I absolutely adore watching Ying Zheng and Li Er together. They share amazing chemistry and every time they interact, the intensity is off the charts. Their scenes together in episodes 9 and 10 were no exception. He takes advantage of every single opportunity he can to physically touch Li Er, and those moments are pretty hot and amazing (but also so morally questionable).
These episodes were a bit calmer than episodes 7 and 8, which felt like a total whirlwind with Li Er entering the palace and how intense her first few days living there were. I have to put in a mention here to read the recaps for episodes 7 and 8 if you haven’t already, lol. In these episodes, we see how the Grand Dowager and the other consorts in the inner palace react after finding out that Li Er is pregnant. Unsurprisingly, they don’t take it well as they naturally assume that Li Er is about to have a child for Ying Zheng.
Ying Zheng reaches the point where he can no longer tolerate Li Er’s indifference, so he grabs her and carries her to the bed. He stares into Li Er’s eyes, and then starts to lean in close to kiss her. It’s pretty hot. Ying Zheng smiles and says, “To show them that we are a happily married couple, looks like I have to stay a bit longer. What do you want to do with me? I am willing to accompany you any time.” Omg. What the heck? I think a part of me just melted. Ying Zheng’s done some pretty terrible things, so I think I’m getting influenced by just how hot he is. Li Er comes to her senses and pushes Ying Zheng off of her. A maid (I think this is the maid Madam Chu arranged to spy on Li Er) had been secretly listening at the door, but scurries away when Li Zhong catches her.
Jing Ke is currently chained up in a line of prisoners being escorted out of Xianyang City. He looks back and promises that he will return to save Li Er.
Ying Zheng talks to Zhao Gao about the time that he has been spending recently in the inner palace, and Zhao Gao confirms that it’s a positive thing because the consorts and children reside there. However, Zhao Gao cautions Ying Zheng not to only give his affections to one or two consorts, because the other consorts notice and it causes discontent. The way to ensure peace is for Ying Zheng to visit numerous consorts’ residences.
Ying Zheng understands, and decides to visit Madam Chu that evening. Ok, I get it – it’s a time in history when men would have tens and hundreds of consorts, especially a King like Ying Zheng, but I don’t like him going to go visit other women besides Li Er at all. Sure enough, the next morning Madam Chu gloats to the other consorts that she too has been visited by the King. Jing Liang Ren can barely hold it together when she hears this news, and Madam Chu makes fun of her for it. What a harpy.
Meanwhile, Han Shen has entered the palace as a guard to determine whether his martial arts sister is there. He eavesdrops on a conversation between Zhao Gao and some other palace eunuchs, and finds out that the King has recently named a consort who was an ordinary citizen of Wei state. This gives Han Shen the confirmation he needs that Li Er is in the inner palace, and he’s shocked when he overhears that Li Er is pregnant.
When Ying Zheng goes to visit Grand Dowager, she tells him that she is worried about his latest royal consort, Li Liang Ren. She’s disturbed by Li Ji’s attacks on her palace maids and royal physician and her sparring match with General Meng Wu. Ying Zheng responds that the sparring match had been Madam Chu’s idea (Madam Chu is there as well, and the look on her face when Ying Zheng exposes her is hilarious). Ying Zheng is not oblivious and knows that Grand Dowager and Madam Chu are in it together against Li Er. He tells Grand Dowager that there is no need to be concerned because as a general rule, he never stays the night with anyone, and only the guards in the inner palace are allowed to carry weapons.
The Grand Dowager decides to talk to Ying Zheng again about the naming of a queen, and it’s obvious that she wants Madam Chu to be the one. I finally realized in this episode that Grand Dowager is from the same state as Madam Chu, and that’s why she considers Madam Chu as her own granddaughter and is pushing so hard for her to become queen.
