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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 Nine


The unpleasant silence lingered on during the train ride back to Amestris.

Ed would've been happy going back home but felt drained after what happened earlier that day He had found something that could help him in deciphering the documents and looked forward to making more progress on that. However, the news of Anna with Mr. Russo's journal pages changed that; Ed told Winry the truth when he said he didn't expect that despite his suspicions.

Anna would've snatched the alchemy notes too after I finish decoding it. That thought didn't sit well with him at all.

"Anna knew the documents are related to valuable gemstones," he said, the first to speak since they left Alley City. "That’s why she wants them."

"So that's it," Daria said. "Gemstones are common sought out artifacts, especially jewelry."

"Will you keep figuring out the code?" Henry asked, looking up to his father.

"I'm still going to do it. I might be able to make some progress before we reach Amestris, but I need to double check some things."

"That's good," Winry said. "I wouldn’t want you to stop because of Anna."

Ed frowned. That could've been the case, but he was never the one to give up that easily.

"Ed, if you want I can let you read the rest of my father's notes,” Daria said.

"How about you? Aren't you curious about what your father discovered?"

"I am, but you'll benefit from them more than me."

Considering Daria's offer, he scratched his chin. Reading the rest of the pages should help him with decoding the notes. Another resource that he could use.

"If that's what you think, then sure."

With a small smile, Daria pulled the notes from her bag and stretched over to give them to Ed. He skimmed through the pages to see if there were any mentions of gemstones in them and managed to find one.

"Hohenheim also thought gemstones after almost halfway through decoding it."

"Anything else?" Esther asked, very curious.

Ed studied more of the pages. Stumbling upon something, he said, "There is one part where he was able to transmute several small gemstones but those weren't what he wanted."

"He had been experimenting with trial and error, then," Winry said.

There was a specific gemstone Hohenheim wanted to transmute, and Ed didn't need to read further to figure out which one. A triumph smirk pulled on the corner of his mouth.

"Of course, diamonds. That's what Ettero had been researching."

Daria stared at him, as if something just crossed her mind. "Your father wanted the same thing, also?"

"I can't see Hohenheim being that greedy. As Winry pointed out, just experimenting.” When Ed went back to reading, there were a few paragraphs that described Hohenheim able to transmute diamonds but didn’t give any hints as to how. Later on he insisted the alchemy notes were put back in the cave so that a non-alchemist doesn’t find it. The very last page had them doing just that. “Just as I thought, the notes were put back in the cave after he decoded them."

“Looks like that’s all, then.”

Ed smiled a little. A few days ago he thought he wouldn’t be able to find out how Hohenheim and Mr. Russo’s journey ended. He just read the ending now and it left him satisfied that his father didn’t use the notes for something bad.

“Is there a mention on why your father created those diamonds?” Winry asked.

“Just that he’s curious what the main ingredient is, and I’m going to find out.” Ed picked the leather bag that he had left on the floor, taking out his journal, a pen, and Ettero's notes. Just how diamonds could be transmuted he wanted to know more about.

+++


When Daria first set out this trip, she thought it would be a fun one. It was for the most part, as she visited different cities and got to go to a castle, cave, and a villa. Winry and her family had been a huge help, so she was very grateful for them. Anna was great to be with, too, before it was revealed she had her father’s notes. She still couldn’t believe that had happened.

Ed had been decoding the alchemy notes during most of the train ride and was almost done with it. She was impressed how fast he got through them—he should be able to solve it in no time. The ripped pages of her father’s journal had also been returned to her when Ed finished with them.

It took a few days for the train to reach South City. After everyone stepped into the platform, Daria made a phone call to Norm, asking him to pick her up. The train ride to Rush Valley wasn’t going to leave for another half hour, so the family kept her company while she waited for Norm outside the train station.

“Will you be telling your husband what happened?” Ed asked.

“I’ve been thinking how I’ll explain everything to him.” She smiled softly. “As long as I’m safe, it doesn’t matter.”

At that moment, a car parked at the curb and Daria recognized it to be her husband’s. Norm climbed out of the car and shot her a warm smile. Overwhelmed in seeing Norm again, she threw her arms around him for a long embrace. Her head rested comfortably on his shoulder.

“I’ve missed you so much,” she whispered.

They let go of their hug, Daria taking a step back, and Norm chuckled. “I’m happy that you’re all right. So, how was the trip?”

“Overall, it was great! Winry, Ed, and their kids had been a tremendous help. We got the notes that I wanted to see and Ed has them for now so that he can decipher the code.”

“That’s wonderful!” Turning around, he tossed everyone a pleased grin. “I really appreciate all of you helping her out.”

“Not a problem at all,” she returned with a grin of her own.

