Open Thread: Nirvana In Fire Episodes 7, 8 & 9

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! We get lots of food for thought and plot-thickening reveals this set of episodes, so I hope you guys are ready to dig into it! (Doesn’t that fur trim on Mei Changsu’s cloak look like it must be luxuriously soft to the touch?)

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! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 7

It feels like more things are shifting; I feel like there’s an undercurrent of tension in just about everything that happens this episode.

As it turns out, Inspector Dong is much more in tune with who’s behind the assassin attack, since she easily dismisses Dying Assassin’s last claim as false. Also, Dying Assassin gets killed off by what appears to be backup forces, designed to prevent him from spilling any information, if he were to change his mind about staying silent. Interestingly, these backup forces do not attempt to take down Inspector Dong; it seems that she’s established clearly, that she’s a force to be reckoned with?

It does seem odd to me, that Inspector Dong, who had appeared to be bleeding heavily when she’d first met Jingrui and Yujin, to the extent that she couldn’t ride a horse, now seems much recovered, after expending more energy to fight off her attackers. That feels like a bit of a misstep? It’s not like Show forgot she was injured; Mei Changsu himself refers to her injury later in the episode. It’s just that her progression from weak-from-blood-loss, back to a-force-to-be-reckoned-with seems conveniently magical. 😅

Notably, Jingrui’s brother-in-law Zhuo Qingyao is on Inspector Dong’s tail, even as she re-enters the Capital – and Inspector Dong is fully aware of this.

In the meantime, Prince Mu, knowing that Mei Changsu is looking to buy a house, calls on Mei Changsu, and insists on going house hunting with him. Mei Changsu reluctantly agrees, apparently in an effort to deflect Prince Mu’s keen interest in where Fei Liu had learned his martial arts. And who should be waiting to receive Mei Changsu at the house that he’s viewing, but Nihuang. Ah.. It looks like this was but a pretext, for Nihuang to have a private word with Mei Changsu?

On the surface, it seems that Nihuang simply wants to extend her thanks to Mei Changsu for saving her from now-Concubine Yue’s nefarious scheme, but as their conversation goes on, it feels like Nihuang is testing the waters with Mei Changsu, almost as if she’s trying to confirm something.

Significantly, when Mei Changsu asks Nihuang why she seems to trust him so easily, Nihuang answers that it feels like she’s known him for a long time, and along with that, comes an inexplicable sense of trust. Also interesting, is how Nihuang appears to make the assumption that Mei Changsu would understand Prince Jing’s character. When Mei Changsu refutes her assumption without missing a beat, Nihuang does pause for thought, for a moment. This makes me wonder whether she had made that remark as a reflex because she felt such a sense of familiarity with Mei Changsu, or if she had said that, to test him somehow.

Either way, it does appear that Nihuang’s interest in Mei Changsu is piqued, because, not only does she insist that she’d like to continue to help him with house-hunting, despite his attempt to politely decline, she also seems to deliberately lead him away from the house, on a path that leads towards what she refers to as the Mansion of General Chiyan. From what we know about Mei Changsu’s background and identity, this would make the mansion his family home, from when he had been Lin Shu. Dang. That’s a difficult position to be in.

Nihuang is somewhat persistent in her efforts to invite Mei Changsu to enter the mansion with her, which I find rather odd. This really makes me wonder again, if she’s doing this because she just feels that comfortable with Mei Changsu, or if she has suspicions about his identity, and is testing him.

Significantly, when Mei Changsu asks why she would enter an abandoned place like this to recall the past, she says, “The people may have left and things may have changed. But it doesn’t meant that everything is gone too. Whatever needs to remain will still stay. May it be a person or an incident, they will stay in the heart and won’t be erased by time.”

If she does have a suspicion that he’s Lin Shu, then this sounds awfully like some kind of secret message to him, doesn’t it?

Whether intentionally or not, Nihuang manages to unsettle Mei Changsu sufficiently, that we can see the emotion flickering in his eyes.

This must be such a difficult moment for him, both mentally and emotionally. Not only must it stir up a lot of painful memories from being outside his old family home, it must also be emotionally gutting to be so close to his past, and yet, so far from it. Layered on top of that, is Nihuang’s semi-cryptic message, that seems directed at him. If Mei Changsu thinks that Nihuang has suspicions about his identity, I’m sure that would just add to his emotional and mental turmoil.

In a move that is uncharacteristically almost curt for Mei Changsu, he excuses himself and leaves Nihuang there at the mansion. This just shows us how difficult this moment has been for Mei Changsu, because I’m sure he wouldn’t want to raise even a hint of suspicion, if he could help it. It’s just that, with the way he goes cold and low-key rude on Nihuang, by leaving her there so abruptly, I’m sure that Nihuang’s suspicions would be pinged, even if they hadn’t been, before.

Also, I just want to say, Hu Ge’s delivery of this scene is simply outstanding. Mei Changsu’s shifts in expression are so subtle, and yet his pain and devastation are so palpable, that I feel gutted just watching him walk away. 💔

Meanwhile, we see that Marquis Xie’s allegiance to the Crown Prince is no longer a secret. Prince Yu is now aware that Marquis Xie is one who protected the plaintiffs for the case involving the Duke of Qing, and Xie Bi also receives instructions to keep a distance from Prince Yu henceforth. I guess this means that Prince Yu and Marquis Xie are direct enemies now?

After his unexpectedly tumultuous experience looking at houses, perhaps it’s no surprise that Mei Changsu sends Fei Liu to check out a house for him, and, later in the episode, ends up buying it without even first viewing the place himself. I guess that’s one way of sidestepping Nihuang’s offer to continue to assist him with the house hunting? 😅

Inspector Dong pays a visit to Mei Changsu, and takes some time to spar with Fei Liu, while she’s at it. Like I said before, this seems kind of unnecessary, especially since she’s supposed to be injured. But, moving on.

It seems that (at least part of) the reason Inspector Dong is here at Marquis Xie’s residence, is so that she can ascertain Mei Changsu’s intentions towards Nihuang. With the rumors around the fact that Nihuang’s been spending time alone with Mei Changsu, combined with the fact that Nihuang’s rejected all the shortlisted suitors from the tournament, the gossip is that Nihuang had rejected her suitors because of Mei Changsu. (I do wonder if this is true, actually. Nihuang does seem awfully intrigued by Mei Changsu, and understandably so.)

I do love Mei Changsu’s quiet response, “The princess has exceptional beauty and poise. How could I not have feelings of admiration towards her? However, being ill, I fear I do not have a lot of time left in this world. Fearing of becoming a burden is the reason I have yet to create a family. Also, the personality of the princess is like a phoenix soaring above the wind. If not a man of great strength and ambition who could truly be suitable and worthy of her?”

Wow. On the one hand, I’m blown away, because this answer feels sincere; I believe that he still does have feelings for Nihuang, and I do think he’s telling the truth, when he cites his ill health as a reason not to pursue his admiration for her. On the other hand, how masterful is he, to manage to tell his truth without telling his truth?

On Inspector Dong’s way out, she speaks with Marquis Xie (how weird is it, though, that he was personally hiding behind that wall, and snooping on her? I’d have imagined that he would’ve ordered someone to do the snooping for him?). I feel like this could have been a key reason for Inspector Dong’s visit as well.

Inspector Dong lets Marquis Xis know in no uncertain terms that she’s fully aware that he’d sent people to kill her. However, she also tells him that she will not pursue the matter, because he’d done her the favor of bringing home her husband’s remains, when he’d died.

Inspector Dong makes it clear, though, that henceforth, they owe each other nothing – and I love that her polite parting shot is, “好自为之” (hǎozìwéizhī), which roughly translates as “Do what you think is best,” but which has strong undertones of a warning. It feels like she walks away with the upper hand, and I like that.

Meanwhile, the Emperor, mulling over his dilemma over who to appoint to preside over the Duke of Qing’s case (because he knows that both the Crown Prince and Prince Yu have personal agendas that they will further if given the chance), is inspired by Commander Meng’s remark, that, no matter what, the case needs to be managed by someone from the royal family. The Emperor is delighted that Prince Jing’s stubbornly upright nature will fit his purpose perfectly, and makes the decision to appoint Prince Jing to the case.

I’m quite pleased with this development, because this means Prince Jing has a chance to gain  credibility in everyone’s eyes, including the Emperor’s. But.. we’ll see how this shakes out. You never know, with court politics, eh?

Mei Changsu visits his newly purchased house with Jingrui and Yujin, and the place turns out to be in a terrible state of disrepair. How intriguing, that Mei Changsu had made this purchase, likely knowing the poor state of the house.

I’m further intrigued, when Yujin falls into a dried up well, and Jingrui goes in to retrieve his jade pendant, only to find a collection of skeletons amid the mud bottom of the well. Innteresting. Did Mei Changsu buy this property knowing about these skeletons, so that he’d be able to bring the case to light, without actually drawing attention to himself? If that’s true, that’s quite genius, since, as a newcomer to Jinling, and as the new owner of the property, it makes perfect sense that he could have nothing to do with a case that’s obviously many years old. I’m definitely curious to see where this goes.

