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Post Reply Kasyo no Yume (華胥の幽夢, the Dream of Kasyo
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After Asen and others returned to the hotel, Seirai returned briefly, and left the bedroom again to prepare for tomorrow. Even till everyone had left, a thought still whirled around Taiki’s head.

--Only if Tai were like this.
Only if Tai could be as affluent as Kyou or Han.
Only if Tai could be as mild in climate as Ren.

Ever since his visit to the Forbidden Gate with Gyousou, a cold lump formed in Taiki’s chest. There were people who lived in such cold climate. According to the officials' reports, the people were not living well. Hearing that people were frozen to death and starved to death made Taiki feel colder and colder.

(Many people are troubled.)

In that brutally white scenary.

However, Taiki could not do a thing.

Taiki is a kirin (麒麟). It was said that he is created by the heavens and granted to the people. He knows the heaven’s will, and obeys the heaven’s order. He is the child of Tentei, the representative of the heavens. However, Taiki possesses no power to save the people. He cannot change the climate, let alone create any miracles.

Kirins choose emperors -- but that’s all of it. In this way, Gyousou was selected by Taiki to become the new emperor. That alone had used up all the miraculous power he had, Taiki felt.

(There is no power whatsoever left within him.)

There was nothing left that Taiki ought to do. In theory, Taiki should also have administrative work to do as Saiho (宰輔, official title for Taiho) and as a provincial lord. However, Taiki was not old enough to handle the jobs. In fact, all the real work was taken over by Seirai and Gyousou, and Taiki only needed to nod to whatever was told to him. Of course, everything that couldn’t be solved just by explaining to Taiki would be shouldered by Seirai as extra work.

Taiki knew the great hopes that everyone heaped on him. Taiki could tell by Seirai, Asen and the other adults’ actions. Those wonderful adults treated Taiki, who was just a kid, with absolute respect. Seirai told Taiki that was the courtesy the adults showed to “the one and only one.”

However, what is “the one and only one” thing within Taiki? Maybe it had existed once before. However, in the future, what if Gyousou lost his way like the previous emperor and abdicated? When a new emperor was needed, Taiki might not be “the one and only one” anymore. However, Taiki was now nothing but a kid who was about to turn eleven. There was nothing he could do, nothing he could understand. He was just a burden to the people around him.

That was where Taiki’s uneasiness stemmed from.

He knew people were anticipating, but he didn’t know what he should do. He could do nothing but watch. He couldn’t but feel that he was either of no use or a nuisance to others.

Are you thinking of me as so? Isn’t it normal that you think so? Seirai? -- Gyousou?

***
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(III) Koukashou 紅嘉祥 (Granted Crimson Fortune)

The next day at dawn, Taiki changed to formal clothes, and entered the Gate of Koumon (皋門), the entrance to the palace located at the north of Jyuurei (重嶺). The palace is called Urou Palace (雨潦宮, lit. Showering Rain), and it is the residence of Ren-ou (廉王), the Emperor of Ren.

The receptionists (大行人, daikoujin) that came to meet the ambassador party led the whole party through the Five Gates one by one. Every time they passed through a gate, they walked through a staircase tunnel that penetrates the inner of Mt. Jyuurei (重嶺山). They climbed up the third, the fifth and the seventh tunnel within the huge mountain that cuts in the sea of clouds. After climbing up the last tunnel, they passed the Gate of Roumon (路門), and reached the peak that rose from the sea of clouds like an island. There stood the Imperial Hall (燕朝, Entyou), and the design of Urou Palace is basically of no difference to Hakkei Palace’s.

Above the sea of clouds, it was even warmer than the world below. Mt. Jyuurei has a less rolling terrain than Mt. Kouki (鴻基山), with a gently-sloped, wide peak. The palace buildings that loosely sprinkled on the peak were bigger than Hakkei Palace’s. Even though it was winter at that time, the palace was covered by lush green. Upon seeing this scenary, Taiki felt nostalgia welling up in his chest.

In the palace that spreads itself on the thick lush green turf, buildings have many openings, and corridors and summerhouses mostly have no walls. The palace harmoniously mixed with the surrounding green, and Taiki was reminded of the scenary of Mt. Hou (蓬山), the mountain he had once briefly lived in.

Taiki and others left the Gate of Roumon, and was immediately led to the nearby Outer Hall. Cool wind circulated in the wide Main Hall, and at the middle of the hall stood the throne. However, no one was sitting on it.

