6: Terror in the Night
The blizzard outside buffeted the Russian fortress and snow fell in heaps. The door was jarred shut, even though America and Germany strained against it. They were trapped inside just purely from the weather. America sighed when they only managed to open it a crack, only to let in clumps of snow and a vicious wind. He slammed the door shut once more, and even took the time to bolt it shut to prevent any more invisible ice from freezing them. The only person seemingly unaware of the terrible cold was England, and the majority put that down to his recovering hangover.
“We really are stuck here, aren’t we?” America sighed, sliding down the door and sitting there, a defeated expression on his face. “Guess we really do have to go into a war with Russia. I was kinda hoping that would be avoided, since a war between myself and him could be catastrophic.”
“We could try and find Italy?” Japan suggested. “I doubt he’s dead. Perhaps he really has just gotten himself lost and didn’t encounter Lithuania along the way? Maybe we were just too quick to blame Russia…”
“I feel bad as well,” France sighed. “He took the time to invite all of us to his house. I’m not sure why, but he did.”
England folded his arms and looked at them questioningly. “I’ve missed a lot… Can somebody fill me in?”
“Long story short, Italy went missing on his way to the bathroom, and we blamed Russia,” China said. “Who wouldn’t, aru? Anyway, he got angry, locked us in the room, and left us for dead.”
“Charming,” England muttered. “There’s something going on here, and I certainly want to know what it is. I believe splitting up would be a bad idea, but we need to find Russia, and this house is huge…”
“We can travel in groups of three,” Germany suggested.
“That could work,” England pondered. “Actually, there are six of us, so that would be very good.”
“OK – myself, England and France will be in one group,” America announced. “Japan, China and Germany can be in the other. We’ll search the east side of the house, you guys can do the west.”
China snorted with laughter. “How about no? I’m not going anywhere near creepy Belarus’s room, aru. You can forget it. I would rather go outside.”
“Fine, fine,” England said, unaware of why China was acting so strange towards Russia’s younger sister. “We can swap.”
“I-I’m not sure about that,” France said, intimidated.
“What’s the bloody problem?” England fumed. “All of you are scared of a young woman wearing a dress? That’s ridiculous. What is she going to do to you guys that makes you so terrified? And besides, I’ve heard things about her that tells me she’d be more interested in Russia than us.”
Germany brought a palm to his head. “My God – you’re right. You saw the way she was earlier.”
“We left him for dead,” France grabbed his head in distress. “He wanted us to go with him for that very reason. We abandoned him!”
“It was probably Belarus who did that to Italy,” Germany added. “She really didn’t like him.”
“We blamed Russia…” Japan said guiltily.
“Did you never think to even consider Russia’s family?” England asked sceptically and they all glanced at him. “That’s really… That’s really… well… I don’t know… stupid.”
“I never thought I'd ever hear myself say this, but we have to go save Russia!” America announced. “Split into our teams. Meet back here in two hours. That way, we’ll have a lot of time.”
“What time is it now? About eight thirty,” England checked his watch. “So, we’ll meet back here at 10 thirty?”
“Sounds good to me,” Germany said, setting an alarm on his watch. “If any of us get in danger, don’t initiate combat. Try and flee.”
There was general consent as they split into both groups. England was aware his team had a more risky area to cover, but even so, if Belarus was looking for Russia, there was no telling which team would encounter her.
“We’ll start upstairs,” England said, and then noticed France and America trembling as they walked along. “What is wrong with you two?”
“Belarus hates me,” France pleaded. “She’ll target me next, I just know it. I should never have made that dare to Russia.”
“Russia hates me,” America grimaced. “Which means she probably does as well – that means I could be the next target.”
“How about you pansies stop worrying about what’s going to happen to you, and start worrying about what is happening to you?” England threatened, pitying their fear. “If you don’t follow me now, I’ll be very tempted to throw you down the stairs.”
That seemed to satisfy them to an extent, and they followed afterwards. England’s only consolation was the sounds of their footsteps behind his. However, that was worrying because France and especially America were never quiet. He pressed on, each step taking him towards a newer unknown.
Meanwhile, Germany was having an easier time handling his crew. They had reencountered the dining room, and the comfort of the lit candles contrasted to the eerie absence of life within the room. There were no signs to indicate ten people had dined there only an hour ago. Germany noticed that even the rye bread baskets had been taken.
Japan walked across the length of the room and drew the curtain slightly aside. The outside world was a chaotic white mass of snow and wind, the skies were impassive – cloudy and darkened – and the deadly scene of the trees perched on the horizon was chilling. There was no escape. Japan let the curtain fall back in place.
“How about we try the kitchens?” he said. “Italy might have gone there.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Germany pondered, and they changed their direction from the dining room.
They had no idea as to where the kitchen could be, but along the way, they found the bathroom that Italy had supposedly been to. The door was wide open and, looking inside, Germany valued the ordinary appearance of it. Pristine, white and scrubbed to perfection, he truly had to admire the order that must’ve been put into the maintenance of such a room.
“Italy was here, alright, aru,” China nodded, and gestured towards the sink.
Beside it was the white flag he usually carried around with him. Germany approached the accessory and picked it up. It was cold, and seemingly having been untouched for a while now. Why Italy had removed it from his pocket in the bathroom was…
“Hang on a second,” Germany gasped. “Italy was actually attacked whilst in the bathroom.”
“How do you know, other than the fact he left his flag here?” China asked. “He’s not the smartest guy – very forgetful as well, aru.”
