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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 Seven


Today's journey through Nork Cave had been a lot of fun. Anna loved exploring caves and this one was no exception. She admitted to wanting to hurry to up with the search and wished she had been more careful. Crystal Hall itself was breathtaking to see.

They were able to find the notes, only for them to be in code. It was a good thing Ed and his children were knowledgeable in alchemy. If she were to find them on her own, she wouldn't be able to solve it.

After their trip to the cave, they headed back to Alley City and asked directions to the villa. One man told them it was closed for today but it should be open tomorrow morning. He wrote the directions on a piece of paper and gave it to Daria. They were able to find a bookstore, though, and Ed bought a few books for his research. They were done for the night.

She and everyone else were staying in the same hotel. She had left her own room to go visit Ed with the intention of finding out if he already started deciphering the documents. While there, she would also ask Winry if she had any perfume. Anna knocked on the door and waited until Winry to open it. She greeted her with a smile.

"Oh hi, Anna!"

"Hello, Winry. May I come inside a minute?"

"Sure you can."

Winry stepped aside so that Anna could enter the room. Moving further, she spotted Ed next to a desk jotting down some notes. The children stood behind, watching their father work. Some books were piled up on his right. His eyebrows furrowed as he studied the journal in front of him.

"Ed, Anna is here," Winry said to him.

Ed froze his pen and looked up to see Anna. "What brings you here, Anna?" he asked.

“I was wondering if you would be interested in some books on alchemy being used in architecture.”

A flabbergasted look crossed Ed's features. "Why is that?”

Anna held herself from smirking. It was amusing to see him caught off guard like that.

"You were quite amazed at Ettero Gatti’s castle when we went there yesterday and I thought you might like to know more similar archeological finds.”

"Oh." He cleared his throat. “Well, that’s very generous of you, but it’s all right.”

Most likely Ed didn’t accept her offer because he was still suspicious of her. She should’ve known he wasn’t going to fall for that. No problem, it wasn’t necessary.

"If you don’t want them, then that’s fine.” Pausing, Anna took a quick glimpse at the journal and books. "I see you already begun work on decoding it."

"Yeah. Haven't gotten much done yet, but it's a start. Tomorrow’s visit to the villa should help me in decoding the notes.”

"Our dad will be able to solve it no time!" Esther said in great confidence.

Anna laughed. "I'm sure he will."

Ed smiled a little and looked back at Ettero's notes. A second later, his eyes flew wide.

"There's something I'm suddenly curious about," he said. "You have any idea why Ettero had his notes into a romance story?"

"His brother was a novelist under a pen name, so I think that's why."

"Huh, interesting.”

Having done talking with Ed, Anna faked a yawn. "Well, I'll be leaving you to get back decoding those notes. “ She then faced Winry. “Oh, Winry! Before I go, you have any perfume I can borrow? I used all of mine up today and I don’t really want to go to different shops this late at night.”

Winry looked confused by that request but smiled right after. “Sure! Hold on a moment.”

Anna waited as Winry went to the bathroom and then came back with a small bottle of perfume. She gave it to her.

“I really appreciate it, thank you.” Looking at everyone, she said, “Have a good rest, everyone."

Ed and his family said goodnight to her before she left the room.

She would have to wait until he solved the code to snatch the journal from him. Just a while longer.

+++

The next morning Ed and everyone else left the hotel to go to the villa, just north of the city. It wasn’t too long a walk, and once they arrived, he stood gazing in astonishment.

In front of the villa was a large garden with a non-working fountain at the center. The building had five bay loggias and there were several windows spread throughout. The group stepped inside the entrance hall and they were greeted with lavish paintings. Ed spotted one that featured a lady and a gentleman dancing in the rain together and another of someone surrounded with several animals.

“The paintings are magnificent, aren’t they? That one is called Last Dance and the other one is Nature and Man,” Daria said as she pointed to the paintings. “One of the previous owners hired several artists to paint in frescos.”

“So this is the villa the academy visited often,” Ed said. He imagined the building to be slightly less extravagant. “I wouldn’t mind living here.”

“I didn’t know you have good taste, Ed,” Winry said and offered him a teasing smile. “You’re usually into something ridiculous like skulls and spikes.”

