I smell blood. And so do the other hound dogs on the trail, tails wagging as they track the trail of one feckless, oblivious prey.
Wrong drama? Not really. Especially in the last episode.
We left Ruo Xi questioning herself about what she wants. She does not want to connect with 4th but at the same time, she knows she has to stay on the future emperor’s good side. If she wants to live.
Afterall, she made her debut from 8th’s residence. Nothing more dangerous than relationship though association.
Crushing her headdress flower, she decides that as long as she does not offend 4th, that should keep her safe and sound. She considers the horseriding lesson. Definitely, it must not be with 4th. It will be like having an inscrutable time bomb ticking beside her. It will be a torture!
The next day, Kang Xi is admiring each of the cups in the new tea set. He picks up each that Ruo Xi has selected for each of his sons.
He notes that the peony, king of flowers, with its poised elegance and princely splendour is suitable for the Crown Prince.
Next is the dazzling magnolia with its pale jade petals, refreshing yet possessing a serene nobility. The Emperor again agrees that it does describe the 4th prince. He smiles at Ruo Xi, clearly astonish at how well she had chosen the cups.
Ruo Xi dips her head with a smile.
He exclaims that the plum blossom, hardy and enduring with deep-rooted emotions proudly independent and innovative really resembles his 13th son.
Kang Xi says to Ruo Xi that she has an eye for understanding characters from a glance. Ruo Xi thanks the Emperor for his compliment.
He asks her what she thinks of his sons. She thinks a moment before answering carefully, “The father knows his sons best. All of them are his Majesty’s blood sons and his Majesty understands the personality and abilities of his sons. Each prince has their own character, like a hundred flowers blossoming with their own individual styles.”
Ruo Xi is no longer that straight-talking woman. Life in the palace has taught her how to speak without saying much. Something she had expressed dislike for at the beginning, even to 10th.
Kang Xi says it is well said and that it is true that each have their own personality, even their own temperament.
I wonder why Kang Xi asked Ruo Xi such a question. Is he testing her?
Ruo Xi leaves the imperial tent and then quickens her steps when she spots 13th. She curtsies and he motions her upright. He starts to walk past her when she growls, “13th!”
13th turns in surprise and asks what is the matter.
Ruo Xi replies, “What’s wrong? Didn’t we arrange to meet last night for horseriding lessons? Why did you dump me?”
13th defends herself that he had asked 4th to replace him. Ruo Xi insists that it is 13th who agreed to teach her. 13th replies that he had no choice because it was the Crown Prince who dragged him aside. He coaxes her telling her that he will definitely teach her that night.
Ruo Xi reconfirms it with him with a stern air. 13th replies definitely in a self-effacing manner. Ruo Xi gives an ‘hm’ and stalks off. 13th sighs resigned and shakes his head.
It is an amusing scene, seeing how defensive 13th is and how fierce Ruo Xi treats him. Certainly not a typical proud prince and servile maid exchange.
He complains to 4th about Ruo Xi, saying that she is really a handful. When she becomes ferocious, she looks as if she is ready to eat someone. No wonder the old books say that women and villians are hard to handle.
4th comments that with Ruo Xi, it is considered that she has individuality. That she is different for others.
13th marvels at his brother, saying that although 4th had only ridden once with Ruo Xi and it certainly had given him an understanding of her character.
4th replies that horseriding is not a simple activity. It is possible to truly understand a person from how they ride. He points out that although Ruo Xi conducts herself carefully and extreme caution but she possesses a daring dauntless spirit. Her courage comes from deep within her soul.
13th nods, agreeing with 4th and then comments that 4th seems to understand her a lot more and also appreciating her a lot as well.
4th wordlessly turns away, ignoring his younger brother’s remark.
Min Min runs up and calls to 13th, telling him that they have arranged for another toss-the-lamb game that night and tells him that this time, she will not lose to him.
13th tells Min Min that he has a previous appointment that night to teach horseriding and suggests they game another night. Min Min urges 13th to go with her, arguing that horseriding is not as fun. 13th hesitates.
After all, his friend had just given him a cold shoulder because he had dumped her the previous night.
4th tells 13th to go ahead, saying that since he is free that night, he will give Ruo Xi horseriding lessons again.
