Main Pairing: Implied Rochu (Ivan x Yao) | Genre: Friendship | Rating: PG
Synopsis: Yao rescues little Ivan from an execution when the latter cooks unedibles for their then-master Mongolia's dinner, igniting a passion that burns for centuries to come.
My take on how Ivan and Yao first met.
Note: Batukahn is my human name for Mongolia. I do not usually create OCs or make up names for countries with no existing human names. However, for this story, I had to include Mongolia due to its past relations with Ivan and Yao, and I had to give him a name because I do not feel comfortable using country names for characters, especially when said character keeps getting insulted I do not think badly of Mongolia, Yao's opinions of him here does not represent my personal opinions.
Disclaimer: The following story is a derivative work of APH and shares no relation to actual countries, political ideologies, history or events. Characters are copyright to Hidekaz Himaruya, but the storyline and writing are copyright to me. You may share the link to this, but you may not repost my writings without my permission.
Chapter 2: Flowers That Look Like the Sun
The peace of the night did not last long. Near midnight, Yao awoke to a repetitive loud knocking noise that was quickly obscured by Ivan’s piteous wailing. He hastily pulled aside the curtains. Moonlight streamed in through the openwork windows, illuminating Ivan’s trembling form. The poor boy sat up with his face buried in his knees.
“What’s the matter?” Yao asked, alarmed that Ivan was crying so hard.
“He’s outside!” A high pitched, muffled whimper issued from his knees.
“Who?” Yao made to clamber out of bed to investigate the disturbance. A hard tug on his arm made him pause and turn back.
“Don’t go!” Ivan wrapped his arms around Yao’s arm and pressed his tearful face against his sleeve.
“It’s all right, it’s probably a branch knocking against the walls,” Yao patted the trembling head with his free hand, but Ivan was unconvinced.
“I’m scared. Don’t go,” he held on even tighter, surprising Yao with his strength.
Unable to pull his arm away, Yao put his other arm around the shivering boy. He felt the little one press his head against his chest. The front of his robe was becoming damp.
“Don’t worry, it’s not the barbarian. You would hear someone shouting like a caveman if it was indeed him aru,” Yao said soothingly as he stroked Ivan’s back.
Moments later, when the knocking died down, Ivan let out a loud sniff and lifted up his tear stained face.
“Why are you so scared? You were so brave just now when you stood up for yourself. Did you have a nightmare?” Yao cupped his face gently and wiped the tears off his cheeks.
Ivan gazed up into Yao’s soft amber eyes, taking comfort in their warmth and beauty. He took a deep breath.
“I dreamt of the night I was forced to come and live here,” he said in a quivering voice. Yao nodded encouragingly.
“Batukhan led a large group of soldiers to surround my house. They shouted in strange tongues. When my sisters and I refused to let them in, they broke down the doors and seized us.”
He paused and swallowed hard, while Yao watched him sympathetically.
“And then they set fire to my house. The fire was big and strong, but I have never shivered worst,” Ivan trembled.
“The bastards!” Yao exclaimed, his eyes wide with anger.
“All my sunflower drawings were gone. I spent a very long time on them,” Ivan said mournfully.
“Sunflowers?” Yao echoed.
“Da. Flowers that look like the sun. I have never seen them before, but my boss showed me paintings of them. There is hardly any sun where I come from, so drawing them makes me feel warm.”
“I see,” Yao nodded thoughtfully, trying to recall whether he had seen any flowers that looked like the sun in his long life.
“When I have my own house again, I’ll grow myself a garden of sunflowers.” Ivan’s tear-stained face look slightly cheered. Yao felt even more curious about these miracle flowers that could make a crying child perk up at the mere thought of them.
“Will you invite me to your garden?” Yao asked kindly.
“I’d love to!” Ivan clapped his hands together. “When you come to my garden, I will paint a picture of you standing in a field of sunflowers. I think it will turn out lovely because you’re so beautiful da.”
Feeling at a loss for words, Yao felt his face flush. Mixed feelings of embarrassment and annoyance surfaced upon being described with a word often associated with women. But he knew that Ivan was simply being candid and could not find it in his heart to chide him. Besides, Ivan had suddenly begun to look forlorn again.
“I wonder if it will be possible for me to have my own house again,” Ivan said dolefully. “Batukhan is getting more land and servants each day. It’s impossible to bring him down.”
Yao closed his eyes thoughtfully, wondering how he could console the boy. They were living in dark times, and what Ivan said might well be reality for a long time, but he had to stop the boy from wallowing in pessimism. At his age, he should be playing in a sunflower field, instead of wishing to grow one.
