"girl, with an accent of blood who speaks in foreign tongues, whose vowels are the sounds of metal clashing."


1. girl.

The Arcanum Alchemist is a child of three when she is orphaned. No one knows what to do with them, this war-orphaned child with nowhere but Ishval left to return to. (Fire burns rampant in the dark recesses of their thoughts. So it would seem that the dark pools of who-knows-what are not so dark and foreboding as originally thought.)

There isn't much that can be done for them, the sharpshooter says (the nice blonde lady, they remember, whose conscience weighs heavy with the lives of the innocent). The malnourished looking boy suggests that perhaps they just be sent back to Ishval, once the current Ishvalan policy is undone and the Ishvalans allowed to return to their holy land. His brother with the across-the-board milk vendetta is somewhat against this idea, because how exactly was this child to be raised?

No one had an answer to that question, and she found herself trying to find one. (What a shame it was that they were caught up in this war, all of them. It wasn't what they thought heroics looked like. (Who said they were being heroes?)

At five, she decides to learn alchemy (she learns Xingese when a traveler passes through, who says he's the Emperor and claims to be immortal). They pretend that they're not doing this for themselves - it's to avenge their dead parents, they tell themselves, to give their people more than their holy land back. They try to forget that they are merely a child and it was the death of one that sparked the Ishval Civil War.

They try to forget the child with red eyes and dark skin and even darker blood whose death was the start of a bloody hell of a life.

A child of twelve who lost her parents when she was three passes the State Alchemist exam with flying colors and is named the Arcanum Alchemist. There are rumours about them, Jean Havoc mentions, smelling of ash and smoke and nicotine. An Ishvalan State Alchemist! people exclaim, A female State Alchemist at that, as though there aren't plenty of female alchemists already, but when has there ever been a female State Alchemist? How old are they? the military is asked, Is it another child prodigy like Fullmetal or is it someone who can be thrown into battle, be used as a human weapon?

No one wants to mention how Arcanum is but a child, months younger than Fullmetal was. No one wants to say how the last time a State Alchemist became one at twelve was nearly twelve years ago. (No one says a word about how Edward Elric was determined not to kill and how Arcanum is as well. Both of them, children, who grew up too fast.)

Everyone had hoped that the next State Alchemist wouldn't be nothing more than a child and everyone had wanted their hope to be enough. But there was the law of Equivalent Exchange, and the Truth would not have their hope as payment.

The Arcanum Alchemist is a living reminder for so many of these State Alchemists, but they too, are a reminder for her as it was one of theirs that shot down her parents.

Back in Ishval, there is a small, cowering child that they will not allow themselves to be.



With power at his fingers, Roy Mustang becomes Führer with Riza Hawkeye at his side. There is nothing but ice in Olivier Armstrong's stare, fitting for the Ice Queen that she is. He takes Arcanum with him as his personal aide, with all his subordinates trailing behind him. There is an entire people's blood on his hands and his conscience weighs heavy with the lives of the innocent. 

It's raining today, he tells Riza. It is not raining and there's not a cloud in the sky, but Riza only smiles and says, Of course, sir.

Roy watches a child of twelve who has every right to despise him for what he'd done in Ishval become an adult of twenty two. It's almost like she's your own, Riza notes, quiet but fiery and tired of war. Roy only shrugs in response, unused to being Führer and held together at the edges. She's as good as, he says. Someone had to raise her. (Later, when Arcanum lands herself in the hospital and gets lost in it, of all things, there is a soft, sad thank you among the buzz of hospital machinery. Roy almost broke then, because Arcanum was thanking him for treating her like a person after being invalidated for so many of her twenty two years. He still remembers the child who could hardly speak Amestrian, who took down Havoc with nothing but a water gun. But memories are nothing but distant.)

It rains in Central more often than not, and Riza calls him useless while Havoc laughs at his despair. Arcanum calls him a wet match and for a moment he forgets about the loss and suffering she's been carrying. (For a moment, he wonders how she doesn't despise him. He wonders how she trusts him after Ishval. He doesn't know how she can.)

For a moment, he doesn't feel quite so useless

They've grounded each other, he and Riza, a stress baking Führer and a sharpshooter who, above all things, stayed by his side. Murderers, both, following a river of blood downstream.

Alchemist, be thou for the people. What a lie that has become.



They dream of fire taking the lives of the innocent. They dream of an Equivalent Exchange: their life for the lives of the people. It's not enough it will never be enough, they say, angry for feeling so small and pitiful and useless. They had come here to try and save people. What people had they ever saved? (None, they think. There is no shortage of Amestrians who'd like her gone. She likes to think that someday, she'll get her revenge. (She won't, of course; it goes against her morals. But still.))

War, the Arcanum Alchemist has found, is a constant in her life. Peace is not. There are no memories of peace, or of her parents. (There are no memories of sunny mornings, either. Even in their earliest memories, rain has always made its presence known. Though it reminds her that clouds have a heartbeat. That she has one, too.) There are no sunny mornings in her past, and few in their future. Sunny mornings are far and few between. The sun is an arrogant thing, leaving humanity behind when it tires of us. The moon is a loyal companion. So many memories are written into its surface.

(They remember that during the rebuilding of Ishval, Roy Mustang was the only one among the Amestrian soldiers there who let his despair and guilt be shown. They remember now that it's why they trust him.)

But one day, they decided to stop being kind and instead hardened themselves against pain and loss and suffering. Girl, they were called, as though being one was a disadvantage, a weakness, a hindrance. It wasn't, they decided, and forged themselves out of steel.

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