Fullmetal Alchemist : Curse of the Emerald Tablet
Chapter 1 : The Scarred Man
“This place… it feels like a ghost town.”
The Second Lieutenant glanced at the girl in the back out of the rear view mirror: that was the first thing she had said in the whole hour they’d been driving. The older woman cracked a small smile.
“You ever heard of a little place in the East called Ishbal?”
The passenger shook her head. She watched the streets go by as they neared their destination, every once in a while stroking the black cat curled up on her lap.
“I mean… I know about the war that happened, but we were quite young then.”
The girl paused, biting her lip a little. She shook off the thought, watching the grey clouds closing in overhead. It seemed like it might rain.
Lieutenant Lovelock kept her eyes on the road; “Being a hub for the State we don’t get a lot of tourists to this city. Many of us were deployed recently to the East, by the order of Fuhrer Bradley.”
“Really? Does that mean… there could be another war?!”
“Don’t get too worked up about it, kid. It’s no secret that the Military and the Ishbalans have never really seen eye to eye. Our soldiers aren’t determined to repeat the past... they’re only trying to keep the peace.”
The Lieutenant didn’t receive another reply, but didn’t really mind the silence.
Before long they had made their way through the heart of the city and reached the Southern State Headquarters. The large building made the other structures pale in comparison; prominent, and ornamented with the crest of the State Military above the grand entrance - it certainly stood out.
Lovelock got out to open the door and Connie stepped out of the car, cradling her cat companion in her arms. The creature let out a mew, before climbing up to cling to her shoulder, brushing her ear with its nose.
“Thanks...” The girl whispered, attempting to steel the writhing nerves that had rapidly built in her chest.
Lovelock could see she was nervous, and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Come on, they won’t bite your head off. You’ll be fine.”
“Y-Yeah…” Connie replied, nodding and giving the woman a smile, “Thank you.”
Lovelock nodded back, and followed after her as she walked up the stone staircase to the entrance. The building loomed above her, and Connie found herself feeling a little dizzy; thus she paid no attention to the peculiar looking pair who had just left through the front doors, and passed right by her on the steps…
A boy sporting a bright red jacket, and had a braid of blonde hair cascading down his back, was followed by a six-foot-tall suit of armour, whose steps clanked with each metallic movement. The boy in the armour turned his head slightly, watching the girl who had walked past them. Being a kind and compassionate soul, Alphonse Elric noted the concern etched on the girl’s face, and this bothered him.
“Brother…” his soft voice echoed through the metal, “…Do you think that girl is okay?”
“Huh?” the short statured boy in front whirled around, raising an eyebrow, “What are you taking about, Al?”
“Just then… that girl who walked past us. She looked like she was gonna cry…”
“I didn’t even notice.” His brother shrugged, “I’m just quite glad to be done here.”
“Huh… I wonder what she’s doing here at headquarters?”
“Who knows? And who cares…?”
“She… had a cat on her shoulder too…”
“Ohh, so that’s what this is really about.” Edward, the older sibling, smirked up at the huge tin suit, “You planning on picking up the cat, Al? Smuggling it with us inside that armour of yours?”
“What?! N-No! That’s not what I meant at all!” he shook his hands around vigorously, “Ed, you know I wouldn’t do that anyway!”
“I dunno about that~” Ed looped his arms behind his head, jumping down two steps at a time.
“I admit, I’ve picked up strays before… but you know I wouldn’t—”
“Hey, maybe that girl’s being hauled in as a cat burglar…! Heh heh, get it? Cat burglar?”
“That’s not funny.”
“Aw, c’mon Al! You know I was kidding!”
The young boys’ bickering continued, as they headed in the opposite direction to the girl, who had been brought by Military escort to Southern HQ for witness questioning.
Witness statement following report of the missing person: Harley John Eves
I, Connie Madeline Eves confirm that all facts within this statement are from my own knowledge. I believe that all the facts stated are true.
