Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I am blown away by how much interest and enthusiasm you guys have shown in just our first Open Thread – and we are only at the beginning, wow! Things continue to get more interesting this set of episodes, and I hope you guys are ready to dig into it! (Also, isn’t that quite the poetic and meaningful shot of Mei Changsu and Prince Jing? Particularly with Mei Changsu partially veiled?)
Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Ooh. The plot thickens this episode, and I’m starting to feel the crack bite, all over again. Very nice.
I can’t help feeling quite amused and thrilled at the same time, at how shrewd and.. well, sneaky Mei Changsu is, in the way he engineers the Emperor’s approval for him to get Tingsheng and two other boys out of the Servants’ Prison to spar with Baili Qi (I didn’t realize it until this episode, but the big warrior’s family name appears to be Baili, and not Bai, and therefore his given name is Qi and not Liqi, as I’d previously assumed).
The way Mei Changsu plays it, he totally doesn’t want to get involved, and is absolutely getting dragged into this, just because the Emperor decided to interrupt his quiet (and purposely suspicious-looking 😉) conversation with Nihuang. Muahaha. I love how Mei Changsu manages to get exactly what he wants, while looking like he’s doing everyone a favor. 😂 It’s brilliant, and they are basically putty in his hands.
I do love how Commander Meng plays along without missing a beat, when the Emperor asks for his opinion. I get the feeling that Mei Changsu and Commander Meng haven’t discussed the specifics of this plan, and yet Commander Meng just instinctively knows how to align himself in a way that would be helpful to his old friend. He even knows to make sure to pick Tingsheng, when he goes to the Servants’ Prison to select the boys like he’d volunteered. Aw. Are we already getting glimpses of brotherhood? I like it.
I also love how, when the boys are presented to the Emperor, and the Emperor starts talking about rewarding Mei Changsu handsomely if they win, Mei Changsu expertly deflects the attention to the boys, saying that they should be the ones to receive the reward, since they are the ones doing all the work. This definitely feels like he’s laying the groundwork towards Tingsheng earning his freedom, and I like where this is going.
The way Commander Meng answers the Emperor’s questions consistently comes across as well-balanced and thoughtfully considered, like all he cares about is helping the Emperor. And yet, from everything that we see, it’s clear that he’s nudging things along in a way that helps Mei Changsu. Like when the Emperor expresses uncertainty about Mei Changsu’s chances of success, Commander Meng’s answer is vague enough to show that he’s not personally involved, and yet positive enough, to give the Emperor some hope that there are strange techniques in existence, that could point the way to success. Ha. I like the idea that Commander Meng is shrewd and wise in his own way.
Elsewhere in the palace, we see Imperial Concubine Jing (Prince Jing’s mother) run into Consort Hui, who’s all upset because she’s been bullied by the Empress again, and has been tasked with the eerie task of lighting thirty incense sticks at the late Empress Dowager’s quarters, as penance for not doing a good enough job of copying texts. How kind and gracious, of Imperial Concubine Jing, to offer to accompany Consort Hui, because she knows how timid and jittery Consort Hui is.
As a side note, I wanted to explain that I’m using the term Imperial Concubine Jing instead of Consort Jing because on this viewing, I noticed that when the two women greet each other, the titles that they use to address each other, are different. Prince Jing’s mother is addressed as 静嬪 Jìng pín, where Jìng (静) is her title and pín (嬪) is the rank of Imperial Concubine. The other lady is addressed as Huì fēi, 惠妃 where Huì (惠) is her title and fēi (妃) is the rank of Consort, a comparatively higher rank. You can browse the various iterations of the Chinese Imperial harem system and the various titles here.
This context backs up what we hear, when Imperial Concubine Jing speaks of her low rank later in the episode.
Significantly, the two women overhear a secretive conversation between a maid and a mysterious old lady, where the old lady hands over a bottle of a very strong wine called Qing Si Rao, the same wine which the late Empress Dowager had supposedly used on Princess Liyang (Marquis Xie’s wife and Jingrui’s mother). We soon learn from Consort Hui, that this wine works like an aphrodisiac, and renders the drinker unconscious. Very suspicious stuff, for sure.