“Did you bring our toys and books?” Esther asked.

“I have them at the backseat.” Norm opened the backdoor and the children rushed to grab their things from the car.

As she watched, an idea popped up inside her head. Daria spun around to face Ed and Winry.

“South City has a library you can use for your research, Ed.”

“That’s all right,” he said. The children, each one carrying a bag with their things inside, returned to their parents’ side. “I have some texts on gemstone transmutation back at Rush Valley. It’s time to head back home, anyways.”

“Well, all of you are always welcome to visit us anytime,” Norm said.

“Call me when you manage to decode the notes.”

“I will for sure!”

Daria made a small farewell wave at everyone. Norm let her go inside the car first so that she could slide into the passenger seat. He moved in right after, closed the door, and started the engine. The windows opened, she could hear Winry and Ed saying goodbye.

Norm pulled out of the curb and drove into the streets. Daria fixed her gaze outside, thinking to herself that she still needed to tell her husband the truth. It was best to get this over with.

“There was something else we found also,” she said, straightening herself back in her seat.

“Oh, what is it?” Norm glimpsed at her a second before turning his eyes back on the road.

Daria swallowed to herself. “My father’s missing journal pages.”

“Also fantastic!”

“No, it’s not. You see, there was this woman we met at Padrid City. I thought she was nice and allowed her to join us. When we were ready to leave, I find out she had those pages the whole time.”

Still paying attention to the road, he frowned. “Were you able to talk to her?”

“She ran away before we could.”

“That’s a shame. I’m sorry to hear that,” Norm said, sounding disappointed. He looked uncertain what to say next.

Daria sighed and her eyes dropped. All she wanted was a nice hot bath, some tea, and to forget about Anna for a while.

+++

Once they returned home, Ed immediately went inside his study room to continue working on solving the documents.

He read through the notes he had written during the train ride back to Amestris several times. As he tapped his pen on the desk, Ed felt there was something missing but wasn't sure what. The answer to the code was just within his fingertips and yet he hit an obstacle. He took a quick glance at the book on his left, Gemstones in Creta.

The few books he had about gemstones were from back when he had traveled to the countries in the West. There were a few recorded accounts of alchemists able to transmute a variety of gemstones several centuries ago, but it was believed many more notes had been lost. Ed believed there were some research on diamonds back then.

He was interrupted when Winry and Joseph stepped inside his study room together. Earlier Winry had a call from her apprentice mentioning he made it to the train station and she had left to pick him up.

"Hello, Mr. Elric." Joseph said, a delighted expression crossing his features. Ed offered him a smile, also.

"Hey, Joseph. How was your visit with your family?"

"It was great! I had a lot of fun with them. I'm glad the both of you suggested that."

Closing her eyes, Winry made a pleased smile. "That's great to hear."

A short silence followed. Joseph's face changed and he cleared his throat.

"So, all of you found notes that needs to be decoded," he said.

Ed glanced at Winry, who was making a small frown. No surprise she told Joseph some of the details of the trip. Before answering, he leaned back and gently rubbed his forehead.

"I already figured out what was researched but unsure how it was done. I'm getting close to cracking the code, though."

"That's good." Joseph suddenly yawned, his hand covering his mouth. "I'm heading to bed now."

"Good night, Joseph," Winry said.

Joseph gave the both of them a slight nod before stepping out of the room. Taking a deep breath, Ed had his hand on the chin while he rested his elbow on the desk. He could see, from the corner of his eye, Winry looking at him in concern.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing. I'm just glad we're finally home."

"Yeah. The journey through Aerugo was longer than expected." Winry lowered her voice when she next said, "I'm sure my clients aren't happy the shop was closed this long."

Feeling bad, Ed frowned and his heart sank. "It's my fault I dragged the whole family into this."

Winry shook her head. "I was the one that decided to go with you. Besides, thanks to Henry and Esther we're able to find the alchemy notes."

She moved closer to the front of the desk, grabbed Ed's hand, and caressed it. Ed always loved the smooth touches of her fingers on his skin. Looking up to see Winry's face, he smiled at her.

"You're right."

As Ed shared a brief kiss with Winry, the phone ringing from the workshop was heard. They tensed and looked straight into each other’s eyes.

"Who could be calling at this hour?" Ed asked. He didn't remember his wife accepting visitors this late at night.

They left the room together, heading straight to the workshop. Ed stood still while Winry answered the phone, which was on the worktable.

“Rockbell Automail Studio.” Winry stopped to listen and her eyes grew wide. “Anna? How you get this number?” Another pause. Covering the receiver with her hand, she looked at Ed with a disturbed expression on her face. “She wants to talk to you.”

