HetaOni: Time Marches On

Chapter 22: Congratulations

Japan bowed in apology, “Truly, everyone, I am sorry for my actions, and the way I responded to the situation.”

“Ve~ It’s alright Japan,” Italy responded happily, pulling Japan into a much needed hug.

“I-I-Italy!!” Japan stuttered out, “I-I told you before, I need my personal space.”

“Like Italy said, It’s alright. I just want to know what happened aru,” China asked.

Italy smiled and stepped back to give Japan the space he asked for, “Japan is Japan again!”

Japan sighed, finally able to breathe now that Italy had let go, “When we broke that last clock I saw short glimpses of the future. One after another I saw each of you hiding some secret, and that these secrets remained led to our downfall, time and time again, I could do nothing to stop them.”

“But, I don’t think I’m hiding anything,” Italy said, “not anymore at least.”

“That is strange,” Japan thought. Thinking clearly, Italy didn’t look the same as he had in the premonition either; the weight of his secret wasn’t on his shoulders.

“Perhaps, it hasn’t happened yet for some of us,” Spain suggested, “This was a vision of the future after all.”

“I suppose that could be true,” Japan agreed, he was surprised he hadn’t realized that possibility sooner.

“In that case, we’ll take your warning to heart Japan. If there is something we realize we haven’t shared we’ll mention it as soon as possible,” France decided.

Japan nodded in agreement with this plan, “So in my absence, what has happened?” Japan asked, noticing, for starters, all the papers scattered across the table.

“We were just sharing notes. We never finished discussing everything we found before we broke that clock, and between Russia and Italy’s group, we’ve found a lot of loose papers to sort through from the annexe,” Canada explained.

“I see, why are we sorting through these papers though?” Japan asked, they looked like ordinary pages from a book.

“They all appear to be pages torn out of various books, that have information about what we are facing. But it’s a little difficult to figure out what they were about since they are all torn apart,” Canada explained, “Russia also found the blueprints to the mansion... but they appear to be a bit outdated, and it’s missing some of the details.”

America shuffled the papers for a moment while Canada was explaining, “We found this page here that seems to be about this monster that we’ve been fighting, but we can’t read it. Actually Japan, I think you might be able to translate it.”

“Let me take a look,” Japan offered, taking the paper. A rough sketch of a creature similar to the one they were seeing was drawn on the page, “Oh...”

“What is it Japan?” England asked.

“If I had known this was what we were facing, I could have been more help earlier,” Japan admitted.

“What do you mean?” Spain asked, “Do you know what this thing is? What does that page say?”

“It is a revenge seeking monster from my homeland, called an ‘Oni’,” Japan began to explain, “I heard many rumours about them in my younger years, but every town had their own version. They were just folktales!”

“Honestly Japan, I have been to your place before, and I’ve seen these ‘spirits’ or whatever you want to call them, if there was any sort of legend about them, they are probably true,” England sighed. Sometimes it was hard being the only one who could see these sort of things.

“W-What? But they were just stories!” Japan responded.

“This place was also supposed to be just a rumor. At this point I’m ready to believe just about anything,” Prussia argued.

America and Germany, who was across the room by the fireplace, shuddered almost in unison.

“So what else does it say about this creature?” China asked.

Japan looked back down at the paper to continue translating, “Well, this particular Oni has four primary weaknesses, beyond simply wounding it to the point where it can no longer move: It’s forehead,”

“I remember that!” Italy interrupted, “when I tried to fight that thing on my own... before I told everyone the truth about this place, I managed to fight it off by targeting the center of it’s forehead!”

“- and it’s also weak against fire and iron,” Japan continued.

“In that case-”

Riiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggg!

Everyone jumped at the sound of the ringing phone. Russia pulled out his phone, “Oh,” He looked up slightly embarrassed. This had been a secret for so long he wasn’t sure how to handle this, now that everyone knew, “This is awkward, how should I -”

Riiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggg!!

“Just answer it so the rest of us can bloody hear it!” England complained.

Russia answered the phone, “Da? ...They know... Just a moment, I’ll put you on speaker.”

Russia set the phone down in the center of the table. “Ladonia?” England asked, “You’re the one Russia’s been calling right?”

“What do you want old man?” Ladonia asked recognizing England’s voice. He didn’t know why he felt the need to interrupt his conversation with Russia.

“Is Sealand alright?!” England was suddenly overcome with the need to ask.

