The plot thickens as we approach a major historic crossroad.
We saw how angry the Emperor was when the Crown Prince bursts into his tent, begging not to be deposed. The hapless heir experiences fear for the first time.
The Emperor had the Crown Prince dragged away, commanding that he not be allowed to approach his tent without his express permission.
As the Emperor shivers with anger, Ruo Xi watches from the sidelines …
… and she recalls that the first impeachment of the Crown Prince happens around this time period.
They are on their way back to the capital when news arrives from the palace, reporting the passing of 18th. Kang Xi drops the report and weeps.
I like this drama mostly because the imperial family is humanized, each with their foibles and their motivation.
All those present in the room, bows down to the Emperor in sympathy.
The Emperor asks everyone to leave. Li De Chuan obeys, waving the others out while he is the only one remaining with the Emperor. Wang Xi closes the door.
Ruo Xi consults with Wang Xi, saying that although the Emperor had asked everyone to leave, she still believes that there should be someone around at night in case he needs anything.
She says Yu Tan and herself will keep watch that night and she tells the other palace maids to rest while Wang Xi gives similiar instructions to the remaining eunuchs.
Wang Xi sees four of the princes, (Da, 3rd, 4th and 13th) walking up and he asks Ruo Xi what should be done. Notice how she is the one Wang Xi asks for advice when Li De Chuan is not around.
This is the level of trust between the three of them, as well as how the trust Li Da Chuan places in Ruo Xi.
He does not feel comfortable allowing the princes stand in attendance outside in the cold night. He says if any one of them falls ill, he cannot carry the burden even if he has ten heads.
Ruo Xi notes that it is impossible to ask for further instructions because the Emperor wanted to be alone. She suggests asking them to return to their own rooms to wait for further instructions. She emphasizes that the night duty eunuchs should remain vigilant and that the princes should be asked on the sly to remain alert, in case the Emperor decides to summon them.
Ruo Xi tells Yu Tan to remain behind while she prepares some restorative tea.
Wang Xi nods and moves towards the prince, telling them that the Emperor has already retired for the night and promised to inform them if there is any news. 13th agrees, saying that their Emperor Father will need them the next day when they leave.
4th gives the departing Ruo Xi a long glance before following her. She pauses, sensing someone behind and turns. She greets 4th and he waves her up.
There is a moment of stiff silence before Ruo Xi asks if he had instructions for her.
4th asks Ruo Xi to find a chance to console his Emperor Father on his behalf as even the powerful Emperor will break his heart because of the death of his son. He says his Emperor Father had previously mentioned that Ruo Xi is more like his daughter and she will be more able to comfort him.
She nods and says she understands. Ruo Xi watches 4th leaves and her expression is one of strained empathy. She fears him and quite aware of 4th.
At least I believe so.
With night comes rain. Kang Xi stands watching the rain and Ruo Xi approaches with the tea she had prepared. She suggests he have some but he rejects it.
She pauses and then softly says that 18th is an adorable and intelligent son, full of filial love and is a good child. The Heavens must have taken pity on him.
The Emperor says that amongst all his sons, 18th is the most intelligent and dexterous. As comely as the Crown Prince, 18th is closest to the Emperor and is considerate of his Emperor Father. He would often write and draw to amuse his Emperor Father, bring him an immeasurable sense of ease and comfort.
Ruo Xi notes that 18th is fortunate to receive the Emperor’s unconditional love and care, and surely the son does not regret it.
The Emperor turns, fully facing Ruo Xi and replies that of all his children, those who are truly close and intimate with him are few and far in between. He says all of them are his children. He personally brought up the Crown Prince. At four, the Crown Prince was able to recite the Four Books and Five Classics.* At eleven, the Crown Prince understood the three languages, Han Mandarin, Manchu and Mongolian. He is as thick as blood with the Emperor.
Kang Xi softly notes that unfortunately as the Crown Prince gradually grew up, he is getting more and more … The Emperor does not complete the sentence, letting a heavy sigh end it.
