The time was WWII.
Metal clashed and clanged, over and over again as wok met katana. Sparks were flying, and around the dueling pair heat radiated from the flaming shells of airplanes strewn across both the ocean surface and the decks of the fleet of battleships - but China and Japan were focused entirely on each other, anticipating each other's moves just in time to block and lunge again.
They were so thoroughly engaged in combat that neither noticed the kamikaze plane speeding towards them until the roar from it's engines was so close, they could distinguish it clearly from the cacophony of the battlefield. In the space of time it takes for a lightning bolt to strike the top of the Empire State Building, America was there. With a small grunt he dodged the propeller and caught the plane head-on, grinding his heels into the deck to slow its movement to a dead halt before he threw the plane into the ocean. The resulting explosion - and the subsequent steam from the now-boiling water - obscured the bow of the American aircraft carrier upon which all three had been standing. By the time the vapor had cleared, Japan had vanished.
"He's gone," China sighed. He got no response.
China looked around and saw a figure lying on the deck; when he walked over, he saw it was America, spread eagle on the deck and already covered in a fine layer of ash. Blood leaked from a tear in his uniform above his abdomen. With a curse, China slipped his arms underneath America's own and surprised himself by being able to hoist the western nation onto his shoulder.
China trudged all the way down to the Officer's Country, joined by other Chinese and American soldiers also carrying wounded and heading belowdecks. Bypassing the medical bay, China instead went directly to America's cabin – there was no point in taking up a cot one of his soldiers could use, just because America had gotten himself wounded – and along the way shooed off one of America's combat medics because: "Chinese medicine works best, aru."
When he reached the cramped, claustrophobic cabin, he less-than-gently dropped America onto his cot; America may have been lighter than China might have expected, but a few hundred meters added weight to any load.
America literally off his shoulders, China went next door to his equally tiny cabin and set about to finding bandages, herbs, and salves before he returned to the wounded nation's cabin and turned his attention to accessing America's wound. First China had to pull off America's bomber jacket. Then came the belt, the field jacket, and the tie before he could even begin to try and separate the fabric of America's shirt from the wound. Why he was wearing his pilot's jacket while on the ground - and why his uniform required him to wear a tie at all - was completely beyond China; eventually, however, he got to the bloodied shirt and with a knife managed to cut away the already half-scabbed fabric. The next part was China's least favorite; removing the shrapnel. However, it had to be done; gritting his teeth, China placed one hand on America's chest and one knee over his legs, and then he reached for the first sliver of metal…
America did not scream, even in unconsciousness, and for this China was grateful. He hated when his patients screamed; hated the reminder that sometimes healing entailed more pain. But soon the last piece of shrapnel was removed. China applied Yunnan Paiyao to the wound, and then America was bandaged up, neat as a lady's hair… yet, China could not shake the feeling that he'd forgotten something.
Was he, China, also wounded? China examined himself; no, he hadn't thought so. Was America wounded somewhere else? China didn't think so, but it was hard to tell under the torn and bloodied remains of America's uniform, so China unbuttoned the half of the garment which he hadn't cut off with a knife and tossed it over his shoulder to scab in a corner. Wrapped around America's chest was a thick layer of bandages. They were sweaty and somewhat dirty from the ash, seawater, and engine grease that had managed to permeate his many-layered uniform in the past couple weeks, but it was hard to tell if the blood on the bandages was from this old wound or the new one.
"How strange, aru…" China muttered to himself, before deciding to check whether or not America was still bleeding. He slipped his hand carefully underneath the cloth and felt upwards... nothing so far, though America was really sof-
With a yelp, China withdrew his hand and shuffled away from the nation whose blue eyes were just beginning to flutter.
"China?" the nation groaned, looking up at him with clouded eyes.
China did not respond, instead choosing to study the person in front of him. Only now did he notice the way America's abdomen narrowed slightly at the waist and flared out at the hips; notice the more sinewy, wiry build of America's arms; notice the eyes which were too bright, too wide, framed by too thick lashes, and which were staring at him in confusion.
"Is something wrong?" America asked sleepily, trying to remember where she was, and why her belly hurt, and her head too, and how come her neck felt so stiff, and- oh, maybe China would know.
China looked down, effectively breaking eye contact, before he answered "Yes; you."
"Me? What's wrong with me?" America asked cheerfully, cheekily, trying not to give voice to the fear crawling up her spine. It was all coming back to her in a disjointed train of memories. There had been a suicide plane. She had stopped it from hitting her only ally in the Pacific. It had exploded. Something - the propeller? - had wounded her. She was on her cot, in her cabin on the U.S.S. Essex. With China. And she was not wearing anything but bandages from the waist up.