“And what about Seborga?” Italy added, concerned for his little brother’s safety.

“Molossia holding his own out there?” America asked.

“And NicoNico too!” Japan asked. He wondered if he had brought his katana with him.

“Jeez!...” Ladonia complained, “You’re as bad as they are! And for your information, we were doing just fine until that stick in the mud, Austria ran into us and forced us to stay back with the medics. We even found like four of those clocks!”

England and the other’s with micronations took a sigh of relief hearing they were being kept back with medics.

“What do you mean you’ve found clocks?” Canada asked. There shouldn’t be clocks out there, right?

“Why do you think everyone out here is fighting too? Those things are guarding these clocks. There’s one for each of you inside. I’m tracking the last one now,” Ladonia explained.

“So you’ve been fighting them this whole time up until now?!” England exclaimed worried.

“Sheesh! We’re fine!” Ladonia complained, “Anyways I didn’t call to have a lecture. I need to know if you’ve found that book yet. I think it might explain some of the gaps in these stories.”

“Nyet,” Russia apologized, “We’re still looking.”

“Fine. just call me when you find it alright? It’s so boring here!” Ladonia complained before ending the call.

“That boy certainly has a mouth,” England shook his head.

Spain laughed, “You should have seen Romano when he was that age.”

“S-shut up, bastard!” Romano complained.

“In any case we should get back to figuring out these notes,” Canada tried to get them back on topic.

“Shouldn’t we be looking for that book though? I mean, it sounded important,” Italy suggested.

“I’ve already searched down there. I don’t know where else to look,” Russia pouted.

“Well, maybe just some of us then? We could send a group to search for the book, and the rest can stay here and sort through these notes,” Italy suggested.

“Prussia, heads up,” Germany returned to the group carrying a sheathed sword. He tossed it to Prussia.

“You finished it already?” Prussia asked, brandishing the newly forged sword.

“I didn’t have much to work with, and the fireplace barely get’s hot enough to do this, but-” Germany began to explain.

Prussia turned to over, admiring the craftsmanship, even if it was a little crude under the circumstances, “You’ve outdone yourself.” Prussia grinned, glad to have a sword he could fight with again, “Alright Italy, I want a chance to test this sword out, so I’ll go with you.”

“Prussia, you shouldn’t be so reckless. I only just finished that sword, and it’s a bit frail. I don’t want to see it break like the last one,” Germany argued.

“Ah, Come on West, I just want to swing it around a little,” Prussia whined.

“Fine, but then I’m coming with you,” Germany shook his head.

“Then, unless I’m needed here, I would like to go as well,” Japan asked.

“You sure Japan?” Prussia worried, “i thought you needed to rest.”

“I’m alright now. I’d like to help out still if I can,” japan explained.

“Alright then,” Italy smiled, “If no one else is coming we’ll take off.”

Outside Nations

Austria, Switzerland, and S. Korea’s backs’ were pressed together, keeping a tight triangular formation. No less than ten of these monsters surrounded them right outside the front door. The door had been the original priority to secure, but as they notice more of these creatures wandering elsewhere, and the discovery of these clocks, priorities had shifted.

Their little quarrel here had only meant to be a quick fight to keep these things off the only known exit. But as they fought, more and more only continued to appear. With one clock left perhaps it was time to reestablish the priority on securing an exit for those trapped inside.

Switzerland emptied several rounds at one of the attacking creatures. South Korea kept the ones in his section at bay with his sword. Austria would be using a more conventional weapon if he had thought to bring one to the meeting. Instead he used what he had. A violin. There were certain notes, that were undetectable to the human ear, but to animals with sensitive hearing could cause great distress. That was his job, consistently play these notes, while either Switzerland or South Korea took them out.

Only even with Austria’s music stunting their movements, they were still overwhelmed. These things were sturdy, it took a lot to take one down, and by the time they managed to bring one down, five more were ready to fill its place. “Haven’t you taken anymore of them out yet?” Austria asked noting there were more on their way.

“It’s not as easy as it looks Austria!” Switzerland complained, “It’s hard to land a clean shot with these things thrashing like this, and even - Bang! - when I do. One good shot isn’t quite enough to bring it down.”

Austria watched three others join in, it was getting hard enough just to dodge them, “We’re going to have to retreat.”

“No way! We can take them,” South Korea objected.

Austria took another brief look at what they were facing, “Nien. There’s too many of them, and there’s still more coming. We’ll have to find another way.”

