When Berthold Hawkeye is suddenly killed as the remaining member of an organisation, researching the vampire progenitor is killed, Riza joins his apprentice and flame alchemist, Roy Mustang to avenge the killing of her father and to put a stop to the reigning destruction of Amestris. Only it’s difficult fighting dark creatures that politicians and leaders will not acknowledge as existing, concealed by lies and red tape, leading to an underground battle to complete the work that no one else can do.
Mustang’s precise, well rehearsed citing of ancient words from the bible clasped in his left hand are interrupted so suddenly that the book falls from his hand, toppling to the floor while his right hand instinctively tightens into a white-knuckled death grip around the crucifix embellished with silver. He stoops backwards instinctively as a blade slices through mid-air with practiced efficiency barely avoiding its path as the head falls from the shoulders of the creature stood before him.
The head does not reach the ground, nor when its knees give way does it fall.
Instead it seems to fall apart, as though something so cruel and evil could have only been made from a bag of sand.
“You could’ve killed me, Hawkeye!” He is quick to complain as she lands carefully at the knees, the blade rested to the ground as her body takes a more natural position once again.
“I doubt that, if you had been about to die, I’d expect it to be from wounds inflicted as that vampire savaged you.” He takes her by the hand, pulling to back onto her feet as she finds her place at his side, staring down to observe the remnants of a battle that had left their faces powdered with dirt and sweat coating flesh.
“He was a young, when he was turned. The missing person’s report states that he was approaching his 17th birthday. I’d wager that he didn’t even get that far.” His face hadn’t appeared young, not in the least. It had been deathly pale, with a rage painted onto his expression that aged him by almost half a century.
This was a mercy killing, Riza observed. The human he had been had been replaced on September 21st of a year ago.
Roy took steps towards an oak tree, finding his way to the ground again, the mud was wet and the cold of the earth seeped through him. The shiver at his spine did not cause him to hesitate as he slipped his coat from his shoulders, wrapping it around the young woman leaning, crumpled, against the tree. He took her in his arms carefully as she shivered, a hand loosened the makeshift tourniquet at her neck, formed from Riza’s own sleeve, replacing it with a well placed hand – holding a wound that he knew he could not stop. A wound she would not survive.
Gooseflesh covered Riza’s arm, where the sleeve was gone and blood seeped from a small gash as she panted softly, running her hand along it, hoping for some warm from the friction of skin on skin. The adrenaline began to subside as the sheer cold of the frigid night air hit her, breath misting before her.
“Purebloods will turn humans and those humans will turn humans until an entire army has been created that satisfies the needs of the progenitor – the further away they stray from pureblood by generation, the more deranged they become. The lowest tier are almost mindless creatures, they don’t know of any other purpose than to kill, they do not turn their prey, instead they savage them.”
Riza could sense the regret in his words, so quiet, but laced with a bitter anger at the perceived failure of another life lost. She was on her knees now, at his side – always by his side. That was her promise, a promise he had not asked of her but one she had given him nonetheless. She took the woman’s hand, wrapping her fingers around it, her eyes drawn to the bloodied fingertips, some with nails missing – the woman had struggled, she had fought for her life with passion, a shudder travelled down Riza’s spine as she considered what life the woman could’ve had in a life she was so desperately to cling on to.
She had long blonde hair, turned brown by the blood the oxidised in the tangled mess. Roy had not seen her eyes, nor had he wanted to. It frightened him just how similar the girl dying in his arms looked to that of Riza when they had first embarked on their journey together.
“I think she’s ready, Roy. I think you need to let her go now. I don’t know if there can be peace for her now – we stopped the creature that did this to her, but we cannot undo what he did…” A tense pause, marred by the sound of Riza’s harsh breathing as she stumbled through words, trying to find the right ones. “But if you leave her, she survives and soon enough she’ll turn.”
“This isn’t the life planned for you, Riza.” Roy spoke suddenly, the words tumbling from him, a stark confession that took her by surprise, eyes widening, feeling every beat of her heart in every extremity of her body. “I was your father’s apprentice, this was never supposed to be your job.”
