This chapter contains numerous references to the novel's epilogue which is not depicted in the drama. Enjoy!
On a midsummer's day, Zuoying Irgen-Gioro and the former Min-Min Suwan-Guwalgiya, the royals of Mongolia, visit the palace with the hopes of reunited with their royal friends. Min-Min in particular, had high hopes of seeing Thirteenth Prince. Although she never got to marry her 'moon', she has her 'sun' and is comforted in knowing that both will always remain in her life. She also hopes to see her beloved 'sister', Ruoxi. Back in the plains, Ruoxi had been her faithful confidant with regards to her feelings for Thirteenth Prince. She may have corresponded with Ruoxi through long written letters but as time went by, the letters became fewer and fewer. Min-Min herself became busy with family life, bearing a total of five sons. She really hopes to have the chance to talk with her best friends again. No longer the wild, unrestricted plains girl she once was in Mongolia, she now respects the decorum expected of a noblewoman. Nonetheless, her bubbly nature remains sparkling as ever as she walks happily beside her husband to greet the Emperor.
"Auspicious greetings Emperor", says Zuoying and Min-Min as they both kneel down in front of Yinzhen.
"Rise." The two stand looking happily at the Emperor.
Yinzhen smirks. "Min-Min Gege, you haven't changed a bit."
A smile erupts out of the formerly wild princess. "Emperor, what are you saying? It is you who haven't a changed a bit."
Yinzhen breaks out a hearty laughter. "Thirteenth Brother come look. You tell us which one is correct," he says turning to Thirteenth Prince. Thirteenth Prince laughs also, with some of his former youth and livelihood returning to his eyes in the form of girth.
"Royal Brother, I don't dare make that decision. I don't want to anger you and especially Min-Min Gege. I still remember her temper from before. I don't want to have to race her across the plains on horseback for forgiveness." Everyone continues to laugh while Min-Min gives an indignant but playful look at Thirteenth Prince.
"Thirteenth Prince, even if we do have a race everyone knows I will win this time", she says. Everyone laughs again and Yinzhen waves his hands to signal the end of their playful argument.
"Good, good. Let's go in and take a seat."
The group enters the large hall, taking seats. Attendants come out, bringing tea, fruits, and sweets. "Zuoying, how are the plains of Mongolia these days?" asks Yinzhen.
Zuoying smiles. "Very well, though the smell will never measure up to the smell of plum blossoms Ruoxi Guliang set in the fields on the night of Min-Min's performance," he says giving a fleeting smile to Min-Min. "To this day, I still remember that night vividly."
"Zuoying is right about that. Till this day, Min-Min still cannot forget how wonderful the performance was." She looks around. "Where is Ruoxi? I was receiving letters from her at first, but then the letters became fewer and fewer. Then they stopped coming. Did she leave the Forbidden City and marry?"
Thirteenth Prince and the Emperor share a solemn glance. Min-Min looks slightly stricken, knowing there is bad news.
"I figured there had to be a reason she never wrote back. Even though the letters became fewer, they still came, bearing her wishes for me to find happiness," she says wiping a few tears from her eyes. To the Mongolian Princess, Ruoxi will always remain her sister even though she is not of the same blood.
A melancholy silence falls over the room. Each person is thinking about Ruoxi. Tears fall silently down Min-Min Gege's face. Shortly after, Thirteenth Prince takes a deep breathe. "We should not be sad like this. If Ruoxi is present, she would not want us to be like this. She might even goad us into a race on horseback," he says sadly. "Min-Min Gege, you should not be sad. Ruoxi finally got what she always wanted."
Min-Min Gege looks up at Thirteenth Prince, curious. He smiles slightly. "Freedom," he responds. Min-Min nods in response.
"What about you, Thirteenth Prince? Are you also well?" Ever since he left the plains after the performance, Min-Min always wondered how her 'moon' fared. As she searched his face, she knew he must have suffered a bit as his former liveliness has disappeared quite a bit. Still, the humor and friendliness she once saw from her moon shined as brightly as ever.
"Me? I must say Zuoying, you shouldn't get jealous because your wife asked this question."
Min-Min humorously shakes her head. "Don't you dare switch topics. Answer the question," she demands in the petulant nature she used to hold.
"When will I not be well? I have my wine and my music. I think that is all I need."
"Thirteenth Prince," warns Min-Min.
"Ok, ok. My life is a little more stressful now but it's nothing I can't handle."
Zuoying smirks. "Emperor, you're harassing Prince Yi aren't you?"
"I wouldn't dare," answers Yinzhen. "His stress is not coming from court though Zuoying. Isn't that right Thirteenth Brother?" he smirks.
Thirteenth Prince sighs. "These last few years my stress comes from watching over my daughter, Chenghuan."
