Chapter 1: We Have To Leave! Tonight!

In a small house in Munich, there lived a happy family of five: Claus and Elise Beilschmidt; their children, 7-year-old Ludwig and 5-year-old Klara; and Claus' father, Alois, who, for some reason, unknown to Claus and anyone else, called himself "Germania".

The Beilschmidts' lives were happy, despite the times they lived in. But, with every good day one has, something bad almost always follows.

September 20, 1940

Ludwig and Klara walked into the house, coming home early from school. They didn't look too happy; Ludwig had a black eye, disheveled hair and a bloody nose, and was pissed, while Klara, whose shoulder-length, blond hair had grass in it, was crying and kept apologizing to her big brother, even though Lui said she did nothing wrong.

"Lui, Klara, you're home early," a very pregnant Elise said when she heard her children enter. She became worried when she saw what state her kids were in. "Mein Gott, what happened to you?" Elise bent down to eye level with Ludwig and Klara.

"These mean big kids picked on me at school," said Klara. "Then they beat Lui up when he beat them up…and look what they did to my bow, Mommy!" She showed Elise a light blue, torn and dirty ribbon.

"That's horrible!" said Elise.

"They were picking on my baby sister, so they had it coming," Ludwig said, still ticked.

Elise got a wet cloth and started cleaning up Ludwig's bloody nose. "I'm so sorry, children. Maybe I should talk to a teacher, or something?" She turned to her daughter. "Why did they pick on you, honey?"

"I…I called the Fuhrer crazy stupid," Klara said quietly.

"Klara…I don't think you should've said that…" Elise said nervously. "I'm not saying that I agree with those mean kids, but you could've gotten in a lot of trouble."

"But he is crazy!" Ludwig protested.

"I know," said Elise. "Lui, hold still, please." She tried to hold another cloth to Ludwig's nose to stop the bleeding.

"But, Mommy, my nose hurts," Ludwig whined, trying to evade his mother.

"I know, but I need to stop your nose from bleeding," said Elise. Klara helped hold Ludwig still while Elise applied the cloth to her son's nose.

Germania came in from something he had to do. His face fell when he saw his grandchildren. "What happened, you two?"

"Some mean big kids picked on Klara, so I beat them up," said Ludwig.

"Then those meanies beat Lui up," Klara said.

"That's not very nice," said Germania. "I'll have to punch those kids' lights out."

"Germania, don't," said Elise. She came back with some more tissues for her son. "Here, Lui." She picked Klara up. "And I'll wash you up, Klara. Okay?"

"'Kay," Klara said. Elise walked off with her, and Germania and Ludwig heard the water running.

"Grandpa, can you beat those meanies up?" Ludwig asked, his blue eyes growing bigger. "Please?"

"Well…" said Germania. "I don't know…"

"Please?" Ludwig pleaded. "There's something I didn't tell Mommy…those kids called her and Daddy bad people."

"Alright, that's it!" Germania said, getting angry. "They're gonna pay!" He put his coat back on, found a hat and put that on, and was about to head out the door. "Lui, give me their names. I'll find them."

"Well, there was Hans—" Ludwig said, but was cut off by his mother, who came rushing in, her hands wet from giving Klara a bath.

"Alois Beilschmidt," Elise said. "Don't you dare!"

"Don't I dare what?" Germania asked.

"If you beat those kids up, you'll get in trouble," said Elise.

"Those brats called you and Claus, my son and daughter-in-law, the mother and father of my grandchildren, bad people!" said Germania.

Elise sighed. "Still…I won't have you getting arrested and put in prison."

"Fine," Germania said and sat down in a huff.

Claus came home an hour later.

"Claus, you're home late," said Elise.

"Sorry about that; I got held up at work," Claus replied. He sat down at the table, and everyone began to eat. "Boy, have I got some news for you guys."

"What is it?" Ludwig asked.

"My boss told me that we're being investigated for treason," Claus said. He wasn't very happy. "He threatened to have all of us arrested…and sent to Auschwitz…if he finds out we hid people! How, exactly, are we traitors?"

"We're not," said Germania. "We saved people's lives, didn't we?"

"Lui and Klara were sent home early today," Elise said.

"Why?" a confused Claus asked.

"'Cause some mean kids picked on me and beat Lui up when he beat them up," Klara replied.

"They called you and Mommy bad people, Daddy," Ludwig said.

