8. The Breath Taking Chapter

...in which a chance for a break appears

Denmark appeared in the doorway to the central hut a moment after the Finn had left. "What on Earth is happening here? What did you do to make Finland look like that?" he asked Germany, before even coming inside. Germany just pointed at England and Sweden, but not before Denmark had noticed them himself. "Oh fuck... Sve, what ye have done..."

In the left wing, China was giving orders to the nations nearby so that they could hunt down the grenade launcher, when he heard rustling behind him. After spinning around in a brief moment of fear with regards to being ambushed, he was suddenly face-to-face with Finland. From the looks of the Nordic, he concluded the man hadn't come by to pick up someone injured.

"China, I want to ask you a favour," Finland started, when he came close enough they could hear each other without any problems. "I want you guys to back me up."

"What are you going to do?" the Asian asked confused.

"Raid that trench," Finland answered simply, already continuing on his way towards the enemy line. "I want you to keep them distracted until I reach their line."

"Do you have Germany's approval for this?" China frowned.

"Yes. Since he isn't coming after me."

When Finland disappeared to continue his own mission, China made his way over to Turkey to take back his command. After hearing what Finland had on his mind, the Turk was immediately ready to go help him: actually, he found the sound of the plan very intriguing. Taking Turkey and Belarus with him, China moved closer to the trapped field and prepared to cover the Nordic, leaving Greece and Egypt to cover them in turn. As soon as they were ready, China gave everyone an order to give it their best shot.

"They're coming from the right!" someone in the trench shouted and the soldiers turned their attention to the hill that some of them had been protecting.

"Don't let them come near!" the captain ordered. "Kill them!"

"Captain! From the left too!"

The officer grimaced. "They're trying to push us back. Stay tough! The odds are on our side! All you have to do is stay in your positions and keep your calm!"

That was the moment Switzerland decided it was his turn to take action, and this decision was followed by the sound of his launcher. A white and grey screen of smoke exploded over the enemy trench once more, immediately worsening the visibility of the area, and only a moment later another bomb exploded near the trench. More heavy smoke floated along the ground around them, making the captain curse vehemently.

The third and the last of Switzerland's shells exploded, and the most of the trench was quickly covered in the white mass, sheltering the murderous Finland who, at that moment, dropped himself into the trench.

"Wha–" one of the soldiers in front of him managed to yelp, before all three of them fell in the rain of bullets, slumping unmoving to the bottom of the ditch. One of them only managed to croak once before falling silent.

"What's wrong?" A lieutenant nearby to them asked loudly, and he came into sight around a young, now shattered tree that marked a gentle turn. He was followed by two of his soldiers. Despite the thick, fog-like smoke, he could clearly see three corpses lying in the dirt of the trench that they had claimed yesterday from their enemies. "Shit!" The officer swore and turned to look around him. "Where did they shoot from?" Unfortunately for him, he did what humans usually did in uncertainty and forgot to search above his own eye level. If he had lifted his gaze up to the tree behind the trench, he could have seen the cause of his death before it claimed him.

Finland killed one more soldier that was coming along the trench to find out what was going on before he jumped back to the bottom of their old seventh line. He was quick in his movement, for he knew he wouldn't have a second chance with any of the opponents he came across. In the case his own gun would run empty, he had Sweden's hanging on his back, ready to be used. He would need it soon enough.

In comparison to Finland, who began his job the moment the smoke spread, Germany, China and Japan all commanded a swift halt when it did. They didn't want to end up accidentally shooting Finland by randomly aiming amidst the white wall. The sounds of guns in the nations' lines ceased one-by-one, but in the enemy trench there seemed to be no hope for a break. Germany started cursing his decision to let the Finn go. He had sent a message to Japan to first charge and then stop when the smoke appeared, but he was already wondering if that had been a good idea either: the steep hillside on their right had been left unprotected.

Behind him, Sweden regained consciousness. The bomb hadn't exploded near enough to do him more harm than dozens of painful scratches from the shards of the wall. There to help the Nordic was Italy, who was also waiting for a new message to pass on. England had returned to his post. Sweden's coughing and grunting turned the commander's attention away from the enemy lines that were now out of their sight anyways.

"Sweden? Is he awake, Italy?" Germany asked and, after an affirmative answer, he turned to Switzerland, nodding at him to go. "Go help them."

