Okaies, my -fascination- with BBJX has -not- faded despite a hiatus. I just spend another whole night watching all my favourite parts and weeping my tissue box clean. It was close call about whether my sleeve would end up soaking my tears before I reach over for a new box of kleenex.
Alice, someday I will get you so into a drama as well! Perhaps…
I actually made several headers for this episode just because there were so many crucial moments that both delighted me and infuriated me. But since there’s only one header and a footer, I chose my favourites.
Let’s rewind a little and remind ourselves about the snuff bottle. The happy little moment just after Ruo Xi’s self absorbed crisis in her romance with 8th.
Yu Tang gives her sworn sister a sly grin and asks why 4th send snuff to Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi says 4th had seen her when she was drenched and she guesses 4th worries that Ruo Xi might fall sick and be unable to serve his Emperor Father. She wonders if it will really help.
Yu Tang says they should try it. Ruo Xi immediately hands the bottle to Yu Tang. Yu Tang opens the cap and starts to sneeze. Ruo Xi giggles.
Yu Tang declares that it is definitely helping her and offers the snuff to Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi covers the bottle and says she will put it away and save it for Yu Tan. Yu Tang insists the other woman tries it as well.
They laughingly tussle and Yu Tang chases Ruo Xi around the room with the uncapped bottle. Ruo Xi manages to retrieve the bottle and runs off with Yu Tang in hot pursuit.
The royal princes gather for afternoon tea. Ruo Xi serves 4th and 8th who are playing weiqi with 9th looking on. The Emperor is in the garden with the Crown Prince, 13th and 14th with Li De Chuan and Li Xi attending.
Li De Chuan suggests the Emperor continue his stroll after a short break. Kangxi agrees and the princes walk towards the pavilion where the others are.
4th offers his seat to the Crown Prince. 9th and 14th steps aside while 13th walks towards the table where the weiqi board is. 9th wonders why their Emperor Father had invited them for tea. 13th replies that their Emperor Father has such a busy schedule, he also needs to relax and to enjoy himself.
The Crown Prince agrees and says since the brothers seldom have a chance to meet like this, they should take advantage and enjoy the day to the fullest. The heir notices an improvement in 8th’s weiqi gameplay and asks if 8th is willing to have a game with him.
8th agrees and there is smiles from the other princes.
Ruo Xi glances at the princes and she too smiles. She thinks to herself, wishing that these smiling princes could always treat each other with such warmth and goodwill.
A dog barks suddenly. 8th and 9th looks down and 9th leaps up, looking rather scared as he tumbles away from his seat. 4th smiles while the others laugh merrily at a white curly hair dog hiding under 4th’s robe.
The Crown Prince is amused that a small dog has startled them. Ruo Xi giggles softly at the sight.
A young palace maid scurries up, throwing herself onto her knees and begs for mercy. Ruo Xi immediately steps up to smooth the incident. 4th is watching the white dog.
Ruo Xi bows to 4th and says she will retrieve the dog. The princes watches on with amusement. The Crown Prince and 8th resumes the game.
Ruo Xi holds the dog in her arms, stroking it and her eyes happen to catch 4th’s.
Their glances lock briefly before 4th’s mouth twitches in a quick smile. Ruo Xi looks away and scolds 4th silently, “Is it funny. I am not at all like this dog.” She gives the dog a few more quick strokes and stands.
4th waves the young palace maid up. Ruo Xi reprimands the young girl, saying she is lucky. She tells the young girl she has to keep this lesson in mind. The next incident might end with heavy strokes. She asks who will take care of her if she is seriously hurt.
Ruo Xi is definitely softhearted and kind.
4th listens while 8th keeps his eye on Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi bows to 4th and after a quick glance at 8th, she returns to her post. 14th frowns.
14th waylays Ruo Xi and asks what is the problem between 8th and herself. The younger prince had asked 8th why he had not approached their Emperor Father and asked for Ruo Xi’s hand. And now asking Ruo Xi, she only keeps a cold silence. He wants to know what has happened. He had noticed 4th and herself making eyes at each other. 14th demands to know what is going on.
Ruo Xi faces 14th. She asks him how much does he really know about relationships despite marrying several wives. She asks him to keep out of their affair. She adds that no matter how she’d try to explain what happened with 4th, 14th will never accept her explanation. She tells him that she will not interfere with whatever he concludes from his observation.
Ruo Xi takes her leave but 14th calls her name. He tells her he hopes she does not disappoint 8th.
