[identity profile] .livejournal.com posting in [community profile] heroescuties
Title: Tunnels 1/?
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Genre: Action/Adventure/Romance
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairing: Estonia/Ukraine
Word Count: 3,255
Summary: What if the spirits of nature knew technology was tracking them? What if they decided to use that technology to fight back? When Estonia disappears along with an entire forest, it's up to Ukraine to use the small device he left behind to find him and free him.



They were whispering to him.

Everywhere he went, he could hear them, distant voices muttering unpleasantly as he passed by. At first he wondered if they were aware he could still hear them, perhaps they assumed that he’d lost the ability like the majority of his peoples had.

“I can hear you, you know,” he’d told a particularly loud bunch of oaks.

To his surprise they replied, “We know.”

Somehow, knowing they knew made it all the more unnerving. They- the forest spirits, the trees themselves and whatever other elements they’d become in the hundreds of years since they came into being – were plotting something.

And so, he did the first and most instinctual thing. He decided to track them.

Suddenly, they went quiet for years. Ten years exactly and he hadn’t heard a thing. Then Midsummer’s Eve came and the voices were back, no longer whispering.

They were calling to him.

Shrill voices in the night screaming, demanding his presence, and assuring him in sly tones that they just wanted to talk. Thankfully, for his own well-being, he knew better. He'd sensed their unrest for years upon years and that's when he'd created the tracker, using his own connection to them to keep a technological eye on them. He knew despite the silence that they’d been meeting in secret.

What he hadn’t known, hadn’t suspected, was that they'd been watching him in return.

Packing his laptop bag with essentials, innocent looking odds and ends that he knew they wouldn't find suspicious, he paused just long enough to scrawl out a quick note.

The tree tunnels will lead you down the right paths. Always.

And taking a risk, he added.

Speak not of what you do, for they are listening. – Естонія

The note was tucked into a package he left in his mailbox. If he was lucky, he'd return before the post was picked up and she'd not have to be troubled. But if he wasn't back...

Then with one last fleeting look at his home, he set out for the location they were calling from: the crater, of course, where all the lore of his land found its center.

It was there that the man known as Estonia disappeared from the world.
---------------------------

Ukraine had been woken up at the break of dawn with the news, calls from Lithuania and Latvia flooding into her phone one after another.

“Have you seen him?”

“There’s a strange green glow around the whole country!”

“I can’t cross the border.”

“Finland’s tried via the sea, but he can’t enter either.”

“We think maybe Russia can get through, but…”

“Well, Russia is probably scary enough to make the green mist part…”

“So perhaps you can get in?”

“You could probably go in through your brother’s border, you know? But we…”

“We can’t really risk it.”

Ukraine had been polite with her former housemates, all of them but her sister staying on good terms after they’d moved away from Russia, but she was honestly at a loss as to what to do. Even if she could pass through the mist into Estonia’s land, where would she even begin to look?

Not about to let them down when they were all so desperate for an answer, she offered to at least go and give it a try. And so, in the early hours of the morning, she opened her front door to find an express package on her step.

A package from Estonia.

Her fingers bristled as she lifted it off the doorstep, the odd parcel not in a standard cardboard box, but rather a plastic one. As for its contents, it was rather heavy in weight.

But for some reason, despite her eagerness to see what it could hold, Ukraine felt as if there was someone or something watching her. Her eyes scanned the horizon, an innocent looking expanse of land facing her.

Yet the nagging feeling wouldn't leave, so with a heavy sigh she returned inside, shutting the door and unknowingly protecting herself and the package in doing so. Her rushnyk, the traditional embroidery of her people, hung on the door front and tauntingly mocked the pine trees with its bright red and black detailings of acorns.

The funny thing about old magic was that the tree spirits weren’t the only ones who had it.

Setting the package on the table, Ukraine slid the small note from the top. The first thing that caught her eye was not the odd warning or the fact the note was written on a disc, but the way Estonia had chosen to sign his name. He'd written it in Ukrainian, not his mother tongue.

It was then that she knew this was a matter of utmost importance, a secret best kept between him and her alone.

So she began to unfurl it, both the package and the mystery behind it. The disc she put into her computer and, as if her head wasn't already spinning with all the information that had suddenly been dropped into her lap, began a scrolling lapse of words. Old spirits, Saaremaa, the Kaali crater, spruces were safe shelter, oaks were the most powerful, but linden and alder were dangerous too.

On and on it went, giving her answers to some questions yet creating new questions in her mind all the same. Finally, it reached the end and asked her plainly, "If you can brave it, if this has reached you, I need help. The package contains all that you need to find me."

Ukraine once again inspected the bits and bobs that had been in the package; two small boxes that looked as if they'd previously been computer speakers that were now converted into something else, two small bands that appeared to be fixed up digital wristwatches and lastly, a small note written on a scrap of tin.

1. Find a tree tunnel. You know the sort, those pathways where the trees arch over the top making it look like a tunnel made out of branches.

2. Place the two isoleertoru (sorry I can't think of what that word is in your language, I'm a bit frazzled at the moment) boxes at the base of the first trees in the tunnel. One on each side.

