With the passing of a happy summer, so passes the happiest moments of Rou Xi’s new life. From now on, she lives with a growing chill and the arrival of winter heralds the cold in her heart. Rou Xi has had the fear of God, or in this care, the Emperor burned on her mind. The carefree existence she led with her sister is going to be changed soon. In what way? Onwards ho!
Winter arrives. The maids tell Ruo Xi that snow has covered the ground. She steps out, dressed warmly and savours the cool air as the snow crunches underfoot.
White covers the ground, serene loneliness that reflects the inherent loneliness in Rou Xi’s heart. Taking small deliberate steps, she does not notice 8th walking towards her until he matches his steps with hers. Ruo Xi slides uncertain eyes in his direction but his serene expression keeps her quiet and then just walk and walk.
Step by step until her shoe suddenly twists under her. She starts to fall and 8th silently grabs her, holding her arm until she is steady once more.
He drops his hand and lightly grasp hers while looking down, almost scouring her face with his eyes while she looks back with uncertainty.
Rou Xi is nervous, wriggling to get her hand free but he reaches down. This time he holds her fingers tightly before turning to continue their walk.
No words, just a smile and a tranquil mien.
He walks them to his study. Inside, 8th releases his grip and removes his cloak. Ruo Xi remains still, reacting only when he reaches out to tug the ribbon of her cloak. Breathing hard, she says she can do it herself!
8th smiles and steps around her, hanging his and then hers a little later after she hands it over. He pours her a hot cup before moving towards his desk where he proceeds to read a document. Tensed, Rou Ci’s eyes follow his movements, settling only when he sits down and seems to ignore her presence. Sipping from the cup, she remains upright until 8th remarks that she seems to enjoy standing.
She walks to the furthest seat, peeking at the studious form. Such a graceful and outstanding man, praised by all as the ‘Virtuous Prince’. All because of the struggle to win throne, he will be hated by his father and cast out from the Imperial Records and die in prison.
She turns away when the eunuch enters with a tray. The man hesitates before placing the tray by her arm. Ruo Xi is fluttery, unsure why 8th has brought her into his study. She takes a bite and then notes that she has been away for a while which would worry Ruo Lan.
8th smiles almost as if he senses her discomfort but remains silent, reaching up to rub his brow. Rou Xi swallows before bringing the plate over, determinedly placing it in front of 8th and stands there. 8th calls his eunuch and asks him to send Ruo Xi back. Eagerly, Ruo Xi grabs her cloak and beats a hasty retreat after a small bob to 8th.
The prince watches her leave before smiling to himself, turning an eye on the plate and then resumes his reading.
Ruo Xi tosses on her bed, her frustration unmistakenly obvious on her expression. She gets up, tilting one way then the other. Feelings? No feelings? Been taken for a ride? Being serious? What is he actually thinking! She cries out and then shakes her legs in her bafflement.
Ruo Lan calls out and enters the room, wondering why Ruo Xi is being so restless. Ruo Xi assures her nothing is the matter.
Ruo Lan tells Ruo Xi that the Emperor has granted 10th his own residence and that the wedding would be in three days. She will be accompanying 8th to the wedding and asks if Ruo Xi wants to come along. Ruo Xi feels that it might be more prudent not to go to reduce tension.
Her sister nods, saying she’d make excuses for Ruo Xi’s absence. Ruo Xi looks uneasy and Ruo Lan touches her hand, asking her not to frown in that way as it makes her worried for Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi nods and Ruo Lan leaves. Ruo Xi wiggles goodbye using a modern gesture but her spirits are definitely down.
Qiao Hui walks to Ruo Xi and resolutely speaks up, “Mistress seldom goes anywhere except for the compulsory morning greeting to Di Fujin. Di Fujin is already unhappy about this. If Second Young Mistress also adopts the same attitude towards Ming Yu Ge Ge’s wedding, it will bring trouble to Mistress. They will say we are rude and disrespectful.”
Ruo Xi makes a face and Qiao Hui leaves.
Arriving at the new 10th prince’s residence, Ruo Lan and Ruo Xi gets down from the carriage and enters. Ruo Lan asks what is wrong. Ruo Xi examines the residence and notes that no matter how richly appointed the place is, it is but a cage bestowed by imperial decreee.
