Juuni Kokuki — 十二国記
(The Twelve Kingdoms)
Rakushō no Goku — 落照の獄
(A jail of the declining Light)
Translated by o6asan
“– Daddy, are you going to be a killer?”
Abruptly asked from behind, Eiko(瑛庚) stopped with startle. When he turned around feeling a knife having pointed at himself, he found out his little daughter pausing there and looking at him by her childlike eyes.
The girl, who seemed to have returned from the garden, looked standing on crossing the corridor and dedicated a crystal basin by her small hands. The transparent basin was filled with clean water, and a pure-white water lily was floating. The end of summer, the strong sunshine was cut out by eaves and made a dark shadow in the corridor. A white flower that floated around her breast seemed to be lighted up faintly.
Eiko(瑛庚), awkwardly making the smile, bent himself forward to his daughter.
“I never become a killer.”
When he patted her head, Riri(李理) looked at Eiko(瑛庚) by her pure eyes. She stared up at Eiko(瑛庚) with a wistful eye for a while, and gave a strong nod. The water lily in the basin shook.
“Do you take it to your mother?”
As Eiko(瑛庚) showed the basin by his eye line, Riri(李理) rapidly floated a smile. It was a young carefree one.
“This for brother Hogetsu(蒲月). They say he returns from Bo-shu(茅州) today.”
Oh, Eiko(瑛庚) smiled.
“Take care and go.”
Eiko(瑛庚) said and his daughter nodded and started walking with an eager look. She walked away with minding the water not to be spilt, and was like a person worked at a big undertaking.
While he just gazing after his daughter, she went down the stairs in the corridor to the courtyard. She took a few steps forward in the courtyard where white cut stones were spread, and went out of the shadow that deep eaves made. At the moment she walked into the strong sunshine, she disappeared in the light.
Her outline being blurred in white, her small back was partly transparent. It went away so that it could vanish.
Trying to call her to stop, Eiko(瑛庚) managed to control himself.
After a little pause, his eyes adjusted to the light. The small courtyard, all sides were enclosed by the buildings, was filled with the sunlight. His daughter, who put on colorful clothes and showed still a serious look, was carrying the basin slowly.
Eiko(瑛庚) breathed a sigh of relief but felt a pain in his chest. For a moment he lost his daughter because of the bright sunlight dazzling and its sense of loss made a heavy hard stiffness in his mind.
Riri(李理) turned eight years old. And, that child living in Shiso(芝草) was eight, too. Child’s name is Shunryo(駿良), and perhaps, the most famous child in Shiso(芝草) at this time.
— Because he was killed by a monster named Shudatsu(狩獺).
The capital of Ryu(柳) which is in the north of the world, is Shiso(芝草). Shiso(芝草) is the capital of the country and the capital of Saku-shu(朔州), has three more executive branches of Shingen-gun(深玄郡), En’i-go(袁衣郷) and O-ken(蓊県). Judicial officers of En’i-go(袁衣郷) captured Shudatsu(狩獺) in this early summer.
Shudatsu(狩獺) attacked a mother and a child in a pass near Shiso(芝草). He killed them and tried to take their money and goods from their luggage, but people who heard their scream and rushed to the crime scene arrested him, and people turned him over judicial officers, Shudatsu(狩獺) was considered the criminal as four more stabbing incidents that happened near Shiso(芝草). Because the presumed crime was serious, Shudatsu(狩獺) was sent to the executive branch in Shingen-gun(深玄郡). District Court that can judge the felony that is called five punishments(五刑) is only in the executive branch higher than the prefecture(郡)’s, though the court that can judge lawsuits and ordinary crimes is placed by the executive branch higher than the county(県)’s. Then, Shudatsu(狩獺) confessed his guilt of not only four cases as the criminal but also 11 cases, when he was sent to Shukan-fu(秋官府) of Shingen-gun(深玄郡) controlling En’i-go(袁衣郷). It reached 16 cases, including the burglar that caused him to be caught. All of them contained murders, and the victims were 23 in total. One of them is Shunryo(駿良).
Shunryo(駿良) was eight, he was born as a child of the couple running a small shop in Shiso(芝草). Very ordinary, cheerful, healthy child — It was the evaluations of surrounding people to Shunryo(駿良). About one year ago, such an ordinary child was found dead in the cover of the alley near his house.
Shortly before the incident, Shunryo(駿良) went out his house, which was also his parents’ store, to buy some peaches. A stall keeper around the place saw a man pulled Shunryo(駿良) into the alley. The man pulled Shunryo(駿良) close to himself by his casual manner, entered the alley, and came out alone immediately. There was no suspicious point in his behavior, but the stall keeper who had known Shunyo(駿良) since boy’s very young age wondered who the man was. A person around there came along and discovered Shunryo(駿良)’s body a little later. The pitiful child was strangled by the power of smashing his throat.
Nobody knew the man who pulled Shunryo(駿良) into the hide. In a strong decision, he murdered the boy as soon as dragging in, certainly, to pull the boy into the alley was to kill him. However, nobody knew the reason the boy, age 8, was killed. But, the money he held in his hand when he went out his house was never found anywhere. The amount, only 12 sen(銭).
