Watch 8th and Ruo Xi’s romance continue to flower against the Crown Prince’s all-out attempt to catch his brother in a rebellious act!
The episode reopens with the tender scene when Ruo Xi tends to 8th’s wound. The prince is madly in love and definitely amused by the shy woman sitting beside him. The scene also shows 8th’s powerful intuition and intellect as well as his deep understanding of the politics in the world he lives. It reveals his self confidence and his confusion about why Ruo Xi keeps her distance even though he is in her heart.
I will continue where I stopped in the Episode 12 recap.
8th tests his tea and expresses his desire that the water be boiling hot. He apologises to his servant, Bao Zhu for what he is about to ask the young man to do.
The young servant kneels and asks for 8th’s instructions. 8th wants Bao Zhu to pour the boiling tea against his left arm after the Crown Prince enters his quarters. 8th emphasizes to Bao Zhu that he must make sure that he scalds 8th as naturally as possible.
Li Fu looks worried while Bao Zhu trembles. The prince tells the younger servant that he must give a polished performance. Bao Zhu bows and says he understands. 8th dismisses Bao Zhu and for a moment, Li Fu looks as if he wants to dissuade 8th but takes his leave instead.
The prince gently asks Ruo Xi to return to her own quarters. Ruo Xi examines his face and reluctantly departs. 8th looks stern and implacable as he waits for what is to come.
To achieve his goal, 8th is willing to hurt himself to ensure success.
Ruo Xi encounters the Crown Prince at the entrance. She greets him and he gives her permission to stand. He finds it interesting to see Ruo Xi at 8th’s tent. The Crown Prince ahs and comments ironically that of course she would be since her sister is 8th’s Ce Fujin. That Ruo Xi would naturally be close to the 8th prince.
The palace maid calmly replies that she had stayed at the 8th residence for more than a year before she entered the palace. She knows that 8th has a good ointment for injuries and says she had visited to ask for some. She presents her palms.
The Crown Prince exclaims and asks what happened to her hands. She explains that she was careless and had rope burns from the reins during that afternoon’s ride. The prince seems slightly mollified and offers to send over some of his own medical ointment for her use. Ruo Xi thanks him for his gracious gift.
The prince casually asks how long Ruo Xi had been with 8th. She answers that since she had a long conversation with 8th, it is a while. The Crown Prince thoughtfully nods and 8th walks up at this moment.
8th kneels to greet his elder brother and the Crown Prince waves him up. The elder prince claims to be bored and that he dropped by to visit 8th. The younger brother smiles and offers his hospitality.
8th nods at Ruo Xi and turns to follow the elder prince. She hesitates and when she sees Bao Zhu with the tea tray, Ruo Xi is unable to leave. She walks down the path beside 8th’s tent and secretly eavesdrop.
She hears the shattering of a tea cup and 8th’s cry of pain. Bao Zhu kneels, bowing frantically and asks for mercy while the Crown Prince stands up. 8th sits as Li Fu tends to his arm.
The Crown Prince angrily scolds Bao Zhu and calls for guards to punish the young servant. Ruo Xi ducks as the uniformed men hurry into the tent and drags out Bao Zhu for a heavy beating.
In the commotion, Ruo Xi remains unnoticed and she is upset by both the beating and 8th’s new injury. She hurries away as the imperial physician is summoned to examine 8th.
8th’s is swollen and he grimaces after a quick glance in the Crown Prince’s direction.
As the physician treats 8th, the elder prince comments that Ruo Xi had just dropped by to ask for an ointment for her hands and his younger brother immediately gets burnt. He notes the coincidence.
8th scolds Ruo Xi and tells his brother, “This child has been rash since childhood. She has even influenced my staff and led them astray.” He apologizes for worrying the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince grunts but he is still suspicious. He rifles through 8th’s books and turns when his younger brother comes out from his screened bed. He notes that 8th still likes to read books.
8th replies that he decided to read because he had time that evening and that he had finished half the book before he realised how much time had passed. The Crown Prince nods.
He takes his book from the Crown Prince’s hand and gives it to Li Fu. 8th makes a sound. He remarks that he had heard a commotion earlier about a Mongolian thief and asks if the Crown Prince had managed to capture the criminal.
The elder prince answers that this matter really upset him. There are so many guards yet they are not able to find one single thief. 8th just smiles. The Crown Prince dismisses the matter and urges 8th to rest since he is injured. he takes his leave.
8th starts to kneel but the Crown Prince dismisses the formality and departs.
Li Fu comments that the Crown Prince still suspects 8th and wonders if the elder prince will report the incident to the Emperor. 8th replies that since the Crown Prince had shot in the dark, he is unable to guess who he had hit and tells Li Fu not to worry. Without a prisoner to confirm his suspicion, he cannot prove that the Mongolian is indeed 14th. If he alarms their Emperor Father without good reason, it will not be beneficial to the Crown Prince.
8th walks hand-in-hand with Ruo Xi. They smile at each other when suddenly the prince cries out in warning at the sound of a hiss. He pushes Ruo Xi away and an arrow plunges into his body!
8th falls lifelessly onto the ground and Ruo Xi wakes up from her nightmare.
She lies in bed, panting before sitting up. Yu Tang hurries over and asks what the matter is. Ruo Xi answers that she had a nightmare. Her friend offers to sleep with Ruo Xi but she smilingly rejects the offer and asks Yu Tang to go rest as well.
Ruo Xi remains seated and replays the past. Of 8th holding her when she tripped in the winter snow. Of 8th slipping the bangle over her hand. Of 8th’s warm arm around her waist after he rescued her from the horse. Of when 8th realises that he is in her heart. His expression of joy when he saw the confirmation in her eyes.
She walks over to the fire and is pensive. Ruo Xi reflects on herself. She believed she could stay away from trouble. She believed she could not be so silly as to fall in love when she knows full well 8th’s future. Yet she did.
