They walk slowly, 10th with his eyes squinted close and Ruo Xi laughing beside him. Qiao Hui waves at Ruo Xi, giving a nod before scurrying off. “Open your eyes now!”
String after string of multicoloured paper cranes dance between rows of colourful paper lanterns. They bob merrily in the wind. 10th exclaims, delighted and hurries forward. He twirls the paper cranes and asks what they are. Ruo Xi replies 1000 cranes. All personally folded by Ruo Xi!
10th dashes back and forth, bouncing the cranes while Ruo Xi walks slowly behind him, singing a modern birthday song.
The prince turns, watching his companion with wide eyes. Entranced by her voice and the song, he asks what it is. Ruo Xi explains it is a birthday song, blithely claiming authorship and names it the Maertai style. 10th holds her wrists and asks for a repeat performance.
From behind, 14th asks when he’d get to hear Ruo Xi sing for him. 13th and 14th step into the pavilion,
13th slaps his hand and grins at 10th. Since 10th has been away for a while, both come in search of the birthday boy who had abandoned the others. He states that now he knows why 10th went missing, because he had his own little private stage.
10th defends himself, saying he felt faint from the wine and is taking a break from drinking by visiting with Rou Xi in the pavilion. 14th retorts that it’s not the wine which has gone to his head but too much happiness. 10th glances at Ruo Xi and gives 14th a hard look.
Both brothers look at each, “10th Ge is anxious. 10th Ge is unhappy.” 13th proposes not disturbing the two of them and to take in the fine scenery around them. 10th protests that there are other places they go to, and urging them to go away. Ruo Xi hastily takes her leave and hurries away.
13th pulls 10th’s arm when he tries to stop Ruo Xi, urging his elder brother not to be anxious.
Ruo Xi climbs the bridge but Ming Yu blocks her way, accusing the younger girl of not watching where she goes. Ruo Xi glares at Ming Yu but decides to avoid further confrontation by sidestepping her but Ming Yu moves into her path again.
Ming Yu remarks that a parent’s upbringing reflects their parents and that Ruo Xi is rude. Ruo Xi retorts that it’s just like a pot calling a kettle black!
Ming Yu snorts, “You are you. I am me. I have my parents who brought me up, unlike you. That’s beyond compare.” Ruo Xi glares at the other girl, then tries to walk away but Ming Yu steps in front of her again.
Ruo Xi confront Ming Yu, asking what she wants. Ming Yu replies that she is exactly like her sister. Like ignorant common livestock!” Angry, Ruo Xi quietly asks where Ming Yu heard this.
Ming Yu shrug off the question as unimportant and restates that what is important is that they are contemptible whores!
Ruo Xi slaps Ming Yu! Ming Yu is shocked. So is Ruo Xi but before she could say anything else, Ming Yu lunges forward and tries slap Ruo Xi, but the younger girl easily avoids the wild swing. Before long, both are grabbing and tugging in am all-out bonafide catfight!
The commotion attracts the previous three princes and they dash forward, commanding the two girls to stop. They are both deaf to their surroundings.
Ruo Xi gives Ming Yu violent headbutt and both wobbled unsteadily. 10th trips while running forward to stop the two ‘kittens’ while 13th and 14th runs past him.
Ming Yu is dazed by the headbutt and staggers back towards the pond. Ruo Xi, in the same state, notices that Ming Yu is close to the pond and tries to grab her. Off-balanced, both falls, slipping from the two princes’ desperate grab. Interestingly, the princes call out Ruo Xi’s name but not Ming Yu’s.
Not soon after, the rest of the partygoers surround the pond. 8th commands a rescue just as 13th and 14th jumps into the pond. The two girls are dragged back on dry land.
10th supports Ruo Xi while the worried Ruo Lan calls out her sister’s name and hurries to her side. Ruo Xi coughs but seems to be in a better state compared to Ming Yu, who is spitting water.
Relieved, Ruo Lan walks to Ming Yu but the spitfire pushes the Ce Fujin away. Ruo Lan falls. 8th and Ruo Xi rush forward to Ruo Lan while Ming Yu starts to wail.
