I love this picture of Ying Zheng so I just had to include it here. It‘s so rare that we get to see him show off his fighting abilities.
Ying Zheng has brought Li Er back to her residence and he watches over her as she sleeps. After she wakes up, he asks why she didn’t let him know about what was happening. Li Er says she can’t bother him with trivial matters when he’s so busy all the time, and tells him that she’s not in a position to disobey an order given by the Grand Dowager. Ying Zheng notices her bruised hand, and looking like he feels very sorry about her injuries, he gently takes her hand into his. He says that in the future, no one will be allowed to summon her without his permission. After all, he is her true King. Wrong thing to say, as Li Er hears that and pulls her hand back.
Ying Zheng grips her hand tighter, causing Li Er to wince in pain. Ying Zheng: “It doesn’t matter if you accept it or not, you are my consort. I won’t allow anyone to bully you, not even one hair can be hurt.” Li Er: “I’m not your property.” Ying Zheng grips her hand even tighter, and Li Er cries out: “Ying Zheng, why are you doing this? Stop it!” Ying Zheng: “Li Er, you can hate me, but you can’t ignore me like others do. You’re not Madam Min. You’re not Madam Chu. You don’t belong to the Six Kingdoms, and you definitely don’t belong to the Grand Dowager. You are mine. Understand? Behave, and I’ll give you what you deserve.” Li Er: “I don’t want what you would give me.” Ying Zheng tells Zhao Gao to prepare dinner as he’ll be dining with Li Er tonight, and no one is allowed to enter Li Er’s bedchamber before midnight. Ying Zheng looks sad and worried as he starts gently applying medicine to Li Er’s injured hand.
The dynamic between Li Er and Ying Zheng is fascinating to watch. I can tell how much Ying Zheng cares about Li Er, but whenever they interact, he says or does something that makes her believe that the two of them are in a constant power struggle, and that he may want to possess and control her, but he doesn’t actually have true feelings for her. This causes her to withdraw, which in turn makes Ying Zheng so upset that he reacts physically – by grabbing her, pulling her towards him, or kissing her forcefully. I’m so looking forward to when Li Er starts to soften her attitude towards Ying Zheng.
Han Shen is on duty when he notices that there are a lot of palace guards present around Li Er’s residence. He asks another guard what is going on, and finds out that the King is visiting Li Ji tonight.
The next day, Li Er receives Ying Zheng’s appointment notice naming her a Fu Ren, first rank for royal consorts. Li Er seems resigned as she accepts the notice from Zhao Gao. Li Er was so strong-willed and feisty when she first entered the palace that it may look like her personality has completely changed, but I don’t think it’s changed at all. I think that she’s just trying to stay under the radar for her and Tian Ming’s sakes, but beneath her calm exterior, she’s as smart, as passionate and as brave as ever.
Madam Chu throws a tantrum at the news. I don’t like her, but I think I can understand her perspective a bit. After all, she’s of very high birth, a princess of the powerful Chu state, and an ordinary woman has accomplished what she wasn’t able to do. Li Er has far surpassed her in gaining the King’s favor and having a son first, and she’s under a lot of pressure from her family and the Grand Dowager to be named Queen of Qin.
Jing Ke continues to be depressed over Li Er. Lan Er tries to snap him out of it by asking for a sparring match, but it just makes Jing Ke reminisce about his and Li Er’s paired sword technique, and he can’t bring himself to continue. Our Lan Er totally has a crush on Jing Ke.
That evening, Jing Ke and Li Er think about each other, and they decide to practice their paired sword technique under the moonlight. Li Er uses the pink silk scarf that Jing Ke bought for her so long ago in place of a sword. It’s very emotional and touching.
Just as Li Er finishes practicing, Ying Zheng comes to visit and becomes upset again when she won’t look at him. He pulls her towards him and moves his head close as though he’s going to kiss her, but then says that he doesn’t need her pity or charity and he sure doesn’t plan to force her. He will wait for the day that Li Er willingly goes into his arms.
After he releases her, he tells her that he plans to have Tian Ming stay with him, because it’s his way of making sure that Li Er will stay by his side. He doesn’t care when Li Er says that even if she is there physically, her heart will always be elsewhere because it’s enough that she is by his side. Ying Zheng promises to himself that he’ll win her heart. I like how straightforward these two are with each other – they don’t hide what is on their minds.
Ying Zheng’s eunuch Zhao Gao pays a visit to Crown Prince Dan of Yan state, and informs him that Ying Zheng has given permission to the King of Zhao to attack Yan. It turns out that Zhao Gao is originally from Zhao, and wants to do everything he can to ensure the prosperity of his home state.
We learn that Zhao Gao is aligned with Crown Prince Jia of Zhao. Zhao Gao is aware that Zhao will not be able to defeat Yan and will instead suffer huge casualties that will cause Zhao’s power to be severely damaged. As such, he suggests that Yan and Zhao unite against Qin, but Crown Prince Dan responds that he currently lives as a hostage in Qin and he doesn’t have a way to get home. There isn’t much that he can do.