In the meantime, we briefly meet a pair of new characters, Gong Yu, who appears to be a songstress (and whom we’ve seen Yu Jin mention to Jingrui, at the riverbank), and Mr. Thirteen, who appears to be her.. teacher, of sorts? From the way she refers to Mei Changsu as 宗主 (zōngzhǔ), roughly translated as “Chief,” which is the way one would address the leader of a sect, she appears to be part of the Jiangzuo Alliance. Gong Yu seems unusually invested in Mei Changsu’s safety, and I’m beginning to think that she might be nursing feelings for him.

Last but certainly not least, we see that Marquis Xie basically manipulates the Crown Prince into giving an order for Mei Changsu’s assassination, by telling the Crown Prince that it was Mei Changsu who was behind Nihuang’s rescue. Sneaky. And then, he tells his in-law, Zhuo Dingfeng, to test the waters, to see if Fei Liu really is the only one guarding Mei Changsu, saying darkly, “If we cannot have the Divine Talent, we have to destroy it.” This is.. not good. 😬

Episode 8

It seems that Zhuo Dingfeng wastes no time in testing to see whether Fei Liu is Mei Changsu’s only bodyguard. The moment Jingrui leaves Mei Changsu alone to escort Yujin home because Yujin is jumpy after seeing all the skeletons unearthed at Mei Changsu’s newly purchased house, two masked men move (well, fly through the air, really) to attack Mei Changsu, as he walks the remaining distance back to Marquis Xie’s manor.

Fei Liu, who’s always never far from Mei Changsu, and just lurking in the shadows, wastes no time in coming to Mei Changsu’s defense, and the fight is quite extended and robust; the masked men cannot overpower Fei Liu, but they are strong enough fighters, that Fei Liu can’t easily take them down either. It’s only the arrival of Commander Meng, that sends the masked men scurrying, and puts an end to the attempted attack.

What strikes me through this scene, is, 1, Mei Changsu seemed to have anticipated this attack.  He knew that he would be attacked if left alone, but he also knew that besides Fei Liu, he could also count on Commander Meng, who regularly visits him at this hour. He’s so finely in tune with how his various chess pieces think, that he can even predict that Marquis Xie would want to get rid of him, after realizing that he’s unlikely to assist the Crown Prince, and 2, Hu Ge’s side profile is startlingly regal, ha.

While Marquis Xie takes delight in Zhuo Dingfeng’s report, that Mei Changsu really only has Fei Liu guarding him, Minister of State Revenue, Lou Zhijing makes a desperate plea to the Crown Prince, to save him from being implicated in the case of the unearthed skeletons.

As it turns out, the deceased previous owner of the house, Zhang Jing, had run a secret brothel out of the premises, which had catered to government officials, who are not allowed to visit regular brothels. And apparently, the skeletons are of the various girls who had died while servicing their customers, who had gotten carried away while playing rough.

Gosh, how rough did these men have to be with these girls, to regularly kill them, while in bed with them?!? 🤯 Under the Crown Prince’s questioning, Minister Lou himself admits to having killed 2-3 girls himself. (What, does he not even remember the number of girls he’d killed??? Ugh. He deserves to quake in his boots. 😠)

We see that the reason that Minister Lou is quaking in his boots, is because Zhang Jing had left a record book behind, which would definitely implicate him in the case.

That record book is now with Zhang Jing’s ex-housekeeper, Shi Jun, who now seeks help and protection from Prince Yu, because Minister Lou’s sent men to try to kill him, for that record book.

As upset and perplexed as the Crown Prince is, Prince Yu is delighted in equal measure, because Minister Lou is one of the Crown Prince’s key men. So, while the Crown Prince cannot wait to hear news of Mei Changsu’s successful demise, Prince Yu is grateful at and impressed by how Mei Changsu has given him such a useful gift, by simply randomly buying a house.

..Which, now that we understand the background of the case, I’d wager that Mei Changsu definitely bought that house on purpose, in order to bring the case to light. That was not a random purchase at all, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, Shi Jun the ex-housekeeper, turns himself in to Magistrate Gao, who is handling the case. Interestingly, he appears to do so under duress, since he’s practically shoved towards the drum, which people beat, when they have a grudge that they want to air to a magistrate. Who’s pulling the strings behind Shi Jun, I wonder? Would it have anything to do with Mei Changsu..?

While this is going on, we see that Mei Changsu has gone ahead to purchase a different house, and this time, it’s a house that’s recommended by Commander Meng. It’s great to see the two friends being able to chat so easily with each other, without having to guard against eavesdropping ears.

Ooh, how interesting, that the key reason that Commander Meng chose this house, is because the back wall of the house, is very near to the back wall of Prince Jing’s residence. This would facilitate any secret meetings that Mei Changsu might need to have with Prince Jing, and yet, it would not arouse suspicion, because the houses are surrounded by enough forest to camouflage their proximity to each other, AND, the front doors face different streets. Well, that’s certainly nifty!

How funny, that Commander Meng innocently tells Mei Changsu, that the only reason he was able to know that the two houses are in the same area, was because he’d jumped into the air to see it. Tee hee. He’s so cute. 😆

We also find out that the words that Commander Meng had said to the Emperor, about the Duke of Qing’s case requiring a member of the royal family to oversee it, were the exact words that Mei Changsu had told Commander Meng to say. Mei Changsu really understands the Emperor so well, to know that this single sentence, would prompt him to assign the case to Prince Jing.

It’s so poignant, though, to hear Mei Changsu explain that it’s precisely because the Emperor doesn’t care about Prince Jing, that it doesn’t matter to him whether Prince Jing offends anyone, while managing the case. I definitely see Mei Changsu’s point, though, about it being time for Prince Jing to step out, and show his capability and talent. If Prince Jing is going to aim for the throne, he definitely needs to earn some credibility.

In the meantime, Prince Yu gets a reality check from Banruo, and realizes that while he’s received some help from Mei Changsu so far, he can’t quite say that Mei Changsu is on his side and working for him. As Banruo points out, Mei Changsu doesn’t appear to be afraid of offending anyone, and only seems to act in his own interests.

Prince Yu comes to the tentative conclusion that Mei Changsu must be testing both him and the Crown Prince, before he makes a choice, and he’s more determined than ever, to win Mei Changsu over to his side.

Marquis Xie’s plan to have Mei Changsu killed goes into full swing, with a fleet of masked men attacking Mei Changsu’s room that night. Jingrui happens to witness it, and I’m pretty impressed that he doesn’t jump in to fight the men straightaway, but bides his time, to see how he might be most useful. That turns out to be wise of him, because while Fei Liu effectively fights off the group of men, Jingrui spots another group on the roof, making their way to Mei Changsu’s chambers.

I’m also impressed that Jingrui’s skills are really good; he appears to be almost as good as Fei Liu, with the way he fights off the second group of men. One manages to slip through the door, to enter Mei Changsu’s chambers, however, and when Jingrui rushes in belatedly, he sees that the man has already been taken care of, and is dead on the floor.

As before, we see that Mei Changsu had anticipated the attack, and had had his righthand man Li Gang (whom we are now meeting for the first time), in the room with him. It’s really quite striking, how calm and unruffled Mei Changsu is, even though there’s just been an attempt on his life. Also, the way he advises Jingrui not to look at the masked man’s face, is so.. soothing.

Jingrui does choose to look, however, and is utterly shocked to realize that the masked man was one of his father’s guards, which means that his father had engineered this attack under his own roof. Poor Jingrui; it really looks like his world is crumbling around him.

Notably, Mei Changsu advises Jingrui to pretend that all this had never happened, and not to think too much about it. It’s clear that Mei Changsu does care about Jingrui, and doesn’t want him to get involved in this entanglement, if he can help it. Jingrui can’t help getting worked up, however, and earnestly asks that Mei Changsu live a carefree life instead of getting involved in political matters.

The way that Mei Changsu answers Jingrui, is gentle, but borderline stern, “You’re not me; don’t make a judgment on my behalf.” In this one single sentence, it feels like Jingrui’s managed to touch a nerve. Mei Changsu may be even and serene most of the time, but we do get glimpses of his true emotions, in moments like this.

Jingrui’s very upset by this new revelation about his father, and Mei Changsu encourages him to stay true to himself, and focus on being able to discern between right and wrong, and real and fake. Afterwards, it’s interesting to note that Mei Changsu remarks to Li Gang, that this is just the beginning for Jingrui, and the he hopes Jingrui will be able to hang on until the end. Hmm. This means that Jingrui does have a place in Mei Changsu’s plans, then?

Mr. Thirteen comes to pay Mei Changsu a visit, and from the way he addresses Mei Changsu as Young Master, it’s safe to assume that Mr. Thirteen had served in the Lin household, when Mei Changsu had been Lin Shu. What an emotional meeting this must be for Mr. Thirteen, since this is the first time he’s seen his Young Master, since the events of 12 years ago had wiped out the Chiyan army.