Seeing the empty throne, Taiki was shocked, and Seirai and others were confused, but it was the Ren officials that led the party to the Main Hall who took the biggest shock. They looked confusedly at one another, and looked flustered around the huge Main Hall. Finally, one officer rushed into the empty hall from the side. He whispered something to the receptionist. The receptionist looked surprised, and pressed more questions onto the officer. In the end, the receptionist kneeled in front of Taiki, with confusion written all over his face.

“We are sincerely sorry for the discourtesy before. Please do not get offended. We are deeply afraid of being discourteous, but... please get inside.”

“Inside?”
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Seirai said while staring to Asen and Sougen. Normally, the Guest Hall (掌客殿Soukaku Den) which receives foreign guests was located at the west of the Outer Hall. To go inner still means to enter the Inner Hall. Aside very close friends, even foreign emperors can in no occasion step inside easily.

“Yes. We are told to lead you to the emperor’s residence.”
The receptionist answered with confused expression and sweat drops on his forehead.

Carriages were prepared hurriedly. Taiki and others had no choice but to silently ride on the carriages, pass through walls in the palace, and enter the Inner Hall. Moving deeper and deeper into the Inner Hall, they saw two layers of walls that were even taller and sturdier than what they had seen at the beginning.

“Hey, Seirai,”
Taiki whispered secretly to his Fusyou sitting beside him in the carriage.
“...Yes?”

“That building that we saw earlier, isn’t it Jinjyuu Hall (仁重殿)?”
Yes, Seirai nodded confusedly.
“...I thought so from the very beginning, in fact.”
“If that is Jinjyuu Hall, then this must be Roushin (路寝), right?”
“Yes... This would be it.”

“Entering the gate at the innermost of Roushin, we would enter the Back Palace (後宮, koukyuu), wouldn’t we?”
“Yes... That should be so... shouldn’t it?”

Seirai’s face twitched as he spoke. Profuse sweat formed on his forehead, and it seemed not to be solely due to the temperature.

For the palace that stands on top of the sea of clouds, its innermost is called the Imperial Wing (燕朝, Entyou), and that is separated into a number of blocks by folds of walls and gates. The innermost of all is the North Palace (北宮, Hoku-guu) where the empress lived, with Soushin (小寝) on the side, and the whole block was called the Back Palace (後宮, koukyuu).

At the east of the Back Palace stands the block of East Palace (東宮, Tou-guu), which consists of palaces like Tyoumei Palace (長明宮) and Kaei Palace (嘉永宮), where the direct relatives of the emperor live.

At the west of the Back Place is the block of West Palace (西宮, Sei-guu). Buildings in the West Palace include Godou Palace (梧桐宮), where the five mystic birds such as the phoenix (鳳凰, Hou-ou) and the Hakuchi (白雉, lit. white bird) are kept. The Grand Shrine (太廟, Tai-byou) is where the emperor worships. Fukujyu Hall (福寿殿) is where the Roboku (路木), the tree to which people prayed for children or fruits, is located.

Back Palace, East Palace and West Palace are collectively called En-shin (燕寝). As Back Palace is the center of En-shin, En-shin is sometimes refered to as Back Palace. However, now at Hakkei Palace of Tai, all palaces were closed except West Palace. Even when all palaces are open, even Saihou cannot enter palaces except West Palace as he pleases. Even Taiki knows this.

Nevertheless, the receptionist stopped in front of the gate that undoubtedly leads to Back Palace. He asked the ambassador group to get off the carriages, and kowtowed before them.

“Well... We are terribly afraid of being discourteous, but please move inside. We cannot enter from here onwards.”

“Well, but...” Seirai said in confusion, but the receptionist interrupted.
“It is commanded to invite all of you. There should be doormen at the gates to introduce you to the emperor. So, please.”

“So only we enter?”
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We are sincerely sorry, the receptionist dropped his head really low. His already-red forehead was sweating profusely like a waterfall. Taiki, sensing that the receptionist was really suffering, urged Seirai and others.

“We were invited with open arms, don’t you agree?”
“Yes, but...”
Seirai peeked inside and outside the gate. “Then,” it was Asen who spoke up quietly.
“Leaving the subordinates here would be a good idea. It would be rude for us to bring them along.”

