Previously, we left the Crown Prince asking 4th if he had any ideas about how to help him get his own back. 4th thoughtfully stares into the distance and …
… we next see 8th debating with 9th, 10th and 14th about strategies.
8th says that the Crown Prince had proposed letting 8th be the regent in the Emperor’s absence when both ruler and heir go on the inspection.
10th is pleased to hear the news and says that the Crown Prince is starting to trust 8th. 9th scolds 10th asking what stuffed inside his head, asking if he had forgotten what his relationship to 8th us. 9th reminds 10th that he had badmouthed the heir to their Emperor Father.
10th then cries out that this is what he does not understand.
14th replies that this must be the Crown Prince’s tactic to hunt two birds with one arrow. 10th asks what 14th means.
The youngest prince explains that to have 8th be the regent is a trick. Although in theory, 8th is governing but in reality, 8th will have to report every small and large matters happening to their Emperor Father.
If 8th mishandles anything, the Crown Prince would be able to report and slander 8th to their Emperor Father, making a mountain out of a molehill. 9th clarified that this seeming opportunity is actually to trap 8th inside the palace while limiting interaction with the Emperor. This will allow the Crown Prince to amplify any bad rumours and gossips.
10th understands and reiterates the point that means that this gives the Crown Prince opportunity to make that is false seem true. On the surface, it is giving 8th more responsibility but in reality, it is just to tantalize them while making the point that 8th and his supporters are only bystanders.
14th adds that he believes the Crown Prince is giving them a hidden warning, asking them to behave or he would take care of them.
8th remarks that what their Emperor Father treasures most is harmony between the several prince brothers. And this geneRuos gesture towards 8th displays the lack of animity by the Crown Prince and matches their Emperor Father’s desire.
10th replies that the Crown Prince can have his strategy, they could also have their own escape Ruote. With the Emperor away, the capital belongs to them and they can do whatever they want.
9th and 14th are frustrated at 10th while 8th frowns, perhaps vexed at 10th’s unsophisticated thinking. 9th tells 10th to shut up.
10th asks if he said something wrong again. 8th rounds on 10th angrily, saying this is exactly what the Crown Prince is hoping they would do. In that way, they would be incriminated!
9th and 14th nods in agreement while 10th looks aRuond in confusion before he understands, declaring that the Crown Prince’s move is too ruthless!
8th quietly says that the one who is ruthless is not the Crown Prince.
10th asks who else it could be.
8th does not answer, turning his eyes towards 9th and 14th. Both quietly nods, answering 8th glance and affirming his suspicion. 8th narrows his eyes and is very thoughtful.
Slowly 4th and 8th take measure of each other with subtle behind-the-scene political maneouvres.
Ruo Xi, Yu Tan and Yun Xiang are admiring several newly delivered tea cups. Of different hues and different forms, each is exquisitely crafted.
Yu Tan tells Ruo Xi that tea set is outstanding and asks if Ruo Xi had personally designed it. Ruo Xi grins and says yes, acknowledging Li De Chuan’s help finding the craftsman to make and bake the tea set. Without the head eunuch’s help, the set could not have been made.
Notice how both palace maids address Ruo Xi as ‘Jie Jie’, in the same way that Wang Xi does.
Yun Xiang remarks that the Emperor and the accompanying princes will definitely be delighted by the tea cups during the Inspection visit.
Yu Tan leans close and asks if Ruo Xi wants to follow the rest of the servers who will be going on the Inspection trip. Doesn’t she feel like going?
Ruo Xi replies wistfully that imagining the picturesque scenery and the cool air, she definitely wants to go. Yu Tang cries out, “Go then, go then!” and adds that it would be a pity not to go especially since she could serve tea in with the new tea set.
Yu Tan chimes in her agreement.
Ruo Xi shakes her head saying that is not a pity. As long as those who use her tea set is happy, then that is all that is needed.
Yu Tan urges Ruo Xi to beg Li De Chuan about this and she replies that she is seriously considering if she should speak with the head eunuch about this. And how to phrase the request.
Wang Xi runs in, beaming as he calls ‘Ruo Xi Jie Jie’. He tells her there is good news and that his teacher had said Ruo Xi could follow the Emperor out of the palace.
She cries out, “Really?” Wang Xi assures her that it is true. The other two maids then asks what about them. Wang Xi tells them that of course they would accompany Ruo Xi.
They are excited, holding each other’s arms and says that Wang Xi is really an understanding person and really takes care of them.
Wang Xi clarifies that it is not Li De Chuan’s idea but something proposed by some of the princes. The Emperor did not oppose the idea.
