An old woman walks a boy she adresses as "young master" to his new home. The boy walks with a cane. At the door, he reads the sign. The woman is impressed and says that he's bright. She tells him to listen to the master's teachings and reassures him that he will be taken care of there. She says that though his heart may feel uneasy, it's a very precious opportunity. As she is about to depart, a sudden clacking interupts them. A young boy runs up, shouting at them to wait. Sweating, he asks the boy if he's looking to become the seventh generation's apprentice. annoyed, the boy asks what it is to him and the other boy smiles widely. He passes them, running into the house. The boy says that from now on, he'll be his big brother. The first boy looks confused, so he explains, annoyed, that whoever steps over the threshold first is the senor apprentice. He smiles and extends his hand, telling him to come along. In present time, Yakumo Yuurakutei the 8th says that this is when he met Shin, who would later be known as Sukeroku would first meet. The boy slaps his extended hand.
Yakumo Yuurakutei the 7th happily greets the young boy. He says that his mother took care of him in the past. He says that though he's his apprentice, he is also part of the family, so he should make himself at home. He says that it's a pity he had to stop dancing due to his injury, but it's good that he's starting rakugo so young. As he says this, the second boy tries to get the masters attention by yelling. The master yells at him to shut up and go home. He refuses and asks why the other boy is allowed to become his apprentice when he isn't.
The master says that fate brought he and the other boy together through an old aquaintance of his, who asked him to take the boy in. The second boy says that fate brought them together as well, because he was born to perform rakugo. He says that as long as he passes everything to him, the future will be bright. He tells the master he knows several stories already and that he should let him be his apprentice. The master is annoyed, but says that since it doesn't seem that he's just there to freeload so he'll listen to him perform. The boy is happy with this and says that he expected the master to be reasonable. He preforms Nozarashi, and even makes the other boy laugh. Finally, the master stops him, saying that it's like a monkey aping a human, but he is impressed that he could make "the stone-faced kid laugh." He pats Sukeroku on the head and asks why he came to him.
The boy says that he wants to become the eighth generation yakumo, and it can only be inherited by him. He confirms this and says that he'd have to work very hard. Yakumo asks about his parents, and he says that he never seen them in his life. He says that an old man who used to take care of him at the shelter really liked rakugo and he'd ask him to perform for him everyday. But he died a little while ago, so he came there. The master teases him slightly before giving some money to go clean himself up. The master calls Matsuda and asks him to bring two children yukatas out. He tells the boy to go along with him. He says that they should get acquainted. He politely agrees and follows him out.
After they leave, the master's wife chastises her husband for taking in such a dirty child as his apprentice, since he promised her that he wouldn't take in anymore and that children are troublesome and she didn't even want him to take in the first one. He says that it's for the best, since the young boy is the only live-in apprentice, he would probably feel uncomfortable, so having a crude and careless fellow living there would be just right. This angers her even more and she says that she's the one responsible for taking care of them.
In the bathhouse, the young boy tries covering himself as he enters the bath. The second boy asks why he's putting on airs when there's only men there. He says that he didn't want to come there in the first place, and says to leave him alone. He slides into a bath adjacent to Shin's. Smiling, Shin slides from his bath into the other boys. He says that since he heard he used to dance, he should know how to sing dodoitsu and tells him to sing something. He refuses, so Shin calls him stingy and says that the bathhouse is a place for singing, since the echoing makes it sound nicer. He begins singing, and a man yells at him to be quiet.
The boy asks where he learned the rakugo he did earlier. Shin says that it was from the theatre. He says that he's always there from day to night. The man in charge there recognizes his face, so he lets him in for free. He tells the boy that he has to be careful, or he'll wind up dead and that a kid on his own has to learn to use his head. He asks if the boy had been abandoned. He says that he doesn't know what happened, but he must be in pain to be thrown out at his age. The boy begins crying, to the surprise of Shin. In present time, he says that though he had known it, hearing the truth from someone else was painful. It was true that he had been abandoned by his parents, and at that moment, the reality of the situation hit him at once. As a man born in a matrilineal family has no place within it. In the realm of geisha, even if he, as a man, were to dance, no one would praise him. After his leg got injured, everyone shunned him even more. He was forced to learn rakugo, though he had no interest in it. All the pain that he'd never told any adult before, he blurted it all to Shin. Afterwards, he apologized for boring him. Shin tells him that he has to smile, or else no one in his audience will be able to laugh, even if they wanted to. The boy asks how he should do that, when there's nothing to smile about. Shin says that his face is pretty funny. The boy disagrees. Presently, he narriates that after saying all that, he started his life as a live-in apprentice.
Several years later, they receive the names Kikuhiko and Hatsutarou. They are names of two successful former zenzas. He tells them to train hard as Kikuhiko bows and thanks him and Hatsutarou stares in horror at his paper. He says that since times weren't good before, he couldn't give them names. From this time on, they are genuine zenzas. Hatsutarou begins to complain, but Yakumo stops him. Kikuhiko enjoys this. Yakumo says that since they'll start performing at the theatre soon, he asks if they thoroughly practiced the stories that he taught them. Hatsutarou confidently answers yes, while Kikuhiko looks away and says yes quietly as well. Yakumo says that they're always the opposite of each other.
