HetaOni: Time Marches On

Chapter 24: Once More

Italy clenched his fists, willing himself to turn around. This decision was one of the hardest things he's ever had to do. He wanted to escape now more than anything. Never before had they been so close. Never before had they been given a chance like this. And that was exactly why he wasn't about to let all of that go to waste.

"We'll go back," Italy informed them, his voice shaking, "But if we're going to do this we're going to do it right. We need to make some proper plans.”

“That’s, not such a bad idea,” China cautiously agreed. It was hard for any of them to give up on escaping here this minute. But they’d given this decision to Italy. He’d kept them going for all this time; they trusted him to get them through this now. Besides, if they could plan this out the next world would have a better start.

“But let’s see, what could we do? We don’t have that much time to plan out anything elaborate,” Japan pondered.

“Well what if we left notes or something to warn our future selves?” America asked.

“Do you mean like warnings about rooms around the mansion? ...I’m not sure they’d still be there when time reverses, or even if we have enough time for that,” Japan tried to reason something compelling from America’s suggestion, “Maybe if we leave notes to our future selves with the journal telling us not to go? Or to at least listen to Italy.”

“Yeah I guess I hadn’t thought it completely through,” America apologized, then added, “...I’m not to sure leaving notes to our future selves would work that well either. Knowing me I’d probably think it was just a hoax and be even more convinced to go.”

“That would definitely be troublesome,” Japan agreed.

The panel above the stairs leading out suddenly moved, causing the edgy nations to jump.

Prussia led others down into the clock room. He was still laughing with France and Spain about their last battle, “We totally kicked that things ass! Kesesese!”

“True, with our strength put together like that nothing can stop us,” France added.

“You’re back!” Italy cheered happy to see them.

Romano walked up to Spain and punched him in the gut, “Next time don’t take so long,” He complained in a worried manner.

“Well, What’s this?” England asked, “Shouldn’t we be going yet?”

“Actually, because of our time limit, Italy has decided our best chances stand at going back in time,” America clarified.

“Aww, but I was very much looking forward to seeing my sisters again,” Russia responded, showing his disappointment.

“I’m sorry!” Italy apologized, “We can still...” He didn’t know how to finish his thought. They had even less time now, was it even possible to make it through that tunnel in that amount of time?

“No. It’s fine. We’re with you. I just hope we can do a better job than our past selves at setting up another world. ...We won’t have as much time as them,” England worried.

“What can we do... Let’s see notes... or?-” Canada mumbled to himself trying to think of something they can do.

“We’ve thought about that one,” America said hearing Canada’s thoughts, “It’s no good. There’s no way we can get to everywhere we need to in this house covered in time, and if they are addressed to us, we probably won’t believe them at first.

“Well then what about the keys?” Canada asked, “We have the keys to just about every room in the house. If we tuck them in the journal we should be able to take them back with us.”

“That’s actually a pretty decent plan,” China agreed, “With the keys, Italy would be able to lock us out of rooms that were potentially too dangerous. We’d also be able to escape through this exit as soon we realized the danger.”

“Actually, speaking of the journal I might have an idea as well,” England offered, “See the Journal has this contract sign page. The way it works is that whoever’s name is currently written in it will go back in time and will retain their memories.”

“I see, so you’re saying if we all signed it we would all remember then?” France followed.

“Precisely. If we all remember, there may not even be a reason to go to the mansion in the first place,” England explained.

“...I don’t know,” Spain paused in the decision, “Italy has said that he tied everything to get you not to go throughout the other loops. What if simply remembering isn’t enough to keep someone from going?”

“Man. I hadn’t even considered that!” America groaned in frustration.

Suddenly there were loud sounds of thumping footprints and wild thrashing from above.

“In any case. We don’t have much time,” Prussia mentioned looking up at the delicate panel that separated them, “Not unless we want a real fight.”

“Prussia’s right,” Italy agreed nervously, “I’ll leave this one up to you guys, but we’ll have to decide quickly. Do we bring the keys? Or do we all sign the journal?”


YOU DECIDE:

--> Keys

--> Journal

--> Wait a minute...

Keys

“We’re going to save the keys then?” America checked, “Then let’s see them.”

Various people in the group passed the keys to Italy.

Italy tucked the keys safely into the journal and held it tightly. He smiled hopefully, but also nervously, “This is it everyone. I... I’ll see you all soon.” He held back his tears facing the clock. He felt like he was saying good bye. He knew this was their best chance, but. After everything they’d been through... When he goes back they all will have forgotten.

Italy reached up for the clock hand pushing midnight. His hands reached around it and pulled. Willing time to rewind.

A lonely magic energy surrounded him. He believed in their choices, but he dreaded this feeling of being alone again.

The tingling sensation that spread throughout his body faded and he suddenly found himself waking up in the world conference room.

Light flooded in through the windows, nations everywhere talked and laughed about current events. He’d forgotten how much he loved this part. How throughout all the years of doomed worlds. When everything began to look hopeless, this was what he looked forward to. ... This fleeting moment when the world was like it should have been.

“Hey, Italy!” America called out to him, “We’re getting ready to head to that abandoned house. You ready to come?”

“Umm,” Italy struggled to remember what to say. Depending on who he came with, many things could change. His hand rested on the journal in his lap, “Sí, just give me a minute to try and convince Japan to come too, ok?” He smiled.

If he went with America now, then Japan and Germany would come later, and someone would get hurt. But he didn’t want to wait and let America go on ahead in case something happened when he wasn’t there.

England stepped out from behind America, “I’ll go with him and see if I can’t help convince Japan.”

“Alright,” America sighed, “Just be quick, I want to be back before it gets dark.”

England followed Italy, and when there were no longer eyes on them, pulled him aside.

“England?” Italy asked, oblivious, “What is it?”

England looked quickly to make sure there were no eavesdroppers. He sighed with relief, “Feliciano... Vargas, right?”

