HetaOni: Time Marches On

Chapter 23: Time Limit

“Now that we have the book, let’s head back the others. Then we can see what all this fuss was over,” France suggested.

“Actually. I was thinking we could take a look down at that room Prussia crashed into,” Japan requested.

“A new room?!” Romano asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about it?!”

“Yes, that hole in the floor over there,” Japan gestured, “led into a new area. It may somehow lead to a way out, so I would like to take a look at it if we can.”

“I think that sounds fine... Italy? You’ve been a bit quiet. Are you feeling alright?” France asked picking up on Italy’s sullen expression.

Italy quickly looked up and flashed a grin, “I’m fine! I-I think I’d like to see this new place too.” He needed to snap out of it. His friends needed him to think clearly right now. One wrong step and all their hard work would be for nothing. And they had made it so far this time! Further than they had ever come before.

“Then let’s go take a quick look and get back to the others,” Japan headed over to the hole in the floor. He kept a close eye on Italy. He hadn’t noticed it until France had said something, but he was pretty certain now that there was something weighing on Italy’s chest that he didn’t want them to know. This would undoubtedly lead to catastrophe if he didn’t intervene in time.

The group, one by one lowered themselves into the short hallway. Japan moved some of the fallen debris away from the corner. Discovering, amongst the torn wallpaper, a door. Japan tried the door knob, “Ah, it appears to be locked.”

“Guess that leaves us only one way. It does kind of bother me though, that we’ve found so many locks, and very few keys,” France started walking down the hallway.

The hallway led into a small room, just a bit larger than the clock room. The walls and floor were almost completely bare. No furniture, no thing of any sort. The only thing that stood out, was a small drawer on the same wall as the hallway they just came through.

France was the first to notice the peculiar drawer in the barren room, “A single drawer in an empty room? You think it might have that key?" France opened the drawer before anyone could answer.

The group stumbled back in shock. Inside the drawer lay a crumpled black cloak, packed tightly in the small drawer it had been stuffed in. Beneath it, the tiny bones of a young child.

Unable to hold himself back any longer, Italy simply burst into tears, crumbling to the floor. He’d been trying to hold back too many tears. He couldn’t control them now.

“These are-” France held up the cloak from the cramped drawer.

“Veneziano!” Romano joined his brother’s side trying to comfort him as he sobbed uncontrollably.

A voice echoed distantly from the air around them, “Plea..se... Take... my body... wi..th... yo..u...”

Outside

The sun sat fixated above the horizon, just before sunset. No longer daytime, not yet sunset. Time was still moving slowly here, but it was no longer frozen. The sun slowly made it’s decent as the small group wandered closer to the gates. The land had seemed to stretch, making the gates much further away from the front of the mansion than they had originally seemed.

Kugelmugel scrawled furiously across a blank canvas as he attempted to capture the sun beginning to set. It was as good as anything they could be doing. Quite frankly, Ladonia had labeled the “medic group” the “lazy group”. All they had done is head near the entrance and wait for these supposed reinforcements.

Ladonia stared impatiently at his laptop as he waited for the results to finish loading. He might have finally narrowed down that last clock. He was just waiting for the program to finish updating. Ladonia fidgeted anxiously. Wasn’t there something better they could be doing than just loitering around here? Seriously. How many people were coming that they had to wait here and meet them? .... so lame.

“I can see them! There they are!” Sealand shouted excitedly, as a crowd of nations suddenly appeared in the distance.

“How many are there?” Hutt River asked trying to count them out as the numbers seemed to double.

“That’s Monaco,” Seborga Pointed out.

“And over there that’s Australia,” Niconico spotted off to the side.

Wy looked at them with a rather serious, frightened expression, “If he asks... I was never here.”

The group grew closer revealing larger numbers than they had expected, “It’s..” Ladonia tried to pick out just one of them, as his eyes fell upon so many.

“The entire world...” Hong Kong finished for him. The others had finally gotten word of what happened, and had managed to make it. The entire world had arrived to save the twelve trapped inside.

Girl's Group

Hungary whacked another creature in the head with her frying pan, her hands ringing with the vibrations that echoed as it made contact. The creature finally vanished, leaving the girls a moment to breathe. The vampiric bastard who showed up earlier had since left to track down the nordics.

