and nervous, and her palms began to clamp up with sweat. Why was she so apprehensive about saying 'hi' to the boy? It felt so out of the blue for her.

She slyly peeked through her eyelashes at the boy, only to realize that he was leaving. When she saw him leaving, she began to panic. "Wait!" she blurted out without much thought. She swiftly covered her mouth in embarrassment, heat raising to her face.

Her sudden outburst attracted a few unwanted attention, including the black haired boy's. The brown haired girl felt herself shrink in her seat, wishing a giant hole would tore through the earth and suck her in. When she threw a hesitant glance over at the boy, he was scowling at her. Oh, no! Did he see her blatantly staring at him?

Nina's cheeks burned even more. Her tiny hands were shaking in anxiety and anticipation. What should she do? She has never been this scared and nervous before. Not since the time Sarah was killed by a Hollow. Is he going to come over and yell at her? Or should she go over and apologize for staring?

In the end, the pigtailed girl decided to muster up the courage to face the dark haired boy. Because how would it look, if she were to cower under her mistakes or embarrassment? Silently and trepidatiously, she climbed down from her firm seat on the bench. She trekked closer to the boy, and with each step, the boy's scowl grew deeper and angrier, almost resembling a loathing sneer. She almost flinched away at the fierce glare, but steeled her resolve, reminding herself that she was a big girl, who had dealt with situations scarier than this.

"Um, hi?" she said, a bit too tentatively.

"What do you want?" the boy snapped at her, harshly.

Nina resisted the urge to recoil at his.

Pedestrians, adults and children alike- already ignored the situation from before, finding it to be no big deal, and went back to what they were doing prior. A sound of the ball being kicked, and then bouncing across the paved ground was heard in the background.

The brown haired girl had forgotten how tired she was with the sound of adrenaline pumping through her vines. Putting on a brave and cheerful front, she smiled. "Um, was that you playing with the water and bubbles?"

When the boy glared at her with splenetic animosity, she fought down her agitated nerves to apologize for bothering him, needlessly, and go away. It wasn't because of the fear anymore. There was just something about the look in his eyes. Something disconcertingly sad and hopelessly lonely about his eyes. Eyes that looked at, not only her, but the entire world with spitefully cold and animusly bitter eyes.

What Nina couldn't understand was why does he show such painful emotions? Hateful, mistrustful, and woeful eyes. Her young, childlike was clueless as to why he was like that. The only thing she knew was to try to be polite and friendly. Maybe he just needs a friend, that's all. Anyway would be gloomy and dispirited, if they didn't have any friends.

"What you did with the bubbles was really amazing!" the pigtailed girl smiled, cheerily. "The water looked so pretty dancing in the air! And the way-"

"I don't need your pity!" the dark haired boy cut her off with a vicious snarl. Nina was taken aback by the malicious tone, her blue eyes widened in stunned surprise, and the hurt shining in them plain as day. "And don't try to butter up with your pathetic lies!"

Because of the sudden outrage, they were beginning to attract a crowd. A couple of kids heard his outcry, and curiously tilted their heads in the direction of the commotion.

"It-it's not pity, and I'm...I'm not lying," she timidly replied, nervously nibbling on her bottom lip, hands fisted on the fabric of her navy blue skirt. She was easily becoming discouraged as she talked to him. The onlookers were silently observing them. Their hushed mutters to themselves weren't helping to calm her uneasiness. "I really did like the water show you did!" she uttered, earnestly, trying to get him to understand that she was being sincere. She did her best to block her voice from wavering too much. It would do her no good, if he thinks she's wary or afraid of him.

"Don't lie, you stupid brat!" he said in a harsh whisper, not wanting noisy bystanders to hear the iciness in his tone. His ice blue orbs narrowed into a dark glare. "You think I'm a freak, don't you? For having these powers?"

He took a menacing step forward, causing Nina to take a step back out of fearful instinct. "Go ahead. Tell everyone here how much of a freak I am," he challenged, threateningly. "Tell them that I'm a monster. Don't try to pretend to be all nice with your little goody two shoes act. I know that's what you're really thinking."

"Why? Why are being so mean?" the brown haired girl sniffed, blinking back the unshed tears that began to burn the corner of her eyes. "All I did was try to compliment you, and you're being so mean about it."

The boy tsked, feeling completely aggravated. "Because I don't like you," he muttered, darkly, loud enough for her to hear. "I don't like any of you."

Nina just stood there, lost and confused by his distastefully disdainful declaration. With a deeply hurt and saddened expression, she watched the boy march away, his shoulders tensed and hands stuffed in the pockets of his black shorts. She wanted to call out to him, but she was afraid that if she did, he would just be angrier at her. In the end, she dejectedly went back to the seat of her bench.

The brown haired girl didn't know how long she sat there. Five minutes? Ten? An hour? Maybe two? She just felt numbly disheartened. She absently swung her legs back and forth, not in the mood to play with the other children. The scene with the conversation between her and the boy kept playing in her head in an endless torrent of disenchanted uncertainty.

Where did she go wrong? What did she do to make him yell and be so mean to her? Did she say something to upset him? All she wanted to do was tell him how much she admired his water work display, and was hoping to view more of it. Maybe she should've chased after him, and persisted that she wasn't making fun of him. That she genuinely liked his powers.

Leaning forward and lacing her palms under her chin, the pigtailed girl let out a downhearted sigh. Will she ever meet him again? She really wanted to. But how would he react, if he saw her again?

A gentle breeze blew through the air, slightly rustling leaves of the trees and the bushes. But between it and the hot, humid weather, it did nothing to cool her down or lift her spirits.

"Nina?"

The aforementioned girl immediately perked up at the sound of an urgently familiar, feminine voice called her name. She hurriedly climbed out of her spot on the bench, blue eyes frantically gazing around for a recognizable face.

"Nina!"

When she spotted a young girl with long blonde hair tied into a ponytail, She was jogging up to her, her face plastered in a relieved smile. Instantly, Nina's eyes began to swell up with tears. The anxiety she's been feeling for the past few hours were slowly dissipating.

"Big Sis Winry!" she cried out, tears of joy streaming down her face.

"Nina!" Winry exclaimed in pure happiness and relief as she picked the younger girl up, and held her close to her in an almost crushing hug. "Nina! I'm so glad you're safe! I was so worried about you!"

"Big Sis Winry! I was so scared!" the brown haired girl silently wailed. Her little arms wrapped tighter around the older girl's neck. "I thought no one would find me! Being alone… It's scary!"

"It's okay, Nina," the blonde girl whispered, reassuringly, rubbing soothing circles around her back. "I'm just glad you're safe and okay." Her blue eyes glanced around the happy children playing in the park. "We still have a few more hours left. You want to stay here a little longer, and play with the other kids, Nina?" she asked, knowing that the younger girl specifically and originally came to the park to play. "I'll be here with you," she added, hopeful that her being here would relax the little girl a bit. To ease them both.

Nina shook her head, somberly. "I just want to go home."

Winry smartly didn't reject her request. After the day she had, the little girl must be scared, tired, and exhausted. Not surprising considering the hectic day she had. "Okay, let's go," she replied, softly, holding her, carefully as she strolled in the general direction of their hotel.

All the while, Nina was wondering if she would ever see that boy again?


The dark haired boy, the same little boy Nina had encountered in the park, bitterly stalked his way to the apartment building he was staying at. He was having a semi decent day. No one was bothering him, and minding their own business, but she had to go and ruin it. Now, since she saw his powers, he was going to have to leave this city soon. People would be after him to kill him or experiment on him out of irrational fear, pure hatred, or morbid curiosity.

He angrily clenched his fists. Ever since he awakened his powers, there have always been sick, twisted, selfish people who look at him like his very existence was an abomination. Just because of his powers… Because of his powers, powers that weren't considered alchemy, he was deemed inhuman. A monster. A freak of nature. He was so sick of it! It's not like he asked for these powers!

He shook his head. He shouldn't have lost his temper like that. That wasn't like him. He was more...he wouldn't say calm, but he's more capable of suppressing his temper than that. Why couldn't he just angrily ignore her and walk away like he always did? It was something about her that ticked him off.

Once he recalled her face and her innocent smile, she was the same girl he saw on the train he snuck on the other day. That ridiculously naive, blissfully ignorant smile of hers brought a nastily acidic taste in his mouth and his heart twisted in burning bitterness. Those were the kind of smiles he used to wear a few years ago. When he was her age, his powers hadn't manifested itself yet. Before his life went to hell. He will admit though, something about her presence felt...different. Different from ordinary humans and alchemists. He never felt anything like it. It was nearly identical to his spiritual pressure, but weaker and less refined as if it was untamed and unpolished. It doesn't have a specific style of its own. It lacked that subtle uniqueness to make it hers and hers alone.

For a moment, he wondered if she was…? He quickly shook his head, hastily getting rid of any stupid ideas. She was nothing like him! End of story! If she was, then she wouldn't be smiling so obnoxiously idiotic like that. He hopes he'd never have to see her stupid, ignorant face again!

He climbed up the stairs to his apartment. The apartment complex had five floors in total, but, luckily, his was only on the second floor. His apartment number was two o' five. When he reached the door, he dug into his black shorts to pull out his house keys. He entered it, and closed the door behind him.

The apartment wasn't exactly large, but it wasn't small either. It was kinda roomy and spacious. It was a two bedroom flat. Just big enough for a family of three. Husband, wife, and child.

