With no time to rest, Risai and the others departed from Kimpa Palace before dawn. They were passing above the Sea of Clouds. From the Ryouunzan (the tall mountain where the palace is located) of Kei they headed to Mt. Hou without taking the time to have their meals. Three days after leaving Gyouten, they finally had some sleep on the peak of Mt. Kongou that surrounded the Yellow Sea. Risai was obviously feeling bad that she’s holding Youko and Enki back, slowing them down. Even though it’s the tame Hien, to fly a kijuu with one hand was even harder than what Risai had thought, moreover Hien was not as fast as Suugu to begin with. But it’s also certain that if it’s not Hien, Risai in her current state would not manage to fly. …Realizing this, with a heavy heart Risai decided not to mind about it.
Risai was encouraged by Youko and Enki who consoled her with their silence, and on the fourth day they finally arrived at Mt. Hou. At the same time when thinking ‘at last!’, Risai couldn’t help thinking ‘so it’s this easy’. She had once before passed the Yellow Sea, traveled on land under the Sea of Clouds heading to Mt. Hou and back. The hardship of that journey was obviously different. When Risai thought that to fly above the Sea of Clouds could be this easy—in other words, in actuality, the Heaven needed no more than this kind of effort from those who did the shouzan (climbing the mountain), Risai felt bitterness inside her mouth.
That bitter feeling deepened even more when she saw a woman standing in front of a white Shibyou. That’s because Risai knew from Youko that Gyokuyou had known of their arrival even though they didn’t make any announcement that they were coming.
Gyokuyou disappeared after hearing the situation from Enki and then telling them to have a rest. They went down Mt. Hou through a red gate and entered different buildings to have their rest. Risai settled in a room together with Youko, and once she was there she immediately lay down on her face.
“…Risai? What’s the matter? Are you feeling unwell?”
Risai turned her head. She couldn’t help crying her pointless tears.
“Genkun remembered me.”
Ah, Youko responded with a troubled voice. As soon as Enki said to Gyokuyou, ‘she’s from Tai’, Gyokuyou correctly said ‘yes, you once did the shouzan, right?’
“How did she know? …I’d never met Genkun before!”
“Genkun knew we’re coming although we didn’t give any news about our arrival. She even remembered me whom she’d never met before. Why?”
Risai looked up at Youko, and Youko patted Risai’s back with a distraught look on her face.
“Is it that she can foresee everything? If so then she must have known all the things that happened in Tai!”
“But… Risai, Tai is so far away.”
Youko said so rather dubiously. Risai turned her head fiercely.
“I was –once, I crossed the Yellow Sea to do shouzan. Does Kei-Ou know what kind of journey it is, to travel across the Yellow Sea?”
“It’s a barren land infested with Youma. Although many people gathered in groups and headed to Mt. Hou together, still so many people lost their lives. In a place that can only be called ‘the wild’, with no roads or places to rest, while being threatened by Youma we risked our lives and continued the journey. I just flied across the same path that took us almost two months of traveling time in one full day. It turns out to be so easy if we just fly above the Sea of Clouds.”
Youko looked into Risai’s eyes, listening without saying anything.
“The people who climb the mountain go to Mt. Hou to know the will of the Heaven. Why do we have to do that? Is it because Kirin is there? If it’s only to meet the Kirin, we should just go there from above the Sea of Clouds. In that case everybody would be able to meet the Kirin safely.”
“People think they have to go through the Yellow Sea, so they start the journey with their two feet. But once they enter the Yellow Sea, it’s not easy to get out. It becomes a long, long journey. And I just finished it in four days. With this method, people can do shouzan much easier. It will surely be easier to find the next emperor as well. …Am I wrong?”
I think you’re right, said Youko, giving her agreement.
“It is said that the Heaven sees and compares the characters of all people and grants the revelation to the person who suits to be the emperor the most. I’d never doubted this before. But then I heard that the Heaven really exists in actuality. After hearing this, for the first time I’m having doubts. What does that mean? Is it that the Heaven, with mysterious powers—like how Genkun knew about our arrival and knew the face of a shouzan participant without ever meeting her—foresees who the next emperor is? If so, doesn’t that mean the next emperor has already been decided even before the shouzan? If that’s true, what’s the purpose of us having to make the journey through the Yellow Sea with our lives at stake?”
Youko knitted her eyebrows. ….Indeed, that’s strange.
“If the next emperor could not be determined without meeting the Kirin and finding out the will of the Heaven, though it’s a big sacrifice, for the sake of our country and our people it would worth the cost. But if it’s not necessary, then what is it all about? Those people who died in Yellow Sea, what did they die for?”
Yes, what’s the meaning of all this? Youko brooded.