Min-Min Gege looks interested. She always thought Thirteenth Prince was extremely eloquent, especially towards the ladies. "Thirteenth Prince, you can't be saying that over the years, you've lost your touch in talking with women."
This time it is Thirteenth Prince who looks indignant. "That can't be said, Min-Min Gege. This daughter of mine is nothing I've ever seen. Originally, I thought you and Ruoxi were hard enough to deal with. But she," he doesn't finish but shakes his head instead.
"If there really is someone who can take you on Thirteenth Prince, I have to meet her then," laughs Min-Min.
"We are having a celebration dinner in your honor tonight. She will be in attendance as will my nine year old daughter, Muxue. You will have the opportunity to meet them then," says Yinzhen.
"Min-Min Gege you should know this is also why I cannot deal with Chenghuan. When she is with Muxue, chaos always ensues. You tell me, how I am supposed to deal with two young beauties who can create more havoc than I?"
Min-Min Gege breaks her formal decorum and laughs hard. "In that case, I really can't wait to meet those two tonight then. This dinner will be absolutely wonderful," she exclaims in delight.
Zuoying smiles at his wife's enthusiasm. Having only fathered sons, he understands his wife's excitement and thinks it will be splendid to meet these two young ladies who even frazzled the proclaimed 'Fearless Thirteenth Prince'. As the four of them laugh in happy anticipation of tonight's celebration, a eunuch runs into the hall, kneeling before them.
"Reporting Emperor, Chenghuan Gege requests to see you."
Zuoying smiles. "Min-Min, looks like you're getting your chance a bit early."
Seeing his guests' delight, Yinzhen turns back to the eunuch. "Send her in."
"Yes." The eunuch walks out and Chenghuan comes in. "Auspicious greetings Royal Uncle, Ama."
"Please rise," says Yinzhen. "Chenghuan, these two are friends of ours from Mongolia: Prince Zuoying and Min-Min Gege. Give them your respects."
Chenghuan nods and curtsies towards the two Mongolian royals. "Chenghuan greets Prince Zuoying and Min-Min Gege." Min-Min immediately hurries to excuse the girl.
"Rise quickly. Let me take a good look at you," she says happily to the amusement of the men.
Min-Min quickly assesses the young princess's features. She easily recognizes the similar humor and light of Thirteenth Prince in the girl's eyes. Min-Min also glimpses the air of a proper lady, possibly inherited from her mother. Still, she suspects this girl will grow to be just as bold if not bolder than her father. But since she is cherished by her father and the Emperor, Min-Min knows forgiveness is of secondary consequence. She then notices a piece of jade jewelry, the same exact piece her father bestowed upon her when she was a mere infant. This one must be Ruoxi's, she thinks to herself. But how did her sister's piece end up on this girl?
"Chenghuan, why are you rushing to see us today? Did you get in trouble again?" asked Yinzhen with a smirk.
"Royal Uncle, this time it's not me who got in trouble but Muxue."
"Muxue? How would she get into trouble unless you lead her into it?" asks Thirteenth Prince.
"Ama how can you not believe me? This time it really is her doing. She asked to be one of the performers in tonight's dance during the celebration dinner. I told her she shouldn't do it, but she insists and now it's too late to change the schedule."
Before anyone can respond, Muxue runs into the hall amidst the protests of the eunuchs. "Royal Ama, don't listen to Chenghuan Jie-jie's words," she exclaims running in and standing next to Chenghuan. Everyone turns to her. Realizing there are guests in the hall, Muxue's cheeks immediately flush red and she kneels, bowing her head in greeting.
"Auspicious greetings Royal Ama, Thirteenth Uncle. Muxue asks Royal Ama for punishment."
"You storm in here without precedence, creating a ruckus in front of our honored guests," lectures Yinzhen sternly.
Muxue flinches but her head remains bowed down as if in shame. Yinzhen sighs, a small smile forming on his face. The Mongolian royals look at each other.
"Emperor, don't blame her. She's just filled with excitement." Min-Min turns to Muxue. "Don't be scared. Please, lift your head."
Muxue lifts her head towards Min-Min. Min-Min finds herself staring into her Ruoxi sister's face. The resemblance truly is present, down to the rebellious and daring spirit she had once seen in Ruoxi at the plains. But the emperor had said this girl is his daughter. Does this mean that Ruoxi…
The Emperor sighs again. "Zuoying, you are fortunate at not having sired such rebellious and wild daughters like this one here," he says raising a finger to point at Muxue.
Zuoying chuckles. "Emperor, I may be fortunate at not having sired such daring daughters. But I do not have your fortune of seeing such a beautiful lady every day."