Italy’s eyes widened, “But h-how did?-”

“The journal,” England reminded him, “We’ve both signed it. All our memories of that place are connected.”

Italy smiled earnestly, tears brimming. He had seriously believed he would be doing this alone again. It was such a relief to find out that wasn’t the case, “T-Then,” He reached out to shake England’s hand, “It’s nice to see you again, Arthur.”

“I heard you were looking for me?” Japan asked walking up to them.

Italy smiled, preparing to put on a show, “Ve~ Japan, you’ll come too right?”

“You mean with America to the abandoned building?” Japan clarified, “...I said I’d think about it.”

“But Japan, we’re about to leave!” Italy pushed him to comply, “You have to come!”

“Well... I...” Japan uncomfortably looked for a scapegoat.

“He’s right Japan,” England joined in, “It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Japan looked around but eventually sighed. He could see he wasn’t going to win. He could put up with a few hours of this if it would make them happy he supposed, “... Very well.”

“Yeah! Thank you Japan~” Italy gave Japan a friendly hug.

Japan delicately peeled Italy off; his personal space had been violated. “I should get some things first then if we are heading out,” Japan informed them, giving himself an excuse to leave.

That reminded Italy, “That’s right. We should get some supplies as well. Things like first aid and food.”

“I’ll help you look,” England offered.

They wandered around the world conference room for a bit, gathering supplies where they could find them. “Was there anyone else you wanted to invite to come with us?” England asked after a while.

“It looks like America has that pretty much covered actually,” Italy laughed nervously, looking at the group that had gathered outside the front of the building to go. Everyone who had originally gone, was already there.

“What about your brother?” England asked.

Italy stopped. He had of course, already considered this. But his heart was still heavy with uncertainty. “No. ...I don’t want him to get mixed up with this again... besides. We should be out before he ever manages to get there, assuming he tries to follow us again,” Italy tried to explain. It’s not that he didn’t trust his brother or think he couldn’t help. He just didn’t want him getting hurt if he could avoid it.

“Let’s get going then,” England encouraged him, “We should have more than enough supplies between the two of us.”

They headed to the front of the building and met up with everyone. It felt odd. Lonely. No one could remember where they had just been. Or all that they'd been through. As they began their walk, Italy remembered one of the things he hated most about coming back like this.

