The Flower Princess and the Alchemist @bloodpokemon101
A Letter from a Dear Friend

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

LightJakRises: Thanks for reviewing! It makes sense. I mean, pilot manga Ed was too much of a seinen protagonist. They had to tone it down to make him more shonen material. The only probably here is that he acts like any other shonen protagonist. The only gimmick here that separates him from the others is that he is smart. Very intelligent. However, I barely call that a unique trait since being smart is a requirement to use the shonen power in the FMA world.

Simply Christian: Thanks for the review! Huh? I never thought of Morgan as an evil counterpart to Kon. When I first created his character, I thought of him as a remorseless sexual predator who is a stalker with a crush for Orihime, and merely went from there. Kon never once crossed my mind. Good eye for catching their not so different personalities. And about Hughes lack of mention of the nationwide Transmutation Circle... It was a time where I was still thinking about the ending. Remember, I was still in the planning stages for the end of the series, and I wanted to make changes. So whether or not the nationwide circle still exist was up to debate at the time. And also, I wanted to hint that Hughes may be suffering from short term amnesia. It is not uncommon for people to immediately forget things post death because of the trauma of...well...dying. I've seen in anime and manga all the time. And yep! Now that I think about it... That's one of the things Ed and Orihime have in common. They stubborn and knack for shouldering all blame, guilt, and responsibilities on their shoulders. I don't mind if you different opinions than mine. I only mind, if someone bashes someone else's opinion, and calls them 'stupid' or some other hurtful words for having different beliefs and likes. I don't hate Ichigo/Rukia or Winry/Edward. I just can't see them in a romantic light. They are more like brother and sister to me. And people do tend forget how much of lonely, depressed girl Orihime is behind her cheerful, bubbly, ditzy facade. It's so sad. Especially for people to wish for die just because she doesn't display the typical shonen battle mentality. Using battles to fix...everything is unrealistic. Fighting doesn't fix mental/emotional problems. There is a difference between being strong physically and being strong emotionally. People need to learn and accept that.

TheEmeraldMage: Thanks for the review! Yeah, that's what I meant. Ed and Orihime have hit the 'more than friends' part of their relationship. Only question now is... Who would make the first move? Who would take the next step? Of course, there are still problems that still need to be workded in this newfound relationship. And yeah, when ask me if I like Ed/Winry? I ask them what version? If it's the 2003 FMA version, I say I only think of them as brother and sister. The manga version, to me is borderline abusive that it is hidden behind a comedic facade. Black comedy, I should say, which is bad because any potential ship tease is ruined in one way or another just to add another "Oh, look. She's hitting him. Isn't that so funny? You guys like that, right?", ruining the romantic mood that was there moments ago. Good thing, Brotherhood rectifies and gets rid of some of the unnecessary black comedy female abuses male scenes. That's why Brotherhood is only version of Fullmetal Alchemist that I kind of like Ed/Winry. They are not my OTP pairings, but I like them fairly enough.

Thanks to everyone else who have patient, and have continued to fave, follow, review, and overall support this story! You guys are the best!)

A Letter from a Dear Friend

When the young teens heard the loud, obsessive knocks through the hotel room, forcibly breaking the mood and making their lip locking cease. Half hooded, affectionate eyes gazed at each other with deep longing. Their faces were profoundly flushed, and they were panting, somewhat heavily, greedily sucking in oxygen back into their lungs.

Another series of fanatical knocks reverberated. The romantic tension in the air dissipated.

Orihime and Edward immediately separated, jumping to opposite sides of the bed, alarmed, extremely startled, and as if they caught on fire. Their faces turned even more of a bright, cherry red, if that were possible. They both shifted uncomfortably on their spots, too shy and embarrassed to look at one another anymore. Especially after what happened. What just occurred.

They kissed!

They really kissed!

Again! For the second time!

What does this mean for them now? In what alignment does their relationship fall under after this...event?

"I-I'll get it," Orihime finally said, her voice, appearing very low and meek, came out in hesitatingly bashful notes. She was trying, with all her might, to keep her mind occupied and distracted from the heated, passion filled moment she shared with Ed.

Edward didn't respond. Or rather, he was too frightfully unconfident that his voice would come out in a flustered, incoherent mush. Just a bumbling slur of clumsily nervous nonsense. He simply nodded his head, dumbly, watching her climb up from the bed on slightly unsteady legs to answer the door.

Placing a shaky hand on her chest and gasping her gray shirt, tightly, the healer attempted to either ignore or mentally willed herself to control the fast paced beating of her heart. This was no time to get side tracked or absorbed by the remnants of his masculine scent or the way his soft lips enveloped hers in a sweet kiss.

Oh, no! Her stomach was doing flip flops, and her face won't stop burning. She had to control these jumbled, fuzzy feelings swimming around in her chest. At least until whoever's at the door comes to pass.

She rested an unsteady hand on the handle, but she didn't do any more than that. Not until she got her emotions under control, and the redness of her deeply flushed countenance to die down. She subconsciously twiddled with her earrings. But when she remembered who gave her these earrings, her heart began to pick up once more.

She needed to block out any reminders of Ed or the nice and sweet things he's done for her. Things that make her heart flutter, a warm, pleasant, buzzy feeling in her stomach, and the lingering sensation of satisfying content that coursed through her.

Orihime mentally shook her head before she could get distracted by these confusing and anxious filled thoughts that were making the nerves in her hands all tinglingly nervous again.

She refocused her attention on the mystery person behind the door. It was better to focus her mind elsewhere. Any more thoughts on her, and her body would short circuit out of fluttering embarrassment and ecstatic apprehension. She wondered who it was, and what did they want? Was it package delivery, or a message about a phone call?

Once she was mentally prepared enough, Orihime opened the door, and was surprised to see Alphonse on the other side. She noted how oddly pensive he seemed from his body language. Pensively happy but confused, as if he was thinking hard about something. Something unbelievable that caught him off guard, and he just doesn't know how to fathom it or fully process it yet.

"What's the matter, Al?" Orihime asked.

"I have a lett-" Alphonse paused mid sentence when he noticed the embarrassed flushed faces of his friend and brother. It's almost as if he could smell the thinly veiled awkward tension in the room. "Was I interrupting something?" he asked, quizzically, shifting between the two older teens.

On cue, Orihime's and Edward's faces turned an embarrassingly, bright shade of crimson red. Gray eyes shyly met gold before hurriedly looking away in bashful awkwardness. The mental image of their not so long ago second kiss replayed in their minds, much to their chagrin.

The auburn haired healer did her best to recover, despite the quickening pace of her heart. "N-nothing really," she answered, as casually as she could, however, she was internally freaking out because her voice wavered a bit, sounding way too squeaky for her liking.

The suit of armor had a face, he would have cocked a curiously innocent brow at the two obviously abashed, deeply flustered teens. "Your lips are slightly swollen...and red," he pointed out, staring down at the auburn haired girl.

The healer made a noise that was between a startled yelp and a flustered squeal, swiftly covering her lips with her hand. Al could hear his brother spluttering in the background.

Orihime's entire face burned a shade of dark red that would put her auburn hair to shame. She practically looked like a girl who was caught doing something...sinfully naughty. "I bit my lip!" she all but burst out, her voice somewhat muffled by her hand before dashing out of the room in a panic, covering her whole countenance, mortified. Absolutely mortified.

Edward watched her go with sad yet disappointed eyes. "Dammit, Al!" he grumbled, shooting his brother a rather heated glare. He was having downheartedly unpleasant flashbacks of when she ran away after their first kiss, and his heart ached with hurt. At least, this time she left more out of self conscious embarrassment instead of horrified guilt. That had to leave him with some hope, right?

"I'm sorry, brother!" the suit of armor stammered, apologetically. "Was it something I said?"

Ed let out a frustrated, somewhat dejected sigh. "It's...nothing, Al." He ran a despondent hand through his blond hair. He was keenly aware that the reason for Orihime's hasty retreat had less to do with his armored brother and more to do with him.

This may be painful remnants and hurt feelings of rejection due their previous kiss pouring through, but he can't help it. God, he feels like a hopeless idiot. He was only supposed to comfort her because she's been so distraught about this. The irritatingly creepy, stalkerish photographers, the annoying gossip magazines… He merely came in here with the simple goal of cheering Orihime up, and getting her mind off this ignominious turn of events. How did things turn so...intimate? Why did he kiss her?

But she kissed him back. That must show she has some attraction towards him.