8th is practising his calligraphy but he is restless. Tossing every sheet he writes aside. Ming Hui stands beside him, grinding the inkstick and watching him. 8th stills and stares blankly before putting his brush down.
Ming Hui tries to find out why her husband is so disquieted. She tells him that she had spoken to her father who told her not to worry. She is his daughter and 8th is his son-in-law and he will not let them be placed at a disadvantage.
8th asks Ming Hui not to do anything else for him. He says his wife has done enough. She asks him why.
The prince tells her that he wants the Ming Hui he had first married. At that time, he could concentrate on what he needs to do. Ming Hui tells him she will. As long as he is willing. She is willing to do anything for him. He smiles and holds out his hand. She places hers into clasp and they smile at each other.
I find 8th rather manipulative here. A bit of a snake oil salesman! But there’s no denying he does have ability and talent. He wears a velvet glovem but I wonder what kind of fist he wields under.
Ming Hui visits with Ruo Lan. Or rather more of a confrontation but I get ahead of myself.
The Di Fujin steps into the hall and asks Ruo Lan if she has not garner enough fortune from how much she chants her scriptures.
Ruo Lan greets Ming Hui but the elder wife dismisses her greeting as hypocrisy. She tells Ruo Lan that 8th might be taken by her piety but not Ming Hui. Ming Hui reminds Ruo Lan that she is also a woman. She tells Ruo Lan she knows what kind of tricks Ruo Lan is playing.
Ruo Lan answers she is not.
Ming Hui asks Ruo Lan not to shed crocodile tears. She demands to know if Ruo Lan will not even allow her one last shred of dignity.
Ruo Lan replies that she does respect Ming Hui.
Ming Hui tells Ruo Lan if she really believes Ming Hui is her ‘sister by marriage’, Ruo Lan should not treat her like a fool and play with her.
Ruo Lan keeps quiet. Her repeated denials to Ming Hui’s accusations was rejected as lies.
Ming Hui demands to know what Ruo Lan wants. She asks Ruo Lan to speak frankly. Ruo Lan echoes, “What I want?”
The elder wife rattles off, “What else do you want to steal away? What else do you want?”
Gently Ruo Lan replies she does not want anything. Ming Hui insists that Ruo Lan answer her. Ruo Lan answers nothing. Angrily, Ming Hui insists Ruo Lan speak up. Back and forth, back and forth.
I was ready to take a nerfbat to Ming Hui. I wonder what would happen if Ming Hui knows about Ruo Lan and her lost love.
Ruo Lan denies wanting anything. She asks Ming Hui if she believes she is the innocent in the household. She asks Ming Hui how much freedom she has. Ruo Lan tells Ming Hui she is just like her. That both of their lives are controlled by others.
With tears in her eyes, Ming Hui listens incredulously as Ruo Lan tells the elder wife she has no intention of ever taking 8th away from Ming Hui. Not a single day. Everyday, Ruo Lan hides behind her chanting and her scriptures. How is it possible for her to seduce a man. She tells Ming Hui that she prays, hoping that everyone could get along and live together. But Ruo Lan does not know what she can do for Ming Hui.
The elder wife answers, “Let Ruo Xi marry Bei’le (8th).” Ruo Lan is shocked.
Ming Hui says 8th seems to have encountered much difficulties lately. The elder wife has run out of ideas to make 8th happy. The only thing she can do to make him happy is to allow Ruo Xi to marry him. She knows 8th likes Ruo Xi a long time ago.
Ruo Lan asks if Ming Hui is really willing to let Ruo Xi marry 8th. Ming Hui answers, “What do you think?”
Clearly Ming Hui is unwilling but she will accept it. She tells Ruo Lan that a woman’s destiny is tied to her man’s fate. She expects Ruo Lan to understand what she means.
Ming Hui leaves. Ruo Lan gazes at the elder wife and then softly, she sighs.
8th strolls and passes the prayer room. He pauses and then enters.
Inside, Ruo Lan is praying for Ruo Xi’s safety and health. 8th stands behind his wife and she suddenly looks back. Ruo Lan stands and greets 8th.
8th asks Ruo Lan to continue her prayers but when she hesitates, he asks if his presence disturbs her. Ruo Lan replies no.
The prince seeks peace and he wants to visit for a while. He asks to borrow the place. Ruo Lan replies that this also belongs to him. After serving him tea, Ruo Lan asks if 8th has many unhappy problems. 8th replies nothing especially.
Ruo Lan asks if Ruo Xi would be able to help lighten his frustration.
