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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter Two ~


It was half a month after Gyousou left for Bun Province. The previous day, Kokufu ({) received news from Sougen who was also moving towards Bun Province: Gyousou and others had crossed the mountains safely. After crossing the mountains, it would be just a few days' distance away from Tetsui. In fact, a few days later, another seityou (’, lit. blue bird) arrived, carrying the news that Gyousou and others had arrived at Rin-u (ԉF), a town close to Tetsui, and set up their tents there.

" So they have arrived safely."
Senkaku (p), head of State Affairs (Chikan, n) whom Risai met at Romon (H), smiled in relief.

Romon stood at the south of Entyou (). It was a huge three-story tower, with height more than ten times that of a person. Between two gates that opened to the north and the south was a white plato, with a huge white staircase in the middle, going down to below the Sea of Clouds (Unkai, _C).

" It would be a blessing if everything continues to be fine from now on... Well, it might be a rude thing to express worry to his majesty, who is a general himself!"
Maybe, Risai smiled to Senkaku, and together put forth their steps to go down from Romon. -- It was exactly then.

A faint low noise came from the ground. Risai stopped her tracks to discern what noise that was. Senkaku, probably unable to hear a thing, looked amused at Risai, who was looking around.

"Just now, there is... some noise..."
Right at the moment Risai talked, the mountain rocked, Risai felt. As if the ground she was stepping on -- the Sky-Pillar Mountain (Ryouun-san, _R) that supported the palace was making noises. Slowly the world rocked, and the huge Romon shrieked upon twisting and wretching. Everything was dim in front of Risai's eyes, which were wide open in shock. Right as Risai looked up, Roman's roof tiles crashed down like avalanche in front of her eyes.

In fact, the mountain was shaking at that time. If one stood from above the palace and looked down, one could see that from the island that floats on the Sea of Clouds, circular waves were sent along the bay's coast, and spread out in concentric circles. From a corner of the palace near the coast, the sea surface of the Sea of Clouds rose high and fell suddenly. On the other hand, all buildings along the coast were rocking and squeaking as they crumbled to bits.

The corner of the palace was as if somebody struck a huge hammer on it. As if sent with such huge blows, sudden wind gathered and spurted in from four sides. The sun lost its color, and dimmed itself to a copper glow. The sky turned rusty red all of a sudden, and began to swirl up into a spiral like poison gas gathering.


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