PT: Just to say, since Japan pretty much counts as one of Taiwan's older brother's, "er ge" in Chinese is sufficient for addressing him.
Disclaimer: Hetalia is not mine. :D I mean, do these disclaimers even have much point on FANfiction? :D
"Ah, er g—Onii-sama." Taiwan tensed at her own mistake—it was not as if Yao had ever enjoyed hearing her speak in Kiku's favor, or even to acknowledge him as a brother before him; but her mind called him her older brother, and the words slipped before she could stop them; a river of words. Though she knew that Japan would take kindly to her tainting an address to him with her own language, he clearly preferred his own, and so she had to speak his language, which actually proved to be quite easy; yet her Chinese accent lingered on her tongue much too often.
She wanted to back away—Japan, though short, was an intimidating figure, and she had suffered some under his control. She expected his brow to darken at the slightest, so one could note some sort of anger but not the source—how Japan could show his anger.
For a moment, she thought her brother would carve a scar into her back, just as he had done to Yao—she only glanced, quickly, at the hilt of his clothed sword by his side. It was a quick, wary movement, not unlike the glance of a geisha to a man; it was demure, almost, but full of fear and memoriam. She had seen the scar, which her Chinese brother hid so well from her at all times; it had looked so painful and so out of place on his back that she had felt a swelling lump in her throat, and moisture in her eyes. It only showed her what her Japanese brother, so polite and quiet all the time, was capable of—his innocent looks only made her wonder even more.
And she often wondered what it was like the night he had inflicted the scar upon China's back.
The way he stood before her—she imagined that he was like that when he hurt China—stoic, some sort of shade entering his singularly-colored eyes, his brow shadowed, one hand wielding that hateful blade. She never asked, and so never knew for sure—she knew China did not like to talk about him, and had never spoken of the night, only implied.
When she was younger, she had loved the brother she could not know.
Now he was in her nightmares.
It was almost as if this was one of them.
Japan—her older brother, somehow—stood before her. Taiwan could feel the muscles of her jaws tense.
"Onii-sama," she repeated, as the seconds ticked by.
And Japan bowed—he always bowed, almost a servile move, but a mere obligation of politeness; Taiwan hastily bowed back, almost sloppily. "Taiwan-chan"—she had never once heard him call her "mei mei" or even "onee-chan"—"China-san"—she had never even heard him call Yao "gege" or "onii-san"—"has sent you a message." When she did not respond—out of surprise—he walked forward and pressed the paper into her hand. With another bow, he was gone.
Just like that.
He turns. His face is the moon, and his brow the dark side. He is in Western dress, and his hand draws from his side.
For a moment, one must wonder—who is this man?
If there was anything to do, it was to read the folded piece of paper from the brother she had not heard from for—when was the last time she had heard of him? Brow furrowed, she opened the closed paper; for a moment she wondered what it would say—what could Da Ge say to her that was so important?—that he cared for her? He did care for her, she knew—she just did not agree to his method of loving her. He was strict, and lacking, but he had shown her extreme affection, many times over.
What could Da Ge say?
Taiwan swallowed slightly before unfolding the note and staring almost ravenously at the calligraphy painted on it; they looked alarmingly gray, alarmingly thin. Either Yao had run out of that precious black ink that he had always prized so, or perhaps the letter had had an undulating journey to her hands. Taiwan could doubt neither of them. It seemed as if he had written every character with a measured amount from a dying inkstone. It hurt to think of that magnificent little hollow, with its carved dragons still strong along the sides, shattered to bits by a shell or bullet. She almost hungered for the sudden grip of the inkstick that went with it, also elaborately designed into a traditional heaven. Japan had let her borrow some of his inkstones and ink sticks, but they were so artfully carved that Taiwan would have liked nothing better than to use a simple pair, especially Yao's. But how could she bring herself to deny such unusual kindness?
Didn't Er Ge once say someone named "Kazunomiya" was a "prisoner of heaven"? Taiwan wanted to laugh at the thought.
She searched the paper, glancing at every character, comprehension always there.
She muttered the words—if not mouthed—under her breath, letting the wind whisper secrets to her: "I'm having a lot of trouble now, Taiwan. But I miss you and Hong Kong, and I think of you both when I can. It scares me to think that you're under Japan's rule; I hope he treats you well. Stay strong, Mei Mei.