“That was many years ago,” Ed murmured and pressed his lips in protest. “ I’ve changed.”

Winry responded with a snicker.

“One of the academy members bought this as a summer residence,” Anna said this time. “This was the academy’s meeting place until the group had dissolved. Many years later it was recognized as a historic site.”

Ed stopped gazing at the paintings when he heard footsteps nearby. He turned to see an older looking man heading towards them. Everyone else noticed him coming also.

“Hello, I’m Julius and I’m in charge of the visits here,” he said when he approached them. “How may I help you?”

“We were wondering if you can show us where the Academy of the Falcon’s notes are,” Ed said.

The smile on Julius’s face grew wider. “Ah. I take it you’re an alchemist?”

“I am,” he said immediately and smirked. Granted he couldn’t use alchemy anymore, but he still studied it. “I want to learn more about Aerugian alchemy and thought their notes would be useful.”

“My brother and I are alchemists, too!” Esther said and threw a grin at Julius.

Julius nodded. “You can find them in the library room. Follow me.”

Everyone followed Julius up the stairs to the next floor and into a large room. The walls had also been painted like in the entrance hall and there were several shelves that were filled with books. A long table stretched out in the middle of the room. The main window had a beautiful view of the garden in the front.

“This is the room the members use if they want to study alchemy alone or collaborate together. They also store their works here.”

Esther looked around the room in great interest, her mouth left open wide. “There’s lots of book in here.”

“Are you an alchemist also?” Henry asked Julius as he fixed his gaze up towards him.

“Indeed I am,” Julius said and grinned. “I researched the Academy of the Falcon for a while now.”

Ed flinched. It made perfect sense for an alchemist to oversee this villa. That meant Julius was already aware of the notes being disguised to prevent public viewing.

“Then you probably decoded some or all of their notes in here,” he said.

“There are some I managed to decode, yes. I’ll show you one of them.”

Everyone watched when Julius headed to one of the shelves, grabbed a book, and went back to them. He stood next to Ed and handed him the book. Flipping through the pages, Ed skimmed some of the writing and recognized many of the alchemical elements used in the notes.

It occurred to Ed that Julius could help him with Ettero’s notes. However, that would mean staying Aerugo longer and he was certain Winry and the kids wouldn’t like that at all. It would also be weird to ask a stranger for help something as big as deciphering documents.

“These notes are supposed to be alchemy experiments concerning copper,” Julius said, “and they were able to transmute several items from that element. Another one of their notes has some interesting researches concerning lightning alchemy. ”

Ed hummed in acknowledgement and looked through the notes a while longer. It would be great if he could take some of the materials from the library with him back home, but he doubt Julius allowed that. He could have a look at them, at least.

“Is it all right if I check the notes out for a bit? I won’t take too long.”

Scratching the back of his head, Julius took a moment to consider. “You did say you want to know more about Aerugian alchemy. All right, you can look at the notes, but be careful with them. If you need any help, I’ll be in my office two rooms down.” He quickly headed out the room, leaving everyone alone.

“You didn’t tell him about Ettero’s notes?” Anna asked, looking at him in confusion. “He might help us solve them.”

“I thought about that, but I don’t want to bother him with it.” He smiled. “Besides, my family and I need to get back to Amestris soon.”

“You want us to leave you alone while you read through the notes?” Winry asked.

“I want to help!” Henry said in an eager tone.

“Me too!” Esther said right after, sounding just as willing.

“Are you sure you guys want to?” Ed asked.

Both siblings nodded without hesitation. They were capable of reading advanced alchemy literature and all he needed were some hints as to what Ettero could be researching, so no need for them trying to decipher codes. He also trusted them to not mess the room around.

“Okay, the both of you can stay.”

The pair shouted in glee and high fived one another.

“We can wait outside while they work,” Daria said.

Winry nodded in agreement. Looking back at Ed, Esther, and Henry, she said to them, “You three better come outside when it’s time for lunch.”

“We will, Mom!” After saying that, Henry beamed at her.

Winry and Jane left the room together first while Daria and Anna followed them behind. Once everyone was gone, Ed turned to face Henry and Esther.

