Hisho no Tori #1
Juuni Kokuki — 十二国記
(The Twelve Kingdoms)
Translated by o6asan
First edition released on 2009.Jul.15
Second edition released on 2013.Apr.28 : Current
The mountain was a pillar which pierces through from the ground to the sky. The peaks which rise to the sky almost right angle, each looks like a tip of a writing brush, and they are tied together making a huge massif. The summit of the mountain actually pierced through the clouds. Under the clouds the sharpened peaks stood close together, which formed the shape of small waves falling toward the base rapidly. The foot was a vast slope. The city spread out in the shape of stairs there. — The east in the world, it is Gyōten(堯天), the capital of Kei(慶国).
The mountain itself was a royal palace. On its summit, Enchō(燕朝), where only Ruler and high officials lived, spread out. The big distance between Enchō(燕朝) and Gyōten(堯天) is the same as between the ground and the sky. And both were completely separated by the transparent sea. Even if you looked up from the ground, you couldn’t know that the sea was there. You only saw white clinging clouds which rolled as waves in to the summit. But just underneath the clouds Jichō(治朝), where the lower class officials lived, spread among the peaks. The rock ledges faded in color clung to the huge massif, and countless public offices and countless official residences were built and located there in a row.
Kakan-fu(夏官府) lay in the southwest. The buildings surrounded the courtyard squarely, even though their heights were different, they were connected on all sides and they formed the vast public office. The Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏)’s office lay in a corner of them. Hisho(丕緒) was summoned by the Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏). It was the newly appointed Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) who had summoned Hisho(丕緒) here, from his home, at the end of July, Yosei(予青) 7 by the Kei(慶国) calendar.
A lower official, an usher, took Hisho(丕緒) to the innermost room. The room faced a large balcony, which jutted out in midair. On the other side of the balustrade, which was carved out of stone, was an abysmal cliff. The old willow located on the corner of the balcony, had branches which hung down like disheveled hair, rested over the balustrade. A bird similar to an egret crouched down under the tree. It perched on the balustrade and turned its spindly neck towards the bottom of the valley, and was immobile as if it was considering the thing.
–Hisho(丕緒) wondered about what it was looking at.
It did not seem to sleep. Did it watch in the lower world? Although it was not visible from the place where he himself stood idly, the scenes of the lower world should have spread in front of the bird. The city flagging by the heat and the blockage. The exhausted fields and mountains which surrounded for the city.
–Probably, it only saw desolation.
He did not understand why he thought this, but he thought the bird was gazing at just the desolation. Was it because the bird seemed to be anxious about something?
Strangely, it made him recollect a woman. Although she hadn’t resembled the egret closely, she had always looked at the scene of the valley like that. However, she hadn’t shown any signs that she had been anxious about something. She did not have had mind of seeing the lower world at all.
–It is meaningless I look at the desolate lower world, isn’t it?
She had said so, laughed and thrown a pear. She had said briefly “I’m indifferent about the desolate and the lower world. I don’t want to see the cruel things, too.”
Why did he think she and the bird resembled each other?–While he thought and looked at the bird, he heard someone’s restless footsteps. The sound probably surprised the bird and it flew away. When he turned round, a poor-looking man was just coming into the room. Although he had never met the man till this day, this would be Suiryō(遂良), the new Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏). Hisho(丕緒) assumed this and knelt down, losing no time in making a bow to the man.
”Sorry for making you wait. — I’m happy that you could come.”
The man extended both hands in a gesture of greeting. He looked over 50 and had an unnatural big grin on his blue-black thin face.
”I guess you are Hisho(丕緒) of Ra-shi(羅氏)? You need not do that, please stand up — there.” He showed Hisho(丕緒) to a table on the side of the room with his hand. While he also sat down on a chair, he pointed to another chair signaling for Hisho(丕緒) to take a seat. This, Hisho(丕緒) thought, was unusual. Fundamentally, two chairs put on opposite sides of the table were the seats of the host and a guest. Of course, Hisho(丕緒) was not a guest.