"Yao Da Ge."
The paper reclined in her hands when she laid them flat.
It was rice paper. She only just saw that. Traditional rice paper, but printed with red ink into the familiar markers. But what caught her eyes was the ruffled look about the paper—no, it was haggard. Like a human, it was haggard—faded, a little crumpled—just faded. There was a grayish sheen over it like dirty varnish. If younger, Taiwan would have instantly burst into a plague of tears—tears, so many, a little girl. But she wasn't—she was young, but she was old enough to understand and keep her stature. She felt merely the clogging of her throat, and had to swallow.
Why did he take the time to write this?—she could've understood that he was going through hard times and didn't have time to write her anything, or even think of her or Hong Kong even farther away than her. She would've understood if Yao hadn't had the time to write her even a few words; instead she had a slew of words that were like wine to her—like the liquid grains of wine that he had often kept somewhere he where he had thought she would not have reached.
Stay strong, Mei Mei.
He hadn't even called her that since...when? She was still young when he had stopped teasing her, stopped calling her sister when she had wailed that her name was Taiwan, and that he didn't call Hong Kong di di,so why should she be called mei mei? She was still young when his face had become downcast and ashen, when she saw him as nothing but a shrunken man, when she saw him sway and stagger on the crooked land, wailing for opium. She had aged more when Hong Kong was taken by that Westerner with green plum eyes, England.
She could still see Yao as a broken man, blood leaking from his lips, pulling the pieces of himself together.
She wondered if he was like that when he wrote the letter.
He says nothing as he slides the slick and lacquered metal from its garb; you catch sight of the temper line along it, and marvel again—this is Japan. This is Japan, somehow Japan—Japan who is changed, Japan who has grown. Although you are alarmed and almost screaming, you stand.
Your brother can't hurt you...
The days passed. Taiwan grew, and change came with persistence as strong as the constant Yangtze in China. Understanding came with it—Japan loved her. It was something hard to truly understand, to truly comprehend—but the way he cared for her, was bringing her up to a strong and modern woman...she understood. He loved her. Loved her more like a geisha her older sister, but loved her, perhaps beyond. Perhaps he did love her as family; a younger sister, a lover...or just Taiwan. The way he brought her up, strictly but kindly...
Taiwan could not stop musing.
It was strange...how Japan had taken an interest in her, snatched her harshly from Yao's unloving but caring hands, raised her to show the world. A geisha to entertain the Westerners—yet like a geisha she enjoyed it; every moment of it.
When France came, she was charmed and intimidated all at once—he was seductive but smooth, perversely kind. His ideals in love fascinated her.
When England came, she paused.
Those thick eyebrows, those peridot eyes...that Western yellow hair. He looked the same, always the same—except there was no grin of evil, no insulting of her culture. No opium. She almost flinched when she saw him.
Where was the white devil that had killed her brother without stopping his heart?
He was the same white devil, the same man who sipped at tea with sugar and milk—it was almost laughable; but he smiled and poisoned with near-truth...not the superior way he had handled Yao. She was to entertain this man!
And Japan was expressionless, he stared with little color. She almost turned to him as he walked into the room to meet him with a pot of simple black tea (something Japan had asked her to do with guests), but a glance told her nothing. It was useless.
Her hands shook; she wanted to use it as an alibi, to drop the pot upon the white man's knees; laugh later at his scream, his face, his words. Rage and cold exploded in white bursts beneath her skin; she could remember the way he had cut her brother down, in any way possible....
Japan. But there was only Japan. She was at his mercy, despite his bland kindness. She would hate the shame crossing his face, or anger; either way, she did not want to hurt him and be hurt back, by fear or freezing love. Whatever happened, she would regret it.
But this was too great a chance...if only for her brother. If only for all of her brothers. To lash out against the West, for shoving Japan down the abyss of no return; for plunging the knife into China's chest and watching him bleed; for snatching away Hong Kong, away from his suffering brothers and into the evils of assimilation; for dirtying her childhood...
Fate is a strange and dormant thing, working without working. It goes by.
It decided for her—fate—and her shaking hands gave out; if she was about to faint, all the gloom was shot into her hands. The fingers slackened and released; the pot fell against the table before she could tip it—triumph!