Ruo Xi rush at Ming Yu again but is pulled back in time by 10th and her sister. Furious, Ruo Lan commands Ruo Xi to stand back.
Ming Yu complains to 8th but he silences her. Vexed, Ming Yu starts to cry while the embarrassed crowd looks on.
Ruo Xi is still mad and her anger flashes at the shameless Ming Yu. She runs forward and points at Ming Yu, “Shut up!” She cries out. Ming Yu stares and wails even harder.
“Still crying!” Ruo Xi stabs a finger in Ming Yu’s direction and shouts in an even louder voice. Her fierce stance and outcry stuns Ming Yu and the crowd.
Ruo Lan is chagrined. A few moments later, the Crown Prince laughs before nicknaming Ruo Xi, the female version of his ‘Daredevil 13th’ brother.
Everyone laughs. Ruo Xi drops her head, realizing the mess she is in. The Crown Prince dismisses the incident and leads them back to the festivities.
(Note: I rewatch this several times and found the interplay of expressions interesting. This is a pivotal moment because this is when the various princes form lasting impressions of Ruo Xi. So I say, and so it is!)
13th and 14th go off to change, Ming Yu is send home while Ruo Xi stands aside, nervously looking at her sister. Ruo Lan looks extremely angry. Ruo Xi reaches out for Ruo Lan’s hand but the elder sister flings her grip away and marches off.
Back in her room, Ruo Xi shivers under the blanket as the maids serve her ginger soup. She asks if Ruo Lan had come by. The maids nod. She asks if Ruo Lan had said anything. They shake their head. The maids appear intimidated, note their mute reactions.
Ruo Xi hesitates then asks if she was frightening in the afternoon. The maids bow their heads before Qiao Hui quietly ‘Hm’ once to indicate ‘Yes’. Abashed, Ruo Xi toys with her soup before saying that Ruo Lan must be really angry but after a while, Ruo Lan’s anger will dissipate.
The maids just go ‘hm’ again.
The next day, all the servants crossing her path appears afraid and quickly moves away after quavery greetings. Ruo Xi visits Ruo Lan, trying to coax her elder sister to pay attention to her but Ruo Lan ignores her attempts.
Ruo Xi is frustrated.
She hides away in a corner of the garden, petulantly plucking petals off a flower. 10th and 14th finds her.
14th asks about her expression and she carelessly tosses a reply, “The look of a container that has been broken.” Both princes snorts in amusement and 10th replies that he had thought Ruo Xi is fierce towards him but now he realises that she is actually quite good to him. Peeved, Ruo Xi tosses her flower at 10th.
It is clear from this exchange that Ruo Xi treats both princes as friends, as she does not even offer the usual formal greetings before starting the conversation. Equally clear is that both princes do not mind her informal banter and enjoys her company.
14th sighs that he had been mistaken. When he first saw Ruo Xi, he thought she was an elegant beauty but it is a pity.
Ruo Xi gives 14th a look and follows them into the open, wondering what 14th means.
14th explains that her fame has been established by a single battle. Ruo Xi asks it is is because of the incident at 10th’s birthday. Indeed.
Ruo Xi sighs. She realises that it is a given since good news is seldom discussed but bad news spreads like wildfire. 14th tells Ruo Xi that 13th has been dragged into this incident as well.
Ruo Xi is surprised, wondering how 13th would be involved. 14th explains that because of her nickname, the princes and nobles of the court tease 13th about the origins of his new 13th sister. They also spend a lot of time gossiping about the ‘Daredevil 13th Sister’. Ruo Xi goes ‘ah’, popping her fingers into her ears at their loud refrain.
She is incredulous and definitely getting concerned about the backlash from this incident.
A servant runs up to Ruo Xi, relieved to finally find her. After giving his greetings, he informs Ruo Xi that 8th wants to see her.
10th dismisses the servant while Ruo Xi drywashes her hands in consternation. 10th asks if she is worried. 14th tells 10th not to tease Ruo Xi and 10th apologises.
Ruo Xi explains she is not afraid of being punished. She is partially in the right but she is worried but how this would affect her sister.