With the slow passage of time, just like the bangle around her wrist, 8th’s presence shadows her so closely and has become a part of her life.
Ruo Xi stares at the hot coals until sunrise. She looks at the golden glow against her tent wall and softly murmurs, “Whether history can be changed. It depends on you, Maertai Ruo Xi.” She has made a decision.
The Crown Prince reports 8th’s accident to Kang Xi. He claims that 20 strokes is too light for injuring a prince. The Emperor asks after 8th. 8th replies that his burn is not as bad as the Crown Prince had painted. the Emperor excuses 8th from accompanying him and dismisses 8th to rest.
Ruo Xi enters as 8th leaves. 8th smiles at her in passing.
She serves tea as Kangxi asks for a report about the previous evening’s thief. He asks what had been taken. The Crown Prince replies in the negative, claiming that the thief was discovered in time and that nothing was missing. The Emperor notes that the Mongolians were unhappy. The Crown Prince had claimed the thief was dressed as a Mongolian yet he had not found any trace of this criminal around and within the encampment.
The Crown Prince apologises for his rashness and begs for forgiveness in not giving thought to how this would affect his Emperor Father. Kangxi tells his second son that he has to be careful about how he acts in the future.
Ruo Xi pours wine and offers a cup to 8th.
The prince seems puzzled by Ruo Xi but gladly accepts the drink when she teases him. They toast each other and she thinks to herself that it is worthwhile. At least 8th looks so happy right now.
She offers to get him a book but 8th grabs her hand, telling Ruo Xi that all he wants is her company.
Ruo Xi replies that she will be on duty and has to prepare Kangxi’s snacks. She also says she wants to look in on 14th.
8th looks disappointed and Ruo Xi gives in, saying just for a little while.
8th brightens and he says he had often dreamed of Ruo Xi accompanying him willingly just like at that moment for a long time. He lifts her hand and kisses it gently. They share a quiet moment until Ruo Xi claims she really has to leave.
He laughs and says if he continues to keep her, she will not come and visit him another time. He allows her to depart but tells her not to visit 14th. 14th is safe in Min Min’s tent and it will be safer to visit when the Crown Prince lets down his guard in a few days.
Ruo Xi points out that if they have finished their discussion, it would be safest to allow 14th to go back to the capital. 8th rebutts that although they have almost completed their planning since the Crown Prince has not managed to capture anyone, the heir will remain alert. The Crown Prince knows 14th has to return to the palace and will post sentries along the way. He would prefer to outwait the Crown Prince’s suspicion is allayed before sending 14th back. That would be a better plan.
She smiles in agreement. Ruo Xi turns to leave and 8th calls out that he will wait for her that night. She hesitates before turning back and gives him another smile.
8th’s servers greet her as Ruo Xi walks away from 8th’s tent. She thinks to herself. “Let me love him to the best of my ability. And let him return his love wholeheartedly.”
She prepares herself for her date with 8th. Soaking in a hot bath perfumed with flower petals, she examines her bangle with deep attention. Ruo Xi looks her happiest at that moment. She laughs and then sinks down into the water.
Ruo Xi takes great care with her hair and clothes, preening before okaying her own appearance.
Min Min pesters 14th to tell her more about Ruo Xi and himself. She points out that there must be more than just them growing up together when they were young and them being bosom friends. 14th protests that he had already told her everything he could about Ruo Xi and himself. Even tales he should not tell her.
She does not believe him and tells him that she will ask Ruo Xi personally when the palace maid comes. He gives in and sits down. Min Min declares he should wash up before Ruo Xi’s visit and orders water to be brought in.
14th protests again but Min Min insists, claiming that if Ruo Xi sees him in such a disreputable state, the older woman will blame her for not taking care of him well. The prince sits down in disgust.
Min Min’s maid brings a basin over and 14th declines help, saying he will wash up by himself. He dabs at his face and Min Min trundles over curiously. She asks if that is how he washes his face. 14th claims that he recently developed some skin problems and that a gentle wash is all his skin can take.
Min Min immediately wants to see what his problem is. 14th stands up quickly, evading her reach and the young woman chases the prince around her tent.
14th is flustered when he realises part of his fake mustache had pulled free and hastily covers with the washcloth. Min Min’s maid reports that Ruo Xi had send her regrets about her visit and that she will come over to Min Min at a later day.
The prince frantically fixes his disguise as Min Min dismisses her maid. Min Min wonders what keeps Ruo Xi busy all day long. 14th points out that Ruo Xi might be tired after serving the Emperor. Min Min thinks for a moment and then shrugs, demanding that 14th tells her more stories about them. 14th agrees amicably but his expression contradicts his agreement.
It almost looks like he is cussing Ruo Xi. He is definitely regretting where he is hiding.
8th is playing weiqi when Ruo Xi visits. He reaches for her hand as she sits, he compliments her, saying he is glad that he is the one she has made all the effort to dress up for.
She smiles and then notes he should rest more instead of playing while his arm is recovering. He replies that he is using his fingers and that it does not affect him at all. He adds that being a scalding is not a serious injury.
Ruo Xi asks after Bao Zhu. 8th replies that the young man had received several strokes but it is nothing that he cannot withstand. She smiles again and then offers to read to 8th.
The prince agrees and as she turns to pull out a book, 8th calls out her name and asks when she had changed her mind and started to accept him.
Ruo Xi turns back and tells him that that is not important. What is important is that she has made her decision. He smiles and nods. She asks what he would like to hear. He replies, “Anything.”
They spend an evening together, cuddling while Ruo Xi reads to the prince.
Kangxi laughs and says Min Min truly speaks her mind. Her father demurs and says the Emperor is teasing him, He admits that he had spoiled his daughter since she was young. He declares that Min Min only knows how to read and write ‘manners’ but it is not something she knows how to practice.
