A message popped up on the DS. Japan set his tea down, shifted his robes, and reached for the device, opening the message.
It was a text from China, saying, Ready for climbing, but be careful!
He closed out the message and reached into his robes. He pulled out a small case and pressed a button, opening his captchalogue.
Inside were dozens of DS cards with little pictures on them. Japan selected one with an image of his World War II uniform and slid it into the slot in the DS; he had merged a captchalogue card with the device for this very purpose. When the icon popped up on the start menu, he clicked it, selected Equip, and sat very still as his clothing shimmered and warped into the new outfit. On the screen, the image was replaced with that of his robes. In one swift motion, Japan popped the card out of the DS and replaced it in the captchalogue case.
Now he would have more range of movement, with less trailing of robes.
Another click on the DS screen, and Japan's katana appeared. He picked it up and shut the DS, pocketing it; he refused to put it in with the cards. The case went into one pocket and the DS into another.
His katana held at the ready, Japan slowly slid open his door, put on his shoes, and slipped out of the house. So far, there were no imps in sight. Up above, Japan could see tiered platforms, with precariously-balanced steps leading to each one and no handrail in sight from this angle.
Letting out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding and looking both ways as if he were crossing a street, Japan edged out a bit more. His house looked so strange sitting out in the blackness. The lack of road and neighbours was alarming to Japan, who had spent so long surrounded by the same unchanging—or rarely changing—things. The mortar and hammer he used to make mochi was still in his backyard, abandoned. He debated going back for it, but he had captchalogued everything he needed. The rest could be left behind.
Japan rounded the corner of his house and encountered the first set of rickety stairs.
"Well, here goes nothing," he said, and began his climb.
The world around her was black and white, with music notes sticking up out of the marble walkways as if the ground had spread outwards from them. The marble made swirling patterns, and where they met the other ripple-like patterns from another note, they collided in a harmonic way. Visually, of course, but there was music in the air, currently something by Mozart. It played loudly when you stepped on certain marble pieces, but other than that it was simply a nice background noise.
Hungary had come out of the gate right next to Austria's house. The other country was sitting at his piano in his house, and from where she stood, Hungary could see his fingers tapping impatiently, in time to the music.
Hungary found the door and knocked. "It's unlocked," came the voice, so she let herself in.
"Roderich!" she trilled. "How are you?"
"I could be better, Elizaveta, if you would just listen to me."
"Sorry, but I don't see any harm in being here with you."
Austria sighed. "It's the principle of it. Sometimes I would like to be alone."
Hungary fidgeted with her skirt. "I'm sor—"
"Don't apologize again. While you're here, you might as well have some cake. It needs to be eaten." Austria waved her towards the kitchen and went back to tapping on the lid of his piano.
He's acting strangely, Hungary thought, but she wasn't one to pass up a slice of Austria's homemade chocolate cake, so she hurried to the kitchen. Just as she was cutting herself a large piece, her phone vibrated.
clockworkSamurai began pestering paprikaRebellion
CS: I have made it to my gate. My house seems to have followed me. Is this supposed to happen?
PR: Yep! What's your land called?
CS: Land of Tech and Ticktock. There are clocks everywhere, and the ground is patterned with gears and motherboards and such. And there is a village of some sort of reptile…
PR: I thought I saw a village in the distance in my land, too.
PR: I'm not there at the moment, though.
CS: So, where are you, then?
PR: Austria's house!
CS: How did you get there?
PR: There was a gate to the Land of Tune and Monochrome on my world.
PR: Which is the Land of Scent and Frogs!
CS: There is a gate next to my house.
CS: It says
CS: Land of Boats and Cauldrons
PR: I wonder who's land that goes to?
CS: If I had to guess, I would say England-san
PR: Maybe we all have gates to our client player's world?
CS: It would make sense. In a way.
PR: Hey, why are you calling England "England-san"?
PR: Isn't he usually Igirisu-san to you?
CS: I thought I should make an effort to learn the English names.
CS: Since we can all speak English in some form.
PR: You shouldn't feel like you have to change for that.
CS: But it is easier, right?