Ying Zheng tells them that the tradition of Qin is to name the queen based on which consorts have children, and he intends to follow that tradition. He then drops the bomb that Li Er is already pregnant. HA! In your faces. Of course Grand Dowager and Madam Chu are completely shocked, especially since Li Er just entered the palace not too long ago. Grand Dowager pretends to be happy and congratulates Ying Zheng on this joyous news. Watching this scene, I think Ying Zheng is laying the groundwork to eventually name Li Er as his queen. I’m sure he has no intention of naming her son as Crown Prince since the child is not biologically his, but the child provides Ying Zheng a justification for him to name Li Er Queen, especially if it’s a boy.
Grand Dowager and Madam Chu are shocked and upset to hear of Li Er’s pregnancy, and Grand Dowager declares that she will never allow Li Er to be named queen. Since Ying Zheng intends to name his queen based on having children, she won’t allow any consort to have a child before Madam Chu does. Grand Dowager and Madam Chu conspire to cause Li Er to have a miscarriage, and say that since she is from a defeated state, she has no power and no allies and wouldn’t be able to do anything after losing her child. Furthermore, they believe that they can buy Eunuch Zhao Gao over to their side since he would never align himself with a consort with as little influence as Li Er. These bitches. Li Er is the one person that I think Ying Zheng would move heaven and earth for, and he will destroy all those who mean her harm.
When Jing Liang Ren meets with Madam Chu, she is also shocked to find out that Li Er is already with child. Madam Chu tells Jing Liang Ren that in order to secure their positions in the inner palace, they must not allow the child to be born. She provides Jing Liang Ren with medicines that will cause Li Er to lose her child. What terrible people.
When Jing Liang Ren hesitates, Madam Chu tells her that she will always protect her and treat her well. Yeah, right! Jing Liang Ren is nothing to Madam Chu, and she will be tossed aside once she no longer serves any purpose.
Li Er is eating dinner when she suddenly starts to feel unwell, and her maids race to summon a physician. Ying Zheng comes running in as Li Er is being examined, and the physician reports to Ying Zheng that someone has put medicines meant to cause miscarriage into Li Er’s food. However, since Li Er is strong and healthy, she was able to hold on to the baby.
Ying Zheng is furious, and he orders Li Zhong and Zhao Gao to investigate the incident. He doesn’t care when Li Zhong tells him that there would be more than a hundred people to investigate. If the matter cannot be resolved, everyone dies, including Li Er’s palace maids, who beg mercy. He dismisses everyone and sits on Li Er’s bed to watch over her.
Li Er opens her eyes and tells Ying Zheng to stop pretending, because he’s her prime suspect. Ying Zheng: “To make you lose your child, do I need to go to that trouble?” Li Er: “You’re right. In this palace of fighting and scheming, you don’t need to go to that trouble. If you just mention it in passing, someone will do for it for you.” Ying Zheng asks Li Er, “If I really did it, why would I personally come here?” Because she’s awesome, Li Er responds, “Who knows? That time you pretended to be Master Zhao in front of the King of Wei, you were very convincing.” Ying Zheng: “That was me giving you respect. With my usual way of doing things, I would have killed him then. I didn’t do it. The inner palace is a place of fighting. The other royal consorts were jealous, so they acted against you.”
Li Er: “This palace is like a prison. There are so many people wanting the attention of the King, but what does that have to do with me? The food in the palace is not even as good as the food in an inn.” Ying Zheng: “Li Er…If you want to have a child in the palace, then this is fate.” Li Er: “Yes, it’s my fate. So why did you pretend to be angry before?” Ying Zheng: “I was really upset earlier. Why do you mistrust me so much? You’re my royal consort. An attack on you is the same as going above me.” Li Er: “So in the end, it was all about you.” Ying Zheng, seriously, why did you have to say that? Why not just tell Li Er you worry and care about her? Now Li Er thinks all you were trying to do is to protect your own position and dignity. Ying Zheng asks Li Er that if he was the father of her baby, then would she believe that he was really worried about her? Li Er doesn’t respond. He says it’s late, and leaves Li Er to rest for the night.
Jing Liang Ren goes to see Madam Chu, concerned about how angry the King is and how he wants to do a thorough investigation. Madam Chu tells her that she doesn’t need to worry because she has thought of everything and the deed will not be traced back to them. They especially do not need to be concerned because Zhao Gao is leading the investigation, and Madam Chu has a close relationship with him.