Ruo Xi wonders which princes and Wang Xi tells her it is 4th and 13th.
The maids look at each curiously while Ruo Xi considers the matter, saying that 4th would not care about such small matters. That it must be 13th! She is delighted that her friend knows her so well and praises him.
Yu Tan tells Ruo Xi that it does not matter since they are really going out of the palace. Then both turns to curtsy to Wang Xi and says that they also must not forget the kind Wang Xi Gong Gong.
Teased, Wang Xi is flustered and beats a hasty retreat to all the ladies’ amusement.
Ruo Xi is harvesting flowers.
She finishes and starts to walk away when she spots 4th walking in her direction. Her happy expressions stiffens into a frozen mask. 4th sees her at the same time and stops to look at Ruo Xi and she promptly turns her eyes away. His expression is thoughtful.
She twirls and walks in the opposite direction, her head down and scurries and trying not to be too obvious about it. However, Ruo Xi’s retreat looks too much like an attempt to avoid the 4th prince. 4th quickens his steps.
Ruo Xi heads down a different path but unfortunately, someone else is there. 13th!
13th calls out Ruo Xi’s name and Ruo Xi looks up with a start. 13th walks to her from the front. Ruo Xi looks over her shoulder, and sees 4th approaching from the back.
4th’s expression shifts as he slows his gait and Ruo Xi is guilt-ridden. A moment later, she swirls and hastily readjusts her steps so that she meets both princes at the junction where paths cross. She greets both of them.
13th seems amused as 4th asks her to stand and then asks Ruo Xi why she tries to hide whenever she sees him.
Ruo Xi glances at 4th nervously and replies that she does not dare to do anything of that kind. She explains that just now she was lost in thought, thinking about which flower to accompany which tea and had not seen him.
Furrowing his brow, 4th asks if Ruo Xi is aware what awaits those who lie to a prince. Ruo Xi insists she is not lying.
13th joins in with an impish grin, saying that he too does not know what the consequences are of lying to a prince. He dares Ruo Xi to try.
Ruo Xi gives 13th a scathing glare. What a friend!
13th seems slightly remorseful at his little joke and with a wide grin, walks to his brother’s side and tells him that perhaps they should not tease Ruo Xi like this in the future.
4th is still looking at Ruo Xi with that impervious expression.
13th adds that 4th looks too convincingly stern, that his victim would be scared stiff before realizing it is a joke,
4th smiles. Almost tremulously, Ruo Xi examines the older prince’s expression and there is no reprieve in her own mien. She looks away again. 4th definitely is amused.
I rewatched this scene several times, laughing at their various expressions.
13th walks between them, turning to Ruo Xi and informs her that this time, it is the 4th prince who proposed the idea of having her accompany the Emperor. 13th merely seconded the idea.
The younger prince chides her, saying that it is fine if she does not know how to repay a favour but to look at them as if they are not there. No wonder 4th wants to teach her a lesson.
Ruo Xi answers that she appreciates 4th’s consideration and that she is already aware and grateful of his favour but has never had the opportunity to show her gratitude.
4th asks, “Really?” and turns a rather skeptical but amused eye on the squirming Ruo Xi.
She replies ‘yes’ and adds that she will definitely return the favour when the chance comes up. Ruo Xi keeps her eyes down, fearful perhaps but definitely off-balanced by 13th keen gaze.
Both brothers eye each other. 13th is entertained. 4th though, his expression is hard to read.
Ruo Xi quietly curtsies again and says if neither has any instructions, she will take her leave first. Hastily, she makes another bob, eyes sliding away from any direct eye contact and readies to make her escape.
4th snaps out, “Hold.” Ruo Xi freezes while 13th looks over in surprise.
Poor Ruo Xi looks like a deer caught in the headlights. She barely dares to breathe, almost.
4th mildly continues that being north of the Great Wall is not like being in the palace. Materials are different and if there is any lack, it will not be easy to fill the need. He advises that she pays more attention. To bring more of the essential tea leaves and to divide the load between two carts in order to reduce any loss in case of accidents.
Ruo Xi is surprised by his meticulous advice and thanks him before hurrying off.
13th asks his brother when even such small matters related to tea concern him. He seems to be teasing 4th a little. 4th replies that as long as it falls within his duty, he will not neglect nor treat it lightly.
4th then asks 13th to speak with 8th, to find out if 8th needs any help. He says it is best to prepare things and have them available before they leave the palace. He says that supervising the government is not an easy task. He makes the point that if they have the ability, they should do their best to help 8th so as to reduce any problems within the empire.
