Episode Title: The Prettier the Flower, the Higher the Branch
Refers to: Sakujun talking about Shuurei being a very special and unique person, like a flower on the very highest branch of a tree. The highest flowers are the hardest to obtain.
So with Soujun now dead, Chuushou knows that he can no longer underestimate Sakujun as someone who has no ambition for power. We see a flashback to when Chuushou came across several dead people whom his older brother Enjun had killed, and learn that Enjun also had a ruthless side capable of murdering people if it helped him achieve his goals. Perhaps that’s where Sakujun gets his bloodthirsty streak from?
Sakujun leaves for the city of Koren to await Shuurei. Seiran, meanwhile, very clearly struggling with several things on his mind. We see Ensei watching him silently from afar a couple of times throughout the episode, but Ensei does not interfere. Seiran is surely upset at seeing Shuurei come to (hopefully only temporary) harm, but could he be upset about other things?
Kokujun comes to see Shuurei and formally introduce himself. Shuurei can’t help but comment on how different he looks from his brother, and thanks him for looking after Kourin and Eigetsu. Kokujun asks Shuurei to be allowed to bury his older brother’s remains by himself.
Side note: I do not know the name of the music theme which plays during this scene. Up until now, based on the video it was included in on Youtube, I knew it only as “Beijing Fu Wa” (I believe it was a fan video about 2008 the Beijing Olympics). However, because I didn’t remember the Sakujun arc well, I didn’t remember that it was when this piece of music was used. It is one of my favourite tracks!
Shuurei also formally meets the man in the brightly colored clothes and glasses who had saved her from walking into the den of the Murderous Blades a couple of episodes ago. His name is Sai Sho and he is the head of the Merchant’s Guild Special District in Kinka. Sai’s twin sister is the provincial leader of the Merchant’s Guild. Together the two siblings basically run trade in Sa Province.
Sai promises that because Shuurei has held up her end of the bargain (to rid Kinka of the Murderous Blades), the Merchant’s Guild will pledge 80% of its resources to help her and Eigetsu as the new co-governors. Though of course, anything the guild loans her will develop interest until it comes time for the guild to collect. Good thing Shuurei’s up for the challenge of co-governing.
Meanwhile, that old bastard Advisor Sho has also arrived in Kinka and taken Enjun’s ashes to the Chrysanthemum Residence where Sakujun had been residing. I must say, it looks a lot less morbid during the daytime. Advisor Sho still has Enjun’s gold ring and wonders what he should do with it. Give it to Shuurei and Eigetsu? To Enjun’s wife Eiki? Or to Yuushun Tei? Hmm…
We see Seiran hesitating to approach Shuurei as she’s playing her erhu, then back off without knocking on her door. He knows that her playing is not a bad sign, but Seiran still evidently has some concerns if he’s not comfortable entering her room. What could he be worried about?
After Ryuuren leaves Kinka to resume his journey, Kourin brings Shuurei some tea in her room. Seiran is apparently not the only person with heavy thoughts weighing down their mind, because Shuurei musters up the courage to ask Kourin a somewhat daring question: what was Advisor Sa to her? Kourin pulls out Enjun’s bloody handkerchief and the two young women have a discussion about the different forms of love. Why would Shuurei be asking Kourin that kind of question?
Elsewhere, Sakujun comes to see Yuushun and… bait him a little, if you will. Some shots within this scene were honestly a little creepy, such as getting to see only Sakujun’s eyes through the slot of Yuushun’s cell door and never getting to fully see Yuushun’s face. Very interesting animation choices.
Sakujun pulls out Shuurei’s hair ornament and comments to Yuushun about how he’s fallen for a woman for the first time in his life at age 29. Sakujun says that despite Shuurei being a very special person, a flower on the highest branch, he will have her one way or another.
Sakujun also reveals to Yuushun that Chuushou is planning on sealing off the city of Koren before Shuurei and Eigetsu arrive. Sakujun wants Yuushun to fulfill the order because he thinks that Eigetsu and Shuurei will still be able to find a way into the city somehow. Will Yuushun go along with this unusual order from Chuushou?
Back at the Imperial Palace, a discussion between Shuuei, Kouyuu and Ryuuki gives a little background information on the current situation in Sa Province for anyone who might’ve missed the details. Ryuuki’s upset at hearing what happened to Shuurei (via a letter from Reishin), but with Shuurei being a whole province away there’s really not much Ryuuki can do to help her.
