Beregond spends a quiet Friday with his new friends, while others plot.
The entire place was desolate, and Scar didn't know what to make of it.
Where am I? he thought. He tried to take a deep breath, but it wasn't possible. The heat was almost blocking his lungs.
This smell... Is this Ishbal?
He dearly hoped it wasn't.
On the other hand... what else could it be?
"Brother?" He checked his surroundings again. "Master?"
There was no answer.
Where is everyone? Why am I alone?
Scar looked up at a small rocky precipice nearby to see a man there; a lean, wretched man, whose clothes were ragged and his long black hair messy and oily. He seemed harmless enough, but there was something on that man's grin and the cruel look in those yellow eyes that had Scar worried.
"Who are you? You're not from Ishbal," he said.
The man laughed. "Oh, I'm sorry, how rude of me. I forgot my manners."
With a deliberate slowness, the man turned his palms upward so that Scar could see two identical alchemical arrays tattooed on his palms.
The Ishbalan gaped. What was going on?
"I'm the State Alchemist that's in charge of the annihilation of this region!"
Scar's heart missed a beat. No! No, it can't be!
Screaming his anger, Scar lunged at the State Alchemist, his right arm glowing as he got ready for the kill.
Except... he wasn't fighting the State Alchemist anymore. There was no sand under his feet or a blazing sun above him. In fact, it was cold and dark, whereas the ground was concrete-hard and making an echoing sound with every step he took.
He knew the place. He was back at Central Library, the place he was hoping to find some answers about his arm.
He came across something that could hardly be labelled human instead.
The man-like creature attacked, opening his jaws wide, but Scar proved faster. He placed his right hand on the creature's face and attempted to destroy it from the inside, the same way he always killed his victims.
To his surprise and horror, the creature only grinned maniacally. Before Scar could react, it had also grabbed Scar's side so powerfully that the sound of ribs cracking filled the room. Scar tried to scream as pain coursed through him, but that bulk of an arm wouldn't let any air in his lungs.
Nevertheless, he didn't give up. He couldn't afford to. And it was with that thought that his right arm glowed again and he grabbed the huge arm.
It worked. The arm was split in two and Scar was released. The Ishbalan landed on his feet, ready to fight in spite of his injury.
It was then that she came.
For the next few seconds, all Scar could do was stare incredulously, because this wasn't possible. It couldn't be her!
Yet the eyes, the face...
No, it wasn't her; it was something that merely resembled her. It had to be, since that thing didn't seem to recognise him. It merely smiled and extended elongated claws, ready to pierce his heart.
He was doomed.
In one desperate move, he placed his arm on a wall nearby.
As though the sound of the explosion reverberated through his body a second time, Scar woke up, sweat-drenched and breathing heavily.
He froze at the next instant, because the surroundings that were now unveiled before him didn't seem right at all.
Why was he in a tent and covered with a blanket?
"Oh! You're awake!"
Scar quickly turned and saw a young boy pushing the flaps of the tent and walking in. His clothes were ragged and he wore a cap on his head, whereas he didn't seem any more than nine years of age. Moreover, he was holding a bowl full of water and a piece of cloth in his hands.
"I'm alive," Scar said.
"Yeah," the boy said, his red eyes reflecting his mirth. "I was beginning to think you wouldn't get up."
"Where am I?" Scar asked next.
"You're in a slum that's on the outskirts of Central."
Scar frowned as he tried to piece things together in his mind. "So I was saved."
"Hey, be grateful," the boy said. "My brother and I were surprised. A person among huge chunks of debris isn't something one sees everyday."
Scar didn't say anything. He just looked around again, this time with a thoughtful look on his face. There was hardly anything in the tent but the barest essentials - old and battered at that.
The boy smiled at the expression on the man's face and wetted the cloth. "There's no way that people this poor can afford to save people. That's what you're thinking, right?" He placed the cloth on Scar's forehead. "Yeah, that's right. If you were a normal guy, we'd take everything you had off of you and leave you among the debris for dead. But..." He leaned closer and looked at Scar's features carefully. "You're an Ishbalan, aren't you?"
