Rating: 4.5 (of 5)
This episode proved to be every bit as dramatic as the ending to last episode promised, just not entirely in the way that last episode suggested.
Rather than chasing down Main and Tuuli’s kidnappers being a major part of the episode, it turns out to only be a prelude to the episode’s even bigger confrontations. I was pleased to see Main’s father arrive on the scene and play a major role in disrupting the effort (though Damuel still had enough to do); Main also getting to weaponize her Crushing power in a more controlled manner was an additional treat. But that whole affair proves to be just the starter for one of the series’ most action-intensive episodes to date.
The confrontation with the High Priest and the foreign noble at the cathedral was inevitable, given how the story set things up to this point, but it did feel slightly rushed; I have to wonder if the adaptation is taking some shortcuts here. Still, the scene is a welcome one for being the first to show what a fight looks like in this world when both sides have magic-enabled individuals. Men that I’m assuming are Devouring soldiers can use their magic to bulk themselves up, though apparently they have not been trained enough in fighting to take advantage of it against individuals like Damuel and Gunther who have been formally trained; the only one of Main’s defenders who struggles against them is poor Fran.
The High Priest and especially the foreign noble are another story. This scene seems to reinforce an impression made by episode 13: that the High Priest is not at all a trained combatant, since he relies both on dirk and the black orb rather than fighting Main directly. Too bad for him that, even after experiencing Main’s “Crushing” directly, he’s underestimating how much mana she has. The foreign noble, for all his bloated look, is vastly more of a threat. He knows how to fight and has the mana to go toe-to-toe even with Main’s power when not caught off-guard. And they have some unexpected help, too, although Jenni’s predisposition to act this way was at least hinted at a couple of episode ago. Her words here seem to indicate that she’s still being taken advantage of like Wilma was, so it’s quite understandable why she’s bitter. (This also explains her apparent attitude towards Delia.) Meanwhile, Delia’s been hung out to dry here, and is perhaps finally understanding that she’s been playing for the wrong team. The irony here is that the High Priest also suffers for not heeding Delia’s efforts more.
That the epilogue explains why Ferdinand was not present until the last minute is a welcome touch, as without that, his arrival at just the right moment smacked too much of dramatic convenience. The bigger issue here, though, is that we finally get at least some hint about what the black protective charm – which Sylvester gave her and which the episode is named after – is actually supposed to do. Granted, nothing is explicitly explained here, but Ferdinand’s reaction to it, his past behavior towards Sylvester, and what he tells Main about how she can keep herself, attendants, and family out of deadly trouble by agreeing to an immediate adoption, points to just one reasonable conclusion: Sylvester is the Lord of Ehrenfest. By giving her that “charm,” he showed a willingness to adopt her directly if the situation warrants it, and presumably Main putting her blood on the stone is the effective equivalent of signing a contract. By accepting the adoption, she immediately falls under the lord’s direct protection, thus giving Ferdinand all the reason he needs to deal with the intruding noble (which he clearly was eager to do anyway) by acting on her behalf.
Wow. Assuming I’m right on this, that’s a heady development, but it also makes complete sense. Nothing has indicated that the lord couldn’t be a younger guy or a complete rascal, and it completely explains why Ferdinand – whom the knights recognize as being of high status – couldn’t control Sylvester, why Karstedt was along when he joined Main and Ferdinand on the Spring Prayers round (and initially didn’t try to interfere when he was teasing Main), and perhaps even why Benno was so flummoxed about whatever offer Sylvester made him back in episode 31. (Looking back, this presumably involved Sylvester becoming the restaurant’s patron.) He faked being a blue-robed priest so he could see for himself who Main is, what she’s capable of, and what she could mean for Ehrenfest, and saw enough to give her a charm that would protect her in a status sense rather than a magical sense. He recognizes, as Ferdinand does, her value, and power implied to be on a level with a high-ranked noble implies a need for commensurate protection.
I also found interesting Ferdinand’s comment about how The High Priest wouldn’t know about the change in rules because it happened at a “gathering of nobles” and what that implies about the High Priest’s actual status. Hopefully that gets clarified eventually, but next episode looks like it could be as loaded as this one was. Whether my claims about Sylvester are true or not, Main’s transition to being a noble is going to happen more suddenly than originally planned, and there will be consequences for that.