The Emperor smiles. "Rise," he says gently to Muxue. Muxue rises slowly.
Thirteenth Prince shakes his head in exasperation. "I was just telling our guests about the troubles you two get into. Before I was even finished, you both come running in making another loud commotion."
The Emperor smiles again but attempts to hide it in a cough. "Muxue, Chenghuan says you plan on dancing tonight at the dinner. Is this true?"
Muxue fidgets standing next to Chenghuan. "Royal Ama, Chenghuan Jie-jie said correctly. But daughter just wants this celebration to be truly unique for our Mongolian guests. It is not very often the palace receives guests honored as such. Muxue only wants this experience to be one-of-a-kind."
Min-Min watches this girl answer her father eloquently and realizes the girl is truly the daughter of Ruoxi. She even talks like her sister once did towards Emperor Kangxi back in the plains. At that moment, Min-Min silently vows to watch over Ruoxi's daughter even if from a far seeing as her sister can no longer do so.
"Since you have such a noble intention, Emperor it should be fine. I'm excited to see your performance," says Min-Min with a broad smile and nod.
"Ok. But you have to watch your health. Quickly thank Min-Min Gege for her kindness."
"Muxue thanks Min-Min Gege."
"If you need help in preparing, let me know. I will gladly help out." Min-Min had not forgotten the effort Ruoxi gave in planning her dance back in the plains. If Ruoxi's daughter wants to dance, Min-Min will do all she can to support her.
"You have to dance well tonight. Don't make me lose face in front of our guests," says Yinzhen.
"Chenghuan, are you planning on dancing too?" asks Yinzhen. He knows the two girls act as one package deal.
Chenghuan shakes her head. "Uncle, Chenghuan will simply be watching. Chenghuan does not have Muxue's ability or means to make such a request."
Muxue looks at Chenghuan with shock. "Jie-Jie, before you said you wanted to dance…"
Chenghuan continues speaking, ignoring Muxue's pleas. "Chenghuan will watch Muxue and make sure she does not embarrass herself tonight."
The adults attempt not to break into laughter. Yinzhen sighs again. "Ok. Muxue will be your responsibility, Chenghuan. You both may go."
As the two girls leave the room, the adults could hear their continual bickering. "You said you wanted to dance. And how would I embarrass myself? You said I danced wonderfully."
"You nearly embarrassed yourself today in front of guests no less. What will happen tonight? I'm your older sister, I'm supposed to take care of you. This is your entire fault!"
Once the two of them are out of the hall and out of ear's distance, the adults laugh. "Emperor, these two are truly charming and humorous," compliments Zuoying.
"Eh Zuoying, don't you let them hear that. Otherwise, they will get even rowdier and cause even more trouble," says Thirteenth Prince. There are more peals of laughter.
"Emperor, I had no idea your daughter is so eloquent, especially for a child her age. Kind of reminds me of Ruoxi," Min-Min purposely mentions.
This little statement startles both Yinzhen and Thirteenth Prince. Zuoying begins looking a nervous, clearly seeing the tension between the Qing royals. Min-Min, however, is not flustered a bit by the Emperor and Thirteenth Prince's reactions. She lifts her cup of tea.
"If I didn't know any better, I would think she is Ruoxi's daughter," she says while drinking her tea.
The nervousness becomes even more obvious with the Qing royals.
"Min-Min," warns Zuoying.
Thirteenth Prince glances at his brother. "Yes, Muxue is indeed Ruoxi's daughter."
Min-Min continues to calmly drink her tea. "Does Muxue know?"
Thirteenth Prince sighs. "No she doesn't."
"Do you plan on telling her?"
"Eventually. But not right now. Maybe when she's a little older."
Min-Min puts her cup down. "About that jade…"
Thirteenth Prince relaxes. "Originally, Ruoxi planned on giving that to Muxue. But then she remember the meaning and significance of that jade. She then gifted it to Chenghuan. When Muxue got older, Chenghuan wanted to give it to Muxue but Muxue refused, saying it is Gugu's gift to her sister."
Min-Min looks confused. "Gugu?"
Thirteenth Prince nods. "Yes. Muxue has very little memories of Ruoxi. Ruoxi sent Muxue to the Empress when she was only one years-old. Although Muxue saw Ruoxi almost every day, Muxue only knows Ruoxi as her Gugu and not her mother. A few years later, Ruoxi died, but Muxue continues to remember the kindness of her gugu. No one ever bothered to correct her" says Thirteenth Prince sadly. Silence fills the room once more.
"Min-Min Gege, will you keep this secret?" asked Thirteenth Prince.