"You already know, and so do I. You're a female"
America stared at the man before her in - staged - incredulity before she called on every actor and actress who'd ever made it in Hollywood or on Broadway and began to laugh, "Ahahahaha, that's funny!"
"I'm serious, aru!" China nearly shouted in his frustration.
"Is this that thing Artie calls sarcasm?" America asked 'innocently.'
"America, you're not fooling me! I felt your chest-
America's expression instantly became affronted. "If you thought someone was female why on earth would you feel their chest!?"
"Ai-yah! That came out wrong..."
There followed an awkward silence, which China broke.
"If you can prove to me that you are a man, I will pretend we did not ever have this conversation." He promised, looking straight into the other nation' eyes. This time, it was America who broke eye contact. "I can't," she all but whispered.
China sighed. "I was very much hoping you wouldn't say that," he admitted. America looked down, slipping her bare arms into her favorite bomber jacket to cover herself - and maybe to provide a small sense of security - as she listened to China begin to contemplate aloud what this would mean for his country.
"It is not my concern what happens to a girl fighting in a man's war" - America's fists clenched - "but if other countries were to find out, then we could lose potential allies or gain more enemies by maintaining our alliance with your country," America looked like she was about to argue, but China held up one hand in the nearly universal gesture for 'wait.' "However, at the same time, the Allies could use your help, aru - even if you are a brash and crazy female."
"Damn straight," America hmphed.
China stared at her, and then he did the unexpected; he smiled. Once, a long time ago, he had known another girl who acted like this…
"My people have a legend," He began fondly, capturing America's attention, "about a girl who disguised herself as a soldier. Her name was Mulan.
"Like you, she also saved me from a dangerous enemy. For her, I will not expose you."
Over fifty years later...
China looked at the large pile of videos before him; there were family movies, and sci-fi movies, and action movies, and romance movies, and movies he would've hidden from his younger siblings if they were still little. All of them were Western in origin. By law, only 10 of them would be allowed to enter his country's market, and he was helping to select which ten, as he was wont to do from time to time. He couldn't and wouldn't watch all of them, but he could select a few that looked interesting and give his invaluable opinion.
He was shuffling through the mix of foreign films – Armageddon, A Bug's Life, Dr. Doolittle, The Parent Trap, Godzilla – when he saw one that Piqued his interest: Mulan.
China decided he would watch that movie first.
"Hello?" A man's voice came from the telephone.
"Nǐ hǎo, Huā Mùlán," China greeted America teasingly. There was a peal of laughter from America's end.
"I take it you saw the film, then. Wasn't her name Fa Mulan though?" America asked, her voice rising to its natural, more feminine pitch.
"Huā is the Mandarin pronunciation, Mùlán is a Mandarin name. Fa is Cantonese."
"Oh, whoops… I apologize on behalf of Disney?"
"But other than that, it was a good movie, right?"
"The Sui Dynasty capital was not the Forbidden City in Beijing, and Mulan's gender wasn't originally discovered-"
"But other than that it was good." China could practically see America's reaction on the other side of the line, right down to the victory fist pump.
"Wooh! I knew you'd like it, Yao!" At some unknown point in time, America had started to use his human name, but while she'd told Yao her male name, she'd refused to tell him her female human name - if she even had one. For this reason, on the rare occasions that America and China met alone for non-political, non-business reasons, China had gotten in the habit of calling her Mulan, since calling her Alfred felt strange.
"Yes, I liked it, Huā Píng."
"But Yao, I'm not in disguise right now!"
"Yes, but Huā Píng means 'flower pot' in Chinese - what you Americans call eye candy, aru."
"… Shut up."
Omake: (because this is Mulan inspired):
A high ranking military official, his white uniform dusted with ash but otherwise impeccable, stood on the beach looking out over the battlefield- no the bomb site, where he had just attacked. Pearl Harbor was in ruins; four of the eight U.S. battleships stationed in the harbor had been sunk, and the other four had been heavily damaged; multiple other water craft had also been sunk, and his men had destroyed hundreds of American planes while he himself suffered very little casualties.
A success, Japan thought.
Suddenly there came a long and eerie wail from behind him. Japan spun on his heel to see a young girl, a native Hawaiian, blowing fiercely into a conch shell. Japan could see where something had wounded her shoulder, just above her heart, and he wondered why a girl would be anywhere near a naval base so early in the morning. The more important question he supposed, as the girl began to run out of breath and the wail weakened, was why an injured girl who could barely stand upright was blowing this shell horn across the harbor.