PR: Whatever happened to the Japan that resisted change?
PR: Although I guess I didn't really know you back then.
PR: But really, everyone will know who you are talking about.
PR: Even England! I don't know if it's a coincidence or what, but his middle name is almost like your word for him!
CS: And that is?
PR: Arthur Iggy Kirkland!
CS: How do you know this?
PR: France. He was doing a poor impression of England.
CS: And you are taking France's word for it.
PR: Well, yeah. It's not like he said "poopbutt" or something.
PR: Which he would totally do, by the way.
CS: I shall consider it.
CS: Calling him Igirisu, not the other word.
CS: I assume that is an insult.
CS: I should be exploring, I think. England may not take too kindly to me dropping in unannounced, or without a gift.
PR: England won't be expecting anything much.
CS: Still, I would rather he not come to his world and find someone else already there. It might be a bit of a shock.
PR: Well, it's your call. Nice chatting with you, though!
clockworkSamurai ceased pestering paprikaRebellion
After a while, Denmark opened his window again and peeked outside. Sweden had moved on, so Denmark threw his legs out the window and sat on the sill.
I wonder if I can fly, he thought. But in a moment of uncharacteristic caution, Denmark chose not to try it.
He squinted into the distance. Somewhere below, he could see a much bigger golden planet. There was a sky-coloured one beneath that, and in the distance, and gray planet that reminded Denmark of LOSAC.
And there was an orange shape getting bigger and bigger.
There was a trail of citrus sparkles.
Denmark grinned and waved. "Monaco!"
Monaco floated up to Denmark. "Hello again. It's a good think you were successful. Norway was threatening to slit my throat if I had actually killed you!" She laughed. "But I knew it would work."
She turned around and took in the sight. "So this is Prospit's moon, is it? I was a Derse Dreamer, before my God Tiering. Then I looked really out of place, and the Dersites tried to kill me. They thought I had defected to Prospit! Have you seen anybody else here?"
Denmark shrugged. "Sweden was floating around. What's up with that? And hey, can I fly?"
Monaco shook her head. "I'm not sure why, but you can't. That's just how it is with some people. And Sweden must have been asleep."
"He looked pretty awake to me."
"No, no, that was his dream self. Of course it would be awake, if his real self is sleeping. Perhaps that's why no one can contact him."
Denmark straightened up. "Oh, man, what's going on with the team? I should have been trying to contact somebody."
"Sealand's phone is missing, I think. He's not answering. But now I know why Sweden is AWOL, so things should calm down a bit."
"Yeah. So how do I get down from here?"
"Would you like me to try to carry you?"
"Maybe." Monaco fluttered her wings extra fast.
"I think I'd better wait, then."
Monaco shrugged. "Okay. There should be some stairs leading to the moon's surface. From there, maybe you can try climbing down the chain to Prospit. But be very careful if you do, because if you lose your grip, you'll go tumbling away into paradox space."
Denmark felt a chill run up and down his spine, and shivered. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Then I'm going to go let the team know you're okay. Good luck, Denmark!" And with a wave, Monaco flitted away.
"Ow!" Another lemon hit Korea on the head as it fell from a tree. As usual, the little sticker on it had a small copyright symbol. He peeled it off and placed it in the growing pile of lemons that has beaned him. There were about 120 now. They had cascaded down at the beginning.
His computer pinged.
terminallyCapricious began trolling kimchiGamer
TC: yO tHeRe MoThErFuCkEr
TC: hOw Is EvErY mOtHerFuCkIn ThInG wItH yOu
KG: Oh, hey there. You're a new one, aren't you?
TC: nAh, BrO, I jUsT sTaY OuT oF aLl ThIs MoThErFuCkIn TrOlLiNg StUfF
KG: Oh. Is there something you want?
TC: yEaH, bRo
TC: CoUlD yA mAyBe SeNd Me SoMe MuThErFuCkIn LeMoNs, BrO?
KG: How do I do that?
TC: jUsT cApTcHaLoGuE iT aNd SeNd Me ThE cOdE
KG: Okay…um, the back of the card is blank.
