Last episode, Ruo Xi met up with 8th and the other princes. 9th attempted to get her to spill the proverbial beans but 8th vehemently stops ‘Poison Snake 9th’ while warning them away from getting Ruo Xi involved with their plans.
She called out to 8th and Ruo Xi struggles with herself. She gives an oblique hint but she continues to debate it she …
… should attempt to tamper with history even though she knows history cannot be changed by anyone.
Yu Tan’s words finally convinced Ruo Xi and she decides that she will deliver the warning letter she had written him a while back.
Ruo Xi unfolds her origami-ed note.
Meanwhile 8th is pondering over what Ruo Xi had said about the Emperor still loving 2nd and asking him not to forget this regardless of what he decides.
Angrily, 9th dumps his cup onto the table and remarks that since they are not allowed to ask Ruo Xi and yet they cannot ask Li De Chuan, they might as well ask their Emperor Father face-to-face and find out who he intends to install as the Crown Prince.
14th remonstrates 9th while 8th remains deep in thought. 9th shoves past his younger brother. 14th notes that they cannot wait any longer. The court is buzzing with news that 2nd will be reinstalled as the Crown Prince.
8th remarks that those remain as rumours.
10th steps forward and says there is no smoke without a fire. He says he feels that their Emperor Father has that intention. 14th nods in agreement.
8th says that if their Emperor Father has this intention, then there is nothing they can do to obstruct that from happening.
14th then proposes that perhaps they should remove that idea from their Emperor Father’s consideration. He says he knows that there are many court officials who want 8th to be the Crown Prince. If the officials are willing to submit petitions proposing 8th for Crown Prince, then their Emperor Father will be aware of the popular sentiment and support behind 8th
8th points out that this is forcing their Emperor Father’s hand.
9th rewords it as a subtle suggestion. 10th supports the idea. It does not require them to come forward yet would allow 8th to be presented as the Crown Prince.
8th is hesitant. He realizes that 2nd is really beloved by their Emperor Father and that it is difficult to convince their Emperor Father to give up on 2nd. He points that out to his brothers but 9th asks him when he had become so indecisive.
10th supports 9th, urging 8th to act before it is too late. Otherwise, it will be submitting without a fight.
14th asks if 8th is willing to watch 2nd resume the Crown Prince position.
That is the clincher. 8th is indeed not contented to allow 2nd to become the Crown Prince again.
Ruo Xi hurries towards the audience hall, cradling her letter close to her when she hears 13th hail her. She tucks away the letter as 4th and 13th walks up behind her.
13th asks where she is going in such a hurry. She greets both princes. They examine her before 13th waves away the formality, saying that it has only been a few days since he saw her and she seems rather estranged and not as close as before.
Ruo Xi denies it saying that she has something she needed to complete. 13th laughs, obviously teasing her and allows her to go. She smiles at 13th, curtsies but 4th stops her instead, saying he has something to ask her.
13th looks over in surprise and then smiles in a sly manner, saying that he will let them be alone and strolls off, leaving an apprehensive Ruo Xi behind with 4th.
I really enjoy this pair’s interactions alot. Plenty of humour as well as affection. Though abandoning poor Ruo Xi to the stern 4th after she had severely given him notice not to put her together with 4th anymore.
Looking yet again like a deer blinded by headlights, Ruo Xi looks at 4th who of course wants to know what his Emperor Father had discussed with 2nd.
She turns aside, away from his piercing gaze and replies that on that day, she was outside and not inside with the father and son. She does not know what was discussed.
4th cross examines her, asking how it is possible for her not to even hear any sound even though she is standing outside the door. She staunchly replies, “Nothing.”
4th then asks if she replied the same when her brother-in-law asked. Ruo Xi nods and answers, “Exactly.” She looks almost pleased that she could say that with such confidence.
The prince steps forward, almost right in her face and Ruo Xi retreats in panic. She could feel the cobbled stones underfoot as she shuffles back as 4th advances, his eyes capturing her gaze until her heel hits the stone curb.
Gasping, Ruo Xi flails wildly but 4th reaches out with one arm, scooping her around her waist and pulls her upright.
She steadies herself but she is standing close to 4th. Too close for her own comfort.