Min-Min thinks for a moment and then reaches for her husband's hand. "Zuoying and I will keep it. But I have one request." Thirteenth Prince turns to Min-Min nervously. "I hope to continue correspondence with you Thirteenth Prince, so that you may keep me updated on Muxue's life."
"Of course," says Thirteenth Prince with a smile.
That night, the celebration dinner is held in a large banquet hall. In addition to the two Mongolian royals, Yinzhen's sons and their wives and other esteemed officials are also in attendance. Prince Lian and Yi, the Eighth and Thirteenth Princes respectively, are also invited and are given seats to the left and right of the Emperor. Yinzhen had deemed the night to be spectacular and had specifically requested the Mongolians be given special treatment. Word that Muxue Gege will be dancing at this dinner spread quickly and many of the servants clamor for the chance to see the young princess dance. It is greatly rumored that the princess's dancing is extremely beautiful and popular amongst the royal princes.
The feast is extremely grand. Yinzhen had spared no expense on luxury. As the night dragged on and the feast ended, everyone becomes eager for the entertainment.
"Gao Wuyong, the dance preparations are seen fit are they are not?" asked Yinzhen.
"Your majesty, Muxue Gege has been practicing tremendously for tonight. Chun Momo is exceptionally happy that Muxue Gege will be performing. Servant thinks Chun Momo has coordinated this dance wonderfully with Muxue Gege."
As the drinking and merriment continues, Chun Momo walks into the hall and curtsies.
"Emperor, servant is ready to begin the dance."
Yinzhen smiles and nods. "Then start," he says with a wave of his hand. Chun Momo curtsies again and leaves. Yinzhen turns to his guests and happily nods. On his other side, Princes Lian and Yi nod as well.
Music fills the air and the occupants hurry to sit down, eager for the performance. The royal orchestra of fiddles, drums, and zithers begins playing. As the notes come together harmoniously, six young dancers in lengthy light purple and green garments flitter into the room to the rhythm of the music. The dancers line up in a circular fashion, with their arms outstretched. At the end of the line is Muxue dressed in a shade of light pink.
The dancers arrange themselves in front of the emperor, allowing Muxue to take center stage. She twirls in a circle, swishing her lengthy dress and sleeves while retaining an elegant pose with her arms outstretched. Accompanied by the other dancers, she slowly spins in one direction and then in the other.
As Muxue dances around the room, Yinzhen thinks back to the plains when he daydreamed about Ruoxi dancing instead of Min-Min Gege. Like Thirteenth Brother had said then, he was extremely interested in seeing Ruoxi dance given that she had planned the entire event from top to bottom, from outfits to props to even designing the stage for Min-Min Gege. So as he watches his daughter, the one he had with Ruoxi and cherishes so dearly astound his subjects with her graceful steps, he thinks back to how he had imagined Ruoxi would have danced for him under snow and in red silk.
Across from Thirteenth Prince, Eighth Prince watches his niece dance, looking as beautifully as her mother once did. He had the honor of holding little Muxue once when her birth was announced to all the officials. He remembered staring into the tiny face and held her little hand before returning her to the Empress. He's not fooled about the truth of who really is his niece's mother. Although he no longer harbors hate or resentment towards Ruoxi for choosing his Fourth Brother over him, he cannot help but be saddened by the entire outcome of events. In his heart, there will always be resentment towards Fourth Brother. Ruoxi will always remain a friend of his for he knew she cared for him as much as he did her even after Fourth Brother took the throne. As for Muxue, he will continue to watch over the child, hoping to protect and spare her from the eventual battle that will arise between Yongzheng's own sons.
Although young for her age, Muxue dances as graceful as one of the experienced ladies, throwing and enticing the audience with her silk sleeves. As she continues to twirl with a smile shining brightly on her face, a young lord watches, mesmerized by the sight of the dancing princess. Beside him, is his cousin, uncle, and aunt, all whom of haven specially invited to the celebratory night.
"Cousin, Gege is indeed a beautiful dancer is she not?"
But the young lord does answer his cousin's question and only focuses his eyes and attention on the performance and in particular the princess. The cousin does not ask or say anymore but only smirk, knowing his younger cousin is besotted.
Min-Min Gege watches the young girl dance elegantly across the floor. She too had wondered how Ruoxi would have danced that night had their roles been reversed and she was the planner and not the dancer. Would the princes be even more mesmerized? Would Thirteenth Prince still be enraptured and captivated if not more? Would she still end up with Zuoying? These are questions she will never know the answer to. But as she watches the scene, with Yinzhen's princes in particular, she knows Muxue has well captured their attention. She ponders on Muxue's future and the romance the girl may have. Where does her future lie? Will it be with one of Thirteenth Prince's sons, a general from an acclaimed banner, or a prince from far away? Will Muxue be able to love and marry out of her own freewill? She hopes these answers all play in Muxue's favor.
