Rakushō no Goku #3

Juuni Kokuki — 十二国記
(The Twelve Kingdoms)

Rakushō no Goku — 落照の獄
(A jail of the declining Light)

By Ono Fuyumi — 小野不由美

Translated by o6asan

chapter1 chapter2 chapter3 chapter4 chapter5 chapter6 chapter7 chapter8


   Around midnight, a person visited his study.
   “Haven’t you taken a sleep yet, sir?”
   His study was called on by the person who is Hogetsu(蒲月). As Eiko(瑛庚) had got tense in expectation of Seika(清花), he relaxed his shoulders in a little relief when he recognized Hogetsu(蒲月). And he remembered Riri(李理) said that Hogetsu(蒲月) would return this day.
   “Have you returned this time? Though Riri(李理) was very looking forward to your coming back.”
   ‘Yes’, Hogetsu(蒲月) smiled. By his both hands, he held up the tray a tea-things was set on.
   “I came back earlier. I was playing with Riri(李理) some length. I did not call to you, Shikei(司刑). Because you looked very busy, sir.”
   ‘Oh’, Eiko(瑛庚) smiled, too. Actually, Hogetsu(蒲月) is not a son of Eiko(瑛庚) though Riri(李理) calls him “Elder brother”. He is a grandson.
   When Eiko(瑛庚) approaching 50, he was selected from among local officials to a national official and become a sen’nin(仙人). He and his first wife had two sons and a daughter, and the elder son and the daughter grew up in those days and lived on their own. When Eiko(瑛庚) becoming the sen’nin(仙人), it’s possible that they also became sen’nin(仙人), but they chose to stay at the lower world because they had already married and they were getting older than he, died before Eiko(瑛庚) knew it. Eiko(瑛庚)’s second son who had not reached adulthood at that time stayed with him, and went to Shogaku(少学) of Saku-shu(朔州), and became a Sen’nin(仙人) as an official later. At this time, the second son worked as a state official for Bo-shu(茅州) in the west of this Ryu(柳国). Hogetsu(蒲月) is a son of him. He came to Shiso(芝草) and relied on Eiko(瑛庚) who is his grandfather, later he entered Shogaku(少学) of Saku-shu(朔州) as well as his father. Hogetsu(蒲月) is more brilliant than his father — and also his grandfather Eiko(瑛庚), went straight to Daigaku(大学), and graduated last year, and he became a country official. He finally accustomed himself to work, had the emotional capacity to take the days off, and went to pay his respects to his father of Bo-shu(茅州).
   “Wouldn’t you take a little rest, sir?”
   Eiko(瑛庚) nodded Hogetsu(蒲月)’s words. They moved to the table near the window. Hogetsu(蒲月) set the tea things on it.
    “Thanks so much for caring.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) shook his head for Eiko(瑛庚)’s words.
   “Shikei(司刑), because you have serious time now, sir.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) was recruited as a country official, and his attitude to Eiko(瑛庚) changed. Hogetsu(蒲月) is Kyukei-ho(宮卿補) of Tenkan(天官), and it is an assistant to Kyukei(宮卿) who manages system and rules of the palace. He is Chu-shi(中士) which is one of the lowest classes of country officials, and Eiko(瑛庚) is Shikei(司刑) of Shukan(秋官). It’s Ka-taifu(下大夫) which belongs to high-level officials.
   While pouring hot water into their tea-cups, Hogetsu(蒲月) said.
   “My sister was offended.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) considers Seika(清花) as his sister. She is his grandfather’s wife actually, but she looks his elder sister.
   “She said you, Shikei(司刑), would be going to excuse Shudatsu(狩獺).”
   “I didn’t mean it…… What I wanted to say is difficult to explain.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) saw Eiko(瑛庚) as if asking. Eiko(瑛庚) smiled wryly.
   “I said we shouldn’t judge Shudatsu(狩獺) only by emotion. To begin with, Shudatsu(狩獺)’s trial has not started yet. Certainly, it is my work that finally provides the punishment, but, we need to discuss it enough with Tenkei(典刑) and Shishi(司刺) before judging. It is not at the stage for a conclusion yet, and it’s hardly possible for me to leak it even if in my mind.
   “…… You’re right, sir.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) looked at him inquiringly though nodding. Eiko(瑛庚) shook his head, and terminated the talk. Eiko(瑛庚) asked questions about Bo-shu(茅州) and his father of Hogetsu(蒲月) just back from traveling, but he didn’t care the conversation indeed. He had very much on his mind.
   It would be in the right that Seika(清花) told him to execute Shudatsu(狩獺). It’s not only Seika(清花). Most of the people said so, and Eiko(瑛庚) heard that. Even Eiko(瑛庚) didn’t personally have the objection. However, he felt some hesitation for the capital punishment as a judicial officer. Officials of High Court sent the appeal to Supreme Court because they had hesitated similarly.
