(Official NHK Website English plot summary)
A love struck Atsuhime wanders in the garden daydreaming of Iesada.
Iesada meets with Ii, who requests that he be allowed to name Yoshitomi as the next shogun. Iesada agrees, with the provision that Atsuhime be named as guardian. Ii asks why, remarking that there is no precedent for this type of action. Iesada replies that, as he has told Ii before, Atsuhime is interested and skilled in politics, and would provide the young Yoshitomi with invaluable guidance. Iesada meets with Hotta to tell him the same thing, but refuses to repeat himself with explanations. He storms out to the garden where he sees beautiful flowers, and decides to cut one and send it to Atsuhime. As he is about to cut the flower, however, Iesada collapses.
Ikushima begs Atsuhime once again to urge Iesada to name Yoshinobu as the next shogun. In her impassioned plea, Ikushima says that this will be her final request of Atsuhime, and that it is Nariakira’s order and desire.
Nariakira is telling Tatewaki about his plans to form a Western-style military force, with 3000 guns and a warship ordered from France, when an exhausted and filthy Saigo arrives. With his head to the ground, Saigo announces that Yoshitomi will be named as the next shogun and apologizes for failing his lord. Nariakira does not seem surprised or upset, telling Tatewaki and Saigo that he has other plans, plans involving his Western army and the two of them.
The lower-ranked samurai of Satsuma are greatly excited by the news that Nariakira intends to head to Kyoto. They assume that this is to make war and get so excited by this prospect that they rush off to practice nosily, leaving Tatewaki and Okubo to muse on their lord’s deeper plans.
When Ii hears that Franc and England are approaching the shores of Japan, and that Harris wants the treaty with the US signed before the other countries arrive, Ii tells the negotiators Inoue and Iwase to attempt to do their best to kill time until they can obtain the emperor’s support. Despite this, however, the treaty is signed on board the American ship the Powhattan, on the 19th day of the 6th month of 1858.
Ikushima tells Atsuhime that Ii has had the treaty signed without imperial sanction and Atsuhime wonders why Iesada wasn’t involved. She worries that Iesada may be unwell, causing Ikushima to muse that she has heard nothing of Iesada’s recent actions. Atsuhime calls for the shogun’s doctor to demand news. Meanwhile the doctor is meeting with Honjuin, telling her that Iesada is only somewhat unwell. When Honjuin demands to see Iesada the doctor insists that Iesada be allowed to rest peacefully. Honjuin forbids anybody to tell Atsuhime of Iesada’s illness, saying that Atsuhime will insist on seeing Iesada which will tire him and worsen his condition. Takimiya objects, saying Atsuhime will be just as concerned as Honjuin, but Honjuin will not change her mind. The doctor obliges and, when he visits Atsuhime, lies and says that Iesada is simply too busy to see Atsuhime. Atsuhime does not seem to believe this, but since she cannot see Iesada, asks that the doctor pass him something from her. She sends to Iesada one white Go piece, one of the pieces that she and Iesada had enjoyed playing with. Iesada is touched by her gift, but saddened that she has not come in person. He wonders if he will ever see her again, if she will come and visit him as he can no longer go and see her.
Ii begins to flex his political power, first by barring Hotta from the castle. Yoshinobu goes to Ii to complain of Ii’s behaviour in signing the treaty despite the emperor’s lack of support, but Ii simply offers empty apologies. Yoshinobu’s father, Tokugawa Nariaki also goes to see Ii, but is kept waiting all day and has to return home without having met with Ii. Nariaki and Yoshinobu discuss Ii’s actions, and Yoshinobu apologizes to his father. Nariaki says that he feels that someday soon a large and important role will be assigned to Yoshinobu, but Yoshinobu replies that he does not want the responsibility.
Ii formally presents Yoshitomi as the shogun’s successor, thereby signaling the demise of the hopes of the Hitotsubashi (Yoshinobu) faction. Ii follows this up with orders barring various Hitotsubashi supporters from visiting the castle.
After a day reviewing the troops in the hot sun, Nariakira falls sick with an unknown illness. On his deathbed he tells his half-brother Tadayuki that he has an important message for him. Nariakira says that his son, Tetsumaru, is too young to be lord of the domain and that, in his place, Tadayuki’s son Matajiro should be named lord, with Tadayuki as guardian. Tadayuki, with tears in his eyes, thanks his older brother and promises to follow his wishes. Nariakira then turns to Tatewaki and says that he wanted to see Atsuhime one last time. He then apologizes for having stolen Atsuhime away from Tatewaki. He then dies, wondering if Atsuhime has received his letter.
Atsuhime is worried about Ikushima, who appears listless after the announcement about Yoshitomi despite Atsuhime’s attempts to interest her in delicacies sent from Satsuma. Takimiya presents herself to Atsuhime and tells her that Iesada is sick, but that she does not know any more. Atsuhime insists upon seeing Iesada immediately and Takimiya promises to look into the matter for Atsuhime. While this is going on an urgent messenger arrives from Satsuma with the news that Nariakira has passed away. Atsuhime is in shock and Ikushima laments the loss of such an important figure. Atsuhime finally opens the letter from Nariakira and cries as she reads his words. In the letter Nariakira apologizes for the pain he inflicted upon her, tearing her from her family and sending her far from her homeland. He also apologizes for the day that may come in the future where her new family and her homeland become enemies. He tells her that if and when this time comes, she should be strong and trust her heart for she is the only one who could accomplish what she is doing. As Atsuhime is reading the letter, Takimiya arrives with a shogunal minister. Takimiya tells Atsuhime that Iesada has died, and that his death has only just been announced. In response to Atsuhime’s shocked question, the minister admits that Iesada passed away on the 6th day of the 7th month, nearly a month previously. An inconsolable Atsuhime demands to be taken to Iesada’s room, where she collapses in tears against his funerary altar.