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Post Reply Kasyo no Yume (華胥の幽夢, the Dream of Kasyo
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I found these stories on this website:
http://mindstalk.net/jk/Books/animeObserver/toei/toei_menu.htm

I thought I would share them with you.


Kasyo no Yume (華胥の幽夢, the Dream of Kasyo

The Dreams of Kasyo -- Prosperity in Winter


~ Translator's Introduction~

The story is about Taiki (Kirin of Tai Kingdom) to pay any ambassadorial visit to Ren. For those who know the Juuni Kokki story arc at the Tai Kingdom, Taiki is a kirin who got swept to Japan by Shoku when he was young. Taiki was summoned back to the Juuni Kokki world by the Kirin of Ren. Therefore, this ambassadorial visit is mainly a gesture of gratitude to what the Kirin of Ren had done.

Why translate this? Because this is exactly where the anime has left off. Now that Taiki and the emperor of Tai is missing, the emperors in other kingdoms are trying to find Taiki back. Where has Taiki gone? You might discover something from this "last record of Taiki's public appearance."

You can also get accustomed to the top officials in the Tai government. One new character is introduced here also: the Emperor of Ren. He will play a big role in the story. See it yourself.

The story is within the latest book of Juuni Kokki, "Kasyo no Yume (華胥の幽夢, the Dream of Kasyo)." This book is a collection of short stories on different Juuni Kokki kingdoms. The book before it, "Tasogare no Kishi, Akatsuki no Sora (黄昏の岸 暁の天, the Shore at Dusk, the Sky at Dawn)," starts off at exactly where the anime has left off, about the search for Taiki.

So, in order not to spoil the appetite for all Taiki fans, Toei should serve as a light introduction, both in content and in ambience^^

No, Toei is not the Japanese movie company (that is 東映!!!)

No, Youko does not appear in the story. Sorry.

P.S. About the translation of the title "Toei"... It's not easy. "To" is winter, no dispute. However, "Ei" has two common meanings: (1) Prosperity (as in 繁栄); (2) Glory (as in 光栄). Both meanings work well in the title, but I incline to use "Prosperity," due to the context of the story. See for yourself, and refute if you think otherwise^^
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(I) Hakuyou 白陽 (White Sun)

As Taiki (泰麒) left the building, he noticed that the palace looked totally different.

Halting his footsteps at the corridor, Taiki blinked, and scanned the surroundings several times. The changes didn’t come from the buildings themselves. The palace wings that stood tall in a row, and the inner garden that extended out didn’t change. The white walls, the dark blue roof tiles, and the lower officials that shuttled underneath, all the scenes are just the same as before. -- Except that everything seemed to elude a faint glow from the inside now.

A soft light surrounded everything. As if covered by a silk gauze, the blue color of the rarely clear winter sky was tinged with white from the sun. Even the shadow at Taiki’s feet became the color of faded black ink. However, the surrounding scenery had become even brighter than that in the morning.

It wasn’t exactly fog. But this unknown something enveloped the surrounding. This something was indiscernibly fine, and contained a faint glow within it, Taiki believed.

“What happened?”

A voice came from behind. It was Seirai (正頼), who left the palace wing after Taiki.
Taiki turned back to Seirai, and showed to him the wide inner court without saying anything, as if he asked, “What is this?”

“Oh, how rare. Hakuyou! (白陽, lit. white sun)”

Seirai laughed while looking up at the sky. Seirai was assigned to Taiki as Fusyou (傅相), and was also the vice lord (令尹, [Saisyou]) of the province of Zui (瑞州), where the capital of Tai (戴国) was located. A Fusyou is often assigned to a young Saiho (宰輔) like Taiki for his upbringing. The Fusyou was always by the Saiho’s side, looking after everything from the trivialities of his personal life to administrative affairs, while being the teacher at the same time.

“Hakuyou?”
“It is how we describe this kind of weather. The lower world must be sunny.”

Taiki cocked his head.

“The clouds at the sea of clouds have broken up, and the snow from the lower world reflects the sunlight.”
“Wow...”

Taiki scanned again the surroundings that was enveloped by the white glow. It looks just like the sun shining through window binds, Taiki thought. At the far away homeland which is now “the other world”, if I wake up in the morning at the very best of weather, it will look just like this, Taiki remembered nostalgically.

“This won’t happen unless the clouds are all dispersed. That is why we must thank our lucky stars to witness such weather. This cannot be seen many times in a year. What a lucky day!”

