Rise of a Thousand Empires

"Hello, Father."

Even through a photograph, his black eyes judged him.

"It's… been a while." He forced himself to maintain eye contact. "Japan is different now." He laughed, a strange mi You wouldn't even recognize it. Even I find it hard to keep up. Every day I discover another odd new machine, another miracle of science." He opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again - as if words were shuffling inside him.

"You know, Father, it's not such a bad thing." The faintest glimmer of a frown arced across his lips. "The steel? The concrete? They're not so bad. We've conquered the heavens, Father. Imagine what our country will be like a decade later. As the world changes, so must we. I chose progress. What did you choose?"

When he fell silent his face was contorted with bitterness, like some gnarled part of him deep inside was opening up. As he realized the enormity of what he had just done, His face turned red with shame, and he lowered his head into a prostrate position before his father's candlelit countenance.

"Forgive me. I spoke out of line." Colonel Hisao Okamura of the Imperial Japanese Army stood up, bowed one last time, and walked away.

"Goodbye, Father."


Colonel Okamura lived in a two-story, traditionally furnished house on the outskirts of Tokyo, hidden away from the rest of the city by a sprawling thicket of cherry trees. In the spring, he would always sit on his rocking chair in the courtyard and watch the petals float to the ground, slowly and gracefully, like little ballerinas dancing in the wind.

Tokyo Novembers were cold, but not unbearable. Colonel Okamura was especially tolerant, choosing to bicycle to work through rain and snow. He liked the fresh air. As he entered a more populated part of town, Colonel Okamura saw a poster hanging from the roof of a building. It read:

LAY DOWN YOUR LIVES

FOR HONOR AND GLORY

YOUR DIVINE EMPEROR NEEDS YOU

The buildings faded just as quickly as they came, and Colonel Okamura once again disappeared into the countryside, passing

As he stepped into the low grey army building, Colonel Okamura was greeted by an unusual sight.

"Major General," Colonel Okamura said, bowing in front of the portly man, looking somewhat like a gourd in his green uniform.

"Lieutenant Colonel." General Sato bowed as well.

"I must admit, this is an unexpected visit. I don't normally see you around this facility."

"High Command is here. They want to speak with you."

"Concerning?"

"The Agency." Colonel Okamura's jaw tensed. "Follow me." He followed General Sato into a brightly-lit conference room in the south wing of the facility, where another uniformed officer sat at a table.

"This is Major General Hanamuri," General Sato said as the man on the other side of the table rose. "He is here on behalf of High Command."

"A pleasure to meet you, Major General." Colonel Okamura bowed.

"Likewise, Colonel." General Hanamuri did so in return. He looked a little young to be a general, Colonel Okamura thought, with a head still full of dark hair and eyes hidden behind thick glasses that still had a boyish sort of energy.

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