Juuni Kokuki — 十二国記
(The Twelve Kingdoms)
(The Birds of Hisho)
Translated by o6asan
First edition released on 2009.Jul.15
Second edition released on 2013.Apr.28
Third edition released on 2013.Sep.7 : Current
The first bird was a blue transparent one like water.
The bird, which flew away from the west-side tall building next to Shōten-den(承天殿) where Ruler and aides sat in a row behind the bamboo blind, had long wings and a long tail. Gradually going round the vast yard surrounded by tall buildings, the bird that seemed to harden the bluish sky of winter suddenly changed direction, and ran up to the sky height while shining like crystal.
An arrow was shot by one of the archers sitting in a row under the palace. The arrow chasing the bird in the sky, and piercing it. In the same moment the bird broke into pieces while making a clear sound, and blue small birds were vividly born from them. The color of about ten small birds as glossy as enamel was Prussian blue, they fluttered shiningly and landed here and there on the ground. They were gradually lightening their own color. The birds decolorized while fluttering, they became transparent fragments and broke into pieces in turn. The transparent fragments spiraling down like petals. When each of them touched the ground, it was broken with a faint sound. Making a clink-clink sound, the transparent fragments were scattered in the entire yard.
The next were two. — These were golden transparent ones like sunlight. Both of those big birds rose up to the sky height, after crossing each other around the yard. Two archers shot arrows. Each arrow pierced each bird, and the birds changed into a bevy of small golden birds. Small birds that were vividly sparkled with their wings danced down from the height, becoming transparent and breaking into fragments in turn. The golden color petals fluttered. Pale purple birds flew away among twinkling golden color petals. And then, three. When three birds were pierced and changed color into vivid purple-blue, next four light-pink birds ran and rose up to the height. The bevy of red small birds that was born in the height was breaking while dancing, and became falls of transparent pink petals.
The various color birds flew up. They were shot and changed the shape into small vivid birds, the bevies of them danced and flew down, and they were broken and became fragile petals. The sound of broken petals was twisted, and filled the entire yard with tones like sleet.
The last one was thirty silver birds. When being shot and broken, they changed their shape into bevies with pure white wings. The bevy of pure-white small birds danced glossily reflecting sunshine, landed down breaking and flapping, and changed into transparent petals of milky-white color. Innumerable, fragile petals falling down in white. As if whole pear flowers were scattering all at once.
Hisho watched the last piece made a sound like the subdued sigh when it broke.
The yard which extended in front of Shōten-den(承天殿) was completely quiet. After a little pause, he heard the sound of people’s sigh spread over like ripples. Hisho had left quietly from the place before it would become the voice of admiration.
He left the high building where he watched the shooting-arrow ceremony and went away from the western garden where the ceremony was held. He felt strangely very satisfied. It was only a beautiful scenery but it was good for Hisho’s feelings. He had wanted to make that, and accomplished it completely. Nothing else.
He alone passed through the Romon(路門) to under the clouds, and went straight to Rajin-fu(羅人府). “It was splendid.” he said to Seikō(青江) who paled at worrying about the development of the shooting-arrow ceremony and fluttered about in the courtyard.
“Then — smoothly?”
With tearful look Seikō(青江) ran up to Hisho.
Anyway, they hadn’t had enough time. It was all they could secure the number of Tōshaku required, and they had no time to test Tōshaku to seem just like Taisha(大射). Though they did test shooting single Tōshaku again and again, the problem was if a rising up Tōshaku and fluttering down small birds which were just fragments would fly into each other. The fragments were simply modeled on the birds, so they fluttering down only from the shape, their flying tracks could not be operated. If the fragment hit the rising Tōshaku, its orbit must have changed. The archer might miss shooting it.
“The height and position of the fragment stayed just as we intended. Thankfully, they did not miss shooting as much as one.”
“Good”, said Seikō(青江) and he squatted down as if losing his strength.
“…If they missed shooting or if Tōshaku dropped before being shot, those were my worries.”
“I felt uneasy at first, but, soon I understood this is safe. I saw it at ease. Beautiful, unbelievable. — I wanted to show it to you.”
“Yes”, Seikō(青江) nodded smiling through his tears.
It was a special view, so Hisho wanted to show it to him. He was only a Rajin(羅人), so he was not permitted to participate in the ceremony on the clouds even if he went as a supervisor.
“As you said, it was good we had made the white for the end.”
He looked at the outside of the courtyard. The winter sun was setting between the huge gorges. He was slightly able to see Gyōten for the direction where the sun, whose life is the shortest of year, went down. The pears that Shōran(蕭蘭) had planted shed their leaves, slept and waited for a new spring.
