Categories > Anime/Manga > Full Metal Alchemist > Shamballa - Part 2 - Separate Ways

Research

by Beregond5 0 Reviews

Beregond starts investigating matters, unaware that he's closely watched.

Category: Full Metal Alchemist - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Crossover,Drama - Characters: Alphonse Elric,Edward Elric,Envy,Roy Mustang - Warnings: [!!!] [V] [?] - Published: 2007/11/04 - Updated: 2007/11/04 - 6231 words - Complete

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Beregond hung up and let out a sigh. He should have returned in the office last night. Then he would have talked with Riza sooner and he would have learned about Edward's phone call on time. Not to mention that there wouldn't be the pressing matter of having to dig into Edward's files and find the Rockbells' telephone number either. Now his chance of telling the boys what he had found out was gone.

Well, it couldn't be helped. He would just have to wait till Edward called again. It was true that Beregond intended to spend even longer periods of time in the library, what with his duties dropping almost to a minimum with Edward away. So he hoped that he would just be lucky enough to be in the office when the phone rang again - or that Edward would think to call the library next time, at least.

Besides, there was the probability that no real harm was done. When Edward would call again, Beregond would perhaps be able to give him some tangible information rather than mere speculations.

With that last thought, he checked his desk one last time to make sure that there was nothing for him to do today, then picked up his research material and walked out.

He noticed the medium-sized dog crossing his path too late. Beregond tried to avoid him but he accidentally stepped on his paw, causing the dog to yelp frantically.

"Im naer, mellon nin!" (I'm sorry, my friend!) Beregond said at once in a soft manner, checking the damage he had done on the poor animal. The black and white dog sat still, keeping his aching paw curled close to him. He whined softly on occasion; nevertheless, he trusted the man to take care of him.

Beregond smiled. It didn't seem that the dog was really hurt and he figured the pain would soon go away. "Nestatha, avo 'osto," (It will heal, don't fear) he concluded kindly, giving the dog a soft pat on his head. He chuckled when the dog rewarded him with a small nudge of his black nose.

Yet the question remained.

"O mas telich? Man eneth lin?" (Where did you come from? What's your name?) Beregond asked the dog as if he were talking to a child.

"Hayate!"

Beregond knew that it wasn't the dog who answered /that/, of course. So he turned at the direction of the voice to see Fuery hurrying towards them with a leash in his hand.

"Oh, good, you found him!" the sergeant major said with relief. "If I lost him, I would have to answer to Riza!"

"It would be difficult not to find him. I tripped on him," Beregond said.

It was then that he realised something and his eyes widened in surprise.

"Hayate? Black Hayate? That's Riza's dog?” he asked incredulously.

"Yeah," Fuery said. "You know of him then?"

"Havoc had told me this story about how the dog came to become part of the 'family' some time ago," Beregond answered. He shuddered as he recalled the rather nasty joke Havoc had pulled on the animal, saying aloud how tasty it could be. "But Havoc was talking about a pup and now I see a big dog!" He gave Hayate another light pat on the head. "How come he's with you?"

"Well, Riza lets me spend some time with him every once in a while," Fuery said. "But /he/," and at that he pointed at Hayate, "thought otherwise today."

Hayate bowed his head and made a whining sound of shame. He was quite aware that they were talking about him.

"Well, I suppose he couldn't wait to run a bit," Beregond said, this time petting the dog affectionately.

"I guess so," Fuery said, smiling. "Well, there's no point in making him wait any longer." He placed the leash around Hayate's neck. "Thanks for the help, Beregond."

"No problem."

However, when Fuery got ready to walk away with Hayate, both men noticed that the dog had planted his legs on the ground and he wouldn't budge. And they were taken aback to see Hayate looking behind Beregond, stiffened and with the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.

"Hayate?" Fuery said, unsure. "What is it?"

Hayate only made a small growling sound in answer, still looking behind Beregond.

Both Fuery and Beregond looked at the same direction, but there was nothing to be seen.

"Man cenich?" (What do you see?) the Gondorian asked Hayate, puzzled. With his hands clenched into fists and ready to fight if necessary, Beregond walked at the end of the corridor. He looked on his left and right, yet there was nothing there.

What was more, Hayate had by now calmed down.

