Well this was fun. Ok, not entirely fun. In truth, this was the opposite of fun. This was creepy and unnerving and Seborga hadn’t the slightest clue of where he was. The principality simply knew that he had come to the mansion for a costume party and that he had opted to wear his old Templar outfit. Considering that it still fit after all of these centuries (then again, it was mostly composed of a long and loose tunic with the emblem of the Knights Templar Order), he was feeling quite nice, and of course since he wanted to make a good impression he had brought his authentic sword along—all the more to impress the lady nations, right? After all, authenticity was always important, and he didn’t want to be the only one to show up in some cheap Halloween costume while the rest of the guests were clad in something a bit more showy or glamorous or what have you.
Nevertheless, he was stuck here and couldn’t remember with whom he had arrived. It was very likely that he had bugged one or both of his older brothers into taking him along; then again it could have been one of his fellow micronations—birds of a feather tend to flock together as the saying goes. That didn’t really matter now anyway… He was alone with only his shadow and the miscellaneous trinkets that dotted the hallway to the ballroom to accompany him, and he didn’t like it. It wasn’t anything he was not used to; he just preferred to be surrounded by good company. Not to mention the last time he had been left completely alone…
Marcello shuddered at the memory and quickly banished it back to the depths of his mind—it was an understatement to say it was an unpleasant memory. A huge understatement.
Frowning lightly to himself at the prospect of being stranded in this labyrinth of a manor, Seborga swiftly dismissed all previous notions and retreated to a much more optimistic point of view.
“They’re probably looking right now or it’s a small prank and they’ll be popping out any second—nothing major.” He reassured himself, walking through the seemingly vacant hall, examining each old portrait and the visages of those who had been captured within them. In truth they all looked a bit, what was the word? Grotesque, stern, imposing? Whatever it was, something about them seemed off, and it was more than just a little unnerving. Perhaps it was how the eyes seemed to follow the Seborgan as he passed by. Maybe it was simply the scowls plastered across a few of their furrowed faces. Whatever it was, he didn’t care for it and it just made the atmosphere seem even more ominous.
Why had he even agreed to come inside the Baudeau Manor anyway? His observations had informed him that it was quite menacing and the aura that it had produces was all but welcoming.
Ah yes…it was because someone had mentioned the word ‘game.’ The easy-going Seborga could barely resist participating in a game—regardless if he often lost more often than he won (especially in poker. It just wasn’t his forte). Nevertheless it was something fun and entertaining to do and it was definitely a bit different from any other ‘traditional’ party game. But now this so-called game had him on edge. Apart from the occasional creaks of the wood under his step and the distant groan or shout—presumably from someone getting startled by one of the more mischievous nations—it was rather quiet.
“L-Lovino? Feliciano?” Marcello managed to call out to the desolate hall after he thought he heard some muffled footsteps nearby. “Ahhaa…haha.. Fratelli? It’s-a really not that funny anymore. Come on-a out, all right?” He grinned a bit to himself, admittedly a bit nervously as he kept walking forward, chain-mail clinking softly with each step. He jerked his head around for a moment, thinking he heard a whisper, but continued walking. “C’mon… It’s getting-a late you guys—where are you? Roman—O!!” His voice hitched a bit as his hip bumped into the corner of a pedestal, which in turn sent a very antique and intricate looking vase plummeting to the floor with a loud crash.
Seborga hissed and winced at the sharp sting in his hip, and prolonged the pained expression on his features as the vase broke into hundreds of smaller shards. His heart sank in his chest as a whine caught in his throat. A feeling of dread overtook him as he looked around; expecting to see someone scowling down at him for having broken such an heirloom, but again, no one was there. Nevertheless, that did little to counteract the guilty, nervous feeling building in his gut. If it had been his own vase—maybe even one of his brothers’—it might not have been as bad. But this was someone else’s property, and for all the Seborgan knew, it could have been a cherished item—or it could have been some measly gift they had chosen to display but had no real regard for. Either way, Marco paused for a moment more before kneeling to collect some of the pieces and to sweep the rest out of the main path. After all, he didn’t want anyone stepping on jagged pieces of porcelain, and it was the least he could do to redeem himself for such a clumsy mistake.
OoC: Forgive me for the delay and any murky wording. ><" Dem meds dude..
Romano stalked the halls, every step harder than the last. His feet were dragging, feeling like they weighed a ton. His eyes fluttered, and he had to fight to keep them open. He had to fight to keep himself upright, clinging to the walls to keep himself from crumpling into a heap on the floor. He had to fight to keep walking. He was exhausted, physically and mentally. The manor liked to play tricks, and this little game had pushed Romano to his limits. How he would like to just drop down and fall asleep! Had he been at home, he would have done so hours ago without hesitation. But this wasn't home. This place was still alien and unfamiliar, no matter how much time he spent here. In fact, even this hall, though he'd been sure he'd been through it already, didn't strike a nerve of recognition within him. Had he ever been here before?