He says that Hatsutarou's rakugo is too quick and hasty, so he should calm down a little. And he has to pay more attention to his grooming, or he'll become the center of attention the moment he steps into the theatre. Hatsutarou agrees unenthusiastically.
He tells Kiku that his rakugo has a sense of tight restraint, so he should use the diaphram to vocalize. And be kinder to the senior apprentices, others have complained to him, saying that don't know how to get along with him. He too agrees unenthusuastically.
Looking at his paper, Hatsuta says that his name screams "I'm just a zenza," and that he hates it. Kiku says that it makes sense, since he is one. Hatsuta says that Kikuhiko is a really good name, since it's elegant, it's perfect for him. Suspicious, Kiku asks if he's serious. Hatsu says that though the master told him to use the diaphragm to vocalize, he thinks that instead he thinks there are stories more suitable for him. He says that since it's hard for him to produce a sonorous sound, it'll be fine if he just perform stories that don't require loud dialogues, erotic stories. He says that there are also many stories that make use of shamisen and dancing, and though it'd be impossible for him, Kiku should have no problem. Kiku says that he isn't even confident with the zenza level stories, so those level stories are too advanced for him. Hatsu says that he gets it and, since he never even touched a woman, of course he can't play those roles well.
Sighing, Hatsu says that he really want to have sex, but that they can't since they're living a zenza lifestyle. Hatsu says that once they start earning money at the theater, they should save up and go to the Yoshiwara together. Blushing and looking uncomfortable, Kiku says that he should go to school. Unimpressed, Hatsu sends him off. In present time, he says that having Shin head forward had started to make him feel anxious. At the time, merely trying to remember the zenza-level stories that master had taught him was already making him exhausted. He wasn't able to see if a story was suitable or not, and he didn't have the time to think about women.
Taking into account his parents' reputation, Master wanted him to complete high school, so he attended school during day and worked at the theater during night. Compared to Shin, who spent the entire day practicing rakugo, it was easy to see the growing gap between them. He grew more and more agonized about the growing disparity in their skills. Even so, he was really happy to be able to remain in the performance arts sector. After all, he still enjoyed that kind of thing. As lonf as he went to the theatre and heard the musical notes of the shamisen, his emotions would grow very calm.
One day, at the theatre, he noticed a girl about to cry. He goes over to her and asks what's wrong. She tells him that her fingers were cramping and hurt. He asks to borrow it for a minute. He asks an older woman what the introductory music for the master who's appearing next is. She is impressed that he can play the shamisen and says that it's "Will the Plum Blossoms Bloom." He says that he dabbled a bit in the past. He begins playing and the people around him are impressed how well he played. The girl he helped, blushing, thanks him and says that she's just starting to learn, so she's terrible. She is still impressed at his playing. He stares at her, thinking that her face is really red, and offers to teach her. He narrates that she's the first person he dated.
As Kiku and Yakumo walk home together, Yakumo expresses his anger at the sudden self-repression. Kiku agrees. He narrates that he followed Shin's suggestion and had just started practicing scripts for erotic stories and comedies. For someone who was desperately trying to find his own performing stile, it was as if his path had been completely cut off.
Ariving home, he is greeted by loud laughter and then Shin. In the kitchen, Shin is on kitchen duty and has to do dishes. Kiku asks what's wrong, and he has that the thing he was busy with ended quickly, so he came over to help out, since Kiku looks exhausted lately. He says that without anyone new, they'll be stuck in the bottom tier forever. If the zenzas continue to be understaffed, they won't be promoted to futatsume for the rest of their lives. Kiku says that in these times, no one would be stupid enough to learn rakugo. Hatsu says that he doesn't care and that he isn't there to do chores, and that because it's precicely because times are like this that they must preserve rakugo. He can understand why no one wants to become a rakugoka when the theatres have been lacking patrons. They have to worry about feeding themselves. Everyone is struggling, trying their best to survive. But once everyone's stomach is full, they will return. Suddenly, he's interrupted by Peisuke performing Koganemochi. Hatsu says that he's practicing it currently. Though Peisuke isn't very good. He leans over him and begins going along the story with him. Kiku smiles into Hatsu's shoulder.
He narrates that he almost started to hate rakugo because of Shin. But it was also thanks to him that he started to love rakugo more and more. The reality was the complete opposite of what Shin had predicted. The rakugo sector wanted and the senior and junior apprentices left master one after another.
After an apprentice leaves, Hatsu cries and Kiku looks ahead, stone-faced. Their master says that it's only the two of them left. He says that he has to talk to them both seperetly and alone and asks that they come inside and meet him later.
