1: A Mysterious Letter
First of all, I am writing this letter only out of the pure goodness of my heart. Secondly, the point I would like to make is that I’m having a party this weekend and am exclusively inviting you alongside some others. It’s just for fun, and I have a lot of fun activities planned for fun entertainment of my guests. I’m writing fun too much but I’m actually quite nervous writing to you, as you might already imagine… It would be better if you didn’t decline, and I advise you to accept, otherwise I will find you and request the reason you couldn’t come to my party.
It’s later today – after lunch.
Don’t condemn me,
England laid the letter in front of him and pondered the strange circumstance as well as the mood swing halfway through the letter. He was sitting in his lounge, with tea and afternoon scones, peacefully enjoying the solitude that could never be present with either America or France within speaking distance. He drummed his fingers on the table and checked the letter once again, just to make sure he was seeing things clearly. It really was Russia (unless someone else had written the letter, for which case, England had no idea what Russia’s handwriting was like).
Just that moment, the phone started ringing. He stood and answered it wearily, wondering if it was Russia checking to ensure he’d received the letter.
“Hey, England,” America boomed down the line.
He held the phone at arm’s length for a moment whilst his English speaking ally rattled on for a moment, laughing and speaking at unnecessarily high decibels down the phone.
“Are you done?” he checked.
America laughed and he winced. “Such a gloomy sense of humour! Anyway, I actually wanted to check if you got invited to Russia’s exclusive party?”
“Yes, I did, but why do you sound happy?” England frowned. “Is it some sort of trick you’ve set up?”
“No, I got one as well…”
“What?” for a moment, he wasn’t sure if he’d heard him correctly. “You got a letter to Russia’s party?”
“Hey, don’t sound so surprised that I get invited to cool things, too,” America said from down the line. “It’s an exclusive party. That means-”
“I know what exclusive means, and I'm surprised he invited you, not because you’re undeserving of it; although maybe you are; but because I could've sworn the pair of you despise each other.”
England waited a moment as a silence ensued from the other end of the line. He wondered briefly if the Yankee down the other end had gotten distracted and left whilst he had been in mid-sentence. He even contemplated hanging up there and then, but a sudden intake of breath on the other side reassured him that America was still there, and had been there the entire time.
“You’re right!” he exclaimed. “I bet this is a trick. I bet he’s planning on killing everyone he invites. Or maybe he was trying to lure me in!”
“Why would he invite me, then?” England sighed impatiently.
“Because…” America, for once, seemed to be at a loss for words.
“Hello?” England checked when he stopped talking.
“Are you going to go?” he stressed. “I'm not sure I want to go, now. What if he really wants to kill us? I think, if we do go, we should consider some kind of military defence as a backup.”
“If we bring anything that suggests violence, we won’t be allowed into the country.”
“We need to think of something,” America pleaded. “I can’t think of anything beyond guns and missiles, but maybe you had something better in mind...”
“I'm thinking we should check who else received the letters,” England concluded. “I doubt it’s just us, but you never really know.”
“You can call France, then,” America shouted down the line. “I’ll start with China.”
Before England could reply, the American had long hung up. He stood beside his old fashioned phone, its curling wire held in one hand, idly twisted around his fingers. He scowled and slammed down the phone, tapping his chin. He didn't really want to call France, but he knew America wouldn't, and being left out might persuade France to actually come and visit him, which was something he’d rather not happen. He groaned and lifted the phone off the hook once more, dialling in a certain number. His fingers were slow and cold, hesitant to be any more involved than necessary with France. He needed to tell himself that it was important, and that it could be possible that Russia had singled out both he and America, for some bizarre reason he couldn't explain.
He dialled the number and waited, like an anxious schoolgirl waiting for her crush to pick up the phone, although this situation was completely different, what with there being no romantic inclinations.
“Salut!” someone chimed from the other end, a thick French accent with a curl to his words.
“Hello, France,” England said wearily. “I need to talk to you.”
“Talk to me?” he sounded surprised. “What, in person? Or a private, yet intimate call over the phone here and now…? I've never practised this kind of phone call before, and I've never really understood what you truly think of me, but if you've suddenly decided to take our relationship down this road, I'm not one to-”
“No, France,” England huffed, flustered. No romantic inclinations. “I wanted to know if you've been invited to any recent parties…?”
“I'm invited to a lot of parties,” he replied vaguely.