April 13th 1913
Warrant Officer Falman seemed friendly enough. For that, Connie was grateful. Her nerves remained a bundle of twisted mess as she sat opposite Falman and another female officer in the interrogation ward. They had asked for her to leave the cat outside, which got her even more worried. She knew Belcini would be alright – he was the smartest cat she knew, but right now she felt like she was the one who needed him. It was daunting enough having to give a formal police statement - without the glowering fact that her brother had been branded a missing person.
She took a breath, composing herself and trying to hold it together. Falman noticed her struggle and waited patiently for her to speak.
“It’s… h-he’d been arguing with our parents. I didn’t really want to listen, but… I wish…”
She clenched her fists on her lap, her eyes averting down to the table. The female officer spoke her name gently, asking her to lift her head.
“Sorry…” she apologised, “It’s just…”
She was trembling now. Falman frowned to himself, seeing how difficult this was for her – she was only fifteen years old, after all.
“What did your brother say to you when you saw him last?”
“I… I don’t really remember. I should have listened more, but…” Connie looked at the man, her blue-grey eyes glistening as she wavered, “He’d… been out of the house a lot lately. He made this new friend and they started doing research on alchemy… I dunno if they’d had an argument or something though, he seemed pretty angry about something…”
“I see… and this friend, do you know where he is right now?”
Connie shook her head, “I’ve only seen him once, but I never spoke to him. Harl— I-I mean my brother, spoke about him a lot though... They started hanging out a lot and studying together; but he never came to our house.”
“So do you think that wherever they might be, they may still be together?”
“Maybe… It’s just weird. It’s really not like him… I can’t think why…" she trailed off.
"Could arguing with your parents have made him want to run away from home?"
"No." Connie's response was sure, "He wouldn’t have. He isn't like that. I mean we’ve always been a close family, and he’s close to his girlfriend too. He would never just run away... I just... don't understand..."
Silence befell the room, and she battled with herself not to cry. She had always been close to Harley, and naturally she was worried sick. It ate her up inside to think that she was the last person who had spoken to him before he disappeared… but it felt like no coincidence that nobody could find this apparent friend of his, either.
“Miss Eves, thank you.” Falman smiled, hoping to ease her worry a little, “We’re going to do everything we can to find your brother. If there’s any other information you can give us we would appreciate it – any little thing is helpful.”
She hesitated, seeming to be in thought, but then she slowly nodded.
“Please… just get him to come home safely.”
“We’ll do our best, miss.”
Once she’d left the room, and found her way back through the winding corridor, Belcini was sat patiently waiting for her, and trotted over as soon as he spotted her. Connie scooped his up into her arms, giving him a hug while he pressed his nose against hers.
“See? That wasn’t so hard?”
Lovelock gave her a smile, with her arms folded across her chest. Connie looked up, a little dumbfounded as she hadn’t even noticed the woman standing there. She placed her cat down at her feet and he sat blinking at the Lieutenant.
“Sorry to have dragged you down here, kid. Superior orders, I’m afraid.”
“You’re welcome to stay in the guest quarters this evening… although I’m sure you want to get home to your parents.”
“Yeah…” the young girl nodded.
“In that case, unfortunately we’ll be parting ways here. I’ll organise a car to take you home but it’ll be about half an hour.”
“That’s fine.” She said, “Thank you for all your help, ma’am.”
“Not at all… I hope your brother turns up soon.”
Connie grimaced, faltering a little but forced a smile.
“Yeah, me too.”
It was raining when she left the building. If she thought the city seemed deserted before, the rain had sent away anyone who may have been out wandering around. It was a little eerie, but somehow comforting at the same time.
Connie sat on the top of the steps outside South HQ with her head in her hands. It had turned a little chilly, so she pulled her grey hood down over herself, while keeping Belcini dry inside; his head poked out from the top of her fleece, nestled quite comfortably. She sighed, leaning back to look up at the rain.
“Do you think… I should have told them...?”
She wondered out loud, reaching into her baggy pocket and pulling out a small round silver object. The pocket watch had a chain attached, and an elaborate design etched into the front – the renowned emblem of the State Military. She’d found the watch inside a drawer in his room, just after he went missing… but why would Harley have had something like this?
