For as long as he could remember, he had always woken up early, just in time to see the sunrise. Sometimes, he woke up earlier, even, when it was still dark, though there had also been times when he woke up when the sun was already high. Yao didn't really know when he'd made it a habit, but it was something he found to be enjoyable—most of the time, anyway. He rather liked the silence around his residence during the early hours; it was soothing, pleasantly so, allowing him to take his mind off things, if only for a short while.

Today, he woke up a little before sunrise, and he was greeted by the early morning rays the moment he stepped outside, carrying a pouch with him. He thought it would be nice to pay a visit to the pandas inhabiting the small bamboo thicket near his house; he hadn't been there in quite some time now, since he had been busy with a lot of things. His schedule was also quite full today, too, though it wouldn't begin until another two, maybe three hours; a nice break from some of his previous schedules, which necessitated him to begin working as soon as he woke up. Though he knew it had been for his own good, he just couldn't help but find it tiring. At least he was getting less and less busy lately.

His lips curved into a smile the moment he spotted the figure of a panda on the distance, and he was just picking up his face when a hand touched his shoulder—and for some reason, he was getting a really, really bad feeling from whoever it was that was standing behind him. After a moment's silence, Yao slowly turned, a nervous smile creeping onto his face as he saw who it was. No wonder he got such a bad feeling. Perhaps the knife that was pointed at him had also helped.

"M-morning, aru," he cautiously said, eyeing the knife nervously, "Can... Can I help you with anything, aru?"

"Where's my brother?" Nataliya bluntly demanded, staring at the older nation with enough intensity to scare most people away, "He ran this way. Have you seen him? Are you hiding him, by any ch—"

"I haven't seen him around, aru!" Yao quickly said, not liking how the blonde's tone was becoming increasingly threatening as she spoke, "You're the only one I've seen today, aru!"

"...I see." Nataliya quietly pulled the knife away from him, though she still gripped it tightly, seemingly ready to strike at any moment. "Tell him to go home when you see him. The marriage preparations have been finished, and they won't last all day."

"Uh, sure, I will, aru," the dark-haired nation replied, watching the other storm off in silence, a mildly annoyed expression on his face. Honestly, Ivan's younger sister was much too... intimidating, what with how she constantly carries a knife and everything. Nations these days.

Letting out a sigh, Yao turned his attention back to the bamboo thicket a few meters away, resuming his walk towards the place. At least his peaceful morning had only been ruined for a few minutes...

...Though it looked like his morning wouldn't be as peaceful as he'd hoped, if what he had just seen wasn't a hallucination or something of the sort.

Slowly, the Asian nation blinked several times, rubbing his eyes for good measure before finally concluding that he had indeed seen a scarf-wearing panda. That could only mean one thing—which, incidentally, provided a perfect explanation as to why the Belarusian was here.

"So much for a peaceful morning, aru..." he quietly murmured, a slight frown on his face as he approached the peculiar panda. The monochromatic animal looked no different from all the others he had seen, but that scarf—that oh-so-familiar scarf—was impossible to ignore, or even pass off as a prank.

He stopped a few steps away from the panda, an exasperated look on his face as he sighed and shook his head. "Ivan, pandas do not wear scarves, aru," he stated in a very matter-of-factly manner, crossing his arms as he stared at the... creature in front of him.

"Eeh? How did you know it was me?" the (fake) animal said, lifting its head to reveal the face of the person inside, "I thought no one would find out..."

"Again, pandas do not wear scarves, aru," Yao repeated, his expression softening a bit, despite of the frown that was still on his face, "And I ran into your mèimei a couple of minutes ago, aru."

"Ah..." A terrified expression slipped onto the Russian's face. "Is she... Has she left?" he quietly, nervously asked, eyes darting around every so often, ready to react at the first sight of his younger sibling.

"Well, she's probably still around, but I don't think she's anywhere near, aru," the older nation calmly said, throwing a glance towards the direction Nataliya had went off to as he added, "She didn't come this way, anyway, aru."

"Oh. Well, that's good then," Ivan stated as he smiled, his tone relieved, though there was still some wariness left in his voice and he was still throwing cautious glances around every once in a while. Years of experience had taught him never to let his guard down when Nataliya was in the vicinity.