The Back Palace was quiet and deserted. No officer came forward to receive, and even when the ambassador party walked straight across the stone pavement and reached a gate at the inner side, there was no sight of any officers anywhere. The doormen who should be guarding the gate were also absent. As far as they could look, there was no sight of any people to introduce them to the emperor.

“No one is here...”
Taiki peered into the ajar gate. Behind the lush green front yard stood the buildings of Syuushin (小寝), but there was not even the trace of any person.

“What shall we do?”
Taiki turned back to the adults around, but they seemed to be the ones really at a loss.

“Seirai?”
“Even... if you asked me what to do...”
“I have never entered the Back Palace. Have you?”
“Well, if you count just entering, I have entered several times. Even though the Back Palace of Hakkei Palace was closed, I was there sometimes, but that was when the Back Palace was really empty... and that was no Back Palace of another kingdom...”

Sougen and Asen showed the same perplexed expression, not to mention the subordinates.
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Taiki tentatively stepped through the gate. Looking around but finding nobody in sight, Taiki could not but cross the front yard, and went to the next building for a look.

“Taiho”

Climbing up the foundation, Taiki peered into the inside of the building and the middle garden deep inside, and quietly spoke. “Sorry for intruding.”

“Ta...Taiho!”

Taiki turned around.
“But there are nobody around. We can do nothing but try calling for attention, right?”
“But...”
“Sorry, anybody home? Sorry for intruding.”

Seirai and others stared with widened eyes at the unexpectedly bold kirin. But that is not anything strange; Taiki was just using his habits when he visited people’s homes in his homeland.

“There seems to be nobody around. What shall we do?”
“Even if you ask me...”
“Shall me be rude and walk all the way to the garden?”
“That is a little too...”
“But we cannot just leave like this, can we?”
“No, I guess, but...”
“It would be okay as long as we don’t enter the rooms, I guess. I’ll go then."

But that’s..., Seirai muttered, and suddenly tightened his fist into a ball.
“I will accompany you. --Sougen and others, please wait here.”

“But...”
“Above all, Taiki is the kirin of a kingdom, so they cannot put harsh punishment on him I believe. I am prepared.”

Me too, Tansui said, but Seirai stopped him.
“The gates are open like this, so there shouldn’t be any danger. Also, Taiho has his Shirei (使令). So I am going with Taiho.”

***
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Taiki, hand in hand with Seirai, went inside to take a look. Crossing the middle garden, they saw a shrine, but there was nobody inside as well. However, it didn’t seem deserted; it was neatly cleaned, and brand-new incense and flowers were offered on the altar where the ancestry was worshipped.

Taiki, with no particular reason, headed west and walked towards the North Palace. He crossed the corridor, went into another middle garden, looked around, and stopped his tracks as he entered the garden of the North Palace.
Taiki looked at what was in front of him blankly for a while, before he looked up at Seirai.

”There are fields.”
“Yes, there are...”
“There are no fields in Hakkei Palace, are there? Do all Back Palaces have fields?”
“It would be normal not to have one, I believe...”

“Ren was said to have civil war just a while ago, right? Was the situation so bad that they needed to grow vegetables within the castle?”
“That... that might be the case...”

In any case, Taiki held Seirai’s hands as he walked down the footpaths between the vegetable fields, which were right next to the gorgeous garden of shrubbery. Passing a building corner, they saw distinctively arranged fields extending from their feet. They walked down the neatly aligned footpaths, and reached a corner where low trees lined up in perfect order. That was most likely the scene of an orchard.

“Seirai.”
Taiki caught Seirai’s attention. They finally found a person. It was a farmer who was holding a pair of scissors and cutting branches from a unknown tree bearing red fruits.

“Excuse me.”
Taiki spoke. He let go of Seirai’s hand, and ran noisily across the orchard under the bright sun.

“Excuse me for interrupting.”
Taiki spoke, and the person in noragi (袍子 a type of waist-length upper garment that wears like a robe) turned back. He stared at Taiki, then looked at Seirai behind Taiki, and gave a gentle smile. The young man wiped his face with his sleeves, put the fresh-cut branch on the pile of grass at his side, and bowed his head.

“I am so sorry to come inside without permission. We are searching for people. Well, nobody is around at the gates, so...”
Oh, the man gave a small exclaim as he tilted his head.
“There are nobody outside, huh? Then, everyone might be having their morning nap.”

