After seeing Gyokuyou off, Youko looked at Rokuta confusedly.
“What is this all about?”
“Even if you ask me… Well, it’s just like what you’ve heard. There’s no precedent for the matter we’re dealing with. We didn’t know what we should do, that’s why we consulted with her.”
“That part I knew already…” Youko faltered. She didn’t know how to express the feeling in her heart, the feeling that there’s something about this matter that she simply couldn’t fathom.
“What kind of person is Genkun?”
“Just as you know, she’s the Nushi of Mt. Hou. She’s the one who binds the nyosens together, she’s their leader.”
“What would we gain from consulting this matter with her?”
“We would get the answers. That’s why we came here.”
“Why would Genkun know the answers?”
Aah, that’s right, Rokuta let out one big sigh. “There something I’d like Youko to really understand.” Rokuta said so and set his gaze at Youko.
“In this world, there is a fixed Providence (Setsuri) from the Heaven.”
“I know that part…”
“You know it vaguely, right? But this providence is not such an ambiguous thing. There is a framework called Providence in this world.”
Youko tilted her head.
“The Heaven bestowed this Providence upon the people as something unquestioned--- or rather, it’s a dispensable order that was imposed on people. No one can disturb this order.”
Rokuta lightly shook Youko’s hand, as if to withhold her from saying ‘I don’t understand.’
“Listen well. Though I’m going to give you this unpleasant example, it would be the easiest one for you to understand. Right now, there’s an obvious sin standing in our way. We cannot send troops across the country border, and this particular set of order would be our obstacle in saving Tai. In fact, in the past, there’s an example of an emperor sending his Oushi (Imperial Army) across the border. The legend of Juntei is that example. Juntei sent his Oushi to Han. As the result, both Juntei and Sairin died unexpectedly. It’s said that on that day, there was nothing particularly wrong with Juntei, he was as healthy as usual. But when he was about to leave his residence, suddenly he held his chest, then fell and rolled over the stairs. When his officials hurriedly came to him, blood spilled from his body to the stone pavement, like a small river. Shocked, they tried to help him up, but his body had seemed to turn into sponge; when they touched his skin, blood soaking out. Juntei had already passed away.”
“What happened to Sairin was even more brutal. When the officials went to Sairin’s residence to inform her about Juntei’s accident, there was nothing left of her other than some distorted parts of her body. Her Shirei had had some bites of her.”
Rokuta frowned and folded his fingers above the table.
“That was certainly not a common way to die. For an emperor to die that way, it was unbelievable. It’s also unbelievable that at the same time, Shirei would eat a Kirin like that. Even though it’s Shirei’s privilege to eat Kirin, they wouldn’t do it at such place and in such a messy way. Every deceased Kirin, no matter how they die, would be put inside a coffin, and then in Mogari no Miya (Shrine where they pray for deceased spirits) the funeral ceremony would be held. During the ceremony, the hall where the coffin was put would be sealed, and even though after the ceremony ends the coffin would be taken out from the hall, around that time the coffin would be nearly empty. --- that is how things should be.”
Youko lightly pressed the base of her throat. It pained her heart to hear a Kirin talked about the fate of Kirin.
“Something uncommon happened. However, Juntei didn’t seem to have done any wrongdoings that disgraced himself. Because he was a virtuous emperor who passionately followed The Way, even though he sent the Oushi to Han, nobody doubted this action. It’s not like Juntei sent his Oushi to trouble Han. An emperor whose merciful heart resounded through the twelve countries, out of compassion sent his troops to save Han’s people. His officials and his people sympathized with his intention, and nobody criticized it. Nevertheless, Juntei and Sairin ended up that way. There was no sign at all, and all stages that should have taken place before the death of an emperor or saiho were missing as well. Though obviously it’s not a common happening, nobody connected it to the action of sending the Oushi.”
“Did Enki and Juntei …?”
“We’d never met. Though Juntei became emperor far before I was born, Sou-Ou had the chance to meet him.”
“Emperor of Sou…”
“Around the time when Sou-Ou just got enthroned, it seemed like Juntei supported Sou actively. Then he suddenly struck down. When the current Sou-Ou succeeded the throne, Sai had been a peacefully ruled country for three hundred years, a famous dynasty in the South.”
Enki stared into his teacup, stirring it.
