The confusion left behind by The Burning of France gave the German populace opposing Hitler the chance they were waiting for.
Millions of friends and family had been lost, and even those once loyal to Nazi Germany were angered by the lack of response from their leader. A significant percent of the army had been lost in the tragedy and Hitler hadn't the time nor resources to investigate a now worthless, barren land.
Against the wishes of his people, and therefore Ludwig's as well, he prepared to expand his power Eastward to make up for the loss of the West. He slowly regained the trust of his people, until February 2, 1943.
The Battle of Stalingrad destroyed his rapidly depleting troops, already spread thin across Europe with little clue of what they were fighting for anymore.
Ivan took his stand and swatted the Germans from his land.
And of course, experience tells that anything the Russki did was far more painful than it should be.
Supporters of the National Socialist German Workers' Party quickly became rebellious. The United States, after Germany declared war with them months after France's destruction, aided the resistance with a vengeance, providing the supplies necessary to unravel the Nazi Party's control over the country, while the Allies slowly liberated the countries that had fallen under Hitler's command.
Within months, Hitler was overthrown and Ludwig, in some strange sense of duty to the nation he'd seen unravel before his eyes, requested he be executed via Guillotine. While the world looked on in relative disgust, they did nothing to prevent it, just as they'd done nothing to stop the Tyrant from coming to power in the first place.
Though the war between Germany and most of the world came to an abrupt stop, Italy following soon after when they realized there chances of victory were diminishing, tension between America and Japan were only continuing to grow.
By 1945, economic aid from both the Soviet Union and the United States had helped most of Europe begin to rebuild. France, forgotten by all in the rush to fix their own problems, remained unnervingly silent. Despite their differences, Ivan and Alfred soon became tentative friends, working closely to resolve any remaining angst after the Second World War.
While working together, Soviets began to notice the differences between their country and those in the West. Resentful feelings began to pile up, particularly as Stalin grew more guarded concerning Europe, just getting back on it's feet, and the Americas, strong as ever.
The world saw two Dictators overthrown that decade.
Alfred sighed and rubbed the back of his head anxiously. He trusted Truman, he really did, but that didn't do anything help the frustration he would feel at this meeting.
Once the Soviet Union had fallen and Russia had risen again, the rest of Europe had calmed down. Truman found it the perfect opportunity to propose, what he called, the United Nations to not only replace the League of Nations, as it had been completely useless, but also to enforce world cooperation. It seemed fine and dandy to Alfred F. Jones, he was excited even, until Kiku had been brought up.
They hadn't talked since December 7th, 1942. It hadn't been a pleasant conversation either.
"Ah, Alfred, you're here already!" When Alfred looked up he found Arthur walking towards him.
"Figured it would be best to get here early," he mumbled, causing the other to look at him oddly.
"Right," Arthur replied, lamely. The two would never be as close as they had been when America was a small, enthused colony, but WWII had brought them to an agreement at least. He'd come to notice when the young nation was troubled.
"I just," Alfred started. "I just don't want to look at him. I'll never forgive him, ever."
Arthur shifted uncomfortably but was saved from speaking by the door of the London meeting room opening and allowing entrance to a flood of countries.
He patted Alfred on the back and went to take his seat.
Looking around, he could see the damage of the war on many, even four years after it's conclusion. Ludwig, while still far healthier than he had been, was still ill looking, no doubt a result of the lack of employment that left millions of Germans homeless or barely making by.
Ivan too looked worn, but the Russki would never wear down. Anyone who knew him could tell that. Trotsky, thought dead, had reappeared last year, aged but no less alive. After the attempt on his life in Mexico eight years earlier, a small group of Trotskyists had salvaged him from the hospital and managed to save his life.
After the abuse suffered under Stalin, the Russians were more than willing to listen to the Bolshevik's ideas and propositions. With sixty-eight years under his belt, Trotsky was elected to lead the country until a new candidate was found. He'd been working with the world democracies as of late to get the government ready for its new leader.
With improvements being made daily, Ivan's aura had relaxed. He was by no means kind and courteous, still as terrifying as ever despite his misleading face. Nevertheless, the Baltic nations were looking much happier, despite their sudden absorption in to the, formerly called, Soviet Union.
Ivan was touchy about that. The name, that is.
The chatter throughout the room continued as Alfred moved before them to speak. A few failed attempts at silencing them brought and irate Ludwig to his feet, slamming his hands down on the table with a force that causes it to shudder and rock.
"HALT DIE KLAPPE!"