Surprised, 8th glances at his wife and wonders why she mentions Ruo Xi. Ruo Lan answers that she wants to know what 8th’s intentions are. Sooner or later, Ruo Xi will need to marry.
If she marries badly, Ruo Lan will have wronged their father and their mother.
If she marries 8th, Ruo Lan is sure 8th will treat Ruo Xi very well. But she needs to know what is in 8th’s heart.
The prince looks away with a wistful air.
Ruo Xi is hailed by Yun Xiang who tells Consort Liang is looking for her. Ruo Xi asks if she knows why. Yin Xiang says it is because of the flower patterns she had previously drawn for the Imperial concubine. Consort Liang requests a few more drawings.
She goes to Consort Liang’s quarters and is not surprised when her sister calls her name. Pleased, Ruo Xi hurries forward and holds Ruo Lan’s hands.
Ruo Lan tells her it is because of Consort Liang that she is able to enter the palace. Ruo Xi smilingly says she had already guessed.
Her elder sister explains she is there on 8th’s behalf to ask a question. Is Ruo Xi willing to marry 8th? Ruo Xi is disconcerted and looks down. Ruo Lan asks if Ruo Xi likes 8th. Ruo Xi just murmurs, “Sister.”
Ruo Lan says her sister has known 8th for many years and is aware how well he treats his wives. If she marries 8th, Ruo Lan and Ruo Xi will be able to meet often and be companions. Ruo Xi asks if her sister does not mind if they share the same husband.
Her elder sister replies that all the princes have more than one wife. Furthermore Ruo Lan is not concerned about such marriage arrangements. She tells Ruo Xi if Ruo Xi really cares and likes 8th, she should not does take such to heart as well.
Ruo Xi asks her sister if it is the general, would her sister still agree to his marrying other women. Ruo Lan replies that she does not know. Slowly she murmurs, “But if it benefits him, I think I will be willing. Because I believe even when he has other women, he will still be very good to me.”
Ruo Xi is thoughtful. Ruo Lan turns to face her sister and asks Ruo Xi to consider 8th’s proposal carefully.
Ruo Xi drinks by herself in the her bedroom. She pauses in mid-gulp, hearing Ruo Lan’s voice saying which man has not got wives and concubines. What is important is he loves her. Why have such strange concerns and worries? Having many wives and many children is a fortunate fate for a man.
She tosses back her drink before wiping away her tears.
She is swayed by Ruo Lan’s perspective yet her fears and attitude is too strong. Ruo Xi steps out into the snow and watches the flakes drift against her upturned palm. A moment, she walks into the courtyard and spreads her arms, letting the cold air feather across her face.
How will she decide?
Ruo Xi waits on a snow-covered pier, looking out on the water. She turns when she hears footsteps and 8th appears. Both look somber.
She walks to meet him halfway and they look at each other.
Quietly, Ruo Xi whispers, “This is the last time. Are you able to agree to my request.” There is a hint of wistful hope in her expression as she looks at 8th. The prince does not answer but he continues to be puzzled by her insistence.
Ruo Xi looks down, away from his eyes and asks for his answer. She wants him to personally give her the answer. Does he agree or not agree.
8th calls her name and asks why. Why must she try to force him. Why is she making him choose between two completely unrelated choices.
Ruo Xi repeats that she just wants to ask if he agree or not agree.
The prince is furious. His frown and a stiffening stance give Ruo Xi his answer. She murmurs, “Do not agree.”
Visibly, Ruo Xi steels herself and then softly says, “You need to be guard against 4th.” 8th asks what she just said.
Ruo Xi continues with a list of names : Wu Shi Dao, Long Ke Duo, Nian Gengyao, Tian Jin Wen, Li Wei. She tells him to take precautions against them.
8th just looks at her in disbelief. The switch from the decision about about their love to politics.
Ruo Xi looks back at the prince and thickly tells him that from now on there is no more involvement between them. She brushes past 8th who seems to be in shock. It finally sinks in that Ruo Xi means what she had said.
He twirls and calls out her name. She stops. Her back facing 8th, she cries out that she is mortally afraid of death and that someone worthwhile persuading to hold on to.
8th looks mortally wounded, terribly hurt while Ruo Xi runs away as fast as she can.
Tears roll down her cheeks in her mad dash through the snow. She trips and falls flat. She tries to get up but falls back down. Hurt both emotionally and physically, Ruo Xi lays on the ground.