"That's strange," Fuery noted, straightening his glasses. "This is the first time he's been acting like that."

"Well, whatever it was that unsettled him is gone now," Beregond said. "Perhaps he caught some smell that wasn't appealing to him."

"Maybe," Fuery agreed. He shook his head, ridding himself of any troubling thoughts. "Anyway, we had better go. We've already slowed your visit to the library enough."

Beregond blinked. "How did you--?” But one look at himself made him chuckle in understanding. He was holding his notebook, so it wasn't that difficult for Fuery to come to his conclusion.

"Yes, well... I had better be going then," said the Gondorian, smiling. "Till later, Fuery."

"Later," Fuery said with a smile of his own and, a brief wave of his hand later, he was gone.

It was only when Beregond had left too that there was movement again.

When an air vent on the wall was pushed out of place and Envy climbed out of it.

"Pesky animals..." he muttered under his breath. "Their noses are a pain in the neck."

And keeping in mind that he ought to be more careful next time, he changed to a female private so he could resume his stalking.

-----------

Though the library was quite busy at that time of day, there was hardly any noise to be heard. The people inside were simply too wrapped up in their studying to pay attention to their surroundings.

That was why no one cared to look at a male college student with glasses on a desk nearby. If they had, they would notice that he was doing anything but reading.

Envy dared another peek from the book he was holding up to keep up appearances and checked on his true object of observation. The sergeant was still on the desk just a few feet away from him, and Envy could see that the man's eyes were locked on the page he was currently reading, whereas his right hand was clutching a pen in order to scribble anything of importance.

Envy frowned and looked at the large clock on the other end of the wall. He was quite surprised when he read the time there and realised how long had it been since he followed the sergeant into the library.

Four hours?! How long does he plan on staying here?!

He cast another brief glance at the man, noting the way the latter's lips moved inconspicuously as he kept reading. Envy had gotten his answer.

Till he drops out of exhaustion.

Now Envy couldn't help but feel curiosity flaring within him. What was the sergeant reading with such interest anyway? They weren't in the alchemy books' section, so Envy was more than certain that the sergeant wasn't reading anything that had to do with alchemy. So what was that man up to?

Envy decided that he might as well look briefly at the book he was holding, since it would offer him a clue as to what kind of books there were in this section. He caught sight of a paragraph in which were described several artefacts that were found many feet below ground, the oldest ones so far to be found in fact - they were about 9,000 years old.

History? How dull, he thought with a roll of his eyes. After all, if anyone wanted to know about history, they could just as well ask /him/.

But in spite of his aversion to that particular genre of literature, Envy was now even more intrigued. It was strange for an alchemist that seemed almost as powerful as the Fullmetal shrimp to search history books.

On the other hand, Fullmetal was conducting research on the philosopher's stone and the sergeant was working under the pipsqueak's orders. Perhaps the guy was looking even in history books for anything concerning the philosopher's stone. That probability didn't seem all that far-fetched.

Odd place to search for clues though.

Nevertheless, the sergeant seemed really focused on what he was doing. Maybe he had found something?

Envy felt that he could just kill to find out what the man was reading.

Actually, kill twice - he wanted to have a look at the sergeant's notebook, too.

It was then that Envy saw the sergeant suddenly frown. He had obviously read something that puzzled him or something that he didn't like. Whatever it was, it made the man stand up and vanish in the maze of bookcases surrounding him in search of another book.

Envy instantly jumped at the chance. Looking around him and making sure that the sergeant wasn't coming back just yet, he walked up to the man's desk and looked at the page on which the book was open.

...It has to be noted that, in times when alchemy wasn't developed properly, a lot of the forces of nature which the common folk couldn't comprehend were attributed to entities that were always depicted dreadful in their power, yet wise and kind to virtuous people. Though those entities were deified, they were also given human characteristics so as to...

Envy raised an eyebrow as soon as he read those words. Since when did an alchemist take an interest in gods? Shaking his head, he turned his attention to the notebook.

What the...?!

There was nothing there but a series of random pen strokes and ink-blots!

Envy was still looking incredulously at the notebook, when the sound of footsteps snapped him out of his shock. He quickly hurried behind a nearby bookcase.

Not a moment too soon. A second later, the sergeant came back with another book in his hands, mumbling softly to himself while looking for something in it.