Something in the back of his head nagged at him, hoping to provide him with some hopeful and positive outlook to the situation. It was trying to encourage him to cheerfully rejoice because he might have a shot with her, after all. Things were finally looking up for him! This wasn't time for him to be moping, he should be celebrating! He should be performing a happy dance inside her head!

However, it was sort of hard to feel that way when a depressing wave of unnerving doubt echoed in his heart. Can a guy be blamed for having second thoughts? Who started the kiss? Him or her? And if he was the one who started it, why would Orihime kiss him back? What were her thoughts when she kissed him? Why him?

For the thousandth time, he cursed his teenage hormones. He felt so utterly stupid and ashamed of himself, a stinging ping of regret stabbing at his heart. Given the circumstance, it almost seemed like he was taking advantage of the auburn haired healer in her vulnerable state, something he swore he'd never do. He better apologize to her after this. He doesn't want her to be upset with him. She has a lot going on right now. The only thing he managed to do was add to her burdens. God, he was such a fucking idiot!

As much as it pains his heart to say this, Orihime was probably reeling with shameful remorse just like last time. An unpalatable taste of despairing heartache lingered at the tip of his tongue. No doubt she was thinking of their kiss as one huge mistake. After all, she had feelings for Ichigo. Not him. She would never look at him in that way.

She wouldn't kiss him a second time, and call it a 'mistake'.

The optimistic voice in his head tried to reason with him, arguing that this was no time to be cynical and pessimistic. She rejected him once before. Who's to say she won't reject him again? Was he really ready to face that agonizing pain of heartbreak again? Was he ready for his heart to be horrendously shattered into a million tiny pieces? For that unbearable, excruciating pain to callously pierce a soul crushing gaping hole in his heart? A harrowingly anguished fill hole that would tear inside him like a deep, jagged wound?

He went through that distressingly miserable heartache once before. Was he ready to experience that...demoralizingly crucifying emotional stress of a broken heart again and so soon?

"Brother? Are you sure everything is alright?" Alphonse's hesitant, worried tone caught his attention.

Ed glanced over to see Al gazing at him with concerned, glowing, red eyes. He almost slapped his palm against his forehead for his stupidity. Why is he agonizing about this when his younger brother is right there? He could worry about his...romantic woes some other time. Not when his brother is here.

"Yeah, Al… It's just…" He wasn't comfortable talking about his...complicated relationship with Orihime with his younger brother. He felt awkward and reticent saying the 'L' word. Not when he felt so unsure of where he stands with auburn haired girl. He already established he cares for her. A lot. But he wasn't sure if he was ready to use the word 'l-o-v-e'.

He knows it was silly because Al was his brother. Al wouldn't judge him, or think any less of him. But he wanted to keep up the image of a strong and confident older brother. Besides, how was supposed to tell Al he kissed Orihime?! Again?! He'd surely die of embarrassment before that happened! He could look at the world around with self assured arrogance and have a blithe indifference to what people think of him. He'll gladly march head on into difficult challenges and perilous situations with fearless bravado and fiery determination.

However, when it came to romance, he was incredibly shy and clumsily awkward. Well, for starters, the blond alchemist has zero experience when it comes to love and romance. Romance in general was outside his comfort zone. He wasn't one to be interested or entranced by the opposite sex like most guys. His basic knowledge of romance and women is limited to the anatomy texts he's read, more or less in the alchemic and medical sense, demonstrating and interpreting the way intense affection and compelling infatuation affects the neurons and chemicals in one's brain.

He wasn't because he didn't have many female friends. Although, truthfully, before meeting Orihime, Winry was the only girl that he knew in his age group and got along with. Most of the other women he got along with were in the military and older than him. Old enough to be his big sister or mother figure. He knew quite a few girls in Resembool, but he wouldn't call them 'friends'. They were more along the lines of 'acquaintances' rather than 'friends'. Al, due to his kinder and gentler nature, was more popular with girls than he was. He wasn't mad about it. How can he be envious of something he doesn't care about? Ultimately, the female sex just wasn't something that caught his eye. Returning his little brother back to his old body is his number one priority!

Orihime… Orihime's different though. Orihime brings something out of him he'd never understood before. A feeling… A buzzy, flurry of emotion that was so foreign, so mind numbing, and so...scary because it is trepressaing into an unknown territory for him. He doesn't know what this is. All he knew was that he never felt this way with any other girl. Not even Winry.

All he knows is when he's near her, and especially when alone together with her, his chest tightens, his heart beats pick up, and there's a fuzzy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He engineered himself to recite the periodic table or alchemic formulas to keep his mind from going haywire and wandering into...apprehensively diffident places that made him feel nervously awkward and hopelessly insecure. All he could say is that he cares for her very deeply. She was important to him. And he'd do whatever he can to protect her!

Edward was hell as sure not readying to dive into this...discombobulatingly inhibited territory with Al. He'd surely combust in the flames of embarrassment! Especially since he was unsure where his relationship with Orihime stands at the moment. Or where he wants it to go.

He'd better divert the conversation elsewhere.

"It's nothing… Don't worry about it. I'll talk to Orihime later," Ed muttered, hand pressed against his forehead and fingers lightly gripping his bangs, expressing his confusion and fluster. He blew out a deep breath. "You said you had a letter Al?" he said, hurriedly changing the subject.

Alphonsed seemed to be contemplating whether he should prompt Ed to elaborate on what went on between him and Orihime, and what caused her to rush off like that as if she was trailed by a mountain of burning fire. Or just drop it like his brother obviously wants?

A part of him wanted to say he already knew the answer, given the circumstances. The auburn haired healer was most likely still upset over the magazine with the humiliating picture of her and Ed. And Edward wasn't the most...sensitive guy in the world. He wouldn't put it past his brother for, unintentionally, making the situation worse. Edward wasn't the most...tactful person with his words.

He decided to go with the latter option. He would leave it for now. If it was important, Ed would come clean. Right? Besides, what he has in his hands deserved the utmost importance. It was something…that was going to shock him to the core!

His brother just has to see it for himself!

"Ah, yes!" The dazed puzzlement and minor reluctance in his voice turned into an odd mixture of grim relief and wary wonderment.

"I have a letter for you," Al responded, tentatively, holding out a white envelope in his hand.

"A letter?" Ed questioned, confused. "From who?"

"From Hughes."

In a split instant, the blond alchemist's golden eyes widened in appalling disbelief, and snatched the envelope from his younger brother's awaiting hand.

He eyeballed the white sheet, and saw that it really was addressed to him! And from...Maes Hughes! Without wasting a second, he hastily ripped the envelope open up, and tore the letter from its contents. His heartbeats sped up in nervous anticipation. The nerves of his hands tickled with restless anxiety. Beads of trepidation rolled down the side of his face, and his shoulders stiffened.

Hughes wrote a letter to him? What did the letter say? These were Hughes's last words to him, right? What did he want to convey that he couldn't express in person? Seeing as looking into the secrets of the Philosopher's Stone, for him and Al the last time they saw him, did he find something out about the stone that he had to write down? Golden orbs widened in shock at that possibility. But if Hughes had to jot down any secrets without anyone being the wiser, that means he suspected he was going to die soon, right?

A hurricane of uncontrollably frantic thoughts swirled around inside his head. All the memories, precious moments of the times he's spent with Hughes came rushing back in a flooding river of dark turmoil. A sinking feeling of overstrung perturbation burned at the pit of his stomach.

Edward's tongue slipped out to moisten his dry lips. Oh, the suspense was killing him! He unfolded the written message, his eyes directly glued to it with bated breath. A deafening silence rang through the air as he silently read through the letter's contents. The atmosphere became dense with uneasy agitation.

Hey, Edward.

If you are reading this letter, then that means I did not make it. Ah, I didn't want my words to you to be like this, Ed. Right now, you are probably blaming yourself for my death, aren't you? That's just the kind of guy you are. You are the type to take things very personal.

Despite what I may say might be pointless, I'll say it anyway. You need to stop blaming yourself for my death, Ed. Al, too. My death is not your guys' fault. I knew what I was getting into when researching the Philosopher's Stone. So, don't beat yourselves up about it.

As much as I would love to have this one sided chat with you boys more, I don't really have much time, so I'm going to make this quick. Ed, have you ever noticed something weird about this country? I know that statement I just said might confuse you. I don't really have time to tell you, unfortunately. All I could offer you is a warning.

I can't exactly explain what I'm warning you guys about. There's some new revelations that left my confused mind in a jumbled mess. I thought I understood what was going on, but some new developments came up, and I'm not sure anymore. I'm uncertain if this new...information is related to what is going with the country, or a completely separate problem entirely, unrelated to what's going on.