Even though Imperial Concubine Jing quickly shushes Consort Hui and tells her it’s best not to get involved, we see that she works quickly to find an audience with Grand Princess Liyang. (Honestly, how shrewd is she, to find her way to Grand Princess Liyang, via an embroidered pouch! It’s complicated living the palace life! 😅)
How graceful, subtle and smart, are these ladies? I love how they appear to do nothing much on the surface, when they’re actually silently making plans for a top secret rendezvous. And, how utterly shocking, that Grand Princess Liyang had been a victim of Qing Si Rao.
That flashback, of the late Empress Dowager urging her to drink it, while Marquis Xie looks on with gratitude and.. anticipation, is stomach-churningly sickening. 🤮 I mean, she was basically drugged by her own mother, so that she could be raped, and thus have to marry Marquis Xie?!? WHAT. What kind of mother does that?! 😳🥴
The two ladies quickly conclude that the target of this current scheme has to be Princess Nihuang, given the recent happenings in the palace, and Grand Princess Liyang determines to save Princess Nihuang from suffering the fate that she herself had endured.
Meanwhile, Fei Liu’s doing a good job training the 3 boys, and Princess Nihuang goes to look in on them. I find it pretty significant, that she tells Mei Changsu that she’s in a difficult and dangerous situation, where she has no other alternatives, and asks him to put his best effort into this. That’s showing him vulnerability, when they’ve technically barely met. I feel like this is unusual for her, given her badass general background. It seems that there’s something about Mei Changsu that inspires her trust?
We then witness the Very Important Conversation between Mei Changsu and Prince Jing, where Mei Changsu essentially tells Prince Jing that he would like to help put him on the throne. Well, Prince Jing certainly didn’t see THAT coming! 😆
Prince Jing: “Then do you intend to choose the Crown Prince or the Prince of Yu?”
Mei Changsu: “I wish to choose you.”
Such an iconic moment, and spoken with such quiet conviction, on the part of Mei Changsu. 🤩
Mei Changsu positions his proposal as one that will better showcase his abilities as a strategist, since Prince Jing is not in an advantageous position, and it would reflect extra well on Mei Changsu if he can make Prince Jing succeed the throne, but Prince Jing does not mince his words and replies that he hates people who scheme.
Mei Changsu seems to understand Prince Jing pretty well, though, because he knows just what buttons to push, to get Prince Jing to consider the throne. The way he asks Prince Jing if he can really bear to see the throne in either the Crown Prince’s or Prince Yu’s hands, is so shrewd. This is the turning point of the conversation, because Mei Changsu is right; Prince Jing doesn’t want either of the two on the throne, if he can at all help it.
Significantly, Mei Changsu mentions that saving Tingsheng is a gift that he’d prepared for Prince Jing. To add a bit of color, I thought I’d mention that the exact phrase that Mei Changsu uses is “见面礼” (jiànmiànlǐ), which refers to a gift that is given to mark a first meeting.
Also significantly, later that night, Commander Meng and Mei Changsu discuss the probability that Tingsheng is actually the deceased Prince Qi’s son. They agree that the probability is high, given his age, his resemblance to Prince Qi, and the likelihood that the Tingsheng’s mother would have risked her life to save her son. All these factors, including Prince Jing’s own deep interest in Tingsheng, make for pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Tingsheng is indeed Prince Qi’s son.
Importantly, Mei Changsu tells Commander Meng his plan to help Prince Jing ascend the throne, which means that now Commander Meng is in the know, and perhaps will be able to assist him?
Also significant, I feel, is the fact that Mei Changsu says gravely, that there will be innocents who will be hurt in the process, and because Prince Jing would not be able to bear that burden, he is determined that he will bear it in Prince Jing’s stead. This feels.. pretty somber and dark, especially since Mei Changsu himself is here to seek justice for innocent lives that were spilled. The fact that he will have to spill more innocent lives to further his cause feels.. a bit dark. 😬
The last key conversation this episode, is when Grand Princess Liyang secretly seeks out Mei Changsu, and enlists his help in alerting Princess Nihuang to the potential danger she might face.