13th says he understands.
At this point, there is no hostility between 4th and 8th.
4th looks in the direction that Ruo Xi has left. His expression holds a tinge of interest.
13th quirks an enquiring brow and 4th, looking almost self-conscious, strides away. The younger prince throws a quick glance in the Ruo Xi’s direction and then flashes a knowing grin as his brother walks away.
Ruo Xi is packing when there is a knock on the door. She calls out her permission to enter but there is a second knock. She calls out again and there is a third knock.
She looks up and after a moment, opens the door. Her eyes light up, welcome in her expression when she sees 8th standing outside.
Stepping forward, she curtsies and 8th asks her to stand. He says it is the first time he is visiting and admires the tiny space’s serene quiet.
Ruo Xi pRuodly says she is now a supervisor and she should not treat herself too badly given her position.
8th smiles at her cheerfulness and she twists, indicating the space and tells 8th that only Yu Tan and herself live in that courtyard. She adds that Yu Tan is on duty that day.
8th replies that he knows.
Perhaps all this is his arrangement? I wonder how much effort 8th puts into making Ruo Xi comfortable where she is.
Ruo Xi is shocked at herself for telling him that last bit. She scolds herself and wonders why she told him that information in such a manner. What is she hinting at?
8th notices her embarrassment and carefully turns aRuond, perhaps to give her time to recover. She follows behind, eyes lowered but with an air of almost anticipation.
They stand in the courtyard quietly. Suddenly, she stoops down and picks up a fallen green leaf. Absorbed in the leaf, she is startled when 8th calls her name and looks up. She murmurs, “What?”
8th tells her that he will not be on this trip up to the Great North, and that he will left behind in the capital. She says she knows.
He mentions that it will be her first time accompanying the Emperor away from the palace and it will be a long time. He asks her to be careful.
She assures him that she is able to take care of herself. She has been in the palace for a while now and is aware of what is and what is not. She is no longer the same ignorant Ruo Xi who had entered the palace.
8th admits that these past few years, Ruo Xi has exceeded his expectations. At how much his Emperor Father and Li De Chuan both value her. However, he still fears that someday, somehow her old temper will get the better of her discretion and that she gets into tRuoble.
Pensively, Ruo Xi replies that she has to pay out in advance in order to receive much more in return. She gives a small smile and looks aRuond the courtyard and adds that’s why she is able to stay in such relative comfort and quiet. Or even more importantly, be able to stand here and speak with him without fear of interruptions.
8th repeats what she says. “In order to get what one want, one needs to fork out and devote oneself first.”
She looks at him and he looks back at Ruo Xi.
I wonder how she could stand his tender passion without melting under his regard!
Their focus is broken by a sudden call to 8th, a monsyllabic hail and 8th nods to his servant, indication his understanding.
8th tells Ruo Xi he has to leave. She dips her head and gives a slight ‘hmm’ and he walks away. Her expression is soft. Definitely, she has developed feelings for this man.
She wonders what does 8th most wants and what he will be willing to give up in order to gain his heart’s desire.
Min Hui waits under the hot sun for 8th’s return. She gingerly strokes her wrist as she sits with a desolate air. Her maid whispers and points her head at 8th’s approach.
The First Wife smiles wide, standing up and waits aside.
8th sees her and abruptly angles away from Min Hui.
Min Hui welcomes her husband but he does not respond to her greetings, emotionlessly walking straight up a flight of stairs. She calls out a few times, heedless of the watching servants.
She says he has not visited her for a long time. 8th turns and glares at her, Min Hui timidly smiles at him but the prince twists away once more.
Chasing after 8th, she cries out and asks him what could she do to make him forgive her. He looks down at her hands holding his arm.
Min Hui begs 8th to forgive her this single time. He looks her straight in her eyes and snaps out softly, “Let go!” She shakes her head and tells him that she will do whatever he wants from now on. That she will never do anything that will make him unhappy.
Angrily, he grabs her wrist to loosen her grip but Min Hui cries out in pain. He looks concerned and pulls up her sleeve. There is a bandage aRuond her wrist and he asks what happened.
She says nothing but 8th asks the maid beside Min Hui. The wife shakes her head at the maid but 8th insists on an answer. The maid replies that ever since 8th does not visit her, Min Hui pines for him and had been cooking soup daily in anticipation of his visits. The injury was a result of an accident when preparing the soup.
Tears roll down Min Hui’s cheek and 8th’s expression softens.
He treats Min Hui’s wrist, asking if it still hurts. She says no.