He continues that the Crown Prince lost his mother rather after birth. He became an orphan. The Emperor lavished much love on the Crown Prince as that is the only thing he could do for the Empress, the Crown Prince’s mother.
The rain stopped and the Crown Prince stalks up to the Imperial resthouse. Wang Xi hastily runs up to greet the Crown Prince. The heir tells Wang Xi that he wants to wait upon his Emperor Father.
Wang Xi tells the Crown Prince that the Emperor has already retired.
The Crown Prince promptly asks for Li De Chuan. Wang Xi says that his teacher is serving the Emperor and is unable to come out to greet the Crown Prince. The heir grows indignant, asking why it is difficult to have Li De Chuan speak with him when his Emperor Father is already resting.
Wang Xi clarifies that he is not trying to stonewall the Crown Prince but that he is afraid that entering would disturb the Emperor.
The Crown Prince pushes Wang Xi aside, forcing his way into the Imperial resthouse only to face the Emperor!
The Emperor yells, “How dare you!” and the Crown Prince falls to the ground.
The next day, the Emperor holds court and angrily says that the Crown Prince did not listen to his reprimands and acted without regard for law and order.
He says that he has protected his heir for more than twenty years but the Crown Prince did not try to correct his actions, acting with growing disdain. In doing so, he disgraced their ancestors’ endeavours and effort.
The princes and court officials present urge the Emperor to reconsider his decision. The Emperor scolds the Crown Prince for disrespecting their forefathers, for disobeying his Imperial teachings, for his perverted profligacy and for his lack of self-restraint.
The Emperor brings up an incident that happened in the 29th year of his reign when he was trying to take control of Galdan Boshugtu Khan. The Emperor fell ill. Longing for his son, the Crown Prince, the Emperor had especially send for the Crown Prince to attend to him. When the Crown Prince arrived, he could feel that the Crown Prince did not bear any filial love towards him.
He then notes that with 18th’s passing, everyone else shared the Emperor’s grief. Only the Crown Prince dod not feel any concern for his Emperor Father. Only him, only the Crown Prince. He angrily points that only the Crown Prince did not show any brotherly concern or love, hurting the Emperor.
The Emperor continues to list the Crown Prince’s wrongdoing, saying that the Crown Prince embezzled from the Imperial Treasury and interfered in the government as well as many other misdeeds to numerous to mention.
Remember the incident when the Crown Prince had brought the tribute ruyi as a gift during 10th’s birthday? That is an example of thoughtless selfish act.
The Emperor had turned a blind eye, hoping that the Crown Prince would turn over a new leaf and correct himself, even up to the present day.
He stamps his foot and says unfortunately the Crown Prince still continues to harbour evil design, even going to the extent of spying on the Emperor!
Kang Xi states that if such a man succeeds to his forefathers’ heritage, he would lay waste to his empire and steal from his people. He declares that he will not allow such a unfilial malevolent reprobate be the next ruler.
He says that when they get back to the Capital, he will present his appeal in the Temple of Heaven and have the Crown Prince deposed!
After that pronouncement, the Emperor loses conscious and falls to the floor.
Everyone rushes forward! The princes call for the Imperial physicians.
The Emperor is on his bed. The attending physician tells him that he was overwrought and that brought on the fainting spell. He will prescribe some sedatives and asks the Emperor to rest well, saying that he will recover. He further urges the Emperor to reduce his stress.
Da kneels and says he is unfilial because he is unable to share his Emperor Father’s burden. Even with the matter where the Crown Prince had caused problems for the kingdom.
Definitely, Da is hinting that he wants to take over the role that the Crown prince had served. However, the Emperor calls 4th forward and totally ignores Da, the eldest prince.
The Emperor instructs 4th to send men to secure the Crown Prince, telling him that 4th should act as he thinks best with everything else.
4th accepts the order and gives 13th a meaningful side glance, which the younger prince acknowledges.
Kang Xi then gives Da a hard stare, one filled with meaning and Da ashamedly looks down. The Emperor sighs, closes his eyes and rests.
13th asks 4th how he will handle the matter of the Crown Prince. 4th says it is not a simple matter.