He entered the living room. The room had a nice, homely feeling to it. The walls were painted a sky blue color and the floor was covered in a peach colored carpet. There was a large, brown coffee table in the middle of the area, and a couple of blue couches surrounded it, one smaller than the other. There was a dark brown bookshelf in the upper left corner in the room. It was filled with various children's books, textbooks, and teaching materials. The mother was an elementary school teacher. That would also explain why the small, black drawer was filled with graded paperwork and future classwork and homework sheets. She even has a couple of those filers organizing binders to help her papers and important documents in order. Judging from this, the mom of the house seemed to be a very methodical and diligent person. Too bad all those papers and files are all useless now. They are no longer needed. A potted palm tree sat on top of the drawer. There was no need to worry about it dying due to lack of sunlight because it was next to the window.

By his right was the kitchen. Right behind the counter. White tiles covered the floor, and a few dirty dishes were piled in the sink. The dark haired boy stepped into the kitchen, after taking off his blue shoes, to take a look in the fridge. There wasn't much left in it. Just some leftover rice, meatloaf, a few apples and oranges, and a half filled bag of salad. The mom must've been slacking. He's only been here for three days, and he was already running out of food. He was going to have to find a different place to move into soon. He could only guess that he has enough food to last another three or four days.

He took out the containers for the rice and sauce, and placed them on the counter. Standing on his tippy toes, he opened one of the cabinets above the sink, and pulled out a plate and a cup. He would fill the cup with orange juice later. Opening a drawer under the counter, he grabbed the big spoon from within and closed it. He used the spoon to pour a decent amount of rice and sauce on his plate. The microwave was on the far counter, plugged into the wall on his left. He opened it, and placed his food. After pushing the correct dials to warm his rice to the appropriate temperature, he left the kitchen.

The black haired boy headed towards the bathroom, which was on the right side. This apartment only had one bathroom. The kid's room was on the left, and his parents' bedroom was at the end of the hall. It was a nice place filled with all the necessities for a small family to live.

Once inside, he immediately and instinctively took notice of several uniforms in the hamper. The man of the house worked as a waiter at a small restaurant nearby.

Taking off his clothes and hanging them over the bar rack on the wall, he moved towards the tub. Turning the shower tap until it rained hot water, he stepped inside the bathtub. He wanted to take a shower before he started eating his early dinner tonight. He wasn't playing to go outside for the rest of the day. He was too upset and on edge to do so.

This was a really wonderful and comfortable place this family lives in. A nice and loving family.

The young boy's expression turned immensely darker. His right hand clenched around his left arm, hiding a small, visible scar. The shallow pain in his arm was nothing compared to the cruel and callous agony of betrayal in his heart. He was biting his bottom lip so much, tiny droplets of blood were starting to fall. An aura of wrathful rage and tormented depression started emanating from his soul crushingly livid shaking form. Not even the hot shower was enough to cool his incessantly contemptuous vexation and cold, disdainful odium.

A loving family, huh…

(FLASHBACK)

"Mom! Mom!" a young, dark haired boy yelled, excitedly, happily rushing towards the woman who was busy chopping vegetables for tonight's dinner.

"Hmm?" the woman stopped what she was doing to gaze down at her son. "What is it, Zero?" she smiled, gently at the boy. The woman had short, brown hair and icy blue eyes that her son obviously inherited from her. She had a somewhat petite and slender, and wearing a light blue dress under a pink apron. She was clearly in her mid twenties.

"Look at what I can do!" Zero chirped, gleefully jogging over to turn the tap of the sink faucet on. When the water started running just a little bit, he flicked his fingers in the air, and water magically began twisting into different shapes and forms.

His mother abruptly dropped the knife she was holding as it hit the cutting board with a soft 'clatter'. Although, she barely noticed she was no longer holding the knife, she was too busy staring in dumbstruck awe and flabbergasted shock at what her son was doing. "Honey, is that...alchemy?" she asked Zero, slowly, utterly perturbed by what she was witnessing. She has never seen alchemy quite like that before.

She doesn't really know much about the art of alchemy. No one in her family had a talent for it, neither does her husband nor her son. At least, that's what she thought. Nevertheless, don't alchemists usually use a transmutation circle to manipulate the objects of their alchemy. Her blue eyes darted to her son's hands as he innocently played with the water in the air in blissful happiness. She couldn't see any drawings or tattoos on Zero's hands. Maybe it was somewhere else on his body. Perhaps under the sleeves of his orange shirt.

The door to the house opened up with a slight 'squeak'.

"Sweetie, get in here!" the brown haired woman urgently called her husband over. He must've returned from work. He usually comes home around this time, which is why this is the time she regularly prepares dinner, so her spouse can have his meal fresh and ready if he wants to.

"What's wrong, Daina?" the man asked, concerned, recognizing his wife's hasty apprehensive and troubled tone. He was a guy of average height and a slender build. He had short, fairly cut, black hair, which his son inherited, and dark brown eyes.

He swiftly shredded off his tie and coat, and hung them on the coat rack by the door. His face was plastered in worry and panic that something must have happened to his wife or his son while he was away, judging by her exigently anxious voice.

Darting towards the direction he heard his wife's voice, he entered the kitchen, but when he did, his jaw almost dropped at what he was descrying right before his very eyes. His son controlling and demonstrating a fantastical aqua show was something he definitely did not expect to come home to. Not in wildest dreams!

"What...is...this?" he gaped in disconcerting astonishment, having serious trouble finding his voice, his dark brown orbs absolutely refusing to leave the scene before him. The display in front him left so undeniably dismayed and mystified that he was downright stunned speechless.

Zero grinned, proudly and merrily as he continued manipulating the water in the atmosphere. The sink long since turned off. But what he didn't realize was that ensured the moment that changed his life forever. Showcasing his newfound spiritual powers to his parents was the biggest mistake of his life. It set off a horrific chain of events that caused his life to go into a downward spiral to hell.

Zero's family was a rather poor one. His parents generally just make enough money to get by with the necessities of life, such as food, clothes, water, electricity, and the cost of education for their only child. Still though, he was a happy child. He never asked for much. Just having a loving father and mother was more than enough for him.

He wouldn't say that his family didn't suffer through some tough times due to a lack of money and finances, but they always managed to get by. There was one time they had to go without electricity for a week because his dad was late on paying the electric bill. They had to rely on cheap candles as sufficient lighting. They couldn't use the oven or the microwave, so they mostly ate meals that didn't require any fire or heat for that week. And by meals, just a bunch of fruits and vegetables, which, of course, included the occasional salad. Sometimes his father would stop by a nearby bakery to buy some very low priced bread and pastries they could munch on. Oftentimes, they would be a day or two past the due date.

The dark haired boy's family wasn't perfect. Far from it. They cared and loved each other more than the average family. At least, that's what the young boy thought. Even through the times they had to suffer harsh hardships, they always, always managed to get by it together.

However, several months after he displayed his powers to his parents, things started to change.


Zero may be a young and naive, eight year old boy, but even he could tell there was something wrong with his parents. Although, his parents still smiled and praised him whenever he did good in school or showed them a new trick with his powers, somehow he could tell that it wasn't as warm and genuine as it used to be. There was a certain sense of wariness that sparked in their eyes. That should've been his first clue that his mom and dad were no longer his loving, devoted parents.

One day, he overheard his parents having a fierce discussion in the living room. He just came out of his room, taking a short break from his homework, because he wanted to grab a quick snack and a drink from the fridge. And what he heard caused his heart to stop in sheer horror, paralyzing dread, and gut wrenching despair.

"John, we have to do something about our child!" Daina yelled, the distress in her voice all too clear. "He's a freak!"

John let out a weary sigh, running a tired hand down his face. "I know, Daina. I know."

"He's not normal, John!" she pressed, fearfully, her entire form trembling as silent, distraught tears ran down her face.

"I know, Daina!" he grimaced, a hint of heavy discontent in his voice. The horrible, terrifying revelation that his son, his only son wasn't human was eating away at him.

"Why did I give birth to such a monster?!" he heard his wife cry out, hysterically. He could tell all this was taking a toll on her mental state. The deep sorrow… Hopeless anguish… Discomforting consternation… All of it John could understand because that's what he's feeling right now. The agonizing, catastrophic fear and despair that he fathered something monstrous into this world!

John tenderly pulled his sobbing wife into a hug, trying his best to comfort her. "It's not your fault, darling. We couldn't have known what our son was."

"He's not our son!" Daina snarled with all the disrelish and revulsion she could muster. "Our son should never have such blasphemous powers! It's not even alchemy! What is he, John?! What the hell did I give birth to?! He's not human!"

"I'll… I'll do something about Zero, Daina," the black haired man calmly soothed his wife, his jaws clenched as he gritted his teeth together, harshly.

"At least, now I can understand why we always suffer so many misfortunates, John. Why we are always poor and have to endure so many hardships and tough times. It's because of that devil child, isn't it? Our son cursed this family! I want him out of the house!" the brown haired woman wailed, furiously.

Zero couldn't take it anymore! The scorn and disgust his own parents held for him was something he couldn't fathom. He couldn't comprehend it! He couldn't believe what he was hearing! It was just too much! Too much! The ugly knife of ruthless and mind numbing betrayal stabbed at his heart, repeatedly. Why?! What did he do to deserve this?! All he wanted to do was make his mom and dad happy and proud with his powers.

He thought they enjoyed his abilities. He thought that they were proud of his powers. But, in reality, they were mocking and holding contempt for him behind his back? He was no longer considered their child? He was a monster? A freak? Was he really a cursed monster that brought all this misfortunate on his family? His stomach twisted in nausea, and he had to fight down an unpleasant sense of bile running up his throat.

