The Twelve Kingdoms
Sea of the Wind, Shore of the Maze, Chapter 13.
from Mina's trans. of Ono Fuyumi's Kaze no Umi, Meikyuu no Kishi.
When Keiki called upon Taiki again, a couple days had already passed.
It also seemed as though he hadn't informed Gyousou of the matter regarding the revelation, because on that same day during dinner, he hadn't noticed any change in Gyousou's mood. Taiki couldn't help but sigh in relief, though on the other hand, he also couldn't avoid feeling disappointed.
As he was spending his time in the afternoon worried like he had been before, a messenger came from the Inner Halls and requested that he change into formal dress and go to the visitor room. Therefore, Taiki hurriedly made his way to the Inner Halls and discovered Gyousou and Keiki waiting with him, along with two other people.
The man sitting in the center of the room looked of a similar age to Gyousou. It also seemed like this person was a very important guest. Standing at the man's side was a youth who was probably a little older than Taiki.
Like Keiki, the youth had a head of golden hair, which appeared to shine and give off a faint, golden glow—or at least that's how it looked to Taiki's eyes. There was also a similar golden glow emanating around Keiki; perhaps this was the so-called kirin spirit. From this, Taiki had guessed that the youth was some kingdom's kirin.
—He could now see the spirit of kirin.
After Taiki paid his respects at the entrance, he looked at Gyousou. There wasn't anything surrounding Gyousou that he would call ouki.
He walked inside and kneeled down, waiting for further instructions. Keiki motioned for him to come closer. "I have brought King En and En Taiho for a visit."
Taiki opened his eyes widely.
It was not hard to understand why Gyousou was sitting in a lower position.
Taiki knelt upon the floor and lightly bowed his head. According to custom, when facing a ruler, one must bow very respectfully. One must be kneeling with both hands on the ground and with his forehead to the floor. However, for only kirin, it's necessary simply to gently bow one's head.
"Ah... How do you do?" Taiki knew very clearly how to pay his respects, but he didn't know what sorts of pleasantries he should say in these situations, so he just said as he did.
Gyousou whispered to Taiki, "Kouri, you must kowtow."
"Eh...?" Taiki looked at Gyousou disconcertedly.
"The length of King En's reign is only second to that of King Sou. We cannot treat him the same way as the other rulers."
Taiki looked in dismay at the other two kirin, and whether it was Keiki or Enki, neither of them contradicted Gyousou's words.
"Yes... Excuse me."
Taiki hastened to put his hands on the floor and lowered his head again.Just as he was preparing to bow down and touch his forehead to the floor, he stopped in halfway through the action.
"What is it?" asked King En, who was sitting in front of him.
"Nothing," replied Taiki. He tried once more to lower his head, but he stopped halfway down, like before.
—It wasn't possible.
"What is it? Does the Kirin of Tai Kingdom have something against En?"
"No." Taiki looked for help, but all he saw was Gyousou's face becoming grim.
"Taiki, what are you doing?" asked Gyousou harshly. Taiki had only to try again.
He could only lower his head halfway, and then it wouldn't go any further. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get past his elbow. It was as if there was something solid in that distance; no amount of effort allowed him to move. Besides not being able to kowtow, he was also unable to bend his arms.
"Oh...? It looks like you really do have something against us."
King En's voice sounded very cold. Taiki hastily looked up at him.
Standing at King En's side, Enki said frostily, "You can't even show the least bit of etiquette? There's no reason for King En to personally come to Tai Kingdom. It was at Kei Taiho's request that King En made this special trip, all to receive this rude treatment?"
With a caustic smile, King En said, "This is the first time a new kirin has shown me such disrespect. It seems like Taiki dislikes En. Or is it...that King Tai ordered him to do this? Has he forbid you to compliment me?"
Taiki saw only solemn faces around him; no one was willing to offer him a helping hand.
"If that isn't the case, then I'd like to hear you explain it to me. If you can't give me a reason and don't bow to me, then I will take this as a sign of hostility from Tai towards En!"
"Taiki!" From Gyousou came a reprimand.
Taiki hurriedly tried once more to kowtow, but there was simply no way for him to lower his head. He couldn't shorten his distance to the floor at all. He didn't know why his body wouldn't listen to his mind.
Taiki started to sweat, not because he was anxious, but because this was laborious. One by one, droplets of sweat hit the floor. Even his breathing became hard to do.
King En stood up. Out of the corners of his eyes, Taiki discovered that he was walking towards him.
