A Hetalia Fanfiction
Russia smiled, closing his eyes to shut out the winter cold from stinging them, and listened contentedly to the crunching and rustling of the ice and soft snow of the mountains under his feet as he shuffled through the thick layer of white fluff in his boots, dragging one leg through the stubborn mass of what seemed almost to be firm stone, and then lifting the other and advancing up the path; it was difficult to walk through snow, as much as one who had not lived in Russia might imagine otherwise; it seemed to him that foreigners always thought in that manner. He was dressed in a thick, gray coat that reached down to his thighs, the usual attire, but one suited for the environment here—also he wore a set of black pants and black boots, accompanied as usual by his scarf. He loved his home, he had to admit, his home in the frozen tundras of the desolate lands of blizzards and snow, although often he dreamed of warmer lands and seeing the sun every day in the skies.
He loved watching the snow as it fell, lightly upon the ground, and sitting by the windows with a large bowl of steaming borscht in his cold hands, his scarf draped around his neck snugly, staring out through the glass at the wonders of his homeland.
And standing there in the mountains with his water pipe that he would at times use as an ice ax to make small holds in the ice to climb further up, hiking up the small and narrow path that led to the peak, was one of the daily activities that was part of his life that he would never again experience in the southern islands, as much as he admired them.
Climbing was his passion. No one understood it, not even Ukraine, and if she could not, then Belarus… well, actually Belarus was quite a whole different story, but that could not be dealt with for the moment… he was not sure he could ever be able to face it entirely.
But in fact, his little sister was the entire reason he had left the house a year or so ago to tromp across the snow… and she was the reason that he stumbled across and discovered what passion really meant.
Passion was a deep wanting, a deep, fiery, fierce love. It was an addiction, something that he needed, every day, every moment. But since he had responsibilities to deal with and for the fact that climbing was not an “every moment” activity, he settled for once a day. Once a day, early in the morning, he would go to the mountains. Any mountain was fine, really. But his favourite was Mount Elbrus. The tallest mountain in his land—no other seemed to truly satisfy his needs, his burning want for the thrill.
It was the thrill that got him. Every time, he would grab on to the rock, pull himself up the side of the mountain, he would feel a sudden, unexpected rush of adrenaline, a rush of pure pleasure course through his mind and body.
The cold, bitter air biting at his skin, his face. The wind blowing through his hair, pushing it to the side of his head, over his eyes, disheveling the many strands of silver.
His head would pound, his heart would swell. It felt as if he had found what he was meant for. It was the perfect life, the perfect experience for him. He needed it, every day.
And Mount Elbrus was the only challenge for him; every other mountain was too small, too young. The air of Elbrus was a wise, old presence that chilled him, the paths were narrow and winding, the rock sharp and jagged. He went every day to climb there.
It was thanks to Belarus, who had one day been terrorizing his house and stalking about listening and calling for him that he had had to crawl out the windows and escape from her. And, not knowing where to run to, rushed to the mountains for the first time. It was thanks to her that in his hiding from his little sister, he found his life, the life he was born to live, every day of his life...
Of course he didn’t climb the whole mountain every day… only a bit up the path, and then he would head home to find Belarus at his door, trying to destroy his door knob… the Baltic states screaming for help to escape from her… but perhaps… not today.
… What was the chance of him being able to accomplish that feat? The chance of him being able to… to actually…
With an instant change of mind, Ivan took a sudden turn away from his usual route and headed, boldly and maybe foolishly, towards a tall, slanted wall of rock that formed one of the steep hundred-feet tall sides of the mountain, stopping at the edge of the wall to gaze up at it intensely, with ambition burning in his soul, wanting to try to scale it—for the first time.
Normally at this point up he would have gone home, but today was different; today he felt a burning flame deep inside his soul, urging him to continue, demanding for him to do what he had so long been aching to attempt. And the wall was steep and would be time-consuming, yes, and he might not make it home in time like he had told the Baltic States he would be, but he would have to try it this time. He had traversed up and down the path in the mountain many, many times, and he needed newer, more difficult obstacles.