This walk was three hours long. ... And everytime he'd gone back he had to walk it. Knowing there was nothing he could do or say to change their minds. No way to avoid the death or despair that was in the direction he was forced to walk...

~~~

By the time they made it to the mansion Italy and England had developed a plan.

“Ve~ I can’t believe it’s actually here!” Italy ran up to the front door before anyone else could go in ahead.

“I thought it was just a rumour. I never thought we would actually find it,” Japan admired its architecture with surprise.

"It has such a desolate feel...Not bad." Prussia laughed at the challenge.

"I don't think it's very interesting though," Germany looked around anxiously.

“Let’s just hurry up and look around. I don’t want to be here that long,” England ushered them through the door. The faster they made it through the building, the sooner they could put their plan into action and leave.

France looked around the interior, expecting to see a run down old house, not a well kept mansion, "It's cleaner than one would expect, isn't it?"

China looked around the interior admiring it, "Wow, so this is the inside."

“This place is kind of... spooky,” America appeared to be serious as he shivered. His mood quickly changed as he laughed, “Dude this is kick ass!”

"Well, why don't we take a little look inside and then go back? I think we can leave before nightfall,” Russia suggested.

“That sounds like a good idea,” England took the lead on organizing everyone, “We should split up into two teams and share what we find.”

Italy and England immediately diverged, planning to lead these two teams. Germany, America, Japan, and Prussia went with England. France, Canada, China, and Russia went with Italy.

~Italy~

“Let’s go this way~” Italy led his group past the stairs and down the hallway. He needed to find the clock room or their escape would mean nothing. He wondered if that meant they’d have to track down their personal clocks outside as well. The thought worried him. He had no idea where to find those clocks, and with the ever pressing dangers he felt anxious.

“Italy, where are we even going?” France asked confused by Italy running ahead like he knew every twist and bend.

“Let’s just take a look around,” China argued, “We have plenty of time.”

When the four rounded the corner Italy was already standing at the entrance to the annexe waiting for them. He peeled back the wallpaper the rest of the way now that they were in plain view. “Look what I found~” He smiled, gesturing to the doorway exposed after tearing away the paper.

“Interesting,” Russia commented getting a closer look.

“How did you find it?” Canada asked.

“It was mostly uncovered already when I got here,” Italy made up a believable lie, “I just peeled off the rest of it.”

“Well let’s go take a look inside,” France laughed. This was still all just a joke to them. There was no hint of any danger yet.

Italy headed down first, insistent on making sure it was safe before he led them into the nest of danger.

“Wow,” China noticed the drastic change in atmosphere, “This place is a lot spookier than it was a moment ago.”

“We must be in the basement,” Russia decided based on appearances.

‘not quite’, Italy thought.

Italy led them to the left, avoiding the library altogether. The lever room was as vacant as they left it. The only difference being it was missing the disarray that their last fight had left the place in.

Italy kept up his cheerful facade as they grew closer, “I wonder if I flip this switch...” Italy pulled the lever opening the entrance to the next room.

“This place is full of all kinds of secrets, is it?” France grew steadily more amused by twist labyrinth of this mansion. Of course, when they had first discovered these things, they had come as a miracle. there was nothing amusing about them. They were simply secrets that had been waiting for critical moments to reveal themselves.

They stumbled into the next room. Everyone splitting apart, no regard for their safety at all. Italy alone watched their backs. As he slid along the table looking for that button. This time he wasn’t going to pretend to find it by accident. He waited until someone, as it happened Canada, to walk across the tile.

The tile slid aside just as Canada had stepped off of it. “What’s this?” Canada asked peering down into the darkness.

Everyone gathered around. The impenetrable darkness that had led down into this room, somehow seemed less dark. The aura that had once supported it had vanished. It was just a normal dark.

“I’ll go in first,” Italy offered. He wanted to lead them here. To see this room again. To find those tunnels and know for certain where their escape route was. ...He also wanted them to see the darkness of that room. The blood, the pain. He knew it would scare them. But if that was enough to encourage them to leave then they could even possibly get out without ever running into that thing.

Italy fumbled for the light switch, surprised to find cold dry walls. The lights flickered on to reveal a much smaller, well lit room. The tunnels made up the back wall, the ceiling came down a few extra feet. The four of them probably had about the reach of their arms for room. The 10 of them would have a very difficult time standing there. Most shocking of all...

The clock was gone.

It must have moved to a different part of the mansion, Italy realized. Now he worried. It could be anywhere. He’s literally spent days in some worlds before finally coming across it simply by chance. They didn’t have the time for that now. He paced along the bars of the cell, he’d have to think of something quickly.

~England~

England watched as America, Japan, Germany, and Prussia played detectives; searching the safe room with fascination. They couldn’t believe there was ripe food and running water in here and were determined to find the source. Which was funny since this was the one room in the house that they were solely responsible for.

They all had their own theories of course: Japan believed the food might be an offering to the restless spirits of the house, America thought it might be some sort of illusion made by ghosts, Germany was fairly certain someone must be living here and they were all intruding in someones home, and Prussia was deciding if it might be some kind of imp.

England guarded the door as they searched. He’d locked it to be safe, but the plan was to wait out here where they’d be safe until Italy came back and they’d be given the go ahead to make their break for it.

America headed towards the door to the top left, to the bathroom.

Everyone was pretty much settling down at this point. Thankfully, it had all been pretty quiet up until this point. He was hoping he could keep them bored, held up in this room until Italy came back with a secured exit. At that point the two of them could explain everything that had happened. That was the tricky part. It relied heavily on how much they had seen and whether they were willing to trust the word of two people. Worst case scenario however, they only had to stick close together as a group in this mansion until they were able to see for themselves. Running into that monster once they should be ok, so long as they all stuck together.

"Hey," Prussia jiggled the doorknob, "How come the door won't open?"

Oops. England had been lost in his train of thought and forgot he was watching the door. He played it off coolly, "Let me see," He offered, twisting the knob in his hands, "It must have a one way lock."

"So you mean we're trapped in here?" Prussia worried.

"For the time being it appears so," England responded calmly, "I wouldn't worry too much though. The group with Italy should come by this way any minute."

Prussia was about to ask how England could be so sure when an inhuman screech sounded from the bathroom.

Everyone in the room froze in terror. Looking in that direction in horror. “What was that?” Prussia asked, eyes widening.

