A few days after Shuurei had fallen in the river, Shuurei is busy with her studies and taking care of the household duties. As the Kaishi nears, Shuurei thinks of reducing the number of side-jobs she takes on in order to concentrate more on her studies. Since Shouka will be able to come home early the next day, he suggests that Shuurei concentrate solely on her studies while he took care of making dinner. Panicking, Shuurei and Seiran suggests Shouka give up his idea. However, Shouka tells Shuurei that she should concentrate on her studies and reminds Seiran that, only the other day, he'd been wishing he could do more to help Shuurei. Seiran, realising that Shouka was unlikely to back down, suggests Shuurei accept Shouka's offer and that he'd help Shouka in the kitchen. Shuurei eventually accepts their offer.
The next day at the palace, Seiran hunts down Shuuei and gives him a list of ingredients to bring to make dinner. It's a long list, but Shuuei is unable to refuse. Kouyuu then comes along and asks if Shuuei had also been invited to dinner by Shouka. Shuuei mentions that Seiran had also come to see him. Kouyuu is a little surprised that both had invited Shuuei, and Shuuei realises that Seiran had chosen him to buy the dinner supplies.
Shuuei then asks if they should take Ryuuki as Shouka had said it would be okay to bring him along as well. Kouyuu considers, and decides it might be all right. After all, Ryuuki had been working hard lately so it might be all right...
But when they reach Ryuuki's office, they find a depressed Ryuuki sitting at his desk having done absolutely no work that day. When Kouyuu demands to know why Ryuuki hadn't done any work since morning, Ryuuki tells them that he wants to see Shuurei, and that he can't take not being able to see her any longer. Shuuei tells Ryuuki he should apologise to Kouyuu for not having done any work and to get his work done but when Kouyuu asks Ryuuki if he insists on seeing Shuurei immediately, Ryuuki tells him that he won't do any more work until they've let him see Shuurei. Angry, Kouyuu tells Ryuuki that he's not to step outside his office until he's finished all his work and leaves in a temper. Shuuei can't help feeling a little sorry for Ryuuki, but Kouyuu refuses to listen.
When Shuuei asks Kouyuu about tonight's dinner, Kouyuu tells him that if Ryuuki hasn't finished his work by the time they needed to leave, he'd be left behind. Shuuei realises that it's unlikely for Ryuuki to be able to finish in time, but Kouyuu tells him that they shouldn't spoil children. Instead, Kouyuu tells Shuuei not to let Ryuuki escape.
In his office, Ryuuki's a little upset at how angry Kouyuu had become, but he still wants to see Shuurei very much. Wondering where Kouyuu and Shuuei had gone, he wonders if they've gone to get more work for him. Looking at the first of the papers on his desk, he realises it deals with women taking the exams and his thoughts quickly go back to Shuurei. Ryuuki then decides to take a quick break and go see Shuurei instead.
Ryuuki sneaks out the door, and mutters to himself about using the hidden emergency escape route... only to have someone ask him where he'd go if he uses it. Shocked, Ryuuki finds Shuuei standing right by him. Asking him when he'd been there, Shuuei tells him from shortly after he'd slipped out of his office. Shuuei tells Ryuuki that if he'll go back quietly to his office and do his work, he wouldn't mention his escape attempt. However, if he were to try to escape again, Shuuei would have no choice but to do his best to prevent his escape. Ryuuki agrees to go quietly back to his office.
Ryuuki works under Shuuei's watchful eye when Shuuei decides to return some papers to the archives. Before leaving, Shuuei tells Ryuuki that he's leaving guards at the door and that he's not to try running. Ryuuki hears Shuuei speak to some guards and realises that Shuuei has them posted immediately outside his door. However, Ryuuki refuses to give in so easily and makes his escape out the window...
However, soon after he slips out, guards spot him and raise the alarm. Ryuuki runs while the guards yell at one another to catch him; the one to catch him would get introduced to a woman by Shogun Ran. The guards try to lure Ryuuki out and offer to give him some manjuu if he'd come out. Ryuuki waits for the guards to go past when he's found by Kouyuu.