Switzerland fired off as many rounds as he could get with the guns he currently had on him. “Alright. Hurry then, this way,” He gestured for them through the momentarily clear path.

The three escaped to safety. Austria’s violin confusing them until they were a safe distance away. Austra panted, catching his breath as they managed to retreat safely. He was not cut out for all this running! His hands, even for all his music playing, were already starting to blister from pressing against the sharp strings of his violin for so long, and without rest.

“Well now we’re out of that mess. But the front door has been completely taken over by these things, “Switzerland commented. What good was having this rescue team if they couldn’t even keep the front door?

Austria took one more deep breath, “Hang on, I’ll make some phone calls.” Austria pulled out his cell phone and dialed Spain’s number.

“Sí? This is Spain,” Spain answered the phone.

“This is Austria. I‘m calling because I have some... troubling news,” Austria warned him.

“Oh? What’s wrong? No one’s hurt right?” Spain asked concerned for a moment.

“No nothing like that,” Austria said with relief. Luckily, they all had managed to do alright out here. “It’s the exit actually. there are too many of those things guarding it and we can’t seem to hold them off. I’m afraid that exit is lost.”

“Oh I see... Actually, we had just about given up on making it out the front door. The key is missing, and we were afraid of something like this happening. You said everyone was alright, right?” Spain checked.

“Well it would have been nice to know we didn’t need to defend the entrance, sooner,” Austria complained, “Yes everyone is fine.”

“Lo siento Austria, we’ve had our hands a bit full,” Spain apologized, “We’re still looking for another exit right now... maybe a key. I’ll call you when we find something.”

“Alright, make sure you do this time,” Austria warned him as he hung up.

“Well?” South Korea asked, “What was that about?”

“I called Spain to inform them, it’d be safer to look for another exit. Apparently they had already decided to look for an exit somewhere else,” Austria sighed.

“Well at least that means we can leave that place alone,” Switzerland commented.

“I better call some of the other groups and try and warn everyone else as well,” Austria redialed a number on his phone.

After a moment a sweet voice picked up on the other line, “Austria?” Hungary asked.

“Yes, I just called to warn you,” Austria informed her, “Switzerland and South Korea are here with me and we are informing everyone to stay away from the front door. I called spain, and they seem to be looking for another way out as it is. There’s simply too much danger surrounding that exit for us to attempt.”

“What? But that’s the only exit we’re certain of!” Hungary argued, “What if there is no other exit? Shouldn’t we be defending the only one we know of with everything we got?”

“Even with everything we’ve got. I’m still not sure how much good it’d do,” Austria answered apologetically.

“fine... I understand,” Hungary hung up the phone with a grimace. She felt so useless! She used to be stronger than all of these boys. Now she couldn’t even help save a few of them, “Even though everyone else is fighting hard. We just sit here and wait... even our bodies end up weakening...”

Search Group

“I think one of us should search the other rooms as well,” Germany suggested, just before they entered the library in the annexe. “The library is big enough it will take a while to search, but if one of us goes to search the rest of the annexe first, we can rule that much out almost right away.”

“Good thinking West,” Prussia agreed, “We’ll search the library then while you do that.”

“Why am I automatically the one?” Germany asked, already accepting the outcome.

“It was your idea,” Japan pointed out.

“Fine I guess so. I’ll be next door if you need anything,” Germany sighed heading into the lever room.

The paths diverged. “We should start looking too,” Japan turned heading into the library. Prussia, and Italy followed close behind.

Prussia stepped idely into the room. there were several rows of bookshelves, and papers stacked haphazardously every which way among the shelves. Honestly, if he had his duster and maybe a broom he’d clean it himself! He grabbed some of the pages off the shelf and stacked them back more evenly.

So this book was supposed to be a key or something to learning more about this place. What would a book like that look like? and Where would something like that be hidden? Prussia stepped on a creaky floorboard. A book hidden under the floorboards? ... He definitely wouldn’t put it past this place. The board was a bit loose. If he just put a little more weight on it it should crack. Prussia distributed his weight to the bowing board and bounced on it.

The board gave with a sudden, Crraaaaacckkkkk!

To Prussia’s surprise he fell. Not half a foot into a hidden floor, but seven feet down into another room!

“Prussia?!” Japan called out hearing the crash.