The sound of gunshots echoes and then America came barreling out of the bathroom. He tripped coming out of the room. He stumbled getting back up, his eyes locked on whatever it was he’d just seen in the bathroom; gun fixed on it.

Germany and Japan, who were closer, ran to help America, “America? What’s the matter?”

Another screech echoed through the room as grey claws dug into the frame of the doorway, pulling itself into the room.

America fired again. Bullets hit it in all directions: the shoulder, the chest, even the leg. He couldn’t focus. Who would be able to focus after seeing something like that sneak up behind you in the bathroom. The Oni clambered into the room, hardly phased by their weak attacks. It lashed out, hitting Germany straight in the jaw.

“West!” Prussia broke free from his state of shock and rushed to help his brother to his feet.

England fumbled for the keys. Shit. This wasn’t happening. Not now. Not like this. Why didn’t they think about those things being here? They had only just lost this room. Of course that thing could be in here now. That’s why they had to move in the first place. No... It probably wouldn’t have mattered which room they were in, that thing would have hunted them down regardless of where they were. They should have stuck together a bit more.

“What the hell is that thing?!” Japan asked guarding the others against its next attack.

“Bloody hell!” England cursed as he frantically searched for the right key. The last three had done him no good. He needed to get them out of here. The longer this took the more panicked he became. The four behind him had no idea what they were doing fighting this monster. He didn’t know how well they could manage it on their own.

Japan managed to land a counter strike on the creatures forearm, causing it to recoil just a little. Simultaneously America fired off a few more rounds. At least one of which landed directly between the creature's eyes.

Their guards lowered momentarily, believing a hit that would kill any normal creature would do the same to this thing. They were wrong.

The monster let forth an ear piercing screech, clawing at them mindlessly. Japan was the unlucky recipient of such a blow. The hit knocked him into the table behind him. Claws raked his face and shoulder, but landing against the table at such an angle is what did the most damage. His weak back took a very serious hit. Japan struggled to get to his feet again. The pain made his vision hazy.

“Japan!” America turned to help Japan, only to get caught in the monster’s second attack. It’s giant claws lifted America off his feet mid-turn. It batted him across the room like a ragdoll. He landed in the stack of food rations. He suffered fairly severe puncture wounds across his stomach, and was bruised everywhere.

“America?” England turned around just in time to watch him fly across the room, “America!” He ran to help him up. Dammit. Why did he spend all that time messing with the door? He should have been here helping them fight.

Prussia finally landed a counterstrike against that thing. It had landed far too many on them, it was about time things were evened out. Prussia thrusted his sword through the creature’s side, skewering it. “Ha take that!” Prussia cheered. Surely that would be enough to stop it, right?

“Prussia get back!” England warned. The monster ripped itself free from the sword. It was greatly weakened by this attack, but unfortunately not enough.

“DiE!” It shouted striking at Prussia. Prussia stepped away just in time to avoid being struck by its massive claws.

Japan meanwhile silently snuck up on it, still hunched over and hardly able to stand.

“Japan look out!” Germany shouted as the creature turned around to hit Japan once more. Japan was ready too. He believed he could see an opening, just one step-

“Impedimenta!” England shouted, halting the enemy’s movements momentarily. It’s claws were dangerously close to Japan’s face. England panted against the strain, “Japan... retreat... now! ....... Germany!”

Surprised by the sudden appearance of how close he actually came to death, Japan backed off. Germany attacked the creature in his place. Cracking his whip over it’s back. Prussia as well found his way in, delivering a second blow to the monster.

England’s hold on it released, and he collapsed to the ground panting from exhaustion. The creature as well began to fade away, its injuries finally being enough to finish it.

Everyone panted for air; England picked himself up off the floor. “What was that thing?!” Prussia asked.

“England, just now, was that a result of your magic?” Japan asked leaning against the wall for support.

“Yeah?” America started to get up, “What was that.”

Damn. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. They had a plan. Well at the very least he owed them an explanation. They would likely listen to it now. although it was a bit too late to prevent some of the dangers unfortunately. “Listen, there’s a lot I need to explain, but first your injuries. We need to make sure everyone is ok first,” England started digging through his stuff for bandages and the rest of the first aid.

Knock. Knock.

The knock on the metal door suddenly alerted everyone. “That must be Italy and the others,” England calmed himself. Good. If they were back, then he and Italy could both explain this together. It wouldn’t be the first time. And it meant that everyone would hear it at the same time. He walked up to the door, preparing to open it and greet them. The first aid was left to sit in the middle of the room.

“I’m so relieved you’re ba-” England didn’t get a chance to finish his statement. The door in front of him gave way suddenly, whacking him in the face. The knocking at the door wasn’t knocking. It was the creature trying to break in.

The remnants of the door lay on top of England as it had blown open. England started pushing them off of him. As the first of several Oni’s entered the room. The creature stepped down on him purposefully, crushing him beneath its weight.

England gasped for air, his face turning bright red as his lungs could not deliver enough oxygen. Every attempted to push the weight off of him was in vain, and his strength only weakened the longer he was trapped.

“England!” America fired at the monster crushing England, hoping to distract it enough that England could get away. Two more monsters came in from around the first. Sharp teeth glinting with glee as their soulless eyes hunted them.

The gunfire America provided distracted the thing long enough for England to catch a single deep breath. The Oni reared back from the gunfire, but quick to let its anger out on England. It kicked him out from under the debris. England rolled into the wall with a hard thud. England’s lungs were lacking oxygen and the impact to the wall was strong enough to cause him serious head trauma without this precursor. England let out a final breath releasing the pain...


~Italy~


Italy led everyone upstairs. Being unable to find the clock made him uneasy. He suspected that it might be in a different place this time, but it certainly threw a wrench into their plans. He was worried. He didn’t want to stay in this place a moment longer than he had to. Oddly enough, having the keys, but knowing he couldn’t leave yet, only managed to make him more anxious. He decided it would be best to regroup with England. They shouldn’t travel separately if they could avoid it.

“Ve~” Italy smiled nervously as they reached the top of the stairs, “I think Germany and Japan went in one of these rooms, we should regroup with them and tell them about that room we found.” Italy tried to sound convincing, but It was getting harder to keep up this facade.

“Why are we meeting up again so soon? Shouldn’t we explore at least all of a floor first?” Russia asked.

“Yeah, that makes no sense. We didn’t even get everything that was downstairs,” China agreed.