Hearing Anna’s name made Ed’s stomach twist. He didn’t think she would contact them. Nonetheless, he grabbed the receiver from Winry.

“What is it?”

“If you want an explanation over everything, visit Dublith this Sunday. Meet me at Sweet Delights Cafe, seven o’clock at night. Bring the documents with you.”

She immediately hung up before Ed had his chance to speak. Frustrated, he slammed the receiver on the phone and scratched his back of his head.

“What did she say?”

“Anna wants me to meet her at Dublith Sunday night and to bring the alchemy notes.” That was two days away, but Ed could catch a late morning train and be able to make it. He had a heavy suspicion Anna wanted him alone even though she didn’t say it straight out.

“It’s obvious she still wants the notes. I’m coming with you.”

“No, you’re staying here. You need to watch over your shop.”

Winry made a heavy sigh, rather apparent she wasn’t in favor of this. “All right, but be careful.”

It was doubtful he was in any serious danger, but Ed still made a mental note to take precautions. Daria then crossed his mind—did she receive the same message, too?

“I think Anna wants Daria to visit Dublith also since she had her father’s notes. At least she gets to know everything.”

“I believe so, too. It wouldn’t make sense, otherwise.”

Two days until he had to meet Anna. Most likely Ed would be able to solve the code tomorrow because he made a lot of progress during the train ride. This might be his only chance to get some answers from her.

Chapter Ten


The call from last night had been on Winry’s mind almost all morning while she got back working.

When she had listened to Anna’s voice from the other line, her heartbeat quickened. Her request for Ed to bring the notes with him left Winry uncomfortable, afraid something might happen to him. She still didn’t think he should go alone.

She knew Ed wanted to decipher the code as soon as possible, but feared he would overstress himself. During breakfast he hardly touched his food, briefly mentioning his concern if there was something he overlooked. That prompted Winry to check on him around an hour later. She was greeted with the sight of him staring down at his books in irritation, staying long enough to see him leaned back on his chair as he gave a heavy sigh. It pained her to see him like that.

Because of her thoughts over Anna and Ed, Winry wasn’t able to focus on the leg she needed to finish assembling. She never had any trouble returning to work after being away a while before, yet today it was difficult for her to get back in the swing of things.

“Something bothering you?”

That question caused Winry to flinch. She swung around to see Joseph staring worryingly at her. The drill press he had been using was turned off. Before speaking, she titled her head back and fixed her eyes on the ceiling.

“Ed’s displeased with not cracking the notes yet.”

Joseph offered her a supportive smile. “I’m sure he’ll be able to figure it out.”

Winry believed so, too. She only wished it wouldn’t consume Ed this much, and it would get worse with him needing to go to Dublith soon.

Without warning, Esther rushed inside the workshop and smiled widely at the pair.

“Dad solved the code!” she said, clapping excitedly.

She and Joseph reacted at the same time, looking at one another in stunned surprise. They rose from their seats and hurried out of the workshop with Esther. Her daughter led them to the study room, where Jane and Ed had been waiting for them. Henry was the only one not present.

“Where’s Henry?” she asked.

“I’ll get to that in a minute.” A smug grin stretched across Ed’s face. “I’ve just deciphered the documents. To put it simply, you need carbon.”

“Like the carbon fibers used for automail?” Joseph asked.

Already not liking that suggestion, Winry placed her hands on her hips and stared at Ed. “You better not use one of the prosthetics to test this out!”

Ed snorted. “Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m thinking something that’ll be much easier to transmute, like the charcoal sticks artists use for their drawings. I had Henry go to the store across from here to see if it has any.”

A moment passed by until Henry stepped inside the room and joined everyone. He carried with him a small box.

“I got the charcoal sticks, Dad!” he said, handing his father the box.

Winry watched as Ed pulled out three charcoal sticks, each one in slightly different length. Smirking, he used a finger from his free hand to point downward. She looked down and only now noticed an array drawn on the floor. She had no idea over the meaning of the alchemic symbols present, but trusted Ed knew what he was doing.

“I drew a basic transmutation circle that the kids can use.” As he dropped to his knees, Ed placed the charcoal sticks in the middle of the transmutation circle. He then straightened up and said, “Since Esther did two transmutations back at Aerugo, you get to do this one, Henry.”

After stepping forward, Henry stopped to study the array. He kneeled down, his palms touching it. When a blue flash lit up, Winry and the others took a stepped back. The light soon faded and in front of the group was a small diamond that glimmered. Henry picked it up and beamed.

“That’s amazing!” Joseph praised.

Jane gazed at it in admiration. “Pretty…”

“It’s great that you finally deciphered the code, Ed,” Winry said, turning her head to offer him a proud smile.