It's the first floor, Romano reminded himself. He'd have had to passed through it several times before with all the traveling he did in this house. He mentally recounted his travels, but he found it hard to concentrate with his sleepy mind drifting between dreaming and consciousness. He had to restart his count, and eventually gave up altogether. I can't sleep…it's not safe… Would it ever be safe to sleep again? Not until he was far off the property. Until then, he would have to stay awake. Here, a sleeping nation was as good as dead. Walking helps… he insisted, forcing another tired step. He was going to drop any moment now, he knew it. He wasn't used to stubbornly pressing on, especially when he would rather be taking a nap. Luckily, a loud noise shattered the silence and reawakened his senses.
It all happened almost instinctively: how his legs sprung him to the corner around which the sound came, how his chest pounded with his quickened pulse as he gripped his gun, finger tightening around the trigger. He had long since lost his pinstriped jacket, along with his hat, sunglasses, and any ammunition he had, but he still had a full magazine, so as long as he was careful…
There! He turned around the corner and fired two shots – only two, because after that he realized that the target of his paranoid shooting was a very familiar face. Luckily, his fatigue had made his already-faulty aim even further off than usual, and the lad was unharmed.
"M…Marcello? Is that you?" Romano squinted his eyes, lowering his weapon. He could only imagine how he must have looked, with rings around his eyes dark enough to rival a panda's, and his once crisp costume now wrinkled and stained with sweat, grime, and just a little blood. He had been in this mansion for quite some time. But the micronation…either Romano's tired eyes were playing tricks on him, or Seborga looked like he had only just arrived moments ago, costume still clean and intact, no visible injuries… No…it can't be. That's impossible! It's just the manor playing tricks again…or because I'm so sleepy… He couldn't be sure, though, not yet. He stumbled forward as he tried to get closer, stopping suddenly when he heard a clink under his shoe. Staring dumbly at the floor, he found it was littered with broken porcelain: the shattering sound he heard earlier.
There was a pause as Romano took in the situation, his thought process delayed and flawed for obvious reasons. The way he saw it, the Seborgan in front of him could be all of three things: 1) a figment of Romano's imagination. But if this were so, something would have had to break the vase of which the remains were at his feet. Which led him to option number 2) this Seborga was in actuality one of the creatures of the manor taking the appearance of the micronation by means of trickery, either by Romano's mind or the manor itself. Or 3) It really was Seborga. But that was a boring conclusion. Why would Seborga be here anyway?
With all the coordination of a drunken man, Romano continued to approach the boy, kicking shards of the broken vase aside with every dragging step. He raised his gun to the figure, but the barrel was shaky, and it was evident that the South Italian was having trouble getting his eyes to focus.
"You…you look like an annoying kid I know!" he said with a skeptical squint, lips curling to reveal clenched teeth. "Who…what are you? And who do you think you are masquerading as Marcello, eh?" He was close enough that their toes were almost touching. Interrogatively, inquisitively, he shoved the barrel of his gun into the micronation's gut, prodding him to provoke a response.
“Just a few more should do it—the bigger pieces,” Marco thought to himself, picking up a few of the larger pieces. “I wish I had some glue though. That’d be nice…might could at least piece it together a bit better. Couldn’t be too hard could it?”
He moved to stand up and put the broken porcelain back on the pedestal, but a sudden burst of gunshots caused him to drop back to the floor himself with a startled yelp. His first instinct was to make himself as small as possible once his knees hit the ground. With his hands over his head—one tightly gripped around a porcelain shard, he hunkered down behind the pedestal and pushed one shoulder up against the wall, sorely wishing to somehow get sucked into it for safety against who or whatever was shooting at him. …who would shoot at him anyway? He hadn’t done anything wrong that he could think of.
Well, there was the vase that he had just broken.
“Crap, crap, crapcrapcrapcrap!!! They’re pissed…I broke their stuff and now their pissed and going to make me pay!! What if I’m able to convince them that it’s simply an honest mistake? Or that I’ll pay them back? Maybe they’ll slack up on the shooting, right?” As soon as there was a lull in the gunshots, and just as Marc was about to speak and beg for forgiveness, a familiar voice called out to him.
"M…Marcello? Is that you?"
Cracking his green eyes open, he gave a sigh of relief as lowered his hands from his head. He knew that voice belong to his eldest brother—there was no doubt about it—and even though he was so used to that slightly deeper voice being used to yell at him or hurl some sort of insult at one person or another, hearing it at this moment seemed somewhat…calming. If anything, the other voice reassured Seborga that he was not wandering around alone anymore.
Rising to his feet, he released the shard he had been clutching tightly in his hand (had it not been for the leather gloves he was wearing, the fine edge would have indubitably sliced his palm or fingers) and set the piece on pedestal with a small smile. “Sì, of course it-a is—“
His warm smile quickly faded into a look of curiosity. Lightly furrowing his brows, the Seborgan glanced over his brother’s costume and general appearance. “What happened to him? He wasn’t like this earlier I don’t think…or maybe he was…. Is that blood?? Wait, wait--costume party! Sci. He could have easily added all that on as an afterthought or to go with some game or to trick me, but Lovi usually doesn’t try to prank me…”
Marcello’s thoughts conflicted with one another as he tried to shake any negative thoughts away. Regardless of his efforts, an unsettling feeling lingered in his gut as he tried to assure himself that nothing was amiss. “It’s just a party. Nothing’s wrong—just part of his costume.” Marcello made a move to step forward and meet his brother half-way, but he tried to avoid stepping on any of the smaller shards himself.