14th smiles and says both of them will put in a good word for Ruo Xi and ask for leniency. 10th nods. It is sweet to see this trio’s friendship. Ruo Xi grins and thanks them for their loyalty!
In 8th’s study, Ruo Xi stands in front of 8th’s table while 8th discusses that day’s court with 10th and 14th. He seems to be ignoring Ruo Xi, concentrating on the incident in court. In the discussion, 14th’s intelligence and logic shines while 10th’s reply is simple. 8th finally decides to send a petition to support the official’s decision.
Ruo Xi wobbles on her feet, first standing on one foot while supporting with the front of her heeled shoe. Then switching over as her legs get tired. 10th keeps glancing at Ruo Xi but 14th calmly engages 8th. A servant enters to announce mealtime and 8th invites his two brothers to stay for dinner.
As they walk to the entrance, 8th asks the princes to go ahead first. 10th is anxious and suggests leaving together but finally both younger princes departs, leaving 8th with Ruo Xi.
Chewing her lip, Ruo Xi looks down at the ground as 8th approaches her. He asks her to lift her head and looks her in the eyes. Ruo Xi gazes back and startled by his expression, she takes a step back. 8th laughs.
“So where has that day’s chilli-hot daring gone to?” He then walks away,
Ruo Xi is confused. He looks back and asks if she still wants to continue standing before instructing that Ruo Xi be send back to Ruo Lan’s courtyard. She gives a little puzzle smile before hobbling back. She does not understand if this is the end of the matter or if it is just a hiatus before he will deal with her.
The servant lights her way. On the way, Ruo Xi sees 10th and 14th again.
10th asks how she is. Ruo Xi makes a sad face and 14th looks surprised while 10th is agitated. 10th wants to bring Ruo Xi over to 8th. He grabs her hand but Ruo Xi pulls back and starts to chuckle together with 14th. 10th realises that things are fine and pouts at the two of them, scolding Ruo Xi as he was worried but apparently without cause.
Both apologise to 10th though Ruo Xi is a little miffed at 14th for not putting in a word like he had offered earlier. 14th explains that 8th is well known for his courtesy to everyone. If 8th had been polite to Rou Xi and treated her as if nothing had happened, then 14th would have cause to try and find a way to ask for leniency on her behalf. But seeing that Rou Xi was ignored and was standing for such a long time, 14th realises that there was no need for him to help.
10th thinks for a moment and agrees, chiding 14th for not explaining earlier. 14th grins, saying he wants to watch how Ruo Xi and 10th would react. 10th exclaims and warns 14th he will get him back.
14th laughs and tells 10th that since he has seen Ruo Xi and everything is well, that it is time to have the meal lest 8th gets annoyed with them instead. Ruo Xi urges 10th to go though she asks a final question about how the Gorolo family’s reaction. 14th assures Ruo Xi that 8th will take care of that as well. He also tells Ruo Xi to have a maid massage her legs. 10th asks what’s wrong but 14th drags his elder brother off.
Ruo Xi hobbles back to the hall and Ruo Lan orders dinner to be served. Just then, a servant enters with food for Ruo Xi, courtesy of 8th. Relations with Ruo Lan is still cool as the elder sister continues to ignore Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi asks if Ruo Lan is still angry, absently Qiao Hui nods and then hastily steps back at her own answer.
Ruo Xi visits 8th together with his brothers, 9th, 10th and 14th. He asks her to sit but she refuses saying that she only has a few words to ask. 8th answers that his answer is also short, that only he cannot help. Only the person who made the knot, can undo the knot. Such a perceptive man. He asks if she has anything else to say. She shakes her head and leaves.
Anxiously, Ruo Xi hovers at the doorway and peeks at Ruo Lan before stepping into the room. She calls Ruo Lan but Ruo Lan walks away. Ruo Xi follows, thinking to herself. Wheedling does not work, should she use her real emotions to move Ruo Lan?