3. Put each of the bands on your wrists. Once you are ready, push the black buttons on the side. The isoleertoru boxes will start to make a glowing archway. See what color it is and press the matching color button on your wristbands.

4. Run. Run as fast as you can into the portal. The tree tunnel will lead you down the right path.


She flipped the tin note over, thinking their might be more information, but there wasn't. That's all he'd given her: a disc full of basic notes on various things, a note on tin, and four little devices. There was still no reasoning given as to why he'd disappeared, but the pieces for answering that were all there, she just knew it. Taking a deep breath, she strung her thoughts together as her hands went through the motions of packing a bag for her trip.

First, there was the fact that he'd never once written anything to her on paper. It was the disc, the information on it, and the tin. Paper, somehow, was a problem. Tucking that fact away, she began to fit it into the picture with the other elements. The trees he'd listed out bits of lore on which were safe, which were dangerous, and which were powerful. Paper and trees.

At that, Ukraine stopped midway in the motion of placing a parcel of food into her bag. The tree spirits, the old spirits that were strongest at the Kaali crater on Saaremaa island, must be behind it. He couldn't risk using paper because the trees might be able to read that, given that the paper was made from their kin. And somehow, this device he'd given her, would create an entrance into the spirit realm where he must be.

She finished her packing in a rush, grabbing only the essentials, and practically ran from the house. Because, now she knew, the only other answers she had to procure were from Estonia himself. And if it was up to her to find him, then she'd do her damnedest to do so.

------------------------------------------

The nearest tree tunnel that Ukraine could think of amidst all the chaos in her mind was a few hours away from her home. She caught an urgent flight in a small passenger plane and made her way on foot once a bit outside the city.

She inwardly berated herself for not knowing of something closer to her home, there certainly had to be somewhere near Kyiv that was a tree tunnel. But, no matter, she kept trying to reassure herself as tears prickled at her eyes from worrying about Estonia’s current situation, she was doing her best.

And so, that is how Ukraine found herself standing on the train tracks that led through the tree tunnel in the Rivne region, fumbling with the small black boxes and really hoping she’d brought enough supplies in her bag.

“All right, the first thing is placing them at the base of the trees,” she murmured to herself. Then she paused, warily eyeing the trees.

Could they hear her? Would they try and stop her? She bit her lower lip and worried it between her teeth.

She thought she heard whispers, or maybe that was just the wind, and a light rumble. If she worked quickly enough, perhaps they wouldn’t have time to stop her? At least, that’s what she hoped.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled her nerve and gave an equally steely glare at the trees as she took her rushnyk out from her bag and tied the embroidered cloth around her waist. Something, a nagging feeling of her own nature spirits perhaps, had convinced her to bring it with her. And now seemed as good a time as any to wear it proudly, tauntingly, in the face of the other old magic makers at work.

“Estonia, I’m coming for you,” she dared to say aloud, pressing the black button on her wristband as instructed.

Suddenly the archway of trees frosted over, as if winter had suddenly blown down the tunnel and encased each and every leaf in ice, but somehow left the ground and the train tracks on it back in Summer, the grass growing just as green as ever. There was a high-pitched whirring from the boxes as beams of light shot out of them and began to creep up the sides of the tunnel, looking like multicolored spider webs as they slowly grew up to the top.

Shouldering her bag, Ukraine focused her eyes on the colors as they rapidly blinked. First yellow, then orange and red, purple, blue and green; it cycled through them faster and faster, each time the webs of light glowing brighter. Finally it stopped, the tunnel glowing a bright and brilliant yellow as the ice on the trees began to melt.

Run. Run as fast as you can into the portal. The tree tunnel will lead you down the right path.

The words echoed in her mind and she heeded them, racing into the tunnel as fast as her legs could carry her. She could hear it now, the screams and snarls of the trees behind her; furious that they’d been held back from stopping her. They were clawing at the cage of light, dagger-like leaves shooting down at her and just missing her heels as she pushed herself forward, faster and faster, towards the bright light at the end.

A loud blaring horn sounded and Ukraine almost lost her footing, fearing that somehow a train would appear and slam into her, the tracks already rattling with vibrations under her feet. The trees cackled, giving themselves away, and immediately Ukraine knew that it was just their illusion. Adrenaline pumping ever stronger, she pressed onward, running straight into the bright yellow wall at the end of the glowing tunnel.

----------------------------------------------

It was disorienting here.

The concepts of time, space and well, day or night, were all a bit…vague. Estonia took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose before looking out at the small forest clearing again. It was still silent and had been for what seemed like hours, but had possibly only been minutes. He’d considered opening up his laptop and checking the time, but feared until he knew they weren’t watching him that it wasn’t a risk worth taking.

The spruces had taken him in, this small cropping of the trees wrapping him in warmth and safety after the harrowing day he’d had. His right hand was still bleeding from where the firs had attacked him and he still shivered from the cold water in the crater that their roots had dragged him into. He’d heard talk amongst the spruces that they were going to contact Tamme-Lauri about this dark business.

But when one of them had left to seek counsel with the elder spirit, they hadn’t returned in one piece.

