The Shore in Twilight

Chapter 29

4-6 As promised, Gyokuyou’s pronouncement came the next day at noon: “The kingdoms uniting to search for Taiki does not violate any of the precepts of Heaven.”

“So it’s all right, then?”

“However, no one not listed upon the Registry of Gods or Registry of Wizards at the rank of count or above may cross the Kyokai. This rule is inviolable.”

“As I suspected. But that does leave us short-handed. Although the rule of law is defined in the Divine Decrees, nothing there prohibits the creation of new ranks. Could new counts may be appointed for this purpose?”

“It does not. Rank equal to or exceeding that of count are, even from the perspective of Heaven, dispensational in nature, and are therefore accorded special rights and privileges. Those who may be so appointed are, according to established rule, the closest relatives of the emperor, the Chousai, and the members of the Sankou. All others should be thought of as unsuitable to receive such dispensations.”

Rokuta clucked his tongue. “How about borrowing some of the wizardesses?”

“I have been informed that that is not permissible. The wizardesses of Mt. Hou cannot leave here without my permission. In this instance, I cannot grant that permission. Sending them forth from here to China or Yamato would require opening the Gogou Gate and thus triggering a great number of shoku. The Kouka is currently growing on Mt. Hou. We cannot permit the possibility of a shoku spreading across Mt. Hou and sweeping away the Kouka. The wizardesses must protect the Kouka above all else.”

“Oh. Yes, indeed. A shoku.”

“This is not a divine precept but a personal request that I am making. I wish to keep the shoku to the bare minimum. Even if the Gogou Gate is opened on the other side of the Kyokai, there is no guessing how it might spread. Such is the nature of shoku. Thus I ask you to please act with all due restraint.”

“Will do,” said Rokuta, and Youko nodded.

Gyokuyou smiled. “However, a kingdom cannot be deprived of both its emperor and its province lords. According to the Divine Decrees, if there is no emperor, then all of the province lords are required to maintain a quorum. Even when there is an emperor, of the eight provinces aside from the capital, at least four or more must be present to constitute a quorum. This is one of the precepts of Heaven. Let me explain what I mean. Even temporarily, no more than four province lords can leave a kingdom at any one time.”

Rokuta gave Gyokuyou a hard look. “That’s the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. If that’s the case, it should be written down.”

Gyokuyou smiled nonchalantly in return. “If you’ve got a problem with that, tell it to Tentei.”

“This is why there’s no guestimating when it comes to the precepts of Heaven. Well, fine. Anything else?”

“Even given the consent of all the kingdoms, invading another kingdom under force of arms is prohibited. There are no exceptions. Without the acquiescence of the Imperial Tai, troops cannot be dispatched to Tai.”

“Understood. What about dispatching troops as observers only?”

“The precepts state that invasion is prohibited. But that does not mean that posting troops to another kingdom is prohibited in all cases. For example, when an emperor visits another kingdom, a contingent of soldiers will accompany him as bodyguards. No precept expressly prohibits this. Also, none prohibits the posting of a diplomatic staff consisting of nothing but military officers. In fact, this would seem to take place on a rather frequent basis. The problem is not with the entry of military officers into another kingdom, but under what pretext, and whether this could be construed as an invasion.”

“That’s splitting a lot of hairs.”

“In the case of Tai, the hairs get even finer. The question is what exactly would be construed as an invasion. For example, engaging in actions contrary to the national policy of that kingdom’s emperor. This Jun Tei did do. The Imperial Han was oppressing his people. Although contrary to the Way, it was the national policy of the then-rightful emperor of Han. Jun Tei sought to obstruct this policy. Thus his intervention was construed as an invasion. In the case of a vacated throne, the policy of the provisional court holds sway. In short, the policy of a provisional court is the national policy. However—”

“The Imperial Tai is not dead. The throne is not truly vacated.”

“Yes. But even in the case of a provisional court led by a pretender, interfering with the decisions of the court would constitute an invasion. Except that the rightful emperor is still in Tai. A pretender typically deceives the court and claims to be the rightful emperor. In the case of Tai, the acting head of state could not be rightly called a pretender. There is no precedent for this type of situation, so there’s some uncertainty as what he should be called.”

“So there’s a question whether Asen’s Imperial Court would be so deemed by Heaven—”

“That’s what it comes down to. This alone is without precedent. There are no established precepts governing it. Not even I could say how those dice would roll. But you would do well to bear in mind that national policy is not so much imperial policy as it is the policy of the current Imperial Court.”

“That does complicate things.”

“Battle lines are not allowed. Not a single square foot may be subtracted from a kingdom’s divinely-recognized land. The people of Tai or the emperor of Tai cannot allow the occupation of their inviolable lands by another kingdom. No matter what the reasoning, you must understand that as soon as battle lines are drawn and troops quartered, you are touching upon a sin of a most immediate nature.”


Enki posed two or three more questions, but it seemed to Youko more a matter of drawing bright lines around vague precepts. She was left with an uneasy feeling. Gyokuyou elucidated the Divine Decrees, taking precedence into consideration with her answers. In every case, it seemed that the precepts trumped all and the legalistic interpretation of the precepts trumped all.

Youko was left with the impression that Gyokuyou had somehow or another spent the previous night researching interpretations and precedents concerning the precepts. But exactly what were these precepts?

Since being brought to this world, she had pretty much accepted it as it was. A world where magical beings called youma rampaged about. A world where wizards performed miracles. A world filled with the strange and the fantastic. She accepted it all the same way a child accepts fairy tales at face value. Except this world was something quite different from such idyllic dream worlds.

Why youma existed—why emperors lived such long lives—why children were born from trees—how it was that the kirin went about choosing a ruler—everything that should be a complete mystery she’d come to treat as “normal.”

That was the kind of uncanny feeling she was stuck with. She couldn’t put it into words, and it stayed with her as they left Houro Palace. Climbing the white staircase to the top of the mountain, she struggled to articulate what she was feeling but remained at a loss.

“Did you understand what Genkun was telling us?” Rokuta asked. When Youko nodded he added, “I’m going on to Sou to fill them in. It was about time I dropped by and said hello, anyway. Why don’t you head back and wait for word from Shouryuu?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“Later,” Rokuta said with a casual wave. He climbed onto his suugu and flew away to the south and disappeared from view.

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