Apologies for not posting in a while. Just been unmotivated and procrastinating horribly. I'll hopefully have the next one up by the end of the month. Again, apologies and hope that I can keep posting without random hiatuses.
The arrival of the dragon startled the group. Many questions had been asked and fewer answered. Growing more irritated by the passing second, England had to quiet the countries long enough to explain the unexpected arrival.
"It was when we were all the way back at Romano's house. However many months ago that was." He noticed how Romano uncomfortably scratched at the scar on his chest through his clothes at the memory brought back. "I figured that if things were to go astray—as they unfortunately have—to have a backup plan. For every enemy copy that gets separated from us, another copy does as well. I knew it wasn't going to be much, but it was something that would double, if not triple, our current strength."
"Looks like it worked," America said with a wide smile as his eyes darted to his double.
"Where are the others of us?" China asked.
His dragon counterpart answered for him, "They will be here within the next few days. It was a long journey for us; it shall be longer for them."
Phil brought up discussing battle plans and strategies right away, but they all ended up agreeing to wait for the others to arrive before planning anything. They needed their strength in numbers. Together is when they would be most powerful.
All the while, Prussia kept an eye on his little brother. He had seen the pained look cross his face when he had set eyes on Angelo. Germany had to excuse himself a few times, the tears welling up in his crystal blue eyes. Prussia could sense his pain, and it pained him to see his brother this upset. He sighed and glanced at Russia who was sitting next to him by the fire. "If only I knew how to make him happy. I hate seeing him so miserable."
"Maybe you can ask the dragon," suggested Russia with a shrug. "Maybe he can do some magic."
Prussia let out a heavy sigh and looked to the ground. A blur of yellow caught his vision every few seconds as his feathered companion circled his head at the discomfort of his master. "I don't think it's quite possible."
Russia looked up to see the figure standing next to Prussia, though he seemed not to notice. If he did, he didn't react in any way. "Possible for what exactly?"
Prussia had to double-take at the voice. When the realization washed over him, he turned his face back to the fire. The tiny towers reflected their dance in his eyes. For his answer, he remained silent.
Russia stood up and briefly explained to Angelo the situation.
"Oh…" the Italian counterpart stared at Germany for a few moments. Noticing the orb around his neck, he questioned about it.
"I'm not even sure. He has not said anything to me about it," Prussia stated when they both looked at him for an answer. "Perhaps England knows."
"I will have a talk with him then." The priest walked away, a slight skip showed in his step as he went.
"The orb holds the soul?" Angelo repeated what England explained. He gave a puzzled expression, wondering how it worked.
England took notice of the look and spoke again, "It's an old type of magic I read about in an old manuscript. It must've been centuries old! Fascinating, isn't it; what spells and magic are capable of?"
"From what it seems, yes. It must be fascinating to be able to use magic."
"It has its perks as well as its downsides."
Angelo nodded in understanding. His lips pulled tight as the thought crossed his mind. A sudden fear struck deep within him. Nonetheless, he opened his mouth to speak. His suggestion surprised England. The man rested his chin in his hand, pondering to himself if it would work or not.
"I must be honest. It may not. If we were even to attempt it, we would need stronger magic than what I'm capable of."
Angelo turned on a heel and stared at the dragon that was currently sleeping. His thick chest expanded and contracted as large amounts of air swept in his nostrils and through his system. "What about Confucius?"
England half smiled and replied, "I'll speak to him when he wakes up." He looked up at the light blue sky above before adding, "I think I'll take a nap as well." Thus following the golden dragon's example, he went to rest.
Curiosity bugged him, twiddling his thumbs as he sat, forgotten, in a patch of sun. The little bear lay by his side taking in the warmth of the sun. Sensing his owner's frustration, he cuddled closer. Noticing the action, Canada rubbed his hand through the white fur. The soft fur brushing against his skin calmed him some, but he was still frantic in his mind.
"Just ask them," Kumajiro calmly blurted out followed by a yawn. What a nice day to relax and nap, considering how cold it's been with the heart of winter coming through.
Canada's mind froze at the thought. "I shouldn't. It might bother them."
Kumajiro opened his eyes and peered up into the lavender ones. "It won't hurt."
Thinking it over for the next few moments, Canada nodded. He stood up and left the polar bear to bask as he walked towards one of the newcomers. The angel noticed his presence and welcomed it. "You're so quiet," he greeted.
Canada laughed lightly at the comment. "I get that a lot."
"I know. It wouldn't hurt to speak up every now and again. Especially at a time like this." Selaphiel shifted his wings and pulled a loose feather that had been bugging him for the last half hour. Twirling the seven-inch-long feather between his finger and thumb, he continued, "But that's not why you approached me, is it?"
Canada shook his head.
"Then speak and be heard."
"Um… I was wondering…" He paused unsure of how to phrase the next few words. "It was a wendigo. My other half."
