For some time, Risai stayed in her bed room, staring at the belt.
— You’re still connected.
It’s indeed true, said Risai to her own ears. At that time, the only mine near Rin’U that’s still being dug for its gem was Mt. Kanyou. Being the oldest mine in Bun Province, the gem springs in Mt. Kanyou were completely withering, and Risai remembered that at that time already people could only find third class gem from digging that mine.
News about Gyousou ceased to come when he was in the middle of a combat on the outskirts of Rin’U, and then this belt was found in a cargo from Mt. Kanyou. Gyousou must have fallen into enemy’s hands at Mt. Kanyou. Even though it’s unclear what happened after that, at least if Risai returned to Tai, she would be able to pursue Gyousou’s track.
Risai folded her fingers in still silence. Other countries said they were going to help searching for Taiki. But even if this plan failed, it’s not like Risai had nothing left to do.
While she was persuading herself, a loud voice was heard.
“Risai, where’s Kei kei?”
She looked around and it was Koshou.
“Just a little while ago, when Kei-Ou visited me for a private meeting, he said he would go to the stable.”
“Strange… Before I got here I stopped by the stable, but I didn’t see him. Probably he went to another place…”
“He’s a spirited boy.”
“Well, he certainly is.”
“And he’s a good boy.”
Oh well, said Koshou, beaming bashfully as if he himself was the one being complimented.
“He had been through lots of hardships, but he had no sullen part in him.”
“You are not related?”
“No. He used to live in his hometown without father or mother. He had an older sister, but she too, died.”
“What a poor kid…”
“He’s surely feeling sad and lonely, but he’s keeping it inside his heart. For that, though he’s still small, he’s definitely an adult inside.”
“That’s really amazing of him… But, Koshou, is it really okay for Kei kei-dono to help me in the stable and everything? Doesn’t Kei kei-dono need to study, or do other work? Moreover, even though Hien has meek temperament, he’s still a kijuu. What if something bad happens?”
“What can I do? He himself said he wants to do it.”
Koshou said so and smiled wryly.
“It’s not necessary for you to call him ‘dono’. Because seeing from status, he’s only a helper.”
“He’s not registered into the immortality registry?”
“Because he’s still a little boy… It seems like Youko wants him to choose his own path after he grows up. … Hmm, strange. When I heard you talk about Kei kei, it sounded like you consider him a royalty or something.”
“Is that so?”
Risai didn’t realize this, but when she thought back about it, she realized that Koshou might be right.
“Well, come to think of it, you could indeed be right… I wonder why…”
“What, you don’t even know why yourself?”
Risai nodded. She then heard a singing voice from somewhere in the estate. A clear, fine voice. A lively voice of a young woman.
“That’s Shoukei, right? It seems like Joshi (Shoukei) and Nyogo (Suzu) come to this estate often…”
“Aa… yes. Well it’s true. It’s kinda hard to say whether they ‘come here often’ or actually ‘live’ here.”
“Perhaps, they are your..?”
No such thing, said Koshou, waving his hand.
“I was just being entrusted to take care of them. Both were total stranger to me.”
When Risai asked this, Koshou laughed as if it’s rather difficult for him to answer this question.
“Well it might sound strange right… After all, I was once a minor official who had no connection whatsoever, and considered a rogue chap.”
“Kei-Ou told me that Koshou was leading a gizoku.” (gizoku: group of rebels who usually takes money from rich, corrupted people and shares them to poor people, just like Robin Hood. In short, a justified rebellion group.)
“It wasn’t such a big thing. There was an evil governmental officer, and I was only gathering people with guts, in order to defeat him. In normal cases, after that rebellion I should be caught and questioned, but unexpectedly, there was Youko among those brave people.”
“Kei-Ou? Among those patriots?”
This is a secret, said Koshou, laughing.
“Youko is a Taika. She wasn’t born here. Do you know this?”
“I’ve heard about that…”
“Yes. She doesn’t know much about the things here. That’s why she left the palace as a commoner, and lived under the care of Enho, who was once the head of a famous school of philosophy. In other words, she left the palace to study. While she was there, she was involved in our rebellion by chance.”
