A/N: This is not intended to be historically accurate, though it shouldn't be too far off. I did this to explore yandere!Japan, so it gets creepy. Taiwan's "numb with the horrors of war" mentality probably doesn't help. Long notes on the history and other symbolism are at the end, though some bits are left out for your personal interpretation.
When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.
It is winter, and on her warm island, snowfall is rare and precious. Each year, she makes her way up to the mountains to stretch out her arms as she gazes over her land. It's not quite big or powerful, but it's beautiful, and it's home, and it's hers.
She is her own.
When she walks the last few steps to her customary spot, she notices that someone else is already there, sitting on a boulder. She sees only the back of his head, but knows that it's him.
"What are you doing here?" she asks.
He freezes at her words, sitting in tense silence for a moment. When he turns around, she is overwhelmed by the flood of memories.
It had always been him.
In the summer of their youth, they ran together through bamboo thickets. The fresh scent of green leaves and the raucous chirrups of crickets and cicadas permeated the air. They were just the two of them in the moonlit night. In the distance she could hear Yong Soo pestering big brother about the dumplings. Are they ready? Are they? Are they?
He took her hand in his. She remembers his warm skin and slender fingers. Artist's hands with callouses from calligraphy brushes, they still bore faint ink stains. She admired their beauty. He smiled at her smile and pulled her along deeper into the wilderness, and there they sat watching fireflies shimmer in the dark.
"They're not my brothers," he said.
It surprised her. She jumped up and hugged him fearfully. "Then are you saying I'm not your sister?"
Overbalancing, they fell to the ground, and she clutched at him as hard as her tiny fists could handle. They bunched up the fabric of his kimono.
"No, you're not my sister."
She wanted to cry at that statement, but he continued.
"But that means we can get married when we grow up."
Later, she would recall that he whispered to her, in his characteristically respectful and soft-spoken tone, of his loneliness. His brows drew down in anxiety as he spoke of island isolation and his unfounded fears.
"Will I be able to get along with everyone even though you aren't my siblings? Someone like me?"
Someone like him? What did that mean? He was wonderful, and she told him such, and of course they were his siblings! She said she understood his loneliness; she felt the same. Didn't he remember how they gazed at each other across the sea sometimes?
He turned to her, then, and the gleam in his eyes was a cold fire she had never imagined he had been hiding within. "Come with me," he said. "Be mine. Yong Soo will be there, too."
Before, when he would say such things, she would tackle him, wrestle him down into submission and loudly proclaim, "You're not the boss of me!" However, in that instant he was the harsh golden light of the Eastern sun, come screaming into the world. He was the furious wave that sunk ships, and the elegant but deadly curve of a sword held at the ready. If she followed that blade, she could see it being leveled at--
No. She had never seen him like this; she never wanted to see it again. It was just a fluke. Didn't they all have moments like these?
Big brother called for them, "Dinner's ready!"
He snapped out of it and his eyes were gentle again. The spell was broken. They went to eat dumplings.
Cold steel came flying down.
A spatter of blood.
Big brother lay on the ground, still trying to crawl his way over to protect Yong Soo, who was screaming and clawing at their assailant; at the stranger dressed in white.
He had grown into a dashing, handsome military man. His artist's hands held the sword in the same graceful way they used to hold his brushes. He dipped his new brush into the inkpot and painted red flowers with the blood of her brothers.
Yong Soo screamed, spat in his face, kicked and punched with all his might. None of it seemed to work. The screams never stopped until the stranger, who wore the stolen face of their sibling, smashed the sword's hilt into Yong Soo's skull.
With a thud, a second large pool of blood seeped into the dirt.
She could do nothing but stare, frozen in shock at his cruelty until he turned to face her.
"Come with me," he said, extending his stained hands. They were the ones that she had loved before, and now the ones that she feared.
"Be mine," he said, while keeping one eye on the others to make sure they didn't get up again.
He lightly kicked the body slumped over his boots, bent down, and wiped his blade on the already scuffed hanbok. "Yong Soo will be there, too."
In autumn, the chrysanthemums bloomed.
She kept a pot of the noble flowers on the windowsill of her bedroom. They looked like tiny golden suns with their rays outstretched like arms embracing the world. She stroked their petals and waited for him to come as he always did.
He rapped at her door with two succinct knocks. As always, he was a man of precision and grace. When he stepped in without a word and set to unbuttoning his pristine white coat, she knew what was coming.
They never spoke during those times, though she would cry out into his bare shoulder and watch as her long hair trailed sensually over his sweat-slicked back. She had learned not to fight back physically, for her bruised cheeks never stopped him when he had his mind set on something.
When it was over, he would wipe himself off and get dressed. Smoothing on the coat, he would glance over at her with that shy smile. He would caress her face, run his fingers through her hair, and maybe pluck a chrysanthemum from the windowsill to tuck behind her ear.
Then, while she sat on the bed, modestly covering herself with the sheets, he would reach into his pockets and bring out a box. It always pleased him to open it up before her eyes, revealing some flashy new piece of jewelry for her. A hairpin, or a watch. A ring. She would accept, but never smiled for him.
It was always like this, but not today.
He pushed forth the opened box. She tiredly glanced at the gift and turned her head away.
"No," she said. Her voice was weak and wavering from disuse.
"What will it take to make you happy?!" He slammed the box closed and paced around the room. He was getting close to one of his violent rages now, like the ones he had when he railed about doing the things he did because they had to be done. "I've done everything for you! What could you possibly want from me now? More clothes? Money? Jewels?"