13th’s hesitates just a tad longer. 4th has a little smile as his brother agrees to Min Min’s entreaty. Delighted, Min Min thanks 4th and drags 13th with her.
Giving his brother a curious back glance, 13th trots off with the duke’s daughter. 4th smiles carefully.
Ruo Xi paces along the grass. No more lying on the ground for her. Perhaps she has a sense that things might not go as planned. Indeed, her instinct is correct as 4th turns up once more instead of 13th.
He looks straight at her but Ruo Xi turns away, unable to withstand his piercing cool gaze. Dropping a curtsy, she greets 4th and then promptly tells the prince that she is tired after her daytime duty. She informs him that she will not bother 4th and takes her leave.
She strides confidently past 4th. She certainly does not expect him to grab and pull her close against himself.
Ruo Xi steps back, but his hands grip her shoulders and tug her back in place sandwiching her arms between their bodies. She wriggles and then bites out a ‘let me go’.
4th asks if this wasn’t what she had wanted. Ruo Xi is afraid and panicks.
She does what any typical woman in distress does, give a resounding slap. Oops but no, this is no pansy but a full-blooded Manchurian prince. He catches her hand, twisting it behind her back before dragging her in for a long-drawn out kiss.
Okay, no screenshots here. You got to watch it for yourself and tell me if there is any chemistry here.
Her fist pound at his shoulder. Suddenly, his eyes clench tight for a few seconds, eyes widening before they break apart! Ruo Xi stumbles backwards but he retains his grip on her right hand, holding her in place while his other hand explores his lip.
Ruo Xi has bitten 4th! He is shocked. Let me repeat that. Shocked. Shocked.
Possibly angry as well since he pulls her close once more, holding both her hands down.
Ruo Xi continues to struggle under his watchful cool scrutiny. Briefly. Until she comes to her senses and she takes a breath. Though frightened, she steadily returns his look. 4th carefully straightens. His own serene eyes examine her expression.
The Maertai woman coldly snaps that if 4th wants to use force, she has no grounds to refuse.
4th smiles, amused and moves in close enough that their foreheads almost touch and asks why he should use force. Ruo Xi is unable to answer.
I thought it looked like he was going to kiss her again!
The prince releases Ruo Xi and walks back to the horses in the aawkard silence. Ruo Xi draws in a deep breath, sighing in palpable relief.
4th stands with his back to Ruo Xi, looking faintly perplexed. He loosens the reins and in his usual ice-cold voice, he tells Ruo Xi to come along.
Perhaps he wonders if Ruo Xi is playing with him. Hot and cold. Hot and cold. She takes great interest in his preferences and attends to him almost as well as she attends to his Emperor Father. Yet she takes off rapidly whenever their paths cross. Would the thought that she is not interested in him cross his mind?
Love is a luxury for the imperial family. It could be challenging for any of the prince to truly understand a woman. Or did they even ever have to understand their women? Their marriages are marriages of convenience, political marriages, and dynastic marriages.
At this moment, 4th has definitely made an unforgettable impression on Ruo Xi.
Tremulously, Ruo Xi looks around before obeying. The horseriding lesson continues as if nothing had happened. It even appears to be going rather well as she guides her horse, following 4th’s directions.
The next morning, the Imperial family is out practising their archery. 4th barely hits the bull’s eye and the Emperor comments that he has to continue practising. 13th joins his family.
The Emperor calls Ruo Xi and she does not hear him until he calls a second time. He asks what is wrong, noting that she is pale and looks distracted.
She replies that it must be because she had overexerted herself from the previous night’s horseriding lessons.
He looks concerned and replies that she should practise restraint even though she enjoys horseriding. 13th who is standing behind them smiles as the exchange.
Ruo Xi nods and says she will.
13th greets his father and the Emperor waves him upright. After a moment, the Emperor turns back to the archery field, leaving 13th with Ruo Xi. The prince grins impishly at Ruo Xi and softly says that the previoous night’s trainer must have undergone severe burden to fulfil his responsibility.
Ruo Xi silently gives him a deadly stare and 13th is stunned. He does not know what to say and glances in 4th’s direction. 4th looks back and notices their interaction. Ruo Xi’s drops her glare when she sees 4th’s watching them and stalks away. 13th looks back at 4th once more and the older prince feigns indifference.
