The Twelve Kingdoms
Sea of the Wind, Shore of the Maze, Chapter 11.
from Mina's translation of Ono Fuyumi's Kaze no Umi, Meikyuu no Kishi.
—So it turns out that he was the king.
When Sanshi saw Taiki pressing his head near Gyousou's feet, she came to that sudden realization. It was very clear to her that Taiki had felt a sort of fear of Gyousou that he couldn't quite put into words.
Taiki was now already really used to spending time with Gyousou, and he had never originally been the kind that was shy to strangers, so it didn't seem as though this was special. In terms of friendship, it was obvious that he was closer to Risai than Gyousou by far. Thus, that's why the fact that Taiki had been so insistent about going to find Gyousou had quite perplexed Sanshi.
She had followed the spirit of Taiki (in Sanshi's eyes, it was always a golden glow) and chased him to the Yellow Sea, with one part of her mind in doubt.
Why couldn't she catch the running Taiki? Why had Taiki suddenly transformed into a kirin?
Perhaps "will" was the best explanation. The will of Taiki, who had wanted to see Gyousou with all his heart, allowed him to remove with determination any obstructions that hampered him.
—Was it that Taiki had previously subconsciously hesitated in trying to avoid Sanshi's grasp, and so the transformation that had up until today been impossible became possible?
The question was, why was it only when Gyousou was involved that Taiki finally revealed an intense will that didn't quite fit with him?
The feeling that Taiki's appearance gave other people was just like that of a weak, passive kirin. But because of an unknown reason, Taiki had very little confidence in himself. At times, his excessive modesty, on the contrary, let others feel like it was self-loathing.
When a kirin with this sort of personality displays their strong will, they will always be paired with someone like Gyousou. To Sanshi, Taiki's safety was paramount, regardless of the meaning behind the awakening of Taiki's willpower, his evasion of Sanshi's hand, his subduing of a toutetsu into becoming a shirei, and even the first time he transformed.
There had been no way for Sanshi to clearly see from beginning to end the reasons behind everything that had happened. Perhaps the power that Taiki possessed could not be seen, or there were other, better explanations for this.
She needed only to hide herself in order to more easily attach herself to Taiki's shadow. Wherever he went, she would follow him. Only when she had to stop Taiki would she then appear. Sanshi carried within herself a relentless spirit and leapt across the crags with Gouran. It was not an easy thing to catch up to her master amid the foothills of Mt. Hou.
It wasn't until she saw the scene before her eyes that she completely understood.
—Taiki must have acted in desperation.
He may not have had such deep thoughts and emotions, but being pulled along by a great power that far surpassed his own abilities, Taiki desperately wanted to do what he had set out to do. —It was all because Gyousou was the king.
Sanshi walked into the basin, and Taiki turned to look at her. His face was full of a fear that he couldn't help but show. She smiled at Taiki, and then she made her own body melt into Taiki's shadow.
If Gyousou was the king, why did Taiki still reveal a fearful expression? Why did it take so long before he knew that Gyousou was the king? She was full of questions, but since she had already caught up to Taiki, Sanshi didn't insist on the answers to any of them. This was because, for Sanshi, there was nothing as important as Taiki in this world.
- - - - -
Gyousou and those with him returned to Mt. Hou and saw the pale-faced nyosen gathered in front of Hoto Palace.
"Taiki...! Everyone was worried to death!"
Seeing Gyousou carrying Taiki down from Keito, Youka immediately rushed forward. "What on earth happened? Why has Sir Gyousou also returned...?"
Gyousou smiled without replying. The servants at Gyousou's side came together to respond in his place. "The Kou came to chase back his master!"
The crowd that had gathered around Hoto Palace began to discuss this one after another, in the end it became a collective cheering.
Youka saw Gyousou smiling from ear to ear and also Taiki, whom Gyousou had brought back, showing a fearful expression.
"His master... Then..." Youka kneeled upon the ground. "Can it be that there was a revelation?"
Taiki couldn't answer her. The attendants beside them made sounds of certainty for him. Following this, they heard even more convincing news.
"He has already given the oath." This was Sanshi's voice.
Youka opened her mouth in surprise. She widened her eyes and looked at Teiei. Teiei nodded with a serious face, and then immediately knelt down. She placed her hands on the ground, and her torso lay prostrate; the surrounding nyosen saw this and followed in succession. "Congratulations, Lord Gyousou."
The man whose hand was upon Taiki's shoulder smiled and nodded.
Not moving from the position she was in, Teiei continued on to say, with a slight quiver in her voice, "Long live King Tai and Tai Taiho."
—At this point, Taiki's crime had already become irreversible.