Footsteps crunch and 13th wonders who it is on the ground. Both 4th and 13th hurries forward. 13th exclaims when he discovers it is Ruo Xi and urges her up while asking what is the matter.
4th and 13th hoist her to her knees. 13th asks if she is injuried. Ruo Xi asks 13th to send her back. 4th glances at 13th and the younger prince pulls Ruo Xi to her feet. She stumbles a little.
13th asks if she is able to walk after noticing her imbalance. She shakes her head and 13th immediately offers to piggyback her back to her room.
4th cuts in, saying it is better to get someone to bring her back. It is unheard of for a prince to carry a palace maid on his back. If word of it gets out, the gossip would be unimaginable.
13th replies that is so and he was not thinking clearly. He asks them to wait and hurries away.
Deprived of 13th’s arm, Ruo Xi slips hard and grabs 4th’s arm. She sways and 4th stiffens his arm while watching her.
Tears track down her pale cheeks. He is curious but 4th does not ask Ruo Xi any questions. Snow starts to fall again.
After a while, 4th tells her not cry anymore. He advises her that if she wants to abuse herself, it is best if she does it privately in her own room. If she does it outside, she will get interrupted by others and will also not be able to devote all her energy towards it.
Ruo Xi glares at 4th and pushes him away. She falls sideways and he offers his hand to help her up. She ignores his hand and he asks if she really wants to continue sitting.
Furious, Ruo Xi looks around her and then picks up a handful of snow to throw at the prince. He fends it with a quick flick of his arm. The snow splatters against his cloak. She throws more handfuls and he continues to block them.
4th growls who will be willing to treasure her in this.
13th returns with eunuchs and a stretcher. He exclaims at Ruo Xi sprawled on the ground and the servants hurry over to help the limping Ruo Xi onto the stretcher. 13th instructs them to quickly send her back and to summon a physician to attend to her.
Still angry, Ruo Xi flings one last handful of snow clutched in her hands at 4th.
The elder prince manages to block it and this time he glares back at the palace maid. 13th who flinched and ducked is surprised and looks Ruo Xi before looking at his brother.
4th glances back at 13th and there is a merest hint of a shrug. 13th turns back to watch Ruo Xi with a laugh. 4th almost rolls his eyes at 13th.
The sky is blue and flowers blossom. Ruo Xi uses a crutch to walk and she thinks back on Yu Tan’s answer when she asks if anything out of the ordinary happened in the palace. Yu Tan replies not much except news that 8th caught a cold when he was outdoors and was not able to attend court.
Ruo Xi sits on the balustre and wonders if it was because of that cold day and if it is serious. 14th bursts into her room and finding it empty looks back and spots Ruo Xi.
He looks angry and marches towards her.
Grabbing her arm hard, 14th demands to know why. Ruo Xi asks him to release her. He grips even harder, saying she is very indifferent and asks if her heart does not hurt. Or is it because she really has no heart.
Ruo Xi tries to pry loose and says it hurts and asks 14th release her.
14th flings her arm away and says she still knows pain. Does she understand how others hurt as well. The pain of receiving and then of loss. It would have been better not to won her love at all. If she knew it was going to turn out like this, why did she ever agree in the first place.
He demands to know what kind of game she is playing with such cruelty. Is she a woman of easy virtue?
Ruo Xi demands to be released and repeats it once more. Raising her voice, she wants to know who he thinks he is to interfere in her affairs.
14th replies angrily, “Who am I? Then let’s set the record straight. If you have good reason, then we will talk about it. If not, we will see if I have any say in your affairs!”
Tears in her eyes, Ruo Xi struggles with the young prince, beating at his grip while yelling at him to let her go. He pulls her up and her crutch falls with a clatter.
4th and 10th turn up at this moment and 4th calls out to 14th. 13th wonders with a smile which opera both of them are performing. 4th glances at Ruo Xi. 13th remarks that they arrived at a great moment to watch.
Ruo Xi quietly swipes at her eyes. 4th tells 14th that they just left De Fei and that their mother misses him. If 14th is free, he should visit her.
14th clenches his jaw and bends, retrieving Ruo Xi’s crutch and hisses that he will drop by to see her in a few more days. She tears up again as 14th stalks past his older brothers.
Ruo Xi greets the princes, apologising that she is unable to offer tea because of her injury.
13th waves aside her apology and says they will excuse her if she is able to explain what has just happened. He helps Ruo Xi sit back down.