He sat back down once he was sure everyone had turned their attention to the front of the room. Alfred gulped and plastered a forced smile on his face.
"Right, thank you everyone for coming. I thought that maybe we should—."
"We're not going to speak in French?" Antonio interrupted his voice and eyes portraying his surprise.
"French has been the language of diplomacy for centuries, since Latin fell out of use. To suddenly change that is—."
"What does it matter, what's wrong with English? Couldn't we just speak whatever we want?"
"Well I, for one, would like some normalcy after all that's happened—."
"Speaking of French, why isn't Francis here?"
All eyes turned to Ivan, surprised at his sudden input. A few murmurs filled the temporary silence. Alfred glanced to the somber Ludwig, whom had his face buried in the palms of his hands.
"Ludwig! Ludwig, wasn't Big Brother France locked up in that Fort you took in Belgium? Wasn't he, Ludwig?" Feliciano babbled, prodding the German next to him.
Belgium, farther down the table, sputtered in shock and was unprepared for the onslaught of questions now being thrown her way
"Ludwig," Arthur whispered, voice laced with darkness. "You haven't left him there all this time, have you? If he's been locked up after still after all that's happened in France—."
"He disappeared." Ludwig said plainly, not looking up from his palms.
"After the Burning of France he was gone. I went to check on him for a bit and when I left to hear news of what had happened he just disappeared. Along with most of the French population."
"And the rest?" Arthur snarled. "Where did the rest go?"
"They were dead."
No one spoke. There were mixed feelings throughout the room, the comical relief of no more Francis and the sudden realization of what that may entail.
"Those Frenchman that we found along with the German officers were listed as collaborating with the Vichy Government to persecute those who stood up to his rule." Ludwig explained.
"But our investigation was five years after the Burning. Anything could have happened since then."
"Francis should be found then," Ivan proposed somewhat cheerfully.
"Why are you so interested?" Arthur asked, a deep frown on his face.
"Though it was only for a short while, the French Prime Minister provided political Asylum to my superior. If he hadn't done so, I must wonder what state Russia would be in right now." Ivan trailed off. He slipped a canteen from his uniform and took a swig.
Arthur turned away in disgust but Alfred looked thoughtful. "Yes…Yes…that's right. He could still be around. Perhaps he escaped and led his people to safety. It's not impossible."
He seemed to radiate energy with every word, as if the very idea of such heroism was drawing him back to his former self.
Pumped, Alfred turned to Arthur.
"Iggy! I nominate you to investigate the disappearance of Francis Bonnefoy!"
Arthur's jaw dropped and he leaped from his seat.
"What, me? Why?"
"Despite your differences, you've always been closest to Francis," Antonio butted in. "You've been together the longest."
"We were never together," Arthur argued, turning pink. "And if we're talking about who was the closest, that would have been Scotland!"
"But you're here representing him," Alfred said imperiously. "And have you forgotten about the time you wanted to be just like him? Hell, you might as well be French with all the intermarriages your people had. Even your first kings chose to live there most of their lives!"
Still ripening, Arthur was speechless. His mouth flapped open and shut several times but not so much as a peep was made.
"Therefore, you are the perfect person for the job. That settled, I don't think we should have the next meeting until Iggy returns from his mission with new on Francis. Therefore, you're all dismissed."
The mood in the room had, oddly enough, brightened compared to before. There was a mystery to be solved and they would all eagerly await news on the situation.
From where he sat beside the Baltic Nations, Ivan considered searching the land himself. His superior had been adamant about uncovering the truth behind what had happened to France. Perhaps more had happened in his short time there then he had revealed to Ivan, however, it was didn't concern him. Secretly, he wanted to see what state the Frenchman would be in when found. Would he be injured or completely fine? How empty would those eyes be?
Ivan felt an odd connection to the country; they'd had their bloody revolutions, lived long and difficult lives, and worked under numerous leaders who had fallen in the quest for world domination. His own General Winter had brought down one Francis' favorites, Napoleon.
Farther up the table, Ludwig was trapped inside of his own head, envisioning the torture he'd seen, allowed to happen before his own eyes. He remembered the blood dripping down from the shackles that once held Francis captive, and the smattering of dried crimson coating the dirty ground that he had laid on.
Had he managed to tear his hands out of the sharp, metal cuffs? It seemed more likely that the blood there had been from his writhing in pain than his attempt at escape. So perhaps someone had managed to sneak inside and release him, covering their own tracks by locking them afterward. That still seemed unlikely. Ludwig hoped he was alive, if only for the chance to apologize.