Getting back into my great reread of Basara, I’m going to tackle Volumes 11 and 12, where Sarasa finds herself in a very unpleasant prison in Hokkaido. When she discovers Hayato’s ship abandoned with curse markings that include splashed blood and voodoo dolls, she’s dismayed that he’s gone missing. Her concern for Hayato is taken over with her excitement when she discovers that the Red King is still alive “So I can kill him…with my own two hands!” Sarasa promptly decides to visit the Kazuno people who kidnapped her friend, hoping to get him back and recruit more allies she can use in her battle against the Red King. The Kazuno have an elaborate set of traps which Sarasa wins through with her usual resilience and personal integrity, but it isn’t enough to prevent her from being thrown into a horrible prison with Ageha and Asagi. One of the prison guards looks suspiciously like Shuri, and it turns out that the self proclaimed “King of the Northern Seas” aka “Wind Owl” is Shuri’s cousin.
When Ageha is away from Sarasa being secretive and snarky it is easy to forget just how much he cares for Sarasa and his role as Tatara. As soon as they wind up in prison he makes protecting Sarasa’s secret his first priority, offering up his body as a distraction so no one will suspect that Tatara is a girl. Sarasa is overcome with emotion at Ageha’s sacrifice and wonders if there’s anything she can do to make things better. Ageha tells her that he knew she was the child of destiny the first time he saw her in the desert, and if she can focus on rebuilding their country he’ll be happy. Even Asagi is now on watch to protect Sarasa in prison, but when she’s used as a canary in a prison mine, she’s taken away by the “King of the Northern Seas.” Seeing Sarasa and Ageha endure a horrible situation together after being parted for so long showed the strength of their relationship, and as horrible as Asagi would like to think he is, he’s gradually being changed just by being exposed to Tatara as well.
It is PRISON BREAK TIME in Volume 12! One of the ways that Tamura is such a pro in the way she presents this sprawling adventure with a large cast is that each character gets a moment that provides some insight into their personality, motivations, or relationships. When Shuri’s cousin discovers that Tatara is a woman, he immediately starts groping her, leading her to reflect that the terror she’s experiencing “reminds me of all the terror that women go through…reminds me that I’m a woman…even while I’m trying to live as a man!” Ageha rescues her, but not before they’re doused with icy water, and Sarasa takes care of him tenderly. Sarasa is beginning to wonder if Shuri is the Red King after her encounter with Wind Owl, but the ever sneaky Asagi assures her that they look nothing alike. Sarasa manages to find Hayato, and he undergoes his own trial as he fights against the drugs he’s been dosed with to warn Sarasa about the dangers that lie ahead in the prison. Asagi spends most of his time in prison commenting about how much he dislikes the events he’s experienced. One of my favorite moments occurred when Sarasa was distracted after learning the histories of the prison guards. She’s distracted and lost in her own thoughts, so Ageha promptly sweeps her off her feet and gives her a dramatic kiss before asking her what she needs as a leader. As always it is a combination of Sarasa’s confidence and insight and the help of her friends that lead her out of the prison. Old Kaku turns out to have been the only successful escapee from the prison, and he, Nakajin, and Asagi’s spy Muratake work to help as well. After the political intrigue and tropical idyll everyone experienced in Okinawa, the prison in the North provides a great contrast to the earlier story arc. This volume ends on a cliffhanger (literally) and I haven’t read these middle volumes of Basara recently at all, so I’m eagerly looking forward to the next volume!