“Is it like…?”
Hisho could not hear Seikō(青江) because his voice was very low like a murmur, but he knew what Seikō(青江) said. The scenery of spring that Shōran(蕭蘭) had expected. The pure-white pear flower clouds cover the valley, and the petals flutter all together when the wind blows. Seikō(青江)’s eyes were turned to the bottom of the valley like seeing what existed in his memory.
“Yeah”, Hisho nodded.
It was night. Sekichō-shi jumped into the place where Hisho toasted to their success with Seikō(青江) and his craftsmen. Suiryō blushing in excitement said the Ruler wanted him.
Actually, Hisho did not want to hear anything. Hisho was satisfied with the scenery that he had made. Though he didn’t want the evaluation from another person, being dragged by Suiryō he headed back to above the clouds again because he had no right to refuse. He was handed to a higher official when they arrived at Romon(路門), and he went to the outer palace where the Ruler would wait. He felt depressed along the way. This was the second time he went to the outer palace. The last disappointment was recalled bitterly in his mind, even these days when it came to have no meaning.
The outer palace used for the imperial conference was a huge building, of its center there was the huge high platform where the throne was placed on, and a bamboo blind surrounded the platform. Being urged by the official he approached the presence, he knelt and bowed until his forehead touched the floor. A voice inside the bamboo blind told him to raise his head, but it was probably not the Ruler’s because it was male’s. When he raised his head by the voice, the same voice told the official to leave and Hisho to stand up and come nearer.
He erected himself getting flustered. In the extensive palace, he seemed alone at this time. As the lamplight was only around the throne, Hisho could not see the edge of the building. In a too huge space his existence was so unreliable. Timidly advancing to the presence, he knelt and bowed as he was told.
“… Are you the Ra-shi(羅氏)?”
This time, he heard a young female voice. Though the voice of the speaker was ever so close, he could not see even her shape because of the bamboo blind.
“I heard you would take charge of the shooting-arrow ceremony directly. The unparalleled Ra-shi(羅氏).”
“Not knowing about the evaluation, I made the Tōshaku with Rajin(羅人).”
“Uh-huh”, the young Ruler muttered. Her voice paused as if finding a word.
“…I apologize to you. To tell the truth, though I called you all the way, I don’t know how to express what I want to say. It was…”
Ruler said to Hisho holding his breath.
“…It was so beautiful as if paining my heart.”
His pulse raced. A very faint sigh reached his opened ears unconsciously.
“I saw the unforgettable …I thank you.”
At this moment Hisho heard her honest voice, he suddenly understood his wish reached her. Ruler probably understood Hisho’s —Shōran(蕭蘭)’s and Seikō(青江)’s feelings which made the Tōshaku though it’s not that they tried to say something by Tōshaku.
“I receive an almost undue amount of compliments, ma’am.”
He thought this was the best while bowing. He thought about his resignation at this time again. Hisho thought that he had done all that needed doing. It’s good that he would leave his all in the hands of Seikō(青江). —when thinking so, he heard another voice.
“I look forward to a next time.”
The New Ruler continued her word before he said he would not have a next time.
“…If possible, I would like to see it alone. Raising the gloomy bamboo blind. More small-scale, only us —alone.”
The Ruler’s word was genuine and frank. It was the yard at night that crossed Hisho’s mind as soon as he heard it. The moon or a bonfire? —In the garden brightly shone, there didn’t seem to be anybody. Archers keeping within the shadows, he standing there, only the Ruler watching alone, in the garden neither words nor cheers, and Tōshaku can break beautifully.
Hisho talks by Tōshaku. Ruler listens to it. Talk to each other, he guessed that was the meaning of the Ruler’s word.
Birds are white, Hisho thought. They are clearly made out in the dark, they sparkle by the bonfire when broken. They dance down as if the sea of the night reflects moonlight. Then, the sound is like the sound of the waves. Faint quiet sound of the waves that invites people to sleep ―.
Hisho saw a white bird in his mind as he knelt and bowed until his forehead touched the floor. The last bird in the sound of the surf. The last one going straight to Ruler avoiding the arrow of the archer. He believes this Ruler will not refuse because it is ominous.
“…At any time if you want, Your Majesty.”
―A new dynasty starts in Kei.
on the clouds 天上
the comb craftsman 櫛人
the construction section 将作
The lower official 下官
the lower world or the lower place 下界
the shooting-arrow ceremony 射儀