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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter One ~


A hill in Sui Province. Escaping from pursuers, Risai and Kaei decided to pay a visit to the provincial lord of Sui Province. The capital of Sui, Shisen (, lit. violet spring). The hill that faced the Sky Pillar Mountain (_R, Ryouun-san) was rooted at Shisen, and on it strong wind blew at the superficial spring season. Looking back, one could see a small village at the hill's foot. The fields that surrounds the village was barren. Two or three graves stood alone, abandoned without any offerings by their sides.

Before climbing the hill, Risai and Kaei stayed at the village, but nobody had remained there. Instead, a couple of travelers stayed in the shaky houses to stay warm, all of who abandoned their barren homeland, planning to escape at least to somewhere close to other kingdoms. There Risai and Kaei received some plain hot water from the travelers -- and heard of the rumor.

A taika had become empress of Kei Kingdom.

"Sounds like she is a young empress. Got that from a young relative living in a seaport some time last year, I think. She should be the same age as Taiho..."

The woman that spoke powerlessly was covered in blood and wounds. Sui Province is the breeding ground of youma. It was said that even the chilly wind that covered the whole Tai Kingdom needed to detour from Sui Province. In fact, the women abandoned their town and together travelled here, but after half a month of journey, only so few people survived, said the woman. In the woman's arm a child was wrapped in ragged cloth, but since Risai and Kaei first noticed it, it hadnft moved a bit.

"If Taiho were still alive, he would have been the same age as hers. That's what I heard."

Risai thanked the women for the hot water and left the house, but she found a ray of hope.
" A teenage empress... taika... "
Risai mumbled as she led her kijyuu by its bridle, and Kaei dubiously looked back.

" Whatfs wrong?"
" Kaei, what do you think? You think that Kei-ou was homesick?"
" Risai?"
" Homesick about Hourai (H), Kei-ou would love anything that relates to her homeland, donft you think?"

Risaifs voice must have turned breathless with excitement. Kaei gave a blank look, as if she didnft catch what Risai would like to point out.

" Taiho was also a taika. They are about the same age. Donft you think that when Kei-ou heard about Taiho, she would like to meet him and help him? Also, the woman has just said that Kei had En as backup support, hasnft she?"

Kaei was shocked speechless.
" You are not thinking about seeking support from Kei, are you? ... How can you?"
" Why not?"


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