   It’s not a problem of Shudatsu(狩獺). — The problem is that the capital punishment has been stopped for 100 years or more since the present Ruler of Ryu(劉王) took the throne in Ryu(柳).
   Even if a criminal is very brutal, the criminal is a penal servitude for life or perpetual imprisonment. The capital punishment doesn’t exist in the practical though it exists in the juridical. It has always been so.
   “What is Shujo(主上)’s instruction?”
   Asked by him, Eiko(瑛庚) startled back. Though Hogetsu(蒲月) was in front of him, he seemed to have been lost in thought. Hogetsu(蒲月) smiled embarrassedly.
   “It is Shujo(主上) that decided to avoid the capital punishment, isn’t it? How about Shujo(主上)’s intention?”
   Starting to say, Eiko(瑛庚) shut his trap quickly. The tea-cup completely cooled was in his palm.
   “Please forgive me if I go beyond my powers. However, no matter what I hear, I will never tell others.”
   Said softly by him, Eiko(瑛庚) released a sigh. Though Hogetsu(蒲月) was Kyukei-ho(宮卿補) then, he advanced through the ranks in the future because he graduated Daigaku(大学) and was promoted as a country official. Thus, he thought that consenting to Shudatsu(狩獺)’s matter was necessary for Hogetsu(蒲月) and that it’s Hogetsu(蒲月) if someone understood it.
   “…… It’s not sure.”
   “Not sure, sir?”
   Eiko(瑛庚) nodded.
   “It is Shujo(主上) that decided to avoid the capital punishment. But the judgment of both District Court and High Court is the capital punishment, — We don’t follow it but have to consider it. I hear Shujo(主上) said that he would leave it to Shiho(司法) when Shiho(司法) asked Shujo(主上)’s intention.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) wore a questioning look.
   “To Shiho(司法)?”
   “I don’t know what it means exactly. The system of Shiho(司法) or the people of Shiho(司法) who treat Judgments. Or, it might mean leaving to Shukan(秋官). That’s too vague, and we cannot act by it because there is Shujo(主上)’s word ‘The capital punishment is not done’. We said to them we need to get Shujo(主上)’s new rescript.”
   “What do they say, Dai-shiko(大司寇) and Sho-shiko(小司寇)?”
   Eiko(瑛庚) shook his head.
   “Dai-shiko(大司寇), by his opinion, cannot permit the capital punishment.”
   “If Dai-shiko(大司寇) doesn’t give the okay, the capital punishment could not be done, could it?”
   “It is not clear. Intrinsically the decision is not influenced by other people’ opinions. Besides, when the king leaves it to us, the judgment of administration of justice becomes the conclusion for this trial.”
   “What is Chiin(知音) the Shiho(司法)’s opinion?”
   “He has a struggle trying to find a way. Sho-shiko(小司寇), too.”
   When a criminal faces to the trial, they care what crime he did. If they could clarify the crime, they can give him the penalty by the criminal law. That Tenkei(典刑) clarifies the crime and gives the penalty is called a decision.
   Shudatsu(狩獺) committed crimes, mainly murders. Most of his murders wrere what planned beforehand. Moreover, in order to rob of money and goods he killed even persons who need not be killed. Most of his victims, overwhelming, are elderly persons, women and children who cannot resist. On the law all of them deserve the capital punishment, murder for the self-interest, meaningless murder, and murder to the weak people. Moreover, he committed more than one, so he deserves Shushi(殊死) — which is the death penalty for irremissible crime.
   There was no factor about Shudatsu(狩獺), though the penalty was reduced if there was a factor to mitigate the punishment after the decision. It’s very clear his punishment is Taiheki(大辟) originally.
   But, in Ryu(柳) the Ruler of Ryu(劉王) himself decides “to avoid the capital punishment”. So, all the criminals who should be punished by death is penal servitude or confinement. If Shudatsu(狩獺) deserves Shushi(殊死) originally, he should have life imprisonment and it is natural judgment.
   The people, however, demand the death for him. First, the people were indignant the criminal like him got nothing more than imprisonment. Second, the district court and High Court adjudicated him the death penalty. The people who have known the death penalty is available accept nothing except his death. It’s possible to say “we do not use Taiheki(大辟)” because of the Ruler(王)’s word, but if so the people will voice a complaint to Shiho(司法). According to situations, the angry people might rush to the national government. The voice requests the death penalty is loud, and makes them have to feel misgivings about the riot. It is difficult also for the judicial officers to disregard this.
   Eiko(瑛庚) talked this, Hogetsu(蒲月) muttered to have difficulty.
   “……It’s very difficult mutter.”