“No body knew the reason for Juntei’s death. And then after that, though a new emperor succeeded the throne, ----
--- at that time the nation surname in Imperial Seal had been changed. That’s the first time it became clear that Juntei died due to a sin. It’s because there were previous examples. Long time ago, Tai’s nation surname also changed from Tai (change, era) to Tai (quiet and peaceful). This was because the Tai-Ou of that time, loosing his Kirin in frenzy due to Shitsudou, broke into Mt.Hou and killed all nyosen there in order to prevent the birth of another Kirin. He also set fire upon Shashinboku. Since that incident, Tai’s name was changed. There were other similar examples, so it was known that the changing of a nation surname is the result of an emperor’s heavy sin. So this was the first time people understood that Juntei had committed a sin by sending his Oushi across the border.”
“A sin comparable to those horrible acts…”
“Yes. It was then understood that a providence stating that it is forbidden to send troops across the border even for the sake of The Way, existed. No matter for what reason, it is forbidden to send troops across the border.”
“Wait a minute. Who actually set that Providence? Tentei?”
“How do I know? The only thing we know is that Providence exists. And that’s about it. In fact, in Heaven’s Commandments (Tenkou) it is written that we cannot invade other countries. Without doubt, this rule was transcribed from Heaven’s Providence. In this world, there is Providence. To avert from the Providence is an absolute sin, and punishment would surely follow.”
“But who decided that what Juntei did was a sin? Who punished him? There must be someone, right?”
“Not necessarily so, no? For example, when an Emperor took the throne with his Saiho, he climbed the stairs. Youko did too, right? Then, they received the Heaven’s Revelation. This is what I’m talking about. Even though for sure they didn’t know anything about the Revelation before, it would be written inside their heads then. It can also be considered that at that time, the Providence was planted into the body of Emperor and Saiho. The Providence—and the knowledge that averting from the Providence means a previously fixed punishment would be exercised upon them—were planted inside Emperor and Saiho’s bodies. Considering this, then at least the presence of a certain someone to watch over Juntei, judge the right and wrong of his conduct, and determine his punishment, would not be necessary.”
“What about the Imperial Seal?”
“Similarly, we can think the Imperial Seal was planted with it as well, can’t we?”
“Even so, isn’t it the same problem? All was planted—who did the planting in the first place?”
Well, that I do not know, said Rokuta, gazing up to the air.
“Though we can explain that Tentei is this and Tentei is that, the truth is, I don’t know anybody who had ever met Tentei…”
Youko nodded. “Same with me…”
“I don’t know whether Tentei exists or not. However, it is certain that the Providence exists in this world. ---
--- And for sure, it covers the world like a mesh and exercises punishment upon those who violate it. However, this Providence does not consider the situation. Juntei’s reason to send the troops, and the right or wrong of that conduct was not put into consideration. It’s like an automatic thing that only sees whether an action violates what’s written in Heaven Commandments or not, simply like that.”
Youko shuddered lightly. A chill’s creeping up from down her feet.
“Another proof was our conduct in helping Youko. Judging from the action alone, the Oushi of En crossed the border by Shouryuu’s instruction. No matter how we look at it, it should be an obvious sin. Though it was certain that Youko was in En, it’s not like Youko came to En to seek for our help. And it’s not like Youko asked for our help to defeat Gi-Ou. Simply put, it was us who pushed you to seek for our help, we persuaded you by saying that at least we should take Keiki back from Gi-Ou’s hands. Though we arranged it to appear like Kei-Ou used En’s Oushi, it was just a show; in true form what we did had no difference from Juntei’s action. We’re the ones who’re most clear about this fact. However, The Providence did not mind this. Just because Kei-Ou was in En, just because we arranged things to appear that way, the punishment was not exercised upon us.”
“But… isn’t that absurd?”
“It is absurd. We’re just like some villains outwitting the law. It is written in Heaven Commandments that invading another country is forbidden, but it’s not written that we can not lend our troops to other countries. ---
--- At the same time, because Kei-Ou also wished for it, then it could no longer be called ‘invasion’, right? If Kei-Ou herself led En’s Oushi, then it had no appearance of an invasion. The surprising thing was, it could actually work that way.”