“Well...” Italy tried to think of a way out of this, “Actually I was thinking, that room under the floor was pretty cool, and, I wanted to show it to Germany and Japan!”

“Well if that’s the case, maybe it’s time for us to switch groups?” Canada suggested, “Let’s find them quickly and get back to looking around.”

Italy smiled, relieved that Canada had gone along with him, “Right! ummm, let’s try here first.” Italy led them into the upper right.

“I don’t think they’re in here,” France said stepping into them room. It seemed pretty empty, and they were looking for a fairly large number of people.

Italy pretended to be distracted by something, “Let’s just look around for a minute.” He noticed the iron door Germany made for the closet was wide open. England must have left it that way for them. It wouldn’t be long before one of the others spotted it.

Canada inspected the metal door leading into the closet. Inside there was a staircase leading up just a few feet, and then... “Oh God,” Canada covered his mouth and backed away. Was that? ... Just what was he seeing?!

“Canada? Are you alright?” France noticed first, walking over to him.

Italy’s gaze turned instantly to that direction. Canada looked unblinkingly towards entrance to the safe room. Italy knew that expression. He knew it all to well.

Italy rushed over to Canada, beating everyone else the entrance of the safe room. It couldn’t be true. This wasn’t happening. Not here. Not now. Not after all they’d been through.

Blood covered the main floor of the room. Someone’s hand reached out across the top step, but didn’t move. An oni walked across the doorway. Blood splattered across its front.

Italy stumbled backwards, tears pushing their way through. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. They were supposed to get out this time. He went back just to be sure. He was so careful. So why? Why did they all have to die?

“What is that?” China asked bewildered by the strange creature. It still hasn’t occurred to them that they could die here. Or that this was anything but an elaborate joke.

“Everyone, we have to get out of here quickly,” Italy snapped to action. He needed to everyone else safe. If their safe place had been compromised then he needed to find that clock as soon as possible. He could still fix this!

“Is that... England?” France asked, spotting him near the the wall of the right side of the room. He started to head in after him. Passing Italy.

“No wait, France!” Italy pleaded with him to stop. Unfortunately this only managed to capture the attention of the nearby Oni’s.

Three of the surrounded France the second he entered the the room. Italy charged in after him. Afraid of losing more friends, “Hurry! We have to help him!”

Canada, China and Russia followed cautiously behind Italy. The sudden shift in Italy’s personality confused them. And they couldn’t understand what it was the were seeing. “Italy what’s going on? What are these things?” Canada asked.

France was hit in the head by one of the larger monsters, knocking him off balance. France’s head began to ring and moments after blood dripped down over his face. Italy tried to beat the enemies off of France, managing to slow them down a little. “I-I’ll explain later. Just help me fight them!” Italy begged.

Canada fired several arrows at the creatures surrounding France, but they weren’t very effective. Even Russia’s pipe did hardly any damage to them. The best they could do was keep them from attacking.

China tripped over something on his way in. He turned around to see what it was and discovered Japan laying against the wall. “Japan?” China reached out for him. His clothes were bloody and he appeared to have suffered some terrible injuries. His hand reached out for the stairs but remained unmoving... His. His eyes looked glossed over...

China noticed he wasn’t breathing. What kind of sick joke was this? They were nations. Nations can’t die like this. E-Especially not someone like Japan. He rocked Japan’s lifeless body, trying to get some sort of response, “Japan!”

Italy looked over at China, distracted. His eyes widened as he spotted China knelt next to Japan’s corpse. But not because he was seeing his friend die again. No he had already spotted all of them the minute he came in the door. Including England. His eyes widened because of what he spotted creeping up behind China.

“China look out!” He shouted breaking away from everyone defending France to help China who was about to be assaulted by a fourth enemy.

China turned just in time to dodge the claws of the oncoming monsters. He got to his feet quickly, bracing himself for a fight. Italy struck the creature the back of its head, causing it to refocus on him.

Unfortunately, while abandoning his position defending France against these creatures may have saved China’s life, it through off the delicate balance for the others. The third monster was now free to attack, and lashed out directly at France who had just gotten to his feet again. The blow was hard enough to leave deep gashes across France’s face, and a thinner scratch across his neck below his ear. One of the claws raked the surface of his left eye. France fell back in pain. He held his hand to his face, screaming in agony. The only thing keeping him from passing out was the adrenaline pumping through his system.

Russia and Canada heard the screams and tried to fight off the offending monster. Doing so however, caused them to lose control of the two they were fighting in the first place. They could block all the attacks at once. One of them managed to get the upper hand and destroyed Canada’s bow. Russia managed to keep them off for the most part, but he had never fought these things before. He had no way of predicting their moves and it put him at a severe disadvantage.

Italy looked back hearing France scream. Everything was falling apart. He had to go back and help France and-

China hit the floor after being hit by one of the creature's attacks. He was thrown pretty far, and now he wasn’t moving. The impact must have knocked him unconscious.

Italy started heading over to help China, when he heard a sound from France’s direction. It was Canada who screamed this time. As he and Italy watched helplessly as the Oni raked open France’s neck. France’s eyes grew wide, and he choked for a moment, as the blood spilled into his lungs. There was nothing they could do. He spat up blood until finally, either his lungs grew too weak, or he’d lost too much blood.

Italy looked away. Tears streaming down his face steadily. His chest clenched tightly. This wasn’t how things were supposed to happen. No one was supposed to die! He didn’t want to see this anymore!

While Italy was distracted by France the Oni had made it’s way over to China. When he finally looked back, he was mortified to find that China had been mauled to the point of death.

Italy shook as he watched the scene play out before him. How could he lose everyone so fast? How could they all just, die like this? This wasn’t real. He didn’t want to believe this was happening. He spotted the journal a few feet away from him.

He picked it up, noticing England’s dead body was just out of reach from it. He continued to cry, “I-I’m sorry England. I-I failed again. We shouldn’t have come back here. But its too late for that now. We’ll have to try again. I’ll find that room again. A-And this time we’ll have a better plan.”

The room suddenly grew silent.

Italy turned and saw the four monsters circling. Some of them were limping. They were probably on their last leg and would be easy to defeat. Behind them lay the bodies of everyone. They had all died here. Hopelessly unprepared for such an intense fight.

The creatures closed in on Italy now. Their last trophy. Everyone was gone. No one was going to come to the rescue this time. The clock was no where to be found. It was time to put an end to this silly game...

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DEAD END

Wait a minute...

