August 14th, XXXX
The office of Feliciano and Lovino Vargas was cool, dark, and comfortable—an obvious and nice contrast to the humid summer weather outside. The thick black velvet curtains covered the windows, effectively blocking any view of the interior and preventing sunlight from entering the room. It was quite cozy, actually, and if it was any other day, the Italy Brothers would’ve been enjoying the peace the safe room offered. However, today, it was quite the opposite: a heavy silence weighed down its occupants.
Feliciano sat at his oak desk, a frown on his usually cheery face as his amber eyes scanned over one of the many reports and letters that littered the surface of his desk.
August 3rd, XXXX
My Lord, the Honourable Personification of Northern Italy, Sir Feliciano Romulus Vargas:
Please excuse my abruptness in this letter, but there is no time for formalities other than your address.
We have been at war for months now, yet the situation has not grown any less dire. Our so-called “mysterious enemy” has not ceased fire since this nightmare began. My men and I have retreated to Bergamo to lick our wounds, add to the list of the dead, and attempt to conjure up a new battle plan. The enemy has once again drawn back into the Alps, awaiting the time our troops emerge from the city to futilely attack once again. From what we have evaluated over these long hard months, they seem to be guarding the border. Whenever a single one of my fellow generals’ troops nears the border, the enemy bombs the entire area. It’s as if the moment we cross over into any other country—they lose. And yet the team of men I have sent to investigate the enemy’s camps have returned empty-handed; we have no idea who it is we are facing, still, mainly due to the fact that they have no camps. There is nothing that ever shows they resided within the mountains at any point—unless you take note of the scorch marks left behind by their explosives. There is simply nothing.
To be honest, my old friend, the entire situation in itself is quite unnerving.
As of now, I am writing this letter to you from within one of our makeshift camps in a young woman’s home by the name of Lucia Merciavi. This momentary pause in the bloodshed will come to an end soon. This peace is strained; we’re holding our breath. But I cannot breathe even if I wished to. The air is choked with smoke and the stench of spilled Italian blood. I, a seasoned general of this army, can hardly endure this hell a moment longer.
Please, Feliciano, I implore you this: order the troops to retreat to Rome. Call us home. This entire ordeal has been scarring—I cannot tell you the things I’ve seen. My men may not have found evidence of the enemy’s camps, but we have seen things. The planes that threaten us with their weaponry…I have briefly seen through the windows of those strange machines. And my friend, I can tell you this with confidence: I hope to the Lord Himself that what I saw was a hallucination caused by smoke inhalation and nothing more.
Send us home, Feliciano, and if nothing else, wish us luck.
God only knows we need it.Giuseppe M. E. Dalmazzo
General, Esercito Italiano
Sent by Request of Executive Officer
Feliciano let out a sigh and massaged his temples slowly, reaching with one hand to grasp at his half-full glass of expensive Italian wine. The letters, reports, and messages from his generals and commanders were beginning to sound more like pleas rather than actual professional military letters. No one bothered with formalities anymore—there was hardly time to write letters in a situation like the one Italy was in currently.
Italy had been at war with a strange, unknown force for several months.
Sudden simultaneous bombings in various cities all across Italy by unidentified aircraft initiated the entire conflict. The planes were, astoundingly, completely under the radar until they dropped the bombs. Italian forces sprung to action immediately, tracking the aircraft all the way back to the Alps on the very Northern border of Italy. Feliciano and Lovino sent the Italian Air Force into action instantly to attack the hostile planes, only to be shocked as their weaponry did nothing against the aircraft and their own jets were shot down easily. In seeing this, Feliciano and Lovino, along with their Prime Minister, declared a state of nationwide emergency and ordered their citizens to evacuate—for if their weapons did nothing, they could do nothing to protect their citizens.
But after the abrupt, unexpected bombings and the order for evacuation ensued, a set of scrambled messages were sent directly to Feliciano’s computer (which had the highest security set up to defend against such things in the first place). The source was untraceable and the language in which the messages were written were unrecognizable, at first. The disturbing digital message contained strange characters unseen before in any part of the globe—and yet once both the Italy Brothers and Italian experts expressed their confusion, the characters slowly changed to the Italian alphabet used in the twenty-first century. The message, then written in fluent Italian, explained that they (meaning whoever flying those aircraft) promised to unleash explosives upon important cities functioning as the center of economical activities if merely one citizen crossed the border from Italy into any neighbouring country.
Despite the unnerving warning, the Italy Brothers had urged their people to flee somewhere safer. All this accomplished, however, was angering whoever had sent the strange message and spurred them on to fulfill their promise—bombs were dropped and cities were blown apart. Citizens died by the millions, and Italy was thrown into war and dissolved into a state of chaos. The enemy then proceeded to continuously bomb cities throughout Italy, day after day, but never once showed any interest in attacking people on foot with troops. Along with this, the unknown enemy force immediately cut off all communication from the outside world: no international phone service, postal service, or connection to cyberspace.
The entire situation was like World War II in America before Alfred joined—but Italy was an isolated power without their consent. Both of the Italy Brothers’ inability to contact their allies for help was proving to be frustrating, as well as a crippling factor in their current predicament.
Feliciano sighed again and absently rubbed at his chest. The attack on his capital left him with a large throbbing wound over his heart, a blooming bruise on his ribs, and drained him of much of his energy. But despite his obvious exhaustion and pain, he sipped from his wine glass and continued to scan over a report from one of his generals. A knife rested close to Feliciano’s glass, still stained with blood spilled months ago at a very violent encounter with some of the mafia that rebelled against Lovino. The country long-since matured from a crying nation that ran to Germany every ten seconds. He was still slightly spacey and that same happy Italian obsessed with pasta everyone knows and loves/tolerates, but when his country was threatened, he now fought ferociously and mercilessly for himself and his people instead of fleeing at the sight of enemies.
His brother, Lovino, grew up in the same way. He was no longer a man who cries at even a hint of danger and call for Spain. Now, he was a brave soldier who would gladly defend his nation at the cost of his life (despite the fact that he could not die). Lovino was still that short-tempered, foul-mouthed nation everyone is familiar with, but he had also slowly transformed from that same cowardly bluffing man into an intelligent representative of his country through years of hardship. Cunning and as harsh with his knife as he was with his tongue, the dangerous aforementioned man himself was seated on a large leather couch before a brick fireplace and glass coffee table, also reviewing papers. His favourite gun was discarded on the table, a few inches from his hand, lest he needed it.
Both Vargas Brothers were silent as they listened to the flat screen monitor mounted above the mantle of the fireplace speak of the horrors Italy was experiencing. The female reporter spoke directly to the audience when pleading with them to stay indoors and out of sight, informing citizens that Italy had basically fallen apart into a state of utter chaos. The tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife as the Italians took in the gory displays of carnage in Southern Italy and mass destruction in the North from the bombings.
“Dammit!” Lovino suddenly slammed his hands down on the coffee table’s fragile surface, shaking his own wine and nearly knocking it over as a tiny crack bloomed from the point Lovino’s hands had made contact on the glass. Feliciano’s tired gaze slowly and sluggishly slid from the report in his hands to meet the flaming eyes of his furious older brother. “Why us? Why not any other fucking country in the world? We can’t handle this situation by ourselves with no allies!” Lovino’s accent thickened in his anger as he gestured furiously toward the television.
Feliciano gave a rather long exhale and turned to face his brother. “Fratello, you and I both know that we can’t do anything to improve our situation right now. We will just have to fight on and wait until help arrives.”
Lovino angrily threw down his papers. “What help, Veneziano? There’s no one that knows about this! Spain and Germany are far away, and Glorianna isn’t coming until next month, dammit!”
Feliciano’s amber eyes flashed. “I know that, fratello. But what do you suggest we do? Our military is holding their own and there is no way to contact the outside world. We must be patient.”
“Patient?” Lovino spat. “Why should I be patient when millions of our innocent citizens are dying? I can hear them crying out as we speak!”
“Because we have to!” Feliciano suddenly shouted, slamming his hand down on his desk. “What do you want me to do?! I’ve been affected by this war more than you have, fratello!”
“How so?” Lovino growled. “More of my people have been fucking dying!”
“I’ve been losing my energy, idioto!” Feliciano practically screamed. “I’m fading away into nothing with every hit my cities take! You’ve been having no problems like my own!”
Lovino blinked. He’d never seen his fratello become so angry with him before—something was wrong. He shook his head, bringing a hand up to press into his head. What had come over him? He frowned and muttered, “Mi dispiace, Veneziano. I don’t know what came over me.”
Feliciano inhaled slowly and nodded. “It’s the stress from the war, Romano. We just need to relax. I’m sorry, too. I’m…starting to sound like Luciano.”
Lovino’s expression darkened. “Let’s not mention the Second Players right now. Though we could use their help in situation such as this with what little help we have now… God, Flavio would fucking laugh his ass off if he heard what I was saying right now. Mio Dio, Feliciano, I’m getting desperate.”
Feliciano sighed. “I know. I never used to be like this. I was so much more free and happy. I miss those days, fratello…” He glanced up and smiled wearily, his signature curl drooping sadly. “Although I suppose not everything has changed if I say I could go for large plate of my favourite pasta right now.”
Lovino smiled tiredly back. “Sì, that is true. I would…like some too.” The Italian made his way back over to the couch and sat down. “I could…ask the maid if she would bring us some..?”
Feliciano looked wistful for a moment, then reluctantly shook his head. “I’ll eat after I finish going through my paperwork.” He turned back to his large stack of paper and began to read through another sheet.
Lovino watched him worriedly. His brother seemed to be moving slower and slower with each passing minute. It was depressing, seeing his cheerful younger fratello reduced to such a sad, weak man, but with so many responsibilities; much more than Lovino himself. And Lovino feared for his younger brother’s state of being…something was off, he knew. Since when did Italy Veneziano refuse a plate of steaming pasta?
Lovino let out a sigh of his own before grabbing the paper he had thrown down out of fury a few minutes ago. He made a grab for his glass of wine as well and took a sip—only to discover there was no alcohol left. A barely-audible growl slipped through his lips as he irritably slammed the empty glass down on the coffee table and turned back to the files of urgent messages and notices. He was reading through yet another report from Venice when Feliciano suddenly spoke.
“Lovino, something is wrong.”
Lovino froze halfway through a sentence and his head shot up. “What do you mean?”
“I…don’t know. I can just…sense it.” Feliciano’s eyes narrowed and his fingers subconsciously wound around the hilt of his bloody knife. “It’s too quiet, don’t you think? What happened to the chatter of the maids, the conversing of the staff? And your wine is empty…one of them should have come in to refill it by now.”
Now that his fratello mentioned it, Lovino realized that an eerie silence had descended over the entire Vargas Estate. He could clearly hear the woman on the television speak, but that was it. There was no idle chatting drifting in from outside the office’s hidden doors, nor was there any familiar laughter of the staff. Everything was extremely, awfully…quiet.
Feliciano shifted in his seat. “Romano, I—”
His words were cut off as a sudden explosion rocked the Vargas Estate.
“What the—?!” Lovino immediately lurched to his feet and seized his loaded gun. “What the hell is going on?!”
“We’re under attack!” Feliciano shouted back, and his grip on the dagger tightened, knuckles turning white. “Lovino, we need to—!” He was cut off as the door was suddenly thrown open. Both of the brothers whipped around to face it, and Feliciano couldn’t help but hope that the intruder was nothing more than a maid. But fate was not on his side; a single figure stood in the doorway, wrapped in a dark blue cloak sparkling with…frost? The cloak’s colour was so deep it was almost black, and it kept their features hidden. A strange chill filled the room, enveloping the two brothers in its cold, freezing embrace.
Lovino quickly aimed his gun at the trespasser and rested his finger on the trigger while Feliciano raised his knife and waited for something to happen. His eyes darted to Lovino’s expression. His fratello was calm, but his eyes were filled with fury and a burning passion to probably shoot this person.
A sudden flash of movement caught Feliciano’s eye, and his eyes widened. “Fratello, MOVE—!” But he was too late. A jagged dagger, seemingly made of ice and radiating a harsh, stinging cold, embedded itself deep within Lovino’s right hand. The man let out a shriek and immediately began to curse in Italian as blood spurted from the punctured veins in his flesh.
Feliciano’s heart stopped as he watched his brother howl in pain, then he turned his suddenly cold and calculating gaze on the lone figure in the doorway, fury tinting his vision with red. A shrill laugh that sounded nothing like his own bubbled in his throat and escaped from his mouth. “You shouldn’t hurt people without good reason,” he whispered, his eyes flashing crimson. Feliciano felt his energy return to him as he allowed his cold rage to fuel him. He was risking a lot because his Second Player could possibly take advantage of being in control, but Feliciano had no other choice. He allowed the other half of him to rise up and take control. “Don’t mess this up, Luciano,” he muttered.
The Second Player greedily seized influence over Feliciano’s body, rearing up and forcefully cramming Feliciano’s will to the back of his mind, taking over Feliciano’s body with an insane sort of hurry. This all happened in a fraction of a second—Luciano was in control before the mysterious invader could blink. Luciano flexed his new hands and sent the attacker an unsettling Cheshire smile. He twirled the knife he now held in between his fingers and, without a word, suddenly sent the knife spiraling toward the cloaked person, letting out an awful laugh as he did so. The blade was thrown too fast for the figure to react—the weapon dug into their torso and they doubled over as Luciano cackled.
Lovino stared in disbelief as he watched his brother willingly allow his Second Player to take over his body’s control. The fool’s going to get himself killed! Luciano’s too reckless! With the thought, Lovino snapped himself out of his horrified state and growled, “Feliciano, you idioto, I hope you know what you’re doing!” A fresh wave of agony knifed through him, interrupting his thoughts, and Lovino grit his teeth. The nation pulled the knife out of his hand and forced himself to not scream, casting the weapon carved of ice into the farthest corner of the room from him.
Meanwhile, Luciano watched in satisfaction as the figure collapsed. He sauntered up to the unknown assailant and allowed himself to yank the dagger out from where it was wedged between the now bloody and splintered ribs of the attacker. Another crooked grin crossed Luciano’s face as he stood, absentmindedly kicked the body, and paced back across the room, over to Feliciano’s desk—assuming that the attacker was dead and of no danger to him now.
Unknown to him, however, the anonymous person stumbled to their feet and pulled out a gun they had concealed within their cloak.
Now it was Lovino’s turn to panic. “LUCIANO, THEY’RE NOT DEAD!” he shouted. The Vargas Brother crawled over to his fallen gun and raised it shakily in his left hand. He fired it at the figure’s foot and missed, but successfully gained their attention. Lovino swore and aimed again, but a gunshot—not from his own gun— echoed throughout the room, making him freeze. Blood blossomed like a gruesome rose from Luciano’s stomach. “FELICIANO!” Lovino roared, knowing this would affect his brother too. The Second Player staggered back and crashed into the desk, knocking over Feliciano’s wine and laying on the floor, motionless. The delicate glass shattered as it came into impact with the ground, staining the carpet along with Luciano’s— Feliciano’s blood.
Lovino somehow managed to force himself to his feet and roared, “MURDERER!” He threw himself at the person, attacking blindly as white-hot rage coursed through him. He punched the figure in the jaw, snapping their head back and hearing a satisfying CRACK! The person retaliated with a quick elbow in Lovino’s stomach before he could dodge, and the nation coughed as blood filled his mouth. Lovino spat out some of the vermilion liquid into his attacker’s face and flipped backward, kicking out to land another blow in the cloaked figure’s chest with a nice CRUNCH! He retreated out of the person’s reach while he watched them stumble back from the force of the blow. He was about to lash out once more when another loud BANG! deafened his ears, and a terrible pain exploded within him as something buried itself in his side. He felt his ribs crack and the Italian yelled loudly, crying out in agony. He gasped and fell to his knees—
He’d been shot.
Before Lovino could react, the figure delivered a swift kick to his head, and the nation of Southern Italy entered a world of darkness.