Now they were left to single handedly guard the entrance to the annexe. There was no way of knowing if they could even get to it, if it was somehow sealed from those inside, or if they were exploring a different exit. They weren’t well informed of how things were developing inside. The only thing they were certain of was, as they continued to guard the exit, more and more of these things kept showing up.

Three more of these creatures appeared from each direction, surrounding them. “Oh please. I need to rest. Can’t they just go away?” Liechtenstein sobbed as she reloaded her gun. They hadn’t rest more than a moment since they’d gotten here. They were all starting to grow weary.

“I’m calling reinforcements in now. Hopefully they’ll get here soon,” Hungary apologized as she waited for the phone to pick up.

Safe Room

The door to the safe room creaked open as the group returned from their search for the book. Japan held the book high in the air as they entered, to show they were victorious, which was an interesting sight since their faces didn’t resemble the same joy.

Italy pulled himself together after they heard that voice in the room under the annexe. It was clearly forced, but France explained regardless. The tiny corpse they had found stuffed in that compartment, had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire.

Italy had insisted on carrying the bones himself, which he now kept tucked away. He had also asked them not to say anything to the others, remembering his promise to Prussia. Because of how upset he was, no one wanted to argue. Including Japan.

Japan was certainly very wary of the situation, but this still wasn’t the moment of his premonition. He would give Italy until at least that time. He owed them that, after all the trouble he had caused them.

“Dude! Seriously? You found it?” America asked welcoming them back.

The group gathered in a circle around the tables where they had been gathering information. “Good. Now maybe we can make some progress with this place,” Canada sighe with relief.

“Where did you find it?” Russia asked, a bit curious since he thought he had searched everywhere down there.

Italy forced a smile, looking up at the group, even though his thoughts were elsewhere, “I-It was in the study next door...”

Spain caught the hitch in Italy’s voice when everyone else was preoccupied with the discovery of the book, “Hmm? Did something else happen down there?... You seem a bit, shaken.”

Italy stared at his feet, inching away from them as he felt the weight of the secret, and what had happened baring down on him, “No... Nothing happened,” He shook his head, taking a step back from the group, “I’m just a bit-”

“I’m sorry Italy,” Japan interrupted. He then spoke to the group as a whole, “but this is what I saw in my premonition. If I don’t say something now, we might face a cruel outcome.”

Italy suddenly looked frightened. How? How could keeping this lead to a disaster? He shook his head, it was better he didn’t know. Better to keep everyone safe. “W-what? but this isn’t-”

Japan shook his head, “You need to tell them what we found...and what you saw in that room.”

Italy’s eyes widened, Japan knew about that room? But how? He thought his facade had been believable. He’d had a long time to practice those now... Perhaps these short days had made him forget some of those harsh years of lies. “I-I,” Italy sighed, and stared at Prussia for a moment. Prussia looked nervously to Germany and then avoided eye contact entirely.

“I’m sorry Prussia,” Italy apologized.

Prussia avoided looking at anyone, particularly Germany, “Yeah, well it can’t be helped I guess.”

Italy fidgeted nervously as he tried to explain, “It started when Prussia told me he had seen Holy Rome’s ghost.”

Germany stiffened.

“A-And then later, when I found this book, I-I saw him myself. A-And I heard how he had died here,” Italy tried not to start sobbing all over again.

He pulled out the bones wrapped in Holy Rome’s cloak, and began furiously wiping away tears. This wasn’t the time. He’d had this cry a long time ago. He’d known for a few centuries now that Holy Rome was dead. He knew that. So why was it still so sad? Why did it hurt so much?

Prussia came in closer and clutched the tattered fabric as he tried not to cry. Germany, had not made an expression the entire time, now stood up and started to walk away.

Germany couldn’t look. He couldn’t think about it. He hated it. This was why he hated supernatural things! They reminded him too much of his brother. He couldn’t even properly respond to this. What should he do? Cry, like his brother? It certainly hurt enough, but he felt no tears waiting for him. He wanted to punch something. To scream, to yell. How was it, that everyone had now seen his brother, except him? How was that fair? ... When they used to be so close...

It wasn’t right to blame them. He knew that. That’s why he needed to get out of that room...

The door slammed as Germany stormed out.

Italy looked up frightened as he heard the door slam. “Germany? Oh no, he shouldn’t go out alone,” Italy tried to follow him. He was torn up emotionally, and he was forgetting himself. He needed to stay focus so things like this didn’t happen.

