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[FIC] District of Columbia

Title: District of Columbia
Genre: Romance/(Political?) Drama
Word Count: 1,717
Rating/Warnings: T/none
Summary: Even with his tell-tale British accent, Congressman Arthur Kirkland has steadily worked his way up the ladders of Washington with a blooming future ahead. Just as nothing seems to be able to stray him from his career, however, an attractive young blond from the rival party by the name of Alfred F. Jones arrives at the Senate and forces Arthur to reestablish his own self.



Good morning, Senator Arthur Kirkland.” The robotic female voice boomed so loudly in the grand white house, the window panes shuddered. “It is Thursday, January third, 2025. Your daily Hetalia News broadcast will begin in three... two...

In the largest bedroom of the mansion, a man briefly opened one bloodshot eye behind his curtain of frizzy blond hair. He then groaned and burrowed deeper into his pillows, clinging on to the warmth in his dreams.

Beep!

Front Page,” the voice said. “Article one: President addresses UN on US greenhouse gas. Article two: Americans can ‘do better’ to save the planet, says Steilsson. Article three—

“Oh, shut up,” groaned Arthur.

This new home entertainment and command unit, which he had received three months before its release to the general public, was installed without his permission over the course of three days courtesy of his brother, Scot, who owned the KISA unit and its manufacturer, Kirkland Tech. After fifty-eight hours of debates and bills and usual Democrat idiocy, Arthur had looked forward to nothing more than a hot shower and a warm bed that was not scattered with paperwork. Imagine his surprise when a disembodied voice greeted him through the moment he unlocked the door.

My apologies, Senator Arthur Kirkland. ‘Oh, shut up’ is not listed as a voice-key option.

He slapped his hand against his forehead and dragged his palm down his face.

Arthur could not find a way to shut KISA down, since he had never been on good terms with electronics in general. How he managed to adjust his title to become “Senator Arthur Kirkland” instead of the original “Artie Fartie” was already a miracle all by itself. Though, as the KISA unit resumed its halting, robotic speech, Arthur supposed that the default option of announcing the day’s national headlines was not a horrible idea. Not that he liked it; he was simply relieved that his brother was not already running their parents’ company to the ground with his silliness.

KISA announced two more headlines—“Oakland mall shooting sparks gun control debate” and “Funeral for cyber-bullied teen held”—as Arthur climbed out of bed, his heart growing heavy as he prayed for the deaths for the seventh time that week. He shook open the curtains to let in the dull Pennsylvanian dawn, which reached into his bedroom floor and stroked his cheeks with its warm, soothing caress. He looked through the thin window, breath fogging clear glass. Snow drifted from the sky, and Arthur smiled.

...swears to cleanse Congress. Flip page. Page two: News. Article o—

Arthur blinked languidness out of his eyes. He spun around, as if confronting an invisible enemy.

“Stop!” he said, a little too loudly.

KIVA paused for a beat. “What are the commands, Senator Arthur Kirkland?

“What was the—” He shook his head. “Repeat last headline.”

KIVA responded in half a second: “Freshman senator swears to ‘cleanse Congress.’

Arthur could feel a migraine blossoming beautifully in the back of his skull. “Open article. Open image processor to Unit 3372B.”

He had to see this.

In the time it took the article to load, Arthur stormed downstairs and swung into his dining room, stopping only to grab his plate of breakfast which his Toasty Toodles machine had prepared while he slept (“Gourmet meals every day for only two payments of $49.99!”). There, his television—an old model, over five years old—flickered open, and the face of Alfred F. Jones was plastered all over the 50-inch screen.

Arthur sipped his tea and found it not nearly strong enough to hold together his splintering nerves.

Of course that idiot liberal would make a fool out of himself before his first day even started. He pinched the bridge of his nose and asked, for the millionth time in the past two months, Why did my people vote for another Democrat?

On the screen, still frozen, Jones wore a pair of much-too-casual blue jeans, a much-too-tacky “I HEART US” T-shirt, and, as usual, a much-too-friendly smile, bright enough to light up an entire football field. That was not to mention his ridiculously common name, his blue eyes, his flaxen hair, and—despite pursuing the mostly sedentary career of politics—his athletic build. Everything about Alfred F. Jones screamed All-American so loudly Arthur was afraid he would go deaf.

