The Shore in Twilight

Chapter 41

6-4 Said the woman who dwelt in the space between the human and the divine, “I think Taiki has lost his horn.”

“What does that mean?” asked Rokuta. “What are the implications?”

Gyoukuyou drew her brows together. “Think of the horn as that which makes a kirin a kirin. A kirin is a Janus creature. Kirin do not change into people, and people do not become kirin. Rather, they possess both attributes within themselves. However, Taiki no longer possesses a horn. He’s lost that attribute of himself. Perhaps he has now sealed it inside himself.”

“And the human aspect that remains?”

“As the En Taihou has observed, he could be said to be a mere human. He cannot change, trigger shoku, and hear the will of Heaven. Because some shirei had already attached themselves to him, they will not be lost. However, he won’t be able to enlist new shirei.”

“Can he be brought back with us?”

“An ordinary human cannot be brought back through an ordinary shoku. There are times when humans are caught up in a shoku and swept here. But those are unpredictable events and cannot be willed to occur. If nearby, the odds of being caught up are high, but there’s no guarantee that the person involved will be transported across the Kyokai.”

“Is there no sure method then?”

“No,” Gyoukuyou answered in a subdued voice. “Shoku are not within the control of Divine Providence. Heaven cannot cause shoku to occur, and Heaven cannot prevent them from happening. If Heaven could, then Taiki’s taika would not have been swept away to Yamato in the first place.”

“That is indeed true,” Rokuta sighed. “But what about this? An emperor crosses the Kyokai and inducts Taiki into the Registry of Wizards.”

“Even if he is appointed a wizard, only a wizard above the rank of count can cross the Kyokai. As I explained previously, there is no provision for creating new positions at that level.”

“Then what? Taiki is over there! The lives of the people of Tai depend on Taiki, and the emperor being at his side. Are you telling us to simply cast him aside?”

Gyokuyou sighed deeply. “Taiki does not have his horn. That instrument has already been sealed inside him. Cut off from the ley lines that carry the life force of the universe, a kirin cannot be expected to live long. That is the opinion of my superiors. They will wait while the situation corrects itself.”

Risai had remained quiet up to that point. She leapt to her feet. “You mean you’re going to wait for him to die!”

Gyoukuyou averted her eyes.

“Who are these superiors of yours in the first place?”

“Well—”

“Are you talking about Tentei and the rest of the gods? These same gods telling us to govern our kingdoms with humanity and according to the Way are telling us to wait for Taiki to die and a new taika to grow and choose a new emperor?”

Gyokuyou didn’t answer.

“And what becomes of Taiki? What sin did he commit? What about the Imperial Tai? Isn’t he the emperor that Taiki chose, according to the very will of Tentei? You charge him with no sin yet sentence him to death. And what becomes of those left behind? The people of Tai have suffered six years under Asen’s yoke. And you’re telling them to wait for Taiki to die as well? Wait for a new taika to spring forth? Wait for a new emperor to be chosen? How many more years is that going to take?”

“That—”

“Five years? Ten years? Genkun, Tai will not endure that long. Or perhaps until the next emperor is crowned, Heaven could drive the youma from Tai and warm the winters?”

“Risai—” Enki tugged on Risai’s arm. Risai shook her arm free.

“Doesn’t Tentei tell the emperor to rule with humanity according to the Way? That’s supposed to be the first of the Divine Decrees. And yet how can these Divine Ones spurn the Way? How can these personages, who so easily abandon the people and trample humanity underfoot, judge emperors who have strayed from the Way?”

Gyokuyou took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Heaven has a logic and reason of its own. All those who dwell in Gyokkei follow its precepts.”

“So take me to this Gyokkei or wherever. I shall petition Tentei and the gods in person.”

“That is not possible. Risai, we do have pity on Taiki.”

“Then please help him!”

Gyoukuyou looked at Risai with distressed eyes. “And if Taiki is returned here, then what? His shirei have lost their grip on reason. If they stay attached to Taiki in that state, they will wreak the destruction that youma wreak. If he could be brought back, the shirei would have to be separated from him. If he loses his shirei, then how could he protect himself? He would lose as well his imperial sense. He would have no other means of finding the emperor.”

“Even so, as the Taiho, he is necessary to Tai.”

“The rest of the kingdoms cannot save Tai. They cannot muster their armies and attack Asen. Bring Taiki home and he would be as helpless as a lamb. Your desire to save Tai, your conviction that Tai must be saved, can only prove a Sisyphean effort with our hands so tied. What would such a Pyrrhic victory yield him? What can a kirin accomplish when it is incapable of changing form, and with no shirei at his command? Besides being cut down before your eyes?”

“If he has no shirei then I shall protect him, at the cost of my life. I know I am no substitute for the shirei. Yet the people of Tai are waiting for their Taiho. If he lives, they can rally behind him. I might not amount to much with my one arm, but the people of Tai will rally together to protect him.”

Illustration

“And that’s how you intend to attack Asen? If adding a useless Taiki to your ranks could make such a difference, should you not have already done so?”

“How can a person like you stand there and spout such nonsense?”

“Risai.”

“What can the Taiho do—how could you even ask such a question? The Taiho is a kirin. He’s not going to attack Asen. He’s not going to man the barricades in any battle. Nevertheless, the Taiho is necessary. Don’t you understand? Whether or not the Taiho is there—that is what will make all the difference in the world to me, and to the people of Tai.”

“Well—”

“The Taiho is our hope, Genkun. A Tai without the Taiho and the emperor is a kingdom where the sun never rises. What he will do or can or cannot do is not the question. Before the people of Tai can again begin to hope, they must know that the Taiho lives.”

Gyokuyou stared off into space, gazing at the band of light streaming through a crevice in the deformed outcropping of stones, as if pushing that rock up the mountain herself.

“Enki—”

“Yes.”

“Who among your Sankou could you send on a temporary sabbatical?”

“Temporary—”

“We’ll transfer Taiki’s koseki to En. Taiki has never been officially registered, but simply to conform with formalities, he can be listed as a refugee from Tai. Once his records are in order, dispatch the Imperial En and have him induct Taiki into the Registry of Wizards.”

“Can a kirin be made a citizen of En?”

“Nothing says he cannot. While a kirin is not listed upon the census of his own kingdom, the law does not touch upon kirin from other kingdoms. The same thing applies to the Sankou. Though members of the Sankou must be citizens of that kingdom, no such restriction applies to a kirin from another kingdom.”

“Genkun—” Risai cried with great joy.

Gyokuyou didn’t look at her. “I haven’t done anything you should thank me for. Even bringing Taiki back here will solve nothing.”

“And Taiki?” Youko interjected. “Is losing his horn a permanent condition?”

“It depends. Without seeing him first, it would be impossible to say. Once you have retrieved him, bring him here and we will do whatever we can to help him recover. In any case, he must be separated from his shirei. Be sure to bring them back as well.”

“I understand.”

Gyokuyou nodded, and now looked at Risai. “Heaven has its reasons and its precepts, and no one may disturb their foundations. It does no good to argue necessity or expediency. There are reasons for everything and all is built upon that foundation. Heaven itself lies within the web of the Law and cannot condone any outrage perpetrated against the people. In that respect, Heaven and Earth differ not at all. Do not doubt that for a second.”

Risai said nothing, but only bowed her head.

Copyright Eugene Woodbury. All rights reserved.