11-4 “Enho,” Youko called out. She stopped in front of the screen doors to the study.
“Is that you, Youko?” came the warm reply.
“Excuse me,” she said, and walked in. Enho was sitting at his desk by the window. He glanced over his shoulder at her. She said, “Sorry, but could I have a few minutes of your time?”
“Go ahead. What’s on your mind?”
It was as if he’d anticipated her concerns. Youko smiled nervously. “I was thinking of going to see the capital of Wa Province.”
“Meikaku. So you’ve developed an interest in Wa?”
“Yes,” she answered honestly. “Rangyoku says that she’d rather arrange a marriage of convenience than accept a homestead in Wa. Better to marry and then get divorced. That got me curious about what makes Wa Province such a rotten place. I’d like to keep her from having to do something like that. Rangyoku would surely not do it because she wants to. That conditions in this kingdom could drive someone to . . . ”
Enho suddenly smiled. Taken somewhat aback, Youko queried, “Enho?”
“I see. Marriage is a more conservative tradition in Japan.” He motioned to her, and as she usually did, Youko sat down in the chair next to him. “You needn’t fret that much over this. Marriage is not so weighty an institution here. Tell me, why do people get married in Japan?”
“Um . . . because it’s lonely all by yourself.”
“And that’s why people feel it necessary to get married? It’s certainly true that living without a spouse is lonely. So people want somebody to be close to. Here it’s called a common law marriage.”
“Well, I guess there’s the problem with children.”
“In this world, children are only born when a petition is brought to the riboku. You must be married to do so, else the Rishi will not allow it. But if you simply wish to live with someone, formal marriage is not necessary.”
“If you want children, you have to get married. Otherwise, a common law marriage will do. In order to petition for a child, a couple must reside in the same town and attend the same Rishi. That’s pretty much the way it works. So if you get married, you have to move. One of them has to move to the other’s city. Splitting up by itself doesn’t mean they’ll have to move back to the town they came from. And if their current hometown is an unwelcoming place, they may seek out relatives elsewhere.”
“So you can move to different kingdoms that way?”
“Yes, you can. But you have to transfer your census registry to the same kingdom as your spouse. You can’t marry a citizen of another kingdom. This is one of the Divine Decrees and must be observed. To ask for children, you must be married and residing in the same town, and to get married you must both be citizens of the same kingdom.”
Enho flashed a knowing smile. “When it comes to the riboku, there is no other way but to petition Tentei. It possibly has to do with the same reason that an emperor must be from the kingdom he rules. Apparently, there was once an emperor who solemnized a marriage between a man and woman from different kingdoms. Even though they went to the riboku and tied a ribbon to the branch, they were never given a child. Eventually they dissolved the union. The Reason of the World rejected them.”
“That is strange,” Youko said to herself.
Enho smiled nonchalantly. “In Japan, God is not necessary. But here, God is. Tentei is necessary for the logic and reason of the world to work. Are you familiar with the first of the Divine Decrees?”
“The temporal world must be ruled with humanity and according to the Way.”
“Correct. Turn your back on the Way and you will inevitably oppress the people. There is an absolute cost for straying from the Way. You can turn your back on the Divine Decrees and establish your own laws but they will never work to your satisfaction. The Reason of the World is woven into the Divine Decrees. As it says in the legends, Tentei Himself handed down the Divine Decrees to us.”
“Makes sense.” Such a strange world this is, Youko once again thought to herself.
“Based on what you have told me, marriage in Japan is designed for the protection of the family. It is a system structured to preserve the integrity of the family bloodline. Here, though, there is nothing like a family bloodline. When a child turns twenty, he leaves the household. No matter how wealthy a person might become, that wealth cannot be passed on to his children. When a person turns sixty, his land and house are transferred back to the kingdom. If he wishes, he may hold onto it for the entirety of his life, yet it cannot be left to anyone upon his death. Accumulated savings can only be bequeathed to a spouse, and even then, only the wealth generated by the both of them. When the spouse dies, it is all transferred back to the kingdom. In turn, no matter how poor a person might be, it becomes the kingdom’s responsibility to feed them if they can’t feed themselves.”
“Well, then, why have children in the first place?”
Enho smiled. “Tentei looks to the hearts of the parents and gives them children accordingly. In other words, becoming parents is Heaven’s way of recognizing their qualities as human beings. At night, it’s said that the souls of children slip away from their bodies and fly to the Five Sacred Mountains, where they tell Tentei how their parents are treating them. After death, that is how people are judged.”
“Could that perhaps be seen in religious terms?”