We learn that Mr. Thirteen and Gong Yu have been operating Miao Yin Court for Mei Changsu, as a cover for keeping an eye on Banruo, whose entertainment house is across the street from them. Ahh. So Mei Changsu’s been keeping tabs on Banruo all this time, from even before he’d come to Jinling. Let no one say that Mei Changsu doesn’t plan ahead!

Mr. Thirteen reports that Hong Court had been created 30 years ago by Princess Xuanji of the previous dynasty, and her student Banruo had inherited everything from her. We learn that Banruo has 15 Ministers’ wives or concubines under her control, and a well-built network of people, wherein Gong Yu has managed to plant some of their own people. Ooh, this is getting complex.

Although Mr. Thirteen offers to destroy Banruo’s network, Mei Changsu states that he wants to keep Banruo around, because she is a useful pawn, who will come in handy, particularly because he can use her to plant messages with Prince Yu, when needed.

Interestingly, when Mr. Thirteen proffers a scent sachet which Gong Yu has prepared for Mei Changsu to help him sleep better, Mei Changsu appears to accept it, but markedly leaves it on the table without touching it. In fact, when Li Gang begins to talk of how Gong Yu care so meticulously for him, Mei Changsu cuts him off by bidding him goodnight, and walking away. Hmm.. I wonder why Gong Yu is such a touchy subject for Mei Changsu..?

Last but not least, Banruo pays a late-night visit to Magistrate Gao, and pleasantly advises him to quickly forward the dry well case to the Ministry of Justice, which would effectively tie the Crown Prince’s hands.

Episode 9

Mei Changsu moves into his new manor, and it’s really nice to see him loosen up a little, now that he’s surrounded by his own people, and is in his own space. The way he tosses a snowball with Fei Liu, and teases his housekeeper, is so gently cheeky; so different from the studied air that we’ve tended to see from him, as he navigates his way among the various political factions.

Notably, the weather has gotten colder, and as a result, Mei Changsu’s general weak constitution becomes more pronounced. Thankfully, he does have the care of a Physician Yan, whom we learn was sent by Lin Chen.

Commander Meng pays Mei Changsu a visit in his new house, and we see that Mei Changsu has a collection of wooden tablets, each representing a ministry or power base. I love how he fingers them, as he thinks about his plans.

In the screenshot below, on the left, we have Prince Yu’s people, made up of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Personnel and Ministry of Public Works, and overseeing the group, the Duke of Qing. On the right, we have the Crown Princes’ people, made up of the Ministry of State Revenue, Martial Affairs and Rites, and overseeing it, Marquis Xie.

We learn that Mei Changsu’s plan is to break down each of these power bases, one by one, in his quest to put Prince Jing on the throne.

I love how, when Mei Changsu feels that he’s dealt with one of the items, he literally tosses the related tablet into the fire, and lets it burn. In this scene, he tosses in the tablets representing the Duke of Qing, and the Ministry of State Revenue. That’s so confident of him, isn’t it? Both cases are ongoing, but he’s just that sure that both are sufficiently taken care of, that they would have no room to turn around and recover.

It’s great how Mei Changsu casually predicts that Prince Yu might not have given up hope on saving the Duke of Qing – and then in the very next minute, Li Gang is announcing Prince Yu’s arrival. Ha. Mei Changsu sure knows his chess pieces well!

It’s brilliant (and also kind of hilarious) how Mei Changsu convinces Prince Yu to give up on the Duke of Qing, and pledge to support Prince Jing instead, while getting him to believe that all these actions serve Prince Yu’s ambitions, rather than Mei Changsu’s. To think that Prince Yu even bows respectfully to Mei Changsu (that’s pretty huge, considering he’s royalty), and pledges to protect him, to thank him for being on his side.

That is nothing short of masterful, and Show even seems to imply, from the way he rubs his fingers together as Prince Yu makes his appeal, that Mei Changsu just came up with this line of argument pretty much on the fly.

Also, how smart of Mei Changsu, to inform Prince Yu that he will pay Prince Jing a visit, to ensure that Prince Jing is aware of just how much Prince Yu is helping him. Aha! Now Mei Changsu has a legitimate reason to visit Prince Jing, and Prince Yu is even thanking him for it. Very, very impressive. 🤩

One of the things I especially enjoy about the outcome of Prince Yu’s visit to Mei Changsu, is how Minister of Justice, Qi Min, is roundly put in his place.

Earlier in the episode, we see that Prince Jing goes to the Ministry of Justice to request for things to be set up for him to oversee the Duke of Qing’s case, as instructed by the Emperor. At this point, Minister Qi, who supports Prince Yu, assumes that his best course of action is to prevent Prince Jing from investigating the case for as long as possible, since the Duke of Qing is so important to Prince Yu. Therefore, it’s really quite funny and satisfying, to see Prince Yu berate Minister Qi for doing things he wasn’t told to do. I guess Minister Qi is going to cooperate exceptionally well with Prince Jing now, eh? 😏

Meanwhile, Marquis Xie is still trying to kill Mei Changsu, with his son-in-law Zhuo Qingyao sending yet another batch of attackers to make another attempt on his life at his new residence. I kinda love how this attempt is given so little importance, that we don’t even see the attack itself; all we see is Mei Changsu continuing to read serenely in his study, while the sounds of fighting permeate the room.

The next day, Mei Changsu pays a visit to Prince Jing as he’d promised to Prince Yu, and as he pauses outside the manor, we get to see a flashback of him and Prince Jing, running together into Prince Jing’s new house, when they’d been in their teens.

They had been best friends, and Prince Jing had told Lin Shu, that what was his, was Lin Shu’s as well. This puts a lot of things into perspective, doesn’t it? After all that we’ve heard Prince Jing say about his best friend, everything takes on a deeper shade of meaning, because we now know that Mei Changsu himself, had been that best friend.

Oof. This layer of poignance is thick indeed. 💔

Those dual deadpan looks are pretty great, aren’t they? 😆

How shrewd of Mei Changsu, to make the gift of Golden Armor to Tingsheng, be a present from Fei Liu. As he’d predicted, there is no declining the gift, even though Prince Jing expresses discomfort at its value, because that gift is from Fei Liu, and Fei Liu has absolutely no regard for concepts like monetary value.

I am rather amused by the little detail, that Prince Jing takes the longer way around to his study, because his people had been so curious to see Su Zhe in person. That’s quite indulgent of him, isn’t it? I kinda love that he gets caught out by Mei Changsu doing this; that very slight look of vague embarrassment on his face is pretty great, and also, I do think that this ought to break the ice a little, between them.

I do enjoy the way Mei Changsu and Prince Jing debate over the Duke of Qing’s case. It’s presented as an exchange of ideas, and I like that even though Mei Changsu is playing devil’s advocate and bringing out all the possible counterpoints in the case, his tone is gentle and pleasant and the opposite of antagonistic. He makes his point very persuasively, that there is merit to approaching the case with a wider perspective than what Prince Jing had originally been prepared to take.

I like how Mei Changsu helps Prince Jing to see the larger picture, that he needs to adopt a more flexible approach, in order to keep his intentions hidden, and to prevent alliances between households from forming.

Mei Changsu notes Prince Jing’s reticence beneath his acquiescence, and this is when Prince Jing admits that he does not want to appear to be aligned with Prince Yu, nor with the Crown Prince.

When Mei Changsu nudges him, saying that people have long known of how much Prince Jing has suffered, and would not hold this against him, Prince Jing admits that he doesn’t care what other people think; he just really doesn’t want the souls of the noble dead to think that he’s ultimately succumbed to the draw of political power. Now that we know that Mei Changsu himself is, in Prince Jing’s estimation, counted among that noble dead, his answer lands with extra poignance, “Being noble souls, they’ll know your heart.”

Prince Jing doesn’t answer, and Mei Changsu doesn’t press the matter, but gets up to stretch his stiff legs.

That is when he’s drawn to a bow that’s on display in the study and reaches his hand towards it. Prince Jing calls out sharply to Mei Changsu not to touch it, then apologizes, saying that the bow had belonged to his friend, and said friend had not liked strangers touching his things.

Augh. There is so much subtle yet complicated emotion in Mei Changsu’s gaze, as he apologizes. This was his bow, and yet, here he is, apologizing to his best friend – who doesn’t recognize him – for touching it. That pathos inherent in this situation is so.. deep. 💔

While this is going on, Fei Liu’s managed to offend Prince Jing’s men, by casually remarking to Tingsheng that Prince Jing’s not a very good fighter. Oops? This results in a big showdown, and as far as we can tell, Fei Liu’s got the upper hand quite nicely, efficiently throwing down two armed soldiers all on his own.

