Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Chapter: 2/5 - 1934
Characters/Pairing: Japan/OC!Ethiopia, Italy. France, England, America, Romania, OC!Mexico.
Word Count: 1810 (for this chapter)
Summary: "You and I could be good for each other." In which Japan forms a connection with a fellow nation... but it doesn't matter in the end. Based on the Sugimura Affair.
Warning: Imperialism, racism, reference to war atrocities.
Notes: Historical notes shall be at the bottom.
"Have you heard that we are planning on marrying?"
It startles him enough that he chokes on his tea. Attempting to recover his dignity, he gives a small "Pardon?"
She laughs. "Well, apparently a prince of mine is going to marry one of your nobles. Something like that."
Oh. "Oh yes, I have heard of that." He tries to downplay his embarrassment, which she seems to allow. "Your way of phrasing surprised me a little."
"I'm sorry," she says, "it's just that people have been so melodramatic about it – I may as well play along."
"Hmm?" Have I been melodramatic about it? Because he does know how excited his people have been, this newfound fondness for Ethiopia they embrace, and he hopes he has not made himself ridiculous in her eyes. But really, he thinks he is being paranoid.
"You'll see," but her smile falters for a moment. It worries him. "But I wouldn't mind, you know. If we were to marry."
"O-oh?" Now he is definitely embarrassed, and unsure what she means. He has never prided himself on his skill at the personal side of politics.
"Well, we are friends and we are pledged to help one another. You're investments in my country... You are helping me into the modern age. I could do worse."
There, she phrases it in terms he finds easier to deal with. "Indeed. And you are... A union of coloured peoples is beneficial to both of us, to defend us from foreign aggression."
"We have to stick together, right?" He nods. "Though we might not want to say that too loudly."
He cocks his head to the side.
She really hates Eritrea.
All things considered, she's being unfair, but the feeling surges throughout her anyway. Traitor. Eritrea would fight her, would fight her for him; for the man – boy, he is nothing but a boy – who wishes to enslave her, who has enslaved Eritrea herself and believes he has the right to any piece of Africa he wishes.
(Put like that he does sound like his grandfather, but his grandfather has been dead for over a thousand years and hence it's different.)
Eritrea is just another one of these modern nations, no solidarity; just this modern lack of honour that makes her sick.
What she hates the most about Eritrea, however, is where she is. Right over the border, letting him linger there; letting little Italy wait, resent, prepare to take what he couldn't initially. It frightens her. If he was still in his little peninsula where he belongs, it would be easier. She could breathe quietly. But no.
She acknowledges this isn't really Eritrea's fault, being a colony. She doesn't think that would stop her if she got her hands on the girl. Sometimes, she frightens herself.
"Hey, hey! Japan! Hey Japan! Japan!"
Italy is so loud, and has little respect for people's boundaries; he is deeply annoying. Japan awards him the appropriate courtesy anyway. "Greetings, Italy-san. Whatever is the matter?"
"Ve? Ooh, hi!" Italy's extreme amount of energy makes him nervous. "I just, ha, I wanted to talk to you."
About what? he thinks, but it would be impolite to say it aloud. "I see," he says calmly, waiting for Italy to begin the conversation properly.
Italy seems awkward, as if he's not sure what to say first. "...So, you've been doing lots of stuff with Ethiopia lately."
Japan swallows. This does not surprise him, not in the least, and he was sure he would have to defend her verbally eventually. So why is it frightening? "Indeed, I have... Forgive my impoliteness, but I fail to see how it concerns you."
Italy smiles. "Ah, it's nothing really... Just, you know. She's right there, beneath my bit of Somaliland. It's kinda scary! That, you know, you're becoming really important to her."
Japan blinks. "I did not know I frightened you." But of course I frighten you; I'm the Yellow Peril, remember? And I aid and abet the woman dared to defy the fact Europeans are innately superior.
Italy pouts at him. "Don't be mean; I'm not scared of you! Well, any more than I'm scared of everything, heh." Japan waits to find out what exactly his point is anyway. "I just don't like the thought of her forming such a strong alliance. But it doesn't matter! I mean, you two are too far away from each other to really do anything right?"
...He has a point there.
She is beginning to be confused as to what Japan's ambitions actually are for her. He speaks so much – he wants his people to live here, he wants to invest in her, he wants them to unite against the whites. No-one ever told her how much he could talk. But so little has happened that she worries about his honesty – a grand total of twenty-six Japanese people have come to her country. Truly an awe-inspiring figure.
But he does seem excited about the marriage. It rather surprises her; she acknowledged it, and moved on. He – despite his reluctance to show it openly – has a sensation within him, amongst his people, about it. She sees no problem with that – but it is not exactly what she needs right now.
It is not as if the two have actually married.