Ruo Lan sits on her bed. Ruo Xi stands and slowly says, “When mother passed away, I was a newborn baby. Since I was a child, Father says I am a troublemaker. Aunt-mother does not like me because I am mischievous. Although the other brothers and sisters treat me quite well, but we are are still born from different mothers.”
Ruo Lan shifts her head. Ruo Xi hastily sits beside her and continues. “You are the only one who shares the same mother. Only Jie Jie will pay attention to me and never forsake me. Since I fell down, Jie Jie has only shown me concern, love and patience. And I know the feelings are real. I can feel it. I made a mistake. Jie Jie, please hit me or scold me, and I will listen. But if Jie Jie ignores like this, I .. I only have you.”
The long days spend together has bonded these two women. Even though the spirit within Ruo Xi’s body is Zhang Xiao, the words are spoken by Zhang Xiao. This is a hint of how much she cares and how deeply appreciative Zhang Xiao is of the relationships she makes.
The sisters make up. They cry and embrace.
Ruo Lan tells her sister that she has to change her unyielding fiery temper to avoid any more incidents that could end her life. Gorolo is a powerful family and Ming Yu is not someone that should be lightly taken. It is because of 8th that Ming Hui and the Gorolo family had not taken any action against her.
Ruo Xi admits her mistake and cradles against Ruo Lan. The elder sister holds her sister, smiling.
The next instance finds Ruo Xi exuberantly climbing a ladder to hang a lantern. The servants urge her to climb down but filled with high spirit, she merrily reaches for the hook. The ladder shifts and rocks but Rou Xi pays no heed, laughing happily after she succeeds in hanging the lantern.
Ruo Lan orders her down. Ruo Xi slides down the ladder and hurries over. Ruo Lan chides, reminding her sister that she had said she learnt her lesson but now Ruo Xi is acting like a monkey! Ruo Lan asks if Ruo Xi is rebelling!
Ruo Lan worries about how Ruo Xi will act when she goes to the palace. Ruo Xi exclaims, is it time for the Xiu Nu Imperial Inspection already? Ruo Lan asks if she considers herself suitable for such a role, Ruo Xi of course replies ‘No’.
Ruo Lan explains that the Emperor is hosting a Mid Autumn gathering and the princes and family have been invited. 8th has been asked to bring Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi gasps, “Me? The emperor knows me?” Ruo Lan nods.
The younger sister realizes it must be because of the recent incident. She tries to sweet-talk out of attending but Ruo Lan replies it is an imperial order. She tries again but Ruo Lan steps aside.
Ruo Lan gives etiquette lessons. Ruo Xi recites the rules, balancing a cup on her head while Ruo Lan anxiously watches. Qiao Hui quietly smiles as Ruo Xi teeters unsteadily. Ruo Xi begs for a break and promptly falls back in a ungangly pose. Ruo Lan gives a hard look. Ruo Xi sheepishly brings her knees together and arranges her skirt to Ruo Lan’s exasperation.
Ruo Lan asks if Ruo Xi remembers her lesson. The younger sister nods and jumps up to demonstrate a deep curtsy. On the wrong side. Ruo Lan corrects Ruo Xi with a deep sigh of resignation. Speechless.
The Emperor is announced and everyone kneels until he commands them to stand. Kangxi looks over the heads and declares that the Mid-autumn is a good time to celebrate with family. He asks them to enjoy and be at ease. Rou Xi secretly peeks at the court before hastily looking down once more.
Suddenly, Kang Xi says, “You!” and points in Rou Xi’s direction. The princes in front of her turns back, stepping aside and Rou Xi stands in the half circle.
Startled, Rou Xi dumbly stands until Rou Lan whispers her sister forward. Kneeling, she greets the Emperor.
Kangxi asks if she is the nicknamed, ‘Daredevil 13th Sister’ Maertai Rou Xi. She whispers yes. Kangxi asks why she is nervous to meet him.
Rou Xi replies that she is awed by his majestic omnipresence. Kangxi asks if she fears him because of the power he wields.
Silently, Rou Xi thinks to herself. Only a tyrant wants fear. Enlightened rulers desire the hearts of their people. She answers that she does not fear him because it is a Sage Ruler. She excuses her nerves as it is her first trip into the palace.
