12: Realm of the...?

England and America carefully laid the ladder down on the floor. Ukraine had sent them to this room and had continued to pretend to be in the bathroom for the sake of sending Belarus away. England noticed the tea and chocolates on the table. The tea looked cold, but his lack of dinner was suddenly alerted to a rumbling stomach.

America gave him a look. “How are you hungry? We ate dinner just two and a bit hours ago…”

“I wasn’t there, remember?” he scowled. “I also restrained myself when you were raiding Russia’s fridge because I have basic manners.”

“Whatever,” America sat down on the sofa and breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m just glad we finally get to lie down or something…”

“Do you think Ukraine would mind if I just… helped myself?” he asked, looking upon the delicate chocolates.

“Ukraine’s lovely,” America said. “She would get you more if she knew you were hungry.”

“Except I’m not going to abuse my hunger and use her as a slave,” he glared at America. “However, just one will be enough to keep up my energy.”

“You tired, dude?” America asked.

England popped a chocolate in his mouth and turned his head to see America sending him a curious look. Admittedly, lack of food since around three thirty (precisely seven hours and twenty minutes ago) had sapped the strength from him. The running around, the intense planning and the carrying a heavy ladder around was finally doing its toll. He sighed and leaned back into the couch, savouring the one chocolate.

“I am,” he admitted.

“I’d have let you drink that soda earlier if I’d known,” America looked guilty. “I don’t want to push you. Maybe you should stay here with Ukraine whilst I take the ladder to the attic and do what needs to be done?”

“Absolutely not,” England sat up. “You said so yourself – there’s no way we can split up.”

America nodded, satisfied with the answer, and settled himself down into the sofa. “Just eat a load of chocolate. The sugar rush should help.”

“Where is Ukraine?” England glanced towards the door. “I’d have thought she’d be back by now.”

“Belarus wouldn’t harm her own sister, would she?” America looked concerned.

“I doubt so,” England frowned, helping himself to another chocolate. “Unless there’s a problem and she can’t make Belarus go to the west wing?”

“If so, we’ll just have to wait her out,” America swallowed. “Ukraine might even be able to prevent Belarus from attacking us.”

England nodded, and helped himself to at least another three chocolates when the door opened and Ukraine walked in handling a tray. On it was more tea and what looked like jam tarts the size of a large hand’s palm. She set the food down and sat in between England and America on the sofa.

“Tea for three, and tarts to accompany!” she beamed. “I made these a couple days back, so they’re still relatively fresh. There’s an additional one for England, since – poor you – you missed dinner!”

“Why thank you,” England helped himself to a tart. It was delicious. “This is fantastic!”

“Thank you!” she laughed. “I’ve always been a baker. And, you know, sweet little Russia shares that with me. I’ve never seen Belarus as much as touch a stove, but if she shows any culinary prowess, I will not be surprised! But it’s strange… I haven’t been able to find Lithuania, Estonia or Latvia anywhere!”

“Oh?” America looked quizzical between bites of tart.

“Well, it’s quite strange really,” she poured them all tea. “Lithuania was with Russia last I ever saw of him, and that was just after dinner. Well, Russia arrived here some time ago, about an hour ago actually, and he was alone. That was just a little before Latvia had left with that German friend of yours to go the bathroom, but when I returned, neither were there! And Estonia! He went to bed, but when I went to his room, there was no one there!”

“Estonia’s vanished?” America looked horrified. “I like him…”

“Where’s his room?” England asked edgily.

“Left side of the stairs, at the end of the hallway,” Ukraine replied. “Why?”

“We passed by there,” England said carefully, thinking about the phone plan. “He wasn’t there, and I’m sure that was before you went there, assuming you just headed there now?”

She nodded absently. England glanced at America, who looked deeply concerned.

“I’ve always had a certain place in my heart for the Baltics,” America announced, finishing his tart and drinking his tea. “I hate to think something’s happened to them.”

“It was strange; Russia said someone might be in the house,” Ukraine admitted. “But that’s impossible. We don’t have a back door, so the only entrance is the front door. Whenever Russia’s out, one of the Baltics stays by the door to greet him, so would’ve seen if someone entered. That’s ignoring the fact we’re surrounded by miles of dense snow and some thick woods. It’s very difficult to get through the Russian border without being shot down in suspicion of attack. I really don’t know what’s going on…”

England swallowed and chose his words carefully. “Have you ever considered-”

“I think they’re playing a trick on him,” she shrugged. “He’s just a bit silly and probably hasn’t noticed, and you two evidently aren’t in on the joke, because you’re still wandering around. Unless, that is, you actually are in on it, and that’s why you have a ladder?”

“No, Ma’am,” America smiled, crumbs on his mouth. “But we’re getting everything sorted!”

“Sorted?” she looked concerned. “Has there been an argument amongst you boys?”

“No, there hasn’t,” England said, drinking his tea. “But, Ukraine, you should probably stay in here. Also, I advise you to avoid Belarus from now on.”

“Belarus?” Ukraine held her cup in her hands.

“Oh, if anyone’s in argument, then she fell out with us during a game of truth or dare,” America nodded. “She’s been quite mad at us ever since.”

“I suppose that explains the crowbar,” Ukraine said.

“We should best be going,” England checked the time. “We can’t take any longer on this. Thank you very much for the tea and food.”