The information caught the angel's attention more. "Was it now?"
Selaphiel could already guess what the man was asking. "A rather large polar bear," he answered. "Goes by the name of Nanook."
Canada's eyes brightened as if hit by an intense ray of light. "Nanook?" The news excited him and a shiver ran through the core of his body.
Selaphiel tossed the feather without a second glance and folded his arms. "Could you explain more?" He was rather interested in the history of the polar bear.
A smile broke wide over the Canadian's face. "The master of the bears. Nanook is an Inuit deity. He is the one who decided if hunters deserved to hunt bears and punished violations of taboos."
"What sort of taboos?"
"Oh, uh, like women weren't allowed to sew caribou skins in snow houses that were built on the sea ice during the months of darkness or while the men were hunting walruses. Many other taboos required the strict separation of anything having to do with land and sea animals."
"A very interesting culture your people had back at the time."
"It was. It's not a hard way of living… as long as the cold doesn't bother you."
"How long has it been since you've been away from your home?"
Canada blinked. The sudden feeling of homesickness hit him as he suddenly realized he had almost forgotten about his house during the events taking place. "About a year," he answered with a sinking feeling in his chest.
Selaphiel noticed the change in his expression and set a firm hand on the country's shoulder. "This will all be over with soon enough. It may take a couple of years for the world to return to normal, but the time will come. Just keep hope up."
Canada locked eyes with the man and gave a short nod. Having nothing more to converse about, the two went back to their separate activities.
It was several hours before the dragon awoke and granted England the chance to speak with him.
"You realize what you are asking, do you not?" the dragon asked. An unfriendly growl followed after his words. His gleaming teeth showed slightly with his anger.
"It's dark magic, I know—"
"You do not know! What you are asking is taboo in and of itself! It is playing with the cycle of life and death. It is the blackest of magics and cannot be trusted even with such a simple task. No, I will not grant this. Do not ask me again." The dragon turned away from and said nothing more.
England sighed. He couldn't have expected that to go well. He knew what he was asking. It was a risk, he knew, to bring the dead back to life. An idea suddenly struck him. England thought the process over in his head before confronting the dragon again.
"What about switching a soul?"
It was several minutes before the dragon finally turned his head and eyed England again. "It would require a volunteer and possibly a sacrifice if I believe I know what you plan."
England bit his lip. A sacrifice? A life for a life. He nodded to himself before gathering the group together and explaining his thoughts to the countries and counterparts. Every shared the similar expression of shock and awe at the words England threw out. None hit more than "sacrifice." All was quiet when the word slipped off his tongue, and so it was for a quiet a few moments.
"Now wait just a damned minute!" Clement shouted shattering the silence. "You expect me to just sit back and let you take my brother for a god damned experiment!"
"Fratello," Angelo scolded.
"No! I won't let these bastards take you away and make a sacrifice out of you!"
"Actually," Confucius butted in, "since the two souls are essentially the same, they will only merge. Your brother will still be there if this is all agreed upon. No, there will need to be another to sacrifice themselves."
"I will not agree upon this." Germany spoke with a harsh yet kind tone. "I appreciate that you would do this for me, but I don't want to see anyone sacrifice themselves for my wants."
Italy stayed silent within the orb as the colors swirled slowly around like twinkling magma.
"Even with that, the offer is still open to anyone," England concluded. "We'll give a few hours for you all to discuss this and think it over."
Most of them wouldn't take much of a second thought about it. They were concerned, that wasn't to doubt, but they all knew Germany. As usual in the world meetings, his word was final—when he got pushed to that point that is. They all knew he wouldn't have it, and he'd find a way to convince or force them not to sacrifice themselves for something like this, no matter how important it was to him.
However, there was one person that could get by Germany's boundaries. And he knew just that, too.
"You are taking the little Italian's place?" the big golden dragon asked.
A sigh escaped the man's mouth. A sigh of acceptance and realizing where his path had led him. His arms wrapped tighter around the Russian that carried him for his legs gave no heave to his motions. A little bird perched atop his head shivered furiously, knowing well what would happen to his master. "Yes, I'm no use to anyone without my legs," Prussia said.
"I can always heal your legs if you would want to. It is no trouble at all."
Prussia smiled weakly and shook his head. "No, it's all right. It's what I want to do. I don't want to see my little brother taking to a piece of jewelry for the rest of his life. It hurts him, I know it does."
"Then you shall gather the priest and Ludwig as well."
Prussia nodded and looked down at Russia. No words passed between them as they went to get Angelo.
"Don't do it, fratellino," Clement begged. His hand gripped tight to his brother's. "Please don't do it."
Angelo smiled. No worry showed up in his eyes at all. Just a pure, genuine sense of calm and serenity. "I will do what I feel is right. That's our job as priests. Follow the will of God and follow the right paths in life, no matter how it affects us. I will still shine through with Feliciano when he returns to physical form. And I will always be with you."