“I am very sorry to interrupt your work, but are there anybody who can introduce us to the emperor? I... I come from the Kingdom of Tai, and my name is Taiki.”

Oh, the man gave a friendly smile on his face.
“Really, so you must be Tai Taiho. It is said that Taiho is a small child, but you are really small, I can see.”

“Well, may I ask who you are?”
“Oh, my name is Ou (鴨). Ou Seitaku (鴨世卓).”
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“What a gorgeous garden!”
Taiki exclaimed, and the young man smiled brightly.
“You think so?”
“What are these red fruits?”
“They are called Koukashou (紅嘉祥, lit. Granted Crimson Fortune). Why not try one?”

Seitaku freely extended his arm, and picked one of the sparkling red fruits from a branch. He then threw the fruit into a water bucket right beside him, and wiped it clean with a handkerchief.

“So, Tai Taiho, please try one. There are seeds inside, so please be careful.”
“Thank you.”
Taiki said, and looked up at Seitaku.
“But... is it right for me to accept it? Doesn’t it belong to the emperor?”

“I grew it, so nobody else should be troubled by it.”
“But won’t the emperor scold you?”
Seitaku showed a slightly bewildered expression.
“I am the emperor, so I won’t get scolded.”

Taiki, with the red fruit in his hand, stared blankly at Seitaku.
“Are... are you Ren-ou, may I ask?”
“Yes, I am.”

Taiki turned back to Seirai, flustering for a response, but Seirai was only frozen there staring with widening eyes. Taiki then turned his confused glance back to Seitaku’s bright smiley face. Taiki had learnt about the decorum in front of an emperor at the Main Hall, but how should he respond in this condition?

Oblivious of Taiki’s confusion, Seitaku reached out to pick another fruit, and turned to Seirai.
“What about you? Try one!”
“... Thank you, but... No...”

“Oh, how rude of me to let everybody standing! There is a summerhouse nearby, so let’s move there!”
Taiki nodded tentatively.

***
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Seitaku plucked a few more Koukashou into a hand bucket, and carried the bucket outside the orchard. A few steps later, they reached the side of a pond lined with gorgeous rocks. The pond, which is of an intricate geometric design, has bridges built over it everywhere, and summerhouses and balconies gather at the sides as if they were attracted by the water.

Seitaku arrived at one of them, and waved Taiki and Seirai over by the pond side.
“Taiho, please take a seat. Your formal wear looked so hot to wear. Why not take the coat off?”
“Well... Thank you, but...”
Taiki looked back as Seirai. Seirai smiled twitchingly.
“We kindly accept your offer.”

“... How about you?”
“Oh, you don't really need to worry about me.”
“But it is hot, isn’t it?”
“Well... Yes, in fact. I will kindly follow your words then.”

Seirai stuttered, obviously flustered by the emperor’s hospitality. While watching Seirai with his bright eyes, Seitaku washed his hands and the fruits in the bucket in the pond. Then he put the fruits on a stone table right beside the pond.

“If Taiho was called with his formal wear on pristinely, what I am wearing now would definitely be a disgrace. I heard that you come for personal reasons rather than formal work, so...”
“Oh… But anyway we should be the one to apologize.”

Seitaku laughed.
“Taiho have done nothing wrong. I am a very careless person. When I heard this is not for official work, I thought that it would be just like neighbors coming by to drink tea. I would definitely be scolded by Taiho.”
“...Me?”

Oh no, Seitaku said laughing.
“This kingdom’s Taiho……God, this has turned so complicated. I am always like this, and I always get scolded by Renrin.”

Seirai gave a roaring laugh as he said.
“These Koukashou are so attractive that I thoughtlessly invited you to come over here. Seems that I should listen to Renrin, wear my formal wear and waited at the Outer Hall.”

“What were you doing earlier?”
“Trimming branches. Cutting those branches with fruits that would most probably not grow can make other fruits grow bigger.”
“Ren-ou is pretty familiar with these things.”
“I am a farmer, that’s why. These are work for a farmer.”

Taiki looked at him blankly.
“What about the work of an emperor?”

Seitaku’s eyes opened wide as if he heard something unexpected, and he then cocked his head.
“...That is duty, I guess. I believe it is most probably not really work. Because you cannot feed yourself by it.”