“Is that so…”
Seeing Risai who nodded without knowing the detail, Koshou dropped his gaze.
“Youko is a new emperor. I think she has the potential to be a marvelous Empress, but there are people who think otherwise. After all, Kei had had some bad experiences with female rulers. Moreover, she’s a Taika. ---
--- She doesn’t know things that we consider common knowledge. That’s why people see her with doubting eyes. She had managed to reorganize her officials, but there are people who are against her. Especially those who were holding grudge for being disposed from their positions. We don’t know what these people would do to Youko.”
Risai’s eyes widened. That’s a common thing for a new government, but she thought Kei-Ou was an empress with sufficient support, with enough people welcoming her reign.
“’There are people who think, ‘let’s just terminate this Empress before she gives us worthless results’. That’s why, to minimize the danger, officers with unclear origin are not allowed to enter Roshin.”
Now that he said so, Risai realized it, too. Even at Kaden that she once visited, she hardly saw any officers. Though it was Seishin, its surrounding Kaden was very quiet. Although the Nyogo who took care of Risai, the girl called Suzu, and the Joshi called Shoukei occasionally visited that place, Risai hardly saw any other of Youko’s subordinates.
“I thought that was a precaution, because I was there.”
“That’s not it. Even now we don’t have many people at Roshin. We don’t want any subordinates from previous reigns to be around Youko. We prefer to have only those whose personalities we could fully trust. While confirming their personalities, we’re adding the number of assistants little by little. That’s what we are doing now.”
At first Risai was dumbstruck, but then she thought that’s probably a common thing. Just like what Youko said, Tai was ruled firmly. At the beginning, the government was ruined to such extent by Kyou-Ou. But Gyousou managed to establish his administration from respected people among the previous reign’s officers. ---
--- Even that kind of Tai ended up that way.
“Kei is still… in a difficult condition.”
“But I think we only have to be patient just a little bit more.”
Risai nodded. Risai came rolling into Kei that hadn’t had a stable government. She tried to allure the Empress, who was trying desperately to start her administration, to commit a sin. Now she could really feel the seriousness of her conduct. She was about to do a terrifying mistake. She was saved from such a mistake, but it was not to her own credit.
Kei-Ou was tasked upon a heavy burden. Even though from the beginning there’s no way Kei should divide their energy for Tai’s sake, the young empress brought even Risai into her care while supporting her own country. She was giving her help as much as possible for Tai, as if that’s a natural thing to do.
…Risai couldn’t possibly hope for anything more than this.
They were going to help her search for Taiki. That alone was enough. Even if they couldn’t find Taiki, her coming to Kei was not futile.
So that is why, continued Koshou who looked like he’s embarrassed about something,
“That is why there are few people around Youko. Besides Suzu, there is only one other woman who is taking care of Youko’s daily needs, and she’s originally a friend of mine. And besides that girl named Shoukei, there’s no other Joshi. Other servants would be picked by my comrade, or current general of Kingun, and he’s choosing only the people who could really be trusted. –
— We’re keeping the Palace occupied. Even if we were given our own residences, we don’t have the time to go back there and rest.”
“So, that’s why you are here?”
“Yes. …I have a younger brother.”
“You mean your real brother?”
“Yes. Right now he’s attending a shougaku (prefecture academy) in Ei Province. He’s living in that school’s dormitory.”
“He would surely have a bright future, then.”
Ah well, Koshou laughed happily.
“I wanted him to go to school, but when he actually left I couldn’t help feeling lonely. I don’t have any other blood relatives besides my brother. I’m close to Suzu, but it wouldn’t do to ask her to live together in a single man’s house. So, besides Suzu, Youko asked me to take care of Enho and Kei kei as well.”
“Aah, so that’s why all of you, in Taishi’s residence…”
“Yup. I have no problem watching over them, but there’s no way we could put a Taishi in a Daiboku’s residence, right? Especially since he would be needed at Youko’s side constantly. Youko is still unfamiliar with the mechanism of politics around here, so she’s still learning from him. That’s why Enho was placed here, and I, as the one who’s guarding him, also came to stay here. That’s how it was.”
