Reeling after Alphonse's explosive assertion that he had never asked for his current body, Edward apologizes dejectedly and promises that he will do everything in his power to return his brother to his human state. However, Al, remembering the words of Barry the Chopper, questions angrily whether he had ever actually been human, suggesting that - while alchemical theory supposes the existence of a soul and mind as essential parts of the human being - these ethereal concepts have never been verified and could conceivably be fabricated. Recalling that Edward had mentioned a few days ago that there was something he was too afraid to discuss with him, Alphonse posits angrily that what Edward had been too frightened to say was that the human boy called Alphonse Elric had never existed and the soul in his armor is an artificial fabrication; his supposed memories merely falsehoods being corroborated by Winry and Pinako and everyone who claims to have known him.
Edward storms off without responding, but before Al can say any more, Winry furiously and tearfully assaults him with a wrench and scolds him for his foolishness. Winry declares that what Ed had truly been afraid to ask was whether or not Al blames him for what happened to them. Remembering the night of the accident when Edward lay awake on life support in the Rockbells' clinic, she explains that Edward used to cry himself to sleep through the pain, fearing that his little brother would hate him for initiating their tragedy. Winry orders Al to go after his big brother and apologize and, complying, Al finds Ed on the roof. Before he can apologize properly, however, Edward engages him in one of their sparring matches under the pretense of needing to loosen up his body with exercise and manages to win by catching Alphonse off guard with a hospital bedsheet. As Ed makes note that this was his first victory, the brothers reminisce over all the scuffles they had had as children. Edward asks Al if he still believes those memories to be false and Al apologizes while asserting that his desire to regain his human body is also real. Having come to an understanding, they renew their vow to return their bodies to normal and remark that they will need a lot more strength for the challenges to come. Winry, who has been watching the scene with Maes, comments (in contradiction to his earlier assertion) that there are some worries and feelings that always need to be communicated aloud.
Later on, while Winry is out, the Elrics meet in the hospital room with Lt. Colonel Hughes and Major Armstrong to discuss what they've learned so far. Ed produces simple drawings of the two people who had knocked him out at Lab 5 as well as some of their Ouroboros tattoos and the Transmutation Circle used to create the Philosopher's Stone. Outside the room, 2nd Lt. Maria Ross and Sergeant Denny Brosh stand guard, but are visibly shocked when a certain person greets them and asks to see Fullmetal. He enters the room and the four inside are just as shocked as their guards to be greeted by Führer King Bradley himself, the executive head of Amestris' military government. After amicably paying his respects to the Fullmetal Alchemist, the Führer turns to Armstrong and mentions that he had heard news of the Major's recent snooping into the affairs of Military Command. Before the flustered Major can respond, Bradley then turns to Ed and reveals that he is aware that the Elrics are seeking the Philosopher's Stone, asking the boys just how much they know about the Stone and declaring gravely that a great deal depends on their answer. However, when Edward is unable to give a response, the Führer merely laughs the situation off as a joke and playfully chides Fullmetal for being so uptight. He mentions that he, too, has become aware of the suspicious goings-on inside the military and expresses a desire to uncover the truth. Handling some of Armstrong's notes on the Stone and Lab 5, Bradley remarks that the researchers listed thereupon - those who had worked at Lab 5 before its decommissioning - had all mysteriously gone missing shortly before the Fifth Laboratory collapsed, which is indicative of the fact that their unknown enemy is moving faster than even the Führer's information network can follow. Asserting that the Elrics, Hughes, and Armstrong are all trustworthy subordinates, Führer Bradley declares that this matter is exceedingly dangerous and forbids them to investigate further or speak of their findings with anyone else. He informs them that in this situation, where the entire military itself could very well be the enemy, they are not to trust anyone, but that he will call for their aid when the time is right. Suddenly, however, Bradley hears the approach of his personal bodyguards and, remarking that he had snuck away from them in order to make this visit, hastily exits via the nearby window with a cheerful farewell.
Winry returns to find them all dazed from their encounter and reveals that she has been out buying train tickets per Edward's request. Ed explains that he and Al will be leaving the following day for the Southern Area town of Dublith and Winry, spying their map, remarks gleefully that between Dublith and Central City is a town called Rush Valley, which is famous for its automail studios and engineers. Begging the boys to take her along on their trip, she forces them to comply and the next day, the three depart on the rails for their next destination.
That evening, as Hughes sits at his desk discussing the mounting death toll in Reole's recent spree of religious riots as well as the churning turmoil in the Northern and Western areas with his colleague Captain Focker, Maes comes to a shocking realization and rushes to the records room to confirm his suspicions. Horrified by the connection he discovers there between the trouble in Reole and the Ishval Civil War and, wondering who could be behind it, he resolves to inform both Colonel Mustang and Führer Bradley immediately. As he says this, however, the door to the records room suddenly closes and he finds himself alone with Lust, who explains that he now knows far too much to be allowed to live. Recognizing her Ouroboros mark from Edward's drawing, Hughes places himself on guard in time to avoid a fatal wound when Lust attacks with her claws and manages to counterattack with one of the push knives concealed in his uniform. Bleeding heavily, Hughes flees the record room, mistakenly leaving Lust for dead as he makes his way toward the telephone office. He declares quickly that he needs to contact the Führer, but as he picks up the phone, another realization dawns on him and he hangs it up again before hurrying outside to a public telephone booth. Once there, he calls the East Area Military Headquarters and demands to speak to Colonel Mustang, but is met with some difficulty due to his use of an outside phone line. While he angrily verifies his identity - remarking that there is no time to waste as the military is in great danger - he accidentally drops a small picture of his wife and daughter on the ground. Suddenly, Maria Ross appears behind the Lt. Colonel and, holding her sidearm up against his head, demands that he hang up the phone. However, Hughes responds that the person speaking to him is not the real Maria Ross as the impostor is missing the small mole that 2nd Lt. Ross has beneath her left eye. Envy, still disguised as Maria, apologizes for the oversight and the aforementioned mole materializes into place, much to Maes' surprise. The Lt. Colonel prepares to attack with another of his knives, but Envy spies the dropped photograph and quickly changes shape again to resemble Hughes' wife, causing the mortified Maes to hesitate.
In East City, Roy finally comes to the phone and tries to talk to Maes, but finds no answer on the line as Hughes, shot dead, bleeds out on the telephone booth floor.
- In this chapter, it is noted that a waterway exists in Resembool by the name of "Rain River".
- In this chapter, the fact that Edward and Alphonse had fought over which of them would marry Winry is first brought up.
- This chapter marks the first official appearance of Führer King Bradley.
- After having seen Edward's drawing of the Five-Point Circle used to create Philosopher's Stones, Maes Hughes is the first to notice that the major struggles in Amestris' history have been staged to plot out that exact pattern round the very nation itself.
- It is revealed in this chapter that Maes Hughes' military identification code is USO-800.
- Envy's remark in disguise about having met Hughes at the hospital suggests that the Homunculi had been keeping tabs on Fullmetal even while he was being treated.
- When Ed is discussing the recollection of his time at Laboratory 5, one of the panels depicts Major Armstrong without his mustache, although this is fixed by the next panel.
|Fullmetal Alchemist Manga chapters|
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