“Right then. We should get started.” Ed took a moment to glimpse around the room. “Esther, you go check the books at the right while Henry looks through the ones on the left.”

“Okay!” Esther and Henry said in unison before they dashed off in opposite directions.

They didn’t have much time, so all of them had to work through as much material as possible before they need to leave.

Ed didn’t bring Ettero’s documents with him to the villa, but he still remembered the alchemy references that popped up. Not surprisingly, several of them had been mentioned in the notes archived here also.

Each time Ed found something that could relate to Ettero’s research he wrote it down on his journal. Often, Henry and Esther showed him anything they caught and he would make a note of it. Anything they could find helps.

He sat next to the table studying another set of the academy’s notes. His children were reading too, sitting across from him. Ed tore his eyes from the page when he noticed Julius stepping inside the room.

“I came by to see if everything’s all right,” he said.

“We’re fine here,” Ed said, smiling.

Julius looked back and forth. “You had more people with you before. I take it they left?”

“Everyone else is waiting outside while we help Dad with his research,” Henry said.

Julius chuckled. Facing Ed, he said, “Your children are very bright, then.”

“I taught them everything I know about alchemy.”

“I can see. Have you found anything interesting?”

“A few things, yes. It’s cool that they had done so many different researches.” Ed made a quick glance at what he wrote down so far. “You have anything on antimony?”

“Yes. Hold on one minute.”

Ed looked over his shoulder to see Julius headed to one of the shelves. He had his finger scanned through the books until he found one and pulled it out. Julius then walked back to Ed and handed him the book.

“Thank you,” Ed said. He opened the book and studied the pages carefully. These notes seemed to be written as a travel log.

“Are you all from Amestris or Creta?” Julius asked after a short silence from everyone.

Upon hearing that question, Ed looked up at him. “We’re from Amestris, yeah.”

“Many of the alchemists that visited here are from either of those countries. Like you, usually they want to see the notes as it would benefit their research. It’s always nice to see the ones outside of Aerugo have an interest in this academy group.”

Ed had his elbow rested on the table and hand on his chin as he listened to Julius. It was common for alchemists to travel around different countries to gain more knowledge on alchemy. He, his brother, and Hohenheim had done that. He could see why alchemists wanted to come to this villa. He was pulled away from his thoughts when Henry tugged on his sleeve.

“This looks like a drawing of a gemstone,” he said while giving Ed the notes.

There was indeed a simple drawing of a turquoise. Ed read a paragraph of the writing, which described a girl asking a bird where to find that particular gemstone. This one seemed to be an adventure story.

“Oh that one two alchemists, Ettero Gatti and Augustus de Rege, collaborated on transmuting different things into gemstones. There were some interesting results.”

Ed’s eyes grew wide. “Did you say Ettero Gatti?”

“Yes I did. Is he of great interest to you?”

Ed hesitant to speak at first, but then he thought of a response. “Sort of. My father had studied about him long ago.” Technically it was true. Hohenheim did learn about Ettero during his travels at Aerugo.

“Mom’s going to be mad if we don’t leave soon,” Esther suddenly said.

Glancing at his watch, Ed saw that it was close to lunchtime. He did promise Winry they would be back by then. He rose from his seat and began to pick up the books, Henry and Esther doing the same.

“We really appreciate you letting us stay here for a while,” Ed said when he reached to Julius. He had the books against his chest.

“It’s my pleasure,” Julius said. “Come visit again when you have a chance.” He extended his hand and Ed shook it. Right after, Julius stepped out of the room.

“We should put these books back and then we can go,” Ed said as he looked at Esther and Henry. Both of his children nodded in agreement.

The mention of gemstone should be a huge clue as to what Ettero had researched. It was likely he was able to make something valuable and didn’t want anyone else to know. Ed needed to examine more of his notes to be absolutely sure but figured out a direction he could follow up on.



Chapter Eight


Winry was glad that today would be their last day in Aerugo and that they were finally going back home. They acquired the notes and Ed got to find out more about that academy, so there was no use in staying any longer.

She and her family were packing their things up before they were to go to the train station. Anna and Daria would join them also. After Winry packed everything, she reminded herself Anna still has her perfume.

