Roy and the others now think they can get some answers from Beregond. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
"This is incredible!" said Maes, hardly able to contain his excitement as he saw Beregond. "I knew you would learn fast, but this fast was beyond any of my expectations!"
Beregond only half-smiled, embarrassed.
"Maes, we didn't come here for idle talk," said Roy, shaking his head. He turned to Edward and the others. "Did he get to tell you anything else except for his name?"
"No, Sir!" was both Havoc and Al's unanimous answer. Ed settled with a simple "No."
"Very well," Roy said and settled down on a chair nearby. "Fuery, take down everything that will be said in this interrogation."
Fuery nodded and sat down, his papers and typewriter ready at hand.
"Havoc and Fullmetal, you'll be witnesses."
Both Jean and Ed sat down as well, understanding.
"Al, stay with Mr. Beregond and help him understand what he'll be asked, okay?"
"Yes, Sir!" answered Al. He sat next to Beregond, who was looking at everyone nervously.
"Good." Roy nodded at Maes. "You may start, Hughes."
"Right." Maes cleared his throat and turned to Beregond. "Name?"
Beregond understood that one. He said his name.
Maes nodded in approval. But in moments, he was frowning in confusion. "And?"
"Is something wrong, Sir?" asked Al.
Roy sighed. "We need the full name, Alphonse. We don't even know if Beregond is his first or last name."
"Oh!" Al got ready to say something to Beregond, but he stopped midway. "But how am I to tell him that?" he asked, genuinely bewildered.
"Let me try, Al," said Maes, trying to regain control of the situation. "Beregond?"
Beregond pricked up his ears and he waited for Maes to speak.
"My name?" the lieutenant colonel asked, pointing at himself.
Beregond grinned knowingly. "Hughes."
Maes nodded and then took out a picture of his family. "Names?"
Beregond looked at them. He pointed first at the woman saying the name "Gracia"; then at the little girl, saying the name "Elysia."
"Yes." Maes pointed at the picture again. "Gracia Hughes... Elysia Hughes."
Beregond frowned a bit, clearly trying to process what he was being told.
Maes earned a look that clearly asked if he were deaf. "Beregond."
Hughes almost dropped out of his chair at the answer, whereas everyone else in the room groaned. Beregond was certainly surprised by this kind of reaction.
"This is going to be a long day," declared Roy, rubbing his forehead.
In the end, however, it was decided that, if they wanted to keep their sanity intact, they should just write at the bracket of the last name "unknown". After all, as Havoc reasoned, anyone with the name Beregond didn't have all that many chances for a namesake.
Getting the name of the father was quite easy, as well as the age - although everyone was dumbstruck to hear that that young-looking man was actually forty. And when it came to ask about Beregond's line of work, they couldn't understand why he kept pointing at Al and Roy. Nor were they able to understand why he wouldn't say where he was born.
"Just put 'unknown' again, Fuery," said Mustang, rubbing his temples as he felt the first signs of a headache coming up.
And, after finally writing down all the personal data (which was filled with 'unknown' almost everywhere), there came the time to ask the more important questions.
"When Havoc found you, what were you doing?"
Beregond didn't answer for some time. "Ran."
"You were running," Maes gently corrected. "Why?"
This time Beregond stared at everyone for many long moments, his mind clearly in turmoil.
"Afraid. Wanted... go home."
"Where is 'home', Beregond?" asked Maes, more in the hopes that Beregond would open up this time and say where did he come from.
To everyone's concern, Beregond started breathing heavily, his fingers grabbing strands of hair in his frustration.
Hughes raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You don't know?"
Beregond bowed his head. "No."
Just then, the door opened and a doctor came in. He was certainly surprised to see all that many people in the room. "You are all still here?" he asked. He turned to Mustang. "Colonel, you have to wrap this up, please; I told you not to exert the patient when I gave you permission to interrogate him."
"I'm afraid, doctor, what we've got so far is next to nothing," said Roy indignantly.
"What seems to be the trouble?" asked the doctor, immediately locking his gaze on the patient.
"That is a question you'll have to answer us yourself, doctor," answered Maes. He pointed at Beregond. "He can't answer to some important questions of ours, and I don't think it is because of his ignorance of our language."
"Really?" said the doctor, intrigued. He stepped close to Beregond and checked his eyes with a small flashlight. "May I see the questions you've asked him so far?"
