Note : Using the -D V D- for recap from Episode 16.
DVD Episode 16 Part 2
It is the night before the Mongolians leaves. Kangxi comments that it has been two months since Ruo Xi started the preparations and he is looking forward to the performance.
The area is darkened. Ruo Xi rings a bell and two rows of women drift across the sandy ground, holding two lamps each. The lamps are placed in front of the tables and 9th suddenly exclaims that he smells plum blossoms and wonders where they could have gotten plum flowers in such a remote region. Amazed murmurs is interrupted by another ring.
This time large lanterns are released. They slowly float into the night sky, bobbing until the darkness is filled with flecks of golden light. 13th murmurs to 4th, saying that the opening is promising. 4th nods.
Another ring and all eyes turn to the stage where Min Min in a gorgeously red costume, poses with a branch of plum flowers. Ruo Xi keenly observes 13th’s reaction.
14th stands and walks up to Ruo Xi, murmuring that she had transformed Min Min into a newborn star of the Plains. Ruo Xi thanks 14th’s praise but replies that Min Min has always been a star, all she had done was to remove the dark veil that had hidden the bright star from view. Ruo Xi observes that this new star had not even given ‘the moon’ a glance that evening. Just within a short span of two months, Min Min has transformed from a care-free girl into a woman.
14th answers that the reason why Min Min is not looking at the moon, could be that the sun has already appeared. They both look at Zuo Ying and Ruo Xi murmurs that she hopes that it could be so. The prince smiles and walks back to his seat.
Red petals scattered, covering the ground in velvety drifts before white ‘snowflakes’ fall. The audience are entranced.
Ruo Xi silently says to 13th, “From now on, whenever you see white snow and red plum blossoms, I am afraid you will be reminded of Min Min.”
Kangxi is impressed and praises it as does the duke. The princes watch in delight except for 4th. He remains his usual impassive self.
Ruo Xi proudly looks on as Min Min dances, unaware of 4th’s gaze on her as he daydreams with his eyes wide open. In his mind, the dancer in glittering red is not Min Min but Ruo Xi. Just the two of them. Her smile lights up her face, her joy bright as she moves graceful to the poignant song speaks of a love
4th is entranced with his imagined Ruo Xi performing just for him. He pulls free from his dreaming and returns to reality. Uncharacteristically, 4th tosses back a drink.
Towards the bottom of this recap, I wrote up a book note regarding 4th and this trip. Those who don’t want to know more, please feel free to skim past that section. I also included a summarized translation of the Snow Red Plum Blossom song because I felt that the lyrics also reflects Ruo Xi’s feelings towards 8th.
At the end of the performance, everyone applauds. The Emperor summons Ruo Xi and praises her, saying that he was mesmerised. He adds that if he had known Ruo Xi had this ability, he would have assigned her to cheoreograph all the dances and songs in the palace.
Ruo Xi immediately replies that this is all she is capable of and asks the Emperor not to make challenge her in that way. She then adds that it is not her but Min Min who has made it all so lovely.
Kang Xi smiles and then summons Min Min. He praises Min Min for her elegant grace, saying that her sleeves float like they were branches in the wind. Zuo Ying watches Min Min with interest as the Emperor says he really believes a fairy had descended from the heavens.
Min Min thanks the Emperor while Ruo Xi watches on proudly at her friend. Someone else is watching Min Min. Zuo Ying.
Kang Xi rewards a jade ‘ru yi’ (S-shaped object symbolising good luck. One of tribute items that the Crown Prince had wanted to gift 10th for his birthday.) to Min Min. Min Min thanks him for the reward.
Her father speaks up at this moment, saying that he wishes to give Ruo Xi a reward. The Emperor is surprised and asks why Ruo Xi is not thanking the Mongolian Duke. The Duke hands Wang Xi a jade carving. As Wang Xi walks over to Ruo Xi, the Duke explains that there is a similiar piece of jade with Min Mi as well.
The Emperor is surprised while Ruo Xi and Min Min exchange smiles. As the Duke continues his tale. The imperial princes exchange glances and look thoughtful
as the Duke continues his tale. Even He Shu, Min Min’s brother and the Duke’s heir looks surprised.
Min Min actually has a twin sister. When they were born, the Duke was so overjoyed that he wanted to express it. At that time, a piece of precious jade came into his possession. He ordered two identical pieces to be carved but before the jade pendants were completed, Min Min’s elder twin passed away.
Ruo Xi immediately kneels and says she cannot accept this gift as it contains the Duke’s love for his daughter.
The Duke replies that since he had willingly given it to Ruo Xi, she should not say she dare not accept the gift. The Duke laughs and the Emperor instructs Ruo Xi to accept. Ruo Xi thanks the Duke again. The Emperor waves Ruo Xi up and then expresses his desire to retire. The Duke readily agrees.
Kang Xi tells the Crown Prince to play host and both Emperor and Duke departs.