When his siblings were still by his side, Yao would tell them stories whenever they had nightmares. An idea occurred to him. Yao stretched out his two legs and patted his thighs. “Sit on my lap. I’ll tell you a story.”
“A story da? Nobody has ever told me a story before!” Ivan clambered excitedly onto Yao’s lap, making the older man feel another twinge of sympathy.
“Right,” Yao cleared his throat. Ivan looked up expectantly at him.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy who became king at the mere age of thirteen. Back then, his land was split into different warring states controlled by nobles who proclaimed themselves lords of their lands. He went on a campaign to conquer the different states. By twenty-four, he assumed full command as ruler of his land His campaign was so successful that neighbouring states felt threatened and they sent assassins to kill him, but he warded off all the attacks. Less than thirty years after he ascended the throne, he conquered all the states and unified them under one flag. He consolidated power by getting rid of all the people who opposed him. He called himself 'Qin Shi Huang', 'Qin' being the name of his dynasty, and 'Shi Huang' meaning the first emperor.”
“Wow,” Ivan marvelled. “He achieved so much at such a young age!”
“Not only did he unify his divided land, he also did many great things. He led armies to continue expanding his land. He built a network of roads, making travel and trading more convenient. He built a canal to link two of the greatest rivers in his land. It made water transportation easier, and could be used to irrigate fields so that the people could grow more crops. When they were attacked by barbarians every other day, he ordered the construction of an enormous defensive wall to line the borders.” Ivan was impressed. Any solution that meant more food and less war sounded ingenious to him.
“He sounds like a great man,” Ivan nodded. “I wish I had a king like that to rule my land.”
“Actually, I don’t think you would,” Yao sighed. “While he was an intelligent ruler, he also accomplished many evil deeds. The work on the defensive wall was carried out by hundreds of thousands of slaves and criminals. Untold thousands of them died from exhaustion or accidents. They were men with parents, wives and children pining for their return that was never to be. Their bodies were not even given proper burial, as many of them were crushed under heavy rocks, never to be found.”
“How awful!” Ivan’s eyes grew wide and scared.
“And that was not all. Afraid that intellectuals and schools of thought would challenge his authority, the Emperor ordered for all books that spoke ill of him to be burnt. Scholars who disagreed with him were buried alive or stoned to death. He was ruthless. My people were terrified of him. They knew they had to obey him, or face terrible consequences.”
Yao closed his eyes as he silently paid tribute to the people who died by his lord’s hands. Ivan observed him sadly, thinking that this was a very unhappy bedtime story.
“As he grew older, he began to fear death. He became obsessed with wanting to live forever. He interrogated me on the subject of immortality on several occasions, but I do not know the ways of the Heavens. He ordered people to travel far and wide to seek the elixir of life. When they failed to find it, he ordered court doctors and alchemists to concoct the potion.”
“Did they find the elixir of life?” Ivan asked anxiously.
“Well,” Yao gave a grim smile, “One day, a large meteor fell on one of our provinces. We consider this a bad omen for the Emperor. Further more, the words “The First Emperor will die and his land will be divided” were etched on the stone.”
“Who dared to do that?” Ivan gasped.
“That’s what the Emperor demanded to know too,” Yao said, “but nobody confessed. As expected, he ordered for the execution of everyone who had been near the meteor-hit area.”
“That’s unfair!” Ivan exclaimed.
“Yes it was terribly unfair,” Yao nodded. “But a year later, while he was touring the eastern part of my land, he died, presumably from mercury poisoning. Ironically, that had been a result of consuming the potions invented for him to achieve immortality.”
“Ha!” Ivan clapped his hands. “Serves him right! Of all the things to die from, he died from drinking his stupid potion!”
“Exactly. After decades of fending off ferocious armies and crafty assassins, he simply dropped dead, his powerful empire lost to another. We Chinese believe that you reap what you sow, and the Heavens are always watching. As you can see, even the Gods could no longer turn a blind eye to his deeds aru,” Yao said empathetically.
“Will the Gods stop Batukhan from being so mean to us?” Ivan asked hopefully.
“I believe they will. There is justice in the world, as I've told you in the story, " Yao nodded.
"But that story... you made it up, didn't you?" Ivan asked.
Yao shook his head grimly.
"No I didn't, Qin Shi Huang was my Emperor several hundreds of years ago."
Ivan's mouth gaped as comprehension dawned on him.
“Listen, my people will not allow a foreign barbarian to trample on us. They are biding their time to rebel, and the Heavens will aid them. I’m sure your people are waiting for their chance to rescue you too. You must have faith in them,” Yao placed his palms firmly on the small shoulders in front of him.
“I will,” Ivan nodded, feeling confidence surge through him. “But, why are you crying?”
