Arthur had always felt that he could survey the entire world from the balcony. When he was small and Yao would hoist him onto his shoulders to allow him to gaze out at the city, he would spread his arms as wide as possible as if trying to encompass the entire breadth of the universe, from the edges of his future kingdom to the ends of the Earth itself, in their tiny span. The entirety of London – an archaic name, but kept in memory of her former inhabitants - had been spread before him like a brittle grey blanket of ash and crumbling stone, and in the eyes of the infant queen there had existed no possession more valuable.

But age had brightened the world and brought the slow decline of the Old Kingdom of Spades into sharper contrast, and Arthur could no longer see the city as an antique that was priceless for its fragility, but rather only as something that could be too easily crushed. Their rule was still supreme, but their grip on the world was beginning to loosen against the increasingly persistent stirring of the other suits, and they felt more uncomfortably than ever the uncertain glances cast from the southern thrones of the Diamonds, the doubtful murmurs that drifted from the icy confines of the Clubs, the whispers of discontent that hung thick in the air above the decrepit stone palaces of the Hearts.

Some had even gone so far as to depart the continent itself, though of course they dared not brave the wastelands of ash and twisted metal that stretched for thousands of miles beyond the furthermost borders of the Kingdom of Clubs. Their destination lay instead across the ocean, where there existed a younger continent whose land had yet to be wrinkled and pockmarked and slowly decayed by the long years of history, touched instead by hope and idealism and empty, dreamlike promises.

But the Old Kingdom preferred not to dwell on such thoughts, and Arthur likewise. He leaned out into the breeze to clear his head, supporting himself on the slender iron rail of the balcony.

After a long moment, he opened his eyes and met the bitter wind, gazing down at the expanse of buildings and gardens before him with a slight frown. The day was cloudy and the city seemed exhausted, draped as it was in its familiar fragile grey shroud of feeble sunlight and ash. The gardens looked garishly green against the somber background and Arthur wrinkled his nose, eyes watering in the breeze. A bell clanged faintly in the distance. He heard a man shout. A dog barked from somewhere very far away. The cold cut through his clothes, but he paid this no heed.

He could feel his kingdom breathe beneath him with weary lungs, and thought himself far too young for work such as this. He still breathed so freely, after all, and what could a man of nineteen possibly understand of ruling something so ancient, and in such troubled times, with whispers of war skulking around the borders like unwanted shadows? He closed his eyes again, trying to distract himself.

Arthur nearly toppled from the balcony when he felt a tap on his shoulder; gasping in surprise, he turned to face an amused Yao, who calmly steadied him with the hand that was not holding up a foreboding blue cloak. Arthur sighed, wordlessly accepting the coat and throwing it over his shoulders, pausing to fasten the golden pin at his throat, the sharp edges of the metal spade pressing into the tender skin at the dip of his collarbone.

"How soon will they be here?" he asked as Yao moved aside to allow him to step back into his quarters, shutting the gauzy blue drapes behind them to block out the thin shafts of sunlight that had been chasing each other across the stone floor.

"In little more than moments, your majesty," answered the Jack of Spades serenely as Arthur made his way across the room, unthinkingly dropping his worn trousers to his ankles as he went. Yao had cared for him since the moment he had been weaned from his mother's milk, and there was no longer any call for shame between them. "But you would do well to be fashionably late."

Arthur paused at the door to his closet, one hand paused halfway through a feeble attempt at fixing his wind-tossed bangs.

"Would I?"

Yao nodded and reached out a slender hand to comb through Arthur's hair.

"Let me fetch your trousers," he said quietly, and pushed past him into the closet, emerging moments later with a pair of freshly pressed formal suit pants, spun deep navy to match the coat. Arthur sighed but hoisted them to his waist, dropping his arms and watching the cloak billow out around his slender frame as if he had sprouted wings of expensive blue silk.

Yao steered him towards the mirror, twirling him in front of the spotted glass so that the cloak flared out further still and he again assumed the appearance of a curiously gangly blue-feathered bird.

"You look the ruler you are," he said finally, pressing his lips briefly to Arthur's forehead. "Here are your boots. Now go."

Arthur flitted through the winding halls of Buckingham Palace – another archaic name, again preserved out of respect for its former inhabitants - with the agility that could only belong to someone who had played on the same staircases and tripped over the same cracks in the flooring since childhood. The slender overhanging lamps lit his way with generous pools of yellow light, and it was not long before he was hurrying into the grand lobby, boots ringing out against the shining marble floors and breath tearing almost merrily from his lungs. At the far side of the gallery he abruptly turned a corner and began to dash towards the meeting hall, smiling to feel his muscles shriek in protest. The other suits would already be awaiting his arrival.

