8: The Loft
Germany and China awkwardly stood in the middle of the room. Japan was nowhere in sight, and wind speeds had risen to abnormal paces. Germany could hear the sorrowful howls outside. China lifted a candle from the table and inspected it. Smoke was still rising from it.
“Did he encounter someone in here, aru?” he asked, setting it back down.
“Surely we would’ve heard a struggle…” Germany frowned. “We saw the candle get blown out, but there was nobody in here…”
“I’m starting to wonder if it was the wind that blew these candles out,” China pointed towards the empty fireplace, where the wind whistled through. “That would blow them out, aru.”
“That’s true,” Germany replied. “Perhaps Japan wandered off…”
“Why would he do that in a time like this, aru?” China complained. “I thought he was clever!”
“He is,” Germany narrowed his eyes. “Which is why I doubt he would walk off like this…”
“Hello, there, boys,” Ukraine beamed, walking into the room. “I heard you all running around. Are you playing a game of hide and seek?”
“Um, well…” Germany looked uncomfortable.
Ukraine clapped her hands together. “You should come and stay in the lounge I’m in. I’m just watching TV, but Russia will never think to look in a room where I am! Come along!”
She waved enthusiastically and left the room. China shrugged at Germany and followed after her. He wasn’t sure what she wanted, but Germany didn’t want to be left alone. He followed reluctantly, all the way down the corridor and into a cosy room at the end. Ukraine plopped herself down on the sofa and waved them in. China made himself at home and she turned to the horror channel.
“Why are we watching this?” Germany frowned. “Ukraine, you are aware that people have gone missing, aren’t you?”
“Hmm?” she looked at him quizzically. “If that’s a ploy to make me give away locations of hiding places, it’s not going to work! Russia’s always been very good at finding hiding places – I don’t know how he does it.”
“Practice from Belarus,” China muttered as Germany sat beside him.
The door opened and Latvia peered in. “Miss Ukraine, would you like something to eat or drink?” he asked, and then looked surprised to see both China and Germany with her.
“I would love tea, please, Latvia,” she smiled. “You wouldn’t mind getting our guests some cups, too, as well as some little chocolates we can eat for our films!”
“Not a problem,” he replied, and closed the door.
Germany watched him go anxiously. Perhaps he should’ve gone with the poor boy. Anyone, for all he knew, was a target.
Meanwhile, Russia had grown the balls to leave the safety of the room he’d trapped himself in. He peered out both sides of the corridor, and then deemed it safe to leave his haven. He closed the door behind him and entered the hallways, cold and vast, suddenly endless despite this being his own home. His aim to reach the east wing bathroom was once again rekindled.
With measured steps, he began making his way down the hallway. It wasn’t like he had to walk far to make it to the east wing. The problem was that he had to walk past the main staircase, which meant that, if Belarus was still awake, there was a chance he could encounter her and that would only add to the problems that were already piling on his plate.
As he reached the main hall, he made sure to cautiously check she wasn’t prowling the area before passing through. Upon seeing the empty hallway, Russia began his quick, but quiet dash across the expanse, eager to get back to the east wing hallway, where there were rooms he could dart into and hide within if the need became necessary.
“Russia?” Belarus’s voice echoed from upstairs and his entire body froze. “You better not be hiding in your room. I hate it when you lock the door and-” there was a fierce tugging at a door handle. “-this door is locked. Russia? Are you in there?”
Steeling his courage, Russia hurried across the room, his footsteps muffled by the rug laid down on the floor. The most awkward thing that could happen was if he tripped, however, this was not so and he safely reached the other side.
“Don’t make me go and get the crowbar from the garage, Russia,” Belarus threatened from upstairs. “Open the door and we’ll both save time of me breaking another one…”
Russia swallowed and cursed quietly, his soft whisper extremely loud in his ears, although he was sure Belarus wouldn’t have heard him, since she was upstairs and also making a lot of noise attempting to break the door down. There seemed to be no more shouts from Belarus, but Russia still almost ran down the east wing hallway, making a sharp turn at the corner and running straight for the bathroom that had ensured Italy’s disappearance. He slowed his pace dramatically as he neared, and turned on the lights, looking inside the bathroom.
Lithuania was not there, although that was rather obvious, as he would've had to have overtaken Russia when the latter had been hiding. He was sure he would've heard his footsteps. Russia assumed he had been taken by the attacker, as had Italy and whoever had been screaming beforehand. As Russia stood in the bathroom, he couldn’t help but feel that Belarus may have been involved with the disappearances. Whilst she was obsessive, he never would have thought she’d take things this far. Upon the arrival of his guests, she had been edgier and her manner towards them had been far from kind. All pointed towards her – the screaming had even happened upstairs, and soon afterwards, Belarus’s voice calling out for him. He swallowed at the thought of his sister disposing of the bodies of her victims, until all that was left was him. It could not be Belarus. Whilst some people were still wandering around, he could easily live in satisfied denial.
