It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within 50 years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


The ZirCong | ZirCong Marks are the most ancient of all. ZirCong Marks, such as the Long Night, the Shepherd, the Red Cloud, contain the clans with the most venerable histories in the Western Lands. Numbered among their ranks throughout the eras are the greatest warriors, the most brilliant thinkers, sublime artists, victorious rulers. Their blood is considered untainted by malady or decadence. “ZirCong” means, in the modern Imperial tongue, “absolute darkness”. A “ZirCong night”, in the central cantons, means a “night without stars, utterly black, intensely dark”. So, the Marks of the ZirCong are known as Marks of Starless Darkness.

The ZirCong, concerning themselves | The clans of ZirCong Marks consider themselves — as all other clans consider them — the epitome of TanZo [the Way]. They have long given up consideration of material power, except in that it may further the Way. They believe they are the spiritual leaders of the Western Lands, and therefore, the spiritual leaders of humanity. The Way is always in the process of being constructed: as people pursue and build the Way, so the Way alters the people who practice it. The ZirCong are ahead of everyone else: they have gone out further into the “starless darkness”, the unexplored world of the mind and spirit. They have left the rest of humanity behind. From the darkness, they look back: they wait for slower, less perfect people to catch them up.

Their knowledge of the Way is higher than that of any rival Marks. The Way they practice, the particular spirit of their TanZo, is unimpeachable, a purity so perfect as to render the ZirCong superior to all divergent traditions. They have put aside earthly emotion, terrestrial desire: if they exert power, it is in the service of TanZo. It is their obligation to rule: not to rule, would mean allowing inferior humanity to lead, which would dilute the Way, and create havoc and degeneration.

Intensely private, they keep much of their world hidden behind the gates of their mansions and temple complexes. They believe that they have transcended common human values, bonds and feelings. Their austerity and dedication to TanZo is considered fanatical to outsiders, but to the ZirCong, all their efforts are insufficient: they only seek to do more, to strive harder for TanZo — to meditate more deeply, to study, to follow the way of the sword, to grow illuminated. They strive for the Dustless state. It is said that a true ZirCong believes that, if one is Dustless, one could walk through a barbarian hell, and see the sufferings of the damned everywhere, and not be moved by what is witnessed.

The RoMayZine, concerning the ZirCong | The RoMayZine attitude to the ZirCong is one of reverence. They consider the ZirCong as without doubt justified to lead the spiritual war which is the RoMayZine vision of life, and believe that the ZirCong are utterly pure, and represent the peak of TanZo. Yet, for all that, the RoMayZine are very distinct in their culture, and they do not seek to emulate the ZirCong. The RoMayZine, despite their intense practice of meditation and wholehearted pursuit of the Way, have an earthbound philosophy: they love action and the physical exertion of the body: they adore contest. Struggle, the pitting of oneself against an opponent, battle, effort, the laying out of strength in display — these are RoMayZine virtues. They are rough, instinctive and sociable: there is in fact a ZirCong saying — Without an enemy, a RoMayZine is lonely. The RoMayZine, in turn, sometimes speak of the “pale ZirCong”. In their eyes, the ZirCong spend too much time in study and meditation. The ZirCong are “too given to moonlight”, and “suffer their own intelligence too deeply”. The ZirCong are “occult”, “too inwards”, “a secret, all the way through”. So, although their admiration for the ZirCong is genuine and profound, the RoMayZine prefer their own thrilling, competitive world.

The SurGaKu, concerning the ZirCong | The SurGaKu, like the RoMayZine, revere the ZirCong. Yet, like the RoMayZine, the members of SurGaKu Marks don’t entirely seek to model themselves on their ZirCong cousins. It is harder, in fact, to arrive at a clear picture of SurGaKu attitudes: SurGaKu clans and traditions are more varied, more distinctive, in a way more complex than those of the RoMayZine. The SurGaKu are aesthetes: for this reason alone, they have tremendous respect for the historic works of the ZirCong. An unfathomable amount of time back into the Clouded Era, before there was RoMayZine, and before there was SurGaKu, there was ZirCong. The ZirCong were the first to declare themselves followers of TanZo, and their ancient poets and philosophers, calligraphers and artists, building a culture hundreds of years old, are worshipped by the younger, more recent SurGaKu Marks. One SurGaKu philosopher, though, has written of the “frightening greatness” of the ZirCong. Another has written (in typical SurGaKu fashion) of “too much perfection, not enough flaw” in the ZirCong Way. “Cold”, “aloof”, “inhuman” — these fairly common SurGaKu terms for the ZirCong, although in some ways meant as praise, also contain ambivalence. Of the ZirCong, one SurGaKu sage has said: “They tend to the absolute: we tend to depart from the absolute”. In this modern day, it might be said that, although the RoMayZine possess the martial tradition, the pride and the strength to make them seem the only viable challengers to ZirCong authority, it is the gentle, aesthetic SurGaKu who perhaps provide the most obvious resistance to the acknowledged order of the great capital city, Shar.