Switzerland responded with a slight nod and slipped from his position towards the back of the hut. Apparently the smoke and the sudden charge had flustered the enemy, because only a few grenades had reached their lines even after their sniper retreated from his post. Germany turned back to face the smoke wall, listening to the sounds from the trench far away. He inhaled slowly before turning to his right hand.

"England. We'll continue the charge."

The Englishman looked purely surprised. "Are you sure? In that smoke we might hit Finland."

"We're not going to open fire," Germany explained and shifted his gun to point the barrel at the ceiling. "The shooting in this direction is getting scanty. Because of the smoke, they can't shoot us effectively either. We'll crawl up to close range and get ready for hand-to-hand combat. Italy," he called over his shoulder. "Did you hear? Search for Sealand and send him to the right wing, while you go to the left and pass the situation plan onto Japan and China." The Italian exited the hut and Germany turned back, changing his position, ready to leave any time. "Switzerland, take Sweden to the medics and follow us afterwards." Switzerland didn't look happy, but he still obeyed.

"There could still be traps in the field," England noted, while preparing to leave. "And if Finland fails and they start shooting us again, we're in the middle of a trapped field. This is dangerous, Germany."

"Either way, right now we're going to win back that trench," Germany answered without a second thought. "We won't have a better chance. And besides..." He smiled. "Just sitting back here and letting Finland do all the work isn't really my trade. I'll trust everyone to take care of themselves."

England chuckled and set his hand on the door frame. "Sounds like our commander. After you."

Germany jumped out of the door and quickly ducked between the hay on the ground. England slipped after him and, after exchanging a polite nod, they started crawling towards the muddy and bloodstained field, where dozens of unmoving, slaughtered bodies of soldiers laid waiting to be retrieved. Soon after, Germany could hear how Denmark followed them with his own group, and then Russia appeared within his peripheral vision.

Soon they reached the traps and their advance slowed when everyone checked their surroundings to ensure they wouldn't detonate a remaining bomb. The gunfiring from the trench ahead of them was still fierce.

"Just wait Finland," the commander mumbled and crawled past two corpses, holding his breath in order to not inhale too much air around him: it smelt disgusting enough to make him want to just stand up and run the remaining distance. Suddenly he stopped, turning his head quickly to the hand holding his wrist, and then to the soldier laying on his back beside him. For a moment that seemed to last longer than it actually did, they shared a steady gaze straight from one's eyes into the other's. With one glance, Germany could tell there was no hope for the youngster, whose stomach and part of his chest was covered in fresh, still-running blood. The dying man didn't have any strength left to say anything, and a string of blood was running down his jaw while he just stared at his enemy. Germany's features hardened slightly and he raised his gun to give the soldier his long-awaited rest.

After shooting, Germany suddenly felt weird. Something around him was missing. It was too silent.

"Germany!" England called from his left a little ahead of him, hints of panic in his voice. "It stopped."

The trench ahead of them had fallen quiet, only a few sounds of footsteps remained. The smoke had started to clear slightly, but it still effectively hid the line from them. All of the nations had stopped in their tracks, waiting for whatever would happen next. Would they be trapped on the field, ambushed into a bullet rain by their enemy? Had their charge noticed? Where was Finland? Had the enemy killed him and was just taking a breather before they continued? Or had...

Before Germany could picture other possibilities in his mind, a figure moving with obvious uncertainty in his steps appeared through the smoke. The darker stains in his hair and on his face revealed a head injury.

Upon recognizing the being, Denmark gawked. "Fin?"

"Idiot!" England yelped, before hissing and rising up a little higher off the ground. "Stay down! Finland!"

Germany cursed and scrambled up, dashing to the Finn as fast as he possibly could while checking his footsteps amidst the remaining traps. However, most had gone off already, being that close to the enemy trench. He reached the Nordic and grabbed him into his arms, ducking down against the ground hurriedly. The others followed his dash, not wanting to leave the two alone, and the nations around him disappeared into Switzerland's smoke. England, Denmark and Russia came one-by-one and skidded to a halt beside Germany and Finland.

"Finland?" Germany called out and looked at the Nordic under him, lifting him up to see him better. The Finn's eyes were half open and the left side of his head was covered in fresh blood that made his blond hair sticky: a bullet had scratched the side of his head, similarly to Korea, but higher. He had only one of his guns with him and it was lying beside him, dropped when Germany had tackled him. Germany grimaced at his injury. "Fool. Look what you've got."