Also, the Emperor dismisses the Crown Prince and Prince Yu from his presence, after they’ve spent a whole hour squabbling about Minister Lou’s replacement. The Emperor grumbles that none of the candidates are completely satisfactory, and this is when we learn that an official by the name of Shen Zhui is currently taking care of the Ministry of State Revenue.

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)

Episode 7

  • Gong Yu – I call her Fairy Gong Yu, Yujin’s bias, musician (only) for customers at Miaoyin Court, assists in its intel network, has an unrequited love for MCS
  • Mr. Shisan/Mr. 13 – runs Miaoyin Court and its intel network, has past ties to Lin family
  • Capital Magistrate Gao Sheng –  the hapless magistrate that has to handle all the cases

 
Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)

Episode 7

  • Miaoyin Court (translation: court of beautiful music) – one of three entertainment houses situated on Spiral Market Street in Jinling known for its superior music, run by Mr. Shisan/Mr. 13 and Fairy Gong Yu, both primary sources of MCS’s intel.
  • Lan Manor – the home with the well of bones, former entertainment house run by Zhang Jing

———————————————

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)

Episode 8

  • Minister Lou Zhijing – Minister of Trade/Revenue involved with the skeletons in the well at Lan Manor
  • Constable Zhang – he works directly under Magistrate Gao, love his hat!
  • Zhang Jing – former proprietor of Lan Manor when it was used as an entertainment house
  • Mr. Shi – Former employee of Mr. Zhang who kept the business records
  • Princess Xuanji – former princess of Hua who had an impressive web of spies in the Palace, shifu to Banruo
  • Minister Qi – Minister of Justice, responsible for prisons e.g.

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)

Episode 8

  • Hua – country that was conquered and assimilated by Liang

———————————————

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)

Episode 9

  • Physician Yan – MCS’ on-site physician sent by Lin Chen, member of the Jiangzuo Alliance
  • Lei Zhanying – Prince Jing’s right hand military man and I call him Fairy Lei Zhanying

Places/Sects Reference Guide (in order of appearance)
Episode 9

  • Mount Xiaogu – location close to Jinling

I think I have everybody. Hoping your are all enjoying this watch!

Natalia
Natalia
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Thanks, as always. Why “fairy”?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

I see both Gong Yu and Lei Zhanying as very beautiful and ethereal. If I had to paint a fairy I would use them as a reference.

Natalia
Natalia
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Oh now I have to rewatch because I have forgotten Lei Z!

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 days ago

So far, it’s just fun watching MCS Pil-jooing everybody every which way.

Geo
Geo
3 days ago

A few comments on these episodes:

I think MCS knew about the house and the dry well with the bodies. He’s sifting through the various properties and seemingly idly chooses one and asks Fei Lu to take a look at it. He was obviously waiting for this property but made it seem like random as one of several properties offered to him. He also asks Fei Lu to take a look at it, Fei Lu may be an expert at martial arts but what does he know about houses and what MCS wants, except MCS probably knows Fei Lu would recommend the one MCS chose. Who else would have recommended such a run-down place but a naive and innocent Fei Lu could.

It’s interesting these murders could have remained secret for so long yet MCS knew about it. Firstly, they weren’t really secret given that many Govt officials frequented the place but all have a self-preservation reason for not talking about it but it wouldn’t be unreasonable for someone as well connected as MCS to get to know about it. Plus the owner (who died a few years ago) and his employee were around long after the business closed.

I find much to respect about Qin Banruo, not only is she beautiful, she has a sharp, devious mind that also matches MCS. She smartly gets Prince Yu to leak that MCS was the one behind the Nihuang rescue, killing many birds with that stone; she deflects any blame from Prince Yu, she gets the CP and the Marquis of Xie to feel threatened by MCS and to potentially act on that threat, which would help force MCS to chose Prince Yu…little did she know he had already chosen Prince Jing. She is an excellent strategist.

Nihuang suspects very strongly MCS is either Lin Shu, her fiance, or someone closely connected to him. She recalls a courier from the Jiang Zuo Alliance saved her in a fierce battle by revealing a battle strategy and she couldn’t see any reason why the Alliance would help her. She tests MCS by entering the Lin residence, now abandoned. if you remember, her brother almost forced MCS to go with him to visit a potential house, only to meet Nihuang there and then to encounter his old residence close by. The house was chosen for exactly that reason, its proximity to the Lin residence. Nihuang is a pretty sharp cookie herself and not to be under-estimated.

The acting is first class here. MCS’s scenes with Nihuang and Prince Jing have strong emotional moments fraught with tension and Hu Ge is exceptional in conveying his feelings in small, subtle facial expressions given that he must maintain his facade as the Chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance. These are very difficult interactions for MCS given his previous close relationship to both and that he is finally back in Jing Ling after 12 years of exile. I think his abrupt departure from Nihuang and the house probably confirms in Nihuang’s mind that MCS is definitely connected with Lin Shu if he’s not Lin Shu himself.

Finally, the slow and methodical destruction of Jingrui’s world has started. Jingrui is such an upright character and it is shocking to him to realize his father, whom he thought was neutral in the struggle between Prince Yu and the CP, is not and to now realize his father is a ruthless and dangerous character: he has used Jingrui’s brother (whom he encouraged to go work for Prince Yu) to deflect suspicion about his loyalties and he has tried to kill MCS, Jingrui’s friend. To top it all, he’s now starting to realize MCS isn’t all that he seems to be. Jingrui’s world is just disintegrating, his old assumptions about family and friends are being shattered.

Leslie
3 days ago

Was it wrong to be so wrapped up in the house/mansion hunting, property renovation, and home decorating storyline? 🤣 #hgtvliangdynastystyle

Last edited 3 days ago by Leslie
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  Leslie

🤣😂😅😃😆

Ele Nash
4 days ago

Ah, the tangled webs Mei Changsu is weaving. I’m so worried for his health – if his body will outlast his plotting… I love how Hu Ge is playing him with those suppressed flashes of pain, grief, longing. How much must he want to confide in Prince Jing – it’s my bow! – how awful to not be able to but, excuse my denseness, as many people around him do know (including the gorgeous Commander Meng😍) would it really be a risk too far to tell Prince Jing who he really is?

And as for Nihuang, gah 😭 She’s totally guessed, right? I’m so proud of her for trying to test him, though what she hopes to gain by knowing he’s her Lin Shu is another matter because if he could confess, wouldn’t she know he would have done so? But still, I feel her breathlessness outside his house as much as Changsu’s agony to be there. Beautiful, heart-breaking scene and I want to pull that fur collar around Changsu and make him live 😍 I can’t bear it if he really dies. I’m all angst and, god, we’re only a tiny way through this marathon – and isn’t there a second series?!

Thanks for the great summary, kfangurl. It’s so helpful as I’m never quite sure I’ve understood everything correctly. Can I ask a really (probably) dumb question, but what do they mean by the “pugilist world”? Do they just mean he’s not noble or royal? Like a commoner? But there seems respect that he’s from there? I also realise I’m not entirely sure what the Jiangzou Alliance is and if the members are from the maligned Chiyan Army? Wouldn’t the Emperor be more suspicious of Mei Changsu as their leader? And why the leader of fighters would be half-dead?? Sorry, it’s probably stated very clearly somewhere…

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele – there is a 2nd series but it is set 50 years after NIF. I also love that scene in front of the Lin manor so much. My heart is in my throat when I watch this. NIF does these emotional scenes so well. It was these scenes that kept me in the drama when I was so confused on my first watch.

I hope it is OK to answer this Fangurl.🤞 I think the translators used ‘pugilist world’ as it would be too confusing to use the word Jianghu. It may be best to google it as I fear my explanation would not do it justice. The term originates from the 4th century BC and it has evolved over time.

The Jiangzou Alliance, whose chief is MCS, is one of many sects of Jianghu and it is ranked the highest and is well respected. Remember when Marquis of Ning told Zhuo father to kill MCS? He hesitated because there could be ramifications going against this strong of an alliance especially if the damage was done to their chief.

I cannot answer the Chiyan Army question as it would be a spoiler but the drama does address that later on.

I think it is safe to say that the Jianghu did not interfere with politics and did not pose a threat to the Emperor. MCS and Zhuo father/son team are doing just that but I do think the drama does address that as well in future episodes.

I would imagine that it would be very unusual for a sect leader to be unable to do martial arts. Zhuo father is an example of a sect leader (Tianquan Manor) who is ranked (#4) on the Langya Hall list. MCS’ case and why he is so ill will be revealed in future episodes. I think it gives another level of depth to his character (and smarts) that he can wield so much power when he is so physically weak.

Ele Nash
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@phl1xrd Thank you so much for explaining! I kept thinking pugilist must have another meaning I didn’t know. I’ll have to be patient to discover why Mai Changsu, being as weak as a (very charming and gentle) kitten, can be leader of the highest martial arts sect. But I totally get how his brilliant brain could get him there. Interesting they don’t usually interfere with palace politics and that makes better sense why the Emperor isn’t on high alert in his presence.

