I'm sorry for going on hiatus for so long when this chapter has been sitting around my notebooks for so long, but you know, real life got to me - test week, two weeks in exile from home, far too much schoolwork… and even now, my one-and-a-half-week Christmas holiday is immediately followed by a two-and-a-half-week Mid-Terms session.

After that is my Chinese New Year hols - about 2 weeks off, but my next chapter still hasn't been written yet, and I plan to release that on the first day of the New Year… so I'll be really busy.

So… TLDR: real life got to me, but I'll hopefully be back in a month. This is my early Christmas present for y'all.

Please note that all conversations are to take place in their native languages or Nation-Speak by default. I also try to imitate the accents, especially in Mandarin, but… there are a lot, and some are especially difficult to understand, even to native speakers (I'm not even one, to boot).

Just… enjoy the chapter, okay?

"Zăo a, Hei."

Light violet eyes blinked as Beijing stepped over his threshold. The Municipality had shown up at his door unannounced on the morning he had planned to check on the preparations for the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in his heart. How rude. He forced a soft smile on his face and responded, "Zăo a, Jing. What are you doing up here in Dongbei?"

"Shifu's meeting is in Hailanpao, and he, again, has forgotten to bring his notes and his jacket." Oh, Hailanpao? That's the city across the river from Heihe, da?

"It's okay, I'll take them to him," he smiled evenly, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a certain Northern Nation. "I'll be there within the hour."

The meeting was held in the Russian Far East for a reason: obviously, Russia's Boss wanted the Personification out of his hair for another week and this sent him across the whole damn country to host the monthly World Conference.

The door of the downtown Meeting Room slammed open, and the screaming began: Romano darted behind Spain, exclaiming, "There's two of them! Save me, Tomato B*stard!"; his northern counterpart ducked under the table and started waving his white flag; two of the Baltics fell in unconsciousness and/or catatonia, as did several other Nations; and even calm, collected Japan appeared to be extremely disturbed by the figure standing in the doorway, as said figure was essentially, in appearance, a not-so-miniature version of the Russian Federation.

He was bundled up in a black down coat and trousers obviously made for living in the cold climate of Dongbei. A pair of knee-high boots adorned his feet and a bright red scarf with a white flower-snowflake emblem was wrapped around his neck. Not-so-oddly enough, he was also wearing a leifeng hat, obviously for warmth as well. There was an Amur tiger cub in his arms, of whose presence some of the Nations silently questioned, but never voiced due to fear that this psuedo-Russia inherited the original's bossy, temperamental nature.

"S'ifu, you forgot your notes and jacket."

That was the first thing out of the young man's mouth as he entered the room. He pulled out a stack of paper and a deep red overcoat from who-knows-where and… let go of the tiger, which crawled into Russia's arms (for some reason). A few of the Nations breathed a sigh of relief as the newcomer didn't appear bats*it crazy like their Russia, but most remained wary.

"Uh, Russia, dude?" A voice, at last, rang out from the Nations' stupor. "Is that you from an alternate universe or your evil clone or something?" Russia responded with a Look regarding the comment. Evil clone? Really?

"Ah, xièxie, Téyǒng," China replied as though nothing had happened, and the young man smiled at that - a smile that made him seem like a little kid that just gained their senpai's approval, "though you interrupted our World Conference…" China eventually trailed off.

"I see." The newcomer's smile shifted slightly as he turned to the rest of the World. "Dà jiā hăo, my name is Hēilóngjiāng Province, but you may call me Artyom. Come to our Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, da?"

"So your Provinces exist too, China?" asked yet another Nation - well, ex-Nation, this time - who was also apparently as dense as osmium. China honestly felt like bashing another brainless skull in with his trusty wok. Hadn't the báichī in front of him seen Téyǒng?

Plus, he had never bothered to keep his Provinces hidden away, and some of the Western Nations had known of their existence since the 16th century, read: Portugal came knocking and Guangdong waged war for his attempt to claim little, newborn Macau (no one had any idea how another of Nanyue's spawn came to be when she had been dead for over a millennium, but that's Nation logic for you).

"Yes, Pǔlùs'ì Xiāns'eng, of course we exist. I'm right here."

The Nations had essentially surrounded China and his northeasternmost Province, asking questions left and right, as if they didn't have Personified Subdivisions of their own. (Of course, nothing would get done that Conference, as per the norm.)

However, it was then when they started noticing Heilongjiang's physical similarities with China: a couple of strange ahoges, one of them a small, simple curl (everyone knew that China's was hidden in his ponytail); the same ebony hair tone; softer (distinctly East Asian, though still vaguely foreign - and not in a Russian way - to Chinese eyes) facial features; a slightly less distinctive nose than Russia… All of a sudden, the boy looked more like a RoChu love child than a Russia clone gone wrong.

Heilongjiang bit into his Madi'er Binggun, savouring the sweet, milky taste. The Southerners thought that he was crazy, like Guangdong (the dear epitome Southerner that she is) - "Who the hell would," she had said, "in a wintry land, eat suet tiu?!" - but hey, at least his bīnggùn wouldn't melt in the temperatures he was used to!

