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[personal profile] bay_alexison
Title: Wicked Paths
Word Count Approx 34,000 words
Rating: PG
Pairings/Characters: Ed/Winry and their kids, ensemble of canon and original characters
Warnings: Some suggestive material later on
Summary: Edward, Winry, and their three children go to South City for a short family vacation. While there, they stumble upon an elder lady that claims her late father was friends with Hohenheim when they had explored Aerugo together and discovered valuable alchemy notes there. The family then ends up crossing the border with Edward curious what type of alchemy research his father had done in that country.


Chapter Three


After The Amazing Amestrian Alchemist Show, everyone said goodbye to Daria and Norman. Ed and his family hung out with the Hughes until it was time for the fireworks display. The mass of people that wanted to see the fireworks gathered close to the large lake. While Ed’s group waited, they all sat on the grass together. He listened to his children talking about their favorite moments of the show to him and Winry.

“And the way he was able to make that water explosion was awesome!” Henry said. He raised his arms up like a wave and made a huge splashing sound.

“My favorite is the one that did the lightning strikes!” Esther said. “I want to do ones like those.”

“Maybe you will someday,” Ed said, giving his daughter a supportive smile. He then thought back to his encounter with the Cineros earlier today and how happy they were to meet everyone. This was the first time he met someone outside of Resembool that knew about Hohenheim. “Mr. and Mrs. Cinero seem like nice people, huh?” Ed asked Winry.

“They are, yeah.” Winry smiled softly. “Daria was very generous when I fixed her automail arm. I look forward to the lunch tomorrow.”

“Are you nervous what you’ll find out about your father?” Elicia asked him.

Ed leaned his head back a little, looking up at the night sky, and had his hand placed on the back of his neck. “I guess, somewhat. The only country I know he stayed for a while is at Xing, and it’s because he was the one that had influenced alkahestry.”

Back when he traveled out west, no one mentioned his father’s name, which was odd now he thought about it. Ed highly doubted Hohenheim didn’t visit at least Creta. Perhaps he went under a different name or didn’t do anything worthwhile there. Alphonse was able to find some stories of their father during his stay at Xing, but it was given many Xingese already heard of “The Sage of the West”. Ed never went to Aerugo before, so it might be a chance Hohenheim was relatively well known there if he stayed at that country for a while; Norman did say his wife’s father had looked onto famous sites related to alchemy.


“Well, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Ms. Hughes said, interrupting his thoughts. “Perhaps you’ll also find out a thing or two on how alchemy works in Aerugo.”

“That’s true.” Ed chuckled, knowing Ms. Hughes was right on that.

When everyone turned silent, the first set of fireworks suddenly exploded. Ed grinned and watched as various colors showered the sky—even as an adult he loved this. He glanced around to see all three children beaming.

“Yay, fireworks!” Jane cheered while Henry and Esther gazed on in amazement.

More fireworks burst out, growing louder with each blast. As he continued watching the display, Ed got excited over going to learn about Hohenheim’s research at Aerugo. This was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.

+++

Having some time to kill before their lunch with the Cineros, the family went to a few different shops downtown. Ed had handed his children some money so they could buy whatever they want. They first stepped inside a bookshop and Henry and Esther didn't hesitate to buy lots of adventure novels and alchemy books. Next everyone went to a toy store, all three children grabbing one toy each to take home. After that, they all stopped at a bakery to rest. Ed and Winry helped themselves to coffee while their children ate chocolate cookies as their snack.

"How long until we have to visit Mrs. Cinero?" Ed asked Winry. He watched as she sipped her coffee first before responding.

"A little over an hour. We can stay here a bit more before heading back to the hotel and leave our stuff there."

Ed nodded in agreement, drinking some of his coffee. It wouldn't be a good idea to bring the books and toys with them to lunch. The bakery was a short walking distance from the hotel and for certain they would use the elevator to go their room. They should still make time for a taxi as he wasn't sure how far the house was.

"Do we have enough money for the cab?" he asked.

"I'm sure we do." Winry grabbed her bag to check inside. Immediately after, she smiled. "Yup!"

The both of them fell in a short silence, Ed enjoying the break from their busy morning. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Esther reading her book. She already finished her cookie, only the tiny crumbs on the napkin.

"What are you reading here, sweetie?" he asked.

Looking up at her father, Esther beamed. "It's about a prince who traveled across another country to find a treasure in order to win the throne."