“Yeah,” Prussia groaned standing up, as dust and debris shook off of him, “I’m alright. I jus-”

“CoNgRAtuLaTiOnS! CoNgRAtuLaTiOnS! CoNgRAtuLaTiOnS!” Prussia was cut off by the eerily familiar sound as he looked down the apparent hallway.

An unfamiliar creature, a fairy, fluttered in his path, continuing the message, “YOU ARE-”

Prussia’s chest ached suddenly, from a source whose location was just beyond his fingertips. “WHO ARE YOU!” He shouted as his heart felt like it was going to burst, and he couldn’t figure out why.

“I’m only messenger. But you haven’t let me finished,” The fairy chimed in a different, unfamiliar voice. It continued to play the message, “Congratulations! You are-”

Prussia blacked out as the tightness in his chest became too much to bear.

“Prussia?! Are you alright?” Japan called down from above. There was no answer. Something wasn’t right. This scenario, the place below, it was all too familiar.

“What’s wrong?” Germany stormed in, “I heard shouting.”

“It’s Prussia!” Italy worried, “He fell down this hole, and now he’s not answering us.”

“We’ll have to go in after him,” Japan decided, already slinking down.

/\

Prussia’s vision faded as he passed out. The message finally becoming clear, as he saw a figure stand before him. “Congratulations, you are on the right path,” A still young Holy Roman Empire greeted him with a smile.

Prussia took a sigh of relief, his heart rate settling, even while his eyes started brimming with tears, “You gave me quite the scare, little brother.”

/\

Japan, Germany, and Italy looked over Prussia’s collapsed body with concern. “I-Is he ok?” Italy asked a bit shaken.

“He seems to be fine,” Japan responded with relief, “He’s just unconscious.”

Germany sighed in relief. He didn’t have real great experiences with finding those he cared about unconscious.

“Excuse me, but you’re all in danger. It’s coming,” The fairy suddenly spoke up worriedly.

“Is that?” Germany started to ask.

“One of England’s fairies,” Japan assured him. Even if he had never seen one with all certainty for himself, he recognized it from pictures and books from England’s home. “but what is it doing here?” He wondered.

“Oh no. You’re too late, it’s already-” The fairy was cut off by a thunderous roar as a monster rounded the corner.

“But what about Prussia?!” Italy exclaimed in a panic.

Japan looked around, his vision of the future suddenly springing to life. This was exactly what he feared would happen. How had he still managed to come here? How could they have avoided this?... More importantly, What were they going to do to fix it now.

“Everyone form a circle around Prussia,” Japan instructed them, “We must defend him at all costs.” This was it, if they all fought together, it should be alright. ... No matter how dangerous that creature looked.

“Are we going to fight it?” Italy asked.

“I’ll lend you some of my strength,” The fairy gave them a strength bonus, giving them the energy to fight as they needed too.

Japan was the first to attack. Lashing out with his katana, aiming for it’s face.

“Don’t forget! it’s weakness is it’s forehead!” Italy reminded him, digging through his bag for peperocina (hot peppers).

Germany readied his whip for an opening slashing at it as Japan backed down.

“diE!” The creature shrieked. When it did Italy through hot peppers at it, aiming for it’s open mouth. The creature choked. staggering backward, as it lashed out mindlessly at everything, it’s gnarled claws raking the air.

Germany took the chance whip it mercilessly using torture techniques. Blood trailed from wounds inflicted to it’s face as Germany moved back to the semi-circle around Prussia.

The creature was back on it’s feet now, and lashing out at the nearest opponent, which happened to be Japan. Japan dodged, but took a claw to the cheek. The cut was deep, but if he hadn’t dodged, he’d be missing that cheek now.

Italy tried to slow it down with his peperocina again, but he missed, and the peppers ended up somewhere behind it. Japan countered the creature’s attack with a slash to it’s belly. Slicing it open.

The creature doubled over, still trying lash out, as Germany whipped the creature in it’s new wound, causing paralyzing agony. Japan then used his katana to slice open the center of the monster’s forehead.

The creature ripped violently away from the blade and staggered back before vanishing from sight.

The group sighed with relief, returning their weapons to their designated spots. “Prussia?” Japan checked on their still unconscious member.

There was no answer, but he sustained no injuries, and was still breathing. They survived another, Japan sighed with relief.

“So why is one of England’s fairies down here?” Italy asked.

“We’ve been trying to get in for a long time now. The curse on this place must finally be weakening for us to be able to show our physical bodies,” the fairy explained.

