List of The Story of Saiunkoku characters
- 1 The Hong clan
- 2 The Shi clan
- 3 The Ran clan
- 4 The Ko clan
- 5 The Heki Clan
- 6 The Sa clan
- 7 The Hyōu clan
- 8 Inhabitants and officials of the Imperial capital, Kiyō
- 9 Sa Province inhabitants and officials
- 10 Miscellaneous
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
The Hong clan
The Hong clan is the second most powerful clan in the fictional country of Saiunkoku.[n 1] The clan's specialties are growing tangerines and creating special "seven-colored" ink. Their clan seal bears the emblems of a paulownia, bamboo, phoenix, and kirin.
Shūrei Hong (紅 秀麗 Kō Shūrei?) is the daughter and only child of Shōka Hong. She is sixteen years old when the story begins. As a descendant of the direct line, she has the title hime, which means 'Princess' or 'Lady'. Despite the high social status of her family, Shūrei grew up in relatively impoverished circumstances. Her father's job brought little income, and much of the wealth of their family home was given to the needy during the devastating war for the imperial succession eight years ago. Without domestic servants, Shūrei became adept at household chores such as needlework, cooking and cleaning, traits unusual in a lady of her theoretical rank. She has also held a number of odd jobs to earn money, such as professional erhu player, accountant at Kōchō's brothel in the Red Light District, and teacher at the local temple. When she is taken to the imperial palace, she becomes the concubine of the Emperor, who only likes males, as the rumors say. Slowly, a relationship begins to form.
Shūrei is the first woman in the history of Saiunkoku to have taken and passed the Imperial Exams with the third highest score, allowing her to obtain the "Tanka" spot. Along with Eigetsu, she was appointed by the Emperor as the new governor of the Sa Province. Shūrei later accepts a position as an official in the Censorate in the capital
Seiran Si (茈 静蘭 Shi Seiran?) is a young man in his early twenties and is the sole remaining retainer in the personal household of Shōka Hong, who took him in thirteen years ago. Since then, Seiran has repaid that kindness by protecting Shōka's family, performing repairs on the house, and taking small outside jobs to earn money. He is a very skilled fighter and swordsman, and despite his amiable disposition, can be ruthless to those who endanger those he loves. He has known Shūrei since her childhood and is very protective of her, but prefers to watch and help from the shadows.
Seiran is later revealed to be Seien Shi (紫 清苑 Shi Seien?), Ryuuki's second-eldest brother, who had been known as the "flower" of the royal princes due to his physical and intellectual superiority as well as for his kind heart. Ryuuki deeply admires and cares for him, recalling that Seien had been the only brother who had shown him kindness as a boy, and the possibility of Seien's return is one of the reasons why Ryuuki does not take his responsibilities as a king seriously. Because of Seien's qualities, his maternal relatives conspired to make him the next Emperor. The plot failed, resulting in Seien's exile along with his mother, Lady Suzuran (鈴蘭の君 Suzuran no kimi?), who was later killed by assassins sent by the other imperial concubines to kill them both. Left alone in the distant Sa province, he joined Satsujinzoku, a murderous band of thieves who nicknamed him "The Little Whirlwind". Ensei Ro joined the group as well, and the two destroyed the band from within. Afterward, Shouka found the young prince in the wilderness and took him in, giving him the new personal name 'Seiran', as well as the surname 'Shi' (茈), which was homophonous with his original surname.
Seiran has since embraced this new persona and does not discuss his past, although some characters become quietly aware of his former identity. Though he claims to be 21 years old, he is actually 26 years old at the start of the series.
Shōka Hong (紅 邵可 Kō Shōka?) is Shūrei's father, Seiran's adoptive father and the eldest son of the Hong clan. After declining the clan leadership, he was expelled from the main estates. He moved to the capital where his younger brother, Reishin, got him a respectable but low-paying job as the custodian of the Imperial Archives. After Seien was exiled from the palace, Ryūki often visited Shōka when he was young because Shōka was one of the few people who was kind to him. Shōka is highly admired by Reishin, his younger brother, as well as Kouyuu, Reishin's adoptive son.
On the surface, Shōka simply seems to be a gentle librarian who brews awful tea; his inability to do anything in the kitchen without causing major destruction to the house is a source of endless frustration for Shūrei. Despite his mild-mannered exterior, Shōka is also a deadly assassin known as The Black Wolf, though the latter identity is secret from everyone, including Shūrei, except for Advisor Sho, Shusui, and Reishin. In the service of the previous Emperor, he once led the Wolves of the Wind, a group of expert assassins, but has since disbanded them. Shōka first met his wife when sent to kill her, but fell in love with her instead; he was also assigned to secretly protect Seien in exile. Later in the novels, Shōka later assumes his rightful place as the leader of the Hong clan and takes on the responsibilities that his brothers had undertaken in order to protect the Hong clan.
Shokun Hyō (縹 薔君 Hyō Shokun?) was the mother of Shūrei, adoptive mother of Seiran, and wife of Shōka. She was known as a legendary beauty with a kind heart to match. She taught Shūrei how to make steamed buns, discovering Shūrei was a much better cook than she was; how to pick tangerines from the trees, and how to behave like a lady. She also gave the name 'Seiran' to the boy she and Shōka found lying in the snow when the family traveled to Kiyō. The name meant 'Silent Orchid', and was given because the boy that they found never said a word and was presumed to be a mute. She grew very close to both Shūrei and Seiran, and encouraged Seiran to smile all the time to make Shūrei happy.
Shokun is later revealed as the Rose Princess (薔薇姫 Bara-Hime?) of the Hyō family. She had the ability to cure any illness and many men sought her hand in marriage. Her beauty even mesmerized the leader of the Hyō family, Riō, who locked her from the world. She was considered a threat by the previous Emperor and was targeted for assassination by a woman called the Black Wolf, who failed and died in the attempt. The Emperor appointed a new Black Wolf, nicknamed Kaito: Shōka Hong. However, Shōka fell madly in love with the Rose Princess during his first meeting with her, causing him to abandon his mission and carry her away. After some time and difficulty, she returned his feelings. Afterward, she lost her powers of healing but retained the power to make one wish come true, which she used to make Shūrei healthier at the cost of her own life. Shokun is eventually revealed to be the Red Immortal, one of the Eight Sages who served the first emperor; her spell to make Shūrei healthier is the result of sealing her spirit within her daughter. Though her spirit is dormant within Shūrei's body, it is said that Shūrei will lose her own personality and "die" when the Red Immortal's spirit inevitably awakens.
Kōyū Ri (李 絳攸 Ri Kōyū?) holds the rank of Vice-Secretary of the Department of Civil Administration, serving beneath Reishin Hong, who is also his foster father. As the series begins, Kōyū is assigned directly to the Emperor, a position that infuriates him because the wandering Emperor never carries out his duties and can rarely even be found. After agreeing to be tutored by Kōyū and assuming a more active role in government, Ryūki offers Kōyū an iris flower as sign of trust. Kōyū openly accepts the flower as a token of loyalty and his belief in Ryūki as a worthy Emperor.
Despite his reputation as a genius, obtaining the "Jougen" spot when he took the Imperial Exams, Kōyū is notorious for having no sense of direction, constantly getting lost in the Imperial Palace in as little as thirty steps, and unable to get anywhere without the assistance of others (though at one point, Shūei notes that he doesn't seem to get lost while drunk). The acclaim he has received for his accomplishments often draws unwanted attention, which has developed into an aversion to most women after receiving a number of unwanted marriage proposals. Kōyū has a close relationship with Shūei Ran, though he loudly denies being the latter's friend. He loses his temper with very little prodding (often from Shūei, who constantly eggs him on) and gets tongue-tied speaking in official functions with large crowds.
Kōyū is dedicated to serving his foster father, though he often feels that Reishin had only adopted him on whim and he was unworthy of being given the Hong name. In the anime, Reishin is depicted as adopting Kōyū from the streets, apparently impressed by Kōyū's ability to run a lottery with various prizes. The novels illustrate a much darker past for Kōyū, where he had been orphaned as a baby and adopted by a loving elderly couple, who named him "Kou (光?)". However, the couple was killed by bandits and Kou had been forced to live as a slave before being abandoned as a sacrifice to stop a flood. Reishin found him at this point and saved him, telling the child that his reasons were so Kou could care for Yuri-hime, who had fallen ill. As Kou and Yuri recovered at the Hong manor, Yuri tricked him into believing the Hong manor was haunted to he would not escape. To further the deception, she arranged for the furniture to be rearranged all the time so that he would always become lost, which eventually resulted in Kōyū lacking any sense of direction. Reishin eventually formally adopted Kou, taking care to rename the child "Kōyū Ri" in hopes that Kōyū could live as he wanted without the responsibilities of Hong clan to burden him.