France stopped him, “He’s merely blowing off steam. He’ll be back soon.”

Italy shook his head. No. This was important, no one should go anywhere alone, “Get out of my way. I have to go get Germany...” Italy trailed off as more tears spilled over for reasons he couldn’t explain to himself.

Prussia composed himself, “Listen, Italy. My brother will be fine. He’s strong. He probably needs some time alone to deal with this. Which is the reason I didn’t want him to know in the first place. But he won’t go far, and I’m certain he’ll be back soon.”


Germany

Germany paced the bedroom outside of their fort. It was quieter out here. and a better place to think. Only he didn’t really want to think. Or maybe he couldn’t. His head was racing, all about things he didn’t want to think about. Things he thought he had left in the past.

There was a creak as the door to the room opened. “Not now. Just give me some space,” Germany groaned expecting it to be one of the others trying to bring him back in.

...Only... Then he realized he was facing the door back to the safe room, and the sound had come from behind him.

He turned around in time to hear a warning screech of, "YoU...WiLL...nOT...ESc...aPe..."

Germany ducked as he avoided the jagged claws of the monstrous creature. He glanced back at the iron door to safety. Shit. If he retreated now, it would know where they were hiding. He was going to have to fight it.

Safe Room

Russia pulled out his cell and dialed the number for Ladonia.

“What are you doing?” England asked.

“He did say to call him when we found the book. I thought we should figure this out as quickly as possible, da?” Russia explained.

“Just...” England sighed; he hated that the micronations were being involved in this, “make sure you put him on speaker phone.”

Russia set the phone in the center of the table, next to the, thus far unopen, book. “Tell me you’ve got something good,” Ladonia got straight to the point.

“Da, we found that book,” Russia grinned.

Ladonia perked up, suddenly very curious, “Well come on! What does it say??”

Canada opened the book and started reading through it’s contents. He summarized as he read, “It seems to be almost like a journal, or some sort of record of someone’s experience here.”

“That sounds about right... But what else does it say?!” Ladonia asked impatiently.

“Sorry, I’ll try and read faster,” Canada read over it’s details more briefly, “Well, most of it seems to be about things we already knew... such as what the ‘Oni’ is, and the general layout of this place... Oh, but here’s something,” Canda paused for a moment to read this section more in depth, “Those tunnels we found should supposedly lead to another building next to the mansion... I mean there’s no guarantee that won’t be locked either, but it sounds like another exit.”

“The tunnels then?” America asked, “Don’t we still need the key for that?"

“Yes, but...” Canada quickly hurried over to the area with the loose floorboards, where they had discovered that safety deposit box, “We found this awhile ago. The key should be in here, if we can get it open.”

“What? What are you trying to open?” Ladonia asked, frustrated at not being able to see inside.

“A safe box we found earlier,” England explained, “In one of the pasts in which we’ve been here, Germany hid the key inside it for our future selves to discover. Only problem is, now we can’t remember the passcode.”

“Actually,” China pulled out the color code and numbers from the piano, “We might have a clue. There were a lot of ‘extra’ numbers left on the piano, maybe the code is somehow derived from them? If the code was remembered, even subconsciously, then perhaps these numbers aren’t just meaningless.”

“Send me the numbers, I can run them through an analysis and see if I can narrow down a possible code,” Ladonia suggested.

“You can do that?” Spain asked.

“Of course! What do you take me for? You think I can’t even do something simple like crack a little code?!” Ladonia argued, feeling defensive over his strengths. He was known for his adept knowledge of the computer, and computer programming, It was beyond frustrating to hear someone hadn’t acknowledged at least that.

“That isn’t what I-” Spain tried to explain, that he was simply surprised, not doubting, but decided to drop it, “Anyway, the numbers were ‘235147283695’, and the safe needs four numbers.”

There was a moment of silence as Ladonia typed away on his keyboard, “...Well with that, I can determine there are no more than 144, 4-number combinations.”

“..That’s still an awful lot...” Spain commented, failing to see how this narrowed anything down.

“Well I’m not done yet,” Ladonia complained, “You said they were left over? From another code I assume? What numbers have you already used?”

Canada returned to reading over the book so that he’d be able to explain discuss it with everyone, when they inevitably returned to it.