“I’m going to get my perfume back from Anna, it’ll only be a second,” she said to Ed. “Watch the kids for me.”

“All right,” Ed said, and Winry immediately left the room.

Anna’s room was on the same floor and a few doors away. Winry knocked on the door, waiting until Anna opened it with a stunned expression on her face.

“Winry! What brings you here?”

“I came to see if you still have my perfume with you.”

Anna nodded. “I actually planned to give it back to you after I finish packing. You can come inside.”

Winry allowed herself to step inside. She first noticed a suitcase and small pile of clothes on the bed. Several journals were stacked neatly on the desk.

“The perfume is in the bathroom. Wait here.”

After Anna left her alone, Winry glanced around the room. She brought her attention back to the journals on the desk. Curious, she moved a few steps forward and grabbed one of the journals. Before she could open it, some loose paper dropped on the floor. Winry immediately bent down to pick them up. The papers seemed to be ripped from a book. As she studied the first page, Winry recognized it to be –

The travel notes. No, it can’t be.

“Winry, is everything all right?” Anna called out.

Startled, Winry hastily shoved the papers inside her bag. Anna stepped out of the bathroom, her fingers holding the perfume bottle.

“I’m fine!” she said and offered her an awkward grin. “I was just looking through some of the journals on the table.”

Anna shot her a weird look, as if not believing her. She then cleared her throat. “Here’s your perfume.”

Winry approached Anna, took the perfume from her, and put it inside her bag. “Thanks.”

“Meet you at the train station, then?”

That would make things very unusual. Winry wanted to ask Anna some questions but unable to. It was clear she sensed something was wrong.

“Uh…Yes, definitely!” she managed to say while forcing another grin. “See you later!”

Winry took the opportunity to rush out of the room, feeling Anna’s stare behind her back.

Many questions swarmed inside Winry’s head. How Anna had gotten her hands on the notes? Did she want the documents the whole time? And if so, what were her intentions of using them? Daria had said a student of her father’s was the one that stole it. Unless the notes somehow had been passed down from one person to another, she was probably related to that student.

When she returned back to her hotel room, Winry saw Ed and their kids almost done with their packing. Her husband greeted her with a smile.

“You got your perfume back?”

“I did. However, I found something while there.”

Winry pulled out the notes, showing them to her family. A shocked expression crossed Ed’s face.

“Are those Mr. Russo’s notes?”

“Yes. Anna left some journals on the desk and the notes slipped off from one of them.”

As she watched Ed scratching his chin, Winry wondered what was on his mind. It was likely he had the same question as she did earlier. Their children, noticing something was going on, went to gather around them.

“Can I look at them?” he asked at last.

She offered Ed a single nod and handed him the pages. Ed skimmed through them a short while before he set them down on the desk, letting out a long sigh. The both of them sat on the bed together.

“We have to let Daria know about this.”

“I know,” Winry said, dropping her head down. “Should we go to her now?”

Ed’s mouth was left open when someone knocked on the door. She and Ed stared at each other, waiting to see who would be the one to open it. Climbing out of the bed, Winry decided she would do that.

She opened the door and found herself in front of—

“Daria!” Winry said in surprise.

“I just came by to see if all of you are ready to head to the train station or not.”

Some part of Winry didn’t want to break the bad news to her. She glanced over her shoulder to see Ed giving her a single nod. Bracing herself, Winry swallowed hard.

“There’s something you should know.”

The smile on Daria’s face faded. Winry gently squeezed her hand and led her to the chair beside the desk. Daria sat down, still looking puzzled. Seeing her like that made Winry’s heart sank.

“We managed to get your father’s notes,” Ed broke it to her first. To show he wasn’t lying, he handed the last few pages. Daria looked through them, her jaw dropping.

“This is unbelievable. But how?”

“WInry was in Anna’s room just now and found them in a stack of journals.”

“Anna had them? Then that means she was related to one of my father’s students.”

“That was my first thought, also,” Winry said. She still couldn’t shake off the thought of what had happened.

“Is she a bad person, then?” Jane asked, looking upset over all this. Esther too wore the same expression while their brother was the only one hesitant how to make of this.