It’s indeed just like what Risai said. If the Heaven could foresee the statures of all people and choose the emperor beforehand, then a procedure like the shouzan shouldn't have been necessary. If not so, if to decide the next emperor people must meet the Kirin first, why would there be cases like Youko—where the revelation came down upon a person who didn’t know anything about this world, born as a Taika and lived her life as a common high school student? Keiki said that there’s the Ouki. But wasn’t the Ouki something that was granted beforehand to the person who would be the next emperor?
“While demanding such unnecessary sacrifice from the people, the Heaven doesn’t give any help to the emperor who was selected by such procedure. Is it because Gyousou-sama did some mistakes as an emperor? But of course there’s no such thing as an emperor without a flaw, isn’t there? So there might be a reason for the Heaven to turn its back. But if so, why does the Heaven overlook Asen? While there are so many deaths and sufferings of the people, why hasn’t the Heaven saved the justified emperor and punished the fake emperor!”
“So in truth, in the Heaven’s eyes, what is the emperor?! What are we, the people?!”
A thought suddenly crossed Youko’s mind. –-The gods’ garden.
Probably that’s true. This world might be the property, the land of Tentei. On the throne of the Heaven there was Tentei, and just like Youko who selected her six ministers and appointed her other subordinates into the immortality registry, Tentei assigned the gods and appointed the nyosens.
Once she thought that, Youko felt dizzy. …So, this cry of Risai, was the cry of the people.
Youko had indeed heard a similar cry before, in a city of Kei.
“Risai… I can’t answer that question. However, there’s one thing that has become clear to me now.”
“Has become clear?”
“If the Heaven really exists, it’s not infallible. A non existent Heaven would never make a mistake, but an existing Heaven would surely make a mistake.”
Risai turned her head in wonder.
“However, a non existent Heaven would never be able to help anybody. And if the Heaven could indeed save the people, it’s bound to make some mistakes.”
“…What do you mean?”
“That there’s no other way for us humans, other than to save us ourselves, Risai!”
“I think Taiki might have lost his horn.”
The woman who lived in between the worlds of humans and gods said so. It was the following day after they arrived at Mt. Hou.
“..What is that suppose to mean? What are you implying?”
Gyokuyou frowned at Rokuta’s question.
“Your horn is the reason you Kirin are kirin, you should think like this. You are living creatures with two forms. You’re not kirin who disguise as humans, nor are you humans who change into kirin. You have two forms, humans and beasts. However, Taiki no longer has his horn. Taiki has lost his form as a beast. It might be more correct to say that his beast form has already been sealed.”
“Then what about the remaining form of Taiki, the human?”
“Just like what En Taiho said, it’s better to consider him a mere human. Taiki can’t transform, inflict a shoku or receive the Heaven’s Will. His shirei have already become parts of him, so he can’t lose them, but he’s no longer able to subdue new shirei.”
“Can we bring him back with us?”
“You can’t cross humans in normal shoku. There are cases where people got caught up in a shoku and swept away across the worlds, but these are contingent matter and we can’t predict the outcome for sure. The closer people to the shoku, the bigger possibility it will be for them to get swept away, but it doesn’t guarantee that they would be able to cross the Empty Sea.”
“Isn’t there any other way to do this?”
There’s no way, said Gyokuyou in a low voice.
“Shoku is not a part of the Heaven’s Providence. Shoku doesn’t happen under the Heaven’s command, so it means that the Heaven doesn’t have full control of everything. If the Heaven can control everything, then there wouldn’t be cases like kirin or Taika (Taiki’s fruit) got swept away in front of our eyes like that.
“Well that’s true…”
“Well then, how about this? One of the emperors crosses over, and grants the immortality upon Taiki temporarily?”
“If it’s not a rank above Haku, someone in the immortality registry still can’t cross the Empty Sea. As I told you before, you won’t be forgiven if you create a new rank above Haku.”
“Then what are we supposed to do? Taiki is there right now, you know! The fate of Tai-Ou is on his shoulder—and in turn, also the lives of Tai people. Even so, are you telling us to abandon him?!”
Gyokuyou let out a deep sigh.
“Taiki has lost his horn. His abilities have been sealed. My superiors agreed that a Kirin who has lost his connection with the heaven and earth would not survive for long. They said we should just wait until everything corrects itself.”
Risai who had been holding back and keeping her silence, abruptly rose from her seat without a second thought.
“Does it mean we should wait for his death?!”
Gyokuyou looked away.
“Who are these superiors of yours anyway?”
“Is it Tentei and other gods? So these gods exist? Did they say we should just wait for Taiki to die, the new ranka of Kirin of Tai to grow, to wait for a new kirin and emperor of Tai to rule? They said this, with the same mouths that told the emperor to start ruling the country accordingly to The Way!”
Gyokuyou remained silent.
“So what about Taiki? Is it because Taiki has done some kind of sins? What about Tai-Ou? Tai-Ou is the emperor who was seated on the throne by Tentei himself through Taiki, is he not? Did they say they’ll just leave this emperor who hasn’t committed any sins to die? ---
--- What will become of the remaining citizens? Tai people have been struggling to survive the tyranny of Asen for six years, and you’re saying they should wait for Taiki to die? Then wait for the new ranka of kirin to bear fruit and hatch, and for it to select the new emperor? How many more years do you think that would take!?”