Ed gave his daughter a soft smile. "Sounds a lot like the Emperor of Xing. You remember him, right?"

Esther nodded. "Of course! He's funny and lets us eat yummy food."

For a moment Ed wondered how his friend was doing at Xing. It had been a while since they communicated with one another. The last time they spoke Ling said was extremely busy but was happy to be Xing's leader. He knew for sure Ling and Mustang were still in their trade agreement they made several years ago, which was a great thing.

It was another ten minutes until they left the bakery and headed to the hotel. Once they arrived, the family went to the room to leave the things they bought inside before going back downstairs. They soon left the building and quickly found a cab parked by the curb. Like the night they made it to South City, Ed sat in the front and Winry in the back with their children. Their driver was the same one everyone met before. Winry told him the address before he took off.

South City wasn't that busy in the afternoon as much as Central City, but there were still some life during this time. Ed saw through his window several people going to the different shops and restaurants inside. The cab drove passed one park filled with children playing and their parents keeping a close eye on them.

"Did you and your family go to the carnival yet?" the driver asked Ed a short while later.

"Yeah! It was fun," he said, smiling a little.

"We got to see the fireworks!" Henry said in great delight.

The driver chuckled. "I went to the carnival with my cousin and she loved it, too."

"Did you get to see The Amazing Amestrian Alchemist Show?" Esther asked the driver.

"I saw that, too. Have to say, am very impressed with all the alchemists that performed."

The rest of the drive Jane described almost nonstop about her favorite things in the carnival, often making sound effects and using her hands dramatically. It took several minutes to reach their destination. Ed looked out the window to see in front of him a half-timbered house with highly decorated architecture. There was a cobblestone pavement that led to the building.

Everyone climbed out and headed toward the house, the driver pulling away and back into the streets. When they reached the door, Winry knocked a few times and took two steps back.

While they waited, Ed felt a knot tightened inside his stomach. Was he really that worried over what he was about to find out concerning Hohenheim? If his stay at Aerugo were anything like in Xing, then it shouldn't be anything bad. He got distracted from his thoughts when the doors were opened and Daria greeting him and his family with a wide smile.

"I'm so glad to see all of you here. Come in, come in!" she said as she gestured her hand forward. Ed noticed she used her automail one.

Everyone entered the house, he and Jane following behind Daria and the rest of the family; he held his youngest daughter's hand as the pair walked together. Inside was significantly cooler, but comfortable compared to the warm weather outside today. They passed the living room, Ed taking a quick glimpse to see some furniture and a fireplace not used yet. Eventually they reached the dining room where a round table was settled. The plates and napkins had been already set up. Smelling something good, he assumed the Cineros were baking pizza most likely— his kids would love that for sure.

"My husband is in the kitchen getting everything ready. All of you can sit down and relax."

After she went inside the kitchen, the family immediately gathered around the table and sat down. Ed thought back to Daria’s prosthetic arm; he was used to seeing a lot of people with automail parts, especially living at Rush Valley for some time now. For some reason, though, it felt strange seeing her with one.

"You haven't seen Daria since you apprenticed Mr. Garfiel?" he asked Winry in a whisper. She nodded.

"We talked two, maybe three times before I became a certified automail mechanic. It was mostly about her travels and family." A smile graced around Winry's lips. "She mentioned how proud she was of my accomplishments at such a young age, but I get that all the time."

"All right, pizza is ready!" Norman said when he stepped out of the kitchen, holding a large dish of pizza. Behind him, his wife held onto a tray of glasses of lemonade.

"Oh boy, pizza!" Henry said, both hands on the table as he slightly raised himself up.

Daria handed everyone their drinks while her husband set the pizza down on the table. Ed was the first one to take a slice and taste it, his family joining in after. He nodded and let out satisfied groan.

"Hey, this is fantastic pizza!"

"It is!" Winry said with a pleased look on her face. The children too had similar expressions as they were eating.

Norman grinned. "Thank you!"

Ed took another bite of his pizza and looked at Daria. "You mentioned our fathers had traveled together in Aerugo many years ago?"

"Ah yes, that. When my father first spoke of him, I was surprised he met someone that lived several generations. I take it you already knew the story of Xerxes and the real reason for its demise, correct?"

