Youko has questions.
Questions would come to her, sometimes like seizing leg-cramps in the middle of the night. If they lingered in the morning, stronger than the aftertaste of strange dreams, she would scribble them down--in Japanese, in jumbles of hiragana and katakana with a dash of high-school English to thicken the code, so that anyone who happened across them (Keiki) would not be able to read. The scraps of parchment littered her desk like leaves awaiting a rake.
Where do youma come from?
Why does Tentei punish the people for sins of the king?
Why are kirin beautiful?
At length the last of these began to pester Youko. Not because she objected to beauty, either in general or in any specific case, but because she thought it would be less hazardous for all concerned if kirin were plain and undazzling, like mules. When she posed the topic in a letter to Rakushun, he wrote back:
Don't you think it's their divine nature reflected in their form?
And she mused on that answer, but it seemed to be predicated on the assumption that divinity itself was beautiful, and given what she'd seen of Tentei's dealings, she was not so eager to assume. For all she knew, the heavens that grew shining ranka on the tree at Mt. Hou were the same heavens that gave youma leave to spawn in hellish pits somewhere, if they spawned at all. One day she asked Enho if there was such a thing as a maboku, a demon-bearing tree.
"No human has ever laid eyes on one," he told her. "But you might ask someone more informed than I."
Youko frowned until she grasped his meaning, then spoke aloud. "Jouyuu?"
The reply reverberated within her ears. "Yes, Your Majesty."
"How were you born?"
"I'm afraid I don't recall the event, Your Majesty."
It occurred to her that a hinman, who was more or less incorporeal, might not be the best youma to ask, but a later talk with Hankyo and Hyouki ended in much the same way. Neither of them remembered their own births--for which Youko could hardly fault them, given how well she recollected her own--nor did they remember having parents. They had no clear conception of how they or others of their kind had arrived in the world. When asked what their earliest memory was, both of them said "eating." Youko could not bring herself to prod for details.
So she abandoned that line for the time being. The matter of divine justice seemed equally opaque. Kirin, at least, ought to be more explicable--wasn't she on speaking terms with five of them, and much closer (in theory) to one? But there was no looking Keiki in the eye and demanding that he explain his prettiness. Rakushun's idea was as sound as any, Youko supposed: even if youma and kirin were children of the same god, it was possible that one child got all the ugliness and the other all the charm. In any case, there was more work than philosophizing to be done in Kei. She put the wondering aside.
Years later, at a moon-viewing party in honor of continued harmonious relations (any excuse would do, said the king of En) among Kei and its neighbors, Youko eyed the row of golden heads--golden with one dark exception, dark but no less lovely--and murmured, like a complaint to herself over her cup, "Why are they?"
"Why are they what?" said Shouryuu, whose ears were never dulled by wine, and whose glance rested on Enki in the moonlight as if there were no more comfortable spot.
"As pretty as that."
Shouryuu hmphed, tossed back a drink. "For their masters," he said, and complimented her on the vintage.