Gyousou's master and servant residences were very quickly moved into Houro Palace. Gyousou stayed at Tankei Palace, which was situated closer to the outside.
The area that Houro Palace occupies is very broad. Since ancient times, it has always been here that an auspicious day is chosen on which to receive the Tenchoku.
From now on, the manner in which the nyosen treated Gyousou underwent a complete change. He is considered the superior of the nyosen, as well as Taiki's master. There was no excuse to be inhospitable to him.
A great number of nyosen were dispatched to Tankei Palace in order to serve Gyousou and his attendants. They took care of each and every need of their daily life, from when they got out of bed until they went to sleep. It was simply a dramatic change.
Not long ago, when Gyousou encountered the nyosen, he had to bow. Now, the roles were reversed. The nyosen had to give Gyousou complete courtesy. It was no longer necessary for Gyousou to pay any sort of respect to any of the nyosen; the same applied even if it was the Mt. Hou Kou. At present, if he stepped outside of Houro Palace, a person who had been his friend of the same generation yesterday, today would have to prostrate themselves in respect.
—Gyousou sat at a supreme status.
- - - - -
"Congratulations, your majesty." A few days before the chosen auspicious day, Risai had finally come to offer him praise.
"Are you able to get out of bed and walk about now?"
"I am very sorry to have worried you, my lord." Risai bowed and lowered her head, and then faced Taiki. "Congratulations, Taiho."
"Thank you..." Taiki showed a lack of energy, which caused Risai to feel a bit astonished.
"Forgive my rudeness, but might I ask if all is well with the Taiho?"
The child uneasily forced out a sliver of a smile. "Everything's fine... It's just that being called Taiho is a little strange..."
Risai laughed. "I believe that you will become accustomed to it very quickly."
Risai smiled at the slightly troubled Taiki and then looked up at Gyousou. "Actually, besides coming especially to congratulate you, I have also come to bid you farewell."
Gyousou furrowed his brow. "Are you leaving the mountain?"
"Yes. On the one hand, I feel as if it is time I should be returning, so I will descend the mountain with those who are leaving tomorrow."
Gyousou nodded. "That's good. You must take good care of yourself. When the time comes, we will meet again in Tai Kingdom."
"Yes. Thank you for your grace."
- - - - -
After the brief meeting, seeing Risai getting ready to leave Tankei Palace, Taiki turned to Gyousou and asked, "Can I see Madam Risai off?"
"Go ahead." Just as he finished speaking, Gyousou suddenly raised his hand. "Ah, Risai."
"The Kingun is short one general. What do you think?"
Facing Gyousou's invitation, Risai smiled calmly. "I believe that there must be other candidates more suited to this position than I. Compared to the merits and character of each general, I am lacking by far. I believe that there are more appropriate candidates that my lord should be able to promote."
"I understand." Gyousou smiled just slightly, and with his eyes, he indicated that Risai could depart.
After Risai took a bow and exited the palace, Taiki went after her and caught up with her.
"Madam Risai, don't you want to be a general of the Kingun?" Taiki walked with Risai upon the narrow paths amid the strange crags.
"It is not that I do not want to. I just believe that there should be other candidates who are better than I am. I would like to give the position up to an even more exceptional person."
"Madam Risai, you really are great," Taiki mumbled to himself.
Risai saw that Taiki's face was full of worry and asked with concern, "You seem to be very weary. Is there something on your mind?"
No matter how she looked at it, it didn't seem as if nothing was wrong.
"Is there something bothering you?" asked Risai once more. Taiki lifted his head and looked at Risai.
"Madam Risai, since Gyousou has turned out to be the king, are you happy?"
Risai blinked her eyes and understood what was troubling Taiki. "Of course I am happy. Do you remember? I had said to you before that Sir Gyousou would certainly make an excellent king..."
"Of course I remember."
"If it had not been Sir Gyousou, and instead been I who was chosen, I do not think that even I could have convinced myself of the fact. To become the ruler of one's own kingdom, you need to have the admiration of the people, as well as their whole-hearted respect. That is what a truly good leader is. You have made the right choice. For that, I thank you."
Taiki wanted to smile, but he couldn't.
"Kou, do not think about it too much. The ruler is decided by the Heavens."
Risai's words of comfort were like a sharp pain stabbing into his heart.
- - - - -
"Taiho, why do you look so unhappy?" asked Gyousou, after he saw Taiki coming back into the palace, having seen Risai off.
"It seemed like Risai also felt uncertain... Every time I look at you, I feel as if I had kidnapped you."