The Crown Prince commands that more wine be brought in to send He Shu and Zuo Ying. As the noblemen toasts each other, Min Min observes that Ruo Xi seem rather pensive. She softly asks, “Jie Jie (Sister), what are you thinking?”
Ruo Xi observes the princes with a distant air and murmurs, “Beautiful flowers blossom within such bleak isolation. Whose home does this lovely scene of flowers belong to.” (Essentially she is lamenting the futures of these handsome princes.)
Min Min looks confused. Ruo Xi recovers and shakes her head, lying to Min Min that she is sad about her mongolian friend’s impending departure. Ruo Xi laments that happy days always seem too short. Min Min is equally sad and wonders when they will meet each other again.
Ruo Xi smiles, telling Min Min that she has a farewell present for Min Min. The younger woman is surprised. Ruo Xi says it is something she had promised Min Min before. Ruo Xi glances towards the princes.
Toasting each other, they throw back their drinks and 13th asks the Crown Prince’s permission to play a tune. His brother replies of course. It is well known that 13th plays the flute well and the heir says it will be a pleasure to hear his playing once more.
13th looks in the two women’s direction, his eyes meeting Min Min’s briefly before giving her the slightest of nods. Ruo Xi examines Min Min’s face but the younger woman only has eyes for 13th.
The prince looks at Min Min as he blows his flute. Tears start to stream down Min Min’s face as she recognizes the refrain from her performance. Zuo Yin looks at 13th before turning to observe Min Min as she walks towards 13th. Ruo Xi has tears in her eyes as well while the other princes seem rather pensive and glance at Zuo Yin.
This stalwart Mongolian appears oblivious to the curious looks and watches Min Min with compassion as Min Min accompanies 13th’s flute with her voice.
Min Min weeps silently. Memories of her encounters with 13th replay in her mind. The time when he stole the lambskin during the game. The time he sang a response to her welcome song. The time when he defended her against a drunken Crown Prince. The time when he patted her shoulder after she slugs back a drink from 13th’s wineskin.
Ruo Xi strolls in the early hours. She is grave. She suddenly wants to leave this place behind her. She seeks tranquility. She feels that the less a person listens, the less they would hear. Having emotions is more troubling than to have no emotions. Perhaps having no feelings is the best way to avoid trouble. She feels the letdown after the previous night’s excitement.
A moment later, Ruo Xi looks over her shoulder and sees 4th standing on the path behind her. He scrutinizes her while she looks back with cool equanimity. 4th seems to look at Ruo Xi in a different light; even the way he speaks to her seems warmer and less forceful.
They stroll back to camp. Together. A rather cosy walk as they both keep pace with each other while they converse.
4th asks if she thinks Min Min and Zuo Yin will end up together. Ruo Xi wonders why 4th ask the question. 4th had noticed Ruo Xi constantly watching Min Min and Zuo Yin during the feast. She replies that she does hope they will become a couple. She asks what 4th’s thoughts are on this matter.
The prince says Zuo Yin stands out not because of his rank. In fact Zuo Yin’s father does not favour him. The recent meeting with Kangxi was actually not a desirable appointment, that was why Zuo Ying was given the task. 4th smiles and adds that Zuo Yin actually gained something from this misfortune. He sits down, facing Ruo Xi. 4th believes that Zuo Yin’s father and elder brother will face many challenges because of the younger son.
Ruo Xi asks hesitantly if Zuo Yin is the best choice for Min Min. 4th bluntly answers that it is none of her business. She has already helped pave the way for a match. This leads to 4th asking Ruo Xi if she is really willing to remain single for the rest of her life.
4th tells her not to bring up any nonsense about her desire to show filial piety by remaining a spinster.
Ruo Xi glances sharply at 4th and twirls, pacing before she answers honestly. “I am too tired. All these years in the palace, everything is about rules and etiquette. Everything requires my constant vigilance. I need to consider everything carefully. Even after I made a decision, I still have to rethink it again.”
4th listens intently as she goes on, saying this rubs against the grain. She is actually not that kind of person. All she desires is to leave this palace life behind. She wants to laugh freely, cry freely. Marriage will be her exchanging a larger cage for a smaller one with a less picturesque scenery.
Ruo Xi has a dreamy air as she describes what she truly desires but her voice sharpens as she rejects the idea of marriage.
The prince sighs silently as Ruo Xi continues. She asks why she has to marry. Considering the in-fighting between the wives to gain status and for a larger portion of a single man’s affection, she believes becoming a nun would be preferable.
4th snorts in amusement and explains that given Ruo Xi’s present status, she will not be able to make any of these decisions for herself. The more his Emperor Father treasures her, the less control she has over her future. Taking the jade pendant as an example, he points out that when the Duke told the story behind that jade, the Duke was hinting that he looks upon Ruo Xi as his daughter. Min Min and her brother, the future Duke, treats Ruo Xi even better than they treat the Crown Prince. Although 4th is not sure why the Duke did what he did but when his Emperor Father wants to arrange her marriage, he will need to consider all these points as well.
