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Ran yori Idete Ao..

The first story from the second gaiden, Ran yori Idete Ao.



Again, my failed attempt to practice language -__-;; What you'll read after this is loosely translated from Outou Jouriku! Ryuuren Taifun!, a nice story by Sai Yukino-sensei and beautifully illustrated by Yura Kairi-sensei. A Ryuuren-centric.. sort of thing ^^;; Definitely, grammar isn't my best subject, and I'm totally clueless about card game >_<;;

This post is too large for one entry, so I have to divide it into two separate posts -__-;;


*******************



Outou Jouriku! Ryuuren Taifun



This is an event that happened when Kou Shuurei has yet to rise to an imperial officer. The story took place at the end of winter, when Shuurei, Eigetsu, and Ryuuren have finished their last stage of imperial examination, and are waiting for the result to be announced.

*******************



“Fu. Fu fu fu fu”

Kouyuu felt a sudden chill in his spine as he heard the eerie laugh made by his superior officer who is also his foster father.

“I am very pleased with all of them. These are masterpieces. Certainly, these are nothing compared to the original, but these will do for practising. I would not mind, sending rewards to the Kou clan’s craftman master.”

After returning from a place unknown to anyone, Kou Reishin has been spending half an hour behind his ougi (folding fan). His smile is scary and he keeps murmuring something that nobody can apprehend. The servants of the mansion have been begging Kouyuu to make their master stop that eerie attitude of his, but it is an impossible task that only a certain someone in this world is capable of.

Aware of this mission impossible, Kouyuu braced himself to step inside the room. He has some information for his foster father.

“Umm.. Reishin-sama.”

“Fu fu fu fu fu”

“Rei.. Reishin-sama.”

”I cannot stop laughing just by thinking of it.”

..he completely did not hear that Kouyuu has been calling his name.

In another occasion, Kouyuu is always wise enough not to place himself into a dangerous situation, but today, he cannot evade. Kouyuu has no other choice but to use his last resort, knowing that the conclusion will be terrifying.

“..a letter from Shouka-sama has arrived.”

“Idiot! You should bring it out before you said it!”

Kouyuu said that in a low, almost whispering tone, but Reishin quickly reacts to it. As for Kouyuu, at least, he is still trying to correct what he has just done.

“Pardon? I did not say anything. Maybe it was one of the imaginery voices you used to hear.”

Craank, the ougi let out a noise.

“Lying to me.. Surely you have grown, eh, Kouyuu. That was some nerve you got there. Then, I shall give you all my work. Get them done in one day. I will not write any instruction, so you do it on your own for half a day. The real work should be done after that, also in half a day. Do not slack off.”

“……yes.”

If only Reishin were on his serious mode, he could have all his work done in a matter of hours, Kouyuu sighed deep down in his heart. Then again, it was Kouyuu who asked for trouble, and now he has to bear the consequences.

“And? What is it?”

“Shuu.. Ran Shogun has taken several day offs starting from today.”

“I have no interest. You, too, don’t do unnecessary things. I’ll triple your workload, so you’d better shut yourself up in the Jirou office. ..don’t get close to the Emperor for the time being.”

“..Reishin-sama.”

“I have no intention to spoil that brat. And also, you are one of the Kou clan.”

Kouyuu cannot help not to be happy, being treated as a member of the Kou clan. Even so, a slight feeling of loneliness sneak in with the word ‘and also’ that was included in the sentence. Nevertheless, Kouyuu cannot possibly defy the order of the current head of the clan. Reishin must have his own reasons.

Kouyuu sighed.

“Oh, I will be going out tonight. Take care of things while I’m gone.”

Without waiting his foster son’s response, Reishin returning to his previous eerie laughing state.



*******************



In contrast to Kou Reishin’s inexplicably good mood, there is a depressed young man at the Ran mansion. This is also one of those rare occurrences.

In one winter day, when the cold winter wind is blowing, a letter of misfortune from one of his elder brothers has arrived.

“Exam – Ryuuren – take care”

It was a short sentence consists of several words only. Deep in Shuuei’s heart, that single sentence does not only summoning the chilly winter wind, it creates a snowstorm. Even for Shuuei himself, the sentence is simple; not leaving even a single opening that will give him an opportunity to defy. However, he still wants to say his part about it.

At once, Shuuei wrote a reply and had it sent to his elder brothers. He knew that it will take a certain amount of time before the letter arrives, but he cannot stay still without writing any reply.

“I won’t be responsible for anything that will happen.”

.. when the imperial examination has ended, a reply from his elder brothers arrives.

“Do not expect you for that.”

A slight smile appears in his lips, as Shuuei’s eyes running through that too-short of a reply.

(Elder brothers in the Ran Province sure can always say things easily.)

Certainly, his younger brother is in the core of the biggest taifun that occurs in this year’s imperial examination. Being right in the eye of the taifun, of course, does not give any effect to that brother of his, but his surroundings has been dragged in in a fierce rainstorm. What will be left next is the frightening number of casualties that will not spare even a single grass.

Without any doubt, there will be a certain young boy and young girl among the casualties. It was their bad luck that -- due to the fact that they are immune to Ryuuren’s nature—outsiders do not consider them as one of the victims, instead they are given the same ‘damn brat’ labels, as they did to Ryuuren. The fact that they have passed one after another provincial examination in top positions at their tender teen’s age; and that three of the four are from the 7 noble families of Saiun, two of which are straight descendants of two distinguished noble families, noble among the nobles, the Kou and Ran families; all of these facts have no effect against the walking eccentric man that is known as Ran Ryuuren.

(Shuurei-dono.. Eigetsu-kun.. Hakumei-kun.. I am truly sorry.)

With the thought of those involved in the disaster fleeting in his mind, Shuuei cannot help for not feeling sorry for them.

The scenes of those high imperial officers were still fresh in his mind. Despite his warnings, they have come one after another to greet Ryuuren, and all of them return home with ashen face. Only one day after Ryuuren entered the lodging prepared for the examination candidates, the lodging where he stayed has been called ‘the cursed lodge number 13’. The officer in charge to manage that certain lodge has been dashed out one after another and desperately handed in their letter of resignation. Among those officers, there is one of them, whose shriek is still clear in his mind.