“Wait a minute,” Canada interrupted, “Before we decide anything. I think we’re forgetting something.”

“Really?” Japan asked, “What is it?” The sounds from up above grew louder and more violent.

“This clock. We’re supposed to break it or else the cycle will just continue won’t it?” Canada reminded them.

“Oh that’s right,” Spain remembered, “We almost forgot.”

“Shouldn’t we be alright though, as long they’ve broken our clocks? That was what was holding us to the mansion right?” France asked.

“We never heard back if they found Italy’s clock or not,” Germany reminded them, “There’s also a chance that all of that will reset if we go back.”

“What should we do then?” Prussia asked.

“Well we could still take the keys back with us. Then we’d be able to go back and break the clocks and then escape easily,” America suggested.

“There’s still the issue of everyone being able to remember. I’m worried one of us might act rashly before we get the chance to get out,” England worried.

“Is there some reason we can’t do both?” Romano asked, “Sign our names and save the keys I mean.”

“That’s a pretty good idea actually,” China answered.

They were interrupted by loud screeching as the creature attempted to peel up the tile that separated them.

“Shit!” America cursed, “We’re out of time guys, what are we doing?”


YOU DECIDE:

--> Keys

--> Journal

--> Both

Both

Italy held the journal out so that it was in a proper position for everyone to sign as quickly as possible. “Everyone sign on the same page as our signatures, and pass all the keys forward so we can keep them together,” England instructed.

Once everyone had signed, Italy tucked the keys safely into the journal and held it tightly. He smiled hopefully, but also nervously, “This is it everyone. I... I’ll see you all soon.” He held back his tears facing the clock. He felt like he was saying good bye. He knew this was their best chance, but. After everything they’d been through... He didn’t want to face the idea of starting all over again.

Italy reached up for the clock hand pushing midnight. His hands reached around it and pulled. Willing time to rewind.

A lonely magic energy surrounded him. One that had worked to protect their futures time and time again.

The tingling sensation that spread throughout his body faded and he suddenly found himself waking up in the world conference room.

Light flooded in through the windows, nations everywhere talked and laughed about current events. He’d forgotten how much he loved this part. How throughout all the years of doomed worlds. When everything began to look hopeless, this was what he looked forward to. ... This fleeting moment when the world was like it should have been.

Only this time, as he woke up, he did not do so alone. One by one they all quickly formed around him. “Ha! It worked!” America cheered.

“It appears so,” Japan nodded, surprised by how sudden, and yet so ordinary it had seemed to happen.

“Now we’ll just need to organize a plan,” England deliberated, “We need to find a way to break all of those clocks quickly, without letting anyone fall behind.”

“Aww, Do we have to? We just got out. I mean no one is there now. Why should we go back?!” Spain complained.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t broken all of the clocks. Supposedly they are keeping us tied to that place,” France explained.

Canada interjected, “But... if we never go there, then wouldn’t those clocks never exist in the first place?”

“Sadly, they existed the moment we reversed time. They’re just waiting for us in that mansion,” England answered, “That’s why it’s imperative that we develop a plan.”

“So then, we have all the keys, we could divide up the floors to break the clocks in the house, and then-” Japan was interrupted.

“No!” Italy disagreed wholeheartedly with this idea, “No matter what, we shouldn’t split up. That thing knows our weaknesses, and we’re stronger if we stay in a group.”

“Even if you say that...” Prussia worried, “That yard was so vast it would takes a long time to search it all for our clocks if we don’t split up, and I don’t like the idea of being out there in the dark.”

“Then we can search the yard together first, and head into the mansion itself before it gets dark,” China suggested.

“We can take turns keeping watch in the safe room the first night,” Canada added.

“And afterwards we can sweep the floors for the other clocks,” Japan followed, “Once we’ve covered everything, we should be able to break that ‘Last Clock’ and escape with relative ease.”

Italy nodded, “Yes. It might take us a while. But I definitely think this will work. We can all stick together, and we’ll be out before that thing realizes we’re close.”

“I also think we should leave quickly. The sooner we leave. The sooner we can escape,” England added, “It will also provide us with a little extra time with sunlight.

- Everyone stocked up on food and first aid before heading out on their long hike towards the mansion. -

~Later~

One by one they descended down into the annexe. The plan had thus far worked smoothly. They had found all the clocks they were aware of outside, and managed to make it inside before much after sundown. The first night in the safe room was difficult. Everyone was on edge and no one got much sleep. Although it was lucky they didn’t, as expected they were ambushed at some point in the deep of the night. They managed to get away with only a few cuts and bruises, and began searching every level for the clocks. That thing showed up a few more times during their search, but no one was significantly injured during these fights. However, these attacks were getting more and more violent. It didn’t seem like the creature had caught on to them just yet, but it was becoming more determined to take them down.

“We need to decide what exit we are taking once we break the clock,” America spoke up as they all reached the bottom of the stairs.

“We have the keys for both the front door, and the tunnels, both exits seem to work right now. It’s a matter of which one is safer,” China added.

“I’d rather avoid the front door if we could... Considering what happened the only other time we tried to escape that way,” Germany worried.

“That’s a good point. We should also have plenty of time to navigate the tunnels since we’ve made here this time just a little after noon,” France agreed.

Italy smiled. They were so close. Already they had made it this far. He was sure this was the right decision. In almost no time, they had made it this far, and no one was even hurt. He was in disbelief of just how far they’d come. He led the party to the room revealed by the lever. They slid over the tile leading them below and slowly descended.

Italy fumbled around for the light switch as everyone struggled to squeeze into the room. Had it always been this cramped? Nevermind, that wasn’t important now. They did it! They were here! They could finally escape. Just as soon as-

The lights flickered on.

No. This couldn’t be right. Where was the clock?! Italy looked around in panic. It had been right here. Why wasn’t it here?!

“Where’s the clock?” Russia’s voice peeped up.

“Why isn’t it here?” Italy said in a scared nervous voice. How could they escape if they didn’t break the clock?!

“Didn’t you say before,”England chewed his lip, “That it, moves? From what I remember, you’ve found it in a different place each time we’ve come here.”

“Oh no. But if it’s not here. We’ve already been to every room in the house!” Italy’s heart was racing. One thing going wrong could mean the end for them. And that was far from an exaggeration.

“Don’t worry Italy. We’ll find it,” Japan encouraged him.

“You guys, we’ve got trouble,” America warned them, spotting one of the creatures approaching from the opposite side of the gate.

Everyone’s attention turned to the gate, those who were able took a step back from it. “T-That gate will hold right?” Canada asked, looking back at their only exit, the ladder.