The younger prince notes that the Crown Prince has only himself to blame and asks 4th if he is going to continue to shield the Crown Prince.
4th quietly rebukes 13th, saying, “13th Di (Brother).”
I find it fascinating that 4th could convey so much with so few words.
13th responds that he is speaking the truth, the Crown Prince has grown beyond arrogance. The heir had been helped and shielded both by their Emperor Father as well as 4th, but the Crown Prince has not changed for the better. he notes that the Emperor is prepared to depose the Crown Prince for his behaviour, imposing stringent punishment on the heir. He asks if 4th will still continue to ward the heir.
4th responds that this impeachment could be an impulsive act by their Emperor Father because of his wrather. He says no one will be able to predict what might come from this incident. 4th tells 13th that they should protect themselves and conduct themselves according to their Emperor Father’s directions and ignore anything else.
13th is exasperated but he obeys.
Back in the palace, Wang Xi is gossiping with the palace tea maids about what he saw outside the Qian Qing Gong (Palace of Heavenly Purity where the Emperor lives) earlier that day.
He says a gaggle of high court officials had gathered outside the Qian Qing Gong to discuss the impeachment incident. Even the usually serious cabinet minister, Minister Wang was so intent on finding out the latest news that he bumped into Minister Feng violently and almost dropped his official hat.
The maids laugh and Wang Xi admits that he laughed as well. Yun Xiang wonder how Minister Wang could have forgotten his whereabouts.
Ruo Xi notes that they might laugh at the Ministers but the Ministers do not find it humourous at all.
Yu Tan asks if it is because the Crown Prince will be unseated. Ruo Xi just smiles without answering.
Wang Xi notes that this is indeed a serious matter. The various court officials are busily trying to find out which prince will become the next Crown Prince in order to ingratiate themselves with the ‘victor’. Wang Xi asks the officials cannot afford to back the wrong horse because that could result in chaos.
Yu Tan says that it is not possible to be without a Crown Prince and asks Ruo Xi who she thinks will be the likely candidate as Crown Prince.
Yun Xiang thinks 8th will be the most likely because he was recently selected to act as the Regent during the Emperor’s absence. She also notes that many of the mandarins and officials are under his influence as well as that 8th has the attributes of a ruler.
Yu Tan disagrees. She thinks that 14th is outstanding, brave and skilled in warfare. She believes 14th is the most likely.
Ruo Xi listens quietly without comment.
Yun Xiang rebuts saying that 13th surely rivals 14th in the battlefield. Then she adds that the eldest prince is still the firstborn. If seniority is the criteria, then Da will be the one selected.
Yu Tan asks Ruo Xi again who she thinks is the most likely prince candidate. Wang Xi stands aside, listening.
Ruo Xi replies that the Emperor has its own thoughts about who would be most appropriate and it is not something that they as servants could guess. She says that regardless of whom is selected, as long as they do what they need to do and serve whoever is selected without gossip, they are taking care of themselves well. She suggests that ‘Not minding other’s business’ is a good way to ensure their own well being.
Li De Chuan enters at this point, praising Ruo Xi’s use of that phrase. They greet the head eunuch. He recommends the others practise what Ruo Xi preaches.
She thanks the head eunuch and says that her only desire is to pass her days without incident. She says that she still needs Li De Chuan’s advice and reminders.
Li De Chuan notes that Ruo Xi has already learnt how to keep her distance and retain a worldly-sense of self preservation and does not require his reminder about how to act.
Ruo Xi points out that in the palace, it is difficult to know day-to-day what might happen and she still needs Li De Chuan to look out for her.
The head eunuch remains silent, making a tiny sound of agreement before turning to ask them to continue with their tasks.
14th comes looking for Ruo Xi and hand delivers a letter from 8th.
He teases Ruo Xi saying that although 8th had said it is just a troublesome random note to deliver, his brother had instructed 14th that it must definitely reach Ruo Xi’s. Not only delivered to Ruo Xi, but into her hands only.
There is a tiny smile on her lips and 14th adds that he thinks in 8th’s heart, Ruo Xi is as important as any national matter. He gives a tiny laugh and departs.
