Roots of the Family Tree
|"Only he who has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep."|| The run begins on the Day of the Early Spider in the Month of the Fox in the first Year of the Bear since the crowning of the Viridian Queen|
The run takes place in the Strand
A Pretext is Sought
Takanata would really like to go to the Strand. But it would be good to have some sort of a plot to investigate when he gets there. So... Xian is an orphan, raised by the Gentle Admonishers of Disquiet? She admits that's true. Does she want to find her real family? Xian says that the Gentle Admonishers are her family. Doesn't Takanata remember that all those monks that they've run into are her sisters? Well, yes, but doesn't she want to know who her parents are? Not really. Takanata is appalled - who does she make offerings to? Xian shrugs. There's a shrine at the pagoda for sisters who have gone to the World Beyond, though it's not an ancestor shrine per se. She really has no interest in tracking down her previous relatives, though - she knows who her real family is and where they live, and it's the Pagoda.
Well, all right. How about finding the house that Shuyan had a vision about? Once, at the Temple of the Invisible Wind, Shuyan asked Crane how to gather information in the Strand without getting into trouble, and Crane showed her a house in the swamp, overgrown by jungle and vines. That could be a thing that they could look for!
Xian checks Shuyan's I Ching. Long ago, when Takanata read it, it was:
The new I Ching:
Shuyan recaps her parents' story: her mother ran away from home and fell in with a gang; when the gang was arrested, the magistrate adopted her and she and the magistrate's son were eventually married. Then Shuyan's father died, and Shuyan's mother left to join the circus. So the house in the Strand is probably the house that Shuyan's mom ran away from, but the circus only knew her as Wu Kyoko, not her maiden name, or where she was born. However, Shuyan's dad's parents might know more. They live now in Peaceful Composition, in the Taiga.
The group heads to Peaceful Composition, and knocks on the Wus' door.
Grandfather Wu is happy to see Shuyan again, and bows respectfully to Lord Takanata (who he has met once before). Shuyan explains about the vision she had, and that she needs more details about where her mom was from. Magistrate Wu supposes she is old enough to know the more sordid details, and explains about the running-away-from-home and bad company. Shuyan admits that she already knew that, but wanted to know if Mom ever said exactly where she ran away from. He thinks she was born southwest of Nine Terraces, not all the way to the mountains or the Wall, but in that corner of the country. But she never mentioned a town.
He can give a few more details about the "bad company," though. She was in the Corundum Clan, the worst of the Nine Terraces gangs at that time, and when they started peddling both their wares and their problems across the border, the King of the Taiga and the Queen of the Strand created a fairly unique task force to deal with the problem. Magistrate Wu was one of the Taiga authorities involved, but Kyoko was young enough and seemed to have chance of redemption, so he argued to have her banished from the Strand and he took responsibility for her, (For those interested in the calendar, Kyoko was adopted by the Wus in the second year of the Fox since the crowning of the Malachite Queen).
Takanata suggests that they go and talk to the Corundum Clan for more details. Magistrate Wu hopes they're not still an active concern, but some might be out of prison by now. Well, in that case, they can go and talk to Meng Ao, which is always the thing to do when one has other plots in the Strand that one is avoiding.
The group takes their leave of the Wus, and head to the Strand. They pay a call on Meng Ao, and Takanata explains that they seek to investigate something that happened some time ago, but he does not know how safe it is to do so. The initial incident is a set of trials, which would presumably be public record...? And the final goal is the house that Shuyan came from.
Meng Ao reads Shuyan's fortune, and is intrigued by what he sees. It is as if the house is hidden. But it's not well hidden - it just can't be found unless Shuyan, or one other, is present.
As for the records of the trials - were those on trial foreigners? No, it was the Corundum Clan. Since they were locals, he suggests that they start at the Hall of Poetic Justice. (If Takanata is incorrect and those on trial were foreigners, he would need to try the Hall of Retributive Justice).