I am enjoying the twists and turns and machinations. As @SnowFlower says, it does happily follow a similar vengeful rhythm to Money Flower, only the melodrama is replaced with rooftop fighting and the protagonist isn’t the coiled spring of Kang Pilju, but rather the last drawn-out breath of a wronged man. Mai Changsu, in this sense, is much more vulnerable in his weakened state but no less subtle, driven and masterful 😍

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

For all that Mei Chang Su is weak, I thought it interesting that he so gracefully evaded the sword attacks in the street before Meng came to his rescue.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
3 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – Yes he sure did (with class – that cape swirl 🤩) and he made it look easy. Hu Ge is pretty good with fight scenes as he had been in so many wuxia dramas. Same for Leo Wu who has been acting onscreen since he was a young child. MCS is confident in Fei Liu but I have often considered whether or not Fei Liu could have beaten the Zhuo father/son team by himself.

FWIW – Fei Liu’s martial arts skills have never been ranked by Langya Hall because MCS “thought that he was too young to be eligible for the list (novel)“.

Ele Nash
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@BE Yes, he doesn’t move much but manages to dance his way out of the way of thrusting swords! I wonder if, back in the day, he was in fact quite a swordsman himself. I guess that will be revealed.

Fei Liu has me scared! He is merciless. Everyone dies! I’m not sure this is to be celebrated… 😂

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
3 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Ah Ele – there is so much more to MCS! The wait is so worth it though.

Fei Liu is such a bad ass. When I read that chapter about the assassination attempt, that part about Fei Liu casually flinging the dead bodies over the wall made me snort out my drink 😆 as I imagined this scenario.

Chapter 45
“You’re just going to throw them [the dead bodies] out like this?” Xiao Jingrui was taken aback.

“It’s fine,” it was Mei Changsu who answered [casually]. “Someone will deal with them once they are outside.”

Ele Nash
2 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Hmmm… Mei Changsu seems very flippant 😂

CP
CP
3 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

I think given that MCS is actually Lin Shu, theoretially the martial arts knowledge from his Lin Shu days are still there (Lin Shu was the young commander of the Chiyan army, so yes he was definitely a good fighter). He just can’t fight anymore beuase his body is physically super weak now after something happened to him (the spoiler).

CP
CP
3 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

“would it really be a risk too far to tell Prince Jing who he really is?”

Haha seriously I have this thought literally every time I watch the drama, despite having watched it so many times and understanding the reasoning behind NOT telling him; it’s just too painful to watch these best friends miss each other but not being able to reunite.

Basically the reason he can’t let Prince Jing know is because the road ahead is fraught with a lot of plotting and potential dangerous situations for everyone involved. If Prince Jing knew that MCS was his best friend Lin Shu, then in every step he takes he would be considering whether it puts Lin Shu in danger and might refuse to take certain steps needed to achieve their goals, whereas he doesn’t care to that extent about MCS. Therefore MCS is hiding his identity so that Jing can just go with the plan without being distracted by worrying about his well-being.

Last edited 3 days ago by CP
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  CP

CP – 😄 I think the first time I watched it I was like “Just tell him dammit” and then it went to “Hmmm, better not tell him” and then it went to “No, no please do not tell him no matter what happens”. 😄 Yes, folks will see why he cannot soon enough for sure.

But you are so right when you say that it is painful to watch. You just know MCS is going through some things. Really painful things…

Ele Nash
2 days ago
Reply to  CP

Thanks, @CP and I am trying to be patient as I realise my questions and quibbles to those of you who’ve read and watched must be a bit like a child constantly whining “are we there yet?” I shall wait and see and enjoy the ride 😊

CP
CP
1 day ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hahaha no worries at all, it’s part of the fun!
Also side note: you’re definitely not the only one who thought that. Commander Meng is literally my internal OS sometimes when I watch this show – he actually tells MCS like ten times in this drama “You should just tell Prince Jing who you are!”, and then he gets shut up every time by MCS’ exasperated “dude-how-do-you-still-not-get-it” glare.

Last edited 1 day ago by CP
BE
BE
1 day ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

A bit like chasing heaven, we get closer, yet pretty much throughout, what we still have to have revealed eludes us. Part of the show’s set up and tension.

Natalia
Natalia
4 days ago

Hello!

Thank you so much for the notes; I really needed them this time, because I was so tired when watching (especially episode 9) that I found myself not following the plot but rather having silly thoughts, such as:

  • Why is it always so cold in dramas? Here as well, it is obvious that they were filming in very cold conditions (just watch their breath). It is also the case very often in Kdramas, including when they are supposed to be indoors.
  • How cool is it to play the bad guy in dramas. I had that thought while watching Marquis Ning (Xie?). I think if I were an actor I would love to play the bad guy (well, girl), even if that meant I could never win.
  • I noticed that there are no paper doors in the houses here. Maybe it’s more of a Japanese (and Korean) thing?
  • How is it possible to take 1h to go from Mei Changsu’s place to Prince Jing’s place if taking the road when the houses are supposed to be so close that just a hidden alley separates them. I don’t think it’s a problem with the translation because they repeat it 10 times (so I guess it’s important for the plot). Those mansions must be huge.
  • The eunuchs don’t seem to play such a big role. I compare this to historical korean dramas, where there’s always something going on with the eunuchs (and the court ladies).

And so on. As you can see, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the plot!

To be honest, this bunch of episodes started rather badly for me, because strangely I was very annoyed by the miraculous cure of Inspector Dong. Also, by Inspector Dong alltogether. I also found her very annoying as a character (I’m referring to her discussion with MCS). I still wonder if I got lost in translation, but I thought that she came across as righteous pain in the a$. Right now, I don’t like her, I hope this gets better.
I am also not a big fan of action (fight) scenes in this show, mostly because of all the flying. I understand this is a part of Chinese culture but to my uneducated eyes it introduces an element of fantasy and I would prefer this show to be 100% realistic. So, I am ashamed to admit that I skip over fight scenes…
But enough of the negative (negative for me, that is): my interest in the show was restored as soon as (episode 8?) it was made obvious that it was General Meng that hiddenly guided the Emperor to choose Prince Jing to take on the case of Duke Quing, and that he did it on Mei Changsu’s directions. Also, I am certain that MCS knew of the secret of the Lan Mansion and its well (maybe he was told by this spies, like Thirteen?) and bought it in purpose – good thing though that Yoo Jin did not break a leg falling in… Obviously, I think, this was all designed to start taking out the two Princes’ men, one by one: Duke Quing/Minister Lu are the first couple to go.
Prince Jing continues to be my favourite character, but in these episodes I found love for Banruo (for the exactly opposite reasons than Jing). As I said, I realised that I love negative characters in this show, and Banruo is so cool.

jisaab
jisaab
4 days ago

Great review! These are so helpful. I’m at episode 30 and things move so fast that I feel like I forget little details all the time.

Onto the episodes, Hu Ge does such a great job in this show. The more I watch the more I get struck by just how horribly sad Mei Changsu/Lin Shu’s situation is. To be a shadow of your previous self, to be stricken with sickness and unable to do the things you used to do, to be close to your loved ones but not let them know. So freaking bittersweet and Hu Ge does such a good job portraying all these conflicting emotions. I’m really loving him in this show. I had watched him in Disguiser before and found him good but man he’s just absolute killing it in this show!

Also I love Nihuang. Idk why but I just do. She’s just so smart and competent. I wish we could see her story – surviving after hearing that Lin Shu died and taking over as leader.

I also really like Commander Meng. I remember when I first saw him do tht fight with Fei Liu I found him to be a little severe and serious but man this dude is a straight up comedian LOL! The actor does such a great job too!

Also Jingrui and Yujin are bestie goals LOL – they’re so much fun together!

manukajoe
manukajoe
4 days ago

Hi all.

I must say I did not find these 3 episodes very appealing.

First we have Nihuang and Mei Changsu circling each other; I have a dated one or two Chinese (women) and this indirect circling becomes tedious fast for me. Actually it’s mostly Mei Changsu in this instance. I still like Nihuang but she doesn’t get a lot of screen time in the next 2 eps.

Second we have the old trope of dead women as a plot device, which frankly stinks. Does anyone care about the dead women? No we only care about the creepy minister who is implicated (so far, at least).

I liked the pivotal scene with Jingrui where shit gets real for him.

The gift of incense is from Gong Yu? But Mei Changsu is wary of it? I guessed she might like him, so then he doesn’t want to lead her on?

Ugh and so many middle aged men maneuvering, give me a bucket, I’m so not interested.