Ruo Xi is cowed as the prince towers over her. 4th’s jaw clenches lightly before he asks if she is still upset with him about what happened that night.
Which night? You know that night when she bit him.
Ruo Xi denies it, saying she would not dare and only hopes he is not unhappy with her.
4th admits that he might have made a snafu and misunderstood her intentions. Ruo Xi looks up, surprised and almost relieved before dipping her head, saying that all is well as long as 4th understood it was a misunderstanding.
The prince continues quite mildly that however he does not regret kissing her. Ruo Xi is consternated at this unexpected answer and turns her head.
He gives her a once-over and then lazily flicks her collar aside. She immediately hits his hand away.
4th asks her why she is not wearing it. Shaken, Ruo Xi stammers, “What?”
The prince replies the necklace.
Ruo Xi presses her lips together and steps aside, saying that she had left it in the room. She adds that she will return it the next time 4th comes to the palace.
4th answers that since she had already accepted it, there is no reason to return gift. She twirls, exhaling hard but before she could speak, he quietly asserts that although some thoughts might have been formed because her, it is not up to Ruo Xi to decide when something ends. He confidently says that sooner or later, she will willingly put on his necklace.
She glares at 4th in disbelief, irked by his self possession. However, first things first! 8th!
Ruo Xi runs, splashing through puddles until she reaches the audience hall. She bumps into Wang Xi who exclaims at her haste. She asks about 8th, Wang Xi replies that he had gone back after the day’s session ended.
Crestfallen, she walks away and after a moment, pulls out her letter. Ruo Xi wonders if her failure is fated.
Ruo Xi is studying in the tea room when Wang Xi hurries in and congratulates her. She drily asks Wang Xi not to try any tricks on her, asking what he wants that he would flatter her.
Wang Xi replies that he would not try anything of that sort, saying that he is earnestly congratulating Ruo Xi Jie Jie. She laughs, saying she is unaware of any happy events.
The eunuch is surprised, asking if she is unaware of what is happening in the audience hall. Ruo Xi asks what is happening there.
Wang Xi explains that thirty court officials had petitioned the Emperor, asking that 8th be made Crown Prince. The Emperor had just summoned 8th to an audience.
The eunuch explains that if 8th becomes the Crown Prince, Ruo Xi would surely gain more prominence through her sister, Ruo Lan.
Ruo Xi is apprehensive. She has a premonition. Feeling a chill, she drops her book.
In the main audience hall, the Emperor calls out the different names of the petitions he is reading. He mildly says that these out of the hundred over officials as well as several princes all recommends 8th as the Crown Prince.
4th stands out and says that he believes 2nd is the most appropriate choice for Crown Prince. 13th says that he supports 4th’s statement.
9th in turn says that 8th is known for his virtue and intellect, and that he is upright and pure. He states that 8th and no other should be chosen. He adds that this is also supported by the officials in court.
The Emperor slowly says, “So everyone believes that 8th is truly the best candidate for Crown Prince. On the other hand, 2nd is the least ideal candidate.”
8th and the princes supporting him trembles at the Emperor’s deliberate tone.
“Which means that both our eyes had been blinded and we were hoodwinked. Muddleminded when we had chosen 2nd to be Crown Prince before, to be a fatuous ruler.” he continues in that slow voice.
4th slides a glance in 8th’s direction before following the other princes who keep their eyes down as the Emperor’s voice rolls over their heads.
8th’s eyes flicker as if he realises that he had made a major blunder.
Kang Xi’s expression is mild as he looks over their stunned faces after his pronouncement.
14th steps up to defend 9th, saying that his brother had not meant to offend their Emperor Father by what he said. He asks their Emperor Father not to be angered.
“Without such intention?” rumbles Kang Xi, picking up a stack of petitions and asks if these petitions are waste paper. He tosses them back onto his table and asks if they are all present in his palace to feast and to celebrate his birthday.
The Emperor leans forward and asks softly if they are intending to rebel.
Everyone drops to the knees at once.
Kang Xi stands and shouts, “You are all intending to rebel!”
Wang Xi and Ruo Xi sneaks into the hall, eavesdropping on the proceedings.
