Suzuki climbed out of the locomotive’s top hatch, taking a deep breath of fresh summer air. Crushed greenery, a little dust, and he could still almost taste a hint of bike exhaust. Fuel for those would have to go on the list. The clean sound of the engines meant they were efficient little bikes, probably just sipped kerosene where others would gulp. But he thought he had a good grasp of what supplies were on the Koutetsujou by now, and while they’d restocked fuel for cooking they’d never expected to have this many people to cook for. The salvage party had found a few stored bottles in a medicine-seller’s shack, but Suzuki wasn’t letting that near the Hunters until steamsmiths had had a chance to filter it first. It’d be a hell of a lot easier to steal fuel from the kitchen supplies than get new engine parts.
There he is.
Sling, rifle, and the cranky look of a steamsmith who really wanted to say screw it, and bring out a bigger hammer.
Young, Suzuki thought, heading over to where Ikoma was scanning the treeline. Takes time to figure out when you need to relax, and just wait. “Ikoma-kun.”
“Suzuki-san.” The younger steamsmith relaxed a little. “No Kabane yet.”
Yet. That was always the worry, these past twenty years. It was hard to remember a time when there hadn’t been Kabane lurking on every horizon. When the worst someone walking these woods had to worry about was a wolf pack or a highwayman, both of which even an apprentice steamsmith could send packing with a good pistol shot. When the Dunedin, docked in Hi-no-moto’s grandest port, thought it was safe to let a youngster go see the sights a rail-ride away; temples, silk dying the rivers indigo and scarlet, the kilns firing delicate porcelains that would be sold across the oceans. He’d been a very proud young apprentice, determined to live up to the captain’s faith in his ability to poke around for new engineering tweaks the locals might not have even realized were profitable improvements. So there were rumors of some odd monsters to the north; when weren’t there? Hi-no-moto had whole books of odd creatures that didn’t really exist. You could buy one in the market for a moderate sum, illustrated with iron-clubbed oni, flaming beasts, and bird-maidens descending from the heavens. Ghost tales. Fables.
Oh yes. He’d been very proud. And then very scared. And alone.
A/N: This is speculation, I admit it. Basing a possible past for Suzuki on what little we know about him from canon and just how a British guy might have ended up on a Hayajiro given the Kabane outbreak.
And after trying a couple different approaches on how to show Suzuki’s bilingual dialogue when I’m writing in English, this is my best guess so far. I’m using honorifics here because Suzuki hears them – they’re not part of English. In other people’s POVs I don’t use them because “that’s the way everyone speaks”.