Youka, who had been at the side holding back, smiled. "However, when the Taiho has to leave Mt. Hou, it will become very lonely here, like when he was still very little, he was initially in Hourai. Then, it wasn't easy to get used to life over here, and now he has to depart again."
Gyousou nodded. But Youka's words shook Taiki's heart. He hadn't even thought of the day he had to leave Mt. Hou and the nyosen. Gyousou beckoned to Taiki.
"...When you were in Hourai, what was your name?" Taiki hesitantly walked to Gyousou's side. Gyousou laughed, "Everyone calls you Taiho. I fear that asking you to shoulder this great responsibility in such a short time might be overwhelming. Come, tell me your name."
On the palm of his hand, he wrote out the characters of his name. Gyousou laughed. “A very good name. You are literally ‘important’ to Tai Kingdom.” [note: the character for kaname can mean ‘important.’]
Taiki shut his eyes.
"Your surname is very interesting. Did you know that there is also a peak on Mt. Hou called Kouri?" [note: takasato and kouri are written with similar characters.]
"It is said that the souls of the dead will return to this place. If you add a grass radical to the 'kou' character, then it is the name of the mountain where the dead reside. The omen would sooner be good than unlucky."
To the murmuring Taiki, Gyousou nodded his head. "The shiki has finally turned into seiki; and dead things are finally returning to living things. Kouri, I hope in regards to Tai Kingdom, brings a promise of a return to life."
Taiki lowered his head in silence.
For someone who had committed a crime, this was simply a torment that never stopped. However, he could not find any ways by which he could sufficiently make it up.
The auspicious day had finally arrived.
Youka was wearing all black when she came to receive the fully-bathed Taiki, who was wearing his ceremonial attire.
In good times, black is worn; in times of misfortune, white is worn. Taiki was very clear on the fact that these customs were completely opposite to those in Hourai, but in his guilt-ridden heart, he saw the black clothes of the nyosen as if they were suggesting something.
—He didn't feel this was lucky at all.
Youka lay flat on the floor and paid her proper respects. "Tai Taiho, the auspicious time has arrived."
"All right..." For Taiki, this felt like he was about to participate in a funeral procession.
A worried Youka looked up and asked, "What's wrong? Did you not sleep well yesterday?"
Taiki was unable to respond. He hadn't slept at all.
In a moment, he was about to climb to the summit of Mt. Hou with Gyousou. After waiting there and receiving the Tenchoku, Gyousou would formally become king with the approval of the Heavens.
...It's certain that he'll be found out to be a fraud.
Taiki wasn't clear on how the ceremony would proceed. He just knew that the Heavens would certainly not forgive him for the crime he had committed.
Later, it would be charged that Gyousou was not the king, and Taiki would be censured because he had falsely sworn an oath to Gyousou that made him the king.
He could not imagine what kind of punishment awaited him, but this was all Taiki's fault; none of the blame lay on Gyousou. At the right time, he planned to accept responsibility for all of his transgressions. It was not necessary for receive a condemnation.
With his brain full of such thoughts, there was definitely no way for him to fall asleep.
Youka looked intently at Taiki and reached her hands out while she knelt upon the floor. Taiki silently walked to Youka's side.
Youka gently rubbed Taiki's hair. "It's still too short..."
"Yes. Don't think that us nyosen didn't notice. It's not easy to change into such a beautiful kirin. It's too bad your mane isn't long enough..."
Taiki comprehended that Youka was referring to his transformation, and couldn't help but nod. "Did you see it clearly?"
The night of the transformation he hadn't thought to give the nyosen a good look at him—whether it was the nyosen or he himself, they had both once anticipated his change.
"Yes. I was very happy." Youka carefully stroked Taiki's hair. "Lord Gyousou is a king you can depend on. This brought me even greater joy."
Youka winked. "Of course. It...will be a bit lonely."
Youka was the nyosen closest and kindest to Taiki. She had poured into him so much concern and compassion.
"...Youka." Taiki hugged Youka as she was kneeling on the floor.
—Could it be that this was goodbye?
"Taiki, you must take care of yourself."
I'm sorry... Taiki said, secretly in his heart.
Ever since he had come to Mt. Hou, he had constantly felt sorry for what he put the nyosen through—he had not been able to transform; he wasn't able to subdue a shirei; not to mention his terrible betrayal.
How wonderful would it be if he could start it all over anew? It would be great if he had at first just obediently seen Gyousou off the mountain.
Had that happened, he wouldn't feel this guilty, and he wouldn't have to leave Mt. Hou. It would also have been like before: to go to bed at the urging of Youka's singing, to eat with all the nyosen, to roam around the pathways of the maze with Sanshi—he probably could have continued to lead the life he had previously lived.
