Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Chapter: 3/5 - 1935
Characters/Pairing: Japan/OC!Ethiopia, Italy. France, England, America, Romania, OC!Mexico.
Word Count: 3045 (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.
England and France appear to be speaking for the League. Fitting, she supposes.
Italy keeps playing with his fingers and it bothers her. "Stop fidgeting," she snaps, which startles him.
"Ve, why do you care?"
A fair point. Perhaps she would like to feel like he's paying attention.
It's no matter now, however, because England and France have come back in, both looking heavy in soul and shoulder. "Well?" she asks, impatient and anxious. "Has the League reached a decision?"
She knows she was in the right – the Wal Wal fort is beyond the limit of their boundary; he's not supposed to be their. England, he was there with her and protested – but he had to withdraw, of course, it would cause an 'incident'. Europeans.
"Have you arbitrated like she said?"
There's a moment where England and France look at each other, weary and tired and exasperated, like old men. It's funny, because she thinks she is older than both of them. Maybe. She doesn't know how old they are.
"We have... found neither of you are at fault."
She's not sure how to respond for second.
"But she shot at me!"
She responds quickly. "He attacked me with tanks and planes!"
France motions them to shush before it becomes a row. "Please, please; let us not do this." He tries to smile, but it's fake. Everything about them is oh so fake. "You two did agree not to fight? You are common league members, oui, so let us forget this troublesome business. You both merely believed the land was within your borders; such things can be settled."
Can they? she wonders. If she can take any comfort from this, it's that Italy does not seem happy with the result either – he's pouting. "She was meant to pay me. And apologise."
"What would I apologise to you for, cretin?"
France steps in again before another fight breaks out. "Stop, stop, please!" He sighs, and she suddenly feels a surge of rage at being treated like a quarrelling child. Who is this man, with his blond hair and sapphire eyes, to decide he knows what she should do? Yes, she was the one who appealed for arbitration. That logical argument fades away in the face of anger. She wants things to be put right, and if the League cannot do that she will do it herself.
But no. She is not strong, not advanced enough for that.
(Not modern enough.)
Italy sighs, and takes up his trademark grin. "Eh, that's okay then! See you later, big brother France, England! Ciao!"
He goes bounding out the door as if none of what happened meant anything for him – perhaps it didn't. England peers at her curiously, as if wondering whether she'll adopt a similar tactic.
She stands up, straightens her spine. "I hope you know your League is useless," she says.
England looks to France. France makes eye contact with him for a second, before turning back to Ethiopia, smirking. "I do my best, madame." But beyond that, behind the sardonic wit and carelessness, there is something – pained–
She won't feel sorry for them if they feel forced to abandon her.
She storms out.
Manchukuo has become his land, an industrial powerhouse and useful strategically. It is not recognised, not exactly – Russia almost has, but not in such words; plus two small nations half the world away he's ashamed to say he does not know more about – but it has become necessary to acknowledge it. Even China, angry and sullen as he is, must acknowledge Manchukuo – begrudgingly, but he has no choice.
It pains him somewhat, to think of China. There was once a time he looked up to him more than any man in the world. But he has become weak, and manipulated, and dominated – the great empire is no longer even an empire; a fractured country split in half by communists and nationalists, and the ever-watching eye of those foreign colonialists. No. Japan would never be China. Japan would give anything not to be China.
(He would give China, not to be China.)
It is good he's developed this base in mainland Asia. It will help him later.
The League did not acknowledge Manchukuo – eventually. He resigned over that, simply left. The League has always been useless. Still, he feels as if he is becoming isolated.
Italy hasn't left Walwal. It infuriates her, enrages her, it – it frightens her. God, she is so sick of being frightened.
She still turns to the League. "He is building up troops," she says. "In Eritrea, and his part of Somaliland... He is mobilising. On my border. Please, you must do something!"
She is not one for begging in front of large groups of people. It took awhile to even have Italy agree to arbitration – again. She reeks of desperation, but she finds herself with nothing else she can do. She is unmodernised, underprepared; she cannot fight a war...
And she has no allies.
There are whispers and murmurs that she can't quite interpret. It seems as though they feel bad for her, though with a certain colonial reluctance – what is she but another African state to be conquered and crushed? One girl seems to be fuming for her, though Ethiopia gets the impression that might just be her usual personality.
England and France, as ever, are whispering to one another with frowns upon their faces. She knows why the act the way they do – they need Italy, because they fear Germany; they fear living their Great War over again. They will sell her out to save their own skins. France has signed his own treaty – he gives Italy a free hand with her in the hope Italy will do something to protect him from Germany. None of this surprises her. The whole world is in the grip of fear – except Italy, who might just be too stupid to be afraid.
