Kinkmeme prompt was for "crazy/dark Japan with the puppet state of Manchukuo, bonus if Manchukuo is literally a puppet". Not sure if this is exactly what was wanted, as Japan's less "evil" than "well-intentioned but Doing It Very Wrong and rapidly losing grasp on reality", but I saw the suggestion and this was my immediate mental image. The Korean occupation was going on in the meantime, and I like to think of the Hetalia characters Japan and Korea as having a sort of Nathan-and-Shilo relationship at that time; Japan thinks he's helping, but is fucking it up beyond compare. I don't know if googly eyes were commercially available in 1932, but considering America has a laptop in the 40s ...

China taps his foot nervously, waiting for Japan to arrive. A private meeting between nations at war. Not exactly a peace conference, just making sure each knows the others' intentions first-hand. No human bodyguards; they can't kill each other permanently as long as each still has some mortals left alive.

Japan asked to bring along his new state. China is curious. His people were driven out of Manchuria, the place occupied by the Japanese and renamed Manchukuo. He wasn't aware it had its own personification yet. Usually that takes a little time, as the humans settle in. A gestation period, almost.

The door opens, and the black-clad Japan enters, flanked by two men in uniform. He bows, as briefly and shallowly as propriety allows. China stands and returns the gesture, then stands with arms akimbo and an angry glare on his face. Japan confers with his escorts, who leave the two nations alone.

"Brother," China says shortly.

"Good morning," says Japan, equally shortly.

"So where's this new state I've been hearing so much about? You slew my people for him, he'd better be worth it." China peers behind Japan, wondering if the expected child is hiding behind him.

Japan raises his left hand, letting his sleeve slide down his arm a little. "Say hello to Uncle China, Manchi-kun." "Manchi-kun"'s head bobs in a neat bow, and Japan smiles lovingly.

China blinks in astonishment. Manchukuo appears to be a sock. A long white sock with goggle-eyes glued on, thin black threads sewn on for hair, and the Manchukuo flag sewn to the front. He gapes, then sits back down and falls across the table, whooping with laughter.

"Brother, it's not polite to mock new nations," says Japan. The sock's plastic eyes wobble as he makes it shake its head disapprovingly, only causing China to laugh harder.

Finally, China manages to get his laughter under control, and says as seriously as possible to the sock puppet, "It's very nice to meet you, Manchukuo." He jokingly bows to it. If Japan wants to play silly games, China will play along for now. He never pulled stunts like this when he was a child, but perhaps he's making up for lost time.

Japan looks expectantly at the puppet, as if listening for a response, then turns back to China, smiling. "He says hello. He doesn't like being laughed at, but he's willing to forgive you."

China wipes tears of merriment from his eyes. "Oh my. I know we're at war, but I'm still your brother, and as such, I think I'm allowed to tell you that you really, really need to get out more."

Japan cuddles the sock protectively and murmurs something in Japanese. China mentally translates, though it takes him a moment to parse the Japanese baby-talk. Japan actually said "Don't listen to the nasty foreigner, darling."

China is starting to get worried. This is seeming less and less like a silly prank. "Japan, are you feeling quite well?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Japan ... little brother ... I don't know if you've noticed, but your puppet state is an actual puppet."

Japan looks down, slightly shamefaced. "... I know." He looks back up with a scowl. "Who are you to talk? You're the one who talks to kitty dolls."

"That's really not the same thing, Japan!" China says, blushing. "My kitty dolls don't have any say in my politics. You're trying to run a state via a piece of clothing! Please tell me it's at least a clean sock."

"There'll be a real Manchukuo soon, I'm just practicing. It's been a while since I dealt with children much, and this is easier to hide in public than a doll!" Japan protests. He straightens out a wrinkle in the sock. "Perhaps I should make a doll instead, though, it would be better for practice." He looks back at the puppet, and strokes it like a kitten. "I shall say this, Manchi-kun is easier to care for than Korea."

China's hackles rise. He knows what's happening to his other brother. "How is he, by the way? Have you put him in the charge of any pieces of your laundry? Perhaps you'll replace him with a towel?"

"Still trying to escape from my home. He made it most of the way to Fukuoka this time, so I confined him to his room." Japan clicks his tongue disapprovingly. "Silly boy. I give him all I can, I only want him to learn."

"You're killing his people, just like mine!"

"Only humans. He has plenty more. And both of you have killed mine too."

"That's not the point!" China slams his fist on the table. "You're insane! You're attacking your own family and publicly talking to toys! No wonder Korea keeps trying to run!"

"Korea keeps trying to run because I am a bad parent figure," Japan says, sounding so truly ashamed that China's anger is replaced by shock. "I try to keep him well-behaved and happy, but nothing seems to be working. I want to give up, but I can't abandon him. That is why I need to practice. When the proper Manchukuo comes, I want to know I can do it right this time."

China watches his brother kiss the puppet and comb its hair with his fingers, looking at it with paternal love, and suddenly it isn't funny at all.