He stuttered to an abrupt halt some feet away from his destination to smooth his hair and check his cloak, adjusting the golden pin once more so that the edges pressed less sharply against his throat. He detected the bubbling of voices not far off down the hall, tasted a trace of rose perfume in the air, and knew that the Kingdom of Diamonds and the Kingdom of Clubs had already arrived. Satisfied that his clothing was back in order, he continued to the grand double doors of the conference chamber, nodding at the guards and making one last adjustment to the pin at his throat before he turned the knob and stepped inside.

King Francis of Diamonds rose from his seat immediately and hurried to Arthur's side to take his hand, flashing a smirk up at him as he brought his fingers to his lips. Arthur hissed and shook him away, wiping his palm on the leg of his trousers before smiling genially at Queen Lili, who dipped her chin in shy acknowledgement. King Ivan of Clubs accepted his handshake with an enigmatic smile and a musical chirp of greeting, though his queen returned the embrace offered with what seemed to be genuine warmth. The royal family of the Kingdom of Hearts had yet to arrive, but Arthur nonetheless courteously thanked each of his guests for their valuable presence and took his seat at the base of the table, trying to ignore the empty chair at the head just as his predecessors had done for nearly two centuries beforehand.

As was customary, the jacks filed into the chamber before the debates were permitted to begin, with Yao leading the procession and diligently directing each of his companions to the appropriate corner of the room. The chamber itself was long and rectangular, windowless though breached on one side by the grand double doors, and the centerpiece was the heavy round table, around which were centered eight chairs. The Queen and King of Spades were traditionally arranged at the head and the base, respectively. The King and Queen of Diamonds were always seated to the left of the Queen of Spades, while the King of Hearts was placed on the right-hand side, far from his queen, who together with the King and Queen of Clubs flanked the King of Spades. Each jack took to the corner of the room closest to the right hand of their queen, and thusly countless conferences had been held and countless decisions made.

Jack Vash of Diamonds stood rigid in his place, keeping his green gaze trained on the delicate queen, who seemed to flicker beneath his stony attention. Roderich of Clubs made his stately way to his designated corner, the dignified manner with which his feet fell striking an almost comical juxtaposition with the poverty from which his kingdom suffered. The Jack of Hearts was still nowhere to be seen, but he was a harmless creature and everyone knew that upon arrival he would do little but flutter feebly at them from his place. Finally, when Yao passed like a shadow behind Arthur's chair, one glimpse of his serene black gaze was enough to soothe his heart and bring him gracefully to his feet.

"My fellows," he began, clasping his hands together in front of him. "Let us begin by -"

The double doors interrupted with a groan and the Jack of Hearts stumbled through with a burble of laughter, shrugging away the exasperation of his companions as they followed him into the chamber. Queen Kiku bowed his head respectfully, hands tucked into the nap of his rich scarlet kimono, but King Ludwig was not so subdued and merely grunted his greeting, fiddling unhappily with the starched edges of his collar as he herded Jack Feliciano away from the table and to his proper place.

"Welcome," Arthur kept murmuring, though he could taste the discontent in the air. "Thank you so very much for coming. The Kingdom of Spades understands that such trips are not easy to make nowadays, and we are infinitely grateful for your presence."

King Francis coughed and Arthur understood his meaning very well; he turned and cast him an unimpressed glance, though he allowed a smirk to toy with one corner of his mouth. Queen Kiku had settled into his seat, folding his skinny white fingers together on the tabletop, but King Ludwig was still wrestling with Feliciano in the corner, struggling to quiet him. Arthur cleared his throat and the room fell silent except for the muffled whimpering of the Jack of Hearts, and Ludwig gave up and shuffled to his place, sitting completely rigid with his gaze focused on his lap.

Arthur cleared his throat once more, straightened the pin of his cloak against his collarbone, and smiled.

"As I was saying," he began, doing his best not to lock eyes with anyone. "Let us begin with the individual reports, as per usual."

The others nodded, and there was a great communal rustling as scrolls and stacks of documents were withdrawn from beneath seats and spread onto the table. Arthur waited quietly for a moment before asking if anyone would prefer to begin. The room was quiet, and he cleared his throat before he unfurled his own report and graciously volunteered.

