Fanfiction or Original: Fanfiction
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia
Characters/Pairings: America & Japan, some mentions of European nations
Warnings: Graphic descriptions of war, physical injuries, and death, especially in relation to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Derogatory terms. Swearing. Lots of angst.
Author's Note: I wrote this for lksugui in the 2010 aph_historyswap fic and art exchange. And now that we've had the big reveal, I can finally share this with everyone!
Original post for my fic is HERE!
There were many reasons why the port city of Nagasaki was Alfred’s favorite.
Alfred liked it far superior to the impossibly crowded and bustling hub-bub of Tokyo. Although he enjoyed Tokyo’s modern –albeit, sometimes very whacky—atmosphere, for some reason it never completely struck his fancy. Osaka and Kyoto were tied for second, with Hokkaido’s northern city of Sapporo nipping at their heels for third.
Alfred smiled inwardly. He’d never tell Kiku that his secret favorite number two city was actually Nara. Childish, yes, but America loved Nara so much because of its famous wild deer. He had never seen such tiny creatures, not even back home. Feeding the deer those a-hundred-yen-a-bunch wafer cookies never failed to lift Alfred’s spirits.
Not that he’d ever tell the other nation that Nagasaki was his favorite city in the first place.
As America exited the train station he inhaled deeply, taking in the sweet and salty smell of the familiar harbor and Nagasaki’s famous soup dish cooking somewhere close by. He’d never forget the distinct smell of the city where Alfred first met the nation of the rising sun.
Not even two hundred years could wipe away that smell from his memory. It was the smell of soft sea foam rising to meet the hauls of Commodore Perry’s merchant vessels as they entered the port of Nagasaki.
Alfred smiles when he remembers that a few days prior the commodore had tried to force his frigate into Edo. There he was curtly turned away by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and ordered to sail down the coast of Honshu towards the southern island of Kyushu and the port of Nagasaki.
At the time Alfred wasn’t too shocked at the eviction. For decades various European nations who had visited his house complained of the mysterious Asian island nation who let almost no one enter his house hold. He remembers Spain and England envying the Netherlands, who for some reason was favored by Japan and was the only European nation to have more than five seconds with the nation before being shut out and being kindly asked to leave.
Nation states the world over knew that Japan had cut himself off socially and economically for hundreds of years. For what reasons, no one was exactly sure. Everyone in Europe was determined to make Japan crack. But failed mission after failed mission, European nation states returned home with tails between their legs. Apparently, Japan was one stubborn son of a bitch.
America, being the obstinate nation he was—and still is—took that as a personal challenge. If no one in Europe or Asia could make this island nation give, then maybe a little American persuasion could do the trick. If he could force Japan to accept his offering of free trade and friendship, he was sure he would be bragging about it to Europe for many years to come.
Nation states did not own just one house. Most nations, especially large ones such as Alfred, have multiple homes scattered throughout their territory.
As America approached Japan’s house, with samurai flanked on either side of him, he instantly knew that this was not his primary home. Alfred assumed his main one was back in Edo and he kinda wished he had been let in to see it. This one looked more like a summer home. Although it appeared small, it must be a good place to escape.
Japan open his door just enough for half his face to peek out. “Please go away,” he said in a polite but stern voice. “I want no business with you Westerners.”
“Ahh, so you’re Japan!” Alfred beamed, ignoring the other nation’s request as he sauntered up towards the door. “I’ve heard lots of things about you. You’re a little too secretive you know that?”
The one dark brown eye glowering at him blinked once, “How my people and I conduct ourselves is none of Europe’s concern. Now please, head back to your ship and go home.”
America’s grin widened, “I think you’re mistaking me for some other nations. You see, I’m not from Europe. My name’s America and I’m very happy to finally see you face to face. Er, half-face to face anyways.”
A few moments of silence followed. “You look like all the other Westerners to me. Tall. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Tell me…America is it? Why is it you look like a Westerner, but claim to not be one? Please, enlighten this poor Asian nation.”
