Axis Powers Hetalia © Hidekazu Himaruya
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"Just give up already, Feliks."
"Like, no way! Not yet!"
"We're lost," he said, pleading voice weary.
"Nuh-uh. I totally know where we are." Feliks' green eyes were determined, focused, and narrowed against the sun as he surveyed the terrain ahead.
"No, you don't," Toris replied, dejectedly staring down at the useless, slightly crumpled hand-drawn map in his hand, wondering if by some miracle they could ever, ever find a way to use it now.
"Like, yes I do! Just trust me, Liet!" Feliks huffed at his friend while impatiently shaking several stray hairs out of his face. He critically selected his next handhold and continued climbing the rocky outcropping which obscured their current view from whatever lay beyond.
'Just trust me,' huh? That's what got us into this mess in the first place, Toris thought somewhat bitterly, equally tired of walking and of being lost. As far as Toris was concerned, this supposedly simple trip had promoted itself to Category Four Disaster the moment he allowed Feliks to do things his way.
It was true that the map clutched uselessly in Toris' hand - Feliciano's map, as it were - was rough, but the Italian's supplemental verbal directions had given Toris confidence in his ability to safely navigate the scribbled lines without any trouble. Feliciano's ballpoint pen route had traced a mostly straight path from his own house to Poland's place, crossing through both Austria's and Czech Republic's backyards along the way. All Feliks and Toris had to do was reverse the order, and tah-da, they'd have made it to Feliciano's place before lunch. However, when Toris had shown Feliks the map, Feliks, in typical Feliks fashion, dismissed it with a swift wave of his hand and barely a glance, choosing instead to do things his own way.
"Like, I know where his house is, Liet," he had said with a wink. "I can get us there no problem-o."
And Toris, in typical Toris fashion, had believed him.
They had set off early, in an attempt to avoid the heat of the day. Feliks had been excited, babbling on about how many times he had travelled this path of his, and how much fun it was going to be to have Liet along for the trip this time. As Feliks explained it, the two friends would be traveling through a "totally huge and like, so beautiful" wetland which stretched from his property to Ludwig's. From there, they would stop by the German's house for lunch and set off again, keeping low as they passed through Vash's beautiful gardens (so as to not be seen or, worse, shot at) and then presto! They'd both appear in Feliciano's neighborhood, just a few blocks away from his house.
It sounded simple, but Toris had been wary of Feliks' decision since it meant the two travelers would be finding their way without some sort of charted visual guide. He had quietly watched Feliks pack a few snacks and some water for their trip, but no map, compass, or GPS system of any kind had entered his glittering pink backpack. Also, when Toris had glanced at a regular map, Feliks' way seemed quite a bit longer than Feliciano's. But, when Toris asked, Feliks had simply replied with: "Look at it this way, Liet. Your way goes through, like, two whole countries. That's a long way. My way only goes through two countries! It's shorter, see?" And while Toris had continued to stare at the map for several minutes afterward, trying vainly to make sense of Feliks' logic, in the end, no, he hadn't seen. But if Feliks knew what Feliks was doing, then Toris decided he would go along with it.
The two travelers had wandered through the forest for a good part of the morning before Toris managed to muster the courage to ask his friend where they were. "Oh this?" Feliks had replied. "This is just a reserve, you know? Park Krajobrazowy Dolina Dolnej Odry (1). Isn't it pretty?"
Toris had mutely nodded his head in agreement before realizing what he was doing. "Wait. What? You're taking me through a nature reserve?"
"A nature reserve that crosses borders?" Toris started to panic. He had been careful to make sure both he and Feliks had their passports ready on the table before they left the house, just in case, but he suddenly wasn't incredibly certain the documents had made their way into the miniature backpack currently hanging off of Feliks' left shoulder. In fact, Toris was almost positive he could still see them sitting on the table...
"Like, Ludwig won't mind. And besides, he's never caught me sneaking in this way," Feliks replied, sending Toris a mischievous grin from over his shoulder.
Toris sighed, resigned to the loss of the passports and the possibility of being caught and imprisoned by their uptight German friend. Toris tried to not let his imagination run itself too far, and instead focused on his awkward attempts to climb over the rotting remains of a fallen tree. He carefully kept his eyes steady on the root-gnarled ground so he wouldn't trip and end up falling on his face. Somehow, this whole scenario was turning out to be the typical result of spending a day with Feliks.
Toris looked up to see Feliks watching him with a serious look in his normally cheery green eyes. The playful, mischievous glimmers had gone, suddenly replaced with a soul-searching look of concern and maybe just a little pain.
"Don't you trust me, Liet?" he asked, whispering, his hurt voice somehow seeming to silence the normally ceaseless noises of the forest surrounding Toris. For several heartbeats, all Toris could do was return his best friend's stare, surprised and wounded himself that Feliks had felt the need to ask.
"Of course I do," he finally replied. And that had been the end of Toris' protests.
However, with the sun now beginning to creep toward its resting horizon, Toris began to sense something was amiss. Earlier, Feliks' steps had been sure, his face bright, and his manner confident. Now, his footfalls were less energetic and he had developed a habit of squinting around at the terrain every ten minutes, as if he wasn't quite sure he recognized the place.
Great, Toris thought. He's finally gotten us lost. But whenever Toris tried to broach the subject, Feliks would immediately answer with a grin, looking just as self-confident as ever, swearing he knew exactly where he was.