Scar's eyes widened as he stared at the boy, hardly believing his ears. How was the boy aware that...?
But the boy merely chuckled. "My brother and I are Ishbalans, too." After standing up and dusting his knees, he pushed the flaps aside again. "Hey! He's up!"
A few minutes later, an old man walked in. Scar took note of the kindly smile on his face, albeit partly hidden by his long, white beard.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, young one," he said. He also looked closely at Scar as though scrutinising him. "You're that man, aren't you? The wanted criminal everyone's looking for?"
Scar didn't expect such a blunt question. Still, he knew that lying about such a thing would be pointless, so he nodded.
"Are you going to turn me in?" he asked apprehensively.
At those words, the old man cackled and sat cross-legged on the floor. "No need to get defensive! This slum has nothing but people of the blood of Ishbal. There isn't a fool here that would sell out his own kin."
Truly enough, more Ishbalans gathered around, their red eyes locked on the form of the mysterious fellow compatriot. Scar could even pick up several voices saying: "Oh, you're up! Mister, you want anything? Of course, we ain't got nothing good around here!" And all he could do was look at each and every one, a small smile tugging his lips.
"To think that there would be so many survivors of Ishbal," he said softly.
"Not just here," the old man said. "There are small refugee camps throughout the land. They're quiet, but surviving well. We can get along fine living in a place that reeks this much of soot!" Another cackle escaped his lips. "/All in the world is the bosom of our god, Ishbala/, after all."
Scar's smile actually widened for a brief moment, but it didn't last.
"I'm sorry for being a burden," he said. He tried to get up, but that proved a mistake. His ribs protested the movement, and he had to grit his teeth in order to stop the exclamation of pain slipping out of his lips.
"Hey! Don't move yet!" the boy said. "You were close to dying!"
Scar nodded his compliance and so he lay down again. However, he still wanted to be sure about something. His eyes locked on the young kid again.
"What's your name?"
The boy smiled. "Rick."
"All right. Rick... Is my right arm still there?"
Rick was certainly surprised and he didn't even bother to hide it. "Your right arm? Sure. It's hurt bad, of course, but it's still with you."
There was a pause, and then Rick spoke again.
"It's really cool... your right arm, I mean." He picked it up gently and pointed at the markings on the man's arm. "Is that a tattoo?"
Scar nodded darkly.
"Yes... something I got from my family."
And that was all he said.
Friday was the day that a lot of things diverted from Beregond's normal routine. For one thing, he arrived home much earlier than the previous days - just after the sun had set, in fact. Moreover, he didn't have any books with him today, for the very simple reason that he didn't need them anymore.
Oh yes, these last five days had been the most productive when it came down to studying. He had read all the myths that there were to be read and written down all the important details and conclusions after comparing them with the tales of his world. He even kept summaries of them and descriptions of any illustrations he came across so to be able to reference them quickly enough. So it seemed the largest and most difficult part of his research was done, and Beregond had every reason to be relieved and happy.
Had every reason to be, but couldn't. Because at the last step before considering his task done, he hit a most troublesome snag that could - and did - put his research into a standstill.
Pinching the bridge of his nose as he felt a headache settling in, he stepped into the house and collapsed on the couch. Deciding that he didn't want to do anything else that day except remain there, he let his eyes drop shut and thus cut himself off from the rest of the world.
Well, tried to anyway. Beregond suddenly felt something light jumping on his chest -light and purring. He forced one eye open and he half-smiled when he saw the kitten sitting just inches away from his face, looking at him in what could only be described as a quizzical manner.
"U-aniral istach," (You don't want to know) he murmured, petting the animal slightly on the head. Sighing, he took his journal out of the pocket of his jacket and started turning idly the pages, partly hoping that he could catch another hint and so continue his research.
He found nothing. When he finally reached the last page, he huffed in dismay and tossed the thing on the small table in front of him. And a few moments later, he had closed his eyes again.
The next thing he knew was the sound of someone knocking at the door. He opened his eyes, somehow realising that he had fallen asleep but unable to gauge for how long. All he knew was that he was almost surrounded in darkness and a small lamp beside him was the only source of light.