In the 13th novel, Kōyū is imprisoned under accusation of abusing his powers as Vice Chamberlain of the Department of Civil Administration; because Reishin never did any work, Kōyū had often overstepped his bounds by doing Reishin's work for him. During his imprisonment, Kōyū falls ill from a spell cast upon him by the Hyō clan. When his mother, Yuri-hime, arrives in the capital, she helps him overcome his past memories and how he had devoted his life to trying to please Reishin rather than living for himself and he recovers from his illness. Kōyū is eventually freed; though he loses his position as the Vice-Chamberlain, but he remains an official.
Reishin Hong (紅 黎深 Kō Reishin?) is in charge of the Department of Civil Administration, which makes him Kōyū's bureaucratic superior as well as adoptive father. He finished second in the Imperial Exams, earning the title of Bougen. He is a good friend of his fellow official Kijin Kou, many of whose strange masks he makes despite being one of the few people who can withstand the sight of Kijin's bare face. Kijin describes him as being crafty and coldhearted, but Reishin usually seems very cheerful, easy-going, and even childish.
He often engages in devious and secretive behavior, especially regarding his family. He is the only member of the Hong clan who knows that Shōka is The Black Wolf. After Shōka left the main estates nearly fifteen years ago, Reishin became the head of the Hong clan, but most outsiders have been led to believe that the clan leadership belongs to Kurō Hong, their youngest brother. Despite Shōka's public estrangment from their clan, in private Reishin remains very respectful to his older brother, whom he has been trying to protect since learning Seiran's previous identity as the exiled prince Seien.
Reishin is overprotective of Shūrei, although he has gone to great lengths to keep her from learning about their kinship for fear that she might blame him for supplanting her father. He is reluctant to let her marry anyone else, and has even said that he wished he could marry her himself until Shōka pointed out that Reishin is already married. He secretly sponsors Shūrei to take the Official Exams; afterward, he is accused of manipulating the results and is sentenced to house arrest, outraging the Hong clan into a work stoppage that shuts down half of Saiunkoku. The charges are dropped after the arrest of the real criminal, who started the rumors and was involved in illegal activities. In the manga some of Reishin's hidden past was revealed, that to him his brother Shōka and his niece Shūrei mean everything to him in this world.
The books mention that Reishin plays the biwa, as do his brothers. In the 13th novel, Reishin is finally exposed to Shūrei as her uncle from her investigations on Kōyū's behalf; stripped from his position as the Chamberlain of the Department of Civil Administration, Reishin plans to return to Hong province.
Yuri-hime (百合姫?) is Reishin's wife and Kōyū's adoptive mother. Unlike her husband, Yuri is practical and straightforward in her manner, as well as kind and thoughtful; Shōka attributes her influence as the reason why Kōyū was able to become a capable young man. She is also responsible for helping to raise Kurō during his childhood and she is well-regarded in the Hong clan. Her age lies somewhere in the five-year gap between Shōka and Reishin.
Yuri's mother was Gyokukan (玉環?), a celebrated beauty in the imperial capital and the paternal great-aunt of Shōka, Reishin, and Kurō. Unknown to most, Yuri is the younger half-sister of the previous Emperor, Senka Shi, thus she is given the title "hime (姫 princess?). As a result, she bears a strong resemblance to both Senka and Ryūki, which confused Seiran when he first met her a long time ago in the Hong residence. Gyokukan eventually took Yuri-hime away to Hong province to avoid the traditional fate of the princesses of the Shi family, who were traditionally sent away to the Hyō clan, and to strengthen the Hong family in the event that Yuri would be able to take the throne. To protect her daughter, Yuri was disguised for many years as a servant boy named Yuzuriha (譲葉?). Gyokukan was later assassinated by Shōka on his first mission as the Black Wolf, as Emperor Senka had recognized Gyokukan was a serious political threat to the Shi clan. While Yuri had been intended as Shōka's bride, Shōka broke off the engagement after assassinating Gyokukan, believing that Yuri had no interest in him anyway.
During childhood, Reishin had known that Yuri was actually a girl and fell in love with her while they were both children. Despite treating her rudely, Reishin trusted her without question and secretly prevented Yuri's plans to meet Senka someday. When Reishin decided to leave Hong province to follow Shōka and take the Imperial Exams, Yuri-hime was the only person he took with him. During this time, Kōyū was brought into their family to help care for Yuri when she became very ill. She and Kōyū formed a strong relationship and he hoped that she would become his mother while Yuri thought of him as her own child.
When Kijin Kou discovered that Yuri didn't faint upon seeing his real face, he became interested in her and asked her on a date. Though she did not reciprocate his interest, Yuri accepted after Reishin persuaded her to, unaware that Reishin and Yūshun Tei were spying on them during the meeting. When Kurō sent her a letter encouraging her to marry Reishin, the letter became blurred and Yuri mistook the message as "please find Reishin a bride." After she joined the Kogarou to find an ideal wife for Reishin, Reishin wound up ransoming Yuri from Kogarou and registered her as his wife while she was only half-conscious. Shortly before she married Reishin, Yuri was able to meet her brother Senka when she slipped into the palace. Though she expected him to kill her, he instead requested that she stay in the Inner Palace to care for Ryūki, which she was unable to respond to because Reishin had burst into the palace to take her home.
Though Kōyū thought that Yuri was an ideal partner for Reishin, he worried that Yuri was unhappy with Reishin, who rarely showed what he liked or disliked. In response, Yuri said that she was happy and would never leave them. Reishin has told her that she is the only person for whom he will play the biwa, and that since they already had a son (Kōyū), they needn't have more children. She often travels away from their home to perform Reishin's duties as head of the Hong clan; consequently, she does not appear in the story until the 13th novel, when the news of Kōyū's imprisonment makes her return to Kiyo and meet Shūrei and Ensei. During this time, she reveals her identity to Shūrei as her aunt when visiting Kōyū in jail. She plays biwa to Kōyū, dissolving the trance cast by the Hyō clan. After her husband and child are stripped from their positions, many officials from the Hong clan decide to withdraw in sympathy. While Reishin wants to return to Hong province, he is dismayed that Yuri-hime has decided to remain in Kiyou with her son.
Kurō Hong (紅 玖琅 Kō Kurō?), the youngest brother of Shōka and Reishin, acts as the proxy head of the Hong clan and many outsiders believe him to be the true leader. A man of tradition and family loyalty, Kurō urged their father to pass over Shōka (whom he viewed as useless) in favor of Reishin as the next clan leader. Despite looking down on Shōka, Kurō does not hesitate to avenge his brother's honour when Shokun's death stunned Shōka too much to notice when his servants stole all of his valuables. The proxy head issued orders to find the thieves and show them the tortures of Hell and arranged for their severed ears and eyes were sent to their families to warn them against any such future behavior towards a member of the Hong family. His wife Kyuka (九華?), son Hakuyuu (伯邑?), and daughter Sera (世羅?) all aid him with his duties in running the Hong province.
Unbeknownst to Shūrei, Kurō comes to the capital to extend the full protection of the Hong clan when she embarks on the path to become an Imperial official. When Reishin is accused of manipulating the exam results on her behalf, Kurō protests by ordering the Hong work stoppage that brings half of the country to a halt. Kurō also intervenes on Shūrei's behalf when she is appointed as the co-governor of Sa province; the travel pass for the journey bears the clan crest of Kijin Kou, as the minister who issues the pass, but in the special "seven-colored" ink that can only be made by the Hong clan and marks her as a person of importance to them.
Despite his apparently rigid and formal attitude, he cares greatly for the well-being of his family; he loves both his brothers and recognizes Kōyū as his nephew despite the fact they have no blood relation. For the sake of the clan, Kurō intends Shūrei and Kōyū to marry one another to lead the clan in the future. Of the three brothers, he is known for his strong-will and kindness, possessing a broad mind and deep emotion. He respects his sister-in-law, Yuri-hime, who helped raise him and had considered that Kurō would have been more suitable to the life of an imperial administrator rather than Reishin because of his diligence and ability to work without being swayed by emotion.
The Shi clan
The imperial clan of Saiunkoku.
Ryūki Shi (紫 劉輝 Shi Ryūki?) is the reigning emperor of Saiunkoku, Ryūki Shi is nineteen years old when the story begins. As the youngest of the previous Emperor's six sons, each from a different mother, he had been an unlikely candidate to ascend to the throne. In childhood, Ryūki was badly treated by his mother and most of his half-brothers, who would beat him and lock him in a storage house for days in a row. Second Prince Seien was the only member of the family who showed kindness to him. Ryūki often took refuge in the garden or the imperial archives; in the latter location, he first encountered Shōka Hong, who tutored the young prince and encouraged War General Sou-Taifu to teach him swordsmanship.