Koshou said so and smiled bashfully.
“I had to get someone to teach me about manner and etiquette. You see, I was only born as a son of an inn owner in a downtown area. –
-- And Kei kei also needs someone to teach him. That boy’s smart to begin with. That was why the job to take care of Enho was like a wish came true. But then, you can’t run a house well without any women’s help. So finally, even Suzu and Shoukei got placed here, and so it became like what you see now.”
“Well, it’s lively here.”
That’s true, laughed Koshou.
“I think Youko is good in handling people. I think she knew that her Daiboku, though having a big body, gets lonely easily. I can’t be calm if I’m not surrounded with people. Especially inside the palace. If I was told to live alone in my residence, I wouldn’t last even a few days. Thanks to this current arrangement, I would survive one way or the other.”
“In addition, I rolled myself in here.”
“Youko said you’d probably feel more relax here, but please forgive us if this place is noisy for you. And also, I would be happy if you don’t mind our lack of courtesy.”
There’s no such thing, said Risai, smiling. She’s grateful that she’d been given into the care of such trustworthy people.
“Kei-Ou… Would surely be a good empress.”
“It’s a joyful thing to hear that said by a foreign general. Uhm, well, I’m hoping for that as well. Unlike us who could just resign if we don’t make it, emperors and Kirin have no choice but to do their job well.”
That’s indeed true, Risai nodded. It’s either be a good emperor, and keep being a good emperor, or go wreck. There’s no other option for emperors.
“Tai-Ou was also a magnificent person, wasn’t he? Kantai, that man of Kingun, said so. He’s the general of our Left Army. He said Tai-Ou was a famous man among the soldiers since before he succeeded the throne, is that true?”
“Yes… I thought of him that way, too.”
“It would be great if they could return safely, Tai-Ou as well as Tai Taiho. But for now it would be Taiho first, right…”
Risai nodded. She hoped they could at least find Taiki. If not, Tai could not be saved. While they remained silent, they heard a light sound of footsteps. When they looked around, it was Kei kei heading their way. He came from the entrance that was brimming with sunlight, hugging some flowers with a smile on his face.
“In the north garden, the cotton roses have been blossoming!”
Risai looked at Kei kei and the branch of flower that she received from the kid.
“…Kei kei-dono, how old are you?”
When asked, I’m eleven, he answered shyly.
“Is that so… I see.”
Kei kei’s shy smile became blurred. The kept smiling image was covered in water, distorted.
She could no longer see that smile, so she reached out with her hand. She grasped the little, warm hand inside her remaining hand carefully.
“Have you been happy?”
“Me? Uhm… Yes.”
Risai! That’s how he would call her with his carefree voice. When he saw Risai, he would show her his smiling face, and come running towards her, so fast it looked like he would tumble down. If she was with Hien, he would surely ask, ‘Can I pet Hien?’
“Taiho was as young as you are now…”
Please, let Taiki return safely… That day Risai said such prayer for the first time.
Having your hope denied is a painful thing. Simply by having a wish in the bottom your heart, when you fail to get that wish, your desperation would be deep. To pray is to hope. That’s why Risai hadn’t been able to pray before that day.
While Tai’s people secretly visited the Shibyou, Risai only watched them in silence. They quietly carried their feet to the Shibyou even in the middle of snowstorms. Fearing Asen, they went without saying anything to anyone. They went to the Shibyou silently, and cautiously left a keihaku there. These people went to the Shibyou to express their gratitude for this remaining blessing, and to pray for the safety of the person who gave it to them.
While feeling compassion for those people who could do nothing more than that, Risai herself didn’t go to any Shibyou even once. …She could not go.
It’s the same when she was told they were going to search for Taiki. Compared to her hope that Taiki might be able to be found, her fear that Taiki would not be found was greater. Even if they found him, she didn’t know what to do afterwards. Taiki’s return didn’t mean a definite promise that Tai would be saved. For Tai, what meaning would Taiki’s return have? She wondered.
…Still, Taiki was a light.
A man who lived in hiding in the mountain, who took Risai under his care while she was trying to leave the country, told her ‘You better give up’.
