Five months later, Edward and Alphonse suddenly reappear in Resembool with a new air of accomplishment and maturity and the declaration that they have concluded their alchemy training. They head to the Rockbell house, where they are greeted by Winry, Pinako and a hot meal, but when the ladies ask them to relate tales of their apprenticeship, the boys are struck dumb with shock and horror at the very idea of reliving their half-year ordeal. However, the fruits of their labor are displayed rather plainly when they are asked to help some neighbors repair a storm-damaged shed and, rather than simply transmute new support beams, the boys construct an all-new building in seconds. Ed and Al revel in praise, but still remark that they have a long way to go to catch up with their teacher, who can somehow perform transmutations without the aid of a Circle - merely clapping her hands together.
The scene shifts back to a few months prior - during a sparring match between the Elric brothers and Izumi Curtis. As she fends off attacks from both boys with only one hand while also reading a cookbook, Izumi explains that the circle is the foundation of alchemy and dictates the flow of energy while the runes within the circle allow that energy to be released in specific ways. Additionally, she explains that circular manipulation of energy has applications outside of alchemy - like in combat - and that understanding the circular flow, accepting it and using it to create is what makes a person into an alchemist. The boys soak up this lecture with good nature, but exchange concerned glances when Izumi makes a final point - that life and death are both parts of that circle and bringing someone back from the dead must never be attempted or allowed. Alphonse asks her how it that she can transmute simply by clapping her palms together. He understands that the circle is created by connecting her arms via her hands, but wonders what takes the place of runes. Izumi declares that she herself becomes the runes, but adds that the boys may be able to do the same if they ever arrive at "the truth".
Back in Resembool, the young Elrics wonder what their teacher had meant by "the truth", but put their confusion aside in favor of their new task - using their new knowledge to discover a formula for Human Transmutation. Months pass as the Elrics continue their secret research until, near the end of the following summer, Edward finally perfects a formula and rushes to show Alphonse. Jovially ignorant of the impending danger, the boys prepare all their materials and ingredients as well as the complex Human Transmutation Circle, eagerly awaiting the moment they can see their mother again. After each adding a drop of their own blood to the mix in order to fabricate a soul from their shared DNA, Ed and Al begin, placing their hands upon the array and initiating the transmutation. Almost immediately, however, it becomes clear that something is wrong. As the swirling energy grows dark, Al realizes that his body is being deconstructed piece by piece; Ed moves to help, but discovers that his left leg is also being deconstructed. The transmutation is rebounding on them. Terrified, Alphonse screams for help, but before Ed can reach him, Al vanishes completely with a resounding crack and Edward mysteriously finds himself in a vast, white expanse populated solely by a large stone tablet engraved with an alchemical mural. As Ed looks around, confused and apparently having no memory of what was just transpiring in his family home, he is greeted by a formless white being who introduces itself as the being whom most people call "God" or "the Universe" or the "Truth". The being goes on to say that is also the "all", the "one" and Edward himself as the stone tablet opens like a pair of doors, revealing a shadowy void with several shadow-like ethereal hands protruding from it and a single large eye within. The "Truth" mocks Edward as the hands grab hold of the boy and drag him into the Gate. Truth scoffs at Ed's screams, declaring that this is what the little boy has always wanted as the Gate doors slam shut. Inside, massive amounts of biological, alchemical and historical information are fed directly into Edward's mind as his body is pulled apart molecule by molecule, but as he begins to succumb to the pain, he sees a figure resembling Truth but with his mother's shape reaching out to him. Desperate, Ed reaches toward her, but before he can make contact, he finds himself thrust back out of the Gate and into the white expanse, his body fully intact. As the Truth asks how Edward enjoyed his trip, the boy responds that - even though his head almost burst with all the knowledge being poured into it, he was somehow able to comprehend everything he was shown and had become aware that his Human Transmutation formula hadn't been incorrect so much as it had been incomplete. Remarking excitedly that the missing piece had been just ahead, Edward asks the Truth to let him into the Gate one more time. However, the Truth responds that Ed has already seen as much as he is allowed to for the toll he had paid. As Ed struggles to understand this odd remark, he realizes that his left leg is being deconstructed right before his eyes and is slowly being reconstructed on the Truth's own ethereal body. Grinning eerily, the Truth reminds the young alchemist of the concept of Equivalent Exchange.
Finding himself immediately inside his own house in Resembool, Edward screams in agony as he bleeds out out on the floor, everything below his left knee completely gone. Horrified, he calls out to his brother to find that only Alphonse's clothes remain - the younger Elric's entire body has been taken into the void. Looking toward the center of the circle, hoping for his mother's presence to salve his physical and emotional wounds, Edward sees the being that he and Al had transmuted is now a grotesque inhuman creature with a half-formed body. The being supposed to be his mother stares blankly at him before coughing up blood and falling limp and dead to the floor. Aghast and panicked, Edward hastily bandages his leg and drags himself over to one of the suits of armor lining the wall. Pulling it to the ground, he scrawls a small Transmutation Circle on the inside of it with his own blood, hoping desperately that he will be able to bring his brother back from the Gate. Not caring whether this second toll will be his other leg, his arm or even his heart, Edward begs the Truth to give him back his brother - his only family - and claps his hands together to initiate the transmutation.
Inside the Gate, the Truth discovers Edward's right arm slowly reconstructing itself and remarks that the young boy is simply a fool.
- The young boy who arrives at the Rockbells' to conscript the Elrics into repair work is likely the same boy who had greeted Edward in the fields in Chapter 9: A Home with a Family Waiting.
- While constructing a Human Transmutation formula, Edward sits at the desk in his father's study in the same fashion as Van Hohenheim had, mirroring his earliest memory of his father.
- While initially speaking to Edward, the Truth is seated with its right arm resting on its right knee and then points at Ed with its right hand. However, when we see the Truth reflected in Edward's eye, the being's left arm is rested on its left knee. The image is not reversed properly as it would be in a reflection.