She gazed at the watch for a long while, wondering exactly what it was and what on earth it could mean…
“What’s going on, brother?” she mouthed to herself, her eyes glazing over as her heart ached, growing more gloomy with the sound of the rain getting heavier.
Again she sighed, turning her head up – but having to double take after she saw a figure of a man standing a ways across the street.
The man wore a yellow jacket, and his light coloured hair was damp from the rain… Connie found herself staring, unintentionally, wanting to know why he was literally just standing out in the street in the pouring rain. His hands were jammed in his pockets, and for some reason he wore dark sunglasses. This perplexed the girl even more. She couldn’t tell, due to the shades, but she felt that he was looking right at her… a strange chill travelled up her spine, but she guessed it was just due to the breeze…
Her thoughts moved away from the man when she heard a car horn, and saw the escort car pulling up at long last by the steps. Eager to get home, she responded to the driver who beckoned to her; quickly pocketing the silver watch before hurrying down the steps. Once in the car she threw off her hood, slightly shaking the raindrops from her hair she clicked on her seatbelt.
“Awful weather, isn’t it miss?”
“Yeah! Terrible!” Connie gave the Sergeant a half-hearted laugh as he pulled away, wind screen wipers squeaking with every brush over the car window.
They didn’t realise the man in the shades had his eyes fixed on the car as it chugged up the road, or take any notice as he briskly ducked into a side street…
“All those who defy God’s word… shall perish…”
“So how do you like living in Lunpset?” the young Sergeant seemed a jolly guy, making small talk despite the depressing weather, “I’ve passed through there on Military business; it seems like a real nice town!”
“Yeah, it is.” Connie smiled a little, “My family moved from East City, so it’s quite different than what we were used to.”
“Wow, that is a big change. I’ll bet Lunpset is dead quiet compared to the city.”
“It suits us better, I think…”
Belcini mewed in agreement, and Connie scratched him behind the ears.
“Time seems a lot slower too…” she said, “It’s a totally different way of life, for sure.”
“I’ll say. It’s nice thought that you’re not too far from South City though – you’ve practically got the train network on your doorstep— ”
The man got cut off, as all of a sudden the car jerked, like it had hit a massive bump in the road. He slammed on the brakes, making a horrendous sound against the wet road.
“What the heck… are you alright, miss?!”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Connie said, “…Did we hit something?”
“I didn’t see anything in the road… I’ll get out and have a look.”
He opened the door, walking around to inspect the front of the car. Connie watched him, seeing him shake his head in befuddlement.
“That’s strange…” he looked around, seeing no sign of anything around them; he got down on his knees to inspect the bottom of the car.
At this point, Connie had loosened her seatbelt, and intended to get out to help, but heard him shout, “Looks like we hit a pot hole or something… weird, I drove down here earlier and didn’t hit anything.”
Connie abruptly jumped, hearing her cat let out a strange, sharp sound – like a whine of pain.
“Belcini?” she asked, worried by his outburst.
All of a sudden, a flash of lightning crackled across the sky, making both girl and animal flinch.
“Y-You sure hate thunder… don’t you?” she chuckled nervously, although the animal seemed unusually on edge, “W-What’s…”
The Sergeant had been caught by surprise too, having just recovered from the scare of the thunder clap. He let out a sigh to himself, bringing himself off the ground… but as he turned around again to get back in the car, a hand suddenly snatched up his entire face, literally forcing him off his feet. He didn’t have time even register what was happening as the hand around his face glowed with a dim red light, that suddenly sizzled in a shower of red sparks. There was an explosion of blood through the air, as the Sergeant’s head was literally burst apart from the inside, and the red thunder followed his body to the cold, hard ground.
Connie had heard the terrific explosion, and her heart skipped a beat as a flash of lightning blinded her… and in the next instant she was screaming, as the man in shades was standing right on the other side of her car, blood splattered up his jacket and all around his feet where the body of the Military officer lay dead.