The Crown Prince makes a perfect hit, and everyone claps while the Emperor praises his improved prowess.
Da, eldest prince steps up and says he wants to give it a try. The Crown Prince hands over the bow and Da also makes a bull’s eye. Pleased, he turns back in time to see their Emperor Father walk away.
The Crown Prince looks embarrassed at the sudden silence. Discomforted, Da calls out to 13th and says that making a perfect shot should be easy for his younger brother. The Emperor watches from his dais, definitely unhappy at the oldest prince’s showmanship.
4th quietly turns while Li De Chuan keeps an impassive face. Ruo Xi is standing beside 13th once more. 13th declines the request, saying that he had sand in his eyes while walking over. He asks them to continue.
The Crown Prince then says they should continue.
Under the cover of offering tea to 13th, Ruo Xi tells the prince that she will look for him later that night. 13th quietly blinks at her tone as she moves away.
Curious, 13th asks 4th what else happened the previous night other than horseriding. 4th says he noticed Ruo Xi trying to have a private word with 13th and wonders if she had not said anything to his brother. He asks if she is well.
4th’s ‘ice face’ is back in place.
13th says she did not say anything but he feels that she is behaving very strangely. He says she seems angry and acts as if she had an axe to grind.
They slow down and 13th gives 4th a side glance. He asks how an evening lesson of horseriding could create such a reaction. He asks if 4th was too strict with Ruo Xi. Perhaps he had not treated her with the courtesy due to a lady and provoked her.
4th glances over before looking down, thoughts well hidden. He asks 13th how Ruo Xi views him. 13th answers slowly that she treats 4th rather well. It can be said with thoughtfulness and feeling though it should also be said that does not dare to be close to him.
The elder prince looks up at the analysis and appears thoughtful. He tells 13th that he will stop teaching Ruo Xi how to ride. He hands anything regarding her back to 13th. 4th starts to walk away but stops to add that it is likely she will not want to learn how to ride anymore.
13th looks even more baffled but shakes his head with a half grin.
It is night. 13th is quietly reading when Ruo Xi bursts into his tent. She gives him that same glare before stalks past him and heads for the tea stove.
The prince sits up, watching her pour herself a cup before asking her how he had offended her. She stomps and seats herself across 13th as he comments that the look she gave him earlier in the day is truly ruthless. If it had been shot at someone else, they would have either died or suffered some great internal injury.
Ruo Xi looks up from the cup and retorts that she should then asked him how -she- had offended him that he would dump her time after time. Violently, she sets the cup down beside her.
13th replies defensively that she has misunderstood him. The first time, he was called away by the Crown Prince. Although it was nothing important, just gossiping, it is not prudent for him to cry off. He starts to explain the second time and ends up saying he did not lie to her. That he really did have something to attend to.
She stands and asks who, other than the Emperor and Crown Prince, could waylay him and take his time.
Whether the two get together, it amazes me that they could be so natural with each other. I also imagine this is they would behave if 13th and Ruo Xi got together.
As 13th looks up, Ruo Xi tilts her head enquiringly and waits for his answer. He reluctantly replies, “Min Min.”
Ruo Xi purses her lip, “Oh so that’s how it is. You abandoned me and chose Min Min. Indeed I have nothing to say.” he protests saying this is not how it is. He asks what their relationship is and says that he definitely treasures her alot more.
Sardonically, she replies that in Min Min’s heart, 13th is important. She pats his shoulder and says that she can see how much Min Min likes him.
He rejects the idea, saying he does not feel that Min Min likes him. He stops and then turns the table on Ruo Xi, saying on the other hand he feels that she has feelings towards his 4th brother. That being so, 4th taking his place to teach horseriding is actually a favour. He notes that she should thank him instead.
Ruo Xi furiously repeats, “A favour?” and asks when she ever expressed liking 4th.
13th says since she will not admit it then he will explain how he knows this.
Retrieving her abandoned tea cup, he holds it like she had when serving 4th a few days before. He says that ever since she started serving tea in the palace, he had noticed that she behaves strangely towards 4th. She is unfriendly and distant with the Crown Prince, but treats the 4th prince with great attention. She had also asked 13th about 4th’s likes and dislikes. He also notices that during the routine visits, the refreshments she provides 4th will be what he likes.