He grabbed one end of his scarf and wiped Yao’s cheek clumsily with it.
“I… I am? I didn’t realize that aru. I suppose remembering the kindness of the Heavens and the resilience of my people brought me great comfort aru,” Yao gave a teary smile. Ivan continued to eye him worriedly.
“You’re a good boy aru,” Yao pressed the scarf back into Ivan’s hands and wiped his eyes on his own sleeve. “You remind me of my younger brother Kiku. He was a very thoughtful and considerate boy, until…” Yao grimaced, leaving his sentence incomplete.
Ivan cocked his head and stared at Yao with inquisitive round eyes, apparently dissatisfied with his unwillingness to speak. Yao found himself charmed by the lovable face.
“What’s your name, boy?” Yao ruffled his pale blond hair affectionately.
“Ivan. Ivan Braginski,” Ivan replied.
“Well, little Ivan, would you like to become my younger brother aru? I’ll protect you and teach you to become a strong and wise nation!” Yao looked at the boy with gleeful anticipation, delighted at the thought of having such a cute little brother.
“No,” Ivan replied almost immediately, wiping off the big grin on Yao’s eager face.
Yao stared at him disbelievingly. “Do you know who I am? I'm China, and I’ll have you know that many nations want to be my sibling, but I won’t even accept them! I don’t just accept anyone as my siblin, especially strange-looking foreigners like you!” He crossed his arms huffily.
Ivan was taken aback. Did Yao thought him an oddball too?
Noticing Ivan’s horrified expression, Yao hurriedly clarified, “I don’t mean it in a bad way. Although you look strange to me, I think you’re a good boy. That’s why I want you to be my little brother aru!”
At the compliment, Ivan smiled again, but he shook his head obstinately. “I can’t!”
“Why not?” Yao demanded.
“Because if I become your little brother, I won’t be able to marry you da,” Ivan replied candidly.
Silence ensued as Yao goggled at the little boy, wondering if he had misheard his words. There was no trace of jest. Ivan continued to look at him smilingly, a little blush surfacing on his pale cheeks.
Upon receiving no response from Yao, Ivan reiterated his point, “When I grow up, I want you to be my wife. Therefore, you cannot be my brother da.”
Without warning, Yao keeled over with laughter.
“Hahahaha! That’s why I love little children like you aru. You say the funniest things!” His face shone with amusement, tears trickling out of the corners of his eyes.
It was now Ivan’s turn to look affronted.
“What’s so funny? I meant what I said!” Ivan placed his hands on his sides and pouted up at Yao, arms akimbo.
“All right, may I know why you want me to be your… wife?” Yao managed to ask before he was overcome by another fit of giggles. He hastened to stifle it by biting on his knuckle.
Ivan’s frown disappeared, replaced by a look of adoration.
“Because you’re beautiful, kind and wise, and you make me feel happy and safe~” he gazed at Yao with a dreamy look in his eyes.
Ignoring Ivan’s usage of the word ‘beautiful’, Yao rubbed his chin thoughtfully and said, “But that sounds more like the description of a husband, rather than a wife. Not that I’m suggesting that we should be married at all though,” he hastily clarified.
“Why can’t we get married?” Ivan frowned.
Yao grinned weakly at him. Children are amusing, but they also ask exasperating questions.
“We are both males. Also, you shouldn’t marry just about anyone you like. You would end up with many wives,” Yao laughed drily.
“I don’t like just about anyone. I only like you. Also, I don’t understand what’s wrong with us getting married because we’re males. Being around my sisters makes me uncomfortable.”
Yao sighed. He did not want to discuss sexuality issues with a child, so he decided to take the easy way out.
“I’m tired, Ivan. Let’s go back to sleep, or we won’t have enough energy to put up with Batukhan’s nonsense tomorrow. You want your field of flowers that look like the sun, don’t you?”
“Da!” Ivan snuggled under the blanket without further ado.
Yao heaved a sigh of relief. Kids are so easily pacified!
“What? Aiya! Who said you could call me by my name? I’m your elder. You should show me respect aru!”
“All right, Mister Yao. You will marry me when I have my house and my sunflower field da?”
Yao groaned inwardly.
“We’ll talk about it when you have your house and your sunflower field aru. I’m very sleepy now,” Yao murmured, hoping that Ivan would stop pestering him.
Ivan was dissatisfied with Yao’s half-hearted answer, but decided to let him be. After all, Yao did look tired. Besides, it would be some time before he could have his house and sunflower field. He snuggled against Yao, and was elated when the older man put his arm around him.
“Good night, little Ivan,” came a drowsy voice.
“Good night, Yao~”