June 14, 2023

The cruel compassion of the kirin

Japan's most famous kirin watch over Nihonbashi.
The kirin (麒麟) is a Chinese unicorn. In the universe of the Twelve Kingdom, the shapeshifting kirin is born on Mt. Hou and becomes prime minister to the emperor or empress he personally selects.

A kirin has two mandates, choosing the emperor and ensuring the general welfare of the kingdom. The first is a one and done. In order to carry out the second, the kirin serves as chief advisor to the emperor, governor of the capital province, and commander of one half of the Imperial Army.

That last portfolio might seem odd, given the kirin's aversion to blood and violence. This aversion, coupled with the second mandate, the general welfare of the kingdom, is why kirin are known as "creatures of compassion."

Except a kirin is less a pacifist and more a military general directing the action from behind the lines. Adopting a "moral equivalent of war" approach, whereby the ends often justify the means, they can become so focused on their objectives that the fates of ordinary humans escape their attention.

Yari observes that for Taiki, "the fate of Tai always took precedence." This explains why Taiki returned to Kouki. Tai needed saving now. Everything else fell by the wayside, including the search for Gyousou.

When Taiki, Yari, and Kouryou break into the palace prison to rescue Seirai, Taiki can't yet persuade himself to kill the guard. But he has no problem with Yari and Kouryou dispatching a whole platoon basically for having the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Keiki commits half a dozen felonies when he first meets Youko. Kourin can barely bring herself to stab Youko in the hand, yet when ordered by the Imperial Kou, repeatedly dispatches her shirei to kill Youko.

Taiki's willingness to go to any lengths to get the job done is just getting started. Drawing on deep reserves of self-discipline, he forces himself to bow to Asen, even though doing so feels like "a spike driven through his forehead" and makes him literally bleed out of his eyes.

In the climactic scene, Taiki kills a guard and wounds several others. Hence Rousan calling Taiki a "monster" unlike any kirin before him. But as the example of Rokuta makes clear, a kirin has enormous latitude to expand its job description.

The existence of the kirin itself so defied the normal constraints of the world that it was reasonable to conclude that only Heaven could have made them that way. And so it followed that the Divine Will was whatever the kirin said it was.

But even kirin must yield to the supernatural laws that govern a kirin's nature. Like Kourin, Taiki pays a price for warring against that nature. Fortunately for him, unlike the Imperial Kou, who takes Kourin with him to the grave, Gyousou steps forward to tell Taiki that enough is enough.

It will still take Taiki months or even years to recover. When he does, unlike his younger self, this battle-hardened kirin will provide a strong check and balance on Gyousou's actions going forward. And I'm sure that Gyousou can be counted on to return the favor.

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# posted by Blogger baihaki
6/14/2023 10:06 AM   
>Yari observes that for Taiki, "the fate of Tai always took precedence." This explains why Taiki returned to Kouki. Tai needed saving now. Everything else fell by the wayside, including the search for Gyousou.

I'm not sure about that. As explained by himself, if Tai took precedence, Taiki will kill himself so new Kirin will be born and choose new emperor. It will take time before it happen, but so as searching for Gyousou. Also with Taiki losing his horn and not yet healed, therefore cant detect Gyousou, there's no guarantee they can find him.

Also we see that Taiki is a calculating person. When he's with Risai, he'll only be a burden that always need protection. Risai and other also cant do the search freely because they keep minding that their act wont cause any harm to him. So he must realize that by exercising his authority for refugee's welfare is better than joining Risai. Also those refugees (and army in hiding) are who most likely will joining Gyousou as his army. So he need to keep their number from dying.
# posted by Blogger Katherine Woodbury
6/15/2023 5:58 AM   
One of Taiki's most interesting qualities to me is his ability to see multiple sides of an issue. Even when he was young, he questioned his choice of Gyousou since he wasn't sure that his choice wasn't emotional--the outcome of liking Gyousou rather than Gyousou truly being the best choice for Tai.

That self-questioning has its downsides and other people had to step in to assure the younger Taiki that he made the right choice, but as an aspect of his older self, that self-questioning is a strength. I propose that Taiki truly believes that Gyousou is the best choice for Tai and that a period of unrest (until a new kirin matured) would be infinitely worse for Tai even than Asen. Taiki brings up and discards a number of possible scenarios, choosing the one that, I agree, can best free up Risai and help the refugees.

So yeah, he is a quite calculating person :) Serial killings and war kind of knocked the waffling aspect of "I can see multiple sides" out of Taiki's objectivity. As Eugene writes, "[Taiki as a] battle-hardened kirin will provide a strong check and balance on Gyousou's actions going forward."
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
6/17/2023 6:11 AM   
I agree that Taiki chose to go to the palace and try to mitigate Asen's rule as more beneficial than dying and letting the people wait another 15 or so years before the search for a new emperor can even begin. Meanwhile in all that time, Asen's ruinous rule will continue unabated, which was a far worse outcome.

Personally, considering the massacres of good people that Asen was committing, together with the control of puppets he was doing, it's likely that the new search of an emperor by a new Kirin was bound to be delayed (the disaster of a Kirin's life ending before an emperor is found likely to happen also). This the choice that Taiki made, which proved correct due to the confluence of a lot of opportune factors coming together.

But yes, the Kirin's compassion might feel cruel and impersonal as they always look at the bigger picture of the kingdom they are born to
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
7/03/2023 5:22 AM   
Very interesting points, and I think you are mostly right, but I feel Imust defend poor Kourin.
It has been established by King En that kirin cannot disobey orders given to them by their ruler, bar the order to bow to someone else. (which Taiki broke in order to fool Asen, but this isn't important right now.)

Therefore, I think that you're wrong to compare Kourin's actions with each other: it is not that she could barely bring herself to stab Youko but in contrast to that had no problem sending her shirei after her, Kourin simply had no choice in the matter.because on both occasions she was ordered to so by the one person she couldn't disobey even if she wanted to.

Also, I think that your ending phrase about the kirin always looking at the bigger picture is incorrect, or at least inaccurate. Didn't Enki put En in danger by going with Kouya because a baby was threatened?

By the way, what kind of felonies did Keiki commit?
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
7/03/2023 6:30 AM   
Also, doesn't King En warn Youko that one of the challenges a king faces is learning when to listen to their kirin and when to ignore them, precisely because a kirin will choose compassion every time without considering the bigger picture and the hard decisions that must be done to keep the kingdom safe? If the kirin could see the big picture while retaining their supernatural compassion, I dare say they will make a better ruler than the one they chose.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
7/03/2023 7:14 AM   
Oh, sorry, accidentally thought the comment above me was part of the original text.