Saiunkoku Monogatari Episode 35
Episode Title: Every Meeting Ends in Parting
Refers to: Every time Sakujun met with Shūrei, it ended with a parting, including the last time they see each other.
Seiran and Sakujun are playing their roulette drinking “game,” and as they talk, Seiran is asking Sakujun questions about the past. Questions he’s probably suspected the answers to, but still wants to hear them from Sakujun’s poisonous lips anyways. Sakujun does not rise to take Seiran’s bait however, and the two dance around each other with Sakujun never fully admitting to the truth behind Seiran’s accusations.
Meanwhile the ceremony to pick the new head of the Sa clan has finished and everyone has left. Shūrei runs off to meet Sakujun alone, and while yeah Ensei’s correct about that situation being “Shūrei’s problem to deal with,” shouldn’t you at least keep an eye from the bushes or something Ensei?! How coldhearted!
We get to see Seiran’s darker side during this drinking game with Sakujun. When Sakujun tells Seiran that he wants the prince to bugger off and let him have Shūrei, since Seiran has other people dear to him in his life, Seiran tells him that’s not happening. Seiran says he is selfish and he takes EVERYTHING he desires; he does not choose. So if he wants Shūrei to stay with him ( cough and love him cough ), then Seiran will do everything in his power to keep Shūrei close to his side.
Sakujun tries to provoke Seiran into getting angry and losing his focus by telling him that Shūrei made him Gan Lu tea. Seiran doesn’t buy this for a moment and says that Sakujun must have tricked her into doing it somehow. This shakes Sakujun’s confidence enough that his movements stop dead still for a few moments, the bowl of sake inches from his lips. We won’t learn why until later.
As the two men get more and more drunk, they start to loosen up around each other. Seiran brags about being Shūrei’s second most favourite person, for example, and Sakujun snarkily telling him that’s nothing to brag about.
Throughout this drinking scene we get flashes of Shūrei running towards what she thinks is Sakujun’s location, and we also get flashbacks to the tea scene between Shūrei and Sakujun when the latter was trying to get Shūrei to pour Gan Lu tea for him. After Sakujun admits that he wishes Shūrei had said that he was her third favourite person in the world, Seiran finally notices – Sakujun is very sick. He has the shadows under his eyes one gets when one is poisoned!
Seiran asks one final question (about Shūrei’s flower bud pin), and Sakujun lies and says he’s already returned it. Satisfied, Seiran lunges at Sakujun with his sword. Seiran reveals that he knows that Sakujun put poison in ALL the bowls of sake, meaning the two men have been poisoning themselves this entire time! And the only reason why Seiran doesn’t look ill like Sakujun does is because he figured Sakujun would pull a trick like this and he prepared his body somehow. Maybe consumed an antidote beforehand?
Seiran is about to deliver a punishing blow to Sakujun when he is suddenly unable to move! He slowly sinks to the floor as Sakujun reveals that he somehow strengthed the wine, making it so alcoholic that an ordinary person would fall over after just one bowl; Seiran’s already had a few, just like Sakujun.
It looks like Sakujun is about to deal the finishing blow to Seiran, but the psychopath takes off instead, saying that Seiran is not the person who can win a bet against him. Sakujun makes his way out to the estate grounds where he plays an erhu to guide Shūrei to his location.
As she approaches his location, Shūrei vows that this will be the last time they meet as two private citizens. The next time they see each other, Shūrei will have to arrest Sakujun for the crimes he has committed. What Shūrei doesn’t realize is that this will be the last time they meet for entirely different reasons…
Sure enough, by the time Shūrei finds Sakujun, it’s already far too late.
He has blood dripping in long streams from his mouth, and the thick liquid has covered the front of his outfit. Sakujun’s eyesight is starting to go and he has difficulty speaking. As Shūrei yells at him about going for help and getting medicine for whatever is making him sick, Sakujun reveals the truth via an internal monologue.
During their time together, every time Sakujun prepared hot water for Shūrei so she could make him Gan Lu tea, he put a slow acting poison in it. Shūrei always refused because 1) she has no emotional attachment to Sakujun and she only makes that tea for people she cares about, and 2) Gan Lu tea apparently reacts unfavorably to alcohol, so Shūrei only let him drink hot water after seeing him drink whatever alcohol was available. Sakujun put a neutralizing agent in the Gan Lu tea he was asking Shūrei to prepare for him. Therefore every time Sakujun drank the plain hot water, he was slowly poisoning himself to death. That’s where his line “You must prepare Gan Lu tea for me or I’ll die!” came from. Only the neutralizing agent in the tea could save him, and Shūrei, not knowing his plan, refused to make the special tea for him. And I imagine Sakujun’s twisted mind (or maybe his pride) wouldn’t let him prepare the tea for himself in order to save his own life. He wanted the tea from Shūrei’s hands and only from Shūrei. Otherwise he would let his life end.
