Hachisuka Narihiro is a pilot in the Shogun’s elite unit of musha-ki, robotic armor automated by steam and magic for the defense of Nippon in a slowly modernizing 19th Century, when he’s requested to help with political negotiations. Compromises are difficult, with American Admiral Perry determined to open Japan to the West but only on his terms. Like most Western leaders, the admiral is unaware of the advances the Japanese have made with steam and thinks Nippon is an isolated and backward nation. Narihiro’s uncle, the twelfth Tokugawa Shogun, believes Narihiro is the best man for the duty. Despite his extensive training, plans might not go as well as expected.
With the American delegation comes closeted former Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, Maarten Zook, a shy translator who catches Narihiro’s interest. As negotiations stall, the Japanese are left with few options to convince America that Nippon is its equal. Japan is ready to open its borders, but a show of force may be needed, and that force may destroy the budding relationship between Narihiro and Maarten.