"De... Dei... Aha! Deify..."

Envy huffed under his breath.

That's what he went to look for? A dictionary?

Well, if anything, it was one more proof that the man was a foreigner. Envy was still puzzled by the strange language he heard when the sergeant spoke to the dog because, even though he was old, the homunculus was sure that he had never heard anything quite like it in his life.

The sergeant grew silent again as he resumed his reading. Envy kept his eyes on the man from his new hideout and, moments later, he saw him taking up his pen again and writing something on the notebook.

Envy narrowed his eyes, for he understood that his first assumptions were erroneous. The sergeant wasn't merely doodling in that notebook. He was clearly writing, most probably in an alchemic code.

If that were the case, Envy knew who would be able to decipher those notes. All he had to do now was get his hands on that notebook.

"May I help you, sir?"

Envy quickly turned at the sound of the voice. A young woman, a librarian from the looks of it, was now looking at him quizzically. His eyes instantly fell on the nametag on the librarian's uniform: Sarah Abbot.

"No, I was just putting back a book in its place," Envy said at once, smiling innocently. "Thank you for the offer though."

"No problem. Have a good day, sir," she said with a polite smile and turned on her heel to resume with her work.

Envy nodded, his face becoming positively murderous when the librarian vanished out of sight. He quickly turned again to spy on the sergeant.

But the man was nowhere to be seen. In that crucial moment that Envy wasn't looking, he had decided to leave.

Damn it. He quickly got out of his hiding spot and looked around, but he didn't catch any sight of the sergeant.

That is, until he heard a new set of footsteps behind him. Deciding to be discreet, Envy turned his head just enough so that he could check things from the corner of his eye.

To his good fortune, it was the sergeant.

"Have you finished already, Mr. Beregond?" the woman by the name of Abbot asked, noticing the sergeant's departure.

"Just for today, I'm afraid. It will be quite some time before I can claim my work is completely done," the sergeant said with a shake of his head. "I'll just head back to Headquarters in case there are any phone-calls for me."

"Very well," the woman answered with a nod. "Till then, Mr. Beregond."

"Goodbye."

Envy rolled his eyes and started following the sergeant back to headquarters. One thing that the homunculus did come to find out about the sergeant was that his life was numbingly boring, shared among library, office and house. Now he just hoped that, if he were to discover anything else, it would be a damn good thing to make up for the hours of the dreary watching he had to go through.

---------

Though Beregond had said to Sarah that he intended to return to Headquarters, he didn't wish to rush matters either. His head ached after all those hours of studying and he needed his breath of fresh air. So, he walked slowly and in a carefree manner - even though his thoughts were anything but carefree. There was a puzzle lodged on his head which he couldn't get rid of before sorting it out.

In his book, Syndow was saying, more or less, that gods were a figment of the peoples' imagination. In other words, because they believed everything that moved must have had a spirit within it, they conjured up images of gods with human characteristics. As Syndow wrote on, the reason behind this was the notion that, if anything could have a power over anything, the same way Man had over animals and plants, it had to be something with the intelligence, the knowledge and wisdom that a human could have. It would just be a lot more powerful.

But then, Beregond wondered, if that were true, what was the force behind the creation of this world?

In the beginning, Eru, the One, who in the Elvish tongue is named Iluvatar, made the Ainur of his thought; and they made great Music before him. In this Music the World was begun.

That was how the story of the creation of his world started. Perhaps Syndow was right in the matter of giving names and characteristics seen among ordinary people to those forces. But could it be denied that those forces didn't exist? That those forces didn't have the power to create? Besides, as the story went: and if little is said of all that the Eldar once knew, that is as nothing compared with the Valar's - the Greatest among the spirits of the Ainur - true being, which goes back into regions and ages far beyond one's thought.

Perhaps that was the case for the Amestrian world too. Just because such forces were beyond the realm of alchemic science, it couldn't possibly mean that they weren't present. After all, it wasn't alchemy that created the trees, or the sky, or the earth - or even all the living things in this world.

On the other hand, Beregond wasn't sure that the forces behind the creation of the world of Amestris were the same as the ones behind the creation of Arda. The Valar saw Ea, the world that is, and they became enamoured by it and they wished to give breath to the vision they sang. But once in that world, they were forever bound into it and they could not leave it.