13th pours away her stale tea, refilling it with fresh brew.
Ruo Xi chews her lip. He continues saying that she treats the other princes in a more impersonal and perfunctory manner. If she says she does not like 4th, then he cannot think of any reason why she would treat 4th so well.
She insists that she does not like him.
13th grins and says she is still so shy about it. He then says he will share something with her because of their close connection.
She nods. He confides that 4th actually likes her. He points out that this is so. Otherwise considering 4th’s personality, there is no way 4th would personally give a palace maid horseriding lessons.
The prince offers her the fresh cup of tea.
Ruo Xi violently pushes the cup away. The tea spills over 13th’s hand as she cries out that considering his personality, he would not like anyone other than himself. Let alone a palace maid.
13th sighs and stares Ruo Xi down. She looks away, rubbing her hands resting in her lap. The prince puts down the cup and gingerly sits beside her.
In a steady voice, 13th tells her that everyone has feelings. His 4th brother is not exception. He tells her that he is unaware of what happened between the both of them. He mentions that he brought her up in conversation, but 4th did not say much so he did not pursue the matter. However 13th hazards a guess that 4th must have give some indication of his feelings.
Ruo Xi snaps her eyes in 13th’s direction and starts to say, “He …”. Under 13th indulgent eye, she looks away and says she does not want to know anything about 4th.
13th knows she is furious but the easy-going prince pushes on, telling her that underneath his brother’s cold facade beats a warm heart. He is passionate and loyal. 13th tells her that he himself is a prime example of what he means. He tries to continue but Ruo Xi puts up her hand.
She huffs that she is leaving and stands up. A few steps later, she twirls around and exhorts 13th not to associate 4th with herself. She also adds that she will definitely not try to learn how to ride anymore.
13th wiggles his fingers and then casually makes an ‘okay’ sign with them.
Ruo Xi rasps a sigh, turns on her heels and leaves in a huff.
13th murmurs to himself, “You really aren’t going to learn riding. My 4th brother really guessed correctly.” He grins.
Ruffled, Ruo Xi stomps out and trips over an cart handle. She sprawls in the thick grass and decries what has happened. She is the source of the incident. She take such care with 4th because she knows what will happen in the future. He will be the future Qing emperor.
How could she ignore him? What she had not accounted for was how others would see her actions. There is definitely no love lost. If 13th misunderstands her,
what would 4th think of her. She realises it is her own fault.
How should she go about explaining this wrong impression without revealing the truth?
She charges into her own quarters. Frustrated and upset, Ruo Xi throws herself onto a bench and then reaches for some tea. The empty teapot adds to her frustration. She tries to refill it it from the boiling kettle but accidentally scalds herself.
The teapot breaks and her temper finally gets the better of herself. She throws a tantrum, yelling and stomping her feet before picking up cups to throw. She cries out, asking whatever she does turns out badly.
Yu Tan and Yun Xiang hurry in and tries to stop Ruo Xi. They kneel to pick up the shattered shards but Ruo Xi forbids them.
She breathes hard, holding an intricately crafted pot up while looking at the other two women. Timidly, they stand until Ruo Xi slowly lowers her arm.
She steps away.
Yu Tan motions to Yun Xiang to clean up while Ruo Xi sits down. She is quiet, her brief outburst disappearing as suddenly as it had flared. She whispers her apologies. She says she should not have lost her temper.
Calm, she winces as her scalded hand begins to sting. The women immediately step up. Yu Tan asks Yun Xiang to continue cleaning while she goes to get medication for the burn.
Rubbing her wrist, Ruo Xi sees the bangle and starts to finger it. She talks to the bangle, “Before I left the capital, you had warned me to be prudent and careful in whatever I do. At that time, I really believed I had taken great care and done it well. But I did not realise it was still not enough.”
A large tear streams down her cheek at the realization. This is the source of her angst. That no matter how hard she tries, there is much more she needs to do to find a haven for herself.
She silently hopes that 8th will do better than she is and not make any mistakes.
Back in the capital, 8th debates a case with several officials and princes. 9th lays out the details and 8th proposes a solution. Without elaborating on the details, the discussion is not going well.