The voice-over began as Arthur dully munched his toast:

Senator-elect Alfred F. Jones declared war against corruption of Congress at a rally yesterday afternoon in Pittsburgh, PA.

As he watched, the photo moved. The camera zoomed out, showing the exuberant young man speaking to a crowd of Democrats in a background of red, white, and blue streamers.

My fellow countrymen,” the annoying, tinny, and not at all politician-like voice shouted, “in these next six years, I will purge the rich and powerful corporate puppet masters from the Senate and give back democracy to the citizens of the United States of America as our forefathers have intended!

The crowd roared with approval. The audio faded out, replaced by the cold, bored female voice once more:

He plans to garner enough attention in Congress to add a twenty-eighth amendment to the US Constitution with his famous ‘Money out of Government’ proposal, which was rejected by the House of Representatives March last year in a narrow defeat.

Jones is a member of the Freedom Fighters, a branch of the Democratic Party known for its far-left political idealism and its stance against large businesses and enterprises. Supporters describe his victory in the November 11 elections as a ‘historical step forward.’

Alfred F. Jones was replaced by Freedom Fighters spokesperson, Elizaveta Héderváry. She was, incidentally, also another major source of Arthur’s headaches.

For too long, Congress has acted in its own interests and not the interests of the people it is supposed to represent,” she said as cameras flashed off on the sides. Arthur minced his lips together and took another sip of tea. “Our branch is born from that frustration. Just look at how fast we are growing. Back in 2021, we only had one person—Alfred—in the House. Now, there are fifty-six in the House, and Alfred has moved to the Senate. There’s no doubt about it: people are responding to our message, and the Freedom Fighters are quickly gaining influence.

“Gaining influence my arse,” Arthur muttered, quietly so the central computer system would not pick it up as a command. Brainwashing Americans, prancing around with ridiculous talks of hope and peace, accusing all and helping none—

Opponents, however,” the narration cut in, “argue that Jones’s presence in the Senate will only hold American back.

Alfred Jones is a product of excessive worship and glamorization,” said New Jersey Governor Roderich Edelstein, not forgetting to wrinkle his nose in distaste. His usual air of superiority and discontent was tangible even through the screen. “So far, he hasn’t proposed a single piece of legislature—useful legislature—as a proper legislator should have done; instead, he ventured into the House and destroyed its foundations. The week he accused ten congressmen of fraud, we were left with one of the biggest last-minute infusions of Representatives ever, and the stock market received its greatest dip in twelve years. Do we want a man who can potentially push us back to the 2008 recession?

Arthur nodded. “Damn straight we don’t.”

NBC talk show host Francis Bonnefoy had a different point of view but expressed similar sentiments.

Francis Bonnefoy was a pundit who, despite his liberal inclinations, was famous for his bipartisan analyses—he bashed every politician equally. Arthur held a special dislike for this man. Once, a couple of years after Arthur became senator, he appeared on “Dinner with Bonnefoy,” and for the entire segment they argued on nothing but social issues, which was the only topic Arthur did not want to discuss. It didn’t help that Francis had automatically seen through Arthur and needled him on gay rights for twenty minutes straight.

Ninety-nine percent of all politicians in the Congress are corrupt.” This was a clip from his talk show, and the bastard was drinking wine as he spoke. “Take them away, and you’re as good as not having a government at all. Look here, I’m not saying the idea isn’t nice. Jones is a fool, but his heart is there, which is a lot more than others can claim. But it’s like—how do you say it?—it’s like forcibly ripping away a rotten fence from your morning glory and still expecting the flowers to live. ‘Money out of Government’ just can’t be done.

With a few quick commands, Arthur silenced the news report. If the article resorted to publishing a quote from Francis Bonnefoy, the rest was not worth reading.

Arthur’s assistants had already provided him with more information on Alfred F. Jones than he would ever need; the article was nothing new. If Alfred F. Jones wished to declare war on Congress, then by all means, let him embarrass himself.

Stretching apart his thirty-six-year-old bones, Arthur stood up from the sofa and returned to his bedroom to change. Though the Senate meeting would not start until noon, and the committee meetings not until eight, it was January third, 2025. The first day of a brand new Congress session. The exchange of old, lame-duck senators with newly elected freshmen.

Arthur took in a breath, held it, then released it.

Whatever battle records this Alfred F. Jones did or did not have, however many “corrupt” officials he had uncovered, and whoever he thought he was destined to be, it was all going to be over in a few short hours.