With a nod from Roy, Fuery passed the notes to the doctor, who looked at them closely; then started examining Beregond's head.
"The car hit him, correct?" he asked, still his eyes on Beregond's head.
"Yes," answered Maes.
"And before that he said he was running, afraid?"
"I see." The doctor let go of Beregond's head, and asked everyone to come closer so as to confide in them. "Gentlemen, I think the answer is quite simple. The patient's most probably suffering from a case of memory loss. It's a common symptom to both those who suffer from head injuries and mental trauma. Since I don't see any visible wounds on his head, I think I might venture to say that the latter seems to be the case for this patient."
"But how is that possible?" asked Havoc. "He could answer some questions."
"The brain is more complicated than it appears," the doctor said. "When one is going under serious mental trauma, it has the ability to erase any memories that seem to distress the individual, while those that can't harm him are left intact. It's a simple defence mechanism."
Everyone frowned at this. They certainly didn't expect that turn of events.
"And is there any possible way that he might retrieve those memories?" asked Ed.
"I'm afraid that it depends on what kind of mental trauma it was and how willing the patient is to face those memories. It might take him a few days; a few months; maybe never."
"But we need to complete this interrogation!" said Roy. "There are too many questions that need answers and only he can provide them."
"Then, Colonel, I'm afraid you'll have to wait," said the doctor gracefully, yet with finality. "He's not some light bulb that you can just turn on whenever you want. He must consider himself ready before you can ask him anything."
The colonel huffed, seeing the doctor's point.
"When do you think you can discharge him?" he asked then.
"Actually, that's the purpose of my visit here," explained the doctor. "I wanted to have one last check up on him so, if he's healthy, he can leave even today."
"Very well," said Mustang with a nod. "We'll just be outside, waiting for you." And with a small commanding gesture, they all walked out.
"Damn it!" he hissed under his breath, as soon as the door closed behind him.
"Well, there's nothing much we can do, Sir," ventured Fuery. "It's either wait or fill the whole form with 'unknown'."
"Are they really unknown to him?" wondered Maes thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?" asked Ed. "You heard what the doctor said. Beregond has amnesia."
"The doctor also said that Beregond was suffering from a mental breakdown," argued Hughes.
"Which means we should take all measures possible," said Roy. "Mr. Beregond's most probably withholding information. It'll be our job to make sure to find out what kind of information it is."
Havoc locked his gaze on Mustang. "You're planning on having Beregond followed as soon as he gets discharged, aren't you?"
Roy smirked. "Exactly. And I know the right person for this kind of work."
By instinct, everyone's eyes rested on Ed, who looked back at them, dumbfounded.
Brigadier Colonel Connors was in his office when there was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" He looked up at the sound of the door opening. "Ah, Lieutenant Colonel. Be seated."
Fawcette did just that. "Have you heard the latest news, sir?"
Connors' jaw clenched. "I did, yes." He put down his pen and started pacing up and down the room. "So, Colonel Roy Mustang's men found the real murderer of East City."
"It appears so."
Connors turned on his heel and faced his subordinate. "You realise, of course, that that makes us look bad."
Fawcette scowled. "The man we arrested seemed guilty."
"Except that there's a difference between seeming guilty and actually being one, Mr. Fawcette," said Connors. His look was growing more and more stern. "Or should I remind you of that little... incident during the Ishbal War?"
"That one had worked to our advantage," argued Fawcette.
"But this one hasn't." Connors lowered his voice and placed both hands on the arms of the chair where Fawcette was sitting. "They say that a conjurer doesn't perform the same trick twice in a row, otherwise there's chance that the audience will suspect the trick he played on them. We're now in that position, Fawcette, because of you."
Fawcette's eyes narrowed. "With all due respect, sir, it was you who insisted that I could arrest that..."
"And you were so overconfident that you became careless." Connors voice became even lower now, and dangerously calm. "Everything's part of a big chain, Fawcette. When one link breaks, all the chain falls apart. And we don't want that now, do we?"
This time Fawcette didn't feel so brave to stand up to his superior's argument. "No, Sir."
Connors smiled, yet that smile hardly reached his eyes to cover the malice and cruelty reflected within them. "Good." He went again back behind his office and sat down. "Keeping that in mind, I want you to do something else for me."
"That man Mustang's been cajoling... Did you get a name?"
A nod. "It was too strange to be forgotten easily. It was Beregond."
Connors frowned. "Is that a first or a last name?"