Over on the other side of the room, surrounded by broken glass, Luciano stirred. His eyes lit up in crazy hatred for the person who had done this to him. He could feel the hot lump of the metal bullet working its way deeper into his entrails as he moved, but Luciano ignored the pain. He wanted revenge for that lucky hit. The Second Player wrapped his hand around the dagger that Feliciano favoured and snarled. Defeated by a mere human? Unthinkable. Luciano forced himself to his feet and narrowed his bloody-red eyes at the anonymous assailant. He spat blood off to the side and faced the injured attacker. He lunged forward, channeling all of the pain so it would affect Feliciano and not him. Luciano brought the dagger up and sliced downward in a deadly arc. He almost hit the stranger’s heart, but they managed to dodge at the very last moment.
“Cazzo!” Luciano hissed. “Stand still and let me kill you, dammit!” He stabbed downward again, missing by mere millimeters. He longed to feel this pathetic person’s warm, sticky blood coat his hands and scream in torturous pain. “Die, you miserable human!” As he fought recklessly, fueled by his rage, Luciano failed to notice that the mysterious assailant nicked him time and time again with another ice dagger, slicing quickly and efficiently to place the small incisions all over Luciano’s arms and military uniform. They were inconspicuous and hardly noticeable—simple tiny little cuts and tears in the surface of his skin that would heal up in literally no time at all.
Luciano was suddenly thrown backward as the figure landed another lucky hit, a black boot-clad foot slamming into his chest. He crashed into the glass coffee table and shattered it—shards of glass and shrapnel slicing into his skin and tearing his flesh apart. Luciano let out a small groan, closing his eyes. Then he managed a smirk. Although this was fun, he would have to continue some other time.
He lifted the dagger one last time and threw it once more. The blade spiralled perfectly, spinning until it thudded hilt-deep into the wall, a single millimeter from the stranger’s head. Luciano spit more pulpy blood out onto the rich red rug of Feliciano’s office, smeared the gruesome substance around, and grinned grotesquely before his insane smile faded into a terrifying expression of pure hatred.
“A warning, human,” Luciano snarled, then fell back beneath Feliciano’s control.
Immediately, the country of Northern Italy collapsed in agony onto the floor of his office.
The figure, now the only conscious person in the room, stares down at the two bodies on the floor with an unseen expression of dark, grim satisfaction. They reach into their cloak once more and pull out an empty vial. They walk slowly toward their victims, kneel beside the Vargas Brothers, and collect a single drop of blood from each fallen country before corking the vial again. They straighten up, tuck the vial safely into their cloak, and fire a single bullet into the ceiling, the gunshot echoing throughout the mansion’s endless, now-empty halls.
Moments later, two sets of extremely light footsteps can be heard. Two more cloaked figures appear beside the original one, bringing with them another fresh breath of freezing air. The first says something inaudible to the other two, and both proceed to pick up the Italians and carry them out of the room, to the exit of the Vargas Mansion.
As the two assistants disappear, the last person takes one final look around Feliciano’s former office, checking for any signs of recordings or cameras. They fail to see anything out of the ordinary, overlooking a small message left behind by Luciano, slathered into the rug in blood. The cloaked person steps backward, out of the room, and adjusts their black covering. The hood hiding the person’s face slips for just a moment, and a glimpse of braided, platinum-blond hair and harsh, icy-blue eyes can be seen. Then the view is gone as the figure quickly pulls their cowl back up, hiding their facial features once again. The Vargas’ attacker turns briskly and slams the double doors behind them.
The carmine rug, the one Luciano had collapsed on before surrendering control back over to Feliciano, now bears a message, written in the blood of Italy. The carnage, destined to be discovered several days later by one of the Vargas’ closest friends, spells out a simple few sentences, several words unable to be made out:
…has returned. Italy has fallen. Hell is
approaching. Prepare to fight. We’re…the brink
of war…is growing stronger. She…only one
…stop him. If only…
approaching. Prepare to fight. We’re…the brink
of war…is growing stronger. She…only one
…stop him. If only…
The rest is unreadable.