Muxue and her ladies sway to the music in sync before stilling as the music winds down, ending the dance. Claps thunder in the room along with cheers and joyous cries. As Muxue respectfully bows and nods, the officials begin complimenting Yinzhen for the young princess's elegant dancing. The other dancers file into a line and elegantly walk out of the hall as Muxue kneels down in respect.
"Fifth Gege, your dancing is immaculate. I thought an angel had come to entertain me," Yinzhen proclaims.
Muxue smiles and nods. "Thank you Royal Ama."
"Royal Ama, Fifth Sister's dancing is truly wondrous," comments Hongshi.
"What Third Brother says is correct. Look, even all the officials agree," says Hongli.
Hongzhou nods in agreement with his brothers. "Royal Ama, looks like we need to invite Fifth Sister on our next expedition," he says earning a smile from Muxue. "This way, we can show others the true beauty and culture of this empire."
Yinzhen nods at his sons pleased with their responses. He gives Min-Min a smile to which Min-Min returns. "Min-Min Gege, does my daughter's dancing measure up to your standards and expectations?"
"Emperor, Min-Min thinks Muxue's dancing is even more spectacular than the one I danced years ago."
Everyone in the hall laughs. "Min-Min Gege, don't spoil her. Praise her too much and she may become arrogant from her dancing," claims Yinzhen.
Min-Min laughs harder. "Should her dancing become even better with praise, then a little arrogance will help her as it will only improve her dancing."
Muxue smiles and looks up at Yinzhen. "If Royal Ama likes it so much, perhaps Muxue can dance another number for you."
Yinzhen thinks thoughtfully before nodding in agreement. Muxue rises to her feet and walks over to the royal orchestra, whispering a piece she requests for them to play. The orchestra members look in shock at one another but after much convincing from Muxue, they acquiesce. Muxue smirks and giggles as she walks to Chun Momo who hands her two long thick white ribbons. Composing her herself, Muxue walks to the center of the hall and stands silently as the orchestra begins the melody.
As the music starts, Muxue begins to gently twirl the two long strands of ribbon around her elegantly, forming amazing patterns in the air. Everyone watches in amazement at the lovely sight when the orchestra begins to play at a faster speed and the drums are hit repeatedly. Muxue follows and speeds up her motions, adding a variety of tricks as she continues to expertly wave the ribbons to and fro.
The orchestra continues to speed up even more. Muxue twirls even faster and begins doing leaps and twirls with her body, circling the ribbons to her side. The music speeds up even more and some of the orchestra members struggle to keep up with the pace. But Muxue never falters or misses a step, the ribbon and her dancing continues to remain on beat even as she leaps and jumps into the air. She continues to stare just as confidently and intensely while throwing an occasional wink in Thirteenth Prince, Chenghuan, and Yinzhen's direction.
From his seat on the dais, Yinzhen watches in amazement as his daughter dances elegantly and skillfully as if she has danced there all her lifetime. On the sidelines, the young lord continues to watch enthralled by the sight as Muxue performs one trick after another. If given the chance or opportunity, this young lord wants to stop time and remain seeing this scene all his life.
Muxue anticipates the music to stop abruptly and quickly finishes her last few tricks before doing a perfect split, holding up one of the ribbons proudly in triumph as the last beat sounds.
The crowd is silent and then there is thundering applause as the audience stands and claps loudly. The smile on Muxue's face grows even wider as she stands and bows profusely to the applauding crowd. In her excitement, she does not notice the young lord whose gaze never drifts from her.
The next day, Zuoying and Min-Min are walking to Yang Xin Dian together when they see Muxue and Chenghuan interacting and talking actively with Hongli, Hongzhou, and Prince Hongxiao, Thirteenth Prince's son. The two stop to watch the youngsters play and have fun. Min-Min sighs in happiness, focusing specifically on Muxue and Chenghuan.
"You're still worried about Muxue, aren't you" asks Zuoying.
Min-Min nods. "I hope she is able to achieve the dream Ruoxi never got to."
Zuoying thinks hard. "You're saying how Ruoxi Guliang never got to marry the Emperor even though the two of them love each other deeply."
"Yes." She turns to face Zuoying. "I hope Muxue can be like me and find her sun just as I did."
Zuoying chuckles and flicks his finger at his wife gently on the nose. Even after years of marriage and five children, their relationship is still as strong as ever. The two of them turn away and continue their stroll.
"Husband, I actually have a request to make of you."
Zuoying turns to Min-Min. "What is it?
"I hope you will ask the Emperor to betroth one of his daughters to our sons," requests Min-Min. They stop walking. Zuoying turns to Min-Min.