“There’s no use discussing whether it’s a good or a bad thing. There’s no other way than accepting that such thing exists in this world. However, only knowing its existence is not enough, coz some matters are very hard to interpret. The fact is, Youko’s case was not our first trial in lending our troops to another country. We were always terribly careful in doing dogmatic things related to Heaven’s Providence, and though we reached the conclusion that if the particular King is present, then it won’t likely to violate the Providence, we hesitated badly the first time. Could this ‘going behind the Heaven’s back’ trick really work? Even we ourselves doubted it.”
“But you still did it anyway?”
“Are you kidding?” Rokuta frowned.
“There’s no way we could risk to gamble like that. That’s why at that time, we went to ask Genkun, just like what we’re doing now.”
“You asked Genkun”
“Yup. The master of this place, the master of Mt. Hou is Genkun. Although it is also said that the master of Mt. Hou is Oufujin (lit. Royal Lady), in truth, the one who leads the nyosen is Genkun. At least this fact I know. That’s because even though I wasn’t born in Mt. Hou, I was raised here. ---
--- So the question is, the nyosen who live here, who appointed them into sagehood?”
“It’s not Genkun? At least we know it’s not the emperors, right?”
“Yes. The nyosen of Mt. Hou are called ‘Hisen’ (lit. the flying sage/immortals). They were not appointed by any emperors. We can say this because no emperors ever installed them as immortals. The fact is, none of the nyosen is enlisted in any country’s immortality registry. They live in a different world from the emperors and enter different immortality registry, and live under Genkun’s provision.”
“Then, can we say that this is the thirteenth country? At least there’s a ground to say that Genkun is equal to emperors.”
“We can say so, right? But it’s obvious that Mt. Hou is not a country. Though the land exists, there are no citizens. And the ‘Emperor’ who rules this land doesn’t have a Kirin. From the beginning, we can’t say that Genkun rules this land because the action ‘ruling/governing’ doesn’t exist here.
“If so, then what place is this, actually?”
“This is a fraction of Heaven. At least I think it is.”
“I can’t think of anything else. Houro Palace exists only for the sake of Kirin. It only exists to raise and send Kirin to find emperors. It does not rely on any other countries, and while exists independently, it is not a country. Hisen were immortals appointed by the Heaven. The one who possesses the order to appoint and dismiss this immortality is certainly attached to the Heaven.”
“Then… What about Genkun?”
“I don’t know.” Rokuta let out a sigh. “It’s because she doesn’t seem to be such a kind hearted person who would answer straightly if asked ‘are you the one who appoints immortality to nyosen?’ But, even if it’s not Genkun, then there must be someone above Genkun who possesses the power to appoint and dismiss the immortality registry. This person might be Oufujin, or might be someone else. Nevertheless, Genkun is under this certain someone. In other word, there is something like organization in the Heaven as well. The Heaven has a structure, and on the tail end of that structure, there are nyosen. And Genkun leads the nyosens.”
“I think there is a world of the Gods. History (teachings) of gods says that Tentei lives in Gyokkei (lit. Crystal Capital). There he leads all the gods and organizes the world. I won’t be surprised even if he really does live in Gyokkei. I’m not well informed enough, so I don’t know anybody who had met a god. Though I’ve heard everything in the teachings, I don’t know how they managed to have no contact with humans. There is no way of meeting the gods.”
However…, Rokuta continued.
“Just at one place, only at this Mt. Hou they’ve always come into contact with humans. If we ask Genkun, then at least we can make inquiries about Heaven’s wish. I don’t actually know how Genkun gets these confirmations, though. Anyway still, this place is our only point of contact, and Genkun is the only person we can get to be our connecting window to the Heaven.”
“Establishing a coalition with other countries and searching for Taiki, are not against the Heaven’s Providence.”
Gyokuyou said so. One night had passed, and true to her words, it was afternoon time.
“Oh, so it’s okay?”
“However, people other than the sages (sens), and those who are in immortality registry with rank of Haku (one rank below Chousai and Sankou) or higher, cannot cross the Empty Sea. This can not be altered.”
“I know that. However, we don’t have enough personnel. Heaven Commandments gives the instruction about how many officials departments we have to establish, but it doesn’t say in detail that we cannot establish new officials’ ranks. For this purpose, can we establish new Haku ranks?”