Ukraine nodded and her eyes flicked back to the TV as they stood and lifted the ladder once more.

“I can deal with Belarus if she comes here,” she said as they left the room.

Russia left the lounge where everything had started. He held the faucet still, but had chosen to leave the gun, since that was something he could never pull through. He ambled out into the hallway, the pep talk from the vodka having boosted his confidence.

“Big brother Russia?” Belarus said from behind him and he turned.

He whirled around with a stretched smile and saw his younger sister standing at the end of the hallway, staring at him. The way the moonlight cast shadows across her face and the hollow expression in her eyes was somewhat terrifying.

“It’s really you,” she said, taking a step closer, as he took a step back. “I’ve missed you so much. All your horrible friends have been keeping you away from me, and then you locked your bedroom door. I’ve been so lonely, big brother Russia, and I want you to comfort me…”

“Belarus, you should go to your room and lock the door, because this house isn’t safe,” he stood three steps back.

“You’re still trying to get rid of me and be cool in front of your friends!” she hissed. “No longer, big brother. They’re not here, are they? We can do what we like.”

“No, Belarus, no,” Russia shook his head. “I need to find them. They’re my friends and they probably need me right now.”

I need you right now!” she pouted.

Russia shook his head and started walking away. “Go to bed, Belarus. Lock the door.”

“Big brother Russia, you’re shaking,” she commented softly, and he looked over to see she was walking towards him. “You’re not possibly planning of getting rid of your guests and joining me, are you?”

“What? No,” he looked horrified. “Go away, Belarus.”

“But big brother,” her smile was ominous. “Tonight is the night we can become one.”

Germany felt warm. Wherever he was, he couldn’t move his hands, and he was blindfolded. There were people nearby, but he couldn’t tell who.

“Hello?” he said aloud.

“Germany?” Italy’s voice was a warm welcome. “I didn’t realise you were here, Germany!”

“Oh, there you are,” China sounded annoyed. “I was really pissed when I was brought here first, aru.”

“Italy? China? What’s going on?” Germany asked.

“I don’t really know,” Italy replied. “But I’ve been kept warm and was supplied with plenty of water when I wanted it.”

“I’m here as well,” France stated from nearby. “And I can feel someone’s elbow in my back…”

“That might be me,” Lithuania admitted sheepishly.

“Wait, are we dead or alive?” Germany demanded.

“Good point,” Estonia said from beside him. “The last thing I remember was having a sack pulled over my head.”

“Estonia as well?” Germany frowned. “Wait. Japan? Are you here?”

There was no answer. The silence was a crushing weight.

“Japan’s not here, aru?” China sounded suddenly strained. “I really thought he would be.”

Germany craned his head upwards to try and see beneath whatever was blocking his eyes. Unfortunately, his captor had tied it round his face with extreme professional skill.

“I don’t want to be dead,” China was saying. “But it sounds like Estonia was killed, and Germany doesn’t remember anything.”

“I don’t think I died,” Italy said. “I don’t think I’m dead.”

“Italy, what happened to you?” Germany asked.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You were the first to vanish,” Germany stated.

“I know right!” he sounded surprised. “I was so lonely down here, but now that you guys are all here, I’ve got people to talk to.”

“No, no – I mean, what happened when you left the bathroom?” Germany asked.

“Oh, that,” Italy sounded disappointed. “Well, I remember opening the door, and it was a really smooth door – no creaks or anything – and-”

“Get to the point!” China snapped.

“Oh, right,” Italy laughed nervously. “I was jumped.”

“By?” France prompted.

“Well, I don’t know,” Italy huffed. “I was scared, so I closed my eyes and started waving my flag, then I think I passed out in fear…”

“Did anyone actually see this attacker?” Germany asked of the group he had now awoken to.

“No,” Lithuania said. “I was walking along with Mr Russia just ahead, and someone got me from behind.”

“Same here,” France said. “Attacked from behind.”

“I was on the couch, and then someone attacked me as well,” China admitted.

“Sack-napped whilst sleeping,” Estonia grumbled.

“I was attacked from behind as well,” Germany frowned. “Where is Latvia?”

“I’m here as well, Mr Germany,” Latvia said from beside him. “I didn’t see the attacker either. They gagged me before they got to you…”

“Well, this sucks,” China spat. “Who did this? And where is Japan?”

“Maybe we’re dead, and Japan survived the attack…” Italy sighed.

“Or vice versa,” Germany swallowed. “Maybe we survived the attacks, but Japan didn’t.”

“No,” China gagged. “Japan can’t be dead. Oh God, aru. What if his dead body is lying in this room staring at me with those vacant soulless eyes? I can’t take it – it’s too horrible.”

“China, calm down,” Germany said. “There’ll be an explanation.”

“What if he’s dead, Germany?” Italy sobbed. “Japan’s our good friend, Germany! What if he’s dead?”

“He’s not dead!” Germany roared.

“How do you know?” France asked quietly.

Germany sucked in a breath and sat there. The silence was his judge, and he could tell they had nothing better to do than to await his answer. Japan’s welfare was a mystery to him, and lying to make them feel better wasn’t working at this stage. He could tell Italy and China were getting panicked about it.

“I-I don’t know,” he confessed. “I don’t know, OK? Wherever he is, he could be with England and America as well, because neither of them have spoken either…”

The thought of the three no longer being in the world made Germany feel cold.

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