“It wasn’t something you asked of me, I planned my own path.”
“–– When your father was killed, I wanted to protect you and to keep you away from this world. But you’re too smart, too stubborn and too caring.” Roy held the woman closer, it was suddenly dragged to the front of his consciousness that he was cradling her in his arms, rocking her back and forth as though these last moments of comfort could provide any retribution for what he was about to do. “I agree, I think she’s ready.”
Riza’s hand shuffled through her bag, a piercing shriek echoing from the mouth of the girl, the venom of the bite working its way through what remained of the blood in her body, an agonising process of blood turning to acid, blistering the veins and arteries and internal organs, as though her body scorched her from within, almost as though her body shifted from human to immortal stone.
She produced a stake, Roy taking it from her, his hand slick and filthy now with her blood, it ran to his wrist, to his forearm and dripping away at the elbow onto what had once been a grassy forest, now turned to mud as mulch from dying leaves falling from trees. She didn’t hesitate, her hand didn’t shift or falter his touched hers, taking the wooden stake from her.
“She’s ready, Roy.” She reminded him, sensing the pain of his hesitation, the resentment and hurt all rushing through his mind, mixed together to form one great emotion that left bile at his throat, a nausea in the pit of his stomach and a sharp pain at the small of his back.
Just as soon as the stake entered her flesh, pierced her heart, it was over and the silence was deafening as once again as though sand contained in a bag, the dust fell to the ground, leaving an unrecognisable trace behind of the events that had preceded this moment.
In the morning, Roy knew, the patrol of villagers would resume to search for the missing only child of the mayor, a young woman with a fierce intellect to match a sharp tongue, someone who if he had heard of her before this first encounter, he would have tipped her for someone to oppose many politicians who offered meagre solutions to problems that they could never understand. And Roy knew that they would never find what they were looking for, that in his arms she had passed away, in a fit of screams that he would insist for a lifetime no longer haunted him, but that in the dark peace of night when his companion slept away, he would hear them again. They were a chorus of death at his own hands.
The dust trickled to the ground as he stood, wiping his hands at his buttoned shirt, leaving behind a stain that he would sooner be rid of. Just as soon as he stood, Riza was already gone, collecting the bible and blade from the ground, concealing them in the bag once again, tossing its strap over her shoulder. He lifted his coat from the ground, throwing it over his forearm, eyes scanning for anything left behind at the scene – those who he considered blessed to not know of the secret existence of vampires must be shielded, allowed to keep their innocence before it could be tainted with the horrors that they knew.
They’re both more exhausted than they dare admit, the ride in his car is near enough silent for the most part, he will occasionally open his mouth to speak, but words fall short and instead he lets out a noticeable sigh. Riza is worn down, she’s cold, injured and her stomach aches with hunger as the adrenaline subsides, leaving them in a near enough catatonic state.
Just as soon as they return home, she takes the blood soaked coat from him, waits for him to shirk away his shirt. They have a routine now, not that either of them would like to admit that the events of the night follow a regular pattern – but this has become their lives now, both are distinctly aware that they are on a designated path to Hell, but it’s too late to change that now. A decision was made, perhaps long before they even became aware that it had, when her father’s research into the biological properties and historical knowledge of the vampire progeny had caused his untimely death.
Roy had been her father’s apprentice of 8 years, learning his trade as he worked his way through a rigorous training process as Riza had idly watched over, the knowledge of a secretive form of sorcery, developed centuries earlier to combat the inhuman beings known as flame alchemy, bestowed on him. Her mother was gone, a common trait she shared with Roy. From time to time she would dip her attentions into her father’s work, but at the very beginning from such a young age they seemed no more than fairy stories. Riza had been raised by her mother into a world of philosophy and understanding, but she had shied away from her father’s work. It was only when the Spanish Influenza had taken her from them, that she had been thrust into a colder and darker world than she could imagine. At 8 years, a 12 year old Roy had joined her father as an apprentice, she had unwittingly become one of the few to learn the true story of how Roy had entered the Hawkeye family – that he had been hurried away from his family home before he had time to clasp his eyes on them, that they had been changed from their humanly forms and in turn, killed by an accomplice of the organisation which her father had worked in.