“Been a while since I solved these kind of documents, so I’m glad that’s over with. “ Ed paused a short moment, his face turning serious. “I’m not bringing the notes with me to Dublith tomorrow.”

“I’m sure she’ll ask why you didn’t listen to her,” she said. Very likely Anna would threaten him for the notes, something that troubled Winry since she called them.

“If she does, I’ll say because she clearly wants them for herself.”

The family hadn’t fully settled in home from the long trip yet and already Ed needed to leave. He didn’t want her to join him, so all she could do was wish for him to be safe.

+++

Even though the train ride from Rush Valley to Dublith only took a few hours, Ed still felt as if he was crossing Aerugo once more. Being alone, with no one else to talk with, time seemed to slow down.

Dublith hadn’t changed much the last time he visited. A few new shops had been built while some of the ones still running got remodeled. The temperature stayed warm when the sun began to set. Ed passed by someone every few steps, but the town was fairly quiet as he predicted. Never been to Sweet Delights Café before, he asked the next person he spotted where it was and got directions.

He managed to find the café a short while after. The outside patio had two people seated at a table, neither of them Anna. Ed went inside the building and stopped after taking two steps to glance around. A few more people had occupied the seats, and he swallowed hard. He immediately spotted Daria sitting at the corner, her automail arm resting on the table—his guess that she would be here too was correct. As he headed over to her table, Ed caught her gazing at him in surprise.

“Ed! What are you doing here?” she asked when he stood in front of her. Before answering, Ed grabbed the chair and sat down across from her.

“Anna called me to come here. I take it you got a similar phone call.”

“Yes. Apparently she wants us together. While I’m glad we’ll get an explanation, I can’t help but think she’s up to something.”

Ed stole a quick glimpse of his watch, ten minutes until seven. They were early, then. During the lingered silence, he remembered the promised he had made to Daria. Now was a good time to let her know.

“I managed to decipher the notes yesterday,” he said, dropping his voice.

Daria shot him a flabbergasted look. “That’s great!” Covering her mouth slightly, she then whispered, “What did you figure out?”

“Carbon is what’s needed to transmute diamonds. I had Henry experiment with charcoal sticks and it worked.”

“That’s interesting.” There was another brief silence and Daria frowned, her eyes growing with concern. “What will you say if Anna asks you about the notes?”

Ed was about to answer, but his mouth was left open when he heard footsteps nearby. Twisting around, he saw Anna approaching their table. She halted, shooting him and Daria a wicked smile.

“Good, the both of you are here already,” she said and sat down in an empty chair.

Narrowing her eyes at her, Daria asked straight away, “How did you get a hold of the last pages in my father’s journal?”

"My own father was a student of Mr. Russo. He had stolen some of the travel notes and went off to Aerugo to find the treasure. Unfortunately, he had an accident while there and was unable to find it, leaving the pages to languish. I stumbled upon them a few months ago and decided to plan a trip there."

While Ed listened, he already had one question in mind. "How about when you visited the museum? Were you already aware Daria was in Aerugo also?"

"Actually, I didn't. It was pure luck that I stumbled upon all of you, though I recognized Daria right away.” Facing Daria, she then said, “Immediately the idea of working with you came to me."

“You didn’t want us to figure your true intentions,” Daria said, sounding bitter.

“Of course not. If you guys knew I had the pages with me, I would’ve been asked to hand them over.”

He gave Anna a sharp glare. She was right they would request that. It still upset him she had been playing along all this time and they fell for it.

"After Winry found them in your hotel room, you ran away,” he said.

"Yes. I realized they were gone and rushed out of my room to avoid being asked."

“Why are you explaining everything to us now, then?” Daria pointed out.

“The both of you deserve it even though I had been already found out. “ Anna shrugged, as if not sincere when she said that. “Now that I answered all of your questions, let’s move on.” She fixed her stare at Ed. “Have you deciphered that code?”

“I have, but I’m not so stupid as to tell you. That’s why I didn’t bring the notes with me.”

A disappointed look crossed Anna’s face. “I figured you would say that. Fine, you can keep them…for now.” She rose out from her seat, made a few steps, and paused to look over her shoulder at Ed and Daria. “I’ll snatch those notes very soon.” Anna returned heading to the door and left the café.

Daria arched an eyebrow. “That’s all? I guess she didn’t want to cause a scene here.”

“You’re probably right. I also believe she already thought out how she’ll steal the treasure from me.”

That meant he had to keep an eye on anything suspicious, then. She wouldn’t give up until she had the notes.

Chapters Eleven and Twelve


This entry was originally posted at http://bay-alexison.dreamwidth.org/98426.html. Feel free to comment wherever you like!

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