Ruo Lan reminds Ruo Xi that she had promised she will not cause trouble. Ruo Xi assures her sister that the ‘Daredevil 13th Sister’ is there to wine and dine at a wedding and not to cause problems. Ruo Xi asks to join her sister a while later as she wants to take in some fresh air. Ruo Lan agrees.
The young woman looks up at the sky, moping by herself when up rides 4th. Dismounting, 4th catches sight of Rou Xi and calls her full name.
She turns around and 4th casually walks over to remind Rou Xi that today is 10th prince’s wedding, and that she should present a happy face. Rou Xi drops a curtsy, standing when he waves off the formality. He says he heard the rumour that she went a little insane because of 10th’s wedding but he doubts that Ruo Xi really could likes the straightforward 10th brother that much. Yet her lonely air makes her doubt his guess.
She asks 4th if he is really interested to know the truth or taking the opportunity to mock her.
Most of her time spend so far has been within the 8th household. Her companions had been her sister, 10th, 14th and less frequently 8th. There had been few meetings with 4th, most of which had been dramatic and out-of-the ordinary. Yet here he is speaking with a young girl and showing interest in her feelings.
4th answers that since they are here, he thought he’d ask about her in passing.
Ruo Xi in turn repeats in verbatim, “6 words.” She uses almost the same words he had used a while back when he wanted to know why she sought to live through dying. “Since I am here, I will do my best.” He smiles quietly, recognising the phrase.
“Wood shatters if too much force is used.” She pauses and then adds her own ‘donkey’s head does not match the horse’s mouth’* in place of his ‘playing music to the deaf’ proverb.
4th looks puzzled and states that her proverb is used incorrectly. She pauses and then brazenly replies that she has poor of the language and walks off. She makes a face behind his back, muttering “Are you the only one who knows how to use proverbs?!”
Puzzled, he watches her leave and then laughs to himself, amused. Definitely amused.
Meanwhile, 10th refuses to leave his room despite the pleas of his personal eunuch’s pleas. 8th and 14th enters, sending the servant out. 8th asks if 10th is still thinking to hide away now that the wedding is about to start.
10th says morosely that he’s disheartened. 8th tells 10th that a woman with Ming Yu’s qualifications is someone many will seek but will fail to receive, why is he still unhappy. 10th then asks how 8th feels about his own First Wife. If 8th really cares alot about Meng Hui. For how 8th could say what he did why feeling that way.
14th rebukes 10th, asking how he could speak to their elder brother in such a manner.
8th looks at 10th and then turns away, saying that Ming Hui was bestowed by their father. Based on her lineage and pedigree, she deserves to be his First Wife. Indeed it has to be her place. And only hers alone for the rest of his life. That is his answer. He adds that being a prince gives each one of them unimaginable power but also requires them to make sacrifices.
Clapping his shoulder, 8th tells 10th that he should not let love shackle him. A man needs to marry someone who will be able to support him and gain their father’s affection. That is most important. Love is just the icing on a cake and does not last long. Turning, 8th hands 10th his hat and slowly 10th puts it on.
Ruo Xi hurries along a long corridor, rubbing her shivering arms and her path crosses 13th. 13th is sitting on the railing, drinking by himself. He remarks that if she is afraid of the cold, why is she standing in the cold air.
Ruo Xi looks both ways before closing the gap between them, asking why 13th is drinking by himself. Again, she is really casual and informal with 13th. Perhaps it is because they are closer in age and also because she is not afraid of 13th.
He answers that he had asked her first. Belatedly, Ruo Xi offers a curtsy but 13th brushes it off, saying those who treasure such formalities are inside the hall. She maintains her pose until he permits her to stand up.
He stands up as well, closing in on Ruo Xi and says since today both of them are unhappy, let’s take comfort in each other’s company. Ruo Xi interperses his statement with confused exclamations which ends in a loud cry as 13th grabs her hand and then drags her off.
Dragging her onto his horse apparently. They ride hard and long through bamboo thickets and stopping when arrive at an isolated clearing. Ruo Xi is worried, pain and sadness making him look stern and she replays his words. Two sad persons? Does he like Ming Yu? She glances at him with wide surprise.
Pulling up, he slides Ruo Xi down to the ground before offering her his winesack. She rubs her hands together and reluctantly takes a sip. She chokes on the potent brew while he looks on with a stoneface. He asks her to take another mouthful. Spluttering on the second mouthful, Ruo Xi watches 13th stride away and follows. He commands her wait by the trees.