Kangxi replies that that is how a Mongolian woman should act. He claims that it is his son, the Crown Prince, who does not know his place and pursued the thief right into the duke’s camp.
The Crown Prince stands up and says he was worried about his father and the duke’s safety when he discovered the thief. In his haste to capture the culprit, he admits being rash and asks for the duke’s understanding and pardon.
The duke laughs and declares that the Emperor’s safety is indeed important and that no clues should be left uninvestigated. The Emperor contradicts the duke and replies that attention to manners should still have been paid. He urges his son to remember the lesson from the incident.
The Crown Prince bows and acknowledges his father’s comment.
Min Min makes eyes at Ruo Xi and the palace maid silently responds to Min Min’s signals.
That evening, Min Min grins in anticipation when she spots Ruo Xi and signals to 14th. The prince smiles but seems rather sheepish as Min Min drops the cover of her door. 14th clears his throat.
As Ruo Xi enters, Min Min starts to clap and 14th sings! Ruo Xi is baffled while Min Min grins happily at her friend. She declares that she treats Ruo Xi well as she had persuaded 14th to sing to regain her dignity.
Min Min found out from 14th that he fell in love with Ruo Xi after Ruo Xi sang him a song.
Ruo Xi just smiles while 14th asks for some privacy. Min Min teases them for not being able to wait another moment. She laughs and leaves them alone.
14th thanks Ruo Xi. She says expressing gratitude would make diminish their years of friendship. She adds that even without her help, there are others who would ensure his safety. She just happened to be there at the right time.
14th smiles and then asks after his brother, about his scalding. She tells him that 8th wants to meet him at the woods east of the Mongolian camp. He acknowledges her instruction. Ruo Xi asks him to be careful.
He grabs his cape and gives Min Min a nods as he walks away. Min Min is curious and runs in to ask Ruo Xi why 14th is leaving. Ruo Xi tells Min Min that 14th has to leave in a couple of days and he is going to bid farewell to his good friends as well as thanking them for taking good care of her.
Min Min grabs Ruo Xi’s hands and asks her to teach her to sing opera. She asks if 13th enjoys opera. Ruo Xi replies that 13th does and that he appreciates music. He is especially proficient in the zither and the flute and for a reputation for this among the various nobility and princes.
Min Min wistfully wishes that she could hear 13th’s perform and then turns to asks what kind of songs and music 13th enjoys playing and who he plays for. Ruo Xi admits that she has not heard 13th’s playing either.
The younger woman is disappointed.
Ruo Xi tells Min Min that if 13th and Min Min are both at next year’s Northern Inspection, she will find a way to make sure 13th plays a song for Min Min.
Min Min asks if Ruo Xi would really do this for her. Ruo Xi nods. Min Min tilts her head and asks if Ruo Xi is really that close to 13th.
Ruo Xi nods, saying that they’ve grown up together and they are just like blood siblings. Min Min envies their closeness. Ruo Xi promises that 13th will play a tune for Min Min.
The Mongolian noblewoman sighs and wishes she could hear 13th’s playing just like his wives could.
Ruo Xi asks Min Min if she was willing to share a man with other woman. Min Min answers that it has always been tradition that men of ability would have wives and concubines. She cannot imagine a man with just one wife.
Ruo Xi tells Min Min that it should be like that. The alternative is unfair to everyone. Min Min asks if Ruo Xi disapproves of her wanting to be with 13th. The palace maid denies that it is what she means. Ruo Xi feels that when she wholeheartedly loves someone, she hopes that her love would reciprocate by wholeheartedly loving just her alone.
Min Min rejects the idea, saying that as long as two people are in love with each other and are able to be together, anything else is unimportant.
Ruo Xi appears stunned by Min Min’s guileless point of view.
The two brothers meet.
14th expresses concern for 8th’s scalding. The older brother indicates that the pain was required to allay the Crown Prince’s suspicion. Compared to the risk 14th is taking with his life, 8th says his own injury is trival. 8th thanks 14th but the younger prince rejects his gratitude, saying they are intimates and brothers.
8th replies that thanks to 14th, the Crown Prince was reprimanded by their Emperor Father and had given up on the investigation. He urges 14th to return swiftly to the capital before his absense is discovered by those in the palace.
14th sighs in relief, saying that it was a chore accompanying Min Min. He twirls and asks if 8th had any plans about countering 4th’s cabinet shuffle. 8th indicates that he understands 4th’s thoughts and that he has his own ideas about what to do. 8th tells 14th he can return home without any worries.
8th says he cannot remain outside for much longer and urges 14th to return to Min Min’s tent so that she would not suspect anything is amiss.
As 8th turns, 14th examines his brother’s face and he suddenly grins and goes after the older prince. He remarks that both Ruo Xi and himself are acting as lovers. However according to Min Min, Ruo Xi is acting like a woman in love.
Obliquely, 8th admits their relationship and tells 14th that he can start addressing Ruo Xi as ‘sister-in-law’. 14th congratulates 8th and 8th smiles before urging 14th to go back.
Impishly when Ruo Xi meets 14th outside Min Min’s tent, he bows and greets her as his sister-in-law. Ruo Xi jumps and demands to know what 14th is doing. 14th answers that from now on it should be him asking after Ruo Xi instead of the other way around. 14th seems glad that 8th has finally fulfilled his dream.
Ruo Xi avoids the topic and asks when 14th is leaving. He says, “Tomorrow night. I can finally remove my beard and moustache and return to my normal handsome self.”
I wonder if there is some stiffness in his reaction to Ruo Xi after he discovers that 8th and Ruo Xi are together. Perhaps it is just my wishful thinking that Ruo Xi has already captured some part of this hulking prince’s heart.
