To fully understand the difficult position in which you place me, it becomes necessary to discuss philosophy. My father and brothers would never do it: and if they were ever to find out I was discussing such things, it would be an outrage and a scandal. Nevertheless there comes a time when polite recalcitrance does not serve the common interest, and this seems to be such a time. There is more involved in the study of language than vocabulary or sentence structure. The culture and customs of the local population have an enormous effect in the proper use of languange. Without context, misunderstandings can still arise, even though the use of grammar may be perfect.
The mindset of the Inner Spheres is simple and direct and asks immediate questions with the desire to obtain immediate answers. “Yes or no?” “Here or there?” There is often a desire, verbally speaking, to get from point A (the question) to point B (the answer to the question.) The focus is to “get there.”
In the lands of the Misty Isles where my family and I dwell, it is not so. Such direct questions are rare, to the point of being considered mildly confrontational. The “get there” focus can appear in times of stress, such as in battles, but under normal circumstances, the indirect statement is considered to be more appropriate.
Many things are considered when conversing via the indirect statement, such as the position or rank of the speaker, relationship between the speaker and listener, and conditions relative to the statement. The proper layering of the indirect statement is considered to be an art form; it is said that a correctly-formulated statement will convey at least three levels of meaning. Such statements are sometimes considered for years, for we are immortal, and have time. In other words, the being is more important than the going. Allow me to present an example.
Do you know how it is that I was allowed to come to university? Obaa-san, my grandmother, said the following statement to my father: “The University of Tejas wishes to expand its student membership to include many races. They have included Eladrin in their request.” That was the complete extent of the conversation, from beginning to end.
You must understand that my father is the head of the entire clan. He is a fierce and proud warrior, with many men serving under him. We do a vigorous business trading silk, teas, and bamboo, and large profits always attract thieves. It is his job to protect the clan from raiders and bandits, and he is very good at it. Both because of his position and because of his lineage, he expects and receives immediate obediance, and takes advice from few men. Yet, when Obaa-san made her statement, he swung into immediate action.
Why? First is the consideration of Obaa-san’s age. She is a very old Eladrin, one of the oldest on the Isles. Age brings wisdom, and Honour demands respect for one’s elders. Second, she is his mother, and thus Honour doubly requires his attention and respect. On Obaa-san’s part, she does not lead the clan.
But the making of such a statement in private (rest assured I was not supposed to overhear it) is a mark of her respect for him, for in theory, he might do anything he likes, without losing face in front of his men. (In practice, however, her age trumps his stature, and requires his obediance.) A question in such a context would have been considered a lack of confidence in his leadership, and thus would have been terribly offensive. Given an indirect statement, though, he was expected to divine her intent and act accordingly, and he did so.
As a second example, consider the note left with the ninjas that attacked us. Though written in the Common tongue, it was an indirect statement: “Succeed in your task and you shall be granted the gift of life.” Yes, it sounds direct. It is not. The importance of the statement lies in its implication, which might be summed up as, “Fail in your task and you shall lose the gift of life.” I leave you with the following statements:
.....The character of a man will determine his actions, as the type of seed planted determines the sort of tree which will be produced. As with men, so it should be with Vampires, for they share a common seed. If only we knew someone who was familiar with this particular vampire, we could seek the wisdom of their guidance to learn the nature of his character.
.....It is dishonourable to abandon one’s compatriots in the heat of battle. Only the most extreme circumstances could justify such an action.
I remain, Your Servant, Miasaki