BE
BE
4 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

With one or two exceptions, this is a middle aged men court intrigue show with a bit of revenge tragedy thrown in. I think the attraction is in the acting and the labyrinthine plotting, and the uncanny brilliance of one hero, the virtue of another in this world of unbelievable corruption and fatal power play, for which the audience is given the distance of it taking place long ago, and various lofty themes such as loyalty, justice, and so on.
Which is to say, I understand your distaste, albeit I find show beautiful in its ornate and complex patterning, and am taken by the actors’ performances.
Insofar as Nihuang and Mei Chang Su are concerned, one has to understand if Mei Chang Su’s true identity were revealed he’d be dead meat, literally, and the allegiance of Nihuang to him would put her in mortal danger as well. There is no way around this subterfuge, which goes beyond cultural nuance expressed in nonverbal innuendo.
Jingrui is certainly one of the most touching characters in story show for me as well, and these episodes are tinged with the sadness of his first awakenings.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  BE

BE – that was beautifully said.

Natalia
Natalia
4 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

“Does anyone care about the dead women? No we only care about the creepy minister who is implicated (so far, at least).”
I haven’t thought about that. You are right. Noone seems to care about who these women were and why they died (and possibly lived) so tragically. I think it is consistent with the position of the women back then (and sadly, still now in many places…)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
3 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hi Joe – that scene with Jingrui was gutting and I found his ongoing personal story to be one of the highlights of the drama. I think you would enjoy it.

I agree with you that the discovery of the bodies of the girls that were killed by the lecherous officials was hard to stomach. The question is – will MCS at least give their spirits some solace? These poor girls were all but forgotten. 😞

I love your expression ‘middle-age men maneuvering’. That really made me laugh Joe. I wish I had it 30 years ago as I would have used it at work in the course of my conversations with the small handful of other women in my circle. In those days we really did have to use buckets. 🤣😂😅

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
3 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hi Manukajoe! Interesting that you point out the trope of “fridging” or killing off female characters for the advancement of male characters’ development. I felt that trope quite strongly in shows like Game of Thrones (I dropped after first season) and K drama Signal, which I couldn’t watch after the second or third serial killer case where you feel almost complicit in the killer stalking and murdering young women in the dark, and so much “torture porn” showing the murdered women’s bodies, ick.

In contrast, I feel Nirvana in Fire has very strong female characters who hold their own and are also respected as equals by the men around them. The men listen to what they have to say and respect their authority – did you use Marquis Ning trying to suck up to Xia Dong? It’s because she is like a very senior secret agent working directly for the Emperor. And I feel there’s not much sexualisation or exploitation of the women actors in this show. Even in the potential-rape storyline Nihuang more than held her own and was not stripped to her underwear, unlike some other period Chinese shows (Zhang Yimou as a director obviously found Zhang Ziyi very sensual), or contemporary American dramas where female characters are constantly shown in underwear or bikinis even when there’s no strong plot reason! Hope you give show a chance and continue on!

manukajoe
manukajoe
2 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

The fridging is distasteful, but I’m more turned off by the politicking. Its just not the kind of thing I’m interested to watch,

BE
BE
23 hours ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Fundamentally, politicking is what the show is about. I do not think the Confucian element of Chinese (and Korean) culture can be elided out of historical drama. When I see this in K Drama, I am often struck by given that distant mirror how surprisingly apt and accurate, appropriate even, putting such a flashlight on how the political sausage is made has contemporary relevance and parallels, even living as I do in a modern democratic republic.
Watching this again, knowing it was a period of these kinds of small empire, contentious in family dynasties, and knowing how there is at least some level of censorship in contemporary China, I do wonder how show is viewed there.
In Korea, we can see the emphasis on history long class resentments, not to mention in its characterizations, both the critique of politicians as individuals, the kinds of personalities obsessed with power, and this is so especially given the high ideals wished for in Confucian ideals. Does this show, for example, do what Shakespeare seems to have intended with his histories, et al, their stunning and scathing critiques of court politics, hold a mirror up to our times?

Geo
Geo
3 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

“…middle aged men maneuvering…” That’s usually what politics and war are about. There is a scene in the movie Troy where Achilles (Brad Pitt) is frustrated and fed up with the Greek king, Agamemnon, and his friend Odysseus says, that’s what war is about, old men talking [plotting and arguing] and young men dying.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago

E9- When Prince Yu stops by to discuss the Lan Manor case, check out how he clears the air about the Land Infringement case. Don’t think that by MCS allowing the old couple to pass into his territory that he was interested in helping anyone other than himself. The fact that Prince Yu mentions this is to let MCS know he is apologizing.

I appreciate Fangurl, that you wrote “That is nothing short of masterful, and Show even seems to imply, from the way he rubs his fingers together as Prince Yu makes his appeal, that Mei Changsu just came up with this line of argument pretty much on the fly.” I laughed as I have always imagined a fly rubbing their front legs together whenever he did that.

Minister Qi Min (such a lovely set of teeth that man has and how can we not notice these with that smarmy smile he has?) is doing the slip and slide and I love how Prince Jing shows he does not play with fools like Minister Qi Min.  I love this scene and Prince Jing’s sardonic look.

MCS now has Prince Yu believing that if he supports Prince Jing that he will look better before the Emperor. MCS is good, so very, very, very good.

I have to get out my tissues. We finally see the two best friends in the world – Lin Shu (MCS) and Jingyan (Prince Jing) and it is heartbreaking because you realize that these two were the closest of close friends – soul mate friends. Imagine how MCS must feel in this situation. Here he is in the very same house where they used to have all their good times and Prince Jing does not even know. It is so sad, especially when Prince Jing refers to losing all his friends (he is referring to the Battle of Meiling and losing Lin Shu) And MCS becomes emotional. How touched MCS must be to see the care Prince Jing has taken over his prized bow. This scene breaks my heart.

E9 Recap

  • This is where the events in the capital start crack-a-lacking

DID YOU KNOW…

  • In the novel, after Prince Yu was leaving MCS’ house he acted as if he was concerned about MCS walking out in to the cold to see him to his palanquin as a ‘show’ for those in the street watching. In other words “Look everybody MCS just walked me to my ride”. The following Excerpt Chapter 48 from the novel really made me sit up and take note:

…[after Prince Yu left MCS house]

As soon as the palanquin was lifted, Mei Chang Su turned and reentered the manor, then walked quickly to the shadows beside the walls and vomited a few times, as if he were trying to expel some foulness from within himself.

“Su gege…”

He turned his head to see Fei Liu standing there, head cocked and eyes wide, his expression full of concern.

“It’s alright,” his lip turned up involuntarily as he took the youth’s hand. “I was just playing with a poisonous snake, and afterwards, became a little nauseous…”

“Poison snake?!” Fei Liu was instantly on the alert, looking sharply all around him, trying to find this poisonous snake.

“It’s already crawled out,” Mei Changsu couldn’t help smiling. “No matter, Su gege has known this poisonous snake for a long time, and knows where its poison is hidden, and so won’t be bitten.”

Fangurl – you have outdone yourself with this post! It is very, very well done!

BE
BE
4 days ago

Okay, a lot of reconstruction and my goodness, on first watch I thought first three episodes were complicated, but these three, wow, how the plot thickens! Since you all have done such a good job, especially K, with the blow by blow, I will stick to things that stuck out for me.

The first is how strong the emotional bonds between Nihuang and Lin She/ Mei Chang Su, must have been. While it remains unspoken, it sure seems to me that Nihuang knows good and well Mei Chang Su is her old paramour, and part of that is how loaded their silences, body language, and glances, both toward and away from one another, so much so, that we are even led to believe from the Xia Dong-Mei Chang Su interview, that there is there there between them and so much so they are being gossiped about. We feel it, she feels it, he can’t hide it, and his attempts to do so only call attention to that.
And then the parallel of his abandoned family mansion and that of Prince Jing, wherein we are shown with flashback they were bffs from youth. How would Mei Chang Su understand Prince Jing indeed. And the pangs of it barbs from Jing’s treasuring of his friend’s memory and Mei Chang Su’s breath taken away to where he has to swallow it straight faced as it visibly goes down.

The second thing for me is Jinrui and his troubling awakening about his father. Who was it that attacked Xia Dong? She does not tell him, except to say not Yu. Then the interview with his brother, and finally finding the slain assassin having threatened Mei Chang Su. He feels bad for Mei Chang Su, who he feels should be able to live the carefree life, but in fact, it appears his own carefree life resulting from who his father is in the court intrigues, what he is capable of, and the portents of Mei Chang Su’s comments to and about him is about to take a turn toward the worse from which he will have to have to both stay true to his own good instincts and be able to do so with considerable durability. I cannot help but feel a turn toward the tragic for our young worthy.