Ruo Xi looks around at the deserted buildings and resounding desolation with consternation. She makes a promise not to have any more dealings with Ming Yu since she cannot handle this ne’er do care 13th prince.
She takes a couple more long gulps before cradling the wineskin close to her chest. 13th returns with wood and starts a fire. Ruo Xi is amazed at how easier he builds the fire and walks close, wondering if he has a lighter.
The fire burns tall and bright as the two quietly share the alcohol. He feeds the fire while she drinks. Alot. 13th tilts her head and observes Ruo Xi, thoughtful and perhaps intrigued by how well she is taking the outdoor and quietly appreciating the fire and wine. He stares long enough that Ruo Xi hands his wineskin back and he continues drinking.
13th certainly cares enough to steal Rou Xi away when he believes she is unhappy. He must like her reckless spirit, after all she is his female namesake. Ruo Xi has little interaction with 13th since 13th sticks with 4th.
Ruo Xi muses. His own Father Emperor bestowed his beloved to someone else and that’s certainly not her doing. She fervently hopes that 13th will not further torture her and that she would not die in such a lonely place, certainly in by a tyrant prince.
Shaking his empty skin, 13th comes back with two more wineskins. Ruo Xi moans at the sight and mutters that she is not as good drinker as he is.\
Meanwhile back at the 8th residence, a servant reports that 13th is not at home and no one knows where the 13th prince is. 8th instructs that reliable servants be send and keep a lookout near 13th’s residence and also not to alarm anyone. They are to return and report if there is any news.
There is a strong emphasis for secrecy because it is not accepted for a single man and woman to be together alone especially at night. It would certainly mar Rou Xi’s reputation and harm her future.
Ruo Lan looks worried. 8th reassures her that although 13th could be reckless and unconventional, he knows his limits and would not act in a dangerous manner. He is sure that Rou Xi is safe. He says he will stay until Rou Xi returns and offers to stay up while urging Ruo Lan to rest. Ruo Lan turns her gaze to the doorway, gives a little bob but heads for a chair, sitting at its edge and waits. 8th watches Ruo Lan for a while before sitting as well.
Ruo Xi is voluble under the influence of the alcohol, forgetting care as she toasts the unchanging moon with 13th. Staggering around the fire, the young woman throws her head back to examine the moon, commenting that it is no different from the moon in three hundred years time.
13th keeps his eyes on the drunk Rou Xi, quietly listening as she babbles on about how he used to be a name in her books but yet now she is drinking with him. 13th shakes her head and upends his wineskin.
Cradling her own close to her chest, Rou Xi confesses that she used to get drunk at ‘San Li Dun’ as well as stolen alcohol when she was in grade school. She swings her arms as she names the alcohol, ‘Te-qui-lah!’
She tells 13th that today although she is drunk, it is still ‘o-k’. She makes the modern ‘okay’ sign at 13th.
13th is taken aback, “O-what?” She repeats, staggering forward, “O-k.” He asks what it means, she looks at her fingers and then shows it to him again, saying it means there is no problem.
The prince snorts, saying that she is spouting gibberish after having so much wine. She laughs and leans forward, placing a finger across her lips and goes ‘shhh’.
Dropping down, she sits on her heels and looks up at 13th. Slightly startled, he leans close as Ruo Xi confides her secret.
“I am from not your time. I am from,” She makes the okay gesture again, but this time with her fingers straight to indicate three, “‘eh’.” 13th listens with a straight face as Ruo Xi explains, “I am someone from three hundred years in the future.” Falling back, Ruo Xi scrabbles to sit up and 13th snorts in amusement.
She continues earnestly, “But what is strange is that I am here now in the Qing dynasty. And I have become Maertai second young mistress and I also have to enter the palace and go through the Xiu Nu Imperial Inspection.” She looks genuinely perplexed and then climbs onto her knees using 13th arm to pull herself, “How could a modern person could become a a Xiu Nu of all things?”
Right after that sentence, Ruo Xi drops her head onto his arm and falls asleep. 13th is amused, taking another swig and declares it is time to head back. He moves his arm, shaking her a little but Ruo Xi is thoroughly soused and out. He sighs and then carries her back to the horse, riding back the way they had came.
It is daylight when the eunuch announces that Ruo Xi is back. Ruo Lan hurries out while 8th starts to follow but then stays in the hall. He instructs his personal servant to find out what is needed.