“Do you think we can see the scenery of the lower world?”
“Why not go and take a look?”

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Taiki gave a big nod. The palace is at the middle of the sea, floating like an island. It is possible to see the scenery at the lower world through the crystal-clear sea of clouds that surrounds the palace. However, that becomes impossible after winter comes; the clouds below the sea of clouds block the view.

Seirai laughed and extended his hand. Taiki grabbed the warm hand and looked up at his Fusyou.
“If we don’t hurry, the clouds might appear again.”

Seirai smiled understandingly.
“Okay, why not take the shortcut?”

Taiki nodded with joy. Taiki loved the shortcut mentioned by his Fusyou. Using the small trails and paths that only the lower officials used, he could sometimes sneak pass closed palace wings or gardens of government offices. He was deeply interested by the rare discoveries that “such a place exists in the palace,” and he also enjoyed hiding in the shadow every time people came, so as not to surprise the lower officials.

This day, led by Seirai’s hand, Taiki took the shortcut, and tiptoed as he passed a corner of a government office. As they sneaked underneath the balcony of a tower and left the inner garden, they coincidentally bumped into several people that left a nearby building with their kijyuu (騎獣, lit. rides).

“--Taiho(台輔)”
Someone stopped their steps and spoke in surprise. Hiding in a hurry, Taiki and Seirai looked at each other in the shadows.

“Seems that we are caught.”
“Just walk out obediently. Seems that we cannot but get scolded.”

Laughing together, Taiki and Seirai showed themselves from the shrubs. At the stone steps right next to them, a few people with armor stood waiting for them. There were the imperial guard generals Gantyou (巌趙) and Asen (阿選), together with their kijyuu. The only armor-clad female among them was Risai (李斎), the army general at the province of Zui, with her kijyuu. Together with them was Senkaku (宣角) the Daishito (大司徒, Minister of State Affairs), which implies it should not be a military meeting. Then, at the back of the pack, there was the smiling master of Taiki. His grayish white hair and sapphire-like eyes exuded a remarkably unique glow.

“Taiho always appears and disappears mysteriously.”
Right in front of Taiki, Risai bent her knees and sent her greetings with a smile.
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“I am going to see the sea of clouds under such rare weather. Maybe I can see the scenery below... Can I pat Hien (飛燕)?”

“Sure, as you please.”
Risai answered in a friendly tone.
“However, Taiho... I am aware that you can see nothing in such weather even if you go to the sea of clouds.”

Taiki cocked his head as he stroked Hien’s fur.
“Aren’t there no clouds?”
“Yes. Therefore, the ground reflected all the light, and you cannot see anything.”

Surprised by Risai’s words, Taiki looked up to Seirai. He was looking somewhere nonexistent and stifling his mischievous laughs. Suddenly, Gantyou laughed, shaking his enormous body. The bighearted laughs suited his rock-like big body well.
“Got tricked by Seirai, right?”

Hien howled as if to comfort Taiki. Taiki stroked Hien’s neck as he drew a deep sigh.
“Seirai is so cruel. One time, I asked what a vice lord is, and he said it is something like a baby-sitter. I told Gyousou (驍宗), and got laughed at.”

“Well, Seirai must have been scolded by your majesty afterwards, so that would be a tie wouldn’t it?”

Asen said and laughed, and Taiki burst into laughter as well. Seirai also chuckled. Asen was originally an Imperial Army General, and the new emperor Gyousou was originally also an Imperial Army General, the two were in very friendly terms as colleagues. Risai also had befriended with Gyousou, and Gantyou and Seirai were originally Gyousou’s subordinates. An amicable atmosphere unique among close friends enveloped the people.

Seirai urged Taiki as he continued laughing.
“I will take my leave before I get scolded by your majesty again. It is a pity that we cannot see the scenery of the lower world, but we can see the spectacular rare sight of the sea or clouds gleaming.”

“Can I leave the Forbidden Gate and see the lower world?”

They had come all the way out from the inner palace. If they passed through the building Risai and others had gone out of, they would reach the Forbidden Gate. Seirai raised his eyebrows.

“The lower world is freezing cold. Taiho is still young, you will instantly get frozen from the inside out.”
“Just for a second.”
Taiki begged, and Gyousou -- the emperor of Tai Kingdom, the master of Taiki -- stepped up.

“I’ll take you there.”
Taiki felt delighted but a little guilty. The newly enthroned emperor must be so busy, he should have no free time to spare to play with Taiki.