Ryūki ultimately rose to the throne due to his father's dying wish, after Seien was exiled for treason and the other four princes killed each other over the succession. Secretly hoping for many years that Seien would return and take his place as Emperor, Ryūki play-acted as a stupid Emperor and avoided any involvement in politics or government, wandering the palace for hours so no one would be able to find him. He even spread rumours that he preferred the company of men to fuel speculation he could not produce an heir.
His avoidance of responsibility comes to an end when he meets Shūrei, who tells him of her dreams of making a better life for the nation's people. Charmed by her earnest and nurturing personality, he decides to undertake the task of becoming a respectable Emperor. Ryūki's devotion to Shūrei reveals a capacity for subterfuge and cunning that may have helped him survive the fight for the succession. He initially pretended to be ignorant so that he could study along with Shūrei. Although he has an extreme fear of darkness and solitude because of his childhood experiences, he uses that fear as an excuse to sleep in her room at the palace. When someone tries to poison Shūrei, Ryūki conceals the plot from her and even takes the poison in her place, as part of his plan to identify the culprit. After she returns home, he passes a law allowing women to take the official exams, which brings Shūrei back to the palace and enables her to pursue her dreams.
Ryūki's romantic pursuit of Shūrei has been complicated by his lack of experience in courting women, as well as Shūrei's initial belief that he was homosexual and therefore more interested in Seiran. Even after discovering Seiran's true identity, Ryūki harbors some jealousy that Seiran spends more time with Shūrei and is a closer confidant of hers. After she leaves the palace, Ryūki sends her many absurd gifts such as boiled eggs, blocks of ice, and even a straw voodoo doll. Before sending Shūrei to Sa province as co-governor, Ryūki privately tells her that she is the only woman he wants to marry.
Ryūki eventually tells Shūrei that he cannot wait for her forever because part of his responsibilities as the Emperor requires him to marry. As a result, he extracts a promise from her that he can convince her to marry before a specified time, she will become his consort. After years of convincing Shūrei, he finally succeeded and Shūrei finally accepted Ryūki's marriage proposal. After a year they have a female child.
Voiced by: Takeshi Maeda (Japanese), Shawn MacDonald (English)
Senka Shi (紫 戩華 Shi Senka?) is the previous Emperor of Saiunkoku, and father to Ryūki, Seiran, and the other four princes. During his lifetime, he loved only one woman but was unable to marry her. For political reasons, he ended up with six simultaneous concubines, each of whom bore him a son but whom he never visited again. The Sixth Consort was especially bitter about this abandonment and took out her anger on her son, Ryūki.
Senka fell sick in his youth, causing chaos in the royal court, and died almost a decade later. During his reign, he used the Wolves of the Wind to assassinate some of the lesser noble clans for their misdeeds, but allowed the families of the Eight Colored Clans to remain unpunished for much worse crimes. He also came up with the Official Exam system to minimize the nobles' political influence and admit other social classes to participate in the government. For that reason, he was deeply disliked by the survivors of the minor noble families, but also highly respected and feared.
Three men accompanied Senka from the start of his coronation: Yosei Sho-Taishi (Advisor Sho), Sou-Taifu, and Enjun Sa-Taiho, all of whom bore the title of 'Choutei Sanshi' (three royal advisors) and later serve Ryūki as his designated successor. The novels reveal that Senka died from protecting his second son, Seien, from a deadly curse sent by the Hyō clan and Lady Suzuran. Before his illness, he entrusted both Ryūki and Seien to Shōka's protection.
The Four Shi Princes
Sons of Senka, the previous Emperor of Saiunkoku. They were born from four different mothers and competed fiercely against each other, agreeing only in wanting to eliminate Seien (the most talented of all six princes) and bully Ryūki (though they didn't dare touch him whenever Seien was around). After Seien's exile and their father's grave illness, the brothers' fight for the throne caused civil war in Saiunkoku, ending only with Advisor Sho's intervention. The four princes were executed and some of their followers were exiled. Ironically, it was their bullied youngest brother, Ryūki, who survived them all and was crowned as Emperor.
The Ran clan
The most powerful clan in Saiunkoku, directly below that of the royal family. Their clan seal is described as "Twin Dragon Lotus Spring" (双龍蓮泉). The specialty of the clan is producing salt from the water margins of Ran province. The Shiba are their main clan of retainers.
Shūei Ran (藍 楸瑛 Ran Shūei?) is the fourth of the five sons of the Ran family and the General of the Shaorin army. He has legendary fighting skills thanks to his training by the Shiba clan, retainers of the Ran clan who excel in swordsmanship; the only opponents who can beat him at full strength are Koku-Daishogun and Haku-Daishogun. He recognizes Seiran's past identity from his swordfighting techniques, and the novels call him and Seiran the greatest military officials of Ryūki's reign as Emperor. Near the beginning of Ryūki's reign, Shūei briefly worked as a civil official, but was disappointed by how the new Emperor wasn't interested in politics and kept disappearing. Switching from the civil service to the military, Shūei joined the Left Uringun army and rose to the position of Shogun.
Usually calm himself, Shūei likes to tease others, and claims to be Kōyū Ri's best friend though Kōyū keeps denying it. Shūei and Kōyū met during the Imperial Exams, in which Shūei took the second highest honor as Bougen. The two men become reacquainted after being assigned by his superior (Koku-Daishogun) as the personal guard and advisor respectively to Ryūki, who disappeared and left Shūei and Kōyū in the library for a month of boredom. Shūei enjoys provoking Kōyū, usually by mentioning the latter's lack of direction and his aversion to women. Unlike Kōyū, Shūei enjoys being a popular ladies' man, often visiting the courtesan Kochō. However, Shūei's womanizing habits are mainly to attract the attention of Shusui, who finds his behavior irritating and likens it him to treating the Imperial Harem like the Red Light District. Unknown to Shusui, Shūei had fallen in love with her during their first meeting after she had helped him. Shūei is also a frequent visitor at Shūrei's house and he often pays for the ingredients every time he dines there, resulting in Seiran calling him "saifu #1" (wallet #1).
In the novel and drama CD, Shūei's brother(s) Setsuna Ran sent him to Kiyou as a child to assist one of the princes (later identified as Prince Seien). He encountered the young prince under attack in an alley and tried to help him, but Shūei's swordfighting skills weren't strong enough to defeat the assassins, and Seien told him that he was weak and useless. Seien even defeated Shūei in a sword battle in front of Setsuna Ran and Emperor Senka. Humiliated, Shūei retreated back to Ran province and trained hard with his childhood best friend Jin Shiba. However, by the time Shūei returned to the capital, the prince who mocked him had been banished for treason; his elder brothers ordered him to track down Prince Seien's whereabouts, but he was unable to do so.
Along with Kōyū, Shūei receives and accepts a flower (a purple iris which he later engraves on his sword) from Ryūki, a symbol of steadfast trust that establishes the young emperor's reign with the support of the top two rising officials of the palace. Over time, Shūei's loyalties become increasingly torn between the emperor and the Ran clan, causing him to return the iris sword to Ryūki and retire to Ran province. After being banished by the Ran clan, he returns to Ryūki, convinced that the Emperor has accepted his responsibilities and wants Shūei's support for his own merits, not just for his family connections.
Ryūren Ran (藍 龍蓮 Ran Ryūren?) is the youngest of the five Ran brothers, though he has been marked as the genius of their generation by the name "Ryūren", which he received at age four and is only bestowed by the clan on members of great talent. His genius is matched only by his eccentricity; as such, what he sees is different from what other people see and he is highly perceptive. However, he does not appear to think highly of very many people, including his brother Shūei, whom he nicknames "Silly Older Brother #4". The only person who can cope with his behavior is Shūrei, whom he promptly dubs his "Soul Friend #1". Eigetsu becomes his "Soul Friend #2", and Yogetsu is eventually counted as "Soul Friend #2.5". Ryūren is eighteen years old when the story begins.
A lover of art and nature, Ryūren is also highly skilled in martial arts. He plays the bamboo flute in a cacophonic style at all hours of day and night that can alter people's mental health and cause birds to fall from the sky. Ironically, Ryūren is actually very good at playing other musical instruments, so it surprised his brothers that he chose to play the flute instead. He also favors strange, flashy clothing that may include vegetables as fashion accessories, and often vexes Shūrei by asking her to cook random food items at whim and by offering her a position as his personal cook.