Riza had wondered why Roy never resented her father.
Years passed and slowly of the original twelve members of the organisation, only one remained. Her father’s practices became more rigorous and perhaps now in hindsight she could recognise that his workings were those of a man who knew he was running out of time.
On a bleak winter solstice evening at 15 years old, he had carved the secrets of his studies into the flesh of her back. That night, she had been carried to her bed, laid on her front as her father delicately rubbed a salve into what remained of her stinging, intact flesh. He had given her a cup of a bitter medicine, one supposed to help her sleep and left her in the dark, with her cheek on her forearm as she rested and tears stained her pillow. He had been a fool to imagine that his medicine could ease such pain, every nerve of her back, ignited and searing through each and every one of her senses as though some horrific creature rested in the pit of her belly, desperately clawing its way out.
Riza had wondered why she never resented her father.
Roy had carried her from her bed, weakened by pain, a film of sweat at her brow. He had hurried, taking her from her home. He had spoken to her, calm and quiet words that would not let on the true depth and danger of the situation.
It was only when she returned to her home, scorched to the earth, a matter of weeks later that she could truly believe Roy’s words. That a horrific crime had occurred as she had slept soundly, that the organisation had fallen and that now, like Roy, both of her parents were gone.
A fire is lit in the small home they have come to know as home, the smell of burning filling the room as she tosses his shirt and coat into the flames.
“It wasn’t your fault.” She notes, breaking the silence, drawing his line of sight from the fire to her own gaze. “He had killed began to change her before we had even arrived. We couldn’t have stopped it, we didn’t have the foresight or intelligence to know.”
“It’s been 10 years, Hawkeye, hasn’t it? Every time we come across a lead, it disappears before our eyes. This leader, their King is too strong for us. Even with military resources, we’re late to arrive.”
“Are you suggesting we give in?”
“Not for a moment, we’ve come too far.”
“You’re coming to your senses, I was beginning to wonder if I’d have to shoot you for such a foolish mentality… but, you’re correct. We’ve come so far, but the leads are growing weaker and we’re closer to being discovered. Amestris isn’t ready to learn about the existence of vampires – and that’s if they choose to listen what evidence we can present to them.”
“If we give in now, we may as well have perished with your father.”
“You’re tired, Roy. You need to rest.”
He opens his mouth to speak, to object in some way, but that knowing expression is right and he succumbs to her as she takes his forearm in her beaten and cut fingers, leading him to the basin of the bathroom, filling it with water as she dips his hands in, taking control for him as he wills his senses – the shriek of the girl – to leave him.
Her hands drip water over his skin, her fingertips massage away the blood until the dirt is absent and his hands look as though they have not just committed some unspeakable atrocity. She moves his arms slightly, encouraging him to lift them so she can replace his shirt with one clean – warm. She still senses the chill of the cold in his core.
There her work ends and his contribution begins, she takes a small box of bandages and pins, placing it on the dining table as he stirs a pot of broth. Ordinarily taking the time to carefully season it to perfect taste, instead today as soon as it bubbles, it is ladled into dishes and presented on the table. By the time he sits, she still isn’t done, fiddling away at the wound on her upper arm, the awkward position troubling her as she wraps bandage around it – it will heal, it always does. She has seen worse, been through worse.
It isn’t until he places his hand over hers that she even notices the slight trembling of her hand, she sinks into the uncomfortably upright position of the dining chair as he takes over for her, wrapping the bandaging around so neatly that if either of them were in better senses, she can imagine some quip about his embroidery skills being made.
But for the time being it is enough as he stands over her, the hand moving into her hair to pull her forehead closer to him so that he can rest his head on top of hers, perhaps overly conscious of not troubling her injured arm.
“I worry that one day, you will not make it out alive and that I’ll be left in this word alone, Hawkeye.”