“I’d rather not wait and find out,” Germany ushered them to the ladder. They began climbing just as the thing reached the bars.

An ungodly screech echoed off the walls of the small room, caused by the monster’s nails scraping against the bars. There was dust and rubble as the bars bowed against the force.

The first nine of them made it out quickly. But at that point the creature had broken through. Leaving Spain, China and Prussia to fend for themselves. Everyone shouted for them to hurry and climb out of their quickly. They moved hurriedly enough, but it was a small room. Leaving little room for error.

Spain was out first. Then China. Prussia’s head peaked out over the top. His hands on the floor of the room he was entering. He pushed himself up... Just as a hand clasped around his ankle, and dragged him down.

“Prussia!” Germany called out, worried for his brother’s safety. Hands came in from all sides to try and help pull him out.

“Hang on Prussia!” Italy pulled.

Prussia kicked with his other leg to try and pry the Oni off of his ankle. One good kick to the head. He felt its grip loosen. He kicked again, but this time he only felt teeth connecting around his leg. They dug in deep. Tearing into his muscle, and digging their way down to the bone.

Prussia let out a yelp, but from his straining to pull free, he could not get enough air to properly scream in pain.

“Prussia. We will get you out of there. Stay with us!” Japan tried to keep Prussia focussed. The monster had a strong hold on him, and it wasn’t letting go. They needed to pry him free somehow.

The creature let go of his right ankle, while biting down harder onto his left leg. This loosened grasp allowed them to pull Prussia up a bit further, but only momentarily. The creature brought its ugly talons down across Prussia’s stomach. Digging in to pull him down further. Blood gushed out from around its claws. The dragging motion cutting open Prussia’s stomach.

Prussia gasped for air, and went limp. He looked to be in excruciating pain. He slowly moved downward, falling back into the room below. “Prussia!” Germany shouted trying with all his might to pull him back up... Which, unbenounced to him, only caused Prussia’s stomach to become torn open faster. Germany’s hands burned from the slipping grip. Prussia’s pale white wrists were bright red.

Finally, the Oni’s strength was too much for them, and Prussia fell. They watched in horror below, as they suddenly saw, the nightmarish wounds Prussia had suffered before that thing finally took his life. America slid the tile over quickly. There were a few reasons: they didn’t want that thing to follow them out, and also, they shouldn’t be seeing this. No one needed to remember their friends and family torn apart like that.

“Shit!” America cursed under his breath, “How could this happen?! We were so careful up until now.”

Italy shook from fright, trying to keep himself from panicking. It was ok. It’d be ok. This wasn’t the first time after all. They just had to find the clock and... Oh god! The clock! Where was the clock?

Japan was also trying to remain calm for the good of the group, “We need to keep moving. That thing could break out of there at any second.”

“And where are we going to go?” Germany snapped, “My brother is dead, and that clock is no where to be found!” He was angry, and upset. and he had no where to direct that anger. They were directionless. They had pitted all their hopes onto that clock and now it was no where to be seen.

“We can find it,” England assured them with certainty. He stood up to get them moving, “This place isn’t that big, and we’ve been to every room before.”

“That’s just it,” Canada shook his head, still in shock, “We’ve been to every room already in order to find all the clocks. I don’t know where else it could be.”

France pulled Canada to his feet. They needed to stay optimistic, “Well it has to be here somewhere. Come on. If we split up, we can search for it in groups. We can check in closets... and anywhere else it might be.”

“I-I don’t like the idea of us splitting up again,” Italy worried. He didn’t want to risk anyone getting hurt. especially after losing Prussia.

“Well it didn’t do us a lot of good to stay together did it?” Russia remarked.

Italy felt a sting of guilt, that perhaps he should have done something different. Maybe he should have seen this outcome coming, and done something to prevent it.

“Let’s split into three groups then. One will search the rest of the annexe, basement, and 1st floor, another to explore the second and third floors, and then one search the fourth floor and the attic,” Spain agreed.

Solemnly they split up. Germany, Russia, China, and Japan headed to the attic. Spain, Romano, France, and America, headed to the 2nd and 3rd floor. Leaving England, Canada, and Italy to search the rest of the 1st floor. They planned to meet up again once someone had found it. Their phones were working now, so they could also call if anything happened.

“Of course the group with the most ground to cover would end up with the fewest people,” England sighed grumpily, from the hallway of the annexe.

“It’s ok. We just need to look quickly. We haven’t been through the rest of the annexe yet. I’m sure we’ll find it in here,” Italy piped up, opening the door to the library.

They entered into the room and searched amongst the bookshelves. There wasn’t much room for a clock to hide in there, and the search ended almost as soon as it had began. Canada peeked into the small room to the side while they were there, but came up empty.

They headed back out into the hallway and then out of the annexe. There was a room and a few closets in the same area as the annexe so they searched those next. Still Nothing. They turned to their right, at the front of the building. They might as well check out the basement before searching the rest of the 1st floor.

They opened the door and headed downstairs into another small room with three doors (one straight ahead, to the left, and behind them). England peeked into the small room to the north and promptly left when there was nothing of interest there. The group headed through the other door in the room, further into the basement. From the there the path diverged; they could continue straight or head to their left. Considering they already knew that it simply wrapped around, they continued straight, deciding they could to take the other path back up.

They opened the door to the empty square room. Italy was the first to notice the changed atmosphere and familiar sound.

TiCk. tOcK.

Light smears of blood streaked across the white room. The heavy sound of a ticking clock alerted them to its presence. The three of them turned around quickly upon entering, surprised to find the clock they had been searching for so smugly nestled against the door they came through.

“So this is where it has been the whole bloody time,” England shook his head, but was mostly relieved that they’d found it.

Canada had other concerns however, “But... Wait a second. This can’t be right. We were here earlier.”

“Well we must have missed it then,” England didn’t understand Canada’s concern. They found it now after all. It had to have been here this whole time. Where else would it have been?

“But... With these walls and the floor. There’s no way we could have overlooked it, not all of us together. Don’t you remember when we came down here a few hours ago?” Canada asked.

“Something’s not right here...” Italy shook his head trying to overlap the memories. Was he confused again? Was he confusing different worlds? No, he was certain. They were talking about the clocks they’d broken so far when they came through here.

“Well how could it just appear? That doesn’t make any sense,” England tried to rationalize the situation.

“Let’s try to think. What happened between now and then?” Canada asked.