The prince says if Ruo Xi believes she will be leave the palace just like the other palace maids when they come of age, then she needs to change that mindset. He suggests she plans how she could persuade his Emperor Father to arrange a match that she could be happy with.
Ruo Xi coldly snorts and says if she does not wish to marry, no one could force her to. 4th bluntly answers that she should then prepare 3 feet of white damask silk (meaning she must be prepared to commit suicide). She must also harden her heart and not be concerned how her death will affect her father, her family and her banner clan. Ruo Xi looks troubled by 4th’s frankness. 4th examines Ruo Xi briefly and looks away in exasperation.
He gathers his thoughts and a moment later, mildly continues, “The palace is the one place where a person should not dream.” He urges her to wake up and accept reality. She should really be planning what measures she could take although in the end, it is still not up to Ruo Xi to make the decision.
Upset, Ruo Xi asks if it really impossible for her not to marry. Her desire not to marry is not an obstacle to anyone. She asks why she must be forced into a match.
4th raises his voice, asking if Ruo Xi really does not understand what he has said or if she is unwilling to understand. The only one who can make the decision is his Emperor Father. All she can do is to obey.
Ruo Xi looks mulish and he pauses. His voice softens as he asks if in her heart, there is no one who she is willing to marry. She mulls and then looks up at 4th.
He looks away and asks even more slowly, “Not even one man who will not make you feel that being with him is caging you?” He is still, almost as if he is holding his breath while waiting for her answer. When Ruo Xi shakes her head, his chin drops and after a long glance, 4th sighs before walking away.
4th is clearly concerned for Ruo Xi and cares about her. He does not know how to coax or wheedle. He offers his direct honesty and provides guidance but Ruo Xi just cannot accept what he has said. She still holds the slim hope that she can have stay free from the palace and leave it behind her when the time comes.
On the other hand, I am amazed how easily Ruo Xi shares her true feelings and thoughts about the Forbidden City with 4th. From the beginning, she had asked for his advice and often seriously considered his words. Although she is afraid of him, Ruo Xi also respects him.
In the book, Ruo Xi feels that a person who knows how to relax and smell the lotus would understand how she feels. She understands what 4th is saying and wonders if she is subconsciously fooling herself that there is another way out.
Ruo Xi tears and looks in 4th’s direction. He has walked a distance but he stops briefly, almost turning back but resumes his brisk departure.
During a court session with his sons, the Emperor is angered by a report that funds allocated to help disaster victims have been diverted from his people into his officials’ pockets. He knows these officials must have influential support or they would not have dared to steal. He loves his people like his children yet his officials regard their lives as worthless; fattening themselves at the common folk’s expense.
Kangxi had instructed 4th to investigate and the prince found out that even officials from the Finance Ministry were involved. 120 officials are connected with the corruption. The princes all kneel as Kangxi angrily repeats the number. He asks how he is to deal with these 120 people.
The princes keep their silence while the Emperor paces. Kangxi points at 8th and asks his opinion. 8th replies that corruption is deplorable and should not be tolerated.
The Crown Prince eyes his younger brother with malevolence.
8th continues, saying this time is another matter. Too many officials are involved and it would create chaos if they are pursued. He suggests his Emperor Father manage this with an eye on the larger picture. That the officials be ordered to return the funds. Those who fail to return the monies will be dealt with at that point.
Kangxi examines 8th before asking 4th.
4th answers that appeasement would only breed more thieves. If his Emperor Father will only prosecute those who failed to return the funds, he is encouraging the corruption. He fears this will lead to even more worse corruption to the point where governance is ignored and human lives are not valued. If the Emperor gives in just because there are too many people involved in the crime, this will affect his Imperial authority and his power. This will make it even harder for his Emperor Father to rule his court. 13th supports his brother, saying that severe punishment is necessary to control turbulent times. He believes that his Emperor Father must not indulge the corrupt.
The Emperor seems annoyed but turns to the Crown Prince, asking what he thinks. The Crown Prince replies that severe punishment would create chaos and shake up the court. This would lead to even more problems. A light hand would get results while a heavy hand will force these men of ability against the wall, resulting in self-harm to the kingdom. This will be detrimental to the people. The Crown Prince suggests using discretion and offering leniency to offenders.
Kangxi says agrees with the Crown Prince, saying it is fair and reasonable.
4th immediately speaks up, begging his Emperor Father to retract his order. He says that because this case spans so many divisions that if a thorough investigation is not made, it will lead to severe consequences.
Kang Xi replies that he has already decided.
4th persists, pointing out that in the previous corruption case, two high-ranking officials escaped punishment which led to the people losing confidence. There has even been songs about corruption being condoned. 4th asks his Emperor Father not to turn a blind eye to the crimes.