Kangxi repeats, “Sage Ruler? Look me.” She lifts her head. “Explain why you consider me a Sage Ruler.”
Heightened tension fills the audience hall. 8th glances at Ruo Xi, concern in his expression while 4th is impassively thoughtful. Ruo Lan looks afraid. Ming Hui smirks. Ming Yu grins with delight. Ruo Xi hesitates.
Kangxi asks again.
Ruo Xi desperately searches for an answer. He defeated Oboi at the age of 8, suppressed the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, put down the Tungning revolt in Taiwan. No she cannot use the same words. Kangxi had used those same words to list his achievements in his later years. But she I cannot list his political and military achievements, what can she say.
Kangxi grunts his growing disquiet.
Ruo Xi slowly answers, “Qin Shihuang and Han Wudi lack literary grace. Tang Taizong and Song Taizu had little poetry in their souls. Genghis Khan only knows how to shoot eagles with his bow. All have passed on and gone! For the truly great men, look to the present age.”*
The princes seem surprise, the expression thoughtful as Ruo Xi finishes.
Kangxi asks if this is her answer. Ruo Xi falls to her knees at his resounding words. No one is sure how the Emperor would react. He bursts out laughing! “So fighting is not the thing that this ‘Daredevil 13th Sister’ knows!”
Ming Yu is disappointed at the Emperor’s reaction. Kangxi continues, addressing 13th. He says this 13th Sister cannot be compared to 13th, and that she does not live up to her nickname.
13th steps up with a smile, stating that Rou Xi is like a newborn calf*. Intelligent and loveable. “I thought having this new sister is a boost to my reputation. But she is unable to stand up to your august presence, and lost her cool. Perhaps it would be more appropriate that I remove her ‘Daredevil 13th Sister” nickname.” 13th bends and pulls Ruo Xi to her feet.
Kangxi gives a wide smile, saying he has grow accustomed to being compared to the Yao, Shun, Yu, and Tang rulers and finds Ruo Xi’s words refreshing. He leans forward, examining Ruo Xi and says that she not only someone who takes risks but also someone who has experience. He commands Ruo Xi be rewarded!
The Imperial family gathers on the patio, the princes on the upper tier while the wives sit below them. Kangxi tells his son that his empire is like a family. Without a family, there will be no empire. If there is unrest in the Imperial family, this will lead to a unstable country. He asks his sons to remember to value the relationships between the officials and the brothers.
Ruo Xi’s hands are cold. Ruo Lan asks why, since she passed with flying colours. Ruo Xi realizes she had the Emperor’s approval but the exchange still continues to haunt here. She realises how badly it could have turned out. She is afraid. Ruo Lan comforts her sister but reminds her that the Xiu Nu Imperial Inspection is near and that Ruo Xi still has to enter the palace.
The princes toast their father. 10th stands up and offers a simple wish. Kangxi laughs, teasing 10th and says he does not remember literary prose and poems and only offers him a simple saying.
A Royal Concubine remarks that though simple, it comes from 10th heart. Kangxi asks if 10th has passed his ‘Ji Guan’*, ie over 20 years old. The Concubine nods, adding that when 9th was at this age, he already had his First Wife. She mentions it should be time to do the same for 10th. She tells Kangxi that Jin Ge Ge was asking her help to find a husband for her daughter, Gorolo Ming Yu. She suggests matching 10th and Ming Yu. Kangxi thinks it is a good match.
10th looks upset and pipes up that he is still young. Kangxi replies that he is as tall as a horse, and not young anymore. He looks around and then says that 4th and 8th had their Ce Fujin first and asks for the same arrangement.
Kangxi scolds 10th, saying that Ming Yu would be perfect as his First Wife, asking if it is a hardship for him. 10th kneels and stammers, unable to voice his thoughts. Kangxi frowns and 8th stands up to speak on 10th’s behalf, saying 10th is dumbstruck by the sudden engagement and unable to respond properly. He says 10th would be delighted when the news settles in. He looks hard at 10th and gives a tiny nod, asking his brother to thank their Father Emperor.