“Better to view it in ethical or moral terms. The rearing of the child given you brings you closer to virtue, closer to the Way. In fact, there is no profit in having a child. It takes time and money.”
“So that is why a child leaves home at the age of twenty.”
“That is the case. That is why parents devote themselves to their children. To despise a child is to despise Heaven. By serving their children they are serving Heaven.”
“It must seem strange to you. It would seem strange to anybody who thinks of pedigree in terms of bloodline. The closest thing to a pedigree is a surname. A marriage may be registered under either spouse’s census records. Your own name doesn’t change but the records are unified under one or the other’s name. The child thus inherits the name registered under that unified record. The significance of this is that when the incumbent emperor is found lacking in moral virtue and a change of dynasties is carried out, a person of the same surname cannot accept the Divine Mandate.”
“The originally registered name of the previous Imperial Kei, the Late Empress Yo, was Jo. And your parents did not have the surname of Jo. In the case of Kou, the surname of the previous emperor was Chou. Therefore, the next emperor will not carry the surname of Chou. The emperor of Hou has fallen. His surname was Son. You can be assured that the next ruler of Hou will not be a Son.”
“I see. So that means that my friend Rakushun could never become emperor of Kou.”
“If his surname is Chou, then throughout all history I know of no case when it has ever happened. It is the unalterable Reason of the World. You cannot change the name you were born with. Even if your parents divorce, it does not change. When you marry, it does not change. That is why people have what is called an inherent family name. It’s the only real function and meaning of the family name.”
“That is completely different from common practice in Japan.”
“Indeed,” Enho laughed. “In Japan, it seems that once people get married, they’re determined to stick it out one way or another. Here, people get married and divorced on quite a regular basis, with no qualms about raising other people’s children. In fact, remarrying with stepchildren is highly regarded. Perhaps because the more children you have, the more blessed you must be. To become a parent in the first place you must have a certain quality of character.”
“At the end of the day, there are also people who don’t wish for children. Because there is no necessity for them to marry, they settle for a common law marriage. Because getting married involves a vexing amount of paperwork, those who have given up on children accept the situation and make do with a common law marriage. It’s not uncommon for such arrangement to take place even while maintaining separate households. But if you’re unwise enough to take as a partner someone who doesn’t live in your general vicinity, you’re unlikely to meet except during the winter.”
“It’s more complicated when a couple are also civil servants. When you work for the government, obviously you have to move. You wouldn’t get married to get split apart, so the road to advancement would necessarily be limited. To prevent such a disagreeable outcome, many avoid marriage.”
If that was true, then there must be a lot of single people amongst the ministers. Those deciding to marry would be unlikely to choose a civil servant as a spouse.
“To the people of this world, such are the limits of marriage. It is important to those who want children, and lacking in significance to those who do not.”
“Huh,” said Youko, taking a breath. And right now, getting a partition in the right place was more important to Rangyoku than having a child. That was the extent of the problem.
“It really is different,” she said to herself, and then hung her head. “But can I get married?”
Enho forced a smile. “The ruler of a kingdom is not a human being.”
“I’m not . . . I guess.”
“If you were already married, technically speaking, once you ascended to the throne the marriage would be annulled and become a common law marriage. Consequently, you can’t have children. However, you can bestow the rank of imperial consort upon a companion, such as empress consort or prince. Your children, Youko, are the citizens of Kei. You serve Heaven by serving them. A married couple serves Heaven by rearing their children. There is no difference.”
“I guess not,” she said with a nod.
Enho smiled. “Go wherever you must. It is well and proper that you see to the welfare of your children.”
Youko bowed. “Starting tomorrow, then, I shall ask for your leave.”
Youko rolled over on her bed and stared at the ceiling. Your children are the citizens of Kei. You serve Heaven by serving them.
Back in Japan, she had never given much thought to God. She had a hard time grasping what the existence of a god like Tentei was supposed to mean to her. “Serving God” was a concept she was not familiar with. She sighed deeply.
She heard from somewhere the sound of a firm voice. “Your Highness . . . there are men.”
Begging her pardon, Hankyo’s presence vanished and then shortly reappeared. “There are at least five men outside the rike.”
Youko got up. “Who are they?”
“I do not know. Ah, they have left.”
“By your command,” said Hankyo and slipped away.
Hankyo was back the next morning. “They spent the night in Hokui, left the gates this morning, and were looking for a wagon going to Takuhou.”
Youko fastened the straps of her knapsack. “Then I’ve got to go back to Takuhou and see for myself what’s going on.”