"Why would you want to make such a request when you want Muxue to find love of her own?"
"My intention is not for Muxue. It is for Chenghuan."
Zuoying stares confusedly as his wife. "If I know Thirteenth Prince as well as I think I know, he will want Chenghuan to be well taken care of," continues Min-Min.
She turns to Zuoying. "He may say he's doing well. But he looks utterly exhausted in appearance. He's clearly working too hard on the Emperor's behalf."
She sighs. "Thirteenth Prince and the Emperor get along very well so I understand Thirteenth's Prince's efforts. But from the looks of things, I have a very bad feeling for him."
"So you want to help Thirteenth Prince secure his most precious item?"
"Yes," answers Min-Min with a solemn smile. She looks to the sky. "This will be my final gift to him."
True to his words, Zuoying made his wife's request to the Emperor once their formalities were made and she had left the hall to see Thirteenth Prince. As he had expected, the Emperor is just as shocked that Min-Min Gege would even consider making such a request. After much debate, the Emperor agrees to the request but states he has no daughter of marrying age. However, he admits there is someone else who he cherishes almost as much a daughter: Chenghuan. Before he could actually betroth this treasure to Zuoying's son though, the Emperor request Zuoying to make evident of his intention for such a union.
"Actually, when Min-Min made such a request, I was just as shocked as you are Emperor," explains Zuoying. "But the more I thought of it, the more it makes sense. I think her reasons for this request have to do with her friendship with Thirteenth Prince and in particularly, with Ruoxi."
Yinzhen stiffens as Zuoying continues to speak. "Zuoying thinks Min-Min wants to protect the treasure of Thirteenth Prince so she will always be connected to Thirteenth Prince in some way."
The Emperor does not say anything.
"Don't you worry my Emperor. If Chenghuan is betrothed to one of my sons, you have my word that I will treasure and treat her as one of my daughters. I will not let her suffer hardships in anyway. Along with Min-Min, I will care for her until either us is no more."
The Emperor still makes no remarks to Zuoying. Zuoying looks to the Emperor for any change in emotion but the Emperor remains as stoic as ever, becoming the 'ice face' Ruoxi had nicknamed him years ago.
Zuoying continues to speak. "If Emperor rejects my offer, Zuoying will not hold any grudges or resentment." He starts to stand and leave.
The Emperor continues to ponder on the matter for a brief moment but stops Zuoying from leaving.
"I cherish Chenghuan as my daughter not only because she is Thirteenth Brother's daughter, but because of how much she also resembles Ruoxi. After Ruoxi died, I no longer allow anyone to mention her name because it brings too much pain. I also fear Muxue will remember her and ask questions."
He turns to Zuoying. "Between the two girls, Chenghuan is much more free-spirited, just like Ruoxi was. For her whole life, Ruoxi wanted to be free of the Forbidden City. Before she died, she requested that she be cremated and scattered on a windy day, thinking this way she'll always be with her loved ones."
Zuoying listens deeply, letting the meaning behind these words sink in. The Emperor turns to Zuoying. "If I let Chenghuan go with your son, I want you to promise me that you will not only protect her. I want you to promise me that she will have the freedom Min-Min has in the plains. This way, she will never want to come back to this city. This way, she will have the freedom Ruoxi yearned for."
Zuoying solemnly nods. "You have my solemn word on that Emperor."
In the end, Yongzheng decides to betroth Chenghuan to the eldest son of Min-Min and Zuoying. When he discusses this with Thirteenth Prince, Thirteenth Prince simply smiles and nods his head in agreement. He has seen first handedly the cruelty of living in this palace and hopes Chenghuan will at least be given the opportunity of escaping. More importantly, with her leaving the Forbidden City, Thirteenth Prince is finally able to cast away the burden he has carried ever since Lü Wu left. With Chenghuan being cared for by one of his best friends, Min-Min Gege, Thirteenth Prince knows his daughter's future will be secured. He knows that with this decision, Chenghuan will be able to have what Ruoxi had always asked for, freedom.
Betrothal can be described as a process involving the five stages of grief. When Chenghuan hears news of her betrothal, the first thing she does is laugh in denial thinking it is one of Hongli's pranks. But as the news sink in and is confirmed by her younger brother Hongxiao, who would never dare to lie to her, her laughter falters and is replaced by fear. She excuses herself early, locking herself in her bedroom for the rest of the day.
Next is anger. Angry shouts and sounds of objects thrown in her chambers could be heard all around Thirteenth Prince's residence the following day. The servants and eunuchs are scared completely out of their minds as their Chenghuan Gege usually has a mild and cheery disposition. Thirteenth Prince, as if anticipating this reaction from his daughter, steers himself away and drinks in solitude under the comforts of his chambers. Seeing the servants' predicament, Hongli, Hongzhou, Hongxiao try to assuage Chenghuan's anger but to no avail. It is only until after Muxue runs without announcement into Thirteenth Prince's residence, holding a rabbit in a cage that Chenghuan calms down.