“Yes, it was for another of these safes, the combination was, 5294,” England explained, “but something else, there were more clues leading to us deciphering that code: the piano it was found on, the correct numbers had keys corresponding with different notes we heard, and to completely decipher it we were given a color code to follow of, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue... But the colors on the piano were more hazardous. coinciding with each number they were laid out, green, red, blue, red, blue, yellow, red, blue, green, yellow, green, yellow.”

“...” Ladonia thought through the process.

“Ladonia?” France asked, as they waited for a response.

“...Two possible solutions,” Ladonia stated confidently.

“W-What? But just a moment ago you said 144!” Italy reminded him with shock.

“Yeah? and now there are only two. That’s how ‘narrowing it down’ works,” Ladonia explained gruffly, “It’s simple, following those leads I can first narrow it down to only 27 combinations, and from there, we can eliminate all but two if we ignore duplicates, which we can do because four-digit code safes from this era were designed not to have repeating numbers.”

“That’s incredible...” China commented.

“So what is it then?” England asked, somewhat impatiently.

“7138, or 6138, take your pick,” Ladonia stated satisfied.

“Just give one of them a try,” Prussia suggested, joining in as he curiously awaited the opening of the safe.

Spain now had control of the box, and typed in the first code, 7138. There was a clicking sound as the safe unlocked. “Ah, seriously?”

Everyone crowded in excitedly as they got the first material piece of an exit, they’d had in a while. “Good job Ladonia, now we might finally be getting somewhere,” England thanked Ladonia.

Spain pulled the silver key out of the box and passed it around for the rest of the group to look at.

“Ha! yeah of course,” Ladonia boasted, “These things are my specialty. I can crack any code! You know safes like these were often designed with their original codes engraved into the bottom? Their owners had to take them in, and pay a fine in order to get the numbers changed!-” Ladonia rambled on.

Curiously, Spain lifted up the box while he listened to the story. From the look on his face England could already tell, “You’re joking right?”

Spain turned the small box around so the others could see the bottom as well, the numbers “7138” were engraved in a small corner.

“Seriously?! We just had to look at the bottom of the box this whole time?! That’s so uncool man!” America complained.

Canada suddenly interrupted, having been, until this point, been engrossed in another section of the book. “S-Sorry to interrupt! It’s just, I found something rather serious in this book...”

The attention returned to the book once more, and Spain pocketed the key.

“What is it?” Russia asked.

“There’s a note here about the ‘Oni’ and it’s relation to the clocks,” Canada elaborated, “Apparently, in addition to the clocks we’ve broken to recover our memories of the past, there are also clocks, somewhere, that are tying us to this place... and if we can’t break them, we won’t be able to escape.”

“What? Are you for real?” America worried.

“Don’t worry about those clocks. Those would be the ones, all of us out here have been taking care of. I’ve finally tracked the last one, and Austria... and who ever else he’s with, are going to take it down,” Ladonia calmed their fears. It was hard for him to give up that last clock, especially after he was already forced to stay behind where it was boring... but he also understood there was a danger here, and statistically speaking, it was a smarter move to send someone more experienced out to take care of it.

“Well that’s certainly a relief,” England sighed, glad not only that there wasn’t more they were going to have to hunt down, but that the kids weren’t trying to hunt them down anymore.

“Uh... there’s more...” Canada apologized, “That clock Italy, and England, have used to go back in time is also wrapped up in this. In order to escape, that clock needs to be broken, and the Journal destroyed as well. Every time it’s been reset it was to save each of us. The proof of that, is that no matter what, we all always ended up here. It’s recorded our existence... and death, as a part of the mansion. If we tried to leave without breaking it first, we would only wind up back inside, as if it had reset... However, if we do break it, we would also be destroying the only sure way we have of resetting time.”

“Can’t England use his magic like he has before?” China asked.

“While I hate to admit it... After everything that’s happened, my power has greatly diminished, I may still have enough to take out a couple of these beasts yet... but the power to reverse to time, takes a great deal more than that I’m afraid...” England admitted.

“So relying on England’s power is out of the question,” America confirmed, “That leaves us with a choice between starting over, and risking losing someone without the option of going back.”

“That seems pretty simple,” France pointed out, “We face those same risks every time no matter what, the danger would only grow if we went back, and we have to start all over.”