“You cannot. Even for the Heaven, ranks above the Haku are ranks privileged with numerous immunities, and the bestowing of this immunities is limited to Emperor’s close personnel, the Chousai (Prime Minister) and the Lords of Sankou (Three Advisors). It is better to think that you cannot grant immunities to other ranks.”
Rokuta clicked his tongue lightly. “Then what about lending us the nyosen?”
“That’s also not possible this time. The nyosen of Mt. Hou cannot leave Mt. Hou without my permission. ---
--- And this time, this Genkun cannot give such permission. It’s because in order to go to Hourai and Konron to find Taiki, often times when opening the gate of Gogou, Shoku would happen as well. Now in Mt. Hou there is Kouka (The fruit of Kou’s Kirin). No matter what, we can’t let Kouka be swept away to another world by the shoku inflicted upon Mt. Hou. No matter what, I need the Nyosen to protect the Kouka.”
“Aaa the shoku… yes, I understand.”
“This is not about Providence, but I would like to request you a favor. Please try to minimize the shoku. Even if you open the gate of Gogou far beyond the Empty Sea, we can’t foresee the damage it could inflict—that’s how shoku is. I would be grateful if you take precautions.”
Understood, said Rokuta, while Youko nodded. Gyokuyou smiled,
“However, the emperor and Nine High Lords (I presume these are Six Ministers (Rokkan) and Three Advisors (Sankou)--- Ajisai) cannot leave the country at the same time. The Heaven Commandments says that if the Emperor is not present, all of the Nine High Lords must remain, and even if the emperor is present, at least half of eight High Lords must be present as well. I want you to know that this is Heaven’s Providence. ‘Be present’ must be interpreted as ‘be inside the country’. ‘At least half of eight High Lords’ means more than four High Lords cannot leave the country at the same time.”
Rokuta stared at Gyokuyou.
“This is the first time I heard that ‘be present’ (‘aru’, it could simply mean ‘exists’ –Ajisai) means to be inside the country. If so then get it written down, seesh!”
Gyokuyou laughed lightly.
“You should address that complain to Tentei.”
“This is why we can’t afford to loose our guard on The Providence. Oh well, that’s fine. Next?”
“Even in the name of ‘coalition’, you cannot bring troops to invade other countries. This is decidedly cannot be altered. Since Tai-Ou is not present, you definitely cannot send troops to Tai.”
“Absolutely understood. But what about slipping in some soldiers just to see Tai’s situation?”
“Though it is said in the Providence that you cannot invade other countries with your troops, it doesn’t mean your soldiers cannot enter another country. For example, in the case of an emperor visiting another country, he would surely be accompanied by his soldiers in order to get protection. There is no rule forbidding it. In addition, even without the emperor, it is also not forbidden to send soldiers as delegations and therefore, this has been done many times. The problem doesn’t lay on the troops entering another country’s border, but lay on the action of the troops that had already entered the border; can their action be classified as the forbidden action in the written rule, ‘invading’, or not.”
“What a delicate matter…”
“Even more delicate in Tai’s case. When asked ‘in what situation can our conduct be classified as ‘invading’?’, we can say that it would be classified as invading if for example, our conduct violate the national policy of home Emperor. Juntei was this case. Han-Ou was oppressing his people, and though it was cruel, without doubt this policy was taken by the justified Han-Ou. Juntei tried to interfere with this policy. Therefore, his actions were classified as ‘invading’. In the case of throne vacancy, the policy of the temporary government becomes the national policy. In other words, we should see the policy decided by current Governing Imperial Court as the national policy. However ---”
“Tai-Ou is not dead. Tai is not in throne vacancy.”
“Exactly. Though this could be called ‘Gi-Chou’(fake government) instead of ‘Gi-Ou, if this is the decision of the Imperial Court, then to interfere with this would be classified as ‘invading’. -----
--- However, in Tai, the justified Emperor is still alive. The term ‘Gi-Ou’ is usually used when someone disguised as an emperor in the times of throne vacancy. In Tai’s case, it is not correct to use the term ‘Gi-Ou’. But because there’s no previous example, it’s not certain how we should call it correctly.”
“The problem is to decide whether Asen’s imperial court is equal to the imperial court in Heaven’s definition… is that so?”
“That’s right. All of these issues have no precedents, so there is no clear Providence set for them. I cannot judge what would come of it. However, I would like you to think that the current National Policy is not the policy decided by Tai-Ou, but instead, the policy decided by the current imperial court.”