”You shouldn’t hesitate, have a seat. — I would have seen you first, but I was busy with one thing and another these days. Today I have time a little, so I think I would call on you, but there is no time enough to do. Then, I sent for you, I’m glad you to come in spite of so sudden . I’m sorry.”
Suiryō(遂良) was polite as if flattered. Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) manages Ra-shi(羅氏). If Suiryō(遂良) has business, it’s natural to summon Hisho(丕緒) to his office and Hisho(丕緒) has not the right of refusal. There was no need to apologize about his being summoned and to appreciate about his coming.
”Have a seat. — you,”
Suiryō(遂良) looked back at a lower official. The lower official lifted up a vessel of alcohol. Suiryō(遂良) called him and made him arrange it on the table. This was also an impossible treatment according to custom.
Suiryō(遂良) told Hisho(丕緒) to have a seat again and pushed out a cup for his drinking alcohol, and leaned forward.
”I heard you have been filling a Ra-shi(羅氏) for a long long time, right? Is it true you have been a Ra-shi(羅氏) since the Ruler Ri(悧)’s era?”
Hisho(丕緒) replied with only a nod. Suiryō(遂良) groaned “uh-huh” and gazed at him.
”You look younger than me, but you are very old really. — Actually, I became an official and gained a senseki(仙籍) the year before last. I know a person after gaining a senseki(仙籍) doesn’t get older any more, but I can’t understand that still now. How old are you really?”
”Well — I can’t remind me of that.”
This was completely true. When Hisho(丕緒) were assigned and given a senseki(仙籍), it was the Ruler Ri(悧)’s era, after ten years or so the Ruler Ri(悧)’s enthronement by his memory. It already exceeded 100 and years since his becoming an official?
”It’s too long for you to memorize. That’s great. Therefore, people call you the Ra-shi(羅氏) in Ra-shi(羅氏). I hear you have a lot of anecdotes. When Ruler Yo(予), the previos Ruler, came to the throne, you obtained words from the Ruler personally.” Hisho(丕緒) gave a slight smile. Rumors spread and warped politely.
Probably, Suiryō(遂良) might misunderstand Hisho(丕緒)’s smile, giving nods and clapping his hands with a broad smile.
”You must use your skill again.”
He said and he brought his face close to Hisho(丕緒)’s one, lowened his voice.
” — New monarch will accede to the throne in the near future.”
Hisho(丕緒) looked back Suiryō(遂良)’eye. Suiryō(遂良) nodded.
”I hear a Ruler has finally brought down the fake Ruler.”
”… She was the fake? — I suspected.”
Hisho(丕緒) asked for.
This period, Kei(慶) – the country where Hisho(丕緒) was born and grew up, had no Ruler. The previos Ruler abdicated after her short throne, then her younger sister named Joei(舒栄) acceded immediately, but in the palace, their opinion was this seemed a fake.
Originally, Saiho(宰輔), the prime minister of a country, choose a Ruler. All Saiho are Kirin(麒麟), and Kirin(麒麟) makes the person take the throne according to the will of God. To be attached without Kirin(麒麟)’s selection to the throne is never allowed and the Ruler without Kirin(麒麟)’s selection is called a fake Ruler.
Joei(舒栄) was a true Ruler or not. — Only Saiho(宰輔) knew truth. But he was not here at the moment. His health was bad since before the Ruler Yo(予)’s death, and he returned to Mt.Hō(蓬山) which could be called the mother country of Kirin(麒麟) after the Ruler passed away. While saiho(宰輔) was absent, Joei(舒栄) rose up and requested to get in the palace, but they had no way to check whether she was a true or not. Officials resisted the request after the long argument.
Actually, Hisho(丕緒) did not know particularly about those circumstances. Although Hisho(丕緒) was one of the officials who lived in the palace, his position was not so high as he was involved in affairs of state. To begin with, Ra-shi(羅氏) did not have any power over affairs of state. Though the division Ra-shi(羅氏) belonged to was Kakan(夏官), it took charge of the shooting-arrow ceremony which was completely unrelated to an army and a battle. As the shooting-arrow ceremony was held when the state had important guests or celebratory occasions, Ra-shi(羅氏) which received Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏)’s instruction made Tōshaku(陶鵲) for it. Therefore it should not go into his ears, such as big problems of state, based on his position and job. It was all high-level decision. — quite literally a talk on clouds, so he could hear the story as rumors leaked.