“His Majesty is not here.”
Garyou of I Province of Taikoku, the mountainous town where Gyousou came from, had been burnt to the ground. Searching for Gyousou, Risai who went to I province (Ishuu) because she thought there’s a chance that Gyousou might hide himself in his native land, could only see the smoke covering the remains of Garyou.
“Moreover, right now you definitely need some rest, don’t you think?”
“There’s no time for resti--”
“A country without its emperor would be ruined. There’s not a soul who doesn’t know this. However, the emperor has not deceased. Is it that without the ceremonial rituals performed by the emperor, the country goes down? Or is it the sole existence of the emperor that preserves the country?”
Risia shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Tai has already moved into an era without an emperor. You, for so long until now, have been searching for the emperor, and eventually still can’t find him. …Don’t you think that’s enough already?”
Risai opened her eyes wide.
“Are you saying that I should abandon the emperor?”
The old man shook his head. On his face that had become haggard with hardships, appeared a thick matter-of-fact look.
“I just think you should consider about your well-being first. Do you realize you’re part of the Tai’s people who are trying to save the emperor?”
“If you want to do something about Tai’s people suffering, then you must be well yourself. If you shoulder everything alone and suffer, then it can’t be said that Tai people as a whole are happy.”
Risai hung her head dejectedly.
"Even so, the only person who could save this country is him.”
The old man let out a pitying sigh, stood up and left, and only a young girl, the old man’s granddaughter remained there. The young girl also, with sorrowful eyes was looking at Risai as if she wanted to say something.
“You too, do you want to say that it’s foolish to wander around for the emperor’s sake?”
The young girl shook her head.
“I don’t really understand. I do not know the emperor. I don’t understand about governing and power either. His Majesty is a person above the cloud. Taiho is also a person from far above. However, the smoke –”
“If you look down from that gate, you would see I province spread before you. There’s trail of smoke from there.”
Aa, Risai nodded. Asen would not forgive anyone he suspected to have anything to do with Gyousou, or support and sympathized with Gyousou. When he wanted to, he would burn a whole village, repelling anyone revolted against him from the eradicated land.
“Is it true that the southern countries have spring-like season all year long? Is it true that in Sou, there’s no snow? I heard that the rivers don’t get frozen. Even in winter, warm sunshine will come, and there will be sunny days… And the blue sky can be seen.”
Risai nodded. Even though Risai had never been to any countries at the southern part of the Yellow Sea, at least she knew that the sun at the Yellow Sea shone brightly, and the sky was so blue it looked nearly vigorous.
“In Tai, once the first snow starts to fall, until the snow finally dissolves, how many times can we have a clear, fine day? It surely can be counted with our fingers. Even so, the smoke…”
Risai understood the young girl’s mind, and without thinking gripped her hands.
“This precious time of clear weathered days, is shaded by the smoke. The fire burns the snow, dissolves it. Then the water will be frozen again, together with the debris of the fire. –
…Ah, how much we Tai people yearn for spring to come? I feel like the Royal Palace was the only fine, blue sky-view in Tai, this Tai that is covered with thick and low cloud. But even that blue sky has been shaded. The smoke from the land has shaded Kouki like snowy clouds; there’s no clear sky in this country anymore.”
The young girl looked up at Risai with eyes full of sorrow.
“Isn’t Kouki supposed to be the only place with blue sky, the one with spring light, and through all winters, the bright place where nothing gets frozen?”
That young girl named Rin, was no where to be found in this world now. Together with her grandfather, she was avenged by Asen for giving shelter to Risai. However, after that time when the young girl let Risai escape while knowing her awaiting doom, Risai swore, just like she confirmed this time, that she would never forget the young girl’s words.
…Please, oh please save Tai-Ou— save Taiho.
Just like before, suddenly there was a message from the bird saying ‘wait for us at the Forbidden Gate!’, and it came two days after Youko accepted Han-Ou’s visit. Above the Sea of Clouds, Youko waited in front of the Gate Hall of the Forbidden Gate, and welcomed three guests who had crossed the Sea of clouds and finally arrived: Shouryuu, Rokuta, and this time along with them, a girl with golden hair.
