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Sold to the Highest Bidder is an Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic originally conceived to serve the "Sex Slave AU" kink meme. The story is a sci-fi/steampunk hybrid, with the former predominating, and the narrative combines twisting interpersonal plotlines with a detailed account of the multiple societal layers within the universe.

In a society where sexual slavery is legal, nobody's really moral or immoral. England is a pirate, stealing freefolk to sell them; the Nordics are gentleman thieves working to free the stolen; and Turkey and Greece are buddy cops Federal Agents hot on both trails. France, Spain, the Italies, and Rome are slave bondsperson trainers of varying ethics; and Hungary is the legislative power who somehow has to keep them in line. The east Slavics are high-society slave-owners struggling to maintain a nascent empire, and the Baltics and Poland are revolutionaries trying to bring it down.

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Alfred gets kidnapped from his home when his parents leave him there alone.
    • Toris's backstory is full of this; his family was shot and killed in the crossfire of a territory dispute, leaving a child Toris on his own. Later, he was deported suddenly by government orders, only for the train to turn out to be smuggling weapons across the border to La Résistance, which recruits him as a Child Soldier. After that, his hometown is bombed, leaving thirteen-year-old Feliks and ten-year-old Raivis trapped alone in a collapsed basement. Both of their families also die.
  • Aerith and Bob: Names of characters range from Island to Raivis to Yao to Tim. Justified, given the source material.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Ivan asks Eduard to call him Vanya, which is also what his sister calls him. Natalya sometimes goes by Natasha along the same lines, and Ivan occasionally refers to Eduard as dusha moya, which should actually refer to a girl.
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  • The Alcoholic: Ivan.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Feliciano.
  • Animal Motifs: There is quite a bit of alluding to dogs when it comes to the bondspeople. In the epilogue, even, Alfred finds himself unable to keep a dog because training one is too similar to training other things.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Eduard is saying this to Ivan for the first eighty percent of the story.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Oddly averted; the author goes to great lengths to give a fairly plausible explanation for development of hormonal imbalances which give the Vitim their Time.
  • Auction of Evil: The climax takes place at one, the Decennial.
  • Badass Boast: A few of them. Unsinkable gives an absolutely epic one to Mathieu:
    Unsinkable: I'm going to get the hell out of here, and you're going to find me an exit. Once I'm out, you can blab to Francis all you like, if he doesn't mind you talking with your mouth full of cock. Now march, bondsman.
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  • Bad Dreams: Tim is prone to these, which Danmark happily helps with. It would seem that Toris has these as well, according to Feliks.
  • Because I'm Good at It: This is one reason Eduard wants Ivan to keep him as a bondsman instead of setting him free; he's spent most of his life becoming good at this specifically. Luckily, he does find another hobby.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: A weird variation; though the bondspeople are, well, actually people, Francis's friends treat his feelings for Mathieu as depraved - because, in their eyes, Mathieu is an animal.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Commander Zielska kills herself presumably for this reason.
  • Betty and Veronica: In a (mostly) non-romantic example, Ivan is the Betty and Toris is the Veronica to Eduard.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Though she's certainly an Aloof Big Sister, Katya will not hesitate to do what must be done for Ivan or Natalya's sake.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Feliciano seems awfully sweet, and he is, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end, almost everyone got what they wanted - that is to say, Ivan freed Eduard, the Capt. and Unsinkable returned Alfred home, and the Five-Man Band reunited Willem and Margot. Unfortunately, Avo Romae was still in business with his grandsons still under his thumb, Alfred grew up to be introverted and disillusioned, the revolutionaries failed miserably and the ineffective regime of power in The Empire went on, Willem and Margot never overcame their traumas, and Mathieu continued to be confused and uncertain about his life. But at least Kiku and Natalya wound up together.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Vitim (such as Ivan) have their Time, where they must lose their virginity around a particular age to avoid fatal physical and cognitive damage.
  • Blind Obedience: Expected of the bondspeople. Mathieu, Eduard, Ludwig, and Katya's bondsgirl all start out this way. Later, Mathieu and Eduard start to break away.
  • Brick Joke:
    • When Raivis is trying to file away a new identity for his duties as The Mole, Island thinks this:
