“Again? Dammit Roy, I swear if you go after this guy in the rain one more time, I’ll kill you myself.” The Flame Alchemist winced as he was berated about his uselessness in certain types of weather once more. His subordinates weren’t wincing, however. Havoc and Braeda were laughing hysterically, and Riza was ignoring the goings-on. The girl shouting at Roy narrowed blue-green eyes at Riza. “And you…you let him!” Riza rolled her eyes.
“I’ve let the Colonel do some stupid things before, but I assure you, this was not one of them.” She said calmly. Roy smirked at the girl before him, brown eyes glittering.
“Doctors aren’t supposed to kill people, I’ve got nothing to worry about.” The girl scowled.
“Just because we aren’t supposed to doesn’t mean we don’t.” she said darkly. “And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a soldier, too.”
Walking past to laugh at Roy’s pain, one Edward Elric chanced a glance at the girl. She spoke the truth, or something close to it. She was about his height, maybe an inch and a half taller than he. Her auburn hair had been cropped at chin-length, except for two long strands in front of her ears. She wore the blue uniform common to all members of Amestris’ military, with colonel stripes of her own on her shoulders. Her right arm and hand were wrapped in ace bandages, and a white lab coat was folded over her left. In her hands, she held a black case full of goodness knows what, and she looked pissed. Deciding that he valued his life, Ed continued on his way, trying to go unnoticed.
Sadly, remaining inconspicuous was not what Fate held in store for him, as he ran directly into another woman. She was tan, about 5’8” in height. Her long, dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore a black blindfold across her eyes. She, too, wore a royal blue uniform, though that didn’t surprise the short alchemist, as they were in a military base, after all. This woman was a lieutenant colonel whom Edward had only seen once before.
“Excuse me.” She said quietly, causing Ed to leap to the side.
“S-sorry.” He stammered. The woman nodded and continued on her way. Her name was Cara, and she was Ishballan. Of course, no one knew that, as she always kept her crimson eyes covered by the blindfold that gave her her alchemic title: the Blind Storm Alchemist. Following the military’s annihilation of Ishbal, she knew that her life would be in danger if the state ever found her. So, she taught herself alchemy, and learned to rely on senses other than sight. Becoming a State Alchemist seemed the best way to hide: where the military would never look for an Ishballan refugee.
“Stop hurting him, Colonel.” She said calmly, appearing behind the doctor. “You know how fragile men’s egos can be.” The doctor blinked, then grinned and hugged the blindfolded alchemist.
“Cara-chan! We missed you!” Cara laughed and lightly pushed her away.
“Hi, Erin.” She said brightly. “I wasn’t gone that long.”
“Yeah, but do you have any idea how boring it gets around here without you around? I have to cause all the chaos myself, and Colonel Pyro here doesn’t exactly appreciate my antics.” Roy scowled and swatted her on the back of the head, causing her to glare at him. “Ow! What the hell was that for?!” Roy smirked.
“For not respecting your elders.”
“Hn, you’re just jealous that I made Colonel at twenty-one instead of twenty-nine like you, old man.” Erin muttered, sticking her tongue out.
“Careful, Menefer. I might take that as an invitation.”
“Shut up, Mustang.” Havoc and Braeda wandered off, not really in the mood to watch their superior flirting.
“Anyway,” Roy continued, as if he hadn’t just failed at said activity completely, “Lieutenant Colonel Black, I have an assignment for you.” Cara blinked.
“Sir, I just got back from your last assignment!”
“I know. But I think you may have more success with this assignment than the rest of us have.” Erin, who had been glaring at the alchemist, suddenly widened her eyes.
“You’re not going to-“ Roy silenced her with a glare, before turning back to Cara, lowering his voice when he next spoke.
“I want you to go after Scar. I hate doing things this way, but an honest attack just isn’t working. He may trust you because you’re from Ishbal. And don’t look so surprised; it isn’t hard to tell. Do you think you could avoid using alchemy for a little while, at least to help us catch him?” Cara frowned.
“Foregoing alchemy won’t be a problem, but how can you ask me to betray one of my own people?” Roy sighed.
“Whether you like it or not, we’re your people now, too. And Scar has been killing my men for long enough. It needs to stop. You have to make a decision, Black. Are you going to bring a man you’ve never met to justice, or will you let the murderer who’s been terrorizing your country go free? It’s your choice.” With those cryptic words, he left.
Erin blinked, then sighed.
“If you’re going after Scar, I’ve got some stuff you might need.” She said calmly. “But you’ll have to provide your own helmet.”