   Yeah, Eiko(瑛庚) sighed. He was still nonplussed, but he felt some salvation because Hogetsu(蒲月) said “It’s difficult”.
   “Recently, the security in Shiso(芝草) has been worsening as Seika(清花) insisted to. The people are scared about this situation, so they keep up vociferous calls for a death penalty, I think. If we do not impose a severe punishment soon, the situation might be getting worse and worse, they concern.”
   “I agree……”
   In recent years, it is true the security in Shiso(芝草) has been worsening. — Not only Shiso(芝草) but also all over the country. Though it is a slight increase on an actual number, the people feel unsafe now because their country was almost a safe place. Little wonder that the situation is related to the Ruler(王)’s edificatism. They begin to doubt whether the current criminal law is strict enough.
   But, judicial officers, like Eiko(瑛庚), know very well that the number of crimes in Ryu(柳) is not very large. Crimes have definitely been decreasing since the current Ruler(現王) ascended the throne. After death penalties were stopped by the Ruler(王)’s intention, there is no fact that crimes have been increasing. Especially, the number of criminals has decreased dramatically as the Ruler(王) ceased executing criminals and revived Geimen(鯨面) which was already abandoned in other countries.
   It is said that to tattoo criminal’s face as a penalty is to disturb criminal’s regeneration. At start with, Geimen(鯨面) was abandoned in So(奏), after that, disuse of it becomes a trend in other countries. Though some Rulers(王) revive this penalties, Geimen(鯨面) is contrary to humanity, that is the established theory, so they were also abandoned in even Ryu(柳) long ago. But, the current Ruler(現王) dared to bring it back. First two times criminals are tattooed on their head, because they can hide them by their hair grown. Criminals can conceal their stigma as a criminal and it will disappear in around 10 years. This disappearing tattoo ink was invented by Tokan(冬官). It’s named Soboku(沮墨).
   At first, Soboku(沮墨) looks deep black, but, it fades out for several years. Black, indigo, and blue, it fades out gradually, blue, purple, and pink, it will disappear in around ten years — sooner or later it depends on criminal’s skin color. But, if the criminal reflects deeply on his/her act and doesn’t make any other crimes, he/she will be not guilty person someday.
   On the contrary, when he/she repeats a crime three times, he/she has one more tattoo where people can see it easily. At third, his/her right temple, at fourth, his/her left temple, after that, under right eye, and under left eye. There is rarely a criminal punished to Geimen(鯨面) of four times or more. And if he/she had a tattoo four times, this would be called Keijin(刑尽) that means penal servitude or prison until all tattoos disappearing. First tattoo by Soboku(沮墨) can disappear in around ten years, but, if next one puts on before former tattoo didn’t fade out, the time for disappearing is longed. Four times Geimen(鯨面) will not disappear at least until thirty years. Although it depends on balances of others, if all the tattoos are very deep black, it means disappearing of them might take time until his/her death.
   At first, they concern about criminals looked down on by people and their regeneration disturbed by it, surprisingly it helps criminals’ reborn. The criminal who deeply reflects bears with for fading its color, and people consider light color tattoo an evidence of his/her conversion. Deep black tattoo being hated can’t be avoided, but during this periods they have sufficient degree of protection by the country, and color being lighter and lighter, he/she being more and more positive because people around praising. Actually, criminals who had got three tattoos had very low recidivism rate.
   People say the security is worsening, however, the number of atrocious crime in Ryu(柳) is very smaller than other countries’ even now. It doesn’t even need to compare with other countries which execute criminals. This is the evidence that the death penalty has no effect to stop crimes, but people always trust their recent feelings. And there is no doubt their country is different from a few years ago.
   “Not only the security is worsening, but the monster like Shudatsu(狩獺) is increasing — don’t you agree, sir?”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) said and Eiko(瑛庚) sighed.
   “I agree with you it seems.”
   “Shudatsu(狩獺) has already been judged three times. Without repenting, he recidivated 16 times after that. This means the current system has no effects for the criminal like Shudatsu(狩獺) being reclaimed.”
   “You must be right. But, ……”
