Juuni Kokuki’s side story — 十二国記外伝
(The Twelve Kingdoms)
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
Mt.Shō is a desolate mountain. The rocks are clung to by dried-up moss lying over one another, they are friable, and slide down easily when putting your foot on them. You are not likely to be able to climb it if you have no flying mount.
“If it’s raining, I can’t climb it in spite of Tora.”
Rokuta looks up at the rocks unstably piled, and mutters to himself. It’s windy. Every time it gusts, there’s a clatter of stones falling. If it rains a lot, it might not survive against it. There is little doubt that this mountain collapses in every rainy season.
He can see the tiled roof of a small temple whose shape is barely kept on the high area of Mt.Shō’s main peak. Usually, Ryōunzan has a tunnel to go from the base to the temple, but he cannot find its entrance which might have been buried. He reluctantly climbs depending on Tora.
He goes up to the temple while avoiding gusts of wind and falling stones, and finds out it is in very miserable condition. Its pillars incline, and tiles fell away from the distorted roof. The name ‘Mt.Shō‘ doesn’t sound familiar to Rokuta though he doesn’t know about all imperial demesnes, it is no doubt it’s a forgotten place. It has no particular products, and it is not used for anything. It might have been originally a mountain of graves.
The garden surrounding the temple is miserable, too. The rocks which dropped and sharply jumped lie around here and there. There is a small arbor in pinewoods that just keep up appearances, this still stands straight because it is being supported by the branches and roots of pines.
Rokuta gets out of the saddle, makes Tora wait around there, and goes into the pinewoods. He laughs lightly because he finds out Tama lying down near the arbor.
Rokuta pats the sūgu that purrs, and peeks into the arbor. Nobody there, but Rokuta finds him who is sitting on the entrance steps and keeping a small jar while drinking.
“Booze up alone?”
When Rokuta calls to Shōryū, he turns around. He is not very surprised, raises his easygoing hand and says “What’s up?”
“Rokuta, why are you here?”
“Why! I should ask you that. It’s you who ordered a strange message to the keeper of the high bulletin board.”
He comes closer to its door and sits down next to Shōryū. The stone pavement distorted and cracked in front of the arbor remains. Couches and tables carved from stone are still in an area as wide as a courtyard, but, thick grass of autumn grows in the stone pavement joints and cracks, and it makes it seem ruined.
“Drinking here makes you happy?”
“At least, I can’t hear Shukō and Itan’s growls.”
“Oh I see.”
Beyond the stone pavement, he can see a mound nearby the base of the pine. They plant a catalpa on a mound and substitute it for a burial marker, but this mound has a stone on its head and the stone is wet as watered just now.
“―Is that Atsuyu’s?”
“That was just before the rainy season. Like now ―well, a little later.”
Watching the mound, Rokuta mutters and chases his memory for a little while. The detail has already lost substance. This memory might be lost in each rainy season as this mountain collapses in each rainy season. Sooner or later, even if he tries it will become impossible to recall.
“Now, I see. You said you had a promise, so I surely thought it was a juicy one. You cannot climb this mountain after entering the rainy season, though to say that was just this period is a bit earlier. So, you needed to escape from the palace before raining.”
Rokuta looks up at him as if ridiculing a little, but he shows neither reaction nor significance.
“What are you saying?”
Rokuta is laughing and looks back at the mound.
“I didn’t know you were so friendly to Atsuyu as to make his grave.”
“We may as well do that. Because Atsuyu left good officials for us.”
Rokuta nods his head. In fact, the officials of the State Gen had high ambitions and were able. Nobody was able to know the flag Atsuyu showed was true or false, but officials who gathered yearning for him did not have a lie. Afterward, when the Imperial court was renewed, they were as useful as could be.
“―However, if I do give him a decent burial, Atsuyu must be turning in his grave.”
“You know that, but, you boozing up face to face with him? It’s almost annoying.”
“Well, Atsuyu needs someone to complain to, for once.”
“He may visit you as a ghost someday.”
Shōryū says easily, and Rokuta takes a step back a little.
“This area seems to have been a mausoleum in old times. So, it gathers not only Atsuyu but the dead in swarms.”
“Old and new. Those dead who gather want to say some complaints to me.”
“So,” Shōryū laughs.
“You’d better go down before sunset.”
Rokuta looks at his smile for a moment and nods.
“…Yeah, I do. I don’t like whinings and complaints.”
“Later,” Rokuta raises his hands, stands up, and walks back of the arbor. Patting Tama’s head once, he comes back to Tora. Though Tora wonderingly compares the arbor with Rokuta, he doesn’t care for it and takes the reins. He pats the sūgu’s neck.
“…Shōryū wants to be left alone, I realize. Leave him alone.”