“I’m afraid there’s more to it still...” Canada added apologetically, “The lock and the journal must both be destroyed, but the clock has an extra condition placed on it. If we break the clock we would only have the amount of time between when the clock was stopped and midnight. If we broke it right now we’d only have-”

“Four hours and twenty eight minutes,” Ladonia finished, not wanting to be left out.

“Well that certainly changes things...” France sighed.

“What happens if we don’t get out in that time frame?” Romano asked.

“Time will revert on it’s own, the clock will disappear for good, and not one of us will be able to remember the past,” Canada summarized.

“Then the real danger to breaking the clock is the time limit,” England restated the problem.

“Then why don’t we wait until after midnight tonight to make our escape?” China suggested, “We’d be more rested to face the challenges that await, and it’d give us more time.”

“Well we’d still only get until noon then, but that’s at least twelve hours,” Canada agreed.

“That’s a good idea, it’d be nice to have a -” America was cut off by a sound from directly outside the room.

Crraaasshhhh!!!!

Sensing there would be some sort of a fight, Russia ended the call, and pocketed his phone.

“What was that?” China asked.

Italy’s eyes grew wide with fright, “Germany!” He shouted rushing out of the room to check on the noise.

He could hear the others following but, Italy was faster, and thus made it out of the room before the rest of them. He opened the door to the bedroom from which their hideout had been created. A pale grey creature loomed over the room, locking it’s soulless eyes on Italy, as it’s beaten body vanished and it let out a wild screech.

Italy’s eyes then darted to the bookshelf against the wall, Germany had fallen against. Blood smeared down several books and pooled around the shelf his head lay propped against. Germany appeared to be unconscious. To add to his injuries, his arm look twisted and bruised, his shoulder as well, maybe more.

Italy rushed over to his side, just as the others began to file into the room. “Hang on Germany!” Italy cried as he lifted Germany’s head off the shelf.

Germany coughed, causing him to feel dizzy and experience spots of blackouts.

“Is he alright?” Prussia asked, sliding in from a sprint. His eyes were wide with concern and he seemed quite shaken.

He’s alright, but he needs bandages, his head is bleeding a-and his arm,” Italy suddenly noticed the more obvious stab wounds to Germany’s stomach, “Oh god...”

America, France, Spain, and Prussia moved into position to carry him.

“We ran out of bandages a while ago...” Japan remembered. Japan looked shaken as well, even after everything they’d been though, he didn’t know how to react. This situation was terrifying, but he was more stunned that sad, or scared.

“T-Then we can use the bedsheets!” Italy thought quickly running back into the safe room to pull them off one of the beds.

Germany was laid down on one of the closest beds, his head, still bleeding, quickly seeped onto the pillow. Italy made quick work of tearing strips of fabric off and handing them to China to wrap Germany’s wounds.

After Germany has been bandaged up, the group converged around his bedside to talk.

“We have roughly three hours until this midnight. Is our plan still to leave after it turns 12?” America asked.

“Well we can’t leave now, with Germany like this!” Prussia argued.

“So then do we wait even longer? Every minute we spend here, we are in danger,” China asked.

“Let’s all try and get some sleep. We’ve been up for a long time, and starting tomorrow morning, whether we leave after midnight, or after noon, we’ll be running for our lives,” Canada suggested.

“Agreed.”

Switzerland

Switzerland led Austria, and Korea using the GPS coordinates Ladonia sent them. No way they could trust Austria to lead them in the right direction; he would get lost even with a GPS like this. As it would happen the coordinates led them in a beneficial direction. They needed to find this clock quickly so they could help out the girls by the annexe. The directions led them right there.

Hungary noticed the three approaching as she beat back another creature. “Hey! You three! What took you guys so long? Come give us a hand already,” She called out, already picking out her next target.

The numbers of creatures surrounding this exit were steadily growing, but so were their own numbers. The Nordics had returned, and so had a few others. Now with Austria’s group, they might really stand a chance at keeping these things back. There were only a few at the moment. They were actually outnumbering the creatures.

Austria and South Korea immediately started helping out, covering Switzerland as he tried to narrow down the location of the last clock. It led him to the wall of the annexe. “It must be inside here,” Switzerland realized, “We’ll have to find someway to break in.”