He dashed back into his room, desperately keeping his extremely hurt sobs and tears at bay. He was hoping that all of this… His parents' sudden contempt and hatred for him was just a bad dream. A horrific nightmare. Because all this...couldn't be real. It just can't be!

He smiled, bitterly. A hollow, distressing grin full of denial and repudiation spread across his lips. Yeah, that's it. All of this was just an unbearably frightening nightmare. There was no way his kind and caring mother and his loving and devoting father would say such malicious slanders and baleful disparagements about him. There's just no way! All this was just a lie! A horribly dark and outrageously vindictive lie!

He crawled into bed, and hid himself under the blanket. Once he wakes up tomorrow, everything would go back to normal. All the spitefully cruel things his mom and dad said about him would be nothing but a bunch of lies and illusions in a harrowingly petrifying nightmare. He was just stressed because he has a test coming up soon, and he's been cramping himself with his studies and homework all week long.

He closed his eyes, falling into a dreamless slumber. When he wakes up tomorrow, things would be back to normal.

And sure enough, it did. His life returned to normal and his parents returned to their normal, happy selves. That dreadful nightmare he experienced was just a god awful dream. His everyday life would be restored to its regular routine.

However, that only lasted another three months or so. Because…he was wrong to believe his life would ever be happy and ordinary again. Oh, how wrong he was to think everything was just a hair raising nightmare. He was so, utterly wrong.


"So, this is the child?"

Zero stared in confusion at the strange man standing before him. He was a man of a short, somewhat chubby stature. He had unkempt, brown hair that reached past his chin and black eyes that held nothing but sinister glee and uncanny excitement. He had a charming smile, but there was something about it that was eerily creepy. He wore what appeared to be a white lab coat over a plain, blue shirt, black slacks, and brown shoes. Everything about this stranger sent cold chills down the little boy's spine.

The young, black haired boy was wondering what he and his parents were doing in this spooky man's house? Just half an hour ago, his mom was smiling at him, warmly, telling him that they were going to meet one of his father's 'friends' for lunch. Which was odd, in itself, because they just had lunch a little over an hour ago. In spite of that, as the dutiful, naive, trusting son he was, he agreed without a second thought.

The unpleasant smell of sanitizers stung his nose. The aroma of disinfect was plastered all over the house like it's been sprayed and cleaned, repeatedly every few hours or so. This guy must really like to keep glee, or he was a germaphobe. Either way he hated the smell, and he wanted to get out of this house as soon as possible.

When his father shushed him away, so 'the adults can talk', he went to do a little exploring around the house. There was nothing noteworthy about his father's friend's house. It was just a normal, average looking place. Finding nothing extraordinary or fascinating about this place, the eight year old Zero was swiftly getting bored. The books that littered the house don't really do much to excite his young, innocent mind.

Due to his boredom, he turned his attention back to his parents, watching his father talk to the strange man from afar. They were sitting around an oval shaped table in the dining room. He couldn't make out anything that they were saying. His dad wore a grim and resigned expression on his countenance as he listened to his friend talk, animatedly. His mom, on the other hand, sported a very dark and almost...relieved look on her face. It was as if she was exuding an ominous sense of happiness that a tremendous weight was finally being taken off her shoulders. And something about that...caused Zero's stomach to turn with trepidation and uneasiness. He really doesn't want to stay here any longer.

Eventually, his parents were done with their conversation with the man, and decided it was time to leave, much to the little boy's confusion and absolute relief. He quickly ran to his parents' side as they were packing up to leave. When he was super eager to depart, his father, unfortunately, stopped him with a somber guise, much to the little boy's displeasure. His feet were already itching to depart from this creepy, depressing house.

"Um, Zero," John started,soberly, almost like he was terribly reluctant about what he had to announce to his son. "You stay here with Dr. Styles."

Zero produced a noise of disappointment. "Why?" he whined.

At first, nobody said anything. An eerie silence filled the room while the boy stared at the three adults with puzzled, ice blue eyes. His father slowly licked his chapped lips, a bead of perturbation rolling down the side of his face.

Steeling himself and feigning an unassuming grin, John bent down to his kid's level. He placed a gentle hand on Zero's shoulder. "Zero, your mom and I have plans to take a short vacation out east."

"A vacation?" the little boy inquired, shocked and hurt that his parents would go somewhere without him, or, at the very least, not tell him anything about their planned trip. "Why can't I come with you? If you and mom want to be alone, then I promise to stay out of your way."

John shook his head, forlornly. "You still have school, son. You can't skip school."

Zero pouted, sadly, knowing that his father was right. He couldn't skip school, especially not when there's anything test coming up in about a week or so. His education was important, mainly when he wants to live a better life than what he's currently living now.

"Don't worry. Dr. Styles is going to take real good care of you while we are away. We promise to come back in about a month or so, okay?" His dad's voice was supposed to come off as reassuring, but why did it send ominous, foreboding chills down his spine? "Be a good boy while mom and dad are gone, alright?"

"Yes, dad," he conceded, very reluctantly. With very sad, ice blue eyes, the black haired boy watched his father and mother as they wandered out the door without him. Little did he know that was the last time he'd ever see them.

His parents never came back for him. They left him there to suffer in that hellhole. They abandoned him! Their only son! No, they didn't abandon him! THEY SOLD HIM!

What did he do to suddenly incur his parents' hatred of him? What did he do to lose their love? Or did they ever love him to begin? Why did they cast him aside? Because he was not normal? A freak? A monster? Unlocking these powers...didn't make him human anymore? Why?! Why was he sold to this demon?! It doesn't make any sense!

Zero had spent nearly a year and a half enduring Dr. Styles's painful experiments. A year and a half suffering under his cruel and torturous regime. It was the most traumatic and painfully agonizing experience of his life. Until, one day, an incident happened, and he miraculously managed to escape with his life.

(END OF FLASHBACK)

The utter sense of hurt and betrayal in Zero's heart never went away. He trusted them...his own parents...and they sold him! Because of the powers he developed he was cast aside by his own family. He hated them with all his being. And that's why he personally paid them a visit once he escaped from that horrid place. When he confronted, and found out his mom...no, she was no longer his mother. That woman...no, that bitch was pregnant, he lost it. They were getting ready to have another child! Without his knowledge! His replacement! THEY WERE PRACTICALLY GLOATING ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF FINALLY HAVING A CHILD WHO WASN'T A MONSTER WITH FREAKISH POWERS! They had already completely and undisputedly discarded him from their life! They were living in blissful comfort in their new, he wouldn't exactly say luxurious, but their life was easily so much better than the semi poor life they had previously. Because of the money that damned mad scientist, Dr. Styles, gave John and Daina for selling him to the monstrous man!

He lashed out at them with all the incensed resentment and affronted fury he could muster, and the next thing he knew...they were both dead. Those repulsively evil adults were dead.

He growled, angrily, stepping out of the tub. He grabbed the towel hanging above on the shower curtains, and used it to dry his body.

Did he regret what he did? Did he feel any remorse for killing them? His own parents? Parents that loved, cared, and tried their absolute best to provide for him for eight years? Or, at least, pretended to?

Nope. Not at all. Well… Maybe a little. But not for his parents. He would gladly kill them all over again, if he could. What they did to him was unforgivable! They could both rot in hell for all eternity for all he cares. No, what he felt slightly penitent for was taking the life of his future little brother or sister before they were even born. Bear in mind, Zero still has his morality, his sense of right and wrong, and he would never say it felt good to kill his future baby sibling. They had no part in the sins of their parents. It was just a lapse in judgement, and he was sorry for that.

He sighed. No used dwelling on the past. Just being reminded always makes his blood boil. He should conserve his anger for something more productive. Being furious now is simply a waste of energy.

The dark haired boy hung the towel back up once he was finished drying himself. His mind can't help but flashback to meeting that strange, naive girl in the park, and he frowned, deeply.

"What you did with the bubbles was really amazing!" the pigtailed girl smiled, cheerily. "The water looked so pretty dancing in the air!"

What's with her anyway? What does she mean by that? That she enjoys his water show? Was she making fun of him? He clicked his tongue in annoyance.

Excuse him for his dry skepticism and cynical mistrust, but Zero has met people like that. Heartless brats and assholes who pretend to be fascinated by his powers, and then go mercilessly stab him in the back. They try to be his friends, but the minute he gets enough confidence to show his powers, they look at him with nonsensical fear and cold disdain and don't want anything to do with him anymore.

He quickly threw his clothes back on, and left the bathroom. His rice was probably finished warming in the microwave a long time ago. It was time to eat.

Stalking back into the kitchen, he opened the drawer where all the plastic spoons from the box. Walking over to the microwave next, he opened up and grabbed his plate of rice from inside. Testing it to see if it was warm enough to start eating, he let out a satisfied hum. Next, he opened up the fridge to pour himself a glance of orange juice. After putting the carton of juice back in the fridge, he took his dinner and headed over to the living room.

Zero set his food and drink down on the table. Treading over to the fireplace, he casually turned on the radio hanging above. This was the only way for him to discreetly discern what is happening in the world around him.

He leisurely went back to take a seat on the couch. He mechanically began eating his dinner. The radio was busy playing useless nonsense in the background. There was nothing of interest as of yet. With nothing to keep his mind occupied again, it began to aimlessly wander.

"It's that boy again…"

"He's so creepy!"

"What a disturbing child! And what's up with his freaky powers? He's nothing but a freak!"