“But... what about work?”
“Risai and others would like to return their kijyuus to the stable, wouldn’t they. I can spend this free time with you.”

Seeing his master smiling, Taiki broke into a smile as well. Gyousou is the one and only master, so Taiki was unconditionally happy just to be at his side. Taiki turned back to Seirai. “I’ll just wait here,” Seirai said as he smiled and watched Taiki fondly.

***
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“Sorry for stopping you from going back to your residence.”

I don’t mind at all, Gyousou turned back and said with a smile. The door that just swung open had a very large window behind it. Outside the window the sea of clouds stretched out far. To Taiki, who was born at the alternate world, the sight of a sea up in the sky was just impossible.

From the sea came the soft beating sounds of waves. The sea, which had been always grimy gray, became white today. The sea surface turned pearl white, and faint glowing could be observed, as if something got lit at the seabed.

Taiki gave a shout of joy and rushed to the side of the window. A heavy cotton robe was put on his shoulders.
“Put this on. It is really cold outside.”
“But, don’t you feel cold, Master Gyousou?”
“Why, this is nothing to me.”

Taiki felt a little guilty but much overjoyed by Gyousou’s thoughtfulness, and he nodded. He chased Gyousou, who had been walking towards the stairs before him, caught his feet at the long robe, and nearly tripped himself up. Seeing that, Gyousou pulled the robe together by the collars and lifted up Taiki with it.

“You are still so light.”
“I think it is because I am a Kirin (麒麟).”

Taiki was in fact not a human, but a beast called kirin. This shocked even Taiki when he knew of it. Therefore, his queer steel-colored hair is in fact not hair but his mane. Also, he is light, with his weight comparable to those beasts that can fly.

I see, Gyousou briefly replied. Carrying Taiki, Gyousou walked down the stairs at one corner of the hall they were in. The flock of stairs is definitely not short, but when they walked down, they traveled at ten times the speed. Places that are mysterious like this are everywhere in the palace. Taiki at first felt so strange that he couldn’t accommodate, but he gradually got used to all of those. Beasts flying in the sky, a sea floating in the sky, people having strangely-colored eyes and hair... This was such a mysterious realm.

At the bottom of the gentle and broad flock of stairs, there was a huge hall. At the hall’s front there was a gate. The door guards standing at two sides recognized Gyousou and Taiki, and opened the gate. Piercing wind and sharp rays of light surged through the crack of the doors.
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The Forbidden Gate opened at a high spot near the sea of clouds, at Mt. Ryouun(凌雲山)’s hillside. It stood deep within a huge cave. In front of the gate was a huge plaza that was surrounded at three sides by rocks, and extended to the edge of the only open side. Taiki slid off from Gyousou’s arm, held Gyousou’s hand tight and peeked out. Under them sprawled the snow-covered city of Kouki(鴻基, lit. Grand Base). The surrounding mountains stood tall, with razor-sharp edges covered by snow and glittering with white light. They made a sharp contrast in color with the blue sky.

“...Marvellous.”
As Taiki mumbled to himself, the warm air inside his throat clashed with the cold air outside. The stimulus made Taiki cough uncontrollably. His skin had turned numb with cold as he walked the short distance from the Forbidden Gate to the edge of the plaza. His eyes got smarted from the cold air. The dizziness from the bright light and the coldness of the surrounding air were just painful.

“This is really cold.”
The mouth turned stiff and couldn’t move at will. Gyousou nodded.
“Tai is the land at the furthest north. When winter comes, snow falls quickly and covers the whole city completely. This sunny weather lasts for very few days. We might not feel a bit of it at the palace high above the sky, but the people are all living in such bitterly cold weather.”

“Oh no...”
“If one loses his home, he will be frozen at once. The snow covers the wild, and the soil is so frozen that you cannot even dig grass roots. If the food stored in the fall runs out people can only starve, but the fall harvest totally depends on the weather. The preparation for winter means life and death to the people. --This is the kingdom of Tai.”

Taiki gazed at the city that was white and frozen as if lifeless.
“This piece of land might look flawlessly beautiful now, but it is mercilessly dreadful at the same time. --Never forget this.”
Yes, Taiki nodded. The ambience turned very serious.

Soon, Taiki was urged by the hand on his shoulder to return to the Forbidden Gate. But the ice-cold ambience didn’t change even after the cold wind was shunned from behind. In a short time, his hands and feet were freezing cold, and his fingers were in pain. But those alone could not explain the cold lumpy feeling in Taiki’s chest.