He couldn't even remember turning that thing on.
A second knock at the door snapped him out of his drowsy reverie once again. "Coming!" he managed to call out, but that was easier said than done. He hit his leg against the table on his first two attempts to get up and, when he did get up, he had to shake his head repeatedly to rid himself of the slumber that stubbornly clung on him.
Finally, after finding the wits to rest his hand on his sword, he opened the door.
It was Havoc. And he was casually clothed, for that matter.
"What...?" Beregond started, but the lieutenant proved faster as he examined the sleep-tussled Gondorian from head to toe.
"I see you don't remember what day it is today," he said, raising an eyebrow.
Beregond blinked, mentally trying to push the gears in his brain to function once again. "Friday," he finally answered. And then, realisation hit him. "Friday!"
"Oh, good, you didn't kill all your brain cells reading,” Havoc teased. However, his next words clearly showed his concern. "You must have been really tired to be asleep from 9.30. I'm sorry for waking you."
Beregond's answer just came in the form of his usual mock punch on Havoc's arm. "I'll live," he said with a smile. He beckoned the other man in while he headed for the bathroom. "Just give me ten minutes, okay?"
"So you're coming?" Havoc asked with a smile.
"I said I would, didn't I?" Beregond said, flashing a grin over his shoulder. "Anyway, it will get my mind off some unpleasant things that I don't want to think about right now."
Havoc regarded the Gondorian curiously. "Does it have to do with your research?"
"Unfortunately," Beregond said before splashing water on his face.
"Sorry to hear it."
Beregond didn't answer for some time. He decided to change the subject instead. "So who else is it going to be in our gathering?"
"Everyone," Havoc answered. "I was to pick you up; Falman, Breda and Fuery would come together; and Riza would bring Mustang."
"Good. I needed to talk to the Colonel."
"Does it have to do with the office?"
"Yes. It's about a missing file."
Havoc clicked his tongue several times in disapproval. "You'll have to forget it. On Friday nights, we put aside work."
Now freshly shaved, Beregond stepped out of the bathroom and looked at Havoc in disbelief. "But..."
"No buts," Havoc said, winking. "There is a reason for this get together, and that is so we can all meet as friends and talk about as many pointless things as we can. You said you wanted to get away, right?"
Beregond contemplated matters for a moment as he changed from his uniform to something more casual. "True."
"Then it's settled! We won't talk about anything that has the word "office" alongside it!" Havoc declared.
The Gondorian couldn't help but smile at this, and he had to admit that Havoc was right. He did need to forget his troubles, at least for tonight.
"And what are we going to talk about?" Beregond asked. He put on a pullover over his shirt and so placed the final touches to his sporty attire.
Havoc's eyes glinted with slight mischief at that question. "How about... how did Sarah get a hold on my phone number?"
Beregond instantly grinned. "I take it she called then."
"And I take it you had something to do with it."
"Maybe," the Gondorian answered in an almost innocent tone.
Havoc smiled almost sweetly. "You realise, of course, that now I have to kill you."
"There are people expecting us both to show up," Beregond pointed out, taking a few steps back.
"I'll tell them you were involved in a tragic accident."
Beregond made a pouting face. "Don't tell me it went that bad."
"Oh, it went lovely," Havoc answered, still smiling and now taking a few deliberate steps towards Beregond's direction. "We spent on the phone a bit more than an hour telling each other of our news. She even told me how helpful Hughes had been, how she loved the new place and how Alice was happy. /I/, on the other hand, was just content to listen to her voice and I kept wishing she didn't have to hang up. On top of all that, she gave me her address and invited me over some time." He paused just for a moment to give Beregond a tiger-shark grin. "The problem is, /Gondorian/... you set me up behind my back."
Beregond acted like he swallowed hard in fear. "Is there any chance for peace negotiations?"
Havoc briefly made a face as if thinking, only to answer: "None."
Beregond just shrugged. "Well, it was worth the shot."
"One dies trying, doesn't he?" Havoc replied... before grabbing Beregond in a bear-hug. "Thank you so much!" he cried giddily.