England ground his teeth in silent frustration. “Are any of them Russia’s party?”
“They might be.”
“Just give me a straight answer, frog, this is important,” he outburst and then rubbed his temples with his fingers, kneading his head in his frustration.
“OK, OK, yes, I was invited to Russia’s party – or something,” France replied. “I don’t think I'm going to go, even if the end veers towards a more threatening tone…”
“You’re not even curious as to what he wants?” England was surprised – usually France was involved with a myriad of strange occurrences.
“Maybe a little, but I'm not sure it’s worth it,” France admitted. “Everyone seems to forget that Russia has a really dangerous side to him… Besides, it’s nearly Halloween, and I'm taking this sudden need to throw a party has something to do with that. I'm personally taking it as a bad omen. I'm surprised you’re not.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he glared at the phone.
“What I mean is, I thought you had a love for all the supernatural things?” France replied. “Anyway, I assume you've been invited, since you know about it. Do you know anyone else who may have been?”
“America has, and he’s checking with China,” England explained.
“What?” France’s voice was rough with genuine surprise.
“I know – that’s why we’re so worried about this whole thing,” he continued. “I thought Russia hated America, and vice versa. Correct me if I'm mistaken…”
“You are not,” France muttered. “Perhaps I may come, then. This change of circumstance has interested me, and it’s always nice to know when you have more allies to outnumber your enemies.”
“I've got an idea,” England said. “How about we gather everyone who's been invited, and discuss tactics or what we want to do from there?"
“A meeting place! Excellent!” France sounded too happy – England regretted that decision.
“If you call Italy next, I’ll call Japan, and I can get America to deal with Germany and tell China to come here,” England said.
“What about all the other places?” France asked.
“Something tells me that we won’t have to go beyond the names we've already mentioned…” England sighed. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the eight of us that seems to just… I don’t know… stand out? Yes, stand out.”
“I'm not sure I get what you mean,” France sounded sombre.
“Never mind, then,” England shook his head. “I’ll just get around to what I was meant to do, and you do your part. Sooner or later, we’ll be able to see what everyone else thinks about this situation.”
Sooner or later arrived. Without consulting him, it seemed America had already decided that, if a meeting was to be held (which, in his opinion, it definitely had to be), it would be held at England’s home. Upon hearing that everything would be his responsibility, England had ensured his guests would arrive to a hot cup of tea and scones supplied with fluffy white cream and succulent raspberry jam, their own little plates framed with flower decorations and a knife to spread their scones with the sweetness he had on offer.
The first to arrive was, naturally, France, who had been all too eager to come to England’s house – perhaps much too eager for England’s liking. However, throughout the duration of time it took for everyone to arrive (America being the last one), France hadn't dared touch the scones he’d prepared, and neither had the others.
“Hey, everybody!” America shouted as he entered the lounge. “Where’s Italy?”
“Bathroom,” Germany muttered.
“He’s been there a while,” Japan added. “As in, the entire time.”
“How come you’re the last one here?” England demanded, sending a cold glare in America’s direction.
“It’s called being fashionably late,” he saluted in reply. “But now’s the time for the meeting to commence, rather than talking about my arrival habits.”
“Where are you hiding them?” England asked, grinding his teeth.
“H-hiding?” America appeared uneasy. “I can’t say I know what you’re talking about…”
“Oh, you know,” England pressed. “The grenades. The guns. The missiles. The President. Anything. Where are they?”
“I haven’t got anything like that,” America protested in horror.
“How about you allow me to take and hang up your jacket, then?” England sneered.
“My jacket?” America laughed loudly. “No.”
“There’s a grenade in your pocket?”
“I know you hate Russia. Let me hang up your coat.”
“You’re getting this all wrong.”
“I insist. What kind of host would I be if I didn't hang up that lovely bomber jacket of yours with all its hidden compartments and pockets?”
“Fine,” America snapped, whipping a weapon from his pocket – a grenade. “I had to! Russia can’t be trusted. He’s rounding us all up so he can slaughter us one by one in his own home!”
“Is America scared, by any chance?” France teased.
“Heck no, dude!” America protested, setting the grenade aside on a table. “I just don’t think we should act brashly.”
“So you wanted to bring a grenade?” England stated sceptically, eyeing the weapon of mass destruction carefully as it sat still on his fireplace.