Taiki blinked his eyes while he tried to understand his meaning. Seitaku laughed.
“A farmer’s work includes growing crops and raising livestock, right?”
“Well... yes,” Taiki nodded.
“But... Isn’t it work to fulfill one’s duty?”
“Maybe not, I believe.”

“Are work and duty two different things?”
Seitaku laughed.
“Work is one you can choose. Duty is one granted by the heavens.”
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As Taiki stared blankly, he heard a familiar voice. Seirai, who had been standing aside silently, quickly looked back at the coming people. “Sougen!” Seirai yelled as if his life depended on Sougen’s. At the same time, there was a gentle female voice.

“Oh my... you receive Taiho with such an appearance?”
The lady who spoke in surprise had blond hair that shines like sunshine.
“Also, meeting in such a place! Though this is said to be a private visit, there is a limit to it. I have advised you about it, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you are right. It is exactly as Taiho said. This is very, very discourteous.”
“Also, you made the followers wait at total loss in front of the gate. --Oh my, you are really trouble-making.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Seitaku apologized like a child, but his face still showed a beaming smile. The lady, who looked at Seitaku and smiled as if she was slightly annoyed, kneeled in front of Taiki so as to make their eyes to be at the same level.

“Are you Tai Taiho? Welcome! Please don’t feel bad about this.”
“Are you Ren Taiho?”
“Yes. It is to my greatest pleasure to meet you.”
“Me too. Well... Thank you so much.”
“Yes?”

“I have heard from Lady Gokuyou (玉葉) at Mt. Hou (蓬山). In the past, when Lady Gokuyou sent Sanshi (汕子) to summon me back, Ren Taiho had lent a very important tool. Am I right?”

“Is it the Gogou-kanda (呉剛環蛇, lit. Snake Loop of Gogou)? That was kindly lent out by our emperor. Please give your thanks to our emperor, or so I would like to say, but our emperor must go and change beforehand...”

“Oh yes,” Seitaku, receiving Renrin’s bitter glance, muttered.
“I am so sorry but I must take my leave. It would not be long, so please wait for a moment.”

Seitaku beamingly returned to his residence, and Taiki and others were once again led to the outer palace. Finally, everything began to go on according to formal rituals.

***

(END of Chapter)
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(IV) Sewa 世話 (Care)

It was planned that Taiki would be staying for three days. Taiki and others received official welcoming and participated in formal ceremonies, but they were mostly received as private guests. Their designated place for accommodation was not a corner at the Guest Hall, but the big garden at Seishin. Only officials above the rank of personal servants were sent to accompany them. Moreover, Seitaku gave astoundingly simple order to let the ambassador party visit anywhere they want within En-tyou.

“...Is it really a good idea to have such low security level?”

Sougen seemed to have trouble understanding. Everyone else were equally puzzled. That might be uncomfortable to others, but Taiki in contrast was able to enjoy his days in the palace. Taiki didn’t understand most of the various rituals or decisions. Even for things that Taiki knew in theory, he didn't feel accustomed to them, and he was always tense about not failing. However, in Urou Palace, Taiki could put everything aside and relax.

“To have such low security level should mean that the palace is that safe, I believe...”
Asen said with a bitter smile, and Seirai gave a sigh.
“Should I say it is safe, or should I say they are too lenient? ... The people in Ren are so generous in everything...”

“Is that not good?”
Taiki asked, and Seirai ashamedly dropped his shoulders.

“It is not bad in any way. This old man is a little unaccustomed to it, that’s all. You know, I was originally in charge of the books in the army. I am used to being tied up by discipline and got pressed on to the verge, but in reverse…”

Sougen and Asen nodden in agreement.
“Having nowhere to let my body feel at ease, or something like that… Well we turned small at this place, so Taiho, please go out and play. Taiho seems to grow a liking towards this place.”

“I don’t dislike Hakkei Palace at all!”
“We know. For me, Urou Palace is not an unpleasant place at all. Especially when I could see that Tansui in a total loss three times in just two days!”

Exactly, Taiki laughed.
“Yesterday, Tansui turned stiff as a board as Ren Taiho brought his breakfast and poured him tea!”
“This must be said in secret, but it is a sight of a lifetime to see Tansui like that!”

Taiki could barely hide his laughter. Tansui, who was standing by the side of the doorway, behaved in his usual way as if he hadn’t heard anything, but he looked somehow frustrated.

“Well, I’ll go then.”