Youka lightly stroked Taiki's back, and then pulled him into an embrace.
"It's almost time. We should go."
Taiki was brought to Untei Palace on the south side of Houro Palace, situated at the base of a cliff.
Inside the palace, there was a great crimson gate. When he had nothing to do, Taiki would often walk to various palaces and look around. He remembered that when he had previously seen the gate open, there was a green cliff wall behind it. Now, in place of the wall, there appeared a set of steps.
The steps looked as if they were made out of crystal, and a light passed through from beneath them, brightening up its surroundings. On top of the unusual steps, a white bird that resembled a crow waited for Gyousou and Taiki's arrival.
The nyosen were prostrated and spread out in a row. Gyokuyou bowed deeply towards Gyousou and Taiki as they proceeded to the gate.
"Long live the King and the Taiho."
Gyousou and Taiki returned the bow.
At the white bird's urging, Gyousou took one step up and immediately his back became rigid. In that moment, Taiki was so frightened that the blood left his face, thinking that Gyousou had actually received a punishment. He held his breath and watched for something else to happen. He discovered that nothing unusual occurred. Gyousou continued up the stairs.
It wasn't until Taiki took the first step that he understood why Gyousou's body had suddenly stiffened up.
—It felt like an electrical current passing through.
A stream coursed from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head, and deeply imprinted itself in Taiki's mind:
"It has been said that in the Beginning, there were Nine States and Four Barbarians.
"The Common People did not know of Order. The Son of Heaven knew of Order, but ridiculed it and did not honor it. He spurned the Will of Heaven and Earth, neglected the Way of Benevolence, and exceedingly disregarded Law and Discipline. Every time Smoke took to the Wind, the Ravages of War spread for Thousands of Miles and the Four Corners of the World were covered in Ash. Men and Horses were lost and the Flow of Blood carved out Rivers.
"At this, Tentei felt Sorrow, as He could not find the Way to a Solution and lead them to Order. The People indulged in Obscene Voices and enjoyed themselves selfishly.
"Tentei lamented and sent down a Resolution: I will now completely destroy the Nine States and Four Barbarians, and return to the Past of the Creator. After the Creation of the World, there will be Order. After the Beginning of Things, there will be Law and Discipline."
It was as if someone was guiding him, and he took another step up.
"Tentei created Thirteen Kingdoms. The Kingdom in the Center was the Yellow Sea and Mt. Hou, and He asked Oubo to protect this Place.
"The Remaining Twelve Kingdoms, He distributed to Rulers, and to each, He bestowed Branches which were the Foundations of Kingdoms.
"Upon the Branch, there was a Snake that held up the Sky.
"Upon the Branch, there were Three Fruit. One Fruit fell and formed the Throne. One Fruit fell and formed the Land. One Fruit fell and formed the People.
"The Branch then transformed into a Jade Brush. This was the Creation."
There was no time to consider the meaning of these things.
"There is One Fundamental Principle. The World must be governed with the Way of Benevolence.
"The People must not be oppressed, War must not be waged, the Taxes must not be severe, nor must the Laws. The People must not be sacrificed, the People must not be enslaved, the Public Land must not be appropriated. The Violation of these is Inexcusable. Follow the Way, and Respect the Virtue. The Peace and Health of the People are the Fortunes of a Kingdom."
With every step he took, more information was written.
"This is no more than: The Duty of the Son of Heaven. The Duty of the Prime Minister. The Formation of the World, the Formation of the Kingdoms, the Formation of the System. What the Way of Benevolence is, what the Rituals are. What must be done, what must not be done. What must be established, what must not be established."
He walked up the stairs as if he were attached to them, and when he came back to his senses, Taiki appeared under the light of the sun. He immediately heard the sound of the red gate closing behind them. The two were already standing at the top of the steps. The eyes of the white bird that was watching them sparkled in the sunlight.
Just as the closing of the door made that faint sound, Taiki recovered his ability to hear.
At first, the sound of waves came to his ear. He hastily looked around him, and what unfolded in front of his eyes, as soon as he looked, was an endless ocean.
"A sea of clouds..." It wasn't until now that Taiki understood. The sea of clouds in the sky separated the heavens from the world.
Behind Taiki on the small island where he was, there stood a small shrine. The red door of the shrine closed quietly. In front of Taiki were stone steps that led to a grand temple. Around the island, he could vaguely see small islands in the distance that looked like unmoving lotus flowers in the midst of turbulent seas.
He somehow knew then how to proceed. He entered the temple and lit incense for Seioubo and Tentei. Gyousou vowed to obey the Way and follow the Virtue. After this, Genbu appeared and guided them across the sea of clouds to Hakkei Palace in Kouki, the capital of Tai Kingdom.