Ever since Zero escaped, nothing has changed. It was the same everywhere he went. Because he was different, people treated him like he was a monster, an evil relic of humanity they wish would just disappear. It was nothing special or new. It merely showed him that the world was a ruthlessly uncaring, relentlessly unfeeling, and remorselessly unforgiving place, and humans were heartless, selfish, and foul creatures. His so called parents proved that much.

"It-it's not pity, and I'm...I'm not lying," she timidly replied, nervously nibbling on her bottom lip, hands fisted on the fabric of her navy blue skirt. She was easily becoming discouraged as she talked to him. The onlookers were silently observing them. Their hushed mutters to themselves weren't helping to calm her uneasiness. "I really did like the water show you did!" she uttered, earnestly, trying to get him to understand that she was being sincere.

He narrowed her eyes, darkly. And that girl's no different.

"On another disturbing news, another family was mysteriously murdered in their home just last week."

The black haired boy perked up, half interested in this grisly report. The reporter sounded very hauntingly urgent and fearfully panicked. Though he can understand why. How could the reporter not have a quip of slightly sorrowful pity and banal sympathy in his tone when delivering such gruesomely horrible and tragically unfortunate information? He nearly rolled his eyes though at the reporter's vain compassion and patronizing condolences. He honestly couldn't care less who died as long as it wasn't him or anyone he's acquainted with. His feigned feelings of sadness and grief was so obvious it was laughable.

"The police still have no idea who the suspect is, or their motivation. This would be the third family in the row who have died in a series of bizarre deaths in these past few weeks."

He simply hummed, walking back up to the radio to calmly shut it off, having lost complete interest and amusement from it. He was not concerned about what bunch of selfish, cowardly humans have to say. The only fortunate news is that they still don't know who the culprit of the killings is.

A slight yawn escaped from his mouth. He rubbed the back of his head in a nonchalant manner. Since he can't go back outside, what should he do now?

As if on cue, several loud knocks resounded through the door.

He pursed his lips together, hiding his annoyance and distaste. Who could be at the door? The black haired deeply contemplated to himself whether he should open the door or not. Another series of impatient and worrisome knocks rang throughout the apartment. Finally giving up and letting out an exasperated sigh, he slowly trekked over to the door and opened it.

Stone faced and resigned to the potential consequences of his decision, Zero was met face to face with a young, brown haired woman with dark green eyes. In return, the woman gazed at him in confusion.

"Um, who are you, little boy?" she asked, politely. "Are you a friend of Hector?" He could easily determine that something was on her mind when her body kept nervously shifting left and right, and her concerned eyes constantly darting, fretfully all over the apartment, doing her best to get a really good view of the interior from her position outside the door with the little black haired boy blocking her way and obscuring some of her vision.

"Yes, I am," Zero replied, quickly, leaving no room for doubt in his tone. He kept the dryness of his voice at bay. He couldn't let this lady be suspicious. He needed to simply find out what she wants, and then promptly shoo her away without causing a ruckus.

She placed a hand on her heart, breathing out a small sigh of relief. "That's good. When Hector's mother stopped visiting the bakery, I started to worry something must've happened to her," she smiled, her countenance relaxng to a worry free expression. "Is Florence here? I would like to speak to her."

He let her in without much fuss. For a little kid, he was smart enough to know he'd only entice her to become wary, if he refused her or complained. He quietly stepped aside to let her in.

When she did, she glanced around, confused. If Hector and his mom were home, then why is it so quiet? Something wasn't right. If they were home and heard knocking on the door, why wasn't anyone coming to see who was at the front entrance of the apartment out of curiosity?

Something… Something wasn't right. She's been in this apartment several times since she's known Florence, but it has never been this creepily quiet before. The dreadfully ominous atmosphere that filled the place sent the unnerving feeling of apprehension through her.

She turned her dark green gaze at the black haired boy, who was lazily sitting on the couch after closing the door. Tentatively, she began to speak again. "Where is Florence?"

"She's in her son's room," Zero answered, simply. Looks like he was going to the point of no return route. "She's waiting for you."

Smiling, the lady nodded. Being in this apartment plenty of times, she was friends with Florence, after all, she knew from memory where Hector's room was. However, the instant she stepped into the boy's room, her green eyes widened in horror and all the blood drained from her face. In a split second, panic and fear began to overtake her.

Wh-wh-what? What is this?!

There were three bodies strewn across the floor. Three lifeless bodies. Unmoving, completely limp and stiff corpses!

There was no smell of rotten flesh yet, and the bodies don't look as if they started to decay, meaning they must've been killed very recently. But who could have done this? What kind of monster would kill such a nice and loving family? If this another series of mysterious murders of families being killed in their homes?

The brown haired woman's face paled, considerably, and she fell down to her knees in sheer terror. It took her a minute for her mind to process the nightmarishly grisly scene before her. When she regained her senses, she tried to let out a frightfully horrified scream.

Her shrieks of terror and panic were abruptly interrupted when something was unexpectedly shoved, harshly and unforgivingly, in her mouth. At first, she was confused and baffled. Whatever was in her mouth was cool and refreshing. Her first thought was that maybe someone forced her to drink a nice, invigorating glass of water to help calm herself down from her utterly dismayed and unnervingly frantic mindset.

After a few minutes passed, her mind went into another state of frenzied alarm and when she realized she was losing oxygen and fast. The vile, rotten liquid was cutting off all her airways! She was suffocating! She was, ironically, drowning in water in a place where there is no water! At least, not anywhere near her.

She fruitlessly began kicking and thrashing, hopelessly scratching and clawing at her mouth and throat, desperately trying to puke the accursed liquid out. She did everything she could to spit out the life draining water out, but nothing was working! Why?! She doesn't want to die! Not yet!

Her vision began to fade as well as any fight she had left in her. Her body was beginning to weaken with all the life supporting air she was losing by the second. The last thing she saw before she completely lost consciousness was Zero's cold and unfeeling and hardened facial expression. In a last burst of self preservation and survival, she reached out to him, silently pleading for help.

Rivers of dreadfully terrified and painfully distressed tears flood down her face in small, overflowing streams.

She doesn't want to die!


Orihime browsed the section of canned tomato sauce the grocery store had. She won't deny that being here, alone, caused a sense of uneasiness in the pit of her stomach. Conservely, Ed's signature, red coat brought a pleasantly calm feeling of reassurance and comfort to her.

That's why… She was...okay.

In all honesty, she was extremely grateful Edward lent her his coat. Without it, she would, undoubtedly, be filled with anxiety and apprehension and discomfort. She had forgotten...that the store had...white walls. What a silly mistake for her to make? And to think she believed she could be here by herself? She had to clenched onto the coat to constantly put her fears and worries at ease, and to remind herself that she wasn't in that nightmarish place anymore. She was here. She was safe.

The auburn haired girl picked the can of sauce she was looking for and placed it in the old fashioned hand basket she was carrying. She peered into her shopping container to review the items and supplies she had so far. She wanted to make sure she had enough ingredients to last them another couple of weeks. Let's see… A box of rice, one large packet of noodles for spaghetti, a few cans of tomato sauce she just grabbed, some meat and seafood, apples and grapes and oranges and strawberries, two cartons of eight eggs each, a container of bread, broccoli, cauliflower, a packet of salad, a mini package of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, peanut butter, strawberry jam, grape jelly, several, small containers of different seasonings, and two cartons orange and apple juice, one each, of course.

She tapped her chin, thoughtfully. It still feels like she was missing something. Was this enough to last them over two weeks? Considering how much she and Ed eat, probably not. Maybe it would be better to buy another box of rice. The first thing she wanted to do was make that curry for Ed again. He did request it, after all, and she promised to make it for him.

Perhaps, she should buy some for desserts and snacks. After cheerfully musing to herself, she made up her mind. She wanted to make some really good sweets! And for that, she was going to buy some milk. She always avoided spending money on milk since the blond haired alchemist loathes it. Plus, it's not as if he exactly needed it. There were other alternatives. Bread and cheese can give him the calcium he needs. Orange juice is good for vitamin D. Broccoli and cauliflower take care of vitamin K. Oranges and broccoli helps with potassium. And, lastly, there are plenty of vegetables and nuts that provide a slightly healthy dose of magnesium. In the end, she always supplied the Fullmetal Alchemist with plenty of substitutes for milk.

Orihime's legs carried her over to the dairy aisle. She shivered a little when she entered the dairy section. It was expected that it was slightly cooler than the rest of the store. It had to be in order to preserve the milks, cheeses, butter, and the other dairy products.

Scouring the assortment of different types of milk, he gray orbs scanned for the right product of milk to buy. The only options were either whole milk or soy milk. She guessed other milk products like low fat milk, skim milk, lactose free milk won't be invented until later down the line. She was surprised, actually. She had the impression that, while whole milk was the first kind of milk to ever be reproduced, all other types of milk related goods were discovered and invented around the same time.

After this, she also needed to add some vanilla extract, flour, and butter. Those are the basic materials and components for cake and stuff. However, something still doesn't feel right. What was she missing? She grinned to herself, excitedly. Of course! She should include some ingredients to make her own red bean paste! She was enthusiastically looking forward to making some more red bean and chocolate chip cookies, and she had an idea to bake a lemon wedge cake with peanut butter and strawberry frosting. Just thinking caused her to giggle in enraptured glee.

The healer realized her eagerness for cooking and her intense passion for experimenting with brand new recipes has increased recently. She wondered why that is? She just enjoys preparing new meals a lot more than usual. Preparing and even thinking about imaginative and creative and original foods to create made her so giddy with feverish energy.

When did it start though? She always had a passion for cooking, but… When did she become so overeager about it that it caused her heart strings to tinkle in a pleasantly warm way?