8th speaks up, saying that his brother princes and the court officials are only concerned about the Crown Prince seat being vacant for such a long time, which had led to unease in the kingdom. They brought the idea forward out of concern and he asks the Emperor not to blame any of them.
The Emperor snaps that they are concerned about the kingdom, concerned about the people. He asks what about 8th, “Are you lusting after the Crown Prince position?” He stomps towards 8th.
8th volunteers to withdraw from any proposal pushing him forward as a candidate as Crown Prince. He asks his Emperor Father not to blame anyone anymore.
He crosses his arms behind his back, pacing his dais and says that it is not a wonder that 8th is nicknamed the ‘Virtuous Prince’. Even now, 8th is willing to protect these people.
The Emperor proclaims, “In our eyes, you are an extremely cunning 8th prince. What we hate most is the princes privately forming alliances with our ministers and court officials. Creating chaos and conflict!”
He states that 8th colluded with Da and influenced the eldest prince to steal the Crown Prince position.
Ruo Xi hides behind a column, listening with growing fear of what would happen next.
The Emperor gestures to the hall, saying that 8th had incited the court officials to petition him, trying to force him to appoint 8th as the Crown Prince.
8th denies the charge. Others echo the denial but Kang Xi forbids anyone to speak up.
The Emperor scolds 8th, saying he hides treachery behind his gentleness and harbours unreasonable high aspirations. He adds that 8th formed a conspiracy and deserves the most severe punishment. He announces that 8th will be stripped of his titles, and will be confined.
14th stands up, striding to make a deep obeisance before asking his Emperor Father not to be angry. He says that 8th had conscientiously helped with the government and had no intention to harm the Crown Prince. Even more definitely, he has no intention to rebel against their Emperor Father. He asks their Emperor Father to further investigate.
The Emperor is irate, pointing out that the facts are right in front of him and asks why 14th is defending 8th.
14th repeats that 8th is truly concerned about their nation yet he is now wrongly accused, he feels that he needs to speak up on his brother’s behalf.
8th asks 14th to not go on anymore.
The younger prince ignores 8th and continues, saying that 8th treats talented people with courtesy yet he is accused of conspiring with them. He declares that 2nd had committed wrongdoings by himself yet somehow 8th is connected and accused as causing harm.
14th indignantly declares that these are unfounded accusations!
The Emperor angrily asks if he is the one who slandered 8th!
14th points out that his Emperor Father had asks the court officials to propose a candidate as Crown Prince. The court officials had obeyed his decree and advocated 8th. Yet the Emperor has assigned wrongdoing to 8th for this. 14th yells that he does not understand, that he is discontented!
Kang Xi walks down his dais, demanding to know if this is how 14th should be talking to him. 14th replies that he has to speak up when he sees injustice. He cannot stand by and watch his brothers be wronged. He declares that he will go as far as he can for the sake of his brothers.
14th asks Kang Xi to reflect on his imperial decision.
I admire 14th in this scene. He is willing to go all out for 8th, supporting his brother. His loyalty runs deep and strong once it is given.
The Emperor mutters, “Brotherhood? What kind of brotherhood is this!”
14th then offers his head to guarantee 8th’s innocence!
This is intense, the anger flying high and fast between Kang Xi and 14th.
Kang Xi repeats, “Using your head as a guarantee? Are you willing to die for your belief?”
Everyone is struck dumb by that last statement.
The Emperor then shouts that he will fulfil his son’s wish and draws his sword!
The other princes all kneel in Kang Xi’s way, begging him for mercy. 4th is not the first to react, but soon after he too lurches forward and tries to mitigate their Emperor Father’s anger.
The princes cry out that 14th intends no disrespect but is overwrought with fraternal concern for 8th. 9th cries out that he and the others really did not conspire against the Emperor.
The Emperor drops his sword and starts to shove them away but they remain in place, staying between him and 14th. Kang Xi shouts, asking why he has such a bunch of unfilial sons.
14th admits that he is unfilial and asks for punishment.
The Emperor angrily says that he will be lenient with all his sons, calling his guards to give 14th twenty strokes and to remove all of 8th’s titles. However 8th will not be confined but will be overseen by one of his ministries.