“Whoa, whoa, now!” Alfred said as he put his palms out, “I didn’t mean anything like that! I just want to be friends with you is all. And I’m honestly not from Europe. I’m a nation from the New World. And truthfully….” Alfred was just outside the door now. He leaned in and almost whispered, “I don’t blame you for not trading with Europe. Europe is filled with a bunch of stuck up assholes anyways.”
More awkward silence came between them. “You…wish to be friends?” Japan finally broke the quiet, “The only thing Europe ever wanted from me was to open my doors and let them economically stomp all over me.”
“Been there before,” Alfred grumbled.
A few more tense minutes of conversation followed and America reconfirmed that yes, Alfred promised he didn’t want to make unfair treaties (Which would prove to be untrue. He took advantage of Japan’s economics the first change he got) And that yes, America wanted to befriend Japan. (Probably the only true statement in the whole ordeal.)
When Japan finally opened the door fully America’s eyes widened, surprised by the outfit the other nation wore. He couldn’t contain himself from exclaiming “Is that a skirt?!”
How or why Japan didn’t slide the door in his face back then America will never know. Maybe he was simply amused at the other nation’s reaction. America learned quickly that a hakama was most certainly not a skirt.
America climbed aboard the pleasantly crowded trolley. He nabbed his ticket from the ticket booth on the left side of the entrance doors, and quietly took his seat towards the back. He had to squeeze past a business man in his forties, but the man didn’t seem to mind the big bulky American sitting down next to him. Once sitting Alfred sighed, a slight smile tugging at his lips.
The trolley lurched forward violently as it began to move. If not for the handles dangling from the ceiling, the other foreigners aboard who had chosen to stand would have surely fallen over. The hardened Nagasaki citizens who had grown up taking these trolleys everywhere on the other hand, hardly swayed when the trolley rocked.
The American’s ahoge twitched when he heard girlish laughter coming from a few seats behind him. He turned his head just slightly, and out of the corner of his eye he could see two high school girls in uniforms staring at him. They exchanged quick, nervous glances with each other and him, giggling into their hands as they spoke furiously.
Alfred had long since grown accustom to the awkward staring whenever he visited nations like Japan. His bright blond hair and blue eyes did make him stand out, although nowadays with all the younger people dying their hair he didn’t stand out quite as much as he used to.
America chuckled a little. He didn’t blame the girls for staring. He was a hero after all.
Alfred turned in his seat so he could better face the girls. The American flashed a wide, toothy grin at them and gave them a thumbs up. The girls squealed loudly, and their conversation became a hundred times more erratic then before.
America turned back around and smirked triumphantly. That never got old. He let the lull of the trolley give his mind the opportunity to wander, but as he dove back into the recesses of his memories he could have sworn he heard one of the girls call him moe. Or was it something else? He didn’t quite catch it. America would have to ask Japan what that word meant again.
Alfred had been aboard the Enola Gay when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It had been a difficult take off. The nine thousand pound bomb strapped to the airplane’s belly weighed it down so much it took the whole length of the airstrip just to get her flying.
But take off was a tiny hiccup in the grand scheme of the operation. The flight en route couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a clear and cloudless summer night, and America passed the time by poking his head into the cockpit to strike a conversation with the pilot and co-pilot. (He was sure the other crew members in the back tired of their nation’s antics.)
And as America gazed up at the stars through the cockpit window, he knew that this night would leave the world forever changed.
At 8:15 in the morning the first atomic bomb was dropped on the sleeping city of Hiroshima. All the crewmen aboard held their breath as the bomb plummeted towards the earth. None of them, not even Alfred, knew what to expect.
But unlike the others America tore his eyes away as the bomb fell. He scrunched his eye lids tight and turned his head away in shame. He couldn’t watch millions of innocent people about to die.
He had to keep reminding himself that he was doing this to spare Kiku and his people from an invasion. To prevent even more people from dying in this already bloody and costly war.
