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

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Koudansya, 2001


~ Chapter Three ~


"Well, there were cases when the emperor and Saiho were deceased at the same time. In some cases, the Tyousai followed the same fate, and a fake emperor (U, giou) was established. Unless the emperor and Saiho were murdered along with Tyousai and Imperial Affairs Minister, there had been no cases like now, when nobody is fit to lead the government."

"Tyousai is not dead. He is seriously injured, but he still has consciousness,"
Senkaku raised his voice. "Tyousai can be entrusted with the imperial seal, and appoint the next Tyousai."

"Tyousai can only be entrusted with the imperial seal under Taiho's consent. Now Taiho is missing, so how can the imperial seal be entrusted to Tyousai?"

"If His Majesty has passed away in the first place, the imperial seal has no power. In that case, we need the foot of Hakuchi (). When we have the foot of Hakuchi, the new Tyousai can be appointed by votes among the Six Ministers and the Three Advisors (Sankou).

"Hey, we cannot be sure that His Majesty has passed away! We must first check His Majesty's condition, and search the whole kingdom for His Majesty and Taiho if necessary!"

"Then pardon me, but who is to command this search across the kingdom? Do you believe that we can move the whole kingdom without a person in charge of the government?"

The meeting room suddenly was thrusted into chaos. Risai stood aghast at one corner. There are cases the emperor passed away. There are cases Taiho passed away. However a case where nobody is certain what happens to the emperor and Taiho had been unimaginable up till now. Even if only one party survives, there is custom to follow. But both parties are missing and cannot be determined as dead. What are they to do in such an ambiguous situation?

"Forget the custom for now, and ensure His Majesty's condition!"
It was exactly when somebody voiced such a suggestion.

"His Majesty has passed away."
A calm voice cut in, and the meeting room was silenced as if splashed by water. Risai turned towards the voice's owner, and at the meeting room entrance stood Asen. In such chaos nobody noticed that Asen had not been with them for the whole time.

Asen swept his glance across the whole room, and extended his hand. On his hand was a bird's foot.
"Pardon my brusque acts, but I believed in the utmost importance of ensuring whether His Majesty was safe. Therefore I paid a visit to Gotou Palace (ˋ{), and entered Nisei Palace (񐺋{)."

The meeting room was stirred with mourns. Asen said very calmly.
"Hakuchi has fallen. Following the custom, I have cut off the foot and brought it here with me."


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