Back in Ryuuki's office, Shuuei realises that it's almost time for them to leave. Ryuuki's surprised to hear that Kouyuu's going out somewhere when Shuuei admits that it's not only Kouyuu but that he was also going. Ryuuki suspects something's afoot, but before he can figure out what's going on, Shuuei tells him that they're going in to town and instead offers to deliver a letter for Ryuuki to Shuurei as they'd be passing that way. Excited Ryuuki quickly hunts down some paper to write Shuurei a letter.
At home, Shuurei's busy studying when she realises that things were getting dark. Worried, she decides to look in on Seiran and Shouka. As she reaches the kitchen, she hears a major crash in the kitchen as Shouka drops a pot. When Shouka asks if she wanted to take a break and have some tea, Shuurei admits she'd decided to look in on them as she was a bit worried. Looking around, she realises that no one's gone to buy food for dinner and offers to go out but Shouka says that they'd take care of everything. Seiran tells her that she didn't need to worry as she was having the food delivered and that it would arrive soon. Shouka shoos Shuurei out of the kitchen to return back to her studies.
Ryuuki continues working in his office when Shou Taishi comes into his office. Ryuuki tells Shou Taishi to get out and go home but Shou tells Ryuuki that if he keeps being so cold towards him, word of his treatment might somehow reach Shuurei. When Ryuuki tells Shou that if he didn't want anything that he should get out and go home, Shou remembers that he'd come to deliver something for Ryuuki. Shou then pulls out scroll after scroll for Ryuuki and tells him that he wanted them done by morning. Shocked Ryuuki can only stare at all the work he'd just been given and realises that it would literally take him until morning to finish all his work. Ryuuki had been planning to slip out when he finished all his work to go visit Shuurei and ask her about the letter, but now he'd be unable to go out...
On their way to Shouka's home, Shuuei senses a strange presence following them, but since they were only going to Shouka's there was no reason for them to be followed. Figuring that he must have been mistaken, he and Kouyuu continue on their way. A short distance away, Reishin watches the two enviously as he follows them. Reishin can't help feeling jealous at Kouyuu being invited for dinner yet again to Shouka's even though he himself hasn't been. He'd heard that Kouyuu and Shuuei had been visiting Shouka's home for dinner on occasion, Reishin was determined to see the truth for himself that day.
When Kouyuu and Shuuei arrive, Seiran asks about Ryuuki's whereabouts, afterall, he'd been planning on having him wash the pots... but Shuuei admits that Ryuuki was currently busy with his work and had been unable to come.
Shuuei looks around and realises that Shuurei wasn't to be seen. Seiran then explains that Shuurei wasn't going to be cooking that evening, but that they would all be cooking dinner tonight for Shuurei instead. However, just as they're about to start preparing dinner, Shouka stops them and instead calls out and tells Reishin to quit hiding and to come out. Shuuei realise that it was Reishin's presence that he'd sensed earlier. Shouka then asks Reishin if he'd like to help them with preparing dinner. Seiran, Kouyuu and Shuuei all feel misgivings about allowing either Shouka or Reishin to help.
Seiran gives out the cooking assignments to which Kouyuu is once again to make ginger pork. Seiran tells him to be careful when making it as it had been a little watery last time. Shuuei is assigned to cutting vegetables. While Seiran didn't mind if Shuuei cut himself, he wasn't to waste any materials. After Shuuei finished with the vegetables, he was then to heat the oil. Seiran warns him to make sure that Shouka didn't go near the oil. Shouka is responsible for boiling a pot of water while Reishin is responsible for soaking some dried mushrooms.
As they're cooking, Shuuei asks Seiran why they'd thought to cook dinner in the first place. Seiran explains that Shuurei has been very busy lately with her studies, taking care of housework as well as her side jobs and so Shouka had wanted to cook dinner for her instead. While Shouka had originally wanted to do so on his own, that wouldn't have gone well and so, ultimately it ended up getting Shuuei and Kouyuu involved.
As they're cooking, Seiran notices how Shuuei's peeling the vegetables and exclaims over how wasteful he is. Seiran shows Shuuei how to peel the vegetables, but Shuuei tries to object as he'd only held a kitchen knife for the first time recently. Seiran however, doesn't buy Shuuei's excuse saying instead that as a military man, it was only natural for Shuuei to be able to handle a blade.
