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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


Konjin (閽人) was immediately called from a side door right beside the Forbidden Gate. Konjin was one of the Imperial Affairs officals (Tenkan V) that administers various duties within the palace. Konjin stations besides doors to take records of people who pass, examines their background, and introduces them inside. A Konjin hurried out with Ryoushiba (in), and as soon as his glance landed on the woman and the kijyuu, in a shrill he cried gkick them out!h

gBut she is so deeply wounded...h
Ryoushiba tried to intercede, but was blocked by Konjinfs threatening barks.
gShe claimed herself as a general in Tai, but did she look like one? There is no reason for a foreign general to pay a visit in the first place.h
Shut up, Konjin shouted. It looked as if Toshin and other soldiers were borrowed from the Imperial Army to be under Konjinfs command. They were definitely part of the Military Affairs officals (Kakan Ċ), but here the control power had been turned onto Konjinfs hands.

Konjin turned to face the kneeling woman, and yelled with a snarling face.
gIf you really were a general from Tai, change your clothes, give clear proof of your identity, and hand in your request to Kokufu ({) according to diplomatic customs.h
At that moment, Toshin saw the womanfs shoulder shiver. She lifted up her face as if it was flipped up with a finger, and despite the pitiful condition her face excluded dignity.
gI sincerely acknowledge my discourtesy. If I had had the spare time to conform to diplomatic customs, I would definitely have done it.h

The woman said while suppressing all her emotions, but Konjin just threw a cold glance at her without even answering. Konjin turned his back to her, trying to block Ryoushiba who was to intercede. Exactly at that moment, the woman held out her hand and snatched the spear from Toshinfs hand. The time Toshin was to give a surprised yelp, the woman knocked down the surrounding soliders, and dashed towards the Forbidden Gate.

Konjin, Toshin, Gaishi and other soldiers were too stunned by the surprise attack that they became late to react. Soldiers who finally got back to their senses ran after the woman with pale faces, but before their spears could reach the womanfs back, black wings cut in from above. With her kijyuu protecting her from the back, the woman rushed into the other side of the side door.

Follow her! Yells mixed. Toshin cut through the pack to the front, and ran after the kijyuu that slipped through the side door. The very first thoughts that occupied his brain was the grievous failure he committed. Though it was true that he was holding in his other hand the sword handed to him by Gaishi, he committed the careless mistake of letting the woman snatch away his spear. Would he be interrogated for this responsibility? Would he be punished?

So easily --, Toshin thought in his guilty conscience. Got tricked by the womanfs ploy.


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