“If you’re here, then does that mean there is an exit somewhere down here?” Germany spoke cautiously to the fairy. He was uncomfortable around supernatural things. Although after all the fighting he’s done with this “Oni”, a fairy was the least of his fears.

“I don’t think so,” The little creature thought, “I’ve been searching it for a while. I came in through the walls.” The little fairy started to flicker, “oh, but I’m sorry. This is long as I can stay... this place... exhausts my magic.”

The fairy suddenly vanished. “Hey wait! Don’t just suddenly disappear!” Germany scolded it.

“Germany,” Japan called him over, “He’s coming to.”

Prussia groaned holding his head, and then his chest as he slowly opened his eyes, “W-What happened?”

“We should probably get him back to the room where we can safely make sure he hasn’t suffered a concussion,” Japan suggested.

Safe Room

Spain hung up the phone. “Well apparently, the front entrance is becoming overwhelmed by enemies,” Spain informed the group, whom were sifting through papers.

“That shouldn’t come as too much a surprise. Considering what we saw earlier,” England reminded him.

“I know, it just means we need to be getting more serious about finding another exit,” Spain agreed.

“Hey take a look at this!” Canada pulled out a box from under a loose floorboard by the stacked crates of food.

“Let me see that,” England joined him, taking the small box in his hands and turning it over, “It looks identical to the safe box in the kitchen pantry downstairs. What do you think the chances are it’s the same one I gave to Germany to hide?”

“Well? Open it already! See if that key is still there,” Romano grew impatient.

England struggled with the lock, “There’s one problem, I don’t know the combination.”

“What?” America asked, “but then why did you ask Germany to put the key in there??”

“I don’t know, it was a long time ago. I was more concerned about keeping it from that creature than I was about our future selves being able to get it,” England confessed.

“Well now how are we going to open it?” Romano rolled his eyes.

The door to the safe room, suddenly opened, and four nations returned. Japan and Germany mostly supported a mostly conscious Prussia, as Italy got the door. “Can we get a bit of help here?” Germany asked.

Spain and France immediately made their way over to help support their groggy friend. “What the bloody hell happened to you?” England asked looking at their beaten bodies, and Prussia’s barely conscious expression.

“Prussia suffered a minor heart attack and went unconscious for a while. During that time we were attacked,” Japan explained.

Germany helped Spain and France prop Prussia up in one of the beds. He shouldn’t sleep after something like this, but it was a good idea to prop him up somewhere he could rest.

“Really,” Prussia insisted, “I’m fine.”

“Nien! You are not fine. You just passed out suddenly,” Germany argued.

“Then I will be fine after some rest. Alright?” Prussia hated to push him away like this, but he didn’t want west knowing just yet. It could really mess him up. “I’ll talk with Spain and France for a while. Just... find something productive to do.”

Germany left without a word, but it was pretty clear from his expression that he was hurt.

“That was kind of cold. Why did you say that?” France asked.

“I might have sounded cold, but I’m honestly trying to spare his feelings,” Prussia admitted. He sat up in the bed more, to talk, “You see I saw something down there when I passed out.”

“What do you mean. What happened?” Spain asked, “Did it have to do with that voice again?”

“Yeah,” Prussia brushed his hair out of his face, “Only this time I figured it out. That voice I was hearing was a message from someone who ‘disappeared’ a long time ago,” Prussia found it hard to mention him by name, even after all this time. His youngest brother’s sudden disappearance during that war had haunted him to this day.

“Do you think it was-?” France asked Spain trying to decipher Prussia’s vague explanation.

“Who else could it have been? ... but I wonder why here?” Spain agreed.

“I saw him,” Prussia confirmed. “Just a ghost anymore... but this whole time...” Prussia stared at the empty wall as he struggled to figure out if he was sad, or relieved to finally know the truth.

Italy, who had been rather close, as he helped in the kitchen overheard some of the conversation. “I-I’m sorry,” Italy chimed in, “I shouldn’t have been listening. But... I think I’ve seen this person too. I mean, I only caught a glimpse here and there. Once, in the annexe with Germany and Romano, I heard a voice warning me just before I was attacked. And sometimes I just notice this presence following us, for a long time I think,” Italy explained. It was weird, he thought he was the only one who had noticed it before. He never mentioned it because, he thought it might just be the stress of this place and all those worlds he’s been through. But if Prussia had seen it too... “Do you think they’re the same?” Italy asked, “Do you know who it is? Or why they’re here?”