At first, this does seem like an odd request, since Mei Changsu is new to Daliang, and Grand Princess Liyang ought to have many more options. However, when Grand Princess Liyang explains herself, it makes a lot of sense. She has no evidence, and cannot involve her husband or sons, and she has no idea when the schemer will make a move, and thus cannot enter the palace to prevent it from happening. However, Mei Changsu is due to present the 3 boys at the palace the next day, and would therefore have a sure crossing of paths with Princess Nihuang.
That’s good thinking by Grand Princess Liyang, and quite creative too (and her old maid is creative as well, since she basically guilt-trips Marquis Xie into retreating from Grand Princess Liyang’s chambers, ha).
Mei Changsu muses darkly to Commander Meng that the person behind the scheme must be either the Empress or Noble Consort Yue, and they will see which of them it is, when one of them invites Princess Nihuang to the palace. Dang. Will Mei Changsu be able to warn Nihuang in time? And will Nihuang’s smarts be enough, to outwit the wily witches in the palace?
The next day, before the match between Baili Qi and the boys, Mei Changsu manages to gives Nihuang a quiet heads-up, telling her to be wary of the ladies of the inner court, and not to accept any invitations. If it couldn’t be helped, then not to accept any food or drink while visiting.
Two things that I feel are worth noting are, 1, From the way she reacts to Mei Changsu’s warning, Nihuang appears a little over-confident of herself, and 2, Mei Changsu lets slip that Nihuang’s habit of never bringing a maid with her is not a good one, which he totally shouldn’t know, if he’s actually just met her. Nihuang’s surprised response is interrupted by Yujin, but I’m sure this will come back to give Nihuang pause for thought.
This also makes me realize that, although Mei Changsu is consistently calm, controlled, and fully deliberate in what he “lets slip,” he appears to be more emotionally involved when it comes to Nihuang, and is more likely to make a mistake. Eep. That’s not exactly helpful, if he wants to keep his identity a secret?
The boys put up a dizzying dance of a fight, and come out victorious in the face-off against Baili Qi. As a result of this, Baili Qi is politely removed from the running to be Nihuang’s consort.
Nihuang and Mei Changsu put up a bit of a show, bickering over which of them would get to take the boys under their wing, and, I think as a result, the Emperor is in a good enough mood to give permission for the boys to leave the Servants’ Prison. It seems to me that Nihuang and Mei Changsu sure know how to humor the Emperor, and coax his whims, without him even really realizing it. Or maybe he realizes it, but allows it anyway? 🤔 He leaves it to them to figure out who will take the boys, and Nihuang quickly stakes her claim.
How interesting, though, that Nihuang stops Mei Changsu outside afterwards, and presses him to explain how the boys could have won. According to Nihuang, the skills that the boys learned notwithstanding, there is no way that they could have beat Baili Qi – which is when we learn that Baili Qi is part of the Jiangzuo Alliance, and Mei Changsu had basically planted him in the tournament, because he could come in useful, if there was a strong suitor in the race that Nihuang didn’t like. Woah. Ok, that’s brilliant and sneaky and something that I didn’t see coming. 😱
This also reminds me of what Nihuang had talked about in an earlier episode, of how a stranger had just appeared, helped her when she’d been stuck in battle, and then disappeared at the Jiangzuo border. I guess Mei Changsu is nothing if not consistent. Even now, in disguise, he continues to look out for Nihuang. This, considering how much more he has on his mind. I’m impressed.
Mei Changsu deflects Nihuang’s suspicion around why he’d go to so much trouble, by saying that he was just hoping to gain favor with her. Specifically, he uses the phrase “卖个人情” (mài gè rénqíng) which literally translates to “sell a personal favor.”
To clarify, Mei Changsu is not saying that he wants a favor from Nihuang right away; he claims that he’s done this thing with Baili Qi, hoping to create a debt of gratitude with Nihuang; something he might claim against at a later point in time, if he were to have a need. Also important to mention, I think, is that this is not considered rude of him to say. It’s like.. an almost self-deprecating way of saying something along the lines of, “Please buy the personal favor that I’d like to sell to you.”