So she knew about the Philosopher’s Stone. Before responding, he took a quick glimpse to see his children enjoying their pizza. A few months ago he thought it was appropriate to let them know about their heritage but not how their grandfather got eternal life. He wouldn’t tell them that until the children were much older and better alchemists.

"Yes. Hohenheim had told me about it many years ago." Back on the eve of the Promised Day, Ed was stunned when he revealed to be the Philosopher’s Stone. He wasn't going to mention to Daria that Hohenheim released them to save Amestris, though, as only a few knew that.

Daria drank some of her lemonade and continued. "My father loved to study on the Xerxes ruins and visited there a couple times, so he was enthusiastic bumping into him. He found out Hohenheim was staying in Aerugo so he could learn more about how alchemy worked in that country."

"How did your father convince Ed's father to join him?" Winry asked.

"As I mentioned, he liked to go to ruins related to alchemy, so he proposed the both of them travel together and Hohenheim agreed to it."

As he was finishing the last piece of his pizza, Ed pondered over what she said so far. It seemed Hohenheim thought there was no harm letting her father know that he was immortal. Most likely he told a few others that, too.

"What kind of ruins was it?" Henry asked.

"It was an abandoned castle that used to belong to a powerful Aerugian family, the Gatti House, in the eighteenth century. Not only that, one of its members, Ettero was an alchemist."

That piqued Ed's interest. "An Aerugian alchemist, huh. No wonder they went to check it out."

"Ettero had some artifacts and unpublished alchemy notes," Norman said, "and hid them somewhere before his family left the castle."

Confused, Ed raised an eyebrow. "How were they able to come up with that conclusion?"

"Your father found and solved a written code hidden in the ruins that gave a hint on the location of the notes. I assume Ettero wrote that incase he wanted to get those notes back at a later time."

Since Ettero was an alchemist, it must be an alchemic code. Hohenheim should be able to solve it easily then, or at least that was what Ed assumed.

"I take it they were able to find the notes fairly quickly."

An uncertain look crossed the professor’s features. "That I'm unsure of. You see, he left them at the university he taught at, the one I'm teaching now. I was able to get his notes a few months ago, but realized some of the pages went missing. It could be one of his students ran off and never returned them. I can show you what I have of my father's notes in a few minutes."

It was a short while before everyone finished eating. The children had gotten sauce all over their faces, so Ed and Winry needed to clean them up. After that, the Cineros led them to the living room. The sofa was able to fit the whole family, Jane sitting on Winry's lap. They waited a minute until Daria came back with an old journal book.

"This is his journal that has your father mentioned a few times." She handed the book to Ed, who carefully opened it.

The journal's pages were crisped and yellowed, but the handwriting was still clear for the most part. Ed skimmed through the notes and did see Hohenheim's name popped up on several occasions. He then went to the end of the journal and found the last pages being torn. Winry leaned closer to have a look herself.

"Earlier you mentioned thinking a student had gotten hold of your father's notes," Ed said, looking at Daria.

"Yes, I did."

"If that's the case, then the alchemy notes would have been found long ago."

"Maybe, but these kind of trips can be dangerous, especially Aerugo's mountains. I still think there's a chance I can get Ettero's notes."

A small smile slipped onto Norman's lips. "Even with an automail arm, my wife's a brave one."

Both he and Winry let out stunned gasps. Ed wasn't entirely sure if it was wise of her to do that alone.

"You're going to travel to Aerugo by yourself?" Winry asked.

"I plan to go to the country's capital, Padrid City, as that's where some alchemists reside and get their help. However..." She stopped to stare straight into Ed's eyes. "Perhaps you can help me."

The offering there was certainly unexpected. Frowning, Ed still tried to figure out how he felt about this.

"I'm not sure if I'm the right person for this. I don't know much about Aerugo save for its political happenings. Also, I can't do alchemy anymore."

She smiled. "I wouldn't worry too much about those things. Your alchemy knowledge could be very useful. If you're fine with it then we can leave tomorrow."

Tomorrow seemed awfully quick to make a trip to Aerugo, but then again it looked like she had plan this for months already. It was still unfortunate, though, that he was rushed to make a decision. If he decided to go, Ed wasn't sure how long he would be away from his family. Thinking that made his heart squeezed. He turned to look at Winry and the kids.

"Are you all okay if I'm away for a while?"

Henry was the first to respond. "If you're going, I'm going too!"

"I want to join, also!" Esther said.

