After Alphonse transmutes a new mask for Ling's female companion identical to the one that Edward had destroyed, the Elrics leave Rush Valley by train and head for Central City with both Winry and Ling in tow - much to Ed's chagrin. Ling apologizes for his companions' earlier actions and explains that both the young girl, Lan Fan, and the old man, Fu, belong to a clan that has served his own family for generations. While Winry remarks that she hasn't seen either of Ling's servants since their departure, Alphonse and Edward comment on how Ling must be from a well-to-do Xingese family if he has vassals guarding him all the time.
In Central, 2nd. Lt. Jean Havoc enters a run-down apartment building carrying a basket of food and announces himself at a particular unit's entrance. The door is promptly opened by a plainclothed Warrant Officer Vato Falman, who thanks Jean for the visit as he takes the basket - the obvious contents of which conceal a sidearm and fresh munitions - into the apartment. Falman bemoans his current mission and longs for the day he can return to his regular duties as he and Havoc re-enter the company of Falman's temporary charge and flatmate: Barry the Chopper. As Barry and Jean chat amicably, Falman asks for news of the Colonel and the outside world. Havoc replies that he hasn't seen much of the Colonel in the past several days, positing that heavy paperwork may be either the cause or a cover for something more covert in the works, and is unable to give Vato an estimate on how much longer he'll have to keep watch here over Barry, but does remark that he has a bit of good news: that he's finally found himself a new girlfriend in Central City.
At Central Command, Sheska becomes extraordinarily flustered when a fellow desk clerk asks her for the key to the third Document Storage room. Panicking, Sheska awkwardly persuades her friend to come by the room later to pick up the key and, once the coast is clear, checks inside the room itself to find Colonel Mustang dozing inside, surrounded by texts. She wakes the Colonel and informs him that he has been asleep for roughly ten minutes, to which Roy responds that he needs to get to an impending Military Council meeting and that he will return when the meeting is over. As the concerned Sheska watches Mustang slog away, she fails to notice Captain Focker appearing behind her until he asks what the Colonel was doing in Document Storage without authorization. Sheska apologizes for allowing the Colonel into the record vault, but when Focker kindly absolves her from culpability, she mentions that Mustang had been researching lists of executed prisoners at Central Prison, Military Command records of State Alchemist activity, information regarding Central Alchemical Laboratory #5 and the murder of Maes Hughes. As Focker mulls this information over, Sheska remarks that the bullet found in Hughes' body was the same caliber used in State Military-issue sidearms and wonders if a kind person like Hughes could really have been murdered by one of his fellow officers. Captain Focker comforts Sheska and advises her to get back to her work and stop worrying, but as he walks off, it seems that Sheska's words have affected him significantly. However, his attention is caught when he sees another Captain Focker absent-mindedly walking down the hallway toward him. As the second Focker passes, the first quickly changes form to resemble a different military officer before he can be spotted - revealing himself to be Envy in disguise.
In the washroom, Roy cleans himself up for the council meeting and runs into Major Alex Louis Armstrong, who greets him kindly and remarks that he had encountered Edward Elric in the South Area a short while back. Roy, for his turn, mentions that Fullmetal will be turning sixteen soon and wonders if he will restore his body and leave the State Alchemist program before then or be sent to the battlefield. At these words, Major Armstrong recalls his own time as a youth on the frontlines of the Ishval Civil War. He had been appalled, then, by the seemingly senseless slaughter of innocents and, having disobeyed the orders of his superiors, he was sent back to Central early while others remained, killing and dying. Coming back to the present, Armstrong asks if the State Military would really send a young boy like Ed to a battlefield like that. Roy declares that Edward knew the risks when he joined the State Alchemist program, but Alex chides him for resorting to cold, uncaring logic to justify such actions. Roy responds that Alex - as a soldier - shouldn't denounce the military government to which Alex retorts that he is not denouncing it, merely suggesting that personal strength such as his own is what should ideally be used to protect the nation and its weak or powerless citizens. He believes that, with the Civil War behind them, it may be time for the country to change and mentions slyly that such change would require a leader who understands the agony of war and can aim for the top with a level head. Roy brushes off the endorsement casually, but as Armstrong turns to leave, Mustang asks him if he had told the Elrics about Hughes' death. Alex replies that he couldn't bring himself to do so. Roy reveals that he has uncovered a great deal in his investigation - the true main ingredient of the Philosopher's Stone and the facility where they were being created, as well as the fact that Maes was killed because he stuck his neck into the case with the Elric brothers and found out something dangerous. As both men leave the lavatory in different directions, Armstrong warns Mustang to be cautious because anyone could be listening.
In their underground lair, Envy discusses Mustang's recent snooping with Lust, who laments that her attempt to keep the Flame Alchemist under closer surveillance by having him transferred to Central is going awry and that a prime Human Sacrifice candidate is making so much trouble. Envy asks if Lust was able to gather anything from her "connections", but - though she believes her new source will prove fruitful - the answer is negative. Suddenly, Envy gets an idea how to get the Colonel to quit poking around.
In town the next day, 2nd Lt. Maria Ross is publicly arrested by the Military Police as a prime suspect in Maes Hughes' murder, much to her obvious shock and horror. As she is led away, Jean Havoc arrives gleefully at a restaurant across town for a date with his new girlfriend, "Solaris" - unaware that the woman greeting him is the Homunculus Lust. Meanwhile, Edward, Alphonse, and Winry finally arrive in Central City.
- In this chapter, we learn that Ling is fifteen years old and that Edward's sixteenth birthday is drawing near. This chapter also sets up the short-lived running gag of Ling having a rather "adult-like" face.
- It is implied in this chapter that sixteen is the minimum age for standard military service and that, once Fullmetal comes of age, he will be eligible for missions on the battlefront.
- Falman reveals that he has been guarding Barry in the apartment for ten days, which suggests that it has been at least ten days since Barry's interrogation in the warehouse.
- In the background of Jean Havoc's introduction into this chapter, a poster for "Yoki Circus" can be seen plastered to the wall.
- Inside the apartment where Falman is guarding Barry, varying containers of "Stray Dog" brand alcohol are seen.
- A clock on the wall of the Records Room and Mustang's watch shows that the time is 8:55.
- At Central Headquarters, Envy disguises itself as Captain Fokker to get information out of Sheska. However, when Envy sees the real Fokker in the hall, it is forced to change its appearance to that of a blonde soldier. From this point on, Envy uses this appearance when working with the military.
|Fullmetal Alchemist Manga chapters|
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