“There should be more reinforcements coming,” Finland mentioned, nailing one of the lurking creatures between the eyes with his sniper rifle. “We made some calls. Give us a hand until they get here to back us up?”

Switzerland obliged understanding the situation as more creatures started appearing.

Safe Room

The room was silent, other than the faint sounds of breathing. The mattresses had once again been laid out across the floor, but Germany had remained in the comfortable bed. It was too risky to move him. Although he seemed in much better shape now. Color had returned to his face, and he had woken up several times in the last two hours. Not for very long, he was still very weak, but he was doing better.

Unfortunately his bandages meant there was a shortage of blankets. Nations sprawled out across the room, blankets loosely covering them, or else not at all. It was a restless sleep for all of them. None more so than Prussia. After everything that had just happened he found himself unable to rest at all. Instead he watched everyone else sleep. And his brother. It was calm, and the sound of the heavy breaths they took, was a relaxing sound.

So what was this uneasy feeling that settled in his chest?

Something felt off about the room. Or maybe it was the air? Whatever it was, it had him too nervous to sleep. He closed his eyes as focused on the calm sounds of breathing in the room. ...That’s when he heard the footsteps...

They came from just outside the room. Perhaps in the bedroom? Or maybe just a bit further... But they were coming closer. And no amount of quiet this room retained could prevent it.

Shit! Not this again. Well he certainly wasn’t going out there alone this time. It certainly couldn’t be France out there. He listened as the footprints stopped outside, he assumed, the iron door Germany had put up. Prussia looked around frantically and nervously. He picked up the pillow he should have been using to sleep and threw it at Spain who woke up with a start, “Hey! what was that for?” He groaned sleepily jerking up where he sat.

Prussia quickly shushed him and stared at the door. There was a bang against the iron door, softly at first, almost like knocking.

Spain suddenly looked just as frightened, “It can’t be...” He whispered.

The sound suddenly became much louder. Banging heavily against the door, as if trying to break in.

The others suddenly stirred awake. Spain quickly hit the lights.

“Wha-What’s going-?” Italy stirred awake from his peaceful slumber.

The clanging sound of bending metal cut him off.

The group, realizing there was something outside, suddenly gathered close together, wide awake and fearing for their lives once again.

“I-It can’t be... Not here...” Italy cried, starting to panic a little. They couldn’t lose this place. It was the one piece that carried hope... It. It was safe!

“West! Hey, west!” Prussia gently tried to wake up Germany.

Germany woke up, groggily, panting as his injury had still not yet healed.

“Look, I’m sorry. I wish I could let you rest longer but we’re under attack,” Prussia apologized, helping him to sit up.

Germany heard the banging on the door, “Dammit!” He muttered, “I tried to kill it before it saw... but it still managed to find this place...”

“Look, that doesn’t matter,” Prussia looked him in the eyes, “The question is, will that door hold?”

There was a heavy clang, and a screech as metal was torn away... Apparently not.

“Oh god!” Italy stood frightened, trying to put himself between the door and the rest of them, as were his old habits, “It can’t be... This can’t be happening!” The terrifying truth was, if the ‘Oni’ discovered this room now, then if they rewound time again, it would already know. This place was no longer, and never would be safe again.

The room froze, as the footsteps stopped right outside their door. Loud crashes followed, and within seconds their only line of defense had been destroyed.

A hulking monster approached them, soulless black eyes gleaming as it triumphantly found it’s prey.

Canada snapped them out of their terrified trance. “Everyone head to the clock room! We have to go now!” He announced to them. He continued as everyone scrambled to pick up their weapons, “I’ll distract it so the rest of you can get away.”

“Not alone you’re not. I’m not having anyone get left behind,” England argued, “I’ll give you a hand.”

The creature lunged at Spain, who retaliated by hitting it in the shoulder with his axe. “Si, I’ll help keep it back as well.”

“Catch up quickly!” China called out to them as Russia, Canada, England, and Spain distracted it long enough to let the others sneak by.

Romano waited by the doorway for his brother and the potato brothers to catch up, “Come on fratello we have to go!”

Italy helped Prussia get Germany on his feet. Germany tried to do it himself, but it was too much exertion on his poorly bandaged wounds.

“Italy?” Prussia asked, noticing the struggle the other four were having to keep the creature back, “Do you think you can help him walk?” Prussia asked, entrusting his brothers life to him.