The Emperor commands the other princes to return home and reflect on their behaviour. He adds that if anyone dares to speak up for 8th, the penalty will be immediate execution.
All the princes bow, acknowledging the decree while Ruo Xi stands in the shadows. Her worst fear has come true.
Back in the Imperial tea room, Wang Xi offers Ruo Xi water as she sits numbed by what had happened. Both Wang Xi and Yu Tan are solicitous. After all just as 8th rise would have improved Ruo Xi’s status, his fall is as detrimental to her.
Ruo Xi finally murmurs, “Yu Ta, I feel like my heart has been pierced by thousands of needles. It hurts, really hurts.” Yu Tan comforts silently.
Suddenly, Ruo Xi stands up and says she has to return to the audience hall and see how 8th is doing.
Wang Xi and Yu Tan stops her with a cry of ‘Jie Jie’. Yu Tan tells her, “Your face is so terribly pale. Think about your own health first. If you return now, you will not be able to help. You might even make matters worse by making the Emperor more angry. That would truly be serious!”
Wang Xi agrees saying that the Emperor is still furious. If there is any incident, it will probably end up in an execution.
Yu Tan adds that she realises Ruo Xi is worried about 8th and her sister. But Ruo Xi will be of no help even if she manages to return to the 8th residence.
Wang Xi agrees wholeheartedly, saying that in such circumstances, it is best to be careful and not to complicate the situation. Yu Tan holds onto Ruo Xi’s hand, pleading for caution. It will not be easy to leave the palace and go to the 8th residence.
Ruo Xi calms down and replies she understands.
Wang Xi suggests that Ruo Xi rests while Yu Tan and himself will go back and listen for updates. He says he’d send Yu Tan back with news if there is any new developments.
Again notice how thick the three of them are.
Ruo Xi sits down, thinking to herself. She knows what the end result will be during this period in history, yet there is no way for her to know the details that lead to the consequences. Ruo Xi sadly realises that a simple ending is a result of so much grief. She starts to fear the future once more, wondering what else will happen because there is so much details that she is unaware of. She wonder how much more difficult will take place before 2nd is finally restored as Crown Prince.
Night falls as Yu Tan returns.
Ruo Xi immediately asks for an update about the palace. Yu Tan assures her that things are still considered relatively normal. She asks Ruo Xi not to worry since Ruo Xi has always been committed to the Emperor, serving him with care and generosity. Yu Tan says the Emperor values Ruo Xi and will not allow other matters to affect how he sees her.
Yu Tan comforts Ruo Xi saying that all of the princes are the Emperor’s sons. It is inevitable that the sons will make their father angry and be punished. Once the Emperor calms down, everything will be fine.
There is a knock on the door. The two women look at each other and then hurries to open it. There is no one there but a letter lies outside the entrance.
Yu Tan picks it up and passes it to Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi intently scrutinizes the writing and recognizes it as 8th’s. Yu Tan discreetly withdraws as Ruo Xi opens the letter. Just four words. ‘Stay Well. Don’t worry.’
Now this really touched me. That 8th was thinking about Ruo Xi while he is in deep doodoo and went to the trouble to have that short note delivered. He uses words not gifts to woo. A hard man to turn down, eh, Ruo Xi?
Ruo Xi walks through the palace and most avoid looking at her. This should be fear of associating with someone related to 8th, now that the 8th prince is in hot water with the Emperor.
It starts to sink in that the respect she had normally received in the normal times, is inescapably linked to 8th. She smiles wryly, before looking up as Li De Chuan calls her.
The head eunuch welcomes her back and tells her to stand attentive and not to make mistakes in her work. He walks off and Wang Xi quietly tells Ruo Xi that his teacher had instructed him to leave word with the woman. Through Wang Xi, Li De Chuan wants Ruo Xi to know that if she is able to go through the day without incident, then she is free from any entanglements related to 8th.
She indicates that she understands and adds that she is not the only one who hopes nothing happens.
Wang Xi notes that his teacher had remarked that Ruo Xi is one of those rare people who is quick to understand and who is able to perform well without any incident.
Ruo Xi asks herself if indeed there will not be anything mishap past the day.