That thought didn’t give him much comfort as the nuke detonated high above the city sky line.
The Enola Gay was about eleven miles from the drop zone when it was struck by the shockwaves of the blast. The tremor rattled the plane violently, almost as if the gods were toying with it like it was their plaything.
“Jesus Christ! What the hell was that!?”
Everyone on board scrambled to unload their guns at the enemy. They had mistaken the shockwave for enemy gunfire, and braced themselves for a dog fight. But to everyone’s relief, the small arsenal of B-29 bombers hadn’t been sniffed out by the Japs.
And when no more shock waves came after the initial blast the men breathed a little easier. America joked that they all needed a good glass of scotch after surviving that one. It succeeded in shattering the tenseness of the moment. The crewmen broke out into fits of laughter.
Alfred was just glad that their attention was off of him. He had caught one of the gunners eyeing him with concern and he was sure as hell that he didn’t want that unneeded attention. America cursed himself for letting his emotions wear on his sleeves.
Once again he found himself replaying what he had been trying to convince himself for the past few months. You’re tired of this war. End it with a swift kick to that goddamn Jap’s face instead of beating his broken body like a dead dog.
As the plane retreated into the morning sky America stole a glace of what was going on outside. He watched in awe and terror as a mushroom cloud, more massive any other man made cloud he’s ever laid eyes on, ascended into the atmosphere and blanketed the surrounding areas with its destructive power.
The only light that could be seen for miles was the fires scorching the destroyed rubble of a city that not too long ago was preparing to wake up to a new day.
When the plane arrived back after their successful mission, they returned to the whole base cheering for them.
It’s like everyone knew the war was near its end. Finally, they thought, finally they could go home. The soldiers hooped and hollered, and were quick to bring out the music and the booze. America was grateful that at least tonight he could forget reality and what he had just done.
To really seal the deal he declared that everyone should drink to their heart’s content. He took his own words to heart and partied hard, getting himself drunker than a skunk. It took two generals to drag his wasted ass back to his bunk.
Later that night, Alfred tossed and turned violently as he slept, caught in the throes of a terrifying nightmare. He dreamt of an entire city being wiped off the face of the earth in the blink of an eye, of children with radiation burns all over their bodies crying out for their dead mothers, of buildings burning to the ground with people still trapped inside, and of thousands of innocent people being vaporized to death in the matter of seconds.
No amount of alcohol could make America forget what he had done.
America paid his two hundred and twenty yen in cash, the metal coins making a soft clink-clink sound down the allotted slot before he hopped off the trolley.
Just across the street was Nagasaki’s Peace Park. Alfred gulped, but curtly crossed the road. He nervously looked up at a beautiful collection of flower-covered stair cases leading upward towards the main site.
Each step weighed the nation down like an elephant strapped to each of his legs. His heart was grave and heavy but he reminded himself what he had come for. It was too late for him to be turning back now.
At the top of the stair cases stood a majestic fountain, and beyond that were dozens of statues dedicated to Nagasaki by various nations. America strode past the fountain and through a collection of ruins on either side of the pathway. He recalls Germany telling him one time that the park was built where a prison used to be before the bomb. The Bomb. The A Bomb that torched the sky and practically destroyed the entire city.
His eyes were drawn to the ground, avoiding gawking at all the states that said peace in multiple languages. Alfred recoiled at the memory that he didn’t donate a statue until 1992. But the American somehow forced himself to walk all the way to the main event.
At the very back of the park was the largest statue of all. It was a tall, copper effigy, tinted green from years of oxidation. It was a statue of a man with eyes shut tight. His left arm was outstretched to the side, the palm down and non-threatening. His right leg was curled towards his body as if in in meditation, while his left leg looked like he was ready to take the first step in the right direction. And finally the statue’s right hand was pointed towards the sky, towards the bomb that had caused all of this in the first place.