"You…you look like an annoying kid I know! Who…what are you? And who do you think you are masquerading as Marcello, eh?"
He tensed up and froze immediately when he felt the barrel of the gun pressing into his stomach. Marc's green eyes shifted downward as his brows furrowed. Why was Romano raising a gun to him and why was he questioning who he was? Lovi knew darn well who he was--they were kin! The principality’s hands instinctively rose as a sign of surrender and to indicate he had no ill-will towards the other nation.
“F-fratellone? It is-a me--Marcello Romeo Vargas. Principato di Seborga…‘annoying little brother’?” Something told him that the older Italian wasn’t playing around, but he had no clue as to why Romano would be acting as he was. After all, what reason did he have to be jabbing a gun at Marco?
Again, his eyes fell to the barrel before lifting to lock with Lovi’s olive green orbs. “L-Lovino, what’s-a going on and why-a are you acting like this? What happened to-a your suit?” He paused for a moment—enough time to swallow and let the other man observe the concern and confusion that was plainly evident on the micronation’s normally cheery features.
Marc tried to remain calm, especially when he noticed that Romano’s heavily darkened eyes seemed to be crossing every now and then and that the Italian was a bit shaky himself—perhaps due to exhaustion? As much as he wished the gun was out of his gut, he dared not make a move to push it aside. After all, the Southern Italian’s finger was much closer to the trigger than Seborga’s hand was to his own sword. He resorted to pleading again.
“Lovino…Romano…p-per favore, lower your-a gun…It’s-a really Marco.” He repeated, unsure of how else he could convince the man of his identity. “*Stai bene?” The Seborgan kept his voice soft and tilted his head a bit to the side as if that would somehow enlighten him about the entire situation.
"F-fratellone? It is-a me--Marcello Romeo Vargas. Principato di Seborga…'annoying little brother'?"
Lovino blinked a couple of times, eyelids so heavy he feared they might not open again after closing. That's odd…it sounds just like Marcello! He held his gun a moment longer, nudging the boy back further. There was definitely someone there. He could feel the tangibility of the micronation's body against the barrel of his weapon. But could he really trust his senses at this point? He'd already seen so many things in this mansion, every single one with questionable reliability. He forced himself to focus on the boy's face. Fear. So much fear and confusion. Even in his tired state, it was clear to Romano that the Seborgan wouldn't try to fight back.
It's a trap! Shoot him! Shoot him! the more paranoid part of Romano's brain seemed to screech. Eyes widening ever slightly, he sucked in a sharp breath and tightened his finger on the trigger.
"Lovino, what's-a going on," the panicky boy started, "and why are you acting like this? What happened to-a your suit?" Romano found himself looking into green eyes – green eyes that looked a lot like his own. His fear. His uncertainty. Trick or not, Romano couldn't shoot this boy who looked so much like his brother, and consequently looked so much like himself. His weapon trembled, as did his lip. He could feel it twitching even as he fought to firm it in that old pout of his.
"Lovino…Romano…p-per favor, lower your-a gun…It's-a really Marco." His voice was so soft. Romano wanted to believe him, he really did! But he couldn't trust it. He couldn't trust anything in this manor anymore. Then came the clincher. Two simple little words uttered from a face Romano wouldn't have thought twice about pounding once upon a time: "Stai Bene?"
Romano's arm collapsed, hanging limply at his side. Shortly after, the gun clattered to the floor. Somehow, the honest question cut down to the deepest recesses of Romano's heart. When was the last time he had heard that question? Nobody ever seemed to care how he was doing before. Before what? Before the manor…but how long ago was that? He couldn't remember anymore. But none of that mattered; somebody cared! I found someone…I found…
He couldn't really recall ever wanting to hug his littlest brother, but somehow he found himself wrapping both arms around the smaller boy. Burying his face in the crook of Marcello's neck – because it was Marcello, he finally admitted to himself – he took in a deep breath, fighting back the tears as he pulled the boy into his chest. "Ugh, Marcello…" he groaned into Seborga's shoulder. "…the fuck have you been? I must have covered this whole building top to bottom…like, thirty times, and I haven't seen you once." It might have been more, or it might have been less. It was hard to keep track when rooms and halls kept shifting around like they did.
Romano pulled away and looked Marcello over again. He really did look like he had come here straight from home. "Oi, what are you doing here anyway?" He wrinkled his nose and crinkled his eyebrows. "If this is supposed to be a rescue mission…" he went on, eyeing the Seborgan's sword, "…it took you a hell of a long time to get here!" He was glad he found one of his brothers. Oh, so very glad…
The Seborgan furrowed his brows and clenched his teeth in a look of unease as the barrel pressed into his stomach even more. Instinctively, he took a few steps back, and accidently, the pieces of the vase he had set on the pedestal clattered to the ground once again. He winced as some of the shards shattered further once they hit the ground and prayed that the additional sound wouldn’t startle Lovino and cause him to jerk and accidently fire.