Upon saying, Taiki exited to the sprawling buildings. Tansui silently followed. Taiki headed directly to North Palace. Whenever Seitaku had no administrative work on hand, he would definitely be at the fields. Taiki walked towards the fields in such belief, and as expected, there was Seitaku, wearing noragi as he was working.
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“Good morning.”
Seitaku said with a bright smile. The completely frank and sincere smile delighted Taiki. Whether it was within administrative work or within formal rituals, Seitaku would go to the field whenever he had free time. Taiki would always accompany him to the fields and helped him with his work.

Well, instead of saying “to help,” it might be more accurate to say that he wandered around Seitaku’s side, and was told from time to time on what to do. Taiki had no previous experience in farming. Even if Taiki offered to help, he didn’t know what on earth he actually should do. The situation was no different from that in Tai: Taiki was still running here and there according to Seitaku’s instructions.

“I... I must be a nuisance to you.”
Taiki said as he collected the scattered branches he had knocked over. Seitaku, who was collecting the branches with him, smilingly dismissed the matter. This emperor is always smiling, Taiki was given the impression.

“I know that I am a big annoyance here, but today is my last day here... Would you mind bearing with me for a little longer?”
“I have never thought of you as an annoyance at all! When I was small, I stayed by the neighboring workers’ side and learnt the trade while helping out like what Tai Taiho is doing.”

“Oh,” Seitaku exclaimed midway, and gave a wide smile.
“I see. Even if Taiho learnt how to farm, it would be of no use to Taiho. I must have forced you into doing something strange, haven’t I?”
“That is not the case at all! Well... I am so happy that you allow me to help you out, but...”

Taiki really meant what he said. It was the first time Taiki saw farm work in front of his eyes, and that is very new and interesting to Taiki. Seeing Seitaku working so briskly was also very pleasant. Above all, Seitaku’s bighearted ambience made Taiki feel very close. For Taiki, the common sense of this world or the common sense of adults were unfamiliar, and being only surrounded by adults was already a big feat that made Taiki tense with anxiety.

“But... If I am bordering you in any way, I guess I should go to somewhere else, shouldn’t I?”
Taiki doubted in a low voice, and Seitaku cocked his head.
“... Is there anything wrong?”
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Oh? Taiki asked, and Seitaku said,
“I mean, there are no such things as being a nuisance by helping out, are there? Then why do you have such an idea?”

“Well, I can’t do anything...”
“But you have been carrying so many branches earlier, haven’t you? And you helped out with carrying water and moving straws.”
“I am just moving stuff around.”
“Then you have been helping me out haven’t you? But Taiho, I can sense from your words that you believe you are of no use at all.”

Taiki nodded upon Seitaku’s warm clear gaze.
“...Glad to hear that I’m not so... But I really think so...”
“Why is that?”

“I cannot do anything. Not only in farming, I cannot do even one single thing... Mister Gyousou always comforts me that I am still young. But he must be very disappointed by me.”

“Oh really?”
Seitaku asked, and Taiki drooped his head. Seitaku gently patted on Taiki’s back.

“Why not we take a break?”
Seitaku suggested, pointing to a pile of grass.
“No, please carry on with the work.”
“I am also tired. Why not have some tea as well?”

Laughing, Seitaku shouted to the other side of the field.
“You who accompanied Taiho, want some tea?”
Tansui, who stationed a little further away, made a gesture of firm declination.

“He must be also having a hard time, sitting still like that for so long.”
Seitaku said as he served tea from a big clay pot.
“It is hard to take up the job of a bodyguard (大僕 Daiboku), but the hardest time of all might be when there is no danger at all.”

I guess so, Taiki said with a smile, but the smile quickly withered. Seitaku peered into the tea cup he dished out.
“…Ren-ou, you once said that a job is different from a duty, didn't you?”
Yes, Seitaku nodded.
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“When I heard that, I told myself that’s right. The duty of a kirin is to choose the emperor. After that, my duty is over. So I should be attacking hard on all my jobs. However, I am still unable to carry out my job as the Saiho and the provincial lord, because I am still too small.”

“...Isn’t the duty of a kirin to deliver mercy to all the people?”
“It is not choosing the emperor?”
“I mean, isn’t choosing the emperor a part of it? It is nevertheless to choose the best emperor for the people.”
“So... my duty is not finished, is it?”
“I think not.”