(FLASHBACK)

Her lips twisted into a thoughtful pout. "Well, I haven't really decided. I know what to be a school teacher. But I also want to open up my own bakery. Maybe even a cafe or a small diner."

Ed's mouth watered at those last three options. Just imagine a place filled with Orihime's incredibly delicious. He would go to that place any day of the week, maybe even stop by twice. "I don't know about that first one, but those last three sound great!" he exclaimed with an exhilarated glint in his golden eyes. He knew his answer sounded self serving more than anything, but he didn't care. Good food outbeats all!

His reasons didn't matter at all as Orihime brightened up at that. "Really? You think I should open up a bakery?"

The blond alchemist vigorously nodded his head with great enthusiasm. "Absolutely! Your food taste great, Orihime! Why wouldn't you?"

Her face flushed, flattered by the compliment. "Wow…!" She truly was at a loss for words. "No one has ever said that to me before. I-I don't know what to say." The light fluttering began to sway its way inside her heart. She knew how much Edward enjoyed her cooking and that made her, for the first time, really enjoy cooking even more, even if it was just for him, but she never thought he considered it good enough for her to open her own bakery. The butterflies in her stomach started gently buzzing away.

Ed paused, quirking a brow. "Really? No one has?" He wondered why. Orihime's cooking is delicious. Sure, the presentation might be a little...odd, for lack of better words, but, hey, don't knock it until one tries it. Her meals are a representation of 'don't judge a book by its cover'.

The ginger haired girl sadly shook her head. "My friends back home never really liked my cooking. Whenever I try to share it, they gently turn it down. I know they mean well and they aren't trying to hurt my feelings, but I'm not that stupid. I understand what they're really saying is 'Orihime, your food is weird' or 'Who in their right mind would want to eat this stuff?' It...hurts, you know." She stared forlornly into her lap. "I really do want to open my own bakery when I grow up. But when there's no one supporting me in my dreams, it becomes really disheartening and discouraging. It makes me wonder if I really can do it." She quickly shook her head, sending the blond alchemist a crooked smile. "That's not to say they think I can't cook," she hurriedly added. "They just think I should make something more...normal, more ordinary and standard, and I have thought about that. But it just doesn't feel right. It just doesn't seem like-"

"Your cooking," Edward finished for her. His brow furrowed in anger. What kind of callous people would stomp on their friend's dream like that? Yes, there were times he insulted Winry for being a 'crazy gearhead', but he always supported her career in automail engineering. He had the itchiness to punch each and every one of their faces in. If they don't like it, that's fine. No one is forcing them to eat it. But don't go telling their friend that her dreams are stupid, no matter how politely they try to make the rejection sound.

"Yeah," Orihime agreed. She wiped the tears that were threatening to spill. Gosh, why is she so sensitive? Her saddened, crestfallen expression transformed into pure, delighted happiness. "But I'm glad you like it, Eddie. It makes me really happy!"

Ed felt his face heat up. He played it off, crossing his arms, and putting up a blithe confident and nonchalant bravado. "Well, I say, to hell with what they think. If you want to open up a bakery, you should just do it. Don't let anyone bring you down. If they really are your friends, then they would support you. No one is asking them to try your food. Everyone has their own taste. Just because they don't like it, that doesn't give them the right to say nobody else will! Hell, there are some people out there who would try anything. Even some who are into the more unusual. Nobody's taste is the same, and they are stupid for thinking that!"

The auburn haired girl blinked, amazed at his rant. Her face flushed even more, her cheeks lining with embarrassment, though, her heart was swelling with happiness. Her gaze drifted to her lap, using her bangs to conceal her incredibly blushing face from his view, her hands fidgety with the skirt of her dress. "Th-thank you, Eddie," she muttered out, softly, her heart hammering.

Awkwardly, he sheepishly scratched the back of his head, his own face having already turned a light shade of pink. "D-don't mention it."

(END OF FLASHBACK)

That was it, wasn't it? That was when it started!

Edward…

Orihime reached for the carton of whole milk that caught her eye. It was the one with the farthest expiration date. Although, when she reached for it, her hand accidentally brushed against someone else's. The minute she glanced at him, her heart came to an abrupt halt and she paled. She saw what he was wearing, and a sense of dread and panic surged inside her. Unconsciously, she had gripped the red coat as if it were some sort of security blanket.

She took slow, deep breaths. Her chest began to tighten, painfully, and her heart rate picked up, considerably. Okay. Breathe. In. And out. In. Out. She subconsciously used her tongue to moisten her suddenly dry lips, ducking her head away from the white dressed man. Granted, only his shirt was white, but still… It made her uncomfortable and uneasy, and she just wanted to get out there as soon as possible.

The healer hurriedly snatched the milk she was interested in, and briskly walked away, avoiding making any eye contact with the man. She knew it was incredibly rude of her, but...she just couldn't help it. Every cell in her body was warning her, screaming at her to get away. She was a coward, and she knows it. Her fear was irrational and unwarranted.

She blew out a crushingly disheartened sigh. Her body was still trembling, somewhat. The hand gripping onto her grocery basket tightened while the other desperately went to hold the red coat for comfort and solace. She stood there for a few minutes, waiting for her constricted breathing to return to normal. She tried her absolute best to think of mental positive exercises to calm her anxiety and unease.

The auburn haired girl needed to simply and strongly and simple mindedly focus on the task at hand, and that was preparing dinner. Making Ed's request. Curry. He wanted her special curry. Her sweet and sour, zesty orange and grape jelly curry filled with mushrooms and potatoes.

She smiled to herself, giggling behind her hand with a light dust of pink smearing her cheeks.

Edward...

Orihime cheerily mused over how sweet and caring Ed can be. He had been the very first who has ever supported her love for cooking. Not even Ichigo or Tatsuki had been encouraging of her the way Ed does. Every time he compliments her cooking, her heart swells with a sense of pride. And it wasn't just Ed. Everyone she had befriended in this world greatly enjoyed the meals she prepared. Winry, Nina, the Hughes… One of Al's desires is to finally taste her cooking after he gets his body back.

She headed over to the bakery aisle next to buy some flour and baking soda. She already obtained the milk and butter she needed. Afterwards, she simply needed to make the short journey back to the fruit and vegetable section to pick up some lemon juice and lemon zest, and she should be done.

She quietly hummed a soft, merry tone to herself. The basket full of groceries she was carrying was kind of heavy, weighing on her right arm, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. Being an orphan and living alone, she was quite used to carting around hefty loads and loads of groceries.

Thanks to Edward, the auburn haired healer could now completely understand people who say it's okay to stay true and determined to one's dreams. To hold steadfast and unwavering to them. As long as one person believes in them, that's all that matters. That's all a person would ever need to have the courage, the strength to pursue their wishes, aspirations, and desires. A future they can believe in with all their heart and soul. That's really what anyone needs. Just someone who believes in them.

Her hand wandered and flickered her earrings. A soft, serene smile was brought to her spread across her lips, and her gray eyes shimmered with rapturous passionate warmth and captivated heartfelt tenderness. She loved these earrings! She wouldn't say getting her ears pierced was easy though. Having two holes drilled in each lope really, really hurt. But, in the end, it was highly worth it. She loved them! They were special. They were very precious to her. She loved them so much because Edward gave them to her.

Her face felt slightly warmer all of a sudden. Her heart began to speed up a little faster. The nerves in her hands and fingertips started to tinkle, faintly, and lightly fluttering butterflies somewhat erupted in the depths of her belly.

Why? Why does she get like this everytime she thinks about Ed? Even, right now, the scent of his iconic overcoat caused a lighthearted feeling of delightful content and serene satisfaction to wash over her. It was wonderful in helping to soothe her nervousness and anxiety. As long as she had it, she was okay. She was fine. The amount of white in the store doesn't...bother her.

At the dance, the auburn haired healer confessed to Edward so many things about herself, things she feels incredibly insecure about, things she hasn't told anyone, besides Tatsuki.

That was why...she couldn't stay like this forever. She had to get stronger. She couldn't be pathetic and weak. All she's been showing the blond alchemist lately was her fragile and vulnerable side. The gloomy, self deprecating image she was leaving of herself filled her with crushing shame. She can't even touch anything white without mentally freaking out. How pusillanimous. She was reverting back to the frail, timorous girl she was when she was rescued from Hueco Mundo and returned home. The same girl who couldn't sleep in the dark, and had to use a night light. But instead of relying rather aggressively on a night light, she was becoming horrendously dependent on Ed's coat for succor and reassurance. She was so weak and pitiful. The corner of her eyes began to burn with renewed, fresh tears. Why does she keep showing Ed her bad side?

She needed to get stronger, so she wouldn't become a liability anymore. A useless baggage. A helpless, pathetic damsel in distress. She needs to become strong, so she wouldn't have to rely on anyone for help anymore. No matter what, she'll be able to stand by herself in any danger or dire situation. She's got to become stronger!

"Miss? Are you okay?"

Holding back a startled and alarmed yelp, Orihime whipped her head around, staring in a stunned daze at the little girl who was gazing at her in concern. The young girl appeared to be about Nina's age with brown hair that was a lighter shade than the aforementioned girl. Some strands of her hair were pulled up into a ponytail on the left side of her head. Her green eyes reminded her of fresh tree leaves. She was wearing a green summer dress and white sandals.

"Uh?" was her stupor, unintelligent response. "Oh!" The older girl quickly regained her composure when she realized the small girl was talking to her. She smiled, sweetly at the child. "I'm fine."