So it had to be other kinds of forces, similar ones at that; or even... one.

Suddenly, Dr. Marcoh's words sprang into Beregond's memory.

Ishbalans were people that worshipped their absolute one god of creation.

One god, one force; just like his people believed: one god to create everything else, including other gods.

It was then that another question formed in Beregond's mind. What if Iluvatar and the Ishbalan god were, in fact, two names to describe the same force of creation?

Beregond realised that he needed more information on the Ishbalan theology if he were to answer that question; first-hand information at that.

But where could he find it?

Going to Ishbal was out of the question. It was too time consuming and, more importantly, it involved travelling with train. He preferred to avoid /that/, if he could help it.

The library was the next best option, but Beregond doubted he would be able to find that kind of information at once - if he would be able to find it. Since Ishbal was an enemy country, there probably wouldn't be any authors willing to write all that much information about it. The Ishbalans would certainly not be open to give out that kind of information to a foreigner. That meant looking to other, dubious sources and bibliography. No, if he wanted that information, he wanted to be sure it was correct.

Scar would have certainly been useful right about now.

Oh, yes, Beregond pictured it even now. Please, don't think ill of me for stopping you from killing Edward and Alphonse. You see, I was just wondering if you could possibly introduce me to the basics of your peoples' theology. I'd be much obliged.

The mental image of Scar's way of saying "no" - grabbing Beregond and making his insides explode - was a rather macabre one, to say the least. Nevertheless, Beregond couldn't help but chuckle inwardly.

If anything, that settled the third option as out of the question too.

There was also Dr. Marcoh to be considered, but Beregond felt quite certain that the good doctor had already said everything he knew concerning the Ishbalans on their first meeting.

So where should he turn to?

It was when he looked up to see the gates of the Eastern Headquarters in the distance that he remembered something important. Colonel Mustang had fought in Ishbal; Beregond remembered Riza mentioning that a couple of times. That meant that the Colonel must have come across some useful information while there.

Beregond felt his heart sinking a bit. Could he possibly be so bold and ask the Colonel about that kind of knowledge? It would be considered indiscretion. Moreover, Beregond didn't wish to confide in anyone about the details of his work so far. If he asked the Colonel about Ishbal, he would have to tell him about his suspicions as well - with the risk of being dismissed as delusional.

Yet what other choice did he have, if he were ever to proceed with his research? And, if Beregond could tell Mustang that he was from a place called Middle-earth, he could also tell him why he needed to know about Ishbal, right?

That settled it. Beregond would ask. He swiftly went up the stairs to the Colonel's office to get this over with as soon as possible.

To his surprise, he didn't find any of the familiar faces he had been looking for, let alone the Colonel himself. Riza wasn't on her own desk, right outside Mustang's office; Havoc was nowhere in sight; and even Breda and Falman were absent. The only one Beregond could account for was Fuery; the Gondorian knew pretty well that he was out with Hayate.

Still, Beregond knocked on the door to the Colonel's office.

There was no answer. Not from inside the office anyway.

"He's not here."

Beregond turned to face the young private who spoke to him. "Excuse me?"

The private saluted courteously before replying: "You're looking for Colonel Mustang, aren't you, Sir?"

"Yes."

"Well, he's not here. He and most of his unit are searching the city for any signs of that alchemist serial killer."

Beregond cursed mentally. He had completely forgotten about that.

"Do you know when he will be back?"

"Not sure, sir."

There was nothing for it then. After saying a brief "Thanks" to the private, he turned on his heel and headed towards the exit again.

What should he do now?

Beregond's gaze drifted outside the window on his left as he still walked. And when he noticed what a beautiful, clear day it was - although it was almost the winter season by now - he stopped on his tracks.

The sky was quite blue and the sun shone brightly, though not as warmly as if it were spring or summer. It certainly didn't stop the little birds from flying restlessly in the air, doing manoeuvres and chirping loudly.

Before Beregond realised what he was doing, he had walked up to the window, his hand reaching for the glass and placing it there. It was in times like these that, when Beregond was back to his world, he would ride out and find a perfectly isolated and quiet place in order to train his body, repeating the moves he had been taught from childhood.

Beregond blinked as realisation hit him; then smiled. He knew what to do now.