Carefully, she looks up at 8th and asks if he will forgive her. He sits quietly for a while, looking down at her wrist and then says, “Everything’s water under the bridge.” Then he stands up. Min Hui smiles a little, looking much happier before running up to embrace him from behind.
She murmurs that she finally waited long enough to hear what she was been waiting to hear. Waited so long and so bitterly for those words. She was afraid that 8th will never pay attention to her anymore. She admits her wrong. She says she was selfish, narrow-minded and petty. However Min Hui tells him that she is wholeheartedly his.
Still facing away from his wife, his expression is hard to describe. Is it resignation or is it indifference? Or is it patient tolerance? Min Hui has no place in his heart though, that much is obvious.
Clenching his jaw, he hears her out as she tells him that she cannot live without him. That since he reprimanded her, she had reflected on her actions and discovered that during his absence, she would rather die than live without him.
Min Hui cries while 8th thinks over her words. Slowly, he reaches for her hand before turning to face her. He tells her that he did not hate her and asks her not to let her imagination run amok.
She tells him that as long as 8th is willing to forgive her and not ignore her anymore, she is willing to do whatever he wants.
Min Hui draws in a deep breath and adds that even if it means that she has to share 8th’s heart and attention, she will not object.
8th looks away when Min Hui says that.
She emphasizes that she is willing to do anything for him. He replies that she has already done enough.
Min Hui replies that she has not. Not enough and not well enough. She tells him she knows this and that she will change. And change again. That he will not have to worry about any trouble from the home front anymore.
8th smiles and says that it is because she is here that he is free of worries about his home life. He is aware of the efforts she has expended. She tells her that today she is her Di Fujin. She will always be. And that no one else is able to replace her.
She smiles, joy in her eyes and he embraces her. However, his expression is stoic, inward turned as if he is concerned about something else.
The landscape is mostly flat, emerald interlaced with patches of flat sand. The sun shines hot, creating tiny heat waves drifting towards a single hillock in the distance.
The travelling party takes a break. Ruo Xi sits under a tree. 13th comes up and calls her, asking her what she is looking at.
She asks how much longer will it take them to reach their destination. 13th says not much longer.
Ruo Xi sighs, saying this is pretty. The scenery is lovely. 13th retorts that how is this good.
She asks 13th how he feels if she tells him that in the future, no grass will even grow on this land because it has become a desert.
13th asks how such a good piece of land could become a desert.
Ruo Xi answers because of man’s ignorance and selfishness.
The prince is exasperated by her reply, saying that she is like the man from Qi who fears the sky would fall. He wonders if she is overtired and that is why she is letting her imagination run wild.
Ruo Xi finishes her drink and then jumps up to ask 13th teach her how to ride a horse. 13th looks baffled at the switch in topics and tells her that she is changing the subject.
Merrily, she says she feels that being able to ride freely is something enjoyable. She tells him that 10th is still making fun of her since he found out that she could not ride. 13th gurgles.
He tells her to forget it. Right now she is a rising star. No one would dare to teach her. 13th says that if she should injure herself, he will not be able to face his Emperor Father.
Ruo Xi leans in and tells him not to give her such excuses.
He mimicks her and also tell her not to give him gruff and then saunters away.
She calls after him, saying she does not care and that he has agreed. 13th replies that let’s wait until we arrive at the plateau!
He gallops ahead and along the way, he discovers a groupof Mongolians playing a horseback game.
Two teams try to land a sheepskin bundle into a metal dome, stealing the ‘ball’ while riding. One of the players is a young girl. She scores one and as she tries to score a second, 13th snatches the sheepskin ball away.
Everyone tries to outride 13th but fails and he scores a basket as well.
The young girl rides up, and 13th apologises if he offended. She replies that his horsemanship is excellent. He examines the girl and she asks what he is looking at.
13th replies that he is surprised to see a talented girl rider. She asks if he feels it is not a victory to win against a girl. He grins and starts to answer but she cuts him short, saying she is not interested in hearing what he thinks. She tells him that it is just that she lost and that it has nothing to do with whether they are male or female.
She examines his outfit and asks if he is one of the officials from the Qing court. He replies that he is indeed a low-ranking official. She replies that he is the first non-Mongolian to win against her.
13th demurs, calling it a fluke but the young girl insists winning is winning, losing is losing. She tells him that she will befriend him. He says it is his honour.
The girl says she is called ‘Sa Ren’. He repeats the name and then says, “Miss Moon. Pleased to meet you.”
Moon looks pleased, leaning close to asks if he understands Mongolian. He replies a little. She next asks for his name.