"Family adventure! Family adventure!" Jane said while bouncing on Winry's lap.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Winry said to her children. "This trip's dangerous." Ed knew she was right this wasn't entirely safe for the children.

"Esther and I can use our alchemy to help Dad!"

Stroking his chin, Ed took a moment to consider his son’s words. He could travel without alchemy just fine, but having his children around could make things much easier. If he decided to take them, then they needed to be watched at all times.

“Their alchemy could be useful in certain situations…”

"Some hiking will be involved," Daria said. "We’ll need to take extra precautions when we’re up at the mountains."

Winry seemed to ponder what he and her former client said. "If Ed and the kids want to go, then I'll go too."

Ed's eyes widen as he was surprised to hear her said that. "How about your shop?"

"I don't like having my shop unattended for a long period of time, but I know what kind of trouble you can get into on your own, Ed, and having two kids with you is going to mean even more trouble, so I’m going too.”

Not only his family was fine with him going to Aerugo but they wanted to join in also. At least they would be together, which was great really. Ed looked back at Daria and grinned.

"You can count all of us in."

All three of his children cheered after he said that. Meanwhile, Winry only smiled.

"That's wonderful. I want you all to visit here again eight in the morning so that we leave to the train station together."

"We bought several things during our stay here,” Winry said to Norman. “Is it all right if we leave them here?"

"It won't be a problem at all, Winry," he said.

It was official, this would be a family adventure. There was some worry over something wrong might happen. However, Ed believed it would be a fun experience for everyone and a chance for his children to learn another part of the world. From his experience traveling, it had its benefits.

Chapter Four


This had been the first time Joseph returned to East City since he left to study automail, and he was glad Winry and her husband recommended he go back home.

Two nights ago his family gave him a warm welcome the minute he stepped inside the house. His parents gave him a tight embrace while his younger brother, Vincent, sneaked up from behind, scaring him. They conversed over breakfast, Joseph telling everyone how great it was to be taught by Winry and how much care she took over her clients' automail. He also mentioned the kids were fun to be with and that he got along well with Mr. Elric. His father said it was great he was satisfied with his stay at Rush Valley, which meant a lot to Joseph. Throughout the rest of dinner, Joseph thought how much he missed being together with everyone like this.

The next morning he made sure to call Winry and let her know he made it safe. The two talked a brief moment before she needed to leave with her family to the carnival. Shortly after, he went with his family on a walk downtown, stopping at a small restaurant for lunch, and relaxing at the park. They stayed outside most of the afternoon, not returning home until sunset.

That night after dinner, they listened to a radio drama, - a mystery story, - together. The whole family enjoyed doing that almost every week.

"And so another case was solved by the great detective Basil Ryder and his assistant Joan Milson. What other mysteries will they get themselves into next? Tune in again, same time, next week, to Radio Capital for another episode of Mystery Hour."

"That was a great episode," Father said after the program was finished.

"It is," Joseph said. "I didn't see that twist coming."

"Does Winry and her family listen to radio dramas, too?" his mom asked.

"They do and I often join in. Esther enjoys them the most."

The whole living room grew quiet as classical music played in the background. Joseph swept his gaze at his parents and it seemed they were deep in thought. He wondered if there was something important they wanted to tell him.

"You know, Joseph," Mom said, breaking the silence, "your father and I have been thinking. Would you mind if we visit you at Rush Valley something in the near future?"

Joseph's breath got caught in his throat. He didn't expect his parents to ask that, especially since not many visitors go to Rush Valley unless they either needed or were interested in automail. Besides that, it was a long train ride from East City to Rush Valley and wasn't sure if they wanted to go through the trouble. He was sure Winry's family would enjoy

"No, not at all! In fact, it would be great if you guys do."

"How about me?" Vincent asked, sounding upset.

Mom chuckled. "Of course you can come too, honey."


Cheering, Vincent raised his arms up. Joseph laughed as he always like it when his sibling was happy. All of a sudden, the phone rang.

"I'll get it," Father said as he rose from the sofa he sat on. He went to the desk, grabbed the phone, and picked up the receiver. "Hello? Winry! Great to hear from you!” His father stopped to listen to her and then he turned to him. "Winry wants to talk to you."

He nodded, not surprised she wanted to speak to him. He rose from the couch and moved to where his father was. After he took the phone from him, Joseph had the receiver next to his ear.