KG: No, wait, there's some fine print…it says "This item is not available for coding because the Sburb Copyright Laws are in play. We are sorry for the inconvenience." Stupid copyright.
TC: wElL fUcK, bRo, ThAt JuSt BlOwS!
TC: gUeSs I mIgHt TaLk To YoU lAtEr
KG: Okay. Sorry I couldn't really help you!
TC: nOt A pRoBlEm, MoThErFuCkEr
terminallyCapricious ceased trolling kimchiGamer
In a lab somewhere in the Veil, there sits a strange horned creature. It slides another handful of green slime into its mouth.
But although you can catch a brief glimpse, you still cannot be TC.
Vietnam used her paddle to push the giant lily pad along the cinnamon-scented stream. LOLAC was a beautiful land, in her opinion, but there still wasn't a smile on her face. Vietnam had a hard time smiling.
She had spent most of her time in Sglobe on the river. Her house was attached to a larger lily pad behind her by a thick length of vine, so she could carry it with her and never have to paddle back upstream. Occasionally, she would find a village filled with reptiles, but she had stayed away from them. She had no idea what they were supposed to do in the game, and if they were enemies—well, at the moment, Vietnam really did not feel like fighting.
Her captchalogue was weighted down with hundreds of different combinations of items; the best part of the game, she felt, was that she could make anything she wanted with just a few items. Sometimes, though, she preferred to make things the old-fashioned way.
It had only been 38 hours, but it felt like a lifetime.
Her captchalogue buzzed, signaling a message. Vietnam extracted her phone reluctantly and checked the caller-or pester—ID.
freedomBurger began pestering lotusDragon
FB: yo viet wassup
FB: cmon say somtin
LD: Please type normally. I would like to be able to read what you're saying without having to decipher it.
FB: Oh, sorry. Okay.
FB: Anyway how's things with you?
LD: *how are
LD: Grammar, America.
FB: But really, how ARE things with you?
LD: Fine. Peaceful, for the most part.
FB: Really? It's been hectic over here. Lots of imps, and they all look really weird.
LD: There are very few imps on the river. I think they are unable to swim.
FB: Man, you're much more talkative over pesterchum, aren't you?
LD: I suppose.
FB: Sorry, didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.
LD: You didn't.
FB: What's your place like? Mine is all stars and stripes.
FB: LOSAS, Land of Stars and Stripes.
FB: Best land ever.
LD: Land of Lily Pads and Cinnamon. LOLAC.
FB: That sounds pretty.
LD: I think so.
LD: Did you have something you wanted to talk about?
FB: Nah, I was just shooting the breeze.
FB: Because I'm bored. And I haven't talked to you in forever!
LD: We don't usually talk. Ever.
FB: Are you still mad about that war? C'mon, you won it for heaven's sakes!
LD: Yes. I did.
FB: Very funny.
FB: But seriously are you still mad about it.
LD: No, not particularly.
LD: It ended badly for both of us, I guess. So no grudges as long as you stay out of my business in the future.
FB: That's a not-so-subtle hint that I should go away, isn't it.
lotusDragon ceased pestering freedomBurger
He closed the chat window and leaned back against an oversized star that sat near his house. America wasn't sure whether that conversation had gone well or badly. It certainly had ended poorly. Sort of like the Vietnam War, actually.
But she was right, they never talked at meetings. At least, not directly. If Vietnam had a problem with something America was saying, she would sometimes speak up, but she would be addressing the entire conference room. It would be a lie to say he hadn't noticed it, but then again, he had never really made an effort to talk to her, either.
America knew he could be a bit of a prick to others. He just didn't care most of the time. But it was different with Vietnam. He found himself wanting to be a better person around her. He could spend all day pestering England or evading and enraging Cuba, but he always caved for Vietnam.
America reached up and tugged on the little strand of hair that was—or had been—Nantucket. It was something he did when he was deep in thought, and had been since he was little. Something about feeling the pain in his hair roots helped his brain to function better.
