Hyōhaku #3

Juuni Kokuki’s side story — 十二国記外伝
(The Twelve Kingdoms)

漂舶
(Drifting Ship)

By Ono Fuyumi — 小野不由美

Translated by o6asan
  First edition released on 2010.Jan.23
  Second edition released on 2013.May.29
  Third edition released on 2014.Feb.2 : Current

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3

   “Very good. Their reform continues well.”
   Itan, the mastermind of this situation, blows his horn with his face beaming with smiles.
   The bright moonlight before the rainy season streams down on the garden of Shukō’s house. A side of the garden faces the sea of clouds, and the waves surge to the rocky stretch which could be seen nearby at the other side of the garden trees. A salty night breeze, lapping of waves, and the clear moonlight washes the surface of a ceramic table.
   “At the beginning, they slipped through our fingers in one way or another. But now, we have had their perfect attendance for two months.”
   Setting three glasses on the table, Shukō gives a wry little smile.
   “I think, even if they are Shujō and Taiho, they cannot move at all because we all watch their every movement carefully.”
   “From early morning till night I will severely train them who have no will to act on their own. So, being completely exhausted, they might want to sleep than to stay out late.”
   “…can you go that far?”
   “I don’t care what you say”, Itan says so happily.
   “The domestic affairs settled down, so I overlooked some of their arbitrary actions. Then they got carried away and disappeared for two or three months. It’s O.K. that they looked around En, but they left the country and knocked around here and there, at last they got into trouble in other countries. So, they have themselves to blame for this situation.”
   “You’re right”, it is Seishō that nods. ‘As the two disappeared before someone was aware, they had us worried seriously that something bad might have happened. But in fact, the persons in question reached all the way to and got mixed in the crowd there. Finally the two got into trouble and were caught. Then the identities of the two were disclosed and we received a personal letter from Ruler Sō, the Ruler of . Though Ruler Sō said with his kindness that he would escort the two to En, they cordially declined his offer because they couldn’t trespass on his kindness. Then I went to meet the two from En, and my face literally burned with shame at that time.’
   “Well, they are a Ruler and a Kirin. Even if they are tired heavily, they have neither risk of getting a disease nor risk of death. Do continue this training until they understand their positions completely.”
   Shukō is amazed at Seishō’s sharp tongue.
   “Do you still hold a grudge because of the issue at ?”
   “Of course. Put yourself in my place. I was laughed by the princess who said it was excellent that En became peaceful.”
   Shukō looks up at the moon thinking that it might certainly be unpleasant.
   “Well, if we are strict with them only 100 years, they would not return to former loose life even after we stop training.”
   Shukō sees the face of Seishō who says quite calmly.
   “Will you do this for 100 years?”
   “Our movements would not touch the very core of their hearts if we don’t go to such lengths.”
   “But, the hardship of lower officials of the inner palace…”
   “No problem”, Itan laughs.
   “They are pleased. Because, the bribe that is offered from each department every day.”
   Shukō and Seishō just look at each other.
   “…The bribe? Do you connive at it?”
   “Why, nothing gets serious. All departments seem to think their absence from each conference is a disgrace to each department. Overlook the rampancy of a small amount of money as the bribe asking to keep it in one’s mind.”
   Shukō thinks deeply. Under Chōsai’s control all officials are brought together Rikukan-fu. On six days each department―Ten, Chi, Shun, Ka, Shū, ―holds each conference in turn, and heads of Rikukan and Sankō hold one on the seventh day, which takes a round on seven days. On the day when Shunkan holds the conference, Shukō also does not want the Ruler and the Taiho to be absent. The pending problem does not advance, besides he has a show and a pride against other departments.
   “Indeed… greasing attendants’ palm, officials ask that attendants wake them up and send them out in the outer palace at any cost.”
   “It is a problem if its huge pride gives a small amount of money which makes them absent from the conference of other departments, if not so, it’s quite an encouraging thing for the lower officials. First of all, if they have no sting in it, they may never take care of those idiots.”
   “…I’m surprised you don’t hesitate to do anything to attain your purpose.”
   “It’s not my fault but their fault, because they don’t attend even the morning conference if I do not go that far.”
   “That being said”, Shukō mutters.
   “But… they do not seem to keep obediently, I think.”
   “That’s it”, Seishō puts his glass on the table.
   “Knowing them, it’s natural that they will escape at all costs.”
   “I strongly order the lower officials not to take their eyes off from them even one moment. I told them severely to stay outside of the door when they were ordered to leave the room.”
   “The two have the option of running away by force. No matter how ordered, they couldn’t have a hand on the royal bodies.”
   “I told them to keep strict watch on the Five Gates and not to let them out.”
   “About the Royal Gate?”
   “Of course. The numbers of gatekeepers were doubled. Especially, I ordered persons in the stable, keeping their eye on and the mounts at all times.”
   “The point is Tama and Tora!? Sūgu will go to meet them out of their own will if they are called because they are intelligent.”
   Seishō also agrees as Shukō points it out. To give two sūgu to the master and the man is like telling them to escape, but one of them was already kept since the Ruler Kyō’s era. The first Tama already died, but when officials were cut down, one of officials saved his own skin by presenting the second Tama and Tora to the Ruler, this act was ill-judged and uncontrollable.
   “Don’t worry. I know that. I already moved Tama and Tora to Shiba’s stable.”
   “But, Taiho has Shirei.”
   Seishō says, and Itan gets lost for words for a moment.
   “Yeah… There’s nothing we can do about it. Because Shirei is neither captured nor caged.”
   Seishō sees Itan in a glacial look. If Shirei will carry Taiho away, it is useless that they set up a reliable blocking escape system and surround him. Moreover, Kirin can do metamorphosis as a last resort.
   “I requested of Tōkan-fu about it. Well, you know, at one rebellion the horn of Taiho had been sealed. A stone or something. ―We can do something if we have it.”
   Seishō looks quite dissatisfied.
   “Do you think that Taiho would obediently wear it? You have a big hole in an essential point.”
   Itan gets lost for words again. “Well”, Shukō smiles wryly to soothe them.
   “Well, I’ve told Taiho that it’s Shujō’s fault.”
   “―What?”
   “So, I told him that his inconvenience is because of Shujō. Because of his nature, Taiho will desert Shujō even if he runs away by using Shirei. Positively, Shujō doesn’t like it and will order Shirei not to escape. Because Shujō’s instruction is priority to Shirei unless Taiho is in danger.”
   “Hmm…”
   Itan groans and turns his gaze to Seishō. Seishō stares at Shukō aghast.
   “However, till when does such a makeshift prevail? If they feel up to it, they do everything they can do.”
   “Well, right…”
   “Anyway, we should work Shujō and Taiho as hard as possible, until they determine to run away seriously.”
   “You’re… smart.”
   Shukō laughs Itan’s amazed voice.
   “No way. Serious and honest, that’s my only saving grace.”
   ‘Don’t tell a lie’, at this time, the two monologues are folded in Itan and Seishō’s minds.

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