With his eyes locked onto the other man’s he swallowed as he noticed them widen and a pit formed in the bottom of his gut as Romano sharply inhaled. A chill ran down the Seborgan’s back as he practically felt the trigger slowly depress. As a nation—a micronation even—he wasn’t entirely frightened of dying—he had faced that before and come back perfectly fine—but death hurt; regardless if one was mortal or not. However, having the blow delivered by one’s own kin…that was something a bit more frightening.
“He’s going to—he’s going to actually—“ Marcello remained rigid, closed his eyes, and held his breath for a split second to prepare himself for what he was sure was going to come. Instead, he no longer felt the barrel of the gun pressing into him, and only when the deadly tool was cast aside, did Marco chance opening his eyes. Naturally, he was relieved to find that the gun was on the floor and quite grateful that it had not misfired. The thought crossed his mind that perhaps it had actually been put on safety after the initial firings. One could never tell, after all. Nevertheless, the Seborgan began to tremble from the whole my half-brother just shot at me and then shoved a gun in my stomach and I thought I was going to die scenario.
“Lovino?” he blinked in confusion as his own tremors were ceased via the embrace of his eldest brother. It was rare that the Southern Italian ever showed affection like this and it threw Seborga off just a bit. If anything, Lovi was putting on quite a good show for whatever role he was playing in what the younger man still supposed was an elaborate, yet frightening, game or prank.
Giving a small grunt as he was pulled closer and into Lovino’s chest, Marcello sighed with relief and his lips curled into a tiny smile. He looked to Lovi for a moment as he took advantage of the rare opportunity and curled his arms back around his brother’s body to hold him.
"Ugh, Marcello…the fuck have you been? I must have covered this whole building top to bottom…like, thirty times, and I haven't seen you once."
“I-a got here not-a too long ago. What-a do you mean?” one brow raised in mild confusion as Lovino pulled away from the embrace.
"Oi, what are you doing here anyway? If this is supposed to be a rescue mission…it took you a hell of a long time to get here!"
“Um… I-it’s-a a party, sci? The-a um… the costume party Signor Alfred was-a holding? I wanted to-a come too,” he furrowed his brows a bit more, observing his brother. One thing about it, Romano’s exhaustion was real even if everything else didn’t quite match up.
“Fratellone…” he gave a small smile and shook his head, “I’mma just here for-a the party like-a you and everyone else, but is-a that the game you guys are-a playing right-a now?” His green-amber eyes dropped to the floor, focused on the gun for a few moments before his gaze returned to Romano. Something, somewhere in his mind, a bell of alarm was ringing, but he couldn’t tell why. Something did seem off, but Marco couldn’t tell what and thus ignored it for the time being.
It was only for a brief moment that the two held each other, but Romano savored it. He felt the Seborgan's arms wrap around him, and this only caused him to cling all the tighter. As ridiculous as it seemed, Romano actually felt safer in Seborga's embrace, despite being the elder. He had been aching for someone's comforting touch. He'd have liked to have hugged him for just a little bit longer, but even as tired as he was, he couldn't deny that it was in his nature to avoid prolonged affection – especially with his brothers.
"I-a got here not-a too long ago. What-a do you mean?"
Romano noted the lost look on his brother's face, unable to do much more than make an identical one. "Well, yeah, obviously…but…I've been here for a while…" How long, he couldn't say. Days at the very least. He wouldn't go so far as to say months. Seborga, on the other hand, was too immaculate to have been here for longer than a few hours. If the monsters didn't soil his costume, the flight for survival would.
"Um…I-it's-a a party, sci?" Seborga went on, looking less confused and more concerned.
Concerned for what? For me? I'm fine, dammit! He ran his fingers through his hair, then dug his palm into his eye to try and rub the sleep – or lack thereof – away. "Si, it was a party," Romano grumbled impatiently.
"Fratellone, I'mma just here for-a the party like-a you and everyone else…" Seborga assured, a gentle smile gracing his face and irritating Romano to no end. How could he say that like it was so obvious? It was obviously wrong.
"Fratellino," Romano began, mocking Seborga's tone, "That party was ages ago. Again, where the fuck have you been?" When the Seborga asked if everything he was doing a game, it pushed on the already-strained limits of the grumpy Italian. "You think this is a fucking game?" Romano exclaimed, raising his voice only slightly. He towered over the boy, scowling down at him. It wasn't so much a "you irk me" glare as it was an almost paternal "I yell because I worry" kind of glare. "Goddammit, Marcello, I have been running all over this mansion from monsters and ghouls and who knows what kind of shit. I've been snapped at and growled at and stalked in pitch darkness and broad daylight. I haven't slept in God knows how long because I know if I fall asleep, I'll never wake up, and you want to know if this is a game?!" He grabbed Seborga firmly by the shoulders and roughly shook him, pulling him closer until their noses were almost touching.