Rou Xi is supported back to her room, where high on alcohol, she is especially affectionate to Ruo Lan though she is too drunk to answer her sister’s question about where had been with 13th and why they had so much to drink. All Rou Xi says is this is so comfortable, cradling her hot cheek against her sister’s hand. She is smiling as she falls back to sleep, muttering something about ‘effective’.
In the middle of the night, Rou Xi feels someone watching her and starts to move. The outline of 8th’s form turns around and leaves as she opens her eyes but she catches only a blurred image of his departure.
8th certainly is showing signs of liking Rou Xi though he is careful and cautious in revealing it. No wonder, Rou Xi is confused and wonders what he is up to.
Qiao Hui wakes Rou Xi. Rou Xi asks for water, pressing a finger to her temple as she sits up. She has slept the day away. She complains of a headache, rolling her fingers against her brows muttering something about ‘Drinking big’. Confused again, Qiao Hui urges Ruo Xi to wash up and have dinner with Ruo Lan. Her sister had worried about Ruo Xi the whole day.
Ruo Xi agrees but promptly falls back into bed.
Questioned, Ruo Xi states that she was hurt and sad but it is in the way her sister thinks. She reminds Ruo Lan that she had agreed not to get in the way of 10th’s marriage and the couple’s vows. Her sister had reminded her many times, telling her it is a killing matter to interfere with the wedding. Ruo Xi says she remember and understands.
After a moment, Ruo Xi adds that perhaps loving freely might not be a good choice because it might not lead to a good end. Being forced into a marriage without a way out might not be so bad, since once a person suppresses any unfounded misgivings, it could well lead to a long and comfortable marriage.
Ruo Lan asks where Ruo Xi learnt this crooked logic. Ruo Xi replies that it is fact.
Qiao Hui interjects, saying that Ruo Xi might well be right. A woman looks for a good resting place with a person who treats her well. Just like the way 8th expresses his concern. All of this is because he cares about Ruo Lan. Because of Ruo Lan, he is even willing to bear with Ruo Xi reckless mischief and nonsense.
Rui Xi promptly turns and asks Qiao Hui who is reckless, nonsensical and mischievous. Too late, Qiao Hui realises she had said too much and smiles wryly at Rou Xi. Rou Xi throws herself across and chases Qiao Hui around the table.
I wonder though if it is because of Ruo Lan that 8th is so patient with Ruo Xi. Ming Hui had mentioned that both sisters look alike and it is clear that 8th has love for Ruo Lan though how much is not clear at this point.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince has organized a riding contest and invited the various nobles in court to attend. Rou Xi raises her arm and declares that what it really means is that the Crown Prince is bored and wants someone to play with. The maids laugh while Ruo Lan decline the invite to join in the fun.
Ruo Xi and Qiao Hui ask in unison why Ruo Lan does not want to go. 8th will definitely attend as well Di Fujin. If Ruo Lan does not follow, wouldn’t that show Ruo Lan up?
Ruo Xi shoots down Qiao Hui’s reasoning saying that her sister is too good a person to fight with anyone. But she adds that although there is no reason to compete, no reason to desire rewards, riding the horse would be an excellent way to exercise. She notes that Ruo Lan is frequently ill and attributes it to Ruo Lan staying within her quarters.
Ruo Xi urges her sister to go but Ruo Lan says she does not want to. Ruo Xi objects, saying she wants to go. Ruo Lan might not find staying indoors a confinement but she does. The Crown Prince is bored and so is she. She cajoles Ruo Lan but her sister just shrugs it off.
The younger sister then wants to know why she does not want to go. Does her sister dislike horse riding? Ruo Lan’s hand hangs in mid-air, holding her cup just above the table before gently setting it down. Ruo Xi runs over to a screen, a huge landscape of horses riding along a hill, the most prominent feature is a man hunched over his horse. She points out that if her sister dislikes horse riding, why would she like the screen.
Ruo Xi paints a image, closing her eyes and imagining magnificent horses galloping without care across rolling hills of verdant pasture. The air of liberated freedom, it would certainly be delightful even if they do not ride at all. Isn’t it better than just looking at a drawing? Ruo Lan sits, staring at the screen.
Back in her room, Ruo Qi questions Qiao Hui. She smiles innocently at Qiao Hui and asks the maid to sit down. She remarks that Ruo Lan had been looking at the screen intensely. Qiao Hong replies, obviously because of that screen, Ruo Lan would think of the general.