Ryūren earned the nickname Ryuuteki tobaku-shi (龍笛賭博師 dragon flute gambling master?) while wandering the countryside and playing cards, which his family allowed on the condition that Ryūren would take one of the top three places in the Official Exams. When he comes to the Imperial capital just before the exams, his dorm becomes known as the "Cursed 13th Building" because he would play his flute instead of studying, which drove the other examinees insane. During the exams, seven officials resigned from the Examination Board after having incomprehensible conversations with him. Ryūren takes the Official Exams with Shūrei and Eigetsu and passes with the second highest score, taking the "Bougen" spot, but then skips out on the Shinshi Ceremony that inducts the examinees as new officials. Claiming that the wind called to him to start a new voyage, he resumed wandering because he had fulfilled his promise to excel in the exams.
When Ryūren wanders back to the capital, Ryūki gives him the important task of delivering the governor's seal to Shūrei and Eigetsu in Sa province. Shūrei tells Ryūren to stay clear of their dangerous political situation, but Ryūren says that the danger is why he wanted to stay involved, and that his "Soul Friends" are the only people who he'll let take advantage of him. Though Ryūren claims to have no interest in becoming an Imperial official or the head of the Ran clan, Kurō Hong seriously weighs a proposal from the Ran clan to marry Ryūren to Shūrei. Later in the series, Ryūren is revealed to be the Blue Immortal, one of the Eight Sages who served the first emperor of Saiunkoku.
Voiced by: Mitsuru Miyamoto
Setsuna Ran (藍 雪那 Ran Setsuna?) is the collective name of the three eldest Ran brothers, who are triplets acting as a single entity to lead the Ran clan. Their individual names are Yuki (雪?), Tsuki (月?), and Hana (花?). Only the oldest triplet, Yuki, is married; although his wife can recognize him, even she can't tell the other two apart. Ryūki refers to them as the "sleeping dragons".
In Saiunkoku, multiple births were usually seen as bad luck, causing such infants to be killed at birth, but their father spared their lives and raised them to become indistinguishable from one another. They were taught by Shōka Hong in their childhood and grew close to him, but they still don't get along with Reishin. Fourteen years before the story begins, the triplets lived in the capital and served as a government official (in their collective identity of "Setsuna Ran"). After Emperor Senka became ill and the succession dispute fell into chaos, the triplets returned to their home and never returned.
When their youngest brother was given the name Ryūren at the age of four, the triplets took it upon themselves to let him grow without the influence of other clans. They assumed the leadership of the Ran clan, causing a stir in the country because for the first time more than one person was appointed as head of one of the Eight Honorable Clans. They sent Shūei to the capital as a young boy, and later allowed Ryūren to wander across the country on the condition that he would take one of the top three places in the Imperial Exams.
At the end of season 2, they challenge Shūei to identify them individually, with the condition that if he succeeds, he will be disowned from the clan. When Shūei succeeds, Setsuna banishes him from the clan, allowing Shūei to return to the emperor's side.
Voiced by: Tomo Adachi
Gyokuka (玉華?) is the wife of Yuki Ran. A woman with a very cheerful and rational mindset, she also loves the outdoors and is a great cook. Gyokuka originally came to the Ran household as a potential concubine for the previous head of the Ran clan, and was excited by the prospect of becoming stepmother of the five Ran brothers. Although not a legendary beauty, she charmed Shūei, though she was oblivious to his affection for her. Instead, Gyokuka fell in love with Yuki, despite his very cold and cynical attitude. Her marriage to the eldest triplet devastated Shūei, causing him to flee from Ran province.
Voiced by: Megumi Toyoguchi
Jyūsan-hime Ran (藍 十三姫 Ran Jyūsan-hime?) is the half-sister of the five Ran brothers. She was raised by her mother's family, the Shiba clan, who trained her as both a fighter and as a princess. The literal meaning of her name is "Thirteenth Princess", although she also had the childhood nickname "Hotaru (蛍 firefly?)".
Setsuna Ran sends Jyūsan-hime to the imperial capital as a potential bride for either Ryūki or Seiran. Because she looks very similar to Shūrei, the two women exchange places to avert an assassination plot from a rogue member of the Shiba clan. After Shusui resigns from the palace, Jyūsan-hime succeeds her as chief lady-in-waiting and is likely to become Ryūki's consort if Shūrei continues to reject his marriage proposal.
The Ko clan
Kijin Ko (黄 奇人 Ko Kijin?) is the Chief Minister of the Department of Treasury and Taxation. His name "Kijin (奇人 eccentric?)" is actually a nickname and very few people know his original personal name, Hōju (凤珠?). Many people consider him mysterious and eccentric, especially because of his unusual appearance. He leaves his hair loosely flowing instead of binding it up according to custom, and is almost never seen without one of the masks from his wide collection. These masks usually conceal his entire face, although they have a lower panel that can open to uncover his mouth when he eats or drinks in public. Many of the masks were made by Reishin Hong, who is one of his few close friends and with whom he often enjoys meaningless arguments.
In his official capacity, Kijin tends to be very strict, but he is gracious to Shūrei when she begins to work for him. Although she is disguised as a man, he already knows that she is Reishin's niece but does not identify her to the rest of his department, and he comforts her when she is upset by a violent thunderstorm. When she falls ill, he brings flowers to her (camellias in the anime, orchids in the novel). He also teases Reishin into a rage by claiming he is thinking about marrying her.
Although his masks are widely assumed to conceal a deformed or hideous appearance, in fact they conceal a face of such dazzling beauty that it can drive people insane. The masks also muffle the true sound of his voice, which is as silky and beautiful as his hair. When he took the imperial examinations as a young man, his otherworldly beauty caused the exam for that year to go down in legend as the "The Nightmare Exam" by mesmerizing everyone else in the hall so much that thirty officials had to be sacked and only two other candidates, Reishin and Yuushun, passed the exams at all; he won third place, receiving the title of Tanka.
After proposing to the woman he loved, he received the rejection message "I can't stand beside someone with a face like yours." However, the message had really been sent by Reishin, who loved the same woman and eventually married her. On Reishin's wedding night, Houju changed his name to Kijin (which everyone else already called him, as a nickname meaning "weirdo") and began to wear masks, which he has continued to do by official sanction.
During Reishin Hong's trial for malfeasance, Kijin removes his mask in front of the court to confront a corrupt official, who nearly loses his mind as a result, while other officials are warned to look away; those who forgot to plug their ears wound up fainting or going into hysterics.
The Heki Clan
A clan famed for their skills in art, the Heki clan and their retainers generally keep away from politics and are known to be very poor at political bargaining. Instead, they focus their efforts on monopolitizing positions in arts and ceremonies.
Hakumei Heki (碧 珀明 Heki Hakumei?) is a young man who passes fourth in the Official Examinations in the same year as Eigetsu and Shūrei and helps them both during their harsh training. He admires Kōyū and claims proudly that he even wants to be exactly like him, unaware that his idol has a hair-trigger temper and is unable to find his way over even short distances. Hakumei helped Shūrei identify the forgeries during the counterfeiting incident. He is one of the few members of the Heki clan in politics and is assigned a post in the Department of Civil Affairs and Administration.
Voiced by: Yoko Somi
Karin Heki (碧 歌梨 Heki Karin?) is the elder sister of Hakumei and mother of Banri Heki. While she is the best artist during Ryūki's reign, she has been forced by her clan to work under the male alias Yukoku Heki (碧 幽谷 Heki Yukoku?) due to the belief that female artists do not receive the same respect or acclaim as their male counterparts. According to Hakumei, she is highly protected by the Heki clan as she is the most likely candidate to become the next clan leader. While she is very beautiful, she actually treats most men rudely and tends to be rather violent. Later in the novels, she agrees to remake the broken mirror in the Hyou Clan's temple, despite rumours that those who finish the mirror will die.
Voiced by: Hirofumi Nojima
Jun Ōyō (欧陽 純 Ouyou Jun?) is the husband of Karin Heki and Banri's father. As one of the few members of the Heki clan involved in politics, Ōyō is the undersecretary of the Department of Imperial Labour in the government and is later appointed the governor of the Heki province. In contrast to his wife, he is a friendly person and quick to judge. He is later is revealed to be the Sage of Heki, the Green Immortal of the Eight Sages who served the first emperor.
Voiced by: Ai Horanai
Banri Heki (碧 万里 Heki Banri?) is Karin's son and Hakumei's nephew. During Shuurei's investigation into counterfeiting, it is revealed that Banri was tricked into making forgeries of paintings and carving counterfeit coins.