“Did you guys have a great time?”

“We did, thanks for asking! The children got to see a show featuring alchemists and then all of us saw fireworks.”

“That sounds great! Anything else?”

Winry began talking about how she met a former client, Daria Cinero, and how her father knew Ed’s long ago. She then explained Daria wanting Ed’s help for a trip she planned to take. One thing led to another the whole family agreed to go on this adventure.

“Wait, let me get this straight. Daria and Ed’s fathers got involved in searching for an alchemist’s notes, but the travel notes had gone missing. And all of you decided to go on an adventure in Aerugo last minute to help Daria out.”

“That’s right.”

“You know how long until you’ll come back?”

“We’re not sure. Perhaps a week at least.”

Joseph didn’t like the sound of that. “I hope the shop won’t be closed for too long.”

“Me too. However, at least you get to spend more time with your family.”

Frowning, he said, “I don’t know if that’s right as there might be clients waiting.”

“You’re very dedicated to our customers and deserve to relax once in a while, so don’t worry.”

She had said that one time already, before he left Rush Valley. Joseph made sure the automail were fixed to perfection so the clients would be very satisfied, like how they praised Winry’s work. Because of that, sometimes he lost sleep and skipped meals. He began to understand why she insisted he take this opportunity to rest more.

“If that’s what you think, then all right.”

“When all of us make it back to Amestris I’ll let you know.”

“That’s fine. Have a safe trip, and good night.”

“Same here.”

After Winry hung up first, Joseph had put the phone done. He turned to see his parents and brother watching him in concern.

“You mention something about an adventure?” Mother asked.

“Winry and her family will be helping a friend out and going to Aerugo with her. Something about finding an alchemist’s notes.”

“That sounds neat!” his brother said.

“It’s not!” he countered instantly, more dramatic than he intended. “They probably will have to go through caves and mountains and forests.”

Father offered Joseph a small smile. “Well I’m sure everyone will be fine.”

He sighed to calm himself. Joseph wanted to believe that too but had a feeling this adventure of theirs wasn’t going to be easy.

+++

The next morning Winry and the family took a cab to go to the Cineros' house so that the children could leave their books and toys there. Daria let them leave their belongings in the living room.

"I'm going to drive Daria to the train station," Norman said, "so we'll be following your guys' cab."

"That's fine by us," Ed said.

"Mom, can Henry and I bring some books with us to read during the train ride?" Esther asked, holding a book Winry assumed the one she wanted to take with her.

"It's fine by me. But only a few." She was sure the two would finish reading before they made it to Padrid City, but she didn't want them to carry all of their books during the trip.

A short while later everyone made it to the train station. Today there were several people there, most of them waiting for their train to arrive. Winry saw one train with some people boarding.

“This is exciting!” Esther said as she jumped up and down; behind her, Henry and Jane were skipping around also. The children were very thrilled about this trip as much as the carnival, perhaps a little more.

“Sorry about that,” Ed said to Daria and Norman. He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.

"That’s all right,” Norman said and chuckled. “It’s great that the kids can’t wait to visit Aerugo.”

"The train from South City to Padrid City, Aerugo will leave in five minutes!" the conductor suddenly yelled out.

"That’s our train!” Henry said in hurried tone and pointed to their train nearby.

"All of you have a safe trip," Norman said, smiling at everyone.

"We will, dear." Daria offered her husband a tight embrace. Everyone else then said their goodbyes to him before they climbed onto the train with the professor.

As the train started to move, they all went inside their compartment. Winry sat next to Daria on one side while Ed and the children sat across from them.

"How long is from here to Padrid City?" Ed asked.

"A little over one day, give or take. After that, there’s a town close by all of us can go to by bus and then the castle is around a two hour hike. The town has donkeys we can borrow for the children. “

“Over one day? That’s too long!” Henry complained, making a face.

“Now, Henry,” Winry said in a stern voice. She understood her son’s eagerness, but she wanted him to be patient.

Daria didn’t seem to be bothered by that. “I think all of you will love Aerugo. There are lots of forests and lakes. The mountains are very beautiful, too."

"Will we see lotsa animals?" Jane asked, who was on Ed's lap.

"I'm sure we will."

Jane cheered, thrilled to hear that. Esther and Henry also responded with a collective "all right!" When Winry fixed her gazed at Ed, he gave her a shrug and an awkward smile. Letting out a sigh, she didn’t look forward to the kids bothering Daria throughout the ride.