All I can be certain of is something freaky is going on behind the scenes. Whether it's connected to the Philosopher's Stone or not is another story. But if it is, I can see two possibilities of why people who chase or create the stone are killed. One, there's a military conspiracy going on. And two, it's a...danger magnetic. A lot of...things are attracted to not the stone itself, but what's inside the stone. Humans and...non humans.

I'm not one to believe in, I don't know how else to say this, irrational abnormalities, and I'm sure neither are you, Ed. But something really freakish bizarre is happening. It makes me question that we really don't know much about our world, do we? I can't exactly say what. For certain reasons, it's...confidential. Hopefully, one day, one day soon, you'll discover it on your own.

I'll leave you with two pieces of warning. Don't trust King Bradley or any of the Central higher ups in the military. For the second advice, I can't really say much besides watch your backs. Nothing is safe anymore.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Take care of Orihime. You have a good woman by your side. Hold onto her, and never let her go! I know you like her, Ed. Everyone can see it from a mile away. Make her happy. That girl… She's going through a lot. A lot more than any of us can understand. And she's planning on shouldering this burden all on her own. She needs you, Ed.

I wish I could give a lot more advice on women. I guess Mustang can handle it from here. I know you're a good guy, Edward. You are not the most flattering person in the world. Let's face it, Ed. You're a short tempered, ill mannered jerk. You are stubborn, hotheaded, and boorish, and you get tunnel vision. Not the most sensible guy out there. But still… Your heart is always in the right place. You just have to let Orihime continuously see that kind and good natured heart of yours.

Sigh. I'm going to miss you guys! Keep moving forward! Good luck getting your bodies back.

Tell my wife and daughter I love them!

From Maes Hughes.

P.S. I wished I could have lived a bit longer to see you marry Orihime, Edward! You are a good man, Edward. Make Orihime the happiest woman in the world. A man's pride and duty is making the girl they love incredibly happy and proud they chose them above all else. Don't make her regret choosing you.

Edward scanned the letter over and over again. So many times his head began to hurt. His mind was too numb. He couldn't...comprehend it.

He knew he should feel relieved. Hughes doesn't blame him or Al for his death. For dragging him into something so dangerous that it cost him his life. He knew he should be alleviated from his repentance, and stop blaming himself for Hughes's death. The man practically gave him a free pass to forgiveness.

But all he felt was overwhelming guilt. How? How could Hughes forgive him so easily for getting him involved in this mess? Gracia had told him not to be weighed down by the culpability of his grief and regret. Telling him with such a brave face, despite the pain and sorrow in her heart, to keep moving forward. And now, Hughes was doing the same in his posthumous letter. It seemed that every member of the Hughes family were nice, encouraging, and forgiving people.

"What…? What did the letter say?" Alphonse asked, tentatively. He was getting worried when Ed remained eerily unresponsive for several minutes now.

His younger brother's query caused the blond alchemist to snap out of it. "Oh, um…" His expression turned somberly acquiescent. "He told us the exact same thing as Gracia did. To keep moving forward."

"I see," Al said in the same subdued tone as his brother. "So, basically, the same as mine?"

"You got a letter from Hughes, too, Al?" Ed asked in wide eyed surprise.

"Yeah," he answered in a simple and short reply.

Ed plopped back down on the bed, a sigh that was a twisted mixture of reluctant gaiety and guilt laden lassitude escaped past his lips, running a melancholic hand through his bangs. "Both of them don't blame us for what happened. Despite what happened, they continue to support us."

The strawberry scent of Orihime's room was able to relax him a bit, staving off the murky feeling of crushing remorse he felt in a calm and orderly way. If he was anywhere else, he'd surely drown in an overwhelming stormy sea of distraught self condemnation raging, violently at being reminded that they unwittingly led Hughes to his death. The comforting, warm emanating from her room held him in a gentle, tender embrace. It was similar to basking in the pleasantly toasty glow of the sun, preventing him from being submerged in a dreary ocean of dispiriting negativity and cleansing his soul.

"We have met some really kind people, haven't we, brother?" the suit of armor commented, almost wistfully.

The elder Elric nodded with a slight gratifying smile gracing his lips. His facial expression then twisted into a solemn frown. "Hughes did give us a warning. He said to be wary from the higher ups in Central. Especially… King Bradley."

The moment those words left his lips the air in the room became thick with terrifying dread. It was almost suffocating. The thought of their leader being in league with the homunculi or mod souls sent cold shivers down their spines. If that was true, then this was bigger than either of them could imagine. It was...scarily unfathomable. It was almost like...a government conspiracy was going on behind the shadows!

It was impossible, right?! It was unthinkable! The possibility of King Bradley, their leader being their enemy was too unfathomably horrible to think about!

There was no need for Al to respond. For he already received and read his own letter from the deceased Maes Hughes. If Ed's letter was anything like his, then he already knew what it said for the most part.

"Does that mean we can't trust anyone in the military?" Alphonse started to speak, breaking the tense and heavy silence.

The blond alchemist frowned, sullenly, his expression hardening. "I don't know. Hughes's letter instructed us to be aware of the senior staff of Central. So, I'm not sure if everyone in the military is involved, or just the higher ups."

He leaned forward, elbows propped on his knees as he glanced out the window, reflectively confounded, yellow brows furrowed in a dazed discountenance. "There was something else Hughes wanted to say, but he couldn't say it because it was 'confidential'," the elder Elric thought out loud.

The suit of armor tilted his head, confused. "Confidential? What does that mean?"

The blond boy gazed at him, feeling just as stumped as the armored boy. "I'm not sure. But he did give us a clue."

"What?" the younger Elric inquired in an almost hopeful tone.

"That the freaky shit that's been going on lately is somehow connected to the Philosopher's Stone, and that someone or some people were forcing him to keep his mouth shut, preventing him from disclosing such vital information."

"How does the stone connect to all this?"

"I don't…" Ed broke out in a loud gasp of unsettling awareness and alarming dismay before placing his left elbow on his left knee and resting his open left palm under his chin in a ruminative pose. "Hughes mentioned that it's not really the stone, but what's inside the stone."

"Inside the stone?"

"Don't you remember what the main ingredient for the Philosopher's Stone was, Al?" Edward scowled, golden eyes filled with suppressed rage and disgust.

"Human souls?!" Al almost shouted, appallingly gobsmacked, coming to the same horrified realization as his brother. Just the mere sent spine chilling dread down his metaphorical spine.

He eyed his older brother, desperately hoping the conclusion he came to was incorrect, but, unfortunately, he only provided a grim nod in return, making the younger Elric's nonexistent stomach drop in revolting disfavor.

"Whatever is going on, there's some sick bastard out there experimenting on human souls!" Ed growled, the disdainful contempt in his voice all too real.

Alphonse remained silent, his mind reeling with frightfully unease at the terrifyingly odious notion. His slumped and subtly trembling shoulders expressed how utterly distressed he felt about this whole grisly situation. "Wait…! Aren't the mod souls artificial souls? Do you think this is related to them somehow?" he questioned, tentatively.

"Urgh!" Ed groaned, throwing himself back onto the bed in frustration. "What the hell is going on? I wish someone would come and explain it to us! Or perhaps some sort of clue would show up to solve this ridiculously crazy puzzle! And what are Hollows? So many damn questions, and no fucking answer!"

The soul bonded armor suddenly recalled the conversation he had with Liza the other day at the library. "Brother, I need to tell you something," he spoke out, grabbing Ed's attention. "I met someone who knew a thing or two about Hollows at the library."

Edward's eyes nearly bulged out of his head, and he jumped out of the bed in an excitable manner. "What?! Who?!" he exclaimed, practically getting up close to his face.

The suit of armor held up in hands in an almost exasperated fashion, gesturing to the shorter male to calm down a bit, so he can elaborate.

Once Ed settled down slightly, Al carried on. "It was a blonde woman by the name of Liza Patterson. She talked about religion and curses and the supernatural."

The blond alchemist crossed his arms, skeptical and unimpressed. "So, basically, a religious nut, or a creepy lady telling ghost stories?"

"She brought up the concept of life, death, and rebirth."

Ed paused for a moment in . "Wait… Wasn't that the research Riku's dead brother, Reo, was doing before he died?"

Al nodded his head. "Yeah. And I don't think Liza was being religious, she explained to me that sometimes religions were based on myths and legends. And because science and technology started growing more and more, people dismissed it as nothing more than crazy lores and folktales."