The Sa clan
Enjun Sa (茶 鴛洵 Sa Enjun?) is one of the three Grand Officials of the Palace, holding the title of Taiho. Sa-Taiho has held a long history of frustrated ambition, especially since the Sa clan has the least respect among the Eight Colored Clans. He never manages to surpass Advisor Sho, his longtime friend and fellow Grand Official.
Most of Enjun's family lives in Sa province, including his wife and granddaughter. Enjun maintains a small household for himself in the imperial capital. After the orphaned young girl Kōrin collapsed in front of his residence eight years ago, he took her in and found her a position in the palace as a lady-in-waiting.
Enjun offers his granddaughter, Shunki, as a prospective bride for Ryūki; when she is rejected, Enjun plots to overthrow Ryūki and replace him with Seiran as a puppet emperor, knowing Seiran is really the exiled Imperial Prince Seien. Unfortunately, Seiran is unwilling to cooperate, leading to a confrontation in which Seiran fatally wounds Enjun with a thrown dagger just before being knocked unconscious. Enjun's dying moments are tended by Advisor Sho, who discovered the conspiracy. Advisor Sho becomes guardian of Enjun's ashes and seals his friend Enjun's spirit inside the Sa clan signet.
Enjun's actions are eventually revealed as a deliberate campaign to destroy the corrupt and power-hungry members of his own family, whose in-fighting killed his only son nine years ago. His treason further undermines the prestige and power of the Sa clan, and also encourages the emperor to move against its seat of power in Sa province.
Kōrin (香鈴?) is introduced as Shūrei's young lady-in-waiting at the palace. Kōrin retains a deep loyalty to her adoptive father, Enjun Sa. After Ryūki rejects Enjun's granddaughter as an imperial consort while apparently favoring Shūrei, Kōrin tries to poison both Shūrei to avenge the insult to the Sa clan and herself for the sake of protecting Enjun. Upon Enjun's death, she is sent to live with his widow Eiki in Sa province. She returns to the capital with Ensei to deliver information about the developing crisis there.
While traveling back to Sa province with Ensei, Seiran, and the two newly appointed co-governors Eigetsu and Shūrei, Kōrin is mistaken for Shūrei and thus kidnapped and imprisoned with Eigetsu. When her captors Meisho and Sōjun start to doubt her identity, she convinces them that she is indeed Shūrei by accepting their challenge to re-write the poem which made the poet Mei Senshi famous. Kōrin and Eigetsu later escape to Kinka with the help of Sōjun's youngest brother, Kokujun.
Reunited with Ensei, Seiran, and Shūrei in Kinka, Kōrin shows some signs of romantic feelings for Eigetsu, although her manner towards him is a mixture of concern, annoyance, and often exasperation, exacerbated by Yōgetsu. When Eigetsu's bond to Yōgetsu weakens, he leaves Kōrin by telling her that he loves her and finally kisses her. They reunite after Yōgetsu voluntarily enters a state of hibernation in order for Eigetsu to be with her. After that, she decides to stay in Sa province serving Eigetsu.
Voiced by: Mami Horikoshi (Japanese), Jacqueline Samuda (English)
Eiki Hyō (縹 英姫 Hyō Eiki?) is Enjun's wife, who remained in Sa province to act on his behalf as clan head while he carried out his duties as Taiho in the imperial capital. Much of their long marriage was spent separated in this fashion. After Enjun's death, his ambitious younger brother Chuusho imprisons her and Shunki.
Eiki was born to the Hyō clan, the mysterious shadow lineage of Saiunkoku. As such, she would not have normally married outside her family, but she fell in love with Enjun and pursued him until he gave in. She retained some of the supernatural powers of the Hyō women, such as the precognition which turned her against Advisor Sho because she always knew that he would be involved in Enjun's death. She also sealed off the powers and voice of their granddaughter Shunki during the girl's childhood.
Shunki Sa (茶 春姫 Sa Shunki?) is the granddaughter of Enjun. Her father and mother were murdered nine years ago by her cousin, Sakujun Sa, though that fact is unknown to her. Her ability to speak was sealed by her grandmother, Eiki, when she was a child, and so she communicates primarily through writing.
Because she is of the main Sa line of descent through Enjun, she is a threat to Chūshō and other branch family members during their power struggle. For her own protection, she is hidden away and watched over by Shōrin and Yōshun, under orders from Ensei Rou. Later, she uses her strange power to rescue Kokujun together with Shūrei. When Kokujun accepts the burden of leading the Sa clan, she vows to be always by his side.
Voiced by: Masami Iwasaki (Japanese), Harvey Gold (English)
Chūshō Sa (茶 仲障 Sa Chūshō?) is Enjun's ambitious younger brother. After Enjun's death, Chuusho seizes power in Sa province by imprisoning Eiki and the acting imperial governor. Disregarding the cost and chaos involved, he orders a search for the seals of the previous governor and orders the Satsujinzoku to intercept the new co-governors, Shūrei Hong and Eigetsu Tou. He plans to force the Hong clan into an alliance by marrying Shūrei to one of his grandsons, whom he views as pawns for his ambition.
Voiced by: Junichi Suwabe (Japanese), John Payne (English)
Sōjun Sa (茶 草洵 Sa Sōjun?) is the eldest grandson of Chūshō and matches him in blind ambition. He works with the Satsujinzoku to kidnap Eigetsu Tou and Kōrin, whom they had mistaken for Shūrei. Believing that the group is under his grandfather's control, he attempts to shift their allegiance of their leader, Meishō, and gain their support for himself. Sōjun is eventually killed by Sakujun, his next youngest brother, although he blames their third brother Kokujun for it.
Voiced by: Takehito Koyasu (Japanese), John Murphy (English)
Sakujun Sa (茶 朔洵 Sa Sakujun?), known also under the alias Senya Rin (琳 千夜 Rin Senya?), is Chūshō's second grandson, who finds the world very boring and seeks to amuse himself without regard for morals. Due to his childlike attitude, he reminds Shūrei of Ryūki. To relieve his boredom, Sakujun became involved with the Murderous Blades, when he was a teenager. During this time, he found and recognized the young Prince Seien collapsed in the snow and brought him into the gang. Some years later, when his Great-Uncle Enjun Sa tried to rein in Sakujun's behavior from a distance, Sakujun retaliated by assassinating Enjun's son and daughter-in-law, the parents of Shunki.
When his grandfather Chūshō orders him to marry Shūrei for political gain. Sakujun has the Murderous Blades massacre the Rin household, assuming the identity of Senya Rin and personally escorting Shūrei to Kinka. Although he is twelve years older than Shūrei, he becomes sufficiently intrigued by her to attempt to seduce her. He arranges the murder of his older brother, Sōjun, in order to maneuver himself to become the strongest candidate for leadership of the Sa Clan and thus the natural choice for a strategic marriage to Shūrei. To his surprise, he finds himself falling in love with Shūrei, who refuses to return his affections.
Sakujun eventually allows Shūrei to poison him without her knowledge to test whether she loves him or not. He is later assumed to be dead, although his body is never found. In the second series, he makes a dreamlike appearance to one of the characters, presumably as a spirit.
Voiced by: Kousuke Toriumi (Japanese), Kyle Rideout (English)
Kokujin Sa (茶 克洵 Sa Kokujun?) is the youngest of the three brothers, whose kindness is regarded as a weakness by his family. He reminds Lady Eiki and Sakujun of a young Enjun. Kokujun is fond of his cousin Shunki, and he releases Seiran and Ensei from confinement so they can rescue her. However, Ensei lectures him harshly for letting others risk their lives, encouraging Kokujun to take action himself. As a result, Kokujun safely brings Eigetsu and Kōrin to Kinka, concealing his knowledge that Kōrin is not really the female co-governor. When the ring of the Sa clan is recovered, Kokujun takes on the leadership of the Sa clan with Shunki's support. He is close friends with Ryūren Ran, who is the same age as Kokujin, and admires Ryūren greatly.
The Hyōu clan
Although not one of the fabled Eight Colored Clans of Saiunkoku, the Hyōu clan nevertheless holds an important position. It was founded by the first Emperor's sister, Yōki Sō (蒼遙姫 Sou Youki?), and the daughters of the imperial Shi clan are still routinely sent to them to be trained as priestesses or married. Otherwise, the Hyōu clan almost never marries outside itself although there have been a few rare exceptions such as Eiki Hyōu, who chose to marry Enjun Sa.
Many members of the Hyōu clan have supernatural powers, especially the women. Their founder sealed off 108 spirits into a mirror by playing the erhu; after Shōka Hong frees the spirits by deliberately shattering the mirror, Shusui is able to pacify them by playing the erhu herself.
Hyōu Riōu, Sr.