10th looks at 8th, unhappy eyes examining his elder brother’s face before he capitulates, bending to thank his father.
Ruo Xi is shocked. She stares up and then turns to face Ming Yu. At first shocked and unhappy, Ming Yu looks at Ruo Xi and then smiles, stepping forward to thank the Emperor for the match. The other princes congratulate 10th.
It is from this point on that Rou Xi begins to understand how much power the Emperor wields and how powerless she is. A full fledged prince with precious privileges. Yet because of the royal perogative, his precious freedom has been taken from him.
Fear binds her heart and Rou Xi is terrified. Is this the fate of everyone within the Forbidden City? Who would I be bestowed on? A prince? A general? Or … She sits quietly within the carriage with 8th and Ruo Lan watching her stiff expression.
When the carriage comes rolls to a stop, Ruo Xi jumps down and desperately sprints. Pushing the guards away, she starts to run but 8th grabs her shoulder from behind and knocks her out.
8th carries Ruo Xi back to her room. Warmly covered, Ruo Lan fusses over the unconscious sister while 8th comforts, saying Ruo Xi is not a weak girl and to give her some time.
Ruo Lan escorts 8th to the door, leaving the half awake Ruo Xi. She wonders why each of their lives could be determined by a single word the Emperor speaks. Why is she here? Is she had been born in this time, she could perhaps accept this but she is someone who has lived 25 years in modern society. She had learnt that her own path depends on her own actions. Now, now to be told that it is fate and to accept her fate. She cannot accept this. She weeps.
Ruo Xi is quiet and reserved, sitting at the table to practise her calligraphy while Ruo Lan and Qiao Hui watches anxiously from the sidelines. She writes ‘Fate’ and stares down at the word.
A while later, Ruo Xi stands under a roofless pavilion, watching as the leaves drift across her feet. 8th and 14th see her staring blankly and approaches.
14th calls her name but she does not respond beyond a lifeless glance at the two princes. “Come autumn and the leaves fall. They hurt themselves unintentionally. They do not want to wither and fall but are unable to escape that fate.”
The princes exchange glances before 14th asks if she is weeping for the flowers or for some other reasons. He tells her that when with time, she would not feel the way and see everything with a pained heart. He asks if Ruo Xi really likes 10th.
She catches a brown leaf, examining it and acknowledges that she likes 10th. 8th and 14th look surprised. 8th’s expression seems especially startled.
The 10th prince is simple and cheerful, frank and straightforward without any calculative shrewdness. He makes her happy and more importantly, he treats her with sincerity. She clarifies that this liking is not what they think it is. He is her best friend.
14th then asks why she is so heartbroken over 10th’s wedding. Gossip is rife that ’13th Sister’ is so hurt by 10th’s wedding that she has gone insane.
Ruo Xi turns around and answers that she is not upset by the wedding but because the wedding is forced on 10th by THAT person. That 10th does not want to marry! The princes are shocked!
8th forbids Ruo Xi from repeating her words, but Ruo Xi only sneers. He grips her chin tightly, forcing her eyes up and repeats his command. She tries to shake free but his hold is firm and he stares down into her eyes. He asks if she hears him. 14th steps up. But 8th squeezes her chin, spitting out another “Did you hear me!”
Ruo Xi finally gives a tiny nod.
8th walks away with a stern face. 14th asks if Rou Xi has gone mad. The person is the Emperor! 8th’s forcefulness is for her own good. 14th sighs again and goes after 8th.
Rou Xi glares after them. They will never be able to understand. She thinks to herself, “In my own life, the efforts I make today can determine my tomorrow. I cannot accept that someone else is able to determine my future with just a few words. Even if I am in Qing dynasty period, I will not accept it!”
She walks back to Ruo Lan’s room. Ruo Lan instructs Qiao Hong to get tea and soup after feeling Ruo Xi’s cold hands. The elder sister sits quietly beside Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi asks hesitantly, if 10th’s wedding is because of her and the fight with Ming Yu. If Ming Yu deliberately arranged the wedding because she knows it will make Ruo Xi angry.