The ambiguity about whether Mei Chang Su planned to buy the property where the corpses were buried in the well, or just capitalized upon the circumstance with the same lightning like response he has shown us in the Nihuang kidnap incident. On one hand, there is the example of when General Meng saves him from assassins and Mei Chang Su declares it to be a coincidence, and Meng says, pooh, pooh, you knew I was coming; we had a date and a time. So later when Meng asks him if he knew when he bought the property whether twas because he had known where the bodies were buried, the answer hangs in the pregnant air. But they get interrupted before Mei Chang Su can answer. Certainly Prince Yu thinks MCM knew what he was doing, and it burnishes the whole Divine Talent aura Mei Chang Su is playing on everyone, including the audience–I mean aren’t we beginning to figure, this guy…he is probably gonna succeed no matter how unlikely it looks at any single point in time? But this all leads me to, okay, then, somehow Mei Chang Su not only knew about this long ago brothel where women went missing, knew they were buried in a dry well, knew where this dry well, completely overgrown was, and led Jingrui and Yujin to the spot knowing that Yujin would not just fall in but lose a family heirloom when he did so. Is it more amazing that he could have planned all this, or in the instant that it all comes to light have the wit and presence to turn this all to his advantage?

I love when CP is prone to ejaculate: Me-yi Chan(g) SU! What are these…episodes six through nine out of 54. Mei Chang Su indeed.

Last edited 4 days ago by BE
laos7
3 days ago
Reply to  BE

As for the “well incident”, i believe it wouldn’t be so hard for someone as wise as MCS to lead both Jingrui and Yujin there and the have some (Fei Liu? or maybe even MCS himself) steal and drop Yujin family heirloom intro the well. I’m pretty sure it’d have been easy for MCS to know where the well was just by looking at the plan of the manor and he must’ve heard before through his intel about the whole case with prostitutes being buried there.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
3 days ago
Reply to  laos7

@laos7 – That is an interesting thought about the heirloom and how it got into the well!

laos7
2 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I wonder how was it described in the novel? Could you please enlighten us on this topic too?

/I really enjoy all of your commentary and reference guides!/

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  laos7

@laos7 – The novel is pretty matter of fact. It just states the obvious events that are happening and there is no backstory other than you find that MCS had a score to settle with Magistrate Luo. I also wanted to know how the jade got in that well. 🤔

Trent
3 days ago
Reply to  laos7

This actually makes more sense to me than some one as smart and strategically foresighted as MCS knowing the history of the mansion, and then just leaving it to chance that the vital information would be discovered on a casual tour.

I can buy that he has deep intelligence about the case and the cover-up and even that the victims were disposed of in a well, but hard to imagine he would go to the trouble and expense of buying the mansion and then just take a casual wandering-around tour with his buddies in the hopes that something would happen. Surely he had strategies in place to “nudge” the discovery in a natural, organic-seeming sort of way…

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  Trent

So…no one in the whole capital seemed aware of these missing women; wasn’t even a cold case, but MCS knew it all? Maybe, but I still think he well may have bought the place cause Fei Liu liked it, he needed to leave the Ning estate right now, and he did not want to go house hunting with the Mu family any more. And this just popped into his lap.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
3 days ago
Reply to  BE

Mei Changsu was the one who chose that estate – he held up the estate ad and suggested Fei Liu go take a look. I think he had the intell and just acted casual as if the body reveal was a surprise. It was also useful to have Jingrui and Yujin as witnesses that MCS had just bought the estate and didn’t have anything to do with the case.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – Ha Ha, I can’t help but appreciate that MCS initiates puppeteer actions (that look natural and organic) through others and sits back Buddha-like either reading 📗, eating tangerines 🍊or looking faintly surprised 🙄.

I also trust that he has deep intelligence (everywhere) and I am sure that he bought that mansion because he was fully aware of the girls who were murdered there. After all of my watches I can say that almost all of MCS’ actions in the drama have a purpose. We may not see the purpose right away, but it will pop up in a future episode. These can be ‘in your face’ or subtly hidden. That is what makes this drama so darn good. The subtleties are a delight once you discover them.

The threads! There are so many weaving left and right that it is really difficult to catch them all. For those who are watching a CDrama for the 1st time there are also new wonders to behold so it is super easy to not catch all the subs. It does require patience to wait to see why he does this or that. Unless you have a mind like MCS you probably will not get it on the first watch, or even the second or third. There is just too much happening. It is like a mind-F puzzle. Please excuse my terminology but I find it fitting.

Apologies if this is a repeat, but one of the few criticisms of this drama is that we do not get enough backstory (the who, what, where and why) and that MCS appeared too perfect, or lucky. I can only imagine if the drama added episodes with more ‘backstory’ it would have been over 100 episodes long. 😝

And – MCS is just getting started…

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  laos7

My take on MCS is that long term planning is great, but taking advantage of the unforeseen moment even more spectacular. But that he planned and plotted all that or has people so convinced he did, either would be fine by me, and the latter makes more sense, especially given how he handled the kidnapping of Nihuang, with the follow up with Prince Yu. I am more of an Occam’s razor kind of guy.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  BE

Ok BE, I admit – I had to look that term up. 🤔 I had forgotten what that meant. 🙄

I think MCS is very capable of living on the edge as well (it would have been more of a challenge to him). I feel that his focus on pre-planning was purposeful due to other issues which cannot be mentioned right now.

As a super planner myself, I tip my hat to you 👒 as it takes a great amount of bravery to be an Occam’s razor kind of guy.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago

E8

Minister Lou Zhijing is the Minister of Trade (Revenue) and one of the Crown Prince’s main money connections. We seem to be seeing a lot of ministers crying.  

Some novel info: After Prince Yu found out from his informant that there was a list of names, he had the informant visit some of his allies to see if they were involved. Excerpt Chapter 38 – “As long as these few are not on the list, I don’t care about anyone else being found out, if we are not willing to sacrifice a few of our people, how could we catch the great wolf [Minister Lou]?”…Prince Yu

So you ask – How did MCS know there were bodies in that well and that they would bring down the Minister of Revenue and the Crown Prince? MCS has eyes and ears everywhere and has spent 10 years collecting info. When it comes to detail no one does it better than MCS. Remember that he had several house listings on his desk and gave only one to Fei Liu? Notice he got a little peeved when Fei Liu put down the paper too close to the fire when he went out to fight with Xia Dong? So yes, the house was chosen on purpose but the story goes a little deeper. In the novel MCS had a long standing grudge with Minister Lou Zhijing, who had previously raped some two young girls associated with his Alliance. Smite him MCS!

I feel sorry for Capital Magistrate Gao Sheng right now. As a fan of ancient proverbs, here is one for this situation – “No horse can wear two saddles”.  

 I agree that MCS’ greatest talent is having the ability to know exactly how the Emperor (and others) thinks.   

Zhuo father/son team and their minions of the Tianquan Manor sect make their move to assassinate MCS.  Note – in the novel Li Gang was always in Jinglang waiting in the background to be summoned by MCS. Poor Jingrui is expected to be filial to his father but he is finding that his father is not a person he can respect.  

The Mr. Shisan/Mr. 13 and MCS reunion was so sad. He brings up Princess Xuanji of Hua who has left all her intel and connections to Banruo. Banruo has many spies aligned in the Palace. She advises Magistrate Gao to drop it like it’s hot right into Minister Qi Min and the Ministry of Justice’s (a higher entity) lap and wipe his hands.

E8 Recap

  • Minister Lou Zhijing is pretty darn disgusting
  • Poor Fairy Gong Yu – MCS is not romantically interested 

 
DID YOU KNOW…

  • Fei Liu is a complete bad ass during the assassination attempt. Excerpt Chapter 45  – No one could have known that on this dark night, he [Fei Liu] would attack like the reaper himself, his every stroke aiming to kill, not leaving the slightest chance for survival, and the speed and cold efficiency with which he was taking care of those around him were frightening to behold.
  • In the novel Fei Liu cleaned up all the dead bodies by casually throwing them over the wall
BE
BE
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Minister Lou Zhijing is pretty darn disgusting
The Crown Prince and the Marquis in their reactions…but while all this murder and mayhem, rape, torture, massacre, fratricidal intent, and so makes for good drama, the whole scene is a bit much to stomach. But this is a society that has as one of its pillars the mass castration of male servants…what can one say?

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

So the novel presents it that MCS knew what he was doing. I like the ambiguity better. I like when interpretations can vary. One of my favorite things about Shakespeare is how over time actors and directors have presented various takes on the same characters with the same lines. Without knowing what the novel says, there can be two interpretations, and we can argue them, both having their points. But with the one interpretation, I still have the unlikely chain of events which led to the bodies’ discovery, which makes me a bit angrier because I want MCS to have to deal in real time with things, not just have it all plotted out ahead of time.

Last edited 3 days ago by BE
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago

E7

Fei Liu arranging flowers is so funny. It is one of his hobbies along with eating fruit and chasing pigeons. He brings a much needed laugh every now and then. 

What a lovely sight Nihuang is standing in the garden! MCS is obviously as moved by this picture as we all are. I do not know how he can keep up his charade. She is even more beautiful with minimum makeup, am I right?

Realize that she is now standing there with her first and only love – Lin Shu and she cannot confirm this is him.  Yet in her heart she knows and trusts this man implicitly. She runs some tests on MCS so she can catch him in his act.