   Although the country tries very hard to reclaim criminals, there still exists one person without repenting. Someone repeats crimes daringly as if he/she turns his/her back like refusing regeneration. — Eiko(瑛庚) does know very well such a person.
   “If the penal servitude does not work, we need some more severe, don’t you think so, sir?”
   “It’s not my hesitation to punish Shudatsu(狩獺) by the death penalty. My hesitation is the death penalty itself.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) questioningly looks at Eiko(瑛庚).
   “If we execute him, it actually means to revive a death penalty.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) looks not understanding him exactly.
   “Now, our country peace is disturbed as you said. Therefore, I feel unease about this revival.”
   “Why, sir?”
   “…… Don’t you understand really?”
   When Eiko(瑛庚) asks him back, Hogetsu(蒲月) catches his breath in his throat, and turns his eyes away with flinching.
   Yes, Hogetsu(蒲月) also knows very well. — No one knows why, but recently Ryu(柳), their country, is going to declining. Yoma(妖魔) are rampant, the unseasonable weather, and rash of disasters. The criminal punishment is not too light. People behave violently because the country is declining. So crimes are increasing.
   The problem is not only crimes increasing. Lately, Eiko(瑛庚) often feels the discrepancy in the place of national administration. Things that once would have advanced straight are skew now. Although the reasons of them are various, generally speaking, the point is rough country. At times like this, they want to correct all by their famous Ruler(王) who is very good at governing, but, the Ruler(王) seems to have lost his enthusiasm.
   “…… What happened to Shujo(主上)?”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) mutters.
   “You are one of Tenkan(天官) and should know more detail about it. What does Tenkan(天官) say?”
   “Well …… We have no idea. I think Shujo(主上) does not act all confused. We think Shujo(主上) does not wander from the right path, but,”
   “But Shujo(主上) is not who he was.”
   Hogetsu(蒲月) nods his head.
   “This is not my words, but someone said Shujo(主上) became incompetent –.”
   Eiko(瑛庚) tried to scold Hogetsu(蒲月) because of his shocking words, but at the same time, Eiko(瑛庚) thought it’s true. That’s not to say that the Ruler(王) never became merciless nor evil. Rulers(王) who oppress their people are ordinary, but the Ruler of Ryu(劉王) did not seem to try to oppress people. Nevertheless, the national administration is skew. Definitely — the Ruler(王)’s capability is diminishing.
   Eiko(瑛庚) sighed deeply.
   “The people like us, are not to know how Shujo(主上) has changed. It seems certain that our country begins to decline though I cannot accept. In the near future peoples’ feeling are more confused and monsters like Shudatsu(狩獺) will increase. I’m concerned the capital punishment will be abused hereafter if it’s revived now.”
   This thought makes Eiko(瑛庚) unease really.
   If the capital punishment is used at this point, this precedent will erase their hesitation to execute one of criminals the next time. The condition getting more wild and the criminals like Shudatsu(狩獺) being more rising, in each case the capital punishment will be used easily. Once the hoop comes off, the capital punishment would be also used for a lighter crime, and its impact would be getting weaker comparatively. It means to use a heavier penalty for a heavier crime if such a lighter crime is punished by death. Then, it would not take a long time until a cruel punishment spreads out like Ho(芳国). The capital punishment is abused, and the more cruel punishment, the more decline of the country.
   Eiko(瑛庚) said so and Hogetsu(蒲月) nodded.
   “Yes — Maybe you’re right, sir.”
   “And the country declined abuses the capital punishment. To revive the capital punishment now is to give power of life or death of the people to the country. The country can use very easily the capital punishment because of this precedent existing.”
   Therefore, he wishes to avoid executing the criminal.
   To avoid itself is no problem. They have the words of the Ruler(王). “To avoid the capital punishment.” — Quoting the words and telling imprisonment are a simple matter. According to usual practice, it is correct. But if so, the people confidence in administration of justice definitely wavers.
   Eiko(瑛庚) remembered Seika(清花)’s frosty eyes. She might give up on him and leave this time, if he avoided the capital punishment. — and so does the people. In a sense, it is about the same crisis as abusing of the capital punishment.
   ” …… What can we do?”

chapter1 chapter2 chapter3 chapter4 chapter5 chapter6 chapter7 chapter8