Chapter 1: A Visitor
It was late and the streets were empty, although it was said that the winding lanes of Osaka never slept. A bitter wind blew, stinging rain onto thousands of tiny stacked houses, thier lights fluttering violently. Ryu sat cross-legged next to his central fire, the small flame heating a bowl of water and rising through a hole in the ceiling. He wore his best silk kimono; plain white with green flowing patterns on the sleeves. He had swapped the valuable item with the traders at the dock for a drawing of his own irrigation system, perfected for a home garden. Steam began to whisper off the surface of the bubbling water and Ryu carefully lifted the metal bowl down by its handle. He crushed some green tea leaves into two cups, using his thumb and forefinger to achieve the right consistency. Ryu was expecting a visitor and when he finished pouring the boiled water a soft knock came from the door. He rose and made his way to the entrance, for there was only one large room downstairs.
“Who is it?” Ryu called, putting his ear to the maple wood door.
“Jin”. Ryu unbolted the door and was hit by an icy blast of wind.
“Come in, quick” Ryu uttered, Jin stepping into the weakly lit room, he nodded in approval as the door was latched.
“This place is warm!” Jin exclaimed, his rough Osaka accent pleased.
“Yes, it is the hay I have stuffed in the walls, I call it insulation” Ryu said offhandedly “But now is not the time to discuss it” He said, surveying the man which had just entered his home. Jin was tall and powerfully built; he was clad in black, with bits of dulled metal armour on his shoulders and abdomen. A short, straight blade hung from his hip, the handle intricately detailed with dragons and strange patterns. A grapple hook was attached to his back, the rope wrapped round his body several times.
“Please, sit down” Ryu urged, not looking nearly as fierce as his visitor. Jin placed his sword on a rack and sat next to Ryu, accepting the tea with thanks. They talked of irrelevant matters, discussing the latest news and gossips until they were on their second cup of tea.
“So what brings me to you, my friend?” Jin questioned, sipping his hot drink from its red earthen cup.
“As you may know, I am not a man of violence...”
“You want someone dead? Done! I am a ninjitsu after all, am I not?” Jin clapped his hands together in anticipation but Ryu tried to ignore the interruption, not wishing to offend Jin.
“I am a man of vision and invention; I can see the potential in this city. The people are scattered and hostile, but if we could get them to work together. Think what we could achieve, an army of workers, of inventors, soldiers, traders the list is endless” Ryu waved his hands in the air with passion “This is what I dream off, a city we can call our own, not governed by the emperor in Yamagata. A city which can surpass the capitol in beauty and technology, in military might and political power”. Ryu finished and fell quite, a little embarrassed by explaining so much in one go. A silenced stretched over the fire, Jin’s eyebrows furrowed in thought. Eventually he spoke.
“I wish for your vision too. But do you have any idea of what it will take? Do you even have a plan?”
“That is why I need your clans help, and yes, a rough one” Ryu spoke pleadingly “I cannot offer you anything in return, but in the future you may come to rule a kingdom” Ryu left the word hanging in the air and Jin seemed to turn it over in his mind.
“It is tempting no doubt, but I shall have to speak with my father, he is head of the clan and will make the decisions. Perhaps you would want to meet with him privately?”
“Yes, that would be helpful” Ryu said “They are other things I wish to discuss with him to”.
“Very well, I will meet you at the fish market tomorrow, and bring with me a date for the meeting”.
Jin re-harnessed his sword and stepped out into the cold, dissolving into the shadows within seconds. Ryu smiled, feeling the talk had gone well, if not the business part a little too short. He doused the fire and lit a large lamp dangling from the ceiling, his shadow dancing across the stone grey walls. He settled down to a bowl of warm rice and fishcakes, mulling over the meeting with Jin.
Ryu had been living in solitary ever since his father had passed away seven years ago. He was now 24 and the creative mind his beloved father had nurtured was blossoming. Ryu spent every day refining his inventions and brainstorming problems which had been presented to him.
Every Thursday he would walk into town and sell and swap what he could of his ideas. He lived a peaceful and happy life, he loved what he did, but recently he had found himself restless. He had grown to be very fond of Osaka and the thought of its independence had consumed him. Night and day he lay awake and thought, they were so many questions to be answered and hurdles to overcome. Who would rule? How would they shrug off the emperor? Would the citizens enjoy the change? All these questions fluttered into Ryu’s mind and tormented him until he had been pushed into taking the first step.
The clan was difficult to find and elusive at the best of times. Ryu had paid for the information on a members residence and had set up a meeting at his own house, again with a bribe. Ryu was pleased with how outgoing Jin had been, he felt as if they were old friends already. Ryu could only hope the rest of the clans members were as helpful.