"Not sure," answered Fawcette with a shrug of his shoulders. "Sounds more like a last name to me."
But Connors was already waving his hand dismissively. "No matter. If anything, your job will be easier. How hard is it to find any information concerning a person with that kind of name?" He smiled meaningfully.
Fawcette blinked for a moment in confusion; then smiled as he caught on.
Connors nodded. "I want you to find everything about him, especially anything that could make our dear Mr. Mustang lose face with the military." His grin only became broader and more cynical. "After all, everyone has secrets that they don't want them out."
As I find out today, healers are alike everywhere. They always send an uneasy feeling in my heart, even when they are attempting to be pleasant.
That is what happens again. The healer is by no means discourteous in any way, yet his smile has a quality that seems overindulging.
I understand why soon enough. Finally deemed healthy, I am to leave this room for good.
I never expected it, but the notion frightens me. In this room I am out of harm's way, I am protected. I have come to know the people who visited me so often and that made up, even if only a little, the void that has been residing in my heart ever since I have arrived in this world.
Yet where am I to go now? Who and, more importantly, what am I to face?
It is true what they say: what is unknown causes far more dread anyone could have thought possible. I do not even have the strength to lift my head as a woman clothed in white places my belongings on my bed and then walks out without so much as a word. I merely reach for them with my hand, feeling them under my fingers as though assuring myself that everything is real and they are indeed before me.
My armour. My boots. My shirt and my breeches. That is all that is left from the world that I can claim as mine.
And then there is the pendant. The one of the two things I was holding on to when...
My hands clench into fists.
I should still have my son with me, not this!
As the fire of rage is ignited within me, I grab the vile thing and I am ready to throw it out of the window.
I never do. My hand never lets go of it.
I look at it closely. It is small and round; golden, with a single symbol engraved on it to resemble a star with five points; and a cord is attached to it, which explains the reason it broke off so easily in my struggle with DÃ»rinas. All in all, it is a trinket that I could not possibly care for.
Yet it is also one of the things that verify who I am. A token of remembrance that the world I left behind was as real as the one that is unveiled now before me. That nothing should make me forget it.
It is also something that will remind me not to make the same mistakes again.
My clenched hand goes back to my side and I put on my shirt and breeches. Lastly I put on my boots, and I wear the pendant around my neck so that it is tucked under my shirt; then I close my eyes to remind my heart of my identity.
I am Beregond, son of Baranor, First Captain of Ithilien; loyal to the finest of lords; husband to a deceased wife; father to a murdered son. Nothing will ever change that, no matter what lies ahead on the path before me.
And with that I walk out, where I am expected.
"Why me?" asked Ed, his eyes widening.
Roy made an expression as though thinking. "Well, let me see, Fullmetal. One has to be inconspicuous when following someone, and, let's face it, the only one among us who doesn't quite... /stand out/, is you."
"What you are really saying is that I'm..." Ed never completed his sentence. He had become too busy struggling against Al, who had grabbed him from the scruff of his neck in fear that his brother would do the colonel some injury.
"It's a quality that you can put into good use for a change," argued Roy with a shrug, yet the teasing tone audible in his voice. "But, don't worry, you won't be alone. I'll be with you to offer backup."
Ed snorted. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Roy's lower lip quivered in mock distress. "You don't like my company? Now I'm hurt."
Ed didn't bother with an answer this time. He simply scowled.
Suddenly, the sound of someone clearing his throat made everyone turn around. It was Beregond, now dressed plainly, a large bag in which he obviously had his armour resting on his shoulder, and an unreadable expression on his face. It was a wonder to see that strongly built, tall man walking toward them as meekly as a lamb and, in fact, Ed caught himself thinking that Beregond resembled an adult version of Alphonse by the way he was behaving.
"Well, Mr. Beregond, it seems that you're as free as a bird," said Roy, smiling - a tad too much for someone who happened to know Mustang.
All Beregond did was smile embarrassingly; then looked at Havoc in a friendly manner and extended his hand.
"Thank you... for the help."
Havoc was taken aback by the gesture, but he took the hand and shook it.
"You're welcome. Good luck, Beregond."
Beregond smiled a bit, and repeated the handshake with all of them, leaving Al and Ed last. As they shook hands, Edward couldn't help but feel that there was a look of sadness in the man's eyes. Before he had the chance to wonder at it further though, it had vanished to be replaced with an expression of determination.