Ruo Xi leans in and softly says that if he wants to be handsome, he should wait until he returns to the capital. She also warns 14th not to make up any more unreliable stories to coax Min Min as she might not be able to cover up his lies. Ruo Xi exclaims that Min Min has even demanded to learn opera from her.
14th asks if ‘the Intrepid 13th sister’ is afraid of such a small matter. Ruo Xi grimaces at the tease and lunges forward, making a grab at his beard. 14th steps back and says his ‘sister-in-law’ should show him mercy. He laughs and walks away.
Ruo Xi watches the mischievous 14th depart and she grows sad. She thought that knowing history would allow her to safeguard herself but without any intention, she is slowly pulled deep into heart of the conflict. Inch by inch. Step by step.
She huffs and turns away.
The moon is bright overhead when 14th gets ready to leave. Min Min wonders who they are waiting for and Ruo Xi urges patience. 8th approaches and Min Min hastily tries to drag 14th away. Both Ruo Xi and 14th stops her and the palace maid tells Min Min that 8th knows about their relationship.
14th greets 8th by his formal title. Min Min remarks that 14th is certainly privileged as he is being sent off by 8th and herself. 14th laughs and demurs.
Min Min tells 14th that if he really wants Ruo Xi, he should think of a way to ask for Ruo Xi’s hand in marriage.
14th glances at 8th whose expression is a cypher while Min Min adds that Ruo Xi’s heavy heart makes even her worried about her friend. 8th is quiet.
The younger prince smiles and then thanks Min Min again, saying he will remember her kindness with gratitude. He takes his leave. 8th nods and Ruo Xi smiles again.
As 14th rides off, Ruo Xi grips Min Min’s hand and ask if Min Min would forgive her if Ruo Xi wrongs the Mongolian noblewoman. If Min Min could continue to treat Ruo Xi the same way as she is treating her now.
Min Min thinks for a while and frankly answers she does not know. It will depend on what Ruo Xi does to wrong her. She asks what Ruo Xi could possibly do and wrong her. Ruo Xi smiles and shakes her head, saying she suddenly asks Min Min because of the Mongolian’s status. She adds that she is afraid she might offend Min Min and is begging for a safety token just in case.
Min Min impatiently interrupts Ruo Xi, saying that the other woman is uttering rubbish and that she is disappointed Ruo Xi thinks in this way since Min Min sees Ruo Xi as a friend. She assures Ruo Xi that once a plainswoman acknowledges a friend, they do not change their minds easily.
Ruo Xi thanks Min Min and the noblewoman takes her leave.
8th steps close and invites Ruo Xi to his tent. She agrees. In his tent, 8th instructs Li Fu that he is not to be disturbed without his permission.
The prince holds Ruo Xi’s hands and tells her that he will ask for his Emperor Father’s permission to bestow Ruo Xi’s hand in marriage once they are back in the capital in September.
She just smiles and does not respond to his intention. Reaching up, she helps 8th with his cloak and asks if his arm is better. 8th replies that a scalding is a minor injury. The physician is taking extra care because he is a imperial prince and is making a mountain out of a molehill. The arrow wound is recovering quickly with the ointment 9th had bought him. He believes it will heal within another month and that horseriding will not be challenging.
He adds that he will teach her how to ride when they return to the palace.
Ruo Xi still just smiles and offers to bring him a book. 8th holds her in place and remarks that before she entered the palace, Ruo Xi was not able to complete a book of Sung prose. Yet behold now, she even has read ‘Bencao Gangmu’ (a huge medical text book). He says that he does not know any other women who enjoys reading as much as Ruo Xi. He adds that fortunately his library has enough books to keep her occupied.
Ruo Xi toys with his cloak ties, explaining that she had so much free time in the palace, she can only read whatever she finds.
8th places his finger under her chin and she lifts her eyes. The prince tells her that he will not allow her to ever have free time with nothing to do. They embrace.
The prince remembers 14th telling him about her poem offering good wishes to 10th and wonders when he would have the privilege of hearing the same from her.
A moment his wistfulness brightens into a wide smile as Ruo Xi recites to him. He holds her within his arms and watches her expression. They slow dance on a dime, his attention captured by Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi murmurs softly that she understands 8th’s thoughts and that they are carved in her heart. There are tears in 8th’s eyes.
She looks into his face and then goes on tip toes to kiss his cheek. 8th half shuts his eyes at the butterfly flutter against his skin before Ruo Xi leaves.
He watches after her, his expression shifting from stunned to surprise to delight before 8th looks down, overwhelmed by his emotions. He looks up again and his pleasure is mixed with something else.
That’s how I interpreted the interplay on 8th’s expression and sticking with it!
Back in the palace, 9th and 10th are admiring the flowers in the garden as 14th greets them. 9th asks if 14th had met 8th. The youngest prince assures them that he did meet 8th and had told their elder brother all he needed to know.
10th asks if 14th saw Ruo Xi. 14th replies he definitely did see Ruo Xi. 10th asks if Ruo Xi is well. 14th answers as well as she possibly can. Ming Yu walks up at that moment as 10th says that he is afraid that Ruo Xi would get into trouble when she gets heated.
14th notices Ming Yu but keeps quiet. Ming Yu grabs 10th’s ear and demands to know what concern it is of 10th if Ruo Xi gets into trouble. 10th pulls away and asks why Ming Yu is interrupting a male conversation. She stomps up and he ducks behind 9th. She asks if he could ask, but she could not listen in. She points out that if 10th should not be afraid if he has nothing to be ashamed of.
14th is amused by the couple’s bickering though 9th impatiently strides off when 10th attempts to use him as a shield. 10th accuses Ming Yu of making 9th angry.
Ming Yu adds that if 10th really misses Ruo Xi so much, it would not be too late to submit a petition to accompany the Emperor at the grassland.