Ruo Lan shakes her head, explaining that Ming Yu has to marry 10th regardless whether the two girls had fought. Everyone is but just a stone* in the Emperor’s eyes. Royal Concubine Hui had just chosen an appropriate time and performed a little scene with the Emperor. It is actually a script that followed Kangxi’s wish. Ruo Lan emphasizes that Ruo Xi needs to remember all the roles are bestowed by the emperor. If the Emperor is pleased, reward will follow. If the Emperor is angry, life can be lost, even the lives of their kin up to the ninth degree. Even those close to the Emperor has to be wary of how they behave in front of the ruler. That is the way to surviving peacefully.
Her tears stream down Ruo Xi’s cheeks and she indicates that she understands.
Time passes and Ruo Xi’s better mood is noticed by the maids. Ruo Xi notes that they are getting more daring with their comments as they even make fun of her. 14th walks up, calling Ruo Xi. He asks Ruo Xi to persuade 10th as he had avoided court since the Mid-autumn gathering, claiming to be ill. The Emperor has asked about 10th several times and if Kangxi does send an Imperial doctor, the Emperor will find out that 10th is not really sick.
Ruo Xi asks 14th what he wants of her. He asks her to treat the illness in 10th’s heart.
10th is desperately drinking by himself when 14th guides Ruo Xi to the pavilion. 14th urges Ruo Xi forward even though she protests that she isn’t sure what she could say. 14th says to just say whatever she can and then leaves Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi slowly approaches and 10th throws an empty wine bottle in her direction, shouting that he had asked to be left alone. Ruo Xi points out this will hurt someone. 10th looks up at Ruo Xi, looking like a puppy who has lost its favourite toy.
She asks if drinking until he’s drunk would mean he does not have to marry Ming Yu. He replies that he is frustrated. She asks him the reason. 10th retorts that she should know. Ruo Xi replies that he does not want to marry Ming Yu and that he likes her and cannot marry her.
10th turns around, asking if Ruo Xi would marry him and be his Ce Fujin and assures her that he will treat her well. Ruo Xi indicates she is not willing. 10th quietly says he is aware that she might be unwilling even if he wanted her to be his First Wife. He had hoped before but now there is even less hope.
Ruo Xi points out that since he understands, it is better that he acts as someone who is clear about what he needs to do and not worry 8th and his other brothers. 10th replies that since he has already lost to his father, shouldn’t he be allowed time to air his frustration. He stands up and looks out to the empty courtyard.
She walks towards him, saying that since he’s already made the largest concession, being sullen about other matters only hurt those close to him and delight his enemies.
10th faces Ruo Xi and asks if she ever liked him. Ruo Xi answers, “I liked you.” He tries to grab her hand but she pulls away. He stills and then drops his hand.
He says he is happy to hear that. That it has been something he wanted to ask you for the past two days, but he had been afraid of the answer. He tells Ruo Xi that everyone had always called him lazy because he is poor in his studies. No one understands that he has always tried his best but he cannot compete with the other princes. Others could read a page once and recite it perfectly, he could read it three times and fail to remember most of it. He is aware of his faults. Others laugh at him but only 8th consistently protects him, often offering advice to help him. He asks Ruo Xi if he is stupid. Ruo Xi replies, “Yes. If you weren’t stupid, how would I get away with bullying you?”
He looks down, as she continues explaining that it is because he is stupid that she enjoys being with him. When he is happy, he is happy. When he is sad, he is sad. When he likes, he likes to the hilt. When he dislikes, it is also clear that he dislikes something. Unlike others whose words contain different layers of meaning, hiding what is in their hearts and always with a smile. In front of 10th, she can be herself. Laugh when she wants to laugh, throw a tantrum when she is unhappy.
Ruo Xi gently grips his shoulder and emphasizes that when she is with 10th, she is happy, very happy. He replies that he is happy, very happy as well. She stands up after a couple of shoulder pat and picks up the wine jar out of his grip and says she has to leave.
10th gazes at her for a long while before nodding. He watches her walk away before gently corking the wine jar with soft sigh.
* See Notes for explanation