They could never believe the boy had been killed for 12 sen(銭). So, why was Shunryo(駿良) killed? It seemed the purpose of killing is only to kill. Moreover, the place he was killed was very his neighborhood, it’s a bustling shopping area with a lot of small stores, in the daytime, besides with more people streets. To impossible violence, people in Shiso(芝草) seethed.
— In fact, Shunryo(駿良) was killed for only 12 sen(銭).
Accidentally, Shudatsu(狩獺) looked at Shunryo(駿良) holding money in his hand and going out. Shudatsu(狩獺) tailed him, pulled him into the hide, killed him, and took his money from his hand. He bought and drank a cup of sake for this 12 sen(銭). He had at least 10 ryo(両) that he took from an old couple he killed the other day.
When this was clear by the investigation of Syukan(秋官) in Shingen-gun(深玄郡), the people in Shiso(芝草) were shocked. Everybody was angry for too meaningless death of Shunryo(駿良). — For this, Eiko(瑛庚) had same thinking.
Eiko(瑛庚) wasn’t able to comprehend it. In Ryu(柳国), the incomes of the average people per month were about 5 ryo(両). Shudatsu(狩獺) had no reason he should take only 12 sen(銭), as he had money twice as much as the people’s monthly incomes. And, he was adult’s man. His physique and physical strength were totally opposite of the child, age 8. After pulling the child into the hide, it was enough for him to take money by threatening. If not, he’d better just take it by force. But, Shudatsu(狩獺) casually killed Shunryo(駿良).
However, this casual crime was only an ordinary state for Shudatsu(狩獺). Shunryo(駿良)’s death is only one of twenty-three.
— 16 cases, 23 victims.
Eiko(瑛庚) was at his desk in his study and looked through a towering pile of documents. All of the crime of Shudatsu(狩獺) was recorded there in detail.
One of the cases came up in a small village next to Shiso(芝草). A married couple, their old mother, and their two children were killed. It was the end of last year. Residents in a village move to a town in the coldest season. Because a village basically exists to cultivate a field, but this family didn’t have a house in the town to live during winter. When their child did serious illness, they sold out it which had been given from the country. It was only family that remained in the village. Shudatsu(狩獺) broke into the house, killed whole family, and was living comfortably there. In the middle of winter, a neighbor who thought it might be inconvenient visited and knocked on the door, and met a strange man. The man said the family went on a trip to a nearby town, and he introduced himself very engagingly that he was a relative who was taking care of their house. — But, the neighbor had never heard about such a relative the family was very close to. The man said that the family has not returned yet, when the neighbor visited in several days again after returning with suspicious and anxious to the town. The neighbor who had doubts reported to the town office. The man had left when officials of the town visited the house. Bodies of the family were piled up messily and frozen in one of the bedrooms of the house. However, husband’s corpse was not there. Officials searched for the neighborhood, found his remains in the stream at the back of the house, and raged. The footprints which went and returned many times remained on husband’s body that crossed the stream. The man who had killed whole family used the frozen body as a literal bridge to go to the field in the other side of the stream.
He who introduced himself as their relative did not have features – skinny, medium-tall, black eyes and black hair, but there was a small tattoo that was the design made from four characters “Kin-Dai-Nichi-In(均大日尹)” on his right temple. Geimen(鯨面) — That is a tattoo as the penalty.
Criminals who commit the felony like homicide etc., their hair is shaved, and they are tattooed on their head. This tattoo disappears gradually in around 10 years, but if he/she commits a serious crime before it disappears, the second is put in his/her head, again. If he/she commits a serious crime further, the third is put in his/her right temple this time. A tattoo’s design is always made from four characters, and tells who he/she is and where he/she was judged. “Kin(均)” shows the judgment of Kin-shu(均州), “Dai(大)” shows the date, and “Nichi(日)” does where the penal servitude was served. “In(尹)” is a character that specifies this man. So, it made his background turn out at once. His alias is Shudatsu(狩獺), and his proper is Kashu(何趣). He was born in Do-shu(道州) in the north of Ryu(柳国), and judged in three shu(州), Do-shu(道州),Shuku-shu(宿州), and Kin-shu(均州). All homicide. The first, the victim he had hit and taken money from died as a result. The second case in Shuku-shu, he made the victim die while trying to get money and goods by force. But the case of Kin-shu(均州), he obviously decided to kill from the beginning. His motive was money after all.
Eiko(瑛庚) uttered a sigh many times while reading the records spread on his desk.
The penal servitude is punishment, at the same time as it makes criminals conscious of the crime and educates them, but, it is clear that the penal servitude had no meaning for Shudatsu(狩獺). He received the decision in Kin-shu(均州), finished six-year penal servitude, was released, and reached the next violence within only half a year. Since then, he piled up 16 crimes in almost two years.
Shudatsu(狩獺) was judged by Syukan(秋官) in Shingen-gun(深玄郡) due to these crimes. However, even if major criminals like Shudatsu(狩獺), at least another trial is held by a higher-rank executive branch. Shudatsu(狩獺) was sent to High Court according to the law. In High Court Shudatsu(狩獺) received the decision again, but they hesitated about some points, so he was sent to Supreme court. Shudatsu(狩獺) gets the decision by the country three times. The judiciary judges, Shikei(司刑), Tenkei(典刑), and Shishi(司刺) work for it. They are discussing and trying, and Shikei(司刑) decides finally.
— That means Eiko(瑛庚) should judge.