"Like, Liet?" Feliks asked after another quarter-hour of silence. "I'm kinda tired."
"I'm tired, too," Toris replied.
"I think we should totally take a break."
"Yeah," Toris agreed. Sitting down against the base of a small tree, he arched his back and stretched his arms out above his head, clasping them together as he did so. Beneath him, the slightly damp ground was strewn with rough debris, but he knew it would be even rougher for Feliks, since Feliks didn't have the sense to wear long pants when hiking. So, with a sigh, Toris removed his windbreaker and spread it out on a relatively stable-looking patch of ground, inviting his friend to sit. Feliks happily plopped down on it with a quick thanks, and proceeded to complain to Toris about how bumpy, uncomfortable, and hard the ground was, anyway.
The two companions relaxed as they rested their feet, listening to the soothing noises of the area surrounding them. The birds were chirping merrily, the wind was whispering softly into their ears, and a little brook somewhere nearby was babbling contentedly to itself. Comfortable and warm as he relaxed in the heat of a few stray rays of sunshine, Toris could feel himself begin to drift off into sleep, content with the background chatter of the wetlands around him.
Feliks, however, wasn't quite that comfortable. As he absently drew little doodles in the soft earth with a broken twig, a sudden loud sound of snapping branches made Feliks turn quickly toward Toris' dozing form, but it didn't appear as if Toris had been the one making the noise. At the same time, Feliks also noticed the chirping birds had stopped singing their songs to each other. The area had suddenly become very quiet, and a powerful, unpleasant odor had drifted its way into their campsite's airspace. A good whiff told Feliks all he needed to know.
"BEAR!" Feliks shouted, startling Toris, who sleepily looked at his companion in confusion. "No, Liet! Like, look that way! That way!" Feliks commanded, stabbing his finger urgently at a large, shadowy form casually ambling its way towards them. "It's seriously a bear!"
Thoroughly awake, Toris hastily jumped to his feet. He had never seen a bear before, and didn't know how to react to one. Was he supposed to take Feliks and run? Should they climb up a tree? Did they try to scare it off somehow? But the creature looked so big...and they'd left home without a weapon...
Feliks solved the dilemma for him by reaching down and ripping Toris' jacket up from the ground. He shook it out violently in front of him and yelled as loudly as he could, despite the slight warble of fear in his voice: "Hey, you, Bear! Like, go away!" Unfortunately, while Feliks was busy jerking the jacket around in front of him, it decided to tangle upon itself, and ended up slapping against Feliks' forearms instead of blooming outward as it was supposed to. Thus, instead of making Feliks look bigger, it made him look more ridiculous, shouting at a bear and hitting his arms with a swinging piece of tangled cloth, but that was the least of their worries. Rather than frightening the bear off, Feliks had successfully managed to gain its attention, and apparently, also rouse its curiosity.
Toris suddenly decided this was one of those times where Feliks didn't know what Feliks was doing. Taking matters into his own hands, Toris grabbed his friend by the upper arm and began forcefully dragging him backward, determinedly heading toward a sharp bend in the path. Yanking Feliks around the bend, bringing the two out of the bear's immediate line of sight, Toris begged Feliks as loudly as his frightened voice would allow. "We have to do something, Feliks! Please, anything...anything!"
Feliks grabbed Toris' face with both hands, locking their gazes together. "Like, Liet," he said, voice calm and steady now, despite being somewhat of a higher pitch than normal, "We're not going to die, okay? We'll get through this."
Toris wasn't so sure, but nodded anyway.
"Like, good. Now, on the count of three, we totally run like hell."
Toris nodded. He wasn't sure about being able to outrun something as large as a bear, but maybe its immense bulk would slow it down...he took a deep breath and attempted to calm himself as Feliks counted down.
A rustle in the tall grass from the bear's direction made both friends stiffen in fear. They could hear a loud sniffing noise from around the bend, and could almost see the tip of the bear's black, snuffling snout peeking out, searching.
A large paw lazily scratched at the ground, attempting to dig up a half-buried piece of trash that had apparently been left there weeks ago.
"One...," Feliks held his breath, trying not to scream out and startle the bear into looking in their direction. So far, so good. "Now!" Feliks whispered hoarsely, pushing his friend into a run with as much strength as he could. Toris awkwardly stumbled out of his hiding place, recovered, and ran, immediately drawing the bear's attention. It's large, shaggy head rose, sniffed twice, and then lowered briefly as the bear considered Toris' fleeing form.
Then it charged.
The bear shot off after Toris with a speed Feliks couldn't believe. No way something that big is totally that fast! he thought, now very frightened for Toris. But there was nothing more he could do for his friend...by now both Toris and the bear were out of his sight, and Feliks just wasn't a fit enough runner to catch up. Not that he really wanted to chase down a bear...but, oh, Toris...
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(1): Translation from Polish (or so the Internet says): "Lower Odra Valley Landscape Park". It's German name translates to the "Lower Oder Valley National Park", but the different names just correspond to two separate halves of the same thing. Anyway, it's a shared German-Polish nature reserve that borders the Odra/Oder river.
A/N: I have to send out my thanks to Chiisaioni for correcting me about the nature of the reserve. Apparently, my geography somewhat fictitious; the real thing is much soggier (moors and wetlands) and devoid of trees. Chiisaioni also mentioned that it is known for having "white-tailed eagles, ospreys, least weasels, European badgers, and raccoon dogs." So there you go. :)