Ruo Xi holds the letter and her smile widens before hurriedly she enters her room. The letter contains verses of a romantic turn.
I will translate it if there is anyone truly interested but suffice to say, imagine what a red-blooded gentleman will say to a lady of that day and age.
Ruo Xi blushes, hands cupping her hot cheeks. She skims it again and after a while, holds it close against herself, smiling happily to herself.
Over the next few days, the Emperor is in study when Ruo Xi enter with hot tea to exchange for his cold.
He tosses the document he is reading, and one stack falls onto the ground. Ruo Xi bends to pick them up and the Emperor knocks another pile in the opposite direction.
Li De Chuan looks perplexed but as the Emperor walks away, the eunuch beckons to Ruo Xi to help him retrieve the petitions.
The Emperor orders them not to tidy the documents. Li De Chuan steps forward in an enquiring manner and addresses the Emperor by his title.
Kang Xi is angry because many of the petitions submitted request that the Emperor revoke the impeachment of the Crown Prince. He says he does not need to read them at all.
Li De Chuan quietly motions to Ruo Xi, and both bend to pick up the scattered papers.
Wang Xi hurriedly enters and informs the Emperor that the 3rd prince is asking for an audience. He gives permission for 3rd to enter.
The head eunuch asks Ruo Xi to bring tea for the new arrival. As she prepares the tea, she considers what news 3rd might bring.
In the study, the Emperor asks incredulously if all the Crown Prince’s misdeeds and arrogance are a result of Da’s secret planning. Ruo Xi enters at this point, in time to hear the Emperor asks if there is evidence of this.
The 3rd prince says he found out through Da’s eunuchs that the eldest prince had invited several lamas (Tibetan Buddhist priests) to conduct secret services invoking harm on the deposed Crown Prince and making the 2nd prince a lunatic.
Please note that 2nd refers to the former Crown Prince, now renamed 2nd because he was impeached.
The Emperor demanded to know why 3rd had not come forward earlier with this information.
3rd explains that it was only on his return that he discovered hints of foul play. He had not expected Da to covet the Crown Prince position. He did not place any credence on the information that Da had secret meetings with lamas. It was only after the Crown Prince lost his senses and when he got confirmation from the eunuch’s from Da’s residence did 3rd dare to come forward to report the matter.
The Emperor steps forward, saying if there is any word of falsehood, he will not treat the matter lightly.
3rd kneels, saying that if there is any dishonesty in what he has brought forward, he is willing to accept any punishment his Emperor Father will mete out.
Irate, the Emperor commands that Da’s residence be searched!
Da and his family are in the courtyard while the Imperial guards thoroughly ransack his residence. They found a doll with the Crown Prince’s name as well as details of his horoscope pinned to the doll’s costume.
The Emperor throws the doll at Da who kneels in front of him. He asks what it is. Kang Xi says that the doll was found at Da’s residence, with the Crown Prince’s horoscope attached to it and asks Da for an explanation.
Da says he was temporarily blinded by a lust for power and committed such a traitorous deed. He says he knows he is wrong and begs his Emperor Father for forgiveness.
The Emperor says that as the eldest, it should be his duty to set an example. Yet because of power and the throne, he cruelly and unscrupulously used despicable methods to gain what he desires. Methods that would hurt family bonds.
He says that if he is lenient with Da, then it is mocking himself as the head of the family and the nation’s ruler. He commands Da be stripped of all his titles and court duties, demoted to a civilian and forever imprisoned in his residence.
Da begs for mercy but the Emperor commands that the eldest prince be dragged out. The guards grab the prince and he is gone.
3rd speaks up for 2nd, asking for clemency and the reinstatement of the Crown Prince since the 2nd prince was framed by Da.
The Emperor keeps quiet for a moment, the expressions of the other princes are inscrutable though 10th looks vaguely interested. Then Kang Xi claims he is tired and dismisses his sons.
The Emperor asks Li De Chuan to summon Li Kuan Di to see him.