Arthur had been the same fresh-faced senator six years back, ready to dominate Capitol Hill and do his people good. What he hadn’t counted on, and what Jones would never suspect, was how different the Senate was from the House. How much deeper he would sink into this political pit.

Twenty minutes later, after Arthur locked up his front doors, he looked at his great, empty house and wondered whether this empty shell symbolized his own self or his country. Shaking his head, he deemed this thought silly and walked down the porch, allowing the Pennsylvanian winter, still so foreign in her touch, to wrap him in an embrace.



This is not the first time Jones has made such bold moves. In his last four years as a member of the House of Representatives, he has publicly identified fifty-seven congressmen and six multinational corporations with crimes including bribery, obstruction of justice, misuse of public funds, extortion, and tax evasion. Ninety-eight of the one hundred and ten charges were proven true while forty-seven more await trial.

Alfred F. Jones, along with thirty-three other elected and reelected senators, will be sworn into office at noon today.

“I look forward to working with such an extraordinary man who has moved the hearts of so many,” expressed Senator Arthur Kirkland, also of Pennsylvania.

Article by Tino Väinämöinen, Washington, D.C.

Article end.



A/N: This chapter is sort of a pilot. I have around twenty (thousand) projects that I’m juggling right now, so I’m trying to measure people’s interest and response. If you can let me know what you think after reading, it would be wonderful.
Also, if you feel like this chapter contains a gigantic bias against the so-and-so group, don’t worry too much. I’ll still be writing them impartially. If you are still concerned, however, questions are always welcome.
I do plan on rewriting this chapter later and researching more. Sorry about any frustration or head-banging which results. It’s still pretty messy.

[FIC] On the Ruins of Liberty

a/n: Not one of my better works, if you can measure horrible writing in shades.

O N
T H E
R U I N S
O F
L I B E R T Y

-1-

He first felt his presence in Boston, 1776.

America watched England’s ship withdraw from the harbor, his countrymen’s cheering drowning out all other sound, all other sensations. This was the first step to his Revolution. This was the first step to freedom.

In a distant hill, England was there, perched atop a horse, looking at him. America tipped his head up to meet the eyes of the man who used to be his beloved older brother. But even after he had defeated his troops, fired at his ships, America still could not hold his gaze, and he turned his head away.

The mask that was England’s expression frightened him.

When America gained the courage to peek at the hill once more, there was neither horse nor man. Instead, there was a young boy.

America still had his perfect vision back then, before his people’s arrogance and greed blinded him. The boy, he could clearly see, was wearing a black cap too large for his tiny head, a coat too broad, and breeches too wide. Those ill-fitted clothing were colonial wear, not the Redcoats’, and America was ready to walk forward—perhaps, in the chaos of battle, a mother had left her child and noticed only too late—but he hesitated. There was something different about this boy. Perhaps it was his silence, unnatural for an abandoned child; those would normally be crying. Perhaps it was his blank gaze, too eerily calm to be innocent.

Something cracked loudly. Surprised, America turned, fearing that the British troops had, for whatever reason, already returned; but his worry was unnecessary. The noise was followed by a round of applause and an even louder cheer as men rushed underneath the billowing American flag to catch the trickling beer that flowed freely through the cracks of a wooden barrel. He supposed General Washington was giving the boys the free rein for the night.

When he returned his gaze back to the hilltop, those short brown curls were no longer in sight, though America could not say he was surprised. People had the tendency to disappear in the split seconds that he turned away.

After searching the woods and fields with no progress, America asked a few of the men assigned for sentry duty that night to keep a look out for the boy and prayed that he would be found.

That night, America lied on his bed—his hand curling over the dull ache that manifested itself in his heart since Lexington last year—and dreamed about independence and liberty. In his dreams, there was England again, charging at him with his bayonet. When the protruding metal spear pierced through his chest, America saw the boy’s shadow stand behind England before it flickered and faded away.

-2-

He felt nothing but elation when the first election was held. Even though his body was weighed down by war scars and debts, his heart was whole, and that was all that mattered.

His buddy George was president for eight years, and by the time the second term was over, America, like his people, was sad to see the man leave.

“Run for office again!” he would plead Washington. “You know you’ll be elected.”

But the man just smiled and shook his head.