The Old Kingdom of Spades could not exactly boast a booming economy at the moment, but at least her production had not slowed to a near standstill. After all, with a reign that reached as far as hers, to generate no wealth entirely was a near impossibility. Admittedly, unemployment was soaring and discontent was beginning to fester amongst her citizens, but there were still more than enough food and resources to go around; it was simply that some luxuries that were previously enjoyed were no longer available. The entire world was being slowly crippled by the recent dip in the economy, but in the entire scheme of things, Spades still reigned supreme, exactly as she always had.

The recent death of the latest queen – Arthur's aunt, a generally dislikable woman but a satisfactory ruler – had yet to take effect over the people. Arthur was very aware that many speculated as to how well a man of his years could possibly govern such a vast and important kingdom, and he tiptoed over his words as he gave his report, very carefully avoiding the gazes of the other kings and queens not for fear that he would see disdain in their eyes but for fear that his own doubts would overcome him.

He was also aware that many saw him as a point of weakness, as a soft spot in the armor that had protected the supreme reign of his kingdom for centuries. For some, this fact was a serious danger. For others, it was an opportunity. Arthur did not miss the whispers that thickened the air between the members of the Kingdom of Hearts, who were of the opinion that Spades had governed their affairs far too long. He did not miss the flicker in King Ludwig's slate blue eyes, the frozen cordiality of his queen, the bumbling avoidance of the Jack, as if the hapless boy had been warned against engaging himself with the promisingly young and inexperienced Queen of Spades. No, Arthur did not miss the concerned slant of Francis' brow, the soft touch of Lili's hand at his elbow, the worried brush of Elizaveta's lips against his cheek, Ivan's enigmatic smile, perhaps a warning, perhaps a promise of allegiance, perhaps nothing at all. He was all too aware, and he was all too doubtful.

War would be calamity.

But he felt Yao's serene stare on the back of his neck and understood full well that he could not let his doubts show in his voice, in his manner of carrying himself, that he could not allow his fingers to tremble or his tongue stumble over his words. So he lifted his chin to the ceiling and continued to speak, still taking care to avoid the gazes of the others.

Eventually he arrived at the end of his report – in summary, things were not necessarily good anywhere on the continent, but they could be worse for the Old Kingdom of Spades – straightened his papers, and sat down with an inaudible sigh, tucking the ends of his cloak beneath himself and nodding towards Francis, who stood slowly, running one hand through his hair.

At thirty, the King of Diamonds was not terribly much older than Arthur, but commanded considerably more respect despite the inferior power of his kingdom, though perhaps there was a reasonable measure of resentment intermingled with the subdued stares he received from the Kings Ludwig and Ivan as he began detailing the economic situation of the Diamonds, which was, although dismal, still considerably better than that of the Hearts or the Clubs.

Socially, the kingdom was perfectly content. The unrest that had characterized the past century had largely disappeared, and despite the lack of certain luxuries, the people managed to be as vibrantly self-absorbed as ever. There was hope, explained Francis, clutching his papers to his chest with a breathy sigh, for the future, and where there was hope there was a happy populace. Arthur thought he heard Ludwig snort at this, but perhaps he imagined it.

Francis billowed back into his seat with a nod to Ivan, who gradually lumbered into an upright position and flashed the table that enigmatic smile which somehow stirred a fearful sort of curiosity in the heart. He slipped one glove from his hand to gain a better grip on his stack of documents and began to dance around his words in the traditional character of his kingdom, so that the actual meaning of his report was a challenge to ascertain. He really said nothing in particular, only dropped hints and disguised statistics and talked on about the grand plans for the future in his curiously musical voice. An economic revolution, he repeated, a magnificent economic revolution, though it seemed strange that he willingly announced such a plan when he would not even admit that his kingdom was struggling in the first place. Arthur paid polite attention, knowing that Yao was listening closely as always and would help him dissect the speech for actual meaning once the meeting had been dismissed.

Ivan sat down with a soft thank you and Ludwig shifted forwards in his chair, seeming to reluctantly realize that his turn had arrived. After a long gap of silence, he stood with a quiet grunt, and accepted the handful of neatly rolled scrolls offered by his silent queen. He straightened his burgundy tie, fiddled with his collar for another moment, cleared his throat, and began with a stiff hello.

