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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


The ears kept ringing.

No. That is the sound of the wind, Risai thought. It was the chilly wind that sweeps in full force outdoors. It was really extremely cold.

The wind swept forcefully, so cold and sharp that it could stab itself into onefs body. Trees, mountains and rivers were all frozen pale, exposed in the howling wind. Rivers were covered by ice, upon which snow accumulated thick. Even the land was frozen under the snow. All over where the roads reached snowflakes swirled, as strong winds dredged the road surfaces and gathered a layer of snow over them.

Tai was separated from the continent, and was secluded within the vast sea. In winter it was under the exposure of stingingly chilly wind from the sea in the north. The huts crouched within the snow, and every family closed their windows and doors. -- But within the small space cut off in several layers from the outside world, a warm fire could be lit. There everyone snuggled against one anotherfs shoulders, and shared the tiny warmth that was just too tiny compared to outside.

The flames that danced in the stove, the warmth of people surrounding the stove, and the steam that rose from the big pot above the stove, they all were inviting even unfamiliar visitors who got nearly frozen on the snowy path. Tai's winter is harsh, but warmth filled every corner at the same time. And sometimes, it took the shape of brightly colored flowers, Risai thought to herself as she saw the child rushing in.

"-- Risai, here."

The boy presented in his hands flowers of warm red and yellow colors. They lit up the cold room into which the weak slightly barely shines, like a bright flame of warmth. Outside, winds roared while trying to seep in. Winter had just come to Tai, but the countryside had already been lightly covered by snow.

There should be no way such bright flowers could blossom in this season. Risai looked astound at the visitor who presented the gift. The child was smilingly embracing the bunch of flowers larger than his face. The smile was much warmer, much brighter than the flowers' colors.

"These are to congratulate you. I heard that you have become the provincial army general, and I am so happy for you!"

The child who said with a glowing smile was Taiki. At that time, he was ten.


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