So, in effect… Shūrei killed Sakujun. Or rather, he killed himself via Shūrei’s refusal to make Gan Lu tea for him, technically. Sakujun’s internal monologue goes on to say that he thought about telling Shūrei his devious plan, but he didn’t want to be a hindrance to her, even though he desperately wanted her to admit that she cared for him in some capacity. He points out that she never once called him by his actual name, and thinking back over this arc that’s correct. When she thought he was someone else she called him “Master,” and then once Sakujun’s real identity was revealed she referred to him as “that guy” or “that person,” etc. Even though Sakujun was trying to demonstrate that he cared for her on some level (in only a way a psychopath could, of course), Shūrei never let that bond even start to develop between them.
As his body continues to shut down, Sakujun grabs onto Shūrei’s clothes to keep her by his side. He lets down her hair for the last time, and returns her flower bud hairpin at last. Sakujun asks Shūrei where he ranks on her list of important people, though she doesn’t answer.
In a rather inappropriate twist, Sakujun pulls Shūrei to him and kisses her mouth, already hung open in shock and horror, smearing his blood on her lips in the process. Gross. “I’m giving you Sakujun Sa,” he says, and for a moment Shūrei partially understands that maybe her refusal to make him Gan Lu tea might have harmed him. Never one to shy away under pressure, she asks him as much. Dodging her question, Sakujun goes on to tell her that he loves her, as well as the ways she played her erhu and prepared tea for him.
Shūrei… does not take this admission well. So poorly in fact that she slaps (a dying man!) across the face and yells at him for trying to die without answering her question. Shūrei demands that he wait for her return as she leaves to get help…. But it will be too late by the time she comes back. Sakujun knows this and so does the viewer. As Sakujun watches Shūrei run off to get him medical aid, he muses quietly that she will be the only person who has ever won a bet against him, and that she truly was special to him.
Sakujun’s final thoughts are of him wanting Shūrei to call him by his name, wanting to hear her play the erhu more, and how he just wanted to spend more time together with her overall. Sakujun just wanted to “make” Shūrei say that she loved him, without ever truly understanding the things that cause a person to want to say those words to another. His psychopathy, his narcissism prevented him from truly understanding love. And as a shooting star shines brightly for a brief moment in its path across the sky, Sakujun makes Shūrei’s name the last word to pass from his lips, then dies.
There’s an interesting scene near the end of the episode that takes place between Shūei and Ryūki. The king, who is no longer afraid of the dark thanks to Seiran’s return and Shūrei entering his life, comments on how fortunate he is to be surrounded by people he cares about (including Shūei). When Shūei asks Ryūki where he ranks on the king’s list of loved ones, Ryūki laughs and says no comparison can be made. This of course is in direct contrast to Shūrei’s list, where she has no problem putting Seiran and Shouka side by side (though it’s likely because they’re both family to her, versus a family member and a romantic interest).
Ryūki goes on to say that when he was younger, he’d only wanted his big brother by his side, but now as kings he wanted to be surrounded by everyone he loves. Shūei teases the king by calling him greedy, which Ryūki confirms, and I really like this line because it parallels Seiran calling himself greedy earlier in the episode. (I interpret this line as a nod to Seiran saying the line because Seiran should technically be king, as he is the elder sibling.)
Ryūki’s final words of the scene speak to the comparisons made by others between himself and Sakujun, which I think is another really neat idea to add. Although the two men are very different in many, many aspects, they have also several things in common.
“If… I could see no one but Shūrei… I feel that until I meet her, this world would be a terribly boring place… and once we did meet, I would make up for it by living my life like a candle burning furiously until it burns out, and I’d die alone. But if that were the case, I’d likely have no regrets.” – Ryūki Shi
(That’s basically sums up Sakujun in a nutshell, no?)
Sakujun is one of the most enigmatic characters in the entire series, and I could wax on for forever about his character and about his relationship with Shūrei. But he’s gone now, so what other threads are left to wrap up??
We’re almost to the end, only 4 more episodes to go!