Ruo Xi keeps quiet and her face starts to crumble. Immediately 13th gives in and says he will not ask. He sits beside Ruo Xi and she calms herself.
4th offers to mediate if 14th is making waves for Ruo Xi. He sits across from Ruo Xi.
She replies it is a small matter. Ruo Xi claims it is a moment of conflict. She reminds 13th that 14th and herself had quarrelled so often while they were growing up together. It will blow over in a few days.
13th gives a little sigh, saying if she does not want speak about then they will not ask her anymore. He tells her that she should not let any problems simmer in her heart. If she can speak about, then talk to him. He might not be able to resolve but at least he will be able to mediate or come up with some ideas. If that does not help then speak to your brother-in-law.
4th glances at 13th when he makes the suggestion. 13th says he knows 14th is bullheaded but his younger brother will listen to 8th. Ruo Xi looks at 4th.
She does that quite a bit. Looking at 4th whenever she stumbles or has a problem. Is it a coincidence? Sometimes I wonder if 8th restricts Ruo Xi while 4th lets her try her wings. Like when he suggested Ruo Xi accompany his Emperor Father on the first Northern inspection. 8th was worried for Ruo Xi but 4th just tells her she should make sure she has packed enough for the trip. I digress!
She answers that she thinks someone might tell tales before she has a chance to speak with 8th. Ruo Xi will save the effort. Glib tongue.
13th glances at 4th. Ruo Xi thanks her bosom friend for visiting as well as for the earlier rescue. 13th laughs at her courtesy. 4th asks how her leg is. She answers that he physician says she had hurt both bone and muscle but it is not serious. A good rest will heal it. 4th seems contented with the answer and gets up to leave.
Ruo Xi remembers something and calls out to 13th. Both stops and Ruo Xi flicks a glance in 4th’s direction. 4th takes the hint and makes his excuse but 13th stops him.
13th tells Ruo Xi he has few secrets from 4th and asks her to speak freely.
Ruo Xi tells 13th that she met Min Min on the recent trip to the North. 13th’s eyes shifts and 4th turns to watch his younger brother.
He is disconcerted and protests at how quickly the tide turns. Just a few words puts him in the spotlight and it is his turn to perform and them to be the audience.
“Fine,” 13th gives a decisive nod and strides to sit across his friend, “So tell me. It’s just a trivial matter and surely not worth both of you watching my reaction so closely!” He crosses his arms.
Ruo Xi says 13th should be aware of Min Min’s feelings even if no one had said anything about it. He nods and asks if she had confessed to Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi nods as well.
13th brusquely replies that there are many good men on the plains, Min Min should not waste her time on him.
Ruo Xi starts to speak up for Min Min but 13th breaks in, saying that she is a smart woman. He tells her that even if Min Min is a fairy but if he is not interested, is there a need to go on? He then walks away.
4th advises Ruo Xi to take care of herself. He knows it is not a serious illness but it is best to make a complete recovery. He follows 13th. Snows starts to fall and Ruo Xi sits quietly.
It is another new year. Ruo Xi sits in her room, reflecting there is no joy or sorrow to speak of anymore. She is living day by day. Yu Tang dashes in with a food basket and wine. Ruo Xi wonders why Yu Tang is there instead of being on duty at the gathering.
Yu Tang says she begged Li Gong Gong (De Chuan) to allow Qiu Chun to take over her shift. Qiu Chun really wanted to be there.
Ruo Xi mentions that those on duty are usually rewarded by those attending the gathering and it is also an opportunity to watch people and events they usually don’t see.
Yu Tang says she does not mind. She is worried about Ruo Xi spending the new year by herself. She gives Ruo Xi a red packet. Ruo Xi accepts it and says she has nothing to offer since she is by herself. She asks Yu Tang why she begged Li De Chuan and wasted a favour.
The younger woman declares that she has good food and wine. Both of them could eat and drink to their heart’s content. This is much happier than serving others. Ruo Xi nudges Yu Tang with a grin and her mood lifts.
Ruo Xi asks if her sister had entered the palace. Yu Tang nods and says 8th is with Ruo Lan as well but 8th does not look well. Perhaps it is because he had recently recovered from his illness. He looks so pale without any colour in his face.
Stab. Ruo Xi’s heart drops and she hastily tosses back her wine. Yu Tang asks Ruo Xi to slow down as the older palace maid chokes. Ruo Xi waves Yu Tang’s hand away and pours herself another large cup, saying she is fine. Yu Tang looks concerned.