Slowly, he took off the rest of his panda costume, leaving him with only a plain, slightly crumpled long-sleeved shirt and dark brown trousers, edges haphazardly tucked into his boots. He hadn't had much time to dress earlier; Nataliya had unfortunately decided to visit early—early, as in before sunrise—and had busted the door to his room for what seemed to be the tenth time this month without any remorse whatsoever. Honestly, that younger sister of his was too obsessive.

"How long have you been here, aru?"

Ivan blinked, turning his attention to the dark-haired nation, who was looking just a tad—alright, perhaps more than a tad—annoyed about the current situation. "A few hours, I think?" the Russian candidly said, "I mean, she woke me up when it was still dark and immediately started asking me to marry her..." He let out a few awkward chuckles. "I didn't even get to dress properly, and—"

His sentence was interrupted by a loud growl from his stomach; something that prompted Yao to let out yet another sigh. "Let me guess, aru," the Asian nation said with mild exasperation in his tone, "You were going to say that you didn't get to have any breakfast either, weren't you, aru?"

"Yao is so smart!" Ivan cheerfully chimed in reply, clapping his hands quietly as he smiled that child-like smile of his, oblivious to how the other nation's expression grew more annoyed.

"And let me guess one more time, aru," Yao continued, staring at the smiling nation in front of him, "You're going to ask me if I have some food I can share, aren't you, aru?"

"Ah, Yao is really smart!"

The Chinese man silently let out a rather undignified whine. So much for his peaceful morning, indeed.

"Thanks for the food, Yao!" the scarf-wearing nation happily said, a meat bun in hand and a couple more laid out in front of him, lying on top of a piece of cloth spread out on the ground.

"Just eat them quietly, aru," the Asian nation grudgingly murmured, pouring some tea into the cap of the thermos bottle, turning it into a makeshift cup. It wasn't the fact that Ivan had indirectly made him forfeit his breakfast that annoyed him, though; rather, it was how the two of them had somehow gotten into a situation that resembled a picnic. He would definitely have one hell of a time running away from the Russian's younger sister if she saw the two of them like this.

There was a short moment of silence as they ate and drank, respectively, before Yao finally spoke up. "You need to talk with your mèimei, aru," he began, turning to face the much taller nation, "The way she obsesses over you is unhealthy, aru."

"Oh, Yao, but it's so hard to talk to her!" Ivan replied, frowning, "She never listens to me whenever I bring up the subject." A pause. "You could say it's like you trying to convince Yong-soo to stop trying to touch your—"

"I get it, I get it, aru!" the dark-haired nation quickly said, looking a bit flustered. He fell silent for a moment as he calmed down, sighing as he continued, "My point is, if she claims that she loves you so much, she should have no qualms about doing what you want every once in a while, aru."

"Does Yong-soo listen to you, Yao?"

The Asian nation tensed visibly. "He, he doesn't love..." he quickly stammered, correcting his words once he realized that they were incorrect, in a sense, "I mean, he doesn't love me like that, aru!"

"Does he, now?" Ivan innocently asked, smiling at his southern neighbor. It was amusing to see how Yao reacted to the mention of the Korean, he thought.

"...He... He's just..." Yao quietly murmured into his nearly empty cup, eyes shifting away from the Russian, "He's just a perv—"

"Is he really just that, I wonder?"

The older nation promptly shot a glare at the blond, though Ivan brushed it off without much effort, much to his dismay. "He's my little brother," he quietly said after a short moment of silence, his tone a lot more serious than before, "Nothing more, aru."

"Really, now?" the Russian playfully asked, an innocent yet mischievous smile on his lips.

"...Do you want me to throw this cup at you, aru?"

Ivan chuckled, shuffling closer to the sulking Chinese man. "Looks like we have a similar sibling problem," he lightly said, draping an arm over Yao's shoulders and pulling the other nation closer, "So why don't we make a deal?"

The dark-haired nation threw him a suspicious look. "A deal, aru?"

"Oh, it's nothing big, Yao. You don't have to look at me like that," the Russian calmly said, "We just have to promise we'll try to do something about our siblings. I'll talk to..." He paused for a moment, correcting his sentence as he continued. "...Try talking to Nataliya, while you go and talk to Yong-soo. Fair enough, da?"

Yao skeptically stared at the taller nation for a few seconds before finally letting out a sigh, though the smirk on his lips clearly showed his true intentions. "I'll do it, but only if you can convince me to, aru," he confidently said, bent on making things harder for the Russian, if only a little; he would end up agreeing anyway, so why not make it more challenging?

