Long ago, the blood of a simple slave was used in an experiment which created a strange, shapeless being. In exchange for the gift of existence, the being gave the slave a name – and cursed him with immortality.
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|Suspected in the disappearance of General Raven despite a lack of evidence, Olivier Armstrong arrives in Central City to meet with Führer King Bradley. She runs into Colonel Mustang and they exchange pleasantries as Armstrong hints that she will not be able to return to Fort Briggs soon. Taking his leave of her, Roy jokes casually that he will send her flowers in the near future. Entering Bradley's office, Armstrong deduces immediately that the Führer will not be fooled by a simple denial of her actions and instead shifts gears to suggest that she had killed Raven because she thought him unfit to take part in the Führer's plan. She claims that Raven had blabbed too readily about the "immortal soldiers", Amestris's origin as well as Bradley's own true nature without coercion and remarks that she came willingly to Central in order to take Raven's place in the plan. Amused by her answer, Bradley grants her a place in Central Command in exchange for complete control of Fort Briggs and Olivier asserts that her soldiers are strong and will be a valuable asset. Up north at Briggs, however, 2nd Lt. Henschel and Captain Buccaneer remark among themselves that their Ice Queen is bravely infiltrating the enemy and that Central's cronies have underestimated Briggs' monolithic force even in the absence of their true commander.
Back in the capital, Roy encounters Lt. Hawkeye in the cafeteria and the two take time to catch up, casually shooting the breeze. However, once Riza taps her cup meaningfully, the Colonel takes notice and responds in kind with his pen as the tone - but not the content - of their conversation shifts to the more serious. As Hawkeye casually gossips with the Colonel about the past antics of some of their comrades, Roy surreptitiously jots down notes from their exchange and later heads to the lavatory to decipher her code in private, receiving his faithful adjutant's shocking message: SELIM BRADLEY IS HOMUNCULUS.
Beneath Central City, Father sleeps and his thoughts wander to four centuries ago - the final years of Xerxes. In a cellar stocked with books and flasks, a young man resembling Edward Elric is awakened from his nap by a nearby voice, but when he looks about, he sees no one else. But it soon becomes clear that the voice speaking to him is coming from a nearby glass flask with a shadowy sphere floating inside. Surprised that the young man is not fazed by his appearance, the shadowy creature asks him his name, but the boy replies that he is called merely Twenty-three, as he is a slave. The creature expresses his encyclopedic understanding of the term "slave", but when Twenty-three reveals that he lacks the intelligence to speak on the same level, the creature wonders how it could have been born from such a stupid person and explains that it was born from the boy's blood, which was drawn a few days prior for one of his master's alchemical experiments. In gratitude for having been granted life, the creature gives his idiot "parent" a more suitable name: Van Hohenheim. The creature tries to teach Van how to spell it, but the slave responds that he has no need to learn reading or writing in his current position. The creature chastises Van for this foolishness, remarking that such a mindset will keep him bound in thrall, unable to attain freedom or rights as a person. The creature offers to give Van the knowledge to rise above his current place, to which the wary slave retorts that he wishes to know what to call his new benefactor. The creature responds that he can be referred to simply as "Homunculus."
Years pass and Van learns to read, write and even perform alchemy, at which time he becomes his master's alchemy apprentice. Van grows into manhood and thanks Homunculus for his gift of knowledge, remarking that even getting married and starting a proper family is within his grasp now that he has left slavery behind. Homunculus scoffs at the human need to group together and breed, but Van explains that it is the height of human happiness. With Homunculus still disdainful, Van asks the creature what would make it happy, to which the shadow responds that merely escaping his flask without dying would be sufficient.