Ruo Xiao asks who is general? Qiao Hui is surprised that Ruo Xi does not know. Ruo Xi claims she is testing Qiao Hui.
Qiao Hui exclaims, “Testing me again? Isn’t it because you have forgotten?” Ruo Xi gives a tiny smile and nods, acknowledging Qiao Hui’s remark.
The maid says that is all the better because her father had already said anyone who brings up the matter would have their tongue removed. Quietly, Qiao Hui takes her leave. Ruo Xi sits there and realises that it must be a serious secret.
In the 10th residence, Ming Yu is looking forward to the event. She expects to outperform everyone and claim all the rewards from the Crown Prince. She sees 10th sitting down to enjoy his grapes and marches over, demanding why he is not ready to attend the competition. He is only a 10th prince and should not let the Crown Prince wait for him.
10th replies that he has no intention to let the Crown Prince wait since he has no intention of going. She asks why. He replies because she is going. Ming Yu is annoyed and then asks if he is really staying home. She sighs and then says it is a pity since Rou Xi definitely would be there and though he cannot marry her, it would be fine to look at her. 10th looks down at his grapes.
Ming Yu pokes at him again saying it’s a pity he has no fate with Ruo Xi but he definitely cannot go. He asks why. She replies because she is definitely going. Laughing she heads out but 10th jumps ahead of her, saying he is off to the competition. To see the horses and to see Rou Xi.
His wife points out that he had said he would not go since she is going. He retorts that since she had expressed regret about him not being able to see Rou Xi, 10th does not want to disappoint her and will allow her to be happy for him.
The Crown Prince, 10th, 8th and 9th wager on the riders while 13th and 14th are talking.
13th asks 14th if he knows what is equal liberty. 14th says he has never heard of it before. 13th explains that it means that everyone is born equals regardless of race, and lineage. Each person is entitled to live their lives as they wish. Even the Emperor would not be able to control their destiny.
14th asks how that is possible. A person is born either as a ruler or a follower. Their value and rank are fixed at birth. We born princes and are princes. Furthermore, how is it possible not to obey the Emperor? It is disrespectable and nonsensical.
13th remarks that perhaps it is possible in a different paradise. Somewhere that those in the know will speak of it without reservation. A place where everyone is able to love and marriage at will.
14th snorts and dismisses the idea.Isn’t this the exact opposite of the ideals we live by? He shakes off any more discussion about these ideas.
13th comments that Rou Xi said these are the ideals that the modern society lives by. 14th repeats ‘modern society’ in a questioning manner. 13th spots Ruo Xi and says here comes the unconventional modern person.
The two princes greet Ruo Lan while Ruo Xi in turn greets the princes. Ruo Lan asks if Ruo Xi had been discussing topics that depart from the orthodox classics. Ruo Xi just smiles at her sister, keeping quiet.
< 14th clarifies that they had been discussing what is considers equal liberty without any intention to criticise. He turns to Ruo Xi and pointblank asks her what is ‘a person of modern society ‘.
Speechless, Ruo Xi just stands there while Ruo Lan looks on. She stammers and is unable to explain to 13th’s amusement. Fortunately, a rider distracts them and they turn to watch the performance.
Ruo Xi exclaims in admiration, wondering who is riding as Ming Yu jumps off and onto her horse, and gives a fine show to the audience. She finally recognises Ming Yu and remarks that she is a fine rider. 13th tells Ruo Xi that the Gorolo sisters are famous for their riding within the palace.
Making a face, Rou Xi mutters, “That is only because you like her.” 13th turns back asking what she said. 9th comments that 10th’s wife is a better rider than her husband and 10th challenges his brother to a match. The princes laugh and then urge 10th to help his wife dismount.
The Crown Prince praises Ming Yu, adding it is a pity that 4th could not come to the event. He comment that even the Emperor had praised the high skills of the Gorolo sisters as representative of their race’s equestrian skills. He is pleased to be able to see it.
Ming Yu thanks the Crown Prince but states that it is her sister who deserves that high praises. The Crown Prince replies that though Ming Hui is highly trained, he feels that Ming Yu is a better rider. Ming Yu gives her husband a self-satisfied grin and 10th in turn gives her a shrug. Seeing the Maertai sisters, Ming Yu walks up and comments that since the sisters grew up in an army compound, they must be excellent riders and ask them to take the opportunity to show their skills.
