This episode opens with Shuga visiting the Second Empress, who is being very serene about being under house arrest. Shuga is kind of disappointed that that she doesn’t seem to be angry with him or blame him for Chagum’s death. The Empress however states that Shuga has come to the wrong place if he’s expecting penance for his sins. She also believes that Chagum is still alive because she is convinced that Balsa has the will to complete the task she was given. For some reason she asks Shuga to confirm that Chagum is still alive for her. (I think she is forgetting the part where Shuga is a major part of the reason that Chagum was under a death sentence to begin with.) Shuga of course agrees to this, though he as pretty much given up hope.
The next scene is Chagum back at the mill, trying to start a fire (and failing miserably). A few kids come to the door with a sack of rice, and Chagum is not quite able to effectively handle the mill’s first customers of the day. Fortunately, Balsa comes to his rescue.
Next we see Chagum’s elder brother, who is explaining some ideas he has about trade. The Emperor is kind of impressed and pleased by how well considered his plans are. Before the prince leaves he inquires about Chagum’s personal effects, which are going to burned in hopes of removing the curse. The elder prince offers to undertake the task himself, since the job needs to be done in complete secrecy from the rest of the imperial court.
Shuga meanwhile is severely depressed and ignoring his duties as a star-reader. This is causing him a great deal of strife with his fellow star-readers who are trying to be optimistic about the sign of the great drought, which hasn’t gone away yet. Shuga wanders around in a black haze, and in general is not a fun person to be around. He gets into a fight with a superior, who is confiscating some of Chagum’s belongings that Shuga had (mostly homework and sketches). There’s a fight, and Shuga gets himself into some very hot water.
Shuga however does not seem to care. He ends up in the apprentice quarters and continues to do research. He also ends up being summoned by Sagum, Chagum’s older brother. They talk about Chagum and the prince relates an memory they share about Chagum. The prince then reveals that he is not in fact burning Chagum’s belongings, and offers Shuga the sketches and homework. Shuga declines them, telling Sagum to keep them. Later, Shuga renews his determination to prove that the signs of the Great Drought have not vanished.
Meanwhile, Chagum is shyly hanging out inside the mill while he watches the neighbor children playing outside. Balsa tells him to go outside and play. Chagum declares he has no desire to play with children, but Balsa will not take “no” for an answer and shoves him outside. (He is going to go outside and play or else, darn it.) Chagum reluctantly wanders over and asks the kids what they’re doing. (They are making leaf boats and racing them in the irrigation canal.)
Balsa watches from the door, and she and Tanda talk about Raising Kids. They engage in a friendly debate where they discuss whether it’s harder for a woman to raise a boy or a man to raise a daughter. (Recall that Balsa’s mentor and protector was essentially her foster parent.) Tanda states that it’s harder for a man to raise a daughter, and engages in some friendly teasing where he states that Balsa was pretty much a boy when she was a kid. (Tanda, you do realize that this makes Balsa the dad, because you’re definitely the mom, right?)
In the next scene we see that Shuga is playing naturalist and looking for evidence about the great drought. He is taking a very scientific approach, but he is hampered by a general lack of knowledge about nature and the weather. He comes across Tanda, and Tanda gives him a series of pointers drawn from his knowledge as a Yakoo herbalist. (We are again shown the divide between Yakoo knowledge and Yogo knowledge and the ways they are kept separate to the detriment of the whole. Shuga is so surprised to find out that what Tanda knows is not in fact mumbo jumbo it’s almost sad.) Shuga learns that just before a large seasonal drought, there’s an increase in the productivity of plants and animals. He also learns of certain drought signs that he would not think to look for.
We end the episode with Shuga speculating on the possibility that Chagum is not dead. In the next episode Balsa decides she needs to give Chagum “how to act like a commoner” lessons. Meanwhile, Chagum is a little too smart for his own good.