That night, Roy, Erin, and Cara made their way through East City, all in plainclothes. Cara had removed her blindfold, and was carrying a small satchel of spare clothing and food. Erin had done her best to make Cara look like a road-weary traveler, but there was no way of telling if their efforts would be enough to fool Scar.
“Good luck.” Erin whispered, giving her friend a quick hug. Cara nodded and turned to Roy.
“Any last instructions, Colonel?” Roy frowned.
“Be careful out there.” Cara nodded, saluted, and disappeared into the night. Erin glared at Roy.
“I don’t see why we couldn’t just use you as bait and capture him the normal way.” She muttered darkly.
“We tried that already.”
“Should’ve tried again.”
“Do me a favor and shut up, Menefer.”
Cara walked with her eyes closed. She was used to relying on her hearing; being able to see again was a new sensation. Her footsteps echoed off the cobblestones, and the air was cool and fresh after the day’s rain.
What am I doing? She thought as she walked. Going on some wild goose chase at the orders of the man who burnt my village to the ground? There’s no way of knowing if Scar’s even in East City any more. For all I know, he could be halfway to Drachma. Cara sighed. It seemed like it was going to be a long night.
The sound of footsteps made Cara turn. They belonged to a man, judging by the length of his stride, a little taller than she. He was injured; one leg was dragging slightly. He was leaning on the walls that he passed; Cara could hear his palm striking the brick every time he moved. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped.
“Who are you?” his voice was deep and challenging. In her mind, Cara could see that he was poised to run, whether toward or away from her, she didn’t know. Cara opened her eyes…she’d been right. He was tan-skinned and scarlet-eyed, like her. His grey and white hair was mussed, and he was scowling. His black pants had a white stripe down the side and across the right thigh, and the hems were worn and muddy. A yellow jacket with white stripes on the sleeves and shoulders covered a well-muscled back and bandaged stomach. Most noticeable, however, was the pale x-shaped scar across his face. Cara wondered vaguely how he’d gotten it. Erin would have known. But that wasn’t what bothered her. His face…it seemed familiar to her somehow. She just couldn’t place it.
“My name is Akari,” Cara said, giving her middle name. “I’m looking for my family.” She added. The man nodded slightly.
“Follow me,” he said in that voice of his. “I’ll take you to where some of our people are. Maybe you’ll find them there.” Cara blinked, then bowed politely.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Oh. Well, thank you.”
Scar led Cara through the city streets until he turned sharply to the left and began to walk down some stairs. Cara frowned, but followed, wondering what he was showing her in the sewers. What she did see took her breath away: rows upon rows of tents, some with cooking pots over fires or dogs tied up outside. Every so often, she would see children running between tents, shouting and giggling. Life was good for them, after the horrors of the Eastern Rebellion.
Two of the children, a pair of boys, came running up to Scar, laughing. One was about 12 or 14, with short, dark hair and a defiant look to him, even when he grinned. The other was a bit shorter, his sandy hair covered by a blue bandana, a chip in one of his front teeth. Both had the same tan skin and ruby-colored eyes as Cara, Scar, and everyone else in the encampment.
“You’re back!” the elder of the two said brightly, as the younger hugged Scar. Cara started.
Do they know he’s a serial killer? Do they not care? Or…
“Akari,” Scar said shortly, “This is Rick,” the younger boy nodded, “And his brother Leo.” The elder cast a critical eye over Cara’s appearance, but didn’t appear bothered. As the boys took off running again, Cara turned to Scar.
“Are they yours?” Scar blinked, and Cara thought she saw a faint pink color his cheeks before he replied.
“No.” The man replied. “They are orphans of the war, like so many other here.”
“Oh.” As Cara was wondering where to go and what to do next, a bald man with a black Hulk Hogan moustache and orange-striped robes walked up.
“Welcome back.” He said kindly to Scar, before turning to Cara. “And who might you be?”
“My name is Akari,” Cara said shyly. “I’m looking for my parents.”
“Well, good luck to you. It’s good to see that my student has taken interest in a woman.” Cara blushed, and Scar rolled his eyes, ignoring his teacher.
Later that night, Cara stood outside the tent she’d been given and took stock of her surroundings. A sewer wasn’t exactly where she’d thought she was headed, but it was an excellent hiding spot. No wonder this tribe had decided to stay there; it was a place the military had never thought to look.