+++

The next day the train arrived in Padrid City late afternoon. After everyone climbed out of the train station and grabbed their remaining luggage, Daria led the family to the train station’s exit.

Winry gasped in amazement the instant she stepped outside, drinking in the scenery. The old style architecture buildings had been well preserved and it gave her the feeling of stepping back in time. Many people bustled in and out of the shops and she wondered if they would have time to visit one of them. A few cars, in similar models as the ones in Amestris, drove past them. She turned around to catch sight of Ed and the children looking awed as well.

"Padrid City is huge!" Henry said.

"It's the largest city in Aerugo," Daria said, "so there's lots to do and see. Also this is where the current royal family resides."

“The king and queen live here?” That caught Esther’s attention. “Can we meet them?” she asked eagerly.

Daria shook her head. “I’m afraid anyone inside the castle won’t allow us that unless it’s very important.” She stopped a moment, leaving Winry to think Daria had something on her mind. “It’ll be dark if we head to the abandoned castle now, so it’s best to go early tomorrow instead. After we find the closest hotel, I can show you guys around the history museum."

"Cool, a museum!" Henry said, beaming.

Around a few minutes after, the group found a hotel called the Padrid Inn. They went to the reception area to check if there were any rooms available and fortunately the clerk said there are two still open at the fourth floor. After the group took the elevator, Winry and her family went to their room to leave their stuff behind while Daria headed to hers. A while later, the family met up with her at the hall before they all left the hotel together.

The museum was around a half hour walk from the hotel. Everyone stopped to look at the brick building in front of them. Like the other buildings, this one seemed at least a few decades old. Some patrons stepped outside of the museum, looking satisfied.

"Why there's a two headed falcon on the flag?" Esther asked. Winry looked up at where her daughter pointed at and indeed there was a flag of a two headed falcon on a red background. She wondered the same thing.

"That's the Aerugian flag. It symbolizes strength and keenness." Daria then walked up the steps to the museum, everyone following suit right after.

Inside was more stunning than Winry expected. The late afternoon sunlight spilled through the glass ceiling on the roof, bathing the entrance hall with a warm glow. She glanced down a second to see the marbled floor in a decorated design. At the center there was a statue of a man in armor, and Winry was not sure who it was.

"That's Guy of Gully, one of Aerugo's kings," Daria said to everyone, pointing at the statue. "He fought one of the wars several centuries ago and moved his living residence here."

"But we're not here for him, though," Ed said and it wasn't a question.

Daria shook her head and said, "What I want to show you is on the second floor."

The several steps to the second floor were a bit of a walk, but Winry didn't mind. Once they ascended them, Daria led them to a room where several paintings and artifacts spread out. Three other people were inside looking around.

"These are paintings and galleries of well-known Aerugian scientists during seventeenth and eighteenth century," she said in a low voice. She took a few more steps until she found a specific painting. "That's Ettero Gatti."

Winry approached to the painting and gazed at it for a while. He was dressed in a men's ruffle shirt, only the top part of his trousers showing. His dark hair was in a messy style and he had the same eye color as her. He seemed to be in his mid to late thirties the time of the painting. Winry glanced at Ed, who looked to be fairly interested in him, too.

finished

(Art by Thunderflames!)


"As I mentioned a couple days ago, he came from the Gatti House. He was the eldest son in the family who published some of his alchemy studies. It's most likely, though, that there are several more notes that went unpublished, like the ones we're going to find now. "

Ed gave a single nod. "Anything else you know about this Ettero guy?"

"He was a member of the Academy of the Falcon, an elite group of alchemists that meet often to discuss alchemy and other sciences. They named it after Aerugo's flag."

"I know those type of academies," Ed said. "Amestris has one or two of those still present."

While listening to their conversation, Winry remembered Daria talked about Ettero fleeing from his castle. She grew curious over the reason for that.

"You also said that Ettero and his family abandoned their castle. Why is that?"

"In short, it was due to political unrest facing them. Because of that, they fled out of the country. The academy slowly dissolved shortly after."

Politics was never interesting to Winry, so she was glad she went straight to the point and was satisfied with her response. Still, such a shame they had to run away like that. She remembered several years ago on the eve of the Promised Day Ed wanted her to leave the country and yelled at him for suggesting that.