The older Elric listened to his brother with rapt attention, soaking all the new information in.

"She spoke about how there were once 'demonic entities', and people with superhuman powers who would hunt down these 'entities'. They were once worshipped as gods, however, eventually, people began looking at them with fear and disdain for their powers. Soon, they were cast aside by society and the world, and no one has seen these 'superhuman' people since."

The older boy took a minute to let the story sink in.

Meanwhile, in the bathroom, several moments before Edward received his letter from Hughes, a certain auburn haired healer who was leaning over the sink counter in the bathroom, her heart frantically beating a million times a minute and blushing like mad. Her face was almost as red as her hair!

Why did she choose to hide away in the bathroom? She wasn't sure. In her panicked state of mind, hurriedly dashing towards the restroom was the first thing that came to mind because it was thankfully private and relatively quiet. Her thoughts were feverishly reeling with what happened between her and Ed! So fast, in fact, that her brain was turning to mush.

Why?! Why did she kiss him?!

Why did she kiss Edward?!


Was there some sort of inborn command secretly engraved ordering her to kiss Ed?

Orihime's face burned. All she could hear was the excessive pounding of her heart. Her whole body was tense with unexplained restlessness. The nerves in both her hands tingle with electrified anxiety and crackling ecstasy. An overwhelming sensation of strange delight was beginning to overtake her, leaving her in utter disarray and unusually disoriented. She was being engulfed in a buzzing, wired tornado of jittery fluster and burning embarrassment, purposely turning her entire being into a pile of jelly mush.

She slowly and steadily maneuvered her nervously wobbly legs over to the toilet and took a seat upon it. If she had stood any longer, her legs might have given out from under her and she would've surely collapsed onto the floor.

Don't take this the wrong way. It's not like she felt any shame, regret, or horror from kissing Ed. Unlike last time. She was just… She was just...confused! Utterly, hopelessly confused!

Orihime threw her face into her hands.

Why? Why do these things keep happening?

Why couldn't she control herself?

It's just… When Ed showcased his passionate desire to stay by her side, regardless of the danger, danger he could even hope to fathom, the strong conviction that shone through his golden eyes… It made her so… So...happy! Unbelievably happy!

His blatant, stubborn refusal to let her deal with the supernatural and Hollow threats touched her heart. He was so incredibly obstinate in his sense of reasoning. He doesn't know what he's getting into. He doesn't understand the immense danger he is blindly willing to put himself through. Yet he was inclined to follow her into these menacing threats he couldn't hope to comprehend all because he couldn't bear the thought of her getting hurt?

His kindness, his concern, his care… They all mean so much to her. They easily and effortlessly broke down her walls and her dogmatic stance. In the end, all she wanted to do was to feel safe and secure in his comforting embrace.

However, empty words are no substitute for cold resolve. Orihime painfully understood this more than anyone. After all, because of her weakness, Ichigo ended up paying a hefty price for it. She can't let it happen again! No! Never! She won't let anyone suffer because of her incompetence!

The auburn haired girl was plummeting into a dangerous line of thinking. Ed's words and convictions caught her off guard, but she will not let it happen again. For it to happen without much difficulty, merely meant that her determination and resolve was ridiculously fragile and incredibly weak to begin with.

The healer simply didn't get her point across. That was all. Of course she couldn't make him understand, if she was acting all tumultuously frightened like that. The immensely fragile and desperately hysterical emotional state she displayed at the time won't make Ed heed her warnings. It only made her come off as a helplessly vulnerable, pathetically frail girl who needed to be comforted. That was not the image she needed to feed him.

She had to be strong and independent. She had to show Ed that there was nothing to concern himself with, and that she was capable of taking care of herself. Once she gets her head on straight, she'll try again at a later date. In the meantime, she must intensify her willpower until it becomes stronger than steel. She must hold steadfast to her belief and her resolve. Edward doesn't need to involve himself in these matters.

She only wanted to protect him. Protect him and Al and Nina and Winry and Pinako and Elicia and Ms. Gracia and Mr. Hughes…! She wanted to protect them all!

For that, the healer needed to provide Edward with some sort of protective charm to keep him safe from Hollow attacks. She decided she needed to spend the day with Ed, figuring out what he likes, besides alchemy, science, books, and food, obviously. Maybe when they have some free time they could take a nice, leisurely stroll around Central. Perhaps, she should take her own pleasant walk around the city to visit the different stores and cafes that might pique the blond alchemist's interest, so she could revisit them later for their little outing.

With newfound strength in her legs, Orihime climbed up from the toilet seat. She steered herself against the wall, seeing her resolute reflection in the mirror.

There was still the matter of the kiss though.

The auburn haired healer's face reheated with a passionate red flush.

She lightly traced her fingers against her lips. When flashes of images returned to her mind, her lips suddenly felt all pleasantly tingly. Recalling it caused her heart to skip a beat. Edward's soft, warm lips pressed against hers was a vision that would be sketched in the recesses of her heart and mind forever.

With bashful, gray eyes staring at her through the mirror, besides her cherry blushing face, she noticed how slightly swollen her lips were, notwithstanding how red and glossy her gray eyes were or the reddening of her cheeks. The undeniable sign of Ed's kiss, which Alphonse to a quizzical note of, much to her chagrin.

Orihime's hand went up to her chest to lay where her rapidly pounding heart was. That was what a kiss felt like. The first time, because she was so full of unspeakable horror and remorseful guilt for giving her first kiss away to Ed instead of her only love, Ichigo, it took her a while to recognize and acknowledge the good parts of the kiss. The feathery delicate sensation of being enveloped in a warm, loving embrace. The tenderly soft, gratifyingly delightful feeling of lips pressing against lips. The magnificent elation that sparked throughout her whole body. She eventually recollected all of that, recalling the first kiss as magical, and the second only seemed to firmly confirm how wonderfully bewitching a kiss was! A kiss by Ed!

Before the kiss...when he told her wanted to be by her side, and he hates seeing her in pain… The look in his golden eyes captivated her. The way he stared at her, as if she was someone incredibly special, hypnotically entranced her. No guy, boy, or man had ever gazed her in that way.

Most of the time, guys don't look at her. They see her, sure, but they are not really seeing her. She may be naive and ignorant when it comes to romantic relationships, being a young teenager who has never been on a single date before. Conversely, the healer was a very perceptive girl all the same. She could easily tell those types of boys weren't gazing at her as a person, but as an irresistible object, a marvelously fancy trophy to be won over. Her large bust doesn't help matters either.

Oh, how distressingly uncomfortable it was to watch boys staring at her chest rather than her face. There were some who tried to act gentlemanly like. However, when she wasn't looking, their hungry gaze would immediately drift down her huge assets. She really dislikes it when men view her as another pretty girl they could pick anywhere.

Tatsuki frequently protected her from bullies and guys like...that. She, and sometimes Ichigo, called them 'perverts'. Orihime didn't understand what that meant at first, but she was able to grasp the general idea. Her best friend always beats those kinds of boys up, so that is why guys are afraid of staring at her in an...unacceptable manner because they fear incurring her tomboy friend's wrath.

Speaking of Ichigo… If guys aren't giving her strange, unwanted, unpleasant looks, then they view her as no different than everyone and everything else they see. Ichigo belongs in this category. The type of guys who behold her in a friendly, cordial, and respectable way, but not necessarily regarding her as someone unique and outstanding. Well… Not as someone to be exceptionally adored and preeminently superlatively treasured kind of sense. More in the 'this person is a real oddball' kind of way because of her...eccentricities.

The expression Edward's facial features was an expression she has never seen before. Because of the mesmerizingly unidentifiable nature of it, she was enthralled by it. The look he shot her was starkly different from anyone else's, regarding her, her of all people, as someone precious. As a precious gem. A dark, hooded look, almost hungry with a burning desire of need and want that made his normally bright, golden orbs appear an attractively molten amber color and held so much earnest tender, passionate warmth, endearing care, and some other mysteriously vibrant emotion that it instantly caused her heart to leap to her throat and the blood to rush to her ears.

"Because it hurts me seeing you this hurt."

At the genuinely heartfelt, convincingly powerful confession, the healer sensed a strong emotion in Ed's tone. An emotion she couldn't place, but it only helped to entice her more. It curiously made her all pleasantly warm and charmingly fuzzy on the inside. Those words continued to echo inside of her in an euphoria of absurdly affectionate and blissful content, sweetly smoldering the deepest parts of her heart, of her soul.

The next thing the auburn haired girl, she was kissing him!