“That’s not brash,” America shrugged nonchalantly. “That’s pragmatism. Arriving prepared is something you promote, right Iggy?"
“Arriving prepared and carrying threatening weapons around with you are two completely different things,” England snapped. “I told you that if you did so much as bring a safety pin into Russia’s house he will accuse you of attempting to kill him. And don't call me Iggy.”
“A safety pin? Really?” China gave England a bored glance.
“Are we talking about Russia’s letter?” Italy beamed, walking into the room. “I actually wrote back. I didn't realise you’d all be going as well!”
“Wait, wait, wait,” England looked alarmed at Italy, standing in the doorway with his usual dumb expression and spaced out stance. “You replied? What did you say?”
“Well, something along the lines of ‘I would be really happy to go to your party, Russia’ and then I did what he did and signed off with a little smiley face,” Italy explained. “I was hardly going to say no. If I declined, then that would give Russia the excuse to come find me and probably scare me like he usually does.”
“Did you not even think about what you could be signing into?” Germany slapped a palm of disdain against his own forehead.
“I feel as if we shouldn't let Italy go alone,” France glanced at Italy.
“Did none of you reply?” Italy’s smile vanished.
“It wasn't compulsory to reply,” England folded his arms. “The letter implies that it was compulsory to attend. I personally think we should go, just to avoid conflict. I understand that actually going into unknown grounds is risky as it is, but I think we would only be causing unnecessary grief if all of us, save Italy, didn't turn up. He’s holding this party for a reason, without a doubt, but I think the only way we’ll really be able to find out what’s happening is if we attend and see for ourselves.”
“Strength in numbers, they say!” Italy chimed from the doorway.
“Always full of magnificent ideas,” France chuckled from the couch. “Well, if England is going, I most certainly am.”
“I have no choice,” Germany sighed. “If I leave Italy alone, he will either offend Russia by running out screaming, or he’ll do something incomprehensibly stupid, such as sending the letter before checking with the rest of us…”
“I may as well, if Italy and Germany are,” Japan pondered.
“I have a question, aru,” China scowled, raising his hand.
“Go on,” England frowned.
“What are my chances of being kidnapped, tortured, killed, held hostage, assaulted, harassed, humiliated, imprisoned or forced into slavery, aru?” he fired.
“Um… I can’t say I-”
“Sixty-three per cent!” America roared. “Up that to seventy-eight if you stand in a room alone with France! But if you escape unscathed, you’ll be honoured as a hero!”
“Is there a monetary benefit?” China asked England, flat out ignoring America.
“Um… well, if it’s a party, I suppose there’s free food?” he shrugged.
“Free food or death? The choice seems a little obvious, aru…” China puffed out his cheeks.
“Think of it as this – if the rest of us go and are horribly murdered by Russia in his hovel, you’ll be the only one who didn't go to his party,” America smiled triumphantly. “If Italy’s fears are correct, he’ll come after you and there won’t be anyone left to support you. Therefore, if Russia takes you down, then the world is at his-”
“Stop! Stop!” China waved his hands. “I don’t want to hear any more, aru. Fine. I’ll accept with the benefit of free food, but I expect some sort of further reward if we make it out of there alive.”
"Is your life not enough?" England grumbled.
“It’s a deal,” America shot him the thumbs up.
“When is this party?” Germany asked.
“We’re supposed to be there after lunch, or ‘later today’, as he’s said,” England explained, referring to the letter. “I'm not sure; it's rather vague... I guess that means something along the lines of this afternoon, which ranges between two to five.”
“I say arrive at three thirty,” Japan said. “It’s a good middle.”
“What time is it now?” Italy asked.
“Three thirty,” England said glumly, checking the clock ticking steadily on the wall.
“Alright; let’s go,” America roared, charging towards the door with renewed energy.
“America!” England called after him, folding his arms.
“Yes?” America peered hesitantly back into the room.
“Leave the bloody grenade.”
“Fine,” he groaned, leaving the weapon back on England’s mantelpiece, where it belonged. “But don’t blame me if we arrive and he has the place decked with machine guns.”
“If he does that, we don’t go inside,” Germany said, practically.
England headed towards the front door, making sure he was the last out just as a backup to ensure America didn’t try to sneak the grenade out with him. He sighed as he viewed his beloved house.
I wonder why nobody touched the scones I prepared, he wondered, as he closed the door and followed after everyone else to what had to be the most dreaded party he’d ever attended...