|The Better Mask
Author: PaperDream PM
England should never mess with magic, that is a fact all know. Except England himself but he can hardly be called sane with all the unicorn seeing and scone eating he does. Without supervision, he accidentally triggers a lot more than he bargained for; new friendships, healed scars, along with new tensions, secrets and unveiling a past that might just create a war... or two.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Humor - Russia & Hong Kong - Chapters: 28 - Words: 70,903 - Reviews: 90 - Favs: 33 - Follows: 29 - Updated: 04-11-13 - Published: 04-11-12 - id: 8016080
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Okay, first of all, sorry for the late update. I'd love to say it was due to the start of school or something really important but unfortunately, my excuse is a mixture of manga updates I couldn't read because I was in chinese camp, a new addiction to Scandinavia and The World, watching Hetaoni, Hetaquest, Romaheta and hetahazard, 9gag... So yeah. I procrastinated.
This chapter marks the start of the actual plot! (that took a while) It turned into something completely different from what I had in mind!
I own Hetalia just as much as I own Obama's necktie.
The Fall of Kiev
Time seemed frozen for the ten year old. Not a single sound reached her ears, not a single smell tickled her nose, not a single movement caught her attention. Her own body could have been mistaken for a statue were it not for the blood seeping from multiple deep gashes printed on her skin. She had no way of knowing the exact number of minutes that had passed since falling in the pit of white sand, even a simple approximate was too much to ask. The blonde shut her eyes, trying to remember even the most meaningless change that had occurred after the fall but nothing came to her. What if time really had stopped in its tracks? The girl could only pray for it not to be true. Only time was capable of numbing the excruciating pain running through her body.
Her face was already drowned in tears, her lungs emptied, her vocal cords strained beyond use and her face muscles painfully cramped from crying for help. But it didn't matter. The pain paled in comparison to the torture her own body put her through. She was tired, exhausted and hungry, an addition to her agony was little to care about. There were even moments where she stopped feeling anything, where she stopped thinking anything, moments where she temporally passed out… Only to be awoken by the pain she managed to briefly ignore. She couldn't even move to seek for a more comfortable position!
Even if she could move it wouldn't have made much of a difference. She was trapped in a snow prison, a bubble of tightly grouped snowflakes with only a hole on the ceiling. The small window was the only shield against complete desperation, it proved to her that the cage had a weakness, that it could be broken… but the cost was just as obvious. Even a blurry mind like hers could tell a strike at the ceiling would have made everything crumble on her. On the bright side, the sight of stars gave her a bit of comfort, yet they too seemed to have frozen. It may have only been the tears messing with her eyesight or her dizzy mind unable to process information. Either ways, time seemed frozen.
The blonde was pathetically sprawled on the corner of the cold cage much like an abandoned puppet, her limbs resting on the snow. Such a position forbade the heat from embracing her shaking body and invited the winds to penetrate her thick clothes. What wouldn't she have done for a flame? For a flicker of heat? She considered hugging the woman trapped with her for body heat but the idea was immediately chased from her thoughts. While it was true her paralysis kept her from doing so, reality was the main cause.
She couldn't keep the illusion the light haired woman was sleeping anymore when the latter's skin was so pale… Almost blue. Her chest showed no movement and her blood had long stopped flowing. She was lying in front of the blond child in a crescent moon shape, her face partially covered by her white, entangled hair. Her arms were positioned in front of her lifeless body from having held on to the ten year old and acted as a shield. Yes, it was her fault the woman had died. She had been careless and brought another to her death.
Death… A few hours ago, the concept would have frightened the child but at this moment it seemed so appealing. What if the gentle kiss of the Grimm reaper turned out to be the only escape? She wasn't scared of it. Pain was worse than death. Would she regret dying? Regret having gone nowhere with her life? No. She wouldn't regret anything. Unlike what most people seemed to believe in, there was no life after death. Spirits had no lingering feelings. Spirits did not exist.
She couldn't have wished for a better time for reality to come crashing down on her. All her beliefs, in possible gods, fairies, mythical creatures… Magic, karma… None of it existed. And she couldn't care less. She was already resigned to her fate.
But did she want to die?
There was no answering the question. She wasn't eager for her life to reach its end but she wasn't sure she wanted it to continue either. Her ten year old mind knew all those she cared about were dead, taken away by General Winter. It knew she only lived for them. A screw up like her had no hopes of going anywhere in life. All she could do was support others in their dreams, watch them accomplish things she could not, congratulate them while holding back her jealousy, catch them when they fell only to watch them fly higher than she could ever wish for… At least life wouldn't miss her either. Not when she was supposed to die instead of the angel of a woman lying in a place too cold for her warm soul.