Soon afterward, Homunculus is summoned before the aging King of Xerxes, who asks the alchemical anomaly whether immortality is possible. Homunculus, grinning and opening an eye from the darkness, explains how to create a Philosopher's Stone and the King acts on it immediately, having a trench dug around the whole nation and secretly ordering the slaughter of whole towns at strategic points on the circle. As time passes and the circle is constructed, the King impatiently awaits his immortality in front of a large, jewel-encrusted mural depicting the Five-Point circle in his throne room. After several years, the circle is completed and the ritual to immortalize the dying monarch is set into motion. Hohenheim and Homunculus watch, but Van's amazement turns to horror as the King and his royal alchemists begin dying one by one. Seeing that the little one in the flask is greatly amused by this outcome, Van demands furiously to know what Homunculus has done, to which the creature responds gleefully that he has skewed the circle so that Van and himself would stand at the true center. The Gate opens and engulfs the entire capital city as each and every citizen of Xerxes has his soul torn out and condensed in the center. Van and the Homunculus are broken down within the Gate as silence falls across the ancient kingdom. Hohenheim awakes in the morning to find the capital a ghost town, with soulless bodies lining the streets as he wanders, calling desperately for his friends. Hearing a voice behind him, Van turns to see his own body staring back at him, clothed in the King's royal robes, and Homunculus explains that he had created a new vessel for himself by using Hohenheim's blood. In exchange for the blood that gave him life, he declares that he has repaid his "father" with three gifts: a name, a wealth of knowledge and now a body that will live forever. Listening carefully, Van is able to hear the souls of countless Xerxesians screaming within his body, to which Homunculus comments that he split the population between them.
In present day 1914, Hohenheim awakes from his nightmare on a train, where is greeted by his old acquaintances, Izumi and Sig Curtis. Disembarking, they chat about Ed and Al, but when Izumi begins one of her coughing fits, Hohenheim becomes concerned and, waving off Izumi's assertion that she is fine, insists that Sig fetch a car. But once her husband leaves, Van comments that Izumi has seen the Gate and asks her what the Truth took from her. When she explains the situation with the failed resurrection of her child, Hohenheim swiftly plunges his hand forcefully into her abdomen, drawing blood. Sig returns and furiously bats Hohenheim away, but Izumi assures him that she not only feels much better than before, but also hasn't even a wound from having just been stabbed. Van remarks that he was unable to bring back the organs that were taken as toll, but used his skills to reroute Izumi's remaining internal systems so as to improve her blood flow and goes on to say that it is not yet time for Izumi to die. Shaken by his incredible powers, Izumi requests Hohenheim's true identity, to which he responds that he is a Philosopher's Stone in the form of a human being.
Up in the North Area, Edward explains to Miles and his men the properties of the Philosopher's Stone and remarks that Kimblee is in possession of one. Miles comments that he would have expected the legendary catalyst to be larger than a pebble, but understanding just how many people would need to be sacrificed, Edward expresses the hope that he never sees a larger one.
- This episode is adapted from content in Chapter 74: The Dwarf in the Flask, Chapter 75: The Last Days of Xerxes and Chapter 76: Shape of a Person, Shape of a Stone.
- The Transmutation Circle that appears in the background of this episode's title card is the Philosopher's Stone array seen in the ruins of Xerxes.
- The Japanese text for this episode's title is written as "The Little One in the Flask", but read as "Homunculus". Subsequently, the American broadcast listed this episode with both interpretations as "Homunculus (The Dwarf in the Flask)" so as not to lose either meaning.
- Edward's explanation of how Kimblee's alchemy works is omitted from the episode. This was possibly done to avoid mention of a hexagram which forms when Kimblee puts his palms (tattooed with triangles) together, because hexagrams can be regarded as a reference to Judaism.
- Although a mistransliteration in the original manga chapter misspells Pride's human name as "Selim Bladley", the error is corrected in this episode.
- Van Hohenheim's appearance as a young man seems a tad older and better-fed than his appearance in the corresponding manga chapter.
- In the manga, there is nothing to suggest that the mural in the King of Xerxes' throne room ever held jewels, however, it is depicted with large sapphires, emeralds and rubies in this episode as well as during the first opening theme.
- Hohenheim's comment to Izumi that he is a monster is omitted from this episode, presumably for time or dramatic effect.
- Ed's discussion with Miles about the size and shapes of Philosopher Stones, along with scenes of Van Hohenheim discussing matters with Izumi and Sig at a dinner table, was cut from the American broadcast due to time restraints.
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