England spluttered and coughed and yelled; she smirked when he was not looking. Although both she and Japan bowed and bowed, apology after apology, she savored it when she went for the cloths. She could hear the man's outraged cries behind her the whole time. Laughable.
Taiwan had a nightmare that night.
Her brothers were dying, moaning, smoke furling from their mouths; they rolled like broken puppets, groaning of plague. Blood—there was too much of it. Rosy, crimson; it was everywhere. Taiwan wanted to cry. She could do nothing.
The scene shifted.
The silver flare crashes against your back; fire and blood, explosions of pain. Screams.
Something has left you.
One night she saw him sitting at the edge, sighing an unfettered sigh.
"Xiaoyao tan," she uttered, an alternate sigh. She remembered a beauty in one of Yao's stories, who sighed at the moon at the edge of the water; sighed because her father was troubled.
Japan turned to look at her, his stoicism set into his face.
"I'm sorry about the tea," she added quietly, in a stream of Japanese. She thought again of the story.
Japan looked back without an invitation; but no hostility either, so it was even. She advanced a step.
"Taiwan-chan," he said with equal volume, "the world is changing."
"You have your own beautiful history."
"If anything happens...please be strong. You are an interesting country, and I enjoy helping you grow. Fascinating."
He opened his mouth again, but Taiwan cut him off; she could not bear this barrier shifting in front of her. "You're my brother, right?" She blinked at him with her marble-set lids—it came so fast, and yet it had dwelled somewhere, in her heart or her mind. "I love you a lot." Another line that could not be ceased. "You fought for me. I'm sure there are lots of advantages to having me; I know you hurt China so much but...you're still my brother. Both of you are. I should probably hate you, both of you...blood doesn't bind me to you two. But it's better to love than hate, isn't it?—I can't stand hating. I've hated Holland, I've hated Da Ge, I've hated you." She blinked again. "You both have treated me like family, and yet not like family at the same time."
Another sigh; "I'm your brother, Taiwan-chan. I do love you, if that's the love you mean." He turned to look at her; Taiwan almost tensed. Almost. "The world is changing. That's only half an excuse, but...it's true. To me, it's true." A twitch signified something of his own amazement that he had spoken so much when he stopped; Taiwan observed and did not begrudge him for it. It was strange—perhaps something had ensnared them within a web, a web of illusions that they could speak all they could, let go for once; perhaps they could.
Taiwan took another step. Hesitated. "Ja—Onii—Er Ge!" She tore it from her heart with abruptness. "I had a nightmare...," she murmured, and faded; she sounded like a child. "You were in it. You were hurting me...but I think it was China...," she whispered, gamely and desperately.
She was suddenly scared. She expected silver to flare against her back, like nightmares she had had over and over, many nights. Could her mild brother hurt her?
"...I'm sorry this is all happening, watashi no imooto." A pause; too redundant, too improper of grammar. And yet it spoke. "Meimei...."
Taiwan smiled or frowned, light silver peace passed over her face and she murmured, "I love you, Onii-sama." Serenity was flashed by the moon, and something content settled in her heart. Her brother was but a nation, after all. "Er Ge."
There was no lost love; a little bit was an elixir of life. She tilted her head up, past her brother knelt on the floor, to see the moon with him. Stars were going by.
PT: Huh. What the hell was I ranting about? XD Well, I know I've used some prejudice on Taiwan's part, but only because I thought it was a little more realistic. And I know this is a turbulent time in history; I'm fascinated by all of the nations above, though. Japan has a cool language that I'm learning at school (my teacher's from the Kansai region :D) and an interesting culture; China is...um...my native country...xD; and on and on. I'm pretty ignorant about Taiwan's history aside from early last century, but I've read about Japan's battle for ownership over it, and about their war with the Dutch. I just sort of...spent days rambling the story onto this...it all just came out ._. And I don't really hate England; it just seemed that here Taiwan angrily thinking of him as a white devil just seemed to fit. Lots of references to my younger days being raised with more Chinese culture over American are stuffed into the literary and calligraphy-related parts. I'd also like to add that, in Japanese classes, I've pretty much been trained to replace the extended u after o with another o in romaji; this is why I wrote imooto.