Meng Ao says that Takanata and his friends have been enough assistance to him in the past that no debt attaches for any of what he has told them.
Next stop is the Jasmine Dragon tea house in Nine Terraces, where Madame Tsen reads tea leaves. Shuyan asks if she can read her past instead, but she admits that "from" is more difficult than "will be." Well, perhaps the question is where she should go? Shuyan drinks the tea, and Madame Tsen peers into its depths and frowns.
- "What have you been up to?" -Madame Tsen
- "I, um, things?" -Shuyan
- "Well. I see that you should go to the Hall of Poetic Justice." -Madame Tsen
- "We were already just going there to look up records." -Xian
- "Of course you were." -Madame Tsen
Takanata wonders - as someone who finds out secrets on a regular basis - "how is that okay?" Madame Tsen notes that there is a difference between finding out secrets and searching out secrets, While she sees things in the leaves, she does not ask others for what is not theirs to tell.
- "It's fine to look around, but not to take what is not yours?" -Takanata
- "Certainly not." -Madame Tsen
She also points out that when you get a secret that is theirs to give, that you give proper value for it.
- "It is hard to distinguish between taking what is not yours, and not paying for what you have taken."
Xian, who is also a Strand native, thinks that secrets are things people have. If you dig up treasure that no one knows about, for example, you haven't found out a secret, you've found a treasure.
To the Hall of Poetic Justice!
Shuyan tries to ask for the records of the Corundum Clan trials, but with 0 successes on a status roll, she is not very successful. Shuyan keeps looking over her shoulder at Takanata, and then looks strikingly innocent, so the clerk takes pity on her and takes her down the hall where he tells her that she'll be safe, and tries to find out what the foreign lord tried to put her up to. Shuyan has to go to some effort to keep Takanata from being blamed for something, but finally manages to convey that she's looking for the records on her mother, who was in the Corundum Clan.
The clerk goes through the records, and finds that Shuyan's mother was convicted on the testimony of Hu Yuxin of the House of Amber, then in the Corundum Clan, whose testimony also incriminated himself. As a minor noble, he was released after several years back to the custody of House Amber, so to contact him, she would need to talk to the Amber Speaker. Shuyan asks hesitantly where she might find the Amber Speaker? The clerk says the Speaker would be at the palace, attending Her Majesty. He looks dubious that Shuyan doesn't know any of this, but she admits she grew up in the Taiga. The clerk notes that if she knew what house her mother was in, she could work that way, but as she doesn't, perhaps going through House Amber is the way to go. He wishes her well in finding her mother and reclaiming her birthright.
Apparently in the Strand, the nobles are known to be nobles, but they aren't specifically known as members of particular houses. The Speakers know the rolls of their own houses, and act as the representatives of the house, and speak for it to the Viridian Queen. (The Speaker of House Amber is not the leader of House Amber, just the spokesperson.)
The Viridian Queen and the Malachite House are the same house, but not the same family.
- "Is there some sort of etiquette for talking to a Speaker?" -Shuyan
- "Yes." -Xian
Well, in talking to a Speaker, is it cheaper to ask for them to find out the information and come back, or to ask to talk to the person in question? The former is more polite, but it isn't cheaper.
Xian suggests that Shuyan offer some of her own secrets in return. In particular, telling the story of her mother after leaving the Strand, in exchange for her story before, might be aesthetic.
Shuyan goes to the Viridian Court and asks for an audience with the Amber Speaker, to try to find out about her family. Unfortunately, this is another status roll, which Shuyan is no good at, so the guard returns with with an apology that the Amber Speaker does not think she will have information to assist Shuyan. (Takanata translates: someone with no politics and no status asked for an audience with an important person, and was politely declined).