In his tirade, Romano's voice had escalated until it was nearly a shout, shaking with fear as well as fatigue. Now, as his glare melted away into a broken expression, he lowered it to a near-whisper, hissing and trying to keep his voice from breaking. "This isn't a game, Marcello. We're not immortal here. If we die, we're fucking dead. The end." As an afterthought, he added darkly, "Game over." He had seen it happen. He saw Veneziano's ghost with his own eyes. He had felt the icy chills that froze his fingers as they passed through the lost spirit. And if that wasn't real – as Romano so desperately hoped it wasn't – he had heard it from other nations, some seeming more broken than himself. How many were still alive? It wasn't certain how long any of them had left to live. They could be snuffed out as easily as a candle, here one minute, gone the next. How long before it was Romano's turn? Or Seborga's? Was this the last time he would see his littlest brother?
Burying his face once more in Seborga's shoulder, Romano hugged him again, refusing to let his hot tears fall, but unable to keep from trembling. "Why couldn't you have stayed home, eh? How come, just this once, you couldn't have stopped trying to be like us?" This time, he wouldn't let go. He didn't want to let go. If he let go, who's to say he would ever get a chance to hold him again?
Romano had been half-dead when he first encountered Seborga. But now the boy had woken him up…when he would rather be asleep
“Eh…?” Marcello’s brows furrowed and he tilted his head to the side as he looked to his brother. The words only served to further confuse the youngest of the Vargas brothers. In the back of his mind, he tried to make sense of it, he really did. It was an elaborate prank, he told himself. It was just something that the others were trying to fool him with—and Romano was going along with it. But that notion was slowly getting disintegrating bit by bit the more Romano continued. After all, Seborga had never really pegged his eldest brother as much of an actor—Lovi usually just said what he meant right to the young man’s face and if there was a trick to be had, it was done in a more…well. Those were always more physical and usually involved someone getting hit.
"Well, yeah, obviously…but…I've been here for a while…Si, it was a party,"
Marco’s lips part as if to reiterate the fact that it still was a party and to express his confusion, but he let his words evaporate in his mind as Lovino continued. In truth, the micronation and kept a close distance between himself and his brother once Lovino had let go, but now that he was so close, he could finally tell that what he had mistaken as makeup earlier (that being the dark and baggy eyes, and the blood on his brother’s clothes) was not makeup at all. The pigment didn’t lay caked on the skin, but rather it was the color of the skin itself. Somehow, the Southern Italian had managed to turn himself into a wreck since the last time he had seen him at home—and in all veracity, it had not been that long ago.
The younger man remained silent as the older spoke, raising his voice steadily and glaring at him. It wasn’t until Marcello was grabbed by his shoulders and practically forced to look Romano in the eye that he was snapped from his own thoughts. “Sc- N-no!..F-fratellone, it-a can’t have-a been ages ago. It-a just started a few hours ago a-and-a I was just-a running a little late is all! I-a swear!”
The raise in tone and the severity of the Italian’s words made Seborga want to push away and curl into himself, but he remained near-frozen in Lovino’s grasp and tensed up as the Southern Italian’s voice finally dropped, and for one reason or another (and be it intentional or not), took on a more dangerous and severe air.
“This isn't a game, Marcello. We're not immortal here. If we die, we're fucking dead. The end. Game over.”
A small, nervous chuckle built in the Seborgan’s throat as the corner of his lips flickered upwards for no more than half a second. “Th-that’s-a ridiculous…” he managed. How could that even be so? As long as they had their will to go on…as long as they had their people, they would live and go on. Marcello knew that much due to his time spent on this earth.
Open your eyes. Open your eyes. Stop thinking this is a game! He is sincere—look at your brother!
The alarm continued to sound in Seborga’s mind and finally he was starting to take heed of it. He swallowed thickly, looking to his brother, who simply moved to embrace him again. This wasn’t the Romano he knew. This was not how the eldest of the Vargas siblings normally acted. He could feel Lovino trembling against him and suddenly he knew this wasn’t a game.
"Why couldn't you have stayed home, eh? How come, just this once, you couldn't have stopped trying to be like us?"
Marcello’s visage twisted into a mild irritation for a split second and he shifted in Lovino’s grasp. “Like us.” The Seborgan didn’t let it show, but that phrase…that phrase truly irritated him beyond imagination. If he had wanted to be like them, he would have simply given in centuries ago and laid his independence at Feliciano’s feet. If he wanted to be like them, he wouldn’t mind just being clumped under the Italian umbrella rather than being described as a proud Seborgan. But no, he didn’t want to be like them. He never really had. After all, Romano and Veneziano were two halves of a whole…and Seborga? He was more or less the outsider that was pegged as “Italy’s rogue principality” or as the little anarchist in some cases. He wasn’t like them and at times it seemed that they were only connected by a thread. An unraveling, fragile thread that was ready to snap in the favor of one or the other at any given time…
After tensing again due to his own minute frustrations, he pushed the sour thoughts away and loosened up. He leaned his head against Lovi’s shoulder and let his gaze fall to the side. Marcello sorely wished to say “I was invited to the party as well, and I came because I thought it would be fun, not because I wanted to follow in by fratelli’s footsteps and bask in their shadows!” but he kept his booming thoughts to himself and opted instead for a simple question that was mumbled into the crook of his brother’s neck:
Seborga continued to plead with Romano. "It-a just started a few hours ago", "I was just-a running a little late", but Romano knew better. A few hours wasn't enough to drive him half-crazy with anxiety. A few hours wasn't enough to drag him down to his weary state. Yet, there was no doubt in his mind now that his half-brother was telling the truth. The boy's faltering smile was proof enough for that. Incredulity was plain on Seborga's face. Why would he look so confused if he didn't truly believe what he kept telling the south Italian?