A few days later on August 9th 1945 Alfred climbed aboard the Bockscar to witness a second mushroom cloud skyrocket into the air.
Nagasaki wasn’t even the intended target. The city of Kokura should have been the town to be erased off the planet. But after rendezvous problems with the aircraft The Big Stink (which annoyingly delayed them for forty minutes), and Kokura’s dense cloud cover saving her citizens from death, the crew of the Bockscar had to settle for the second best option. Nagasaki.
Alfred remembers trying to convince his boss that some other city should replace Nagasaki. Japan may have royally pissed him off by bombing goddamn Pearl Harbor but he wasn’t going to let the very city where he first met the other nation erupt in flames.
His boss only scoffed in return. “And what do you suggest we replace it with then? Kyoto? Tokyo? Osaka? Kagoshima? Alfred, Nagasaki the next best option we’ve got and the best chance we’ve got at ending this war.”
Alfred and the crew of the Bockscar arrived back without the same joyous atmosphere as the Enola Gay. Almost no one welcomed their return. A few pictures were taken, there were a few claps to soldier’s backs, and some congratulations, but that was all.
Not that there was anything to congratulate.
No one partied that night. There was no music. America broke out in a bar brawl with some Marines and once again had to be dragged back to his bed.
Looking back America doesn’t even remember what started the fight in the first place.
The bombing of Nagasaki would later be known as the forgotten bomb. But after each and every time he woke up screaming from yet another nightmare about charred corpses and hair falling out by the handful, America only wished that was true for him.
Alfred slowly and skittishly walked up towards the statue. Off to either side were two little stone structures, a golden paper crane adoring the top of both. America hardly glanced at the statue before bee-lining it to one of the structures. Inside were thousands of beautifully constructed paper cranes dangling from poles. Alfred dug into his pocket and withdrew a tiny collection of paper cranes sealed with in a plastic sandwich bag. He’d worked on trying to get them right for months, and wanted to be relieved of this tiny but somehow suffocating burden.
He quickly strung the cranes on a pole and tied them in place. He took a few steps back to admire his work, and muttered a few quick words of apology before nearly jogging away from the park.
Over sixty years have passed since that day and America is still running away from his problems.
He didn’t give a fuck what the generals and his boss told him, he was going into Nagasaki to find Kiku. In his gut he knew this was a terrible and most likely a disastrous idea, but he’d been having those god awful nightmares for weeks and he wanted to make them end.
He finally found Japan by the ruins of a Catholic church that had been around for nearly as long as Christianity had been in allowed in the nation. It was practically the hypocenter of the bomb, yet somehow, miraculously, a few scattered statues and pieces of the building still stood.
Nations were immune to physical damage unless their people were directly affected, so the lethal amounts of radiation still swirling around him had no influence on the larger nation.
The same could not be said for Japan.
Nearly his entire body was covered in radiation burns. His robe was in tatters, with many chunks ripped off and abandoned, exposing even more of the damage. The burn wounds ranged in color from scarlet red, to vibrant pink to oozing sickening brown. And the burns leached a strange, clear liquid.
Nearly all his thick black hair had fallen out. By now only a few strands remained on his otherwise now-bald head. One of his normally deep black irises was milky white from cataracts caused by the radiation. He had been crawling on his knees for some amount of distance, vomiting blood onto the ground, which left behind a trail of red in his wake.
His flesh reeked of singed skin and the coppery odor of congealed blood. His whole body shook violently from the agony. His frame was made more fragile by his people running low on supplies, with many hungry and starving. Alfred could see almost all of Kiku’s ribs as he wheezed for each breath. How he was still moving in that condition America didn’t know.
The larger nation swallowed the pride of victory, and trotted over towards the other wounded nation. He towered over the shaking Japanese, and held his breath, unsure what to do next. Japan sensed his presence and craned his neck to look up. His one, still seeing eye was emotionless, like a giant void had been ripped into his soul.
