I felt the smooth, blood-red surface between my fingers. My brother . . . his soul was forced, crowded into that small stone, along with so many soldiers. I had seen the darkness spread through his armor, the chemical reaction started by Kimbley, the change that would turn him into a bomb. I was sure I saw it. I knew that Scar had activated the transmutation before Alphonse was consumed. I was so close, but from just outside that ring, I was unable to make it to my brother in time. He was lying just within the city, just out of reach.
I had dropped to my knees at the sight—so many people, including Alphonse, had been stripped of their souls which were compressed into the small rock I had in my hand. With the shouts of soldiers nearing, I bolted. I didn't know where to go, just that I had to leave. I wasn't sure if I could use my alchemy without drawing on the stone's power, so I avoided it. I found my way into hiding successfully from every passing officer without it. All I was thinking was that Resembool was south.
I had no idea how many days had past by the time I found the river. I hoped that the military would give up looking for me by then, but there was no guarantee. As I came upon our house, burnt to the ground and just a pile of timber and ashes, the tears began to flow. My brother, the only thing I had left, was gone.
I laid the stone down in the grass a safe distance away before I began gathering materials. When I was done, I clapped my hands together and started my transmutation. The house rose before me. I couldn't do much more than the main structure and a scarce amount of furniture with the materials I had. I probably could have done more with the help of the Philosopher's stone, but I didn't want to risk my brother's soul.
I stepped into the house, unsure of what to do. I began to believe that there was nothing left for me to accomplish.
I wandered the area, cursing those lazy rats that sent me to do the dirty work. I wasn't sure how Sloth expected me to kill the Pipsqueak by myself, but I would have rather faced him than an angry Pride.
The pile of burnt logs sat next to the tree, as they must have for years. I jumped into the large tree to wait for the kid to show up. He sure took his time with it. I was thinking about how to escape the boredom without facing the fury of the others just as he showed up.
His alchemy was truly amazing. He rebuilt the entire house in one go. As I stepped inside after him, I was even more impressed. He managed to recreate a bunch of furniture, all without the stone.
I wandered the house until I found him curled in one of the beds. "Still sulking, eh, Pipsqueak?"
I jumped. Why was he in my house? I tightened my grip on the stone, and I collapsed back onto the mattress; I was too tired to fight.
"What do you want?" I stared at the wall ahead of me.
"I've come for the stone." This pulled my glaring eyes toward him, daring him to try and take it. "But I knew you wouldn't give it up so easily."
I continued to stare. What did he mean by that? What was he going to do? I glanced to my hand, clenched around the gem.
"So, he's really in there. Your brother, I mean." He sounded a little regretful, but I pinned the feeling on Al and I messing up their plans. I nodded grimly.
After a moment, he spoke again, "You should just let him go."
I bolted upright. How dare he say something like that?
He sighed a little, "What I'm saying is that you can't bring him back, so don't try it. All that would happen is that he would become one of us, consumed with sin."
I had to admit that I had spent that entire time perfecting my theory on human transmutation. There were problems, though, and a lot of them. "Then what do I do? He's gone. I have nothing."
"You could join us."