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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


"Actually, there is much much more!"
Taiki showed an excited smile to Risai.
" 'Just flowers are a little...' Seirai () advised, and prepared a lot of gifts for congratulation. However, I cannot possibly bring everything myself, so Seirai told me to first bring the flowers here.h

Seirai was once an army officer under Gyousoufs command, and he was appointed the unprecedented position of Taikifs Fusyou (, lit. assistance advisor), as well as the vice lord of Zui Province. He was a great person at relationships, but even among the civil officers under Gyousou, he was well known as the genius among geniuses.

"Seirai and I had been scratching our heads over what are good gifts. Gyousou-sama said that we could take anything we like from the imperial treasury, so the choosing part was tough. There is so much good stuff that it made us dizzy."
" Please no -- I donft deserve it."

"Gyousou-sama said it doesnft matter. Gyousou-sama had told us to choose a present for him as well. Gyousou-samafs, Seiraifs and mine. Our three gifts together become a whooping lot. Wait to be surprised!"
Risai gave a glance of gratitude to the small kirin who had excitement written all over his face.
" Risai is really the luckiest person on earth. I sincerely thank you all."

Risai was really very happy. The emperor and Saiho gave so much attention to Risai, and Risaifs future was unmeasurable. The government regained order rapidly, and the people welcomed the new emperor. The peoplefs future were also bright. The kingdom and the people would be happy ever after -- Risai thought so from the bottom of her heart at that time.

That everything would crumble into nothing in only a few months' time had never even been in the dreams of Risai.

Receiving a noble guest, this room within the official residence was lit by a warm light. However, outside the chilly wind was raging. Risai had lights surrounding her, and could see no shadows, but even so she should not have lost sight of the raging wind outside.
The wind that froze everything. The kingdom. The land. The towns. And the people.

Actually the sound of wind could be heard outside even on that day. Riding on the cold air that swept in full force, the sound sneaked in, searching for the chance to freeze everything in sight. The ominous sound seeped deep into the ears, ringing an unsettling tone. Risai didnft sense so as she was surrounding by the bright ambience, but chills lingered here and there in the residence, freezing the toes and freezing the fingertips. Sending chills, weighing heavily on the limbs, cutting off the senses, the bitterly cold air was the only thing remaining vivid -- just like now.

... It is so cold.
Cold to the verge of death. Just like myself. The kingdom. -- And the people.
(... so cold.)


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