Story Introduction:

Let's see if I can make this clear and not too confusing. This story is decidedly AU (alternate universe juuuust in case people don't know), although I'm actually trying to keep it close to the normal Hetalia universe. Mostly it's the twists I've done to the origin of the Nations and what they are that makes this AU.

The story formatting will have an italicized portion at the start that I sort of call 'lore', which tells the tale of the origin of the nations and gives sort of behind the scenes looks at things. After that you get the 'normal' story, focusing on the Nations in their more typical setting. Hopefully this isn't too confusing.

On a side note, I'm fully expecting this fic to get rather bloody as it goes on (not this chapter, but in later ones), for reasons that should become rather apparent. If a bit of gore is not for you, you've been warned.

For those waiting for updates to Wasteland to Wealth and Gallery Nine (and wondering why the hell I'm starting this), fear not. The next chapters of both of those fics are nearly complete, and could likely be posted tonight.

They did not create the world, but they conquered it.

They clawed their way through rock and stone, they devoured with gnashing hungry teeth the soil that hid them from the skies. Aggressive and tenacious, they let their ravenous gluttony give them shape and form, fearsome fiends of clawed twisting limbs and sinuous hides and bodies. Teeth for tearing and ripping, teeth for chewing and grinding, they chose both and did both, turning against anything in their need to consume. Voraciously they set upon the world they tore themselves from, always violently taking everything they could, adding it to themselves, supplementing their strengths to unfathomable levels.

They turned on each other constantly, consuming and cannibalizing each other in mad fits of frenzy, taking on the strength of those they ate. Where hundreds and thousands of them had at once existed, terrorizing the lands and the tiny creatures that roamed it, the numbers began to dwindle swiftly. Thousands did become hundreds, and those hundreds became one hundred and then less. It wasn't until there were only eight left that their unending hunger seemed to abate, lessening and giving the fiends the ability to think.

Such cruel and selfish thoughts did run through their minds.

In a near bestial haze, each declared that the world would belong to them. Each asserted their right to be the alpha, the king, the ultimate conqueror of all they stood upon. The eight clashed against each other terribly, shaking the earth with their battles, leaving mountains and valleys where their bodies wrestled on the earth.

They could only come to a stalemate… the eight were too evenly matched. They could not break each other, they could not devour. They could not win.

They sought for a new source of power to tip the scales, and they looked to that which they came from. They'd devoured so much of it, the taste lost on their lips and sour now. They stood upon the earth and it refused them strength, refused to fuel their feuding any longer. They raged yet the earth withstood them, and their hungering eyes were forced to turn elsewhere. They looked, and all they could see were the tiny ones. The children the earth had willingly given itself to.

Humans. The humans had the willing graces of the earth. The humans inherited its strength truly. With the support of humans, they could draw to themselves more power, could gain more advantages for their petty wars. Through the humans would come more power… and they would have it no matter the costs.

Thus, they wrapped themselves in human guises, they shrank and covered their monstrous forms in the shapes of men and women, taking skins and colors and features to suit those they would rule. They impressed the humans with their feats of strength and their uncanny power. More than anything however… they fed the greed within men, fed their ambitions and desires, and they made them to follow. They became as gods, they became the hearts of the people, and they became the supposed protectors of their homes. They wrapped themselves in chains and promises to the people; they took on their pains and the pains of their lands if only to soak up that much more strength from them.

They became the origins of what would later be called 'Nations'.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Italy Veneziano chewed on his lower lip, worrying the skin to the point of bleeding. It was not an uncommon occurrence to find the Nation in states of distress, for he was not one to be considered very powerful. Through the ages the Nation with the auburn hair and sun squinting eyes had done nearly everything he could to avoid battles and conflicts. In his heart was the soul of the artist, of the merchant, of a lover and a gourmet. The land of his people, his land, was not vast in size, but his heart was content that way. He wanted nothing but sunny simple days filled with song, pasta, and good company.