Two months before the country’s third presidential election, America took a stroll around Philadelphia’s countryside. As much as he loved listening to his bosses, he loved the ordinary people even more. There, he did not have to wear the stuffy suit which every politician wore and which reminded him of England. The countryside and its simple life, with lives centered around harvests and seasons, helped him escape. There were talks of factories and industry coming from Alexander Hamilton and his newly formed Federalist Party, but America did not particularly care much for it. He grew up among buffalos and wild frontiers, and the idea of machines stamping their way across his land put him off.

There were few people tending the fields that day, and when America strolled by houses and schoolyards, he found them all empty. He voiced his confusion to a big, burly man working in a nearby potato field, who told him to go to town.

“The president’s in the papers, but someone’s gotta finish these chores,” the man said, shrugging.

When America reached town, he found a crowd, large enough to explain the farms’ missing presences, gathered in town square. People huddled together in small groups over copies of the morning’s newspaper. These individual groups in turn formed a larger ring for an aged, scholarly-looking man who stood at the center. He was reading to the illiterate.

...This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind,” he boomed, forming sweeping gestures and giving those around him a significant look. “It exists...

“Excuse me, madam,” America whispered to a woman with three kids leaning against her legs. When he caught her attention, he bowed and continued, “Please forgive my ignorance, but what is this?”

The mother smiled and replied, “Why, it’s the president’s farewell adress. Neither I nor my younglings can read, so we’re listenin’ to Mr. Husten right here.”

“The president’s... farewell address?”

“...The alternate domination of one faction over another,” Mr. Husten continued, pausing dramatically when appropriate, “sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.

“The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

-3-

Two months later, America felt himself being ripped into two.

-4-

The same thing happened in four years, then the four years after that, and after that, and after that, and after that. There were times, like that once in the year 1820, when the pain came rather mildly, but those were the exception rather than the rule.

There was no mistaking its source: the climax of his agony always coincided with Election Day. In the months prior, he would feel the sensation clawing in his chest as the candidates campaigned their voices away in a wretched cycle of speeches and debates. Then countdown of months became weeks and weeks became days until the pain grew to such a degree that he would not be able to leave his bed. But even so, he said nothing to the presidents or his people. He let no one know his weakness.

But even more terrifying perhaps was the brown-haired boy, who appeared in his peripheral view but flickered away whenever he tried to turn around for a better look. He was now sure that the boy was not human, because brunet danced in the corner of his vision even as Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison returned to dust; but he did not believe the boy was a ghost either. The only thing America understood was that the child’s appearances always coincided with the coming of Election Day, with his presence more defined as America’s pain worsened.

-5-

America did not have the best of relations with France after his independence, but in 1848, just after winning Texas from Mexico, he visited Europe for France’s first election and—more importantly—to warn France of the consequences that accompanied democracy.

To his surprise, France did not pale when he heard the new. In fact, his reaction was not even nearly as fearful as it should be.

“Why do you laugh?” America asked incredulously.

Tears of mirth slipped from France’s eyes, which he wiped away with the back of his hand. America was startled to realize that the nation’s fingernails were cracked and caked with blood, while multiple scars, pink and fresh, lined his palms and wrists.

“Dear, dear,” France chuckled, leaning back against the park bench. “Oh, mon Dieu—I have briefly forgotten just how young you are. Goodness. To think that it has not been yet a century since you left that bastardly England... Well America, the pain you feel, the presence you see... those are not—how do you say it?—byproducts of democracy. Non, non, the world would be a much easier place for you and me if it were only so simple.”

“What do you mean?”

“Civil wars, America. Civil wars.” France shook his head, his smile gone. “They separate brothers, tear apart families, tear apart nations—tear apart us.”

America frowned, watching a woman tow away her bawling daughter. “I do not understand.”

“What don’t you understand? C’est simple. When a group of your people ceases to see itself as part of you, they detach themselves, and at the same time a new nation is born. Depending on what happens next, you or your nation may live”—France looked down at his hands—“or die.”

Dread clawed up America’s throat. “Die? But I thought...”

France glanced up, one of his eyebrows raised. “You really do not know? Just how many wars have you fought in after becoming independent?”

America’s lips quirked up. “Counting the one against you?”

France shrugged. “Sure, why ever not?”

“Six,” America said, wincing at the memories of his men and his enemy’s men hacking each other away. “Six, give or take.”