The Emperor glares at his son, saying he has already said he has decided!
4th looks up in dismay. Kang Xi adds that he is able to forgive his people if they do not understand the reasons behind his action. But if 4th being his son is as ignorant as the common folk and does not show even a smidgeon of gentlemanly mercy, then 4th had wasted his time studying the classics!
13th speaks up in 4th’s defence but Kang Xi cuts in, dismissing all of them from his presence.
4th and 13th leave together. The younger brother appears worried about 4th. 4th pauses and then tells 13th that he is fine but that he wants to be by himself for a while. He walks away.
A little later, eunuchs hurry past Ruo Xi to report to Wang Xi that 4th is nowhere to be found. Wang Xi instructs them to continue searching just as another pair reports the same to the prince. 13th motions, telling them to continue the search.
Ruo Xi walks up and 13th asks if she had seen 4th. She replies no and asks what has happened. 13th replies that his Emperor Father had asked to see 4th but 13th has not been able to locate his brother anywhere. She asks why 4th disappeared. 13th tells Ruo Xi about the earlier court session where his Emperor Father had reprimanded 4th after a disagreement.
The palace maid is surprised as she knows 4th is always careful in what he does and wonders why 4th would directly oppose his Emperor Father. 13th replies that it is a long story and what is important is that their Emperor Father wants to see 4th and the older prince is nowhere to be found.
Ruo Xi thinks for a while and then says she might know where 4th is. She asks 13th to follow her.
13th is bemused and stares at his friend. Ruo Xi appears perturbed at his reaction and curtly asks if he will come along. Without waiting for his answer, she strides off. 13th abruptly comes to life and tells her to wait up.
Ruo Xi sits at the bow while 13th rows through the lotus pond. The same pond which 4th had brought Ruo Xi before. Both calls out and then Ruo Xi spots the prince sleeping peacefully.
13th anxiously calls out as he rows close. 4th sits up and examines the other two. 13th explains that their Emperor Father has summoned 4th. 4th remains his usual impassive self, though it looks as if 4th is observing Ruo Xi. She half bows in greeting and he abruptly says, “Then let’s return.”
He unhitches his oars and starts to row. 13th rolls his eyes and murmurs, “The emperor is not worried, but the eunuchs are worried to death.” (It means that the person involved remains calm but those around him are worried.)
Both 4th and 13th arrives in the Imperial Study. The Crown Prince is present and the Emperor asks the eldest prince to explain the task. The heir explains that Kangxi has decided to thoroughly investigate those wrongdoers in the Fujian misappropriation case. Both 4th and 13th look thoughtful as the elder prince explains that their Emperor Father wants to know who else other than the 120 officials are involved.
Kangxi tells 4th and 14th to assist the Crown Prince with the case. He asks if they are curious why he rejected their suggestion earlier in court yet is now pursuing the case. 4th indicates that he does not understand. Kangxi explains that it is because they do not understand the principle of ‘Haste makes Waste’. Their Emperor Father has a faint smile as he explains.
Like a basin of stained water, although it cannot be drunk, it can still be used to water plants. There is no need to throw it out. He asks if his sons understand, both bows and 4th replies he understand.
Kang Xi comments that ruling a country is like cooking a rare delicacy. It is necessary to be gentle to become strong. He has ruled for so many years and these are words from the bottom of his heart. He asks his sons to remember. 4th and 13th acknowledge Kang Xi, 4th saying he will remember his Emperor Father’s teaching.
Kangxi has his back towards his sons, drinking his tea with an expression of aggravation. After a quick glance at his Emperor Father’s back, the Crown Prince has a worried face while 13th and 4th tilt their eyes in the 2nd prince’s direction.
Both 4th and 13th walk into the older prince’s study. 13th comments that the Crown Prince has enough subordinates to complete the task and wonders why their Emperor Father has asked them to assist the heir.
4th turns and asks his brother if he believes that their Emperor Father is unaware of the Crown Prince’s affairs. 13th slowly replies, “So what 4th Ge means is that our Emperor Father fears that the Crown Prince’s supporters are also involved. And that the Crown Prince will show favouritism.”
The older prince replies that it is so. 13th notes that their Emperor Father knows that the Crown Prince trusts 4th the most amongst all the imperial brothers. So the Crown Prince will not resist the idea of 4th being given the role of ‘supervising general’.
4th replies that he is walking on the razor’s edge. If he mishandles the case, he will offend the Crown Prince while being accused of neglecting his duty. Uneasy, 4th takes a seat though 13th has an air of mischief as sits next to his brother.
In an overly casual tone, 13th says, “4th Ge, you do not need to worry too much. As long as you are able to lie in that little boat and appreciate the lotus flowers, you will be able to think of a plan.”
4th turns and eyes his brother, saying 13th has always been a straighter talker and asks when he has learnt to hide words behind words.