13th considers for a few and replies that he is called ‘Xing Xing’ or Star. Moon repeats ‘Xing Xing?’ He nods and then says au revoir before riding off.
Moon watches 13th ride off and repeats ‘Xing Xing’ before saying it is unfortunate that she is not really ‘Moon’. A quick smile and then Moon rides back to the game.
13th returns to the camp and greets his father. The other princes are already seated. He apologises for his late return, saying that he was enjoying himself riding out on the plains that he forgot the time.
Kang Xi notes that they are from a nomadic nation, and that inside their bodies flows their ancestral nomadic blood. It is no wonder that at the sight of the wide plains, 13th’s would forgets himself. He declares it is not a fault and asks 13th to seat himself.
The Crown Prince remarks that before 13th’s return, their Emperor Father had commented that of all his sons, 13th is the one who resembles a wild unbridled steed. All present laugh and 13th says their father is teasing him.
13th glances to his right, his eyes meeting 4th who nods in silent welcome.
Ruo Xi enters, heading the line and curtsies. Kang Xi inspects the trays and comments that Ruo Xu must have something fresh and new to share with the Emperor.
The Crown Prince agrees.
Ruo Xi grins saying the Emperor is perceptive. She says that Kang Xi must be feeling warm and that she has prepared some iced fruit refreshments to help him cool down. She asks if the Emperor is will to give it a try.
Kang Xi agrees, asking for it to be send up. He says if it is good, there will be a reward. If not, there will be a penalty.
Ruo Xi smilingly replies that it is as he wills.
The Emperor admires the new tea cup and notes that it must have take much time and effort to create. Lifting the lid, he comments that this is also something like, that he has never try anything like this.
As the Emperor tastes the new beverage, Ruo Xi serves the Crown Prince next. The Crown Prince gives Ruo Xi a careful once over and she coolly gives him a nod before turning to the next prince.
I think the Crown Prince is a lecher!
Ruo Xi offers 4th a cup shaped like a magnolia while Yu Tan serves 13th a plum blossom cup.
4th accepts the cup, observing that it is a magnolia just before looking up at Ruo Xi. She smiles at 4th.
slowly, 4th lifts the lid and looks in to find chilled grape juice inside. His expression is introspective.
Ruo Xi looks over at 13th who is carefully examining his own cup filled with pale juice. He smiles, darts his eyes towards 4th and then nods. She is pleased and then turns towards the dais when the Emperor declares that he wants to see what else she did.
He returns the cup into the Crown Prince’s hands before stepping down towards the eldest prince, Da. He asks why he had not seen these before.
Li De Chuan explains that Ruo Xi had drawn these forms a while back. He said he thought they looked good and he allowed the drawings to be send out to be crafted and burnt.
Kang Xi asks how many types had been made. Ruo Xi replies 36 different cups but that she only bRuoght these few on the trip. He indicates that he wants to examine the rest if there is a chance.
He smiles, saying that it is well done and appreciates her hard work and wants to know what she wants as a reward. Ruo Xi replies that although she created the drawings, there are others who contributed as much. She says she dares not accept any reward for herself alone.
The Emperor nods and says then there is a reward for everyone. Those present kneels in gratitude. He asks what do you want then.
Ruo Xi pauses and then with an impish air, says that she saw how valiant the Emperor looks when he was riding. She admired him and was envious and wants to learn how to ride. She adds that if she is able to attain one pecent of how well Kang Xi rides, she will be contented.
13th hides his snigger with a cough at Ruo Xi’s request.
The Emperor laughs and says she is flattering him just to learn to ride. After a moment, he flicks his hand and says he permits it.
Ruo Xi thanks the Emperor. Standing up, she looks in 13th’s direction and he suddenly starts to admire his ring, avoiding her eyes. She grins at his reaction.
Unseen, 4th is examining his cup carefully after a sip, then primly his eyes slides in Ruo Xi’s direction. The slightest hint of a smile twitches and he looks thoughtful. It is almost as if he has come to some decision.
The three women are walking side-by-side. Yun Xiang exclaims that it was a large cash reward. Yu Tan replies that is not important, what is more important is the reputation.
Yun Xiang agrees, since the reward came personally from the Emperor. She says this is the first time she had gotten such a reward. She is not sure how she can thank Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi asks them not to thank her anymore, saying they deserve it.
Yu Tan says they know that Ruo Xi treats them well and they will both work hard to help Ruo Xi. Yun Xiang adds that they will pay especial attention when it comes to anything related to Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi says that it should be her thanking them. She comments that everyone should pull their weight and help each other as well.