Kiku enters his room. His master tells him that he intends to go to Manchuria to boost the morale of the imperial army. It's quite dangerous in Tokyo now, and his wife wants to go to her hometown. He's planning to let Matsuda take a break as well. He says that he's hoping he'll go with the mistress. He reassures that she'll take care of her. He says that if anything should happen to him, he wouldn't be able to face his mother. Since he's already 18, the master thinks that he might be being excessively meddlesome. Kiku, panicking, asks about Shin. Yakumo says that he's bringing him along. Kiku asks that he bring him along as well. Yakumo says that he can't bring him to such a dangerous place and his leg would be an inconvenience. Though it's true that the more people there are, the harder it is to move around. But it's still better than being enlisted. It isn't that big a deal and it'll all be over in a few months anyway. Even if he was to remain there, it would be impossible to perform rakugo. Yakumo says that that era is terrible and he can't afford to keep his cat as he tosses it out the window, saying he has to let it go. Kiku asks if he's the same as the cat; if he's going to be abandoned again. Since Shin is going to be allowed to stay at his side to train, while he has to while his days away in the countryside. And asks if he's really that worthless. Yakumo says that he didn't say that while looking away. Kiku says that he doesn't want the gap between them to grow bigger. Just when he finally started to love rakugo and that he wishes to learn more. Yakumo says that he doesn't remember ever teaching him to talk back. Kiku seems embarrased as he politely apologizes.That night, as they lie beside each other, Hatsu asks Kiku if he's still awake. Kiku says he is. Hatsu says that though they're finally going their seperate ways, he says that he'll definitely come back alive, he still hasn't visited Yoshiwara with him. Kiku flips over and glares at him. He is slightly taken back and asks why he's looking at him like that. Kiku smiles and tells him to pinky-promise. Kiku asks him to perform a Akubi Shinan for him because hearing his makes him fall asleep. Hatsu is offended and asks if that's an insult or compliment. Laughing, Kiku says who knows. As soon as he begins, Kiku falls asleep, their fingers still entwined.
When Kiku arrived in the countryside, he worked in a factory. Life was quiet and calm there, it impossible to imagine that a war was still going on.
A young woman calls out to Kiku as he lay in the grass. She says that he's napping in such an unusual spot again, and asks that he's careful not to ruin his health. She brought him a book to read. As they sit together, he wonders if he was to get married to a girl like her, start working, and live out the rest of a normal life together in the countryside, what would become of him.
Kiku narrates that the mistresses family was very wealthy. In Tokyo, she'd always been busy handling all sorts of matters, but she now resembled a deflating balloon. Day after day, she only awaited master's return. Soon the telegrams that had been arriving frequently gradually stopped. Six months passed, and then a year, only time cruelly continued to move forward.
As Kiku arrived home, the mistress asked if they received a telegram. He says that it hadn't yet. She begins to cry, saying that he must have died. Kiku sighs.
Kiku narrates that everytime something discouraging happened, he found himself starting to subconsciously murmur rakugo lines. When he did this, his heart would immediately become lighter. Although he'd considered forgetting it, rakugo had long become one with his heart and body - an insepable part of himself. Bot things always happen in the most unexpected ways. They;d heard the emperor;s national broadcast and then the war was over. They couldn't wait to return to Tokyo, not that it no longer suffered from air-raids. The two of them only wished to see the master and the man in person. Master's house in Kagurazawa hadn't been affected by the war. Matsuda, who lived close by, always came over to help tidy up the house. But no good news came.
Matsu greets them as they return. Crying, Matsuda says that the house is special to him as well and that all that's left is to wait for the master of the house to return.
They also heard some rumors that the withdrawal of troops was taking a lot longer than expected. Deeply believing that they were still alive, he became the temporary pillar of the household and worked like mad. With the help of the Shinuichi-ranked master, he was able to go on stage as a futatsume. Everyday he'd have three to four performances and he was so bust that there was no time to rest. But just being able to perform rakugo already made him incredibly happy.
One day, suddenly and without warning, the two returned while Kiku was outside sweeping. He called for the mistress and Matsuda to come back. Everyone hugs and, as Kiku and Shin hug, Kiku says that he stinks. Hatsu laughs and says that he smells good. Kiku gives him money to go to the bathhouse.
Soon enough, they were finally able to perform rakugo again. As they're about to perform, they're shocked to find that the house if full of people. Hatsu says that from now on, there'll be more and more people rushing in seeking entertainment. This age where there's nothing else is the perfect time to demonstrate the clever subtletly and exquisiteness of rakugo. Smiling and gripping his shoulders from behind, Hatsu says that their era had finally arrived.
When they came of age, they were promoted to futatsume. They left master's household and began an extremely impoverished cohabition lifestyle. The popularity of rakugo continued to rise, and at the same time, they started to be regarded as the rising stars of the younger generation.
One day, a young woman greets Matsuda and asks if Yakumo was there. She asks him to tell Yakumo that Miyokichi is there for a visit.
In present time, Kiku says that just like that, the stormy ups and downs of their futatsume era were about to begin. But regrettably, because of the time, the rest of the story will have to wait until tomorrow evening to be told.