At the very end of the episode is my personal favourite scene of the episode: Seiran finally finds the courage to talk to Shuurei. Shuurei makes Seiran some Gan Lu tea, oblivious to the look on Seiran’s face and his recent behavior because hey, this is Shuurei we’re talking about. For the first time, Seiran ignores the tea.
Seiran is uncharacteristically blunt with Shuurei in this scene as he asks her what he means to her. Is he special? (Implied: Does she care for him for than others in her life?) He points out that she hasn’t put her hair up since that encounter with Sakujun in the Chrysanthemum Residence and wonders if it’s because Sakujun told her that he loves her.
Shuurei tries to fib her way out of the conversation by pointing out that Sakujun reminds her of Ryuuki because they’re both childlike adults and Sakujun therefore “leaves a long-lasting impression,” but Seiran is not fooled for a moment by this half-lie. Seiran points out that Sakujun is a very dangerous man and that he is lying to Shuurei when he says he loves her.
Seiran approaches Shuurei and puts his hand over hers as she holds the teapot of Gan Lu tea to her chest. In a very un-Seiran-like manner as he pulls her in towards his chest, Seiran tells her that he knows that she will fall in love one day… but if she thinks that she is falling for Sakujun, Seiran wants her to pick him instead. Seiran reminds Shuurei that he wants her to be happy, and that that sole reason is why he still stands by her side.
With that Seiran leaves, telling Shuurei he will not ever forgive Sakujun for what the hedonist has said to her. Outside and alone in the darkness, Seiran walks a short distance before giving in to his anger and punching a decent sized hole in a wall. He gives Sakujun some credit for taunting Seiran knowing who his real identity is, but this has only served to anger Seiran and hints of some kind of big showdown between the two characters at some point. I don’t remember the Sakujun arc so right now, that’s my guess as to how the arc will end.
~ OMG BE STILL MY SHIPPER HEART ~
Ok so I’ve discussed my favourite ship already in an earlier review, but Seiran has never really made a bold move like this before towards Shuurei so many of my comments may have come off as merely wishful thinking and speculation. But I feel that this last scene in the episode clarifies Seiran’s feelings towards her.
We know that ever since Seiran was found and brought to live with Shuurei and her parents, Shuurei’s happiness and well-being has been his top priority. I imagine that in the beginning it was more of a chore or responsibility because Shuurei was so little, but as they’ve both gotten older and grown closer together, Seiran very clearly looks over Shuurei because he wants to. He has a deep love and affection for Shuurei, one that cannot be denied.
One could argue that Seiran’s feelings for Shuurei stop at familial, and up until this scene I could agree with that. Heck even with taking this scene into consideration, Seiran’s feelings could still be perceived as familial. You don’t have to love someone in a romantic sense to want them to be safe and happy.
So then is Seiran’s anger towards Sakujun because he worries that Shuurei may come to harm at his hands? Because he thinks Sakujun is lying to her to get what he actually wants (power at the head of the Sa family)? Because aside from Ryuuki, Sakujun is the only other man to have said straight to Shuurei’s face that he loves her? Could Seiran be jealous that Sakujun has said the words that Seiran himself has not, cannot, and may never say to Shuurei? Did he offer himself as a spouse to Shuurei just to “see her happy,” or because he dares to want something more with his Ojou-sama?
I mean, Saiunkoku Monogatari is a reverse harm with some romance, so I can (and probably will eventually) make the case that almost every main male character who is Shuurei’s age or older has some form of romantic feelings for her. In my mind this also includes Seiran.
As you can guess, my overall take on this scene is that Seiran is both afraid for Shuurei and jealous that Sakujun has propositioned himself to be her mate. Seiran knows full well how naïve and sheltered Shuurei has been and is legitimately afraid that Shuurei will be won over by Sakujun’s words, even though they are coming from the lips of a psychopath and are likely hollow and meaningless. It would break Seiran’s heart to see Shuurei spend her life (or get trapped in a situation she can’t escape from) with someone like Sakujun, hence his offer. Taking Seiran’s previous behaviours and treatment of Shuurei into account, I choose to believe that his offer to Shuurei also comes from a place of romantic love, although yes I know it can be read as otherwise. Keep watching the series is all I have to say. ;D