6-5 The news Risai had been waiting for so anxiously arrived the day they came back from Mt. Hou. Renrin rushed into Ransetsu Hall, threw off the Koseisan and called out, “Risai, he’s there!”
Risai froze with shock. Hearing this long-awaited news awakened in her more fear than joy, rooting her body to the spot.
“The shirei discovered Taiki. Gouran and Sanshi are definitely with him.”
Risai pressed her hand against her chest and groaned in relief. She raised her head. “How is he faring?”
“He appears to be unharmed. When I got there, he had already left. But I was able to follow his trail. He resides inside that building. I left shirei to watch, so we shouldn’t loose track of him again.”
Risai looked up at the heavens. Strangely, she felt expressions of thanks welling up inside her. Indeed, if Heaven existed, then Heaven must be imperfect. Heaven must make mistakes. But those mistakes too could be amended. A Heaven that could not err could never correct itself.
Hanrin asked, “What do we do next? Will Shouryuu go to see him?”
An emperor was not a magical being by nature, and could not pass through the Gogoukanda. Even though called a god, he remained in essence a man.
“No matter what path we choose, Taiki will be with him. The Gogou Gate will have to open.”
“That will produce a large shoku.”
“Unfortunately unavoidably,” Shouryuu mumbled mostly to himself. “We’ll use as many shirei as we can muster and try to limit the collateral damage as much as possible. Though there’s no way to say how much we can accomplish. At any rate, we’ve asked the Imperial Sou, and those three kingdoms will be sending us their shirei. We’ll multiply their forces as much as possible and do what we can.”
“And when?” asked the Imperial Han.
Shouryuu said shortly, “Tomorrow.”
Where the gate would open was carefully investigated. At the far reaches of the Kyokai would be best. As far away from dry land as possible. But even distance did not guarantee that the bad effects of the shoku could be avoided. Such was the nature of the beast.
Rokuta said, “In cases like this, we really do close our eyes and trust to fate.” He summoned his shirei. Kijuu could not cross the Kyokai. The shirei would bear Shouryuu.
“Rikaku, I entrust him to you.”
Accompanied by Hankyo, whom he’d borrowed from Keiki, the two fastest youma would travel half a day, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the land. The shirei would follow after them, traveling invisibly through the ley lines.
Rokuta saw them off from the balcony of Seikou Manor. He let out a long breath. He’d split up with Youko and Risai at Mt. Hou and returned directly to En. He’d put the paperwork in order as Gyokuyou had instructed. With the Imperial Seal in hand, he’d arrived back in Kei this morning. All the groundwork had been laid.
He was resting his chin against the handrail. He turned around to find Youko there behind him.
“I haven’t worked this hard for quite a while. You okay, Youko? Taking time away from your official duties?”
“At any rate, I’m not in much of a mood to work today. Koukan said I was there in body but not in spirit and kicked me out.”
“You don’t say?”
“Well, I did do the same thing to Keiki earlier.”
Rokuta laughed. “But of course. Keiki’s really got a soft spot for the kid. Carries on like he’s his little brother. He really took him under his wing.”
This news caught Youko off guard. “That’s a bit unusual, isn’t it?”
“Way unusual,” said Rokuta, and they both laughed.
That was about the time a flustered Hanrin came running up. Rokuta turned to her casually, but knew from one look at her face that something bad had happened.
“Renrin went to check on his condition. She says that Taiki doesn’t remember us at all.”
“Unbelievable,” Rokuta muttered, running back to Ransetsu Hall.
Renrin and Keiki looked at their wit’s end. Risai stood there like a ramrod.
“En Taiho, Taiki is—”
“You met with him? What do you mean, he can’t remember?”
Renrin shook her head. Her face was pale.
“Taiki is in that bad of a state?”
“He definitely is. But he is safe. By which I mean he is still alive. But he doesn’t remember anything about this world. Or what kind of being he is. What shirei are or what happened to him.”
“Damn,” Enki blurted out. “His horn. Does he still have a horn?”
“This may be because he doesn’t have a horn. What should we do next, En Taiho?”
“We’ll do whatever has to be done.”
Whether or not he still remembered, they couldn’t leave him there. In his current state, none of them knew how much longer he would last. To make matters worse, his shirei were still with him and they were almost out of control. If abandoned, sooner or later all hell would break loose. Nobody could begin to imagine what Toutetsu would do if no longer bound.
“Has word been relayed to Shouryuu?”
“I will,” said Hanrin. “The remaining shirei will track him down. Using the tonkou, they should overtake him quickly.”
“Good,” Enki said to himself. “In any case, Taiki must be returned to this world. He may not agree at first, but if force is required then force must be used. After that—who’s to say? Perhaps once his horn has healed, it will all come back to him.”
Enki turned to Risai. “Is that okay with you? Do you have any objections?”
“I concur,” Risai said, her face pale and drawn.