Tears wet the older priest's cheeks. He pulled his brother into a strong embrace before letting go and accepting what he had to do. "I will be with you all the way."
Angelo nodded. "As will I."
The time came now for Prussia to confront his brother. This, he knew, would be no easy task.
"I won't let you do it!" Germany said with a stern look. "You've already lost your legs—"
"And now that I have," Prussia interrupted, "I'm not very much of use anymore."
"I am sure the dragon can heal your legs."
Prussia's face turned more serious. "I don't want him to. I want to see you happy and with Italy."
Germany put his hands on Prussia's shoulder. "We need you here, bruder. Alive. We need you to fight with us."
Gilbert smiled and choked out a laugh. "You're so military. It's not all about the fighting. What happens after the fighting? When we win? Will you be really happy without Italy there to bug you all the time? Or will you grow content to the quiet and solitude as you were many years ago?"
Germany remained silent for some time. He mulled over what his brother had just spoken.
"I need to do this for your sake, brother… Don't worry though! I'll still be here," he smiled, trying to reassure Germany that everything will be all right even if he knew he was lying through his teeth.
Germany pulled Prussia into a warm and tight embrace. "Ich liebe dich, bruder," he said through light sobs.
Prussia patted Germany on his back. "I love you, too, little bro. Don't worry. It'll be fine."
The dragon watched them gather and then spoke some words in his native tongue. "Are you all prepared?"
They all gave nods, some quick and some hesitant.
"Good." He turned to Prussia still being held by the Russian. "This will not hurt. You have much courage to go through with this." Then he began his ritual. His whiskers touched the foreheads of both Angelo and Prussia. After several seconds, they both knocked out. Clement caught his brother before he fell to the ground.
Germany let out a light shout and pulled the orb away from him. The stone became white with heat and sizzled and crackled as the seconds passed by. Without warning, the stone erupted into hundreds of little shards, scattering themselves around before falling to the ground. Angelo gave a large gasp and coughed as if he was using his lungs for the first time. The Italian opened his eyes and looked around slowly. He pulled his arms around himself and began shivering. "It's cold," he said in a lighter tone than his normal voice.
"Italy?" Germany asked.
Italy perked at the familiar voice. "Germany!" He turned on his heels and reached out for him, wrapping his arms around the man. "It's so nice to hug you again!" Light laughter filled his voice as he happily snuggled his face into the man's chest. "You're so warm!"
Germany smiled and embraced him back. A cold realization soon sunk in. "Prussia." He let go of Italy and went to Prussia who was now set on the ground. Russia was by his side, holding a hand between his. "Bruder!" He dropped to his knees next to him. His chest was still as a windless day. Angered, he turned to the dragon. "What happened to him?"
"Just as what was told before. A life for a life. If you are wondering why the orb did not take his soul, it is simple. The orb was made for someone specific. The materials for the creation of such an orb are rare and can take millennia to collect. Arthur was lucky enough to have what he did to create even a temporary such as that one. You should be thankful Feliciano was spared and brought back at all. Anything else I would have refused to perform."
Germany turned back to his limp brother and hugged him close. His shoulders heaved heavily, the tears rolling down his cheeks. The little yellow bird flew frantically above them, peeping mournfully and desperately, pleading for his owner to wake.
Everyone looked at each other and nodded. They turned away and walked, leaving Germany to have some time to himself. All but Italy that is. He stood there, the robes draped over his shivering body. Both from the cold and from the sorrow. The dragon still watched them from afar, eyeing them with great concern although he did not show this concern at all. He huffed a white fog through his nostrils that drifted up before evaporating into the cold air around them.
Not knowing what to say, Italy kneeled next to Germany, hugging him softly. "I'm sorry, Germany," he muttered into his jacket.
Germany wrapped an arm around Italy's shoulder. "He wanted this. He knew it would turn out like this and yet he chose to do so anyway." The bird lit on Prussia's shoulder and cuddled next to his neck, ruffling his feathers due to the cold of the skin.
"I wish there could've been another way."
Germany silenced himself afterwards. He stuck to himself for the rest of the day other than deciding what to do with Prussia's body. His heart broke when it was decided, but he knew it would be the best. With a hot stream of fire, the dragon scorched and cremated the remains. Everyone watched as the body slowly turned to ash. He looked so peaceful, and there seemed to be the remnants of a smile formed on his lips.
"Have you ever listened to the rain?"
Germany looked down at the man standing next to him. The fire warmed and lit his face with orange and yellow. "What do you mean?"
England sniffled and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief. "The rain. Have you ever noticed that it speaks?"
Germany sighed. Great, another one of England's weird fantasy stories. "The rain doesn't speak."