Winry realized the children were quiet since they entered the room. She turned to see Ed holding Jane while Esther and Henry weren't with them. Her heart sunk.

"Ed, did you see where Henry and Esther went?"

Ed shot her an arched eyebrow before he himself looked back and forth. Seconds later, he sighed. "They probably left while all of us were talking."

"Mom, Dad, over here!"

Hearing Henry's loud voice, Winry didn't hesitate to go find where he and Esther were at. She and the others moved further into the room until they were able to find Henry and Esther gazing at one of the artifacts. In display there were some pages of Ettero’s notes. Winry knew these particular notes would be complex for her to understand, so she looked over her shoulder to watch Ed observing them very thoroughly.

"Those are some of Ettero's alchemy notes," Daria said. "His first language is Aerugian, so he wrote most of his notes in that language. He knows a fair bit of Amestrian though as he traveled Amestris a short while. He also collaborated with two other members in the academy who were from that country."

"Do you know where are the academy notes, if there's any at all?" Ed asked. Winry was certain her husband was very interested in looking at those.

"They're probably archived at the villa, now a historic site, the group usually had their meetings at. It’s in Alley City, though.

"Oh," Ed said in a disappointed voice.

"I’m bored," Jane said as her shoulders slumped. She then yawned. "I wanna see the castle now."

Daria chuckled. "As I said earlier, that’ll have to wait until tomorrow."

"Anything else you want to show us in here?" Winry asked. She had a feeling this little tour was coming to an end.

"Not really. We can walk around Padrid City a little bit and then go to a restaurant for dinner."

"That's fine with me," she said and started walking. "I guess we should head out--"

Winry wasn't able to finish speaking when she suddenly bumped onto someone and fell on the floor. Immediately everyone rushed to her.

"Are you all right, Mom?" Esther asked. Everyone else had similar concerned expressions.

Getting to her feet, Winry felt some slight pain on her side and had her hand rubbed gently there to ease the sore. Looking down, she gave her daughter a reassuring smile.

"Don't worry Esther, I'm fine."

"Oh, I'm so sorry Miss," the lady that bumped into Winry earlier said. She looked to be in her forties. "I didn't look where I was going."

"It's all right. I wasn't paying attention, either."

The other woman made a soft laugh. "We're both at fault, I guess. I'm Anna," she said and stretched her hand for Winry to shake.

"Winry." She accepted the handshake. "My family and a friend of mine are visiting Aerugo for a brief moment. I take it you're from Amestris also?"

Anna nodded. "Yes. Small world, huh?"

A small smirk tugged at Ed's lips. "I traveled around a while back and it's much bigger than I previously thought."

"I also done a lot of traveling myself," Anna said, looking amused, "as I'm an archaeologist."

"What a coincidence as I'm an archaeologist, too!" Daria said.

Anna regarded Daria briefly. She grinned. "Oh, you must be Daria Cinero! I read some of your articles from different archaeology journals. Always love your work."

"Oh, thank you." Daria offered her an appreciated smile. "Curious, though. Which city you live in if you don't mind us asking?"

"North City. I tend to have my excavations at Creta and Drachma."

"That sounds neat," Ed said and smiled. "Drachma sounds harsh, though."

"It is, but I usually go there during spring and summer."

"Are you here on vacation as well?" Esther asked, titling her head.

"Sort of. I'm more here on personal business. I want to go visit the castle that used to belong to the famous Gatti family."

"Hey, we're going to that castle too!" Henry said while beaming.

Anna's eyes lit up in surprise. She smiled immediately after. "My, I didn't expect that. If I may ask, what’s your reason for going there?

“We’re trying to find out more about Ettero Gatti’s secret notes,” Daria said. “How much you know about those?”

“There were talks that those notes have something valuable and that he wrote them in code, like any alchemist would.”

Stealing a glimpse of Ed, Winry saw him narrowing his eyes. Clearly he was very suspicious of her.

“Like treasure?” Esther asked, a hopeful look on her face.

“You can say that.” Looking back at Daria, she said to her, “If you want, we can work out the details downstairs.”

Daria took a moment to ponder the offer. “Sure, as long as Ed joins us, too,” she said and waited for his answer.

“I guess that’s fine,” he said. Winry caught him glimpsing at Anna and could tell he was still skeptical of her.

After smiling at Ed, Daria turned her attention to Winry. “Winry, there’s a gift shop not far from this room that you and the kids can look around a little while.”

