Wednesday, March 8, 2023 @

Volume 5 Epilogue, Part 6

 On the other hand, there is another person on the right side of the curtain. He is the Chinju-dai-shogun (commander-in-chief of the provincial military forces) who leads the Rokuefu (six military units that served as the main defense force) and is also the head of the national army. Like the emperor, this silent person rarely interferes in the affairs of the state, but he is always at the emperor's side with a watchful eye. He has held this position since the days of the previous emperor, and should anyone attempt to harm the boy emperor, he will surely neutralize them with his hands before their blades reach him.
 "...The other day, we finally received a report from the Northern Dochō-kan (headquarters for provincial administration). They said that the disinfection work has been completed in Nomoto and Ashikina counties where kappa has occurred, but all the people's has been turned into kappa, so it has been disposed of and there is currently no hope for recovery."
 As the Minister of the Left read the report sent from the Northern Dochō-kan (headquarters for provincial administration), grunts were heard from the attendees.
 "All of them? Every last one of them?"
 "It wasn't this bad when the epidemic broke out in southern regions during the reign of the previous emperor..."
 "Truly, youkai are a horror. Oh, I'm afraid, I'm afraid..."
 The murmur leaked out from the front of the Minister of the Left. They were the ministers of the eight ministries: the Imperial Household, the Ministry of Ceremonies, the Ministry of Worship, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Military, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Public Works. Together with the Minister of the Right, they were in charge of the affairs of the Imperial Court. In reality, however, most of them were only in name, as if they were entrusting their work to the vice ministers. And, most of them had little sense of substance in their words, and most of them were frightened, hiding their faces with scoops or the sleeves of their ceremonial clothes.
 "So, how do we identify the source of the infection?"
 It was a young man who spoke up. He was Tatsunono Katayasu, the senior third-ranking Minister of the Right, in charge of the eight ministries and other offices and dormitories. This young man, who came from one of the sacred fourth families, the Reien family that had succeeded to the position of Minister of Right from generation to generation in an unwritten law, was, however, far more capable on this occasion than the ministers of the eight ministries who were older than he was.
 "We are currently investigating the matter. However, there was an underground water vein at the back of the cave. It would not be surprising if a kappa from somewhere else had found its way there."
 To the Minister of the Right, the Minister of the Left replies in a quiet tone.
 "But where could a couple of kappas that had escaped from the slaughter have washed ashore and so casually caused the loss of two counties?"
 "What do you mean by that, Minister of the Right?"
 "It's a simple explanation. The local governors and exorcists must be constantly on the lookout for youkai breeding, for youkai do not live in the haze. If people and beasts disappear from the mountains, the locals will notice immediately. And the kappa will not have the wisdom to take this into consideration."
 The Minister of the Right was on the spot. The response was given by the Chunagon (middle counselor), who was standing by the Minister of the Left.
 "The report also states that a spider youkai monster of calamity youkai rank was leading the kappa. This is not due to any negligence on the part of the local people. And I have personally confirmed the corpse."
 The three Grand Councilors, seven Middle Councilors, and ten Minor Councilors, headed by the Minister of the Left, were composed of influential and knowledgeable figures from various regions in the court. They are also known as the council of elders or wise men's council and are responsible for proposing, examining, and advising on laws and regulations. In other words, they are the "advisor to the emperor" or "the imperial advisor." In addition, two daimon (grand councilor) and six chunagon (middle councilor) were present at this public meeting. The middle councilor who spoke was from a powerful family from the northern region, and he confirmed the situation directly with his own eyes as soon as it was confirmed that the situation was safe.
 "I believe what you say. But isn't it a bit naive to say that it was not negligence?"
 It is true that many of the spider youkai monsters are relatively wily, but isn't it still negligent not to notice the kappa breeding that was going on beneath the surface?
 "Excuse me for saying this. I'm sorry for not telling you about the rest of the report. It seems that the people there have recovered some interesting items during the cleanup of the cave where the youkai were nesting."
 "Interesting items?"
 "A jade pillar of crystallized spiritual energy. And a pretty big one at that."
