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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter Three ~


Risai would like to break down to tears. There is no bigger disgrace than being called a traitor of one's mother kingdom. Tarred by an ungrounded stigma, Risai had led days and days of secret life, switching from place to place. Most of her old acquiantances believed in Risai and gave their sympathy, but some reprimanded Risai of committing such a crime, and some even planned to turn Risai over to Asen. Among those who didn't betray, some were tried for sheltering Risai, and ended up disgracefully executed as criminals of treason, without even proper burials.

"I have spent a year... no, more than a year, merely hiding and escaping from pursuers day in and day out. During the time of my exile, Asen has built himself a firm base at the palace. In the end, even the people realized that Asen is the real traitor. But everything was already -- too late..."

Eisyou (p) and Gashin (M), who were at Bun Province at that time, both disappeared. Gyousou's subordinates were dispersed in various locations of the kingdom, lying low or suffering from secret assaults. All attempts to spy inside the palace failed. There were those who stood up against Asen, but all could not escape from the fate of either being struck down or disappearing without a trace.

"Asen prohibited anyone from giving the slightest disapproval of him, or giving praises to His Majesty. Asen's troops had burnt down to the last pillar in Tetsui (Q) -- the place where His Majesty fell into Asen's traps. His Majesty's birthplace Isyu (ϏB) was also burnt to the ground. Sakuken (ጧ), the land appropriated to His Majesty formerly, was besieged by Asen's troops and blocked of all supplies. Rumors had it that almost all people of Sakuken perished that winter."

Youko (zq) was appalled.

"Does Asen detest Tai-ou (׉) to such a degree?"
"Maybe... I have no idea. I personally could not see Asen held antagonism to that degree. It is probable that Asen's deep hatred was concealed deep inside. However, every place associated to His Majesty had its last breath of life wiped out -- cities and villages were burnt down to charcoal, left to become ghost-towns in the winter. Those lands that gave harsh criticism against Asen or rebelled against him met the same fate."

"Hold on a second," En-ou () Syouryuu (), who was all ears to Risai's testimony in silence, finally broke off. "That is destruction of one's homeland. It looks like Asen is strangling the sheep he stole from Tai-ou, doesn't it?"

Yes, Risai nodded.


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