… As if she needed another pain in her heart. No matter what her lifeless outer appearance suggested, she couldn't ignore her feelings and pains. They were mush too intense to. Anger, sadness, fear, worry, pain, hatred, cold, fatigue, homesickness… She couldn't tell which was winning, which was bowing down to the victor, which were present, which caused her tears, which were products of her broken imagination… Her own heart felt like it was imitating artillery instead of pumping blood! Why was her body set on fighting a war against itself? Couldn't the world leave her at peace?! Or at least, couldn't her body allow her to vent on something? She knew keeping her feelings bottled up was never a good thing but the state she was in forbid her to move.
The best she could manage was clench her teeth and stare at the night.
Miracles did not exist.
Scotland stared at the sheet of paper with nothing more than a speck of thought running through his mind. Whether it be surprise or confusion short circuiting his brain was a debate with no real answer, it could have been both for all he knew. It mattered little anyway, the fact is, he was staring blankly at the paper drowned in his own handwriting. And he had been doing so for quite a while.
It was a rare sight to see the ginger at loss of words (or thoughts since he was alone). Scratch that. The whole scene could have come from the imagination of a psychiatric patient who ate England's not-so-reliable food. It was quite a spectacular event to have Scotland sitting at his desk working with all the focus he could muster, the closest drop of alcohol out of his reach. He seemed so serious, glasses framing his eyes, papers and books spread all over the wooden surface, pen in hand… He himself had been so entranced in his work to notice his own drastic change of behaviour.
It took a lot for Scotland's interest to be sucked in whole and apparently old Slavic books sufficed. Not any old Slavic book of course, this one looked quite new as a matter of fact. It had a metallic grey cover and was outlined with neon sky blue straps, unfortunately deprived from a title. If only it had been named 'England don't you dare open this' or 'France used it in unorthodox ways', anything to keep his younger sibling away from it! But noooo! Moreover, why was the first page in English? English hadn't even spread to Eastern Europe when old Slavic was still spoken! And why the spell? Too many questions to answer. He decided on focusing on the text in his hand.
It had taken him no less than three days to translate accurately the first pages after the spell. Asking one of the soviet siblings for help had crossed his mind but he was reluctant to approach them. If Belarus and Russia were mental to a point of no return, Ukraine couldn't exactly be sane either. That and he didn't want to involve too many people in the send-Irene-back comity. Anyway, it was translated.
However, that did not help much.
The whole thing made as much sense as to him as political parties made sense to a three year old kid. Especially the title. It was common knowledge (amongst countries) that Kiev had died being a full fledged (and hot) adult, why was she a kid in this story? Not to forget her kids were alive! Unless she didn't give a fuck about them, it was a bit harsh to say all her loved ones were dead. How about the spell? It had absolutely no relation to – Oh shit.
Scotland hastily rummaged through all his translated papers and drafts to take out the small paragraph he managed to make out a few days before. He reread it once and found it much more interesting than the first time. He frowned.
Artie absolutely CANNOT know about this, he thought, picturing his younger brother's reaction. The tensions under the Union Jack were already thick enough without adding new ones. He cast aside the image of his brother and himself fighting over the information to concentrate on finding a solution.
Scotland nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the door unlocking. In panic, he swiped across his desk and stuffed the papers in the first drawer he reached, It was all he had time to do before France and his little brother (emphasis on little) entered his sight.
"Bonjour ~ " France cooed "I'm here to tuck l'Angleterre in his bed! Kids shouldn't stay up so late right?" The blond was still wearing a suit reminding Scotland his brother's previous whereabouts.
"Your presence pisses Arthur off so I can't see why you wouldn't be welcomed here." Smirked Scotland while receiving a death glare from the shrunken nation "How was the meeting?" He got up from his chair and headed to the kitchen to get a glass of whiskey after stretching the bottle towards France.
The blonde politely refused "I have to drive back… And the night is still young, I'll have plenty to drink at my local bars, if you know what I mean." He cocked his eyebrow suggestively earning a laugh from the Scotsman "Back to business. The meeting. It was fairly interesting… The whole world did learn about Irene after all."
They learnt abou – uh oh "And their reactions?" the red head asked careful not to betray his thoughts.
"A few of them seem to have grown attached to her. Especially la Russie." The Frenchman frowned at the memory "However, he chose to hide that fact unaware that I am well trained in detecting feelings and emotions ~"
Russia? The book was not lying. Plus, nations getting attached to her? That wasn't good.
That was really bad. There was simply no way of putting it without underestimating the situation. "What decisions were taken?" he asked hoping France wasn't paying attention to him. The Frenchman wasn't kidding when he said he was good at detecting hidden emotions and no nation dared to doubt the man's wisdom concerning therapy and advice.
Luckily, the blonde was too busy annoying England to analyse Scotland's face "She's free to do whatever she wants under the restrictions voted by the nations: No divulging our existence, no messing with our work, no criminal acts, always staying with at least one nation and all the things common sense implies." Could things get worst for him?