Like I said earlier, I feel that Nihuang’s just a little too confident of herself, when it comes to being wise to the schemes of the inner court, and when an invitation by the Empress is communicated to her, she ignores Mei Changsu’s Persuasive Meaningful Look, and accepts. Sigh. If only she’d found a way to decline, we could have averted a lot of drama in the rest of this episode, but.. I guess that’s what we’re here for? 😆
As it turns out, it’s not the Empress who’s scheming against Nihuang; it’s actually Noble Consort Yue – which Mei Changsu only clues in to, when he hears from Yujin, that the candidate with the Empress’s backing, is playing polo. The way Mei Changsu’s body reacts violently to the news, is such a big statement, I feel, in terms of how deeply invested he is, in Nihuang’s well-being.
While Mei Changsu works as quickly as he can to intervene, using Commander Meng as a conduit, and getting Prince Jing, the Empress, and other guards involved, Nihuang attempts to navigate the minefield that her audience with the Empress is turning out to be.
She can only decline the food and drink offered for so long, before rousing the Empress’s ire, and so, when Noble Consort Yue appears to save her by claiming that Nihuang’s already agreed to eat at her quarters, Nihuang is grateful to accept. As it turns out, however, Noble Consort Yue is like the devil in disguise.
She’s so wily; she knows that by overstepping her boundaries to persuade Nihuang to consider Sima Lei as a suitor, she will offend Nihuang – which would then give her the opportunity to offer a toast as an apology. Because it is an apology toast, Nihuang cannot but accept, otherwise she will appear to also not accept the apology. Very crafty.
And of course, when Nihuang drinks it, she starts to feel woozy really quickly, which is when the Crown Prince makes his planned entrance, with an apparently primed and willing Sima Lei in tow. UGH. What is it with these men, being ok to “win” their wives via a rape set-up? 😳 I know, I know.. It’s all about gaining power at all costs, but it’s still cruel and wrong. 😠
I’m pleased that Nihuang has enough wits about her to be able to fight off Sima Lei’s advances (it was so satisfying to see her push him to the ground despite her compromised faculties!), but it’s still horrifying to hear Noble Consort Yue order everyone to catch hold of Nihuang and not allow her to get away. UGH. This is a conspiracy to have Nihuang trapped and raped, and it’s really disturbing to realize that everyone in that palace is complicit.
I was so glad to see Prince Jing arrive on the scene. He’s so stoic and righteous that he doesn’t care about the decorum that should have prevented him from entering Zhaoren Palace, and barges right in, felling soldiers if he has to. You go, Prince Jing!
That conspiracy grows even darker, however, when Noble Consort Yue decides that it’s better to silence Prince Jing, and orders the soldiers to shoot their arrows at him. Woah. Noble Consort Yue is really going all in, isn’t she? 😳
Prince Jing quickly turns the tables enough to take the Crown Prince hostage, but accepts Noble Consort Yue’s extension of truce and drops his sword, when she proposes that they both step back and pretend nothing ever happened that day. Thanks to the timely arrival of the Empress, and her sharp questioning of the situation (I really liked the Empress’s firm and unrelenting aura in this scene!), everyone’s soon hauled before the Emperor for an audience.
I know Noble Consort Yue is a slippery snake, and even then, it’s galling to see her simper and claim innocence with such an injured air. Oh my. 🙄 The woman really has no shame, seriously. Even with Nihuang’s detailed accusation, the Empress’s witness account and Prince Jing’s testimony, she talks as if they are the ones who are colluding against her. Wow.
It’s only when Commander Meng arrives with a report that Sima Lei has been arrested for trespassing Zhaoren Palace, that she starts to look visibly terrified. (I must say, it was really quite gratifying to see her turn tail and start to panic, ha.)
All this time, it strikes me that the Emperor can actually see through Noble Consort Yue’s act, and is biding his time, in conducting this interrogation. It’s clear that he does favor her, but it’s also clear that she’s dug herself into a hole that it would be unrighteous of him to pardon her from.
When the Emperor turns his wrath on Noble Consort Yue, she quickly tries to shield her son and take all the blame, and I’m glad that the Emperor doesn’t buy any of it. I’m also glad that he doesn’t permit any of the Crown Prince’s sniveling, and berates him instead, for blindly following his mother’s depraved lead.
