Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Chapter: 4/5 - 1936
Characters/Pairing: Japan/OC!Ethiopia, Italy. France, England, America, Romania, OC!Mexico.
Word Count: 2017 (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
She finds herself in front of the League again. It shouldn't surprise anyone – the League has been where she's turned throughout, though it's done nothing for her. They imposed sanctions when Italy invaded. But she is defeated, and her emperor has fled; she isn't sure what she's speaking here for. She doesn't want this invasion – is oppression, this violation – to be recognised, but if Italy's forced her to surrender she does not know what the rest of the world can do.
Her Emperor has fled. They have not given up, are still managing these issues, but her empire is lost. For now. And she does what she must.
"The Empire of Ethiopia."
A man she thinks she vaguely knows, but can't recall properly introduces her. He seems to have fangs, which should make him memorable, but nevermind. There are frenzied murmurs and France and England leaning to one another – them and their conspiracies. She knows that they're stunned by her still being here, now she's been subdued – shouldn't she be back home, waiting to be taken control over?
Beneath it all, though, she hears – giggling. As most nations settle down, it only becomes more obvious. The two Italies, collapsing into one another's arms and laughing.
She balls her fists.
"What Empire?" snorts Italy Romano, and his brother cackles wildly. No-one else responds. The boy who introduced her stares gobsmacked.
"...Do you mind?" he says, taking her arm, and the Italies – do not look ashamed, exactly, but she sense enough to shut up. The young man sighs and leads her to the podium, and she smiles at him for being so courteous.
Then, all eyes are on her. "Good evening, fellow nations," she begins, only to see Veneziano whisper something to his brother she can't hear.
She swallows and carries on.
"I'm sure you are all aware of my current circumstances. The conflict between–" She's cut off by Veneziano breaking into loud laughter, echoing in the room. "...I'm sorry, do I amuse you?"
"Pretty much!" shouts Romano, to a frenzied "Shh!" from his brother. They're still giggling though, like they cannot stop. They're drunk. If their behaviour did not tell her this, the wine stains down Italy Veneziano's shirt would. They must have been celebrating their victory – that is what one does after a victory. Yet she despises them as much for their joy at having conquered her as for their simply having done it.
"...As I was saying," she continues, but only gets that far.
"What's that? Speak up!"
"Per favore, could you try saying it in Italian?" At this mock courtesy, the break up giggling again. She stomach revolts. I can't do this.
"Por Dios, what is wrong with you two?!" says the young woman from before, leaning over the desk to grab Romano's collar. He appears fearful, for a moment.
"Ve, sorry," says Veneziano. "Such a pretty woman as you shouldn't be so angry." The woman rolls her eyes while Romano mutters something about temperamental bitch. Ethiopia's a little confused, as well as realising how few of the people here she actually knows.
Once quiet is regained, she starts speaking again. "The conflict between myself and Italy has been going on for over a year now, and I have appealed to the League throughout; you are all familiar with it. I speak to you today asking for the justice–"
"She says it so funnily!" They're shrieking into each others shoulders again and her blood boils, she spits, she hisses–
"Get out!" The man with the fangs rages with her, storms over, grabs them both. "Go! To the door with the savages!"
It's all a flurry of movement before the Italies are thrown out and the door slammed behind them. The young man (god she wishes she were better with names) exhales deeply, and the nations are all stunned into silence. He turns back around, and gives her a small smile.
"I'm sorry for that. You may continue."
She too is stunned, until she decides to simply step back up to the podium and continue her speech.
"Thank you. As I was saying, I ask for the justice that was promised to my nation many months ago on the outbreak of this war, as well as that which was promised by the League and the concept of collective security. The sufferings of my people have been vast in this invasion, including suffering due to the use of gas weaponry, which all nations made most solemn promises should never be used against fellow human beings. I pray to the Lord almighty to spare such sufferings from other nations. Now, for the last twenty years I have struggled to achieve modernisation – I even concluded a treaty of friendship with Italy, which prohibited the use of force against one another. I've come a long way since I joined this League in 1923, and I hope you all recognise that."
Her fellow nations give one another uncomfortable looks – perhaps they know about her enough to judge, perhaps they don't. Given her problems with names she can't say she blames them. "But Italy has never made efforts for honest diplomacy with me. Their treaties have not been genuine, and they have been preparing for this conquest for years. The Wal-Wal incident – something that by any reasonable standard was not my fault, but certain nations saw Italy as a crucial ally and allowed that to sway their decision."
England and France have the decency to look ashamed at that. She doesn't expect it will change their reaction one way or another, but it is good to know. "Before the war, I believed in the League to save me. No matter the inferiority of our resources, the fifty most powerful nations on Earth could deal with one aggressor. I did not make preparation for war due to this faith, and I am certain that is the case for other small countries." I am not small! shouts her mind, but she realises that objectively, she is.