Seiran then hands Kouyuu a pan to cook the ginger pork while telling him that, while the pot might be a little small, that he was to take care not to spill. Reishin in the meantime criticizes Kouyuu's cutting up of the vegetables and meat and demands to know if the food will be edible. Reishin then decides that he wants to do more to make dinner for Shuurei and tells Kouyuu to trade places with him. Kouyuu objects saying that Reishin might end up getting hurt in the process, while Shouka tells Reishin that he shouldn't cause trouble for the others. Reishin objects and asks Shouka if he too didn't want to do more while making dinner for Shuurei. Shouka agrees that he did want to do more, and the others panic as both Reishin and Shouka start to show signs of wanting to do more to help prepare dinner.
However, Seiran quickly heads Reishin off explaining that oversoaking the dried goods would result in them losing their nutritional value and could also result in their losing all flavour. Since Shuurei would be eating, Reishin had to be careful not to ruin the food. Shuuei and Kouyuu can only wonder at Seiran's handling of Reishin. Reishin asks Shouka if that were true and Shouka admits that he wasn't very knowledgeable about dried foods but that it might be true since Seiran said so. Also, Shouka admits that Shuurei does like shiitake mushrooms. Shuuei remarks about Shuurei liking shiitake while Kouyuu wonders if Shuurei dislikes any food. Seiran admits that Shuurei doesn't have a food she dislikes. All three are relieved as Reishin returns to watching the mushrooms soak.
Shouka calls Seiran over as the water reaches a boil. Looking in the pot, Seiran asks Shouka if he added anything to the pot, to which Shouka replies "water". Seiran asks Shouka why the water was green. Shuuei and Kouyuu also look in the pot and can't help but wonder about the water. Since the water neither smelled nor tasted strange, he decides to continue cooking with the water as is. Seiran starts making a stock with the water and has Kouyuu take care of cooking the meat. Seiran suggests that they finish cooking quickly before Shouka or Reishin get any other ideas.
After they finish cooking, Seiran has the others set the table while he goes to get Shuurei.
Shuurei wonders how her father and Seiran are doing with dinner when Seiran calls her to dinner. Shuurei is surprised at how much food was prepared and finds out that both Shuuei and Kouyuu had helped prepare dinner. Shuuei mentions that there'd actually been one other person who'd helped make dinner. When Shuurei asks about that, Shouka quickly interjects that it wasn't important and instead suggests they all sit down to eat. Seiran remarks that Reishin didn't seem likely to be able to meet Shuurei this time either and Kouyuu mentions Reishin was in a corner of the kitchen practises introducing himself.
Shuurei tres the ginger pork and comments that it was quite good. Seiran tells her that Kouyuu had made it on his own. Shuurei tries the different dishes, all of which tastes good, until there's only the soup remaining. Shuurei puzzles over the flavour of the soup and comments that while it was good, it was a bit unusual, almost like it had originally tasted like one thing only to have the flavour forced to something different. Shuurei realises that her father had made the soup originally until Seiran took over. Shuurei thanks everyone for making dinner for her, but Shouka says that they were thankful to Shuurei for always making them dinner. As they all settle in to eat, Kouyuu tries the soup and comments that it did indeed taste strange. Shuuei can only wonder at Kouyuu's courage to say so.
As they eat, Shuurei realises that they'd used dried shiitake in dinner when a sound comes from the kitchen. Seiran distracts Shuurei by asking her if there was something the matter with the mushrooms. Shuurei tells him that they matched the broth well and was very good. Another sound comes from the kitchen and Shuurei wonders if something fell in there, but Seiran tells her he'd take a look later. They all continue having dinner and Shuurei comments how happy she was that they made dinner for her. Shouka offers to do so every time he can come home early from work, but Shuurei says that while she was really happy, she would make dinner; Shuurei realises that she really enjoyed making dinner for everyone. Kouyuu remarks that he'd feel much safer eating dinner there knowing that Shuurei had made it.
Shuuei remembers the letter Ryuuki had written and gives it to Shuurei. Shuurei thanks Shuuei for delivering the letter and asks him to pass her thanks on to Ryuuki.