Cara sighed and went back inside her tent. She was supposed to meet Erin at the public market early the next day, and finding the doctor in a crowd with no sleep was definitely not an easy task. Shivering in the spring chill, Cara quickly stripped off the day’s clothing, exchanging it for worn pajamas that had been donated to the cause by Roy Mustang himself, then she snuggled down in a pile of blankets, blew out her candle, and went to sleep.
Leaning on a wall nearby, the alchemist killer frowned. Why did Akari seem so familiar? Shaking his head, he went off to find Rick.
The next morning, Cara went out to the market, disguised as she and Erin had decided earlier. A purple scarf covered her dark hair, and a pair of sunglasses replaced the usual black blindfold. Predictably enough, Erin was manning a day-glo orange booth emblazoned with the words: MUSTANG FOR FUHRER!
“You’re trying to get him fired again, aren’t you?” Cara asked, sighing, as Erin left the booth to walk with her. Erin shook her head.
“No, not this time. I’m just trying to minimize damage from Hawkeye’s booth.” Cara blinked.
“She’s running a “Stamp Out Mustanging” campaign.” Erin said informatively. “Here.” She handed Cara a brochure that seemed to have been created by the one and only Flame Alchemist. This was evidenced in the title: SAVE A VIRGIN, RAPE A ROY!
“Ah, speaking of psycho, didja find scab-face?” Erin asked, tossing the brochure away. Cara nodded.
“He’s really not as evil as everyone thinks…” she said slowly. Erin stopped walking.
“Cara, he killed Brigadier General Gran. He killed Joliet Comanche, and Shou Tucker, though I can’t honestly say that Tucker was much of a loss. He tried to kill Elric, he tried to kill Marcoh, he tried to kill Roy, and pretty soon, he’ll be coming after you and me.” Cara nodded absently through this, then did a double take.
“Wait…you? Since when have you been a State Alchemist?!” She cried. Erin backhanded her friend.
“Sh! Don’t blow your cover. If you must know, I’ve been a State Alchemist since before the Eastern Rebellion. Don’t look at me like that. In Ishbal I helped Doctor Knox with his work, until I got orders to help Crimson do his thing. Of course, no one ever told me Kimblee’s definition of helping.” Erin frowned at the confused look on Cara’s face. “Oh! That’s right, you never met Kimblee, they sent him to prison before you enlisted. Well, to the Crimson Alchemist, the only ‘help’ a human can give him us supplying more components for his bombs.”
“Oh.” Cara was about to say more, but was interrupted by a nearby clock striking noon. “I have to get back.” Erin nodded.
“Right. Um, try to get scab-face to trust you more. We’re coming for him in a week, so make it quick.” Cara nodded and ran off. Erin sighed and went back to promoting Mustanging.
“Did you find them?” Scar asked, looking up at Cara from his seat on the ground where Rick and Leo were changing the bandages wrapped around his torso. Cara shook her head.
“No. But there’s always tomorrow. I thought I might try cooking for you three, if you’d like.” Rick and Leo cheered, until Scar shrugged, causing Rick to smack him and scold him for moving. Cara smiled demurely and, humming cheerfully, began to set up a makeshift kitchen. Rick and Leo ran off to clean up, and Scar watched Cara solemnly as she began to cook.
“Blind Storm Alchemist Cara Black.” He said finally, stating her name and title as if it were a sentence in and of itself. Cara blinked and whipped around to face him, scarlet eyes wide. To her surprise, Scar had a sad smile on his face. “It’s good to see you again.” Cara frowned, then her eyes widened again.
“No.” The alchemist killer interrupted. “I gave up my name when I accepted my calling, and this arm. It’s just Scar, now.” Cara sighed.
“So you know what I have become.” She told her childhood friend, resigned. “I guess you’ll have to kill me now.” Scar got to his feet and walked toward her.
“I don’t want to,” he said quietly.
“I don’t want you to, either.” Cara replied, looking away from the man standing before her.
“We could just pick up where we left off twelve years ago.” Scar said softly. “Say I never found out how you were hiding all this time.” Cara glanced up at him, and his lips met hers in a soft kiss. Cara blushed and pulled away. Scar raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“I can’t…not like this.” Cara said hesitantly.
“What do you mean?” Scar inquired. “What’s wrong?”
“I-“ Cara was cut off by her water boiling over, hissing as it met the small fire she’d built. Cursing under her breath, the alchemist slipped out of Scar’s hold and continued cooking.