Wang Xi comes up and calls Ruo Xi. They greet the eunuch. Ruo Xi asks what reward he received to smile so happily. He replies that no matter how much he receives, he would not dare to boast of it in front of Ruo Xi.
He informs Ruo Xi that the Mongolian Wang Ye (Duke) has arrived, bringing two precious horses with him. Delighted, the Emperor has ordered a feast. Ruo Xi agrees it is something to be happy about.
She tells the others that the plainsmen are known for their straightforward and passionate nature as well as their love for song and dance. She knows there will be much to enjoy that night.
The same young girl Moon is dancing around the bonfire. The Emperor is enjoying himself, the duke beside him while the Crown Prince openly stares at the dancing Moon.
The various princes and officials toast each other while Moon approaches Kang Xi with first with a bowl and then a white sash. The bowl is offered but before Li De Chuan could test taste the wine, Kang Xi waves him away and accepts the bowl, tossing it back before Moon gentle puts the sash around the Emperor’s neck.
Music and song play in the background.
Moon floats across the sandy ground, standing in front of the Crown Prince next. She performs the same ritual and repeats it with each of the princes.
The Crown Prince almost leers at Moon. At least that’s how I felt when I saw his expression. Or perhaps it is just him being calculative about how valuable this lovely creature could be to him.
Ruo Xi compliments how well Moon sings and dances. She wonders what she is singing and Yu Tan replies neither does she. The women giggles softly before they resume watching.
Off goes Moon towards Da (eldest prince). Da stands up and accepts the cup before bowing to have the sash draped aRuond his shoulders.
Moon twirls and prances in 4th’s direction. Ruo Xi grins to herself and wonders how the cold 4th would respond to the passionate heat of the dancing welcome committee.
Ruo Xi leans over and asks Yu Tan to find out who the dancer is. Both slips away, leaving Ruo Xi to watch 4th.
To her amazement, he calmly accepts the cup and drains it before returning it to Moon. His expression does not even waver and Ruo Xi murmurs that she has to hand it to 4th.
White sashed, he straightens himself and then catches Ruo Xi’s eye. She promptly looks away.
Moon glides to the next prince and to her surprise, she sees 13th. 13th recognizes ‘Moon’ and she in turn, silently says ‘Star’. He smiles as 4th glances over at the break before Moon continues dancing. Her hands offer the cup.
Meanwhile, Yu Tan reports back to Ruo Xi saying that the dancer is the Duke’s daughter, Min Min. She is considered one of the Plains’ beauty.
13th accepts the cup and drains it but before Min Min could sash him, he pours out a cup and walks out from his seat to sing back to the noblewoman. In Mongolian.
Min Min looks pleased while the Duke looks on in surprise while the Emperor smiles. After the song, 13th offers the cup. Min Min sashes 13th, accepts the cup and tosses it back in one go.
The Duke’s daughter runs forward, kneeling before Kang Xi and asks if she could dance for him. The Emperor gives his permission and Min Min starts a new dance.
She rotates around the table, while the audience claps in time. 13th appears especially appreciative when the young girl twirls in front of him. 4th watches as well, sitting stiff and still.
As Ruo Xi claps from the sidelines, her eyes turn inwards and her face grows still and a little sad. She does not notice 4th turning to watch her.
A while later, Ruo Xi strolls outside the bustling compound and looks up at the bright yellow moon. Sorrow tightens her heart and she wonders out loud what would have happened if she had stayed by her parents. Tears tremble at the end of her lashes. Perhaps her regret would have been lessened.
Behind her, 4th and 13th wanders towards her and 13th asks what she is thinking about standing out here by herself. Ruo Xi turns, tears streaming and both are stunned at the sight.
13th huhs, turns to 4th and then back to Ruo Xi. She hastily dries her face and replies that she was thinking of her parents. Dropping a curtsy, she greets the princes.
13th asks her to stand after a quick glance in 4th’s direction. The elder prince keeps his gaze on Ruo Xi, almost scrutinizing her.
She asks why they are both away from the excitement. 13th replies that they are taking a break from the boozing. She smiles, asking if those wine guzzlers were really willing to let them escape.
13th replies that how could they refuse when we say we have to relieve ourselves. She chuckles and then says that she had been away for a while and should go back. A slight head nod and she walks around them.
Glancing at 4th, 13th comments that it is also time for them to go back in. 4th absently agrees.
13th gives his brother a look and matching Ruo Xi’s pace. 13th comments that the Emperor really likes the newly fired tea set and asks his friend why she had given him the plum blossom cup.