"When war came closer, I realised my mistake and tried to acquire necessary supplies. But many nations dedicated themselves to stopping me! I have never asked for any other nation to give it's children's blood to defend me, only asked for the means so I may defend myself. The nations who have interest in Italy have turned against punishing him – abandoning me to my aggressor. The League required itself to come to the aid of the victim of aggression in such a situation; is this covenant being respected?"
She breathes in deeply. She's allowing her anger to run away with her. "But this is a greater problem than simply me, and my struggle against Italian aggression." That gets all of their attention. "When I, and other nations entered this League, we placed our faith in the principle of Collective Security to protect us. If that principle is abandoned, for it defies the interests of the nations with strength and resources to impose it – it is not merely myself being left to my fate, but all weak peoples under threat from strong foreign threats. It is not a matter of nations being unable to stop Italy, but being unwilling to. Will the League really sacrifice morality, make a precedent of bowing before force? Some have argued that the Covenants that need reform, but it is not the Covenants so much as the willingness to obey them. I request the Assembly to take measures to ensure respect for the covenant, I protest the violations of treaties which have left me in this position, I declare that my nation shall not bow before force..."
She sighs, closes her eyes. Her speech is almost over now. "And I ask: what will you do for me? For any small country, relying on you – on all of you – for protection? What would the Great Powers do to save one irrelevant nation?"
They're all staring at her – with fear, sadness, resignation. She gulps. "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow," she says. "So what do you say to my people?"
It becomes a matter of exchange. Two nations recognise each other's victories, and hence give themselves that smooth working relationship. Japan could do with allies after all, and if Britain and France were so desperate to obtain Italy's help there must be some reason for it.
"I'll protect your interests and everything," Italy chirps. "I mean, you did put all this effort into her. The marriage and everything. Ve! It's kinda cute."
Italy doesn't trust him. That's fine. Japan does not trust him either. "Indeed. Well, I suppose that is that, Italy-san."
"Yeah!" Italy is grinning, then frowns. "Wait, how do we do this?"
Japan blinks. "We simply state we recognise the other's... region of interest. Have you not done this before?"
"Of course I have! I just forgot, that's all!" He seems genuinely offended for a moment, but then carries on like nothing happened. "Well I, the Kingdom of Italy – no, the Italian Empire – hereby recognise Manchu State. Your turn, Japan."
Japan takes a deep breath. "And I hereby recognise the Italian Empire... and Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia."
There. It is done. "Yay!" says Italy and Japan steps back in case the man tries to hug him or something like that. "Ve, so I guess she's mine now! Ha! My king is her emperor. Long live the Emperor of Ethiopia!"
It's somewhat uncomfortable, lingering about after the meeting is finished. But whereas can she go? Not back home. Not yet, in any case.
"Hey. You." She's surprised to here a voice coming from above her, and looks up. It is the young woman from before. "Are you okay?"
Ethiopia only sighs and the woman walks around, takes a seat at her table. They don't say anything for a few moments. "This is awful," the girl eventually blurts out, "just awful. How dare he do this to you, to anyone? And of course, no-one's gonna stop him because they're too fucking scared of Germany, so they're just going to abandon you and it's not–"
"Excuse me," Ethiopia says. "I don't mean to be rude but: who are you?"
"...Mexico," says the girl. "I was getting that indication in there, actually. You're not great with names, are you?"
Hmph! thinks Ethiopia indignantly. "Well for several thousand years I did not know most of these people; they were completely outside my sphere, so forgive me for not having quite adjusted to the new status quo yet."
"Yeah, true," says Mexico. "I guess I'm younger than you; new world, so I was raised with an advantage there."
Ethiopia cocks her head to the side. "If you don't mind me asking – how old are you?"
Mexico sighs. "Well... There's unspeakably ancient cultures within my boundaries, and I am descendant of them. But that's the same for everyone, I suppose. I myself only date back to when Spain showed up, and all the wacky funtimes that ensued. So I suppose I'm around five hundred?"
Ethiopia has to laugh. "Why, you're a child!" And she watches as the girl blushes.
"Shut up! It's not my fault."
"True, true." And suddenly, she is melancholy again. "But... there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. In fact, I don't think us nations should be as proud of age as we are. For what happens to old men and women? They become cynical, hopeless. No. It is not the wisdom of our elders we rely on..." And her thoughts flash back, to a man as old as her who she trusted to help her, who was going to bring her into the modern age. She closes her eyes. "...It is the wisdom of our youth."
Historical Notes: Italy declared victory in Ethiopia in 1936, and Emperor Haile Selassie fled, delivering a speech directly to the united nations decrying the Italian aggression and use of gas weaponry, and the international community's lack of response. At the League of Nations meeting where he gave this speech, Italian journalists shouted insults at him and had to be expelled before order could be restored (the Romanian chairman famously said: "to the door with the savages!") Japan recognised the Italian Empire including Ethiopia in exchange for Italian recognition of Manchukuo, and Italy promised to protect Japanese interests in Ethiopia. The only nation to at no point ever recognise Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia, and to strongly condemn it from the beginning, was Mexico.