Poseidon of the East

Chapter 34

5-3 The remaining members of Kiwa’s company left with Kinhaku and the goushi. Gankyuu and Rikou stayed behind. They slept resting against their kijuu—that had swapped owners—awoke at daybreak and made breakfast.

“Shushou doesn’t have food or water. Would there be a watering hole around these parts?”

“If you dug a well, I suppose.”

Rikou scanned the environment around them. “Considering the extent of yesterday’s search, there’s certainly nothing on that slope below the cliff.”

Gankyuu cast him a puzzled look. “You are—how should I put this—an odd duck.”


“Yes, you. Who are you exactly? I never have gotten a satisfactory answer to that question.”

“A simple traveler.”

p. 309

Gankyuu smirked. “What I thought you’d say. And why is a simple traveler so intent on finding Shushou?”

“What? You’d leave her behind?”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“You’re a hard man, Gankyuu. But despite everything, right up to today, you’ve stuck with the caravan.”

Despite everything, Gankyuu echoed to himself.

“When Shushou fired you, weren’t you going to take off on your own and go hunting? Why are you still sticking around? The bellyaching notwithstanding, I think the girl’s grown on you.”

“Hardly the case,” Gankyuu muttered. “I’ve got reasons of my own. When it comes to hunting, some place are better than others. Sticking around for the time being is simply more convenient.”

“Is it? Well, I’ve got reasons of my own too.”

Gankyuu said with a mighty sigh, “Listen, Rikou—”

p. 310

Rikou grinned back at him. “That’s crafty of you, Gankyuu, keeping your own true intentions close to the vest while conniving others to open up about theirs. Though if that’s your strategy, you need to work on it.”

“That’s for sure,” Gankyuu said with another sigh. “It’s not like I care all that much about your true intentions. But—”


“I don’t get you. Nothing you do makes a particle of sense.”

“I’ll grant you that. It probably doesn’t.”

“Now and then you come across as a perfect scoundrel.”

“That’s fine by me.”

Confronted by Rikou’s bright, smiling face, Gankyuu held his head in his hands in mock anguish. “You’re the one who took a shine to Shushou and came all the way to the Yellow Sea. And yet, when Shushou ran off with Kiwa, you just let her go. That makes the two of you anything but a pair. You said you held your life too dear. I get that. Then why put your life at risk to go searching for her?”

“Where’s the risk? Shushou hunted down the shuen.” Rikou chuckled. “That girl is something else.”

p. 311

“With the shuen gone, more youma will be coming to fill the void. If you really valued your life, you wouldn’t be wandering around here. You’d be hitching a ride with Chodai to Mt. Hou. Instead, you left the caravan and even swapped your suugu to go look for her. If she’s worth searching for, why not go with Kiwa in the first place?”

“That’s a problem of a different sort.” Rikou smiled. An amiable smile, to be sure, though Gankyuu was beginning to think it belonged more on the face of a scoundrel.

“I met Shushou in Kyou. The fancy struck me so I helped her out. When I heard she was going to Mt. Hou, I somehow knew that if she made it to Mt. Hou, she would become empress. Perhaps the youngest in recorded history. Like I said, that’s why I came.”

“To see Shushou become empress?”

“Well, that’s the boring way of putting it. To tell the truth, before Shushou was chosen, I was curious to see the Yellow Sea for myself and learn what kind of journey the Shouzan was.”

“So that’s what it comes down to,” Gankyuu said with a sardonic smile.

p. 312

Rikou laughed aloud. “Sorry, Gankyuu. Whatever you’re thinking right now is probably wrong. I’m not a man motivated by such simple self-interests.”

“Sure, sure. You’ve got reasons of your own.”

“That is correct. I’ve got plenty of ulterior motives up my sleeve. As you said yourself, I’m a man who deals freely with suugu. I do not need an audience with an empress to raise my status or expand my wealth.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“But I did wish an audience with Shushou.”

“Why’s that?”

“Haven’t I explained myself already? It wasn’t my specific help that was critical in this equation. It was that she specifically happened to meet me. And because I was the one she happened to meet, rather than parting ways, I thought it’d be more interesting to forge a friendship out of that happenstance. That’s what it comes down to.”

“An explanation as clear as mud.”

Rikou only grinned. “Sure. That’s what I mean by having reasons of my own. But if Shushou doesn’t become empress, my actions in that regard would be rendered meaningless. Whether to continue on with the koushu or join Kiwa seems to have become a turning point as to whether Shushou will ascend the throne.”

p. 313

“If she isn’t chosen, it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other to her.”

“Like I’ve been saying, you’ve got that backwards. If she isn’t chosen, then it has no meaning to me. I came to the Yellow Sea with a set of expectations concerning Shushou. Her ascending the throne will impart substance to those expectations. If she doesn’t, it reduces them to a flight of fancy. I’m not about to lose my life to a flight of fancy.”

“Now that makes sense.”

“But I still don’t think you get it. I’m speaking of duties particular to me alone. Like goushi charged with protecting those going on the Shouzan. The kind of thing that can’t be cast aside on a whim. It is in the nature of such things that, once you have taken them on, the burden must be borne, no matter what. Don’t you agree?”


“So if Shushou does not become empress, my own safety takes priority over hers. But if she does, then a slightly elevated risk is worth it.”

“Nope, that doesn’t make sense.”

“I guess not,” Rikou laughed. “Shushou stupidly quarreled with you and ran away with Kiwa.”

p. 314

“That was so stupid?”

“Idiotic! If Shushou is destined to be empress, then picking a fight with a shushi would be the last thing she should do. The safety of the liege takes precedence over his vassals.”

“You do like to blather on.”

“It’s the logic of the world that we wish to be ruled by a sovereign. You may see Kiwa as a cold man for abandoning his retinue. But if he becomes emperor, then such means will have been necessary to the ends. Because the life of even a hundred of his subjects does not compare to that of the emperor, not when the fate of three million rests upon his shoulders.”

“However true, it’s still pretty loathsome logic.”

“Is it? Does it not fall into the same category as the goushi and their employers? The goushi is willing to sacrifice others in order to preserve the life of his master. A world that requires each kingdom to have a master follows the same reasoning. Kyou has no master. If sacrificing a few hundred here saves the lives of tens of thousands later on, then so be it.”

“It doesn’t make the reasoning any less rancid,” Gankyuu spat out.

“I’m not saying it isn’t. That’s the reasoning of a world in want of an emperor. And that’s the reasoning a ruler in such a world must overcome.”

p. 315


Rikou said with a wry grin, “It is the reasoning of the vassals who serve the liege. He who sits upon the throne is not a vassal. The emperor makes the throne, not the other way around. The court jester remains the court jester no matter where he sits in the palace. And so it follows that the emperor must transcend the logic of his subjects.

Gankyuu pressed his hands against his temples. “I didn’t follow that at all. But—”


“But I think I understand why you’d go looking for Shushou after she left with Kiwa and apparently survived. The ordinary goushi took the detour. Anyone who didn’t was a fool. But a goushi who didn’t take the detour—who stood by his master while hunting down the youma and securing the safety of the route for the rest—such a goushi would be exemplary.”

“Ah, what a splendid hypothetical.”

“Which is why you didn’t grab Shushou as soon as she left. You wanted to put her to the test. You wanted to see if she was indeed a worthy vessel.

p. 316

Rikou laughed. “I do love a good experiment.”

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