“Weren’t it cold?” Gyousou asked, and his voice turned into a brighter tone. “Well, would you like to go to somewhere warm?”
“Somewhere warm?” Taiki cocked his head.
“It is a warm place with flowers blossoming instead of snow falling,” Gyousou replied.
“But now it is winter, right?” Taiki doubted.
Gyousou bent down slightly, put his hand on Taiki’s shoulder, and smiled.
“I’d like to ask a favor of you, Kouri (蒿里, Taiki's given name from Gyousou).”
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Taiki cocked his head again. He didn’t know how “somewhere warm” and “the favor” are related.

“--I would like you to go to Ren(漣).”
“Ren... The Kingdom of Ren? The kingdom at the far south.”

Gyousou nodded.
“Kouri, at Mt. Hou(蓬山), you were indebted a lot to Ren Taiho(廉台輔). I would like to extend my gratitude. Also, I would like to inform them that due to Ren’s help, Tai finally got settled down. However, I have no free time.”

“But, why me?”
“In fact we should have sent ambassadors right after the coronation, but it was said that revolts had broken out in Ren earlier. At the time of coronation, the revolts had just got suppressed, but Ren should have been busy dealing with the aftermath, and we finally postponed the visit. Now, everything seemed to have settled down. Therefore, I would like you to visit the Emperor of Ren (廉王) in place of me.”

“I go... alone?”
Taiki started to mumble.

“Of course there would be someone with you. --It might be a heavy task, but can you do it for me?”

***
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Leaving Gyousou, Taiki trudged back to the inner garden where Seirai was waiting. Recognizing Taiki, Seirai approached him, and immediately cocked his head in suspicion.

“What happened?”
“I was sent to visit Ren.”

“Oh, the cat was finally let out of the bag.”
“You know of this already?”
“Your majesty has been discussing with us on whether this would be too big a mission for Taiho. I assured that in no doubt, Taiki can take on this mission successfully.”

Saying that, Seirai peered at Taiki’s face.
“--Do you dislike going to Ren, may I ask?”
“No.”

Taiki shook his head strongly. He didn’t dislike it at all, and he didn’t want to make the impression that he disliked it.

“Then are you unnerved?”
Taiki shook his head as he looked down.
“...That is not it.”

“That is a big responsibility, but Gyousou is not with you.”
Seirai was originally a subordinate at Gyousou’s army, so from time to time he could skip the honorific “your majesty.”

“... Rei is very far away, so it should take some time to make the round trip, shouldn’t it?”

“Yeah. Even if you use kijyuu and take shortcuts, it would take around half a month for one way. Even if you hurry through the trip, you probably would still miss the New Year ceremony.”

“Is it alright that I am not present?”

“In fact, the emperor and the kirin should both be here for the ceremony. However, even your majesty believes that this is exactly the right timing for you to be the ambassador. Around this time in preparation for the New Year ceremony, there would in fact be fewer important matters to deal with. --Also, if you don’t go at this time, the other side will also be troubled.”
“Yeah, I guess...”

“Maybe you feel lonely without Gyousou at your side?”
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Taiki looked up at Seirai, and Seirai nodded understandingly.
“Gyousou is busy these days, that’s why.”

In fact, Gyousou was at that time busy to the point of confusion. He had been busy before the Winter Solstice Ceremony, and the situation didn’t improve even after the ceremony. After Seirai became Fusyou, they had no time together for administrative work in the afternoon. They didn’t often eat together, and they barely had the time to exchange words before or after administrative meetings.

“You two don’t even have the free time to chat in leisure. Now that my dear sir is being sent to such a long trip, my dear sir is feeling helpless, am I right?”
“Yeah...”

Taiki knew full well how busy Gyousou was. However, Taiki also felt unsettled. Did I do anything that annoyed him? Back at the time when Taiki was at his homeland, he had always been thinking in this pattern.

Taiki was a child who always failed to fulfill others’ anticipation. He knew that the people surrounding him was anticipating, but he didn’t know what they exactly wanted him to do. Everything he did that he thought was right turned out to disappoint his family. Everything will never go well with my presence, Taiki always thought of himself, and his thought hadn’t changed a bit.

“Do you think I am an annoyance here? That is why I got sent to Ren, right?”
How can that be, Seirai said as he broke into a smile.

