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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


Youko rested her chin on her knees.

" I have heard of similar stories before from En-ou... He said though Taiki was said to be deceased, he didnft think so himself. If Taiki were really deceased, Mt Hou should bear the ranka of the next kirin, but that fruit was nowhere to be found."

" Yes. The message from the messengers only reported the death of Tai-ou, but never touched anything about Tai Taiho. And exactly after this, all rumors about Tai Taiho suddenly died out. At the same time, refugees started fleeing from Tai. There were rumors about Tai Taiho being deceased, but considering that the phoenix didnft announce the death (o, touka) of Taiho, the rumors should be dismissed as false. Also, rumors spread about the coronation of a new emperor. But regarding this, the phoenix made no announcement, not to mention any messengers."

" What are the refugees saying?"
" There are a lot of theories. There are people who said that a false emperor (U, gi-ou) seized power, as well as people who claimed that Tai Taiho had chosen the next emperor. There are people who claimed that Tai-ou was merely deceased, and the throne was left empty, but the most common theory was that there were revolts within the government, Tai-ou was assassinated, and Tai Taiho had fallen into the hands of traitors."

Even in the same kingdom, matters within the palace could not easily be conveyed to the outside. Everything was just rumor spreading, and there was little truth handed down to the people.

Youko sighed.

" No matter how I think about it, I cannot believe that Tai-ou and Taiki are dead. Risai claimed that Tai-ou was chased away from the palace. She should be telling the truth. In other words, a false emperor has seized power. That false emperor incited the revolt, and chased Tai-ou and Tai Taiho out of the palace."

" This is definitely possible. Basically, a false emperor was not the assigned emperor -- they are usurpers that falsify the heavenly will when the throne is left empty. Therefore strictly speaking, the usurper is not a false emperor in the case of Tai."

" Oh, you are right. Because the assigned emperor is still alive."

" That is correct. Anyway, General Ryuu was the general of the Zui Provincial Army, and Zui Province is the capital of Tai Kingdom. General Ryuu was close to the center of the government, so her information about Tai's inside situation should be the most accountable. I could find no contradiction between her testimony and the information I collected, so it would be hard for me to believe that General Ryuu was making false claims."

Youko gave a strict stare to Koukan.
" Then you had doubts towards Risai's words?"
" I was just double-checking the facts."
Koukan lightly replied, and Youko gave a sigh.

" Well, whatever. I assured Risai that I would be willing to help, but I am not sure what and how I can practically be of any help. If we only know that a false empeor has seized power..."
" I agree. We should at least know what had happened to Tai-ou, and what had happened to Tai Taiho."
" It would be quickest to ask Risai, but... what does the doctor say?"
Koukan frowned lightly.


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