After dinner Shouka comments to Shusui that things were going to get cold that night. Shouka asks her if she'd like some soup. Apparently there was still a little soup left over from dinner. Shusui happily accepts the soup. Shusui asks Shouka why he chose to cook and he admits that he'd wanted to do something for Shuurei. Shusui comments that Shouka seemed really happy and Shouka admits that being able to do something for his daughter really made him happy. Shusui tries the soup and tells him that it was very good. Shouka admits that it was mostly Seiran who'd made the soup, but Shusui tells him that it didn't change the fact that he'd help make the soup and it had a wonderfully gentle flavour to it. Shouka realised when making dinner for his daughter that things were very peaceful. Shouka wonders if he's been too happy lately, but Shusui denies that, and admits that there are times she also feels very happy.
When Shuuei and Kouyuu arrive in Ryuuki's office the next morning, they're greeted with a very sullen Ryuuki. Ryuuki asks them if they had fun the previous evening. Apparently Shou Taishi told him that they'd been having dinner with Shouka, Seiran and Shuurei the night before. Shuuei quickly explains that as Ryuuki's close advisors, taking Ryuuki out for dinner when he had so much work to do would have been inappropriate, but Ryuuki wonders if their going out for dinner without him and having fun wasn't inappropriate for his close advisors. Ryuuki cries over how they were being unfair to him, but Kouyuu tells him that it had served him right. Shuuei distracts Ryuuki by telling him that he'd delivered his letter to Shuurei. Ryuuki does a quick about face at that and is happy that Shuurei accepted his letter and read it. Ryuuki settles in to work and comments that he wishes he could see Shuurei.
As Ryuuki finishes his work, he realises that Shuuei and Kouyuu were late in getting back and wonders if Kouyuu got lost again. Seiran comes by and hands Ryuuki a small package and tells him that Shuurei had made some manjuu. Ryuuki tells him he'd have them right away and Seiran joins him for tea as Ryuuki eats the manjuu. Seiran tells Ryuuki that he'll tell Shuurei he enjoyed the manjuu. Ryuuki asks him to tell her that he hopes she'll make them again for him sometime. Seiran then leaves to return to his post. Ryuuki considers the manjuu he'd just eaten and wonders from the flavour if Shuurei didn't feel the same as he and that she wanted to see him as well. Ryuuki writes a quick letter to Shouka that he'd be coming for an evening tryst two nights hence when Kouyuu returns. Quickly hiding the letter, Ryuuki gives Kouyuu his corrections. Ryuuki decides he'll have someone deliver the letter later to Shouka.
Two nights later, Ryuuki sneaks out to Shouka's home only to find the gate locked and no one there. Slipping into the yard, he finds no one in the kitchen and makes his way to Shuurei's room instead figuring she'd be there studying. Finding the window open he slips into her room and finds her asleep on her bed taking a nap. Ryuuki covers her with her covers and Shuurei mutters Seiran's name in her sleep. Initially wondering if he'd woken her, Ryuuki realises she's only talking in her sleep. Ryuuki comments that he'd like to be included with her and Seiran in her dream. Shuurei grabs Ryuuki's hand in her sleep and ends up yanking Ryuuki into bed. Ryuuki manages to keep from falling onto Shuurei. Ryuuki can only think of how he could get so close to her while she slept and how they'd slept in the same bed before. As Shuurei continues to mutter in her sleep Ryuuki wonders if it mightn't be forgiveable for him to kiss her on her cheek. However, as he's about to kiss her, Shuurei yells out about not letting go of her dear... ...rice! Surprised, Ryuuki can only demand what she meant about rice waking her. Shocked Shuurei screams, and Ryuuki tries to calm her before anyone comes and seems him like that. However, Seiran, Shouka, Kouyuu and Shuuei all come running at Shuurei's screams and finds Ryuuki on top of Shuurei in her bed.