They say if a legitimate Ruler with Kirin(麒麟)’s selection gets the throne, the Ruler would bring happy and wonderful events in the depths of the palace. But nothing happened like that. — so, high-level officials would have judged she is not a true Ruler. Though Joei(舒栄) requested to get herself in the palace, she was refused and locked out. Angry Joei(舒栄) pitched the camp to the north of Kei(慶), and she raised the voice of impeachment that officials appropriated the palace and did not get her who was the Ruler into there.
”But, I heard the rumor that Saiho(宰輔) was close to the Ruler.”
Saiho(宰輔) seemed in Joei(舒栄)’s camp. — Such rumor flowed out and the officials lapsed into panic for a short time. If Joei(舒栄) was a true new Ruler, responsibility was imposed on the officials who shut her out. When Joei(舒栄) as a new Ruler came into the palace formally, there were no doubt that they had severe punishment. Some of officials who lost their confidence escaped the palace, and gathered for Joei(舒栄)’s camp. Suiryō(遂良)’s predecessor also did so and left the palace.
”I also knew about it. It made most of state governors slide into Joei(舒栄)’s faction, but, probably, it was a mistake. Because they say she was a fake Ruler. We believed in the god and stayed here, and now have the time when our difficulties are rewarded.”
Suiryō(遂良) said with deep emotions, but did he really have such a deep preparedness at the time? There were rumors that she seemed a fake Ruler and the legitimate Ruler was fighting with her. Since the officials shut Joei(舒栄) from the palace, it was very trouble if she was the true Ruler. — This must be the real intension of the high officials who had stayed at the palace.
”– But I heard the new Ruler is a female.”
Suiryō(遂良) curled his lip.
”A female one is it….? Again?”
”Yeah.” Suiryō(遂良) showed displeasure. It is reasonable. Kei(慶) did not get along with a female Ruler. These three generations, they had incompetent female Rulers.
”Well, the legitimate Ruler who was selected by god is the Ruler whether it is a female or not. — Soon, the new Ruler will come into the palace with Saiho(宰輔). Then, the formal enthronement immediately. Make urgently the preparations of Taisha(大射).”
Taisha(大射) is a very special shooting-arrow ceremony which is held at the national big festival. The shooting-arrow ceremony is that they throw ceramic targets which are likened to birds and hit the targets. The target called Tōshaku(陶鵲) are a ceramic bird. When the Ensha(燕射) is performed at the party, they compete and simply please with the number of the arrow hit, but, Taisha(大射) is completely different both on the scale and on the purpose. At Taisha(大射), missing the target is very ominous, so the archers must be sure to hit. Of course, the skill of archers is required though, Tōshaku(陶鵲) is also made to hit easily. Tōshaku(陶鵲) was crafted with great skill, itself having worthy of admiration, flying beautiful and complicated, and making exquisite sounds when it was broken with an arrow. It even needs playing sweet music by its breaking sounds. He had also made Tōshaku(陶鵲) plays music in the past. Bird-throwing machine like a hill was made for Tōshaku(陶鵲) to be thrown correctly, and only the famous skilled archers were selected. The archer shot down the bird in order, its breaking sound made a tone, then it became music by linking. For sounding like ancient music by the band of large organization, he arranged 300 archers in lines. Various Tōshaku(陶鵲) flew in the royal yard. The flight Tōshaku(陶鵲) was hit, which was extended radially like a large flower open, and sounded like Kei(磬) -a stone percussion instrument, a rich music spun. When he crrected pitch, he wasn’t be able to give them an aroma, so he prepared 6000 bowls of trifoliate oranges to an insufficient scent being compensated. — It was a long time ago.
”Do it again. It will be an anecdote and remain. — Huh?”
Suiryō(遂良) said and looked up at Hisho(丕緒)’s face as if licking.
”You can hardly wait for the chance to put your skill to the test again, can’t you?”
”I don’t know about that.”
