I recently came across an old drama CD. And it has a very interesting snippet about Saki and Teru. Mainly, the track gives us a rough timeline on the events surrounding the family. Though, there is some doubt on its status as canon. (The Drama CD was published before the anime was even shown.) Its still an official release so assuming no retcon, I will try to pierce the sequence of events leading to the rift.
To those interested the snippet can be found here:
Teru: Tokyo huh…. Isn’t that a little bit far?I wonder when will be the next time I see a scenery like this again?
Saki: Onee-chan? I’ve been looking for you but just like I thought, you were right here. Mom is already calling for you.
Saki: Hey Onee-chan… Don’t you think something strange is going on between Mom and Dad?
Teru : …
Saki : Onee-chan?
Teru: You know about Rinshan Kaihou right?
Saki: Yeah. It’s the name of a Yaku in mahjong right?
Teru: Do you know what it means?
Saki: It’s when you win with a tile drawn from a Kan right?
Teru: *giggle* That’s not what I mean. Rinshan Kaihou refers to a kind of flower, it means the flowers that bloom on top of the mountain.
Saki: Wow.. “Flowers that bloom on top of the mountain”? “Bloom”? It’s the same! The same as my name!
Teru: Thats right Saki! Far above the trees on the highest mountains, there are flowers that bloom.
Saki: Whats the matter Onee-chan?
Teru: You can be strong just like those flowers…..
So what we can get from these short conversation?
Once upon a time, Saki and Teru is really really close. Well, we already know that from the anime. But, what the conversation above provided was a rough timeline and some context.
From the conversation, its obvious that this scene takes place just before Teru moved to Tokyo. Thus, whatever rift that formed between them has a high chance of happening when Teru is already in Tokyo. Maybe when Teru is already a first year at Shiraitodai? This would, of course, neatly explain why Sumire has some knowledge of Teru’s imouto.
Anyway, it was worth noting the context in which Teru had the conversation. Saki asked if there is something wrong with Mom and Dad. We know there is and Teru knows it too. But instead of answering, Teru changed the conversation asking if Saki knows Rinshan Kaihou. Saki’s answer was interesting for it revealed that at this time in time Saki hasn’t specialized in Rinshan Kaihou yet. But, more than that… Teru’s words, they seem to be some sort of farewell/encouragement/apology. Her last words are, You can be strong as those flowers…
Those simple words revealed that Teru really believed in her imouto. A flower that blooms at the top of the mountain meant a flower that blooms even in the harshest environment. And, Teru believed Saki could do it too. Teru believed/hoped even in the rough patch ahead with their parents divorcing in all but name and with the two of them separating, Saki would/should still be okay.
Anyway, Saki’s side was also interesting and it gives juicy implications. Remember this conversation happened just before Teru moved to Tokyo and we know Saki only played with her family. I see two ways that this could play out:
One: With the last few games that they played as a family, Saki mastered Rinshan Kaihou. Then, Teru moved to Tokyo and then <insert bad thing> happened.
Two: Teru moved immediately and <insert bad thing > happened. This is one of the few happy conversations that Saki and Teru had before everything went to the dogs.
Anyway, both path would end with Saki treasuring Rinshan Kaihou.
Its kinda heartwarming but the whole sequence subtly tells us why Rinshan Kaihou is Saki’s favorite yaku. Saki doesn’t treasure the yaku because it matches her name. But, she treasured it because Onee-chan pointed out it matched her name. Rinshan is essentially one of the few things that remains of their bond from before.
This also neatly explains why Saki wants to win with Rinshan every single time she can to the point that her opponents thinks all she can do is rinshan. Its quite obvious that it isn’t a restriction that she must obey. Heck, Saki sometimes pass up yakus that will net her a higher value in favor of calling rinshan kaihou…
Getting Rinshan Kaihou is probably an affirmation of that bond and we know that the biggest reason Saki entered the mahjong club is to reconcile with Teru. I have a feeling that Rinshan Kaihou especially in a tournament setting wherein Teru could see a transcript/video of Saki’s match is also a message. Saki is subtly saying, “Look Onee-chan, I’m blooming like the flower at the top of the mountain like you told me too. I mastered this yaku. I haven’t forgotten you. I’ll do anything for you… Please please talk to me… ”