“Wow were you so disheartened? --You know that this can’t be true, don’t you. You are the one and only one Taiho!”
“Because I am a Kirin?”
“Yes, exactly.”
“But...”

Taiki's voice trailed off. Seirai tilted his head and waited for the words that followed, but in the end, Taiki shut his mouth and shook his head. Seirai gave a gentle bitter smile.

“So you are feeling so helpess, my dear sir? Rather, I think you will definitely try your best and succeed in the end! If so, there might be good things happening to you.”
“Good things?”

Yes, Seirai said laughingly and raised his hand.
“It is a secret.”
“Hey!”

Without second thought, Taiki tucked Seirai’s sleeve.
“--Come on, Seirai.”
“No, no. Taiho is so good at coaxing that I feel so compelled to tell you a bit of it. However, if I tell you, Gyousou would definitely scold me to death.”

***
END

(The translations had been done one page at a time, thats how I sared the. One page per post.)
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(II) Syusshi 出使 (Ambassadorship)

After that, the Kokufus (国府) between Tai and Ren discussed arrangements frequently, and settled on the schedule and the ambassador party.

Taiki is the chief ambassador, followed by Seirai the Fusyou and Tansui (潭翠), Taiki’s bodyguard. The vice ambassadors of the party includes Sougen (霜元), the general of Zui Province’s left army, and Asen (阿選), the general of the Imperial Guard’s right army. The four follows each brought along with them a subordinate, making the party be of nine perople. They intentionally didn’t raise the Imperial messenger flag, and set off for Ren in ordinary clothes. Even though the ambassadorial trip was described as official, in the end it was apparently a trip in which Taiki himself send people to the Emperor of Ren personally.

The Kingdom of Ren is at the southwest of this world, and is separated from the mainland by the Empty Sea (虚海, Koukai), like the Kingdom of Tai. It is the furthest kingdom to Tai. In fact, Tai and Ren have no relations whatsoever. Up till then, the two kingdoms had no diplomatic relations. To put it bluntly, the two kingdoms have no necessity to build relations. It is only that Taiki had once been indebted to Renrin (廉麟, aka Ren Taiho), the kirin of Ren. Taiki was once drifted to the alternate world, and Renrin was the one who summom Taiki from his “homeland” back to this world.

“What do you think Ren Taiho would be like?”

Taiki asked Seirai immediately after they left Kouki. The party used kijyuus to go to Ren, but of course Taiki couldn’t ride a kijyuu. Therefore, he sat comfortably in a cage-like carriage, which was carried on the back by two cattle-like kijyuus. Seirai served byTaiki's side.

“Oh my,” Seirai said surprisingly, “Taiho didn’t know about her as well?”

“No. I haven’t met her before. Well, I have seen her face, but I was just brought to this world at that time, and I was so afraid that I didn’t remember her face well.”

Taiki confessed a little sheepishly.
“In fact, I cried. I don’t know why, but I cried. I fell into sleep while crying, and when I woke up, Ren Taiho had already returned to Ren.”

“Oh, is that it... I don’t know Ren Taiho myself. In the Kingdom of Tai, there should be no one who knows who the emperor or the kirin of Ren are.”

“There are only twelve emperors and twelve kirins, so it would be great if we can become friends.”
Taiki said, and Seirai broke into a smile.

“Yes indeed... However, Taiho will sooner or later knows why they cannot be friends that easily.”

Taiki, upon hearing that, stared blankly at Seirai. However, he later definitely learnt of the reason.
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The distance is just too long for frequent contacts.

Even using fast-running kijyuus, it took one night and day to just get out of Tai (戴). Then, one night and day was required to cross the sea. After that, starting from a harbor city in the Kingdom of Ryuu (柳), they traveled along the coastline of the Empty Sea (虚海, Kyokai) and reached the Kingdom of Kyou (恭). After travelling south along the coastline of the Kingdom of Han (範), they again crossed the sea, and finally saw Ren (漣)’s coastline. The whole journey took them half a month by air.

“... I know full well now.”
Taiki murmured as they landed at Jyuurei (重嶺, lit, layers of mountains), the capital of Ren. Seirai tilted his head.
“We can’t possibly make friends! This is so far away, if we come here to play and then return, we will not have any time to do anything else!”

You got it, Seirai said with a laugh.
“It is really a long journey, isn’t it? Are you tired?”