 After a coughing fit, the Minister of the Left spoke, which was followed by a flutter. The minister and the nobles in attendance look at each other. So-called gemstones and precious metals, along with their rarity, are gifts from the earth and spiritual veins, and are easy to retain their spiritual energy, and are therefore highly valued as materials for charms, especially for self-defense tools. A huge jade pillar can be used as a key element of a huge boundary that covers a city semi-permanently. Kuuban, the mastermind of the great war, had six hundred-year-old jade pillars thrust into his body when he was sealed. Its value is immeasurable.
 At the same time, in a situation like this, the most likely use for the jade pillars is...
 "Nonsense. How can youkai use that forbidden technique? According to what I've heard, it's quite a complicated technique...?"
 The minister of the Ministry of Ceremonies, who was involved in the formation of the forbidden technique of self-destructing the spiritual veins, commented with astonishment and bewilderment. The development of the technique itself was a long time ago, and although he did not know the details of the technique himself, nor did he have much knowledge about it, he was well aware that the first-class forbidden technique of 'spirit exhaust detonation' was not something that could be performed so easily.
 "Isn't this just like what youkai are doing?"
 "But can they make such a jade pillar to do such a thing...?"
 "If so, where did the method of the technique leak from?"
 "The local Rikyushu (Researcher group) said that they have recovered some mysterious youkai corpses. As a result of the examination, they are thought to be modified youkai."
 The participants looked at each other with wide eyes as the Minister of the Left added another bombshell to the discussion among the ministers.
 "So, this one case. Do you think this one is artificial...?"
 "And that someone with a background in exorcism was involved."
 "Someone with a background in exorcism was involved, huh? At least it's not just a bunch of Moguri (Stray/defective exorcists). They must have had access to the forbidden books stored in the Onmyo Dormitory or the Library Dormitory."
 "Then they must be regular exorcists who have experience serving at the palace..."
 After discussing it with them, a hypothesis comes to their mind.
 "Oh, come to think of it, there was a commotion in the Onmyo Dormitory during the reign of the previous emperor..."
 The oldest grand councilor whispered in a trembling voice. Everyone paid attention to what he said.
 "As I recall, it was a matter of exposing those who were studying the forbidden arts without permission, wasn't it?"
 "Oh. I remember that. There was a casualty in the investigation and the head of the dormitory resigned because of it."
 "I believe there were some who escaped and are still missing."
 "No way...!!?"
 The minister and the governor frowned. No wonder these exorcists are so...!
 "Wait a minute. It's not decided yet. They are subjects of the court and the emperor as well, and should not be carelessly slandered."
 The Minister of the Left appeased the concerns and hostility of the ministers. The calm and reassuring tone of his voice calmed their agitation, albeit temporarily.
 "In any case, we should continue the investigation now. No, not at this stage. Instead, we should think about the future of the two counties."
 The Minister of the Left turned his attention to the regent. Then he glanced at the participants again and expressed his opinion.
 "This is a good opportunity. If we leave the sacred vein unattended, it will become a den of monsters. We must rebuild the two counties in Noshiro. It would be better to let the exorcists in place of the monsters take charge of the spirit veins and recruit people from villages that have a surplus of people. This is much better than letting the villagers settle in the cold villages."
 In fact, the development of the frontier by the Imperial Court was also a kind of abandonment policy. The order brought about by the imperial court increased the population of the people, but at the same time, the spiritual veins were limited. The cultivation of the land without the benefit of spiritual veins was extremely difficult, but obtaining new spiritual veins required a large-scale defeat of the youkai who nested in the land. The budget and damage incurred cannot be underestimated. This could not be done many times.
 Therefore, for the Imperial Court, it was a blessing if they succeeded in settling the frontier villages, and if they failed, it was only to reduce the amount of money they had to spend on living expenses. Even if the previous inhabitants had been exterminated by the kappa, it would have attracted many people who had lost their means of life. Those who were lucky enough to be able to farm the rich land would be able to become farmers.
 "There is no one to inherit it anyway. It would be good to grant them ownership of the land that they have cultivated. For my part, it pains me to send the people to a harsh cold village."
 "The Minister of the Left, I see. As always, you are full of compassion."
 "So you're administering for the good of the people. Well, it's better to get tax revenues than to develop a cold village."
 Everyone agrees with the Minister of the Left's opinion. Many of those who are appointed as the Minister of the Left is highly virtuous and have a strong sense of humanity and love, and the present minister is no exception to this rule. If this were an ordinary nobleman, they might have made the manor their own for any number of reasons.