The Danding group (yes, these guys are back and involved in Qin court politics) captures a messenger on his way to Zhao, and it is revealed that Qin intends to use Zhao’s attack on Yan as an excuse to attack and destroy Zhao. Devious but smart.
Sure enough, the King of Zhao soon receives the news that his army has been ambushed by Qin on both sides and is about to be destroyed. In his anger at Ying Zheng’s betrayal, the King of Zhao collapses, coughs blood, and dies. Zhao Gao finds out that both his messenger and the King of Zhao are dead and Crown Prince Qian will become King of Zhao instead of Prince Jia. He realizes that someone in the Qin palace with an opposite agenda has completely ruined his plans.
It’s Li Si! He is working behind the scenes to amass power and influence in the Qin court and is working with the Danding group to do so. In the past when I’ve watched dramas, I’ve been bored to death and annoyed with the political storylines, but here I’m finding it really interesting to watch the political machinations that are going on behind the scenes and how everyone has their own motivations and agenda. It’s interesting to see how those threads come to intersect with the power struggles in the inner palace.
Madam Chu is still scheming, and she meets with Zhao Gao. She is well aware of what is going on in Zhao, and she makes the point that both she and Zhao Gao share something in common – they are both outsiders to Qin and have an interest in ensuring the security and power of their home states. In exchange for providing funds to Zhao and Prince Jia, Madam Chu wants Zhao Gao to help her take care of Li Er’s son Tian Ming. Noo! Stay away from Li Er’s son, you horrible woman. Now we can see that Madam Chu and Zhao Gao’s interests have become aligned and that they’re going to be on the same boat going forward.
Han Shen hears about all that happened with the Grand Dowager, and tells Li Er that he wants to go and pull her skin out. Aww. Han Shen is such a good guy, and he loves his martial arts sister so much that he even entered the palace as a guard to find and protect her.
I like him more than Jing Ke. Li Er tells Han Shen that she and Ying Zheng have never been intimate, and that he usually sleeps alone because he doesn’t trust anyone. Li Er tells him that she’s considered both committing suicide and killing Ying Zheng, but then there would be no one to watch over Tian Ming. She has no choice but to stay in the palace for her son and she doesn’t know if and when Ying Zheng will change his mind about Tian Ming who isn’t his biological son. Han Shen wants to find a way to free Li Er from the palace, and decides to go and assassinate Ying Zheng. Ying Zheng catches him in the act and stabs him in the shoulder with his sword, but Han Shen escapes.
The next morning, Tian Ming’s nanny reports to Li Er that Tian Ming has gone missing. Li Er panics, and when Ying Zheng finds out, he is furious and wants to kill all of the palace maids and guards responsible. Li Er and Li Zhong persuade Ying Zheng to spare them for now and that the first priority is to locate Tian Ming. Ying Zheng orders all exits to be sealed and a full search done inside the palace. If Tian Ming is not found, the palace maids and guards will pay with their lives.
Thanks everyone for reading!
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I find it difficult to believe how easy is for Han Shen to move around the inner palace. Li er is the most precious woman for the king, and heavily guarded for sure, yet Han Shen visits er frequently. He even managed to enter (and successfully escape) the king's bedroom, which, knowing the king's fear of being assassinated, must be greatly guarded too. Maybe it's a small matter, but I wish it was better written.
It was actually mentioned (and shown) in one of the future episodes that compared to the palace guards, his martial arts ability is like a 10 and they are at a 3 at best. He's a better fighter, have a better physique and better at slipping/sneaking away. So it's kind of believable that he can sneak passed guards that only have basic training. Jing Ke was taken down due to the number of guards going after him and he was too emotional to think straight/fight well. Just my two cents.
Thank you for the recap. I like that still of Zheng. Those are some nice pyjamas! He has scary good reflexes. We don't get to see him fight much because of his position but he's clearly skilled.
Lan Er is so sweet. I feel sad for her and her unrequited love. Jing Ke continues to do nothing much. Han Shen is much more reliable even if his assassination attempt was ill-advised but I'm guessing he didn't realise that Ying Zheng was a skilled fighter too so he underestimated him.
I really appreciate you explaining all the various political figures and the machinations going on as I find it confusing when I'm watching so your explanations are very helpful.
You are so spot on with your description of the Li and Ying Zheng dynamic. They are both very strong-willed people and their stubbornness keeps causing misunderstandings between them. It's frustrating but fascinating dynamic to watch. I can't wait top see Li Er finally soften towards him.
A agree with your assessment of Li Er's personality and behaviour in the palace. she is just being smart and cautious as she now has to protect Tian Ming as well. It's like the equivalent of learning how to play the Game of Thrones in Ancient China now she is part of the harem.