Unsure how to answer that, Winry frowned. Her perception of Anna changed in one fell swoop. Ed and Daria remained silent also, which she assumed they were feeling the same way.

“Should we go to her room and ask?” Henry suggested.

Winry gazed at Daria while she was staring at her father’s notes.

“I do want some answers for all of this,” Daria said bitterly as she jerked the pages slightly. “Let’s go.” She rose from the chair and headed out of the room.

Anna had betrayed her—everyone’s—trust, so it was understandable she would be very upset right now. Winry along with her family immediately followed her.

By the time they reached to Anna’s room, Winry, Ed, and the kids were behind Daria as she furiously knocked on the door.

“Anna, this is Daria! We need to talk!”

No answer. She knocked again, still nothing.

“Either she left or isn’t answering,” Winry said. Anna was still in the process of packing when she visited her.

“There’s one way to find out,” Esther said. When she pulled out a chalk, Winry realized her daughter volunteered herself to break open the room.

“Are you sure about that?” Daria asked when she raised her eyebrow at her. “I don’t want us to get in trouble.”

Esther already began drawing a circle around the door. “I can easily clean up the drawing later,” she said and drew more circles.

When she finished the transmutation circle, Esther placed her hands on it and blue light flashed. She let go of her hands and backed away just as the door opened slightly. Ed stepped inside the room first, grabbing the knob to move it aside. Everyone else slowly followed him behind.

The room was empty besides the furniture. Winry saw neither the clothes nor the journals Anna brought with her. It was obvious what had occurred.

“She realized I got the notes and ran away before we can talk to her,” she said.

“Could she still be at the lobby checking herself out?” Daria asked.

“Maybe,” Ed said. Winry thought that was a possibility also. “We better hurry.”

Esther needed to quickly wipe her transmutation circle on the door first before anyone could leave. They all took the elevator to go down to the lobby. Winry looked around to see if Anna was passing by, but there was no sight of her. She locked her gaze at the receptionist at the desk, who was busy on the phone. Winry glanced at Ed, who was looking in the same direction. The both of them thought the same thing. Everyone hurried to the reception area.

“Yes, your room is reserved for next week. You’re welcome, have a good day, sir.” The receptionist put the receiver down before noticing the group. “How I may help you?”

“Did a brunette woman in a black jacket and pants checkout just recently?” Ed asked.

“Yes she did, she just left the door.” The receptionist shot everyone a blank stare. “You know her?”

“She used to be with us,” Daria said. “But I found out she had something of mine and want to talk to her.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that. I’m sorry.” The phone suddenly rang and the receptionist picked it up.

There was still a chance Anna didn’t get too far, Winry thought. “We might still catch her outside.”

Everyone rushed out of the hotel. The streets were fairly busy in the afternoon. They passed through several people that ignored them.

“She’s probably at the train station already,” Daria said when everyone stopped in front of a meat shop.

“Winry and I will go over there, then,” Ed said. “Can you watch the kids while we’re away?”

“Of course.”

Leaving Daria and the children behind, Winry and Ed made a dash for it. She wasn’t sure if they would find her there, but it was worth a shot.

“You think she’s heading back to Amestris?” Winry asked.

“Don’t know. She could be boarding the train to anywhere.”

That wasn’t the response Winry wanted to hear. If that were the case, then they lost Anna for good. While running, she thought back to the few times Ed expressed his doubts over her and that left an uneasy feeling inside Winry’s stomach.

“Your suspicions over Anna were correct. I should’ve listened to you, Ed.”

Ed looked back at Winry over his shoulder, tossing her a supportive smile. “Hey, I didn’t know she had Mr. Russo’s travel notes either. Right now we need to get answers from her.”

He was right this wasn’t the right time to feel bad over past mistakes. Winry hummed in agreement, nodding at him.

The pair eventually made it to the crowded train station. Winry kept looking back and forth to see if Anna was either boarding a train or waiting in line. She was nowhere to be seen.

“Please don’t tell me we missed her,” Ed panted, his hands resting on his knees. They had halted to catch their breaths.

Winry dragged out a defeated sigh, her shoulders slumping. “I think we did.”

Chapters Nine and Ten
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