The Emperor is reading when Ruo Xi approaches. Li De Chuan observes Ruo Xi who lowers her eyes after a brief moment of silent exchange.
The Emperor glances up and catches his personal eunuch’s eye. Li De Chuan keeps quiet, looking down and the Emperor looks over at Ruo Xi. She softly requests to have a word with the Emperor.
The Emperor replies equally softly, saying that he has already decreed that anyone who tries to speak up on 8th’s behalf will be immediately executed. She keeps quiet.
He asks if she still has anything to say.
Li De Chuan speaks up then, saying that the Emperor is showing her leniency and asks her to back away.
The Emperor contines to eye Ruo Xi who kneels and says that although she is risking universal condemnation, she hopes to say clearly what is at the bottom of her heart.
Li De Chuan starts forward but Kang Xi waves him back and says, “Speak.”
Ruo Xi says thoughtfully, “I’ve served your majesty and witnessed how deeply your majesty loves his children. Especially when I saw how affected you were when 18th passed away. How bitter and deep your pain was. How distressed your majesty was when 18th was sick. Your love for your children, I witnessed it very clearly.”
She pauses and then looks up at the Emperor, asking him why could he not treat those still living filial children who remain at his side with leniency? He sighs, turning away as she says that they are all still father and sons, even though they have a ruler and subject relationship.
Kang Xi gruffly says, “Enough.”
Ruo Xi persists, saying that his majesty is a kind father who also hopes that his children will enjoy the natural bonds of a family, pleasing him by staying by his side.
The Emperor starts to stand as she continues with fear dancing on her face, “It’s commonly said from a kindly father will come filial children.”
He stares down into her eyes and then softly murmurs a command to Ruo Xi asking her leave. Ruo Xi is saddened, bowing her head and backs away from the room.
Li De Chuan approaches, saying that Ruo Xi has offended the Emperor and remarks that she is getting more and more daring.
The Emperor smacks his book hard against Li De Chuan’s chest and the eunuch observes him carefully and casts a thoughtful glance in the direction that Ruo Xi departs.
He comes up behind the Emperor, adding that Ruo Xi is definitely rash but she always keeps a cool head regardless of whether she is favoured or humiliated. He notes that she is so forward because she is truly concerned about the Emperor’s father-son relations.
The Emperor glowers but something in his expressions reveals that Ruo Xi’s heartfelt words has an effect. He turns back and stretches his hand. With a deep bow, Li De Chuan hands the book back to the Emperor who walks away with a thoughtful scowl.
De Fei visits his son who is recovering from the twenty strokes. His wife greets De Fei. 14th attempts to get up but his mother stops him, waving off the formality and asks him to lie back down.
She chides him for not caring about his own body and asks if it still hurts.
14th assures his mother that he is much better after the Imperial physician applied medicine to his injury.
De Fei wags a finger at her son, exclaiming at his daring to anger his Emperor Father by going against him. 14th acknowledges that he was rash but in order to save 8th, he could not sit back and not do anything or put in a word for him.
His mother says that abusing his body is akin to disrespecting his parents. She scolds him for not considering himself while attempting to save 8th. She tells him that in the future, he has to think carefully before attempting any task and not be rash anymore.
14th nods in agreement, saying he knows and promises he will not be rash anymore.
4th is announced.
Both De Fei and 14th looks unhappy to see 4th as he greets his mother. He in turn waves off the greetings from the other women, offering a bottle of medicine to 14th. He tells 14th that it is one of the best medicines for such injuries and asks him to try it.
14th abruptly says there is no need. He says the pain from his injury cannot compare to the pain in his heart, expressing his sadness that his own blood brother was unwilling to do anything when 14th was in mortal danger. De Fei gives 4th a hard look, anger and dislike on her face.
14th says it was 5th who risked his life to stop their Emperor Father while his own blood brother kept a distance to protect himself. He asks 4th not to shed crocodile’s tears.
De Fei says she had also heard a similiar tale and asks 4th to explain.
4th says that if he had begged their Emperor Father on 14th’s behalf, it would add fuel to the fire and make their Emperor Father even more unhappy. He points out that they are both blood brothers, from the same mother. If 4th had stepped up, he would have been accused of siding with 14th.