10th stands behind 14th which feigns mock patience. The younger prince sighs as 10th demands to know who is missing whom. He tells his wife she is being nonsensical and walks off. Ming Yu follows her husband and continues to yell at him while 14th chuckles.
4th turns up and hails his blood brother. 14th turns, nodding an acknowledgement. 4th says that he has not seen 14th offering his greeting to their for a while and asks if he went out of the capital.
14th replies that he did indeed leave the capital to relieve his ennui. 4th notes that their Emperor Father will be back soon and advises 14th to bring his mind back from whatever is bothering him. The younger brother presses his lips tightly together as 4th wonders how the Crown Prince and 8th are doing as there had been no news during the months that these two princes had been away.
14th answers that he wonders that as well since their Emperor Father had forbade any personal correspondence. 4th gives 14th a glance and quietly asks 14th to visit their mother when he is free. The older prince then steps away.
4th and 13th are in conference. 4th states that 14th must have seen 8th. 13th comments that it must be regarding the cabinet shuffle. 4th agrees as the shuffle is definitely disadvantageous to 8th. He is sure that 8th will find a way to interfere.
13th points out that 8th had been severely rebuked by their Emperor Father for conspiring with the court officials in the Crown Prince incident. He theorises that 8th will not interfere too much.
4th also notes that the majority of the officials on the promotion list side with the Crown Prince. He and 13th has only recommended Nian Gengyao. 4th believes that given 8th’s personality, 8th will offer them some benefit while do his best to suppress the Crown Prince’s influence.
8th greets his father. Kangxi waves him up and asks how his arm is. 8th thanks his Emperor Father’s concern and says he will be able to ride soon. Kangxi advises that his son rests for a few more days and not to force the recovery.
The Emperor continues his reading but 8th continues to speak. He says that when he was being examined by the Imperial Physician, he had bemoaned the lack of water from ‘medicinal springs’ as that is best for burns.
Kangxi stands up and asks if 8th is referring to the spring in Xi Ning. 8th nods. The Emperor points out that this said spring has been said to be buried for many years but was rediscovered by a military man, Ying Tai who excavated it.
8th replies that according to what he knows, Yin Tai had heard about the spring and decided to excavate the buried waterhole to help the common folks. 8th praises Ying Tai for his concern and says it is fortunate that this man is known to be virtuous and has that at court. (A term is used that refers to a person with a good reputation who does not associate with any evil people.)
Kangxi turns and scrutinizes 8th with veiled suspicion before closing the gap between himself and his son. Slowly, the Emperor acknowledges that he has also heard of Ying Tai’s reputation. He adds that Ying Tai and 8th are on good terms and that Ying Tai often praises 8th as the Virtuous Prince.
8th assures his father that he is only a Bei Lei (Prince of “Third Rank”) and that he has never aspired nor accepted ‘Virtuous’ as part of his title. He states that he is not the one who praises Ying Tai’s virtue. It is something that 8th had occasionally heard and he had brought it up a few times. The prince emphasizes it again that he has only heard it a few times.
The Emperor clenches his jaw. 8th slowly adds that speaking about honesty and the incorruptible, Na Li could also be considered as one of those with those virtues. Na Li had become the provincial governor of Fujian and within two years, he was recognised for his ability and honesty by the commoners.
Kangxi acknowledges that Na Li is definitely a talent. A moment later, 8th murmurs that before they left the capital, he had noticed Nian Gengyao. A man of low-birth yet intelligent, he states that if the opportunity comes up, he would like to recruit him to serve the Emperor.
The Emperor is thoughtful. 8th then adds that Xiang Qi is also a talent. Hooked by the discussion, Kangxi exclaims that Xiang Qi is indeed someone who is needed. Kangxi declares that he wants to find more talent of the same calibre to work in his court.
Ruo Xi thinks to herself that Na Li supports the Crown Prince and that Nian Gengyao is 4th’s supporter. With such a name list, the Emperor will find it hard to suspect 8th of any collusion.
4th walks into the hall, 13th and Nian Gengyao greets him and 4th states that their Emperor Father had issued a decree to alter the name list. 13th is surprised and wonders what had influenced the change. Nian Gengyao notes that namelist has already been implemented and given how far away the Emperor is, he wonders why he is reassigning the positions.
4th is sure it is 8th working behind the scene to influence the changes. Of course, it was aided by 14th’s risky trip to consult with 8th.
13th wants to know how the changes affects them. 4th replies that no matter how the names are reassigned, Nian Gengyao’s name remains on the list and that he will become Sichuan’s governor. It would seem that their Emperor Father really likes Nian Gengyao who is a general.
4th notes that Nian Gengyao’s position in court is stabilised. Nian Gengyao bows and says that his promotion from a Hanlin candidate to his present position is due to both princes’ favour.
A woman enters the hall and greets 4th and 13th. She is one of 4th’s wives and is also Nian Gengyao’s younger sister. He kneels to greet his sister and she pulls him up. She asks her brother why he did not inform her of his arrival as she could have prepared his favourite dishes.
Nian Gengyao declines the invite, saying that he is only visiting to discuss work and that he has to return to his office. His sister appears disappointed that he will be leaving so quickly.
4th observes the exchange and stands up. He tells Nian Gengyao that there is no time pressure to complete his tasks and invites him to stay given how difficult it is for the general to find free time. He claims he has some work to finish in his study and allows the siblings to spend some time together.
Nian Gengyao and his sister thanks 4th. The prince asks 13th to accompany him.
After his visit with his sister, 4th continues to brief Nian Gengyao. He reminds the general that he needs to continue to show results as soon as he can in order not to disappoint his Emperor Father.
The general acknowledges the advice. Nian Gengyao then adds that he has something to say and apologises for his frankness if he offends 4th. 4th asks Nian Gengyao to speak.