“Thanks for letting us know,” she said.

“I see nothing wrong with that,” Anna said. “Ed, Daria, follow me downstairs.”

All three headed out of the room, leaving Winry alone with the kids. The children wanted her to take them to the gift shop immediately, so they too left the room. She hoped whatever conversation they were going to have would be a good one and that Ed wouldn’t make a fool of himself.


+++

Ed became wary when Anna said she was going to the castle for personal business. Now he thought about it, her bumping into Winry seemed highly suspicious also. The notes are highly likely powerful stuff, leading him to believe she had some shady motive going on. He agreed to join the ladies in discussing over the specifics to see if Anna would explain more about her purpose in Aerugo.

After going down the stairs, they reached the ground floor and stopped close to the statue of Guy of Gully, Aerugo’s former king that Daria had mentioned earlier. Ed immediately seized this opportunity to speak first.

“Let’s cut to the chase. Why are you looking for the documents?”

Anna didn’t seem threatened by that statement. “I read quite a bit about them on several archeological journals and, like Daria, I want to find out more about them for research purposes.”

That didn’t ease Ed’s skepticism one bit. He expected her to say something to the effect of that.

“You mentioned there had been rumors that Ettero Gatti wrote them in code,” Daria said. “That surprised me as not many archeologists are aware of that fact about alchemists. What else you know?”

“I’ve been studying the construction of the castle as being the first one completed using alchemy as a construction method. I’m quite familiar with the layout, so I can help you two navigate the building.”

Daria’s eyes flew wide. “Help us navigate? You are suggesting…”

“That we go together?” Anna shot her a smirk. “Then yes.”

Staring at her, Ed wondered if she already wanted to work with Daria or just thought of it now. Even if she was very knowledgeable with the castle’s layout, he felt uncomfortable with her joining them.

“You’re pretty quick in suggesting that,” Ed said. He was sure he didn’t hide his apprehension very well.

“Perhaps, but I’m serious about helping you guys.” Anna paused to draw in a deep breath. “I said earlier I love your work, Daria. Since we’re looking for the same thing, it would an honor to be working with you.”

“Oh, I’m flattered,” she said, taken aback by that comment. “I believe that shouldn’t be a problem. All right, you can join us.”

Anna let out a satisfied smile. “Wonderful. When and where should we meet?"

"We'll be taking the bus to Therosta Town early in the morning if that's fine by you."

"I plan to leave around that time myself, so I'll meet you all at the bus stop."

"It's settled, then!"

The two archaeologist shook hands, and then Anna waved everyone goodbye. Ed watched her back until she exited outside.

"Are you sure about bringing a stranger with us?" he asked Daria. She spun around to see him arched an eyebrow at her.

"It’ll be more convenient if she joins us. Her knowledge of the castle could be useful.”

Ed still didn't look convinced. "I find it unusual Anna suddenly wants to team up with you. I’m not sure she should be trusted with the code.”

"I can’t blame you on that. It does seem, though, she just wants to research them.”

Realizing she was dead set on having Anna with them, Ed decided not to push her over in reconsidering her decision. He got distracted when he heard the sound of children voices nearby and twisted around to see Winry and the kids approaching them. All three children were carrying bags with them.

“So how was the gift shop?” Ed asked them when they reached him and Daria.

“It was great!” Henry said, beaming. “I got some chalk and pens.”

“I bought a journal,” Esther said.

“Teddy bear!” Jane said.

Winry chuckled after they finished saying their gifts. She then faced Ed and Daria. “Did the discussion with Anna go well?”

“It did,” Daria said, smiling. “She’s going to be joining us on our trip to the castle tomorrow.”

“Really? It makes sense since she’s heading there herself.”

“Anna knows the layout of the castle, so she can help us travel through the building.”

“Huh. I guess we’re lucky stumbling into her, then.” Looking straight at Ed, she asked him, “Are you okay with that?”

“To be honest I think we should keep an eye on her.”

“Rest assured if she does something harmful that I won’t let her tag along anymore,” Daria said.

Ed believed there was truth in her words, but afraid she wouldn’t catch on Anna’s misbehavior until it was too late –he wasn’t sure how to prevent that from happening. Nonetheless, tomorrow he would watch Anna closely to see if she stepped out of bounds.

Chapters Five and Six
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