The Elrics begin preparing for the state alchemy examination while lodging with Shou Tucker, known as the "Sewing-Life Alchemist," who is credited for creating intelligent chimeras. The brothers become fast friends with his young daughter Nina and her dog Alexander. Hughes and his wife Gracia throw a birthday party for Ed, interrupting a chance to cram. During the party, Gracia goes into labor and they witness the birth of Elicia. Ed discovers at this time that he can perform alchemy without a transmutation circle. After the written portion of the test, Mustang forces Al to drop out due to his absence of a body, and the suspicions that this fact would raise were it to be discovered by his higher-ups. Ed successfully passes the interview and passes the practical portion when he saves the entire prospective state alchemist group with his quick thinking, courage, and ability to transmute without the use of a circle.