Taiki and others got off from their kijyuus at a vacant plot within the bounds of Jyuurei.
The city of Jyuurei before them was decorated with gorgeous decorations in preparation for the coming new year.

“Not at all. We had only flown for half a day today.”
“Oh really,” Seirai gave a sigh as if he was disheartened. “Thanks to such great perseverance of Taiho, this old man feels very bored.”

Taiki lifted his head and gave a blank stare to Seirai.
“Seirai, you are bored?”

“Of course! It is my job to grab a naughty kid by the neck and keep nagging him. To this old man, there would be no fun in life unless he sometimes plays a big trick, and hit that revered ass hard.”
Seirai mischievously made a grimace, and Taiki chuckled.
“I will try.”
“That I will be most grateful.”

As Seirai laughed, the huge Gate of Gomon (午門) by their side opened, and two lower officers who were earlier sent to station immediately at Jyuurei got out. Another two officers had gone first to the hotel, and arrange the ambassador party’s stay for the day.

“Ah, here they come to receive us. --I sure hope that today’s hotel would be comfortable.”

***
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Jyuurei was unbelievably warm. Everyone feels the gradual heat as they moved from Ryuu to Kyou, then to Han. In the winters of Tai, coats that were stuffed with feathers and lined inside with wool were indispensable. However, when the ambassador party entered southern Han, everyone finally took off their coats.

It was so hot that Seirai, who had been wearing his formal clothes ever since he left Kakkei Palace(白圭宮), looked as if he had already got sick and tired of the heat when he entered the hotel.

“... This is so hot.”
Taiki commented to Seirai, who walked out of the bedroom. Seirai sighed embarrassingly.

“I heard that Rei is warm, but I don’t expect it to be so warm. This is exactly like spring or fall in Tai.”
“I agree.”

“Anyway, this is Tai’s formal clothes at this time of the year, so we can do nothing about it. I will pay a visit to Kokufu(国府), to exchange greetings and inform them that we have arrived.”

“Don’t I need to come as well?”
“This is just our greeting at arrival. Taiho should now take your time to cool yourself, as you need to put on your formal wear when it is time for you to pay a visit. I will be back at around sunset, I guess.”

“Then, before you return, I guess I will play a lot of pranks.”
Taiki said, and Seirai laughed out loud.
“That is good. Make Tansui and others mad.”

Seirai replied, and turned his glance to the bodyguard who was standing at a nearby corner as if he were a shadow. Tansui, as usual, didn’t talk back to Seirai’s joke, but only remained silent and gave a quick bitter smile.

“Keep this a secret from Tansui, but I have always wanted to see Tansui’s face turn pale, just for once.”

“I will do pranks that makes Tansui’s hair stand!”
“Try your best! Then this old man will just tie you up at a tree in the garden as soon as he come back.”

***
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After Seirai left, Sougen and Asen visited Taiki’s room with their casual travel wear taken off. ogether with them were their subordinates, who also put on their formal wear.

“You must be tired, my dear sir.”

Sogen was the one who spoke. Sougen was originally the commander of the Gyousou army, and was now the General of the Left Army, the main troop in the Province of Zui. Though not huge in physique like Gantyou of the Left Imperial Army, he is tall and masculine, with a somehow courteous, composed ambience. Every time Taiki met Sougen, he thought of the term “knight” in those stories he had read in his homeland.

“Not really... Rather than that, look!”
Taiki stood by the windowsill and showed the garden outside. The two generals happily approached the windowsill and looked at the direction Taiki showed them.
“There are flowers in the garden!”

Gyousou had said that “it is a warm place with flowers blossoming,” but Taiki never expected that there exists a country where you can see flowers immediately in front of you at this season. Nowhere could snow be found. One don’t feel cold even when he leans by the windowsill like that. If it were in Tai, cold wind and wind blowing through door gaps surely would make one shudder.

Sougen narrowed his eyes as he looked outside.
“What spectacularly flowery scenary! All flowers bloom all the way from here. It is just unimaginable that there is a country free from snow this time around.”

Me neither, Taiki said as he stood chins in hand by the windowsill.

“Tai is spotlessly white everywhere, so I thought that it would be the same everywhere on this side.”
“This side?”

“Yeah. At my home in Hourai, snow only comes occasionally. It is quite common to have no snow at all. Of course it is also not that warm there. However, Tai is always like how it is now, isn't it? So, I thought every country on this side is like Tai. You know, this is my first winter on this side. However, I know now that only Tai is that cold.”