Ruo Xi thinks to herself. It is because sometime in the future, you will be locked up for ten years and he is just like the plum blosson, whose perfume is lovely after a bitter cold. She replies instead that the plum blossom is consider one of the four noble flowers. She asks if he does not like it.
13th replies that he is just curious because the cup Ruo Xi selects for 4th just so happens to be his favourite magnolia flower. So he is just asking.
Boy, 13th sure knows how to put his friend on the spot. Actually, I think he is asking what 4th really wants to know. It is almost like 13th is 4th mouthpiece in this scene. 4th’s expressions at the exchange is entertaining!
Ruo Xi answers almost with a huff that 13th did not tell her what his favourite flower was so she just chose one to give to him.
After a moment, he replies almost indignantly that she never ever asked him.
Ruo Xi almost tsks at 13th but makes a quick exit by saying she is leaving first! She almost flounces away despite 13th attempt to hold her.
13th looks at his brother, saying incredulously “She just left like this?”
4th urbanely replies, “Oh yes, she left.”
13th then says that while they were at the feast, it was 4th who noticed that Ruo Xi was gone. 4th nods and says yes it was him who saw she was missing.
The younger brother next points out that he was the one who promptly accompanied 4th out to find Ruo Xi. Yet just now, 4th barely even said a word while he was the one who got snubbed.
4th softly corrects 13th, insisting that it was 13th who said he wanted to come out and search for Ruo Xi and 4th was the one who accompanied him out. With an emphatic nod, 4th reiterates, “That’s how it was.”
13th dumbly stares as 4th leaves.
Ruo Xi is sitting on a horse whose reins is tightly within the grasp of one of the generals. He asks her to call him by his name and she compliments him, saying he is well spoken of. She thanks him for his time.
She states that although she does not know how to ride, she has ridden on a horse before and asks the general to just go right into teaching her how to ride.
The generals says it is better that he guides the horse.
I guess no one is willing to teach her because as 13th had mentioned before, she is a rising star that the Emperor values. An accident could cause much damage to their careers and who knows what else.
4th and 13th ride up behind Ruo Xi and the general greets the princes. 4th dismounts beside Ruo Xi. 13th gets off a few steps behind and leaves his horse, walking up alongside his friend. He asks how she is progressing.
She throws up her arms, replying that she only knows how to sit on the horse without falling off. She sounds exasperated.
13th dimisses the general who leaves. The younger prince gives Ruo Xi a hand and she drops to the ground, complaining when the general is out of sight.
She says he is not teaching her at all, more like humouring her like any young child. 13th laughs and says that she shouldn’t talk because any child could ride better than she does. He turns to 4th and asks isn’t it so. 4th silently agrees, with an almost smile.
Ruo Xi replies that 13th might as well teach her horseriding since he had already agreed.
13th denies ever agreeing, moving away from Ruo Xi while she follows him towards a tree. She reminds him that he had agreed before their arrival on the plains. And they have arrived.
4th stands behind them as Ruo Xi points out that since even the Emperor has agreed to her lessons, 13th cannot shirk this responsibility. Ruo Xi crosses her arms and puts her face close to 13th.
He leans against the tree before crossing his own arms. 13th appeals to 4th saying that Ruo Xi is even using their Emperor Father to pressure him. It is a heavy responsibility indeed.
Ruo Xi glances over her shoulder at 4th but the elder prince turns his head, denying any part in the discussion.
She tilts her head and then goes hmm, giving her friend that ‘so what else can you say’ look.
13th gives in and says they have to go back and eat with their Emperor Father. He tells her that tonight, tonight he will have time. She is pleased and says thank you in a cheerful voice. She bobs and says she is leaving, traipsing with a bounce in her steps.
Both princes watch her disappear. After a moment, 4th looks at 13th. He quirks a brow enquiringly. 4th claps a hand against 13th’s shoulders and sighs, saying that it is a heavy responsibility to shoulder. Implying that it would be a tough task to teach Ruo Xi how to ride.
13th straightens and stammers, “I …” to 4th’s back. He crosses his wrist behind his back muttering that teaching a woman how to ride is not his forte.
Night falls and Ruo Xi excitedly dresses while instructing Yu Tan and Yun Xiang to take care of the Emperor well. She tells them that since the weather is hot, the tea should be a little thin and should be cooled.
They nod and assures Ruo Xi that they will take good care while she takes her lessons. Outside the tent, someone asks if Ruo Xi is around.
She asks the voice to enter. Three men come in, each bearing a box. The first man says that 8th had send these for Ruo Xi.
She opens the first box which contains a horse whip. Carefully, Ruo Xi strokes the white leather and admires it.