De Fei comments that because 4th wanted to avoid gossip, he is willing to disregard his brother’s life or death. She says that 4th usually carries out his tasks with caution but she has to speak up for 14th. She points out that they are both her flesh and blood. She wants 4th and 14th to always help each other if there are any incidents in the palace.
He is back home and 13th greets 4th, saying he brought good wine with him. 13th asks if 4th will join him.
4th appears disheartened. 13th immediately knows what is bothering his brother and tells him that it is natural that 14th will be angry with him and that it is not something worth being worried about. He suggests having a drink to release his emotions.
4th says that he realises that 14th and his mother’s anger is a natural reaction. He asks what else could he say about this matter.
13th notes that 4th might be cool and calm but it does not mean that he is cold-blooded. He believes that 4th would not stand by the side and watch their Emperor Father kill 14th. 13th adds that 4th must have his reasons for not immediately trying to persuade their Emperor Father.
4th says that it is impossible that their Emperor Father would kill 14th. Even a vicious tiger does not eat its own cubs. Let alone someone like their Emperor Father is caring and concerned father. Even when he is moved beyond reason, he would not be able to do anything like that.
13th agrees, adding that if 4th had added his voice to 14th, that would make their Emperor Father feel that he is being isolated and make the situation worse. It might even have made the situation so bad that there is no way to save it.
4th gives a soft laugh, saying that 13th really knows him well. 13th grins back and asks if 4th would join him in a drink.
The older brother declines, saying that 13th’s single sentence far exceeds the comfort of a single drink by a thousand-fold. He reminds 13th that he does not enjoy drinking to feed his boredom and suggests that 13th keeps the wine for himself.
13th comments that 4th is way too calm and collected, which leads other to misunderstand him as ruthless and heartless.
4th replies that when a person has a bosom friend, he can already say he has no regrets. 13th takes his words and bounces it back at 4th, telling him that since he has no regrets, he should not take the words of those who misunderstand him to heart and make himself unhappy.
4th smiles and 13th says, “Let’s go.”
This pair of brothers are truly bonded so intimately, I wonder if they might not have made a perfect couple if one of them had been a woman. This bit is telling, hinting at the loneliness and isolation that engulf 4th. Even his own mother does not care for him as much as she loves 14th. Perhaps it is this strained maternal relationship that has made him such a icy man.
8th visits with Ruo Lan and she curtsies to him. He waves away the formality and asks her to sit for a chat.
The prince notes that Ruo Lan has not tried to find out what had happened outside her quarters. Perhaps there are even some matters that she is not aware of. She remains icy, even more icy than the Ice-face 4th.
8th tells her that he has been stripped of his titles by his Emperor Father. The court had raised his name, proposing him for Crown Prince. There is no hope of that happening. Ruo Lan sits still, listening but not responding.
The prince leans close and calls her name. He tells her that he is very unhappy and hopes she will say something to him. She turns to him and asks what he wants to hear from her.
8th visibly gives up and apologises for disturbing her and taking her away from reading her scriptures. Ruo Lan bows. The prince leaves and coldly, Ruo Lan returns to her scriptures without a second glance.
He makes his way to Ruo Xi’s compound and sees 4th walking towards her room. 8th greets his older brother and says it is a surprise to meet him there.
4th says he was wandering and had not expected to meet 8th there. The younger prince notes that although the palace is huge, it is surrounded by four walls. 4th comments that it is challenging to find a truly peaceful corner, saying there are but a few within the palace. 8th agrees.
Yu Tan opens the door and is stunned to see both princes standing outside. She greets them and 4th permits Yu Tan to continue with her chores. Ruo Xi comes back in time to see Yu Tan who tells her that she is going on duty.
Ruo Xi sees the two princes and hurries forward to give her greetings.
Both men observes Ruo Xi as she approaches, 4th asking her to stand. 4th suggests to 8th that since they seem fated to encounter each other there, it would be a good idea to have Ruo Xi brew them tea.
8th agrees it is an excellent idea and 4th thanks Ruo Xi for her effort. She nods and hurries away.
She stands, ladling tea leaves into the pot.
