A Blossom of Blackpowder


Foreign Quarter “Nieuw Vierbak”, Mitsuyoru,
Isle of Satō, Sōkei Republic.
March 2nd, 1844

Rain pattered down on the tiled eaves, streaming out of bamboo rain gutters and running into puddles on the uneven cobbles underfoot. Renner stopped on a street corner as a horse-drawn cart rattled by, the rain beginning to soak through the cardboard soles of his cheap leather boots. It rained a lot here—something to do with the climate, or so he’d heard. The same had been true of his home, and the home after that, and the one after that. Now he was here, halfway across the world from his birthplace, but still unable to escape the scene of rain-slicked stones past nightfall. Something to reflect on? Perhaps, but he knew from experience that such idle thoughts often stem from extended idleness itself. So, with that thought fresh in his mind, he stood in the rain and waited. Seconds passed, then minutes, the constant drumbeat of raindrops on the oilskin hood of his rain cloak beating out a steady rhythm that drowned out any attempt at keeping track of the time. The street seemed empty. He checked his pocket watch, then glanced up quickly as the heavy tread of booted feet cut through the dull thrum of the rain. A hooded figure approached from across the street, an umbrella resting across one shoulder.

“Varengeld my boy, it’s been far too long.”

It was a man’s voice, deep, even, and marked with the hints of a Nagatoian accent. He stopped a few feet from Renner, raising his hood with his free hand to reveal a striking, patricianly face surrounded by a mane of graying black hair. Renner smiled, offering a hand in greeting to his old friend.

“Miura Toshiro, you old bastard. Still kicking I see?”

Chuckling at the remark, Toshiro took Renner’s hand, shaking it warmly.

“I admit only to being in better health than last time we met.” he said, releasing Renner’s hand to gesture to the long scar across his right cheek, “Taking a knife to the face will do that to a man, I’m afraid.”

Renner shrugged, glancing around the empty street as he spoke.

“It’s lucky for you that you never had any good looks to ruin in the first place then. Now”—he paused, turning to gesture down the street—”I suggest we retire somewhere a little less open. This tableau of a greeting is hardly inconspicuous.”

Nodding in response, Toshiro took the lead, pulling Renner after him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Of course. Besides, I know I wasn’t terribly direct in my letters, but what I have to share with you is a secret best kept between the two of us.” said Toshiro, stopping under the flickering glow of one of the gas lamps dotting the Mitsuyoru city center. They were a rare concession to modernity, the kind of actionable change promised by would-be revolutionaries in the years before an independent Satō. The faint sound of boisterous voices emanated from behind the closest door.

“I have lodgings in the inn here. Let’s get inside, and I’ll tell you everything.”

Renner nodded and made for the doorway, but Toshiro grabbed his arm, stopping him with his hand braced to push the heavy wooden door open.

“Renner. Before you commit to this, I must be honest with you.” Toshiro said, his voice suddenly serious, “This will not be a decision you can easily back out of, and it carries a not-insignificant degree of risk. I’m all too aware of your previous… shall we say altercations with the VCC, and the journey I plan to embark on will likely bring me and any allies that stand with me into conflict with them.”

Toshiro sighed, pulling his hand back from Renner’s arm.

“That being said, I can promise you one thing. If you join me in this, you’ll make it out the other side richer than you can possibly imagine.”

A moment of silence passed between the two men, interrupted only by the background wash of the rain. Renner stared into Toshiro’s eyes, unblinking, and then nodded.

“Very well.” said Toshiro, a grim smile crossing his bearded face, “Let’s talk about revolutions, and the unforeseen complications they entail.”