Ruo Xi suddenly runs out into the cold, the light from her room spilling bright on the snow as she frantically searches the courtyard. She hears a voice. It is 8th!
8th tells her that he has reconsidered. He says without her, even if he wins everything, it will all be meaningless. Ruo Xi’s face lights up and she asks if this is really true. The prince nods with a wide smile and walks towards her.
Ruo Xi throws her arms around him! And he vanishes!
It is a dream. Ruo Xi wakes up after flailing for a moment. Sitting up, she sees Yu Tan lying across the table. She wonders if this is a new year gift from Heaven.
If 8th does not fight for the throne because of her, would history be rewritten. If history is really rewritten, would she still exist in this world or would she disappear from 8th’s embrace. In the end, they still would not be together.
Outside her shut door, 8th stands in the courtyard for a while.
His expression shifts for sad to uncertainty before he turns and walks away, leaving his lonely footsteps in the snow.
In the other parts of the palace, there is a celebratory air in the palace. The palace maids and eunuchs light sparklers and make well wishes.
On the first day of the new year, Ruo Xi decides to implement her decisions no matter how lucky they might be. She had originally planned to act after the new year but she fears a delay would dent her courage. She takes a deep breath and twirls back into her room.
Sheet after sheet, Ruo Xi writes and rewrites a letter to 4th, telling him that she does not intend to marry anyone. She claims all she wants is to be dutiful and offers prayers to her mother. She begs 4th’s forgiveness. The letter is wrapped with the presents she had received from 4th.
Ruo Xi wistfully touches the letters 8th had send her over the previous three years. Then with a decisive sweep, she tries to remove 8th’s bangle but there is a knock on the door.
The eunuch at the door offers her a letter, she accepts it and asks him to wait for her response.
She starts to open the letter but stops herself. After a long moment, she drops the letter with the rest before reaching for paper. She wraps them together and hands it to the eunuch, thanking his help.
She thinks to herself, from now on there is nothing between 8th and herself. Nothing. Nothing.
Perhaps 8th hopes there is chance they could be together. Unfortunately, he does not understand Ruo Xi and her determination.
She steels herself, looking down at the package for 4th. Xiao Shun Zi has not dropped by and Ruo Xi thinks that is good. Just then there is another knocks. It is Xiao Shun Zi delivering something to Ruo Xi.
She asks the eunuch to wait and opens the box. It is a white jade magnolia hairpin. Without any feeling, she repacks the red bundle and thanks the eunuch for running the errand.
Ruo Xi yells softly, “A new year and everything is over. A new year, a new environment!”
4th opens the bundle and reads the letter. A twitch grows into smile before stopping short of a grin. He is definitely amused by Ruo Xi. Perhaps her audacious claim to filial piety? Perhaps her naivety?
Why naivety? No spoilers!
8th too receives his paper packet and has opened it. He is devastated.
He looks down at the letters and slowly, he crushes the envelopes. He struggles to control his emotions, eyes stark with anger and sorrow.
Kangxi is planning a trip to Wutai Shan. He thinks Ruo Xi had entered the palace during that time. Ruo Xi confirms this. She entered the Forbidden City in the 44th year of Kangxi’s rule and missed the trip by a few years. Kang Xi tells Li De Chuan that they will have to bring her along this time.
The eunuch looks at Ruo Xi who speaks up, saying that she had taken time off because of her illness. She explains that although she has mostly recovered, but there are less people serving the Emperor and she is fearful of not doing a good job. She had asked Li Gong Gong to excuse her and replace her with someone more able.
Kangxi examines Ruo Xi and says she has been ill for so long that even her clothes does not fit her well anymore. Ruo Xi is embarrassed but the Emperor grants her request and allows her to remain in the palace. She thanks Kangxi just before 8th’s arrival is announced.
Dismissed, Ruo Xi backs out from the room and meets 8th for the first since their breakup.
8th pauses as their paths cross. Ruo Xi examines 8th’s face but the prince does not look at her at all. He is stoic, stiff and cold. No words exchanged. No response offered. After a moment, she looks down and the prince carefully looks in the other direction.
There is a shine in his eyes and the prince walks his jaws before he walks past Ruo Xi without acknowledging her presence. Completely ignoring his former lover.
Ruo Xi lowers her head and looks just as stiff as 8th when she leaves with deliberate footsteps.
With the same gait, she walks through the garden before suddenly exploding into a quick jog until she reaches a wall. Tears thick in her throat, Ruo Xi pants as she cries, asking herself if this is what she wanted. She breaks down and crouches, hand covering her weeping as she hides in a corner of the garden.