He did not understand the warring impulses of the others, and more than that he did not want to understand them. Battles and bloodshed, they scared him deeply and earned him the title of a coward, a title he would embrace a thousand times over if the others would simply leave him alone. He hated violence, deeply and with a passion. Their wars, he begged for them to keep them to themselves, pleaded for them to overlook his tiny peninsula.

Some years it worked, and some it did not. No matter how much he'd hoped otherwise, war had touched him over the years with its terrifying claws, threatening to undo him. Oh how he hated war, hated when he had no choice. As a Nation he had fought back, but it was always so difficult. He was amazed he was alive, and he knew that in some of the fiercest times, it'd only been the strength of his allies that had gotten him through. The strength of allies and the graciousness of those who would not destroy him at defeat.

As he worried at his lip this morning, Italy could swear he felt something terrible in the air. Not one who'd ever been praised for being able to read the situation or the atmosphere well, a deep sense of dread was washing over him. He'd been torn from his sleep with a horrible nightmare, his body shuddering and shaking as if he were being torn apart. He felt wounds sear at his flesh in places he could not remember being hit, he could all but imagine blades coming for his skin, slicing into him with the intent to destroy him. Torn apart, that was the most horrendous and dizzying sensation he'd had from it all, and it was so painful he was surprised it hadn't killed him.

The dream had been so painful, so very painful, and he'd woken up screaming in a cold sweat.

What, what had it been? Was it a premonition? Was it a vision of the future? Wars damaged a Nation, suffering of the people led to his own suffering. There was no war right now, though, and his country was managing along. If he'd been under attack surely he would know, surely his boss would have called him at once! He wouldn't be staring out the window into peaceful skies with happily chirping birds.

Italy trembled and hugged his body tightly, wishing and hoping that his brother would show up soon. He'd called his twin the moment his heart had calmed down enough for him to think at all. 'Why… why didn't I think to run to Germany?' Normally he would, normally the Nation would flee as if on instinct towards the home of the other if anything even remotely frightful came to his mind. Normally he would leap into the other's bed, so often without clothes, and cling to the other as if his life depended on it.

Yet this morning, somehow, the thought of seeing Germany had only seemed to add to his fear.

No doubt the nightmare had been the cause of this irrational displacement of fear; no doubt it was why Italy had turned to his brother of all Nations and not to his ally. The twins had a rather strange and strained relationship, and while Italy liked to believe there would always be true affection between them, they'd been too divided in the past for him to say for certain if that were true. Raised in different Houses, under the care of different Nations, Veneziano and Romano had only recently rejoined each other when you considered the impressive number of years they'd existed. They were twins yet in some ways they were strangers, and there was an awkward air that always lingered about them.

'My body hurts,' Italy thought to himself, hugging only tighter as if trying to hold himself together. His sunny disposition was in shambles, the clueless mask he showed to the world pocketed in the privacy of his own home. 'I should have called my Boss, I should have called to make sure the country is ok… but I… this feels so weird. This doesn't feel like war, this doesn't feel like an attack!' Italy shivered and pressed his eyes tightly shut. 'I'm scared.'

He could sense his brother at the door before he heard the key turn in the lock, long before he heard the wood slam shut and angry yet anxious steps rush directly for him. He hadn't needed to shout, he hadn't had to call out to tell Romano where he was. As Italy drew in a steadying breath, he knew his brother could feel where he was just as clearly as Italy could feel his approach. Something in his chest, something tight and painful and aching, started to relax the nearer his brother came. It was like surfacing from beneath deep waters to finally breathe again. Why, why would it feel like this, when the presence of his twin had never caused something like this before?

His eyelids lifted just slightly to squint at his brother once Romano entered the room. He stared at the brown hair, disheveled and a mess much like Italy's own was right now. He looked at the flush on the cheeks that barely hid sickly pale skin from sight. Romano was panting, as if he'd run his way over as soon as Italy had called, and yet the fatigue was deeper than that surely. There was a look in his eyes, underneath the annoyance and the unpleasantness his brother typically wore like a shield. Their gazes locked, and it flared through them like liquid fire.

