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Letter #5

You want to know why we follow this guy, Cath? Mustang, I mean. Well, I'll tell you. A lot of people don't understand – I'm thinking of General Olivier Armstrong, for one – but I bet even she would get it, if she just hung around and watched for a while.

Just picture this. We get to a southern city that's still pretty much in ruins, even if people have started going back and trying to rebuild. Most of the buildings are either melted into pools of rock, or they're all charred. Yep – it's a city that the Flame himself burned.

So we walk into this makeshift marketplace they've got going in a part of the city with some buildings that are almost intact. And the very first time we walk through it, the day we get there, an Ishvallan man drags a kid in his late teens right in front of Mustang and starts yelling at him. And the kid's face...well, let's just say he'd been burned pretty badly, all down his left side. He must have been six or seven when it happened, the poor kid. The scars were awful, and he couldn't use his left hand. Some of us have been learning Ishvallan, but we sure don't know the vocabulary the father was using. It was pretty obvious what he was yelling, though.

And what does Mustang do? He goes to his knees, right there in the market, and bows his hands and his head to the ground. He doesn't deny anything, he doesn't defend himself, he just says in Ishvallan, “You are right. I am the man who has done these things.”

I think the kid's father didn't really expect that. He kind of stopped for a minute. Then Hawkeye went to one knee beside Mustang and put her gun on the ground. And she said, “And I am the eye of the hawk.” I'm pretty sure, anyway. I don't know the word for hawk, but I know what she was famous for in the war.

By this time, one of the priests who are travelling with us came up to act as an interpreter. And we were sure getting a crowd. (You know, Cath, there were more survivors of the massacres than we ever thought. That's been a big surprise since we got here.) Anyway, Mustang sat back on his heels and looked at the kid – not at the dad. He said something like, “I will never deserve your forgiveness. But I am deeply sorry, for whatever that's worth.”

The kid asked him, “Why did you come here?” And the boss said, “I can't make up for what I did, but I can try to atone for it by helping the people I hurt.” And the father yelled, “I should kill you right now!”

You can just imagine how some of our own people were reacting to all this. I had known all along where we were headed, because I knew where the Flame had been stationed back then. And Breda had suspected it. But Falman and Fuery were in the dark till we were about halfway through the trip. Falman wanted us to try to get Mustang to turn back, but all I could think was that he knew what he was doing, and he knew what he was going to run into down here. So I told them what Hawkeye would have told them if they'd asked her: “If he can't face this, he won't accomplish anything in Ishval.”

But by now, with the guy yelling that he should try to kill Mustang, Falman was trying to yank out his gun, and some of our guards were already taking aim, and I was glaring at them to put their guns down. I think he and Fuery both thought I was nuts, but Breda agreed with me, so we got everyone calmed down, and we all waited.

So anyway, when the dad yells that he should kill Mustang, the Colonel actually agreed with him. He said, “You'd have the right to do that, if you wanted. And I would have some peace from the guilt I feel, which would be good for me. But you know as well as I do what would happen after I was dead. I don't think you want to bring that upon Ishval or yourselves again, do you? You probably won't be able to get your justice, and I won't be able to get relief from the guilt I live with every day of my life. But maybe instead, we can both set those griefs aside, and rebuild the country, and turn our own sorrow into something that will help others.” He talked to the kid again, and said, “That is why I came here.”

And the kid looks at him for a really long time. I think he can't see out of his left eye, but he can sure see out of the other one. And then he turns to his dad and says, “I think he's right, papa. And I don't think I hate him so much after all.”

And the dad just can't say anything. He puts his arm around the kid, and just stares while Mustang and Hawkeye get up, and the boss nods to them real solemn-like, and we keep walking to the tents we're going to stay in. And then the crew cooks dinner.

Can you believe that?

He wasn't quite as cool as you might think, though. I could see Mustang's face running with sweat by the time we got to the tents. I mean, of course it's hot, and we all sweat, but this was different.

And later on, after supper when the sun was just starting to go down, I saw Mustang and Hawkeye go for a long walk on the edge of the ruins. They walked and talked for a long, long time. And when they got back to camp, they were back to normal, almost light-hearted again, the way they'd been back north in our main headquarters. They'd gotten quieter and quieter, the farther south they came, but it was like they felt they had passed a big test.

I think I might just have won a bet, but I'm not going to jinx anything by telling you what it is yet. But I've got this hunch.

See why we follow him, Cath? I wish General Armstrong could have seen it. She might understand the rest of us a whole lot better if she had.

Anyway, I'm sending this with the courier that's heading north, so I'd better finish off. I'll tell you more later.

Love as always,

(Letter 6)


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May 2012

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