Retribution of the Lotus Wheel
Zhen Yu Springs
Zhen Yu Springs is one of the oldest and most well known onsen in the entirety of Chu Ye. Nearly five hundred years old, the resort has been the destination for hundreds of Lung Wa Imperials and even the Emperor himself. Now that Lung Wa has crumbled, however, the onsen has fallen on hard times, hosting only corrupt officials and oni warlords.
At first glance, the onsen is as lovely and immaculate as it has always been. It consists of several buildings built into the sides of the rocky, mountainous island, all approachable by a wonderfully landscaped road carved directly from the rock. Each building is artistically constructed to be pleasing to the eye, painted in subtle colors that harmonize with the surrounding country. The interior of each building is a study in breathtaking opulence; bright, rich red lacquered walls covered with stunning carvings of imperial dragons vie with green jade appointments, exquisite tapestries and tastefully arranged vases and statues. Since the Oni Shogunate has gained power, Tsuneni has decreed that all onsen in Chu Ye are to remain open and money is given to each for upkeep and maintenance; Zhen Yu is no exception. Aesthetically, the onsen is as lovely as it has always been. The people that work here are well taken care of, have no lack for food or lodging, but still live in a constant and crippling fear. Although guests are not as common as in the days of Lung Wa, those that do come here are either corrupt government officials or even oni themselves. These clients are almost always cruel and languidly murderous, and rarely does Zhen Yu Springs receive a visitor that does not result in at least one casualty.
There are currently three personages of note in Zhen Yu; there is the Chamberlian Ginko, who directs the staff; Satoshi Chiyoko, the Master of Entertainment; and Li Bai, Major-Domo of the springs.
1) Building of Greeting: At the base of the island is the first building a visitor comes to, from a simple but lavishly appointed flat bottomed boat; this building is designed to greet the guests. The building’s interior is dominated by a single, lofty room. This room contains an abundance of delicate yet comfortable furniture surrounded by sand gardens and bonsai trees; this is where guests can rest from their travels. Tea and small, simple foods are served here while the visitors rest, and slow, calming music is almost always played. Several sliding doors hide bathing areas and changing rooms; as soon as the guest has relaxed, they are led to one of these areas where they can remove the grime from the road and to leave their soiled clothes behind (to be laundered and neatly folded) to be replaced by an airy yukata in the summer or a heavier kimono in the winter.
Once the visitor is ready, servants lead them to another building depending on their status and desires. Litters are available in inclement weather or if the visitor is going far (the building at the apex of the island is nearly a mile’s walk.)
2-3) Buildings of Residence: The next two buildings are slightly up the incline of the island and are nothing more than living quarters for all of the servants, entertainers, and hard laborers of the onsen. The exterior of the buildings are exquisite, but the interiors are simple and threadbare. Note that these buildings are on the far side of the island, all but hidden from view from the main path leading up the incline.
4) Building of Slumber: This building is where the majority of the onsen’s guests sleep if they are staying the night (which is common practice.) Set up not unlike an inn, the bottom floor is a tavern where sake and simple yet elegant food is served, and the top three floors are all spacious rooms with futon, simply but tastefully decorated with sliding doors that open out onto narrow balconies with a lovely view.
5) Public Onsen: This large, open spring looks almost completely natural in appearance; subtle steps have been carved into the rock, and a lip to prevent splashing has been artfully installed. The opaque water of the spring is only slightly warmer than the ambient temperature in the summer, and is used as a public area for large groups or for visitors that like to mingle with other guests. A small partially covered building close by provides food and drink.
6) Private Onsen: This is the largest building on the island, and houses room after room of round, private baths. Warmed spring water is pumped into the baths via a complex series of pipes, and different herbal and mineral formulas can be added to the water en route. This is where most people come who are looking for private contemplation and relaxation, or to receive the most powerful healing properties of the onsen. The far side of the building houses a large dining area, where all manner of food is prepared and served.
7) Imperial Onsen: This building rests at the top of the island, and can be easily seen from the shore. It is easily the most lavish and artistically designed of the buildings, as it was built specifically to house high ranking Imperials, and even the Emperor himself at times. The interior contains several round baths similar (but larger) than the baths in the private onsen, and a lofty room serves as an eating area where some of the most exquisite food in the country has been served. The backside of the building is open: a large, natural, steaming pool surrounded by landscaped plants and artfully arranged statues is here. This pool is the main source of the spring, and the water here is at its most potent and is naturally warm and does not need to be heated. Lounging in the pool, the guest has a majestic view of the surrounding countryside. This pool is traditionally where the Emperor rests, and a large low stage partially covers one side of the pool to provide space for entertainers. Back in the building, the entire upper floor is a lavish apartment full of every amenity imaginable.