Genji up close

Overview

Genji is a feared world power that dominates the southern portion of Raea. Someone from our own world would probably see it as a cross between a medieval Venice and a feudal Japan…except crisscrossed with railroads, swift river boats, and stonelace bridges made by expert artisans. Much of Genji is either farmland or wetland, and the crops grown are quite diverse because this part of Raea occupies several biomes and climate zones. The country’s army is considered the most loyal and skilled in the world, and its Murasa warriors are the greatest of swordsmen, rivaled only by Knights of the One.

A man of Genji. Artwork by Veronica Weser.

Political power in the country is shared among the Imperator and the five Great Houses, along with the so-called sixth “unspoken house.” Most people in the country are a member of one of these Great Houses, usually due to blood, profession, or simple geographical location. The heads of these houses are supposed to represent the interests of their members, and they provide a check on the political power of the Imperator. These branches of Genji’s government tend to have enough competing interests to form a stable system of checks and balances. Because each house represents a different slice of Genji society, scholars tend to classify Genji as a representative democracy.

The Great Houses

House Kosan: Of all the Great Houses, this one has the largest military force, composed of nearly 35,000 full-time lances, an equal number of non-combat personnel, 15,000 reserve members, and as many as 1,200 Murasa warriors (by far the most of any house). What’s more, those Murasa warriors are considered the best of any house, the creme de la creme of Genji’s finest fighters. Many other countries, including Gallant, send their warriors to Genji to train with the famed House Kosan masters. But despite all of this, House Kosan is the least hawkish of all. They routinely vote against armed conflict, and instead of emphasizing the warrior arts among its nobility and general membership, it emphasizes administration, logistics, and management skills.

House Kosan’s sign: a torchflower on a black backdrop.

House Isamo: is the wealthiest of the Great Houses, and they are largely responsible for collecting taxes for the Imperator’s treasury and tolls on the country’s bridges and waterways. They are the architects of the country’s banking system, which is widely considered a work of genius, and they are often the impetus for Genji’s strict market regulations. They ensured that financial crime could be prosecuted in a way reminiscent of charges of academic plagiarism: without regard for intent. They also worked to cap foreign companies’ market shares and to revert foreign-held land back to native citizens after a six-year period. House Isamo’s investments sprawl across much of Raea, and the banks they founded help drive the country’s economy.

House Isamo’s sign: a mother-of-pearl, iridescent sun.

House Gawata: Because they practice the adoption of foreigners into their house, and because they treat them as equals after they join, House Gawata is the most diverse of the Great Houses and the one most open to outsiders from other lands. They are often nicknamed the “Joyous House” for their raucous festivities and exuberant parties that blend together different cultural traditions. House Gawata is also the biggest producer of goods. They work the most farmland, mines, and forests, and they collect the most steel ore from the country’s many rivers and tributaries. Look at any granary, silo, stockpile, or quarry in Genji, and you’ll probably see House Gawata’s sigil, though House Isamo’s seal is on most of their shipments to other countries.

House Gawata’s sign: graceful rabbits running across a moonlit field. 

House Suzunu: is the oldest, most elite of the houses, and their political influence is vast. Their royal members and leadership are charismatic, and they tend to enjoy the most popularity with Genji’s people regardless of house. Indeed, House Suzunu has produced the most Imperators, who must win a general election. They control much of the country’s press and are influencers in the world of art, and many of Genji’s celebrities are from House Suzunu. Though this house has a reputation for generosity and evenhandedness, their political opponents are more likely to describe their leadership as cutthroat and devious. 

House Suzunu’s sign: the centipede.

House Yamashita: is the smallest of the houses, but their members are said to be descendants of the Prophet and his wife, the Medusa. What’s more, many of those who adhere to the Way of the Prophet, which is Genji’s most widespread religion, believe that the Prophet’s wife is reborn in House Yamashita every generation. This holy figure serves as the country’s oracle, and she visits the Medusa Temple every year to return with a prophecy. Though critics often claim that this house uses its religious prominence for financial and political gain, many people believe that the Prophet still guides the country through House Yamashita. It should be noted that recent leadership has especially pushed for a heavier involvement with finance and politics, and that the most recently appointed Medusa Reborn has gone missing.

House Yamashita’s sign: twin snakes representing the Prophet and Medusa.

The sixth, “unspoken house”

House Zeven: is the outcast house and not an official part of the Imperator’s court. But its power is such that pretending it’s not on a par with one of the Great Houses is delusional. Instead of noble Murasa warriors, House Zeven cultivates a vast network of Gaiden assassins and spies. Most Gaiden are considered honorless and have a reputation for cruelty, but their skill and utility cannot be denied. Unfortunately, most Gaiden are recruited from groups who are “houseless”–that is, ones who don’t have the privilege of being part of any of the Great Houses, and so almost invariably suffer great economic hardships. In general, Gaiden candidates have few other opportunities in Genji’s sometimes rigid society, and House Zeven often is the only one who will welcome them. The Gaiden’s fabled cruelty arises from deplorable personal decisions, but they are also the result of the pressures of an especially harsh world. One of House Zeven’s aspirations is to marry a son or daughter to an Imperator and gain legitimacy through the union.

House Zeven’s sign: a battle-scarred firefly, half-lit.

The Way of the Prophet

It is difficult to summarize any religion in a handful of sentences, but one of the basic tenants of almost all versions of the Prophet’s Way is to balance the example set by the Medusa and her husband the Prophet. Over a thousand years ago, the Medusa lived a witch-warrior’s life and sought to overthrow oppression through the sword. She emphasized confronting the ills of the world. The Prophet, on the other hand, taught the way of the open palm, a lifestyle of kindness and peace. His life is an example of peaceful opposition that toppled the last of the absolute Imperators. Because merely categorizing the Medusa as a chthonic warrior witch and the Prophet as a peaceable diplomat is a gross oversimplification, it is best to examine the story of their lives.

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