The bathroom was immaculate. There were no signs of Italy having been there. Russia paused, wondering if Italy had wandered off and gotten himself lost. Whilst he was not so ignorant as to deny the existence of someone in his house committing these crimes, even if it was Belarus, he was sure that there was still a chance Italy had been lost and then attacked. The bathroom showed no signs of a struggle, and there were no hints of Italy having ever been there. Russia turned and left the bathroom, his search suddenly seeming wasted.
“Oh, Russia, I’m getting the crowbar,” Belarus’s voice rang from around the corner.
He held his breath and slipped into the nearest room, closing the door silently behind him and crouching in the corner behind a chair, keeping the lights off. He heard her footsteps as she passed by the room, on her way to the garage, but decided to keep himself hidden rather than face her. It would be best if he allowed her to roam back to the floor above so he could continue to effectively explore the ground floor. Russia decided to remain firmly planted within the room he took comfort from, remaining completely still but fearing the moment the door was pushed open and Belarus peered round.
America and England had the new mission to go to the garage. Although its exact location remained unknown to them, they were both determined to see what was in the lobby. England wanted to find a way into the lobby, hoping there might be some kind of aerial system that would allow them to contact outside powers. He was aware that the attacker may have been Belarus, and that Russia would probably be displeased to see his sister under attack from many vengeful nations; that was one reason why he wanted to locate Russia. He wanted to negotiate Belarus’s punishment without waging war with either Russia or Ukraine. America, on the other hand, wanted to find Russia and, strangely, save him from Belarus and be the hero.
The two of them descended the stairs into the main entrance hall. There were no sounds coming from anywhere. The house was, suddenly, safe, although England always ensured to check over his shoulder, since America was more set on heading towards the east wing. They had decided to check around the dining room in order to find the kitchen and then, through that, the garage.
Turning into the hallway, they saw Estonia closing a door tiredly. He raised his head and looked alarmed to see them. He lowered his head and walked past, ignoring their questioning gazes. England narrowed his eyes, but then approached the door once Estonia was out of sight.
The room was a library, when he turned the lights on. Tall bookshelves stood like a manmade forest. Without saying a word, England began to desperately search amongst the bookshelves in the hopes of finding something. Estonia’s suspicious behaviour had made him wary. He reached the back of the room, America not far behind glancing at a book he randomly selected from the shelf.
Suddenly, the room went dark and England heard the thud of a book hit the floor. He darted forward and reached out, his fingers finding the fabric of America’s jacket.
“Is that you, dude?” America whispered.
“Yes,” he replied awkwardly, and then started heading towards the door, keeping a firm grip of America’s arm, as if the other nation was still a little boy. “I think someone just left.”
He opened the door and looked into the corridor. The rug outside was uneven and wrinkled, having been disturbed by hurried footsteps. However, it was unclear as to where they had gone exactly. England narrowed his eyes, but the rug was only pushed towards the door where someone had hurried to leave. He glanced at America, who closed the door behind him and offered a shrug. Shaking his head, he walked back to the dining room, which was strangely lit by the main lights.
“Someone’s definitely been here,” he stated.
He turned off the lights and they walked out into the hallway. At the end of the hallway they noticed someone walking out of a door.
“Hey, you!” America said, and ran in that direction.
The person jumped and turned, bracing themselves for impact, but England yanked America back as hard as he could.
“You wanker!” he scolded. “That’s Latvia, not some random attacker. Latvia, do you think you could tell me where the garage is?”
“The garage?” the boy looked dubious. “Why do you want to know…?”
England found it strange how secretive the members of Russia’s 'family' were, but allowed it to slide. “We need a ladder to get into the loft. We want to check if the attacker’s in the there.”
“The… attacker?” Latvia appeared confused.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people have gone missing,” England explained calmly. “We don’t know what’s happened, but considering the second person has disappeared by now, we doubt they both got lost.”
He didn’t want to frighten the boy with tales of France’s agonised screams, so chose not to delve further into the subject.
Latvia seemed to consider for a moment, but then frowned at them. “Just through this door beside me is a corridor. Go to the end and a door to the right will lead you to the kitchen. Walk straight through and you will find the pantry. If you go to the left side of the room, you’ll find the garage door. Good luck.”
He turned with his tray of tea and chocolates, and although England had a sudden craving for a hot beverage, now was not the time. He followed Latvia’s instructions, turning down the corridor, with America close behind.
After drinking the tea Latvia had brought, Germany desperately needed the toilet, but was reluctant to go alone. He had even insisted Latvia remain in the room with them afterwards to prevent anything happening to him. He voiced his needs.
“Go then, aru,” China said, eyes glued to the screen.
“I don’t want to go alone,” Germany admitted, hating to display any weakness. “It’s bad to split up.”
“I can go with you and wait outside,” Latvia offered. “I don’t mind.”
“Oh, thank you,” he replied.
The pair of them travelled down the silent hallway until they reached the fated bathroom. Germany entered and closed the door behind him, leaving Latvia waiting outside.