Life was hard for Liu. A product of the Imperial Breeding program, Liu and his entire family were kept isolated from mainline society, for reasons the Emperor had never explained to his people.
Liu wasn't really meant to know any of this, he wasn't meant to know about the breeding program at all, he wasn't meant to know very much at all about the outside world but he was a smart boy and there were always those that would defy the Emperor and smuggle in choice pieces of knowledge. His life was hard because the Emperor had deemed it so, probably because of some clandestine prophecy, as the Emperor was want to do. He didn't have access to a lot of thing they apparently took for granted in the outside world, but that didn't matter to him. For a while now he'd been formulating his own plans, plans for a great machine that could change the world for the better.
He'd already shown great prowess amongst those in his isolated community as a machine-craft. His was always the most complex, yet elegant clockwork. It was his machines that people sought after the most to plough their fields, to tell them when it would rain next, to entertain them with amusing tricks or with music. Despite all that though, he was jealous of what those outside must experience.
Machine-crafting was hard, costly work and even though he nearly always made enough money to pay for his costs, he never had enough money left over to work on his dreams. It was terribly frustrating.
However, now wasn't the time for daydreaming and wish the world was not as it was. Now was the time for work and so he picked up his brush, dabbed the fine bristles in the inkwell set into the worktop and continued drawing out the new plans for his latest work. Father Wu down at the monastery had commissioned him to build a machine that could do the dangerous work of replacing the tiles on the monastery roof.Two men had already died in as many months thanks to the storms that had caused the damage in the first place and Father Wu was no longer prepared to risk good men and women's lives. The monastery needed to be maintained none-the-less though and so Father Wu had come to him.
He was making a particularly involved annotation when something slammed into his leg, jolting him and leaving a long, black swoosh across his diagram. Biting his lip to stop himself from screaming an obscenity, he looked down to see his nephew.
"Toshi, what did your mother tell you about bothering me when I was working?"
"Sorry Uncle but we found something!" Toshi squealed up at him, hugging Liu's leg with childish determination.
"Really? And what did you find that required you to burst in here like this?"
"We found a machine Uncle!"
"There's lots of machines around here," Liu sighed, though he couldn't bring himself to be angry with the little one, "It's probably one of mine. You know Toshi, I'm really very bu-"
But Toshi didn't let him finish. "But this is a different machine! It's from outside!"