Finland moved his gaze slowly to his commander and smiled. "I'm sorry. Ten... Got away."

Germany gaped at the medic, disbelief painting his face. He truly didn't hear any gunshots around him, even when the nations had reached the enemy trench.

England took to a more comfortable position, relaxing slightly and sighing. "Tell me," he asked Denmark, who looked relieved after seeing Finland still alive. "Why do we keep this guy a medic again?"

Denmark sent him a half-hearted glare. "Do I have to remind ye, my dear boy, that it was yer bloody idea?"

"Gather everyone together," Germany commanded, stopping the rising argument."We're not letting this chance Finland gave us slip past."

"Then I'll take Finland," Hungary offered, cautiously coming closer.

"What about Austria?" England asked, making a mention of what caused the fast return of the woman.

"Latvia took him back. Sweden is with Liechtenstein."

"Hungary," Germany said when the Hungarian and himself began checking Finland's wound. "Hand your over position to someone more tired and come to the front. I'll use every chance we have to win back trenches. It's time you grab the gun for real."

Hungary smiled widely. "Oh, how I've waited to hear that."

.*** *** ***

The one replacing Hungary for the rest of the day was finally Liechtenstein, because no one in the front was ready to leave their position. A moment later, in addition to Hungary, they got reinforcements from Canada, who was returning to the front despite his injured arm, saying it was nothing that serious. Italy left to head back to the headquarters, helping the tottering Finland along as well, and the rest of the nations readied themselves to charge after the retreating enemy. The left wing and some others had already taken their leave and were chasing the escapees in an attack led by China.

When the others followed, as quickly as they got ready for an attack, they found Egypt. He was waiting for Germany to come, standing beside an abandoned mortar, which their opponents had left behind in order to escape faster.

"What a waste," Switzerland huffed, sounding disappointed in their enemies. "Leaving good weapons behind to save their own asses. They're not real soldiers."

"Or they have so many of them that it doesn't make much of a difference if they're missing one," Russia suggested.

"Are you speaking out of experience, or is that a guess?"

"It's broken, they must have taken off some of the most important parts," Germany said, investigating the mortar more closely. "Der 5cm leichter Granatenwerfer 36, in short 5 cm leGrW 36. Designed 1934, in service 1936-45. It was seen as too complex for its intended role as it fired bombs that were too light to inflict enough damage on the enemy, and had too short a range that was only effective from 50 to about 500 meters. The production was terminated in 1942," he lectured with dull voice, standing up and turning to leave. "Used in Nazi Germany. It's useless to us now and we're in a hurry. Leave it there."

.*** *** ***

They didn't meet much resistance later that day: after three hours of fighting after Finland's victorious stunt, the enemy started retreating away from the area. The nations found their behavior strange: abandoning already claimed trenches wasn't in anyone's inner war tactic instructions. Their guesses of the enemy plotting something bigger grew more and more anxious when no reason was found to explain their foe's odd behavior. Germany ordered the charge to stop. Some of the nations were sent back to the hut that was working as their headquarters, to ensure their base wouldn't end up being slaughtered without them knowing it.

The tenth line of their formation was the last that they claimed back, although the enemy seemed to retreat even further away. There they sat, waiting and wondering what their enemy might come up with next. Raiding one trench couldn't possibly scare away a whole army of trained soldiers (even Finland wasn't that scary, even if he tried to be) and their charge to win back already lost areas couldn't have been an utter surprise either. Their anxiety in the sudden awkward silence and for the useless reports from the few who were sent to spy were relieved later in the afternoon, when Italy ran to meet with Germany, telling him that their woman ally had appeared in their home hut with news. Leaving people to guard the trenches, Germany, England, Russia, Japan, Turkey and France started a journey back to meet up with the woman.

Upon returning, they were cheerfully greeted by not only their ally, but also Korea and America, who were sitting on the benches that had been carried outside to make the hut more spacious.

England frowned at the joyful greeting he received from the American. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"I've been there for the whole day, man," America resisted. "And I'm not ill, just a bit injured, so it's okay to get some fresh air, right?"

"'A bit'…" England repeated dryly.

"America has been very restless today," Seychelles explained, coming out of the main door of the hut. "We're having hard time inventing something to do for him."

"I wish we'd have such a problem," France sighed melodramatically.