The Kingdom of Hearts had been the runt of the continent ever since the dissolution of the archaic democracies and the rise of the Suits. Though the Clubs governed the most desolate land, home to nothing but snow and ice and the occasional accidental sculpture of ancient twisted metal, scarred by war and chemical waste, the Hearts had never seemed to catch up with the economic or military prowess of the other kingdoms. They were always lagging, always making mistakes, never coming into their own, and resentment festered amongst their people like a plague. To make matters worse, this resentment was not only directed at their own feeble government, but at that of the overreaching Old Kingdom of Spades, and such sentiments were beginning to show.

"Inflation has reached a peak," began Ludwig, lowering his eyes in something akin to shame. "Unemployment is rising, production is shrinking. The statistics reflect this, so I will not delve into them at this point in time." He paused, glanced down at his queen for a moment, and swallowed visibly.

"Queen Kirkland," he said quietly, "we would like to make you a request."

Arthur looked up sharply. He knew that Yao would be staring at him, gauging his every move.

"And what might that be?" he asked pleasantly, resting his chin on the ball of his palm. Ludwig set his papers down on the table and met his gaze.

"Your kingdom is the most prosperous," he said evenly. "We would like to request a stimulus."

Arthur was quiet for a long moment, processing his words, their eyes still locked.

"With all due respect," he said finally, without blinking, "everyone is struggling in these times, and -"

"But you are the least affected," interrupted Ludwig, and a murmur rippled through the table at his rudeness. "All we ask is a little generosity, a little common spirit."

Arthur swallowed, struggling to maintain an even tone past the unease rising in his throat.

"I'm afraid…" he said slowly. "I'm afraid that the kingdoms have always kept to their own affairs -"

"Really?" said Ludwig, and there was a new, sharp note to his voice. "How funny that you would say such a thing whilst you impose your laws and tariffs upon us all."

A pregnant silence fell over the table. Panic bloomed in Arthur's chest and he cleared his throat once into his fist, suddenly feeling the edges of the spade pin pressing claustrophobically against the dip of his collarbone.

"I'm sorry," he began, and was gratified to hear that his voice remained strong. "But the Kingdom of Spades has always been in the position to -"

"The Old Kingdom," hissed Kiku, and surprise swelled through the table to hear the stony queen raise his voice. "The Old Kingdom of Spades, that is."

For all his controlled façade, Arthur was unable to stop himself from flinching, as if a weapon had been flashed across the tabletop. Francis frowned, casting him a sympathetic glance before he leaned forwards in his chair with a scarcely detectable groan.

"That has nothing to do with matter at hand," he said softly. "There was no call to bring up such an old wound, your highness, especially not one that holds such little relevance to our situation. Such poor taste is truly atypical of you." He sighed, ignoring the anger that flared briefly across Kiku's face, before he glanced up at Arthur with the slightest of smiles, gesturing through the air with one hand. "Please, your majesty, if you would be so kind as to continue."

Relieved, Arthur gave Francis a grateful dip of the chin before he opened his mouth to speak. However, not a word had emerged before Ludwig brought his fist down sharply on the table and returned the room to frigid silence.

"Why should we heed the mandates of a queen," he said slowly, controlling every syllable, "who hasn't even the strength to defend his own kingdom?"

From the corner of his eye, Arthur saw Yao start forwards, a rare sparkle of anger coming into his dark eyes. He shook his head almost imperceptibly – to allow Yao to defend him would only prove the attack to be true – and the Jack stepped back into his place, quirking an eyebrow as if in warning.

Arthur inhaled deeply, as if trying to suck the terrible silence away into his lungs.

"King Ludwig," he began quietly, focusing on preserving the calm in his voice. "First and foremost, we understand the hardships which your kingdom faces, and are no strangers to such troubles ourselves. The Old Kingdom of Spades knows poverty, hunger, the cost of war, as well as any other. Rest assured that the economic situation has left no kingdom unscathed."

He paused for a long moment, and met with tense silence unbroken even by the whimpering of the Jack of Hearts, proceeded.

"In regards to the influence of the Old Kingdom of Spades over the political and government practices of the other Suits…" He turned his gaze to the entire table, wanting them to see the serenity, the absolute faith in his own prowess (forged, of course, but present nevertheless) in his eyes. "We are simply carrying out the same procedures that have been standard protocol since the beginning. I neither decided which nations survived the war and became suits, nor which have risen to power since. It is by no action of mine that Spades developed this reputation. It is merely my duty to uphold it."

He paused again, meeting Ludwig's gaze as if daring him to protest, though in his heart he felt none of the same bravery and confidence that he had forced into his eyes.