"How did you get here so fast? You said you only had an hour's notice!" Obviously someone with little knowledge of geography and couldn't even be bothered to use Google Maps while trying to find this place.

(Then again, it's a valid question…)

Fifty seconds later, Google Maps had been opened up to a place where two cities along the northeastern Russo-Chinese border, separated by the Amur River, were shown on the screen (projected by the projector, of course). A bandy stick (where did that come from?) was pointed at the town of Blagoveshchensk on the Russian river-bank. "This is Hailanpao, where we are now. Across the river," he paused to point at the city on the other side, "is Heihe, in my house. The river has frozen over. I skated."

The Nations blinked.

"Also, Senya lets me visit whenever I want to." (On the other side of the Oblast, a gold-eyed girl in a white-lined red sweater sneezed, sending a fellow Nation speaking of her.)

"Okay, so you skated here… can you show us how?"

Fifteen minutes later, the group had ventured out to the Amur River, or the Heilong Jiang (Black-Dragon River), of which Heilongjiang (Province) had been named after. Most of the Nations were either skating along, tripping over their own feet, or wondering along the same line of Guangdong about why the hell is this kid eating a popsicle at below 0C, is this kid crazy?

Alternately, no one was questioning how Heilongjiang had got his hands on a pair of ice-skates - of the right size, no less! - for basically everyone… except Japan, who was provided with a single skate so big that it seemed to be tailor-made for a one-legged giant instead; nor were they questioning why half the manhole covers were missing. ("Yu, this is getting out of hand! Can you at least not go around doing this while beyond our borders?" Heilongjiang had commented before moving on.)

It was when Ecuador was passing Heilongjiang did something happen. The little tiger cub ran out from who-knows-where and startled, the South American Nation tugged on the Province's scarf in an attempt to stay balanced. He failed, and with a "S'én me niăo?!" Ecuador tumbled onto the frozen surface of the river; while somehow, Heilongjiang's skates began drilling a hole in the ice, and with a loud SPLASH, the Province fell through.

Everyone's heads turned to the hole in the river. China's face flashed to an anxious expression, before he began to back away into his borders - he did not want to see this. In fact, he did not want to be anywhere near the scene of the crime. Scheduling the next meeting that he would host in Hainan suddenly seemed to be a very appealing idea.

A head emerged from the frozen river like a water demon, hair plastered to his forehead, eyes darkening to a menacing Russia-violet, enveloped by a dusky purple aura.


Heilongjiang Stereotypes: (Tend to be grouped with the rest of Dongbei - the Northeast) strong, manly, alcoholic, straightforward, efficient blue-collar workers, cold and Russian (and HLJ has even more reason to be "Russian", because history declared it to be this way), corruption (name pun), Harbin Ice Festival

The insignia on HLJ's scarf is the symbol on the (former) flag of Harbin.

HLJ actually isn't this Russian at first, but circumstances and 19th-20th century influence got to him… and now he's more than HLJ Province, but that's a story for another time. (HLJ also has the third-highest Chinese Russian population in the country, though the top two are far higher and rep their own ethnic minorities… HLJ's current Russian population is comparable to that of Beijing, who is 4th highest… I'll get into this later.)

Madi'er Binggun are a brand of ice lolly based in Harbin, and supposedly a tourist must-try.

I'm quite sure that people aren't allowed to SKATE across the Amur River (there's usually a boat to take you across), but you know, Nation privileges.

HLJ, like many Chinese, even to this day, hold quite a grudge against Japan. Why? The Second Sino-Japanese War, of course. But for HLJ being particularly petty here… if I get to a WWII chapter, I'll tell, but here's a hint - 731.

HLJ doesn't like it when people pull on his scarf… because this happens. Every. Single. Damn. Time.

As for why China wasn't trying to help when HLJ fell, well… there are no Good Samitarian Laws in the Mainland. You can try to help a car crash victim and the victim can legally sue YOU for causing the crash, and that's just one example of horror stories regarding this scenario. This might be one of the reasons why Hongkongers tend to fall into Bystander Syndrome as well, even if we DO have Good Samitarian Laws across the border.

Like many countries, China has a pretty bad north-south divide - not Italy-level that warrants two different Personifications, but more like the US north-south divide. People tend to be biased against people from certain regions or states/provinces for various reasons and stereotypes. The vocabulary used in the north and the south also tend to differ, especially between different "dialects".

I've personally never been to Harbin, but a Mainlander friend of mine has (she's a HKer born in the Mainland and more connected to the northern side of the Sham Chun River than I will ever be), and she's helping me out here… but I still do plenty of research, so we're trying to make this somewhat authentic. Heck, I even studied a map of Blagoveshchensk for this fic! (I've only been to the Mainland four times in my entire life, while she's only left Chinese borders once.)

Date of Writing: 16 April - 6 May 2019

Date of Typing/Final Editing: 22 Dec 2019

I'll hopefully get the next chapter up on the first day of the first lunar month, as a New Year's gift, so I'll see you then! I hope you enjoyed this, and have a very happy Winter Solstice and holiday season!

P.S. My tumblr inbox for this fic at aph-a-provincial-life is still open! Ask away!