 "Hmm. What the Minister of the Left said is truly witty. What about the Minister of the Right?"
 Shirofuji-no-miya Kakitake, the Regent and Grand Minister of State, asked the Minister of the Right. The young nobleman, who had been silent during the discussion, takes one look at Shirofuji-no-miya Kakitake and becomes silent for a moment, but then bows his head immediately.
 "...True, I think he is right."
 "but," the Minister continues.
 "Now, I request a little more investigation of the site. We will need the cooperation of the Onmyou dormitory as well. I would like to ask for your approval."
 With a sharp look in his eyes, the Minister of the Right makes his request. He was always wary and untrusting of everyone, which was the reason why the Ministers of the Right had been called "Minister of Plot" for generations, and in this respect, this young nobleman was a typical Minister of the Right.
 "Of course, of course. You are right to be concerned, and I will order the relevant departments to investigate the matter immediately."
 The Minister of the Left responded briskly and smilingly. In his attitude, there seemed to be no trace of discomfort toward the Minister of the Right. It was a suitable attitude for the Minister of the Left, who was always generous, benevolent, and of good moral character.
 "...Now I would like to move on to the next topic. Is that all right, everyone?"
 Reading the atmosphere of the meeting, the regent offered to move on to the next topic. In fact, the problem of kappa in the northern region had been settled, and honestly speaking, it was not a high priority for the Regent. What does it matter if there were concerns about the involvement of the exorcists who fled from the Onmyou Dormitory in this case? The destruction of two counties would not amount to more than 10% of the land and subjects of Fusō-kuni. The court will not be shaken by such a small amount.
 "I understand. What do you think, Minister?"
 "....I understand."
 While the Minister and the court nobles nodded their heads, the Minister of the Left asked the Minister of the Right in response to the Regent's words. The Minister of the Right turned his head down silently for a moment as if thinking but immediately responded in the same way. The Minister of the Left then nodded his head in kindness in response and continued with his words.
 "Next, I would like to talk about the damage caused by the storm and flood in Three Southern Tribes (南土三邦?)..."
 The public discussion continued in silence. The discussion continues on the problems that arise in various parts of Fusō-kuni and the solutions to them.
 And not many people noticed that the young boy sitting in the noren (curtain) was staring at these public discussions with a look of utter boredom...
 After the public session, which lasted for about an hour, the ministers and the nobles left the hall one after another. Some of them, accompanied by their secretaries and attendants, boarded their ox-drawn wagons in the parking lot of the inner palace and returned to their homes. The escorting soldiers, miscellaneous workers, and exorcists surrounded them and followed them. Among them was the Minister of the Left.
 "Are you going home?"
 "Well, I'm getting old. I am tired of attending public meetings."
 Before getting into the oxcart of the traditional style, the Minister of the Left smiled cheerfully at the Gyoja (pilgrim/monk), who said so. Even so, the Pilgrim and those around him knew that the Minister of the Left was always eager for his work.
 He came to work earlier than any other high-ranking official, and everyone in the family knows that he spent the night in his room doing his remaining work even after his return home. Despite being born into one of the most prestigious families, he donates a large amount of wealth to charitable causes, holds a strong faith in the gods and Buddha, and is full of love and compassion even towards servants and peasants. The rent of his manor is much lower than that of others, and he treats his servants generously. This virtue is known to everyone in this capital and among the people of this country. To begin with, there is an unwritten law that the position of Minister of the Left is only held by a person of high virtue, and it is a well-known story that the previous emperor welcomed him to the position with the courtesy of his patronage.
 "Then, bring me back to the residence."
 The Minister of the Left gets into an oxcart. The curtain is lowered and the oxcart starts to move slowly. Suddenly, he notices that the observation window is left open and glances at it.
 ...Immediately after, the Minister of the Left sees off the ministers of the eight provinces who are also returning home, and his eyes meet those of the Minister of the Right, who gazes at him.
 There was a moment of silence, but the Minister of the Right immediately bowed his head and looked away. At the same time, the Minister of the Left also returned with an exuberant smile. Then, after the Minister of the Right was out of sight, the Minister of the Left closed the window, and murmured.
 "Good grief, even in the inner palace, he is very cautious, isn't he?"

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