Italy nodded, and tried to support Germany as they slowly, but carefully walked around, the creature. Prussia joined the fight with his newly brandished sword, fighting hard to keep it off them.

Germany was too heavy for Italy, so he struggled really hard to support him as they walked, and in turn, Germany pretended he was able to support more of himself than he was able. They weren’t going to get far quickly at this pace.

Romano looked at their exit, the fight, and then back to his brother and Germany. They really didn’t have many options. He dashed back into the room and took Germany’s other side, helping his brother support him as they walked.

Italy looked at the helping hand of his brother with relief, and admiration, “Romano-”

Romano didn’t look up, he just kept walking, getting them out of that room as quickly as possible. “Don’t say anything...” He growled, “Let’s just get out of here.”

Italy smiled anyways, “Thank you...”

Clock Room

America, France, Japan, and China paced the room anxiously as they waited for the others to get there. “Shouldn’t they be here by now?” America asked impatiently.

“They were right behind me when I left,” China mentioned, “Could they have gotten caught...?”

“Dammit!” America punched the wall, “We should have at least helped get Germany out of there. I mean the dude can barely walk. What if something happened?”

“We got caught up in the chaos. There is no use now thinking of what we should have done. Prussia, England, Canada, Spain, Russia, Italy, Romano, they’re all up there with him. Everyone will surely be alright,” France tried to calm him down. There was no use in getting worked up like this.

The tile covering the entrance to the dim clock room moved and Romano began to descend; followed by Germany, and Italy.

“Oh thank god,” Japan let out a sigh of relief.

Italy slid the tile back over to cover their entrance behind him. Germany leaned against a wall, but defiantly remained standing. Italy was shaky as he stepped off the ladder. “It’s gone,” He whispered, “W-we no longer have a safe place.”

France stepped up to Italy and looked him in the eyes, “Listen, that’s not what’s important. Soon enough we’ll be able to leave, and never set foot in this place again.”

“We’re going to have to make that decision quickly,” Japan mentioned, “Whether to break the clock now and escape. Or rewind time once more,” He looked to the looming clock, “We only have a little more than an hour until midnight. Can we wait in this room that long?”

“I-I don’t know...” Italy tried to calm down. This was too important. There was such a big risk! and what if they broke the clock, and then someone died?! They couldn’t... and they still hadn’t found that last clock... and... and...

There was a banging, and a grinding, as something tried to pry open the tile. It couldn’t be one of their group, because they all knew about the button.

“Oh god!” Italy looked back at the entrance to the room.

“Oh no! England and the others!” Japan shouted drawing his sword, ready for that thing to burst through at any moment. If it was here, then where were the others? They were supposed to follow as soon as everyone managed to get through. They shouldn’t be taking this long.

“That asshole, he got himself killed!” Romano suddenly burst out. That group was supposed to be here by now. A-And now this thing shows up... Where else could that tomato loving bastard be?! He couldn’t deal with this stress. His mind was running away with him.

“Italy. You have to decide now!” China quickly turned to Italy. They were running out of time fast. If they were under attack here there was no option of just waiting until after midnight when they’d have more time. It was either risk the time limit, or restart everything they had worked for.

Italy couldn’t respond. What could he say? He couldn’t make this decision! What was he supposed to do?! ... The clock taunted him with the steady tick of time. Ticking away their lives. A dooming sound.

“You can’t huh? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go give them a hand,” France offered, fighting his way out of the room. The tile resealed behind him, and there was the sound of rustling above them.

Strength of Friendship

Spain, Canada, Prussia, England, and Russia were trying their best to catch up with the others, but they got caught up a few rooms out. Right before the entrance to the lever room. Even with their large group, fighting these things off was certainly a challenge. One came from each side, trapping them here until they could destroy them.

They focused their efforts, working as a well adjusted team. Three of them, England, Canada, and Russia would focus of on one opponent in order to bring it down quickly; while the remaining two, Spain and Prussia, kept the remaining creatures at bay. Using this method they managed to take down the first of them in just a few minutes. But they needed to take down at least one more before they could retreat further in and hopefully rejoin the group.

The door they were heading to suddenly opened, and France rushed in to join them. “France?” Spain asked seeing him join in.

France drove his fleuret through the forehead of the creature about deal Spain a nasty blow. “Sorry, no time to talk. It’s hot on my trail.”