“Five years? Ten years? …Genkun, Tai can’t survive that long. Or is it that while waiting for the new emperor to take the throne, the Heaven will drive off youma or soften the harsh winter of Tai?”
Enki pulled Risai’s arm. Risai freed herself from the hold.
“Didn’t Tentei instruct the emperor to begin ruling the country accordingly to The Way? That must be the first point of Heaven’s Commandments. But despite of that, these gods who are above the emperor, said we should just tread on The Way. These gods, who so easily abandon the people and tread on The Way, are they the ones who have been judging previous emperors who lost their way all this time?!”
Gyokuyou let out a heavy, deep sigh.
“The Heaven has its own principle. Carrying this principle is everything to Gyokkei.”
“Then please take me to Gyokkei. I will beg Tentei and the gods myself.”
“That can’t be done. …Risai, I do feel sorry for Taiki…”
“Then please save Taiki!”
With eyes full of sorrow, Gyokuyou looked at Risai.
“What are you going to do after you bring him back? Taiki’s shirei have somehow lost their logic minds, if they stay with Taiki there would be disasters caused by their youma nature. Even if he’s brought back here he must be separated from his shirei. If he loses even his shirei, he wouldn’t have any means to protect himself, would he? He can’t see the ouki either. So even if he’s back here, it doesn’t mean you can do the search for Tai-Ou.”
“Even so, Taiho is necessary for Tai.”
“Other countries can’t help Tai. They can’t enter Tai with troops to defeat Asen. After Taiki’s been brought here he would feel useless. He would want to help Tai, he would think he must save Tai, but he would be crushed because there wouldn’t be a thing he can do. …Don’t you think about this kind of result? A kirin who can’t transform, who doesn’t have any shirei, what can that kind of kirin do? Besides getting attacked easily by villains?”
He has me, Risai shouted.
“I would take his shirei’s place and protect him even if it cost my life. …No, I alone wouldn’t be able to take his shirei’s place. But in Tai there are people who’re waiting for Taiho. If Taiho returns, the people would come to Taiho’s side. It wouldn’t be just me; many people of Tai would protect Taiho.”
“And you’re going to defeat Asen with that? If you can defeat Asen just by being joined by a Kirin who can’t do anything, you people must have already defeated him a long time ago, no?”
“Genkun, you of all people, how could you say such a foolish thing!”
“’What can the Taiho do for us’, do you really think that’s what this all about? Taiho is a kirin. A kirin wouldn’t be able to attack Asen, he wouldn’t be able to even move among soldiers. Even so, Taiho is important for us. …Don’t you get it? For Taiho to simply being there or not being there, don’t you know how big a difference that would make for the people, for us?”
“Taiho is our hope, Genkun. In Tai where both His Majesty and Taiho disappear, there’s not even the dimmest light. The problem now is not what he can do for us. Taiho’s existence is necessary to assure the people that there is still hope…”
Gyokuyou turned away and looked into the distance. For some time she gazed at the belts of light shining from between the strange-shaped rocks, deep in thoughts.
“Can you discharge one of the Sankou (Three Advisors) of En temporarily?”
“Yes, if only temporarily.”
“Arrange a family registry in En for Taiki. Even though from the beginning Taiki has never had a family registry, we need to make it appear like Taiki is a refugee from Tai. Tell En-Ou to cross over and appoint Taiki into immortality registry, and assign him as one of the Sankou.”
“Can we make a Kirin a citizen of En?”
“There’s no rule saying we can’t do that. It is written that a Kirin would not be included in his own country’s family registry, but there’s no rule about a Kirin of another country. It’s the same with the rules to appoint a Sankou. It’s written that a Sankou must be a citizen of the particular country, but there’s no detail that says a kirin of another country can’t be the Sankou.”
Genkun, called Risai in a joyful voice, but Genkun didn’t turn to look at her.
“It’s better not to thank me. Taiki’s return will not be a solution.”
The one who raised her voice was Youko.
“Taiki has lost his horn---can something be done about it?”
“Depends on the case. I can’t know for sure until I see Taiki myself. When you manage to cross him over, bring him here. We will lend our power to heal him. We also have to separate his shirei from him. You have to bring him here at once.”
“I understand. We will surely bring him here.”
Gyokuyou nodded and looked at Risai and the others.
“The Heaven has its set of order, and nobody can alter this. You can’t achieve anything by questioning whether it’s right or wrong. ---
It’s because everything in this world was built from this order. It’s also because of the mesh of this order that the Heaven doesn't forgive cruel acts done upon the people… Only this will never change, whether on earth or in the Heaven. Never doubt this.”
Without saying anything, Risai hung her head.