Yu Tan enters the tea room and reports to Ruo Xi that the Emperor has exposed the plot against the Crown Prince’s loss of morality. That is was Da who is responsible by means of black magic.
Ruo Xi replies that rumours are flying around the palace and it is not possible for her to not know about it. She continues to make tea.
Yu Tan creases her brow and is surprised that a person can go insane through black magic. She is scared by this news.
Ruo Xi snorts and asks how could the Emperor be so foolish and believe that black magic could influence a person. Absently, she adds that the Emperor is only looking for a reason to forgive 2nd and in future restore him as Crown Prince.
Yu Tan asks in surprise that Ruo Xi believes the Crown Prince will be reinstated.
Ruo Xi realises her mistake and laughs it off as a wild guess on her part. She asks Yu Tan not to treat it as the truth and instead try out her new tea.
Yu Tan is still mulling over Ruo Xi’s words, saying that the Emperor had summoned Li Kuan Di, the Minister Li.
Ruo Xi asks, “Minister Li?” Yu Tan then says that it seems to be concerning about replacement of the Crown Prince. She adds that Minister Li suggested 8th be installed as the Crown Prince.
Yu Tan picks up her tea and then stares down as Ruo Xi’s own cup overflows as she considers Yu Tan’s words. The tea maid calls out Ruo Xi’s name and she shakes herself back to the present, asking Yu Tan about the taste of the tea.
Yu Tan smiles and says the new tea is very fragrant, Ruo Xi smiles and tastes it herself.
Lying in bed, Ruo Xi considers the day’s events. She knows that the Emperor wants to bring 2nd back as the Crown Prince, yet Minister Li proposed 8th instead. She fears this will alert the Emperor as to 8th’s intention to compete for the throne. She knows this will be disadvantageous to 8th.
She suddenly sits up in bed and tells herself that she cannot allow 8th to be trapped in such a situation. She wants to warn him not to make take any unnecessary risks. Ruo Xi starts a letter.
After reading her finished letter, she has second thoughts. Ruo Xi believes the letter could alert 8th, but history is history. Nothing she does could affect history. She folds her letter into a plane.
As she stares at her own letter, she tells herself that history cannot be changed by anyone and Ruo Xi throws the paper plane away from her.
The plane arrows across the room, dropping at the foot of a column.
Ruo Xi flops onto the table and is disheartened.
Some time later, Ruo Xi serves the Emperor tea and he appears to be deeply troubled, staring into blank space while holding a book he does not read. He sighs to himself just before Wang Xi announces that 2nd has arrived and is outside the hall, waiting to be summoned.
The Emperor orders 2nd to be brought into the his personal room.
2nd enters tentatively, looking uncertain of himself before he kneels in front of his Emperor Father.
The Emperor gestures to Li De Chuan who immediately commands all the servants to leave. The head eunuch asks Ruo Xi to remain, standing guard outside the external door.
2nd walks forward on his knees, saying he knows he is wrong.
Ruo Xi hears his pleas and as she leaves, Ruo Xi thinks to herself that even the most perceptive of ruler is also a father. She observes that the Emperor has a soft heart and forgiving 2nd is only a matter of time.
The next day, as the Emperor looks out onto the garden, the head eunuch informs the Emperor that Ruo Xi has prepared some tea refreshments for him.
He agrees to have some.
Ruo Xi tells the Emperor that she had prepared the snacks using the lotus he had admired during summer. She had dried the pistils of the lotus and then rolled it until it’s powdered before making the snacks. She asks the Emperor to try it.
As he takes a bite, the head eunuch and Ruo Xi glances at each other. Li De Chuan shakes his head when the Emperor puts the pastry back onto the plate, silently sending it away.
Tea is offered instead. The Emperor sips at his cup, and then frowns, asking what else has been added to the tea. He could taste a tinge of bitterness in the fragrance of the tea.
Ruo Xi bows but Li De Chuan interrupts with an explanation. He tells Kang Xi that Ruo Xi had asked him if she could use ginkgo biloba leaves to brew the Emperor’s tea. He had asked Ruo Xi why she would want to do this and Ruo Xi had replied that she noticed the Emperor had been coughing and seemed to have a sore throat.