"I was going to teach those brats a lesson, but Ellie stopped me," said Germania.

Claus decided he wanted to change the subject. "So, Ellie, how's our baby?"

"He's kicking a lot," said Elise. She smiled.

Claus beamed at his wife. Only a month and two weeks left to go, and their baby would be brought into the world! "Oh, Ellie…can I talk to you alone, please?"

"Uh, sure," said Elise. She and Claus left the table and went into their room to talk.

"Listen…" said Claus. "I didn't tell you this at the table because I didn't want to worry my father or the children."

"What's wrong?" Elise asked.

"You know the Gekkostate, those people we went to for money…for our family?" Claus asked.

"Yes," said Elise. "Why?"

"They…well, they came to me, demanding that we pay up in two days," said Claus. "This was another reason I was late in coming home."

"But we can't pay them back in two days!" Elise exclaimed. "We've got two children to feed, and another baby coming soon!" She felt her stomach for another kick from her unborn son and spoke soothingly to the baby. "It's okay, my baby, nobody's gonna hurt us."

"We have to pay them," said Claus. "Listen…they know about our child coming soon."

"You better not be thinking of giving them—" Elise said angrily.

"No, no, never!" said Claus. "Those men said that if we can't pay them the money in time…" He sighed. "…then…they'd…take our child once he's born."

Elise covered her mouth. "No…No! They're not getting our son."

"I know," said Claus. "Don't worry, I'll think of something." He and Elise went back to join the family at the table.

After everyone was finished eating, the family was sitting around, laughing and talking. The day had gotten a little better…until they heard a loud knock at the door.

"I'll get it," Ludwig said, but Claus stopped him.

Claus stumbled back in shock at who was at the door: Two shady-looking people! "Okay, everyone…pack as much stuff as you can!" He spoke in a whisper. "We're leaving."

"But, Daddy—" Klara began.

"Go with your brother and start packing," Claus whispered urgently to his daughter. He, Germania and Elise all raced to their respective rooms and started throwing stuff together, while the children ran to their room and packed.

"Claus, we can't forget the baby's things, too," said Elise. She was holding up some hand-me-down pajamas, and a blanket.

"Put them in," Claus whispered.

Elise put the baby's stuff in a sack full of whatever stuff she was able to gather together.

The door to the house broke down, and footsteps were heard coming closer.

"Quick, out the window," Claus whispered. He was about to climb out the window himself, when he heard the voices of the men behind him. Claus turned around, and sure enough, there were two men facing him. One of them was about 29 years old or so. He had brown hair and gray eyes, and he was wearing a military uniform; his name was Holland Novak. The other was approximately 45 years old—maybe older—and he had black hair and gray eyes. This man sported a mustache, and wore a heavy coat and hat, both of which were blue and white; he was known as Ken-Goh. Both men were glaring at Claus.

"Hello, Claus," Holland said.

"What do you want?" Claus asked. "You gave me and Ellie two days to pay you back!"

"We want our money now," said Ken-Goh. "Or maybe…we could take your little boy once he's born."

"Like hell!" Claus shouted. He punched both men in the face and hopped out the window. He then joined his wife, father and children and got in the driver's seat of the car.

The men got back up off the floor and looked out the window.

"Hey!" Ken-Goh shouted, seeing Claus and his family driving away. "They're getting away!"

"Come on, let's get them!" Holland yelled. He and Ken-Goh both ran out of the house, got into their truck and chased after the Beilschmidts.

Ludwig and Klara made themselves the lookouts and were turned around in their seats.

"They're coming!" Ludwig shouted.

"Shit!" Claus said frantically. He drove faster, trying to avoid the pursuers.

Some time later, the Beilschmidts were finally out of Germany, their pursuers behind them.

"They're still behind us," said Klara.

"Why are they coming after us, Daddy?" Ludwig asked worriedly.

"Where will we go?" Elise asked worriedly.

"You remember my friend, Giuseppe Vargas?" Claus asked.

"Jose? Yeah," said Elise.

"We kept in touch after university," said Claus. "He moved back to Venice, and is still living there. We'll go to Venice, and he'll help us out. I'm sure of it."

"Well, okay," said Elise.

The frightened family continued on their way to Venice.

Author's Note: Giuseppe's nickname, Jose, is pronounced "JOE-say", not "ho-SAY". I got the pronunciation from a character's name on the anime Gunslinger Girl.