"Jie-jie look! The other day, I was strolling with Third Brother in his garden when we saw a family of rabbits. It was late that day and we didn't want to disturb them so he said I could come back another day to catch one of them to show you. Do you like it? Muxue knows Jie-jie loves rabbits," she says cheerfully, not fully understanding the situation Chenghuan is in.
Chenghuan takes a deep breath, and affectionately rubs Muxue's head. "Jie-jie loves the rabbit. Thank you Muxue," she says forcing a smile. Muxue smiles and walks over to the desk to put the cage down. Muxue throws a few leaves inside the cage for the rabbit to feast on. She looks around the room and sees the mess.
"Jie-jie why is the room in such a mess? I'll help you organize it again," says Muxue as she begins picking up the discarded pens and papers. It is then that Chenghuan wishes she is more like Muxue, carefree and happy with little worries. She bends, picking up the pillows and begins rearranging the room, her anger subdued.
A week later, Chenghuan tries to bargain, first with her father and later her uncle. Although both did not punish her for her bold headedness in trying to even negotiate such a matter with them, they also did not reply or agree to any of her requests. Sullen, Chenghuan realizes this is indeed her fate and there is no point in trying to escape.
Afterwards, the bouts of depression come in waves. There is the typical crying in her room, in front of Thirteenth Prince, Yinzhen, and even Hongli and Hongzhou. In front of Muxue, Chenghuan refrains from crying but even the little girl has realized the depressing mood that had settled around Chenghuan shoulders. There is also the constant daydreaming and silence she engages in when she walks around the residence and later in the royal gardens. The servants realize their young mistress is frankly upset and attempt to stay out of her way as long as possible. Although unnerved by the scene, no one attempts to reconcile it knowing Chenghuan's pain can only be mended with time.
The day before leaving for Mongolia, Chenghuan disappears for nearly half the day along with Fourth Prince Hongli and Fifth Prince Hongzhou. It is till late into the evening that the three return, walking slowly into Yinzhen's study. Yinzhen looks up from his documents and sees a drunken Chenghuan, carried between his two sons. He is sure he is not supposed to be amused by the situation at all as now Chenghuan's departure will clearly have to be postponed. As usual, Hongli remembers decorum and respectfully bows for forgiveness while Hongzhou merely glares at Yinzhen. As Yinzhen stares at the three of them, he suddenly remembers a happier time when his Thirteenth Brother barged into his study one night, drunk and happy, to regale the story of how he spent the night in the woods drinking with Eighth Brother's little sister-in-law. Yinzhen realizes that much more of his Thirteenth Brother's recklessness and daring has rubbed off on Chenghuan. So with a shake of his head and a wave of his head, he pardons the three, requesting Gao Wuyong to send them off to bed without any punishment.
The last phase in the five stages of grief involves acceptance. Later in her life, Chenghuan finds herself appreciating the life she has had and thankful for all the gifts her uncle bestowed upon her. However, she is never completely certain if she ever fully accepted her betrothal.
The weather on the day Chenghuan leaves for Mongolia is extremely sunny. Dressed in red from head to toe holding a red handkerchief in her hand, Chenghuan tearfully cries towards both Yinzhen and Thirteenth Prince, begging them to not force her to leave the Forbidden City. For as long as she has remembered, this city has been her home, where she has grown up in, where she has met her Gugu, Muxue, and her cousins. How could she ever endure leaving all this behind for a future she is not certain of? How could she ever leave her father behind? Chenghuan knows her father's health has been in deterioration after her mother disappeared. She may not know her mother's exact reasons for leaving or what has happened to her, but she does know her father is heavily affected by it.
The palace is also the only place she has left of remembering her Gugu. The painting she had created of her Gugu is tucked well inside one of her suitcases. She doesn't care if her husband will forbid her from hanging this painting but she will insist on it as it holds one of her last memories of Gugu. In her mind, Gugu will always be the most beautiful and kindest person she has ever met in the palace. It is this very reason Chenghuan cares for Muxue so much after Ruoxi Gugu left. How can Chenghuan even consider leaving behind her little sister, Muxue? Before Gugu died, Chenghuan had promised she will care from Muxue as if she were her own sister. Who will watch over the girl now with her leaving?
"Ama, Chenghuan will miss you," she cries, throwing herself into the arms of Thirteenth Prince. The formerly 'Fearless Thirteenth Prince' cannot respond for once in his life as he holds his precious jewel. This could well be the last time he ever speaks to her and yet, he finds no suitable words; he's utterly speechless.