Ruo Lan waits patiently in the courtyard, standing with a smile when she spots her sister returning to her quarters. Ruo Xi runs to Ruo Lan and asks how she got into the palace.
Ruo Lan says it was Consort Liang who helped her enter. She would not have disturbed Consort Liang if she had a choice. Ruo Xi asks if something is wrong.
Ruo Lan hesitates briefly and then guides her younger sister to a seat. She tells Ruo Xi she is worried about her. Her heart was uneasy and Ruo Lan decided to come see Ruo Xi.
A tear runs down Ruo Xi’s cheek. Ruo Lan examines the younger woman’s face and asks softly if she had rejected 8th. Ruo Xi’s face gives Ruo Lan the answer. More tears rim Ruo Xi’s eyes. Her sister skims her expression and then murmurs, “Perhaps you have rejected someone you can spend the rest of your life with but this is your own happiness and life. No matter what you decide, I will always support you.”
Despondently, the younger sister looks back at Ruo Lan. Ruo Lan asks in a whisper if she is still so sad.
Ruo Xi leans forward and tightly hugs Ruo Lan, tears falling rapidly and Ruo Lan comforts her distressed sister.
Another rainy day. Another meeting. Ruo Xi sees 8th in the distance but this time the prince does not avoid her. He smiles, walking forward and Ruo Xi greets him formally. He waves her up and says she looks well.
Ruo Xi says her sister visited and her heart has calmed down. She replies that 8th looks the same as well. That he looks as if he has let go and put some distance between what himself and what happened.
8th replies it is perhaps Wutai Shang which has helped him. Beautiful nature has helped him forget about the troubles of the human world. After his return, he got too busy to think about such matters.
Ruo Xi nods. 8th tells Ruo Xi 14th will not trouble her again about this matter. He hesitates and then asks Ruo Xi about what she meant when she had asked him to be careful. He recites the names again : Long Ke Duo Ruo, Nian Gengyao, Li Wei. But he does not understand Wu Shi Dao and Tian Jin Wen.
Ruo Xi wonders if 4th has a crippled advisor called Wu Shi Dao. 8th replies no. Ruo Xi wonders if she has been played out by the tv drama series.
8th replies that there is also no offical called Tian Jin Wen but there is one called Tian Wen Jin. Ruo Xi replies that is correct, she had remembered incorrectly.
8th asks Ruo Xi how these names and events are related and why she mentioned them. Ruo Xi avoids answering and asks 8th just to be take care and stay alert of them. She tells him she is not even sure how to explain why she brought up the names. Ruo Xi says if 8th has no other instructions, she will take her leave, she has errands to complete.
Fortunately, 8th does not press her on the matter and allows her to leave.
4th strides swiftly down a garden path, disappearing a moment before Ruo Xi appears. Her footsteps lead her in the same direction as 4th.
He hears her before she sees him and turns. Perhaps sensing someone’s presence, Ruo Xi turns to face front and her eyes meet his. She greets him and he walks closer before asking her to stand. He remarks that she also likes the lotus flowers in this garden.
Ruo Xi says she does and adds that she likes the place’s quiet peacefulness. He smiles and replies good. Stepping past Ruo Xi, he heads towards a boat. He unties the boat and tells her that he will bring her to see a truly quiet and serene place.
She asks how 4th knows there is a boat moored there. He replies that because he likes the spot, he had a boat built and placed there. She does not move and 4th asks her to get into the boat.
I am indulging myself. I really like this scene so expect shots and more shots.
Giant lush lotus covers the miniature lake. Leaves brush against the boaters as 4th rows, gliding the boat between the gaps. His eyes are on Ruo Xi whose gaze is lowered.
She fends off the leaves flopping into her face. The prince has a tiny smile as he guides the boat until he stops. Pulling in the oars, he casually informs Ruo Xi that he wants to rest and asks her to entertain herself.
To her astonishment, 4th promptly lies back and closes his eyes!
She looks around. Leaves, leaves and more leaves. What is a woman to do in this situation. She scrutinizes 4th. He is fast asleep.
She looks around again and then exasperatedly follows 4th’s example and lies down on her side.
Reflections flash across the water. Ruo Xi glances at 4th and then carefully covers her face with her handkerchief.
She lifts a corner, checking on 4th who appears to be still sleeping before she too drops off for a nap.