Voiced by: Toshihiko Seki
Hyōu Riōu (縹 璃櫻 Hyōu Riōu?) is the head of the Hyōu clan, despite the fact that the role is normally held by a woman. He maintains a youthful appearance, despite being about eighty years old. Riōu is particularly obsessed with Shokun, believing that Shōka had stolen the Rose Princess and Shusui from him, and is eager to meet Shūrei because she looks like his lost Bara-hime. He also tries to get Shurei because Shokun is inside of her.
Hyōu Riōu, Jr.
Voiced by: Yuki Kaida
Hyōu Riōu (璃櫻 Riōu?) is the son of Riōu the Elder, bearing exactly the same name as his father. Riōu currently works in Kiyō as the Head of Sentoshō (Department of the Cave of Immortals) and Ryūki often confides his feelings for Shūrei to him. In spite of his youth, Riōu Jr. is a very mature, albeit mysterious, individual from the Hyōu clan. He deeply appreciates the love and care that Shūrei shows him and, when Ren dies, he reflects upon how Shūrei's kindness allowed him to experience the things that Ren wanted for him.
First seen during the plague in Sa province, he follows his father's orders and goes on missions for him. He later takes Shūrei to the Hyōu Clan and is seen trying to impede the locust plague from happening. Aware that Shūrei has little time left before the Red Immortal awakens within her, Riōu tries to help her by bringing her to the Hyōu Clan, an action that extends Shūrei's existence in the world a while longer.
Voiced by: Kyōko Hikami
Ruka Hyōu (縹 瑠花 Hyōu Ruka?) is the older sister of the elder Riō, as well as the leader of the psychics in the Hyōu clan. She shares her brother's obsession with the Rose Princess to the extent that she even wants to take over Shūrei's body so her brother will finally look at her in that way. Unlike her brother, her physical appearance reflects her true age, although in the anime she projects the apparition of a younger woman when speaking to others. Her son Ren is the real mastermind of Jyasenkyō, which started the problems in Sa province during Shūrei and Eigetsu's time as governors.
Shusui Hyōu (珠翠 Shusui?) is Shūrei's main lady-in-waiting during her time as an imperial concubine. Her beauty is said by Ryūki to be comparable only to Kochō, the famous courtesan in the Red Light District. She loves the smell of sandalwood and had kept a fan made of sandalwood as a prized possession, though the fan is later given to Shūei. Shusui is deeply attached to Shōka, although he doesn't return her feelings, and is the only person who says that his tea is delicious. She is terrible at embroidery, which Ryūki likes to tease her about; when she attempts to make a sunflower-like floral pattern, Shōka mistakes it for a lion. Shusui appears kind and caring to Shūrei and Ryūki, although Ryūren is suspicious of her swift agility in dealing with Kōrin's clumsiness.
It is later revealed that Shusui comes from the Hyōu clan and she is to succeed Ruka as the leader of the psychics. When Shōka took Shokun away from the clan, he also brought Shusui, whom he brought into his care and sent to the palace. While Sa-Taihō believes that she is an assassin loyal to him, Shusui is actually a double agent under the orders of Advisor Sho, known as the Black Wolf and leader of an order of assassins known Wolves of the Wind which is loyal to the Emperor.
In the second season of the anime, Shusui starts to hear sounds in her head; afraid that she is falling back into the control of the Hyōu clan, she attempts suicide. When she passes out in Shūei's arms, she breaks his heart by calling out Shōka's name instead. He later uses Shōka's name to snap her out of a hypnotic trance. Afterward, she insists on remaining in Ran province to face the Hyōu clan, leaving her position as head lady-in-waiting of the Imperial Harem. She is deemed officially missing (though the Emperor knows where she is) and her position has been filled by Jyuusan-hime. In the 16th novel, Shusui is trapped in the "prison of time" and was later rescued by Shūei.
Hien-hime (飛燕姫?) is the mother of Riō the Younger, who has the strong resemblance to his mother. She is later revealed to be Hien Ou (旺 飛燕 Ou Hien?), the only daughter of Ki Ou, the chancellor to the emperor. Her body has been used as a vessel by Ruka, who had done so in order to extend Hien's life when she was dying shortly after giving birth. When Ruka finally dies, Hien uses the rest of her life to help Shūrei, whose life has shortened as a result of her mother's spell wearing off outside of the imperial capital.
Inhabitants and officials of the Imperial capital, Kiyō
Yūshun Tei (鄭 悠舜 Tei Yūshun?) is a mild-mannered man in his late thirties who walks with a cane. Despite his gentle exterior, Yūshun is considered to be dangerous and very powerful. Yūshun is an effective politician who can accurately predict the current situation, and can be so persuasive in debate that the Merchant Alliance was reluctant to even enter negotiations with him. Initially appearing as one of Shūrei and Eigetsu's assistant officials in Sa Province, Ryūki promotes Yūshun to Prime Minister, giving him a feathered fan as a sign of office. Yūshun's political actions disturb the noble families enough to potentially endanger his life; despite his protests that he does not need protection, Seiran is assigned as his personal guard.
Yūshun is a very good friend of Kijin and Reishin, who both took the official exams with him. In the trio, he is older by a few years. He passed first in the Exams (with the title Jogen), with Reishin passing second (Bogen) and Kijin third (Tanka). A side story of the manga shows that he first met Shūrei during her childhood, when she gave him some of her homemade buns. In the anime, Ryou Anjuu says that Yūshun is from a very noble family that even surpasses the power of both the Ran and Hong clans.
During Ensei's term as governor of Sa province, Yūshun serves as his assistant. When Ensei resigns the position and leaves, Yūshun remains there as the temporary governor, performing his duties while voluntarily being imprisoned in a tower to protect him from the Sa clan. Yūshun loses his official status and is left in a dangerous position when Shūrei and Eigetsu are appointed as co-governors of Sa province, but Ensei assures them that Yūshun will be entirely safe, even from Sakujun Sa.
Yūshun first appears as an official sent from Koren to help Shūrei and Eigetsu, who had just arrived in Kinka. Under the alias of Official Yū Jun (由准?), he readily gives advice to the young co-governors. Only Ensei knows his identity, and the two men work closely together to support Shūrei and Eigetsu. Yūshun orders the military forces throughout the province to quell the riots instigated by Chuusho Sa, and to capture the corrupt members of the Sa clan. When Shūrei and Eigetsu find out that "his" tower has burned down, he reveals his real identity as Yūshun Tei and says that he was rescued by Ensei's master, who extracted him from the locked tower and left him on the streets of Kinka, where he revived the next day.
In the novels, he was in love with Rin Sai, Sho Sai's twin sister, even before Rin proposed to him, but he never thought that he had a chance because of the age gap. He kept rejecting her proposal year after year because he didn't want her to get involved in the Sa conflict. This made him very depressed, and also caused much drama for Ensei and Sai Sho. When Sa province is finally under control, he accepts Rin's proposal in the Autumn Festival and they are married. They are referred to as newlyweds in episode 38 of the first season anime.
Yosei Shō (霄 瑤璇 Sho Yosei?) is one of the three Grand Officials of the Palace and holds the rank of Taishi (霄 太師?). Generally referred to as "Advisor Sho" or his title, "Sho-Taishi (霄 太師?)", he is close friends with his fellow Grand Officials, Sa-Taiho and Sou-Taifu, all of whom also served Ryūki's father, the previous Emperor.
Advisor Sho does not serve the country for its own sake. He is only loyal to a worthy Emperor, whose life he will do his best to protect. During the battle for the imperial succession eight years ago, he refused to support any one of the battling princes, and since then he has done the bare minimum to ensure the country's survival while waiting for a worthy ruler to appear.
When he realises that Ryūki has the right potential, he makes sure that no one threatens Ryūki's place on the throne. He persuades Shūrei to come to the palace as a temporary Imperial consort, which motivates Ryūki to become worthy and exposes Enjun Sa-Taiho's assassination plot. Although saddened by Enjun's death, he considers it necessary. Advisor Sho also controls the Black Wolf and the Wolves of the Wind, but after he endangers the lives of Shūrei and Seiran, Shōka stops obeying his orders and vows to kill him someday.
When comforting the last moments of his friend Enjun, Advisor Sho takes on the supernatural appearance of a young man surrounded by a white aura. Later, he is able to summon Enjun's spirit. In fact, he is the Sage of Shi, the Purple Immortal of the Eight Sages who served the first Emperor.
Shungai Sō (宋 凱隼 Sō Shungai?) is one of the three Grand Officials of the Palace, holding the rank of Taifū (太傅?), and is known as a famous war hero. He is a peerless warrior and served the previous Emperor with great devotion. A great friend to Advisor Sho, Shungai has taught swordsmanship to both Ryūki and Seien. He knows of the actual existence of the Eight Sages, and is often aware of Advisor Sho's plans.