Besides, he needed it after his fight with Scar.

-----------

Ten minutes later, Beregond was at the training grounds. He passed by several trainees that were already there locked in physical combat, and went up to one of the trainers. A brief glance at the man's person told Beregond at once that he was addressing a major, so he saluted. "Sir?"

Major Moser looked Beregond from head to toe and then saluted cordially as well. "Can I help you, Sergeant?" he asked.

"I was wondering if there are any swords available for training, Sir."

The major nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, we have several of them in the weapons' room. However..." Moser eyed Beregond, raising an eyebrow. "I don't remember seeing you here before."

"Well, I..." Beregond started explaining, but he stopped when he noticed Moser's face lit up with familiarity.

"You are that foreigner," he said knowingly. "The one under Fullmetal's command, right? Beregond, isn't it?"

Beregond's surprise must have been evident, because the major chuckled.

"Hey, in these facilities everyone gets to know about everyone eventually; especially about someone who works for a child-prodigy," Moser explained. "Not to mention that your name, Sergeant, was involved in some pretty interesting incidents rather recently." He grinned broadly. "So you feel up to some training?"

Beregond nodded. "I need to make sure my body is still in good condition."

"Well, you know where the swords are. Choose any you like."

"Thank you, Sir."

But choosing a good sword turned out to be a task easier said than done. Beregond didn't expect that the swords of Amestris would be anything like the swords in his own home, of course. Still, he never expected the Amestrian ones would be so... flimsy, either; their blades were too thin and light. Beregond understood that this was done on purpose in favour of speed. On the other hand, the Gondorian couldn't help thinking that such swords were also easier to break. How could they possibly serve in battle?

Beregond shook his head. He'd give anything for a good, sturdy sword like the one he had.

Then why not make one?

Beregond's eyes widened as the thought occurred to him. He had completely forgotten that he could perform alchemy! He looked around in search of anything that could be used as basic materials for his sword, and noticed that there were several sabres and rapiers placed aside. He wielded a couple of them, curious to see why that bunch was separated from the rest. He finally decided that the blades were either blunt or chipped after much use. They were useless in that state.

Well, I think I've just found a use for them, Beregond thought. Concentrating, he clapped his hands and placed them on the flawed swords. In a matter of seconds, the light of the transmutation reaction had subsided and there was a magnificent-looking sword in Beregond's hands. Its straight blade was gleaming as though it was made of silver and was decorated with elegant carvings. The image of Gondor's emblem could also be seen on its pommel, coloured in ebony and ivory.

Beregond couldn't help but smile, his fingers tracing the outline of the sword proudly. He swung the weapon a couple of times while his ears picked up the faint swooshing sound. The sword felt incredibly light, yet its balance was top notch and Beregond's grip on it steady as though that it was a part of himself.

In other words... it was perfect.

Grinning happily, Beregond used his alchemy again to create a leather scabbard as well. After checking himself one last time and deeming that he was ready, he walked out to start his training.

Major Moser was certainly surprised to see what kind of sword there was in the Gondorian's hands. He quickly called Beregond and asked him to show it to him.

Though slightly apprehensive at this, Beregond decided to oblige him. He drew the sword out of its scabbard.

"We don't have that kind of swords in the weapons' room," Moser commented, examining the weapon curiously. "Where did you get this one?"

"I, uh... transmuted it, Sir. I used the swords that were faulty," Beregond answered.

"Indeed?" Moser actually grinned. "Working under Fullmetal has rubbed off on you, eh?"

"You could say that, Sir," Beregond said embarrassedly.

"Well, you've done quite a good job at it. Trust me... I know," Moser said, showing Beregond the silver watch that all State Alchemists carried as identification item, smiling. He placed the silver watch back in his pocket. "However, I'm not sure why you would want to create such a sword. Though it's beautiful, it's rather difficult to handle, isn't it?"

"I'm well acquainted with that kind of weapon. It doesn't prevent my movements, Sir," said Beregond.

"I see," Moser said, nodding his understanding. "Well then, you may carry on."

Beregond bowed his head slightly as he was dismissed, and finally walked up to a secluded enough area of the training grounds. He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths to empty himself of all distracting thoughts. He gripped the handle with both hands, placing himself in defensive position, and then started practising his manoeuvres.