I’m pleased that the Emperor punishes everyone involved, from Noble Consort Yue, to Sima Lei, Sima Lei’s father, and even the Crown Prince (though his punishment is really light), and I’m particularly pleased that Noble Consort Yue gets demoted to Imperial Concubine – pín (嬪) – the same rank as Prince Jing’s mother, which is, as we’ve discussed, considered very low. That’s a very big drop in rank, since her original title Noble Consort – guìfēi (贵妃) – is a high rank not much lower than the Empress’s rank. I’m sure she would find this particularly humiliating. 😏
I am, however, rather concerned that the Emperor now turns his attention to questioning Prince Jing, because even though he’d held the Crown Prince hostage, he’d done it in self-defense?
Well, that was a twist I didn’t see coming. To think that it’s Prince Yu who steps in to say that he was the one who sent Prince Jing to check out Zhaoren Palace, and to plead for leniency for Prince Jing. 😳
To be honest, although Prince Yu’s explanation may sound somewhat reasonable, there are bits that don’t actually make sense to me. The Emperor’s question is relevant and sharp: if Prince Yu had perceived that something wasn’t quite right in Zhaoren Palace, why would he have sent Prince Jing, instead of investigating it himself?
His answer that it would have been inappropriate for him to force his way in with his guards makes no sense to me. Since he says that Jingyan, as a prince, would be able to go in to take a look, then he, also being a prince, would have been able to do the same. The Emperor appears to buy this story, but I do wonder if perhaps he guesses that this isn’t the whole story, but chooses not to pursue it. After all, that bit just.. doesn’t quite add up.
As it turns out, it was Mei Changsu who had sought out Prince Yu, and enticed Prince Yu to get involved, by telling Prince Yu that all he has to do is to claim the credit. Ahh, that’s good thinking. Because, even though Nihuang’s been safely rescued, they do still need a cover story for why Prince Jing knew to go to Zhaoren Palace. Trust Mei Changsu to think of everything, eh?
While Prince Yu muses to his mother about how brilliant Mei Changsu is, to be able to deduce so much from so little, and determines to gain Mei Changsu as his strategist and advisor, Nihuang and Prince Jing seek out Commander Meng, to ask him how he’d known about the secret schemes of the inner court.
Looks like our stoic, straightforward Commander Meng hasn’t given much thought to this, however, because he stutters and stumbles a bit, with a lame stab at an excuse, that he’d known about Sima Lei’s trespassing because of his position as Commander General. Pfft.
Nihuang sees right through him, and Commander Meng ends up ‘fessing up to Nihuang and Prince Jing. I am quite amused by this. Looks like if you want to involve Commander Meng in some kind of secret ruse, you need to give him instructions that lean detailed? Coz sometimes his ability to ad-lib isn’t so great? 😆
This incident does impress on Prince Jing, however, the caliber of Mei Changsu’s capabilities, and Prince Jing muses that with Mei Changsu being able to stir up the muddy waters of the palace, none of them will be able to avoid the fate that he’s planned for them.
Interestingly, Nihuang says, “A storm is coming, who knows where this stream of wind will go?” It seems that based on this incident, both Prince Jing and Nihuang can sense more shaking on the horizon. Mei Changsu’s making quite the impression, isn’t he?
Prince Jing doesn’t waste any time and seeks out Mei Changsu the very next day. It’s an important conversation, where bottom lines are expressed and expectations set; a very key step in setting up any partnership, I feel like. It might be an uncomfortable situation, and Prince Jing might be coming across as really prickly right now, but I do think that this is some critical stuff that needs to be settled, if their partnership is going to work.
I appreciate how calm and unruffled Mei Changsu is, in the face of Prince Jing’s testiness. And also, once Prince Jing starts to explain his point-of-view, I can understand why he’s so touchy. He suspects that Mei Changsu hadn’t only saved Nihuang with his tactics, but had actually created the situation itself, so that he could save Nihuang with his tactics. Ooh. Ok. Big difference.
I’m glad that Prince Jing is straightforward with Mei Changsu, so that Mei Changsu gets the opportunity to set the record straight. To be honest, Prince Jing remains low-key unpleasant during the conversation, almost like he resents having to work with Mei Changsu. However, after he explains all that he’s been through and where this hostility is coming from, I do feel sympathy for him.