"Ah, but it does, my friend. If you ever get a chance, or remember, to when it rains. The drops speak, telling us their stories before they hit the ground. They can tell us legends of old or tales of new. Mostly, they speak just to comfort us in our times of need. That's why it always seems to rain during a point of tragedy. They search frantically for someone to hear before they hit ground. For when someone is sad, the rain is also sad, weeping for the loss."
Germany stayed silent while England spoke. He didn't mock him in his mind. He just listened closely. Everyone seemed to at this point.
"Sometimes, they even carry the words of loved ones that have passed for us. The rain is a magical thing, it is. So, just do me and Prussia a favor and listen next time."
Germany looked back at the fire and nodded slowly. He was still taking everything in and was unsure what the crazy nation was talking about, but it wouldn't hurt to try anyway. He closed his eyes and a few tears fell as his throat choked.
Not a week passed since and the others from travel had arrived. It was great for them to see more reinforcements. The bear huffed, carrying a sleeping other on his back. "He's been in pain the last day or so," Nanook said to the dragon. "What happened?"
"See for yourself."
The bear looked around the camp and his mouth opened faintly in understanding. "I take it—"
Confucius nodded before the bear finished, knowing what he was going to ask. "Yes, he is not doing so well."
The bear blow a hot stream of steam from his black nose and walked over to Germany. "I am sorry for your loss, mighty nation."
Germany nodded and thanked the bear but noticed the man on his back. "Is that…?"
"Indeed it is. Hughes he calls himself." The man groaned and shifted slightly at the sound of his name but did not lift his head. "He is weak. Give him some time to come around."
"Um… E-Excuse me." The great bear turned his head to look over his shoulder. His counterpart wrapped in an orange sweater looked up at him. "Are.. Are you…"
Nanook sensed Canada's distress and turned. "I am your counterpart." His distress confused him however. "What are you upset about?"
Canada bit his lip, reconsidering talking, but he looked back at the bear. "My-my other… He was.."
"Ah, the wendigo. Yes, I know of that. There is no need to worry about him. No need to fear him. He is a part of you still and will respect that if he has any sense of our spirit inside of him. Does this calm you?"
Canada nodded, though still unsure about the whole situation. He reached out and embraced the neck of Nanook. The bear smiled and set a giant paw around his back. "Everything will be all right." Canada nodded. He felt the warmth come off the bear, the slow and steady breathing. This calmed his nerves more than words could.
"Well, now that we're all here, what are we going to do?" Selaphiel asked towards Joan. With such great war history behind her, he would be able to generalize a foolproof plan for this war.
She kept throwing off her gaze to eye the man who had eyes locked on her since her arrival. And she knew why. It wasn't going to be easy for either of them. Clearing her throat, she said, "We have no idea what the enemy is planning. This war is going to be fought fiercely. We need to gain an army. Volunteers mostly. We can't fight this with just us with the force of hundreds behind their back."
Selaphiel sighed. "This feels like the next World War."
"Might as well be," she confirmed. "Dozens of nations fighting against each other. Sounds like one to me."
"What's your plan on gaining reinforcements?"
"No doubt our enemy will have their people infested into every city, and one of them leading. As for our nations in general, they could've either escaped in time or been enslaved or executed. I'm not too fond of the latter, however. It's always a tragedy for a country to die in the hands of war. We have already lost too many over the past centuries.
"I've immersed myself into thinking this through, and I know that we must start by gaining cities. We'll need large supplies for a large army. We'll wage battles against the enemy and slowly regain what we have lost."
"Where will we start?"
"North or east. I would say most likely with China and Japan or Russia since their counterparts have left the country. Though, most likely, they will race to the country's aid as soon as word travels to them that they have been invaded."
"It will be better than anything. Then we can force them down one at a time."
Joan nodded. "We're going to need a lot of men and women and weapons. All kinds. New and old. Metal and stone. This is going to be one hell of a war, but it's not going to be an impossible one."
All the while Italy was writing a letter. He had gotten to thinking to himself and wanted to send something out. How he would get it to arrive at its destination he would find out later. He hummed as he did so, hoping that who he wrote to would compile their kindness into doing just this. He scratched the pencil to the paper, trying to figure out more intellectual words to use to come off as more formal than he was. However, the piece of bark was quite difficult to write on and how did he even get the pencil anyway? Oh, right, he took it from England. England was always writing in that journal of his. He would return it whenever he was done. What was England writing anyway? Probably a journal of their journeys. Italy giggled slightly and how the words sounded similar as he thought about it. It tickled his fancy.
Italy folded the attempt of writing a letter and looked around. How would he get this letter out? He spotted a dull yellow against the brown of a tree. He smiled though he frowned as well. Could he really ask this much of the little bird? He walked over and tapped the little canary gently. When he looked, Italy asked, "Could you do me a favor?"