Romano had dreamt as well, Romano was terrified also.

"Brother!" Italy wailed, as he pitched his body forward, arms outstretched and desperate for a hug. Romano's face screwed itself into a scowl, his tongue clicking against his teeth in annoyance even if he opened up his arms. Their limbs twined about each other tightly, and both put as much strength into the embrace as they could. It was as if they sought to squeeze each other so fiercely they wouldn't be able to breathe.

Ah, but it wasn't that, it wasn't that at all.

Deep inside, they felt a yearning. Deep within, some hidden impulse and instinct was almost commanding them. Closer, closer, they needed to be closer. They needed to… to…

"What? What the hell got you so scared you had to call me, huh?" Romano's gruff voice silenced whatever thought was coiling through them, trying to seize their minds and attention. Their arms grew slack, muscles relaxed to the point of looseness. With a dismissive 'che', the darker haired twin took a step back. He crossed his arms over his chest, turning his face and only staring at his brother through the corner of his eye. Italy also took a step back, holding his hands together at his chest, fingers wringing together uselessly.

"I had a dream… a really really scary dream…" His voice was soft yet pensive, plaintive in a way that clearly showed he hoped the other could just make the hurt go away. Romano's expression only seemed to darken, though, and grudgingly he added his own voice.

"I did, too." Almost instantly of course, he forced his voice gruff and harsh, almost taunting his stupid little brother. "Of course unlike you I didn't have to go running to any potato bastards for a hug! I handled it on my own!"

"Ve! But brother! I called you right away! I didn't call Germany!" He flailed his arms, as if begging to be believed, as if that was more important than being insulted at all. Romano opened his mouth, no doubt to shoot out an insult for his brother or Germany, yet held his tongue suddenly. The situation washed through his thoughts, and he took in a deep swallow. His throat felt parched, and his mouth dry. The Italian twins stared at each other, so many questions in common and no answers between them. Romano turned his head to look at the other face on, and there was silence between them for a few more breaths.

"Veneziano… you can't tell Germany about this." Romano's voice was grave and serious. He didn't shout it like a command, and he didn't word it like a demand. Across from him, Italy nodded his head, no resistance to an idea that normally should have received one. Opening his eyes in full, Italy nodded his head solemnly, dropping his hands to his side.

"I know… I didn't plan to."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

China surveyed the great round table in the center of the room, watching as some of his employees worked to prepare it for the upcoming conference. As the host for this year, it was of course his responsibility to make certain the facility was properly in order for all of the Nations that would be arriving the next day. Nearly everything had been prepared, from lodgings to printed out schedules to the all important menu for meals. Unlike the conferences held in some countries, the meals served when China was host were always superb. He wouldn't have it any other way.

All the same, while in previous years the smooth preparations would have left the normally cheerful nation in a good mood, today nothing would be able to lift his spirits. A frown hit his face as he crossed his arms behind his back, taking to a slight amount of pacing. In truth he wanted nothing more than to be back at his own House, or perhaps to take a tranquil walk someplace where he could set his thoughts into some sort of order. His desire to withdraw away from this building went deeper than even just needing a way to clear his thoughts, even if it was woven together so tightly with it.

Don't let them come here!

That was what the voice had said, no shouted, no pleaded at him in his dreams last night. Desperate and terrified, the voice and the words had chased away any images of his mind's nightly wandering. Though of course he couldn't place the voice, or the reason behind the words, China was wise enough to have already figured out whom the 'them' in that statement had to be. No doubt it was the other Nations, who would be gathering here on his soil. It wasn't as though China always relished the thought of having the other Nations come here, oh so very far from it. Wars tended to do that to you. However… why… why would such a sentiment assail him this particular time?