The officials are determined to stonewall 8th.
A eunuch enters with news that 18th is severely ill.
The princes are worried. 14th suggests sending this news to their Father Emperor. One of the officials oppose the idea saying that the Emperor is up north on important state affairs and should not be troubled by whatever happens in the palace.
Another official agrees saying that the young prince is but one of many princes. If the Emperor is ready to abandon the visit because of a simple illness, the Mongolians will take the opportunity to mock the Emperor. They say that anything that happens in the palace should be taken care of by the regent.
8th disagrees saying that what is more important is 18th’s health. He decides to visit 18th before making a decision. He asks Li Shang Shu (high court official Li) to accompany him.
At 18th’s bedside, 8th asks the doctor about 18th. The doctor says that it is hard to determine if 18th will survive. 8th touches the young prince’s forehead and is stunned by the heat. Still undecided about what he should do, 8th discovers a drawing on the table.
It was drawn by 18th. The child had intended it as a gift to presented when their Emperor Father gets back.
8th decides to report 18th’s illness but officials object. The prince remarks that this is not about a ruler and his subject but about a father and his son. He states that the officials will not be able to bear the consequences if the Emperor is not able to see his son should anything happens.
The officials continue to object and 8th notes angrily that as the regent, he has the authority to add without consensus. He states he is ready to bear the consequence but 9th cautions him to hold his anger.
Unexpectedly, Li Shang Shu supports 8th. The other princes are surprised while the opposing officials keep silent.
The princes gather in 8th’s study. 9th feels that 8th is using too much emotions to handle 18th’s situation. 10th defends 8th saying that they should be worried about their own brother.
14th says that although 18th is their brother, what 9th says is reasonable as well. He further says that as regent, 8th is walking on the knife’s edge. There will be recognition from their Father Emperor for a successful regency but if there is a wrong step taken, the Crown Prince will be ready to press an attack. He notes that it is hard to decide what is the correct decision in this situation.
9th points out that those who opposed 8th’s decisions were the Crown Prince’s supporters. Openly, they seem helpful but in reality, they were discontented.
8th clarifies that his emotions played no part in the decision. He made the decision because he wants to contend against the Crown Prince.
The Emperor Father values relationships. To inform him about 18th’s illness is to allow him to fulfil his paternal responsibility. This is beyond reproach.
9th notes that the problem is the officials who support the Crown Prince.
8th says that he asks Li Shang Shu to go with him to 18th. From Li Shang Shu’s expression while visiting, 8th knew he would definitely agree with his decision to send the message.
14th comments that Li Shang Xu is official with a wide reach. When he had agreed, the other officials did not dare say anything else. 9th says that as long as they have Li Shang Shu’s support, it will help smooth the way for anything they have to do.
8th adds, “There is also the future.”
10th is puzzled and asks what today’s decision has to do with the future. The other princes just laugh and depart.
The message arrives at the encampment. After reading the report, the Emperor instructs that daily updates be send from the capitals as well as preparations be made for departure in three days. He also asks Li De Chuan to arrange a meeting with the Mongolian duke.
Yu Tan asks if there is any way to quickly pack up within three days. Min Min hails Ruo Xi as they cross her path. Ruo Xi starts to greet the duke’s daughter but the young girl waves off the formality, immediately asking Ruo Xi to tell her where 13th is.
Min Min tells Ruo Xi that 13th frequently mentions her name when they were together. She is sure that Ruo Xi knows where the prince is.
Ruo Xi hesitates and Min Min tells her that she will not allow her to leave without telling her 13th’s whereabouts.
Ruo Xi answers that she is willing to tell 13th’s location but she really does not know. Min Min pouts as they are about to leave for Mongolia. She had searched the whole camp but not found him. Min Min is afraid that 13th has forgotten about her. Sadly, the young Mongolian girl wanders away.
Ruo Xi calls out and Min Min turns back. She tells the young girl not to worry and that 13th is a person who values friendships. He also enjoys isolation and freedom and is often to find. She adds that although she does not know where 13th is, if Min Min knows where the most extensive space is, that is where 13th will be.
Min Min exclaims that she know where that might be. Thanking Ruo Xi, Min Min runs off.