The head eunuch says that it is a minor ailment and that the Emperor had not seemed to notice it. Ruo Xi suggested brewing tea with the ginkgo biloba leaves as it is a simple remedy and would be effective. He also said he had consulted with the Imperial physician Wang who had said it is a good idea. That is why Li De Chuan allowed the ginkgo biloba leaves to be served in that manner.
The Emperor examines Ruo Xi’s face before he slowly says, “Ruo Xi, you are thorough. You are able to treat me with such care. With your own parents, I am sure you would give them even more care and concern. Your father and mother to have such a daughter, is indeed their great fortune.”
He says that with great envy.
I believe Ruo Xi had her own motivation to treat the Emperor well, after he is the one who holds her fate in his hand.
Meanwhile, back in 8th’s study, the princes are discussing about the Crown Prince position.
14th states that after Da had admitted to framing 2nd, even more court officials had submitted petitions to reinstate the former Crown Prince.
10th says that since their Emperor Father seems to be ignoring those petitions, clearly he has no intention to reinstall the previous Crown Prince.
8th asks if their Emperor Father had personally said this. 10th shakes his head and replies that it is his own guess.
8th then says that no one is able to guess their Emperor Father’s intentions, noting that second guessing him could result in them making the wrong decisions.
9th enters, calling for 8th. He tells 8th that he received news that their Emperor Father had summoned 2nd and saw him alone.
14th asks what they discussed, if there was any mention about an reinstatement.
9th replies that he does not know. The only certainty was that both their Emperor Father and 2nd had a closed door discussion. After the meeting, 2nd was returned to his residence for confinement.
10th stands up, saying that this meeting looks like their Emperor Father is going to rescind the impeachment. He adds that they need to submit a petition to stop this from happening.
8th urges 10th to remain calm.
10th notes that they are so close and waiting further, could mean a lost opportunity. 9th agrees with 10th.
8th paces the room, saying that if their Emperor Father does intend to reinstate 2nd, then there should have been some news of this. There is not.
14th clarifies with 8th, asking if 8th means that the lack of this news is because their Emperor Father is still considering what he wants to do.
9th impatiently pushes 14th aside and tells 8th that waiting means voluntarily giving the Crown Prince position to someone else. 10th agrees.
14th replies that what 8th’s intention is to cover all the bases by controlling their Emperor Father. However, they cannot present the options by themselves.
8th asks them to go to court and find out which of the court officials are discontented with 2nd. They should add fuel to the fire by encouraging these officials to oppose reinstating 2nd. This will pressurize their Emperor Father and give more time for them to prepare.
Meanwhile 4th is writing calligraphy while 13th sits by his side, drinking in exasperation while watching his elder brother. He finishes the wine and orders more to be brought.
4th looks up and comments that if 13th will drink him out of his residence if the younger prince continues to drink in this manner.
13th asks what else is he to do. 4th would neither allow him to go to the palace nor allow him to pick up information. He declares drinking is the only activity left to him.
4th replies that this is for 13th’s own good. Everyone knows that their Emperor Father had met with 2nd and guesses that the time for his reinstatement is near. There is much rumour and idle gossip. 4th does not want 13th to get involved with any of that, hence his advice.
13th claims that he does not care if 2nd is made Crown Prince again. Before 13th could complete his sentence, 4th replies that he knows 13th is concerned about 4th’s welfare. He asks 13th to relax.
One of his servants announces that a court official, Wang Dong Hai is asking for an audience.
4th considers for a while and instructs the servant to tell Minister Wang that he had caught a cold and is recuperating.
As the servant leaves, 13th starts to stop him but turns back to ask 4th if he is aware that Minister Wang is someone who is renowned for understand the pulse of a situation and a smooth operator. Since he is visiting 4th, Minister Wang must have some information.
4th explains that although Minister Wang is able to guess what others think, if he cannot guess what their Emperor Father’s intentions are, that still renders him useless.
On the other hand, if their Emperor Father finds out that Minister Wang has been meeting 4th, he will think that they are forming a conspiracy. This will wreck their larger game plan.