'The voice… I know I've heard it before…' The old Nation searched deep in his memories, yet he couldn't quite grasp the thread that would lead him to the identity of the voice. He knew it wasn't his own internal monologue, for never had his head sounded to him quite so feminine. He didn't recognize it to be the voice of any of his siblings nor was it the voice of any in his employ. It was familiar all the same, and China was actually feeling acutely embarrassed about not being able to remember.

"Pardon me, sir… but one of the Nations has arrived early…" The human bowed low, no doubt uncomfortable at having to drag the Nation out of his thoughts. China fought away a flash of irritation. It was not directed at the human, no, but rather at himself. He'd allowed his mind to wander when he needed to be here to supervise.

"Who is it aru?" He knew he could probably tell on his own, if he tried hard enough, but he saw little reason for it. Perhaps some of the other Nations still found it fun and amusing to stretch their senses like that, to rely on the strange bond all of their kind seemed to share to sniff one another out. China considered himself much too old for that, and the act was unnecessary anyway. His people were advanced and intelligent enough to do something so simple as receive a guest and properly announce them.

"It is Japan…" Ah, the man's hesitation and discomfort seemed to grow. The rocky relationship between Japan and China was, and perhaps always would be, a difficult and sore subject. No matter how much either would try to look beyond wars and betrayals to maintain diplomacy, there were simply old hurts that could not and should not be forgotten. Their relations were strained under the surface. That didn't mean that China didn't still try to be the best older brother he could.

"I'll… I'll go see him shortly aru. Please show him to his room and let him know…" China tried to offer the human a smile, some show that he wasn't agitated with the man. The thought did cross his mind to offer some snacks or some such to calm him down, but the easing of the other's shoulders showed that wouldn't be necessary.

"Yes, sir." The man rushed away to do as he was told, and China let his fingers reach up to toy with the end of his ponytail.

'What… would bring Japan to visit me early?' His heart throbbed painfully for a moment, fearing it would be bad news. Lately… lately there seemed to be a dangerous tension running about the world. At present there were no global wars, no all encompassing conflict to weigh them down. All the same… China knew he'd been acting cautiously, had been watching his words and looking over his shoulder more than usual. Something… something was brewing out there on the horizon, and for a Nation as old as he was, this something would not be ignored.

He oversaw a few more things before steeling himself to visit his brother. So many possibilities roamed through his mind, but he knew better than to jump to any sort of conclusions. He approached the door to the room Japan would be staying at for the conference, and let his hands settle his ponytail for just a moment before knocking. He heard a muffled sort of sound beyond the door, Japan moving perhaps, before the other Nation came to open the door rather than calling for China to enter.

The two locked eyes for a moment, a complicated tension racing through them. It lasted only moments in truth, yet time was a fickle thing, and that moment seemed to stretch on through centuries long forgotten. Though the gaze wasn't broken, Japan stepped back from the door politely, bowing just slightly to let China come in. The two Asian Nations soon found themselves alone behind a closed door, and the silence kept them company.

"You've arrived early aru…" the elder Nation began, his voice filled with the unspoken question. Japan's eyes regarded him quietly, masking what he was thinking as usual. However, China had known Japan for a long time… and within that impassive gaze, he thought perhaps he could see worry. 'That or his eyes are only reflecting what I feel…' Finally China was answered with a nod.

"Yes…" Japan said almost hesitantly. His voice was non-committal, keeping his thoughts close. Still, there was a small shifting in his eyes, perhaps a nervous flicking to the left that spoke volumes. China remained silent, pursing his lips together in thought for a moment.

"Why aru?" He hadn't meant to let the question slip, though slip it did. Quietly yes, but resolutely as well. Japan took in a deep breath, and China could see the Nation's shoulders tense. His own did as well.

"I felt I needed to be here… I cannot explain it." Japan was clearly frustrated by his own answer, as if this strange compulsion aggravated him deeply. China thought to his dream of the night before. He thought about the voice he'd heard that was so familiar yet all but lost to him. Was it a voice Japan would remember? Somehow… China felt the other Nation far too young. China had been the one to raise him, mostly at any rate. If the voice was old to him, then surely it was ancient to Japan. 'Ancient…' The word chilled him softly, and he turned to leave the room.