Yu Tan observes that Min Min has her sight set on 13th. Ruo Xi agrees. Yu Tan asks if Ruo Xi is not afraid 13th will scold her for taking the initiative to matchmake Min Min with himself.
Ruo Xi just says that she is paying back someone with their own coin.
This is of course referring to 13th constantly pulling 4th and herself together.
Yu Tan looks blankly at Ruo Xi who reflects a little and then adds that it is actually nothing. She says that 18th is on everyone’s mind. She hopes that Min Min’s exuberance could help relieve 13th.
Yu Tan nods and Ruo Xi hurries her to continue packing.
Min Min finds 13th drinking along on a hilly slope and calls out. 13th stands up and then tells Min Min that he is not in the mood to accompany and play with her. He says he wants to be alone.
The girl tells him not to worry. She understands that he is not feeling well because of 18th. Her father had told her. She tells him that she is not looking for him to play but she wants to accompany him. He insists that Min Min returns.
The Crown Prince calls out at that moment, declaring that he had been looking for 13th for a while. He asks 13th to drink with him.
13th notes that the Crown Prince has been drinking quite a bit. The Crown Prince denies that and his eyes alight on Min Min. His expression shifts to one of avarice and he says he wants Min Min to drink with him as well.
Min Min stares at the Crown Prince with disgust and turns him down. She rebukes him, asking how he could behave in this way when his own brother is deadly ill and is he not worried.
The Crown Prince looks blankly at Min Min, stiffly asking what she saying before he insists that Min Min join him in a drink. He starts forward, intending to grab the duke’s daughter but 13th steps in between them, murmuring, “Crown Prince.”
The heir stares at 13th and says, “13th Di (brother)!”
13th replies that the Crown Prince cannot bring Min Min away. The Crown Prince demands why 13th is arguing with him over a mere lady.” Here the heir says ‘lady’ in a derisive tone. He truculently insists that he will bring her away!
Again, he reaches out to grab Min Min but 13th blocks his way.The Crown Prince looks irate but 13th firmly says it is presumptuous of him but he had already arranged to meet Min Min that day.
They look hard at each other but 13th does not back down and without a second way, excuses himself and holding Min Min’s hand, brings her to safety.
The Crown Prince watches them leave.
Hand in hand, 13th and 13th walks back to the Mongolian campsite. Min Min thanks the prince for his rescue from that ‘hateful devil’. That is how Min Min exactly describes the Crown Prince. Disrespectful but this also hints at how the Mongolians view the heir.
13th replies that he on the other hand, admires her because she is so open and frank about what she dislikes regardless of who she is rejecting. He looks around and after he is sure she will be safe, he takes his leave.
Min Min cries out, asking if he really likes a person. Implying that his moping is about someone he misses. 13th assures her that this incident has cleared his moodiness.
She replies that she envies Ruo Xi. 13th wonders why the envy. Min Min says it is because Ruo Xi is accompanying 13th back to the capital. It is also because of how well they treat each other. She explains that when she could not find 13th, only she knows where he was. Ruo Xi seems to understand 13th well. Min Min emphasizes that she does not only envy but is jealous of Ruo Xi.
13th smiles and Min Min asks what he is laughing about.
The prince explains that Ruo Xi is able to guess accurately what others think and feel most of the time. That is her strength and has nothing to do with him.
Min Min smiles happily at this explanation though 13th proceeds to confirm that both of them do share a very intimate relationship.
The duke’s daughter asks if 13th likes Ruo Xi. 13th repeats, “Like?” He does not deny it but clarifies that both of them are a pair of rare ‘brothers’ (mates) who share the same aspirations and interests.
Min Min repeats “Good brothers?”
The idea that a man and woman could be kindred souls without being weighed down by the ties of romance seems to baffle Min Min. Instead, I am sure this idea would puzzle most of their compatriots.
13th nods, saying that both of them could wine and dine a whole day and night without feeling restless or bored with each other. That whenever they recovered from their drinking bout, they would immediately start looking forward to their next meeting.
She immediately says she wants to be ‘brothers’ with 13th, saying that she is able to drink well and definitely would not lose out to Ruo Xi’s capacity. She will be able to discuss about anything under the sun. Slowly Min Min adds that she will ‘Gan Da Xiang Zhao’ (be sincere) and will treasure their friendship.