"Um, Ethiopia? Arbitrating kind of... takes awhile." She glares down at Italy, who's adopted his innocent look, which does not please her. "Maybe we should go somewhere else?"
She tries so hard to remain calm at these things. "Very well," she says. "Just think."
Korea despises him. It is only to be expected – the South is emotional and the North is proud, two things that do not combine well. But it's not his fault. They were backwards and unadvanced and... He wishes to help them, really. They are better of as part of him. They are entering the modern era.
(There has been violence, and war, and the cries of children and strange experiments and burning churches with people in them – but it is best not to dwell on such things.)
If he is to be completely honest, he needs Korea. He needs the land. He needs somewhere else, somewhere to own and control, to use to his own benefit. He needs to be capable of that. Only then can he deal with the Western powers on their own terms, to fight them out of Asia – and is that not what his brothers want? Yes, he is fighting for them. The means may not be pleasant, but he cannot forget that.
It is a facet of the modern era.
They've been told to discuss matters with one another, to find a route to peace. She finds herself unable to bother. She knows he wants nothing more than to declare war on her – why should she bother playing these games? She needs someone outside to intervene, which never happens.
Instead, she tries to take a nap in her conference chair. She's been stressed so much lately, laying awake at night; perhaps if she's directly confronted by it, she can actually sleep – without the fear of the unknown.
"Uh, Ethiopia? ...Are you okay?"
She peers open one eye. "What do you want?" she asks. "You've proven you won't stop in your plans to conquer me. You may as well let me sleep first."
"No, seriously," he says, pouting again. "Can I get you a glass of water or something? You look... sick."
She has to laugh. "Italy – you are obviously planning on invading me, building up troops within my borders, we both know how unprepared I am – and you wonder that I seem unwell?"
He rolls his eyes. "You make everything so country-like," he says, which makes no sense to her whatsoever. "I'm trying to be nice! Get a glass of water for the lady who's having a bad time. I mean, this whole thing – it's not personal. It just... uh... happens?"
Now she's very confused. "...What do you want?" she asks. "I don't understand you! How can you think you have some right to me, how can you think – I am old, Italy, older than you can imagine. I knew your grandfather, do you realise? He gave me my religion. And you are nothing like him, if that's your intention. I don't know what you think but I am not something to just be added to your empire; I am better than that–"
"Ve, are you?" ...What kind of question is that? "I mean, you said. You're old. Old and backwards and... basically useless, right? So why shouldn't I absorb you? I mean, eventually – it has to be your time, right?"
They stare at one another across the table, and she realises how foreign this is to her. The seats, the clothes, the desperate attempt to manipulate her way out of war – it's not something she's done before, in her millenia of existence. So? Is he right?
No. Because these things are foreign to all, diplomacy and compromise and – they are things that must be done, and she is not beyond the modern era any more than anyone else. When she closes her eyes, she feels the hot wind and stands on the plains. But she's sure when Italy closes he eyes, he's on his beaches in the south or the Alps in the north as well.
"Not yet," she says. "Though nice try. But I will not die that easily, I'm sorry."
"...Oh." He sounds so disappointed.
It's all a matter of politics, in the end. He understands and accepts that.
Now if only it didn't make him feel slightly ill.
Italy is shifting from foot to foot, impatient. It makes Japan dizzy, does not help his nausea – he wishes he wasn't here. He isn't sure why this bothers him so. He knows what he must do.
"So," Italy pulls a face, fiddles with his fingers. "We're talking about Ethiopia, right? Because... you two are friends or something, and, uh... Ve, I'm really bad at saying stuff like this."
"You do not wish me to interfere?" Italy grins and nods wildly at that. Japan sighs, and closes his eyes for a moment.
Why did he wish to be close with her to begin with? An alliance against foreign powers, against those that would conquer and suppress them. Against Europeans. No matter that conquer and suppress is what he must do now in any case. He supposes, he saw in her a part of himself he had to leave behind – something untouched and ancient, a relic of other times. Less fearful times. He said he would help her progress, but if he did so, what would be the point of her? It is too late now in any case. Some part of him wants to believe she can win – the part of him that believes in honour and bravery more than technology and ruthlessness. The people despise what he is doing now. They care for her – for it, for Ethiopia, and all he feels is what they do. It is humanity. His humanity that feels for this woman, but he supposes that has no place in politics.