The Crown Prince thinks it is an excellent suggestion and requests them to ride. Both sisters hesitate.
Pointedly, Ming Yu notes that Ruo Xi is in the correct garb and asks her to show them how well she rides. Knowing that Ruo Xi cannot ride, 10th walks up and tries to silence Ming Yu. His wife then mocks Ruo Xi and asks if she cannot ride at all. She sighs and says that rumours cannot be believed since she had believed everyone within the Maertai military compound, everyone could ride. She adds it must be a cock and bull story. Both sisters look riled.
8th starts forward, perhaps to smooth matters but Ruo Lan speaks up saying she had received training in her father’s camp and is willing to perform for their pleasure.
Ruo Xi is surprised.
Ruo Lan runs forward, holding the pommel and leaps up onto the mount. Gracefully, she rides down the marked path before slowly straightening to stand on its back. Ruo Xi remarks that her sister is really good. 13th nods in agreement.
Meanwhile 8th looks on in great delight as Ruo Lan rides on. 14th praises it as breathtaking and 10th agrees, adding there is a graceful heroic bearing in how Ruo Lan rides. 13th compliments Ruo Lan’s riding is like a watching a swallow skim across the ground. Ruo Xi agrees and adds that quite someone else’s riding which looked like a flying bear. Ming Yu is mortified and stamps on 10th’s foot when he asks what it means to look like a flying bear.
The Crown Prince compliments Ruo Lan and 8th smilingly agrees. He seems slightly dazed within his own thoughts and as Ruo Xi runs up to welcome her sister, he follows. Ruo Xi is pleased that Ruo Lan had redeemed the Maertai name with her performance. 8th escorts his wife back to the main crowd and receives praise with quiet bows.
Slowly, Ruo Lan walks away with an air of dejected loss. Ruo Xi notices this as well as the same dispirit within 8th bitter-sweet smile as he accepts the Crown Prince’s remark that his wife rides better than himself. She wonders what is wrong.
Ruo Lan stands against a rocky outcrop staring into the distance and straightening when she finally detects 8th’s presence. A formal bob, one promptly waved off and then 8th closes the gap.
He remarks that he has never seen her ride nor approach a corral since their marriage and he delights in how well she rides. He notes that everyone was mesmerised by her skill. He says that her beauty while on horseback moves a man more than any other time.
Ruo Lan quietly replies that she is tired. That she is tired to her bones, exhausted in her heart. That she will never ride again. She gives a nod, indicating her intention to leave.
8th calls out, walking alongside her and asks if she is willing to be honest with him since there is the two of them. Ruo Lan notes that it is late and time to go back to their home.
The prince stops her, pointing out that the past despite its pain has gone by and that it is time to let go of painful memories. He assures her that they will have opportunity to have much happiness. That they could still have more children even thought they have already lost one.
Ruo Lan asks her husband not to continue. 8th replies that he is not asking for anything for himself but for her sake. He regrets her constant suffering. He asks if their marriage is destined only for pain? He is a prince and yet he is unable to ensure the happiness of his wife. He asks what he could do to make Ruo Lan happy.
She replies that he had done enough and that he does not need to do anything else.
8th notes that they are married and wonders if they will continue living as they have been. Being even less friendly than two acquaintances. Ruo Lan replies that if 8th is willing to live like two strangers under the same roof, she is willing to accept that.
He dashes forward, hugging her tight against his body and exclaims that it is because he cannot do as she wishes. He would rather she hates or blame him, at least that way he could make amends. He cannot accept her cold distance. He asks if she even had any feelings towards him.
Ruo Lan rests passively within his embrace, unresisting his touch yet with such an air of cold hauteur. He releases her and looks at her profile, stating his understanding.
Unshed tears tremble against her lids as he asks her if her lack of resistance is to make up for her grievance, her helplessness and her pain. Because her lack of resistance is the greatest torture to herself and to him. He understands that he will never had any place in her heart again.
8th apologises and then slowly moves away.
This episode is one of sadness. First is Ruo Xi growing fear as the time for her to enter the palace approaches. She fears her future and continues to feel helpless. The second is when 8th finally realises that there is no happy-ever-after for Ruo Lan and himself. The knowledge stings but it also liberates him because he will not try to make her care for him anymore.
* See Notes for explanation