Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora
Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001
~ Chapter Two ~
After that incident, Risai and Kaei became friends. Kaei was the newcomer as one of Gyousou's ministers, and Risai could not be said to be a subordinate despite her longer experience under Gysouou. Both of them were female, but one was a civilian while another was a general. They had their loads of similarities and differences, and might have become each other's comfort.
Kaei always wore a lost child's expression. Especially after Taiki headed towards Ren (漣) Kingdom and the Winter Hunt really started, Kaei was always disheartened to the point of panicking.
Many officers were pulled to the execution ground because of such persecution. It was Kaei who decided their final sentences, and handed down their punishments. More and more officers joined in to criticize Kaei being too lenient on judgments: she had to harden herself against pity while judging, but at the back she played a loose hand. -- On the other hand, officers who knew nothing about the people or the situation gathered to attack the Judicial officials. Harsh criticisms boiled up, asking why the villains were neglected or disposed from their posts without blame, after they exploited as they pleased under the previous emperor's eyes. Kaei was apparently worn out by such pain.
" Why am I a Judicial officer? Risai, I don't understand what his majesty is thinking!"
In the Daishikou office that nearly turned into Kaei's residence due to consecutive days of burdensome work, Kaei cried. Unable to come up with any word of comfort, Risai stepped out and headed towards the Outer Palace (Gaiden, 外殿) at night. It is warmer above the Sea of Clouds than the world below, but at midnight the garden was so cold that it became frozen by frost. A gentle breeze was blowing. Risai smelt the stench of blood within, even though in reality it was impossible to have such a smell in the palace.
Capturing officials, sending them to Judicial officers, pulling them to the execution ground, and disposing their bodies secretly according to situation -- those were Risai's assignments. It was essential to keep everything a secret, so Risai chose the fewest possible subordinates to execute the mission along her side. The taskforce was small, so Risai could not escape from soiling herself. If the situation called, they needed to even dig the holes for burying bodies -- Risai felt such stench sticking onto her body.
Risai was fine with it. She was accustomed to that, as she was a military officer. However, what about Kaei?
Without a reason, Risai headed towards the Inner Palace (Naiden, 内殿), but stopped her tracks as she looked at the gate that led to Seishin (正寝). The six generals of the Imperial Army were permitted by Gyousou to enter Seishin at any time. But what should Risai tell when she met Gyousou? Without any idea in her mind, Risai retraced her steps dejectedly in the end, but at the Inner Palace Garden she lost her will to return. She sat down at one corner of a summerhouse.
-- How pitiful was Kaei!
Risai shrugged her shoulders and gave a sigh. Suddenly a voice came from
beind her back.