"Goodbye," Beregond finally said and, after adjusting better the pack on his shoulders, he started walking away.
Everyone waved their own farewell. Everyone, that is, except for Al, who, surprisingly, only bowed his head and looked away.
Ed, meanwhile, got ready to follow Beregond, but Roy stopped him.
"What?" Edward asked incredulously. "Didn't you say...?"
"We wait. He's still within eyesight," Roy cut him off. He turned towards Havoc. "Havoc, drive the rest back to Headquarters; Fullmetal and I will find you there once we discover Mr. Beregond's haunts."
"Yes, sir," acknowledged Havoc with a salute.
"Colonel, he's about to turn," said then Ed.
Truly enough, everyone could see the form of Beregond quite a distance away from them, standing in indecision; then taking a course to the left.
"Right. Time to go," declared Roy. "Come on, Fullmetal."
And with that, both he and Ed started following their target.
"Well, you heard Mustang. It's time for us to go," said Maes.
Fuery nodded and walked towards the car, soon to be followed by a very reluctant Havoc.
Alphonse didn't move an inch.
The armour sighed. "It just doesn't feel right, Sir. It feels like we're tricking him."
Maes straightened his glasses in discomfort. "I know, Al; these are my sentiments, too. But, you have to admit, his behaviour is a lot more than just suspicious."
"But, Sir, he isn't a bad person!" said Al defensively. "I know he isn't! When Brother had that nightmare..."
"... he offered his bed and stood with you by Edward's side; you've already told me that story." Al was ready to argue, but Maes stopped him. "Don't get me wrong, he doesn't strike me as bad either. And I can even tell you with certainty he didn't strike as bad to Havoc. But, Al, for better or for worse, we're living in a world where only gut-feeling just isn't enough. Do you understand?"
Al nodded weakly. "Yes, Sir."
"Good," Maes said with a smile. "Now come. Havoc and Fuery are waiting for us."
Meanwhile, Roy and Ed had quickened their pace and were ready to turn, when Roy suddenly stopped on his tracks - too suddenly for Ed, who bumped onto the colonel.
"Hey!" Ed exclaimed angrily. "Can't you give a little warning first before...?"
He never finished his sentence, because Roy had grabbed him and pushed him against the wall, covering his mouth with his hand. But Ed wouldn't be subdued that easily, and in an instant Roy was doing his best not to shout his pain when Ed bit him.
"Are you out of your mind?" was what a - very - pissed off young alchemist about to say, but Roy proved faster.
"He's stopped walking," he explained in a hiss, rubbing his throbbing hand.
All feelings of anger ebbed away to be replaced with surprise. With eyes widened in disbelief, Ed ventured a peek around the corner.
Beregond had indeed stopped walking. In fact, he seemed to have turned into a statue, he was that still as he stood in the middle of the road, the pack now resting on the ground beside him.
"What is he doing?" he wondered, mumbling to himself.
"I don't know," answered Roy, who was now watching the scene with the same interest Ed did. "Let's just hope he won't turn around because of your screaming bloody murder," he added, rather acidly.
"I wasn't that loud," Edward said indignantly.
Roy snorted. "If you were a little louder, Fullmetal, everyone in the surrounding buildings would come out on their windows to see the screaming baby."
Edward saw red at that moment, but Roy shushed him before he said anything.
"He's on the move."
Both alchemists watched Beregond take a few more hesitant steps forward. But, to their surprise, he stopped again, and now he was shaking his head. The next thing they knew, Beregond was sitting against a wall nearby, hugging his knees and burying his head in his arms.
"Maybe he's waiting for someone?" Ed asked.
Roy clicked his tongue. "Only one way to find out, don't you think? We'll wait, too."
"But if a car comes and picks him up..."
"Then let's hope it doesn't, okay?"
And with that, they both fell silent.
When night finally settled in, Beregond hadn't moved; neither the two alchemists, who could barely stand after so many hours of waiting.
"Why isn't he going anywhere?" Roy hissed, punching his fist against the wall in frustration. He looked at Ed. "He heard you and now he's toying with us; that's the only explanation I can come up with."
"If he heard me, don't you think he would have recognised my voice and called out?"
"I don't see why he would do that."
"And I don't see why he /wouldn't!/" Ed argued. "He knows us both! Anyone would have been glad to hear a familiar voice when stranded in a place they don't know, no knowledge of the language and..." He stopped.