Kochō (蝴蝶?) is the beautiful mistress of Kougaro, the most prestigious pleasure house in the red-light district. She is fond of Shūrei, who worked as her accountant for many years. Not only is she one of the most sought-after courtesans, she is also the underground boss in charge of the region. She bestows Shūrei with a makeup set, with the lesson to use it for strength and support.
Dr. Tō (陶老師 Tō-Roushi?) is an elderly physician who works in the Imperial Palace. At one point he is seen treating Ryūki. When Shūrei asks the Palace's doctors to help treat the plague in Sa province, Dr. Tō convinces the other doctors to join Shūrei's cause and learn surgery.
Voiced by: Anri Katsu
Suou Shin (榛 蘇芳 Shin Suou?) is an official working for the Inspector General. From the middle-high class, he proposes to Shūrei under his father's orders despite his lack of personal interest in her. When he first appears, he bears many tanuki-themed accessories including a golden statue, causing Seiran to nickname him "Tan-tan (たんたん?)". He is prone to thoughtlessly saying whatever is on his mind and regarded as a fool, despite being highly perceptive and critical.
Because he does not like putting effort into anything, Suoh is both intrigued and annoyed by Shūrei's continual determination to do her best. However, Tan-tan can clearly perceive a situation's complete context or a person's true character, and he tries to lessen Shūrei's naiveté by showing her the evils of the world. Seiran considers Tan-tan to be a practical influence on Shūrei and is unusually willing to engage him in conversation. Nevertheless, Seiran also likes to pelt Suou with bamboo shoots and make him pay for random purchases, calling him "saifu #2" (wallet #2). Suou is notably one of the few people who are neither blinded by admiration or love for Shūrei, nor heavily connected to politics, thus he is able to see situations more objectively than others at times.
Tan-tan is roped into the counterfeit paintings investigation by Shūrei and ends up arresting his father, who was used in a larger plot. He saves Shūrei from being fired when Seiga Riku steals her research proposal. Since then, Tan-tan has followed Shūrei and re-entered the Inspector General as her assistant. Though he is not as intelligent as Shūrei or Seiga, he is ironically the first of the three to be promoted and later enjoys great fame as one of the most successful officials in the censorate.
Voiced by: Shotaro Morikubo
Seiga Riku (陸 清雅 Riku Seiga?) is the undersecretary of Censorate, known as the "Official Killer" for his ruthless persecution of officials. He first appears during Shūrei and Suō's investigation of counterfeit currency and artwork, posing as an official looking for a position in order to join Shūrei and Suō's investigation. In truth, he was actually sent to monitor and report on Shūrei's actions.
Seiga is an ambitious and cynical man who does not think highly of Shūrei, particularly because of her idealistic outlook towards working for the government, and he often harasses her. A promising and confident official, he is known for his willingness to sacrifice others to achieve his goals, much to Shūrei's displeasure. However, Shūrei looks to him as a senior during her time as a censorate official and regards him as a rival in hopes of winning his approval through her own efforts, a relationship that Seiga reluctantly reciprocates. Seiga is later responsible for dealing with accusations that lead to Reishin and Kōyū losing their positions in the Department of Civil Administration.
Voiced by: Ken Narita
Kōki Ki (葵 皇毅 Ki Kōki?) is the head of the Governmental Inspection Department, which serves as the Censorate for the government. He is a senior official in the government, having entered the government because of his lineage rather than through the imperial examinations. Kouki is also a survivor of the Ki family, a minor noble family that was wiped out during Emperor Senka's purge.
Ruthlessly strict, he considers Shūrei a complete idiot because of her naïveté and forces her to reflect on her idealist approach to government, which helps her better navigate through muddy court politics. He does not hesitate to get rid of people who fail to meet his standards and it is said that while the officials in the censorate possess a low rank, they are highly respected for enduring the difficult work that Kouki forces them through.
Voiced by: Hideki Ogihara
Shuu You (楊 修 You Shuu?) is a senior official and an investigator in the Department of Civil Administration, therefore one of Reishin's subordinates. Due to the nature of his work, he often needs to go undercover and is skilled at disguising himself. He does not defer to any superiors who have not earned his respect, thus he is highly confrontational with Reishin, who is capable but unwilling to work and use his talents for the greater good. Though he had hope for Kōyū and became his mentor when Kōyū began as an official, Shou You became disillusioned when it became clear that Kōyū ended up limiting himself to working for Reishin. As a result, he does not hesitate to persecute Kōyū when he does not fulfill the duty of an official, despite being personally fond of Kōyū.
Yūri Kei (景 柚梨 Kei Yūri?) is the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Finance, having worked under Kijin Ko for a long time. He knows Kijin's true name and is one of the few who knows what he looks like. He is also a contemporary of Reishin and Yuushun, and failed the examination to become an official during the year that Kijin had taken the exam, though Yuuri eventually got used to seeing Kijin's face and managed to pass the exam the next year.
Voiced by: Hiroshi Yanaka
Ki Ou (旺 季 Ou Ki?) is the chief secretary of the Department of Royal Commandment Affairs, known for often criticises Ryūki's policies. Unlike officials who entered government service through the imperial examinations, Ki Ou obtained his position through his lineage. His lectures to the emperor on what it means to be a ruler tend to be both gentle and scathing. Unknown to Ryūki, Ki Ou is a survivor of a purge ordered by Emperor Senka to eliminate all blood related descendants of Saiunkoku's first emperor, Gen Sō, and has also taken in other survivors of the purge. As a result, he is a candidate for the throne and wants to dispose Ryūki for a more capable ruler.
Voiced by: Isshin Chiba
Anju Ryo (凌 晏樹 Ryo Anju?) is the vice-secretary of department of Royal Commandment Affairs. He is a childhood friend of Kōki Ki and also became an official through his noble lineage rather than through the examinations. Though he numbers among the officials who would prefer to see Ki Ou on the throne, he tends to remain neutral between officials who gained their positions through their lineage and those who became officials through the imperial examinations.
Anju's origins are unknown, save that he was adopted by a noble family that was later exterminated under Emperor Senka's purge. Unbeknownst to Shūrei, she actually met him when she was ten-years-old and working at the Kogarou, where Kochō had taken him as a lover. Thus, Anju expresses great interest towards Shūrei, sometimes giving her pieces of vital information. His favourite fruit is the peach, though Kōki warns Shūrei against accepting peaches as gifts from Anju because they supposedly bring disaster.
Sa Province inhabitants and officials
Ensei Rō (浪 燕青 Rō Ensei?) makes his first appearance as a half-starved man lying in front of Shūrei's estate. Seiran somewhat dislikes him because of their shared past in the Satsujinzoku gang in Sa province, when Ensei earned the nickname of "Little rascal King" for his prowess in using a pole or staff as a weapon, although Ensei's true specialty is close-range unarmed combat. He has a cross-shaped scar under his left eye and initially sports a bushy beard which irritates Shūrei and makes many people describe him as a bear, which finally convinces him to shave it off and remain clean-shaven.
Ensei was formerly the governor of Sa province. Before his term, officials in Sa province were often assassinated or bribed, reducing the quality of candidates willing to accept those positions. In an unprecedented move, Enjun Sa-Taiho announced that whoever could turn the tables on an assassin would be made provincial governor. Ensei was appointed as temporary governor at age 17 and was able to competently foil assassination attempts as well as maintain order.
The death of Enjun, Ensei's primary political backer, reduces the acceptance of Ensei as the legitimate governor. To ward off political upheaval, Ensei leaves to determine the new Emperor's political personality and to request a new governor to replace him. On his journey, he is targeted by thieves and assassins because of the high bounty placed on his head by the Sa family. After Shūrei's term as governor of Sa province is suspended, Ensei continues to help her out because he admires her, though he does not intend to let Shūrei know about his feelings towards her.
Eigetsu Tō (杜 影月 Tō Eigetsu?) is a shy, intelligent thirteen-year-old boy. He was born in Seika village, Koku province, but the rest of the village was wiped out by plague; he was raised by a doctor, Doshu, who found him as a child on the brink of death. After Eigetsu passed the Provincial Exams at the age of twelve, their entire community contributed money to send him to take the Imperial Exams. He turns up in Kougaro, Kochō's pleasure house, with no memory of how he got there and without his valuable Exam Token.