“Six,” his companion breathed. He shook himself a little before continuing, “I suppose you haven’t seen any nations fall in those wars, then.”

“No.”

“Well, you see—”

A man wrapped in a heavy coat and multiple scarfs rushed into town square, shouting vehemently in rapid French. In his left hand, held high, was a bundle of newspaper. France’s mouth fell open.

“Ah, I’m sorry, mon ami.” He stood up, his eyes on the growing crowd gathered around the man. “Let us continue this conversation later. Right now, I have to meet my future president.”

America blinked. “H-hold on! Following your logic on civil wars and fallen nations, the source of my pain would be... But I’ve never gone through a civil war, and my countrymen would never—we would never declare war against other. How can...?”

But France, that flashy bastard, had long disappeared with the afternoon Parisian breeze.

-6-

He would always be America the Majority. Born a Colony, he became a Patriot, then a Nation, a Federalist, a Democratic-Republican for quite a while before changing his name to Democrat, then Whig, then Democrat, then Whig, then Democrat once again.

The night he became Republican was the night the brown-haired boy emerged from mirage to reality.

It had been twelve years since he last visited France, yet America had no doubts as to who was the brunet leaning against his bedchamber door. America tried to stand up but tumbled down his bed, his limps weak, his shirt soaked through with sweat. It was as if he had lost half of his strength.

The pain, which had haunted him incessantly for the past ten years, was gone.

“Confederate,” he croaked.

“Union,” the Confederate States of America sneered, hatred distorting his young face.

“Don’t do this,” America pled. “Don’t leave me. Please, I beg you.”

“It’s too late!” the Confederacy snapped. “For far too long, you northerners have deprived us of our rights—”

“The right to keep slaves!”

“Slavery has always existed in the United States,” said the Confederacy dismissively. “It is the right of the whites to own those of lesser value. It is the natural order.”

“All men are born equal.”

“Yes. That’s right.” The Confederacy looked down his nose at his brother. “All men are born equal.”

America saw that there was no reasoning with this child. He knelt before the Confederacy then, swallowing his pride, swallowing his conscience, swallowing the voices of freemen and abolitionists which were wreaking havoc in his head for the words he was about the say.

“Please, don’t leave.” I don’t want to kill you. I don’t want to hurt my people. “We will destroy slavery. The Southerners can keep their slaves. We will not take them away.”

There was a long pause, and sounds outside the White House trickled in through the window. People were cheering, laughing, and most likely drinking. America could not help but think of his own independence.

Finally, the Confederacy leaned down and spoke into America’s ear:

“Right now, neither of us can destroy each other. You are too weak, and I am too young. Your countrymen will eventually rise up in hopes of destroying mine. We will see who is right and who is wrong then.”

“Winning wars does not make you right.”

“Then remember your own words, and know that the South will never recognize a slave-loving president.” He picked up America’s glasses from his dresser. “Goodbye. I’ll be taking this.”

And America watched his brother walk out the door.

-7-

For four years, he watched his children slaughter his children, clumsily launching cannons and other weapons that soldiers barely knew how to operate. He watched boys being sent into the battlefield as drummers and girls working their fingers to the bones to sew up soon-to-be-bloodstained uniforms.

“What will it take to end this?” he would shout at his president. “How far will you go to keep this war?”

Abraham Lincoln would at him with sunken, somber eyes.

“Whatever it takes to preserve the United States,” the man would reply simply.

-8-

In the April of 1865, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant after the South’s final, disastrous battle at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

A hundred miles away, America’s hands slowly squeezed the life out of the Confederacy.

“F-France,” the young boy choked out. “E-England.”

“You were counting on that, weren’t you? You hoped to win the war by having other countries to recognize you.” America shook his head. “But they didn’t.”

“A-Am...” the Confederacy coughed then tried again: “Ame—”

“Stop it.” Tears spilled uncontrollably down the bloodied man’s dirt-smudged cheeks. His grip tightened. “You can’t change anything. It’s done. It’s over. It’s over.”

The Confederacy’s eyes rolled back, and for the very first time America noticed that the boy’s eyes were bright, vivid green.

“A...merica...”

And he drew his last, dying breath.

-9-

And from there on, it was Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican. Blue and red and blue and red.

-10, 11, 12, 13-

Many countries underwent a period of insanity after their civil wars, such as France during his Revolution in 1789. Some could argue that America’s eventual deterioration of intelligence capacity was a consequence of his own civil war, but the truth remained that America—though suffering from a severe cold for quite a while—was never so dangerously affected that his mental state became unstable.