Step two, thrust... Breathe... Step one, swing, step two, swing, upper defence... Breathe... Swirl around and strike.

As Beregond still trained, he felt his heart beating faster for more reasons than the exercise his body was going through. The feel of the sword in his hands, the fighting style and his seclusion from unfriendly eyes made him travel with his mind's eye at another place, back to the time when he was sparring with Faramir. Upon asked, Beregond would say with certainty that he was even able to hear the clanging of Faramir's sword in his; his friend's laughter and the loud whistle of a falcon, the only spectator in their mock clash.

That made his body move faster. He was getting exhilarated, and soon all thoughts had seized to be. It was only him, the sun and the earth. He couldn't stop his slashing and swishing now even if he wanted to. His manoeuvres became more complicated, more difficult and demanding; yet he performed them with flawless grace.

He only stopped when, after a mighty spring, he landed on his feet and thrust his sword deep on the ground in a finishing blow.

A series of gasps snapped him out of his fight trance and he instantly looked up.

Everyone had stopped his training and was looking at him, mouth open.

"What...?" Beregond faltered, unsure as to what to say and very self-conscious all of a sudden.

"You... you split the ground in two!" said one of the privates, his eyes widened in shock.

"And your sword didn't even get a scratch!" said another one.

Beregond blinked and looked down. There, indeed, was a large crack right where his sword had been embedded. And his sword was, truly enough, intact.

"My apologies," the Gondorian murmured. He got ready to clap his hands and fix the damage.

"Sergeant, wait!" It was Major Moser who said that. He approached Beregond and pointed at the hole. "How did you do that?"

Beregond scratched his head. "It's difficult to explain, really. It's a matter of reaching the highest of speeds at the right moment."

Moser smiled. "Now I understand why you favour that sword. One blow can prove fatal to the opponent. And, when there's more than one, you don't waste any energy by slashing three or four times each of your adversaries."

"You have it correct, sir," said Beregond, nodding. He caught sight of the crack again. "I should fix this."

Moser just laughed. "Leave it! Once I tell everyone how it was done, not only they won't mind, but they'll actually be impressed!"

"On the contrary, Major Moser, I mind and I'm not impressed!"

Everybody turned to see a very furious-looking Lieutenant Colonel Fawcette walking towards their direction and standing in front of Beregond. He pointed at him accusingly.

"Sergeant, I knew that one day you would take advantage of the military's leniency, but the way you chose to do it is appalling. Do you know the penalty for damaging state property?"

Beregond felt himself flaring, but he didn't allow his emotions to run away with him. "As I was telling Major Moser, I can fix it," he said slowly.

"With your alchemistic conjuring, no doubt," Fawcette snapped. "The same way that you broke it?"

"Sir, with all due respect," said Moser, "I am a State Alchemist and I can assure you that I would have noticed if Sergeant Beregond had used alchemy. I know the light of an alchemic reaction when I see one."

Beregond glared at Fawcette indignantly. "I didn't use Alchemy. The damage was done out of sheer force and by accident; I have already apologised for that."

Fawcette didn't bother to acknowledge Beregond this time. He smirked at Moser. "Really, Major... Did his innocent-sounding talk and his acting all noble and good get to you, too? Do you really want to know who you are actually trying to cover?"

"Cover...?" Moser started, his eyes widened.

"Yes, cover," Fawcette snapped, not allowing the major to continue. He glared at Beregond. "He is a damn liar. He always lies his way out of trouble. Did you know that he once faked a mental illness to avoid an arrest? That he claimed that he used to be a soldier before so as to take the exams to join the military? That he used the same lie to skip ranks and start as a sergeant? I still wonder how he managed to find himself in the same unit of the very people who seem to go in extreme lengths to protect him." He turned to Beregond, his eyes filled with resentment. "So, Sergeant... What lie did you use that time? I do want to know."

Beregond felt his body trembling in sheer outrage at those accusations, but Fawcette hardly paid any attention to it. He simply kept on.

"Then there's the matter of the heroics to get the people's attention he so much craves. Even getting himself injured so that his theatrics can be the more dramatic. You've heard of the Guyton incident, haven't you, Major Moser? Let me tell you something that not all that many people know. This person here, though it seemed that he could fight back his captor at any given moment, chose to do so when there was a crowd to watch the show. But things didn't go that well with Scar, did they, sergeant? Because Scar didn't feel like being part of a performance."