You are right, Sougen said and nodded seriously.
“It comes to me again that this world is very big.”
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“The fields outside have not been harvested…”
“It seems that in the southern kingdoms, the fields don’t need to rest even in winter.”
This time, it was Asen who spoke.
“I heard that they plant crops other than wheat and rice.”

Really, Taiki blinked.
“So, plants can grow even in winter, right? So, people can go to the fields outside to pick vegetables even in the midst of winter?”
“It seems so.”

“It would be great if Tai can be so as well.”
Taiki gave a sigh, and the two generals agreed with deep emotions.
“Kids can run around outside, can’t they? Maybe they can even leave their poultry outside.”

How do those in warm kingdoms like this live their lives? Taiki stared outside the window to see whether he can get a glimpse of their lives, and Asen spoke.

“Then, how about a little walk outside? If you are not tired at all, let me be your company.”
“Can I? Really?”
Taiki hopped and jumped around, and Asen nodded with a smile.

It was said that at the previous emperor’s reign, Asen and Gyousou, who were both the generals of the Imperial Army, were dubbed the Two Pillars of Tai. Asen was courageous, mastered martial arts, and enjoyed extreme popularity. In most cases, he possessed the same image as Gyousou. However, sometimes Gyousou was more frightening. Gyousou eluded the overwhelming awe of an emperor that could take one’s breath away, but not Asen. Therefore, Taiki never feel timid in front of Asen.

Taiki looked at Sougen with anticipation. Sougen sank into thought whether he should agree or not, but Asen butted in.
“It is not bad to see around Jyuurei, isn’t it? I believe it is for Taiho’s good to let him boarden his horizon.”

Sougen nodded in agreement.
“Nothing should go wrong if Tansui and we are around.”

***
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Jyuurei (重嶺), like Kouki (鴻基), sprawled from the foot of Mt. Ryou-un (凌雲山, the tall mountain in every kingdom where the palace is located). It was mid-winter, but people were everywhere, and the whole city was enveloped by free ambience. How strange, Taiki thought.

That was so different from Kouki. Houses in Kouki were covered by snow, and people lived on with the warmth kept within the thick walls. The outside was covered with only snow, and people could not leave livestock outside, let alone anticipating any fruits. No one would be willing to get out unless strictly necessary. Even when they did, they wore wadded kimono, pulled up their collars, covered their heads with cloth or fur, and shrugged their shoulders as they hurried forward. It was just like they were using all their efforts to stuff everything inside themselves. -- This was the kingdom of Tai (戴).

Ren (漣) was the opposite. Even in the midst of winter, many things threw themselves open, Taiki mused. One could see the interior of buildings through their open windows, and a great number of citizens buzzed among shops with wide open doors. People stood in the streets talking, childrens ran around playing, and livestock wandered around resting farmlands, eating withering grass that grew everywhere on the ground.

“What a sight…”
Taiki murmured under his breath. “Yes, definitely,” Asen replied with a slightly bitter smile.
“Tai’s people would be leading a totally different life if Tai’s winter could be half as mild as this.”

Very true, Taiki thought. The kingdom didn’t look affluent; Kyou (恭) and Han (範) were much richer. Nevertheless, everyone in the city looked somehow very relaxed. Ren should still be in civil war not so long ago, but no tension could be sensed anywhere in the country. Tai was nothing like that. Even in cities like Kouki there were people who died from starvation. Some towns had their residents died because of depletion of resources. Other residents abandoned the towns, lined up and trudged their way across deep snow to nearby towns, knowing full well the dangers that lay ahead.

The harvest from the lands were basically enough for the people to live, and abundance was in the form of precious stones, gold or silver. Such abundance was scraped up completely by the previous emperor, and the people of Tai had long been tolerating their meager lives. Even now, after the new king was enthroned, there were not much improvements.

“It would be great if God could make Tai warmer.”
Taiki said, and Sougen gave a smile.

“Tentei (天帝, i.e. God) instead granted Tai a new emperor.”
Yes, Sougen trailed off his voice, and lowered his glance.
“A good emperor joins hands with the people and the country, and they overcome any ordeals together. There is no heavenly gift bigger than that, isn't there?”
“…Yeah.”

“Is anything bothering you?”
No, Taiki only shook his head, unable to give a answer. Escaping the shocked gaze of Sougen, Taiki turned his glance to the boundless green, where people were working relaxingly with hoes and plows.

***
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