Years ago, when France had come to him with an urgent plea for help, America had agreed because of one reason—Communism. He would have ignored the problem if Vietnam had just been revolting against an imperial power—America himself had done that to England—but her proximity to Russia and the ever-growing power of the commies had bothered America so much that he had set aside his own problems and mixed himself up in a pointless war. And he had lost, too, after years without defeat.
But in the end, America shouldn't have worried. Like almost all other Communist states, Vietnam had edged away from the absolute and emerged as her own nation. Even Russia had left the whole thing behind him. But at the time, it had seemed like such a big deal.
Not for the first time, America asked himself why he had been so absorbed in Vietnam's dilemma back then. Lithuania had been sucked into that whole mess, and America hadn't marched in and kicked Russia's ass back to Moscow (mostly because that would have been stupid, but who cares about details?), and China had been part of it, too. But Vietnam was America's focus.
Here was where America always hit a dead end. This time was no different.
He had managed to get this far, and there was no going back. But hugging a large golden chain link and hanging in space, Denmark wasn't so sure there was any going forward, either.
He scooted down a tad bit until his feet landed on the next link. His limbs were starting to shake from exertion; he couldn't even swing himself up so he was laying on his stomach on the chain link. He breathed heavily, trying to get more oxygen to his muscles. It felt like he was doing an upside-down plank, and it was not at all comfortable.
Just a little farther…
Even as the thought entered his head, Denmark's muscles gave out, and he was cascading into open space. He wanted to scream, but his voice was shoved back in by the force of his downward movement. He screwed his eyes shut, even though he knew it wouldn't make any differeance.
Denmark was suddenly sandwiched between two warm, breathing objects, cradled in what felt like two pairs of arms, and hovering in one spot. He opened his eyes and saw one concerned face and one emotionless face.
"Belgie! Nor!" he cried. He let a smile cross his face as his muscles cramped into fetal position. He tried to straighten out, but he couldn't.
"Hold on, Denmark!" Belgium said, and she and Norway began to move downwards towards Prospit. Denmark craned his head around to see how they were doing it, but saw nothing below their feet.
"Are you guys flying?"
"Yep!" Belgium chirped. "Dream selves can do that! But I've never seen Prospit pajamas like that before."
"Those are God Tier clothes," Norway mumbled. "Monaco told me about them."
"Oh, yeah! So you reached God Tier, too, huh?"
"Yeah. But thank goodness you were here. I might have reached it for nothing!"
"Monaco said you wouldn't have died. God Tiers can only die if their death is heroic or just."
"And what does that mean, Nor?"
There was a slight bump as the two Prospit dreamers touched down and set Denmark on the ground. He still couldn't uncurl his overused muscles, so he just rested on his side.
"I think my muscles might need some time to rest, guys. But really, thanks a lot."
"It's nothing!" the blonde girl said.
"Monaco told me you were on Prospit, so I fell asleep to see for myself. Belgium was already sleeping."
"We checked your room, but you weren't there! So we went to the chain next, because Monaco said you might be trying to climb down to Prospit."
"Which was a stupid thing to do, Denmark."
Denmark just groaned slightly in pain.
"Leave him alone, Norway. He's been through a lot."
"It's his own fault."
"Wa's goin 'n?"
Everyone turned their faces upward to see Sweden descending. He landed and looked at Denmark. His features twitched almost imperceptibly to form a smirk, then resumed their stony façade.
"Don' t'll me he tr'd ta cl'mb d'wn."
Norway just nodded.
Belgium tugged on Sweden's sleeve. "Sweden, you need to wake up. Sealand and Finland must be worried about you! We thought something bad had happened to you!"
Sweden nodded and looked back up at the moon, as if debating whether or not it was worth it to fly back up there just to fall asleep. He seemed to think so, as he was gone without another word.
"Now what?" Denmark asked.
Norway was staring at something behind him. Denmark craned his head around to look and saw a tall, white figure approaching. She was surrounded by short little white figures in strange hats. Then Denmark's neck began to hurt and he dropped his head back to the ground.
"Are they friendly?" he hissed at his friends. Belgium's gaze was fixed on the figures. Norway shrugged.