Ivan had always had some had suspicion and perhaps even a small hint of fear about this certain wall, about the ice on it melting away to leave smooth rock the moment he decided to climb it, but the ice never melted away completely anyways… where was the harm in trying? And as much as he wanted to believe that they were still comrades, he wasn’t sure if the three Baltics wanted him in the house anyways…
He put his pipe in the snow, wanting to move up the wall for a while to see if it was climbable, which he was sure it had to be, and planning to come back for it after the test. In his mind… failure was not an option. With one gloved hand he reached tentatively up and grabbed at a protruding piece of ice, gently tugging on it to see if it would break off immediately.
It didn’t, and he gave it a sharper jerk to see if it could hold his whole weight. It seemed to be able to, but the moment he tightened his grip on it and moved to pull himself up, it broke off in his hand and sent him falling back to the ground, hitting the ice and rock and causing a tinge of pain to travel up his spine. He gave a small gasp, feeling the sharp, broken edge of the pipe where he had pulled it from the sink slightly dig into the back of his neck, scraping his skin and maybe drawing blood. It had been quite stupid to leave laying it there so obviously beneath him, he reasoned. Next time he would leave it somewhere else.
Yes, his suspicions seemed to have some truth to them. But he wouldn’t—couldn’t!—stop now… he had set himself on this way up to the top of the mountain, and he would climb up only this way. It was his furious passion driving him… perhaps the addiction that would drive him to his death… but it was what he had to do.
Ivan sat up, rubbing the back of his neck and glancing at his hand to see the small drops of blood on the glove, and taking the pipe from beneath him, Ivan stood shakily, eyeing the wall and deciding that what he needed were some footholds. He took the water pipe, which measured about half of his unusually tall height, and began to hack at the ice above him with it, knowing that above, there would possibly be natural holds to move up on.
He had had no training. No professional guidance, not even advice from an amateur climber on how to scale a mountain. Everything he learned, he found by climbing himself, from feeling what others had to learn from books and guides. He just knew, just from a year, even less, of climbing some of the smaller Russian mountains on his own, alone. It was one of the few things that he had such motivation to do…
Ivan had formed his own style of climbing throughout the last year, he decided what equipment he used (only his water pipe and his hands and feet) and how he wanted to climb. He didn’t care what others said to do, he followed only his instinct and mind. He made the measurements by himself, he wore what he took to be comfortable, and he showed himself the way. It would likely one day get him killed. But he didn’t care. If only to climb…!
When he finished making four sets of deep marks in the ice not more than five feet apart from one another, a pattern that he had developed for himself, not caring what logic or reason might be behind it or if there really was any reason in it at all, he took the pipe and flung it a few feet away to ensure that if he fell again, he would not impale himself on it. He would be sure to find it later when he wanted it back, but for now he would be know that his life was safe. That is, in terms of the pipe... the mountain, however, might have to say otherwise.
Rubbing his hands against his cheeks to keep the blood there warm and at the very least circulating, Ivan moved towards the wall once more and reached up to slide his hands into the confined holds he had created in the ice. Slowly he hauled himself up, placing his feet on the ice below the holds and moving to the next void he had chipped, then to a natural hold that seemed to be there out of his sheer luck.
And then after going up several feet, perhaps ten or fifteen, Ivan paused, his breath caught in his lungs. He had forgotten to sit, rest, and give his body a chance to become acclimatized to the thinner air. Even though it was normally cold in his lands and the known fact that people borne of the Russian lands were decently… well, stronger and more hard-laboured than others, thinning of air was not something that very many of his people could endure without the appropriate time and rest.
He sucked in the air, which seared his lungs, but he knew that he had to finish going up the wall or risk losing time and light. It was the middle of the afternoon, and if he delayed any longer, it might cause some of the ice to thaw out, essentially dissolving what might be important holds in the wall that might be the only thing to help him reach its top. Then he would have to return to the bottom of the wall and wait for the air to grow colder, by then which it would be evening and dark, he would’ve had to render it too dark to continue.
Nyet, he could not allow that to happen! He must finish the climb today!