“If you don’t mind,” Prussia looked to his two friends, “I’d like to explain this to Italy alone.” Prussia was surprised his youngest brother hadn’t shown himself to Italy sooner. After all the little Italy had been his first (and only) crush! It wasn’t surprising that Italy hadn’t quite put the pieces together. After all, Italy was old enough at the time to remember Holy Rome’s disappearance, but too young to have understood what was going on. Or the frightening searches that went on during the last few months before the nation was officially “dissipated”.

“That’s alright,” France agreed walking away, “just talk with us about this soon, alright?”

“So you do know then,” Italy smiled and sat on the side of Prussia’s bed, as the other two left.

“Look, there’s no easy way of telling you this,” Prussia stared at the floor, “That ‘ghost’ you’ve been seeing, is the Holy Roman Empire.” Prussia felt his heart lurch as he said the name. This was very hard for him, but he refused to cry in front of Italy.

“Wh-what?!” Italy stammered, his eyes already tearing up, “But he died in that war! H-He can’t be here!”

“Quiet down!” Prussia shushed him, “...I don’t want Germany to here this just yet.” Prussia took a deep breath before explaining, “You were pretty young at the time, so I’m not surprised you don’t remember, but there was a point during the fighting when Holy Rome suddenly vanished from the battlefield. We searched for him for months afterward, but we never found him. At that point the Peace of Westphalia treaties were signed, and we assumed him dead... I can only assume, this was the place he disappeared to.”

Italy was sobbing heavily now, as he brushed away tear after tear. Was it true? Was it really Holy Rome that he saw? He recalled the sound of the voice and replayed it in his head. It was impossible to try and match it to such a distant memory, but he felt it was the same... in his heart. Which made him cry harder.

“Italy! Are you alright?” Germany asked making his way over, after noticing Italy’s tears.

“It’s nothing...” Italy forced a grin, as he wiped away the tears. He would recite the words they repeated like a mantra. Something to keep their hopes high, “I’m just happy we’ve all made it this far! It seems like we’re really going to make it out this time!”

Japan eyed him suspiciously, but he wasn’t certain this was a lie, and he also didn’t remember seeing this in his premonition, so for the moment he left it alone.

“Veneciano!” Romano called out to him, “We’re forming a party to head back down and search for that book. Don’t make me go alone with these guys.”

Italy smiled a bit more genuinely, “Ok, I’ll go with you Romano. Who else is coming?”

“It’s been a while since I’ve left this room,” France joked, “I could use a stretch.”

“I will come too,” Japan offered, “I would like to see this through.”

Annexe

The group made their way down to the annexe and once again, began to search for this infamous book. After a couple minutes Italy spoke up, “I’m going to take a look in the study. I think I remember seeing some books stacked up in there,” Italy recalled.

“Just be careful,” Japan cautioned him. They were right outside, and this area had been quiet lately. It should be fine for him to head into the next room over as long as they were standing close by.

Italy entered the cramped study conjoined with the annexe’s library. Directly in front of him, is a desk with a few loose papers scattered across it, then to his left was an old filing cabinet that was starting to collect dust... Hey that was new! It was the first time he had seen this place start to collect dust. Did that mean time was almost normal again?

He moved onto the bookshelf that was next to the cabinet. Maybe one of these books? Italy scanned the titles, pulling out the occasional book that wasn’t clearly marked. Halfway through the second shelf he spotted a peculiar title, “The Mansion in the East”.

“Ah! I think this is it!” Italy pulled the book off the shelf gleaming.

The lights began to flicker.

Italy froze with a sense of foreboding. He’d seen this before, and in this room. The lights were going to go out and then... and then -

A hauntingly familiar voice called out from the air around him, “Italy.”

“Who’s there?!” Italy asked trembling and frightened by the sound. He spun around but could not pinpoint where the voice had come from.

The voice became more distinct and the flickering stopped, “Italy, Don’t be afraid.”

Italy took a few deep breaths, his heart rate settling. “O-Ok...” He recognized the voice as the same as the one he’d heard earlier. If what Prussia said was true, then that meant... it was Holy Rome. ... but even if that wasn’t the case, Italy assured himself, he still felt safe with this voice.

