Sr. Sec. Kan and his Asst. Sec. Ouyou were both firmly against women being allowed to take office. However, Kan was also one of the people who passed the National Exam from Hell (sic. the year Kijin, Reishin, and Yuushun took the exam). Shuurei tries to get in to see the Sr. Sec. but is turned back at the gates for the 13th time. But, unlike the previous 12 times, this time she decides to climb over the wall and sneak in to see them. ^^;
Kan: ......Hm? Oy, Yougyoku.
Ouyou: It's Gyoku!
K: Can you see that hand?
O: Huh? Think about how high this place is. There's no way something like that--"
Ass't. Sec. Ouyou turned and froze.
Just as he thought a thin arm was searching around on the inside of the window, a black head suddenly popped up, and finally a leg appeared.
Shuurei: Un nnnnnn
One arm and one leg were firmly set on the inside of the window when another hand reached in and just as the top half of the body came popping up, there was too much momentum and the person came tumbling into the room. The black hair had come free of its tie and spread across the floor.
S: Ugyaa! Ow... I-I hit my nose......
Shuurei then gets to sit in that office and watch as Kan and Ouyou worked the entire day while arguing. At the end of the day, Kan tells Shuurei to go home, but she refuses and asks him to listen to one thing she says in exchange for the bottle of sake she'd brought on a previous visit as a bribe to him. ^^; Kan agrees, and Shuurei challenges him to a comparative drinking match. If she wins, he'll listen to what she wants to talk about.
At first the match goes as would be expected and the two drink glass after glass of alcohol. After a while, Kan asks why Shuurei wanted to become an official; she could have gotten married to a wealthy man, had kids, and lived an easy life of luxury. Shuurei then demands to know why Kan threw away marrying a wealthy woman, having kids, being able drink his favourite alcohol at night... and otherwise having an easy life and instead choosing to study very hard and fight his way through the national exams. Kan tells her that that was obvious and that he thought he'd be able to drink all the alcohol he wanted. But Shuurei tells him that if that were true, he could have married the daughter of a wine merchant. Shuurei knows how much she studied in order to get past the exams, and so she tells him that there's no way he would have thrown away his youth and studied that hard to become an official if all he wanted was to drink alcohol. Kan eventually admits that he did it because he wanted to and asks if that was so bad. Shuurei shoots back saying that she was the same, and she also wanted to become an official.
As they argue, this time rather than having Ouyou fill the glasses they were drinking from, Kan tells him to bring some small (sic. normal sized) drinking glasses and to pour certain alcohols into them. He then tells Shuurei to taste them and tell him which is the better of the alcohols he has her try. At this point, Shuurei's drunk enough that she can't figure out what's wrong with the comparative drinking match they were having. ^^; Shuurei points out which of each pairing she thinks is the better alcohol, and Kan and Ouyou can't help being impressed at her alcohol tolerance and her sense of taste. In the end, Ouyou pours two large glasses of Chienhakushuu (an alcohol so strong that a single drink can knock a man out) and Kan tells Shuurei that if she can drink all of it down, he'll admit defeat. They both drink down their glasses after which Shuurei passes out. Kan catches her and holds her in his lap.
But by having won at this match, Shuurei gets Kan to realise that despite her being given special treatment by higher ups, she herself had the determination and will to carry out her job. Shuurei had gone into the drinking match determined to win even if it killed her, and had even stated flat out that if she died, fortunately for Sa Province, there was another capable governor there, so that wouldn't matter as long as she won and he'd listen to what she wanted to talk to him about.
Kan tells Ouyou to have Yuushun come to see him the next day and that Shuurei was to sleep (otherwise, she'd probably drag herself to be there). Ouyou takes Shuurei from Kan's lap after which Kan falls asleep at his desk. Ouyou tries to remember which family Shuurei's from in order to take her home and thinks of contacting Kouyuu when a voice tells him there's no need.
Shuurei wakes up and find that she's in her own bed. She briefly wonders if the drinking match was a dream but the smell of alcohol on her breath quickly tells her otherwise. Partly in order to clear her head from the alcohol and partly because she promised herself to go there once she'd beaten the Dept. of Public Works into listening to their plans for Sa Province, Shuurei wanders out to look at the cherry tree Ryuuki gave so long ago. There she sees that the tree has indeed grown as her father had written in previous letters and that maybe it would bloom next year. She wonders out loud to the tree if she's at least grown a little when there's a sudden gust of wind. Turning she's not surprised when she finds Ryuuki standing there, and after all that time of thinking what to say when she first saw him, she says "--I'm back, Ryuuki."
***Scene then shifts to Shouka and Reishin*** talking inside about Ryuuki and how he was the most alone person in the nation. Since Seiran was no longer on the path to becoming Emperor, he could gain things that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. Reishin, through becoming friends with Kijin and Yuushun, was able to learn to deal with people and gain people important to him. Ryuuren was much the same, becoming friends with Shuurei and Eigetsu has led to his being able to interact with the world and so he's no longer alone. However, Ryuuki won't be able to gain anyone who see Ryuuki for himself anymore. People will see the Emperor instead. Shuurei's the first and last person who will call Ryuuki by name for who he is and that she does so because he asked it and not because he'd ordered it. Shouka suspects that if Ryuuki loses Shuurei, he would like end up forgetting his own name.
And I'm leaving things here for now as it's 3:20AM. ^^; The Ryuuki x Shuurei (?) scene will wait until tomorrow. ^^;;