The kiss started off sweet and gentle. Then it turned deep and sensual. She felt Ed's powerful feelings pouring into the kiss, sending shockwaves of elated pleasure throughout her being. Feelings that she was so wholly familiar with, yet surprisingly foreign. She felt as if the blond alchemist was trying wholeheartedly to convey something to her, feelings that've been bottled up for quite a while and deeply needed to be expressed, and in her desperate need to understand these conflicting, abstruse emotions of tender affection and raw confusion that overwhelmed her, she practically melted into the heavenly delicate kiss. Like something was being unravelled from within her.

His loving warmth… His alluring spicy scent with a hint of oil… His comforting words… His gentle touch… His strong, golden gaze… The auburn haired remembered it all so clearly. Even now, she can't get his image out of her head! The reddening of her face wouldn't die down, and her heart was picking up its pace, thumping somewhat erratically against her chest.

If Al hadn't interrupted them when he did, the auburn haired healer was almost certain the kiss would have become even more intense. Now, she is secretly glad that he did. The sweet and savory taste of Ed's lips is something she would never forget! She was only disappointed that it ended before it got to the good part.

The girl paused, her gray eyes widening, tremendously, sincerely surprised by her own revelation and her face flushed, deeply out of extreme embarrassment.

Wait a minute…!

The good part?! Where was her mind drifting off to?

She covered her burning countenance, much to her chagrin.

Oh! When did she become such an unseemly girl? Ed was bringing out sides of her she had never imagined or dreamt of before! She was hopelessly compelled to act so impulsively around him.

Not to sound crude or improper, but...but, the honest truth, she had ultimately come to adore, greatly relish, and grown to like Edward's kisses! They were… It was… There were no words to clearly describe how she felt. It was just wonderful, and managed to captivate her heart every time. She genuinely wondered why?

"Oh! Why am I like this?" she inwardly moaned, feeling incredibly flustered, shaking her head from side to side, trying to rid herself of indecent thoughts.

Would that be a terrible thing to confess? Even though she's in love with Ichigo, she enjoyed being kissed by Ed?

"He's not Ichigo."

Her mind would continuously berate her for how wrong this was. She was betraying her love for Ichigo! Has she gone mad?! And when she dwells on it, a lightning of sadness and overbearing guilt would struck her. Ed wasn't Ichigo, and he'd never be. She needs to get that through her head already! It was trying to convince her that this was wrong. That what she was feeling was wrong. Remember her love for Ichigo, it would say. She should only love Ichigo. No one else. Her heart belongs to her beloved strawberry substitute Soul Reaper! Was her love for Ichigo so weak that she would crave physical affections and fond solace from another guy?! No! No! That's wrong! That is so completely and utterly wrong!

The healer knows it was wrong! Knows how right her mind was for berating her like that. But her heart… Her heart...

Conversely, her heart had an opposite opinion on the subject. When she was near him, she's filled with satisfaction and content. The things Ed does for her, the kindness and warmth he repeatedly shows causes her heart to skip a beat or two. When they kissed the first the dance...her heart nearly bursted out of her chest. The second time… The feeling of lingering euphoria and enamored rapt was still there, but more subdued. The sparks of winsome elation burns in every fiber of her being. Even the littlest things he does for her warms her heart. Every time they make affectionate physical contact...a simple touch or brush of skin, holding hands, tender hugs, soft, delicate kisses, etc...her heart craves more and more of it. Everything he does for her results in her heart exploded and her becoming weak kneed.

It was almost as if her heart yearns for Edward. Almost as much as it yearns for Ichigo. The only difference is that she longs she be near the blond haired alchemist, always. She has grown overly accustomed to his presence. A few days without him by her side leaves her with disheartened worry. Something she doesn't feel with Ichigo.

A gentle flame versus an intense fire. Soothing ocean waves against raging sea torrents. Her feelings for both Ichigo and Edward were as different as night and day. The emotions they make her feel were so uncannily familiar, yet so distinctively different.

Why is that? Why does she feel this way towards her blond haired companion?

Don't get her wrong. Her feelings weren't an explosion of passion or anything like that. No sense of crackling flames or jittery nervous excitement when she's near her beloved Ichigo. With the orange haired substitute Soul Reaper, she feels this array of delightfully giddy and ceaselessly apprehensive emotions. A sentiment that causes her to be cautious and afraid of acting on her feelings. Because she knows what these feelings are.

She's in love with Ichigo Kurosaki.

Because of that, this stinging fear of anxiety and rejection constantly persists at the back of her mind. She's afraid if she does anything that would give away her romantic interest in her beloved strawberry without being absolutely sure of his feelings for her, it would potentially ruin their relationship dynamic.

But's different. She feels so anxious and so scared, yet, at the same time, pleased and content, satisfied. She was not sure what these mysterious feelings were. This bewildering and puzzling emotion was so subtle and that they initially started off nearly fleeting, but that it makes her crave and yearn for this feeling more and more. To the point where it just becomes almost impossible to ignore. It was a persistent feeling that could never be satisfied, no matter how much she indulged in it or struggled in vain to disregard it. All she knows is that it makes her both happy...and sad at the same time. They drag out emotions and feelings out of her that Ichigo never did.

This makes it all the more confusing for her because if the healer's in love with Ichigo, then where does her feelings for Edward lay?

Edward...was her...friend.

A person doesn't kiss their friend. Twice.

A hissed voice in her head chastised her.

Was she an awful person for feeling this way? She was, wasn't she? She loved Ichigo, but liked being kissed by Edward. Every time they kissed, fireworks exploded throughout her entire being. Is this what someone would call 'the honeymoon phase'? What has her relationship with Ed developed into? What does she call it now? Would these budding feelings of attachment and affection continue to blossom?

They kissed! Twice already! Doesn't that mean...something? Showing such...intimate feelings of endearment. Besides, the healer didn't...pull she did the first time. Friends...don't...kiss.

Orihime swallowed a dry lump that suddenly clogged her throat. The heavy implications of where her thought process, of what was happening between her and Ed was hitting her full force for the first time!

That's right!

Friend's. Don't. Kiss. Only people… Or, rather, couples in a romantic relationship kiss!

Her entire face, neck, and ears burned a deep crimson hue of red. Her countenance resembled a ripe tomato with steam puffing out of her ears. She could practically hear the whistling of a kettle pot being heated up to sizzling boil. The erratic thumping of her heart pounded, frantically against her eardrums. Blood rushed via her veins with every outrageously fast paced pump of her heart. Butterflies flapped their incessant wings in the pit of her stomach.

A couple?! Them a couple?! Her and Edward aCOUPLE?!

The auburn haired girl wildly shook her, desperately aiming to rid herself of such an...abstract notion. Besides, if she was in a romantic relationship with Ed or wanted to be, that would imply she harbored feelings for the blond haired alchemist. She doesn't nor has she ever once thought of him in a romantic light.

His steadily growing handsome features. His alluring masculine, spicy with a smidgen of oil signature aroma. His strong, warm hands. The satisfied smile on his face whenever he eats one of her meals. The cute way his nose twitches when he's deep in thought. The gentle, tender he rubs her head to comfort her. She admires how fiercely loyal and protective he is of his friends and family. She likes how cute he looks when he's angry with his lips twitching and everything. He looks like an adorable barking puppy! Not to mention… Her hands slowly reached and gently flicked her rosy pink rose stud earrings. He gave her these earrings! But, most of all, Ed was a kind, very kind person. None of those things ever came to mind in a romanticized fashion!


Why was her face becoming redder?

Oh! The flames of embarrassment burned the skins of the healer's facial features. Her mind was going off track and into...not exactly unpleasant places. She attempted to yield in the fluttering of her heart, but to no avail.

Ed's her friend, and he is the person she trusted most since coming to this world. There's no doubt that she cares for him.

But would she really think of him as dating material?

Orihime's gray eyes took on a softer, tenderly fond glint. A shy blush decorated her cheeks.

However, if she honestly looked deep, deep, deep inside herself, to the very essence of her soul, there was a part of the auburn haired girl who wouldn't mind it really. Being Ed's girlfriend, she means.

They've kissed two times already, haven't they? She so badly wanted to say it would never happen again. That she would never kiss Edward again! But… But… She knew, god she knew that she would be lying to herself. Somehow, she understood that if she doesn't do something about these overly friendly, unfathomable feelings that sweetly torments her, they would one day explode in front of her face in the most spectacular manner possible! After all, her body and heart reacts differently to Ed than what her mind does.

The only logical conclusion is… Why not start dating him? Start going out with Ed to test these newfound, conflicted feelings of hankering confusion, and discover why her chest feels so tight that it hurts.