"Well..." Ivan slowly began, pretending to be oblivious even though he fully understood that the other nation had agreed with him and was simply playing games, "You do know how possessive I can get, right?" He smiled at the dark-haired nation cheerfully, though there was an unmistakable sinister undertone in his expression. "I might just try to harm those who come too close to you..."

There was a moment of tense silence, broken only by a fit of laughter from the two of them. "Fine, fine, I'll do it, aru," Yao said amidst his chuckles, finally smiling for the first time this morning. Unlike many others, he could distinguish Ivan's fake threats from the real ones, and even though the Russian was possessive, he wouldn't do anything that would make Yao hate him. Probably. Unless he was having one of those bouts of insanity.

"So it's a deal, then?" the blond lightly said, offering his hand to the other nation.

"It's not just a deal, it's a promise, aru!" the dark-haired nation confidently replied, hand moving to meet the one offered to him, too caught up in the moment to realize that Ivan's smile had became more mischievous.

The moment their hands clasped, Ivan wasted no time in pulling the smaller nation closer, even closer than before, and swiftly, he placed a quick kiss on Yao's lips. "It's a promise," he calmly said in a sing-song voice, smiling at the nation whose face was less than an inch away from his. A burst of red colored the dark-haired nation's cheeks, and oh, how he loved seeing the usually wise and dignified nation lose his composure.

The Russian quickly stood up while Yao was still speechless, dusting the dirt off his pants and fixing the position of his scarf calmly. "Poka, Yao," he lightly said, waving to the older nation and picking up his panda costume as he walked away, "And thanks for the food!"

When Yao finally got over his surprise, Ivan had already left, replaced by a certain bouncy Asian nation who had seemingly tackled him to the ground a short while ago while he was still in a shocked state.

"Annyeong, hyeong!" Yong-soo gleefully said, beaming at his older brother figure, seemingly not caring about their current position, "Can I—"

"Get off me, aru!" Yao immediately demanded before the Korean could finish his words, attempting to push the younger nation away, "You're heavy, aru!"

"Only if you let me touch your breasts!"

"No, aru! How many times have I said that you can't, aru?"

"Then I'm not moving from here!"

Yao grumbled. So much for a civil conversation with Yong-soo.

meanwhile

At this point in time, Ivan was beginning to think that he'd made the wrong promise to the wrong person. He couldn't just talk to Nataliya about how her obsessive behavior was bothering him; it would only take one wrong word, and his sister would interpret it as his agreement to get married to her. At least he'd dismissed all the people who was seemingly preparing for their marriage, undoubtedly under his sister's orders... though knowing her, she would be able to get all the necessary preparations ready in a few hours, perhaps—

"Brother, have you seen the wedding planner anywhere? I need to talk to her about the unsolicited cancellation of our marriage."

The Russian let out a silent whimper. He had hoped he wouldn't run into Nataliya today.

"I, I think she already went home?" he tentatively said as he turned to face his sibling, a sheepish smile on his face.

"I see." The blonde seemed to contemplate something for a moment before turning on her heels. "I should give her a call."

"...Nataliya, wait!"

The Belarusian turned, mild confusion on her almost expressionless face. Ivan rarely called her, though he'd often told her to go away or stop chasing him. "Yes, brother?"

Ivan wished he hadn't so carelessly called out to Nataliya like that—he was barely ready to say anything to her, for goodness' sake! He couldn't back out now, though, especially not when he sister was staring at him expectantly. "I'd like to... talk to you for a moment," he slowly began, choosing his words carefully.

"Is it about our marriage?" the blonde straightforwardly asked.

"Um, no, but—"

"Then we have nothing to talk about." The Belarusian swiftly turned away from her older brother.

"Uh, then, yes, it is about that," Ivan quickly said before Nataliya left, fearing that he may not find a chance like this again in the near future.

"Oh." The blonde turned to face the taller nation once again. "Are you finally agreeing to marry me?"

"No, but—"

"Then we have nothing to talk about."

At that, Nataliya promptly left to call—and possibly terrorize—the wedding planner she'd mentioned earlier, mumbling something along the lines of "perhaps I hadn't intimidated her enough" as she went.

Ivan sighed. This was why he couldn't talk to Nataliya.