Takanata, whose status continues to be astronomical, takes a stab at it, more elliptically. He tells the guard that some years ago, he was at a party in the palace, in a garden with lovely statues. He was wondering if it would be possible to see those statues again. Ah, for Lord Takanata, they can accommodate that request, and he and his entourage are welcome. A majordomo is summoned to escort him around the statuary garden. (The dedication plates have all been restored to shiny and new, and have no old country-names on them.)
Takanata happily chats with the majordomo, who is not an expert in art in general, but is an expert in these particular pieces.
After dropping a number of discreet hints, Takanata manages to get the various pages to try to separate the party members and secret escort Shuyan to the Amber Speaker. He himself is escorted to a nice tea room to contemplate existence while he waits patiently for inspiration. Shuyan and Xian are looking at the wall of flowers; a page offers Xian some various delicacies to sample, and when she looks up, Shuyan is gone.
Shuyan has gone into a door that opened in the flowered wall while Xian was distracted, and escorted to see the Amber Speaker, who wishes to know what business she has with the House of Amber. Shuyan explains that her mother was convicted on the testimony of Hu Yuxin of the House of Amber; she is hoping to meet with him, and find out anything she can about her mother's past. In exchange she could provide knowledge about her mother's doing after she left the Strand. Shuyan herself is from the House of Exuberant Interference now.
- "It's a new house, but we do try." -Shuyan
- "We Try. It's a house motto." -Xian
The Speaker tells Shuyan where she can find Hu Yuxin - he lives in a small manor house outside the city.
It has gotten somewhat late, so the trio takes rooms at an inn for the night. In the morning, they head to the house the Amber Speaker told them about.
A servant shows them in, and Shuyan introduces herself to Hu Yuxin. When she mentions her mother Kyoko, Yuxin is astonished - she is little Shéshé's daughter? How is she?
Shuyan is sorry to say that she has gone to the World Beyond now, but does tell him about what happened to her - she married the son of the judge...
- "Judge Wu? Judge Wu? I should never have left her!" -Yuxin
Shuyan protests - they were really happy together. Yuxin is dubious about this, as he does not seem to have a very friendly opinion of Shuyan's grandfather, but he is glad to learn that Shéshé was happy, and thrilled to meet her daughter.
He does know that she called herself Yu Kyoko, but, he explains, he called her Shéshé because she could not be called Yu because she made a highly inappropriate joke about being from the House of Jade. She was from the sticks and didn't understand how inappropriate it was, but nevertheless, she couldn't use the name Yu after that.
Shuyan is baffled, but it seems to be deep Strand cultural rules which are hard to explain. Yuxin doesn't think Shéshé ever mentioned a town, or that her house was in a town - just way down to the southwest. They... kind of had an agreement to not talk about their parents, as he he was also not on the best of terms with his. But he thinks that there might be more that they could find at the Hall of Records, with her birth name Yu.
Oh - but where are his manners? Shuyan is Shéshé's daughter! He calls for a feast to be laid out for Shuyan and her friends. They chat happily over dinner, and Yuxin tells various stories about his old gang days, in which he and Shuyan's mom were a pretty good burglary team. He did the distraction and she went in through the second story. But then the weight of the law and Judge Wu came down on them...
In any event, he's not a burglar or gang member any longer, he's paid his debts and gone straight. But he remembers Shéshé fondly, and finds Shuyan an unexpected treat. (Takanata, on the other hand, he finds rather intimidating).
He invites the three of them to spend the night, but Takanata and Xian make their excuses and go back to the inn, and Shuyan and Yuxin swap many more stories.
The next morning, Shuyan meets back up with Takanata and Xian. Takanata asks explicit permission to look at a secret of hers in exchange for telling her what it is.
House of Records
There is a requisition form for information from the House of Records, which requires a rather extraordinarily long biographical questionnaire to be filled out. Takanata and Xian can assist, though, so with some karma and some help, she can get twelve successes. Takanata finds a map that he deems not helpful, though when he shows it to her, Shuyan notes a mark for "Yu Lands" on it that Takanata had not noticed.