4th says that since it is not Qiu Qing Gong, she should not stand on ceremony and asks her to sit down. Ruo Xi demurs and 8th adds his voice, saying that since it is two brothers having tea and because this is her compound, she is the owner and they are but guests. He points to the stone stool with his head and after a few moments, Ruo Xi does sit down.
She proceeds to make the tea, preparing it in the traditional style.
Both 4th and 8th accept their cups and savour the brew. 8th remarks that it is a wonder that there is a touch of sweetness within the bittersweet taste. Indirectly, he is also speaking of his own bitterness, finding sweetness in the present company.
4th tells 8th that their Emperor Father’s anger is just a moment’s impulse and that’s why he remove 8th as a noble. He believes that this would be reverse once he observes his younger brother’s ability and capability.
8th comments that their Emperor Father still really loves 2nd. He is repeating what Ruo Xi had mentioned to him. He realises now that Ruo Xi had been serious in bringing that up. 8th admits that he was not able to distinguish between the degrees of seriousness of the situation that he dragged the court officials as well as his brother princes into the mess.
As he smells the cup offered by Ruo Xi, 8th suddenly asks if 14th’s injury is serious. 4th replies that it is but twenty strokes, not something 14th will not be able to bear. However he notes that 14th’s heartache is not only because of the beating.
8th immediately asks if 14th is upset because 4th had not pleaded for mercy on 14th’s behalf.
4th’s expression answers his younger brother’s question. 8th says that De Fei’s dearly loves 14th and observes that 4th is unjustly wronged as well.
Ruo Xi sits quietly, listening without saying a word. Holding out a teacup to 4th, the older prince accepts it and then after a side glance at Ruo Xi, replies that even his own mother and blood brother is unable to understand him. He asks what else he has to say.
I felt that 4th and 8th were actually directing their words to Ruo Xi even though they seem to be conversing with each other. Both men come seeking solace and comfort from Ruo Xi because they do indeed feel that where she is is one of the few places which could be a haven for their stinging emotions.con
8th replies that 4th has 13th by his side, and that 13th understands 4th.
4th in turn answers that indeed that is a little bit of comforting warmth to be able to express his emotions. He slides Ruo Xi a glance after saying this.
8th answers that borrowing what 4th had said to him before, the time will come soon.
The older prince smiles, saying that it is difficult to encounter friends over a simple meal. 8th smiles back saying it is indeed to share a simple meal like this and then he invites Ruo Xi to share the tea with them.
Ruo Xi nods and says she will. Each picks up a cup and then after a sip, they each smile before Ruo Xi suggests having a second round. They agree.
Such a peaceful serene gathering. Ruo Xi is in her element and seems happy.
It is some time after the tea ceremony that Wang Xi calls on Ruo Xi in the tea room, bringing good news. 2nd is restored as Crown Prince, bringing unity to the court and the Emperor rejoices. Ruo Xi replies that it is indeed a happy event. Wang Xi also says that the princes also receive promotions. 3rd, 4th and 5th become prince of the first rank. 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 14th are promoted to beizi (prince of the 4th rank) and 8th’s title is restored.
Yu Tan is pleased for Ruo Xi, saying that it is finally past the stormy times and that Ruo Xi should be relieved now. Wang Xi agrees, saying that the bad time has passed and the stone in Ruo Xi’s heart can be unloaded.
Ruo Xi thanks both of them for their concern during this period of time. Wang Xi waves off the thanks and says that they both stand with Ruo Xi and are partial to her. Yu Tan nods and agrees. They take their leave, returning to their duties.
Ruo Xi thinks to herself that Wang Xi is not the only one who shows bias. The Emperor also has his preference, he would rather favour 2nd who he has personally brought up and who he has control over than 8th who has his own powerbase in court.
Ruo Xi seeks shelter from the rain, holding her basket close as she ducks into a nearby pavilion. 10th and 14th come up to her and she greets them.
10th tells her that Yu Tan told them she was picking lilac flowers and he figured that since only this area has that certain flower, they would definitely find her. He asks Ruo Xi if he is not smart. She grins happily at 10th and asks why they are looking for her.
14th replies that Ruo Xi has forgotten about herself. 10th replies that Ruo Xi remembers the birthdays of others but not her own.