The healer's silvery hues caught sight of the single bag filled with groceries in her left hand. It was obvious the stuff was already paid for, and the young child was about to leave. Snacks, which consisted of chips and candies, a small carton of orange juice, and apples, peaches, mangos, and carrots filled the grocery bag. She wondered for a moment, where was the child's parents? Surely, she didn't come shopping alone.

The younger girl frowned, seeming unconvinced. "You were about to cry just now," she pointed out. "And besides, you looked so super happy a few moments ago!" she piped up, throwing her hands up in an animated gesture, mindful of the bag of drinks and snacks she was carrying. "You were blushing, smiling and giggling to yourself, and everything!"

Orihime blinked, temporarily stupefied, a light embarrassed, pinkish hue tainted her cheeks. She looked...happy? Thinking about everything Edward did for her made her feel good...nice, but did she really look that incredibly happy reminiscing about the time she and Ed spent at the dance together, and him always being there in her time of need?

Sure, Edward makes her feel different than she does when interacting with any other boy. Strangely similar yet distinctively different from what she feels for Ichigo. She reevaluates on the fact that she does commit impulsively embarrassing actions towards the blond haired alchemist. Her kissing his chin the other day for one, a prime example. Actions that she would usually be too shy, timid, and self conscious to do to Ichigo. Though when she does realize what she does to Ed, she does become bashful and shy after the matter. It's like...she acts before her brain can process what's she's doing, and, once it catches up with her, she explodes into a pile of shyly red faced, embarrassed mush.

However, saying she looks so euphorically ecstatic is pushing it a bit. She's definitely appreciative of everything Ed has done for her. She's happy, but she isn't that happy. Is she? Beautifully sunny, golden eyes don't compare to enchantingly warm, chocolate brown orbs. Does it?

Now, that she thinks about, that wasn't the only flustering moment for her. When she gets too comfortable with Ed's presence, she forgets herself and becomes more touchy feely. Affectionately playful. They tease, laugh, and make good naturedly light remarks with each other, but it doesn't mean anything, right? Wait a second… At the moment followed by much contemplation, her face and ears burned and she exploded in a volcanic red mess, deeply blushing face, steam out her ears, and everything. Oh, god! Does she really do that with Edward? Please! Someone tell her she doesn't do that because...! Because...it almost seems like...they are...they are...flirting with each other! Dear, god! How embarrassing! She could feel herself die of embarrassment just musing over it!

"See?" the young child yelled, cheerily, pointing a cheeky finger at the older, fiercely blushing girl, grinning, proudly as if her observation was right all along. "Whatever you are thinking about must have made you really, really happy, miss!" she giggled.

The healer noted, rather sheepishly intrigued that the little girl was very bright and preceptive for a kid her age. Just the notion that this random child could read her so easily made her face burn in embarrassment. Or was she simply that overtly obvious?

The child craned her head, slightly in curiosity. "If you are so happy now, what made you so sad before?"

"Uh…" A hurricane of awkward self consciousness swirled inside the auburn haired girl. What was she supposed to say to this small child? She hardly believes a child at this age would understand this complexity of depressive self doubt, incomprehensible confusion, and this...insanely fuzzy, pleasantly unclear feeling that's been plaguing her turmoiled mind recently, and sending it to a state of diffidently bittersweet disarray. Maybe when she's a few years older.

She shook her head, deciding it'd be best to change the subject. It was too mortifying to keep discussing this. She offered the little girl a smile. "Are you here by yourself? Where are your parents?" she asked, politely. "You shouldn't be in here by yourself. It's very dangerous."

Something akin to sadness flashed in the younger girl's emerald eyes. It was only for a second though, as her orbs subsequently glimmered in childlike happiness. "She's waiting for me at home. My house isn't far from here, so it's okay," the brown haired girl replied, chirpy.

"And I'm guessing you were about to leave until you spotted me?" the older girl assumed, eyeing the grocery in the little girl's hand.

She bobbed her head in an affirmative manner. "I'm used to walking around on my own, miss," she stated, proudly. Her voice then dripped into a somberly melancholic yet brightly bittersweet tone. "It's been a long time since I had anyone waiting for me. The lady I'm living with isn't my real mom, but she's been very nice to me. I really owe that lady from saving me from that terrible life. That's why I'm doing my best to help and support her as much as I can."

A beaming grin spread across the child's lips. "I'm going to do my best, no matter what!" she proclaimed, childishly energetic. "You should do your best, too, miss! You should be happy and smile a lot because when you are happy, your friends would be happy, too! That's what my mom used to say."

Orihime's lips split into a kind smile, the young child's contagious genial affecting her. "Your mom sounds very nice." She wished she had a mom like that. "You should protect the things that are most important to you. I'm sure the people you love are happy to see you so bright, cheerful, and always smiling," she assured. This would be the part where she would softly pat the girl's head, if she was Nina. But since she was just an unknown child she just met, it would be too awkward and imposing to do that.

The brown haired girl grin, widened before she made an 'oh' sound of realization. "It's time for me to go, miss. No more crying, okay?" She began dashing towards the front exit.

The older girl giggled as she waved the young child off.

Well, that was...interesting. What an interesting, little girl. In a good way. Talking to the small child, surprisingly, lifted Orihime's spirits. Just for a few moments, she was able to control her fears and anxiety. It was strangely nice.

It also caused her to seriously justifiably ascertain the fact that she wasn't quite down shopping yet. She needed more than just groceries. Her plans had changed. Instead of going straight back to the hotel and preparing dinner and packing bento boxes to eat in the case they had to travel because Ed has another new mission, she ought to go to a pharmacy store to pick up some more bandages, disinfectant, and any other medicine she may need.

She was completely aware of the fact that she already had her healing abilities. Whenever Ed is injured, she could simply heal him with her Soten Kisshun. Conversely though, her spiritual powers are limited, so she couldn't rely on her healing technique every time somebody is injured. That's why it's a great idea for her to always have a first aid kit at the ready for minor scratches, bruises, and other injuries.

And that's not the only problem that concerns her. She had nearly forgotten that Edward's ability to discern spirits and ghosts has increased. Her lips turned into a sullen frown. Unlike Nina, who she could come at her side at all times when necessary, what was she going to do about her blond haired friend? There were times she won't be there to protect him. Not only that, but if she becomes more covertly protective, wanting to stick dangerously close to him as if she was practically glued to him, it'll only cause questions to arise from Ed. He's always been suspicious of her 'activities', but, recently, he has been reluctantly compliant and respectfully resigned to just let her do what she needs to do. As long as she came back alive and safe, he was yieldingly willing to overlook it.

She sighed, feeling dramatically tired. She was virtually stuck between a rock and a hard place. Now, how long would that last? How long could she keep him in the dark, protected from the shadows? What she needs is to come up with some precautionary measures to ensure Ed's safety.

What could Orihime do to protect Ed from Hollow attacks?


Edward stomped inside Mustang's office with a deep scowl on his face, fully prepared to be met with some sort of 'short' comment. Just thinking about it prompted him to produce a short, growl under his breath. Reaching out a gloved hand, he grabbed one of the door's handles, and lightly opened the door. He was mindful of the fact that if he harshly threw the doors open, he'd be met with a bullet to the head, courtesy of Hawkeye. And scolding later from a disappointed Orihime for being rudely insensitive to people doing their work, if he survived a shot to the head. Admittedly, he was more worried about that than anything else.

He inwardly shook his head, fondly. She really has a strong affect on him, doesn't she?

His golden eyes spotted Mustang's subordinates doing piles and piles of paperwork. Paperwork that should've been done quite a while ago. He tsked. The colonel has always procrastinated on his paperwork. He vaguely recalled a time his commanding officer had paperwork due in three hours, and he used all that time lazily taking a nap, obsessively cleaning the windows, and pointlessly trying to feed Black Hayate instead of doing his actual work. He didn't get started on it until the work was twenty minutes till it was due.

Havoc seemed to be the first to notice Ed's entrance. He casually took out his cigarette, blowing out a puff of nicotine. "Hey, chief! Welcome back! I see you are in a good mood today," he grinned in an easygoing manner, implying the dejectedly heavy hearted atmosphere the blond alchemist was carrying from the last time they saw him. The time when he was still reeling from the painful sting of Orihime's rejection.

The young blond frowned, sullenly at the reminder. Though, he quickly hid it away. He wasn't heartbroken and depressed and extremely hurt about it anymore. Mostly. If there was one thing he was begrudgingly grateful for that disgusting, conniving bitch, Amelia, for, was that he was seriously and calmly able to reassess and reevaluate his feelings for the auburn haired girl, and determine his stance between him, her, and Ichigo.