The healer was deeply in love with Ichigo. She really was. He would always and forever be her first love.

But, somehow...with Ed… It felt...okay. Normally, she would reject the idea of going out with anyone else, besides her beloved strawberry. She greatly desired, with all her heart and soul, for Ichigo to be her first of everything. Her first date. Her first kiss. Her first boyfriend. Her first and, hopefully, only love. Her first...everything!

Conversely, one day, all that changed so unexpectedly. With Ed… With Ed… It feels...different. She doesn't know how to explain it, nor comprehend it. It just feels different, okay? With most guys, who weren't Ichigo, she would most definitely never considered being in a'more than friends' relationship with them. Nevertheless, if it was Ed, it was okay. If it was Ed, she would not mind it. Strange to say, she felt like he was the one and only exception.

The healer doesn't understand how she truly feels towards her blond haired friend. All she knows that...without him by her side...she'll feel sad...and lonely.

When did it start? When was the moment that...everything between her and Ed became so...different?

Even if she does feel that way, even if she wholeheartedly wanted to try out this dating test thing to figure out if her and Ed can work as a compatible couple, how does she know if Ed does?

A chillingly cold and bitterly scathing voice rang inside her head. She could sense the corrosively negative vibes this...creature inside her head was giving off. A creepy dark, eerily oppressive sensation was flowing around inside her heart in a threateningly baleful nature. Its malicious intentions were near instantly made strictly clear to her.

She doesn't know.

She responded, rather weakly to the snide question. It felt more like a malignant interrogation than an innocent question though.

How does she know if she won't be a burden to Ed? That she won't just cause him trouble?

Orihime's gray orbs widened, unnervingly shocked at how savagely spiteful and ruthlessly mocking this voice sounded. So full of dry contempt and callously dismissive. This creature had one goal and one goal only… To hurt her. To cause her nothing but pain and suffering where she would feel it the most. If she closed her eyes, she could almost picture a faceless being with the most gleefully cruelest of cruel smiles materializing in the forefront of her mind.

She doesn't know.

A terribly dreadful swirl of melancholic self doubt began to form in the pit of her stomach. The dejectedly discouraging sensation was slowly started to overtake the bubbly feeling of fuzzy warmth she had minutes ago. One by one, it was gradually being unforgivingly washed away by the muddy fields of dolorous regret. The blissful cloud of happiness that showered her before dissipated bit by bit and gave way to the gloomy mist of anguish filled heartache. It felt like she was being plunged into a depressingly cold, distressingly desolate sea with no way to escape.

Her whole body began to internally quiver. Her shoulders slumped in unhappiness. Her auburn brows were scrunched in abject hurt and sadness, and her head was downcast. Her embarrassed, shy smile disappeared into an unconfident, self conscious frown. Her stomach twisted, painfully. She held her hands together to keep herself calm and steady.

How can she be near him, if she can't even hold his hand when he's wearing his gloves without freaking out or shutting down? She was scared of anything white. How pathetic.

She doesn't know, but...she was trying. She was. She just...needs to try harder. That's all.

Is she using Ed as a way to atone for her sins? Thinking that if she protects him instead of being the one protected for once, she'll eventually be forgiven for her crimes?

That's not…!

Her vision began to twist and turn becoming somewhat blurry and disoriented. The palms of her hands were starting to clamp up with sweat. The nerves in them were becoming haywire with apprehensive unease. She pressed them together, more firmly to hopefully stop their quivering.

Is she saying you have the gall to be happy when she made Ichigo's life miserable?!

An uncomfortable feeling of nausea in the pit of her stomach.

She wasn't saying that!

Her chest was getting excruciatingly tight, and it was getting harder to breathe.

Because she was too much of a useless, helpless girl for Ichigo, she decided to cling to Edward instead? Was she trying to validate the meaning of her worth by protecting Ed, someone weaker and more naive and ignorant of the world outside the human realm than she is? This was her chance at redemption?

That's not true! That has nothing to do with this! Orihime just…! She just wanted to understand this emotion, this feeling bubbling inside her! Feelings that are retained to a certain blond haired alchemist.

She'll just ruin Ed's life! Just like she did with Ichigo!

She was an utterly useless girl who was filled with nothing but lengthy turmoil of baggage. A heart that was laced with so many scars that felt like it was dragged through a field of jagged shards. She may look pretty on the outside, but on the inside she was very, very, very ugly. Who in their right mind would want to date her?

She's nothing but trouble. A worthless burden.

She swallowed by a dry lump that was threatening to escape via her mouth. That still doesn't mean she couldn't taste the sickening bile on the tip of her tongue.



Then Orihime would just have to be the perfect girlfriend!

That's it! Right? For his sake, she would have to do this to make him happy. If she was perfect, then Ed would have no reason to feel disappointed or ashamed of her, right?

Look at her! She was weak. Pathetic. A worthless deadweight. If people knew the real her, the damaged, broken girl she is on the inside, they would run away in disgust and shame. She has nothing to be proud of. She just aimlessly wanders through life, hoping not to be a burden to anyone.

That's why she has to be the perfect girlfriend. Someone is happy, bubbly, cheerful, and supportive all the time. Edward deserves no less than that. To claim herself as worthy to be Ed's girlfriend, or anyone's girlfriend for that matter, she has to remain positive and upbeat, no matter what. She would willfully swallow down any pain, suffering, or anguish that plagues her. She would do her utmost best to overcome her ridiculous fear of the color white.

She was Tatsuki's ideal, little sister. She can't live up to Ichigo's ideal girl. Someone who's strong and confident. Someone like Rukia. Her classmate's ideal peppy, bubbly girl, who keeps the atmosphere of the school feeling warm, welcoming, and cheery, no matter the situation or the occasion.

Don't get her wrong. The healer was not saying she could not be herself in front of her friends. It's just… It's just… The fear of people vehemently shouting and angrily accusing her of not being how they perceived her to be, and rejecting her out of disgust terrifies her more than anything else. The fear of rejection is the one thing that stings the most. She lives on her own, so she has no one to rely on. No one, except her closest friends. She just doesn't want her friends to hate her or view her with disdain. They are the only people she has!

This all may sound like she's whiny or she's being pathetically clingy, but she just...just hates...being by herself. In that lonely apartment. It's too...lonely! She can't help but think of bad...awful...terrible thoughts when alone.

Plus, she conveys nearly everything to Tatsuki. There are just some things she feels like...she can't say. Not even to her best friend and sister figure.

If the auburn haired healer could come up with people's ideal perception of her...

If she could do all those things, why can't Orihime try to be Edward's ideal girlfriend?

She's always lived up to people's ideal image of her, or their expectations because that's what makes them happy. Seeing them happy makes her happy. Any pain or sadness, she locks away deep, deep inside her heart.

This would be no different.

She would be the absolutely perfect girlfriend for Edward!

Another question rang through her head that left her in an embarrassingly awkward state.

What do girlfriends do?

Scratch that.

What do boyfriends and girlfriends do?

The auburn haired healer was frozen in a bashfully flustered stupor. The realization that Edward Elric may or may not be her first boyfriend ever left her in a self conscious mush of shy embarrassment.

And with that piercing question, Orihime stumbled out of the bathroom.

The auburn haired healer quickly paced back to her room, feeling much more relieved and happy than when she left. There was still the touch of fluster though. How was she going to do this?

Ah! Thinking about it was making her nervous! It was true that she wouldn't mind being Ed's girlfriend...if he wanted her to...but is it enough of a reason to be in a rom...roma...romantic relationship with a boy she had unsure, conflicting feelings about?

She stopped in her tracks. And what if he...doesn't...feel the same way?

Orihime has given that awkwardly embarrassing question some thought. Still, she's got some major doubt that Ed would accept her. After all, there was nothing good about her. She was weak, useless, and pathetic. She won't be surprised if Edward rejected her, and she won't blame him for it either. There were so many things wrong with her that she would be more stunned, if he actually acknowledged and approved the idea of going out together with her, of all people.

The healer vigorously shook her head. This is no time to be having doubts. If she keeps having negative ponderings of her deep seated insecurities like this, the tiny slimmer of resolve she had moments ago will all crumble to dust.

She reached her bedroom, and carefully gripped the handle. Luckily, she left the door unlocked when she dashed out of there in an abashedly discomfited hurry.

She twisted the knob and the door slowly pried open. It was just a crack… Only a tiny crack of an opening… But it was enough to make out Ed's and Al's voices and their conversation.