The Confederacy was dead, but his spirit stayed. By the time the world stepped into the twenty-first century, the burn was almost part of America’s daily life, though coping with it never grew easier. Every four years he begins to feel the burn again, tearing his heart apart, a constant reminder of what it meant to be a nation divided. He sees the brown-haired boy—who no longer represented the South, but Democrat or Republican—and sees the young, childish face in the mirror; sees that small shadow following his own.

On the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, America lies on his bed, hearing cheers roaring in his ear, feeling his body tear into two by the ballots and speech after speech.

Choose, choose, choose... his other half whispers.

But this was the price of democracy. The people’s choice would be his pain. The two candidates’ campaigns would be his civil war.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcooome—the president of the United States!

And he will bear it till the day he succumbs to madness.

And Naruto 599 is OUT

...

Remind me to add something here later.

[FIC] Pirates

Title: Pirates
Genre: Romance
Word Count: 3,093
Rating/Warnings: T/none
Summary: Alfred is kidnapped by a group of eccentric pirates that include a mysterious captain who Alfred seemed to know...

a/n: I got really tired of this story halfway through and tried to add random action scenes/backstory. -_- That’s a bad sign, isn’t it?
Uh... horrible ending, by the way, and general crappy writing all the way. If you're reading this... Good luck!

Get ready for some pirate lovin'...Collapse )

[FIC] Kiss Me Goodnight

Title: Kiss Me Goodnight
Genre: Romace
Word Count: 1,167
Rating: T
Warnings: Character deaths
Summary: This is the story of Arthur and Alfred in a world full of lies.

a/n: Horribly rushed fic is . . . horribly rushed. :/

"There wasn't a grave for Arthur, so Alfred relied on the lake..."Collapse )

[FIC] Keep On Dreaming

Title: Keep On Dreaming
Genre: Romance
Rating: low T, for swearing
Word Count: 1,190
Warnings: none
Summary: Hetalia and Naruto crossover. Alfred asks Arthur to help him with his summoning jutsu.

a/n: Abrupt ending is horribly abrupt. Sorry!

Written for UsUk speed-fic. Didn't medal in this one, though.

Read more...Collapse )


[FIC] 3814 Winter Olympics

Title: 3814 Winter Olympics
Genre: Humor/Romance
Rating: low T for minor swearing
Word Count: 1,324
Warnings: none
Summary: In which Alfred and Arthur are reporters for the 3814 Winter Olympics, America and England celebrate their 317th anniversary, and holographic technology astonishes all.

"And it's the 3814 Winter Olympics, here, live in New York, New York, iiiin U.K.S!"Collapse )

Title: On the Other Side of the Railroad Tracks
Genre: Drama/Romance
Rating: high T
Word Count: 1,903
Warning: Mentions of prostitution/slavery, yaoi, and word-puke.
Summary: In the outskirts of Liloolis lie a fenced-in town that no one talks about, yet every adult knows. One day, Young Arthur Kirkland wanders near the railroad tracks and sees a young boy named Alfred on the other side, the same boy who would shatter Arthur's perception of the world forever.

Read more...Collapse )

[FIC] Transform

Alfred sat in his little makeshift hut, savoring every bite of his delicious beef-and-cheese sandwich for the Big Fight that was to come tomorrow. Looking into the warm, crackling fire, he mentally prepared himself with every strategy he could think of that would conquer the sea monster, but ultimately grew tired of using his brain so much and decided to just wing the battle, like he always had done. He was the hero, after all. The hero would always win against pesky little monsters that had nothing better to do than frighten local civilians.

He lied down on the bed of dried grass, sleeping sideways so he could watch the way firelight danced across the blade of his sword. Right before he killed his first monster—a gigantic, mutated rat that had been terrorizing his hometown—a strange old man he later suspected to be an oracle had given him the weapon. Now it stood proudly against the hut’s wall, naked steel gleaming in the dark, poised for use.

Smiling at nothing in particular, Alfred closed his eyes and urged himself to sleep. A small, scared part of his mind—a part he did not want to admit existed—knew that if the fight tomorrow went wrongly, he could very well be living his last hours.

However, as soon as he arrived at dreamland, he was attacked.