13th straightens and looks back, saying his elder brother has always told 13th all he knows and speaks without reservation. He asks 4th when 4th had started sharing secrets with a lady that he does not share with his own brother.
4th is exasperated at 13th’s teasing, saying it is not anything special and not worth mentioning. He says it was only an chance encounter that allowed Ruo Xi to find out.
13th ahs softly, carefully arranging his position while repeating, “Chance encounter. How wonderfully 4th Ge uses that phrase as an excuse.” 13th smirks while 4th snorts with a smile.
4th tells 13th not to drag in irrelevant topics and to think of a plan. 13th turns serious, saying that 4th is taking the case too seriously. Surely the Crown Prince will give 4th some slack out of deference for 4th. At least he will have his men restrain themselves a little.
The older prince replies that the problem does not lie with the Crown Prince but with 9th. 4th hands 13th a report. 13th looks grave after reading and asks if all that is written is what 9th had done all these years.
4th answers that he is aware 9th gets kickbacks from several ministries but what he had not expected was that this time, 9th had received even more than 4th had imagined. 13th asks how they will clear this account. 4th replies that he has to bother 13th to run an errand.
8th and Ming Hui returning home in the carriage. His wife suggests they stop at a temple and make some offerings. 8th asks what is the special occasion, she smiles and replies it is just a thought to ask for protection.
The prince thinks for a moment and asks if it is because of his Emperor Father’s decision to investigate the misappropriation of the Fujian disaster funds. Sharp man.
Ming Hui says she knows she should not concern herself about court matters but she fears 9th might implicate 8th. 8th tells her not to be concerned. Ming Hui says 8th is fully aware why those men fawn on 9th. It is not because 9th is outstanding but because of 9th’s relationship with 8th. But 9th borrows 8th’s influence to accept bribes.
8th closes his eyes during the conversation, silently indicating he does not want to discuss the matter further. A glance at 8th and Ming Hui keeps her peace as well.
8th is so distant and formal with his Di Fujin. I wonder how Ming Hui bears his aloofness when she is so in love with him. He is charming and courteous but keeps her at arm’s length. She has the title and respect but not his sincerity and love.
At this point, a heavily cloaked 13th rides up and tosses the account book into 8th’s carriage. Ming Hui is startled but 8th remains calm, picking the book up before skimming through the pages.
8th tosses the book down and tells 14th he believes the account book comes from 4th. 14th does not understand why his blood brother would have given the records of 9th misdeeds to them instead of their Emperor Father. Since that would have garnered 4th brownie points and also set them back.
The older prince replies that the book is actually a hot potato for 4th. 4th could indeed hand the book over to their Emperor Father but 4th also risks being reprimanded for not showing fraternal love towards his Imperial brothers. 14th says what 8th’s explanation is reasonable but 4th is under Imperial orders to assist the Crown Prince. If 4th protects 9th by not reporting his younger brother, he will be accused of favouritism.
8th agrees with 14th’s analysis and says this is why 4th had tossed the hot potato back into 9th’s lap. As long as 9th men cuts back on their embezzlement, the Crown Prince’s will have to do the same. 14th muses that this means the Crown Prince will not have to cover for his men’s misdeeds. He notes that this will make the role of ‘supervising general’ much easier for 4th. 8th admits that this stroke by 4th is an excellent tactic and he is speechless with admiration.
14th replies that he actually respects 8th’s thoughts more. 8th insights are deeper than even 14th had expected. 8th is able to understand each and every one of 4th’s actions and motivation.
8th appears thoughtful as 14th comments that they are both intelligent men. Born with natural talent and virtue, they both shine. The younger prince sighs that it is a pity both of them are born in the Imperial family. If that is not the case, 14th believes if both of them work together, they will succeed no matter what they do. 8th smiles.
I wonder what 8th is thinking at this point. In a later scene, 14th reveals to Ruo Xi that 8th has always been watching Ruo Xi and is vigilant about her doings. 8th had noticed how Ruo Xi seems so sensitive to 4th and how she tried to please 4th when she started to serve Kangxi. The same events that 13th also observed.
I’ve played back some of the episodes and indeed whenever 4th is observing Ruo Xi, if 8th is in the same room, he’d be watching 4th and Ruo Xi. Like during the time of 10th birthday party. Or when the little white dog interrupted the Imperial brothers and 4th was smiling and Ruo Xi was peeved at his amusement.
Even after Ruo Xi broke up with him, 8th continues to observe Ruo Xi and how she behaves with 4th.
14th turns and asks 8th for a favour. 8th cocks his head and the younger prince asks that when 8th succeeds in attaining his goal, if 8th will allow 4th to retire to the mountains and away from the world.
8th replies with a question, “If you pose the same question to 4th, how do you think he’d answer?” 14th appears flabbergasted while 8th looks grim.
