19: Unmasking A Mask
England moved aside to let Russia pass him down the ladder. He climbed down after him, dazed, and watched Russia hug his sister, who dropped the crowbar and returned his hug, a troubled expression on her face. They were both shaking. England was surprised when Russia turned his head towards him, smiling, but with tears forming and threatening to spill over.
“She’s OK!” he exclaimed. “You’re OK, Belarus! You haven’t been shot!”
She shook her head in reply, fighting back her own tears, but constantly blinking, swallowing and sniffing in order to suppress them. England glanced down at America, lying on the floor and then back at the two siblings. He noticed someone walking towards them from down the corridor.
England narrowed his eyes. “Latvia?”
The boy shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as Belarus and Russia turned their attention to him.
“Latvia?” Russia looked surprised. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been around, Mr Russia,” he still looked very uncomfortable.
“Is something the matter?” England asked. “Did you encounter the attacker?”
Latvia sighed. “I have some explaining to do.”
“Explaining?” Russia repeated cautiously.
“First of all, I want you three to know that I’m in on it,” Latvia fretted. “I’ve known about the attacks as well as all the others.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….” Russia murmured quickly, the sadness draining from his expression. “You?”
Latvia shook with fear. “Yes, and I really can explain to you what happened. You just have to listen, Mr Russia!”
“I’m listening, da?” he replied coolly.
“It all started with that Italy guy, as we all know,” Latvia said with uncertainty. “Well, he went to the bathroom, and I happened to be passing by at the time when I met with my friend, the one who thought of this in the first place. Yes, I just want to clarify that this was never my idea, OK, Mr Russia?”
Russia nodded, what looked like an understanding smile spreading across his face. That only seemed to terrify Latvia all the more.
“He said we should jump Italy as soon as he left the bathroom,” Latvia winced. “We did so, because it was Halloween, and he fainted. My friend became wary, and didn’t want to be scolded for revealing a collapsed Italy, so said we needed to hide him. At first, I protested, but then I relented, because I’m weak, and I said we should bring him to the storage room beneath the basement, because there was no chance of anyone finding him there. We looked after him and made sure he had water, and my friend even provided him company when he needed it.
“I don’t know why we kept him at all!” Latvia panicked. “We should’ve just let him go, but then my friend said this was the perfect opportunity to execute the plan he’d had in mind. It’s nothing sinister, I swear! Just a Halloween prank! Anyway, he went off up through the storage way, whereas I managed to squeeze myself into the dumbwaiter and lever myself all the way to the top. The next time I brought Italy water, Lithuania was there. My friend said it was all going to plan, but I had to wonder exactly what would be the outcome of this…
“I continued to act normal, or at least pretend to do so,” Latvia frowned. “But my friend wanted to mess with your minds some more. He said if we left out particular people, then it would be nice to see them work together to find out what was happening. He followed England and America upstairs and somehow framed Belarus for taking France. Next thing I knew, we suddenly had three victims in the storage room, and that was when I began to feel uneasy.
“However, that was also when my own crimes began to weight against me,” Latvia swallowed. “So far, I had been a distant accomplice, only really contributing to Italy’s capture. However, he came to me as I was in the room after Estonia had gone to sleep. He fretted Estonia was on to him, and that he may have heard him go into the library to hide. However, he was positive that he hadn’t been seen, and wanted me to split up Germany and China. That was easy, because Mr Germany wanted to go to the toilet. Miss Ukraine left at some point, and I suppose that’s the time when my friend got Mr China.
“For a moment, I thought he had taken both Mr China and Miss Ukraine, but I was tied down because Mr Germany didn’t want me out of his sight for fear that I would be attacked,” Latvia looked guilty. “He insisted we stick together. The question is, how did little Latvia take down Mr Germany? I-I… feel really bad, because he was so nice to me, but I actually found one of Mr Russia’s faucet things and used that. We’d already gone so far and I felt there was nothing else I could do. The more Mr Germany looked, the closer he would be to discovering the truth about me. I was scared and took the necessary action.
“Well, by then, I was technically a criminal, so I guess I stopped caring so much,” he admitted. “I took Germany down to the storage room, and my friend was a little impressed, since he thought Germany would be the hardest to take down. I feel like such a scumbag, but it’s all about earning trust… Estonia wasn’t too hard to take. He was asleep by the time we arrived at his room, and my friend decided to shove a bag over his head and bring him down the basement way, since he would never fit down the dumbwaiter. We gagged him. I’m sure he was really distressed, but the two of us were too afraid to stop what we had put in motion. Technically, the plan was still well functioning.