”You need not to say modestly to me. — This shooting-arrow ceremony will be very first time for the new Ruler. If we show the excellent ceremony, Her Majesty will be very glad. If Her Majesty is delighted at it, we Kakan(夏官) will preserve our honor. She might give us not only praising words but a certain prize. If it comes true, all Kakan(夏官) will appreciate it and be proud of you.”
At the moment Hisho(丕緒) got it and the giggles in his mind. If like at the Ruler Yo(予)’s ceremony he were given some praise words by the new Ruler directly, all Kakan(夏官) who engaged in it would have the bright future. — He understood that this treatment for him expected to it.
”Well, do you have some plan for obtaining the praise, sir?”
As Hisho(丕緒) asked, Suiryō(遂良) suddenly buttoned his lips. He knitted his brow dubiously and tried to see Hisho(丕緒)’s face.
”– some plan?”
”I need directions what kind of Tōshaku(陶鵲) we should make. Actually, you know that Tōkan(冬官) make Tōshaku(陶鵲), of course.”
Normally, Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) plans the next shooting-arrow ceremony. Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) thinks about what kind of ceremony is made and orders Ra-shi(羅氏) to prepare Tōshaku(陶鵲). Ra-shi(羅氏) let artisans who belonged to the Tōkan-fu(冬官府) make them. Especially, Ra-shi(羅氏) uses expart artisans called Ra-jin(羅人) who make Tōshaku(陶鵲).
”I heard you would have done all things by yourself.”
”No way. Because they say my predecessor couldn’t distinguish between Taisha(大射) and Ensha(燕射).”
It is true. It was not only his predecessor. ALL Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) except the first one Hisho(丕緒) served knew nothing about the ceremony. ‘The Ra-shi(羅氏) in Ra-shi(羅氏)’ does everything, so you needn’t to do anything. This is an easy duty although not juicy. — He thought Suiryō(遂良) was also said so.
There are two types among the officials, one is self-made man by his own efforts, and another is appointed by orders from above. Suiryō(遂良) was the latter certainly.
”If Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏) were too incapable, I would have no choice but to help him. I think such a thing could be found, though, sir.”
This bare bitterness gave Suiryō(遂良) an unpleasant expression, but, he regained immediately a smiling on his face.
”I was just nominated as Sekichō-shi(射鳥氏). Of course, I understand my duty and I am going to learn urgently, but not enough for this Taisha(大射). I’m sorry if there is failure for forcing things. It’s safer to leave this to you.”
”I would have been delighted to do so, but unfortunately I feel short on ideas because of my very long duties. As a matter of fact, I would have had a duty changed or asked for leave soon.”
”No, you can’t…”
Suiryō(遂良) to be confused murmured and shortly leaned out striking his knee.
”How about the Tōshaku(陶鵲) which was praised by Ruler Yo(予)? Is it enough to add a hand and make showier?”
”You can’t be serious.”
Hisho(丕緒) had a wry smile. Suiryō(遂良) seemed to be pleased with the Tōshaku(陶鵲), but he might lose his official rank which he had just got, if he has the praise word from the new Ruler like as the Ruler Yo(予)’s. It’s the happy person who never knew the truth.
”Why? Increasing the number of birds or changing the color –.”
Hisho(丕緒) bluntly refused by waggling his head.
”Tōshaku(陶鵲) is made by Tōshō(冬匠). Tōshō(冬匠), who had made the Tōshaku(陶鵲), already left from us.”
”You can let someone make the same style one. The notes or the plan about it still remained, didn’t it?”
”I don’t know we could or not. If we have them, I mightn’t tell Tōshō(冬匠) we have now could make the same one, and, we have little time, sir.”
After receiving Tenchoku(天勅) at Mt.Hō(蓬山) and acceding to the throne formally, the Taisha(大射) would be held during one month or so as the past experience.
”It is Ra-shi(羅氏)’s business that you let them make decent Tōshaku(陶鵲).”
Finally, Suiryō(遂良) made clear his discomfort with Hisho(丕緒).
”We have to hold a good shooting-arrow ceremony in front of the new Ruler. You must show the splendid Tōshaku(陶鵲) that make the new Ruler please.”