“No.. no, I had enough. Please let me resign! I want to resign from the responsibility to manage the logde no. 13! What kind of harrassment is this!? Did I do something that has angered His Majesty!? Those kids.. What kind of mononoke are they!? If things keep on like this.. if things keep on like this, my head will be bald in just a few days!! Those kids are out of hands!!”

The officer has casted away his usual elegant demeanour, and crying out loud like a child. It was so piteous that Shuuei cannot bear to witness the scene laid in front of him any second longer. There were plenty of officers in the same bewildered state as the previous.

(As to be expected, that legendary examination of nightmare, when Kou (Kijin) Shousho and Kou-Shousho participated, is nothing compared to this imperial examination, much less at my time..)

The breeze of his time is nothing compared to this one. At that time, Shuuei could not help not to feel sick because of this kind of breeze, and now he had come to regret it.

However, the victim who had to receive the greatest portion of countless damages conflicted by Ryuuren is, unmistakably, he himself. From today onwards, even if he managed to do great achievements that people will keep talking and remembering for a thousand years, the ending sentence following the talk would surely be this.

“But, he is that Ran Ryuuren’s older brother, right?”

..Shuuei’s mood is at his lowest level.

Despite being reluctant, and given the obligation to fetch Ryuuren at the end of the examination day, Shuuei goes to the candidates’ dormitories with every step as heavy as if his legs were clogged with iron.


ONE



(…why do I have to sacrifice my precious day offs just for his sake)

It was a serene morning, that even the faintest sound can be heard loud and clear. It was a morning in the beginning of spring, where one’s breath still turns into white smoke.

It was a fine morning, however, a group of people are slowly leaving the imperial palace grounds with ghostly expression in their faces. It seems that they will turn into ashes anytime they were to bath in the sunlight.

Their 7 days long exams have ended. After giving their upmost into the exam, they should be able to relax, but it seems that they still need some more time before they are able to do so.

Amongst the group, a strange sound came from a flute can be heard. Instantly, the group of paled people regain their spirits, and in a split second, forming a path in front of Shuuei towards the owner of the flute. Shuuei cannot help not to think that way, once his eyes land to his eccentric youngest brother, in his stupid flashy clothing, in the middle of the path.

Oddly enough, there are still some people left standing beside his brother.

“..arrggghh!! I told you to stop it!! They are all exhausted already! Are you trying to drain their last strength!? Hey, can you please not to walk beside us!? If they think we are the same, our children and all their grand grand children will have to bear the shame!!”

“Shu.. Shuurei-san.. can you please not to talk so openly..”

“You’re too soft, Eigetsu-kun! How many troubles do you think we have gone through so far, thanks to this peacock!? I even have no idea whether we came here to sit in an imperial exam or to pass a test to become a monk!! Right now, I’m confident that I can reach a mental enlightment like those of the sennins!”

Against his will, Shuuei burst out into laughter. ..certainly, the broadness of Shuurei’s heart is second to none, not even the Saihassen themselves. Despite her anger outburst and her unkind word to Ryuuren, even Shuuei knows that she meant no harm.

The sound of flute stopped at once. The rustle of a lavishly made clothes echoes.

“What a wonderful idea, Shuurei. Allright, my bosom friends, let’s us embark on a journey. Eigetsu, you too. Rather than wasting your time and let your happiness passed away at place like this, let us make plans for our grand future. We will create a legend greater than that of the Saihassen. When we reach the last of our time, let’s the last word we say will be ‘we have no regrets in life’. ..fuh.. our encounter is definitely fate.”

Even Eigetsu is dumb-stricken. For that soft-hearted young boy, it seems that what Ryuuren said has fall far beyond his extent of language, so much that he cannot even think of a word of rejection.

But Shuurei rejects sharply.

“Ryuuren, please make that legend all by yourself. Your existence alone should have made that goal come true. I’ll sound a trumpet for that. And I’m sorry to tell you that even now, I already have regrets in my life!”

Shuuei, who heard all of their conversation, can quickly conclude that the regret is her having to be involved with Ryuuren. However, as if unaware of it, Ryuuren raised his fine eyebrow.

“What? My bosom friend no. 1, is something had happened? You already have regrets in your life, and I, who is by your side, is not aware if it? What a failure! I’m not worth of being your bosom friend. Ah, it’s not yet too late! Shuurei, tell me all the details. I shall do my best to fix that fracture in your heart. You don’t have to thank me. For a bosom friend, it is something natural to do.”

Without waiting Shuurei to reply, he starts to play his flute and produce that ear-wrinking sound. One can sees the expression on the girl’s face, unable to decipher his reason of playing flute under such a circumstance, and then her exhausted gesture, as the last of her strength has been taken by the sound.

And then, Eigetsu is aware of Shuuei who is standing in front of them. His eyes widely open in surprise.

“E.. eeh.. Ran Shogun!? I can hardly recognize you in that attire.”

Shuurei raised her gaze, and taken aback.

“Eh!? Gyaa!! Ran Shogun! Uh..”

When his figure entering her gaze, Shuurei stood in silence, and without her realizing it..

“..umm.. you and that.. uh.. the one who plays that flute over there really are brothers, right..”

Shuuei wore casual attire that shows his fine taste and letting his long hair fall down his back. Just by standing there, Shuuei’s elegance looks like that that has just come out of a picture. It will never cross in one’s mind that this military officer shares the same blood as a certain flute player peacock.

“For how many times in 18 years after that is born, I’m still trying to convince myself, but unfortunately, that is the truth.”

Inside, Shuuei heaved a sigh, but he still manages to smile at Shuurei and Eigetsu.

“You two must be exhausted from taking the test. That is.. erm.. I’m sorry to have to put you through into so many troubles.”

The sound of flute stopped. For the first time, Ryuuren stares at elder brother with stern eyes.

“What? Gukei no. 4, what kind of trouble that you have put my bosom friends into? Honestly, I am truly ashamed being a part of your family. Your habit of chasing after girls has made your personality worse. Oh!? Is it you the culprit that has made my bosom friend no. 1 has regret in her life!? How could you conduct something that has stained her young life behind my back! I’ve misjudged you, Gukei!!”

Shuuei is still able to maintain his smile, but deep down, it took all his might to restrain himself from the urge of unsheating the sword tied in his waist.

..this foolish young brother..

“Ryuuren, do you understand whose fault it was, that has made Shuurei-dono and the others ended up thrown in that prison-like lodge?”

“Definitely it was the fault of the Emperor who had given the order, and also you and your accomplices’ evil intentions. Honestly, it was evidently an unfair treatment. If it wasn’t because of me and my flute to heal their agony, and bosom friend no. 1’s excellent handmade cooking, I wouldn’t know what will happen.”

Shuurei and Eigetsu turned pale.

In the past one month, 7 officers in charge have resigned one after another because of a certain young man. Because of him and the sound of his flute, 80 percent of the examinees who stayed in the same lodge have went into a state of derangement, and those in charge were executing the plan of saving those 80 percent from what they called ‘the cursed lodge number 13’. The rest of the unfortunate 20 percent, who happened to, somehow, managed to maintain their senses near the limit, were left behind, and they kept screaming, begging to be released from the mentioned lodge. It was like living in the same prison with an atrocious criminal, that they went together, crying to the supervising officer. In result, after considering the matter, the Emperor decided to put the trio who happened to be immune against Ryuuren’s influence (Kou Shuurei, To Eigetsu, Heki Hakumei) as those in charges of Ryuuren, and the three of them have to be put into a real prison-like lodge, together with a certain young man. Not even one of them ever dreamed that after so many examinations, they have to endure the last exam while obliged to look after someone like Ryuuren, just because others thought they were immune to him. It was in the middle of winter, but the wind that blow through their hearts were far more cold than the winter itself.

…and who does this peacock think as that ‘certain young man’!? Even Shuurei is at lost, and she could do nothing but vainly open and shut her mouth.

Shuuei gave up on the conversation. While pressing his temple, he goes straight to his main purpose.

“Ryuuren, let’s go back home.”

“Definitely not.”

The brothers’ conversation ended up shortly.

Shuuei himself didn’t want to spend his time with Ryuuren, however, he could not go against his elder brothers’ absolute order. And also, he has failed instantly in his first try. There would be no second time.

“..in the first place, the mistake lies in my part for not capture and confine you in our residence right after your arrival in Kiyou, before letting you go when the exam starts. Because of your decision to move into the lodging prepared for the examinees without my consent, not only I have to take complaints from who knows how many people, my reputation is also diminished .”

“Oooh.. is your reputation has depleted so much that you have to think of something to raise it up? What a surprise. And to add that up with that lodge incident, it seems that the present Emperor is having trouble with the lackness of his subordinates.”

“Not as much as the trouble I had for having someone as you as my brother. Why do you refuse to return to our mansion?”

“That residence is too big and too flashy. It doesn’t fit into my sense of beauty.”

In order to maintain the prestige of the Ran family, that big mansion has been perfected by the country’s best gardener and artisan from generation to generation. Over the time, the mansion’s elegance can be called as one of the best in the country, that deserves to be one of the country’s most precious jewel.

Shuuei is clueless as where did his eccentric brother had taken that strange form of sense of beauty.

“Even if you said so, our brothers have already held me responsible for watching over you. If you want to, I wouldn’t mind you use our family’s resources to build a mansion that matches your taste.”

Ryuuren raised his eyebrows.

“Honestly, using money and one’s influence to force on something like that, it’s just like those evil magistrates. When I think that it is my own brother who said such a thing, I can’t help not to feel ashamed. It’s not too late, now. How about you, embarking on a journey in search of your own true self? I think that kind of journey will be a waste on you, but doing that will surely make a difference.”

“I’m returning that absurd advice right back to you, foolish Ryuuren. I feel ashamed myself. If I was that evil magistrate, rather than to an eccentric brother like you, I’d prefer to say that to someone as cute as Shuurei-dono.”

By his brother’s light response, Ryuuren instantly covered Shuurei up with his back.

“How rude, trying to harm my bosom friend no. 1 with that poisonus fang of yours. I will not hold back, eventhough you’re my own foolish brother. What a bad luck. Even if I have to be banned from this place, I still have my last fortress, I still have my bosom friends.”

Shuurei and Eigetsu jerked up at the mention of “bosom friends”. They have thought of slowly retreating from the vicinity, however Ryuuren grabs their arms as if he had eyes behind his back.

“In this past month, our friendship has been firmly attached. No matter what kind of obstacle lies ahead, our bond will remain strong for eternity! Whatever dirty tricks you are going to use, it is bound to fail. They will certainly accept me into their run down roof .”

Shuurei turns pale. No matter how you think of it, under this kind of situation, it is clear that he is referring to Shouka’s mansion.

“Excuse me for having run down roof for a house.. err.. that’s not what I meant.. Don’t decide on things as you please! Eigetsu-kun is another thing, but I don’t have enough time to mind you as well!!”

It was a matter of mental preparation. However, even that straightforwardness cannot reach Ryuuren.

“Don’t worry. I already know that beside money problem, you’re an excellent chef who could turn radish’s leaves into a wonderful cuisine. There is no need to distinguish between bosom friends. You can put your heart at ease. During my stay, I will surely earn some small change with this flute of mine. Fuh.. I often do that during my journey, so I’m used to it.”

Earning money with that flute!? Shuurei doubts her ears, but Eigetsu is reminded of something, that he tries to ask.

“..did they tell you that they will give you money, then ask you to leave immediately?”

“As to be expected from my bosom friend no. 2, you know what’s in my mind. In no time, we will be able to understand each other. I’m so happy. It seems that the sound of my flute is a sinful one, that it will satisfy just anyone only by a few notes.”

Shuuei can feel Shuurei’s pitiful look goes through him. ..he is your brother, so please be responsible and take him away from here!! Her eyes telling more than what words can actually express.

Shuuei also have his limits. However, this young brother of his has to be retained, at all cost. If he left things as it is and let him go to stay at Shouka’s mansion, not only it will cause trouble to Shouka’s family, but there are chances that he will also earn the hatred of a certain senior secretary.

And also… Shuuei took a deep breath.

“…Ryuuren, I will say this once only.”

Shuuei put his hand on the sword sheated in his waist.

“Come with me. Or else, I will seriously unsheath this.”

In contrast to his usual tone, this time, his voice is extremely cool. Shuurei and Eigetsu cannot help not to feel the chill that runs through their spines.

His words are serious. Shuuei himself is fully aware that he will not be able to have a proper talk with his youngest brother, if he didn’t go that far.

“I can’t let someone bearing the name of Ran Ryuuren like you to wander around like this, especially, while you in this Kiyou. Have some self consciousness!”

For a split second, Ryuuren’s eyes let out a fierce glow. It was just an instant, and it was being concealed again behind his eyebrows.

“..I can’t cause trouble for those passerbys. Honestly, how unrefined. Nothing compares to the agony of having to return to that wasteful mansion but.. allright. I will go.”

“Good.”

Ryuuren will remain true to his words. Shuuei let his hand off the hilt of his sword in relief.

Shuurei can feel a somewhat agigated air between the two of them. She stares back and forth at Shuuei and Ryuuren. With a little hesitation, she returned her gaze at Shuuei and took back what she had said.

“..umm.. Ran Shogun. Well, I think it won’t be a trouble if Ryuuren stays at my place. Afterall, it seems that my house has become some sort of lodging for weird people.. Uh.. though it is a run down house, there are plenty rooms for everyone. And also, we were in the exam together, so we are used to him, somehow. It won’t make a difference by having Ryuuren in the house right now..”

Unfortunately, at the same moment, Shuuei catched the expression in Ryuuren’s face. It was hard to read his expression, however, being his brother for the last 18 years is enough to make him able to perceive what lies behind.

Shuuei’s will wavers a little bit, nonetheless, he has no intention to step back. As if nothing had happened, he smiles as he usually does.

“Don’t worry. I can’t bother you more than this. It is me who will be envious if you keep paying attention to the likes of Ryuuren.”

“Don’t put dirt in our true friendship, Gukei.”

Even when he frowns with displeasure, still, Ryuuren didn’t take Shuurei’s offer.

No one knows what is in Ryuuren’s mind, when he presents his steel flute, of which he had never let go, to the two of them.

“I bid you farewell, my dear friends. Regrettably, we have to part for a little while, until the announcement of the exam result. Take this with you in my place.”

Ryuuren let go of his flute! Shuurei and Eigetsu are amazed. And Shuurei, who is unconsciously catch the fallen flute, at the same moment, almost fall into her knees because of its extreme weight.

“Gyaa!! Wha.. what with this weight..”

Quickly, Shuuei get a hold of Shuurei, take over the flute, and let out a sigh.

“Ryuuren, please think before you act. What if Shuurei-done breaks a bone or two because of this? If you want to give them something, why don’t you give them those feathers in your head? Afterall, they are your long-awaited friends, right? You’ve got to cherish them.”

Unlikely, Ryuuren kept silent, and he took off two feathers from his hair. This time, he handed them over.

Shuurei and Eigetsu received the feathers that were handed over towards them.

Seeing his brother’s relief expression, unconsciously, a light smile appears in Shuuei’s face.

“Now, let’s go home, Ryuuren. Go into that carriage.”

“As usual, what a poor taste you had on this carriage.”

“Not as bad as yours.”

“Don’t match up someone’s taste and their personality, Gukei.”

“I’d be more than happy. If, in a billion chances, it does match up, it will be the end of me. Then, Shuurei-dono, Eigetsu-kun, I’ll see you later.”

Leaving both Shuurei and Eigetsu with his kind smile, Shuuei follows Ryuuren into the carriage.
In blank amazement, Shuurei and Eigetsu watched the finely build carriage disappeared from their range of views. Then, they exchange look at one another.


TWO



“Ooh.. then, the youngest of the Ran family has returned to Ran Shogun’s residence, eh.”

Returning home after one month long, Shuurei is greeted by her father’s usual smile. When she saw his smile, it was just then that she realized all the persistence she had to endure until that day. I’m back home.. from the bottom of her heart, she felt relieved.
She had forcefully take Eigetsu to return with her to her home, but she couldn’t see one of her precious family member.

Seiran is nowhere to be found.

She was surprised, and when she asked her father, it seems that Seiran has been assigned as one of the special guard to secure the marking process of the examination, in order to prevent any possibilities of counterfeit. Indeed, when a candidate has passed this stage of examination, the next one would be the last, the denshi (interview examination). When a candidate is eligible to present in the denshi exam, the probability is that they will pass the imperial exam. No wonder the marking process has to be strictly secured. However, that tight security has made Seiran left when Shuurei returned home, and they couldn’t meet one another.

For that reason, only three of them, Shouka, Shuurei, and Eigetsu; sitting around the table for that day’s dinner.

“Is that certain young master resembling his brother?”

Smiling, Shouka asked that question, and at the same time, both Shuurei and Eigetsu stopped eating.

“…we.. well.. their face do resemble one another.”

Shuurei recalled the examination, and her eyes seemed distant. In the dormitory, she had to put up with that peacock-like Ryuuren, and needless to say, she was exhausted when she had her exam. Indeed, passing this imperial examination will guarantee one’s future until their third generation. In order to be able to make it through the exam, many people would not refrain from doing any possible means, honest or dishonest. It’s not unusual to find exam participants writing parts of the exam material in the inside of their clothes. To avoid such a trick, the participants, including Ryuuren, are obliged to wear a set of clothes which has been prepared by the examiner to the testing ground. To be honest, when Shuurei moved from the dorm to the testing ground, it never occurred to her that the handsome man in a formal uniform who entered the next room is Ryuuren. She came to realized that man’s identity after the exam has started for half an hour, when she heard a sound of someone snoring. She was frozen at that realization.

(..his level of transformation is far above that of Ensei’s, when he has just shaved his beard.)

Anyway, the Ryuuren in standard attire at the testing ground was, undoubtly, a strong resemblance to Ran Shogun.

“Then, he resembles his three elder brothers as well.”

“Elder? Not Ran Shogun?”

“Yes. Shuuei-dono has three elder brothers.”

“..ooh.. come to think of it, Ryuuren called Ran Shogun, ‘Gukei no. 4’.”

Eigetsu takes a breath in admiration.

“That means Ryuuren-san is the fifth of five brothers. Their house must be lively.”

Shouka didn’t deny nor affirm Eigetsu’s remark. In reality, the father of certain brothers was well known as a ladies’ man. Besides sons from his legitimate wife, he had children from his other mistresses. If these children of different mothers are included, they will reach quite of number. However, the ones allowed to bear the name ‘Ran’ of the main house are the five sons of the legitimate wife. In a way, being one of five brothers is not a lie.

“Tou-sama, from the way you speak, it seems that you’re quite familiar with them. Do you happen to know the other three as well?”

“Yes. We knew each other because of several things in the past. Currently, those three are very busy. Unlike in the past, now we only write letters once and a while.”

“Heee… this is the first time I hear about this. Tou-sama, actually, you have a very vast connection. You just never use it. The Kous have severed their ties with you, yet the Ran brothers are a part of few people who didn’t. They are nice people.”

“Is Ryuuren-kun nice as well?”

Shuurei felt that the roast vegetable she was eating get stucked in her throat as she heard her father’s question.

“Y… yes.. when I think about it, he is not that bad. He’s straightforward, in what he said and what he done. In that manner, he’s quite a simple man. However, how should I say this.. his straighforwardness is 52 degree different compared to average people. That’s why, though he is a simple man, his simplicity is 52 degree off from common people.”

“..why do you use such a weird figure..”

“If it is 45 degree or 90 degree or 180 degree, you can somewhat have a gist of it. However, it’s very rare to find someone who can get along with Ryuuren’s logic. That’s what I meant.”

Oddly enough, both Shouka and Eigetsu are convinced by that explanation.

“Kou-shousho is also an eccentric man. Despite that, he still has something in common. For example, his way of thinking about the government. It’s just that his way of thinking in some aspect, or about his mask, are different from other people. However, every aspect in Ryuuren is far beyond common. It’s just like because he had nothing in common, therefore everything about him is weird. That is why, no matter what he does, it seems strange, and most of them will turn into trouble. In general, if you said that he is a ‘nice guy’, there are people who might feel reluctant to confirm that statement.”

Shouka is amazed. …what a great observation skill does his daughter possessed. Casually, Shouka trying to ask.

“You didn’t want to get involved with Ryuuren-kun? You didn’t like him?”

“Honestly?”

“Yes.”

Shuurei didn’t hesitate in her answer.

“Well.. if I was asked whether I like or dislike, the answer is, I like him. In a sense, he is more foolish than Ryuuki, it takes all of me just to be able to follow his pace, and it’s very tiring. However, there are absolutely no lies in Ryuuren.”

Eigetsu laughed in agreement.

“That’s right. Ryuuren-san is very straightforward. He’s just a little bit off, very hard to understand, a bit complex, and no one could barely know what he was thinking. However, I think it is rare to find someone who is as one sided as he is. It’s just that his logic is beyond our scope of understanding, but there’s nothing fake about every single thing he does.”

Shuurei sipped her soup.

“That’s right. There is nothing artificial about him. During the exam, he didn’t bring even a single scroll. Every single day, he was whether sleeping, playing his flute, or eating. I never saw him studying, not even once. There’s no such an idiot like him in the final imperial exam. Yet, it wasn’t as if he’s trying to look cool or has give up on his exam; that was his nature. You can hardly find an idiot like him, who can prevail until the end with that much of lack of interest. As fellow examinee, his disinterest manner really gets into my nerves. I’ve been yelling at him for who knows many times, yet he didn’t bugde from his usual self, not even a bit.”

Shuurei finished her soup, she looks a little bit gloom.

Shouka chuckled, as he understands the reason behind his daughter’s gloomy expression.

“…you’re worried about Ryuuren-kun?”

“Ummm… somehow, when we last saw him, he seemed to be strangely obedient, he seemed to be more obedient than usual. I also felt that Ran Shogun was rather different than his usual self..”

Ran Ryuuren; Shouka whispered that name in his mind.

“..hey, Shuurei.. You did say that Ryuuren-kun’s logic is hardly can be understand by other people..”

“Yes?”

“If you look from the opposite side, isn’t that mean that he cannot look at things from the same angle as other people? I think it must be very lonely and isolated.”

Shuurei and Eigetsu stared in amazement.

“If you said that you like him, that he is a straightforward young man, you should prepare yourself to a certain extent. In a relation with someone, you have to treat them in the same manner as they do to you. If that someone never tells lie, then you should not lie as well. If someone told you that they like you, then you can not half-heartedly return their feeling. If you do, it will hurt them. Rather than give them expectation, you should refrain from being involved in the first place.”

Shuurei and Eigetsu nodded in silence. They looked at the feather that Ryuuren had given them.

Shouka gave a serene look to both of them. And then, he asked once again.

“Do both of you like Ryuuren-kun?”

Eigetsu nodded. As her answer, Shuurei heaved a sigh.

“…tomorrow, when I go out for shopping, I will stop by at Ran Shogun’s residence and invite him over for dinner.”

Shouka smiled.

“I think he will be delighted.”

“..Tou-sama, you’ve never meet Ryuuren in person, yet you seem to understand him very well.”

Shuurei said that out of amazement, not because she wanted to be sarcastic.

Shouka sipped his tea, then gazed at the moon hanging high in the sky outside the window.

“Umm.. from what I’ve heard from you, they might sound completely the opposite, but I know someone who had a strong resemblance to Ryuuren-kun. If I have to say it in figure, it maybe around 232 degree off..”

Shouka thinks of his younger brother, who currently hold the post of shousho of the Ribu.


THREE



That night, Kou Reishin, who gained a comment of 232 degree off from his brother, is leaving his residence in a very good mood. His destination is his fellow colleague, Kobu-shousho, the masked Kou Kijin’s residence.

His visit was uncalled for. In spite of that, it’s very unusual that Kou Kijin let Reishin entering his residence without any complaint. Kijin had already heard that from today onwards, Ran Shuuei is taking several days off, and that Ran Ryuuren had returned to the Ran residence.

When they both have been left alone in a warm, pleasant room, Kijin takes off his mask. As years go by, his beauty is still unrivalled. Today, a gloomy shadow is casted upon that beautiful feature.

“Ran Ryuuren, eh.. what do you think, Reishin.”

“Huh? Nothing in particular. I’m not interested.”

Kijin had presumed that Ryuuren was the reason of Reishin’s visit. At that curt answer, he lifted a corner of his eye.

“Not interested? He is the first direct descendant that they’ve sent for the last 7 years.”

“Both of you and Kouyuu said similar things. I don’t have the slightest interest in trying to know what intentions the Rans have, on Ran Ryuuren, nor in everything that have something to do with that.”

“Return to your own place at once.”

At the exclamation of his beautiful colleague who asked him to leave without letting him to have a sip of the tea that has been provided, Reishin heaved a sigh of disappointment while resting himself comfortably in a chair. Unlike himself, Kijin does seriously think about the future of the country. That was his reason for being an imperial officer. That was the reason behind his tension regarding the youngest brother of Ran’s direct descendant.

“…compared to his brother, he’s a different type of prodigy. He’s very hard to employ… or rather, he’s useless.”

“Are you sure?”

“No matter how you see it, he’s completely useless.”

“But, he’s a true genius.”

“Yes. His brilliance surpasses his other brothers; he is the most brilliant of the Rans. At the same time, he is also a true eccentric. If I have to say this from the point of view of the Ribu-shousho, there is no place for him in the court. He acts solely on his own logic… I have no business with those who’s completely useless. What necessary are a great number of prodigies and a small number of ‘people who are gifted in understanding others’. Having a true genius will only be an obstacle rather than helpful.”

“...that’s harsh.”

“It’s the truth. You and he are different.”

“However, his existence is substantial.”

“Yes. For people who understand him, he is a valuable existence that you can hardly get. I’ll just sit back and watch how that brat is going to act on this matter.”

On the contrary to his tone, what Reishin had said is, undoubtedly, true.

“…as the shousho of personnel affair, I ask you this. That eccentric attitude of Ran Ryuuren.. is that all an act?”

“Houju, if I can sort that out, I won’t say that Ran Ryuuren is a true genius. The only one in this world who knows that is he himself.”

A genius.. a person who knows the will of heaven . One who is a little bit off wouldn’t be called as ‘genius’. In fact, it’s doubtful whether there are people in this world who can be regarded as geniuses, enough to be counted with one’s five fingers. In spite of that, it’s an unfortunate fact that Ryuuren is one among those people; hence he gained the name “Ryuuren”.

Having him as an ally would be the same as gaining an enormous power for oneself. The abilities to see far of what lies ahead, to define facts on various matter rather than merely making predictions; these abilities are supposed to be reflected in Ran Ryuuren’s eyes. In a way, his power surpasses even the supernatural power possessed by the Hyou family.

(…however, there is no way that brat can take in that Ran Ryuuren.)

Those who have the possibility for that..

“By the way, if it wasn’t about Ran Ryuuren, then what had brought you here in the first place?”

Reishin smiled widely upon hearing his colleague’s question.

“I bring some new gifts for you.”

“…bring that along and make your way out of here.”

However, Reishin has starting to unwrap the package he had brought. There are no sign that he is going to refrain from what he was doing at that moment.

“These are truly master pieces. In a way, these are also made for my sake.”

Kijin frozen instantly at the sight of numerous masks, revealed before him. On the contrary, Reishin looks extremely happy.

“What do you think of aniue’s face masks! This is his smiling mask, slightly smiling, rather troubled, relinquished… there are more.”

…those masks are certainly master pieces. Each one of them is eerily similar to Shouka’s expressions, as if these masks are peeled straight off Shouka’s. To be honest, they are frightening.

However, Kijin was stucked in finding his words. If he drove Reishin away as he usually did, he felt that he would be very impolite to the mask of a smiling Shouka. This is what has been going through Kijin’s head.

“Come on, come on! Put this on, Houju. Now we’re going to rehearse.”

“…rehearse?”

Reishin made out some coughing sounds, which sound strangely happy and full of pride.

“This is for when I’m visiting aniue’s residence. I think that it’s time for me to do that. Kouyuu has been detouring for that purpose for around a year. During summer, I’ve been helping and protecting Shuurei from a certain slave-driver-masked superior. I have made a good impression of a ‘nice uncle’ to her. I have perfectly had my dearest niece’s favour in hand. However, I ha hardly get the chance to talk to aniue recently, so I’m kinda worried.”

Kijin has been aware of Reishin’s stupidity, and now, he is again, convinced by the thought. It’s very hard to believe that the beaming face in front of him belongs to the person who was –just a moment ago-- assessed Ran Ryuuren in a cold, matter-of-factly expression.

Huh, Kijin snickered at Reishin.

“I tell you this. Shuurei’s impression of you is just merely that of a ‘weird uncle’. Don’t get delusional and change that for your own convenience.”

“Don’t tell lies! Hu huh! You’re jealous, aren’t you? No matter how hard you’re trying to shake my beliefs..”

“First of all, the one who is getting closer is Kouyuu. You didn’t even take one step closer yourself, did you? Not only does she know not of your name and existence; for one summer, the only impression you left her was just that of a ‘weird uncle’. Where and how are you going to get closer? Do you receive her seasonal greetings like I did?”

“Se.. seasonal greetings, you said?”

Reishin turned pale at Kijin’s merciless remarks.

“Do.. don’t tell me..”

“Afterwards, we often write letters and deepening our bond of friendship.”

This time, Kijin’s beauty shines to its fullest.

“Well, I absolutely detest the thought of being your relatives; but, if things stay as it is now, you’ll be no more than a ghostly relative. I can stop worrying and feel relieved for once.”

Reishin doesn’t even have any will power left to counter Kijin’s harshness, due to the severe shock he had received. He put various Shouka’s expression masks back into its package, undoubtedly in a self-unconscious state of mind; and then staggering out of the room. Just like a ghost.

After seeing him off, Kijin found a smiling Shouka mask in the floor. It must be fallen off when Reishin put them back in his package. Kijin picked it up carefully.

“Shouka-dono, I respect you from the bottom of my heart.”

Kijin knew. Reishin is also one among few geniuses of this world. However, by a sheer luck, he had Shouka. It was only because of his brother’s existence that Reishin seemed to be one of those from this side. Without Shouka’s existence who had accepted everything about Reishin, it wouldn’t be possible for Kijin to interact with him as he did up until now. Only when it comes to his brother that Reishin returned from being a genius into that of a human. The connection between his world and their world lies solely on Shouka.

The only one who can truly understand Reishin, to accept and absorp the endless darkness and solitude within Reishin is Shouka. It has always been Shouka from the beginning, now, and onwards. It was impossible for him, Yuushun, nor Ri Kouyuu to fill in that role. It’s not possible for those involved half way in Kou Reishin’s life to fully understand all of him.

Therefore, Shouka is a ‘special’ person for Reishin.

Kijin smiled bitterly.

“No wonder only weirdos pay attention . After all, she’s the daughter of Shouka-dono, who is able to calmy accept that Reishin.”

A slight difference that attracts other. It must be the main reason.


*******************



The glittering moonlight illuminates the night sky.

Alone, Ryuuren is gazing at the moon in a secluded corner of the residence. He murmured at the presence who is coming closer to where he is.

“…to think that ‘the most elegance hovel’ is something like this.. it’s truly pathetic.”

“If you send me letter before your arrival, I’d make this place filled with grass and anything that suits your taste.”

“Just growing everything in one place is not good enough. Honestly.. to put together plants from eight provinces in one residence.. what a disgrace.”

Ryuuren is muttering his complaints one after another. However, he doesn’t show his usual spirit. Since they have returned to the residence, Shuuei has begun to worry over Ryuuren’s dispirited state. Obviously, his brother is not in his usual self.

He had confined himself in a secluded part of the residence, and there has been nothing to be heard ever since. There is no sound of his flute, and he can’t possibly sleep as well. He has been in his current state, unceasingly stared at the garden.

Just now, Shuuei thought that maybe Ryuuren is..

Ryuuren raised an eyebrow, and casted a look around the garden.

“…Aniue, to think that someone like you can actually settle down in a place like this..”

Shuuei didn’t ask as ‘what kind of place’ that Ryuuren was referring to. When he first arrived in Kiyou, he was surprised himself. A rather sensitive person must have felt it once they’re entering Kiyou. In general, it’s not such a shocking impression; however, judging from his expression, Ryuuren had an opposite impression.

“The splendid capital which received the divine protection of the Saihassen… when you got used to it, it’s not that bad. In spite of that, ghost does appear here. I saw one myself.”

Shuuei recalled an event last year, when the spring has just begun. He and Kouyuu were lurking around in the archives in their effort to exterminate a ghost who has been haunting the place… To think that a year has passed ever since..

“The divine protection of the Saihassen, huh..”

Ryuuren closed his eyes, lamenting.

“I could only think that it was meant to test me. Here, ayakashi couldn’t possibly doing any sins. As if it is telling people that malice and evil deed are born from within themselves.”

Ryuuren looked up at his brother.

“You don’t have to keep an eye on me. I will fulfil my promise.”

“I know. I’m not worried about that. Passing in one of the top three positions is not a big deal for someone like you. By the way, if you keep dressing like that, you’ll catch cold.”

Ryuuren doesn’t wear his usual flashy outfit. He is wrapped in simple thin clothes. It seems that he just had taken a bath, as transparent warm steam is still emitting from his body. Shuuei covered his brother’s wet hair with a thick cloth.

“Only when you’re dressing in normal attire like this that I can feel that you’re really my brother.”

That is for the elegance part. Instead of Shuuei, it’s most likely that people would say that Ryuuren is impressively more beautiful.

Suddenly, Ryuuren began to recite a poem. Most of the time, Shuuei would heave a sigh, thinking that his brother has started one of his weird behaviour. However, that night, Shuuei can figure out the reason behind Ryuuren’s weirdness. That was why he kept quiet and sat beside him.

Ryuuren’s melodious and clear voice brings a pleasant sensation to his ears. Ryuuren has a good sense of sound. He can do everything in perfection, even in music, with the exception for flute. Nobody can understand why he can be that poor-skilled at flute (yokobue), and on top of that, to take such a strong fondness of the flute that he is most unskilful at. As a matter of fact, Shuuei wanted to have someone who can explain the mystery behind Ryuuren’s ability to skilfully play a tatebue (a type of flute, similar to a recorder), while having such a defect in playing flute.

The poem stopped abruptly. Ryuuren’s expression is hidden behind his hair that covering his cheeks.

Shuuei stopped being mean.

“Ryuuren, just now, I received a letter from Shuurei-dono. She invites you for dinner at her residence tomorrow. It seems that she will deliberately come to pick you up.”

Ryuuren kept silent. He didn’t reach for the letter that has been handed over towards his direction. Shuuei continues.

“It’s alright. I give you my consent. You can go ahead.”

After that, Ryuuren received the letter. He tucked it carefully into his pocket, and slowly rose from his seat. Shuuei grabbed his collar and forced him to return, since it seems that he’s about to go through the garden in his current attire.

“Wait. Where are you going while dressing like this?”

“I have to go to earn small change at once.”

“Huh? Small change?”

“As a friend, I can’t possibly put another burden on the shoulder of my bosom friend no. 1, who is in a rather tight financial situation. I can’t waste even one moment.”

His expression and his behavior remaining unchanged, however, the gloomy atmosphere that was surrounding him a moment ago have been completely disappeared.

Shuuei bursts out of his will.

Frankly speaking, in comparison to Ryuuren, Shuuei is an average man. He thought that what is reflected in Ryuuren eyes is obviously different from his. Due to that peculiarity, his brother has been all alone in this world. He has been alone since he was born, and in turn, he has naturally taken it as a fact.

…Ryuuren’s love for nature and elegance is that they are unchanging. They accepted him in silence. They can heal a little bit of his loneliness.

However, he has found it.

People, who do not share his view, yet are willing to be concerned about him. People who accepts, who returns his words and his feelings, who allows him to stay by their side. Friends who would angry, yelling, and showing affection from the bottom of their hearts. The first ‘outsiders’ who didn’t escape from his brother.

(…both of you have my deepest gratitude.)

He was just merely existed in this world. At last, he has started to get involved with this world.

“…Ryuuren, you’re ‘Ran Ryuuren’.”

A name which received two characters of “Souryuurensen”, the symbol of the Ran family. It wasn’t Ryuuren’s original name. His exceptional brilliance has been acknowledged, and he received the name ‘Ryuuren’ when he was just 4 years old. Along the history of the Ran, the existence of “Ran Ryuuren” is rare. At times, those inherited that name would mostly reign as the head of the family.

Not many people are aware of that special meaning.

‘Ran Ryuuren’.. it’s a symbol of the Ran family, and it is also their last card. In a situation of crisis, ‘Ran Ryuuren’ is an absolute existence, surpassing even the decision made by the head of the family.

Ryuuren had begun his wandering and barely stayed at home after his succession of ‘Ran Ryuuren’s name. He has been a weird child to begin with; however, his behaviour has instantly change eversince. In spite of that, his three elder brothers who reign as the heads of the family, and Shuuei himself, didn’t say a thing. They were just sharing a silent agreement.

‘Ran Ryuuren’ had to be that way. ‘Ran Ryuuren’ shouldn’t be easily manipulated by others. The thought of being able to manipulate ‘Ran Ryuuren’ itself must be put aside. ‘Ran Ryuuren’ bears an absolute authority over the Rans; that is why no one should be able to get a hold of him. A ‘Ran Ryuuren’ who is wandering around and won’t listen to anything in case someone gets a hold on him is the main house’s expectation of ‘Ran Ryuuren’.

Up until now, Shuuei had thought exactly the same. To begin with, he hardly had any chance to see Ryuuren due to his wandering habit which has made him away from the house for most of time. Although they do meet each other, Ryuuren’s peculiar personality has made Shuuei unable to think of Ryuuren as his cute little brother. Shuuei had to keep Ryuuren company simply because he is his little brother. Honestly speaking, Shuuei can’t comprehend the brotherhood relationship, as with the current emperor and his elder brother, and a certain shousho with his elder brother. In fact, he would rather have the current emperor as his younger brother.

However, now he felt that he can understand something of his little brother; the little brother of which people in general would describe as ‘weird’.

“At the same time when you inherited the name ‘Ran Ryuuren’, our three elder brothers stepped forward to the position of the family leader.”

14 years ago, their three brothers resigned from their position in the imperial court, and became the leader of the family. Their new status has made quite a commotion at that time. Not only that it is the first time in the long history of the Sainana-ke (the house of the seven nobles) in which the position of family leader is taken equally by more than one person; in addition, the three of them are considered as the sign of bad luck.

Despite family members demanding ‘Ran Ryuuren’, they didn’t cringe and took the leadership of the family.

“It was in order to protect you.”

He has been wondering. His younger brother has been acknowledged as ‘Ran Ryuuren’ despite his very tender age. No one would disapprove him as the leader of the family, instead it will save them from unfair dispute over the family’s highest authority. Therefore, ‘Ran Ryuuren’ from generation to generation is associated as the privilege of the family leader. In spite of that, his three elder brothers, on their own will, stepped forward to take the leadership, and divide the authority among themselves.

“I know.”

Ryuuren murmured. His breath turned into white haze. Shuuei closed his eyes. Indeed, there is no way his younger brother wouldn’t be aware of that…

“I’m happy.”

Therefore, Ryuuren slowy continues.

“I’m thinking of going on a journey.”

“Yes.”

At that time, if Ryuuren were to take the leadership of the family, he would be isolated from the world at that very instant. He would remain alone until his life ends.

The once and only chance that has been left for Ryuuren was almost destroyed. However, in the most crucial moments, his three elder brothers have saved it up for his sake.

And then, Ryuuren took the chance. He used the freedom silently given by his three brothers to the upmost, in search for the key to the door that will open to this side of the world that would allow his existence.

He has made it in time. At last, in his 18th year.

“Ryuuren.. our brothers aren’t taking that position for you. They are full-fledged leaders of the family. Therefore, generations of ‘Ran Ryuuren’ are not bound to be the leader of the family.”

By taking full authorities over the family, the three elder brothers have left the option of no longer obliged to be the leader of the family for Ryuuren. Currently, their youngest brother has had many options of futures that he might take. It must be the ‘freedom’ which generations of ‘Ran Ryuuren’ shouldn’t desire for.

“…I didn’t know that our brothers are so kind to you..”

Shuuei ruffled his brother’s hair. When he comes to think of it, he felt that he has never done a single brotherly act towards Ryuuren. It was not an appropriate gesture for an 18 years old young man, yet he felt like he wants to do it. Now, for the first time, he thought that his youngest brother --who is very excited about meeting his friends—is cute.

“Sorry. Up until now, I think nothing of you but as a weird and absurd uncute little brother.”

“Don’t worry. I have thought of you as an undeveloped brother who wouldn’t be able to understand the nature of true refinement. We’re even.”

“…I hear that as what you currently think of me, though..”

“This is the first time we had had the same opinion, eh, Gukei. By the why, if you have done with this ‘might be the one and only heartwarming conversation between brothers’ we had, I want you to let me go. I have to go to earn some small change for my bosom friend as soon as possible.”

It seems that no matter what, he wants to earn the money by himself.

“…in the middle of the night like this?”

“When it comes to travelling, I’m more experienced than you. There’s always honest ways of earning money even at time like this.”

Somehow, Shuuei had a bad premonition about this ordeal. However, along with his fondness for refinement and elegance, Ryuuren also hates the ‘acts that disgrace the refinement of a human being (-->crime)’. In this regard, Shuuei concluded that Ryuuren would do just fine. After all, it would be foolish of him if he was to be worried about Ryuuren’s safety.

“Well then, you can go now. Wear something thick before you leave, so you won’t catch a cold.”

“Shuu-aniue.”

“Hmm?”

“Rather than to me, our three elder brothers are kind to their younger brothers. And maybe you didn’t realize it yourself, but you’re also very kind to me. As my brother, I think you’re a nice one.”

Ryuuren quickly put on his usual flashy outfit, and left as fast as the wind blows.

After seeing his brother off, Shuuei thought about his remarks earlier and chuckled. …certainly, it is not as clear as the relationship between any other brothers, however..

He thought it might be true afterall.


*******************


Part two...


Comments

( 2 花束 — 一輪の花を奉げよう )
ivyshades
Mar. 26th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
I know it's like a year late, but thanks so much for this translation! Saves me a lot of trouble :D
montagerie
Jan. 3rd, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing this! I love this story.
( 2 花束 — 一輪の花を奉げよう )