“I want this done right, Mustang.” Erin said sternly, pacing (well, okay, limping) before the mahogany desk that the Flame Alchemist was lounging behind. The door to his office was closed, and they were the only two occupants. Roy was leaning back in his chair and resting booted feet on the desk, smirking. The young doctor never ceased to amuse him. Over the course of their conversation, she had banged her left shin on the corner of his coffee table no less than four times in fifteen minutes, swearing loudly every time.
“Are you questioning my methods, Menefer?” he asked, brown eyes glittering slyly.
“Yes!” Erin snapped, halting in stride and slamming her hands on Roy’s desk. “Yes, I am! We can’t just run in shooting this time! Cara could get hurt or even killed! I know she’s doing this of her free will, but if we aren’t careful, this could turn into a hostage situation!” Roy sobered and his feet met the floor with a dull thump. The alchemist leaned forward calmly, resting his elbows on the desk and his chin in his hands.
“All right. What needs to change?” Erin frowned.
“We need to bring less soldiers.” Roy nodded.
“I agree. I’m going unaccompanied.” Erin’s eyes widened in shock.
“What?! No!” She protested. “You’ll get yourself killed!” Roy smirked at her.
“Why, Menefer, I didn’t realize you cared.” He said sarcastically.
“Damn right, I care!” Erin snapped, fuming. “If you died, who the hell would I beat up?!” Roy laughed and slowly rose to his feet, walking around to the other side of his desk. Erin glared up at him. “I won’t let you go alone.” She said stubbornly.
“If I take you with me, will you shut up?” Roy asked teasingly.
“Probably not.” Erin retorted. Roy raised an eyebrow.
“Because I…” Erin hesitated, then glowered back at the other colonel. “I don’t want you to get yourself killed!” Roy sighed and took her hands in his.
“I won’t let him kill me.” He promised, resting his forehead gently against Erin’s. “The alchemist killer is going to be very harmless soon.”
That night, Cara wrapped herself tightly in her blankets, thinking hard. This mission was pretty much shot, as far as she could tell. There was no way she was going to give up the man who had been her first love. Sighing, the alchemist thought back to the days before the rebellion.
They were both young, both naïve. She knew that she wasn’t the only girl Scar loved; there was always his brother’s fiancée. But when she had died, Cara had suddenly become very interesting to the Ishballan man. And she wasn’t about to complain. Those had been the best days of her life. Then the rebellion started, and Cara had fled with her parents to Xing. When the rebellion died, and her family with it, Cara moved back to Amestris, teaching herself alchemy and rising through the ranks of the military in order to stay alive.
Her commanding officer had been Basque Gran, the Iron Blood Alchemist. At some military ceremony, Gran had introduced her to Shou Tucker. Tucker had introduced her to Edward Elric, and Ed had very reluctantly introduced her to Roy Mustang. After Gran’s death, Cara had been transferred to Mustang’s command, where she met Erin Menefer, who was apparently a State Alchemist. Cara wondered vaguely what the doctor’s title was, before her thoughts drifted back to Scar. She couldn’t betray him, could she?
Whether you like it or not, we’re your people now, too. Mustang’s words floated back to her, and Cara groaned. Why was her life so damn complicated?!
For the most part, the next week passed in an idyllic blur for the young alchemist. She and Scar grew closer than before, but often their bliss would be less-than-perfect because of Cara’s guilty mind. As the day of the betrayal grew closer, she made up her mind.
“Scar,” Cara said quietly on the designated night. “Will you come to the public market with me?” Scar frowned.
“It’s closed by this time.” He said. “Why would we go to a bunch of empty stalls?” Cara grinned.
“Didn’t you notice? The sakura trees are in bloom, we can go flower gazing!” Scar blinked, then sighed.
“Do I seriously have to wear this, Mustang?!” Erin moaned, standing in Roy’s office attired in a simple green and purple kimono. Roy rolled his eyes.
“Yes. If I have to wear this-“ the Flame Alchemist wore a black suit that was actually rather boring “-you have to wear that.”
“Feh. You know I hate dressing up.” Erin muttered, fiddling with the hematite menat hung around her neck. “You’d better be praying we get out of this alive, Colonel Pyro.” Said pyro smirked.
“You’re the one wearing the amulet for divine protection.” He teased. “And remember, first-name basis tonight. We’re going incognito.”
“I hate that word. You know, I’m really starting to hate a lot of things about tonight.” Erin observed, tracing the tattoo on her left palm thoughtfully with her right index finger. Roy sighed.
“Ready to go?”
“I guess so. Got your gloves?”
“Yes, mother.” Roy said, grinning. Erin glared at him.
“Not funny. Come on.”