Nian Gengyao thanks 4th for showing his affection towards his sister by promoting her to Ce Fujin (one of 4th’s second wives). He says though that he noticed his sister’s unhappiness and as her brother, it is his duty to speak up on her behalf. He admits doting on his sister since she was young.
He says, “Since she married into 4th’s family, she has served 4th wholeheartedly but she had just told me …” Before Nian Gengyao can continue, 4th interrupts.
4th says he understands how much Nian Gengyao cares for his sister but within the four walls of his own residence, 4th knows his own mind.
Nian Gengyao immediately kneels and begs for mercy. He says he understands that he needs to gain military authority to garner even more honour and glory to repay 4th’s patronage.
4th asks Nian Gengyao if he is really ready to lay down his life for him. Nian Gengyao replies he is. 4th stands and promises Nian Gengyao that as long as he is prince, there will always be a place for Nian Gengyao in court.
4th sends off Nian Gengyao and stiffly walks back into his mansion.
One of his servants scurries forward and shows him the box of the best grade swallow’s bird nest 4th had requested. 4th instructs the servant to make arrangements for a meal and sleepover at Nian Fei’s quarters.
The servants asks which of his wives he should deliver the swallow’s bird nest to. He asks if he should send it to Ce Fujin’s quarters. 4th is quiet and then says, “Send it to the North.”
8th and Ruo Xi spend a lot of time together.
They ride. They stroll. They frolick.
Playfully, she asks 8th if he thinks there is really a Kua Fu who chased after the sun. (An old chinese legend) 8th replies that it is a legend and a myth. She insists he answer her question about if such a man existed. 8th says he thinks no. She replies that she thinks he existed. 8th changes his answer and says then there is. Ruo Xi in turn changes her own answer to ‘No’.
Ruo Xi muses that although it might seem that there is no Kua Fu, in actuality, there are many who are exactly like Kua Fu. However they do not realise this and continue to chase after the sun just like Kua Fu.
At night while stargazing, Ruo Xi points a cluster and claims it is the star of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl. 8th corrects her and points in a totally different direction and says the star is that way.
Ruo Xi shakes her head and says the star is where she says it is. 8th remarks not matter how eloquent she is, she cannot overturn facts and truth.
Ruo Xi shakes her head and demands 8th not contradict her or she will be angry. They nestle cosily before 8th suggests that they return. Ruo Xi nods and wants to be carried.
8th laughs and agrees.
Ruo Xi is preparing tea when an eunuch greets her and offers her a box. It is the same box of bird’s nest that 4th had requested be sent north. Ruo Xi reads the label. She remarks that the grassland is dry and hot and that swallow’s bird nest is definitely appropriate for the climate but instructs that it be send back to the capital.
The eunuch is confused and wonders why Ruo Xi is returning the gift if it is appropriate. She replies that it is a gift she cannot accept and asks for it to be send back.
The young man hesitates and stammers, asking how he is to account to 4th if it is send back. Min Min calls out before entering the tent and asks if Ruo Xi has time.
Ruo Xi grabs the bird’s nest and presents it to Min Min. The younger woman asks what it is and when told it is the saliva of swallows, the Mongolian hastily rejects it and demands the object be removed.
Ruo Xi instructs the eunuch to return it just before Min Min grabs her hand and pulls the palace maid outdoors. She tells Ruo Xi to forget about the valuable saliva and follow her.
Min Min wants Ruo Xi to teach her how to sing an opera. Ruo Xi agrees and tells Min Min the story of Liang Shangbo and Zhu Yingtai.
A young lady disguises herself as a man to study. She falls in love with her roommate who does not realise his roommate is actually a woman. When they leave the school, the disguised woman asks her roommate to visit her home and make a marriage proposal.
Min Min wonders if the male scholar does not feel it strange. Ruo Xi explains that the bookish scholar believes his bosom friend when he is told of a younger twin sister who would suit him.
Min Min approves, saying it sounds like a match made in heaven because the lovers can be together. Ruo Xi tells Min Min it does not end well. When the male scholar arrives to propose, he finds that his supposed bride and his bosom friend has already been promised to a second man. Min Min says that is really sad.
The younger girl wonders what Ruo Xi would have done if she had been this female scholar. Ruo Xi replies that she will give up everything and elope with the male scholar.
Min Min sighs and agrees, saying that the world is such a large place and that there will be somewhere they could safely settle down. She asks what if the male scholar is not willing. Ruo Xi replies that she will weave a love net to trap him.
Obviously Ruo Xi is talking about herself and what she is trying to do with 8th. To weave a love net that would trap 8th into agreeing to stay out of the fight for the throne in return for her love.
Min Min echoes Ruo Xi but the older woman does not elaborate and offers to teach Min Min the Butterfly Lovers since she admires it.
Both crossdress in Min Min’s tent. Ruo Xi tells Min Min that she had invited someone to watch their performance. Min Min asks who it is. Ruo Xi replies it is someone worth singing to. Min Min eagerly asks if it is 13th and Ruo Xi responds with laughter, asking if there is only 13th in Min Min’s heart.
Min Min protests and tells Ruo Xi not to tease her. It is normal for a woman to think of the man she cares about.
The younger woman compliments Ruo Xi, saying that she looks rather distinctive in her male costume. They banter while putting the finishing touches when a maid enters to announce the 8th prince.
Min Min asks if 8th was whom Ruo Xi invited. Ruo Xi nods and calls out to 8th, asking him to be seated.
Both women drift to the front of the tent and starts the scene where Liang Shangbo sends off Zhu Yingtai at a Guan Yin temple. Ruo Xi plays Liang Shangbo and describes the temple where the two attendants of Guan Yin – Golden Boy and Jade Maiden – stand on each side.