The second contains a horse blanket and the third a saddle. She asks if 8th had send any word with the gift. Ruo Xi is smiling and happy.
The man tells Ruo Xi that 8th had said that when Ruo Xi sees everyone riding, she would certainly want to learn how to ride. And anticipating that, 8th had given instructions to have the proper equipment prepared.
Yu Tan and Yun Xiang smile and are happy for Ruo Xi about 8th’s consideration. Yu Tan says her sister really knows Ruo Xi well and it must have been Ruo Lan who asked 8th for the favour.
Yun Xiang agrees, saying that Ruo Xi’s sister is so thoughtful. Knowing full well that Ruo Xi loves activity.
The man adds that 8th had asked Ruo Xi to make safety her first priority.
Ruo Xi smiles and says she understands. She instructs them to bring in the boxes. Yu Tan asks them to follow her. Ruo Xi examines the whip again and murmurs that he is indeed quite thorough in his attention. Quietly, she laughs with joy.
The night is quiet, the sky clear. Ruo Xi is early for the lesson and is lying on her mantle spread on the ground. All is bright for her.
Lazily, the foot hooked over one knee kicks gently as she waits for 13th. She says quietly that being early also has its advantages. Lying on the ground and watching the stars is a beautiful experience. She sighs softly, hands behind her hand and indolently relaxes.
She can hear the hard clicks of hooves on ground closing in from the side. She sees someone dismount and says that lying down to watch the stars is beautiful.
Patting the empty space beside her, she urges the new arrival to sit down and watch the stars with her.
Two feet under a purple robe strolls in her direction.
Her eyes half closed, Ruo Xi yawns while the man sits down beside her. She tells him that she waited so long that she is a little tired and suggests that they start the lessons tomorrow instead. “Tonight, let’s just stargaze together.”
A voice answers, “That is fine too.”
Ruo Xi freezes and twists to look up and lo and behold, it is 4th!
Frantically, she jumps up and then greets 4th with a curtsy. 4th slowly gets up and asks her to stand. Ruo Xi looks around and then carefully asks where 13th is.
4th replies that 13th was pulled away by the Crown Prince and 13th had asked 4th to take his place as teacher.
Ruo Xi then bobs and says that she will go back and learn from 13th at some later date.
4th asks if she believes he is not able to teach her. Hastily, she assures him that is not the case but that she is a little tired.
The prince answers fine and then says let’s just lie down and look at the stars. He lowers himself back to the ground.
Ruo Xi’s face twists and she struggles before stammering that she is now not tired. 4th looks up into her face and then with a deadpan bids Ruo Xi mount up.
She flutters and then gives in, following him to the horses.
He seems to be competent though a little impatient when Ruo Xi fails to obey his instructions. She manages to follow his horse and is even able to steer her mount and even complete a short trot across the dark plains. He barks, “Straighten your back, keep a tight grip on the reins. Turn over here. Over there.”
Ruo Xi stumbles back to her tent. Flopping onto her bed, she sighs with a despondent moan. Yu Tan calls her and wonders wrong. Ruo Xi had left earlier in a great mood but returned without any enthusiasm. She wonders if Ruo Xi is tired.
Ruo Xi nods and says she is very tired. Yu Tan wonders aloud about 13th’s lack of tenderness towards a woman. Ruo Xi explains that it was not 13th who came to teach her but 4th.
Yu Tan helps to remove Ruo Xi’s cloak, noting that the 4th prince’s horsemanship is spectacular and that it is Ruo Xi’s fortune to be taught by 4th.
Ruo Xi contradicts Yu Tan saying that in front of a strict teacher, a clumsy student will find it easy to infuriate him. If the student does not learn well, that teacher might turn around and disown the student because he feels that the student dishonours him. If something happens and if the student is not quick, the consequences might turn out to be serious.
Yu Tan answers that is not possible. 4th might look strict but it does not mean he is strict when interacting with him. She jokes that if Ruo Xi does not learn well, would 4th then punish her by using thunderbolt methods on her.
Ruo Xi replies that it is so. She goes on saying that even if she is considered a worldly person, he is a powerful master. She gives up explaining.
Yu Tan believes the Ruo Xi is worrying too much as even the Emperor views Ruo Xi favourable, let alone the 4th prince.
Ruo Xi refuses to discuss it further and says she is going to bed.
Yu Tan offers to douse the light but Ruo Xi pushes the younger woman to bed.
Sighing, Ruo Xi starts to remove her headgear. She is not seeking any reward from 4th but is trying to stay on his good side. As long as she does not offend the future Qing emperor, that is all she wants.
* See Notes for explanation