A flash of light surrounded the room. As it faded it left an adult, Holy Roman Empire in it’s wake. The ghost sighed with relief, “Good, I didn’t want to scare you like last time.” Holy Rome had been scared out of his mind the last time he tried to contact Italy. He’d been watching them for a long time, but finally, in this world, he had enough strength to try and contact him face to face. Only the first time he tried to do so he managed to somehow give Italy a heart attack! Of course that thing showing up at the same time didn’t help. He was truly grateful to England for finding his clues, and saving him.

“Y-You’re all grown up,” Italy commented, choking back tears. He certainly didn’t expect to see him like this. A full apparition. It was almost as if he was really here.

Holy Rome smiled, “Thats because even here your wish can reach me.”

The memory of the dream he spent with Holy Rome suddenly flooded back. Tears pooled over, as Italy clenched his chest. He thought it was just his imagination, and then, when he was finally awake enough to realize it was more than just in his head... he had forgotten. How could he do that? Something so important...

Italy reached out to hug Holy Rome, but his arms met only air. Holy Rome reappeared beside Italy apologetically, “I’m sorry Italy. But this isn’t like in a dream,” Holy Rome stretched out his hands, which were semi-transparent, “In this world I no longer have a body to touch with.”

Italy wiped away the tears, really trying to stop crying, “I’m sorry. It’s just... I never thought I’d really see you again.”

Holy Rome got down to eye level with Italy, “I had a promise keep.”

Italy looked up and smiled proudly displaying his strength in keeping back future tears. “You promised you’d come back to me, a-and I promised that I’d wait for you,” He recited.

Holy Rome flashed a quick grin, happy that he remembered, “I’m sorry it took me so long to keep that promise.”

“What happened to you,” Italy asked, trying to figure it all out.

“What story do they tell?” Holy Rome asked, avoiding the question.

“They say that one day, after the fighting, you just disappeared. They looked everywhere, but...” Italy swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He would not cry again. Not yet at least. “A-Are you one who first came here?”

“It’s a bit of a long story,” Holy Rome tried to avoid it, “And I don’t have a lot of time for talking like this.”

“Oh...” Italy answered a bit disappointed.

Holy Rome caved, “So... I guess I’ll have to make it short.” He took a deep breath of air he didn’t need before starting, “It was during that war. I had been on the retreat for a while, and it seemed like it would never end. It was dark, and it was raining when I stumbled upon this place.”

Holy Rome took a deep sigh as he continued, “I just thought I could take shelter for the night. I was pretty beat up from all the fighting... And my country was beginning to collapse, so I was pretty sick as well. None of the rooms were locked then. So I found a bed on the second floor, and that’s where I slept for the night... Only, during the night, one of those things attacked me.I was pretty weak, but I knew how to fight, and somehow managed to fight it off. At that point I tried to run out of the house. But of course the door was locked. I managed to evade it for a while. Hiding, looking for some other way out. I just kept telling myself that... that I had a promise to keep.”

Holy Rome blushed remembering how he spent sleepless hours, curled under tables, and in closets, reminding himself that he just had to keep going, so that he could get back to Italy, “It was that memory that helped me hold on as long as I did. Of course, eventually, that thing caught up with me, and I died in this room. But even after that... I’m still trapped here. I could never return to you to keep that promise, because the curse keeping this place frozen in time, also keeps me here.”

Italy was crying, silently until now. Because he didn’t want Holy Rome to stop, but now the loud sobbing began. It was too much. He went through all of that when he was still just a kid. And he was alone. Italy at least had friends who he could lean on for support.

Holy Rome suddenly noticed the crying, and tried to comfort him, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. Don’t cry. It’s ok. It’s ok because. Because now I can help you escape.” He would never admit it, but he was honestly jealous of Italy. When he wound up here, he was alone and scared, and he only had one chance... and that nightmare didn’t end when he died. It continued, until the day Italy walked in through that front door. Now it was like he were walking through a dream. He just hoped he could give Italy’s dream a happy ending.

The door began to creak open, and without warning Holy rome vanished, leaving Italy a sobbing mess, as Romano, Japan, and France entered the room. The three of them had decided to check of Italy since he had been in there for quite a long time.

“What happened to you?” Romano asked shocked by the tears streaming down Italy’s face.

Italy shook his head as he violently tried to rub away the tears, “It’s nothing. I-I I just remembered something sad is all.” He picked the book back off the bookshelf, “But check it out! I found the book we’ve been looking for,” Italy forced a smile.
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