Knowing his luck, yes. Why couldn't he have been showered with all the four leaf clovers crap like Ireland? Now was not the time to go through everything that was wrong with him, he had to think. The priority would be finding Irene and having a private chat with her. He had spent no more than a few days with her but he knew she was rational and selfless, warning her could only make her more cautious… Would it really? Irene was only human. She may have been an angel on the outside there was no way she was clean of the selfishness and greed ever so present in the human nature.
"Scotland! Are you listening to me?" England's voice immediately snapped the ginger out of his thoughts.
"No." he deadpanned.
The ten year old face palmed "I asked if you found anything worth investigating in the book."
"…" Scotland hesitated. What should he tell them? Lying was barely an option with France suddenly taking interest in his answer and the truth… No. The truth could not be found out. "It's written in ancient Slavic." He finally said "Something to do with General Winter. Actually…" Quick. Think quick. "It seems to be about Kievan Rus and her childhood."
"Kie -" France's blue eyes darkened a few shades "A tragic fate for such a brilliant lady…" he lost himself in his thoughts before focusing on reality "What does it say about her?"
Damn frog, Scotland cursed at first. Wait a minute… France knows a lot about Kieven Rus' death… The red head smirked "I need to know more about her death if I want to extract more from the book. What do you know?"
The blond was taken aback "Her death? How morbid even for you…" He sighed "Well if it's for a good cause… To humans, she was killed from falling in a deep pit while trying to escape an avalanche but, while she did fall, we nations know she was killed by that winter spirit… What was his name… General Winter. After all, it is a well known fact personifications can only die by the hands of other personifications." France paused, a frown taking its place between his brows "There is however, a curious thing about her death: Russia. Losing one's mother is a terrible thing but he was affected beyond what should be possible. If I remembered correctly, he wasn't even close to her."
"… Are you insinuating his drastic change of personality was due to Kiev's death?" Scotland asked.
Arthur scoffed "Well of course it is! How did you not notice it? One day we learn of her death and the next the cute Ivan suddenly has an overwhelming murderous aura. Did you think it was a coincidence?"
Scotland thought back to the day he received a message from Ukraine warning him about the woman's death. He hadn't paid much attention (which he now regretted) to the news written on the formal scented paper. No, that was wrong. Kieven Rus' death had been of great interest for all the countries but only few of them actually cared about the woman. Her land was all that had value to their eyes. As much as it shamed him, Scotland could only accept the fact he had once been so cold hearted as to ignore the mourning nations.
Therefore, It was only natural he dismissed Russia's behaviour as not important.
If it was in a human's nature to be selfish, it was in a nation's nature to give life, relationships and feelings little value. And maybe it was cruel of them, maybe it was evil, arrogant or heartless. It surely was, but there was nothing to be done about it. Hundreds of years of betrayals, murders, wars, taunting, torture, humiliation… There was no ignoring what they saw. From the deepest friendships turning to a stab in the back to siblings taking everything away from each other, everything they witnessed seemed to warn against caring.
That was the scotsman's philosophy, his beliefs.
He was cold hearted and meant to be.
He was only acting how a nation should.
Irene was just a simple human who was not where she was supposed to be.
She had to go back.
No matter how guilty I feel about it.
Guilt? What guilt? He had no need to feel guilt. He was doing the right thing!
"No. This isn't right." England pointed out. Scotland's head snapped towards his little brother faster than it should have. "Why would a book about Kiev have a spell that brings someone from another world here?"
"I don't know." He said, rubbing his aching neck and hiding his relief. For a second there he thought Arthur could read his thoughts. But the boy's question was valid. Scotland had no clue, despite what he knew, why the spell was in there. He had learnt of it exact effects, of the kind of person it would bring but the reason for its existence remained a mysterious blur in the personification's mind. Digging into Kiev's past was the only way to attain an answer.
No answer was needed. The more he knew the more he would be reluctant to send Irene back. If he couldn't bear sacrificing a person's happiness to protect the world as he knew it, who would?
"You guys are going to have to give me more time. I'll tell you once I crack the book's secret. However, there is one problem." He warned "There is no other spell a part from the one you read, Arthur. The return spell does not exist; you'll have to figure one out yourself."
"Well you boys seem to have beaucoup de pain sur la planche (a lot of work to do), I'll head home for now. Bisous~ (kisses~)" France winked at the two before skipping to the door without forgetting to blow them kisses. The Frenchman had always hated conversations about magic, it was something he simply didn't believe in and thought was absurd. The united kingdom, along with Norway and Romania had always used it to escape from the pervert's presence.
"I'd better get some sleep too." England said between (adorable) yawns. He really did look like Sealand's long lost twin brother. "Don't you dare make a single comment about kids going to bed early. I will tear your bloody head off." … Or his young pirate self.
"Good night then." Scotland wished, eager to be left with only his thoughts for company. He watched the brit walk up the stairs and disappear in his room and rushed back to his desk once out of sight.