"What is it? Can't you even pretend to pay me respect?"
Just as this voice fell above his head, his hair was grasped. King En was now pushing down on him with a terrible force.
"As it is, all you have to do is lower your head. Surely it can't be that hard?"
Taiki himself could not say why he was resisting his power. He knew he couldn't withstand King En, but his entire body began enduring his might.
"So stubborn..." Saying this, King En began pushing harder.
Suddenly, that pressure disappeared.
Hearing the sound of a crisp slap, Taiki realized that the feeling of his hair being grasped disappeared. He looked up to see Enki knocking away King En's hand.
"How can you do this to a child? Taiki, are you okay?"
Taiki took deep breaths as he looked confusedly at Enki.
"Ah... You're so pale... Can you stand up? Do you want to lie down?"
Enki didn't mind using his sleeves to wipe the sweat off of Taiki's face. Keiki held Taiki up, for whom standing was not easy.
"Are you all right? Sit down for a little bit..."
At this moment, King En was a little stunned and a little interested as he watched Taiki and the others.
"It's so heartwarming to see such love between members of the same type..."
"You moron! You're the one who went too far! An idiot like you, you were a complete bastard!"
Taiki stared absentmindedly at the three.
"I knew you were reckless, but I didn't think you could be this rash!"
"You were the ones who suggested it..."
"I didn't ask you to abuse him like this!"
"There are limits to everything!"
Both Keiki and Enki relentlessly yelled at Enki, who shrank back.
King En smiled at Taiki as he was about to ask a question, and said, "Do you understand?"
Taiki didn't have a chance to ask any questions.
"Kirin cannot swear false oaths."
Enki knocked King En roughly on the head, and the latter's expression became much softer.
"Don't say it as if you can see from the king's position!"
The wind blew across the terrace. Taiki sat in a chair and Keiki knelt in front of him, their eyes at exactly the same level.
"I'm very sorry. I wasn't clear enough before." He gently took Taiki's hand. "When you asked me about what the revelation was, I should have explained it to you better. I had no idea that it would have caused you so much hardship. Please forgive me."
"The revelation doesn't take any sort of shape." Keiki smiled. "It's impossible to explain the revelation in words, because nothing really happens, Taiki."
Taiki looked directly at Keiki. "Nothing...?"
Keiki also looked directly at Taiki and nodded. "That's right. The ruler has ouki. However, ouki isn't something you can see."
"It's not like a light?"
Since the time that Keiki had told Taiki that the kirin spirit was a glow, Taiki kept thinking that the ouki would appear like this as well.
"The ouki might feel like a light, or it might feel like a darkness. The ouki might also be a burst of ambition. On the other hand, it might also be something that makes you feel safe."
"So, the ouki doesn't take a set form?"
"Actually, it's very hard to describe it in words."
"But...Kei Taiho, didn't you say before that you used the ouki to find your ruler?"
"Yes. If the ruler isn't far away, you can feel it very obviously. Then you will know what direction the ruler should be in."
"What direction..." Taiki thought back. Before the mountain-climbers gathered at Hoto Palace, how often did he get that feeling? That overwhelming sensation, if he had to say it, had been a scary and overpowering feeling.
"When you encounter the ruler, then you'll know exactly where that feeling is coming from. You'll have a vague sense that it is the same kind of spirit."
"...And that's what ouki is?"
"Yes. The ouki is a very clear feeling. This sort of feeling is very different compared to that of other people. It's something you can't see, and something that is impossible to explain in words."
Taiki gently balled his hands into fists. Keiki comfortingly patted his hands.
"The revelation is much the same way. Nothing will specifically happen. If I had to express it in words, I'd call it an intuition. When you meet your ruler, you will have that kind of intuition, Taiki."
Keiki nodded. "I'll be honest with you. When I met Queen Kei, I knew for certain that it was her. But at the same time, in my mind I knew that she wasn't someone who was suitable to be queen. I also knew that in order for her to become a good and wise ruler, I had to make many sacrifices, and at the same time, I had to have a strong perseverance, all to make up for the things that she was not good at."
"I knew that she was not right for this, but I could not defy her. Instinct had told me that I couldn't resist the revelation. Even if you hated them, there's no way for a kirin to refuse. Because that is what the Heavens have decided."
A pair of hands were placed on Taiki's shoulders. He looked up and saw a smiling Gyousou.
Gyousou knew now. He had already been told Taiki's confession.
"The selection that a kirin makes, that is the revelation, Taiki."