America released the breath he’d been holding and knelt down. He avoided looking Japan in the eye, but offered the nation his hand.
Deep down America knew that Japan would never take his hand. Not here, not now, and most likely, not ever. But it felt wrong to leave the other nation lying there, burned, beaten, and starving. Yet at the same time it felt just as wrong to offer help, after all that he had done.
America had spared Japan and his people an invasion of their homeland. But at what cost, Alfred felt ill to imagine.
In the end, America decided that this war had caused too much mutual butchery. Not just on his and Japan’s part, but the whole world. Nation states the globe over were reeling from the effects of this catastrophe and it would be a long time before the wounds of World War II would scab over, and even longer for the scars to fade.
For many nations like Japan, America suspected, those wounds would never truly heal. One word and all the memories could bubble to the surface, raw emotion oozing out of re-opened cuts, with hatred infecting the wound. Not even the best medicine in the world could soothe a nation’s pain after destruction and death on such a magnitude.
But right here, right now, America did not want to be remembered as the monstrous nation who A-bombed Japan and fucking did nothing to reconcile for it. He had done enough damage as it was by creating such a weapon at all, and now, all he could do was offer his hand and his request for forgiveness.
Japan forced himself to frown and spat blood in America’s face. “Get away from me,” he hissed, “Westerner, I don’t fucking want your help.”
America was un-phased, and stood there with his hand pro-offered for a little while longer, unmoving. That is, until Japan stabbed his foot with a knife Alfred never guessed he’d been hiding.
Alfred climbed aboard the ropeway, and looked out the windows gleefully as the ropeway whisked him up towards the building on top of the mountain.
It took about five minutes to reach the top, and another minute or so of hiking along a cement trail before the building was in sight.
As the hardy nation trekked up the ramp to the top of the watch tower, all his thoughts were on the beauty of Nagasaki. During their work on the Manhattan project, scientists had told Alfred that nothing would grow in and around Hiroshima or Nagasaki for at least seventy years.
Overlooking the beautiful port and vast forests below him, Alfred was reminded that Kiku’s resilience had long since proved them wrong. Not even sixty five years had passed, yet from his bird’s eye view from the tower it appeared as if nothing of such destruction had ever occurred there.
If not for the memories seared into his brain, or Japan’s melancholy gaze when the subject accidentally slipped into conversation, or the memorials scattered across both cities, Alfred would have forced himself to forgotten that chapter in history.
But he could not, and would not, so he occupied his mind with new memories. Starting with Japan’s economic success starting in the 50’s, and currently ending with the beautiful view of the city he now sees looking out from the watchtower.
Alfred spun around, nearly falling over at the sound of Japan’s voice. “K-Kiku what are you doing here?” America stuttered. He could feel his cheeks slowly become hot with embarrassment. To this day he hated it when Kiku caught him here in this city where he and his people had caused so much pain all those sixty five years ago. His gut churned with guilt. His heart raced. He couldn’t meet the smaller nation in the eye.
“I should be asking you the same question.”
The American winced and recoiled from the statement, shuffling his feet to distract his growing embarrassment. “I’m…I just wanted to see the view from up here.”
To his surprise, Kiku smiled warmly at him, with no trace of hidden malice behind it. “It’s nice up here, ne, Alfred?”
Alfred tore his eyes off the ground and finally looked at Japan in the face. He stared at the other nation for a long time before looking off to the side and replying with a sheepish smile of his own. “Yeah, it’s real nice up here.”
Kiku hummed in agreement and stood by his side, leaning onto the guard rail with his palms. “May I watch with you?” Japan asked.
Alfred nodded stiffly and turned around to look back out over the back. “Sure.” He mumbled, and the two fell into a mutual silence.
For now, America was quite content looking out over the city Nagasaki, his favorite city, but this time he was watching it grow and thrive, instead of watching it die.
→ This is a hakama.
I will edit in the other notes I have, but alas I didn't bring the history books I used for this fic with me to college. D: