Ordinarily, the base of the Kongou Mountains, which surround the Yellow Sea, would not be considered thick enough to have peaks tall enough pierce the Sea of Clouds, but the steepness of the Kongou Mountains was reminiscent of towering walls. The wide road penetrating the Mountains was as long as they were thick.
When Chi Gate opened, the ridges pressed together as though they were shaved out, and in between those ridges were wide, continuing ravines. The cliffs of those ravines towered up on either side leading from the front of Chi Gate. The road that led through the zig-zagging ravines, while really ascending upwards, appeared to slope to the very bottom.
The width of the ravine road was six hundred pu, wide enough for a phalanx of mounted troops. At the vanguard of the troops facing the fortress, people were hurrying towards the Yellow Sea. Along the rock face that enclosed the road remained some sparse snow. There was no wind, but it was not warm.
The sun of the spring equinox was for a long time intercepted by the Kongou Mountains, and so the dim predawn light lingered. And yet as the ravines became deeper the color of the sky above changed, stretched out in thin rivers, until at last sunlight weakly shone through. Just as the sun reached the ridges of the mountains, the small groups of people who had been proceeding towards the ravines halted and began to talk amongst themselves.
.: 104 :.
Before the ravine stood an enormous gate. It appeared to be slanting inwards, but that was only an affectation caused by its immensity. The gate was in two parts—the first part was monolithic, with vermillion-lacquered doors that towered at ten times the height of a human. The second part consisted of buildings—vermillion-lacquered pillars topped with green tiles, in the center of which was a door-less gate, above which was framed in black-lacquered letters the words “Reiken Gate.”
“This…” began Shushou in a small voice. “There are pictures of youma…”
Carved into the vermillion doors along with youma and youjuu were the shapes a strange living things. Their bodies were those of dragons, with two large wings.
“They’re the spirit beasts that protect Reiken Gate—tenhaku.”
Reiken Gate was definitely tall, but it didn’t seem impossible for a flying kijuu to pass over it. Its second part had a gate, and moreover the sky over it was open. However, the buildings of the second part also had the tenhaku. They would strike those who dared to try to trespass into the Yellow Sea with lightening, and eat their souls.
.: 105 :.
While quietly reflecting upon what she had heard from Gankyuu, Shushou looked up at the enormous gate, and her feet carried her forward. The people facing Reiken Gate like Shushou were all completely silent, having stopped just before the gate. Moreover, a strong sense of nervousness flowed from them. On the ledge in front of the gate the hoshou (歩墻, basically a walkway) which appeared to be on the verge of disappearing down the steep cliff wound along many levels, but at the moment no one was on it—the Gate was set to open at noon.
There was some time until then. The atmosphere of the ravines hung in the air, but at length from the kourou (高楼, high watchtower) echoed a low roar. A sort of sound that seemed like it was eternally vibrating. It was more like a growl than a roar. The people surveyed the area as if in fright, continuing to make a stir, and the growling noise seemed to change to match the sounds of the commotion.
“What…” Shushou also produced a small exclamation. Gankyuu took that as his cue.
“That is the sound of the Tenhaku. Don’t worry about it, just look.” Gankyuu pointed to the watchtower.
Around the blue and red kourou there was neither wind nor birds resting. The voices of the tenhaku and the commotion of the people both disappeared, and the area was visited by a solemn silence.
.: 106 :.
And in the gate of the impassable watchtower the figures of people appeared. At first, only one small black shadow could be seen, standing on a boulder above the gateway, and as such waved softly through the air. As soon as the figure, which appeared to be slowly sinking, passed through the mid part of the gate, it became apparent that he was an old man. Seemingly omnipresent, he slowly took in the sight of every person and dancingly descended, before at last landing below the lacquered red of the Gate. That was Tenhaku. Transformed. It seemed small in this shape, people said, the black steel cords binding its limbs being the evidence of that.
The old man descended to the center of the Gate, and facing no one in particular, bowed. He turned on his heel and raised his hands to the giant gate. With a height greater than forty bu, and a width well over two hundred bu, the sheer weight of the Gate was unimaginable—and yet, it lightly opened.
As the Gate slowly opened, a warm wind blew through from the other side. It fluttered through the people’s clothes, scattering their hair, before descending into the gorge. It was what the people of Ken feared more than anything else: the wind of the Yellow Sea.
After having opened the Gate, the old man spread open his arms and began to open the actual door through the Gate. On the other side of the gate were assembled a line of soldiers that mirrored those on this side. Everyone held their breath.
The old man solemnly held out his arms and walked from the inside to the outside of the Gate. As if he controlled them, the Gate doors opened, until they were at last fully ajar. At that point the old man stopped. He faced the other side of the Gate and folded his arms, before suddenly disappearing. In that instance, cheers rang out.
The shouts rang through the gorge. The wind blew, groaning, and the soldiers on the other side of the gate ran forward.
.: 107 :.
The soldiers outside the Yellow Sea urged their mounts forward, gripped their bows and spears, and headed towards the gorge before them. On the other side of the wave of people a stone kakuheki (hidden wall) appearing to cover the gorge could be seen. The soldiers on the Yellow Sea side of the Gate also urged their mounts forward, and passed the kakuheki. Prayers of thanks were shouted out. For a year, since the last spring equinox, they had spent their time in the Yellow Sea protecting those who were planning on returning to Ken. They cried out in joy for leaving the Yellow Sea after a year had passed, and while gripping bows and arrows passed through the gate. They ran towards the stone shelf and there, for the last time, stood in formation.
Too lazy to translate this paragraph. Basically people head in and out of the Yellow Sea.
Shushou’s whisper was nearly washed away by the tumult, but Ganyuu faintly heard her.
.: 108 :.
“That’s the spring equinox for you” Gankyuu laughed. Even though he well knew the penetrating fearsomeness of the Yellow Sea, on the days of solstice and equinox when the Four Gates opened, he could not help but anticipate that ceremony-like instant.
“It really is amazing.”
“If you want to turn back, now is your last chance,” said Gankyuu, and Shushou looked up at him.
“If you start now, you can make it back before Chi Gate closes.”
Even amidst all the surrounding noise Shushou’s reply was clear.
“You’re really going to go to the Yellow Sea?”
“I’m really going. Because Kyou needs a ruler.”
“And…you’re saying that ruler is going to be you?”
“Of course. Can you not see that?”
She looked at him with determination, and Gankyuu sighed. He took the reins in his hand and mounted the haku, extending his hand down to her.
.: 109 :.