"Shut up!" Edward glowered at the woman, despite his unsteady from, rage burning in his eyes. "You don't understand a damn thing about me! So, what if I'm jealous? Do you really think I would hurt Orihime over a stupid reason like that? Yeah, I do find myself wondering where do I belong inside her heart? Is there even a place for me?" He gripped his chest, tightly, the spot where his aching heart lay, his tone becoming more subdued and low spirited along with a hint of sadness and anguish. "And sure, there was a part of me wishing she never met Ichigo, imagining what it would be like if she never even knew his name. Lately, my mind has been plagued by thoughts about her and Ichigo...and about me. Seeing her with another man drives me mad, almost to the point of insanity. It hurts. When it comes between Orihime and Ichigo, where am I in the picture? I agonized over it so much inside me, my heart was beginning to burst. A burning, nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach began to stir up. It's unbearable and too devastating to watch or to even think about. My chest tightens so much it becomes hard to breath sometimes. In that illusion back there, the one you say that brings out our heart's innermost darkest and despairing fears, when I saw her and Ichigo together, the only thing my mind could think of was that 'Orihime has been taken away from me'. When it comes to Ichigo, there's no place for me. I realized, at that moment, what that pain in my heart meant. ...I'm jealous," he uttered out, a tiny smile of resignation graced his lips. "But it wasn't any ordinary jealousy. This one stung at the core of my being like a white hot vice unwilling to let go. I'm jealous of the bond her and Ichigo share. It hurts so much! And I don't know if this pain would ever go away. Seeing her with someone else… I don't want it. I don't want her with anyone else!" he screamed out, his emotions fuming with indignant displeasure and disgruntled discontentment, furiously shaking his head. "Hehe," an acquiescent laugh escaped him. "Maybe I am just hurt and petty and bitter like you said. Guess, men are just naturally possessive. Or it could be just me. Yes, it hurts. It hurts seeing them together like that. Even if it was just my fears playing with my mind. But what hurts more is the thought of doing anything to make Orihime cry," he snarled, his outcry shaking the walls of the building and his golden eyes ablazed with renewed vigor and determination. "So let me fucking tell you something, you bitch! If you ever lay a finger on Orihime, I will obliterate you! I will protect her! That's a promise!"

He internally smirked, ruefully yet proudly at his bold declarations.

Jealousy. That was an emotion he wasn't unfamiliar with, however, he never felt a tremendously, deadly strong pull from it before. Even now, a harrowingly afflicted torrent of heartrending discontent twisted, darkly inside him with the bitterly, possessively burning waves of jaundiced agony and sour discomfort, gripping and clawing at his heart strings in a grievously, white hot vice. The spiteful, venomous, sadistic monster inside his head, maliciously mocking and berating him and ruthlessly attacking his insecurities with resentfully envious words about Orihime's seemingly unfair rejection of him, was the screaming of his own hurt and jealous heart.

However, since he was able to understand this emotion that used to torture him with agonizing distress, he was better able to suppress it when needed. Of course the upsettingly awful sting of it relentlessly stabbing his heart does hurt, it was nothing more than a dull ache. Orihime's happiness was more important than his jealousy, and it would aggravatingly petty of him to hurt her because of that.

From Havoc's comment, all eyes turned on Edward.

"Yup! Big guy seems to be back to his normal self," Breda smirked. "I mean, he doesn't appear gloomy anymore. You make up with your girl or something?"

Ed promptly turned a deep shade of red out of anger and embarrassment. "She isn't my girl!" he yelled, furiously.

"He's back!" all the older males in the room chorused in unison in a sing songy voice. They shot him various smirks and teasing grins.

The blond alchemist wisely kept his mouth shut. Or was it to prevent himself saying anything embarrassing, and digging a deeper, humiliating hole for himself? The fierce burning of his face wasn't really helping his case.

"There's no need to be so embarrassed, big guy," the somewhat chubby soldier remarked in a playful tone. He shot a meaningful winked at Ed, causing the younger boy's face to scrunch up in confusion.

The blond boy quickly noticed that Breda wasn't the only one shooting him weird, commending, and envious, courtesy of Havoc, looks. The stares they were sending the oblivious blond slightly creeped him out. It was almost as if they were silently congratulating him on a huge, secretive accomplishment. They just couldn't stop snickering.

He quirked a brow, puzzled. What was going with them?

Hawkeye appeared to be the only one not caught up in the strange antics of her fellow officers.

"I can't understand how the chief could land a hot one!" the blond smoker whined, animated tears running down his face while he childishly pounded his fist against his desk. "The colonel I could understand, but what does he have that I don't?"

Okay… His confusion grew at Havoc's dramatic display of envy. What the hell was the older blond talking about? The others shook their heads in amusement.

"I really feel sorry for you, Havoc," Fuery inputted, solemnly shaking his head at the poor bachelor.

"Face it, Havoc. You've hit rock bottom," Falman stated, feeling sympathetic towards the guy.

"Rock bottom? Sounds like you're implying Havoc hasn't been there from the very start," Breda snickered. "No. At this point… He's at the very depths of a loveless abyss."

Joyous laughter filled the room at the expense of the blond second lieutenant's misery.

"Shut up, you jerks!" Havoc shouted, indignantly. "I have you know I scored a hot one, too!"

A smooth, incredulous whistle sounded from the chubby second lieutenant.

"That's enough," Hawkeye defused the ongoing conversation, sternly before Breda could interrogate Havoc. "Time to get back to work." The men swiftly got back to work without so much as a complaint, knowing what would happen if they disobeyed the very strict and strait laced woman. She directed her brown gaze at Ed. "Go on in, Edward. The colonel's expecting you," she kindly gestured.

For a second, the young boy stayed glued to where he was. He wanted to question what everyone was going on about. He sincerely didn't like the idea of them talking about something he has no clue about, especially with him at the center of the discussion.

He gave a solid nod of thanks, and briskly walked inside the inner office. The door quietly shut behind him as his golden orbs immediately landed on his commanding officer filing away some paperwork. When he heard the door close, Mustang gazed up, wondering who came into his office.

"Ah, Fullmetal, welcome back," he casually greeted his youngest subordinate. His hand reached out to take the next document in his unfinished pile.

"You seem to be in an amiable mood, colonel," Edward commented. His shoulders relaxed somewhat. He looks like he wouldn't have to endure another mocking declaration to his height.

"Well, I haven't gotten any reports about property damage for once," the Flame Alchemist remarked with a smirk. He continued to read the form, his dark eyes never meeting Ed's. "That, in itself, is a miracle."

The blond boy frowned at the insinuation.

"What happened to your coat, Fullmetal?" the colonel questioned, a black brow raised in a knowingly interested way.

The young blond shrugged his shoulders. "Does it really matter?" he dismissed, nonchalantly.

"You decided to get rid of that gaudy sense of style you call fashion?"

"You got a problem with my sense of style, bastard?"

Mustang smirked. "You definitely seem back to your old self, Fullmetal. You catch a lucky break?" he goaded in an impish tone.

There it was that again. That mischievously sly, devilishly eloquent look everyone keeps giving.

Golden eyes narrowed, dubiously. "A lucky break? Bastard, the hell are you going on about?"

"Quite a lot of people are talking about it?"

Now, the blond boy was beyond curious and somewhat apprehensive. "Talking about what?" he frowned. Were people really talking about him behind his back? So, those envious and stares he received from strangers on his way here wasn't his imagination?

Mustang silently and attentively observed his youngest subordinate for a few seconds, his elbow propped up on his desk and his hands were curled up together to hide the bottom half of his face. His signature meditation mode when he's deeply contemplating something. He watched his every movement of his body. He shifted back and forth, showing signs of his impatience. His shoulders were tight and stiff, indicating his irritation. His expression was twisted into a mixture of utter confusion, obvious annoyance, and downright dubiety. A waspish, deep scowl finished off his appearance. Overall, he seemed completely puzzled and clueless, and slightly angry and peevish that people are probably talking about him behind his back.

He quirked a questioning, black eyebrow. Does he really not know? It's plastered all over the magazines in most stores, and there have been rumors and gossips about it. Might as well show him. Besides, he inwardly smirked, he was looking forward to the amusement he'd get from the show of excessively exaggerated Edward's reactions.

Ed eyed the colonel as he opened up one of the smaller drawers on his desk, his golden eyes never leaving him in case he tried something. He heard a shuffling of papers before the commanding officer found what he was looking for. His yellow brows furrowed in confoundment when he pulled out a...magazine?

"Since when do you read magazines, colonel?" he bemused.

"I don't. I just found this particular one very...interesting," the older man replied, slyly. With a wickedly teasing smirk, he deliberately tossed the magazine on his desk. "I think you should read it, too, Fullmetal. Who knows? Maybe you'll get a kick out of it as well."

Ed glared at him, skeptically. He really doesn't like that elfish tone in his superior's voice. He snatched the magazine, and began flipping through it. It was one of those gossip magazines. The ones showcasing the latest trends or the most recently hottest topics. His lips curled downward in indifference. He was never interested in rumors or gossips. He always ignored such trivial matters. After all, he has more important things to worry about than what fashions are the most popular right now, or scandalous, fabricated stories about people he doesn't really care or know. Like getting his younger brother's body back for one. Why the colonel would show him something as stupid and mind numbing as this is beyond him. Was there an inside joke he was clearly missing?

He continued to flip through the pages. There was absolutely nothing of interest. He was just about ready to toss the mag, feeling exasperated for wasting for nothing until...until…he instantly froze. All comprehensive thought processes left him.

The black haired colonel surveyed, clearly amused as his youngest subordinate's eyes went comically wide. His entire face, neck, and ear burned a very deep shade of scarlet red, unquestionably matching the color of his red coat, if he had it with him. His hands wouldn't stop trembling, thoroughly dismayed, almost letting the mag slip between his fingers. He opened and closed his mouth several times, embarrassingly flummoxed and unnervingly flustered beyond any recognition that he was practically stunned speechless. His eyes stayed, hypnotically glued to the offending page of the magazine.

He wordlessly began a mental countdown for when the blond alchemist has a hilariously absurd, over the top dramatic breakdown.

Five…

Four…

Three…

Two…

One...

Then the horrified, boyish wailing of a thousand erupting volcanoes, violently pierced through the atmosphere. Mustang had to speedily and cover his ears before he lost all hearing in them. He could almost guarantee that almost everyone in the office could hear the Fullmetal Alchemist's screaming. No… Not just his office, the entire building could probably hear it. Scratch that. Everybody within a five mile radius could hear Ed's egregiously vexed roar!