“Miss Ukraine was probably the easiest to take along,” Latvia bit his lip. “Please don’t look at me like that, Mr Russia – we didn’t harm her. We actually just put some balaclavas on and asked her to come with us in our best American accents and she did. We also told her to be quiet, and I guess she was too afraid to not be. Then there were you four. My friend was sure that England and America would never split up, so he wanted to actually target Mr Russia next. I plain out refused. Admittedly, Ukraine had put me off. Although she wasn’t harmed, she was very distressed. Also, I would never attack Mr Russia if I wanted to continue living, possibly because he would break my spine and tear out my neck bone- but only because he doesn’t want me to turn into a thug living on the streets.”
He gave a nervous laugh and Russia nodded, still smiling. England thought the smile was a little less understanding opposed to eerie, bordering murderous.
“Miss Belarus was also out of the question,” Latvia said. “I told him I wanted out, that we should end this, let everyone go, and just tell them all what was happening. It was a prank that spiralled way out of control. He went up, whereas I stayed down. I was too afraid to go up. I don’t know what happened up there, but when he returned he was freaking out. He said I was right and that this needed to end. When we both climbed up through the dumbwaiter, we heard gunshots, and that’s when I knew this had to end.
“I was too scared to face the guy with the gun, until now,” Latvia looked unsure. “We didn’t think America would crack, but he did and he really did crack. My friend was way too scared, but I knew that if I didn’t come soon, the madness would continue. It was like a wild goose chase. I was trying to find you two, Mr Russia and Mr England, because you two would be rational rather than trying to shoot me, especially you, Mr England. Not that you’re not rational, Mr Russia. The English are just particularly rational, as in, rationality is written into their genes; you get what I’m saying?
“Anyway, it was hard, because you two were constantly moving around the house and a lot of the time I just couldn’t track either of you,” he was trembling at this point. “I know I came too late, but the gunshots alerted me to your presence, and when I got here, America was knocked out and you three were actually OK, which is really good, because I didn’t want to be the cause of murder. I’m really very sorry-”
“Why don’t you come give Mr Russia a hug and he’ll tell you it’ll be all fine?” Russia started approaching the boy, who shook his head and took a step back.
“Wait!” England frowned. “Who is this friend of yours?”
“I think I can answer that question,” someone replied, stepping out from around the corner. “I’ve just finished explaining to everyone what happened to them, and I thought it was about time I showed myself.”
“Sealand?” England stared in horror.
“I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt,” Sealand stared at the ground, tears in his eyes. “I actually just wanted to scare you, England, because we’re brothers and everything, but also because it’s Halloween. I thought if I executed a really elaborate and somewhat clever plan, then all the countries would have to acknowledge me as a nation…”
“So you took people hostage?” England’s brows furrowed.
“Well, that wasn’t actually the plan,” Sealand frowned. “The plan was to scare Italy, and actually have him collaborate with us. That was the idea – give everyone a scare, and then have them work with us. However, he fainted and I panicked, so Latvia suggested a place where we could bring him. Once we got down there, I thought it would be fun to bring everyone there, and they’d all see each other and not worry. However, when Italy came to, he tried to run from us in some kind of blind panic, so we had to bind him up and everything.”
Sealand glanced up at them all and sniffed. “I really thought it would be quite fun, and I figured that, in a way, Russia was Latvia’s version of a big brother. The idea was to leave you two for last, and then surprise you, and it would all be fun and games. I could never have pulled this through without Latvia, really. He was the one who suggested to Russia that he should throw a Halloween party, especially after I told him my idea.”
“Oh, yes, I remember you were talking to me when I was planning it,” Russia’s smile became noticeably forced. “I didn’t realise you were a manipulator, Latvia.”
Latvia’s eyes widened and he sent Sealand a slight glare. England wondered how much more information Latvia had twisted, but from the threatening way Russia was standing, England decided not to press for that information. His target was Sealand.
“I never would have guessed America would use a gun against you guys,” Sealand looked sad. “But I guess he watches too many horror films and there’s sometimes someone who goes mad just to add to the psychological horror, so that could be where he got that from.”
“Oh, I thought he just had a fever,” Russia looked down at America with mild disgust. “Maybe he didn’t after all…”
"Perhaps he did..." Sealand followed his gaze anxiously. "I wouldn't know, really..."
“But I don’t understand,” England said. “How did you even get here? Russia’s house is one of the most well defended I know, and you definitely weren’t on my plane.”
“Oh, well, that was quite easy, considering the circumstances,” Sealand looked surprised. “I don’t want to offend Russia in any way, but-”
“Allow me to explain,” another person wandered out. “It was a three man team, England. I brought him on my plane, because I liked his plan.”
“You,” England gaped. “You’re behind this?”
“I will tell you everything,” France answered as he approached.