Half a Millennium
Okay, here's the deal: Japan/China is the main pairing. There are, however, plenty of background noises from the other characters, including: Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russia, England, the USA, Germany, Italy, Prussia, and Greece. A lot of other characters (Hungary, Austria, Vietnam, Belarus, Lithuania, France, etc.) make cameo appearances, and there are noticeable overtones of: Taiwan/Japan, Korea/China, China/Hong Kong, Russia/China, England/China, Hong Kong/Taiwan, Germany/China, England/USA, Russia/Japan, and Greece/Japan.
As for warnings: this fic deals with angst in spades. Yes, there is sex during a war, but mostly there is slaughter. While the depictions don't really fall under the classical definition of titillating, Truffaut's timeless quote - "there is no such thing as an anti-war movie" - is the first thing that comes to mind. I am not aiming to change opinions however, I am aiming to (re)tell a story. With that being said, I will warn of the particularly violent chapters in the author's note right before (e.g., if chapter 40 is rated 'M' then chapter 39 will include a warning in the A/N).
Thematically, this fic can be summed with: "That's not silly at all. That's not one particular culture or idea, that's the whole of humanity."
This is a slow-paced but quickly-written piece of work with slightly-interconnected stories of about two thousand words featured in chronological order. Fifty short segments of time; two nation-peoples; one world.
Anyways - I hope you enjoy.
Green is the first thing he opens his eyes to. He's in a forest (not that he knows that word yet) and he's alone save for the bugs and creatures that stand and stir nearby, looking curiously at this strange new thing that has suddenly appeared in their world.
Blearily, he blinks. But he's not lost because he has no idea what 'lost' is.
Nothing approaches the newly-formed nation for a long while; he doesn't understand why and he finds no reason for it to be different. Loneliness is not a foreign emotion; he's felt nothing else since the beginning. And it seems destined to stay that manner for the rest of time.
Then one day a furry bundle of black and white shuffles towards him, nibbling on his short hair. He yelps in alarm when he realizes that it is trying to lick off his ear.
"Aiya!" a voice cries from the depths of the forest. "Panda-aru, panda, where are you?" The silence is broken once more with a hysterical wail that makes the leaves shake and the other animals flee in terror. The monochromatic beast continues to sample his hair. The young boy stares ahead, feeling terribly bewildered when someone who looks like him steps out of the mass of foliage.
"Panda-aru!" the other person squeals - in easy delight - happily bounding over to grab the bunch of fur off his person. Although he is still young, some innate sense tells him that normal people do not find so much enjoyment in having their faces slobbered over.
"-you!" he catches the other person saying. The young boy blinks, uncertain of how to respond. It's of no matter, he quickly convinces himself; the other being will lose interest and leave (leave him alone) and so he stares blankly ahead.
In the blink of an eye, he sees himself reflected in pools of golden brown.
The other person has suddenly bent down, furred creature in-tow, and proceeds to quizzically stare at him. Realization dawns on the elder's face when he reaches forth a hand to stroke the child's face. The touch is light and friendly and the younger one finds himself leaning towards the warmth of the other's hand.
"You must be a new nation, aru," the taller person murmurs. And then his face lights up into an enthusiastic smile, "Since you're the first new nation I've seen in the forest, I guess I should try to take care of you!" the hand moves from his cheek to his head, giving a gentle pat; "What's your name, little one?"
Panic grips the boy's heart; he doesn't know what to say. His mind is already feeding him images of the other leaving him alone (for however long he was alone) and for the first time he realizes that this feeling is not the same as before - that this is not loneliness. A name; quick, quick, so he will not be abandoned. The panic rather obviously goes to his head and he finds himself blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
"Nihon!" he practically screams to the forest (and right in front of the other person as well). The Rising Sun. He thinks it embarrassing but hopes that the other one will not-
"Ah-hahaha!" light laughter dances through the trees, "What a great name! Come on, Nihon, aru! I'll take you to my home. I'm Zhong, by the way." He holds out a hand; newly-named child blinks; he takes this as confusion towards the wrong thing. "The Middle Kingdom?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "China?" The boy continues to stare. "Ah, no matter," he sighs, clutching onto the younger nation's fingers, "We're the same aru, so names shouldn't matter, right?"
And so, the two of them exit the forest (along with the black-and-white creature who is still furiously nibbling away), the boy with a new name and China with a protègé. China babbles about the weather and pandas and food and silk and how-much-he's-going-to-be-teaching while Nihon simply nods and listens. He realizes, once they reach the edge of the forest, the existence of a larger world - and he wants to make a tongue of his own.