For safety reasons later, he wisely made a mental note to wear earplugs next time. He was pretty sure he could hear his windows cracking under the wind pressure of his subordinate's powerful lungs.

"WH-WH-WH-WHAT THE HELL?!" Ed bellowed. His flabbergastingly embarrassed expression transformed into infuriated outrage. His golden orbs were burning and seething red, fixated on the picture of Orihime kissing him on the cheek! His hand unconsciously threw itself up to the fixed area of the cheek. What the fuck?! Who?! Who took this goddamn picture?! HE'LL KILL THEM ONCE HE FOUNDS THAT ASSHOLE!

He wrathfully fling the mag across the room, and it hits the wall with a loud 'smack'. Hastily and fumingly turning on his heels, he incandescently stomped towards the door, getting ready to go on an aggressively bloodthirsty murder spree.

"Where do you think you're going, Fullmetal?" Mustang called out to him.

"Where do you think? I'm going to kill whoever published that magazine!" Edward sneered, promising an eternity of pain for the publisher.

"You can do that later. I believe you have the report of the incident in Neshire to turn in."

"Do you think I have the fucking time for that now?!" the Fullmetal Alchemist snarled, viciously. He turned around, so the colonel could fully gauge his expression. He looked like a savagely crazed madman.

The colonel shrugged. "It's your own fault, Fullmetal. I told you to guard her, not seduce her," he said, flatly.

He faltered, patently embarrassed and flustered, his face reheated with a passionate red flush. "I didn't seduce anybody!" the blond boy exclaimed, although, the huge red tint painted on his face didn't diminish. Not even a smudge.

"Your face says otherwise," the older man smirked, greatly enjoying the younger alchemist's awkward and chagrined display of emotions. "Though, I must say you really surprise me. Why a beautiful girl like her would pick you, I, for the life of me, can't fathom. Either you have some unknown, untapped attractive appeal, or you were tempted and easily wooed by her womanly charms."

"Hey!" he shouted, defensively. "Don't you dare accuse Orihime! She is the kindest, gentlest girl I know! She is cute, funny, brave, and, although, she is a little bit weird, ditzy, and airheaded at times, that just makes her cuter and oddly more attractive." His tone slowly morphed from angrily offended to a sheepish, nervous, happy teen. "She's really adorable when she laughs, and when she's mad she makes the cutest, little pouts. It's really fun to tease her when she gets all shy and bashful," he chuckled, lightheartedly. "She's a wonderful cook, too! All the foods she makes taste so fucking good! And her smiles…," he sighed, contented. "Her smiles are the most beautiful thing about her. They are so warm and bright. They suck you into it's heavenly radiance. Just like the sun. Very stunning. Absolutely breathtaking. She's so pretty."

Wow, okay. The older alchemist was left staggered and a complete loss for words. The boy was clearly lovesick. He couldn't believe this! Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, the bullheaded, reckless, brash boy, who takes no crap from anyone, was acting like a lovesick teenager! It was the first time he's ever seen the kid act similarly to his actual age. Not the grumpy, hot tempered, prideful, young alchemist who always appears to be carrying a huge weight on his shoulders. Just a hormonal, young man. A lovestruck teen! Dear god, the world must have ended! This girl must really be absolutely amazing to reduce Fullmetal into...whatever this is… He fell for her. He fell for her hard. To make Edward behave like this, she must be a miracle worker! Not even Winry, the boy's mechanic, could bring this kind of reaction from him. Fullmetal is almost behaving bizarrely and nearly the same as Havoc whenever the man's raving about a new girlfriend every other week or so.

He pondered for a second. Was this the same girl he was having troubles with the last time he saw him? The one where he carried an aura of depression, pain, and sadness everywhere he went? He could never forget the hopelessly heartbroken expression the kid wore as he trudged around, eyes seemingly dead to the world.

Man, how bad does Edward Elric have it for this girl?

Mustang shook his head, bemused. "I can't believe you,of all people, have a hot girlfriend!"

"She's not my girlfriend!" he shouted, affronted, face flushed. "She's just… She's just...a...friend," he muttered in what sounded like dejected defeat. "Besides, she already has someone she likes," he grumbled, bitterly.

Mustang rose a brow. Did he just detect a faint trace of jealousy in his subordinate's tone?

Golden eyes went wide in shocking realization. "Wait a minute…! Is this why everyone keeps giving me these weirdly sly looks, and shooting me mischievous and, sometimes, envious comments?"

"Most likely, yes."

A twister of anger, humiliation, and embarrassment crossed the younger alchemist's countenance.

"Anyway, I didn't call you in here to hear you rant about your love life."

Ed choked on his spit. "What love life?!" he spazzed out.

"Your report."

His youngest subordinate glared at him for a moment before roughly stuffing his hand in his pocket. He handed his written report of the Neshire incident to his commanding officer. Thankfully relieved that they could drop this embarrassing conversation for now.

After all this is over, he swears to go that he's going to hunt down and kill the assholes responsible for taking those embarrassing and private pictures of him and Orihime!

Mustang took a few minutes to read over the report. Damn, Fullmetal and his horrible handwriting. This was obviously written in a rush.

His dark eyes scanned the paper three times, and each time he grew more and more confused. A frown of disbelief and incredulity marred his face.

"What is this supposed to be, Fullmetal?" the dark haired colonel inquired with all the skepticism he could muster.

His eyes narrowed, daring his superior to elaborate, which he did.

"Everything in here sounds really farfetched," he deadpanned. Fullmetal can't really expect them to believe this. What was written in this report was entirely implausible beyond any rational belief or logical sense. A woman who could create dark and twisted illusions and steal people's life energy?

Ed figured that there was a high chance of him facing his commanding officer's dubiousness. Admittedly, he omitted a few details from the report. Hugely embarrassing, mortifying, and humiliating details that include his jealousy towards Orihime's relationship with Ichigo, Orihime kissing him and confessing to him in his pleasantly gratifying illusion, and Amelia's disgustingly cold kiss. He fought down a growing blush. He superior doesn't need to know any of that! Neither did he need to know about Orihime's breakdown. It was essential for him to know something so private and personal. Plus, he highly doubts she would like other people knowing about it. Hell, he doesn't want anybody to butt into their personal business. But everything else written in there is one hundred percent true.

He shook his head, quickly getting rid of those thoughts. His expression turned grave and serious. "You may not believe me, colonel, but everything I wrote is completely. Hell, I wouldn't have believed, if I didn't see everything with my very own eyes." He ran a frustrated hand through his blond locks. "Things around here has been fucking crazy lately. Weird shit has been happening a lot recently. I don't know what the fuck's going on anymore."

Mustang raised a black brow, quizzically. "Weird like how?"

"There's the mod souls for one," Ed explained.

"Mod souls?"

"They are artificial souls stuffed into dead bodies."

The older man's nose crinkled in disgust. "Wait…" He blinked, astounded. "Did you say artificial souls? You mean someone was actually able to created human souls?!" he exclaimed, completely appalled.

The younger alchemist bobbed his head, grimly. "They are really powerful and dangerous, colonel. Me and Al were almost completely destroyed by one of them," he growled, lowly, fists clenched at his side. "You better keep an eye for them, colonel."

The Flame Alchemist eyed the blond, scrupulously, searching for any doubt or any reasons to disregard his words. However, with the seriousness of Fullmetal's tone, there's no way he couldn't believe him. He nodded, curtly. "Duly noted."

There was a moment of silence.

"So, were ever going to tell me about Hughes's murder, colonel?" Ed accused, his golden eyes basically glowering at him. He hasn't forgotten about how Mustang lied to him about Hughes being killed instead just telling his family 'moved away'.

The black haired man's orbs widened, slightly, being caught completely redhanded. "Who knew? Who told you?" he nearly gasped, shocked.

"Lieutenant Ross did. Said he was killed over a month and a half ago."

He sighed in defeat. "Well, since you know about Hughes's death, I see no reason to hide this from you. You were probably going to find out anyway." He dug his hand inside a different drawer. "It appears they have a prime suspect on Hughes's murder."

"A suspect?" Ed asked, hopeful that he could catch the criminal for his friend's death and avenge him.

With a swift nod of his head, the colonel took out a newspaper article. "Take a look." He handed it over to him, which the younger alchemist gingerly took into his hands.

When his golden eyes landed on the paper, he froze for the second time in under an hour, his eyeballs nearly bugging out. His face paled, considerably, and the palms of his hands began to shake and sweat in alarming dread and uneasy trepidation. All the blood in his blood went ice cold.

What is this? This can't be…! This can't be right! He killed Brigadier General Maes Hughes?!


(A/N: Yes! Chapter forty five, complete! How did you guys enjoy it? Did you like it so far? It took me a while, but I'm really starting to get back in my muse for writing these chapters. How do you feel about Mustang teasing Edward about his nonexistent love life with Orihime? Was it funny and charming? Or do you perhaps think Ed behaved a little OOC in some way? I tried to get him to act like a normal teenage boy in love. Don't know if I did it right.

At first, I did feel a little bad focusing so much time on Zero, but you guys should all know about now. If a character in this story gets focused more than usual, then they are eventually going to be part of the supporting cast. I kind of did the same with Chloe.

Now, I feel really bad because I don't have much else to say. Leave any comments, suggestions, and questions in a review, and thanks for reading! Oh, and before I forget and I know it's early, but Happy Halloween! I don't know if I'll be able to post a new chapter or story before Halloween comes up, so I'll say it now. Happy Halloween! If I do post something up by the time Halloween comes around, I'll say it again.)

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