He’s suffered personal loss because of strategists’ schemes, and he can’t bear the thought of becoming like the ones who’d killed the ones whom he’s lost. Ack. That’s a gut-wrenching sort of thought, and if his distaste for scheming and strategists is as strong as his love for the ones whom he’s lost, then he surely loves them a great deal. 💔
Also, I just wanted to say that even though Mei Changsu maintains his composure very well, if you look carefully, there is a subtle reaction in his gaze, when Prince Jing speaks of his loss. It feels.. complicated, and it feels like there is a lot that Mei Changsu is choosing not to say, in this moment.
Mei Changsu assures Prince Jing that he will not become like those people (bearing in mind that Mei Changsu himself has told Commander Meng that he will bear that instead, augh), and agrees to abide by the principles that Prince Jing’s expressed. Significantly, Prince Jing is now calm enough and mollified enough, to agree to now listen to Mei Changsu, as he asks to say a few words.
He warns Prince Jing that they will need to be more ruthless than the ones they want to fight, if they want to win, and asks that Prince Jing begin to trust him. Mei Changsu also indicates to Prince Jing, that he doesn’t need to feel like he has to hide certain things from him, and demonstrates that he already has a good idea of Tingsheng’s birth secret.
In closing, Mei Changsu echoes Nihuang’s words somewhat, saying that a storm has begun in Jinling, and urges Prince Jing to stay resolute. The moment feels important and weighty, as Prince Jing nods his assent, and Mei Changsu reciprocates with a bow.
Over at Marquis Xie’s manor, we see that the young man from the boat in episode 1 – who is Zhuo Qingyao, his son-in-law, the son of the Zhuo family, with whom the Xie family shares Jingrui – is taking shady instructions from his father-in-law.
Apparently, Inspector Dong’s investigations on the
Prime Minister Duke of Qing’s (apologies, I realized that “prime minister” is a mistranslation in my subs!) crimes have also unearthed Zhuo Qingyao’s shady involvement on the plaintiffs’ side of things, and this is a problem. Essentially, Zhuo Qingyao had escorted the plaintiffs into the city, to make their case against the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing. The old couple that had been with him on the boat, turn out to be those plaintiffs.
Prime Minister Duke of Qing is Prince Yu’s man, Marquis Xie is happy to have him be incriminated, but not at the cost of having his own people dragged down, which is why he instructs Zhuo Qingyao to eliminate Inspector Dong. His logic is cold, but eerily workable: as long as evidence can be served against the Prime MinisterDuke of Qing, it doesn’t have to be Inspector Dong who submits it. Dang. Kill off Inspector Dong, yet benefit from her investigative work? That’s cold.
Meanwhile, Banruo receives intel that has to do with Inspector Dong returning from Bin Province, which she immediately burns.
Banruo muses aloud that with Inspector Dong on her way back from Bin Province, there is nothing else she can do for the
Prime MinisterDuke of Qing’s case, but she wonders whether the Divine Talent – Mei Changsu – can.
Meanwhile, Marquis Xie, too, expresses deep interest in Mei Changsu, and even though he asks Jingrui quite genially, to let him know if Mei Changsu needs anything, this makes Jingrui vaguely uncomfortable. He tells Yujin that lately, it feels like both his father and Mei Changsu have changed. Yujin urges Jingrui not to think too much, and they’re just about to leave the riverbank, when they run into Inspector Dong.
Although she acts as if she’s fine, she’s actually heavily injured, and has a legion of attackers on her tail. It isn’t long before the attackers come out in what feels like literal droves, in an effort to kill Inspector Dong.
In a rather extended and fanciful fight, Jingrui, Yujin and Inspector Dong manage to fend off the attackers. Inspector Dong is even able to capture one attacker alive, and, after knocking out the poison he keeps in his mouth (along with a tooth, eep), she demands to know who’d sent him. The answer the man ekes out, is, “Prince Yu.”
Hrmm. Given that we see the
Prime MinisterDuke of Qing pleading with Prince Yu for help, and Prince Yu mentions that they don’t even know where Inspector Dong is, it seems like the attacker is lying. It’s more likely that it was Marquis Xie who’d sent them to kill Inspector Dong. Dun dun DUN. Never trust a paid assassin’s dying breath?