9th is drinking with his cohorts. He is informed that bribes normally given to the other cliques have been send to them instead because the others had been afraid to accept them. The prince is toasted but he appears rather disgruntled. He instructs them to cut back on the kickbacks but they say all they need to do is to be more careful. Beside the Crown Prince’s men are still misappropriating monies. If they get into trouble so will the Crown Prince’s men.
9th yells at them, asking if they disregarding his instructions. His cronies says they do listen but adds fuel to the flame by highlighting the difference between themselves and the heir’s followers.
One even said that having thin dogs (supporters) shames their master. 9th snaps and commands them to leave! He smashes a cup and yells, asking if they think they can pull him down because of an account book. If it was not because of 8th’s request, he would not have backed down and be sneered at. He stumbles out of the room and starts drinking on the balcony.
At that moment, 13th walks under the balcony with Lu Wu demurely following a few steps behind 13th. 13th stops and looks back before grabbing Lu Wu and forcibly pulls her to stand by his side despite her reluctance. Lu Wu nervously looks around her and this is when 9th notices the pair. 13th and Lu Wu looks up and sees 9th as well.
13th calmly returns 9th’s glare though Lu Wu tries to pull away but 13th tightens his grip before resuming their stroll.
The Imperial brothers send off the Crown Prince. The heir glances over at 8th and then 9th before striding away.
As 4th and 13th starts to leave, 9th blocks 4th. 10th and 14th anxiously turns but 8th gently coughs. 9th glares but moves away. 4th and 13th leaves.
14th points out that since their Emperor Father had not said anything during the discussion, 4th had not presented the incriminating document. Sarcastically, 9th asks if he should kowtow and thank 4th for his leniency. 14th tsks and looks away.
9th angrily cries out that they fear 4th but he does not fear 4th. 14th grabs 9th while 8th softly murmurs 9th. 8th’s voice is soft but the glance he shoots at 8th is one of anger before 8th walks past 9th. 9th furiously slaps away 14th’s hands.
14th speaks up, saying that 8th will handle the matter and asks 9th not to make matters worse.
4th and 13th are waiting for the accounts. The book is submitted to 4th. After scrutinizing the numbers, 4th shows it to 13th who comments that 9th did not even try to cut back on his embezzlement. 4th requests a meeting with 8th.
The two men greet each other. 8th returns the account book back to 4th, saying that 9th might be misguided but their younger brother does know when hold back his excesses and not waste 4th’s good intention.
4th replies that he always thought 9th heeds 8th’s words but he thought wrong. 8th smiles saying that their younger brother has always been an obstinate man with his own ideas and never considers consequences in whatever he does. 8th apologises to 4th on 9th’s behalf if 9th had offended 4th in any way.
4th answers that he was ready to let bygones be bygones the day before. But now he has encountered an even more difficult problem and hopes 8th will be able to come up with some ideas. 8th smiles, saying that if it is something that has stumped 4th, then he will be no help. 4th calls for the accounts to be brought up.
8th picks up the first book, skims it and then hurriedly grabs a second. He flips the pages and he is stunned when he realises that 9th had not stopped his graft. He pauses while 4th watches with grim satisfaction. 8th takes a moment and then smiles, asking if this was the problem that 4th mentioned.
4th remains silent. 8th comments that speaking of Iron Fist, 8th cannot compare with 4th. He asks if only 9th’s misdeeds are the only items that 4th discovered. 4th replies that 8th is an intelligent man. He has done all he can can in this matter. After their Emperor Father gave orders to investigate the misappropriations, all officials through all ranks of the bureacracy including the Crown Prince’s cohort had stopped their graft except 9th.
8th gives a dry laugh and then softly answers that 4th is under orders and should do what he have to do. 8th replaces the books onto the stack and walks away. 4th silently watches his younger brother leave.
Back in 8th’s study, 9th is raving and dares 4th to report him. 9th claims because 4th has the Crown Prince’s support, 4th is not showing any respect for any one.
He turns to face his brothers and asks if they have gone mute.
9th strides to the meditating 8th and asks his older brother what he should do. To teach him. 8th opens his eyes but remains silent, twirling his ring around his finger. 9th declares that if 8th wants 4th dead, he will draw his blade and go there immediately.
8th gives 9th a venomous glare. 9th looks anxiously at 8th who looks down with a silent sigh before closing his eyes. 8th resumes twirling his thumb ring as 9th begs his older brother to speak. Frustrated, 9th turns to his younger brothers.
9th says he knows 4th and 14th are blood brothers and that 14th will not say anything. He then points out that 4th does not look on 14th as his flesh and blood sibling. 14th bites down on a sigh and looks away as well.
He next approaches 10th, saying that usually 10th has nothing much to contribute but today, 9th insists that his younger brother must speak up and tell him what he should do. 10th rounds on 9th, saying that he does not want to rebuke 9th but points out that 8th had ask 9th to pull back on his activities. 9th refuses to listen and now this has given 4th an opening to present yet another account book to 8th.