"I am glad you are here, thank you." Japan said nothing to his thanks, and China did not wait for an answer. He left the room, deciding now was exactly the time for that walk.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

There were many things that England could dream of that would be unpleasant. With all of the history behind him, there was certainly much that could torture and torment his unconscious mind. Last night he'd dreamt deeply, and indeed this morning he'd woken up with a sense of unhappiness, of bitterness. He'd woken up feeling pained and hollow and… apprehensive. The feelings had lingered with him all morning, refusing to leave him be like a shark on the trail of blood. As if he hadn't already been on edge of late, now this dream was gnawing at his gut.

What was perhaps the most perplexing part of it all, he thought as he sat sipping some tea and perusing a newspaper, was that the content and subject of the dream itself wasn't unpleasant in and of itself. He'd dreamt of his former days of glory, he dreamt of the high heady time when he'd been an empire. An actual, powerful, thriving, 'don't even think of defying me' empire. Oh his skin had always felt so warm back then; back when he was ever blessed by sunshine. He could remember it so well still, those days when he'd felt as strong as a god almost. Those were glorious days indeed, and the memory of them while bittersweet now typically still brought a smile to his face.

There was no reason that dream should have unsettled him as it did… and yet… such was the case. He was uneasy today, unhappy. When he tried to puzzle through his reaction to the dream, he found it wasn't even the sense of regret that was weighing him down. He would always wish he could have maintained his former glory, he knew that to be true… and yet this morning? The dark feeling set upon him was almost like a panic. It was almost like he was suddenly afraid… as if somewhere in his bones he knew danger was coming, and that without the strength he'd possessed as an empire… he would certainly perish.

It was absolute rubbish of course. He might not be an empire any longer, but he was no weakling! He pulled his weight in wars; his people lasted when others couldn't hold out. England was perfectly strong enough and capable as he was now. Perhaps it was the global atmosphere of unease that had prompted such an irrational reaction from his dream. Perhaps that was why he was suddenly, no matter how much he rationalized against it, terrified at being simply a Nation again… not an Empire.

There was no room for empires in the world any longer though. Of course not. The world was settled into its ways, the Nations had worked out a system that was surviving. It wasn't quite so simple to rush around conquering anymore. You couldn't simply do that now.

Why, then, was he feeling that itch again though? That utter need to reclaim what he'd been? Why now? Why right before this conference when he was supposed to go and sit and speak politely about maintaining peace and the status quo? He set his tea down and all but threw the newspaper on the floor, scowling at it bitterly. His teeth clenched together and his muscles seemed to stiffen and tense. He needed to push this feeling away, and push it away soon. It couldn't possibly be productive.

Should he call someone? Would venting help? Oh but who could he really call about something like this? There were some who were so obviously wrong to call ("Hey America, I was just fondly reminiscing about my days as an empire, don't suppose you'd fancy becoming my colony again, hmm?"), and then others who he simply didn't want to call. Chatting with France over something like this? No thank you. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, getting up to pace in his room. What the hell… what the bloody hell was going on with the world right now?

Part of him wanted this mysterious danger to show itself already, while another part of him so wisely warned him that he very much did not want to see it.

'Mind on the conference now, mind on the conference. Don't you have some last minute papers left to double check? Yes… yes you do.' In the face of non-existent answers to his questions, he'd simply have to settle for good old fashioned distraction. He left for his office, ignoring the whisper in the back of his mind warning him to prepare. It was coming, it was waking up.

Author's Note:

Again, hopefully that all wasn't just a giant pile of confusion. XD I'm trying to keep events paced well with the 'lore' I have typed out, considering the lore starts to converge with the present after a while. I actually expect the future chapters are going to end up much longer than this one did. Sort of crazy. Therefore, expect this to be a slowly updated story.