Seiran and Shuuei tell Ryuuki that he'd been suspected of trying something untoward to Shuurei only a few days earlier and that today there was no question of his intentions. Shuuei mentions the strange letter that Ryuuki had written and Ryuuki can only wonder how Shuuei knew about it. Kouyuu tells him they'd found it under his desk a short while earlier, and had come to investigate. Ryuuki then realises that after he'd hidden the letter he'd completely forgotten about it and so it had never been delivered. An angry Seiran and Shouka tell Ryuuki that some things were unforgiveable and Ryuuki tries to apologise saying that it was all a misunderstanding. The two of them stalk to the bed and Ryuuki can only scream for help.
Shuurei makes everyone dinner and they all sit down to dinner. A depressed Ryuuki sits at the dinner table and Seiran asks him if he didn't like his dinner. Ryuuki says that the rice is very good, but can only cry over not getting any other food as punishment for having snuck into Shuurei's room and bed--after all, it was partially Shuurei's fault for having yanked him into bed while she was asleep. Seiran asks Ryuuki if he meant that it was all Shuurei's fault therefore, but Ryuuki denies that, just that he hadn't done anything wrong either. Shuurei tells him that he was still wrong to have entered her room without permission, but Ryuuki tries to defend himself saying that he didn't want her catching a cold since she didn't have any covers on her. Shuurei tells him he should have woken her from outside her room and that it was still wrong for him to wander about other people's gardens too. Ryuuki apologises and says he'll wait in front of the house next time. Shuurei tells him to be sure not to forget to send a letter saying he was visiting next time as well. Shuurei finds it unacceptable to have the Emperor left waiting in front of a person's home or to come into someone's home through the window. Ryuuki apologises again and promises he'll send a letter next time. Satisfied, Shuurei says Ryuuki can have dinner and that she'd also made some manjuu. The others watch as Ryuuki is ecstatic and can only wonder at how they resemble a dog and its master.
After dinner, Shuurei comments to Seiran and her father how dinner had been very lively. Seiran wonders if maybe it wasn't because Ryuuki had been there. The three of the enjoy the quiet of the evening together for a short while when Shouka excuses himself. Shuurei tells Seiran how she sometimes wishes the luxury of having friends over for dinner and the quiet evening afterwards with family would always continue, but that it might not be possible. If their positions were to change or as they got older, their situations could change... and she couldn't stay the way she was now for all time either. Seiran comments that she was be changing and would become an official soon and that everyone was rooting for her, as was he. Shuurei says she'll do her best on the Kaishi and that she hopes when everyone's lives have changed a little, that they'd be able to spend another evening like that one together again, and that she hoped she'd be able to experience the same feelings then too.
At Kijin's home, Reishin tells Kijin how they'd made dinner for Shuurei. Kijin says it was great but Reishin tells him it wasn't good. Afterall, he hadn't managed to have dinner with Shouka or Shuurei while the others all shared the same table with them. Kijin dismisses Reishin's argument saying that it was his own fault for hiding away in the kitchen and that he hadn't managed to make any progress whatsoever since his last visit. Reishin angrily relates how Kouyuu had asked for a second helping of Shouka's soup which then switches to envy for how he engaged in conversation with Shuurei... Reishin's frustration returns as he remembers Shuurei's reaction to Ryuuki's letter. Reishin wishes that he could share the dinner table with Shouka and Shuurei, have Shouka pass him food as he had to Kouyuu, and how he wished he could have had Shuurei compliment him directly for the shiitake mushrooms. Confused Kijin asks him what about shiitake mushrooms. Reishin then tells Houju how Shuurei praised the shiitake mushrooms he'd soaked. Kijin tells him that Reishin had gone beyond being a pain and gone to being pathetic. Reishin ignores Kijin and recounts how Shuurei had praised his mushrooms and smiled. Reishin can understand Kijin's jealousy, afterall Shuurei had praised his cooking. Kijin wonders when Reishin would get it through his head not to call him by his name. Kijin then goes on to tell him that all he'd done was put dried mushrooms in water and that Shuurei likely didn't even realise he was the one to do so, but Reishin refuses to consider anything other than Shuurei's smile and words as being directed specifically at him. Kijin regrets having let Reishin into his home to have drinks and tells Reishin to hurry up and drink, get drunk and go home. Reishin tells him that he'll recount in detail about the evening, and Kijin can only wonder at how his evening would not be a quiet one.
Poor Houju. ^^;