Taiki was stunned. He knew that his face was most certainly pale.
—It was already over.
Taiki had thought that some sort of ceremony would be held and that his lie would be exposed, whereby he would be punished. He assumed that no matter what form it took, there would have been an opportunity for him to admit his wrongdoing. He hadn't imagined that there would not be one.
It had been the climb up the transparent steps and the comprehension of Tentei's ideas and meanings that was the so-called reception of the Tenchoku.
Now, Taiki felt that his crime had become more serious. He had not had an opportunity to make up for his mistake. On the other hand, Taiki understood the significance of the ruler.
His duties were extremely important. A ruler didn't just govern the kingdom; he existed to protect the kingdom. The ruler had to keep his kingdom's Onmyou in balance and judge the Hakke. The ruler's conduct and behavior will influence the direction of his kingdom's destiny.
Taiki looked up at his master, who was gazing silently and thoughtfully at the sea of clouds.
The ruler's very existence protected the kingdom and allowed the people to live peacefully.
Taiki suddenly became dizzy.
—Under this false king's rule, what course will the destiny of Tai Kingdom take?
Taiki's chest flooded with regret and despair as he watched Gyousou swear the oath.
—At that exact same time...
Tai Kingdom is located in the northeast part of the world. In its capital on the top of Kouki Mountain, there stood Hakkei Palace. Within the palace, Nisei Palace resided, from which a sound flowed out.
Nisei Palace is a small palace, in which the master of that palace lived with ten attendants who saw to the daily life of the master.
Inside Nisei Palace, a resounding call suddenly rang out. This sound came from the palace master: a Hakuchi, a White Pheasant.
"The White Pheasant has called out!" One of the attendants was full of joy, as he shouted while he ran outside of the palace. "It has made the First Sound!"
The attendant's voice reached everywhere and caused a great commotion. Before long, the entire royal palace was cheering.
In the White Pheasant's life, it only calls out twice, and these two sounds represent two different meanings. Because of this, the White Pheasant is also called Nisei, Two-Sounds.
The first time he cries out is called the "First Sound," and the second time is called the "Second Sound." A White Pheasant that finishes its second call immediately dies on the spot; thus, the Second Sound is also called the "Ending Sound."
The First Sound is "Sokui," ascension to the throne. The Second Sound is "Hougyo," the death of the ruler. The White Pheasant's entire life is for the sake of making these two calls.
The White Pheasant of Hakkei Palace was born ten years ago. Until today, it had not yet cried out.
—That is to say, this was its First Sound.
"The White Pheasant has called out! It has made the First Sound!"
The sound passed from the living quarters of the Inner Halls all the way to the governing offices of the Outer Halls. There wasn't a place where there were not continuous sounds of joy.
"King Tai has ascended to the throne!"
- - - - -
At the same time, in Gyouten, the capital city of the eastern Kei Kingdom, its own royal palace, Kinpa Palace also received the news.
"Open the door, Godou Palace!"
Hearing this, Keiki lifted his head up.
While laying on the floor, Keiki turned his head; Queen Kei, who had originally been listening to Keiki giving her the reports of the Rokkan, the Six Ministers, also looked up in curiosity.
A lady-in-waiting anxiously opened the window.
In an instant, a bird flew in from the window and rested on a gold-colored branch that was originally in the room already.
"The White Pheasant has called out!"
The master of Gudou Palace was a Hou, a Male Phoenix. Both a Hou and an Ou, a Female Phoenix, lived in Gudou Palace. The Hou could communicate with the Hou of other kingdoms, and the Ou called out when something important happened in another kingdom.
The Ou shouted loudly, "The First Sound has occurred in Tai Kingdom. King Tai has ascended to the throne."
Keiki held a steady gaze at the Ou, and the faintest smile rose to his face.
Queen Kei Jokaku saw the kirin of her kingdom reveal a smile that was hard to come by and was immediately dumbfounded.
- - - - -
It was after these things happened that Youka looked up into the sky while she was standing in the small paths in Houro Palace.
In the clear blue sky, looking from the summit of Mt. Hou to the northeast, she could see a line of auspicious clouds. It's just that Youka didn't know that that was actually the trail left behind by Genbu's flight across the sea of clouds.
Youka gazed at the clouds, lost in thought, while the few nyosen at her side did the same and watched the sky.
"Taiki..." She had never thought that that beloved child would leave them so soon.
That the festival was so short was a little regrettable, as the lonely seasons were coming to Mt. Hou.
—It could be a very long time until the next fruit of the kirin developed.