"No kidding, you guys look awful," their ally noted, eyeing the dirty clothes of the nations. "Well, I came to tell you something you might appreciate, so sit back and relax for a while, okay?"

"What is happening?" Germany asked, sitting down on the log beside the benches. "Our enemy retreated all of the sudden."

"No need to thank me," the woman grinned. "Okay, the thing is that we voiced some formal protest against his actions on a partly demilitarized area. Politics, see?"

"This place is demilitarized?" Japan confirmed, surprised.

"Well kinda. I said partly, okay?" She twirled a piece of her long hair, wondering how she should explain. "We have a treaty that says that none of us will raise weapons against each other in here."

"I see. So with us he can make an exception." Germany nodded. "So he pulled his troops out and returned to his territory because you sent a formal objection?"

"Don't get it wrong. That won't hold him long, since the treaty really doesn't concern you," she warned. "We just gave him a bit of paper work, okay. He'll come back soon enough."

"How long do we have for this ceasefire time?"

"I'd guess you can be somewhat peaceful tomorrow, but I won't guarantee that. Today for sure."

Germany seemed very pleased. "Would it be too much to ask if I wanted you to send us more weapons? We're running out of hand grenades. More ammo would be nice too."

Their ally smiled. "May-be," she said, stretching before she smiled widely. "I could possibly ask for something in return. Like… Some newer technological information."

"No problem," Japan answered immediately and grabbed the person next to him by the nape of his neck before handing him to their ally. "Korea. We'll leave it to you."

Korea's surprised expression changed in an enthusiastic one when he registered what he was needed for: he could talk about his greatest inventions and explain everything about them almost from scratch. When 'Mrs.' Ally overcame her own surprise and accepted the offer, Korea dragged one of her disciples to a short distance away and began his lecture.

Germany turned back to their ally. "There has been one thing bothering me, and I'd hoped you could enlighten us. Why doesn't our enemy use any heavier weaponry, and why have you not supplied us with any? This actually seems a bit ridiculous to me."

At this, the woman hesitated for moment before answering. Or actually, not answering. "There is a reason for that, but you don't have to worry about it, okay? It's one of our own problems."

"I don't mind whether or not we know as long as we can be sure he doesn't use any of it out of the blue."

"He won't. Or if he dares, we'll come in to stop him for you. It's a long story and you really don't have to bother with it, okay?" Their female ally promised. "You have enough problems already. Speaking of problems, how is your plan to return to your home proceeding?"

"We don't know," Seychelles answered. "Norway won't come out of his room. Estonia appears once in a while to get them something or check the news, but he can't really tell us anything."

"If he'll get things done on time, I don't care," England sighed. "Germany, we have a break for at least a day. What should we do?"

Germany grunted in thought. "Let's take a good rest tonight. Everyone really deserves it. Someone should go send word to the tenth line that they can relax a bit for now. Good sleep and a bit of food would also be nice."

"You especially should rest, poor little commander," Russia purred, delighted for a break. "You didn't sleep last night, da?"

Germany shook his head. "That can wait until the night. There is still some work I need to do first. And besides, I did sleep last night, for a couple of hours."

"Because I ordered you to," England noted right afterwards, and Germany gave him a wry look before continuing.

"Firstly, I remember Italy mentioning something about Finland, who ran out of space," he started, and England nodded when he remembered the situation. "I think we can kill two birds with one stone. America." Germany glanced at the man opposite him. "Can you walk without problems?"

"Sure!" the American replied brightly. "What do I do?"

"Come with us," Germany rose up from his seated position. "Let's go investigate this area one more time and try to find a good storage place for our poor little back-up group."

A/N: I didn't leave you in a cliffhanger! \o/ Happy now? (Quite a few has cursed some of them :/)

Howl's Owls: Don't worry, you're not the only one XD I'm writing this in the first place after all. We're all evil~...

Ophelion: I'm glad you liked it. I don't think I've taken so much into consideration as you think I have. I usually go with: "hey, this would look good" and just try to keep it a bit clever. Of course, I have to do some research at the times, like with the mortar in this chapter. The whole thing is mapped and planned in my head only =) I have some notes though, like to remember where which nation is in which chapter, so I know who can be present in a scene and so on. Why are you so sure I have a trump card somewhere? XD

Thank you for everyone else as well. I'll keep up the work as long as there's at least someone to support me.

Scott, dear friend, you're irreplaceable.