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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


Toshin (m^) was standing guard at the wide gate front, located half way up Mt. Gyouten (ēVR), at a steep cliff just below the Sea of Clouds (_C). The gate front formed a very wide terrace in front of the closed gate, which was located deep within a cave several times the height of a human. That was the Forbidden Gate (֖), the only gate that led directly led to the Imperial Wing (Entyou, ), the topmost floor of Kinpa Palace (g{) that stretched itself above the sea of clouds on Mt Gyouten.

When Toshin reached the gate front after noon to relieve his colleague from the gate-keeping post, heat wave stirred within the city of Gyouten that stretched below the terrace. Even at a place so high, no wind could be felt as steaming heat enveloped. Before long, clouds began to gather overhead. Clouds were inching forward from the east as if to lick the bottom of the Sea of Clouds. Thunder could be heard from far away. With a blink of an eye, a haze started to float in the surroundings. Clouds grew thicker and thicker as they descended from the Sea of Clouds to the Forbidden Gate.

In no time, the sun was completely blocked, and drizzle-like haze closed up around the terrace. Now the terrace in front of Toshinfs eyes was tainted in gray. Faint rumbling flooded in, accompanied by cool air that moistened from the feet up.

gLooks like it finally rains.h
Toshin drew a sigh for some reason, and commented to Gaishi (MV) that stood beside him.
Seems so, Gaishi drew a deep breath, and showed his white teeth.
gNow that makes the days a little bearable. If it continues to be that hot, we would be steamed inside out armor,h Gaishi laughed.

Gaishi was the Gotyou (ޒ) that administered a group of five soldiers in the Imperial Army (Kingun, ֌R), including Toshin. Gaishi was the head, but he was the most experienced within the five soliders within the Go (, troop unit), and a skilled soldier that could be trusted with the administrative position, so he was not just showing off his authority as a Gotyou. He was neither formal nor high-handed, but the inexperienced Toshin didnft know whether this was because a Gyoutou was supposed to be like this, or just because Gaishi was such a person.

Toshin was recruited as a soldier the second year after the new empress was enthroned in Kei. He was assigned to the Left Army after one year of training, and had just passed his first half-year of formal military duties, so he didnft have any experience of working under Gotyous other than Gaishi. The Forbidden Gate was guarded by a Ryou (, troop unit) of twenty five people, and one Ryou was composed by five Gos. Other Gotyous and Ryoushiba (in), the head of all five Gos, were mostly friendly people like Gaishi, but as far as rumors went, that was not the case with other troops.

gEi Province (lB) is hot. It is just much better at Baku Province (B).h
gDo you come from Baku Province, Gotyou?h
Toshin asked, and Gaishi nodded.
gI was born and raised in Baku Province. I was in the Baku Provincial Army before your majesty was enthroned.h
Wow, Toshin exclaimed. Toshin had the impression that the former Baku Provincial Army was among the strongest troops. In fact, the head of Imperial Army, General of Left Army, was promoted from Baku Provincial Army.

gSo, you and General Sei ()--h
... are acquaintances? Just when Toshin would like to finish his question, out from the gray curtain that hung around the gate front suddenly dashed a dark shadow.


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