"I see. I'm to be hugged to death. What a way to go," the Gondorian said in a mock-mournful tone. Nevertheless, he returned the embrace with a big smile.
But that gesture of camaraderie was all too familiar to Beregond and it made his heart miss a beat. At the next instant, the memory of two young men playing in the snow and laughing joyfully - one a soldier and the other the Steward's secondborn - entered his mind.
Valar, it seems so long ago...
But he chased away the dark thoughts, because he still remembered Edward's promise.
Whatever comes in, it can come out.
"Well," Beregond finally declared, letting go and patting the lieutenant on the shoulder, "I do believe there are still people expecting us to show up."
Havoc nodded with a smile, unaware of Beregond thoughts. In a matter of moments, they had both walked out, locking the door behind them.
Only then did the kitten decide to step out of the shadows where it had hidden throughout the men's conversation. It locked its gaze on the notebook, and then Envy had returned to his androgynous form, grinning at the prospect of success.
By the time Beregond and Havoc arrived at the bar, the rest of the unit were already there and had ordered their share of drinks. And as he looked at each one of them, Beregond couldn't help but think how different they all looked without their uniforms. Even their demeanour seemed different. It was more relaxed and carefree.
/This is a get together of friends indeed/, he thought.
It was Black Hayate who first noticed them. The dog gave a happy bark and instantly rushed at them, tongue lolling out of his mouth and eyes reflecting his joviality.
"What do you know, you guys made it!" said Breda, seeing the newcomers approaching the table.
"What kept you?" Fuery asked.
"That would be me," Beregond said, his cheeks turning a tinge of pink. "Sorry about that."
"Better late than never, as the wise say," Mustang said, a small smile tugging on his lips. He motioned his hand at the direction of the two chairs that were still empty, while a waitress came up to the table to take the newcomers' orders.
"Whiskey for me," Havoc said.
The waitress nodded. "And you, sir?" she asked Beregond.
Beregond thought about it for a moment, uncertain. "Do you have ale?"
"Of course. Light or dark?"
The Gondorian /beamed/. “The darker the better."
The waitress smiled. "A northerner, I see. I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks," Beregond said, smiling also. However, when the waitress was gone, he looked at the others questioningly. "Northerner?"
Falman was the one to provide the answer. "Dark, or brown ale, is the basic imported product from the northern parts of Amestris and beyond. It's vastly produced in Drachma and..."
"We get the picture, Vato," Breda said with a roll of his eyes before turning to Beregond. "So, yeah, you saved the trouble of explaining yourself."
The Gondorian chuckled. "It's kind of ironic. I was born in the southern parts of Middle-earth, actually; in Minas Tirith."
"Is that a city?" Riza asked with interest.
Beregond nodded. "It was the capital of Gondor." At that, the others made a small exclamation of acknowledgement as they recognised that name. "It was also the greatest city of the race of Men."
Roy raised an eyebrow. "There are other races there?" he asked.
"Not in Minas Tirith. But throughout Middle-earth? Yes," Beregond said, "and they have far more differences than just skin-colour or eye-colour, like it happens here." He paused for a moment, thinking matters carefully as to how to proceed. "There are Dwarves, for instance. They're well known for their mining and forging skills. They're also considered unlovely by the other races, because of their wild faces and abrupt manners. Nevertheless, they are formidable warriors and fearsome axe-wielders." He took a swing of his ale, letting the mouthful linger momentarily before swallowing.
"Did you ever meet one?" Havoc asked conversationally.
"I've seen several of them; I've even talked with one; but I didn't really become friends with any," Beregond answered with a shrug. "The only one from another race I've ever befriended was a Hobbit."
"A what?!" It was Breda who had voiced that question, though everyone's expression showed that they were all just as curious.
"A Hobbit," Beregond repeated, chuckling. "They're close in appearance to Men, but their ears are leaf-shaped and they're quite small, only children in your and my eyes. Pippin - that is, my friend - always liked to say that, at his age of twenty-nine, the only way that he would grow was sideways."
"Are there many of those... Hobbits?" Roy asked, a strange gleam in his eyes.