Cara chewed her lower lip nervously as she and Scar wandered about East City, watching as the gentle spring breeze sent pale pink cherry blossoms scattering about the streets. It was like a snowfall of flower petals, very pretty. Suddenly, the happy couple stopped walking. Not fifty meters away stood Roy and Erin. Roy looked pissed, and Erin was rolling her eyes at him. Scar narrowed his eyes.
“Flame Alchemist Roy Mustang. Prepare to die.”
The scene played out as if in slow motion. Scar lunged at Roy, who was shoved out of the way by Erin. In mid-snap, Roy’s flames were abruptly put out by the thunderstorm that Cara had called to life. Erin clapped once and pulled four scalpels from her sleeves, whipping them at Scar. The scalpels were heated beyond their melting point, and soon the alchemist killer had white-hot metal bands around his wrists.
“You’re forgetting someone.” Erin said darkly as, behind her, Roy tried to wring water out of his gloves. Cara’s storm was still going on, and the bands on Scar’s wrists steamed and hissed as they were pelted with raindrops. Scar glared at Erin.
“Cauterist Alchemist Erin Menefer. I should have known. I’ll make a special case of you.” Erin snorted.
“Why? Because I worked with Kimblee? Give me a break, scabface.” She sneered. “You won’t be sending anyone to meet their maker as long as those bands are on your arms. The pain is too great for you to concentrate on your transmutation.” Roy frowned at Cara.
“Why did you stop me?” he asked.
“I didn’t want him to die.” Cara replied calmly. Erin whirled on Roy, livid.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Mustang?! You could have hurt Cara!” Roy stood his ground as Erin bitched him out…again.
Cara, too, was furious.
“I don’t care what happened to Matthias!” She snapped at the Ishballan man beside her. “That’s not an excuse to attack my friends!” Scar stared sadly at her.
“You know what they are, Cara. Alchemy-“
“Distorts the world, I know.” Cara interrupted. “But…I’m an alchemist, too. They’re my people now.” Scar looked like he’d been slapped, and Cara continued. “And so are you. And Rick, and Leo, and everyone else at the camp. But…can’t you stop killing everyone? It’s only going to lead to more pain.” Scar stared silently at Cara for a while, then nodded. Cara grinned.
“You know he’s still a wanted criminal, right?” Erin asked darkly, though she cooled the metal around Scar’s arms so that the bands became plain bracelets. “Even if he’s agreed to stop, he’s still guilty of all those other murders.” Cara sighed.
“I know. We’re leaving. We’ll go to Xing, or Drachma. We don’t have to stay in Amestris.” Erin blinked.
“But, Cara! Just like that, you’re gonna pick up and leave us? You don’t have to go!” she protested, moving forward. Roy caught her hand before she could go much further.
“I don’t have to go, no.” Cara agreed, as Erin struggled against Roy’s hold, tears in her dark eyes. “But, I want to.”
“Why?!” Erin cried. “You’re my friend, aren’t you?! You can’t just abandon us, we need you!” Cara laughed.
“Erin, I love him. You can deny it all you like, but you know what I’m talking about. The desire to do everything for one person…” Erin blushed, but didn’t say anything. Cara smiled sadly and hugged Erin.
“I won’t say goodbye, imoutou.” She said quietly. “Because that’s permanent. We will meet again, I promise. Until then, keep in touch.” The Ishballan then turned to Roy. “Please give Fuhrer Bradley my resignation. And…take care of my little sister.” Roy blinked in surprise, but saluted briskly. Cara gave a lazy salute, then turned to go. “Hasta la bye-bye.” She said, grinning. “Good luck.” The Ishballans disappeared into the night, and Erin sniffled.
“Would you stop cutting off the circulation to my hand?” She groused irritably. Roy loosened his hold on her wrist and lightly kissed her.
“They’ll come back, don’t worry.” He said calmly. “Once people forget.” Erin blinked, then sighed.
“I know. I just hope she knows what she’s doing.”
“So, now that I’m not a State Alchemist anymore, you don’t have to worry about killing me.” Cara said brightly as she and Scar packed for the journey north to Drachma. “Right?” Scar rolled his eyes.
“I gave up killing State Alchemists, remember? Although…I think I’ll make an exception.” Cara blinked.
“What? Why? Who?”
“Kimblee.” Scar said shortly. “If he’s ever unlucky enough to cross our path, I won’t be held responsible for what happens to him. Especially if he tries anything with you.” Cara beamed.
“Aishiteru, psycho.” Scar gave a quiet laugh.