9th angrily retorts that 10th is reprimanding him. 10th looks contrite and turns away.
14th stands and asks 8th if there is anything else they could do. 8th informs them that he’s already ask 4th to submit the evidence to their Emperor Father.
They lurch back in shock and 9th asks what 8th had just said. 8th replies that he has done his best. 9th asks if 8th had done his best. He scolds 8th and says 8th has really done his best to protect himself.
14th rebukes 9th, asking him how he could speak to their elder brother in that way. 9th asks if he has spoken wrongly.
9th flings his arms up, accepting that the fact he had made the bed himself and must accept the consequences. He states that he had believed they were all on the same page and claims that in time of trouble, they are each protecting themselves. 9th declares that no matter how their Emperor Father punishes him, he will not drag them into the fire with him.
14th implores 9th to remain calm. 9th asks how he is suppose to remain calm! 14th asks 9th if he is in 8th’s shoes, what should he have done. Even if 8th had asked 4th to help bury the records, 4th might not be able to conceal the truth which will only bring 8th down as well.
10th steps up and tells 8th that that was a mistake. He says 8th should have taken the opportunity to burn the books and 4th would have no evidence. 8th turns away while 9th tells 10th to go home as he finds himself getting more irritated by whatever 10th says.
10th asks what 9th means, he was speaking up for 9th. 9th replies if 10th is really concerned about him, 10th should go home and come back with his brains before 10th should even think about helping him!
What a mean man 9th is!
10th is furious. He says he gets harassed by Ming Yu at home and he gets blasted by 9th there. He asks if he is born to be yelled at. 14th breaks in, telling them to stop quarrelling.
9th finally declares that he is a man and will accept whatever happens. He will do whatever he says, saying that as long as there is the greedy Crown Prince, even if he dies, 9th will drag the Crown Prince down and let his elder brother be a scapegoat.
8th gives 9th another hard look. He stands and tells 9th very deliberately that all of the Crown Prince’s men had already desist. 8th lets that sink in before telling 9th not to rave. 8th believes their Emperor Father will not do anything to 9th.
Kangxi smacks the account book down and looks pained as he eyes the stack of records. There is disappointment, there is despair on his face.
The Crown Prince is apprehensive while 9th glances over at the impassive 4th. 13th is watching 9th in turn before darting a look at his Emperor Father.
Kangxi sits on his throne, one hand on the books before he softly murmurs, “So these are the pillars of my kingdom. The roots of my kingdom.” The Emperor sighs before he proclaims that this is the end of the matter. He does not look at his sons as he makes public his decision that the guilty officials should return all the funds.
He looks up and then in almost disgust, dismisses the court. His sons take their leave. 9th looks almost gleeful, sneering at 4th before leaving the mournful monarch who continues to look at the accounts.
13th accompanies the bleak-looking 4th, both carrying umbrellas as they stand in the rain.
Ruo Xi climbs the stairs and just before reaching the top, she spots both princes on the upper courtyard.
13th notices her just as she starts to turn away and he hails her and tells her to come up. 4th tilts a glance in her direction and she gives a little smile.
At the top, she greets both and 13th waves her up. She asks why both are not seeking shelter from the rain. Instead of answering, 13th asks her view about how to deal with corrupt officials. Taciturn, 4th looks over the balustre.
Ruo Xi answers that as a palace maid, how would she know what would be appropriate and asks 13th not to tease her. He tells her not to act dumb and retorts that he knows generally what she is capable of. Ruo Xi smiles and gives an evasive answer, saying that since ancient times when graft is known, what follows is the perversion of justice. Although it is despicable to steal from the hard-won possessions of the people, what is even more hateful is perverting the law. To obstruct justice, people will do much even killing each other.
13th presses Ruo Xi not to dodge his question. Ruo Xi looks over her shoulder and after a moment, she smiles and says, “Punish without leniency.” 4th glances over, almost in surprise.
Ruo Xi continues, saying that once corruption becomes the dominating influence on officials, it will lead to chaos in government. Chaos in government is even more frightening than corruption. When officials are no longer officials, the lives of the people become intolerable. When that happens, then the people are no longer people of the kingdom.
13th examines Ruo Xi’s face before exchanging a glance with 4th. 13th then asks what she would do if she knows that the offender is 9th. Ruo Xi replies what should be done, should be done. 13th asks if Ruo Xi really believes that the law applies equally to both nobility and the common people.
Ruo Xi says let him return the monies he stole, then have him spanked until he cannot get off his bed for six months before sentencing him to beg on the streets for three months so that he understands how the poor survives. 13th smiles at this suggestion while 4th listens quietly from the sideline.
She says this will make 9th have empathy for the common folk. As for his accomplices, all should receive severe punishment to serve as a warning to everyone else that no one can protect those who break the law. From then on, even if someone wants to embezzle, there is little chance for them to do so.