“Is it true that Han-Ou has come here?”
Answering Rokuta who was hopping down from his Suugu, Youko said ‘yes’ and gave her salutation with a wry smile.
“I bet he came suddenly without informing you first.”
Rokuta said so and turned his eyes to the person getting off from a white Kijuu.
“This is Ren Taiho.”
Youko hurriedly gave her greetings. Renrin looked as young as eighteen, a person with a cheerful air.
“Renrin, this is Kei-Ou Youko, and next to her is Keiki.”
“Well? Where’s Han-Ou and sister Hanrin?”
“I think they are in their room…”
Again, Youko could only smile wryly.
It was Youko who prevented Han-Ou and Hanrin from leaving and taking an inn in Gyouten, and insisted that they should stay in Kimpa Palace instead. But it turned out that as a guest, Han-Ou was hard to please.
At first, to show her reception, she escorted her guests to Shoukyakuden (Hall for honored guests), but he said he didn’t want to stay there because that place was set in bad taste. Finally he suited himself and picked a summer house in a garden inside the guest hall, and then said, ‘remove this vase, it’s unsightly, or ‘I can’t withstand seeing that painting, change it with that one over there’ etc.
It seemed like he’s not pleased with the servants from Shoukyakuden whom Youko pointed to serve him, so he asked her to change them because they were clumsy. He insisted, so Youko got confused and pointed Shoukei. Though he somewhat seemed pleased with Shoukei, this time he refused to let Shoukei leave his side.
Meanwhile Hanrin, wearing that royal treasure called Koseisan, wandered around inside the palace as she pleased. She would come to Seishin all of a sudden and tell Youko something like, ‘I think it’s not good that the X officer bullied his subordinates like that...’ and then dash off again.
Shoukei, who ended up taking care of the two guests single-handedly, remarked, ‘Though outwardly she’s a very beautiful young girl, so endearing we would want to dress her up, she’s just like Enki inside.”
“…It’s hard, isn’t it, to catch up with those two?”
Enki asked this in a small voice, so Youko also asked back quietly,
“How is the relationship between En and Han?”
“Hmm… It’s against our better judgments, but we do have diplomatic relationship with Han. It’s because Han is the country of craftsmanship.”
“Han is number one in processed products of gem, gold and silver, is that true?”
“Well, there’s no other way but to acknowledge him for that fact. …Because before him, Han was a country that had nothing. It was a country where everything stopped halfway, no matter what was started. He then built that kind of country into a country of craftwork.”
“Both fine art and industrial products?”
“If it’s a workmanship product, then they’re making it. They produce everything from the material to make paper or cloth, until the machinery and tools for making them. Especially tools. Tools made in Han have high precision. Their measurement tools and weight scales etc are in a different league from the products of other countries.”
“Our country is specialized in making big things—roads, buildings, and harbors—but to build these things we surely need the help of Han’s craftwork. --
-- That’s why our relationship is.. ermm it could be categorized as a deep association.”
Rokuta sighed. Youko somehow could understand the reason of his sigh.
“Hmm how to say this correctly… He is, in the many meanings of the word, a ‘strange’ person.”
“Isn’t he?! Well, he’s Shouryuu’s natural enemy.”
Rokuta turned around to cast a glance at the person behind him. The tail of the group, Shouryuu, hadn’t uttered a word since he arrived; he only tagged along with a glum expression on his face.
“I could actually guess that…”
While she muttered this, on the path to the garden she met Shoukei who came from the opposite side. Shoukei walked with her body slanting ahead; she’s stomping on the stone pavement forcefully with every steps.
“Aa, Shoukei. Where’s Han-Ou?”
When Youko asked this, Shoukei looked at her with blood-thirsty eyes.
“He’s in his chamber. But let me tell you now, even though you go there, you can’t meet him yet.”
“Can’t meet him?”
“He’s not pleased with new clothes and hair pins that I chose for him, so he said he would not change. …You’ll see, I will surely make him change his dress!”
“…It sounds troublesome…”
Humph, snorted Shoukei, folding her arms on her chest.