I am not sure why I like this lotus scene so much. Perhaps it offers a glimpse of a gentler 4th with a smile. Ruo Xi’s reaction is amusing. Uncertainty combined with a fear of offending 4th, yet she lies down with the man who had kissed her on a boat in the middle of nowhere.
A sudden rocking wakes Ruo Xi. 4th moves beside Ruo Xi. Supporting himself on his elbow, 4th looks down on the partially (face) covered Ruo Xi. She jerks awake and looks straight into 4th’s face. They are so close, I am sure they can feel each other’s breath. Startled she stares at the prince and receives a concentrated dose of 4th.
Suddenly Ruo Xi blocks his gaze with her handkerchief and she forbids him from looking at her in that way.
Slowly he reaches down and grips her left hand. She asks him to release her hand. He says he will release her hand when she puts down her handkerchief. Softly, Ruo Xi asks him not to look at her in that way again.
He agrees. Ruo Xi lowers the handkerchief and tells him a gentleman’s word should be honoured.
She looks down at her hand, 4th releases it. He even looks away. Such a obedient prince!
Ruo Xi asks 4th to move back as she wants to sit up. She looks at him, away from him, back at him. He watches her before looking away.
She asks if he frequently comes to this spot to rest. 4th replies occasionally. Ruo Xi observes that 4th likes the spot and wonders why only occasionally.
4th takes a few moments before he answers, saying that that overdosing on a charming scenery will only weaken the intellect. While Ruo Xi considers his reply, the prince grabs the oars and announces they are returning to shore.
His face smooths and his mask drops back into place. Ruo Xi watches with interest and smiles to herself, “He has changed back into the Ice Face!”
Perhaps it is the song that makes me rewatch this scene.
Li De Chuan calls Ruo Xi. She greets him and he waves her up. The eunuch tells Ruo Xi that he thinks she will needs to prepare well; teas and tea utensils.
Ruo Xi asks why and wonders if the Emperor is making another trip to the north. Li De Chuan answers the list of attendees has even been finalised. He tells her this trip will likely be very lively. He passes her the list.
The Crown Prince, 4th, 8th, 9th, 13th and 14th. Ruo Xi repeats, “14th.” She asks Li De Chuan if Min Min will also be there. He replies of course.
Ruo Xi starts to asks if she can be excused from this trip but Li De Chuan tells her it is time she stops being lazy. Her health is almost back to when it was before. There is no more reason to be lazy. He walks away quickly but Ruo Xi follows to try and reason with the eunuch.
Li De Chuan turns and advises her to rearrange her priorities and set herself straight. He tells her she should concentrate on serving the Emperor with all her heart and keep everything else out of her mind. He reminds her that she is no longer young and that she will not be in the palace for many more years.
Her future is dependent on the Emperor’s single sentence. Ruo Xi is silenced.
Camp is set and Yu Tan opens the window of the tea tent. She happily tells Ruo Xi that there is such a difference after leaving the Forbidden City and coming to the plains. The green grassland. The blue wide sky. Both is enough to invigorate her spirit.
Ruo Xi agrees that the plains is such a free spirited place. Yu Tan replies it is not wonder the Emperor loves to come north. Ruo Xi notes that the Emperor is not here just for the scenery. Yu Tan says she understands this.
Both are arranging the tent as they converse.
Yu Tang says the Emperor still has to consult with the Mongolian duke about state affairs. The Mongolian contingent is expected in a few days time.
Ruo Xi is still at the reminder. “Yes. They are almost here. I must make sure I am prepared.” Yu Tang asks what else is needed, she will prepare. Ruo Xi shakes her head with a laugh and says nothing much, just making sure everything is put away properly.
Maertai Ruo Xi is definitely worried.
This is an episode of mixed emotions. Sadness, yes. Joy, yes. There was a few moments of alarm when 8th probes Ruo Xi gently about the names she had provided. And the insight to a more sensitive 4th.
I have to mention that the 4th in the book is even colder than the drama 4th. He is more forbidding, more distant, more frightening. In the novel, when 4th drops his mask during the boat ride. Ruo Xi saw his warmth in his eyes and heard his laughter for the first time then. She was drawn in by his gaze and that was why she put up the barrier.
It was easier to defend against a chilly emotionless void than it is to hold off a gentle warmth. She could remain clearheaded dealing with the first 4th. She was at a loss as how to react to the second.
It is like an unexpected warm day in the middle of winter. The fresh air and refreshing sun invites you to play but you would be at a loss how to dress.
* See Notes for explanation