Soon, the group had reached the prone figure of Denmark. The tall one asked if he was okay.
"Muscle fatigue, ma'am," Belgium said.
The tall figure asked if it would be okay for her to take him to an infirmary to rest up.
"I think so. Are you okay with that, Denmark?"
"Who is she?"
The tall figure said she was the White Queen, ruler of Prospit, and that she was an ally. She also said that she wanted to make sure that her Knight was well-rested. It wouldn't do to have Prospit's champions crippled.
"I guess it's okay, then," Denmark said.
The queen told her minions to carry Denmark back to the palace. She bid good-bye to Norway and Belgium and joined her minions on the walk back.
I sort of apologize for the history stuff. I'm a history buff, so I couldn't resist.
I promise in the future there will be more shipping stuff. Eventually. Nepeta will be very busy.
AF: Liechtenstein/Lili Zwingli (autumnFlower)
AG: Switzerland/Basch (Sebastian) Zwingli (alpineGuardian)
BS: Prussia/Gilbert Beilschmidt (beilschmidtSuckerpunch)
BT: Lithuania/ Toris Laurinaitas (balticTechnician)
BW: England/ Arthur Kirkland (britishWizard)
CM: Seychelles/ Victorie (caribbeanMermaid)
CS: Japan/ Kiku Honda (clockworkSamurai)
FB: America/Alfred Jones (freedomBurger)
FS: Greece/ Heracles Karpusi (felineSomniatic)
GN: Belarus/ Natalia Arlovskaya (gracefulNightshade)
KM: Germany/ Ludwig Beilschmidt (kuchenMechanic)
MV: Canada/ Matthew Williams (mapleVeranda)
PC: China/ Yao Wang (pandaCulinarian)
PG: Italy/ Feliciano Vargas (pastaGondolier)
PP: Romano/ Lovino Vargas (pizzaPiazza)
PR: Hungary/ Elizaveta Hedervary (paprikaRebellion)
TA: Spain/ Antonio Carriedo (tomatoArmada_
VL: France/ Francis Bonnefoy (vineyardLover)
VV: Austria/ Roderich Edelstein (vienneseVirtuoso)
KG: South Korea/Im Yong Soo (kimchiGamer)
LD: Vietnam/ Lien (lotusDragon)
MO: Turkey/ Sadiq Adnan (maskedOttoman)
VB: Denmark/Mathias Køhler (vikingBerserker)
Monaco: something with gambling and librarian
Denmark: Knight of Blood
Monaco: Seer of Light
LOBAC: Land of Boats and Cauldrons (England)
LOBAG: Land of Books and Glasses (Monaco)
LOBAS: Land of Bells and Sunshine (Finland)
LOCAL: Land of Copyright and Lemons (Korea)
LOCAR: Land of Chimes and Rivers (Italy)
LOFAI: Land of Fire and Iron (Germany)
LOFAR: Land of Flavour and Roses (France)
LOSAF: Land of Scent and Frogs (Hungary)
LOGAA: Land of Geysers and Auroras (Iceland)
LOGAS: Land of Green and Sparkles (Norway)
LOKAI: Land of Knives and Icicles (Belarus)
LOLAC: Land of Lily Pads and Cinnamon (Vietnam)
LOLAP: Land of Lanterns and Plush (China)
LOMAD: Land of Moons and Deserts (Turkey)
LOMAM: Land of Mines and Mountains (Switzerland)
LONAS: Land of Night and Searchlights (Prussia)
LOOAI: Land of Ocean and Cannons (Sealand)
LORAF: Land of Ribbons and Flowers (Liechtenstein)
LOSAC: Land of Statues and Churches (Romano)
LOSAF: Land of Snow and Forests (Russia)
LOSAP: Land of Sand and Pyramids (Egypt)
LOSAS: Land of Stars and Stripes (America)
LOTAC: Land of Teal and Cages (Denmark)
LOTAM: Land of Tune and Monochrome (Austria)
LOTAS: Land of Tulips and Scarves (Netherlands)
LOTAT: Land of Tech and Tick-Tock (Japan)