Such innocence. 13th blinks at Min Min and then laughs, agreeing to the friendship. He calls her ‘good brother’ and then toasts her. She grabs the wineskin and says it is her turn. She takes a large gulp and then shyly returns the skin. 13th hefts the vessel and looks amazed, praising her drinking capacity.
Min Min laughs though she goes quiet when 13th claps a hand on her shoulder. He bids her farewell and without thinking much else, walks off. Min Min looks after 13th, her expression is one of wistful longing.
The sun is setting and the Crown Prince returns to camp. He passes two stablehands tending to a horse and stops short, admiring the mount and praises it as a good horse. He decides to test ride but the stablehandsinform him that the horse was gifted to the Emperor (by the Mongolians) and no one else is able to ride it.
Angrily, the Crown Prince wants to know why he is not allowed to ride it. He asks if he, the Crown Prince should not be allowed to ride something that is gifted to his Emperor Father. Da walks up and says, “That’s right. Is there anything the Crown Prince cannot have if it wants it?”
The stablehands explains that they are afraid the Emperor might blame them.
Da chides them, saying they are daring and asks them if they are aware how much the Emperor loves the Crown Prince. He claims that offending the Crown Prince is just like offending the Emperor.
The eldest brother points out that their Emperor Father might even have an intention to present the Imperial horse to the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince says that Da speaks correctly. He says their Emperor Father is unlikely to get angry with him. He declares that regardless, he is determined to ride the horse that day.
The next moment, he is up on the horse and speeding away. Da crosses his arms behind his back and smirks.
Inside the Imperial tent, Ruo Xi offers tea to the Emperor. He accepts it but is in no mood to drink. He passes the cup to Li De Chuan. The head eunuch accepts the cup. While looking at Ruo Xi, Li De Chuan flicks his eyes in Kang Xi’s direction.
Ruo Xi catches the eye gesture and pauses before speaking out. She begs Kang Xi to hear her out, saying the 18th is under the Imperial doctor’s care. She adds that the Heaven helps the good and hopes the Emperor will not overwork himself. It is important to take care of himself, since his body is important.
The Emperor looks at Ruo Xi and perhaps persuaded, retrieves his cup from Li De Chuan once more.
This time it is Ruo Xi who looks at Li De Chuan. She gives the head eunuch a head dip and he responds with a slight head nod, eyes moving back to Kang Xi.
There is a partnership between these two, both earnestly seeking to please and to ease the burden of the Qing Emperor.
Da rushes in, telling his Emperor Father that the Crown Prince has committed a grave error. Kang Xi slams the lid down on his tea cup.
The Crown Prince falls on his knees, in front of the seated Emperor and the Mongolian duke Su (pinyin: Su Wan Gua Er Jia Wang Ye), father of Min Min. The Emperor scolds the Crown Prince, saying that riding the duke’s gifted horse shows the duke and his clan disrespect. He says if he does not severely punish the heir, he will not be able to calm the duke’s fury.
The duke says he believes that the Crown Prince did not mean to offend him on purpose. Perhaps it is from playfulness.
The Emperor exclaims, “Being playful? 18th is at death’s door and you still have the time to play? Your lack of brotherly concern makes your wrongdoing even more severe!
The Duke declares that he will not pursue the matter further. He also expresses his hope that 18th will recover post haste.
The Emperor replies that the duke might not want to pursue the incident, but he cannot view this lightly. He tells the Crown Prince he will severely punish him. Da looks pleased at the outcome.
This is the first time that the Crown Prince realises that he is not immune from facing consequences for his actions.
Da is in his own tent when the Crown Prince crashes through the door. 4th tells the eldest prince that the Crown Prince is drunk.
The Crown Prince tells 4th that he has no connection with the issue.
Commanding the guards out of the tent, the heir accuses his eldest brother of trying to harm him. He points out that Da provoked him that evening leading to him daring to ride the Imperial horse, incurring their Emperor Father’s wrath.
He tells Da that he is aware of the treachery concealed within his heart. The Crown Prince accuses his brother of being discontented and eyeing his position as heir to the throne.
4th tries to persuade the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince charges on, saying that if Da has the courage, he should admit it.