"Quite a lot actually, from what I was told," Beregond said. "Their homeland is separated into four large farthings. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I just happen to know somebody who would be quite at home among them," Roy answered with a grin.
There were several sniggers to be heard at that. Riza settled with a dignified sigh at her superior's immaturity at times; Fuery choked on his drink and straightened his glasses; whereas Beregond hid his face behind his glass in embarrassment.
"As a matter of fact, there was a time that I thought he was one," he mumbled. "But I know that if I tried to apologise for my misassumption, I'd be throttled."
That caused another round of laughter and a "Nah, he likes you, so he'd just hit you on the stomach with his metal arm."
"How about other races?" Riza asked at that moment.
"Ah, now we come to it," Beregond said. "For you can learn all that there is to learn about Dwarves and Hobbits in less than a year, if you will; but Elves are the most mysterious and elusive of all creatures."
Fuery nodded. "I know that name. My grandfather used to tell me about them when I was a kid. He said they were very small and shy."
Did he now? Beregond thought. But he shook his head, a smile tugging his lips as he drank from his ale again. "Nothing like that. They are like you and I, in fact. Yet, if you ever cast your gaze on one, you'll know that there's something different about them. Most people will tell you it's their leaf-shaped ears but... that wouldn't be true." Beregond paused for a moment, trying to find the right words. "Both male and female Elves are beautiful beyond the measure of men, and the light of the stars is reflected in their eyes. And though they look and sometimes act young, preferring to sing and dance in the forests where they dwell, they feel ancient and they carry the burden of unsurpassable wisdom of years untold; for they are, in truth, immortal, and have seen many wonders of Middle-earth at the passing of time. They were the first to be born into the world of Middle-earth and they named all the things on it, animals and plants alike, since their bond to nature and Middle-earth runs deeper than the Secondborn, the race of Men. And the knowledge that they passed on to Men in old alliances is nothing compared to the Firstborn's true power."
It was then that he stopped, because he noticed that everyone was looking at him with an unreadable expression.
"I got carried away, didn't I?" he asked.
"It's not that," Havoc said, looking at him strangely.
Beregond blinked. "I have foam on my face?"
That earned him several chuckles.
"Actually, Beregond," Roy said, finally discarding the awful "mister" word that always had the Gondorian groan inwardly, "When you described the Elves... you also described yourself in the process."
"I did?" asked the Gondorian in disbelief.
"Yes," Falman answered. "You look much younger than forty, for example."
"You even act younger than your age," Breda said. He rolled his eyes when Riza said quietly: "That could also apply to you, Heymans."
"And look at Hayate!" Fuery said, pointing at the dog. Indeed, Black Hayate had settled his head against the Gondorian's thigh, looking at him with eyes clearly reflecting affection. "I mean, animals trust you without so much as a second thought; you can even talk to them! I'd kill to be able to do that!" He grinned sheepishly when everyone looked at him curiously. "Figure of speech," he explained.
"Not to mention that there is about you a kind of air that reminds one of... of..." Havoc stumbled on his words as he tried to find the correct term.
"Nobility," Roy provided for him.
"Old-fashioned chivalry," Riza said.
"Sagacity," Falman added.
"Right. That." Havoc gave a conceding smile to the others, and then grinned at Beregond's direction. "Combined with an ass-kicking sword buckled on your side."
"Do I look so strange to your eyes then?" Beregond asked, perplexed. He drank some more of his ale and petted Hayate's head, a gesture much appreciated by the dog. "I suppose I am," he mused aloud. "I have Elven blood in my veins."
Everyone blinked. "One of your parents was an Elf?" asked Fuery.
Beregond laughed good-naturedly at once. "No, nothing like that!" He immediately nudged Havoc to make him stop staring at his ears; the lieutenant was apparently looking at them to see if they were pointy or not. "It's told that an Elven-maiden by the name of Luthien fell in love with Beren, a Man. By the grace of the Valar, their offspring had the privilege whether they could be counted among the Elven or the Men's race. One of them, Elros, chose to become a Man and he created a kingdom in an island west of Middle-earth so that he and his people, the Númenóreans, could live in peace. And they say it was good at first. The Numenoreans, blessed with Elven blood, were immune to illnesses and their life was far more expanded than other Men's. Elros himself lived to be five hundred years old."