So who is right, then, if we both think we're telling the truth? They couldn't both be correct, could they? Maybe they could. If the house's layout could change on a whim, who's to say the flow of time couldn't do the same? It was a terrifying prospect. Nations were dying here. How much time had passed outside the manor? Did anyone even notice they were gone? If days had gone by here and none out there, was there any hope of rescue at all? Romano had a headache. This was too much to wrap his mind around. He was tired, and this was confusing, hard to swallow.
"Th-that's-a ridiculous…" the Seborgan commented, the obvious response to being told he could die. Romano could only give an empty stare. A while back, he might have said the same thing. He would have shrugged it off, thinking it was just some ploy to scare him. Even when it became clear, he could have brushed it away as not his problem. He was there for himself, and so long as he could save his own skin, everything would be all right.
Veneziano changed his mind.
This wasn't about him anymore. He was the older brother. He should be giving everything to protect them! No matter the cost, he should be willing to do anything to get them out where they would be safe, where they could be happy. He hadn't realized it then, and because of that, Veneziano was already…
DEAD! Whether the Italian's moving to hold Seborga tighter was because of this heavy thought, or because he felt the boy's sudden tensing and wanted to make it clear he wouldn't let go was anyone's guess. He can't be dead. I never got a chance to save him…I didn't even know he was in danger… Romano's hand curled into a fist, gripping Seborga's cape as he breathed in his half-brother's scent, seeking comfort in the fact he still had someone too hold. Where was I when he needed me? Why couldn't I stop this? Feliciano is dead and it's all my fault! Why couldn't I protect him when he needed me?!
What has become of North Italy?
As if reading his thoughts, Seborga's question broke through the barrage of thoughts that plagued Romano's head: "Where-a is Feli anyway?"
How could such an innocent question be so hurtful? Romano found himself unsure of how to answer it. Guilt welled up inside him. After a moment of silence searching for the right words, he quickly became glad that in their current position, Seborga couldn't see his eyes. He couldn't trust them to hide the painful truth. "Am I my brother's keeper?" The words were cold, emotionless, and a far cry from everything Romano just reflected on. He sniffed, pulling away at long last from the hug and wiping his nose on his fist. "I don't fucking know where he is," Romano said honestly, though his eyes were trained on the wall. In all truth, he hadn't a clue. He had seen Veneziano's ghost, but firm denial shook his belief in whether or not it was genuine. Ghost or not, dead or alive, Romano was unsure of his current whereabouts. He could be just around the corner, or on another floor entirely. He just didn't know.
Romano looked at his half-brother, his empty gaze clouding his thoughts from the other. But I should know. No matter what it takes, I should be willing to give anything to get them out of here. Even my own life. He swallowed the lump that rose in his throat, knowing death was no longer an option. If Veneziano really was dead, he was all that was left of Italy. He had to live to carry on what Veneziano no longer could.
If Feliciano is dead. If. But until I see Feliciano alive in front of me, I'll carry the name for both of us.
Until I see Feliciano alive in front of me, I am Italy.
Not a word was spoken out loud. To say it out loud was to acknowledge all of it, which is something Romano wasn't quite ready to do. Not to mention Seborga was standing right there, and the last thing he wanted was to cause the boy all the doubt and anguish that the spectral encounter had Romano himself suffer– even if it was hell to suffer alone. No, if he couldn't die, the least he could do was bear this painful responsibility in silence. If he couldn't protect his brothers from the physical torment of the manor, he would protect them from the emotional.
Leaning against the wall, he slid down to a sitting position, feeling safe enough with two people alert to rest for just a fraction of time. Dragging the palm of his hand down his face, he tiredly met Seborga's gaze. "The sooner we get out of here, the better. Consider yourself lucky you haven't seen half the shit I have." He paused for a moment, a thought flickering across his mind. "I want you to promise me right now that if you find a way out, you will take it, no matter what." No matter what it takes… "Even if it means everyone else gets left behind." …I have to get him out of here.
He failed with Feliciano. He wouldn't let it happen again.
A smile grunt-like whine was pulled from the Seborgan’s throat as Romano all but loosened his grip on him and simply held him all the tighter. “This is definitely uncharacteristic of him…” Marcello’s gaze shifted to the side to try and view his sibling’s face, but all he could see were a few dark brown strands of hair laying against his neck. Pulling back just a bit to properly view the southern Italian’s face, he let his eyes trail to where Lovino was firmly holding to his cape an slowly moved a hand to pat at the other’s reassuringly. I’m here I’m not leaving yet.
“Am I my brother’s keeper? I don’t fucking know where he is.”