13th paces the floor before throwing up his hands, giving in to 4th and bemoans that they can only sit in the palace and “watch the plants while waiting for the rabbit to turn up”. He declares he will be bored to death.
4th smiles and asks if his brother has not learn the meaning of this word in the years they have know each other. He writes the script for ‘wait’.
Ruo Xi is walking in the snow, considering the events after the Emperor saw his son by himself. 2nd has remained in confinement since then. It is the New Year. Ruo Xi’s single wish for that year is for it to pass peacefully.
Yu Tan looks for Ruo Xi, telling her the eunuchs of the Imperial Kitchen had prepared some food and wine for the New Year and invited the others to join them. She asks Ruo Xi to join in the festivities.
Ruo Xi shakes off the invitation, saying that she will be on duty in a while.
Yu Tan tells Ruo Xi that she will take over her shift because she is afraid that Ruo Xi is feeling lonely. She asks Ruo Xi to join the others.
Ruo Xi smiles and says that she knows Yu Tan is doing this for her own good but she insists that she is fine and asks Yu Tan to go to the celebration.
Yu Tan gives in and reminds Ruo Xi that the air is cold, asking her to return to her room soon.
Both women are close, mutually caring for each other.
Ruo Xi continues to stand in the falling snow, looking up at the sky and wonders aloud, “What are you doing now?”
8th walks in the snow, eyes looking inwards and speaks to himself, “What are you doing?”
Ruo Xi gently smiles before she repeats 8th’s poem softly to herself.
She is still reciting the same poem the next day as she sits in her room, considering the words. Ruo Xi flops onto her desk, quietly wondering why 8th had not send her any letter yet. She looks disturbed when she considers the possibility that 8th might have forgotten about her.
Cupping her face, Ruo Xi muses that she realises that such a day might arrive, and wonders why she is feeling so upset about the thought that 8th might have forgotten about her.
Clearly, Ruo Xi is attracted to 8th and has feelings for him. Feelings that she would not allow herself to acknowledge.
She jumps up, smiling wide when she hears a knock on the door and hurries to open it. To her surprise, the eunuch is someone unknown to her. Hesitantly, Ruo Xi asks who he is.
The eunuch says he is Xiao Shun Zi and is there to ask after Ruo Xi. She asks Xiao Shun Zi to stand after he makes his obeisance. He explains that he seldoms goes to Qiu Qing Gong (where the Emperor lives) which explains why Ruo Xi does not know him.
He checks his surrounding before offering a small silk purse to Ruo Xi. Ruo Xi accepts it as Xiao Shun Zi asks her to look after it well before making his departure.
Excitedly, Ruo Xi closes her door and exclaims softly that he (8th) had really not forgotten her. Opening the bag, she finds an elegant necklace with a double flower pendant. She smells it and is delighted to find that it holds a fragrance. Taking a closer look, Ruo Xi recognises the flowers as magnolias and realises with a shock that it is a gift from 4th!
There is another knock on the door. She hurriedly stuffs the necklace into her sleeve before opening it to a eunuch that she recognises. The eunuch greets her and she fiercely asks why he is late.
The eunuch explains that 8th had given instructions not to delay the delivery of his letter because Ruo Xi had been up late, serving the Emperor. 8th wants Ruo Xi to rest well.
Ruo Xi grabs the letter and the eunuch leaves. She reads the letter which is another little verse. He tells her that he is depressed and wonders when she will return. That because of their relationship, he is teary-eyed. He continues to wonder when they will resume where they left off, and he is bowled over in more sadness.
Ruo Xi repeats one of the phrases that means missing her and asks why he misses her. Puffing her cheeks, she looks baffled and troubled.
Minx. She knows but pretends not to know. Tease, isn’t she?
She is daydreaming in the garden when 8th’s cohort wanders up. 10th calls out, laughingly asking if she is woolgathering. Ruo Xi hurries down the stairs, curtsying as she greets them.
8th gestures her upright as 10th starts to asks what she is thinking of when 9th interjects, saying that he has something to ask her.