Wow... mouthed Breda. The rest of the company carried similar expressions on their faces. Beregond nodded to assure them that it was true.
"That is, until dark days followed," he continued on. "Guided by false words of the Dark Lord Sauron that sounded fair in their ears, the Numenoreans became far too much corrupted, so the Valar were forced to destroy that island and everyone on it as punishment. The only ones to survive were a few faithful ones who sailed back to Middle-earth and, once there, two more kingdoms were eventually founded: Arnor and Gondor."
"So what you're saying is that you are one of those faithful ones' descendants," Roy said.
Beregond nodded again. "The Elven blood is all but spent after the passing of so many centuries and the mingling with other races of Men, but it's still there. Even visibly so from what you've told me."
"How was the island destroyed?" Riza asked curiously.
"It sank," Beregond answered; "Vanished beneath gigantic waves sent by the Valar in their wrath. And from that day it's remembered among the people of Gondor as the Island of Atalante, the Downfallen."
It was then that a gasp escaped Falman's lips, making everyone turn at his direction.
Falman didn't answer at once. His expression still reflected the shock that he was clearly going through.
"Falman, you better snap out of it before I make it an order," Roy said.
The warrant officer took a couple of very large swings out of his drink, nearly emptying it, and then looked at Beregond. "You said the name of that sunken island is Atalante, right?"
"Yes," the Gondorian answered hesitantly. He couldn't understand what made Falman so edgy.
Falman leaned close as though about to reveal something very important. The others followed suit, ready to listen.
"In the history books there's mention of an old continent which sunk under mysterious circumstances long ago; before even prehistory, as we know it, started. Though it can be assumed that all the people drowned during that mass destruction, it's still believed that some of them survived and populated the countries of today." He looked at the Gondorian's direction once more and finally let it out.
"The name of that continent was Atlantis. It sounds too similar to be mere coincidence, no?"
At that, the Gondorian let himself sit back, staring at Falman. "I see," he said. He noticed the question in the other soldiers' eyes, so he decided to explain matters. "Earlier today and as I was reading through the mythology books, I was dismayed to find out that they ended quite abruptly with the tale of the Ancient Mariner and his wife. I had already managed to find more than just a few similarities between the tales of my people and your myths. So, when I read on the final pages about a country which was supposedly favoured by the Gods until it perished overnight, I thought I was reaching to the end of my research - even to some reason behind those similarities."
"But you didn't?" Fuery asked.
Beregond nodded ruefully. "Apparently, the particular volume with those kind of myths has yet to be published." He turned to Falman. "Still, this is interesting. You said that you read that information in history books?"
"Wait a minute," Breda said, raising a hand so everybody would stop. "How could something that Falman read in history books be connected to mythology books? The first state facts and the latter state stories out of people's heads!"
Roy crossed his arms, frowning as he contemplated matters. "Nevertheless, even in those stories, there's always a grain of truth."
"History becomes legend; legend becomes myth. And it would seem that that applies quite appropriately in this sunken realm's case." Beregond replied, rubbing his chin. He huffed slightly. "It looks like I will have to talk to Syndow as soon as possible. I need to know just from where he got those myths. What Falman said shows that it can't just be from storytellers alone!"
"No, indeed," Roy agreed thoughtfully. "I feel that you are just a few steps away from discovering the ultimate connection between your world and ours. You can't give up now.”
Beregond smiled grimly. "That will be a bit difficult considering that I don't know where I can find Syndow - if he's still alive, that is."
"Don't be so sure of that," Roy said, smiling in an enigmatic manner. "Falman?"
Complying, Falman started reciting with the precision he was well-known among his comrades: "John Ronald Syndow: Born on January 3rd, 1834, near the outskirts of Dublith. He's best known for his vast knowledge of extinct languages and has a doctorate on ancient Amestrian language specifically. He's now a Professor of Modern Literature, currently teaching in East City University. However, his interest on the ancient world hasn't diminished in the least and his compilation of books about them is one of the vastest out there and it's even considered a State treasure by many." Falman's lips tugged to a small smile. "With a little search, I can find his address too, if you like."