Gray orbs broadened, staggering shocked.

They were discussing the letter they had received in the mail.

Hughes's letter!

With everything going… Between her and Ed's...complicated...relationship. Her striving to comprehend these fuzzy feelings for the blond alchemist. Everyone grieving over Hughes's death. The paparazzi shenanigans. Her decision, ideas, and attempts to protect Edward from future Hollow threats. Among other things… She had completely and totally forgotten farewell letters Hughes made her write for him to give to his loved ones who were being left behind!

If the healer remembered correctly, she had given out letters to Ed, Al, Gracia, Elicia, and Mr...Colonel Mustang. A sense of apprehensive dread consumed her when the thought of the people who truly knew Hughes would recognize that it was her handwriting instead of his. Was she going to get caught? Unlikely. Just because they may discern that it is not Hughes's penmanship, doesn't mean they know hers. She'll just keep low and keep quiet. Will they be upset at the fake Hughes letter, and not accept any of the words, thinking it was written to deceive them? Highly possible, however, she'd hoped they would eventually take the words of comfort and encouragement to heart. The letter may not be Maes Hughes's handwriting, but he poured all his true emotions and heartfelt feelings into those letters, praying that it would one day reach the friends and family he left behind.

Orihime gently and soundlessly closed the door and left the two brothers to their devices, not wanting to interrupt their private conversation. She stretched her limbs behind her back.

What should she do now?

Well, perhaps the auburn haired girl could reassure Winry and Nina that she was alright now. They were kind of worried about her when she left, distressingly upset about the gossipy magazine with its article about her and Edward being lovers, which, ironically, may or may not be unfounded any longer. Then she could spend the day taking a leisurely stroll around the city to figure out what to do with this...thing happening between her and Ed Elric. To draw out how to spend her fateful day with the blond alchemist.

Tiny, slender fingers tenderly traced along the bottom of her lips, the blush returning with a vengeance and painting her cheeks a soft pink color. Edward Elric's kiss still affected her so. The ghostly feeling leaves her lips all warm and tingly just thinking about it.

She made her way back to the boys' room where Winry and Nina were waiting, her heart feverishly pounding inside her chest.

A certain blond haired mod soul was strolling across the streets of Central with a deep scowl plastered on his face. He was on his way to a nearby cafe. He strongly desired some much needed peace and tranquility.

What was the reason for his foul mood?

Well, let's see…

Morgan had a crappy meeting with those damn homunculi yesterday. They were put in charge of guarding this Third Lab or whatever. He wanted nothing to do with it, so he was out. If the homunculi think they could boss him around, they had another thing coming. Especially that bastard King Bradley. Being a leader of a country full of weaklings and idiots must've given him an annoyingly large amount of an ego boost.

The homunculi had gotten very arrogant, haven't they? It was aggravating. They have regenerative powers and can do a single trick, and suddenly they think they are the kings and queens of the world. It ticked him off to no end. It seems like the homunculi are getting overtly cocky. That overconfidence is going to get each one of them killed one day. Don't they realize there are far more frightening beings in this world?

Well, they weren't as irritatingly bad as humans though.

Their mutual disdain for humanity is something the homunculi and the mod souls could begrudgingly agree on. They both detest humans more than they hate each other. The homunculi deem them to be weak, pitiful creatures while the mod souls view them as arrogant and self centered individuals. Toxic parasites that are ignorantly corroding the environment and society as a whole with their poisonous concepts, beliefs, and ideas of what should or shouldn't be.

Their way of thinking… What is considered acceptable by society gets on his nerves! Their 'it's us or them' mindset without any middle ground greatly rankles him. They constantly war against each other, yet they have the gall, the overbearingly proud attitude to claim that they are entitled to be pitied, forgiven, and shown compassion for their own sense of brainless violence.

Though, the blond haired mod soul shouldn't be talking as he is a sexual predator who thinks of women as little more than tools of pleasure to indulge himself in to his heart's content. At least, he could smugly admit it and fully embrace his defective nature, and not sugar coat it or hide behind a holier than thou pretense. What he despises more than anything are self righteous assholes! Humans are filled with liars and fakes. At the end of the day, all humans do is pass the buck around until there is no one left to pass it to.

At the very essence of their core, they are self absorbed, egotistical creatures, yet they amusingly view themselves as the most 'special' beings in the world. The greatness of human virtues and all that crap. How human flaws and shortcomings are their strengths, makes them unique, and all that nonsensical bullshit they enjoy spouting out to delude themselves into thinking they are better than they actually are.

Don't make him laugh!

Yet when other lifeforms display those same 'faults' and 'flaws', they are deemed as reprehensibly evil and must be either tamed or exterminated.

Bunch of hypocrites. They demonize others and selfishly use them as scapegoats to save their own hides. They are group of xenophobic hypocrites, who haughtily judge themselves as morally superior to every species on earth. Damn fuckers. Every. Single. One. Of them.

Well, there exception.

Morgan reached the cafe, and pried its doors open. The classic ringing of bells rang through the small diner as the doors opened and closed behind him. He was greeted with a soft, artificially polite 'welcome' from a waitress with short and light brown hair.

She was fairly attractive, he has to admit. With average build and everything. He'd likely snatch her up, and have his way with her behind the cafe.

However, he just wasn't in the mood right now.

Besides, he could have his fill with the hotel receptionist any time he wishes to. After all, she is always waiting for him with her legs spread on his bed nearly every night. He seduces and ravishes her in exchange for two free rooms. Ritsuko talked him into getting them free rooms to stay in as long as they pleased, but not like he's complaining. Not in the least. He's got a hot babe to service him out of the deal!

He leisurely strolled over to the first vacant table he spotted, and took his seat, casually waiting for someone to take his order. A waiter came by and gave him a menu to look at. He opened it, dark green eyes scanning its contents.

What was being served wasn't something to write home about. Guess, he'll just have a plate of ravioli and castella for dessert. With that decided, he set his menu down, and wanted for someone to take his order.

The second thing that incensed him was being here. In this city.

Being in Central tickled in every fiber of his being in a bad way.

This place left an acidic taste in Morgan's mouth. Awful memories he so wanted to forget resurfaces in his mind when he's in this wretched hive of a city. And wasn't just the foul spirit energy leaking through the air. God, the homunculi need to learn how to conceal their aura. They are lucky there are not many sensors around here. Kyuko had tried to warn them about that, yet they are too cocky and prideful to take the lesson to heart.

Memories of times since long gone flooded in his head one by one.

"Hey, Morgan! I want to go to Central someday! When I get better at alchemy. I want to make a living there to support my family. Do you want to come with me? Uh, you don't have to, if you don't want to. I was just asking."

The minute his food arrived, he dug right in, taking bites of it in silent, coolly controlled anger.

Now, he finally recalled why detested coming here.

That dream.

That shattered dream!

Stolen right from under his nose in a blink of an eye. Taken away from him the minute his back was turned. He was gone for the night. He left her for just one night, and he lost her. The one and only woman he had ever loved and respected. Well, sort of.

No wonder coming here left a formication of irritation in the back of the blond mod soul's neck. It bugs the hell out of him! The vindictive, irksome sensation that keeps persisting, no matter how hard he tries to ignore it.

Truth be told, this isn't the first time Morgan's been to Central. After she was gone, he wanted to see for himself why she wholeheartedly desired to come here. Despite coming here to this cursed city, without her by his side, he eventually and gradually became disillusioned. What was so great about this damn place, he wondered? If someone asked him, it was no different than anywhere else.

Perhaps, the male mod soul was too consumed with mind numbing sorrow and heart wrenching grief to catch a glimpse of what she visioned. Nothing! Absolutely nothing held a lick of significance to him like she did! How could he when nearly lost just about the only person he cared about in the entire world?

He stared, almost blankly at the castella perched in front of him. How he remembered she used to greatly enjoy eating this. It was her favorite dessert, after all.

No other women would be able to replace her inside his heart. He won't allow it! To him, they were dolls for erotic gratification and fulfill his carnal desires. But she was different. She was special! Everyone else was just meaningless insects compared to her.

Morgan sliced off a piece of the castella, and popped it inside his mouth. He could taste the fluffy, moist texture of the dessert. The sweet dish didn't taste as fresh as he hoped, nor was nowhere near as good as hers. But what was he expecting? It wasn't a freshly baked castella. It was probably a portion they left in the display case. He remembered seeing it when he entered the cafe.

"I'm sorry, but there is nothing we could do for her."