He tried to continue at a certain speed, but because he had gone too quickly to have time to have his body get used to the air, his pace had slowed to a crawl, and he moved, slowly and agonizingly, across the surface of the ice. He suddenly remembered, in an instant, that he had intended to go back below to acquire his pipe before he continued the climb, and for a moment he was dangerously tempted to turn back and take it up with him, but almost a second later he dismissed the idea. It would be useless to lug the thing up the wall with him, it would only delay and stall him… he had to complete the venture.
Without his pipe.
The mountain was treacherous. He had failed to recognize its danger… and now he was under its thumb.
Never had he been able to see what a terrible foe the mountain was truly, and now he could see through the veneer of simply going up and down the path, the easiest way up the rocky landform. It was only a small component of a much larger world…
He had climbed the rock before, and had went up against many of its obstacles, but this was the first time he knew the terror of Mount Elbrus, the tallest peak in his territory.
I… I must not f-fail… Even his mind seemed to gasp, breathless, and his muscles felt as if they were being torn, shredded right through the middle. Th-this is my… my one ch-chance… to conquer Elbrus…!
He moved higher, although his crawl was slowing, and he knew he was nearing the top. He reached up—and felt something. He moved his hand across it, not being able to shift his head to see what it was. It was… a crack. Yes… that was it… no, perhaps wider than a crack. He must get up, he must see!
His boots scuffled against the wall, kicking at the ice, but instead of finding any means propelling himself upwards, his feet snagged his thick coat as he shifted his leg up to catch a hold in the rock, and he slipped an inch or so, and inches were precious in such an ascent as this.
It was even stupider, stupider than the pipe, he acknowledged, angry at himself, to not wear boots with crampons, or even something with the likes of crampons! If only I’d stopped by the equipment shop! Or even made a pair of boots like that at home! But this is my style… this is how I live it… I cannot do so otherwise…
Well, it was too late to think of something like that. He had to finish, he had to make it. Every inch, every step, was important to him… he pulled himself up higher, wanting to see what it was that he had felt. Oh God… it was impossible for him to move further at this point… his arms and legs were burning, he couldn’t go up anymore… all there was to do was hold on.
But even as he remained stationary, gasping for air and trying to regain his composure, his body seemed to grow even more tired and unable to work. He forced himself to continue on, going one hold at a time, slowly traveling upwards.
Finally, after what felt like years of climbing in the frozen cold of winter, he could see what it was that he had felt, and he smiled, relieved, at the sight, even as he clung desperately to the ice. It was a miracle—there, in the rock, which was slowly evening out and growing less steep, was a chimney, long and just broad enough for him to fit, traveling up the side of the mountain and apparently to the top of the wall. It was a godsend… the Lord had heard his prayers and granted him passage to his goal…
He thanked God, or whoever it was that governed the universe, whether Chinese or Indian or a god of any other culture who might have granted him this escape, and edged into the chimney, moving against the solid rock and slowly starting to make his way to the top, which was not far away…
With one last push Ivan burst through the frozen precipitation and up to the top of the small mountain, with snow on his cheeks and ice chips in the folds of his scarf, which flapped and fluttered in the air like a banner in the sky at the top of the peak. It had only been a… maybe ten-hour climb, more than a bit challenging for him, although it might certainly take days or months for humans to conquer the mountain Elbrus.
Ivan straightened up, taking in a deep breath of the searing, cold air. It had been a small activity for Ivan, an attempt to find some time away from his sister Belarus, who continued to nag, each and every day, of marriage…
But there was no time to stay at the top, for eventually even he would freeze to death.
He turned and headed for the path that descended to the ground, far below. If he hurried, he could be back home in three hours, at dusk, and then he could have some borscht to eat and maybe a glass or two of vodka, watching the winter go by.
There would be no more climbing for the day… but perhaps… tomorrow instead.
... Russia didn't know, at that moment, that in the morrow he would be unable to climb; for not so many miles away, in a small plane bound for the frozen land of Russia, you and a certain country were headed for Mount Elbrus as well. So many wonders awaited you on the treacherous mountain as an amateur climber under the training of Ludwig Beilschmidt, a blonde German who had instructed you for years and was well trained in dangerous situations on such mountains.
But as skilled as Ludwig was, even he didn't know that the two of you were tied to a dark string of fate--tied by the bomb that had been planted under the belly of the plane and the slowly leaking tank of gasoline inside the engines of the jet.