“So what is a kirin’s job?”
“The job for you, Taiki, is to grow up.”
Seitaku said with a laugh.
“It is the same for any child, isn’t it?”

Seitaku picked a Koukashou from the branch that dangled on top of his head, and put the fruit into Taiki’s palm.
“... You will have a lot of worries. But that is a part of your job. Eat well, sleep well, laugh and cry a lot. Those are all parts of your job.”

Taiki looked into his palm. It was a bright red, beautiful fruit.
“... Is it all right for me just to grow up? The people are suffering a lot. Tai is very cold. Many of the people are tortured by the snow. I am the Saiho and the provincial lord, but I cannot do anything. Doing nothing else but just grow up...”

But, Seitaku said.
“Even I am not doing anything great. I am a farmer, so I don’t really know anything about politics. Renrin is more familiar with stuff like that, so I just leave everything to her. What I can do are thing like raising livestock and grow crops only.”

“Even though you are an emperor?”
That’s right, Seitaku laughed.
“Exactly because I can only do those, I make fields like these to farm. I guess they have a little use after all. They clear a part of the garden, and save some fees for maintenance. And they help a little with the budget. I believe it is much simpler and more economical than buying from the merchants in Jyuurei.”
“So you are selling food to the imperial cooks?”
Yes, Seitaku nodded very seriously.
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“I cannot live without selling, that’s why. I am a farmer. Those I need to fulfill my duty are given by the kingdom. The salary given to the numerous officials. The formal silk wear. The extravagant banquets we hold to entertain guests. If I don’t work, we cannot sustain everything. But Renrin said that I should not work to supplement the budget. The kingdom will lose face, she said.”

“I... guess so.”
“So I am completely useless. --However, there is God (Tentei), and he knows that I only can do so much.”
Taiki stared stunned at Seitaku.

“It must be the heaven's will that a farmer like me can become an emperor. So I will do nothing. I believe it is fine for me to do nothing. It is fine to take care of a kingdom just like taking care of the crops.”
“Taking care of a kingdom...”

“A tree grows tall at its will. A kingdom prospers at its will in the same way. Trees know the best way for themselves. I am only a helper to them. Withering leaves are signals that the plants need water. So I will water them. I believe a kingdom works in similar ways. God wants to grow this kingdom in this way, and so he chose a farmer like me, I guess.”

“...How about Ren Taiho?”
Taiki muttered as he looked at Seitaku.
“When Ren-ou is taking care of the plants, what does Ren Taiho do to help?”
Nothing, Seitaku answered brightly.
“Renrin is not a farmer at all. She cannot distinguish good branches from bad branches, and cannot separate the periods to water from the periods not to water.”

“So, she cannot help with anything.”
Rather, Seitaku smiled brightly.
“She takes joy when the fruits grow well.”
Taiki nearly dropped his jaws.
“...That’s all?”
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“That alone means a lot! When it is very cold outside, or when I am worn out by my duties, I feel too weary to get out into the fields. However, when I think that Renrin would be very saddened if the fruits wither and fall, I will regain my strength to step outside.”
Seitaku said, looking up at the trees in the orchard.

“I am watching over this kingdom. Are there any bad signs? Is there anything deficient? I keep watching these issues, because these are the duties of a caretaker. And Taiho is watching over me the caretaker. Am I fulfilling my duties completely? Are there any bad indications? She is also constantly watching. I can say that my success is indebted to that those eyes that are watching over me.”

Watching over, Taiki repeated the phrase in his mouth.
“Is it... is it alright for me to do just that?”
“Never overlook that as trivial. Watching is a very difficult job itself. Just look at your bodyguard over there.”

I guess you are right, Taiki said as he looked at Tansui. All along, Tansui stood close and still, keeping an eye on the surroundings.
“Running around and doing this and that are not the only difficult things, are they?”
“...No.”

Taiki nodded and looked at Seitaku in awe.
“If I watch over Mister Gyousou, he would be delighted, wouldn’t he?”
Of course he would, Seitaku said smilingly.

“I know nothing about politics or being a kirin, but I know about crops and being an emperor. I believe that Tai-ou would also asking for Taiho’s watching.”
Really? Taiki thought to himself. It is barely imaginable that Gyousou asked for a favor from a child like Taiki.

“If I am the guardian of this kingdom, Renrin is my guardian. Perhaps that is the real job of a kirin.”

***
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