The terms of the treaty had not changed. What had changed was the situation; the tsarists have already seized the land and all they require is an official acknowledgement. Yao picked up the brush and dipped it in ground ink. China is in no position to protest.
Yao's hand shook slightly, but his grip was firm, and the brush danced in careful strokes over the document. He finished the last character of his name and set down the brush. Now he turned away, unable to look at the treaty any longer.
Ivan stood in his way, his Imperial uniform immaculate from the creaseless jodhpurs to the polished brass buttons of his coat. The hilt of the sabre strapped to his side gleamed gold. Yao tried to step past him, but Ivan took hold of his arm.
"Yao," he called softly.
He thought himself to be different from the other Allies. They took delight in humiliating Yao, demanding compensations, forcibly opening his ports and erecting churches. But they do not appreciate his locked anger, his bitter pride. They do not appreciate the beauty in his charcoal eyes simmering hate.
Those eyes looked into violet and looked away again, cold, dismissive. Afraid. Yao wrenched his arm from Ivan's grasp, silk brocade robes swirling.
"Don't touch me," he said quietly.
"Should you be fighting me, Yao?" Ivan said mildly. He raised his hand and gently stroked the side of Yao's porcelain-smooth cheek; Yao jerked from the touch. Ivan gripped his forearms and pulled him close, lips ghosting the shell of Yao's flushed ear, "China cannot afford to make an enemy of Russia..."
Yao froze, his face draining of colour. He had experienced how devastating it was to have Ivan turn against him. To lie staring up the pointed end of his sabre – the memory of his recent defeat caused his throat to constrict.
He did not pull away when Ivan lifted his face and kissed him. Softly, softly at first, then deepening – oh how long had the Russian dreamed of capturing those lips! He moved to taste more of him, but Yao faced away.
"No," he protested weakly. Ivan held him tighter and took his lips again.
Yao was more vehement this time, pushing away and stumbling backwards, knocking into the table. The ink stand smashed to the floor as the documents fluttered in the air. He kept his eyes firmly away from Ivan, his lips trembling, leaning against the table for support.
"Leave!" he said sharply, in the commanding tone of an emperor. But Ivan stooped and snatched him to his feet. Breathing hard, eyes narrowed, he watched the bubbling fear in Yao and his frantic, darting glances to the door.
"I won't hurt you," Ivan whispered. He drew Yao to him, felt him flinch then tremble, and the first drip of tears seeping into his clothes.
China was a broken empire, the pieces fought between hackling invaders. The weight of the fall threatened to break this man who clung so desperately to the enemy and sobbed like a child. Once unaccustomed to begging, it was all he could do to keep the invaders appeased; they slaughtered his peasant children and looted and plundered like common thieves, but it was Yao's tael houses emptying to pay for the cost.
Ivan gazed around the room, at the bare walls that once hung portraits and tapestry, at the wooden beams clumsily chipped of its gold lining. He recalled the burnt palaces he saw on his way here, burnt because the invaders could not strip them of value in time.
"You need my protection," he whispered softly, thinking of Arthur and Francis and the threat they posed.
Yao felt so fragile in his arms, so thin and weightless, so precious. He smelled strongly of incense; had he been praying to the gods?
"Let me protect you."
Yao said nothing. He knew what it meant to accept the offer, but he couldn't say no. China couldn't say no. So he let Ivan thumb away his tears and kiss him again. He let himself be taken and tasted for the first time the vodka on Ivan's caressing lips.
The papers lay in a pool of black ink. A fresh treaty would need to be prepared.
I've been dying to write about Imperial China and Russia! Before communism, China and Russia were very proud empires, and the clothes of the period were sexy. Yes, I just wanted to write about Yao in swishy silk robes and Ivan as an Imperial soldier.
I can't find good enough pictures of the clothes, but when I do I'll post them pronto.
Written for the RoChu group as part of a game - I drew on the word 'attack'.
The treaty mentioned in the story refers to the Sino-Russian Treaty of Peking of 1860, right after the Second Opium War.
When China shut down her ports to British trade for the second time to curb the sales of opium, the British declared war. Britain had the backing of the French and the Russians; the Chinese forces, though brave and skilled in martial arts, were powerless against guns and canons.
The British and French troops entered the Forbidden City in Peking on the 18th of October 1860. The Chinese Imperial family have fled for their safety. Following this decisive defeat, China signed treaties with Britain and France on the 24th of October. The treaties forced China to open her ports to British trade, to lease Kowloon to Britain as war compensation, and to pay indemnities of eight million taels to Britain and France.
China also signed a treaty with Russia in appeasement. Russia had demanded to redraw the northern border by the Amur and Ussuri rivers, giving Russia the territories north of the Amur River and south of the Wai-hsin-an Mountain, which China refused before the war. Following her defeat with Russian troops already occupying the land demanded, China was left with no choice but to agree.
In signing away that territory, China lost one of her vital ports Haishenwei, now modern Vladivostok – 'Ruler of the East'. Russia also took the opportunity to force upon China 'military protection', using the excuse of the burnt palaces by the British and French.
Ivan Braginski (Russia) and Wang Yao (China) from Axis Powers Hetalia (c) Himaruya Hidekaz