"Japan? Japan, don't be sad!" Italy snaps him out of his reverie. "It's just Ethiopia, right? You guys – you didn't have an actual treaty, or many people moving, or anything." He pauses. "I mean, you've done way worse to people you like. Your family and all? Aren't they going to hate you after all this?"
He is right. What is the difference between him and Italy, honestly? They are both invading and occupying convenient lands for the sake of prestige and development. Japan likes to feel he has been driven to it, that he has no choice, that it is conquer or be conquered, but does not the same apply for every nation? He has no right to condemn Italy for what he does, and Ethiopia is so far away and so irrelevant to him – at heart, it is none of his business.
His people are furious, of course. They care for the African empire, and hence he cares for her; he embodies their anger. But, he supposes, since when have the people decided what must be done? Circumstance is his dictator, and he is cruel and arbitrary.
"I mean, there was your prince and princess you were gonna get married, but..."
That snaps Japan out of it. "It was not a prince and princess. The Ethiopian man's title translates to Lord in English; he was referred to as prince only in my nation. And he wished to marry a noble Japanese lady, not necessarily a princess. It was of no political importance and the idea has long since fallen through, so I do not know why you would raise the issue."
And there it is. He has wiped his hands of her completely.
He sighs. "You are right. I have no interest in Ethiopia, and a great deal of admiration for your institutions, Italy-san." Italy smiles at that. We do what we must for politics. "This conflict is nothing to do with me. You need not fear my interference."
"Hooray!" He wishes Italy wasn't so excitable; it really is making him nauseous. "So. Friends?"
Italy outstretches a hand. Japan thinks about Ethiopia; about her smile when she asked him about the marriage, about how she let the ocean spit upon her, about how charmed she was by the cherry blossoms.
He takes Italy's hand, which doesn't look much like his; slightly larger, but with shorter fingers. "Friends."
She is alone. The League has done nothing. She has no allies to call on. Japan – Japan has abandoned her, as has the world. But she is still brave, and still noble; still an ancient empire that has fought such threats longer than this one has been alive. She defeated him once and she can do so again. At the very least, she must try.
So, alone and terrified, she prepares to fight.
He isn't expecting to see her again. Surely, she has better things to do; she must be waiting for the war. So to see her upon his doorstep... It is a shock, to say the least. Still, he is nothing if not courteous, and gives her entry. They stand far apart from one another now, cold.
"Italy's almost ready," she says, before he can make formalities. "I can sense it. He'll invade before the end of the year."
He swallows hard. "...I'm sorry," he says. Is there anything I can do? he thinks, but he doesn't want to mock her.
She buries her face in her hands, looking like she barely has energy to stand upright. He should offer her a chair, but he gets the impression it would take longer to get one than she will actually be here for.
"I don't know what I'm doing here," she admits. "Perhaps I just wanted to see you again."
"...Oh." Against his better reasoning, he blushes, as if this is still the time when such behaviour is appropriate. "Well, I am here."
She rolls her eyes at his stupidity. He is so very uncomfortable. "I know you won't help me," she says, which makes him cringe. "You probably couldn't if you tried. Too far away, and too concerned with your own interests. I don't know why you suddenly attached yourself to me. It did neither of us any good in the end."
"I'm so sorry." It's all he can say now, and he remembers when they met on the beach; you and I could be good for one another. But they weren't. He knows very well that he let her down.
"I know," she smiles a little. They are both ancient, but he's always somehow gotten the impression she's older than him; that she knows things he does not. Perhaps they're both old, but she has aged. Aged, and edging slowly towards death. Stop it, he tells himself. Morbidity will get him nowhere.
"...Is there anything I can do?" It's a desperate question, a pathetic one, one that will most likely be taken wrongly, but he doesn't mind debasing himself. He wants to show her something, that he still cares, that the things that are happening – they hurt him, it aches.
She laughs, then falls silent as if she just thought of something. "Say it," she says. He's confused. "You only promised neutrality, right? Everyone knows anyway. Say you support me. Go on."
He does. He wants her to win, he wants her to escape, he wants her to survive. He wants all of it. But the reality of the situation hits him: of politics and alliances, of negotiation of diplomacy. To even say such a thing would invoke anger. And he has chosen against that.
Her hand is outstretched, just like Italy's. He shakes his head and backs away. "I can't."
She blinks. Her hand drops, and she accepts it with a sigh. "I expected as much," she says. "Goodbye Japan. Goodbye, and good luck."
She bows before she leaves – he doesn't know why. She walks out into the garden, and everything's as if she was never there at all.