The blond mod soul tightly clenched the fork in his hand. His jaw tightened, disgruntledly frustrated, and he gritted his teeth in aggravated displeasure. It's not that they couldn't do anything for her. They didn't want to.

Money was a huge issue. She didn't come from a very well off family. It was one of the reasons why she wanted to get a job in Central to be able to support herself and her family financially. If she couldn't find a decently well paying job, then she had considered becoming a State Alchemist, which is why she studied alchemy. It gave her something she could lean back on, if all else failed. She was clumsy and uncoordinated, nonetheless, she was very intelligent and fiercely dedicated once she put her mind to something. She was so amazingly diligent when it came to her studies. He would come by and watch her almost everyday.

She could have made it. She had the talent. She could have made it...if given the chance.

If given the chance…

She never had that chance!

The doctors refused to help her. No matter how much he pleaded and begged, they did nothing. She lacked the financial aid to save herself. He desperately attempted to search for a job, even aiming to go into more shady business if he had to, but it was all rendered hopelessly moot and rigidly pointless by the end of it. All his efforts were wasted! He endlessly prayed, ineffectively appealed to the heavens, and forlornly wished for some miracle would happen, however, it all fell on deaf ears.

It was all pointless!




Everything…! All his efforts were rendered meaningless and pointless!

Everyday he assured her she was going to get better. She just has to get better! Unfortunately, as the days went by, in his heart of hearts, he reluctantly understood that his reassurance was turning out to be a fruitless endeavor. It was filled with empty words and vainly promises.

He knew that.

She knew that.

Yet, she continued to smile. For his sake.

Even though, the days left proceeded to draw nearer and nearer, she still possessed the strength to smile! How could she smile when death was just around the corner? Surely, she was scared, paralyzingly terrified of dying, yet...she still...somehow… Dammit. Dammit! Dammit!

He wasn't going to let her die! He would not allow it!

They were all going to pay dearly for this!

Money! Money! Money!

That's all those selfish assholes cared about it! If the greedy bastards had just shut about the damn money and helped her like they were supposed to, then they would've been spared from this anguish filled heartache and prolonged suffering!

They let her die!

They let her die, dammit!

That's why the first thing Morgan did was torture and kill the doctor, getting back at him for abandoning her. The frightening despair of almost losing her nearly killed him. Day by day, seeing her becoming weaker and frailer was unendurably torture and distressingly painful.

He ended the son of a bitch's life. Although, not before making the bastard suffer in agony of loss as much as he was! He did his wife and eighteen year old daughter right in front of the man. He nailed his hands to the chair, and tapped his mouth shut. He made sure he had a very good front row seat as he deflowered them both for days before ending their miserable lives. He wanted to witness and relish in the wretched lowlife's soul crushing, harrowingly despair as he observed the people most precious to him taken away from right before his very eyes, and being oppressively helpless to stop it.

The sight of the empty shell of a man burning away in his house was immensely satisfying to Morgan.

He had enough. Being here was drawing out old memories. Old, painful memories.

The mod soul stood. He finished his breakfast...well, brunch is a more accurate description, considering the time of day. He slammed the money on the table, and leisurely walked out of the cafe.

As the blond mod soul was trekking along the main streets of Central, he instantly hit the third thing that irritated him so very, very, very much.

Those stupid, contemptible magazines!

When he first saw the repulsive magazines, his blood boiled with jealousy. He snatched a nearby female police officer on patrol that night, and did her against the wall of a secluded, dark alleyway between two buildings, taking out his insatiable lust and frustrations on her. Most people would call this incredibly daring, ridiculously stupid, iniquitously dangerous, and heinously depraved. However, he wasn't like most people, and they shouldn't lump him in the category of 'most people'. Only fools and idiots would group him, a mod soul, to ordinary human standards. Plus, the woman annoyed the shit out of him.

The female officer did put up a bit of fight. She was an officer, so of course she had some training in combat or self defense, at least. He ignored her cries of pain, her reluctant moans of pleasure, her weak protests, and her pathetic threats. He doesn't even know the officer's name or face, nor does he bother to care. It's not like it matters anyway. Women exist to fulfill his needs. She wasn't exactly the first woman and she certainly wasn't going to be the last of many, many others.

After she served her purpose, he slit her throat, and dumped her body someplace where nobody would discover it, not before doing her again. He doubted anyone would go looking for her. She was a no name policewoman anyway.

All the blond haired mod soul could think about were Orihime and her apparently newfound lover. The thought of it caused him to become inflamed with seething rage. For the past week or so, every other night, he has taken random women to bed with him to get rid of his voracious hunger for the auburn haired beauty. Of course, he still had the pretty receptionist at his beck and call, and, without waiting to go to his hotel room, he laid with her once on top of the desk. Right there. Where anyone can open the hotel's front door and witness, or the residents of the hotel could observe the free show in the lobby. However, she wasn't enough anymore. Well, she wasn't enough to begin with. How dare anyone lay claim to her before he could? And that idiotic, pathetic alchemist of all people?

Morgan was going to find her! He was going to find her, and bring her to her rightful place by his side!

Whether she sleeps with him, willingly, or he forcibly has his way with her, he doesn't care. He will have her! He can't let a beauty like her go to waste.

Morgan would make that pathetic, weakling excuse of an alchemist watch, carefully as he beds Orihime. As he ravishes her body and deflowers her, he would have a front row seat to it all. A remorselessly cruel, fiendishly spiteful punishment for taking something that didn't belong to him! The short bastard…!

The beautiful, auburn haired goddess would be screaming out his name in pure ecstasy, not that of her lover's all while her so called boyfriend watches as he takes her to the purest height of pleasure.

Ah! Just thinking about it…!

Morgan's lustful, dark green orbs landed on a nearby woman who looked to be about in her early twenties. She appeared to be on her way to work or an important meeting or get together, seeing as she was dressed in a business casual outfit.

He grinned, evilly. Perfect.

The blond mod soul lewdly licked his lips. In a blink of an eye, he snatched the woman off, and took her to a nearby alley, ignoring her startling outcries of utter confusion. For an hour or so, he could pretend she was Orihime.

Paying her no mind, he instantly and savagely ripped off her clothes. This was mere practice for the real thing.

The alchemist may be Orihime's lover, but he'll be the one to turn her into a woman.

(A/N: That's it! Finally! The end of chapter forty eight! Did you enjoy it? I know this chapter had very few dialogue and barely any character interactions, besides Ed's and Al's. I think this is a first for me.

Yes! At last, we got our answer to Orihime's thoughts of being in a relationship with Ed. She wouldn't mind it, if Edward was her boyfriend, and we already know that Ed, though he won't admit it out loud, wants her to be his girlfriend for quite a while now. The question now would be… Would be the first to make a move? Orihime with her newfound, yet somewhat wavering resolve? Or Ed who has been bottling up his feelings for her for months now? By the way, the thing about Orihime is not about how much she loves Ed. Like don't make it a competition of who she loves more. Ichigo or Edward? It's just… She's so in love with Ichigo, she doesn't recognize her feelings of love for Ed. If that makes sense. Anyway, she's getting there.

Although, I bet you guys can already see the problem or a potential problem later down the line. Orihime is forcibly trying to change herself to fit Edward's needs and happiness. I know we all or most of us been through this during our first relationship. The feeling of having to accommodate for your partner's happiness to get them to keep liking you and continue taking an interest in you. Then if you breakup, you wonder if you did something wrong or if you didn't do enough. That's what Orihime is doing or thinking of doing right now. Though it is mostly due to her symptoms of PTSD and depression more than anything else. You can guess that Orihime is not really in the right state of mind, emotionally I mean. Her liking Edward is genuine enough, but her possible approach could lead to start of an unhealthy relationship, if she is not hundred percent honest on how she truly feels. And it's not going to make Edward happy.

Edward's and Alphonse's discussion about Hollows… I wanted to make them kind of right for the wrong reasons. Don't worry. They would learn the truth. Eventually. And it isn't going to be pretty on their account.

We also find out a little bit about Morgan, but he still remains the sexual predator he always is.

Oh, there was one more thing I forgot to add a few chapters ago. About the paparazzi… It started as a concept in the early 1900s, but didn't become a thing until the 1950s. Basically magazines paid photographers to take illicit pictures of celebrities without it being staged. I might be bending the history and invention of paparazzi for this story, but it is no big deal. I mean, cameras, full colored pictures, and magazines already exist in FMA, so why not add paparazzi? It just takes creepy people secretly taking creepy photos of important and popular people without their knowledge.

Well, that's it! Leave any comments, suggestions, and questions in a review, and thank you for reading!)

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