"I..." Taiki finally felt a heavy burden lifting from his heart. "The first time I met Lord Gyousou, I was really scared..."
"Before Lord Gyousou climbed the mountain, I kept having this feeling...as if something scary would come from the Reikon Gate..."
Had Taiki not felt fear initially, but instead a light, a hopefulness, or a more obvious sensation, perhaps Taiki would not have been so lost.
"I knew in my heart that he wasn't the sort of person who did frightening things, but I was afraid of him anyways. I also knew that he was a good, amazing person, but I was still scared."
"Sometimes, I was really scared of him, but whenever I thought about meeting him, I felt really happy, and when I knew that I wouldn't see him, I would feel lonely. That's why when I heard that he was leaving Mt. Hou, I felt so terrible inside."
Keiki nodded. "But that's a very good thing. There isn't a kirin who feels sadness when he is by his ruler's side, and on the opposite side, there isn't a kirin who won't be unhappy when he is away from his ruler. A ruler and his kirin are inseparable."
"A kirin is only a vehicle through which the Will of the Heavens is expressed. In other words, a kirin does not have his own intentions; very simply, we pass on the intentions of the Heavens."
Taiki nodded, and Keiki rubbed his head. It was a warm hand. Taiki was also very happy that he could finally receive Keiki's affection now.
"Taiki, you said that you were afraid of Lord Gyousou. I think I can understand the reason for your fear."
"What is it?"
"You shouldn't call that feeling ‘fear.' It might be more appropriate to call it ‘awe.'"
"Because, Taiki, you met your destiny. So that's why you felt such awe."
Taiki looked hesitantly at Gyousou. When he saw Gyousou's eyes, he thought that Keiki was probably right about everything.
"Taiki cannot tell a lie. That's just how kirin are—they are a creature who cannot bow to anyone but their own rulers. Thus, you chose the right person for king."
Keiki looked at the small kirin's deep black eyes. "Had I known earlier, I would have made this more clear. Then you wouldn't have felt such regret. At the time, I should have stayed on Mt. Hou for longer. Had I done that, Taiki wouldn't have been so anxious... I truly am very sorry."
"No! It's my fault for not asking about it earlier."
Keiki heard these very Taiki-like words and couldn't help but smile. "From the bottom of my heart, I offer my congratulations."
He finally saw Taiki smile.
Keiki turned to look at Gyousou, who was standing close to Taiki. After Keiki passed Taiki's confession to Gyousou, he had not been the least bit distressed, nor had he looked disappointed. Even more, he had never said anything blaming Taiki. He had just looked sternly at Keiki and asked him if he really was the king.
"I would also like to congratulate King Tai."
"I thank you." Gyousou smiled.
King En also wished Gyousou well. "En offers its congratulations as well."
"When will you come for another duel?"
"Do you still remember?"
"How could I forget? Long ago, I lost one fight to you. —At that time, I'd felt that you were an extraordinary person, but who would have thought that after so many years, you'd become a king?"
Gyousou smiled as he said, "Are you still willing to be my opponent?"
"We are colleagues. Shall we set a time?"
"King Tai," interrupted Enki, who was sitting on the banister of the terrace, admiring the view. "By the way, what is that weird thing over there?"
Enki pointed to a pavilion across from the terrace.
King En put on a serious face. "Don't speak so rudely. I'm sorry for his behavior."
Gyousou laughed, showing that he didn't mind. He looked at the youth and said, "That is a remnant left behind by the previous king. I plan to tear it down in order to buy grain to supplement the treasury of the kingdom. King En, do you have a surplus of grain over there?"
"King Tai, you're in luck!" Enki laughed. "In our kingdom, there have been plentiful harvests in these past few years. We're worried that the prices will fall because of this."
Taiki smiled as he watched the others conversing. Keiki jiggled Taiki's hand. "Would you like to take me to your gardens and stroll around? We didn't finish last time I was here."
"Okay. But I really don't know it very well."
The youth that was sitting on the banister jumped down. "Well, then let's go explore!"
Taiki looked up at Gyousou. "May I go?"
"You may. But you must come back in the evening. Though it will be simple, we must still have a banquet tonight for our guests."
Keiki extended his hand, and Taiki took it without the slightest bit of hesitation.
"Would you like me to call Hankyo and Jakko out?"
"Can you?" Taiki looked up at Keiki.
Keiki laughed. "We are all kirin, so it doesn't matter. Taiki, call your shirei out as well, and let us see them."