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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


Risai had searched -- for all those years. Framed and pursued as a traitor, Risai searched for their whereabouts. However, she could not find Gyousou or Taiki. Not even their footprints.

" Spring is coming, but how many arable farmlands are left? If there is no harvest this fall, all people can only wait to starve to death! If we cannot get some results soon, another winter will come. When winter comes, three villages shrink to two, and two shrink to one. How many people can survive this winter!? How many more winters can Tai go through!?"

" But... Even with this reason, you can never justify your tempting Kei into sin!"
" Tai direly needs help from someone!"
Kaei turned her head away, as if to reject the idea.
" ...I am going to Gyouten."
Risai said to herself, and Kaei turned back to Risai with a mournful look.
" I beg you! Please drop this idea!"

" Even if we escape to the provincial lord's place, we are just buying safety for ourselves. And we can never be sure of it. Like before, Sui Province might have already fallen, or it might fall some time later. In the end, we will just start escaping again."
" Risai."
" ... This is the only way..."
" Then -- This will be the last time we meet, Risai."
Kaei's knitted fingers in front of her chest were shaking. Gazing at the about-to-cry Kaei's face, Risai nodded.
" ... Sorry..."

Risai encountered Kaei in the palace. There they become friends, and were both chased off the palace. After several years, they finally met again this winter, at Ran () Province where Kaei was born. At Ran Province they somehow survived the winter, and then escaped together from pursuers to Sui Province, which neighbors Ran Province in the south.

Kaei stared at Risai for long. Finally, she pressed her sleeve against her face, and let out a faint sob.
" Sui Province is the breeding ground of youma. The further you travel along the coast towards the south, the more dangerous it becomes..."
" I know."

Kaei nodded with her face covered by her sleeve. When she looked up again, her face wore a stouthearted expression. Her face was one of an able official, as expected on a person who had once served as the provincial lord of Ran Province, and had last been Daishikou (i), the head of Judicial Department (Syuukan, H) and one of the six ministers (Rokkan, Z). With this expression, she bowed, and turned her back to Risai.

--This is definitely a shameful suggestion, Risai also acknowledged.


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