“I know, but he always uses this flag when he’s in danger,” Germany explained. “He must’ve pulled it out when he encountered a threat upon leaving the bathroom. This is something the attacker chose to leave…”
“How come Russia didn’t find it?” Japan asked. “Wasn’t he headed towards the bathroom?”
“That’s true,” Germany rubbed his chin. “I’ll be taking this as evidence. We don’t want the attacker returning and attempting to hide it.”
“What if it was Russia?” China asked, scrutinising the bathroom cupboard, which was filled with spare toothpaste, and plenty of female toiletry items.
“Then Russia never came here,” Germany stated matter of factly. “I won’t draw conclusions, but Russia never left our sight once Italy was gone. It can’t be him.”
“Unless he had an accomplice,” Japan said.
“True,” Germany said. “For which case, he can never be trusted.”
He put the white flag of surrender in his pocket, and left the bathroom back into the shady hallways. Time had progressed, night had spread its shadow further across the house, and the hallways were plunged into darkness and quiet. It was also very cold. Germany could hear the distant moans of the wind outside, but beyond that, the hallways was unforgiving and foreboding. Nevertheless, he had no other option other than to press further.
Russia was in no greater a situation than Germany. In a black mood, he had left the others to their own devices, and away from the evil of Belarus. Lithuania had loyally stuck by his side, and he’d managed to traverse in the opposite direction of the house from the bathroom he’d intended to go to because of an enraged, distracted mind. He was in the west wing, which troubled him, because just upstairs was Belarus asleep, and the dare set by France still lingered boldly in his mind. Therefore, he’d resolved to remain quiet, as had Lithuania. The pair of them were headed towards the east-wing, and had been doing so for some time now. Russia had kept a consistent stream of conversation going, but every now and then had grown tired of speaking. He was nervous because the house could get dark and eerie, but he also didn’t want to be accused of what could form into a murder.
“I honestly don’t think it was right of them to accuse me like that,” he spilled out indignantly, as memories fired his emotions once more. “I treated them to a wonderful dinner Ukraine and you three Baltic States had been so lovely to cook for them, I entertained them with a drinking game they all seemed to enjoy, and I allowed them into my house in the first place. Although my original intentions were selfish, I’ve actually found the company of others really enjoyable, since I usually get avoided and slandered by people like America and Prussia, da? Also, whilst you, Latvia and Estonia are perfectly fine, there are times when I want to ram a metal pole through your faces, and you’re all so formal and treat me with a certain distance. I can clarify that I never want to get close to Belarus, and Ukraine can be so suffocating. I hate being the only brother, so it’s great when I get to hang out with other people. Lithuania, you’ve said nothing. Beforehand, you at least hummed your reply, but now I’m starting to wonder if you’re even listening…”
He walked a few paces, but silence followed.
“I’m starting to wonder if you’re even listening, da?” he repeated forcefully.
Russia stopped in the middle of the hallway. The wind was howling outside; although his windows were especially thick, he could still heard its cries like a wounded soldier just beside him. His blood felt icy, his hands were clammy and cold, and the silence enveloped him like the sea of a dark, winter’s day, when the black waters could swallow a man and he could never be seen again. Russia’s heart was hammering in his chest. He dared to turn around, just to confirm what he feared most.
The hallway was completely empty. Lithuania was not there.
“Lithuania?” Russia whispered into the darkness, but there was no reply.
He was alone.
England was in the most fortunate position. They had been investigating each room, one by one, although France was a little ahead, eager to pry and nose his way around Russia’s home in order to find secrets he was unlikely to find.
“I want to find Russia’s room,” he had said with the excitement of a child, which England found embarrassing for him. “I want to see if he keeps any dirty stuff there!”
“Why do you want to know that?” he had demanded, but the Frenchman had tapped his nose and continued in his path of discovery.
Right now, France had moved on to the next room, whilst he and America thoroughly checked under the bed of an empty guest room to see if Italy was hiding underneath. So far, they had found nothing that indicated Italy was in the west wing. They hadn’t encountered Belarus either. Whilst it was comforting that America and France had pulled themselves together, he found it unnerving that France was splitting away from the group a little more.
“This is seriously getting creepy,” America admitted, stretching and glancing around the room.
“I know,” England reluctantly agreed; he was always reluctant to agree with America. “I was kind of hoping Italy was playing some kind of trick on us.”
The door suddenly slammed shut and they were thrown into sudden darkness. There was a sharp cry of panic from America, but then England flicked on the lights. America shook his head and he turned them off once more.
“Hey, I found something of Ukraine’s that might be interesting to you guys,” France chuckled as he approached the door and rattled the handle. “Why is the door lo-”
There was a sudden thud and horrific anguished cried. America’s mouth formed a wide ‘O’, and England stared into space, terrified, as they listened to France’s tortured wails – and then silence. They waited for what must've been twenty agonising minutes, or at least what felt like twenty minutes, until the entire house was plunged into silence. England could feel his heart hammering in his chest, and he didn't dare move. It the utter stillness in the room that allowed them to hear the soft knock at the door.
“Is that you, Russia?” Belarus asked from the other side, but wandered away when she was satisfied nobody was in the room.
Time passed painfully on, and then England reached for another paper-clip.
“Wait,” America said hoarsely as he grabbed England’s wrist. “Do we really want to see what’s out there?”
“Do we really have a choice?” he replied, his voice shaking a little as he unclipped the lock.
He swung the door open to reveal France’s blue cloak strewn across the floor, but no France.