“Considering him, I feel like the trouble never stops. For me there’s nothing wrong with the stuff, but he said the necklace and the earrings didn’t fit him. I will search through all Youko’s stuff, okay? I will surely make him say ‘I must have this one!’.”
After saying that forcefully while making gesture like rolling up her sleeves, Shoukei realized that there were other people behind Youko, who were also walking down that path. She let out a small gasp, her face became really red and she kowtowed at the side of the path.
“Please forgive my rudeness!”
“It seems like you’re having a real trouble…”
The one who said so with a laugh in his voice was Rokuta.
“It’s difficult to deal with that person, isn’t it? …Is Hanrin also there with Han-Ou?
“Yes… She is also in there.”
“I see. We have something to discuss with them. Could you please make that person from Han quickly get out from his room?”
Certainly, Shoukei answered, bowing her head deeply. Youko and the rest left Shoukei with a slight wry smile. They exited the path and went into a two storey building that was surrounded by huge, strangely shaped rocks. Han-Ou disliked all servants besides Shoukei, so there’s no body there that could guide them in. With no other options, only by saying ‘excuse me’ they let themselves in. Entering the room, they immediately saw Hanrin lying on the couch. ‘…So Han-Ou is really something’, Youko thought with a wry smile. The moving of the furniture and the changing of wall decorations by Han-Ou’s instructions had changed the room greatly; it’s really surprising, as if the building had been reborn into an exquisite, high class one. Inside the room Hanrin was lying on the couch untidily, but even so, she and the room looked beautiful like a painting.
“Why, it’s Youko and Keiki!”
Hanrin who gazed up from her book rose up, and spiritedly hopped down from the couch.
“Rokuta is here as well. Long time no see!”
Hanrin who finally got to them after bouncing down from the couch stared at Shouryuu’s face from below.
“Shouryuu also, long time no see. But as usual, you still dress up awfully like a countryside man.”
“Fussy. You better go and call that cultured master of yours out.”
“That’s not possible. His Majesty has not finished changing his clothes yet.”
Shouryuu made a sour face and said,
“Shouldn’t any clothes do? Tell him, if he can’t be satisfied with the clothes then just come out here naked.”
“Really the vulgar, tasteless Shouryuu-like words you just said.”
After shooting that remark, Hanrin laid her eyes on Renrin. ‘Oh dear!’ she said with a sweet voice, and gracefully took a bow at Renrin.
“I have not had the honor to know this guest.”
“Aa, this is Ren Taiho.”
“This is the first time we meet. My name is Hanrin.”
Renrin who smiled widely returned the greetings. Hanrin surveyed the faces of the people gathering in the room.
“You have such serious faces. Does it mean that the searching for Taiki is about to begin?”
“That’s right,” Shouryuu said glumly, prompted Hanrin to sit.
“There are some certain people whom I requested to come to En. They didn’t show up, and news about them was unknown.”
“Oh my, so that’s why you came here? Then it’s all fine. I like Kei better. Servants in En were all really clumsy, and they’re so fussy.”
“You’re the fussy one. Anyway, we’ve decided that En and Kei, Han and Ren, these four countries will do the search in Hourai.”
“And what about Konron?”
“Sou, Kyou and Sai will do the searching there.”
“It’s a big force…”
After mumbling that, Hanrin tilted her head slightly.
“But, is it really okay for us to do this? I just think this kind of action is unheard of.”
It’s okay, Rokuta answered.
“Searching for Taiki would not be against the Heaven Providence.”
“Concretely, how exactly are we going to do the search? Are we indeed going to send lots of imperial army?”
No such thing, said Rokuta, frowning.
“We can’t do that. Genkun of Mt. Hou has also asked us to minimize the Shoku. –
Moreover, even if we send a lot of troops, it would be futile. Taiki is a Taika. There’s no other way besides we, Kirin, search for his Kirin aura.”
Hanrin’s mouth was agape.
“Did you say that seriously? Hourai is vast, isn’t it?”
“It’s not as big as the size of one country here. That’s if we talk about the size of Hourai itself.”
“Even so, isn’t that a really big area? We’re going to search there? With only four people including myself? …That, even among all of Rokuta’s previous remarks, is the worst nonsense.”
