Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora
<The Shore in Twilight, the Sky in Daybreak>

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Starting Chapter ~


That day, spring had just settled in Tai (), the kingdom located at the northeast of the continent. Snow that covered the countryside had not yet given way, and buds were hibernating beneath the thick snow.

It was no exception to the world above the Sea of Clouds (_C). Though there was not so much snow compared to the world below, the trees that stood in neat lines in the garden were mostly sound asleep. It was a corner to the west of Hakkei Palace (\{) , at Kouki (), the capital of Tai.

Hakkei Palace was shaped like a horseshoe, embracing a bay. In one of its extended arms to the northwest stood a wide garden that faced the bay. Located there were Jinjyuu Hall (mda), the residence of Taifs Saiho (ɕ), and Koutoku Hall (La), the office where Saiho administered provincial affairs as the provincial lord.

The garden was still brown and lifeless, but the delicately arranged rocks and buildings exuded a solemn ambience. More deep colors were added by trees that refused to lose their green even in the midst of snow, and a light fragrance began to exude from the first ume (~, Japanese apricot) blossoms. In one of the summerhouses, there was a boy. Sitting with his back against a white stone pillar, the boy hung his head and let his steel-colored hair flow along his back.

The kid was named Taiki (i), and he was the kirin (i) of Tai. Despite that he was only eleven, he had chosen the new emperor, and served beside him as Saiho and provincial lord of Zui Province (B), where Kouki was located. The boy who completed the feat of choosing an emperor and became the pillar of Tai Kingdom was alone in the garden at that time.

The emperor whom Taiki had chosen was not at Kouki. A month ago, the emperor took a long journey to Bun Province (B, pronounced as "boon"). Gyousou (׉), Taikifs master, was out to suppress rebellions.

Taiki was never used to wars. This was not just because kirins in nature avoided wars; the young Taiki had no experience in warfare at all. Taikifs master was out at a place whose horror Taiki could only imagine with his knowledge. Moreover, right after Gyousou had left, upsetting rumors began to proliferate around the palace.

The Bun Province Riots is plotted to lure Gyousou out of the palace in order to assassinate him.

Bun Province was at the north of Zui Province, and steep mountain ranges stood tall between the two provinces. Gyousou could not but pass through a narrow and winding path in order to cut across the mountains. It was rumored that rioters were stationed at a pass that led to the center of Bun Province, waiting on the narrow path for Gyousou to fall into their trap. The day before, the messenger reported that Gyousoufs troop fell victim of an ambush, and was suffering from tough battles and unfavorable terrains. Engulfed by uneasiness, Taiki felt his thoughts nearly crushing his chest.

Please come back safe.

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