Ruo Xi retorts which girl would remember their own birthday since all it reminds them is that they are one year older. 14th laughs and notes that she is putting them in the wrong.
10th laughs and says it does not matter if she is older, what he is interested in is finding out what present she would like.
She replies that treat it as they had previously, any small present will do. 10th protests that they had not celebrated her birthday properly previously. He tells her that he intends to give her something special that year.
Ruo Xi thinks for a moment and says that if on her birthday, she has her sister accompanying her, that would be the best gift ever. She observes that it is difficult for the Maertai to meet up without good reason. She adds that they have only just past the trouble arising from the ‘Crown Prince Incident’ and 8th seldom comes to the palace anymore.
Pensively, she says she would rather not cause trouble for 8th again with her tiny bit of selfishness and not rouse gossip. Behind her, the two brothers look at each other as she speaks.
Abruptly, Ruo Xi turns around and says brightly that they could give her anything that is fun to play with.
14th notes that Ruo Xi has stayed too long in the palace, because she has even learnt how to ‘say 30% of what she really means’ when she talks.
Ruo Xi replies that it is just a birthday. She continues saying that actually if all of them are live well, then she is happy. They laugh with her.
She notices that the rain is stopping and says she wants to contain picking as many flowers as she can. Once the season is over, she will have to wait until the next year.
14th agrees that Ruo Xi should not miss out on picking the flowers but he adds that she should not forget that ‘if a flower is blooming, and she can pluck it, she should go ahead and pluck it or she’d end up regretting when the flower is gone’.
In essence, 14th is telling Ruo Xi she should not waste her youth, her time and the opportunity regarding 8th or she will regret it when the time for action passes.
Ruo Xi understands the message and she curtsies with a smile before leaving. 10th on the other hand is oblivious to what is happening between 8th and Ruo Xi and hurries to 14th, asking what he meant. 14th just snorts, laughs and shakes his head before turning to leave. 10th looks in Ruo Xi’s direction and 14th urges his elder brother to hoof it!
How well 10th and 14th treats Ruo Xi!
Ruo Xi lights a red candle, putting it on top of a stack of cups turned upside-down. She thinks to herself that it is her birthday the next day. She notes that it has been quite a few years and that going back is no longer an option. From now on, she can only be Maertai Ruo Xi. She wishes herself, “Happy Birthday, Maertai Ruo Xi!” and blows out the candle.
She hears someone at the door and hastily removes the candle. A palace maid and eunuch enters, greeting Ruo Xi. The maid tells her that she serves Consort Liang and that her mistress had liked the unique designs embroidered on the palace maids handkerchiefs and found out that Ruo Xi drew the patterns. The maid says Consort Liang would like Ruo Xi to go over to her quarters and draw a few designs for her.
Ruo Xi agrees to follow them. She thinks to herself that Consort Liang is 8th’s mother.
At Consort Liang’s courtyard, the escorting maid asks Ruo Xi to enter Consort Liang’s quarters by herself before leaving.
Ruo Xi looks around after she walks through the door and sees her sister sitting beside Consort Liang. Her face lights up, and she hurries forward to curtsy to Consort Liang and her sister.
Consort Liang waves her upright and says that she saw the patterns and wanted Ruo Xi to draw a few designs for her own use. Ruo Xi replies that her work is coarse but thanks Consort Liang for her favour in asking for her drawings.
Consort Liang pats Ruo Lan’s hand and says it is hard for Ruo Lan to visit her in the palace and it is such a coincidence for them to meet in her room.
She points to the further end and asks Ruo Xi to draw in the corner, asking Ruo Lan to accompany Ruo Xi and tell her younger sister what her preferred style is.
Ruo Lan tells her sister that a few days ago, 8th had send a messenger telling her that she is coming to see Consort Liang on that day. She says she was baffled because there was no special occasion that required her to enter the palace. Then she realised that it was close to Ruo Xi’s birthday and she came expecting to see her younger sister.
Ruo Xi ahs and says so it is 8th who arranged for this. She looks touched before asking Ruo Lan what patterns Consort Liang prefers.
Ruo Lan replies that her mother-in-law prefers fresh and elegant colours. Ruo Xi nods and begins to draw.
* See Notes for explanation