Here we go with episodes 3 & 4! As always, if you have any suggestions (or questions on the drama/book/actors), feel free to let us know in the comments or on our CuriousCat (for Haoran specific questions, ask here).
For those who may have missed it, I did a long, comprehensive introductory post to the drama, the books, and the Novoland universe in an earlier post here. We are deviating quite a bit from the books in the story ahead though, so use it mostly as a guideline!
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General Tuoba and Qingyang’s Ninth Lord walk amongst the casualties and fallen soldiers of the camp, now a charred wreck. Tuoba explains that this is the work of Xiatang’s enemy country Li’s Thunder Troops, and the Ninth Lord declares them enemies of Qingyang from this day onwards. Asule trudges through the devastation, and manages to retrieve a reed instrument that belonged to Su Ma, and his pet squirrel Badai.
We enter Nanhuai City of the Eastern Land, where the streets are bustling with talk in anticipation of Guichen’s arrival, and meet Ji Ye and Yu Ran for the first time. Ji Ye follows at the side of Young Master Leiyun as his bodyguard, and gets entangled with Yu Ran (dressed as a man) when she steals the young master’s jade pendant. He gives chase, and the two fly over Nanhuai’s rooftops in a bid for the pendant.
This game of cat and mouse comes to a halt when Yu Ran loses her footing on a rickety roof. She pulls Ji Ye down with her in the fall, coming to land right on top of a completely terrified Guichen’s carriage. Guichen negotiates a peaceful exchange of the jade pendant, but mistakenly addresses Yu Ran as “gentleman” when returning something she’s dropped. Yu Ran reveals her feminine identity, then leaves in a huff.
We next join Guichen at a welcome banquet in Ziliang Palace, home to the Duke Baili Jinghong and his family. A discussion of the pre-arranged alliance marriage follows. Princess Baili Huan is shocked to hear that Guichen is the youngest of his brothers, was born to a concubine, and has little to show for in the way of military skill due to his sickly nature. She makes it clear she doesn’t think him worthy of her hand in marriage, now that she’s learned of his person and upbringing. The banquet ends abruptly, with both clans leaving in bad spirits.
Guichen’s illness seems to resurface just as the banquet breaks up, and he staggers away from the banquet clutching his chest, his condition rapidly worsening. At the same time, Yu Ran, eager to see the Qingyang prince her attendants have been telling her so much about, makes her way through the palace grounds. Guichen bumps into Yu Ran just as he’s about to lose consciousness and faints right into her arms.
Meanwhile, Ji Ye visits his father’s home, and secretly listens at the door as his younger brother, Ji Changye, receives tutoring from their father. Changye’s mother enters just then, and reminds Ji Ye that he isn’t to come near the study when Changye is having his lessons. Ji Ye’s father admonishes him for bringing shame to the family by taking up service at Young Master Leiyun’s side as a bodyguard, and punishes him with a beating.
General Tuoba reports on the supernatural nature of Guichen’s illness in a private audience with Baili Jinghong. He also produces a red banner bearing an inscription as proof that the enemy troops that destroyed their camp were no ordinary Li troops, but Chiya soldiers.
Baili Jinghong is infuriated at the sight of the banner, and orders him to burn the “ill-boding thing” outside the palace. For now, Guichen’s illness can only be suppressed by the duke’s advisor Gong Yuyi, who utters a healing charm over the boy’s sleeping body, revealing her wings. Asule dreams of his home in the grasslands, and of the people he’s recently lost.
At the Ji family’s ancestral shrine, Ji Ye is a joined by a hooded stranger whilst paying his respects. The stranger pulls his hood back to reveal his face, and we are properly introduced to Yi Tianzhan for the first time. He laments that the weapon Ji Ye wields, the Tiger Tooth spear, has fallen far from its former glory.
Their meeting is interrupted by Ji Ye’s father, Ji Qianzheng. It is revealed that the Ji family were part of an organisation named Tianqu alongside Yi Tianzhan, but Ji Qianzheng expresses his desire to be free of this association. Yi Tianzhan obliges, and as a rite of parting, challenges him to a match, in which Qianzheng ends up injured.