Loud bangs and crashes were the first time Alfred registered. Then there was a loud crunch from his right, and he had a very good feeling that his boat was gone. All drowsiness gone, he grabbed his sword immediately and he rushed out the hut.

The wind was strong, rousing the sea and spraying water in the air, making it doubly hard for Alfred to see. Out of the darkness, a ball of green fire sailed through the air, heading straight for him. He ducked, and it swished harmlessly past his ear.

Whoa! Those villagers did not mention this!

A fire-breathing sea serpent? This called for a whole new plan!

Oh wait.

He never had one to start with.

“You get away from me!” he then heard a high-pitched voice scream. “I’ve had enough! I am not your servant! I am not a child! We have no more relations after this. I am done with your—your nonsense!”

Alfred raised his sword in front of him. This was . . . bizarre. The locals never told him that the monster could breathe fire and talk. In a female’s voice, even. Not that it mattered though—he had always been resistant toward monsters that had tendencies to take the form of a human maid, something he had heard lured many men to their deaths.

Something in the distance lit up in the dark. This time, Alfred allowed himself to dodge more fancily, making a triple backflip before landing perfectly on the sand.

“Hey, sea monster!” he yelled, his sword held in front of his chest. “Why don’t you come and get me? Come meet the hero who’s about to kill you!”

For a second, all was silent, save for the howling wind and crashing waves. Alfred decided to take the chance and slowly followed the source of the voice.

Then a voice—this time in a distinctively male tone—spoke:

“Michelle, if you think that conjuring that would seduce me into distraction, you are very wrong.”

Two voices? What the—

“What are you talking about?” the monster said, as the human female this time. “Seduce? Wha—I—I didn’t try to summon anything! I thought you had—Oh, god . . . There’s a civilian here, isn’t there?”

“Hmph, fool. You never truly excelled in the art of magical speech. There are better ways of diverting my attention.”

“My god . . . I’m not lying, Arthur! We need to take this fighting somewhere else. Someone can get hurt—”

“Take this fighting somewhere else? Oh, you would like that, wouldn’t you? Blimey, I was wondering why you deliberately slowed down—”

“Deliberately slowed d . . . What—”

“—and I should’ve known that you would try to intentionally expose my weakness!”

Alfred was beginning to find this fake argument extremely interesting. This monster had extraordinary improvisation skills. He was almost ready to believe that there were two people on the beach, arguing.

“I,” the male continued, apparently breathing harshly, “adopted you all those years ago from that horrifying island—”

“It was a perfectly fine island!”

“—and this is how you repay me? By throwing me into the water?”

“Arthur, this isn’t about you or you stupid aquaphobia! I told you, we—can’t—fight—here!”

“You are rebelling against me? Dear Lord, I’ve heard of teenagers rebelling against their parents after puberty, but this is much, much worse . . . There is only one way this can turn out. I’m sorry, Michelle, but you are forcing me into this!”

“Ack! Fine! I-I’ve made a mistake! I’ll go back with you, I changed my mind! We can talk this through. Let’s just . . . get out of here before we accidentally hurt a civilian!”

“Don’t worry. This is only a binding spell. The energy released may blast the rest of this beach apart, but the captured and capturer will remain unharmed.”

The monster was near, Alfred could tell. He crouched down and crept his way around a boulder, sliding his beloved sword along the sand.

“That’s not the—Good Lord . . . Arthur, don’t—”

Instead of a terrifying, ten-foot-tall sea monster with ash-colored scales and gigantic curved fans, Alfred had crawled to the foot of a man.

No, his mind whispered, taking in the man’s cloak, star-tipped wand, and pointy black hat. A mage.

The mage looked down, and Alfred found himself looking into the most beautiful emerald eyes he had seen in the nineteen years of his life.

A crackling noise, like fire, met Alfred’s ears and he turned his head away from this mysterious mage. A girl was standing twenty feet away, chanting something with her eyes closed. Green lighting surrounded her figure like a spinning vortex. The color was the exact same shade as the fireball Alfred had dodged earlier.

The mage was watching the girl too, his face now full of terror as he registered what she was attempting to do.

“Shit, no—Michelle! STOP—”

“. . . TRANSFORM JATAL UN POISSON!”

An explosion knocked Alfred off his feet, his head hitting the rock behind him.

The last thing he thought before his black out was: Man, that guy has fuzzy eyebrows.