“This is difficult…”
“Don’t ready your troops. It’s unforgivable to reduce even a tiny bit of the broad land acknowledged by the Heaven as another country’s land. It’s surely classified as ‘occupying another country’s land’ if you secure a land that could not be entered by Tai’s Emperor nor Tai’s people. No matter what reasoning you use, keep in mind that once you establish a camp there, it will be an obvious sin instantly.”
Although Enki uttered two or three other questions, Youko only saw these questions of ‘would this action, would that action…’ as trying to draw a specific line from the ambiguous, vague Providence. She felt uncomfortably out of place. Gyokuyou was explaining in detail interpretations towards the Heaven’s Providence, giving answers added with previous examples. Really, the Providence went before everything—and she had the feeling that the carefully internalized Providence was ahead of everything.
Although with no particular reason, she just couldn’t see it like Gyokuyou had spent one whole night researching to get these interpretations and precedents of the Providence. Well then, what was this Providence, actually? Since she was taken to this world, Youko only took this world as it appeared. A world infested with monsters called Youma, gods and immortals performing miracles, full of wonders and mysteries. Even though she swallowed her existence in this fairy-tale like world as something natural, she got the feeling that this was not a happy and peaceful fantasy world.
Why Youma existed, why the emperors had no life span, why lives were born from a tree, what did Kirin possess so they could select the emperors? Maybe all these things that she considered natural, she should think as something incomprehensible instead. If she attempt to express it, then these were the kinds of ‘feel weirdly out of place’ she was having.
This feeling of being out of place, while she still could not express in words, continued until it was time for them to leave Houro Palace. Again they passed through the white stairs, and while walking down the mountain top she struggled to at least say something. But indeed, she couldn’t come up with anything.
“You understood what Genkun said, right?” Rokuta asked, and she nodded.
‘From here I’ll go directly to Sou to share this information. I must give my greetings anyway. Youko, go back and wait for Shouryuu’s instruction.”
“See you later”
Rokuta’s lightly said words remained, while the suugu he rode fading out into the southern sky.
Filth was piling up. After two, three years had passed, it’s steadily contaminating him. His glow, which was supposed to be bright golden, now deeply overshadowed by the filth. And,--Sanshi thought.
The ironic thing was, the more his glow got contaminated, the easier it became for Sanshi and Gouran to breathe. Though she worried so much about the filth, even getting out from Taiki’s shadow became surprisingly easier. Perhaps this was because Sanshi and Gouran sucked the power from the filth, or perhaps this was the evidence that the shell which covered Sanshi and Gouran had gradually became thinner and fragile. Sanshi had had a thought which gave herself a shudder when she reflected upon it. Possibly, it’s not only the filth’s fault that Taiki’s glow got contaminated, perhaps it’s also Sanshi and Gouran’s fault.
Sanshi had been disposing of people who did mischief towards Taiki, and every time she did that, the golden glow’s rustiness seemed to get thicker. However for Sanshi, there’s no other choice but to dispose of them. Sanshi was Taiki’s protector. She was born at the same time when Taiki’s golden fruit bore Taiki’s spirit, and she was created to spend her life together with him. When Taiki’s life drained out, at the same time Sanshi’s life would be over as well. Sanshi existed only for the sake of Taiki to that extend. Taiki who had chosen his emperor, descended to his native country, and took the position of Saiho, ---
--- even though this Taiki was no longer the child she nurtured, for Sanshi Taiki was still her child, she existed only for his sake. It’s likewise for Gouran, too. Though of course Gouran wasn’t born for Taiki’s sake, his link with Taiki which was bound by their contract was not weaker than Sanshi’s. The binding contract between Kirin and shirei was comparable to the binding contract Kirins had towards their emperors. Not only Sanshi, but Gouran also existed only to protect Taiki.
How could Sanshi and Gouran keep silent and overlook those who harmed Taiki? If there was Taiki’s order, or if Taiki was scarifying all of himself for his emperor’s sake, then there might be reasons for Sanshi and Gouran to bear the violence done towards Taiki. But such reasons were non existent.