“What’s-” Another monster emerged from behind France before Prussia could finish his question.

“France defended them against it’s first attack. The creature was massive, easily a challenge for the six of them on it’s own. But there was still one more England and the others were dealing with. “Prussia, Spain. The three of us should be able to take it don’t you think?” France grinned, “England, you and the others hurry up and take care of that other one.”

“Right,” England agreed summoning up his magic to suspend the movements of the one they were fighting.

“Step forward if you want to die,” Prussia led the first attack, waiting for the monster to strike. It lunged for him. Claws like daggers. Prussia slice through them. leaving jagged bone to stick out where the creatures fingers had been. It screeched in pain.

France took the next attack slicing it’s back legs. The Creature crumpled to the ground, although quickly starting to rise on it’s split open legs. Spain brought his axe down on it’s head, as it tried to get up. A direct hit... But not deep enough.

The creature reared up. Taking Spain’s axe with it. “DiiieeEE!” it screeched grabbing at them with it’s clawless hands. The attack caught Prussia off guard, and the force of the swipe threw him several feet against the wall. His head rang with bells as he tried to stop the room from spinning.

“Prussia!” Spain rushed over to help him to his feet, having lost his axe as it was.

France kept it at bay as best he could. Trusting Spain to help Prussia as best he could, and return to help him.

“I’m alright,” Prussia said getting to his feet as he struggled to keep his vision clear, “But France can’t keep that thing back on his own. Let’s go help.”

France blocked the incoming swipe, but was pushed back a few feet, by the force. He had to regain his footing before trying to anticipate the next attack. His enemy was prepared for this. It took his lost center of balance as an opening for attack.

Prussia caught the creature’s arm with his sword just in time to prevent it from reaching France.

Spain yanked his axe back from the monster’s skull at the same time. The creature reared back against the door. It glared at them, “YoU... wiLL... nOT... eS...cAPe...!!”

“Hey, Francis right?” Prussia asked helping France to his feet. They hadn’t spoken of their chosen human names in a long time. He wanted to be sure he still remembered. He looked at Spain who was joining them, “and Antonio?”

“And Gilbert,” The two of them recited Prussia’s name.

Prussia spoke directly to the creature. Which was struggling to it’s feet to prepare another attack. “You see there’s one reason why this time that won’t be the case. You’re going to lose. Because as nations, the two have them, we have always been good allies. But as humans, we’re much more than that. We’re BEST FRIENDS!!”

The creature lunged as Prussia shouted his threat. The three attacked simultaneously, but the outcome?...

Final Decision

“It’s your choice Italy,” America hurried him, back in the clock room, “but we have to decide now.”

Italy’s mind was racing. If he broke the clock now they’d only have an hour left! but he knew they couldn’t wait. It was either escape now, even if... the others could all be dead! If he broke the clock, and they were all dead, that would be it. They would have to escape... without... them. Because if they didn’t, and somehow lived until midnight. it would all start again, and everything they had worked for would be lost, and they would have no way of remembering they had done this before... Romano wouldn’t come. Because he wouldn’t know. No one waiting outside would either. ...They wouldn’t know about the clocks. Or the front door. None of it! ... They couldn’t survive that... At least one of them had to remember this.

But deciding to turn back was almost as bad as the thought of not making it in the time limit. Could he just sacrifice everything they’d done in this world to try again? Could he be better next time? Or would he be too eager to get back here and slip up. This was the closest they’d ever been. If they went back, how many more times would they get this close before they could truly escape? Italy wasn’t sure he had enough fight left in him to keep going for that long.

And how different would next time be? They wouldn’t have the safe room anymore to start with. If he purposely rewound time. Would everyone waiting outside still come? Could he ask them along? So they would be stronger sooner. Would that even work? What about the mochi? He looked at the little creature that had followed them here. Would it still have the key? Would it still be here waiting? How much progress would be saved? And how much lost?

How was he supposed to make a decision like this, when either way they turned they could wind up dead?!

“Italy...” Germany begged.

Italy took a deep breath. This was it. He was out of time. And there was no way of knowing if his decision would be right... or not. He reached to the clock...

YOU DECIDE:

Reverse time - > Chapter 24: Once more

Break the clock -> Chapter 24: Broken Clock
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