Yet Ed wasn't paying any attention to Roy any more, he only looked towards Beregond. Suddenly, and with his eyes always locked on the sitting form, he started walking toward him.
"Where are you going?" Roy exclaimed, agape. "Get back here!"
All Ed did was wave his hand to Roy in a gesture that clearly meant "Calm down, I know what I'm doing"; and kept walking.
Groaning, Roy rolled his eyes and, clearly thinking that their cover was blown anyway, he followed his subordinate, watching him as he knelt beside the man they were supposed to follow.
At the gentle call of his name, Beregond looked up, startled. Ed wondered to see that the man's face resembled the embodiment of defeat. He was in fact surprised that Beregond had even the strength to smile at him and Mustang, though faded that smile was.
"Um... what are you doing here?" he asked. After all, telling somebody that he was followed wasn't the best of options.
Beregond only shrugged in a passive manner.
"You aren't planning on spending the night here, are you?" asked Roy, raising an eyebrow of curiosity.
The only answer the alchemists got from Beregond this time was a clenching of the jaw.
"You don't have a place to go to, is that it?"
Beregond's reaction came out as a surprise to Roy and Ed. The sadness in his expression was gone in seconds and, for the first time, anger was etched in those usually meek features. And they still remained there as he quickly arose and, grabbing his pack, he started walking away again.
"Mr. Beregond..." Roy was about to say.
That made the man turn abruptly; and even under the faint light of the street lamp, both Roy and Ed could clearly see that Beregond's face had become crimson in wrath and frustration.
"Feel... sorry?" he finally managed to say, his voice resembling a growl. His hands were turned into fists and they were trembling.
Ed actually flinched momentarily, but he stood his ground. "We just wanted to help," he explained.
"No help!" Beregond was practically shouting now. "No favour!"
"It's not a favour, mr. Beregond. Will you please listen?" said then Roy.
The commanding tone made Beregond stop. Nevertheless, the angry stare was still in his eyes and it was clear that, at the wrong word, he was ready to storm away.
"Mr. Beregond, it's clear that you know almost nothing of this city or its people. Why do you wish to struggle so hard to learn when we could teach you?" said Roy, and tentatively placed an arm on Beregond's shoulder. "Once you find out some important things, you'll be able to stand on your own two feet, don't you agree? Wouldn't you rather have someone you're already familiar with to help you out? As you would help out someone who hadn't been before in your city?"
Ed watched on as Roy still talked, for once glad that the colonel was such a smooth diplomat. And it seemed that Roy finally struck a cord, for Beregond's anger was slowly ebbing away to be replaced with confusion.
"Why?" The question was soft, almost childlike - a thing surprising, considering an adult asked it; yet there was also a tinge of such bitterness and pain in it that Ed found almost unbearable to hear. "Why help?"
Roy smiled. "Because both I and Edward know what it means not to have a home. We lost it, too - long ago."
That finally seemed to appease the man.
"But... not want make trouble."
"No trouble whatsoever," said then Ed, smiling. "We'll find a place for you to stay, and every once in a while one of us can drop by to see how you're doing. Okay?"
Beregond didn't speak for many long moments; then nodded. "Okay."
"Good. Let's go then," said Roy. "I need to phone Havoc to come and pick us up."
Though it was clear that Beregond didn't understand what Roy said this time (except for the name Havoc), he smiled a bit and followed the two alchemists willingly.
"Colonel?" whispered Ed, making sure that Beregond wouldn't notice him. "Did you lose a home, too?" He hadn't heard of that before and, somehow, it touched him to find out something more about Mustang.
Roy smirked. "No. I just had to say something so our friend wouldn't leave."
Ed rolled his eyes. "Nice job."
"Thanks," Roy replied, his smirk broadening. "And speaking of job, I have a new assignment for you."
Ed actually cringed. "You do?"
Roy nodded. "Why find a place for him when there's already one? And I'm sure Alphonse will appreciate the company; it's clear that he's taken a liking to him," he said meaningfully.
"What?! He's to stay with me and Al?" Ed exclaimed. "But, Colonel, we were planning on going..."
"If we're to keep an eye on him, it's best we do that at all hours and through someone who our 'friend' here will not become suspicious of." Just then, Roy grinned. "Besides, I think it's a fair enough punishment for disobeying orders and biting your commanding officer's hand."
Ed sighed, dejected. It didn't help matters that Beregond was looking at both of them perplexed, clearly wishing to know what they were talking about.