Li Er has grown frustrated with being confined to bed rest when Zhao Gao comes to visit with several valuable treasures for Li Er from the King. Li Er tells him that she doesn’t want any of it, the only thing she really wants is her Gong Sun family sword back. Does Li Er want to get her sword back so she can kill Ying Zheng? I’m not sure. She calls the King a liar for not returning the sword to her as he promised. But Li Er, he never actually promised to return it to you!
Madam Min comes to visit Li Er, and she tells Li Er that she doesn’t need to suspect her of having ulterior motives. She tells Li Er that she grew up with Ying Zheng in Zhao, and she only has sibling feelings for him. Madam Min says that she could tell that Li Er didn’t want to marry into Qin, and was surprised that she became pregnant so quickly. Since neither of them have romantic feelings towards the King, Madam Min would like them to become friends. Oh, I really want to believe Madam Min since she seems like a nice person, but she’s another consort in the inner palace after all. I hope she doesn’t end up betraying Li Er.
That night, Han Shen tries to enter the inner palace but is turned away when he doesn’t carry the appropriate badge. To try and enter the inner palace without permission means a death sentence.
Li Er talks to her maid, Qing Er, about Madam Min’s visit earlier that day because she is suspicious of Madam Min’s motives. Li Er is no dummy. Qing Er tells Li Er that since she’s favored by the King, and is carrying a child, it’s not unreasonable for Madam Min to try to build a relationship with Li Er.
Li Er says that she’s only from a defeated state and doesn’t have any interest in the infighting of the inner palace. Qing Er tells her that she needs to think for her baby, and that someone disliked her so much that they tried to cause her to have a miscarriage. Once the baby is born, it will be even better for her. Qing Er leaves for the night, and Li Er is drifting off to sleep when someone enters her room. It’s the King’s mother!
The King’s mother is having delusions and attempts to strangle Li Er because she thinks Li Er is seducing her man. Ying Zheng rushes in and has Zhao Gao take her back to her residence. Li Er is stunned by what just happened, and she asks Ying Zheng if that woman is really his mother. She asks what happened to her, and who she was so upset with.
I feel like Li Er has finally opened up a bit to ask Ying Zheng these questions, and he completely ruins this opportunity by asking if her willingness to speak with him is only to ask these questions. Gah. Li Er instantly withdraws and with some snark says: “Yes. Otherwise, I don’t even want to hear your voice. I don’t even want to see your face, but you’re the King of this palace. What can I do?” Ying Zheng: “In the Six Kingdoms, there is only you who dares to speak to me like that.” Li Er: “You think too highly of yourself. Just the people I know who would curse you, my fingers are not enough to count.” Ha. Ying Zheng: “Including your martial arts brother?” Li Er doesn’t respond. As he leaves, Ying Zheng tells Li Er to rest well and that he will appoint guards to protect her residence.
Ying Zheng goes to see his mother at her residence, the Southern Palace, and the two exchange grievances. His mother tells him that he has taken everyone from her – Chancellor Lu, Duke Chang Xin and even her two innocent young children, and now she’s all alone. I’m still upset about the children too, to be honest.
Ying Zheng is still furious that she caused him to be laughed at by the world with her indecent behavior, and she doesn’t have any of the dignity and grace that a Queen Dowager should have. She asks Ying Zheng to send her to where Chancellor Lu is because she can’t stand being in such a cold and terrifying place like the palace, but Ying Zheng rejects her request and tells her maids to give her a prescription to get her to sleep. There is so much pain in this scene, on both sides.
Madam Chu is furious that the King is so protective of Li Er that he assigned guards to her residence and gave her many valuable gifts. Zhao Gao arrives to question Madam Chu, since he found out that she had been prescribed the same medicines that almost caused Li Er to have a miscarriage.
Madam Chu hints to Zhao Gao that the Grand Dowager – the person with the most power and influence in the inner palace – is the person behind the miscarriage plan. She makes the point that given Li Er’s social standing, she will never be named Queen. You’re so wrong, lady. I’m pretty sure Ying Zheng has every intention of naming Li Er his queen – it’s just a matter of time. She offers a bribe of an extremely valuable jade from her home state of Chu, and Zhao Gao accepts. Gah. His eyes practically popped out of his head when he sees the jade.