"Be good Chenghuan. Care for your mother-in-law, Min-Min Gege, as you would your Gugu and Muxue. Take good care of yourself." states Yinzhen. He tries to uphold his stoic figure but inside, he feels as if the gods are tormenting his very soul. He can't bear to watch the final separation and turns his back away from the carriage and Chenghuan.
"Royal Ama, why is Chenghuan Jie-jie leaving? Royal Ama please don't let Chenghuan Jie-jie leave! I promise I won't be so reckless anymore. I'll listen to everything she says. Please Royal Ama don't do this! Royal Ama, Royal Ama! Muxue begs of you! Muxue begs of you!" exclaims a crying Muxue as she watches Chenghuan stand glowing like a majestic ruby in front of her carriage, with tears trailing down her cheeks. Her brothers, Hongli and Hongzhou watch the scene solemnly and silently. Both will dearly miss their cousin but know this is for the best.
As if sensing the inevitable, Chenghuan lifts her head, her face streaming with tears. She kneels and offers three bows to Thirteenth Prince. If she is to leave this city, she will leave a filial person. Afterwards, she walks over to Muxue and wraps her arms around her sister and friend. She bravely wipes away the tears on her own face and tries to comfort the sad girl, using her fingers to remove the tear streaks off the girl's face. "Muxue, remember you're a big girl now. You can't be as reckless as you once were. Don't be so sad. Jie-jie will write to you and you can write to me," Chenghuan whispers and pushing aside some of Muxue's strayed hair strands.
"Be a good girl for Ama and Royal Uncle okay? No more fussing and creating ruckus!"
Muxue couldn't help but cry even harder and runs into the arms of Hongli. Hongli rubs the girl's back as he stares sadly at the scene. Chenghuan watches Muxue in Hongli's arms and gives an understanding nod to her cousin. She knows she will miss this place very much indeed. With tears swimming in eyes, she kneels down in front of Yinzhen, who is still turned away from her. Her Royal Uncle had always been her stone in life, sheltering her, protecting her from anyone and anything. She slowly bows three times to Yinzhen. Despite Chenghuan's acts filial piety, Yinzhen finds he is still unable to turn around and see Chenghuan. Suddenly, he feels a pair of hands grab onto his legs.
"Royal Uncle, Chenghuan misses you. Please don't do this! Don't let me go without seeing you one last time! Royal Uncle," she cries.
Yinzhen swallows hard. "Chenghuan," he says softly, without turning his head though he knows she can hear him. "A bride should not leave her home with tears in her eyes."
He pauses, closing his eyes as a single tear falls from his eyes. Steeling himself, Yinzhen issues one of his hardest orders ever. "Gao Wuyong, escort Chenghuan into the carriage."
The eunuch nods silently and walks to the distraught Chenghuan, lifting her up by the arms. Dragging her away, amidst her cries, he finally seats her into the carriage, ordering the horseman to ride off. Thirteenth Prince watches silently as the carriage travels farther and farther away with tears running down his cheeks. Muxue finally realizes that her sister is truly leaving and runs out of Hongli's arms, attempting to run after the carriage.
"Jie-jie, Jie-jie! Don't go, please don't go! Please don't go. Don't leave me all alone! Jie-jie! JIE-JIE!" she cries, throwing herself onto the floor as the carriage begins to trot faster and faster until it disappears from sight. Muxue continues to cry, longing for her sister to stop and come back. She closes her eyes, hoping this is just a really bad dream and her sister will wake her from it in any moment. But the shaking never comes. Regardless, Muxue keeps her eyes close, hoping, and waiting. She suddenly feels a pair of arms encircle her, lifting her off the floor. She opens her eyes and realizes it is her father, Yinzhen, looking down at her with worry. In an angry fit, she throws her fists at him.
"Why? WHY? WHY DID YOU SEND MY JIE-JIE AWAY? WHY, ROYAL AMA ? WHY?" she exclaims and cries, continuing to throw her fists against Yinzhen until she exhausts herself.
Yinzhen doesn't say anything but simply hugs his little girl closer to him; the same little girl Ruoxi had foreseen when she was pregnant. Nearby, Thirteenth Prince continues to stare into the distance of the open gate where the carriage had taken off. Hongli and Hongzhou continue to stand, watching as silently as ever. Yinzhen knows that someday in the near future, he will have to do the same and bid farewell to his own little girl. He is not sure if he can face it when it is that time to send his daughter off. He once told Ruoxi his greatest fear was losing her. As he tenderly strokes his daughter's back in comfort, Yinzhen realizes he now has a new fear. He knows this is one fear he will never be able to overcome.