But more than that, he enjoys the warm hand clasped abound his own.
It's better - much better - than being alone.
China is a patient teacher, but it definitely helps that Nihon is a quick learner and an intent listener.
"And this one means ri, which is sun, okay, aru?" The young boy nods immediately, copying the character down stroke-for-stroke. China claps enthusiastically, patting his student's head and exclaiming words of congratulations.
"Now you can spell your own name-aru, right?" And he looks expectantly at Nihon who realizes that yes, right now, he knows enough to write his chosen name. He nods, proceeding to write out the words for "sun" and "origin". He pauses, looks up and sees that China is writing something of his own.
His own name looks rather lonely on the sheet of paper.
Zhong Guo is the second thing China has taught him how to write, so he scrawls those two characters on the page and instantly it looks - better. Nihon smiles to himself, proud that the two names fit together so well.
China sets down his own piece of parchment, looking towards his protégè, "What else would you like to learn-aru? I have a lot to teach, if you would like! The Middle Kingdom has painting and poetry and dancing and walking!"
"Walking?" Nihon says with a skeptical look (causing China to laugh - "You look like an old man-aru!"), "What is there to learn about walking?"
"Oh there's a lot to learn about that!" China moves the brush and paper off his lap, moving to stand, "Would you like me to show you?"
And Nihon is ever-so-eager to impress (to awe, to astound, to make the elder never want to leave) that he shakes his head and replies, "I can walk! It's really easy!" And he stands up as well, taking one step, two steps, three steps; four.
Turning around, the younger boy sees his instructor failing to hide a smile behind his hand.
Golden eyes light up in kind amusement as China unrolls his sleeves and murmurs (with a chuckle), "Watch, aru,"
Nihon may be young and in need of resources (and companionship and knowledge and the rest of the world) but it hardly precludes him from recognizing beauty. His eyes widen and he feels his breath catch as China 'walks' toward him. His feet must be moving (or else he wouldn't be) but for the world, the younger child cannot see any movement save for the strands of hair that curl about and dance in the gentle wind.
All too soon it is over and China is at his side, smiling and chatting of "And that's how you walk, aru!" and asking "So! Do you want to learn?" Nihon nods, perpetually studious. He wants just a tenth of that grace, that elegance, that beauty. Then, maybe he'll feel like a good student (and maybe China will never want to leave).
"Okay-aru!" China claps his hands together, laughing in delight at his pupil's interest in the art he's been trying to cultivate for some time. A quick glance in the sky shows it to be early in the afternoon. "We'll start practicing after the afternoon tea. But first, I want to see how you wrote your name!"
They take four steps back (six for the student) to the left-behind inkbrush and parchment. China takes one look at the characters on Nihon's piece of paper before exclaiming: "That's just what I wrote-aru!"
He shows his student his own piece of parchment: faded-white save for the dried black words that take up the center.
Zhong Guo he Ri Ben.
China and Nihon.
A smile that makes his face hurt and heart soar finds itself on Nihon's face as he realizes that they had indeed written the same exact words.
brief history lesson(1) Although it's not entirely certain when China and Japan first had contact, we are certain that Giant Pandas (ailuropoda melanoleuca) had already evolved to their present-day forms by then. Along the same lines, the boiling of tea leaves was discovered in China around the same time of the earliest-known recordings of Sino-Japanese contact (c. 2000 BC). The invention of paper (in a recognizable form), however, is comparatively newer, dating back to c.100 AD.
notations - This part is mainly for readers who are reading this a second time. If this is your first time, I don't think you need to be bothered (and, in fact, it's really just pre-emptively answering questions). Anyways, hi! This is a rewrite of Half a Millennium. I was convinced to reread it a couple days ago (while in the middle of three simultaneous writer's blocks...) and while I still enjoyed bits and pieces, I felt that I could restructure it to be... well, less wince-worthy. So... there are three things I'll be concentrating on: (1) fixing typos and other general formatting errors, (2) smoothing out choppy passages, and (3) evening out the wordcount between chapters (mainly by making the first couple chapters longer and the last couple chapters shorter). I would like to have a brief history lesson at the end of each chapter, but we'll see how that goes. As for the plot... well, I'm quite happy with the original version so I won't be changing much of that. If you prefer the original version in its entirety, please feel free to download it as a .pdf on my FFN user profile.
With that being said, I'll be aiming to finish editing by 30 November 2012, so please take this time to uncheck me from your Author's Alerts (or uncheck this fic from your Story Alerts) unless you want your inbox spammed with 50 updates.
Thank you for your continued attention and support and I hope you're not terribly disappointed with this slightly revamped version.