Zhao Gao reports to Ying Zheng and Li Er that he was unable to uncover anything in his investigation, but Ying Zheng doesn’t buy it for a second. He says that there must someone more powerful than him in the palace for Zhao Gao to hide information from him. I like him, he’s smart. In order to force Zhao Gao to tell the truth, Ying Zheng has Li Zhong pull his sword on him and threaten to kill him.
Li Er doesn’t like this, and she tells Ying Zheng to stop and let it go since her and her baby are safe. As we know, Ying Zheng hates it when anyone tries to go over his head, and he tells Li Er that if he doesn’t take some lives, no one will respect him. This again. Zhao Gao begs for mercy. Li Er is pretty persistent when she tells Ying Zheng that she doesn’t want any lives put on her or her baby’s conscience. At that, Ying Zheng decides to let him go. I think Li Er is the only person in the world who could’ve convinced Ying Zheng to let this go.
Ying Zheng asks Li Zhong if it’s possible that someone outside the palace tried to cause Li Er’s miscarriage. Li Zhong says that it would be highly unlikely, but there was someone who tried to gain entry to the inner palace a few days after Li Er entered the palace. Li Er is startled and asks Li Zhong what happened to that person. Li Zhong tells her that anyone who tries to enter the inner palace without authorization is harshly interrogated, and if the person is able to survive, they are sent to do hard labor. Both he and Ying Zheng ask Li Er why she’s so interested in a palace intruder. Although Li Er tries to brush it off as just curiosity, it is obvious what she is really thinking.
As Ying Zheng leaves, he tells Li Er to just let the servants know if she needs anything. Li Er says that there isn’t anything she wants or needs except for her Gong Sun family sword back. Ying Zheng basically tells her to give it up. Meanwhile, Li Er is heartbroken at the thought that Jing Ke may be dead or seriously injured, and all she wants is for him to be safe. Was this a rehearsed conversation for Li Er to believe that Jing Ke was dead or exiled so she would start to give up on him? I can’t tell for sure. I think Ying Zheng isn’t returning the sword to Li Er yet because he thinks that she’ll use it on him, but when the day comes that Li Er truly falls in love with Ying Zheng, he will return it to her.
Jing Ke is on his way to do hard labor when a soldier arrives with a bribe to release him. It turns out that Tian Guang has been searching for Jing Ke all this time, and used his connections to have him released when he learned that he had been captured in the palace. Jing Ke is completely destroyed, a shadow of his former self, and says that he doesn’t know what the point of living is anymore. He wasn’t even able to protect the woman he loves. Tian Guang tells Jing Ke that Li Er had sacrificed herself so he could continue to study the martial arts and use his skills for the benefit of the world’s people, so Jing Ke cannot disappoint her. He needs to continue to live on, and live well. He agrees to return to Yan state with Tian Guang. Poor Jing Ke, what a terrible time he’s having. I feel so sorry for him.
The physician does a final examination of Li Er, and reports that the baby is no longer in danger and Li Er is recovering well. It must be so weird for the physician to act like everything’s fine and Ying Zheng is the father of Li Er’s child when he knows the truth. Although it’s not like he exactly has a choice – threat of death and all.
In order to make sure no one tries to harm Li Er and her child again, Ying Zheng announces that he will take his meals with Li Er from now on, and if anything happens, he will consider it disrespectful. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be sufficient to terrify everyone in the palace and ensure that nothing happens to Li Er and her child again. Li Er still doesn’t trust Ying Zheng at all, and asks him why he’s bothering since he’s at the top of the list of people who want to see Li Er lose her baby. Ying Zheng confirms that in fact he doesn’t care about Li Er’s child, but he wants her to live on.