That’s when the realization struck Italy. He never thought about it until just now, but... It was true wasn’t it. No matter how he thought about it. Through all the worlds he remembered this was the only connection he could make. He stared straight ahead as he said it, “...Someone died.”

“Hey, Italy are you ok?” England took him by the shoulders, trying to snap him out of his panic.

Italy shook him off, “No, don’t you see? Every time I went to reverse time, it was after somebody had died. Until that point... I never saw the clock!”

England backed off. Was he implying that the clock wouldn’t appear unless someone died?

Canada tried to break through with some reason, “but no one died last time and we still found the clock.”

Italy shook his head, “No. It was only for a short time, but I died in that world.”

“Bloody hell...” England cursed, dumbfounded by this troubling turn of events. He searched through his own memories as well. But as far as he was able to tell, this was exactly the case every time.

“What are we supposed to do? If we go back again, we still can’t escape until that clock is broken. How are we supposed to break it if it means one of us has to die?” Italy shook.

“It’s alright,” England tried to calm him down. He still didn’t know what to do, but panicking over it certainly wasn’t going to help, “For right now, we need to go back in time to save Prussia. We can explain this to everyone after, and then... Then we’ll figure something out. But first we need send everyone back.”

Italy nodded. England was right. Somehow they could do this. Somehow they would find a way to break this clock without losing anyone. That’s why they were able to move forward for this long, right? As long as everyone was alive. That’s what really mattered.

Italy approached the clock. They’d failed again... And it was starting to look impossible to win. He knew it would be a long time before they were able to reach a place similar to where they were last time. But if they made it somehow. Then he hoped somehow they could make the right decision.

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Bad End


Journal

Italy held the journal out so that it was in a proper position for everyone to sign as quickly as possible. “Everyone sign on the same page as our signatures, and pass all the keys forward so we can keep them together,” England instructed.

Once everyone had signed, Italy took back the journal and held it tightly. He smiled hopefully, but also nervously, “This is it everyone. I... I’ll see you all soon.” He held back his tears facing the clock. He felt like he was saying good bye. He knew this was their best chance, but. After everything they’d been through... He didn’t want to face the idea of going through it all again.

Italy reached up for the clock hand pushing midnight. His hands reached around it and pulled. Willing time to rewind.

A lonely magic energy surrounded him. One that had worked to protect their futures time and time again.

The tingling sensation that spread throughout his body faded and he suddenly found himself waking up in the world conference room.

Light flooded in through the windows, nations everywhere talked, laughed, and argued about current events. He’d forgotten how much he loved this part. How throughout all the years of doomed worlds. When everything began to look hopeless, this was what he looked forward to. ... This fleeting moment when the world was like it should have been.

Only this time, as he woke up, he did not do so alone. One by one they all quickly formed around him. “Ha! It worked!” America cheered.

“It appears so,” Japan nodded, surprised by how sudden, and yet so ordinary it had seemed to happen.

Prussia stretched out in front of the large window, “Man you feel that? It’s been awhile since I’ve felt the sunlight on my skin.”

“So what’s our plan?” England asked, “What are we going to do about that place?”

“We should have it demolished immediately,” Germany suggested willfully.

“Yes, but what about the clock? We were supposed to destroy it in order to escape,” Canada worried.

“Who said we have to destroy it from the inside. I’d say dropping a bomb on it would take care of it pretty nicely,” America chimed in.

“A-A Bomb?!” England choked in surprise, “Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme?”

“No no, think about it,” America explained, “That place is only accessible 3 hours on foot from the nearest town. And we no one was/is in the area. It’s a sure fire way to take out everything at once!... Plus. Tell me you don’t want to see that place explode?”

“So you mean we don’t have to go back there?” Italy asked in disbelief. He looked around the room. He wanted to stay here more than anything. He wanted never to go back to that place. And now it seemed like that might be happening.

“Not if we can destroy it from the outside. There’d be no reason to return,” France assured him.

America had already begun to make phone calls, and Italy watched on in disbelief. They were out? This was it? This is what it felt like to escape? He didn’t feel much different, Were they truly out of that place for good? ...America was going to blow it up, so once that happened it wouldn’t even be possible to return.

“Hey, fratello,” Romano called out to him, “Don’t forget, that journal is part of this too. We have to burn it.”

Italy looked down at the journal he continued to clutch tightly to his chest. That’s right. This too. Italy nodded with determination, “Right, let’s do it right away.”

Italy led them just outside the building and into the grass. There was patch of pavement just past it where they parked their cars. He laid open the book onto the pavement and someone lit a match.

“Hang on a second,” Japan interrupted. Germany shook out the flame of the first match. Japan reached down to the front cover of the book and pointed something out amongst their signatures, “It’s probably not important anymore, but this writing has changed.”

“What? What are you talking about?” England asked bending down to look at the page.

“This kanji here. The journal was originally signed, ‘Ryuuzu no Ko’. But now it says, ‘Ryuuzu no Yuujyou’,” Japan pointed out.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense. Wasn’t it a name?” Canada asked.

“I withheld my suspicion at the time, but... Japanese names don’t usually contain particles such as ‘no’ seen here,” Japan pointed out, “I also wasn’t completely sure of the reading until just now.”

“Ve? Then it wasn’t a name?” Italy asked. He had always assumed until this point, that it was the name of the journal’s previous owner. Had he been wrong all this time?

“Then what does it say?” Germany asked.

“The original phrase ‘ryuuzu no ko’ would mean something like ‘the guardian of the one who is alone’. When we also signed it, it’s meaning changed to ‘ryuuzu no yuujyou’ which would mean ‘the guardian of friendship’,” Japan explained.

“Seriously? Isn’t that a bit too cheesy?” Romano rolled his eyes.

But Italy smiled. “The guardian of friendship”... He liked the sound of that. After all, the one, and only, good thing he could say came from that place was their newly found bond.

They soon after burned the journal. It was after all a remnant piece of the curse placed on that mansion. They watched as the last of its ashes drifted off into the summer breeze. The mansion was later destroyed, and as the first night passed they were assured that truly had made it. Their victory however was celebrated almost in secret, as none of the other nations who had come to their rescue in the last world could remember. It became so unbelievable to themselves sometimes that they had to remind each other that they had really lived through it. Their escape, had this been a game, would be considered something parallel to cheating. It was after all by a loop hole in its design that they’d escaped. They simply discovered that the best way to escape was to:

...NeVeR eNtEr ThE mAnSiOn...

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Good End.
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