They have angered people like this and she knows it, and she's not sure how much that matters to him. Italy is furious about someone interfering in her affairs – someone other than him, of course. Italy wants so badly to take her over, and despite what Japan says about their unity she is beginning to think he could. And she doesn't see how Japan would stop him.
"So, uh – is it true you and Ethiopia are like, gonna get hitched?"
Japan is barely used to not balking at America's bluntness. He supposes it is only the boy's nature, but it is still difficult to deal with. "I – pardon? No, no it is not," he says before realising a more full explanation may be in order. "I mean... a prince of hers wishes to marry a noble lady of mine. It is not endorsed by government, nor is it of any political significance. My apologies, America-san, if you were in anyway misled."
"Huh." America dwells on these facts for a moment, and Japan averts his gaze. He feels as if he has been dishonest, but isn't that the truth? The marriage will not truly matter. The man is in fact not even a prince so much as a lord, and nothing to do with the throne. And given all the criticism they have faced for it, it's unlikely the marriage will even go ahead at this point.
America breaks into a grin. "Okay, cool man! Just, y'know, Italy's been going on and on about it. It's kinda scary, y'know? But then again it's only Italy. But he's just being all paranoid and thinking of you as a threat, and you know how 'rargh must make part of empire' he is about her."
That all sounds so unlike Italy, he thinks, but then again how Italy acts and what he does have always been very different. "Indeed," he says. "Well, Italy is still to some extent a friendly state. I do not wish to isolate him; I am no threat."
Japan takes her to walk in a garden in Kyoto, surrounded by the cherry blossoms. It is beautiful. She knows how he feels about this city, token of his life before modernisation. She supposes she understands that. Things always seem easier, simply long ago; though they rarely ever were.
It's calm, peaceful, serene, and he looks as if he wants to hold her hand. He would always be too shy to do so, however, and perhaps she is as well. She doesn't want to frighten him. Nonetheless they walk contentedly side by side, as he points out different native plants of his and she quietly complains about the cold.
"Hi Japan! I was wondering if you would be here, heh. Your garden is really pretty!"
What is he doing here? is her first thought, and she gives Japan an alarmed look. He doesn't respond. He turns around and greets Italy with a small smile. "Hello, Italy-san. Thank you."
"You're welcome! Hey, are you doing anything?" Italy is determined to ignore her, and she lets this infuriate her more than it should. She still exists, she's still alive.
"We were just going for a walk," she snaps, and he blinks at her as if he hadn't noticed she was there. "Why are you here?"
He pouts. "I was walking too?" Japan places a hand on her shoulder, calm down. She brushes it off, because frankly why should she?
Italy blinks at her a few more times. "Ve... was I interrupting something?" He sounds as chirpy and innocent as ever, but she hears the undertones and becomes frightened again. "Why is she allowed to walk here and not me?"
The question's meant for Japan, but she feels the need to interrupt. "It's different. He and I are–"
What are we, really? Friends is what she meant to say. Friends. But she's not sure whether or not that applies to Italy as well.
In the middle of her silence, Japan finally steps in. "My apologies. Ethiopia-san is having a bad week, do not blame her for her behaviour." Italy smiles and nods, while Ethiopia wonders why he thinks she cannot speak for herself. What is he doing?
"Ve, that's okay. Hey, can I walk with you two?" No! Ethiopia doesn't want him walking with her, she doesn't want him anywhere near her, but Japan seems utterly unaffected.
"Of course you may."
She wants to scream. "Ah, I'm sorry Japan," she says, distancing herself from his side. "But I have official business to conduct whilst I'm here; I really ought to get back. I will see you later, yes? And sorry I couldn't stay for longer, Italy. And for my rudeness. It was nice to see you."
He seems confused by her sudden courtesy, which is comforting. "Yeah, you too," he says. "Say hi to Eritrea for me? I haven't been able to get there for awhile."
She resists the urge to roll her eyes. "Goodbye, Ethiopia-san," Japan says quietly. She smiles and nods before walking away.
When she reaches the entrance of the park, she turns her head for a moment, and realises Japan is still staring at her.
Historical Notes: In 1934, an Ethiopian "Prince" (more accurately a lord, with no connection to the royal family) professed a desire to marry a noble Japanese lady. This caused a sensation in Japan, while alarming European powers - especially Italy - about the political implications, as well as Japan's commercial penetration of Ethiopia. During the first Italo-Abyssinian War, Ethiopian troops treated Italian captured soldiers relatively well, but committed atrocities against Eritrean troops, who were viewed as traitors. A commercial inspection of Ethiopia by Japan, while optimistic about commercial opportunities, found Japan was too far away from Ethiopia to influence imperialist ambitions there. A message sent to the US ambassador distanced itself from Ethiopia.