Min Min plays Zhu Yingtai and sings of how perfectly compatible these two attendants are and wonders who will play matchmaker. Ruo Xi sings that statues of wood and mud cannot understand the human world and the search for love. Min Min sings that the two statues are in love but because they are made from wood and mud, they are not able to express themselves. She suggests that they act as proxies and marry in their place. Ruo Xi sings that it is ridiculous for two men to marry
Throughout this scene, Ruo Xi flirts with 8th. Tossing the long sleeves of her costume in his direction, fluttering the soft cloth across his hands as she moves across their makeshift stage. He tries to hold the sleeve but she teasingly pulls free.
8th is pleased and claps, praising their performance. He asks about the play, saying he has never heard it before. Ruo Xi tells him she made it up.
Min Min leaves to change, leaving the couple to look at each other.
Ruo Xi finds vases and vases of fragrant flowers. She is delighted, bending to smell the blossoms and wonders where 8th found so many fresh flowers. Although sending flowers is outdated to the modern Ruo Xi, being courted in such an extravagant manner moves her.
Yu Tang comes in, telling Ruo Xi that it was delivered earlier and asks what the flowers could be used for. Ruo Xi replies it could be use for tea, for bathing, for dressing up. It will be prettier than using dried flowers. Ruo Xi phews as Yu Tang agrees.
Playfully, Ruo Xi cups 8th’s eyes as he waits. She asks, “Who am I?” 8th plays along, calling her a grassland fairy. She shakes her head, telling him she is a man-eating demon. 8th exclaims, grabbing her hand and tumbles her onto the ground. He nuzzles against her cheek and breathes out that she is actually the Jasmine Fairy.
She smiles up, he smiles down.
I just know there is a kiss coming and I am not disappointed. Their lips meet but suddenly, Ruo Xi has a flashback. Of another kiss, less tender.
Ruo Xi pushes 8th away and they roll off the bench. She lands on top of him and he laughs up at him. Holding her close, 8th tells her that he is so happy. Ruo Xi asks if he is happier than when he had first her sister.
He does not answer and Ruo Xi hastily sits up. 8th follows and watches Ruo Xi before saying it is different.
He was ecstatic when he first saw Ruo Lan. After his Emperor Father bestowed Ruo Lan on him, he felt happy. He was willingly in love with the Ruo Lan in his imagination. He had not given a thought as to whether his first impression was accurate.
All he could think about was that he had married the woman with the bell-like laughter.
When he lifted the bridal veil, what he saw was Ruo Lan in tears and he knew he was wrong.
8th says he had already made a mistake. How could he make another mistake with Ruo Xi. He remembers what Ruo Xi had said after 10th’s engagement announcement. She had asked why her future had to be decided by someone else. He realised that that Ruo Xi was very different from Ruo Lan.
The prince cups Ruo Xi’s cheek and asks if she realises how much he thinks about her. He wants her to marry him with joy and no regrets. 8th does not want to make the same mistake that he had with Ruo Lan. But the prince found it so difficult to guess her heart. He could feel that she likes him but he did not understand why she constantly pushed him away. He did not know what he could do to make her accept him.
Ruo Xi looks at him sadly. He examines her face and suddenly covers her eyes. He asks her not to look at him with those eyes. The prince looks away before asking why Ruo Xi constantly watches him with such a tragic air. She pulls his hand away and reveals a smiling face.
Four years ago when she was still a young girl, 8th had often caught Ruo Xi looking at him with the same sorrowful expression. He asks her why she is grieving. Ruo Xi replies softly that she does not want to lose him. She wants him to be well and remain well.
8th smiles, caressing her hand and tells Ruo Xi she will not lose him. That he stay by her side forever.
Ruo Xi smiles back and remembers the punishments he had meted before. When he had kept her on her feet after the fight with Min Min. When he forced her to agree never to speak ill of the Emperor after her outcry after 10th’s engagement.
Ruo Xi suddenly grabs his hand and bites down on it. 8th looks puzzled and does not pull away when she bites down a second time. She reminds him of the incident and tells him it is never too late for revenge. The prince laughs loudly and Ruo Xi tries to stand. But the prince has his own plan. He pulls her back and kisses her. Hard.
They roll. They tumble. They .. you get the idea.
The Crown Prince intercepts Ruo Xi. He comments that Ruo Xi is keeping busy. He hears that 8th and Ruo Xi had been spending a lot of ‘secret’ time together She is frequently horseriding with 8th as well.
Ruo Xi laughs and wonders where the Crown Prince had heard this muddleheaded gossip. She comments that 8th and herself often cross paths. She also has the Emperor’s permission to learn how to ride a horse. The 8th prince had observed her eagerness to learn how to ride well and is teaching her so she would not disappoint the Emperor.
The Crown Prince smiles, “So that is how it is. I was just curious. You may carry on.”
At her next rendevous with 8th, the prince has ordered her favourite dishes for dinner. She tells 8th he should not go to such lengths. The prince replies he may not like the dishes Ruo Xi does not like.
She smiles and then tells 8th about the short conversation with the Crown Prince. The heir is suspicious of both of them.
8th laughs, dismissing the Crown prince. He tells her he is not trying to keep their relationship a secret. It is almost time to return to the capital. 8th blithely continues saying they should get married after their return.
Ruo Xi looks down and does not respond. 8th continues easily, saying that the Crown Prince dislikes Ruo Xi because she serves their Emperor Father. He adds, “Actually if you are willing to say a few words, it will save a lot of worries trying to guess about what our Emperor Father is thinking.”
8th pauses and then asks Ruo Xi to start the meal without him. He is writing a few names as Ruo Xi stands behind him. She reads and realises that the names of those who support the Crown Prince and 4th.
She sees Nian Gengyao’s name and blurts it out. 8th stops and wonders why Ruo Xi seems so concerned about 4th’s affairs. There is a hint of suspicion as he looks at Ruo Xi.