Though Lovino pulled away, finally releasing him, Marcello remained standing where he was and gave a small frown. “I-a just thought since-a you two came together you-a would still be-a together… mi dispiace...” Marco’s voice took a softer tone to it, but in truth, he wasn’t entirely surprised by the answer. That was something he’d expect out of Romano…though he would also expect a rather stern glare or a scoff to accompany such a thing rather than him staring away at the wall (to which Marco looked as well in case Romano was seeing something there that he obviously missed). Regardless, Marcello let the next few moments pass in silence as he looked down and absentmindedly toyed with his silver pendant.
"The sooner we get out of here, the better. Consider yourself lucky you haven't seen half the shit I have. I want you to promise me right now that if you find a way out, you will take it, no matter what. Even if it means everyone else gets left behind."
“Che?” Marco’s brows furrowed at Lovi as the other moved to sit against the wall and relax. Not moving from his own spot, the Seborga listened to the weary man and slowly, he found himself shaking his head—not defiantly but reluctantly. “I-a c-can’t…” he said softly, wincing at his own thoughts. The gravity of the situation was sinking in, but he still had his reservations accepting some of what Lovino had told him. “I-a can’t leave you guys-a behind. I can’t—not-a if everything is as-a bad as you say and-a think it is.” His fingers slid from the trapezoidal charm as his arm moved back to his side. “We’ll-a all get out together, no? You, me, Feli, my friends, yours, and anyone else,” he forced a reassuring smile to his features even if such a feat was difficult.
“I won’t leave others behind. I can’t…the guilt would be unbearable.”
"I-a just thought since-a you two came together you-a would still be-a together…"
Romano flinched, visibly tensing at this reminder. They had come together, hadn't they? He could distinctly remember Feliciano being within arm's length for the beginning part of the…party. It felt like a cruel, sick joke to call it that now. At what point had they been separated? It was after the lights went out, he knew. Might it have been avoided? Had Romano just held on just a little tighter, if he had clung to his brother at that crucial moment, would Veneziano still be there now?
How could I have known? he justified. As bad as the manor had looked at the time, he assumed just as everyone else that it would pale in comparison to all the horrors they had known in the many centuries they had seen pass. After all, it was only a house– or so that's what they told themselves at the time. They were wrong. All of them, wrong. If he had known, if only he had known, how much wrong could have been avoided? Now more than ever, Romano wished he could go back in time and stop any of this from happening, to keep himself and his brothers from ever coming here and stopping all his troubles before they began…but even if time travel existed, how could he do such a thing? He didn't really have much power over either of his brothers. So useless… Just a little guilt left him, the release that came from knowing some things couldn't be helped. It still did little to console him as he reflected on all his other problems, on all the other mistakes he had made since walking through those doors. After all, what had he done as soon as he realized the danger that surrounded him? Did he search for his family to ensure they were aware and fighting for a way out? Not hardly. He fled. Like the selfish coward he was, he fled. If he had put himself aside just this once, might Veneziano still be there? If he had just accepted responsibility and looked for his little brother, could they have been united in time? Before it was too late?
"I-a can't leave you guys-a behind…" Seborga said in answer to his request, his reaction to the revelation so contrasting Romano's own that it was like a punch in the older man's gut. "…not-a if everything is as bad as you say and-a think it is."
Romano felt like punching him. Lifting his head up, he fixed the boy with a fierce glare. "I don't think it is bad, Marcello. It is bad." He held himself, arms crossed over his chest, snarling at his little brother. "Even you've at least felt it by now, haven't you? Undeniably, you can feel them watching you, can't you? You're never really alone here. You've heard the growling, the shrieking in the walls! You've seen the claw marks and the bloodstains, haven't you? It's not fake, Marcello. There is something here, and you can't pretend it away."
The boy's naive remark that they could all get out alive would have made Romano laugh if it weren't for the fact that this was no laughing matter. "…There is strength in numbers," the South Italian said simply. "This is a strength they won't allow us to have." It was true. In all the time Romano had spent here, how much was with others, and how much was spent wandering alone? It was deliberate; he was sure of it. Whatever dark forces that were in this godforsaken place were keeping him and his fellow nations apart on purpose. He could only hope that Seborga would have better luck in securing company. "Marcello, please," he began, tiredly getting to his feet. He had no will to get up, no will to walk, no will to fight, but he had already surpassed a comfortable amount of resting time. Anymore, and he was afraid one of those…things…would show up and catch him off guard. "The odds of you finding a way out are slim– believe me, I've tried. The odds of you finding anyone else and staying with them are also slim. Getting out with them? No way in hell– and at this point, I'm pretty damn sure that's where we are." In an attempt to get his message across, he gripped the Seborgan's shoulder tightly in one hand. "If by some miracle you can save yourself and others, fine. Be my guest. But I beg…" he winced, forbidding himself to cry any more tears, "…if that isn't possible, save yourself and don't worry about us."
Maybe Romano was being selfish again, essentially asking Seborga to do the same thing that had caused him so much pain in the first place, but he just couldn't lose anyone else, he knew. If only one person could escape this hellhole, there would still be more hope than if everyone was trapped together. Then maybe Romano would feel like he had accomplished something. As long as one of them could get out alive, he wouldn't feel like he had failed.