Another lightning crackle came soon after the last, illuminating the dark figure of the man – and revealing a ghastly X-shaped scar across his face. Momentarily numb, the cat let out a horrific screech which caused Connie to then spur into action: her hand slipped on the door handle, causing it to fly open, and she practically tumbled out of the car, not properly on her feet as she began to sprint as fast as she could in the opposite direction. In all the commotion, something shiny and small flew out of her pocket, and it made a small clink as it landed forgotten in a puddle. The scarred man took a step forward, narrowing his eyes at the pocket watch lying on the ground – the one he’d seen her with earlier.
“Those who defile God’s creations will be punished… along with all those who stand in my way.”
After uttering his words, he broke into a run after her, leaving the wreckage behind and thundering through the puddles at a much faster speed than the girl.
Her breathing erratic, Connie pushed herself to run faster – hardly in a sound state of mind as her head was only screaming at her to get away. The rain was merciless too, hammering harder as she ran straight through a huge puddle, splattering mud and dirty water up her legs, soaking her boots right through. She didn’t realise quite how deep the water was, and ended up buckling half way over, almost losing her ground; but she daren’t stop running.
Eventually she turned into a side street, praying she had lost her pursuer. She skidded to a stop beside a dumpster on the side of the road, falling behind it and curling up with her knees into her chest. Her breathing was still a mess, harsh and uneven; rain had saturated her hair, and seeped fast down her face and clothes.
“W-What…” she couldn’t find her voice, it cracked and then ceased to work at all.
She shook all over, and suddenly looked down to make sure Belcini was okay. He had stopped making noises, but had his claws hooked tightly into the inside of her hoodie.
“I-I’m sorry…” she gave a half-whisper, choking back a sob.
The shock was still lingering. She had just seen a man die in front of her… or no; he’d been murdered, by that psychopath with the scar on his face.
Defiling God…? She had thought she’d heard him say something like that. But what on earth was he talking about? She hadn’t seen him holding any weapons either, as if he had somehow killed that Sergeant with his bare hands…
'Could that have been… alchemy?'
Her breath stopped short, as she thought she heard footsteps coming her way. Belcini’s fur stood up, sensing the thick tension as the girl indefinitely froze, her heart pounding wildly in her chest.
Connie could hear the owner of the footsteps getting closer, and with every sound she felt sick. She knew that sitting there like a duck was only going to get her killed – she had to do something, anything. There was no way this could happen… not now.
She stood to her feet, having picked up a metal bar that had been sitting beside the dumpster. Her hands trembling, she moved before her head could stop her – but her stomach pivoted when she heard the deep growl from behind her.
“Looking for someone?”
In an instant Connie lost complete control of her body, the wind knocked clean out of her as she was grabbed and punched in the stomach, sent cartwheeling to the ground; her cat rolling beside her and a horrific clang as the metal bar slid off into the road.
Now helplessly pathetic on the ground, under the relentless lashing of the rain, the girl looked up and her eyes dilated seeing the man covered in blood, crushing any hope of escape. He began to approach her slowly, sparing the injured cat a glance before pulling the girl off the ground by her hoodie.
“W…W-Why?” she wheezed, once again seeing the sickening red glow from before.
The scarred man didn’t speak, lifting his cursed right arm and slowly gripping her forehead.
“It’s nothing personal.” He suddenly said, making Connie’s stomach lurch at the sound of his voice, “State Alchemists are blasphemers, who twist God’s creation and go against His word…”
State Alchemist? The ones who worked for the Military? His babbling made no sense to her at all, and that only built her fear… and frustration.
“I-I don’t… I don’t understand!!” the words spilled out, her body shaking violently in his grip but somehow retaining a look of enmity in her eyes, “Why are you…?!”
“I am an agent of God, raising our truth… and for that; all State Alchemists will be made to relinquish their lives.”
“What are… y-you keep saying Alchemist… does this have anything to do with my…?”
“I am a slayer of the immoral who believe they can manipulate God’s great design... You may remember me in the next life… as Scar.”
His arm began to glow while attached to her head, and Connie’s life entirely flashed before her eyes.
She knew she was going to die.
The streets of South City echoed with an ear-splitting cry, and the sound of blood rushing through the air…