She firsts tries to catch him up with the Prince Jing comment but MCS is way too smart to fall into her trap. Her ultimate test to bring him past his old house is so very moving. I cry every single time. MCS is really in agony remembering his once proud Lin Family home and his past. As she asks him if he is going to come in you can see him stir his resolve and gain some control before walking away.It is my personal feeling that this is the moment when she realizes that this is her Lin Shu. (this is regardless of anything else that happens in the future) He would never have walked away and left her there if it was just any old house. Yes Fangurl – another great Hu Ge acting moment! Note – this entire scene with Nihuang is not in the book and I am so glad that the author wrote this into the drama as it packed a punch.

Nihuang has skillfully managed to dodge the marriage issue. Head Eunuch Gao Zhan runs interference for her (this is why I 💖him) even as the Emperor shows his concern over her military power.

Hmm, looks like the Marquis actually encouraged brother Bi to work for Prince Yu. I can easily guess why, can’t you? Both brothers realize that the Marquis is using them. This is really sad. I am of the opinion that he has no love for these two children – they are only useful as pawns.

Xia Dong has made a visit to MCS primarily to discuss Nihuang. The Jinling rumor mill is in overdrive as many suspect a match between Nihuang and MCS. Backstory from novel – All those years ago Great Grandmother had already looked at these two children [Nihuang and Lin Shu], so well matched in form, speech, intelligence and nature, and decided that they should marry.

The brief exchange Xia Dong has with the Marquis on her way out of the manor shows the power of the Xuanjing Bureau and Xia Dong’s bad-assery. And big yes Fangurl – great catch – that was a two for one Xia Dong deal!

We are introduced to Fairy Gong Yu (Yujin’s bias) and Mr. Shisan/Mr. 13 (he was good friends with Lin Shu’s mother) who are continually tracking Banruo. They are an integral part of Jiangzuo Alliance’s intel network and loyal to MCS. Let me stop right here to give some props to the hair and makeup folks behind the scenes. I mean how gorgeous is Gong Yu’s hair? I personally have tried this on my granddaughter and was, let’s say, unsuccessful. Looks like Gong Yu has an unrequited love for MCS.   

Ding, dong, dell, skeletons in the well! Looks like MCS Is going to need a refund on the house (Lan Manor) he bought. Poor hapless Capital Magistrate Gao Sheng is headed between a rock and a hard place

So, how did MCS know about the well? See E8 notes…

Marquis of Ning (Xie family) and Zhou family are closely bound together – the Zhou son is married to the Marquis daughter. The Marquis asking the Zhuo fahter/son team to kill MCS is wrong an a few levels. The Zhou father balks and a lot of this has to do with the code of honor between the sects. MCS’ Jiangzuo Alliance is the largest and most powerful sect at that time. They controlled 14 provinces. Remember in the first episode the fear on the face of that ship captain when he realized that MCS was actually before him? Do not doubt for a second that MCS has a lot of street cred.

E7 Recap

  • Princess Nihuang is still in love with Lin Shu
  • Fairy Gong Yu is in love with MCS
  • I am in love with MCS
  • The Lin family home and reputation is in ruins
  • MCS tells Xia Dong that he may not have long to live. I cry – every time.

DID YOU KNOW…
In the book:

  • In the novel MCS is a gifted guqin (also known as just qinthis link is for you Snow Flower) musician. The man has many talents.
  • In the novel Prince Yu wanted to bring Banruo into his home as his concubine but she refused due to her life long dedication to her shifu.  
BE
BE
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I like the detail about Banruo. First watch the whole explanation of who she was in these episodes flew right by me till much later in show.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  BE

I agree BE – It took a few watches before I realized that as well. You got to give credit where credit is due. She is a clever girl.

BE
BE
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

And in a way her story is a parallel to Mei Chang Su.

CP
CP
4 days ago

I’m usually pretty lazy to take notes while I watch the episodes (preferring to just join in the discussion/comment on everyone else’s thoughts), but I took some for Ep 7 & 8 (I got too sucked in in ep. 9 and forgot about note-taking…oops), so I figured I might as well share:

Ep 7
–      The acting by both leads in the scene where MCS & Nihuang are looking at the house right before going to the Chiyan manor is stellar. MCS’ shifty-eyed glance to the right (showing he knew the shortest way out to the main street which would take him by Chiyan manor) but then pretending that he didn’t and going the other way, and this being completely not lost on the incredibly observant Nihuang.
–      Wow, Hu Ge is the master of the complicated expression – that expression when he was in front of the Chiyan manor has so many LAYERS to it. And yet Nihuang looks at him like she sees right through him.
–       MCS must feel so sorrowful but also comforted to see Nihuang and Jingyan still care so deeply about what happened to his family, and to see their absolute faith in the Chiyan army/refusal to believe they were actually traitors. How it must break his heart to pretend that all of this doesn’t matter, and to have to brush it off as just a case of treason.
–       I love how straightforward Xia Dong is – she just goes right up and asks MCS if he likes Nihuang so that Nihuang doesn’t miss out on the chance to marry him if the feelings were mutual. Get yourself a friend like Xia Dong!
–       I have decided that the scariest phrase in all Chinese epics is “好自为之”. It is foreshadowing literally 100% of the time, and pretty much always means… you’re dead.
–       The brilliance of this drama is its ability to be insanely epic, super-serious-evil-mastermind-plotty, but also absolutely hilarious at the same time. The scene where Yujin falls in the well and Jingrui says [paraphrased] “Yeah, thank goodness it was you, if it was Su xiong (MCS), he wouldn’t be able to catch anything at all and would fall straight to the bottom” made me crack up. Also, MCS’ super innocent “as long as Fei Liu likes it” face when they were asking him why the heck he bought such a crappy yard is too cute.

Ep. 8
–       Commander Meng is such a source of comedic joy in this drama. That whole scene where he was describing how you wouldn’t know that the back walls of MCS’ house and Prince Jing’s house face each other without jumping into the air, and then MCS thanks him, and he says, “No problem, I jump all the time!” – LOL, I just suddenly have this image of Commander Meng bouncing up and down in MCS’ yard like Tigger….
–        Also in the same scene, there’s a joke that is lost in translation (at least in the YT subs): Commander Meng delightedly says that MCS and Prince Jing can meet in secret, but the phrase he uses is “私会” (literally “private meeting”, but in Chinese, this term has romantic connotations). Hence why MCS puts on this super offended look and says, “Can’t you use a different phrase?”… I nearly choked laughing here hahahahaha.
–      On a serious note, Jingrui is such a rare good person in this world of plotting and scheming – how I wish he could escape being used as a pawn in all the schemes. Unfortunately based on MCS’ ominous words to Li Gang, this doesn’t seem likely.

Last edited 4 days ago by CP
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  CP

Cp – “How it must break his heart to pretend that all of this doesn’t matter, and to say it was just a case of treason.” It is pretty mind boggling when you think about it right? I do not have that kind of control. Jingrui and Yujin are my Dynamic Duo Darlings. Thanks for the notation on the private meeting interpretation! That Meng Zhi picture I now have in my head is a riot.

Last edited 4 days ago by phl1rxd
CP
CP
4 days ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

MCS has a will of steel that’s for sure! Fortunately he is able to channel this intense sorrow into unstoppable determination, and combined with his massive intellect, carry out his plans come hell or high water. I love this complex character so much, with both his softer emotional side, and his cold and sharply calculating sides, which Hu Ge plays with such beautiful nuance.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 days ago

Ah, so intriguing! Now we have skeletons in the well, and more investigations. I do think that MCS knew what was going on in the abandoned mansion. But how? And how much money does he really have in order to afford 2 mansions?
I liked how he is slowly drawing Prince Jing into court politics, cleverly using the prince’s strengths.
Since we recently finished Money Flower, I keep comparing Mei Chansu and Kang Piljoo. Both are lonely master strategists with tragic pasts. But I see more melancholy in MCS’s gaze, compared to the smoldering stare of KPJ.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Hi Snow Flower – I have some back story on the Lan Manor which I am going to load in a minute.

Ele Nash
3 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@SnowFlower I like the comparison 😊 and am now wondering in a game of Go between the two, who would win?! Neither would give up, would they?!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
3 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele Nash, a game like would be quite something! This is my first watch of NIF, so I don’t know how far and wide MCS’s plans go, but KPJ is definitely a worthy opponent. I assume the game is between friends.

BE
BE
3 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

One is seeking justice for his entire people, the other just for himself. One nearly was killed and has spent twelve years planning for his return, having built an entire network on his behalf and becoming the leader of a powerful multinationally aligned martial arts savants and folks running an unrivaled information-data system. One has but two years to live to get it done, and must forego the love of his life to do so. One must play a number of aligned groups to achieve his goals. I do not think they are really comparable, the scope of the undertakings so vastly different.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
3 days ago
Reply to  BE

We will see more martial arts savants in the episodes to come! Such a treat for wuxia fans like me!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Elaine – I am with you 100% on that. Personally, I cannot wait for my favorite martial arts master to show. 🤗 I may wax poetic…sigh. 💝

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