"That said, Marcello…we should do our best to stay together." The words were breathed in a heavy sigh. No more mistakes starting now. With full knowledge of what the manor was capable of, Romano would hold on tighter than he had before. If anything wanted these two separated, it would have to pry Seborga from his older brother's cold, dead hands. Darkly, Romano mused that the odds of that happening were greater than the idiom would normally imply. Still, he would rather die knowing he had spent his last moments protecting his brother than live knowing they had been wrenched apart. Should that happen, would they ever see each other again? Alive, or dead? It pained Romano to think of it, so he pushed those thoughts out of his mind. He had Seborga here and now, so it would be best to hold onto that and worry about everything else later.
With a lingering stare, the Italian man wondered if there was a rope he could use to bind them together– that's how afraid he was that they wouldn't be able to help their separation. Since no such thing manifested itself, he settled for slipping his hand off Seborga's shoulder and holding it out for the other to take, knowing full well that physical contact was probably the most comforting assurance that they still had each other.
"Come on," he said, arguing with his tired bones and bracing himself for the long walk ahead of them. "I'm getting you out of here."
Marcello’s smile faltered again as his eldest brother glared at him-- daring him to challenge anything he was saying was false or a result of fatigue and a run-away imagination. That defiant look, coupled with the snarl plastered across Romano’s face caused Marco’s stomach to churn all the more and set him a bit more on edge. Still, he couldn’t ignore Lovino’s words, nor could he completely deny them. He nodded slowly, speaking tentatively as his gaze remained on Lovi’s face. Though for a moment, it flickered to the Tommy gun Lovino had and he couldn’t help but wonder if he was on edge enough that he’d fire off a few more rounds if angered. Marco would like to avoid such an action, naturally.
“I-a don’t know who they are, but-a I’ve felt uneasy, sci...” the place did set off a little alarm in him when they first came, but he brushed it aside and convinced himself that it was because the place was just so old and creepy—that had to be why it was so unsettling. Admitably, he hadn’t exactly had the displeasure of hearing the unearthly growls and shrieks Romano described, so he simply shook his head.
"You've seen the claw marks and the bloodstains, haven't you? It's not fake, Marcello. There is something here, and you can't pretend it away."
Couldn’t he though? Up until now, he was almost entirely convinced that the manor was a playground for the nations’ costume party—so naturally there’s going to be fake blood and claws here and there to add to the atmosphere!... but now that he thought about it, he couldn’t find a definite answer on how some of the marks were made—how deep they were. Those marks weren’t simply the result of some foolish beings trying to get a laugh or a good scare out of one another; those marks were from beings that were actually aiming to kill, weren’t they?
Marcello was torn from his thoughts due to his brother’s sudden laughter. He furrowed his brows lightly, considering his words as he let his gaze shift from the Southern Italian’s features to survey the surroundings again. “S-sci, of course.” That would explain why he’d not seen hide nor hair of anyone else until now. That would explain why things were so eerily quiet. “They’re hiding, aren’t they? Everyone’s hiding for their lives—not because of some game.”
“Lovi—“ Marcello began to protest the other’s movement, reaching out to stop him as he begin to rise. His words and his movements ceased as Lovino continued and he drew his hand back to his side to toy at the hilt of his sword. The Seborgan’s eyes drifted to the hand now squeezing his shoulder firmly.
“B-but I have you with-a me now and if we stay by each other’s side, it-a shouldn’t be too bad, no? I.. I mean, I don’t know what’s-a here, but…we can stay with each other at least, Romano, e find Feliciano at-a the very least.”
He swallowed thickly, not wanting to promise that he would run if given the chance, even if it meant leaving others behind. Sure, he was his own nation, more or less, he had his own neck to look out for and his own people to worry about, but his family and his friends—could he actually go on without them? Could he fool himself into believing that he could? He didn’t know… to some extent, he’d been without both at one point or another, but what a miserly man he’d become if he was henceforth forced to live in a guilt-stricken solitude!
Marcello shook such thoughts away, preferring not to deal on such things as heavy as that at the moment. Hopefully, he’d never have to make such a decision as that, but if he did, he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. Instead, he offered Lovino the most reassuring smile he could at the moment and placed his own hand on the Lovino’s so that their arms were parallel. “Don’t-a worry Lovino, I’ll-a do what’s right.” For now, he’d let Lovino assume that “whatever is right” meant running and saving himself.
“Sci, of-a course, Lovino,” he released the other’s shoulder and paused for a moment before taking Romano’s hand into his own. It was strange since it was Lovino offering the hand, but at the same time, it was comforting. Inhaling sharply he nodded to his elder, prepared to trek with him for however long the fates would allow.
“La speranza—“ Marcello repeated a line from his own nation’s anthem silently as he walked with Romano and squeezed the other’s hand lightly, reassuring him. If they if they could stay hopeful and not let the gloom of the manor taint their minds and bodies, and if they would refuse to let go or give up, then they could get through this.
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Oct 4, 2016 17:14:19 GMT -6
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