With her head lowered and lips pursed, she steeled herself to speak. She could not bear to look at him while he was acting this way, and when she finally spoke, it was both soft and harsh. It was a delicate whisper shrouded in stinging frost.
He was silent. Bowed. Took his leave.
He never gave her what she wanted.
Instead, he built her a gilt cage and decorated it more and more each day. He sent new trinkets and baubles, but they failed to impress. They glittered around her neck in delicate waves. Gold. Silver. Diamonds. They were the most beautiful leashes she had ever worn. No, no, she did not want them.
She wanted to run free with him through the bamboo forests.
He came and went as he pleased. After all, it was his house now; she was just allowed to live in it.
There were times when he left for quite a while. He would be off at war, to face big brother with his sword drawn, perhaps. Or to see Yong Soo. She heard bits and pieces about his escapades over there, sometimes.
He continued to bring her gemstone-studded leashes, but Yong Soo never even got that courtesy, did he? The two had had their skirmishes as children. Had those escalated? Sometimes she wondered how they fought. Did he push Yong Soo down? Did he beat the other man? Did he take what he wanted from that warm body and leave? Did he ever stay the night?
No, he never stayed. After he left, she cried herself to sleep. She wept for her men forced to serve in his military, and for her women forced to serve in his "Comfort Stations". Feeling like a cheap whore rather than a lover, she cried herself to sleep.
In the mornings, she got up and endured. Some days, it didn't seem like such a bad fate after all. To make love to her captor? To be chained to a two-faced monster? He treated her so well when she complied. He was always such a gentleman.
But he had something to prove. He showed her off to his European friends as if to say, "This is my woman. See how well I've treated her?" And maybe it was partly true. She was civilized now, or so they said. No longer did she run barefoot through the wilderness, sing working songs while fishing, or wrestle with her brothers. She was a fashionable young lady of modern society, and those old pastimes were inappropriate for her now.
Her prosperity was all thanks to him, wasn't it? She would be nothing but a barbarian without him, he said.
Some days, she believed him.
It was worth it to lose parts of herself to him, to speak his language, to eat his food. It was worth it to change herself to please him. When he would whisper in her ear, "Become one with me," she would nod and pretend, all the while keeping a part of her old self locked away for safekeeping.
She was no fool; she saw what happened to those who made him angry. How was big brother doing these days, anyway? With the capitol sacked, was there a new scar across big brother's heart to match the older one on the other side? Was the feeling of betrayal deeper the second time around?
The chill autumn wind blew through her beautiful new skirts. She artfully rearranged them and carried on, walking the familiar yet unfamiliar streets back to her house. Winter was coming; she could feel and taste it in the air.
When she returned from her stroll outside, she went back into her room. The chrysanthemums on her windowsill were nodding their heads, but their gesture was one of defeat. She reached out to touch one, and the drooping head fell into her palm.
One day, he too would fall. When that day came, she would leave because she hated and loved him and hated to love him. He would lay there wounded, blood seeping into the ground, arm stretched out to her, calling out her name the way big brother had called his...and she would turn her back to him. And leave.
"Could you ever forgive me?"
The past pours out all at once, and the once crisp air is suddenly cloying with the overlapping scents of bamboo and chrysanthemums.
"Are you apologizing?"
He is enigmatically silent, as always. She snorts, unladylike.
Then she looks at him and sees the tips of still-raw burns on his beautiful hands, extending up under his sleeves. She looks to him with tears in the corners of her eyes; looks straight at him with fire and defiance she hadn't shown since those early years under his rule.
Resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity are things she knows well. She knows how to fight back, and how to endure when she cannot fight. But forgiveness? Forgiveness is an attribute of the truly strong. As she is now, she does not yet have that brand of courage. She doesn't know if she ever will.
But someone in their broken family has to start. If he never asks for forgiveness, the others won't know to offer it. They never knew how to read him as well as she did, anyway. For her, it had always been about him. And for him...
"For you, I will try."
The plum blossoms unfurl in the winter landscape. The bamboo thickets of their youth are buried under snow and memories. But upon the drifting white banks, plum blossoms fall.
And herald spring.
Flower motifs: Chrysanthemums are a symbol of Japan, and also Kiku's namesake. The plum blossom is the national flower of Taiwan. Both are part of the "Four Gentlemen" that represent the seasons in East Asian art. Chrysanthemums represent autumn and nobility. Plum blossoms represent winter, the transition to spring, and bravery. Bamboo is the symbol of summer.
History: Japan had been trying to take Taiwan since way back in the 1500s - there were a few attempts, but they were all unsuccessful. (And of course he bullied Korea as a child.) The first Sino-Japanese war was somewhat covered in Hetalia when Japan attacked China. Historically, they fought mostly for control of Korea, which at the time had decided to close borders to all but China. When China lost the war, Japan took the opportunity to obtain Taiwan as well. Japan poured a lot of effort into turning Taiwan into a model colony... kind of like his trophy wife. All in all, Taiwan had it good when compared to Japan's treatment of China and Korea.
And then WWII. Women from occupied territories were forced to be "comfort women" to Japanese soldiers, so basically forced prostitution and sexual slavery. The mention of the scar over China's heart is a reference to the Nanjing Massacre. Don't look for detailed accounts of this stuff unless you have a strong stomach. Yandere!Japan is yandere.