I loved this upcoming scene. Ying Zheng has prepared a special meal for Li Er, and encourages her to eat. When Li Er says that she’s not hungry, Ying Zheng says that if she doesn’t eat, he won’t either. Ying Zheng – why would you think that’s a threat? It’s really not. What does Li Er care if you won’t eat? Sure enough, Li Er says she won’t eat for three months then, to cause Ying Zheng to starve to death and do the world’s people a favor. Lol.
There’s no way Li Er would actually go through it, she would go on eating for the sake of her baby. In response to this disrespect, Ying Zheng grabs Li Er and pulls her right to him. Ahhh!! Li Er tries to pull away, but Ying Zheng’s grip is too tight. Ying Zheng: “If you continue to struggle, I’ll do even scarier things. Do you believe me?” Ying Zheng finally lets her go and tried to hand her a red date (at least I think it’s a red date) to eat. Li Er says the more Ying Zheng forces her to eat, the less she wants to. Ying Zheng: “Okay”. He puts the red date in his own mouth, and then transfers it to Li Er’s through a kiss. OMG!! It’s the red date kiss from all the trailers and previews! So hot. Li Er is totally stunned, and can’t say or do anything. It is only when Ying Zheng prepares to feed her a second date that Li Er comes to her senses and says that she’ll eat. Ying Zheng insists on feeding her.
Jing Ke is currently drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Tons and tons of it. I feel so sorry for him, he is so heartbroken and lost without Li Er, completely disheveled and he looks like hasn’t slept or bathed in days. Jing Ke thinks back and realizes how much he regrets not going off with Li Er when she asked him. He stumbles through the woods, right into the hands of the Danding sect.
Jing Ke is too drunk to even care when the Danding sect asks him for the Hulou sword technique, so they conspire to bring him back with them to torture. Just then, Ge Nie and Lan Er show up. The Danding sect recognize Ge Nie and are aware of his reputation as the world’s best swordsman, so they run off. Ge Nie and Lan Er take Jing Ke back with them to Tian Guang’s residence. Jing Ke has no inclination to socialize or be friendly and goes off on his own into the woods. Ge Nie comes to see him and the two spar a bit, before Ge Nie tells Jing Ke that his Master was as talented as Ge Nie and his talents were known everywhere.
Comments: It’s interesting because I think for us as viewers, it is extremely obvious that Ying Zheng is head over heels in love with Li Er, but Li Er’s experience is completely different. From watching him since the beginning of the series, our understanding of Ying Zheng is that he’s ruthless and tyrannical. He never shows an ounce of sympathy towards anyone and his default reaction is to order people to be exiled or executed. I don’t think it’s that unusual for someone who grew up the way that he did, where he had an extremely traumatic childhood and then lived a life of princely advantage, where everyone around him was there to fulfill his every wish and whim.
With Li Er, we can already see him breaking his own “rules”. Even though he periodically blows up at Li Er’s attitude and harsh words, he’s been able to hold back from punishing her too harshly. I think it’s also because of his love for her that he’s allowed her to keep her unborn child, even though it’s probably one of the biggest acts of disrespect he’s had in his life.
From Li Er’s perspective, it’s especially difficult to see that Ying Zheng’s actions are done out of love and affection, especially because her experience with love to date has been with Jing Ke. Jing Ke, who was always warm, gentle, and loving towards her. His way of demonstrating that he cares about Li Er is the complete opposite of Ying Zheng. To Li Er, Ying Zheng is a man that she barely knows and has spent barely any time with so she doesn’t have any trust or emotional attachment when it comes to him.
From before meeting him and after meeting him, Li Er has always viewed him as a terrible person – the person responsible for her losing everything that she loves – her country, her family, and her first love. It doesn’t help that he poisoned her first love to get her into the palace, tried to choke her, and wishes to kick her unborn child out of the palace once he’s born. His behavior may be his way of expressing his love and affection, but to Li Er, what he is doing is most likely him showing how he wants to possess her and control her. It definitely doesn’t help that his answer to why he wanted her to enter the palace was because he was bored with the other consorts. She is always stunned by Ying Zheng’s actions, and she has no idea how to view or react to them, and I think we’ll see her slowly and gradually come to start understanding and caring for him in the following episodes.