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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter Three ~


"I have no idea. I was not with him. What on earth has happened?"
The guy with little expression now turned very pale on his face. His hair was covered by dust and fragments of the walls, and his body was covered by numerous small wounds. Seirai on his back seemed to be in similar condition, but both didn't seem to be seriously injured. Within the rubble mournful cries of horses could be heard.

"Why did you leave Taiho's side? -- Where did you last see him?"
Risai pressed on, and Tansui shook his head.
"He was at Seiden (a). I was called by Seirai, and left the place to my subordinates."

The earthquake had died off some time ago, and replaced by deafening mourns and cries. Risai and others could hear cries of help all around, but they knew there was one thing that must be done before rescuing the victims. Search for Taiki! -- The idea echoed in their minds, and a voice from afar calling Risai could be heard. They turned back, and found Asen (I) approaching with several helpers.

"How is Taiho?"

Asen started with a question. His condition didn't look much different from Tansui and others'. Gashin replied that Taiho might be at Seiden, and the crew left Seirai in the hands of other soldiers, while led by Tansui into the structure. With chilling worries they searched every corner of Seiden, and turned over every piece of rubble, but they could find not a trace of Taiki. They expanded their search to surrounding areas, but to no avail. They searched throughout the night without results, and the Seityou (’) that flew from Bun Province just at that time was forced to be shelved away.

The message from the Seityou threw the whole Kokufu ({, government headquarter) into complete chaos.

Because of the meisyoku (I), the palace suffered severe damage, and many of the officials were either injured or missing. The fortunate thing was that the meisyoku happened in Entyou (), and the officers over there were mostly Sens (, sages), so there were only a few casualties. However, even among the Sens casualty was not zero, let alone the maids (, Gejyo) and male servants (, Genan) who were not in Senseki (, the rank of sages). The kingdom's administration was forced to a halt because of the officers' injuries and confusion. Nobody had a clue how to deal with the situation.

"What on earth had happened to His Majesty?"
Risai's question was answered by Haboku (mn).

"According to Sougen ()'s letter, His Majesty had disappeared in the midst of battle. Sougen and others had conducted extensive searches, but His Majesty was nowhere to be found. The letter only described up to here, and no details had been provided. We had instructed Sougen to return for the time being, but from the time the Seityou arrives to the time Sougen returns, it would take at least ten days, no matter how rushed it could possibly get."

"How about the situation in Bun Province?"
Gantyou () asked, and Haboku shook his head.
"It didn't sound like the riots were suppressed. The two sides were deadlocked."

"So... What are we to do?"

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