The sound finally ceased, and the silence was broken only by the footfalls of Japan as he walked quietly across the sand.
"Why do you blow your horn?" Japan asked. Before he could even finish his question, an answer came from across the ocean; a lone wolf's howl, which was soon joined by another wolf, and then by more shell horns, and the calls of strange birds and wild beasts that Japan had never heard before and could not hope to identify.
"Now all of America knows you are here," the girl said quietly, gazing across the water and refusing to look anywhere near him.
"Good," Japan said. Let this serve as a warning, he thought; stay out of this war.
Disclaimer; Me no own Hetalia, or the three amazing drawings in the cover picture (If I did, I'd cite them,) nor the two quotes alluded to in the summary, which belong to Ally Carter and Benjamin Franklin respectively.
A/N - Wooh! I think that went well, actually considering this is my first; multi-chapter Hetlia fic/story with a plot that's actually been written out/story featuring some sort of action/story attempting to add more Imagery, as per my 9th grade English teacher's requirements/ fanfic attempting to use that line-y thing people use. Betcha it won't work...
Hey look! Historical notes: The well known & the not-so-much
kamikaze - suicide planes loaded with explosives, used towards the end of WWII when the Japanese became more desperate, thus placing the beginning of this story in 1944 or 1945
The Empire State Building - was completed in 1931, so yes it was around back then. Also, in a single storm, it may be struck by lightning as many as 20 times, and it takes 1, 575 steps to reach the top floor... thank you Bathroom Trivia Almanac XD
Officer's Country - area of ships in the U.S. Navy (most navies, actually, from what I can tell) which is off-limits to enlisted sailors, and which basically serves as the living quarters of the officers on board the ship. While decidedly cramped and lacking privacy, the officer's country was/is/? infinitely better than the Crew's Berthing. If they were in the crew's berthing, China might have been dumping America on a hammock.
Traditional Chinese Medicine - is actually better than western medicine in certain cases - or so my Chinese-American friend says. I wouldn't know, as I attempt to avoid needing medicine in general, ya' know?
The American Army - really wore all that minus the bomber jacket, as shown by Creator. Sailors didn't, but as one poster said about the soldiers fighting across both oceans, "The Navy put 'em across!" so let's assume America was on the Aircraft carrier as a soldier and not a sailor.
Yunnan Paiyao - Super-top-secret formula with over 30-some ingredients that was invented in the early 1900s and is still in use today - definitely available in capsule and liquid form, but I'm pretty sure it comes in powder form as well...
'Neat as a lady's hair' - look up ancient Chinese hairstyles. Anything with strange hair loopies, elaborate pile-ups, or shiny headdresses are probably accurate.
this-isn't-historical-but-I-don't-care - sleepiness, a stiff neck, and unconsciousness are all signs of a serious head injury.
Essex - a new class of aircraft carrier developed after Japan and Italy said 'screw you' to the Washington Naval Treaty, which was a basically an agreement by America, France, Italy, Japan, and the U.K. after WWI agreeing to limit naval strength to prevent an arms race. Long-bow's were 888 ft (271 meters) long, and 'Short'-bows were 870 ft.
U.S.S. Essex - I meant for this to be a generic, nonexistent aircraft carrier, named after the class of carrier; however, it turns out this was an actual aircraft carrier. It fought in the Pacific War though, engaged in 'prolonged aerial attack' with the Japanese en route to the Mariana Islands, and repelled them in a 'businesslike manner,' in February of 1944, and on November 25th of the same year, she was damaged for the first time by a kamikaze plane, so that's close enough for me.
China - should he have been on board the aircraft carrier? Probably not (it doesn't look like there was a whole lot of fighting together if you ask me) but then, the five (six) of the Allied powers shouldn't have been stranded on Seychelles either... speaking of which, why were Rome and Austria there, but not Canada? Imi wakannai... anyway, I'm labeling this as creative license. Same with America's language.
Videos - those things they used before DVD and Blu-ray :D Just kidding. China only allows 10 foreign films a year to enter the market. Mulan was one of those 10 in 1998, the year it was released - though they didn't release it until after the busy holiday season was over (XD). Hua Ping, Mulan's man name, really does translate to flower pot, or eye candy, and was used as a pun in the Chinese version of the movie.
... You probably didn't read every single one of those notes, but I promise I'll read if you REVIEW!