At first it was only a warning. Sanshi had to show that if anybody dared to treat Taiki with disrespect, there would always be a penalty. But that didn’t stop the insolent conducts towards Taiki. Sanshi had to show that it was a mistake for anyone to think little of Taiki. Being captivated, it’s not like Sanshi excused the tyrannical actions of the guards of this prison because of the contract, that if Taiki lost his life then Sanshi too would be dead. Especially if these people, with evil intention tried to harm Taiki, then they deserved repeated death. Even if they had a reason, injuring Taiki meant death penalty, and there’s no way their sin could be regarded less.
Though they kept removing people like that, still, the next and the next rebels would show up. They kept sweeping the kept coming rebels, and with each removal, Sanshi and Goran’s tendency to give forgiveness and leeway disappeared even more.
Each time the rebels’ evil intention got worse, and Taiki’s golden glow got shaded even more. The more shaded Taiki’s glow, the weaker Taiki’s flowing life force (Kimyaku) got. Even if this filth was Sanshi’s fault, Shanshi didn’t know what else to do. How long would this continue?
The only little redemption Sanshi got was, at times when she gave Taiki her touch of comfort, Taiki seemed to be happy. Taiki seemed to have forgotten about Sanshi, about Mt. Hou, and about Tai. Even so, Taiki had not forgotten the touch of Sanshi’s hands.
--- I am by your side. I am staying by your side.
Every time she comforted Taiki, a very little golden light somewhat brightening the darkness, and though trivial, Sanshi felt like this was her reward.
--- Do not worry; I will surely protect you…
However, the mumbling Sanshi’s body was gradually loosing its silhouette in the filth darkness. Sanshi herself didn’t realize this. She didn’t realize that she’s loosing the sense to judge herself. Her mind became narrow and stubborn. She didn’t comprehend even a little bit that she herself was adhered to the filthy shadow.
At the same time, Taiki himself still didn’t realize at all that such change was happening inside him.
Of course, he had realized that many accidents happened around him. However, he took it as a part of ‘crack’ in his life. Since he could remember, he always had the suspicion that he was an outsider. Because he who was a foreign being existed, something in his surrounding would not work well. He always had this kind of guilty feeling. He always felt that his existence was a source of disappointment, source of embarrassment and hardship. And this feeling, increasing through the passing years, had turned into a belief.
Now he surely was an outsider. For his surroundings, he was the root of discomfort, the seed of misfortune. Without him realizing it, the crack between the world and himself got deeper and deeper with the passing time. His mother who had tried to bridge that crack with tremendous effort, at some point finally gave up.
He was lonely, and then he accepted himself who couldn’t help being lonely. People who got involved with him suffered misfortunes. Then there was gossip about ‘curse’. It became another one of his attributes. He understood—couldn't help understanding—that for his surroundings, he was a discomfort and a dangerous living being. He accepted it calmly, so calmly that even he himself thought it was strange. There were times when he wondered about it himself. When he was little, the thought of being an outsider was so hard for him, and he would get very sad. But now, he couldn’t consider it as something that hard, that sad.
Probably it’s because there’s something comforting him. He didn’t know since when, but he had realized that there’s something like a spirit near to him, giving him warm comfort. Probably that’s why he couldn’t grip his feeling of loneliness as a genuine loneliness. Or perhaps, because people who got involved with him would be jeopardized with danger, and when thinking about the sadness he felt every time that actually happened, he felt like it was much much better not to have any relationships at all. However still, even more than these reasons, there’s just something that had changed deep inside him.
-- I shouldn’t be here
Though he felt that way, this thought didn’t bring too much misery, because he got the feeling like somewhere, since long time ago, he had been preparing to accept it. When he was little, if his mother cried because of him, he would feel like that was the hardest thing above everything. Even though it still pained him to see her mother cried, now every time he thought about his mother with compassion, he somehow felt that there’s someone else he should care about foremost. More than his mother, more than his family, there’s someone he must be worrying about.
What grew more and more in him through the passing years was not grief nor loneliness, but the feeling of impatience. He was forgetting about something precious. Something he really shouldn’t have forgotten, a very important something. With this lingering on, he kept on living idly for years, suffering damage so bad it might not be recovered, while feeling like there’s something he’s gradually loosing.
Why couldn’t he remember?
The one-year time he lost somewhere. Something that made him feel such affection, like he’s missing it so much, every time he tried to remember about it. Still couldn’t remember, with each passing day he got further apart from that place. His distance with that precious something had already got terribly wide.
--- I have to go back.