Beregond bit his lower lip to stop himself from lashing out, but it was useless. The only thing he could do was control his words and simply say: "You know nothing about me."

Fawcette only paused for a moment. "Oh, that's right! I don't! Then again, who does?" he said sarcastically, fake laughter escaping his lips. "I warned you that I'd make my search on you and it's interesting what I came up with. Do you want to hear it, Major Moser?"

Beregond's heart missed a beat.

"Nothing. No birthday certificates; no relations or friends; no address of residence until about nine months ago; no school certificate - nothing. All he had with him when found were plates of armour, torn clothes and some foreign ape-talk. So from which part of the sky did you exactly fall, Sergeant?" Fawcette snorted and looked at the rest of the soldiers. "And now everyone here is gawping and treating you like some damn hero. Well, hero/... Let's see this mess fixed /without you using alchemy. And it better not be here by tomorrow when I come to inspect the grounds."

Beregond didn't say anything this time. He simply bowed his head, something that didn't escape Fawcette's attention. Snorting, the lieutenant colonel walked away, muttering the word "ape".

He never saw Beregond /smiling/. But the other bystanders did.

"All right, break it up, people; you've seen enough," Moser said at that moment, clapping his hands once to get everyone's attention. As soon as he gave that command, the crowd quickly dispersed and carried on as usual. He then leant close to Beregond, his expression clearly showing his puzzlement.

"You are a strange man," he said quietly. "Lieutenant Colonel Fawcette practically insulted you in front of every one of us and you are smiling."

"In all honesty, Sir? I would prefer to show him how much better I control my hand than he controls his tongue," Beregond said boldly. "But I have thought of a more gratifying payback. May I ask for your assistance?"

"You may have it, once you explain what you have in mind."

"I want you and a private to act as witnesses in case I'm accused again for something I didn't do."

"What are you planning to do?" asked Moser.

"I'll fix the hole, of course."

Moser looked at Beregond as if the sergeant had gone crazy. It seemed that he was intrigued enough to indulge Beregond though, because he turned and called at the private closest to them. "What's your name?" he asked when the private approached them and saluted.

"Private Shane Bindle, Sir," the soldier answered.

"Well, Private Bindle, you've just been selected as witness to make sure Sergeant Beregond does his task properly. Sergeant Beregond, you may begin at your leisure."

Beregond nodded his acknowledgement. He straightened his shoulders... and turned around to fetch a bucket of water and a large sack like the one the military always used in bunkers in times of war. Pulling the cord that kept the sack closed, he emptied all the sand in the hole and then added the water. In less than fifteen minutes he was done and his work was seamless. There was nothing that betrayed were the crack was.

Moser whistled, clearly impressed. "I'll say it. I don't care what Fawcette thinks; you’re too clever to be just a sergeant."

Beregond smiled broadly. It was true that he didn't like to think of himself as a person who took delight in the pain of others, yet that didn't stop him from feeling pleased with himself when he thought of Fawcette frothing from his mouth upon realising that he got outwitted by the ape yet again. And he was overjoyed when Major Moser gave him permission to could keep the sword as his.

But when Beregond walked home later that evening, the sword buckled at his side, he couldn't help but also feel concerned.

Beregond had thought he had been safe from Fawcette's scrutiny, but he now realised that it wasn't so. It didn't matter that Fawcette didn't have Edward and Alphonse's intelligence or deduction ability - or even Beregond's trust to be confided in. He insisted on digging matters and apparently he would keep looking until he found anything that would be considered suspicious.

Beregond sighed. Yes, there were several people already who knew his story and they accepted him nevertheless. That didn't mean that that was a policy that would be followed by the rest of the military as well. He was aware that the only reason his presence in the army was tolerated even without any records of historical background was his exemplary conduct. Things could still change in the blink of an eye.

I suppose I will have to worry about that when the time comes, he thought. Right now he should focus on his current studies and find further connections between Middle-earth and Amestris. That meant finding Mustang first thing in the morning so as to talk to him.

He only hoped that the Colonel would be able to help him, otherwise he would probably reach a dead end.

TBC...
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