Ruo Xi stands and answers slowly in a girlish voice. “Perhaps it is because of 13th.” She reminds him that she is on great terms with 13th and this has led her to be little bit more aware of 4th and what the elder prince does.
8th switches from romantic loverboy to calculative politican in flash. He is a cautious man and wary about those he speaks with.
8th is quiet but the look of conjecture lingers and Ruo Xi hurriedly asks if the names are that of the newly assigned positions. 8th is somber as he nods and adds that Nian Gengyao’s post has not been announced. It will be granted after they return to the capital.
She asks if the current lineup benefits or hurts 8th.
The prince smiles and replies neither. It is fortunate that 14th informed 8th in time for him to or the name list would have been different. He still looks wary.
He smiles at Ruo Xi’s next question asking if Nian Gengyao’s appointment is good or bad for him. The prince faces Ruo Xi and tells her if she had not asked him this, he would have slept badly that night. Her question has eased his mind.
I wondered why 8th said this. Does he suspect Ruo Xi?
8th explains that Nian Gengyao is a low-ranking Bannerman. To even consider Nian Gengyao is thinking too highly of him. 8th needs to give 4th some kickback. Firstly, this appointment satisfies his Emperor Father’s intention to reduce 8th’s influence in court. Secondly, there is also some some benefit to them as 4th had given them much help.
Ruo Xi wonders to herself, about 4th helping 8th and his clique.
8th notices her thoughtfulness and asks what she is thinking. He also wonders about Ruo Xi’s sudden interest. She does not usually concern herself about the court and yet she knows of Nian Gengyao.
Ruo Xi realises she has overexposed herself and tries to cover up. She says Nian Gengyao is a man of humble origins with a low official rank. Within the Forbidden City, he is of little value. But 13th had mentioned Nian Gengyao a few times, praising his intellect and generosity as well as his eloquence and his skill at calligraphy and writing. Nian Gengyao also works hard.
8th is thoughtful. With 4th’s backing Nian Gengyao’s promotion to Governor of Sichuan within ten years is an achievement and a credit to 4th. The prince sighs and turns back to Ruo Xi.
He regrets that Ruo Xi’s father has kept her younger brother by his side. If her brother possesses a fraction of her intelligence and is willing to work hard, his Emperor Father will definitely favour her brother and he will have no reason to envy 4th.
Ruo Xi smiles and moves closer to 8th. She recites two verses* that proclaims her heart will not be easily changed and that she desires to be with him until they are old. She holds his hand.
8th smiles and responds that he feels the same way. They embrace.
I rewatched this bit a few times. Just because it is such a sweet moment between the lovers. They are so much into each other and surely their love must be true.
The Mongolians are preparing to leave and Min Min is sad that they are going to be separated. Ruo Xi tells her that they will surely meet again. Min Min agrees and tells Ruo Xi she had an unexpectedly fun time during this trip. Despite the fact that -he- was not there.
Ruo Xi laughs that that is indeed a small blemish in a otherwise perfect time together.
Min Min looks over her shoulder at 8th trailing behind them and grabs Ruo Xi, pulling her aside. She reminds Ruo Xi to speak with 13th. Ruo Xi tells her she will not forget.
Min Min is summoned by her father and she takes her leave.
Since it is also almost their time to return, 8th asks Ruo Xi if there’s anything else she wants to do before they depart. Ruo Xi says she wants to revisit the places they had been together.
8th agrees and Ruo Xi takes a deep breath. There is a reason for her nerves as we are going to find out.
Night falls and as they stroll, 8th could sense that Ruo Xi wants to say something. He asks her to speak up.
Ruo Xi tells him she has a favour to ask and wonders if he will agree. He laughs and tells her if she still need to ask him. He says he will try his best to fulfil her wish.
She hesitates before blurting out her request, “What if I beg you to relinquish your struggle for the throne? Would you agree?” 8th freezes, his expression stiff as he looks at Ruo Xi. She looks pleadingly up at the prince.
Almost coldly, 8th slowly answers that he does not see how his quest for the throne relates to them.
Ruo Xi murmurs, “If you agree, we will be together. If you don’t, then we will separate.” Her voice breaks.
8th is shocked. Flustered, he grabs her hand, saying she is tired and that she should go back and rest.
She pulls free and cries out that she is serious and clearheaded. Ruo Xi walks towards the prince and says that they have been so happy these past few months.
Resting her cheek against his shoulder, Ruo Xi softly paints their life together. They could do the same in the future. They could admire flowers in the countryside during spring. They could go boating on the lakes during summer. They could race their horses on the plains during fall. They could watch the plum blossoms during winter. They could read, they could write poetry, they could travel, she could cook many dishes that few in the kingdom could possible know.
The prince stands stiff and his face is frozen. He begins to look angry as Ruo Xi continues. He bitingly cuts in and asks if all the time they had spend together was premeditated. He demands to know if everything she has said, sung and done had been been directed to her request that evening.
Ruo Xi answers that her feelings towards him is real and sincere. She puts his hand against her chest and cries out, “You know I have you in my heart. You know it. You know it!”
With tears gleaming in his eyes, 8th wants to know why. He remembers what she said clearly. Why does her future have to be control by someone else. Why can’t she decide it herself. He scolded her then but in his own heart, he had often asked the same question.
Because 8th’s mother comes from a low-ranking family, the prince was often ignored and isolated. He spend much of his life fighting to advance just so that he can decide his own future. He shouts that every one of them is a prince. Why should it be the Crown Prince. Why can’t he be the one? If the Crown Prince is a talented and capable man, he has nothing more to say. But the Crown Prince is not up to scratch. His second brother became the Crown Prince because his mother was Kangxi’s beloved Empress. When he was born, he was given everything. 8th cannot accept this.
This episode starts so tenderly and hangs at such a heartbreaking note. Will he give up his life’s work for love?
* See Notes for explanation