"And uphold it I will," he said, "regardless of age, of stature, regardless of opinion, of whatever protestations may be raised. It is my duty and I will do it until I am capable no longer."

He took a deep breath, his exhale echoing in the stunned silence, and reached up to adjust the pin at his throat, satisfied that it finally fell into a comfortable place, where the edges did not pinch his skin.

"Now," he said briskly, clasping his hands together in front of him. "Does anyone else have any matters which they would like to bring to light?"

When nobody moved, when nobody even went so far as to draw their gaze from their lap, Arthur allowed himself a minute smile and dipped his chin to Yao, who unfolded from his corner with an unreadable expression and began to give the closing address, as tradition entailed. When he had finished, the room swelled suddenly with the grating of chairs against stone floors and the rustling of shifting clothing as the delegates rose and filtered past Arthur one by one, dropping farewells at his feet.

Francis gripped his shoulder with what was perhaps pride, Lili allowed him to kiss her hand with a soft giggle, and Vash glared, though this hardly worried Arthur because the Jack of Diamonds glared at everyone, especially those who dared to flatter the young queen. Elizaveta kissed him briefly on the cheek as always, Ivan returned the handshake offered with that same perplexing smile curving his mouth, and Roderich nodded stiffly, as if the high bend of his starched collar inhibited the faculty of his neck. Feliciano wrung his hand sore, burbling enthusiastically on about what a spectacular meeting it had been and thereby proving his happy ignorance, Kiku managed to nod perhaps even more stiffly than Roderich despite the loose neck of his scarlet kimono, and Ludwig brushed past into the hall without so much as a glance, crimson coattails flapping sharply behind.

Arthur shut the door behind his guests and turned to Yao with a tentative smile. He was surprised to find his governor bent collapsed in the nearest chair, one hand massaging his creased temple while the other lay curled into a fist on the tabletop.

"What's the matter?" Arthur asked sharply, taking the adjacent chair without bothering to tuck down his cloak, the tails flapping out behind him with a crackle, again lending him the odd appearance of an ill-proportioned blue bird. "Is there…is there something you know, something you heard?"

Yao glanced up at him and Arthur was dismayed to recognize the expression in his eyes: the same exhaustion which had characterized his childhood, present whenever he would make mistakes or break things or fail a mathematics lesson. He swallowed.

"Have I done something…wrong?"

Yao dropped his other hand to the table, palm down, making a faint slapping sound against the wood. His brows formed sharp creases across his forehead, and Arthur winced, unease rising in his throat at the sight of the incredulity in the eyes of the jack.

"I don't understand," he said, panic beginning to blossom in his stomach while Yao remained silent, as he did only when he was rendered quite literally without anything to say. "I did well, I defended the kingdom, I upheld my dignity!" He was embarrassed to hear his voice break over the final syllable. "What did I do wrong?"

Yao sighed like a gust of wind.

"You are so very young," he said finally, and Arthur flinched.

"I don't understand, Yao…what are you trying to say?"

Yao leapt abruptly from his seat, eyes blazing to life as they only did when he was suddenly seized by duty, by the urge to protect, by necessity, and began to pace the room, stroking his chin and every so often whipping his head from side to side as if to dispel a black thought from his mind into the air, which already tasted sour from unease and discontent. Arthur stood slowly, but could only watch him with his arms hanging uselessly at his sides, confused and wounded and feeling very obsolete for being the absolute ruler of the most powerful kingdom on the continent.

"Yao, please," he ventured after a long while, stomach twisting at the pathetic plea in his own voice. "You have to explain to me what I've done."

Yao shot him one razor glance. "We will have to call them."

Arthur took a step forwards, drawing his cloak around himself as if to ward off his confusion and the black glare of the usually subdued jack.

"Call…whom?"

And Yao, circling around to the empty chair at the head of the table, collapsed back into it, though he did not press his face into his hands like before.

It took Arthur a moment to realize that the action itself was his answer.

"No," he cried, running to Yao and throwing himself into the adjacent chair, reaching out to grab his sleeve. "No, Yao, please no!" His voice tore violently. "Imagine the disgrace!"

Yao shook him away with a hiss. "Necessity knows no disgrace."

"But I don't…I don't…" Panic was clawing at his voice, leaving it riddled with holes. "I don't want to, Yao, I don't want that, I don't want…him," he gasped, reaching out to latch onto Yao's sleeve once more. "Please, please no. No, no. Dignity, Yao, my dignity!"

"You are too proud," snapped his governor, batting his hand away. "Necessity knows no dignity."