“I know it would be a difficult thing to do… If not, I wouldn’t have asked for other countries’ help to begin with.”
“Once before, I found Taiki. I can’t remember the exact place, but roughly I remember. Though there’s no guarantee that Taiki returned to that same place, I think there’s no other option but to start the search from that place…”
“You seriously want to do the searching only with that clue? I’m amazed.”
“So, you’re saying we should abandon him?”
Rokuta glared at Hanrin.
“If there’s another way then I’ll take it. There’s just no other way. Of course, we don’t know how many years it will take, searching this way. –
-- Even so, if we really want to do something for Tai, we have to do this!”
Silence fell upon the room. Shortly after, the first one to open her mouth was Renrin.
“Why don’t we use our Shirei?”
“Yes. You see, Shirei recognize Kirin’s aura, right? No matter how far I am, my Shirei will feel my aura and return to me. I just think that perhaps, Shirei can also see other Kirin’s aura. They can probably see it better than us.”
Is that so? Said Rokuta, and asked ‘Is that true?’ to no one in sight. ‘Yes’, said a voice from no where. That’s an answer from Enki’s shirei.
“Then, what about Youma?”
There’s no answer.
“You guys can summon your kin, right? Of course you shouldn’t summon and gather dangerous kind of Youma, but what about small kind of Youma, can you do that?”
After a short pause, a ‘Yes’ was heard.
“This is great. With this, our number has increased considerably.”
If so, Hanrin said, putting her hands together with a snap,
“We have Kouyoukyou in Han!”
“Yes. Kouyoukyou can split the body of those who are reflecting on it. This thing could only be used on those who posses the power to make their body disappear, but with Shirei and Youma, there’s no problem, right. We can increase our number even more—in theory, it can divide a single creature into a limitless number. It also split the power of the creature, but, since we’re just searching for someone, such strong power would not be necessary, no?”
Well then, Renrin inserted,
“In Ren we have Gogoukanda. With it we can cross from ‘here’ to ‘there’ without inflicting a shoku. It can’t deliver humans and it can’t cross creatures in great number at the same time either, but if we use this we can minimize the shoku. …Yes, I’ve used it once for Taiki’s sake. Taiki who was found by En Taiho was brought back to Mt. Hou with it.”
All right! As Rokuta said this and nodded happily, a calm voice broke in.
“The problem is to know why Taiki has not returned here, isn’t it?”
When they looked around, it was Han-Ou standing in front of the bed room door, wearing a thin, dazzling white kimono. Glancing at Han-Ou’s back, they could see Shoukei who had a satisfied look on her face.
“You finally came out. …So what about the reason Taiki hasn’t returned?”
“Goodness! If it’s you, Enki, against your will got swept to Hourai, would you just stay there?”
That’s…, Rokuta said, faltered.
“Well, if it’s Enki it might be hard, coz you might want to run away from your simian emperor who came from the ape-mountain, but Taiki didn’t seem like that kind of kid. --
-- No matter what, he would want to return. Even so, he hasn’t returned for six years. We have to think that there’s a condition that’s making him unable to return.”
“We know that. But there’s no way to know what situation that would be. We have to find Taiki first. Or, is it that you have some ideas about what happened to Taiki?”
Well, said Han-Ou, looking at nowhere in particular.
“There’s a chance that he’s no longer a Ki.”
“No longer a Ki?”
“To be beside its emperor is like the nature of Kirin. To have compassion for the people is its instinct. So that’s why, as long as he’s still a Kirin, Taiki would have returned to Tai-Ou’s side, and for the sake of the people, he would have returned to Tai. He should have been storing the power to do just that. But he can’t do that, so I could only think that he’s no longer a Ki.”
“How could a Kirin become something that is not Kirin?”
How could I know, answered Han-Ou curtly.
“However, Taiki is a Taika.”
“That’s true… but then, so what?”
“Hmm, I can’t explain this well. In Hanrin’s case, the time when she’s no longer a Rin would probably come only when she dies. But what about a Taika Kirin who went to Hourai? ... I just think this way earnestly.”