Beregond stared at the warrant officer for many long moments in amazement before grinning broadly. "I would very much like it indeed."
"Then it's settled!” Roy declared. He raised his glass. "Here's to good fortune on our goals!" he announced, a pleasing smile brightening his features.
"Hear! Hear! I'll drink to that!" everyone said, also raising their glasses in cheers. As for Beregond, he locked his gaze on Roy. He couldn't help but notice a strange glint in the man's eyes as he actually looked back at the Gondorian.
Beregond understood. Roy hadn't forgotten about their talk on the Ishbalans – and their language - and he was now in this way offering a chance for the Gondorian to take his investigation a little further.
Edward was right, the Gondorian thought. Roy is quite the shrewd man, keeping his eyes on everything and everyone.
Slightly and discreetly, he raised his glass a little higher and nodded. It was true Edward certainly kept getting miffed by that kind of ability of the Colonel's, feeling as though being spied on. Beregond, on the other hand, couldn't help but feel respect.
Roy's only response was a ghost of a smile, which Beregond reciprocated. Then, both men took a gulp of their drinks as though no silent conversation was ever exchanged between them.
"Oh... and just so you know, Fuery," Beregond said after wiping some of the ale from his lips with the back of his hand, "I can always teach you Sindarin, if you like. I wouldn't want you to kill anyone."
Fuery chuckled and straightened his glasses. "Good. But, by the way, I think I already know what 'aphado nin' means. It took me over an hour to make a particularly obedient horse to stop following me around!"
Everyone laughed out loud at that. As for Roy, he signalled the waitress to bring a second round of drinks on the table.
"You've arrived quite early today," Lust noted. She was sitting on a bench at an isolated park, a regular rendezvous point of her and Envy's. "I hope you have good news."
"It's very good," Envy said, grinning broadly. He held up some papers for Lust to see. "These are the last pages from the sergeant's journal."
"Are you sure you copied them correctly?" Lust asked.
"What's the matter? Don't you trust me anymore?" Envy answered. He handed the papers to the other homunculus. "They're correct down to the last dot, just like the others I've been giving you these last five days."
Lust merely sighed and looked at the papers thoughtfully. "I still think it would be best if we just took the journal itself."
But Envy shook his head. "It would be too risky. The sergeant is already aware that something's up with that missing file of his. Speaking of which, did you finish reading it?"
Lust nodded. "I have. I can't say that I've understood too much about it though. It's just the finer details of a painting, yet we're still missing the picture, if you know what I mean. Even the Fullmetal boy seemed to think so. Did you read his last entry of the thing?"
"Yeah, I did. 'I still have the nagging feeling that, for every answer we get, there are at least a dozen more questions that pop up.'" Envy put a leg up on the bench and rested both elbows on the bent knee as he contemplated matters. "Nevertheless, he seemed willing enough to accept his help and suggestions when they went to find Marcoh - and you know how the shrimp normally reacts when it comes to receiving help from anyone else than his brother, right? And there's something else... there was a lieutenant who referred to him as Gondorian."
"There are no such people named like that," Lust said.
"No kidding," Envy replied. "All the more reason we should get to the bottom of this and see how we can use it to our advantage."
"I never said otherwise, Envy," Lust said. "I just hope that you were able to gain some answers with that little spying work of yours."
"We will be able to find that out as soon as you go to her."
Lust sighed. "Very well. But you had better go to Central and keep an eye on Gluttony. You know what that appetite of his is."
"Yeah, yeah, don't worry about it." Envy said, waving his hand dismissively. "I'll just make sure the sergeant's pet suddenly goes missing."
"I don't care how you do it, as long as you're done with it," Lust said, a hand pushing back a strand of hair behind her ear in slight irritation. "I'll catch up with you as soon as she finds out anything."
"You'd better," Envy said. And with that, he changed to the form of a giant dog and ran off.
He had to play the part of a cute fluffy pet one last time, after all.