      Island: A handservant, big dreams, there... Then again, a handservant would be easier to impersonate.
    • And several dozen chapters later:
      Raivis: Oh, for - handservant? What, I couldn't be something fun like political aide?
      Toris: Handservant would be easier to impersonate.
  • Buddy Cops: Adnan and Karpusi
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Raivis, much to Toris's dismay. This is how Eduard gets involved with La Résistance.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Captain Kirkland and the Unsinkable, which is certainly not good for their relationship.
  • The Caligula: Ivan has elements of this toward the Union Empire.
  • Central Theme: Seems to be that no one, even when not a literal slave, is entirely free.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Katya and Ivan's contribution to the aforementioned Central Theme; both are prisoners to their own leadership.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Desmond's murder at the beginning of the story gets Kirkland put up for execution.
  • The Chessmaster: Island, with elements of this for the Five-Man Band as a whole.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Eduard, albeit unintentionally and more at the fault of the two sides he's caught between.
    • Subverted by Captain Kirkland, who is known to be selfish and often considers betraying his friends, but never actually does.
  • *Click* Hello: Toris greets Eduard with one of these.
    • There's a rather amusing web of these at Francis's emporium on Hallar at one point, with Francis pointing a gun at Captain Kirkland, only for Unsinkable to appear with his gun pointed at Mathieu.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Many of the bondspeople. After all, Eduard's reaction to Ivan's Time is pretty... chill.
  • Corporal Punishment: Many of the bondspeople are subject to this. Singled out in particular with Mathieu, who takes a lot of this from Francis, but forgives it.
  • Crapsack World: Obviously. In Unsinkable's words:
    The system and the worlds that occupied it were shit, they were made shit and when the sun died out they'd still be shit, and there was no hidden meaning or underlying message except that people were selfish pigs no matter where you went.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many of the characters, especially Adnan and Karpusi, Captain Kirkland, Eduard, and, surprisingly enough, Mathieu - to anyone but Francis.
  • Death by Origin Story: Ivan and Katya's parents and aunt, as well as Toris's father, sister, and grandmother.
  • Decoy Protagonist: A few. At first, it seems Alfred will be the protagonist of his thread, but that role belongs to Captain Kirkland and Unsinkable. Similarly, it looks like Ivan is going to be the hero of his thread, but it actually winds up being Eduard.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ivan starts out as this.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: A well-loved tactic in this story. Kirkland does this to get into Romae's emporium, and Raivis does it to get into the Duma, among other examples.
  • Disguised in Drag: Feliks, as part of La Résistance.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Ivan, particularly on his Time.
  • Domestic Abuse: All the owners to their bondsmen to some degree. Particularly highlighted by the Francis-and-Mathieu thread, where Mathieu develops a sort of Stockholm Syndrome toward his master, as well as describing Francis's constant use of his services and less-than-humane punishments (i.e. shock collars).
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Eduard to Ivan.
  • Door Stopper: The tale is three or four times the length of the average novel.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Ivan.
  • The Dragon: Unsinkable is this to Captain Kirkland, Toris to Commander Zielska, Feliks to Toris, Mathieu to Francis, and Eduard to Ivan (usually).
  • The Empire: The Union Empire.
  • Enemy Mine: The Five-Man Band and the Great Delivery spend some time as this.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everyone seems to notice that Captain Kirkland has something for Alfred except for... Captain Kirkland.
  • Everyone Is Bi
  • Evil Old Folks: Avo Romae is a grandfather that sells people for a living. The elderly Commander Zielska also counts.
  • Extreme Doormat: Mathieu, at least for most of the story. He gets feistier after meeting Lovino.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Union Empire seems to be a counterpart to the Soviet Union.
  • Fish out of Water: Eduard and Alfred in their respective lodgings for the story.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty, though it's quite subtle. For example, this conversation:
Unsinkable: Never underestimate the power of underestimation! If there’s one thing I learnt on the streets, it’s that nobody ever suspects the simpleton.
Capt. Kirkland: Wish I'd figured that out before all of this. People quite like hanging a mastermind.
  • Another specific example, though a less subtle one - the auctioneer pointing out how remarkably similar Alfred and Mathieu look. They were identical twins Separated at Birth when Mathieu was sold into slavery. This becomes a plot point when the other characters mix them up... and Francis winds up with Alfred while Feliciano and Lovino wind up with Mathieu.

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