Da slowly replies that he would not dare to lust after the Crown Prince position. It is their Emperor Father’s decree and who would dare go against it. However he says he is definitely more qualified to be the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince fiercely mutters, “What did you say?”
Da says, “By blood. By seniority. You are born to the Empress but I am the eldest. If you have the qualifications, so do I.”
4th steps up, asking his eldest brother not to rave.
Da replies that he is not speaking nonsense, noting that if it was not because of their Emperor Father’s bias, the Crown Prince could not compare with any of the other princes.
The Crown Prince stares in disbelief while Da carries on, saying that based on ability, intelligence and character, his younger brother is definitely not suitable.
4th cries out, “Da Ge!” His tone urging their eldest brother to be prudent.
Da pushes 4th aside, saying even 4th is more qualified to be the heir!
The Crown Prince snarls that he is born to the Empress. He considers his brothers to be ‘lower’ by bloodline, calling them nothing. He says even if he is deposed as Crown Prince, they would not even be considered as adequate as his replacement.
Da angrily cries out that being deposed is something that is inevitable!
The Crown Prince dashes forward but 4th steps in, holding the heir back and asks him not to overreact.
Da reminds the Crown Prince that Songgotu (Songgotu was the Crown Prince’s mother’s uncle and a prominent official) plotted against their Emperor Father. Songgotu was recalled and disciplined, and it is possible that he might even be executed. He asks the Crown Prince if he believes he could maintain a distance from this incident and avoid being affected by it.
The eldest prince wonders if the Crown Prince had only misappropriated the tribute goods and rode the Imperial mount without permission.
4th twists around, giving Da a hard stare as the eldest prince slowly continues, “What about that disgraceful affair between you and the royal concubine? Did you believe you could hide the truth from our Emperor Father?”
4th immediately tugs at Da’s forearm, saying that this cannot be revealed! That this is a crime with a death penalty.
The Crown Prince blanches.
Da points at the heir, saying that it is the Crown Prince’s crime!
The Crown Prince throws his wine cup into a nearby brazier, face pale with fear and fury. He points at the two princes and says they are both the same, that both wish him dead. That they both want to be the Crown Prince.
4th turns to face the Crown Prince but is speechless.
The heir shakes his finger at them and says, “Fine, fine. Let’s wait and see, wait and see!” He twirls and rushes out of the tent.
Looking satisfied, Da softly murmurs that he will wait and find out how long the heir will maintain his arrogance. He invites 4th to sit and returns to what he was doing before being interrupted.
The Crown Prince heads towards the Imperial tent but is stopped by the guards. He demands an audience with his Emperor Father but is again stopped by the guard, saying that the Emperor had instructed that he was not to be disturbed by anyone.
Worried, he says he understands but tries to sneak past the security perimeter. The guard notices him and tries to prevent the Crown Prince but the heir commands him away with a gesture.
The Emperor is reading documents with Li De Chuan and Ruo Xi waiting on him. Ruo Xi notices a shadow by the window and cries out, “Who! Who goes there!” Alarm is given and the Crown Prince is captured.
Kang Xi is furious, crossing his arm as the Crown Prince is dragged into the Imperial tent. He exclaims loudly at the sight, asking why is it the Crown Prince.
The guard informs the Emperor that he had tried to dissuade the Crown Prince but was pushed away.
The Emperor demands to know why his son was sneaking around his tent and asks what he is up to.
The Crown Prince crunches his face and asks the Emperor if he is really going to cut off their father-son relationship.
The Emperor commands Li De Chuan but is interrupted by the Crown Prince. He cries out, “Emperor Father, please don’t.” He charges forward and kneels, begging his Emperor Father not to depose him, saying that the Emperor had personally raised him to the position. That he was the Crown Prince of the Qing dynasty, and that his Emperor cannot strip his title.
The Emperor commands him to silence. But the Crown Prince ignores the command, repeating that he is the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince the Emperor had personally brought up, the one that had been nurtured to fill the position.
Kang Xi orders him out. This time the Crown Prince runs to his side, pleading for leniency. Filled with rage, the Emperor orders the Crown Prince to be dragged out from his sight.
The Emperor is shaking, speechless with wrath and finally he instructs Li De Chuan that the Crown Prince is not to approach his tent without his permission.
* See Notes for explanation