Estonia sadly looked at the fire-scorched patch of grass where the tree had once stood. He’d thanked the spruces for their help and apologized for the harm that had befallen their kin, asking them not to try again to help him for fear that they would be attacked.

Then the rainstorm had begun and the spruces, as always, offered Estonia shelter. So, he put up the small conduits that he’d made in a circle around the spruces, hoping to not only protect himself but those who sheltered him.

Suddenly, a bright streak of light lit up the clearing. At first Estonia feared that it might be lightning, sent from the evil spirits to smite another spruce, until he noticed a figure, a human-sized one, go running past until they brought themselves to a halt right in front of the eldest spruce.

She’d come for him.

He practically ran to her, so thankful to see another friendly face that he almost forgot himself and embraced her shamelessly. But luckily, for his dignity that is, he was stopped short when she whirled around and hugged him first.

“You’re all right,” she murmured, pulling himself to her chest.

Estonia was kind enough to avert his eyes upward, making certain he met her eyes.

“Could be better,” he joked.

Her eyes started to water at that, and she sniffled back the tears as she drew back from him and pulled her bag off her shoulder.

“Let’s get you something warmer to put on, and…oh goodness, your hand!”

She snatched it up immediately, gently inspecting it and wincing at how deep it ran.

“And, perhaps something for this hand of yours too?”

Estonia smiled after what had seemed like years of never doing so. “That would be nice.”

She drew him over to the foot of the eldest spruce and began rummaging in her bag, which seemed filled with all kinds of odds and ends. Finally, she pulled out a first aid kit, and a pile of clothing.

“I’m going to chance a guess that we won’t be going home soon, correct?”

Estonia nodded. “The spruces and my conduits are shielding us for right now, but there’s no telling how long it will hold.”

“Good thing I packed a tent then,” she replied, pulling the large bundle from the base of her bag, “Though it’s going to be a bit small, I hope that’s all right?”

“Clothes, a first aid kit, a tent- you certainly came well prepared.”

Ukraine just smiled, opening the first aid kit and beginning to clean out the wound on his hand. “It seemed very serious, so I took it as very serious,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I do hope the clothing I brought for you fits, it was the best I could do under such circumstances.”

Estonia glanced over it, realizing that it was probably something of Russia’s. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing that had happened to him that day. And, Russia’s or not, it would certainly be better than the soaking wet and bloody clothing he currently wore.

“There, that should keep it from getting infected,” Ukraine said, letting go of Estonia’s hand.

He looked at it then back at her. She’d literally come running to help him and hadn’t yet asked him much of anything. With a sigh, knowing there was certainly a lot to explain, he offered.

“Would you like to know what’s going on?”

“You can tell me tomorrow. I’m sure you’d like to rest after what was probably a very tiring day, right?”

Estonia blinked at the sky, which was still doing its best to get the raindrops down through the thick covering of spruce needles. “Is it night already?”

Ukraine shrugged. “Somehow between my home and here, wherever it is, I lost nine hours of my day. According to watch, it’s nine at night. And, well, if I’m tired after my day so far, you must be.”

Estonia nodded, reaching up with his now-bandaged hand to take off his glasses and wipe the grime on his pants. He sighed on remembering his pants were still dirty and it wouldn’t help much, then turned to the small pile of clothing that had been set aside for him.

“Well then let’s get the tent up so I can change into something warmer.”

Ukraine started to stand, and then paused, meeting his eyes with great intent.

“Estonia, I have one question I’d like answered now, if possible,” she paused, as if wondering if she should dare, before she asked, “why me?”

Estonia’s eyes widened. Of all the questions that had to be swirling around in her mind at the moment that was the one she’d chosen to ask? He took a deep breath, for this might honestly be the most difficult question for him to answer.

He could tell her it was because he didn’t want to worry Lithuania or make Latvia scared. He could reason that he’d ask Finland but he was certain Sweden would insist on tagging along. Belarus and Russia, well it was a given why he hadn’t sent the package to them. But as for Ukraine…

She looked at him searchingly, waiting patiently for his reply.

How could he tell her that he’d always admired her, always respected her and thought her to be one of the kindest people he’d ever met? It really wasn’t the right moment for a heart to heart, let alone one touching on all the feelings he’d carried for her while they’d resided at Russia’s house together.

Estonia met her eyes for one brief second and gave the best and most honest reply he could give her at that moment.

“Because, I trusted you to come no matter what obstacles you might face.”

Her cheeks tinged a pretty shade of pink at the compliment and Estonia felt his own face heating up as well. She ducked her head slightly before gently reaching out to place her hand atop Estonia’s injured one.

“I’m glad I was able to live up to your expectations then.”

And as her fingers delicately wrapped around his hand, Estonia knew that they’d find some way out of this mess he’d gotten himself into. And when they did…well, then he just might be brave enough to tell her why he thought so highly of her.

-------------------------

Notes:
[1] Rushnyk are traditional East Slavic towels, highly decorated often with the ornamental pattern. They are used for many rituals and are designed as protection against anything evil.
[2] isoleertoru means conduit in Estonian

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