Ji Ye rushes to defend his father, but Yi Tianzhan delivers him a blow that sends Ji Ye flying, his spear poised to pierce the injured Qianzheng. Just as disaster seems imminent, Ji Ye avoids delivering the blow by replicating the move Yi Tianzhan had performed in his earlier combat with Qianzheng, a move that is signature to the Ji family. Before leaving, Yi Tianzhan tells Qianzheng to melt the ring representing his Tianqu membership, since no one in the Ji family can inherit it anymore.
Intrigued, Ji Ye follows Yi Tianzhan and asks that he teaches him spearplay. Relenting after hearing Ji Ye’s impassioned plea, Yi Tianzhan shows him a move invented by the boy’s grandfather. Ji Ye watches, enraptured. Stunned with newfound purpose, he retrieves the ring his father has thrown into the fire, and assumes ownership.
Guichen awakes to find that a new attendant and new living quarters have been assigned to him. He warms quickly to his new attendant, Lady Su Shunqing, explaining that the ring he carries on him belonged to his late foster father, Longge Zhenhuang. Later, Lady Su returns to her own quarters alone, where she ponders over a ring of her own.
Night falls and the family banquet comes into procession. Baili Jinghong introduces Guichen to an outstanding warrior whom he considers a son, Baili Yin, titled Lord Wuyang. The young lord performs a sword dance in honour of Guichen’s arrival, but his demeanour is more threatening than welcoming. There is also tangible tension between Baili Yin and Lady Su, who later reveals herself to be his foster mother.
The newly titled Princess Yu Ran makes a stunning entrance, and Guichen can’t help but stare. She takes easily to Guichen, charmed by his description of how matches are made in the grasslands. For a while, the two get on effortlessly, sharing smiles over Yu Ran’s mischievous remarks. The mood soon changes when Baili Jinghong makes clear his plans to marry the two, however, and Yu Ran storms out. Aunt Gong Yuyi rushes after her, having agreed to the arrangement herself, but Yu Ran insists that she will only marry someone she loves.
Additional notes/thoughts from the recappers
- What a great introduction to the main trio – we were shown their very distinct personalities and now the fun officially begins as we see how their friendship unfolds and their destinies entwine. Lv Guichen’s quiet steadiness, Ji Ye’s determination to prove himself, Yu Ran’s street smarts and sassiness. And simultaneously – we also see what they have in common: their loneliness and feeling like they don’t fit in.
- I thought the landscapes in the first two episodes were breathtaking, but Nanhuai is absolutely stunning as well. The gorgeous palace shots, the glimpse at the vibrant and buzzing city. NEF continues to impress with its use of cinematography. Added note: the detail and quality in the costumes is amazing.
- While it felt like we were going warp speed in the first two episodes, things slow down a bit in these two episodes, but not in a bad way at all. Like Lv Guichen, we are given time to adjust to this new environment and learn more about it, since we’ll be spending quite a while here.
- Among the characters introduced in these two episodes, Gong Yuyi is the one that I was fascinated the most by (also Jiang Shuying is absolutely gorgeous here, and the graceful air in which she carries herself is perfect for this character) as it’s an original character so we absolutely don’t know what to expect from her. I’m very curious about just what she’s planning – and I fully expect it to relate to the Winged Tribe, and how they no longer have a nation. Also – her wings!!! Totally surpassed my expectations.
- Jiang Tao as Yi Tianzhan was mesmerizing and the scene with Ji Ye was incredibly well done. I loved how he saw right through the boy’s ambition and pointed out Ji Ye’s greatest weakness – all he wants to do is win, to prove himself, regardless of the cost. It’s a struggle that we’ll see Ji Ye dealing with for the rest of the story, and it remains to be seen whether he can ultimately conquer that thirst and ambition.
- Overall, really pleased by how the drama is progressing, and the pace right now is perfect, especially for those of us who only have time to watch two episodes a day. Super excited for what’s to come!
- There are more scenes dedicated to the portrayal of the interests and temperaments of the characters than there are plot-crucial details in these episodes, and it’s heartening to find that there aren’t any bland characters amongst even the smaller roles introduced, every one was just as entertaining as the more ambitious ones and provided lively contrast!
- Ji Ye’s scenes were really well put together. The aimless yearning in his character is consumed with direction in the moment where he is struck with purpose, realising he has a creed to inherit, after all. Zhang Xiaobo’s direction in the scene where Ji Ye becomes privy to the Ji family’s secrets through Qianzheng’s and Yi Tianzhan’s conversation was bewitching. To watch Ji Ye’s hunger latch on to news of an ancient calling was really, really exciting.