Eigetsu does not like to consume alcohol or even smell it, because it literally turns him into another person: Yōgetsu (陽月?), who is brash, arrogant, and an excellent fighter. In contrast to Eigetsu's gentle manner and academic inclinations, Yōgetsu's intelligence leans towards being calculating and strategic. When Eigetsu first arrives in the capital, Yougetsu takes over; after winning a drinking contest in the Red Light District, he beats up three gang members, steals their money, and spends most of it on premium sake. Although he often refers to Eigetsu as a dim-witted fool, he also looks out for him. Thinking that Eigetsu might lose the Exam Token in all the commotion, he gives it for safekeeping to the sake merchant and tells him to deliver it with the expensive sake to the best brothel in the city. Before passing out, Yougetsu also tells Shūei Ran to take him to the same destination, which is how Eigetsu ended up in Kogaro.
During the examinations, Eigetsu befriends Shūrei and becomes the youngest person in history to win the position of Jougen (top score for the year), beating the previous record set by Kōyū Ri. Initially, he is deluged by proposals by ambitious officials who want him to marry their daughters, but he refuses them all and they turn against him as he starts his career, assigning him petty duties like shining their shoes and then "accidentally" kicking him. When Ryūki appoints him and Shūrei as the new governors of Sa province, Eigetsu is again the youngest person to ever win that position, as well as one of the first set of co-governors to share such an office. When they enter the province, Eigetsu is captured by the Satsujinzoku along with Kōrin, who is pretending to be Shūrei. Eventually they are saved by Seiran, Ensei, and Ryūren (as well as Yogetsu) and finally reunite with Shūrei in the provincial capital.
The anime's second season reveals that Yougetsu is actually another one of the Eight Sages, Byakuya (the Sage of Haku, the White Immortal). When Doshuu found Eigetsu, Yougetsu saved the child's life by strengthening his dying soul and granting him twenty more years of life, but after that, Eigetsu himself would die and Yougetsu would live on in his body. Later, Doshū became gravely ill, so that Eigetsu willingly surrendered ten of those years to Yougetsu in order to extend his foster-father's life. When Eigetsu has only one month left to live, Sa province is plagued by an epidemic which he recognizes as the same disease that wiped out his native village. He tells Kōrin about his imminent fate and confessed his feelings to her, then sets out by himself to the affected area in the hope of directly helping some people before his death. But when Eigetsu's life is due to end, Yougetsu decides to go into a deep sleep to let Eigetsu keep living.
Though Eigetsu has a great part in handling the unrest in Sa province, his actions are considered reckless by the central government. He is demoted and is made the assistant to Yū Kai, the new governor of Sa province and the former governor of Koku province. But instead of a punishment, this is like promising him a prosperous future as an official in years to come.
Voiced by: Yōsuke Akimoto
Yū Kai (櫂 瑜 Kai Yū?) is the Governor of Koku province and a renowned ladies' man. He is said to be the oldest man to ever hold the position of governor in Saiunkoku. He asked the previous Emperor to appoint him as the governors of both Koku and Sa provinces, but was refused because of his old age. Kai was the guardian of Eigetsu when he applied for the ministerial exams, and passed Shin Ka's medical documents on to Shūrei.
When Shūrei and Eigetsu are appointed as the co-governors of Sa province, they ask Kai to succeed them as governor in the event of their deaths. When they are dismissed from those positions, he does succeed them and gives up Koku province to govern Sa province and become Eigetsu's mentor.
Voiced by: Kōichi Nagano (Japanese), Colin Murdock (English)
Meishō (瞑祥?) is the leader of the Satsujinzoku, the Killing-Blade Outlaws, which is supported by Sakujun Sa. He takes advantage of the instability of Sa Province and gains control of certain major cities, working with Chūshō Sa and the Sa clan. Though he works with them, Meishō conceals Sakujun's involvement, allowing Sōjun to believe that the Satsujinzoku answers to Chūshō.
Meishō has a past with both Seiran and Ensei, but does not know that both of them were involved in wiping out the Satsujinzoku over a decade ago. In the end, he loses his life to Seiran in battle.
Shōrin and Yōshun
Shōrin (翔琳?) is the leader of a group in Sa province called the Condors. He and his younger brother Yōshun (曜春?) are entrusted by Ensei to look after Shunki. Their father incurred a great debt of gratitude from Shōka Hong in their past. Though only thirteen, Shōrin is quite skilled as a tracker, with acrobatic skills and good endurance. At Shunki's request, he takes her to Kinka in order to help Kokujun.
Shō Sai (柴 彰 Sai Shō?) is the head of the merchant guild in Kinka, second largest city in Sa province. He decides to help the new governors of Sa, Shūrei and Eigetsu, in exchange for peace within the province. He is the younger twin of Rin Sai.
Though his father is the head of the military of Kinka, he and his sister opt for the merchant life instead. He repeatedly promotes the idea of using eight-tenths of his power to help, saving two-tenths for emergencies.
Voiced by: Hitoshi Nishimura (Japanese), Ross Douglas (English)
Shin Sai (柴 進 Sai Shin?) is the military commander of the city of Kinka in Sa Province, though he is mistaken by Shūrei for the head of the merchant guild when they first meet. He is the father of the twins Sho and Rin Sai, and was angered when the two chose to pursue the merchant's path.
Voiced by: Yōko Sasaki (Japanese), Paula Lindberg (English)
Rin Sai (柴 凛 Sai Rin?) is Sho's twin sister, and renowned as the "manliest woman in Sa province." When first encountered, she is the head of the Merchant Guild in Koren. After her term of guild leadership expires, she becomes an inventor. When Shūrei calls doctors to treat the disease in Sa province, Rin designs a smooth knife suited to surgical operations; Rin later designs a centrifuge-like device to separate out sand from adulterated salt.
She fell in love with Yūshun Tei when he was still Ensei's assistant and repeatedly proposed to Yūshun on the Autumn Festival (an event similar to Valentine's Day, when girls give handmade gifts to someone they like). For years, Yūshun had always rejected her. When the Sa conflict ends, Rin announces her last attempt to propose to Yūshun: if he rejected her again, she would give up and wish for his happiness when he returned to Shi province. When Rin approaches Yūshun, he seems to be asleep, so Rin just gives her gift, wishes for his happiness. However, when she turns to leave, Yūshun suddenly grabs her wrist. They are described as newlyweds when they go to Shi province for the New Year's celebrations.
Voiced by: Kōji Yusa
Dōshu (堂主?) is a kind doctor who found and saved Eigetsu in Koku Province, later becoming his adopted father and mentor. His real name is Ka Shin (華真?), revealed in episode 6 of the second season. It was thanks to his previous research that the epidemic in season 2 was solved. He treated both Eigetsu and Yougetsu as his beloved children, even though Yogetsu was much older than Ka Shin and therefore very irritated by this. He taught Eigetsu to smile and live life to the fullest, and also passed on his medical knowledge to Shūrei before he died.
Voiced by: Aruno Tahara
Shikō Yō (葉 棕庚 Yō Shikō?) is a doctor who took care of Shūrei when she was young and sickly. While he lives outside the capital, his medical expertise is renowned and his old friend Advisor Sho calls him to the capital to consult about the plague in Sa province. Dr. Yō teaches the imperial doctors how to surgically remove the worms that cause the disease. Later, he is revealed as another of the Eight Sages (the Sage of Ko, Yellow Immortal). Like Advisor Sho, he looks much younger in his sage form.
Voiced by: Masaya Onosaka
Jin Shiba (司馬迅 Shiba Jin?), known also as Shun (隼?), is a prisoner on death row for patricide and is Jyusan-hime's ex-fiance. Jin is one of the many assassins sent after her and Shūrei Hong after he was released from prison and being pardoned by the three oldest Ran brothers. He is from the Shiba clan, a subsidiary clan of the Ran clan.
He was a childhood friend of Shūei Ran and Jyūsan-hime Ran and the one who gave Jyūsan-hime the nickname "Hotaru". He met Jyūsan-hime when he was eleven years old, shortly after Jyūsan-hime's mother was murdered by his own father. Jin had been sent to the house to kill her but could not bring himself to do so. Jyūsan-hime, who had been three years old, sat by her mother's corpse and stared at Jin for three days and nights. When she finally told him to come closer to her, he cut out his eye and gave it to her as a symbol of trust. After the incident in Ran Province, he winds up wandering the countryside with Shusui.
- In the original Japanese series, the Hong clan's name is pronounced and written Kō, using the Chinese-based on'yomi reading of the kanji. In the North American Region 1 DVDs, Geneon changed the clan's name to "Hong," the Mandarin Chinese reading of the same character, to avoid confusion with the other Kō clan. Funimation retained this name change when they picked up the series after Geneon's closure, for both re-releases and future releases of volumes in the series.