13th laughs softly asking how she could think up such an idea without any concern for her brother-in-law. Ruo Xi asks if 9th is implicated. 13th replies not at the moment. Their Emperor Father had announced that there will be no further prosecution once the monies are returned.
Ruo Xi asks if that’s all the Emperor wanted, for the monies to be returned. 13th nods, saying that just a surface investigation shows a discrepancy of over 40,000 taels of silver. Ruo Xi thinks aloud, “One mu (1/6 acre) is worth about 7 to 8 taels. One tael of silver is enough to feed a family of 5 for a month.” She is stupefied as the stolen silver is enough to feed more than 200,000 people for a month! Which means that that same number of people died in the disaster area.
13th nods soberly at her analysis.
4th cuts in, saying this matter is already closed. There is no benefit to rehashing it. He walks away.
13th and Ruo Xi enters the pavilion and the prince wonders where his brother had gone. 4th replies that he is there. 13th then says he has an appointment with some talent. Since there is no sign of the rain stopping, he will his leave and will not accompany the both of them. 4th nods and 13th takes off, leaving a disconcerted Ruo Xi alone with his brother.
13th clearly knows 4th wants time alone with Ruo Xi!
She glances nervously as 4th approaches, his eyes intently scrutinizing her before he extends his arm, taking out the the red bundle he holds behind his back.
Ruo Xi recognizes it as the same bundle she had returned to 4th at the beginning of the new year. She stares at the bundle but does not take it. 4th tells her that he had intended to return the items after they came back from the Northern Inspection but events had interfered.
4th quietly stands, steadily holding out the gifts as Ruo Xi finally says that she cannot accept them. He looks across her shoulder and then calls out, “14th Di (younger brother).”
Ruo Xi immediately grabs the bundle, holding it behind her before she twirls to face the back. But no one is there! He is amazed and stares as she twirls back indignantly, declaring that 4th had tricked her!
4th seems amused, saying he did not think it would really work and asks if she is really that afraid of 14th. Ruo Xi starts to say she is not afraid when she realises she is still holding the gifts. Ruo Xi tries to thrust the bundle against 4th but he dodges her movement, turning before briskly walking away.
Ruo Xi calls out and trots after the prince and he says if she chases him out of the garden, 14th will definitely see them.
Stymied, the palace maid is speechless and comes to a halt, the bundle still in her outstretched hand. She looks at the red bag and seems at a loss.
So here comes the book note that might be a spoiler.
Question : Why did it take 4th so long to react to Ruo Xi’s returned gift?
The answer is in a conversation between 13th and Ruo Xi.
13th told Ruo Xi that at first, 4th had accepted her rejection when she returned his gifts. 4th shrugged it off saying that since Ruo Xi had even dragged in her parents and had written that she only wanted to serve them, if 4th continued to pursue her, he was sure Ruo Xi would say something else along the lines of she would rather die than marry him.
13th says that although 4th wanted Ruo Xi, 4th did not really need to have her. 4th had tossed the hairpin and necklace aside and forgotten about them.
13th added that he wanted both of them to get together. One was the most important person in his life and the other was his much admired bosom buddy but when Ruo Xi had indicated her reluctance, he had not forced the matter.
However all of this changed after the Northern Inspection where Ruo Xi organized the dance.
During that trip, 4th changed his mind about her because of her loyalty, her code of ‘brotherhood’ when she went all out to save 14th and the way she showcased Min Min without any thought of gaining anything for herself (which was atypical of the women of that time).
All the princes were aware that Ruo Xi designed the set and the costumes, arranged the music as well as cheoreographed the dance. All just so that she could let Min Min shine as a star. 13th tells Ruo Xi that even now, he himself wishes he could watched Ruo Xi dance once as it would be extraordinary.
After their return, 4th searched for the necklace and hairpin. 13th knows 4th wanted Ruo Xi again but was startled to discover that 4th’s regard for Ruo Xi went deeper than the simple feelings for a woman. The decisive and stoic 4th carried the gifts with him wherever he went and was wavering about giving them to Ruo Xi. It seemed he was apprehensive and uncertain.
This is not made clear in the drama and I thought it was an insight into the depth of 4th’s feelings for Ruo Xi.
Lyrics for White Snow Red Plum Flowers
The dark sky, the setting sun
The distant stars twinkle
Dreaming of a sky where you and I
Could fly freely together
Accompanying me on the crescent moon
The passing of Fall, the coming of Winter cold
Strips the plum tree as I watch
A starlit night
Caresses not your face
In solitude as memories replay
Snowflakes and red plum in mid-air
Your solicitude quickens my heart
A remainder of your warmth
A heart as red as the plum flowers
I too fear the piercing pain of the winter snow
Snowflakes red plum A frozen night
The glow of candles rekindles my sweet dreams
As the north wind blows; So my tears flow
Only longing remains; love has flown
Never to return
* See Notes for explanation