"It would seem," shouted Arthur before he could catch himself, "that necessity doesn't know very much at all!"

But of course he instantly regretted his words; Yao's eyes widened and he seemed to grow very calm, stonily allowing Arthur to paw at his sleeve to his heart's content.

"I'm sorry, Yao," said Arthur almost immediately, subdued, though his voice still hitched. "I'm sorry, that was unnecessary." He cracked no smile at the irony. "Please forgive me."

Yao cast him an unreadable look. "We will have to call them."

"I don't understand," whispered Arthur for what seemed to be the umpteenth time, letting his fingers slide from the jack's sleeve to rest defeated on the tabletop. "Not for two centuries have we…" He trailed off. "So why now?"

"Why? You don't see? It was your little comment back there…" said Yao, his voice again growing exhausted. "You will rule supreme until you are no longer capable, eh?" He laughed mirthlessly. "Might as well invite the Hearts to declare war."

Arthur swallowed. "But I never…I said I would uphold the Spades reputation until…"

Yao gave that same unpleasant laugh again, tipping his head back for a moment before snapping upright with a frightening little giggle.

"Do you not see, Arthur?" he asked, a curious smile curving his mouth but not quite reaching the corners of his eyes. "The two are synonyms. Our reputation is of supreme rule…" He chuckled again, shrilly. "And now, in order to uphold it just as you have so generously promised to do…we will have to call them."

Arthur bit down on his lower lip. "And should they refuse..?"

Yao stood, straightening his cloak. "You and I both know that they will do no such thing. We are all eager to see returned the glory that once was the Kingdom of Spades." His voice took on a wistful edge and Arthur knew that all hope of dissuasion was lost. "Whole, unscathed by the past, her arms encompassing island and ocean and true firm land…" He sighed. "It has simply been that we are both too proud to say so. Pride is the unfortunate shared nature of our people, I suppose. However…" He turned to Arthur with something of a smile, perhaps a tacit offer of reconciliation. "You, your majesty highness gloriously bumbling infant Queen of Spades, have turned all question of shame obsolete. We cannot prevent a war without a king, and history must not repeat itself. And so…" He sighed, turning towards the door and gesturing for Arthur to follow. "We will have to call them."

"You mean to say that there is no other option," mumbled Arthur as he obediently followed the jack out into the hallway, huffing to match his brisk pace, the tails of his cloak crackling out behind him. "You mean to say that I will have to…with him, of all people…all for the sake of…because of…"

"King Alfred is not as intolerable as you seem to consider him, your majesty," said Yao mildly, casting an amused glance over his shoulder. "And considering that it was indeed your foolhardiness which has brought this about, I would think it a rather fitting punishment.

"He is a pretty toy of the people," sneered Arthur as they crossed the lobby. "And rumor has it that this economic mess all began with his ineptitude. I say, how can such a man possibly be capable of ruling a kingdom as previously prosperous as that of New Spades?" He snorted. "It's preposterous!"

Yao raised an eyebrow and Arthur swallowed, realizing his hypocrisy.

"I don't want this," he spat, as if such a statement were somehow validating. Yao merely shrugged and ushered him up the stairs at a faster pace.

"We all must do things which we would prefer not to," he said, his characteristic sense of serenity having returned with irritating speed. Arthur frowned and Yao cracked a small smile, reaching out to ruffle his bangs.

"With that attitude," he added, an almost affectionate note pervading his tone, "King Alfred will be about as willing to wed into this disaster as you are to accept him."


AN – Guys, I should not be doing this. I have another AU to be working on and I have no idea of how long this story is going to be or of how the plot is going to fold out exactly, and yet…here I am, for the love of Cardverse and USUK and the fact that this story has gripped me by the shoulders and shaken me up and down and still won't let me go.

What I do know is that this fic will run for far more than a measly fifteen chapters and has been rated M for reasons which may not show themselves for some time. More things I know are that updates will be produced as quickly as possible, but no longer by a specified schedule. More information about this can (probably) be found on the fanfic tag on my writing blog, the link to which is on my profile.

Side pairings include but are not limited to RusPrus, GerIta, and possible AusHun.

The setting is post-modern, moderately dystopian – an unusual interpretation of this universe, I know. I actually have an atypically vivid idea of this world, however, so more will be fleshed out in later chapters. Catch the parallels to actual historical events and you win all my love.

Thank you so much for reading! Hopefully I will have an update ready next week.

Over and out.