9th asks her what their Emperor Father had said to 2nd. Ruo Xi starts to answer but 8th cuts her off and asks her to return. 8th repeats it again when she stands still.
14th tells 8th that there is nothing wrong in asking Ruo Xi. Since Li De Chuan and Ruo Xi were the only other two present during this incident, who else could they ask for information.
8th asks 14th that if he has considered what the consequences would be for the personal servants of Emperor who leak information about their Emperor Father’s private discussions.
9th and 14th looks disgruntled while 10th anxiously urges Ruo Xi to leave and do her duties. 9th firmly indicates that since they are only a few present and if she and them do not reveal that she had leaked the information, who else would know of this matter.
Ruo Xi hastily replies that she was only on duty outside the Imperial study. That the Emperor and 2nd were both inside the hall and she did not hear a word.
9th snorts in derision, saying so this is the person who 8th had spend so much time and pain for. He starts to say that even if he reared a dog …
8th interjects harshly, “9th Di! No one else is allowed to gather information from her. Regarding anything that is related to their Emperor Father!” 8th keeps his gaze on 9th and the younger prince grudgingly nods before stalking off together with the equally furious 14th.
8th starts to leave with 10th trailing behind when Ruo Xi calls out. She asks 10th to leave with 9th.
10th is upset and asks why Ruo Xi is shoving him away.
Ruo Xi replies that it is for 10th’s own good and begs him to go away.
10th is probably the only one in this clique who does not know 8th has romantic feelings for Ruo Xi.
10th glances at 8th and then heaves a sigh before leaving as well.
8th tells Ruo Xi that he does not want to hear anything and asks her to return
Ruo Xi replies that even if she wants to spill the beans, she really does not know what to say because she really did not hear anything that day.
8th smiles sweetly and replies that is well because she is able to stay apart from the upcoming turbulence.
Ruo Xi visibly hesitates before she softly adds that the Emperor really still loves 2nd. She asks 8th to remember this regardless of whatever decisions he makes.
I pointed at 8th at this point and said, “Big hint, bobblehead! Pay attention!” Of course, men don’t really listen to what women say, do they?
8th replies that he knows his limits and asks her not to be overanxious.
Ruo Xi does not add anything further and takes her leave. Her expression hints at her inner conflict but finally she chooses to leave without speaking further. She continues to look troubled.
Yu Tan meets Ruo Xi in front of her room and comments that Ruo Xi looks tired. Ruo Xi assures the other palace maid that she is fine. Yu Tan promptly presents Ruo Xi with one of her favourite fermented glutinous rice balls.
Ruo Xi smiles and they both enter her room. Peeking into the basket, Ruo Xi notes that there are sesame balls inside.
Yu Tan hastily examines the basket and sighs, scolding the absent eunuch, Xiao An. She says she had asked for fermented rice balls but he had prepared sesame rice balls instead. Annoyed, Yu Tan says she has to speak with him about this.
Ruo Xi asks Yu Tan not to pursue the matter but Yu Tan replies that she has to scold Xiao An because he frequently makes decisions according to his own wishes. Yu Tan says that if she does not correct him, he will end up in hot water someday.
Ruo Xi points out that despite Yu Tan’s good intentions in correcting him, Xiao An will continue to act as he likes. She asks Yu Tan if what she is doing is an unnecessary action.
Yu Tan replies that she needs to remind the eunuch. This is because if someday he does indeed get into trouble and is punished or even send out from the palace, she will be upset and even blame herself. Yu Tan tells Ruo Xi that she’d be back as soon as she can.
Ruo Xi reflects on what Yu Tan says and then hurries to retrieve the folded letter she had written to 8th a while back. She nods slowly, saying, “That is wrong. Although history is history if she does not try her best to stop something bad from happening to 8th, she will definitely regret it.
This episode concentrates on the princes, detailing the uncertainty each of them live under Kang Xi as well as the behind-the-scence political shenanigans they adopt to gain power. It also highlights how much trouble 8th is willing to go through to protect Ruo Xi. Even against his staunch supporters like 9th and 14th.
* See Notes for explanation